Fear

Fear is the thing I’ve fought my entire life. In fact, I still continue to fight it. As a child, it was about being afraid of “the shadow man” but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve struggled with all the worries and fears that can come with being an adult. I remember the day in my early twenties when I realized that there was a problem with that: FEAR IS SIN. By being afraid I am saying that I don’t trust Jesus and the plans He has for me. Over and over and over again Jesus commands us to not be afraid. Why then do I struggle with this? What are different ways to combat it? How does it affect others around me? These are a few things I’d like to hit in this post.

These past few years have been very difficult and very good. I’m learning more than I could have without these certain experiences. In a bible study that I attended in my early twenties, I had an amazing leader who helped me discover a way to combat fear. She encouraged me to look up all the scriptures on fear and see what God had to say about it. She spent a couple of Tuesdays going over the verses with me. In reality, fear is pride. We are saying that we can do something better than God. We think we can handle the issues better than God can. We are also saying that what Christ did on the cross is not enough. That His death and resurrection didn’t make us children of God and that we can not trust Him. I struggle with fear because it’s me saying that I want to be God. It goes back to the Garden of Eden when Eve was given a choice in Genesis. Does she listen to God or does she go after what she wants: to become like God. I can never say that I would have chosen the fruit over a relationship with Almighty God because I too want to be my own god.

What are the different ways to combat it?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)

  1. Meditate on the Word of God.
  2. Prayer and Petition
  3. Thanksgiving

The result?  “The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Also, Remember to dwell on the promises of God.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
(2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6 ESV)

My favorite passage and also why my firstborn’s name is Lily Elise (Lily for Matthew 6 and Elise for the covenant of God):

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)

The other thing I do is surround myself with positive music. I also sometimes will talk with someone older who is immersed in the word of God. They have seen more and they are more experienced and I know they pray before they speak.

How does this affect others around me. I start seeing things from my point of view and miss out on opportunities to trust God and show His strength in my testimony because I’m too busy focusing on my own anxiety and not enough on who God is and what He is doing in my life. I’m so busy trying to fix my messes that I create more of a mess and end up with tons of shame. What am I showing my kids when I’m freaking out and not acting like a mom who is filled with the peace of God? I don’t want to raise them in a house full of fear. I want to be an example for my children so they will know that what I teach them about Jesus is true. I want them to see that I trust Jesus and I am willing to follow Him wherever. I want them to know that I’m willing to be still and know He is God instead of freaking out and causing problems for them and their daddy.

My husband is amazing. At the times I’m crazy, He reminds me to look at the cross and the empty tomb. It seems that whenever one of us are battling this, the other is given the grace to lift up and encourage the other. We have a saying in our house taught by our amazing children’s pastor when my husband was a child and it goes, “I trust Jesus, yes, I do. I trust Jesus how ’bout you?” And we will make the other repeat it until they shout it from the top of their voice and they say it with conviction.

Sometimes, I remember this and others it’s a far cry from what I should be doing. The last time I looked at this was January 21, 2014…lol…here I am almost a year and a half later and I completely forgot about this post. I need it more today then I needed it then. I’ll be finishing a depression blog post soon to go along with this. So stay tuned! Praise the Lord, He redeems our souls.

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Rethink: The Power of Words

In this series, we will take a closer look at sayings and doctrines that are common place in streams of the church and talk about the truth and error of these sayings and doctrines.

The issue.

I’ve noticed a troubling trend among some charismatic Christians. There has been more and more talk about the power of our words and how they affect our situations. Usually it occurs in sermons where the people are encouraged to speak positive words into the air about their lives and situations. They are also told that much of what ails them (whether physically, financially, emotionally, etc) is coming from the negative words that they are speaking over their lives. The preacher will say “The reason you are sick is because you keep claiming you are sick instead of saying that you’re healed” or “Wake up and speak to the airways that you are blessed and all your bills will be paid.”

Why does this matter?

The verse used most often when people talk about the power of words is:

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. (Proverbs 18:21 ESV)

Many have taken this scripture and used it exclusively to make a theology that states our circumstances are created by what our mouth speaks. The problem is that the Bible never mentions this. The closest we get to the power of words again is in the book of  James.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:1-12 ESV)

James talks about our words as righteousness or sin, not life-altering positive or negative powers.

