Initiators of Change Ministries

(Win the Lost At All Cost)

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Three Reasons You Need a Church Family

When it comes to going to church, God doesn’t want you just to attend church – he wants you to belong to a church family. The Bible says, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12:4-5 NLT).

I can always tell the difference between a Saddleback church attender and a church member. An attender will come up to me and say, “Pastor Clifford, I love your church.” They say your church. But a member says, “Pastor Clifford, I love our church.” Have you made that jump? Have you made the switch from consumer to contributor, from attender to member, from longing to belonging?

Here are three reasons why you should belong to a church family:

A church family helps you focus on God. These days it’s easy to get distracted by details, disturbances, dead-ends, delays, and difficulties. But coming together with a church family will help you focus on God. The more you choose to focus on God, the bigger he gets in your mind and the smaller your problems become.

A church family helps you face life’s problems. Right now, you’re in one of three positions. Either you just came out of a problem, you’re in the middle of a problem, or you’re headed into the next problem. Life is a series of problems that God never meant for you to handle on your own. That’s why he built a support group of people around you – the church – who are right there in the fight with you. You’re not alone.

A church family helps you fortify your faith. Fortify means to strengthen, to reinforce, and to develop. When you’re in relationship with other people in God’s family, you get the right support. They encourage you to create the right priorities, helping you decide what’s trivial and what matters most. This clarifies your values and fortifies your faith.

There are a lot of ideas in the world today that just aren’t true and make it easy to lose sight of God’s purpose for your life. Belonging to a church family helps you focus on God, face life’s problems, and fortify your faith. And that will make all the difference in your life.

In Trying Times, Keep Trying

“Don’t give up and be helpless in times of trouble.” Proverbs 24:10

Life is filled with things you can’t control, and many people let that keep them from pursuing the dream God has put in their heart. In the middle of uncontrollable circumstances and problems, learn to live your life for God and do whatever he’s called you to do. In other words, you control the controllable and trust God for the rest. You can control your attitude, your reactions, and how much you trust God. Those are your choices.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have put everything on hold in their life. They act like they’re in limbo, and so they do nothing They’re just waiting. And they’re the ones getting the most frustrated. You may not be able to do everything you’d like to do right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do something. It doesn’t mean you should coast passively and waste these days during the pandemic. Limitations are opportunities for creativity. When our church was unable to meet in person for worship, we were more active and effective in the other four purposes of our church: fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and mission.

The first year of the pandemic could have been our worst year—and it certainly felt like the worst in many ways— yet it ended up being our church’s greatest year for starting small groups, developing disciples, launching ministries in the community, and reaching more nonbelievers than we’ve ever reached before. This happened because so many people understood that the church is far more than just a worship service. It’s family, and it is active every day of the week, not just on Sunday. We couldn’t control how the pandemic kept us from worshipping together. But we could control how we responded and chose to use the resources that were still available to us.

Proverbs 24:10 says, “Don’t give up and be helpless in times of trouble” Have you stopped trying? Have you given up on something because you lost control of some part of it? During trying times, you’ve got to keep trying. There is a lot of trouble in the world right now, but you’re not helpless. Look up and outside of yourself. Change your attitude. Take stock of your resources and use them to help others. God bless you.

Why Should You Forgive?

 “The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.” Matthew 18:27

God’s Word tells you to let go of your hurt and resentment – and forgive others. You’ve got to release your hurt instead of rehearsing it. Here are three reasons why: Because God forgives you.

In Matthew 18, Jesus tells the story of a king who forgives his servant. Verse 27 says, “The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go” (NIV). Like how the king cancelled the debt of this servant, God sent Jesus Christ to pay for your debt of sin.

Everything you’ve ever done wrong in your life has already been paid for by Jesus. He took the blame. He took the blame. He paid your jail time. Jesus Christ died for all your sins. Because resentment is self-torture. It is a self-inflicted wound.

Whenever you’re resentful, it always hurts you more than the person you’re bitter against. In fact, while you’re still worrying about something that happened years ago, the other person has forgotten about it! Your past is past, and it can’t hurt you anymore – unless you hold on to it. Because you need forgiveness every day.

The Bible teaches very clearly that you can’t receive what you’re unwilling to give. How can you receive the forgiveness God has shown you if you’re not willing to forgive others? If you want to be forgiven, you need to be forgiving.

Forgiveness is a lifestyle. It’s not just something you do one time. You need it every day of your life. You’ve got to ask for forgiveness, accept forgiveness from God and from others, and offer forgiveness. It’s a continual process that will bring you joy. God bless you.

