10 Ways the Enemy Robs Us of Our Joy

By Chuck Lawless on Jun 05, 2019 01:00 am

Paul made it clear to us that we wrestle against demonic forces as we strive to follow Christ (Eph. 6:12). In fact, the enemy often seeks to destroy our Christian joy so that our witness for Christ loses its effectiveness. Here are some ways he seeks to rob us:

  1. He wants us to magnify our mistakes, dwell on them, and struggle with accepting God’s forgiveness. It’s tough to speak about grace when we’re not willing to receive it.
  2. He wants us to dwell on one complaint rather than see the good that God is doing through us. Some of us will focus on one complainer even if two dozen people are saved that day.
  3. He entices us into secret sin. The work of hiding simply drains us of inner joy, even when we can fake it on the outside as we do ministry.
  4. He leads us to see only the negatives about our sermons. One fumbled word. One unclear illustration. One moment of forgetfulness. One minute longer than we intended to preach. One missed Bible verse. Just one—but that one thing echoes in our mind for the rest of the day (if not longer).
  5. He aims his arrows at our families. The pain of spiritual attack on our loved ones is agonizing indeed—especially if we sense that the enemy is attacking because we’ve been faithful to follow God. In the weakest moments, we wonder if it’s worth it.

The rest are at: https://chucklawless.us10.list-manage.com/track/click

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10 Things To Do When Your Christian Life Has Become Routine

~ Chuck Lawless

Here’s my concern that drives this blog post: too many of us as Christian leaders have settled into a monotonous, routine Christianity that lacks passion and power. We’re going through the motions—perhaps even while our ministries seem stronger than others—but we know something’s too settled in our lives.

I have addressed this issue a bit in my book, Nobodies for Jesus, but I sometimes still struggle, too. If you struggle with me, perhaps these ideas will help you:

  1. Be honest with somebody about your struggle. Don’t try to win the battle on your own. In fact, it’s sometimes our aloneness—when no one’s pushing us to grow—that contributes to our becoming apathetic in the first place.
  2. Enlist prayer warriors who pray specifically for you: “God, light the fire in _______’s life again.” Just knowing that others are praying this way for us can begin to make a difference.
  3. Evaluate causes behind your “routine-ness.” Sometimes it’s sin that’s turned us in a different direction . . . or getting out of the habit of spiritual disciplines . . . or a faith crisis that’s begun to question God and His ways. Whatever the causes are, recognize them and deal with them.
  4. Take a walk, and remember the beginning of your Christian journey. Now 45 years after God saved me, I can still remember the excitement, joy, and absolute peace I felt at the time. Simply remembering those days makes me long for that passion again.

Continue: http://chucklawless.com/2019/05/10-things-to-do-when-your-christian-life-has-become-routine/

8 Ways That False Teaching Infiltrates The Church

~ Chuck Lawless

The apostle Paul knew that false teachings infected the church at Corinth. Some teachers, who appeared on the outside to be “servants of righteousness” were actually only “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). They infiltrated the church and brought with them another gospel.

How does false teaching make its way into today’s church? Here are a few ways it happens:

  1. Failing to preach the Word of God. This reason, I trust, is obvious—but I’m not convinced that everyone who claims to teach the Word of God truly does. All of us need other elders, staff members, or lay leaders who have our permission to help keep us true to the Word.
  2. Congregational assumptions that the preacher is always right. You’d hope no church truly reaches that conclusion, but I’ve seen churches that never understood their role to listen wisely and prayerfully to the Word expounded. They may never make the statement that the preacher is always right, but they wouldn’t dare confront him with their biblical and theological questions.
  3. Poor discipleship in the church. When we don’t teach believers the Word and challenge them to obey what Jesus commanded, we give them few tools to evaluate the teaching they hear.
  4. Pastoral assertions that no one has a right to question the shepherd of God’s church. Again, I surely hope these pastors are few and far between, but they do exist. In some cases, they view any questioners as their enemies and seek to run them off.
  5. Too little attention to addressing false teachings that permeate society. If, for example, the church never clearly teaches that a personal relationship with Jesus is necessary for salvation, they shouldn’t be surprised when church members believe something different. Strong, intentional application of the biblical text can help us address these kinds of issues.
  6. Weak accountability for small groups and their leaders. It’s easy for small groups to strike out on their own, with little oversight and accountability for the teachings in the group. By the time church leaders learn about false teaching in the group, the wrong ideas have often already spread.
  7. “Lone Ranger” leadership in the church. Beginning with the pastor, but also including staff and lay leaders, anyone who leads without genuine life-on-life interaction with other believers can be susceptible to going in the wrong direction theologically. There’s a reason God put us in the Body of Christ to help each other.
  8. Shallow or nonexistent review of curriculum or resources. Popularity of books, podcasts, websites, small group studies, etc., is not a guarantee of doctrinal fidelity. Even one poorly evaluated resource can create internal tension over suspect teachings.
  9. No prayer to guard against the enemy’s attacks. The same enemy who attacked the church at Corinth aims his arrows at our churches as well. At a minimum, it is wise for us to pray, “Father, deliver us from the evil one’s devices. Help us to stand continually on Your Word.”

What other ways come to mind for you?

Comment at: http://chucklawless.com/2019/05/8-ways-that-false-teaching-infiltrates-the-church/

Sermon-based Small Groups: Yes or No?