Now the Bible does mention people speaking to themselves and stirring themselves up to hope and believe. David is a great example of this.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. (Psalm 42:5-6 ESV)

Did you catch what David did though? Yes he talked to himself, but He used memories of what God had done to change his mood.

Still, changing moods (going from anxiousness to hope, or sorrow to joy) is one thing. Believing your words can change your physical circumstances or can bring in extra finances is another. In fact, it’s unbiblical.

I stumbled on this tweet the other day and thought it summed up this point well. Nowhere in scripture is a person reprimanded for a sickness simply for “not speaking healing over their life”. What most people forget about healing is that we don’t heal anyone. God does and He needs nothing to do it. While faith is usually present where there is healing, it is still something that God does according to His sovereign will. Our words have little if nothing to do with it.

My biggest problem with the power of words thinking is that it is rooted is a few horrible things. First, it is rooted in Word of Faith theology that claims that we have whatever we ask and so if something is not what we like, we have the power to change it. This is prosperity gospel at its core and goes against the sovereign nature of God, the depravity of man, and God’s way of bringing maturity through suffering.

UnknownPower of words thinking also has deep roots into the same philosophy as the book “The Secret.” Here is a quote from this book:

“As you think, those thoughts are sent out into the universe and they magnetically attract all like things that are on the same frequency. Everything sent out returns to the source. And that source is you.”

Christianity Today has a great review of it.

This book and its thinking as been held high by people like Oprah and sadly the same kind of thinking has kept into many Christian’s theology.

Now I believe in faith. I believe in healing and I also believe in reminding ourselves that God is faithful to provide and that He wants to heal (and purchased our healing). I also admit that,particularly with emotional states, there is scientific data regarding the placebo effect, that what we believe can help us feel better, especially for issues and pains that are mainly mental. Most of what I’m speaking against though falls under “hyper-faith”, the belief that anything we see as negative is not God’s will and therefore can be changed if we have enough faith and do the right things (ex. if we pray enough, give enough, serve enough, obey enough, etc).

But remember what Jesus said:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 ESV)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (Matthew 6:25-27 ESV)

Little branches, I encourage all of us when I say: stop being anxious. Stop worrying whether your bills will get paid because you didn’t speak enough positive words over your life. Stop feeling the shame about your child because you did declare “you’re an overcomer” over their life everyday. Our anxiousness, worry, and negative words can only produce one thing: sin. Quit reading books that focus on the power of what we can do for ourselves through our words. Let us stop all the self-talk and using the power of suggestion on ourselves and start looking to our Father who knows what we need and is good to give them as they line up with His will.

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Proverbs 10:19 ESV)

Why We Fast

In the past I’ve written articles on how to better fast and how to end a fast, but I have never talked about why we fast. I know from personal experience that I can be fasting and not know why. I can be focusing on all the wrong things instead of what fasting is truly accomplishing.

I should start by saying: fasting earns us nothing.

We don’t fast to get more favor from the Lord or to be “more pleasing” to Him. We can’t do anything that would add to what Jesus did on the cross. Our righteousness, goodness, and deservedness starts and ends at the cross. God doesn’t listen to our prayers more just because we’re fasting. We don’t get any access to God while fasting that we wouldn’t of had without it. We need to shake free from asceticism, the belief that we can reach a higher spiritual level by our works, and rest in the finished work of the cross.

I should also say: fasting informs God of nothing.

Often over-zealous Christians believe that fasting shows God the urgency of a situation they’re praying for. They believe if they toil for hours in prayer and fasting God will hear their request and answer. But those people often forget that He’s God. He knows everything. No one can tell Him something that He doesn’t already know. Unlike us, He realizes the importance (or lack thereof) of every situation. He knew about every circumstance before time began, and He knew His response to each and every prayer before any circumstance came to pass or before any prayer was prayed.

So we then do we fast? We fast for us.

When I say that we fast “for us”, I do not mean to say that we are the end to which we are fasting. Rather, we fast because we are constantly trying to substitute ourselves for God as the true end. We fast because our flesh hates God and wants nothing to do with Him. We fast because our desires are not for Him. We fast to create hunger for God by intentional weakness. The weaker our flesh and its desires become, the greater our spirit (and His Spirit’s influence) starts ruling our lives.