Relax! God Is Working for Your Good

 “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Romans 8:28 (NIV)

Everything God does is for your good and because he loves you. The Bible says, “All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful” (Psalm 25:10 NIV), and “In all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28 NIV). This is something you must remind yourself of again and again, because any time God says “no” to your prayers, Satan will shoot darts of doubt at you. He’s going to whisper lies to you: “God doesn’t love you. He doesn’t care about you; otherwise, he’d give you everything you want!” But Satan is a liar.

You don’t have to understand God’s answer to your prayer to know it’s motivated by love. God loves you too much to give you everything you ask for. So, when God says “no,” you’ve got three options: You can resist it, resent it, or relax in it.

You can resist God. You can fight him, get mad at him, turn your back on him, and say, “Okay, God, if you don’t play the game my way, I’m going to take matters into my own hands.” I’ve met a lot of people who walked away from God because God said “no” to their prayer. They didn’t trust that he had a bigger perspective, a better plan, and a greater purpose. Those people walked away from God in resentment and rebellion. That’s the second thing you can do—you can resent it.

When you doubt God’s love like that, it makes you bitter and miserable. So many people have lived their entire lives in misery because they’ve never accepted the fact that God only does what’s good in their lives. There is a third way to respond to God’s goodness: You can relax in it. When you believe that God always has your best interest at heart, you can look with new eyes at the things he does that don’t make sense. You may not understand it. It may even be painful. But God is still good. He is loving, and he will never stop loving you. You can say, “Even in this, God’s love still remains.” That’s the only kind of response that will bring you peace!

 Don’t resist or resent God’s work in your life. You can relax in the truth that it is always for your good.

Maybe It’s Time to Give Up

“The battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15 (NLT)

Imagine you’re sitting on a plane that’s about to take off. As the plane goes down the runway, you start flapping your arms. As the speed picks up and the nose lifts in the air, you flap your arms faster and faster. Once in the air, the flight attendant approaches you and says, “What are you doing?” And you say, “Oh, I’m helping us get off the ground.” That’s ridiculous, right? But that’s basically what you do when you try to do things only God is equipped to do. Just like you don’t need to hold up a plane, you don’t need to hold up God.

Do you want to know why you’re tired all the time? Why you’re frustrated? Why you’re worn out by life? The reason you’re so tired is you’re trying to fight battles that belong to God, and you are not God. “The battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15 NLT).

People tend toward independence, and so when you see a problem, you think, “I’ve got to figure this out. It’s up to me!” You assume God’s role, and it wears you out, because you were never meant to carry it in the first place. You’ve been running in circles trying to solve problems in your marriage, your body, the economy, your school, the world. You’re trying to solve them on your own power. You’re trying to fight the battle on your own, and you’re getting tired. When you finally just give up and come back to God and tell him you’ve made a mess of it, you may think you’ve let him down. But you haven’t let God down, because you were never holding him up. You don’t have God in your hands; he’s got you in his hands.

If you’ve got God in your hands, it’s not God. It’s an idol. If you’re trusting in something that you think you can control, then that thing is not God. God is not disappointed in you, because he’s not expecting you to do what only he can do. You don’t hold God up. He holds you up.

Let go and surrender to God. Because then he says, “Great! Now we can get something done.”

Pray Instead of Worry

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray.” Philippians 4:4, 6 (NLT)

Contrary to popular opinion, God wants you to be happy.

Many people don’t believe that to be true; they think the duller you are, the more spiritual you are. But the Bible says, “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 144:15).

Not only does God want you to be happy, but he tells you how to be happy! In fact, God has a four – part formula for happiness. It’s found in the book of Philippians, and we’ll look at it together over the next few days. The first part of the happiness formula is this: Worry about nothing.

The Bible says, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray” (Philippians 4:4, 6 NLT).

Worry basically means one thing: You’re not trusting God in a particular area. It’s the opposite of faith. It’s like saying, “God, I really don’t believe you’ve got everything under control.” Have you noticed how worry never solves your problems? It only takes up a lot of energy. It can’t change the past, and it can’t change the future – but it can certainly ruin the present.

Somebody once said that worry is like a rocking chair; it will give you something to do, but you don’t get anywhere with it. Jesus said it like this: “Don’t ever worry about tomorrow. After all, tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

What if you converted the energy you use to worry about something to pray about it instead? Rather than pushing the panic button, what if you pushed the prayer button? Prayer is your communication with God and the first thing you should do when you start to worry – not a last resort.

