Tag Archives: forgiveness

How to Have a New Beginning

designThe New Year is a great time for new beginnings. We know that God is a God of new beginnings. Throughout the Bible, people like Noah, Moses, Ruth and Paul experienced the thrill and joy of “starting over.” While sometimes a fresh start is nearly impossible, I believe that God is providing a new beginning for many of us. Please consider how God may be speaking to you about a new beginning in your life.

In order to experience a new beginning, we must:

  • Learn from the past but let go of the past. Those who live in the past are stuck there and can’t dream of a better future.
  • Be willing to take a risk. We do not know the specifics of how the future will turn out so it requires great faith to begin again.
  • Forgive yourself and others for past failures. Holding onto hurts prevents us from moving forward.
  • Pray and think creatively. God never runs out of fresh ideas for today and tomorrow. Seek His face for the future.
  • Be willing to change what needs to be changed. If we keep doing the same things we’ve always done, we will keep getting the same results we’ve always gotten.
  • Be assured that God is a God of new beginnings and He wants to help you to start fresh today!

2017 can be the best year of our lives. While the challenges are significant in regard to the details of everyday living, I believe that God has placed us where we are for this specific time. He doesn’t want us stuck in the past – He wants us moving confidently forward into the bright future that He has for us, all under the power of the Holy Spirit.

May the grace of God enable us to embrace the wonderful plans that He has for us and may we experience the joy of fulfilling those plans!

Rick

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Our Church Has a Bad Reputation

design9“Our Church Has a Bad Reputation.” We’ve all heard the stories. A lying preacher. A stealing deacon. An immoral elder.

In the last few months, no fewer than a dozen pastors and church members have used the above phrase to describe their church to me. Like people, the church has a name among the citizens of the surrounding area. Our conduct has an impact on how people perceive us. Church leaders and members should remember that we represent the church. Unfortunately, many churches are paying the price of the misbehavior of the people involved.

So what do we do when our church has a bad reputation in the community? I have a few ideas:

  1. Don’t give up! Reputations can be repaired. In John 4, Jesus spoke with a woman who had a jaded reputation. She was living in sin and everyone knew it. But Christ forgave her, restored her character and actually used her brokenness to heal many others. Read the story in John 4:1-42.
  2. Do the right thing. Pay bills on time. Don’t gossip. Tip well at restaurants. Manicure the church lawn. All of these things help others to determine their attitude about your church.
  3. Sometimes you have to start over. New churches are planted every day because so many old churches won’t or can’t recover from a bad rep in the community. But let me encourage you – while God begins new things, He also specializes in reclamation projects! God’s Spirit made a valley of dry bones into a powerful army! (Ezekiel 37). Church revitalization is as important as church planting.
  4. Recognize excuses. While there is little doubt that some churches have been guilty of causing irreparable damage, this “excuse” can be manipulated. If you are a church leader or a member of a church, please don’t allow a checkered past to serve as your reason for not accomplishing something great for God. Job speaks of the potential of a tree stump. Even though it has been cut down, “at the scent of water it will bud and sprout again like a new seedling.” There is a time to get over a bad past and create a good future.
  5. Recognize blaming. Not every critic of the church is authentic or right. Some simply want to find fault with the church. When this happens, there is no need to try to defend the church – Jesus can handle that. But let’s not assume guilt for something that we haven’t done.
  6. Pray for, work toward and lead a renewal process. Assume responsibility for turning around the reputation of the church. Take ownership of the ministry (under Christ, of course). Throughout history, God has utilized men and women to influence the culture on behalf of the church. He can do that through you!

As a closing note, if you are a victim of a transgressing church; if you have been hurt or mistreated or injured by a church, a ministry leader, church members or a denomination, I sincerely apologize to you and pray for your healing and restoration. Hopefully you can find renovation for your brokenness. Please don’t allow bitterness to control your life. Jesus has healing for you.

Let’s pray for our churches and do all we can to represent Christ and His Church well!


The Great Equalizer in Preaching

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You’re pouring your heart out. You preach like a man possessed (in a good way). You wax eloquent. And then it happens; you make eye contact with the one person in the crowd that can truly humble you – your spouse.

You can fake it with others, but not with her.

Possibly the most difficult part about being a preacher of the Gospel is that at least one of the listeners knows everything there is to know about you.  I think God plans it that way. The great equalizer for many preachers is that their spouse knows better.

It is easy; very easy to impress some crowds. Say the right things in the right way with your best preacher voice and you can wow the crowds. But when someone siting there knows the intimate secrets of who you really are, that is another story.

Preach about faith; she knows your doubts. Preach about prayer; she knows your prayer life. Preach about integrity; and she may smirk (inside).

