Am I Getting Passing Grades?

The Apostle Paul tells us to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). This implies that there is an ongoing process of evaluation and renewal. This starts when I give up my way of doing things (v. 1), and then the remainder of that 12th chapter is a checklist of changes in behavior that come about because of the renewing of our minds. 

We need a regular report card on—
Seeing myself in the right light of faith
Knowing and using my God-given gifts 
Loving without hypocrisy
Avoiding evil
Promoting good
Loving others like brothers and sisters
Not fighting for my way
Being diligent in my work
Being diligent in my spiritual health
Serving God
Rejoicing even in difficulties 
Growing in patience
Praying regularly
Hospitably serving others
Blessing my enemies
Being appropriately empathetic 
Finding common ground
Remaining humble
Repaying good for evil
Not trying to get even
Being a peacemaker
Overcoming evil with good

Holy Spirit, I need Your honest evaluation. Show me my deficits, and then help me hear Your loving voice that guides me in the changes I need to make. I want Jesus to be seen in my life. Amen! 

The Value In Retreating

So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed (Luke 5:16).

So”—in light of what just happened. What happened? Jesus was preaching everywhere, He healed a leper, and great multitudes came to hear Him speak and to be healed. So Jesus had to withdraw frequently to pray and be replenished.

All of us have only a finite amount of energy. When we are sensing that energy level is low, we also need a retreat. Otherwise, our low energy levels can sabotage us and diminish what God wants to do through us. 

Then check out the results after Christ’s time of replenishing:

  • God’s power was “present to heal” (v. 17)
  • People were saved (v. 20)
  • Jesus had holy perception (v. 22)
  • Miracles confirmed the word that Jesus preached (v. 24)
  • God was glorified (v. 26)
  • People followed Jesus (vv. 27, 28)
  • Jesus had enough grace and patience to handle criticism (v. 30)
  • Jesus had enough wisdom and patience to handle tricky theological questions (vv. 33-39)

J.C. Ryle noted, “The most successful workmen in the Lord’s vineyard are those who are, like their Master, often and much upon their knees.”

Healthy leaders are keenly aware of their own energy levels. 

So… A mark of a godly leader is one who frequently retreats. 

This is part 32 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Saturday In The Proverbs—How Does That Taste? (Proverbs 12)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid (Proverbs 12:1).

What comes from our lips is either a healthy feast or it is nauseating junk food. But what comes from our lips is based on what we put in—garbage in, garbage out.

The only way to fix this is by gaining godly knowledge and listening to godly correction.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of healthy food and junk food that Solomon lists for us in Proverbs 12:

(click on the image to see a larger view or click here to download a PDF → Proverbs 12 – how does that taste)

10 Quotes From “Sacred Rest”

Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith thinks you may be too busy to read her book Sacred Rest, and she was candid enough to admit that she was almost too busy to write it! But rest is absolutely vital to keep our lives on track and productive. Check out my full review of Dr. Dalton-Smith’s book by clicking here.

“When I am resting because my body is weak, I need to remember that I’m not wasting the day doing nothing. I am doing exactly what I need to do. I’m recovering.” —Anonymous 

“There has to be a bridge between good and bad sleep, and that bridge is rest. Sleep is solely a physical activity. Rest, however, penetrates into the spiritual. Rest speaks peace into the daily storms your mind, body, and spirit encounter. Rest is what makes sleep sweet.”

“All rest is not created equal. Much of what we consider rest fails to work because it is not restful. Shifting our activities or changing the location of where we are active is no more restful than doing those same activities at home. The most effective rest occurs when we are purposefully reviving the parts of our life we regularly deplete. Any so-called rest that does not meet this goal isn’t rest; it’s just more work adding to the busyness.”

“As important as it is to rest your body, it’s equally important to quiet your mind from the ongoing influx of information it receives. Much like our social media news feeds, our mental background noise is often infused with negativity. Thoughts about the future are contaminated with anxiety, thoughts about the past are tainted with regret, and thoughts about the present are spoiled with discontentment. The mind is magnificent, but it has its own agenda. Rather than willingly focusing on positive affirming thoughts, the mind prefers to settle upon negative ones that intensify stress, worry, anger, and frustration. It will attempt to occupy your attention with useless information, depleting your time and your energy. Mental rest involves relinquishing the constant stream of thoughts entering your mind quickly and obtaining a sense of cerebral stillness.”