Some people say, “We’ve tried everything else. We might as well pray!” Instead, take your concerns to the Lord first so that you won’t waste energy worrying. You can’t worry and be happy at the same time. That’s why the first step to happiness is to stop worrying – and start praying! It’s not always easy to do – people are natural worriers. Give it a try today. As you stop worrying and start praying, you’ll find new power in your life as you live for God’s purposes every day.

For God’s Blessing, Put Him First.

“You should live in a way that proves you belong to the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” 1 Thessalonians 2:12

I talk to people all the time who say, “I have so much, and yet I feel unfulfilled. I’ve got a good family, good job, and good friends. I’m part of a great church. Then why do I feel so unfulfilled?” It’s because you were made for more than this! You were made for more than survival. Until you begin to live in God’s Kingdom, by God’s power, and for God’s glory, you will never find fulfilment in life. How do you live a fulfilled life – the kind of life you were designed by God to live?

The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 2:12, “You should live in a way that proves you belong to the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory” What does it mean to live in God’s Kingdom? It means you make God’s agenda your agenda. You make God’s will your will. You care about what God cares about. You put God first in whatever area you want him to bless.

What does it mean to put God first in your life? Here are five areas where you can put God “FIRST”:

  • Finances. If you want God to bless your finances, even during hard times, start tithing.
  • Interests. Put him first in your hobbies, your career, and your recreation. Give God first consideration in every decision.
  • Relationships. Put him first in your family, your marriage, and your friendships.
  • Schedule. Give him the first part of every day. When you wake up, sit on the side of your bed, and say, “God, if I don’t get anything else done today, I just want to love you a little bit more and know you a little bit better.”
  • Troubles. Turn to God first when you have a problem. Prayer should never be your last resort. It should be your first choice.

Put God first in everything. Then watch how much God blesses you.

Right Thinking Leads to Happiness

 “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

God’s recipe for happiness isn’t a one – shot formula. It’s something you need to follow every day: Worry about nothing, pray about everything, thank God for anything – and, lastly, keep your mind on the right things. If you want to be happy, don’t fill your mind with lies. Don’t fill it with garbage. Instead, fill it with things that inspire you and make you a better person. The Bible says, “I will not put anything wicked in front of my eyes (Psalm 101:3).

Does that mean God doesn’t want you to have fun? No, of course not. He says it for your own good because he knows what will truly make you happy. What do you think about the most in your spare time? The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your thoughts.

One practical way to keep your mind on the right things is to not be critical – to avoid putting people down. Instead, think good things about others. If you can’t think good things, just don’t think about them.

The Bible says, “Whatever things are of good report . . . meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8 NKJV). The Bible says, “Whatever things are of good report . . . meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8 NKJV).

I’d like to build a church where people are always giving a “good report” about each other. You’re at the grocery store and someone asks you, “You know so and so?” And you say, “Yes, they’re a fine person.” That’s giving a good report.

God’s formula for happiness is this: Worry about nothing, pray about everything, thank God for anything, and keep your mind on the right things. If you follow it, the Bible promises, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7 NKJV).

Who’s the main ingredient of this formula? It’s Jesus Christ. Without him, the happiness formula will just flop. True happiness is the result of having a right relationship with Jesus.

Why Doesn’t God Tell You Why?

 “Surrender yourself to the LORD and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:7

One reason people struggle with contentment is because we’re always looking for explanations for why things happen in our lives. But God doesn’t tell us why most things happen, and that can frustrate us. Sometimes God doesn’t tell you why because he’s testing you. He wants to see if you will let go of control and learn to be content, whether he explains why something happens in your life. God doesn’t owe you an explanation for anything. You’re not going to know why most things happen until you get to heaven.

When I was a little kid, the only time our school classroom was quiet was during a test. The teacher would say, “No talking! Take your pencils and fill out your tests.” Even the teacher would be silent.

When God is silent in your life – when you don’t hear him, and he feels like he’s a million miles away – that is a test! The teacher is always silent when the students take a test – but the teacher is still present with the students.

When God is silent in your life, your faith is being tested—but God is still with you. In that test, will you let go of control, or will you grab on more tightly? Will you learn to be content? The Bible says, “Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7). When you go through pain next week or next month or this year, you don’t really need God’s explanation.

You need God’s presence. Let go of control and surrender yourself to him.

Surrender to live in God’s Power

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.” – 1 Corinthians 4:20. To live a fulfilled life, you must live by God’s power. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 4:20, “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power”.