In past fasts, I’ve looked for one thing that I could give up, whether media, food, etc. I’ve treated fasting like I was offering a great sacrifice to God. In hindsight, I was looking for the very least I could do. The point of fasting is about becoming as weak as you can be. Again, it’s intentional weakness. I tell people that if your flesh isn’t terribly uncomfortable, agonizingly so, you’re not fasting right. I’m not talking about food either. It’s amazing how I can go without food for a week but I can’t go without reading the news for a day; that to leave my iPhone off all day is such a struggle and that my flesh longs for it. My flesh agonizes without it.

We often substitute what we are fasting with something else. I may fast lunch but I replace that time I’m eating with surfing the internet instead. I should be using the time I would normally eat lunch with to spend time with God. That’s how fasting is supposed to work. We strip (aka “fast”) all the meaningless things we can, making our flesh intentionally weak, so that we can draw near to God. 

I remember one day when God said, “Crumbs.” I asked “What are crumbs? What do you mean?” He responded, “Crumbs are all the little things in your life you eat that fill you up so that you’re not hungry for Me. You snack all day on crumbs so you never come to the feast I’ve prepared for you.”

Our lives are full of trivial things. We spend so much time on our phones, checking our social networks, watching the news, surfing the internet, and goofing off. While these things aren’t evil, they are crumbs that tend to feed our flesh and strengthen it to the point that we don’t desire God. There’s a feast of glory that God has prepared for us. Yet we rather eat the crumbs of our flesh and maybe a little food that comes from the table when we hear a sermon, but we never take a seat at the table. We never feast on God when we’re alone.

There is a feast in the Bible. Let us fast so we may partake at the table.

Why I Don’t Look At The Menu

I’ve heard women say over and over again:

“Yes, I am married but I can look at the menu. I just can’t buy.”

I absolutely hate that saying. I feel like it breeds contempt and dis-contentedness. I think this is why so many marriages are having problems. We look at others, but those looks become thoughts, and sometimes those thoughts lead to action. Go back to the garden of Eden and find our star player. Her name was Eve and this is what scripture says:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:1-7 ESV)

Did you note the part that said :

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

This all started in Eden. This discontentness is what we have been fighting since the beginning! Thank God that He has given us freedom in Christ Jesus. Paul says in Romans:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:12-21 ESV)

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. (Romans 6:5-7 ESV)

Yes, I realize that it mentions Adam and not Eve. I think that we, as women, forget that our husbands have a responsibility in how they lead us. They will answer to God for us one day and we will answer for our submission to our husbands. Adam didn’t have to take the fruit. Going back to Genesis 3, we see that it was Eve who looked, desired, took and gave. She wasn’t content with her husband, she wasn’t content with her life. Think about it. Read Genesis 1-4 yourself.  Eve had everything! A beautiful home, an awesome organic grocery store, a handsome husband, a loving father in God, and she was free. God only asked her to not eat one thing. That was it, just one tree! She had her pick of anything else she wanted. Literally anything.

I can’t drive this home enough! We have got to stop putting our men next to the latest Hollywood hunk or the sexy new musicians and start having eyes only for our husbands. We need to take the same amount of energy we spend pretending what our lives would be like with Mr. So-and-So and how amazing this imaginary man is and pour that into our husbands.

We are to be content in everything. Paul says in Philippians:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)

I realize this is talking about provision. This is still relevant. We have to be satisfied with the life God has given us. The overall truth is that we are selfish. We want what we want, when we want it. My heart aches because so many of infidelities could be avoided. If (1) we would keep our eyes on the gifts God has given us, (2) stop looking at what someone else has, and (3) if we would wait in the presence of God and realize no man is going to fulfill all of our desires. Our hope is in Christ alone.

I want to state for the record that I am anything but perfect. God knows my own struggles and thoughts. On the days when it feels like I am the worst parent, worst wife, slacker, and everything else is going wrong, I am the first person to jump off the proverbial ledge. I wonder about what it would look like to have different things. But God reminds me to knock it off. I am right where He wants me. We can’t surprise God. We have free will and God knows what we will choose but we also have a choice to surround ourselves with the things of God. To come to His well and drink in His presence. By doing this we help keep the door shut on our enemy, Satan. He can get no ground in our lives.

