Why You Should “Sit and Serve”

Recently, I have been challenging our members to “sit in a service and serve in a service.” Why is that important and what does it do for your spiritual life?

Serving God by serving others through a local congregation of believers should never be just an add-on to our schedule but should be a priority in our Christian journey. It is impossible to be a spiritually mature believer unless we use our gifts and talents to serve others like Jesus did. Volunteers are the lifeblood of a local congregation. Without great volunteers a church can’t fulfill the mission given by Jesus – love people and bring them into a growing relationship with Him.  

So, why is it important to sit in a service and serve in one?

 

Sitting in a Service Protects You from Burnout 

Burnout in ministering and serving is common, unfortunately. There can be many reasons for that. Sometimes we experience burnout because we do not receive God’s gift of Sabbath rest. God gave us the gift of Sabbath to help us avoid the feelings of burnout, exhaustion, and loss of passion. We must take regular days of Sabbath so that we may minister and work out of the overflow rather than be dragged under by the undertow. We must learn to say “no” to some things so we can say “yes” to better things. We may not realize it, but simplifying our schedule is a spiritual exercise. Many people simply do too many things each week, and they wonder why they are exhausted and discouraged.

I believe that the most common reason people feel burned out or worn out from serving is that they do not fill up before they give out. Psalm 100 tells us to, “Serve the Lord with gladness.” Serving is a joy and it is fulfilling to us. If you constantly “give out” without ever “filling up,” however, you will get discouraged. By regularly worshipping (sitting) in a service, you are filling your soul. You worship, find encouragement, receive blessings, focus on Jesus, get a word from the Lord, and empower your service. But if we do not participate in regular worship, then we will become empty very quickly.

 

Serving in a Service Makes a Difference  

Volunteering has many benefits to you personally. It allows us to fulfill Jesus’ command to serve. It connects us and makes us feel like a part of a team. It helps us develop deep relationships. It fulfills us and gives an avenue to fulfill our purpose. Serving makes an impact in people’s lives. You affect eternity. You grow in your faith. You use your gifts to bring glory to God. You become fulfilled and experience a profound satisfaction by serving. God has gifted you and created you to serve. When I “fill up” before I “give out,” then I find energy and joy that I never knew I had.  

When I serve, I defeat the excuses and lies from the enemy. He lies to you and tells you that you don’t have time. The Bible says we are to “redeem the time.” The truth is we all have the same amount of time each day – 24 hours. He lies to you and tells you that you aren’t qualified.  God says that you are his masterpiece. He gives everyone talents and spiritual gifts to use for him. You can serve somewhere if you are willing! The enemy tries to make you doubt. Doubt will drain your energy and sap your strength. God tells us “…no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed…” (Isaiah 54:17) Doubt can’t defeat you when you get filled up before your give out. By sitting and serving we avoid burnout.

 I believe Avalon Church has some of the greatest volunteers in the world. I am so proud of all of you. Let’s get filled up before we pour out by sitting in a service and serving in a service.

Make a Plan Now for the Miracle Offering

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Have you ever noticed that the only things you do consistently well are the things you plan to do? I have a plan to exercise. I work out five mornings a week, normally at 5:00 AM. Do you want to know how I am consistent doing that? I plan it. I have discovered that if I don’t plan something, I normally don’t do it. I never started saving money for retirement until I planned to do it. Whether it is exercising, saving money, living on a budget, going to church, eating a healthy diet, or bringing the tithe, we normally only do what we plan to do. If we don’t plan it, no matter how good our intentions are, we just don’t do it.

I want to encourage you to start praying and making a plan now for our annual Miracle Offering. The better you plan, the better prepared you will be. Kim and I start planning each January for the Miracle Offering in December. We are able to give far more by planning and saving each month, than we could if we waited until December to start thinking about it.

 Many of you are familiar with the Miracle Offering. For those who are new to Avalon Church, here is what the annual Miracle Offering is.

 

What is the Miracle Offering?

·      It is a faith offering over and above your regular giving.

·      It is an expression of love and thankfulness.

·      It is planting seeds for God to grow you and do miracles for you and through you.

·      It is a time for everyone to participate, no matter the size of the gift.

·      It is a time to pray about your offering! Ask God to reveal the amount to you.

 

Why should you participate in the Miracle Offering?

·      To fund our vision. We believe our best days are ahead of us!

·      To grow the church. The Miracle Offering helps fund ministry. We invest in the lives of children, teenagers, and adults in our church, community, and around the world.