I think God plans it that way. To keep you humble…to stay real…God reminds you that, no matter what you say, one other person there besides you and Him knows your bathroom habits.

I think the toughest part of being a preacher is that my wife sits there, amening me, nodding her head and being supportive, but knowing full well all my flaws. And still she graciously receives the Word. Quite humbling, I must say!  And good for us preacher-types, lest our arrogance get the best of us. Without these humbling realities, our heads would probably explode with pride. The way it is, it’s sometimes difficult to hold your head up while preaching when she’s in the crowd.

I’m thankful for grace from God and from my wife.

By the way, any preacher who won’t admit to this is either a liar or more spiritual than I am (which isn’t always saying much).


The Only Way to Repair a Broken Marriage

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Whether it’s broken by infidelity, boredom or stress, a messed up marriage is one tricky fix. The problems usually begin with insensitivity on the part of one and hurt feelings on the part of the other. The frustrations turn to anger and communication breaks down. By this time, things are headed south quickly and somebody had better get a clue before it is too late.

And for the record, don’t let anyone tell you it’s never too late. Of course it’s too late once one of the parties involved goes too far; say for example – gets married again. There are some bridges that, once crossed, can never be used as a return route.

So what is the only fix for a broken marriage?

It’s when both people involved decide that they will do WHATEVER it takes to save their marriage. They may no longer be in love. They don’t have to care deeply about the other person. And they may feel that their marriage is not worth fighting for. But if the couple mutually agrees that they will stop at nothing to salvage, heal and restore their marriage, it will happen for sure. Refusal to give up is a powerful ally for a bruised marriage. For the record – nothing is impossible with God.

“Whatever it takes” means basically the same thing for both people. Whatever has happened to cause damage must stop happening immediately. Past hurts must be let go. Trust must be built. Both parties must be in the relationship to serve their partner. Total participation by both people is required. These details explain why this idea is so hard to realize. If it were easy, we would see fewer divorces.

So why is it so rare to find a marriage that is saved at the midnight hour? Because people who are so broken find it nearly impossible to believe that there is hope. Unforgiveness, pain and the desire for freedom set the agenda. If therapists or pastors can only get people to see that the real solution is in their hands, and get them to accept the possibility for change, many marriages could be saved.

It can happen. It is rare, but it is possible.

The problem is, most people are not willing to do “whatever it takes” – so this concept probably won’t gain much traction. However, if only one marriage is given a second chance, that would be awesome.

Please apply this idea as necessary. If you don’t need it, please pass it along to someone who does.

By the way, this approach is the best way to AVOID problems in marriage. Let’s prevent so we don’t have to repair.


How about a Christmas Truce?

images-89One of my favorite stories from history is the Christmas Truce of 1914. On Christmas Day, the troops from Great Britain and France along the western front stopped fighting and declared a brief and unofficial cease-fire while they exchanged gifts, sang Christmas carols and even enjoyed a friendly game of soccer with the enemy.  It was a remarkable display of peace in the middle of unthinkable carnage.

I think the “war” started for us in earnest last Spring. The looming election brought out the worst in us: we slandered people from the other party. We spewed hate across the Internet. We disrespected and despised each other. Our country was deeply divided. Not surprisingly, November came and went and yet the poison still erupts. We’ve seen it most recently in the most insensitive and uncompassionate way; surrounding the deaths of the innocent shooting victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Unbelievably, people have taken advantage of this tragic event to tout their varied political opinions.

In the interest of world peace, I am suggesting that we declare another Christmas truce. I am hoping for just one day of not saying what we want to say. Here is my idea: On social media sites – no political cartoons, no condescending comments, no judgmental insults, no divisiveness in the press, no partisan debate, nothing on gun control, fiscal cliffs, Huckabee, anti-Obama rhetoric, James Dobson… you get the idea: One day of peace on earth. I think it is an idea that could work.

I’m not asking you to agree with your enemy. I’m not naïve enough to ask for compromise on convictions or a backing down from opinions. I just think the world could use a little peace right now. In the spirit of the Prince of Peace, Jesus! How about it?

This might even be a great time to forgive someone who hurt you, repair a breach in the family or call a long-lost loved one.

Back to 1914. The war resumed with fierce bloodiness just after Christmas. Military leaders from both sides made sure there was no repeat of the truce in 1915. But for one day, peace ruled.

2012 would be a fine time to repeat history.  Our respective “wars” will surely be waiting for us on December 26, if we are still interested in fighting.


Miserere for Maundy Thursday

This is a great tool to assist us in observing Maundy Thursday. Thanks to the guys from Church Mag for posting it. Beautiful.