Again, why do I not look at the menu? Simple, because I don’t want to give any ground to my enemy. I want to live a life that is pleasing to my Savior.

(Note: I realize some of you reading this may have less desirable situations with your husbands. I have watched several relationships over the past six years where there has been serious cases of faithfulness and fidelity. Yet, in three of these cases, I have watched God do a slow and restorative healing.)

Help To Better Read

My goal in this post is to help people read more. I am acutely aware that there are great books about this, but I also understand that many people I know don’t read books at all. Reading for them isn’t something they don’t do well, but rather something they don’t do at all. It is for these people I write this post. I want to give some helpful tips on how to cultivate a simple reading life.

Some may ask though, “Why is reading books important? Isn’t reading my Bible enough?” I will let John Piper answer this question brilliantly:

Some may also say that they don’t have enough money or time to read. I will focus on time in a moment, but let me address the money concern. I understand that money is tight in many families (although we typically find a way to buy things that we have prioritized as important) but let me offer you two options that may help you:

  1. A Kindle
    I bought my Kindle 2 years ago for $70 (it took me a few months to save up for it) and it pays for itself again and again every 3 months. Why? Because thanks to certain blogs and Twitter accounts that I follow, I find discounted deals for books. I have bought brand new theology books that would typically cost $20 for 99 cents, because the Kindle version was on-sale for a day. While I like paper books, the cost saving has made me a Kindle-only person.
  2. Your local library
    You would be impressed on what you can find at your local library. My city’s library has the newest & hottest worship cds. They also keep a great collection of books. I can even ask them to add a book into their inventory, and thanks to God, my requests have never been rejected. Typically, they also have a wide catalog of good audiobooks (on CD) available. I’ll talk more about these shortly.

Now that I’ve dealt with the reasons to read and how to read for cheap/free, let me offer a few helpful tips on how to cultivate a reading life.

Read small chucks consistently

Make a plan to read for 10 minutes right before bed. That’s it. Get yourself in a habit to read something every day. You would be surprised how quick you could read a book if you just read for 10 minutes a day. Take one of your work breaks and read a book. If you do that consistently, you should be able to read a book every 2-3 weeks (depending on page length).

Read something worth it

Don’t read things that you think are going to be a waste of your time. If you’re out of school, then you are probably out of the required reading stage. Find something to read that interests you. Check the Amazon reviews to see what people are saying about the book and if they enjoyed it.

Read something fun

Don’ just read systematic theology books. Read some great fiction books. Read books like The Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, etc. Let your imagination loose and have fun. If you never read anything enjoyable and fun, I’ll wager that you will rarely read.

Highlight and make notes

This is important. When reading a non-fiction book, highlight all you can. Make notes throughout the book. This helps you to engage with the book more and remember more of the material you’re reading. It also helps to quickly read the important passages when you re-read the book years later.

Listen to audio books

This is one of my favorites. As I said, the library has audio books for free. I listen to a book every two weeks in my car just by listening to it on my way to work and church. Personally, I listen to fiction books while I’m in my car (I get less sleepy that way). This means that my ten minutes each night can be spent with something that will grow me in biblical knowledge or leadership skills (my two most often read subjects). If you want a great place to start, I encourage you to get the Chronicles of Narnia (unabridged) audio books from your local library.

Christians Persecuting Jesus

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:1-5 ESV)

In the above passage, Jesus tells us that when people persecute believers, they are persecuting Him. We often use this scripture to comfort persecuted Christians in third-world countries. However, I recently read it and thought of something else we can use this scripture for.

“Christians: ditto.”

We naturally tend to apply this scripture to atheists, Muslims, and other religious persecutors, but we forget about another great persecutor of the church: us. I think of how many of Paul’s letters pleaded with the church to stop fighting with each other. Let me just list a few of the scriptures about it.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4 ESV)

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-20 ESV)

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (James 3:13-16 ESV)

But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. (Jude 1:10-16 ESV)

Ouch. All of these scriptures were written because of real issues happening in the church. They aren’t answers for hypothetical situations. I find it sobering yet helpful that the early church was struggling with unity back then. It speaks on how hard it is to obtain true unity yet how much grace there is for us to have it (mostly because Christ desires it so much per John 17).