“One should not set about treating the body without the soul. This is exactly why most ailments are beyond the capabilities of Greek healers: they neglect the whole when that is what they should be paying attention to.” —Plato

“Physical pain increases when you are under emotional stress and spiritual distress. Anything you can do to improve emotional pain will also improve how you feel physically.”

“Social rest is when we find comfort in our relationships and social interactions. … Studies show an improved immune system, better cardiovascular health, and less dementia in those who regularly enjoy the companionship of close confidantes.”

“We are not made for rest; rest was made for us. Rest is God’s gift back to His people. His presence is how He connects us to His rest. It is part invitation and part prescription.”

“Excuses are invented reasons we create to defend our behavior. It’s how we rationalize our neglect and how we avoid taking responsibility for our choices. … With excuses, we’ve placed external blame for internal problems and stay in a cycle of unproductivity.”

“A well-rested life is a secret hidden in plain sight. It is a life at one with God, self, and others. It’s a life strengthened by winding down the expectations of others and charging up your expectations for yourself. You become in tune with what you need to be at your best. You become comfortable with your strengths and knowledgeable about your weaknesses. You then use that information to pour into the areas needing strengthening and reinforce areas already strong. You find your sweet spot in living, loving, being, doing, and resting.”

Sacred Rest (book review)

Medical doctor Saundra Dalton-Smith opens her book Sacred Rest with a telling line: “Let’s be honest; we are all just too busy. I am too busy to write this book, and you are probably too busy to read this book.” How true that is! We desperately need quality rest to recuperate from our busy lives, but we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that rest is a waste of time.

Some people mistakenly think that sleep is rest. But, as Dr. Dalton-Smith quickly points out, that isn’t true. Sleep is required for our good health, but sleep is a natural by-product of rest. Rest isn’t just taking a nap; it goes so much deeper and wider than that.

A good portion of this book is built-around Dr. Dalton-Smith’s acrostic R-E-S-T. She says, “Let me share a little medical secret with you. The most underused, chemical-free, safe, effective, alternative medicine is spelled R-E-S-T: Recognize your risk, Evaluate your current position, Science and research, Today’s application.”

In Sacred Rest, you will learn not only what parts of our lives need rest, but also some highly practical ways to get that rest we so desperately need. This book is not written in medical terminology, but in easy-to-understand principles that anyone can grasp.

Dr. Dalton-Smith shares how she has followed her own prescription for rest, and the difference it has made in her life. Quite simply she says, “What I am promising is that as you begin to understand the role rest plays in your life you will do the following: replace the stress of intense living with the peace of intentional rest, and identify your rest deficit and discover which types of rest you need most.”

Please!—Make time in your busyness to read this book on rest so that you can learn how to be the most you can be without burning yourself out.

I am a Faith Words book reviewer.

What Is The Church Supposed To Be Doing?

Before ascending back to Heaven, Jesus commissioned His followers. He gave them a mission which Christian often refer to as The Great Commission.

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

There are several pictures in the New Testament of how the Church could live out this Great Commission, but one of the pictures that I find the most helpful is that of a Body.

The human body is an amazing creation! Just to accomplish the simple task of picking up something between our thumb and forefinger is a miracle in itself. The structure of bones and ligaments and tendons, the interaction of nerves in the fingers coordinating with the optical nerve, not to mention the enzymes and blood vessels that are all doing their part.

Yet if any part is not functioning properly, that simple action becomes more difficult. Maybe it even becomes impossible.

The Church is the same way. Every part of the Church Body has to be functioning in healthy order for the whole Body to be effective.

Here are four aspects of a healthy Church Body that the Apostle Paul lists in Ephesians 4:

  1. Caring for one another
  2. Mobilizing for evangelism
  3. Making disciple-makers
  4. Helping organize for more meaningful ministry

If every part of the Body is doing its part, we’re Living out the Great Commission.

If some parts are missing or unhealthy, we’re Wallowing in the Great Omission.

