Coming Apart

What is the one thing that many of us fail to guard in a fast paced culture? -Our time. Especially to cultivate ideas, listen to God, and allow ourselves to get in a contemplative mode. Instead we hurry around with our cars, phones, iPods & other gadgets and people filling our lives with noise.

Even in the ancient times of the Bible, Jesus said to his disciples, “Come apart.” One person commented on this that, “if you don’t ‘come apart’ you will come apart.” (Get away from the noise before you come apart at the seams)

Do you have a problem hearing from God? When is the last time you pushed all the sources of noise in your life aside and sat quietly and waited on God…for more than a minute?

Could it be that many of our stress related issues might be resolved if we took time for concentrated meditation? Allowing the Spirit of God room in our lives to operate from within.

Try it. Take a look at your calendar and when could you make this happen? Here’s a few suggestions on finding this time: stay off Social Media for a day, don’t watch TV, return calls tomorrow, tell the people around you that you need to take some time to “come apart.”

Have you had some times where God refreshed you in His presence just by waiting? Do you need some de-stressors in your life today? Give this a try and feel free to share what happens after you “come apart” in a good way.

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Shrink Your Challenges

I can spend way too much time, energy and effort on the problems in front of me. This consists of conversations with others and myself, Google about it, reading concerning it and such. How about you? Human nature is to focus on the problem and many of us are wired to fix things, so we attempt to do it on our own.

And while I want to be careful not appear to be minimizing your problem, because I know it can be enormous. But, think about what it would look like if we put that same time, energy and thought toward God? Would the size of God outsize your problem? Would the radiance of God outshine your problem? Would the power of God overpower your problem?

Are you ready to focus more on God and less on your problem? When you do, if you’re like me, your vision of God will increase and your view of your problem will shrink.

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Running On Empty

Posted in Margin, Prayer, Purpose, Rest & Refreshing, Solitude, Stress, Victorious Living by PCraig on September 8, 2016

All kinds of information exists on breathing techniques for reducing stress. It seems most of us tend to breathe shallow and live pressurized lives. By breathing deeply through our nose, holding it for several seconds, then slowly releasing it out our mouths, heart rate and stress levels come down. So, you might try it and see what happens.

This got me thinking about how important it is to breathe in the experiences of life. How many of us just getting going in the morning and don’t stop until we hit the bed? God didn’t even do this. In creation, God set aside one day of the week to be a day of rest. In a culture that carries a device that is linked to the world in it’s hand, that is difficult for us to achieve.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Unplug for 15 minutes each morning to connect only with God. Read, pray, sing, meditate and establish connection. How your day begins has a lot to do with how it goes.
  • Set aside a few moments before you pull into the driveway and pray, “God, I’m about to go inside to people who need me to be present and a positive influence, help me to put all else aside to be what they need.”
  • Weekly orchestrate your schedule to attend a church service where you can recalibrate in worship, fellowship and discipleship.
  • Schedule monthly appointments with yourself that include getting away from the normal routine for a number of hours to ponder, pray and rest.
  • Annually take a day, or more if possible, to evaluate your life and the direction you are headed. Ask yourself, “Am I going toward my purpose?” If not, ask God to help you get in alignment with His purpose and create action steps for doing so.

What are some steps you currently take to reduce stress and realign your life to God’s purposes? If you can’t think of any, maybe try some of those I’ve suggested, or seek God to create your own. You can’t live a fully charged life while running on empty.

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Don’t Worry Anymore

Posted in Culture, Fear, Perspective, Stress, Worry by PCraig on July 8, 2015

Do you worry too much?  How much is too much?  Who’s definition will we go by?

Personally, I think we live in a stressed-out culture.  I’ve never felt like more people were nervous, anxious, fearful, concerned, angry, up tight and on-edge than today.  Studies have shown that people are more stressed today than in the past 25 years, especially women (according to NY Daily News).

Compare this with the words of our leader, Jesus, who said, “Do not worry about your life” (Luke 12:22).  So, how do some of us go from worrying about basically everything, to worrying about hardly anything?

I think the key is found in what Jesus says in the next few verses.  The principle is this, take a look around and notice the stress level of the birds.  They don’t worry about what to eat, what they will wear, or where they will live.  God has provided everything they need.  If He has done this for birds, then you don’t have to worry because you are MORE valuable than birds!

Finally, He says; if you can’t change little things with worry, then why worry about the rest.  It’s true, worry doesn’t have the power to make anything better, but it can sure make things worse.  I’ve never had anyone come in my office and share, “Pastor, I was having a rough time, but then I began worrying and wow, how things improved!”  

I can’t wait to talk more about this topic this weekend in our series Get Smart on Stress.  If you live around Avon, then invite someone!

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It’s In Your Hands

Posted in Faith, Miracle, Perspective, Stress, Victorious Living by PCraig on April 23, 2015

Have you faced situations where you didn’t think you had what it takes to make it?  The disciples were perplexed in Matthew 15:32-33 when Jesus wants them to feed a crowd of 4000 men, plus women and children.  What were they to do?  How do you obtain the resources to pull off such a need?  Here’s some things God dropped in my heart from this story:

  • God has already figured out how to resolve the problem.
  • I need to trust in God’s provision and power over my own abilities.
  • I need to offer to God all I DO have so He can multiply it.
  • God is able to more with little than I can with much.

I don’t know what you may be facing today, but take courage in this story and apply these principles.  The disciples should have known that Jesus could handle the challenge like He had other times before (He already fed 5,000 on another occasion).

Little becomes much when you place it in the Master’s hands!