·      To receive a miracle. A miracle is something only God can do. We believe by planting a seed offering in faith, God will open doors, bless you, and bless your health, family, work, and finances.

·      To grow your faith! So many have experienced God-sized miracles!

 

The 2019 Miracle Offering will be on December 8th. Start praying and planning now and watch how God blesses you!

How You Can Make a Difference as a Volunteer

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Volunteers are the lifeblood of a church. Without great volunteers, no church can fulfill the mission given to us by Jesus – loving people and bringing them into a growing relationship with him. God designed the church to be a living, growing body not an organization or club. That is why the Bible uses metaphors like a body, a flock, and a family to describe the church.

Volunteering has many benefits to each of us personally. It allows us to fulfill Jesus’ command to serve.

It connects us and makes us feel like a part of a team. It helps us develop deep relationships. Deep relationships and close friendships keep us connected to the church even in difficult times. Volunteering and serving fulfill us and give an avenue to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.

Serving God by serving others through a local congregation of believers is vital to your spiritual well-being and growth. It should never be just an add-on to our schedule but should be a priority in our Christian journey. Here are a few tips on how you can be a great volunteer and make a huge impact for Christ.

 

Show up on Time

Treat your volunteer ministry as a priority. Showing up on time for your pre-service meeting is essential. This allows you to pray with your team and get ready to serve others. Not showing up on time says to others that you don’t take your job seriously. Team meetings are team-building exercises and demonstrate your love and commitment to your team mates. They are vital, just like practice is vital to a football team.

 

Bring Your A-Game 

People need your best. Many people come to church needing Jesus or needing someone to care for them. Make sure to get plenty of rest the night before. Make sure that you look and smell clean. Brush your teeth!  Bad breath hinders even the greatest volunteer. Know your job description so you can be effective.

 

Pray  

Jesus said that we accomplish nothing of value without him. Make sure to pray and get in the right frame of mind to help others. Some people present a challenge and aren’t easy to love so you need God’s help!

 

Show Some Heart…And Some Teeth

Remember that you are here to serve others. So, focus on serving them. Chat with your friends after church. Make sure to be on the lookout for new people and smile a lot.

 

Attitude Check

 Your attitude should always be positive and friendly. Don’t just point people to where they need to go. Host them. Walk with them. Answer their questions. If you don’t know the answer take them to your team leader, a staff member, or to Guest Services. Never leave them with unanswered questions.

 

Think Big Picture

The ultimate win happens when we serve and love others. A great program is good, but it is not the win. Always be prepared to help outside of your area of ministry. Remember that the vision is for the whole church not just your particular area of ministry.

 

Bring A Friend

You are a representative of Jesus and of Avalon Church. Your ultimate job is to help people grow in their relationship with Jesus. Getting people connected to our church is a big step. But we don’t just want to get people in the door; we want to get them connected. One of the best ways to get people connected is to get them to serve with you. Recruit a friend to serve with you. Don’t depend on your team leader or the church staff to do all of the recruiting. Get excited and bring your friends along!

I believe Avalon Church has some of the greatest volunteers in the world. Our best days are ahead of us and I believe God is at work. I am so proud of all of you. Let’s make the rest of this year the best ever by being an MVP volunteer!

How to Increase Your Blessings and Finances

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There are more promises in the Bible about giving and money than any other subject.  It is impossible to teach about becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ without talking about this important topic. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24

We believe that generous people are happy people. Our goal is for you to live a blessed life. We believe the Bible teaches that the way we handle money affects our joy, peace, and prosperity. We want you to live in God’s full blessings. We want this for you, not from you.

 

At Avalon Church, we believe in grace giving. We are not under the law but under grace. We believe the Bible teaches that bringing the tithe is an act of worship. This is done to recognize the greatness of God, to express thankfulness, to worship God, express our faith in Him, and to celebrate the life of Jesus Christ. We believe that the more you recognize and understand the greatness of Jesus and God’s grace, the more you give out of a grateful and generous heart. We do not want you to feel pressured to give. We want you to learn more about the greatness of Jesus and God’s grace!

 

What is a tithe?

 

The word tithe means “a tenth.” In the Old Testament, ten represented the whole. For example, God gave Ten Commandments. There are hundreds of commands that God gave to Israel, but the Ten Commandments represented the entirety of God’s Law. The New Testament teaches that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and that humans break all of God’s Law by breaking even one (a tenth) of the Ten Commandments.