It’s not about your church (small “c”) or my church. It’s about all Christian disciples being a part of one Church—one Body—going into all the world and making disciples of all peoples. That’s what the Church is supposed to be doing!

7 Quotes + 1 Infographic From “Marching Off The Map”

Once again, Tim Elmore has given us invaluable insight into the emerging youth culture. If you have kids or work with kids, you must read Marching Off The Map. You can check out my full book review by clicking here. Below is the first set of quotes I want to share with you, but there will be plenty more coming in the future, so stay tuned!

“Thanks to technology, information streams into their lives 24/7 and often has no filter on it, even for young children. When we determined not to censor content in the media, we had no idea (understandably) how it would affect our kids. We’re removing the opportunity for them to experience innocence and wonder. However, because they’re still maturing emotionally, socially, cognitively and biologically in their first 25 years, we have now begun to witness a strange paradox in our young: the extinction of childlikeness and the extension of childishness. …

“Since they are exposed to so much adult information, so early in their lives, they can prematurely lose (1) their sense of innocence, (2) their sense of wonder and (3) their sense of trust …

“Biologically, the graduate is an adult. Emotionally, the graduate may be unprepared for the adult world.” 

“If you think our kids are pitifully impulsive on social media—just look at the adult population. … If you think teens are addicted to Facebook, just study the hours their mothers spend on it. If you think young athletes on the Little League baseball field act childish, just look at their dads. The behavior of adults and children has become more and more similar. Society has baptized ‘youthfulness.’ We want to look young, feel young, dress young, talk young and act young. We argue with our children’s teachers. We push our kid’s coaches to get them special treatment. We are not good at delaying gratification, and we frequently don’t keep commitments we make … very much like children. The result? Adulthood has lost much of its aura and authority.”

“As you stand in front of your classroom or your own children—you are, in a sense, Galileo. You are Magellan. You are Christopher Columbus. You are Lewis and Clark. You are Neil Armstrong. Ready or not, they need you to play this role.

“Our world is both expanding and shrinking. Our past maps and methods are antiquated. Like it or not, we’re moving into unfamiliar territory and many think it’s too difficult to explore. We have fallen in love with our old maps. … 

“For educators, our role must change as we teach a generation of students who don’t need adults to get information.

“For parents, our role must change as we raise kids in a time of terrorism, economic recession, racial unrest, underemployment and ubiquitous technology.

“For coaches, our role must change as we train young athletes who have eight-second attention spans, and may arrive at practice with little resilience or grit.

“For youth workers, our role must change as we mentor students who have few life skills or values because adults either over-functioned or were absent.

“For employers, our role must change as we onboard young employees who may have never had a real job before, and may ask when ‘spring break’ will be.”

“Adults must enable the students to leverage what is new, yet at the same time, hold on to what is ancient, yet valuable. We must be both timeless and timely. So, our job as we serve the next generation is two-fold:

  • To adopt or adapt. We must seize what is new and help kids leverage it well.
  • To explain and equip. We must relate to them the timeless ideals every generation needs.”

“I believe we must cultivate one significant skill set in ourselves: we must be able to either adapt to the new world that’s emerging, or we must explain why a timeless virtue or value is still relevant in our 21st century world.”

“A third of young Americans say they don’t belong to any religion. I’ve found, however, they’ve traded in one God for many gods. They want to ‘feel’ spiritual, so they’ve created a buffet—seeking something to satisfy their soul. I often hear students say, ‘I don’t believe in religion, but I want to be a spiritual person.’ Today—pluralism is expanding across the landscape. It’s easier to say ‘no’ to one and enjoy a mixture of many.”

“A third of young Americans say they don’t belong to any religion. I’ve found, however, they’ve traded in one God for many gods. They want to ‘feel’ spiritual, so they’ve created a buffet—seeking something to satisfy their soul. I often hear students say, ‘I don’t believe in religion, but I want to be a spiritual person.’ Today—pluralism is expanding across the landscape. It’s easier to say ‘no’ to one and enjoy a mixture of many.”

“The Latin root word for ‘educate’ is ‘ducere’ which means to ‘push out.’ … We should not put students in a passive mode as we teach. We must be inspirers of learning. We must help pull ambition out of them, not push information into them.”

I’ll be posting some more quotes from Marching Off The Map next week.

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