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Get Away

Posted in energy, Perspective, Rest & Refreshing, Stress, Time by PCraig on October 15, 2014

Since my wife is a travel agent in her spare time (besides all the other things she does), we try to get away when we are able.  The strain of ministry can pull on you physically, mentally and spiritually.  Jesus Himself would get away from the crowds and encourage His disciples to do the same.

My problem is this: “I’m too busy to get away!” Ever find yourself saying this?  So, how can you make it happen?

I think you have to decide to make it happen first of all.  Nothing will change until you decide.

You have to plan ahead. If you intend to take time off at spring, then you better start working toward it now.  If I wait until close to the date I want to leave to work ahead, then it won’t happen.

Let everyone know that you will be gone and unreachable.  If you allow urgency to press in, then there will never be a “good time” to go. You have to make this the priority in your life.

Then, unplug, unwind, disengage and relax. Many people tell me that I am on fire when I come back from a break. I think you’ll be amazed at how much more you can get accomplished by taking off quality time to restore, refresh and recharge your internal batteries.

 

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People Are Like Toothpaste

Posted in Attitude, Character, Personal Growth, Perspective, Stress by PCraig on October 2, 2014

Why is it that when the pressure is on, we notice that some people are reacting to it.  Others are not, they just keep on going, seemingly unaffected by the situation.  Here’s the difference, it’s not the pressure that’s really the issue.  It’s what we do with it.

I like to say it like this; you don’t really know what’s in a tube of toothpaste until you apply the pressure.  People are like toothpaste, don’t you think?

(see James 1:2-3)

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Jesus Said Rest

We for sure struck a nerve last weekend with the launch of the new series: De-Stress-Ed.  I don’t even know how many people said it definitely spoke to and challenged them.  Why?  Because it is such problem in our culture, so don’t miss this weekend for part two.

Along those same lines, I shared with our staff a devotional thought on rest this week as well.  I know I didn’t grow up thinking this way, but God intended for us to get our proper rest.  Here’s how we know:

  • He gave a command to rest (it made the top 10 – Exodus 20)
  • Jesus rested & taught the disciples to rest (Mark 6:31)
  • Jesus said he would give rest (Matt. 11:28-29)

Now, if God commanded it, Jesus promised it, practiced it and promoted it, then it’s probably something we should do.  At least that’s how I look at it.

In addition, medical studies have been done to conclude that disease, sickness, and mental weakness results from lack of rest.  Just two nights of improper rest will slow down your reflexes by 3 times normal response.  This isn’t even mentioning the irritability factor and other negative responses that can come.

So, do your spouse, your boss, your employees, co-workers, children, students, friends and everyone else within ear-shot a favor and get your rest.  You’ll be healthier, probably wealthier, and definitely happier.  And, you’ll serve and glorify God so much better.

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Renew

Don’t you wish life had a refresh button?  I love how you can hit the refresh button on your browser and everything on the page gets reloaded and updated.

As we begin a New Year, have you ever thought of making a new you?  Over the next few weeks as a church we’ll examine renewing our lives.  Each week we’ll discuss a portion of Scripture that addresses helping us to refresh our lives.

Here’s the definition of renew according to Merriam-Webster:

re·new verb \ri-ˈnü, -ˈnyü\

: to make (something) new, fresh, or strong again

: to make (a promise, vow, etc.) again

I hope you can join us for the next four weeks of RENEW and allow God to make you new, fresh or strong again.  He CAN renew, refresh and restore us.  Pray that God will use this series your life personally and in our church corporately for His glory!

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You Gotta Cheat Somebody

Posted in Choice, Commitments, Margin, Relationships, Stress by PCraig on October 15, 2013

I’m taking our church board through a book this year entitled, “Leaders Who Last” by Dave Kraft.  In this month’s reading, we reflected on “The Leader’s Pacing”, in which Kraft discusses the incessant need that many of us develop to be overly busy.  We just keep cramming more and more things in there until we are about ready to break.  Some in fact do!  They have nervous breakdowns, stress disorders, panic attacks, and all sorts of negative results.

My question is what do we do with a culture that insinuates that “You can have it all” with a reality that you can’t?  The bottom line is discussed in another of my favorite books called “Choosing To Cheat” by Andy Stanley.  (The book has more recently been renamed “Who Wins When Family and Work Collide?”)  I love that premise of looking at our schedules as cheating somebody.

For those of us who are people pleasers, this is a tough thing to do, because we don’t want to cheat anyone.  We feel bad if people are disappointed in us.  We want everyone to like us and want them to be as happy as possible.  Sooner or later, however, you have to come around to the fact that you can’t please everyone.

Abraham Lincoln said, “You can please some of the people some of the time all of the people some of the time some of the people all of the time but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”  It’s true.  So, the question becomes, “Who are you going to make happy or who are you going to cheat?”

Here’s our options:

  • We can cheat God (Avoid church, praying, building ourselves up in faith…)
  • We can cheat ourselves (Don’t exercise, eat fast & cheap, don’t further yourself)
  • We can cheat our spouse or family (Give them our leftover time, never our best)
  • We can cheat our jobs (Give them our leftover time instead of our best)
  • We can cheat others (Get with people when you can, but not to the expense of yourself, your family or God)

Which one of these describes you?  Who are you choosing to cheat?  Remember, you HAVE to pick one.  You can’t possibly be doing all these well at the same time.  I’ll probably write some more on this later, but what do you think?  Are you a people pleaser?  Does it pain you to know, you’ve gotta cheat somebody?

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