By Chuck Lawless on Apr 29, 2019 01:00 am

More and more churches seem to be moving to a sermon-based curriculum for their small groups. That is, they review and study the same text the pastor preached on the previous Sunday. On the other hand, I’ve met church leaders who oppose this approach. Here’s a summary of the arguments I’m hearing:

Why Sermon-based Small Groups are Good:

  1. They allow church members to dig more deeply into that week’s preached text. Seldom is it a bad move to know the Word better, and focused study can help the church reach that goal. Particularly, the group can work together to ask how they should apply the text in their life that week.
  2. They provide a place for church members to ask questions about the text. I’ve never seen someone ask a question during the sermon, but that doesn’t mean that listeners don’t have questions. A sermon-based small group gives opportunity to ask those questions.
  3. They promote consistency and unity among all the small groups. Regardless of the number of groups, everyone’s studying and reviewing the same content—which helps to build unity and direction within the church.
  4. They encourage worship service attendance. If you know that you’ll be discussing the sermon material in your small group, you’re more likely to be at church to hear the sermon. And, you can often listen to it online if you need to miss the service.
  5. The facilitator is just that—a facilitator. His or her job is to lead the group in discussing the sermon and biblical text. Facilitators don’t have to study a new text and prepare a new lesson each week.

Why Sermon-based Small Groups Aren’t Always Good

  1. The church misses an opportunity to teach more Bible in the small group. If the group is only discussing the sermon text, they seldom veer from that text. Over the course of a year, the church studies only what the pastor has preached – and there’s usually a lot more Bible than that.
  2. Some group members might feel like they’re simply hearing the sermon again each week. And, if they’re only doing that, what’s the point of attending small group?
  3. The discussion can sometimes become nothing more than a critique of the pastor’s sermon and leadership. The group thus becomes an opportunity not only to talk about the sermon, but also to express concerns and air grievances about the pastor. The leader ought to halt this kind of discussion, but that doesn’t always happen.
  4. Group members who miss church that week may feel unprepared to come to small group. Yes, they can often listen to the sermon online, but not everyone will take that step. Some will simply decide not to go to small group that week.
  5. Writing sermon-based curriculum is not easy. It’s not as simple as just reiterating the sermon’s points. It requires someone who has the time to write it, who knows how to write well, and who thinks practically enough to build application into the curriculum. I’ve seen too many churches hurt their small group ministry by producing only weak, unfocused curriculum.

What are your thoughts? What does your church do? 

Give your comments at: https://chucklawless.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=1f66ea30867c3c2882f0eae77&id=caa3d65e14&e=e8a5edc6f6

What I Like And Don’t Like About Spiritual Gifts Inventories

http://chucklawless.com/2019/03/what-i-like-and-dont-like-about-spiritual-gifts-inventories/

10 Ways To Challenge And Stretch Your Faith

Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Still, many of us have a stagnant faith that has not been challenged in years. We don’t know God better, and we don’t trust Him much more than we did years ago. If that’s where you are, maybe these ideas will help you challenge your faith.

  1. Read the Bible, and learn about faith. Let the Word of God itself stretch your belief system. Learn from its lessons, and trust its promises.
  2. Commit your children and grandchildren to the Lord—even if His calling on their lives takes them to the other side of the world. It’s one thing to make this commitment when they’re babies in arms; it’s a different matter when they’re college students making this move (or young adults taking your grandchildren with them).
  3. Send your best leaders and givers to plant a church or assist a struggling congregation. Sending out members you’re unlikely to miss really doesn’t require much faith. Sending your best does.
  4. Give sacrificially until it genuinely hurts your pocketbook. Faith is not a concern when your giving is only out of your excess.

The rest is at: http://chucklawless.com/2019/02/10-ways-to-challenge-and-stretch-your-faith/?utm_source=Blog+List&utm_campaign=a5119f8a1e-Daily_Blog_Emails&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1f3938126f-a5119f8a1e-100317513

5 Reasons Why a Handwritten “Thank You” Note Can Make a Difference

By Chuck Lawless

I know I’m dating myself here, but I believe many of us need to return to handwriting some thank you notes. I assume that all of us can name somebody who has blessed us, either for a long time or even just today. Here’s why taking the time to write a “thank you” note matters:

  1. It takes time—which shows some depth of gratitude. Think about it – you have to buy the card, write the note, find an address, address the envelope, and mail it. Sure, the card arrives much later than an email would, but the effort behind the “thank you” note is seldom missed.
  2. Few people do it—so it catches the attention of the receiver. An email “thank you” is easier to send, but it’s also easier to miss on the other end. A handwritten note, however, often catches the recipient by surprise. Its very uniqueness in our Internet-based world makes a difference.
  3. It feels much more personal. I know that’s an emotional response, but it’s often true nonetheless. Somehow, seeing the handwriting and signature of an affirming friend or loved one is different than receiving an email.
  4. It provides good memories. I still remember “thank you” notes that arrived at just the right time with just the right words from just the right person. God used those notes to encourage me then, and my memories of them still encourage me today. That’s one reason I’m writing this post today.
  5. It models a good habit for others. I know many people who’ve received gifts and support from others, but who never took the time to say, “thank you.” It is as if we sometimes think we’re entitled to something, so we see no need to express gratitude. We need to learn, though, from others who seldom miss an opportunity to say “thank you” via a handwritten note.

So, I encourage you this week/weekend to write at least five “thank you” notes to people who have blessed your life. Let them hear from you, in the words of the apostle Paul, “in my [your] own handwriting” (Gal. 6:11).