 

The tithe began under grace, not under Law. Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek over 450 years before God gave the Law to Moses. God’s covenant with Abraham was a covenant of grace. By bringing the tithe, Abraham believed Melchizedek was great and worshiped God. Melchizedek was an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ, according to the book of Hebrews. Abraham brought the tithe and Melchizedek brought bread and wine. Bread and wine represent communion and the body and blood of Jesus.

 

Bringing the tithe is an act of faith. God promised to bless Abraham spiritually, physically, financially, and relationally because of his faith. We believe the same is true today for those whose faith is in Jesus.

 

At Avalon Church, we believe that believers are under the covenant of grace. As a result, you are blessed with the blessings of Jesus. You are blessed because of the work of Jesus, not because of your own works. Therefore, even if you don’t tithe, you are under grace and blessed. So, why should you tithe?

 

The Bible teaches that we are under grace because of Jesus, but your money is not automatically under God’s blessing of grace. In fact, it is under the curse of sin. God’s Word teaches us that when we bring the tithe, then God lifts the curse off our money and blesses it!  Blessed money has God working for it. God promises to bless your money, rebuke the devourer, and multiply your blessings when you tithe. Here are a few reasons we bring the tithe:

 

·      The tithe demonstrates that we believe God is great.

·      The tithe celebrates the resurrected life of Christ.

·      The tithe empowers our worship.

·      God promises to bless your money through the tithe.

·      God owns everything and we are His stewards.

·      Tithing helps me grow spiritually and become a disciple.

·      Tithing funds God’s work through the church.

·      Tithing helps me fulfill God’s mandate to spread the gospel.

·      Tithing blesses my family and others for generations.

 

“Bring to My Storehouse a full tenth of what you earn… Test Me in this”, says the Lord. “I will open the windows of heaven for you and pour out all the blessings you need.” Malachi 3:10

 

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first and best part of all your income. Then your barns will be full, and your vats will overflow with fresh wine. Proverbs 3:9-10

 

If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving—large or small—it will be used to measure what is given back to you. Luke 6:38

 

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need, and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Corinthians 9:8

 

The purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in your lives. Deuteronomy 14:23

 

What is my next step concerning tithing and giving?

 

·      Ask God for a revelation of the greatness of Jesus and of God the Father.

·      Ask God to increase your faith and give you the courage to take a step of faith.

·      Make a prayerful decision. At Avalon, we don’t want you to feel pressured into giving. We want this blessing for you not from you. We want you to experience the joy that comes with giving, the feeling of doing something greater than yourself, and the blessings of God on your finances, your health, your family, and all areas of your life.

·      Become a planned giver. You will never start if you don’t plan. If you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done. Ecclesiastes 11:4

·      Become a percentage giver. We get it if this feels like a giant step in your life. If you don’t have the faith yet to give a full ten percent, then start somewhere. Chose a percentage or an amount and ask God to demonstrate His faithfulness to you. While we believe that starting with the tithe will open great blessings for you (even if you don’t think you can afford it), we believe God rewards steps of faith.

·      Become a progressive giver. When you begin to grow in your giving, you will see God’s power at work around you. Many Christians testify of how they went beyond giving ten percent as God led them. As their faith grew, their finances grew. Grow as God leads you and watch how much God blesses. You can’t out-give God!

 

If you are really eager to give, it isn’t important how much you are able to give. God wants you to give what you have, not what you don’t have. 2 Corinthians 12:8

What Does the Bible Say about Disciplining Your Children?

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The Bible has a lot to say about how we teach, train, and discipline our children. The subject of disciplining properly is found throughout scripture and primarily involves teaching, instructing and applying appropriate discipline. Our culture seems to embrace the concept that we should focus more on our children’s feelings and self-esteem than on character building. The irony is that this kind of approach does not create responsibility or positive mental and emotional health when they become adults, but rather makes it more difficult for them to be a mature, well-adjusted adult. Biblical discipline corrects a child, instructs him or her in the way to live, and provides the positive outcome of wisdom. The purpose of all discipline is to teach.  

A parent receives his or her moral authority from God. The best way to teach your children how to live is to begin with your relationship with God. What you believe about God and how you participate in the local church impacts them more than anything else you do. Scripture emphasizes teaching and instructing. You can discipline without instructing properly. We have all seen this happen. We teach our children with our own lives, by our own example, and by pointing them to a relationship with Christ. While you can’t force your children to have a relationship with Jesus, you can create a positive environment that makes a relationship with Him a normal part of life. Being faithful and completely involved in the life of the church is a critical component of teaching and instructing. It is impossible to impart to them something you don’t have yourself.