Paul, while talking about marriage, gives us a beautiful encouragement for Christian unity:

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body….This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:28-32 ESV)

By the ways we treat other Christians, we can either show our love for the body or our hate for it. Every time we mock or mistreat another believer, we are mistreating our own body. However, we are doing more than that, because we are the body of Christ! We are not just persecuting each other, we are persecuting Him. This is a helpful reminder for me to watch what I say and do to other believers, for one day Jesus will judge how we treated “His brothers” (Matthew 25:40). Jesus takes how we treat His family and His body very seriously.

If we are not careful, we (believers) can find ourselves persecuting Jesus just like the world does.

Rethink: Serving & Burnout

In this series, we will take a closer look at sayings and doctrines that are common place in streams of the church and talk about the truth and error of these sayings and doctrines.

The issue.

I have been serving in my local church for roughly fifteen years straight, most of the time in the same two ministries that I originally started with (youth and worship). There have been many mountains and valleys in those fifteen years. There have been times where I’ve been full of vision and passion and there have been times where I’ve been full of bitterness and complaining. During these fifteen years, the subject of serving and burnout have consistently come up, both from me and from others that I have served with.

The argument that I’ve heard and have said typically goes like this: burnout happens to servants either because (1) the volunteers can’t say no to leaders who are asking for help and therefore are over-worked or (2) the church is abusive to its volunteer workers. In the last fifteen years, I have argued both sides. But it wasn’t till recently that I realized a consistent truth in all my years of serving (easy or hard). Here is that truth:

The only constant was me. I’ve had different leaders and served in different roles/functions, but I was stll getting burnt-out. I started looking back on my burnt-out times and realizing that I was always expecting something (that I didn’t get) from my leadership during those times.

Why does this matter?

The first step in fixing a problem is recognizing that there is a problem, but the second step is to find out where the root of the problem is. If we think the root of the problem is the church (either by them asking for too much, or by them being abusive in the way they handle their volunteers), then all that grows is offense and bitterness. If someone stays at a church that they’re serving at with that attitude, they end up defiling many (Hebrews 12:15). Even if that person decides that the solution is to leave and go to another church, they will (eventually) have the same issue there as well. Why? Because the issue is with the heart, not with the leaders.

Another solution burnt-out servants may look at is serving less. If you think the root of the problem is that you serve too much (and can’t say “no” when leaders ask for help) then the practical solution would be to serve less. Sadly, I have watched this thinking lead people to stop serving altogether, and (in my personal experience) those who don’t serve the church in some fashion rarely keep their passion (particularly generosity) for the Lord. Jesus designed the Christian life to model His earthly life, where we serve more and more to our own death (of our sinful flesh and selfishness). This is what Paul allude to in Phillipians 2:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:1-8 ESV)

In the passage above, Paul combines service with humility and selflessness. In my own experience, the times I’ve been burnt-out are the same times that I feel I should be getting something I didn’t have, whether it be a position, more influence, a reply, a gift, a “thank you”, etc. This is the definition of “selfish ambition” that Paul talks about: what we deserve and our rights. People who decide to stop serving (or start serving way less) are many times looking “only to his own interests” and not “to the interests of others.” That’s not to say that there isn’t wisdom we should have regarding serving. Our families should come first before the ministry. If we’re serving the church and not seeing our wives and children, then something is off and we should serve less at church so that we can serve more at home. Yet overall, it’s not less service, it’s more. Serve at church. Serve at home. Serve at our job. Serve, serve, serve.

So what is our solution if the problem with burnout is us and not leaders or the church? Paul says it’s humility. Jesus gives us some really good words we ought to remember as we serve:

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:7-11 ESV)

I think the #1 cause of burnout revolves around that we think more highly of ourselves then we ought (Romans 12:3). When we serve, many times we can think of ourselves as worthy servants. Yet Jesus is clear. There is no worthy servants except one, Jesus, and He came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28). Most of our burnout issues come from our desire to be served. We need to remember who we are serving and who our model for serving is.

It’s Jesus, meek and lowly. In reality, He’s doing all the work, so why should we get any of the praise for it?