Consider the following verses about instruction and discipline:

Proverbs 1:8 My child, listen when your father corrects you. Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. (NLT)

Proverbs 29:17 Discipline your children and they will give you happiness and peace of mind. (NLT)

 Proverbs 22:15 A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness, but physical discipline will drive it far away. (NLT)

 Proverbs 13:24 If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don't love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them. (NLT)

Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your children while they are young enough to learn. If you don’t, you are helping them to destroy themselves. (GN)

 Proverbs 23:13-14 Don’t fail to discipline your children. They won’t die if you spank them. Physical discipline may well save them from death. (NLT)

 Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. (NLT)

 

Here are a few biblical tips on discipline that will help you know what to do:

·      There is a wrong way and a right way to discipline. Never discipline in anger.

·      Discipline and instruction are biblically-mandated and go hand-in-hand.

·      The purpose of discipline is to produce responsibility.

·      Spiritual involvement bolsters discipline. The root word of discipline is disciple. You are to make disciples of Jesus.

·      Don’t ever compare your children to each other.

·      Prioritize the most important and build margin into your life and schedule.

·      Say yes whenever possible. Be positive. Affirm often.

·      Don’t be manipulated by your children’s attitudes. They are kids and you are the adult!

·      Draw clear lines and be consistent.

·      Praise character, hard work, responsibility, and accomplishment rather than beauty, talent, or ego.

·      Partner with the church.

·      Start early.

·      Foster respect and responsibility.

·      When it is over drop it.

·      Speak blessings over them. Your words matter and faith-filled words are essential.

·      Laugh as much as possible.

There are challenges involved with raising a child. Do not despair or lose hope about the culture in which we live. God has promised to be with you and help you. He has given an instruction manual – the Bible - that will guide you to the end of your journey and will empower you to raise champions for His glory.

If you would like to read more about discipline and find a helpful tool to assist you, then you can pick up a copy of my book entitled “Spoiled Rotten: Loving Your Kids Without Indulging Them” or “Marriage In The Nude: A Man’s Guide to Love and Grace.”

 

Why I Believe Success Begins on Sunday

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This past Sunday, I talked about the power of belonging. God designed us to live in community and fellowship and He made the church to fulfill that need in a way that nothing else can. I said it last week and I will continue to say it, “Success begins on Sunday.” In order for follower of Christ to live a life without limits and become what God designed them to be, we need the church! Here is why I believe success begins on Sunday.

  • Church encourages you and helps fight discouragement.

  • Attending church and hearing God’s Word builds your faith.

  • There is something unique and life-giving about corporate worship with other believers.

  • Church is the best place to use your spiritual gifts and talents to serve the Body of Christ.

  • Being a part of a church is really the only way to fulfill the Great Commission (taking the gospel to the entire world) fully.

  • Church helps you to fulfill the Great Commandment to love God and love others.

  • Church is where you can be fed spiritually.

  • Church prepares you for the week ahead.

  • Church empowers you to get through difficult times.

  • You find support, love, and acceptance in church.

  • It is family!

  • You learn about generous living.

  • You make a serious impact when you combine your giving with others.

  • Church helps you find your purpose in life.

  • Belonging matters. It helps you spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

  • People pray for you at church.

  • You feel like you are not alone and have support at church.

  • You get a sense of belonging.

  • You get a spiritual family to support and encourage you.

  • You get an environment to fully develop your gifts.

  • You get spiritual protection from godly leaders.

  • You get accountability to help you grow spiritually.

  • You develop close relationships through small groups and serving.

  • You learn the Bible through teaching and discipleship.

  • You get to use your gifts for ministry.

  • You partner with the church to share your faith and reach others.

  • You are better able to bring your family to Christ.

The list could go on, but you get the point. I believe that regularly attending, serving, giving, worshipping, and fellowshipping empowers you to be your best at home, at work, and at play. Success begins on Sunday. It is not just a slogan; it is the path to winning.

Make Little, Wise Choices

You can’t control everything in your life. Many things that are out of your control like the weather, traffic, interruptions, the college football fanatic with bad breath at your job, and the list is probably infinite. But there are many things that you do control like the attitude you choose and the seemingly insignificant but important choices you make each day.

You may not realize it, but your success each day depends on making little, wise choices. Big decisions are important, but let’s face it, we don’t make the big choices as often as we make the little ones. Choosing to get saved, get married, buy a house, get an education, join a church, or finding a career path are immeasurably important, but we don’t make those choices every day. But little, wise choices determine your success over a long period of time. Here are a few simple but wise choices you can make regularly that will make a huge difference in your life.

 

Start Your Day with God

I have learned that worshipping God at the beginning of my day gives me strength and passion. Reading scripture and praying, even if just for a few minutes, helps me. It may sound counterintuitive to spend even a few minutes doing that when you are tired or busy, but I have found that it strengthens me even when I am tired and busy. One of our members told me that he has “coffee with God” every morning. I like that. Making this little, wise choice makes a big difference and contributes to your success.

 

Choose a Good Attitude

There are many things I can’t control as a pastor. Sunday comes every week. I have to be ready. I have no control over great portions of my schedule. People get sick, die, get married, and have emergencies without ever consulting my schedule. I have meetings to lead and work that requires my attention every week. But one thing I get to choose every day is what attitude I will have. I can’t always control my circumstances, but I can always control which attitude I choose.

I have a dear friend named Tim Lee. He is an evangelist and our church gives financial support to his ministry as one of our missionary endeavors. Several times a year he speaks to the newest graduating class of U.S. Marines. Tim was a Marine during the Vietnam War and he stepped on a land mine and lost both of his legs. For many years he has sat in a wheelchair as he preaches and ministers all around the world. He told me once that he starts every day by thanking God for his wheelchair and for losing his legs. God has opened many doors of opportunity because of his service and sacrifice. He can’t control his circumstances, but he chooses the right attitude every day. What a testimony and challenge to us!

 

Choose Faith over Worry

Worry drains the energy and life out of you. It uses a lot of energy. We only have so much energy. I can choose to not waste my limited energy by trusting in God’s grace and choosing to trust him rather than worrying. You must practice not worrying. It comes through faith. But you can get good at giving God your worries when you remember that he cares for you. The more you rest in his grace the more energy you have.

Peter was a disciple of Jesus and later was one of the leading apostles in the church that started in Jerusalem after Jesus resurrected. He constantly faced challenges in the church, persecution, imprisonment, and eventually was crucified for his faith. I am sure he knew what it was like to face worry, fear, and a lack of control over his circumstances. He wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

 

Choose Worship

I have said before and I’ll say it again, success begins on Sundays. I truly believe that. Going to church greatly energizes me. You are probably thinking that going to church is my job, but that isn’t my primary motivation. Corporate worship invigorates me and helps me get through the week. The sense of community I get by coming together with other believers and experiencing the presence and power of God is one of the most encouraging, life-giving, and energizing things I can do. People often share with me that before they came to church, they were tired, frustrated, and discouraged. But after they experienced the power of Christian community, worship, and the teaching of God’s Word, they felt better and were glad that they came to church. I believe in the power of gathering as believers when we focus on Jesus.

So, make little, wise choices every day and every week. They may seem small, but they produce big results. By making these simple choices regularly, you will find yourself on the road to success. Choose wisely today!

Parent Hacks: Navigating a New School Year without Losing Your Mind

It is hard to believe, but a new school year starts this week. That noise you hear is the sound of parents cheering. Y our schedule is about to get crazy. School schedules. Homework. Sports. Activities. Your second job as a chauffeur. Church. Running a household. Oh, and that little thing called your job. The relief of getting your kids back to school and out of the house is quickly replaced with unavoidable demands.

We are all busy. Some more than others, but for most people life seems like a blur. James, the half-brother of Jesus, addressed this issue nearly 2000 years ago when he asked the probing question, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14) Even before cell phones, the Internet, and modern transportation people struggled with margin and schedules. Life is brief. Life is busy. Life is a blur. God wants us to make the most of our fleeting time.

When you consider this reality, you can either cram as much as possible into your life and create stress, chaos, fatigue, and frustration, or you can do what James suggested and live on purpose. As a young man I bought into the belief that managing my time meant that I had to sleep less, get better organized, and work harder to please my taskmaster, the calendar. I thought that was the only way to squeeze every drop out of life. But the calendar lied. He deceived me while he slowly choked out my joy. He kept telling me that more is more. It is only when I discovered that less is more that I began to recover the joy and actually get more out of life and accomplish the things that matter most. 

During the busy school year here are a few things that will alleviate stress and help you manage your life and your children’s schedules in a way that creates margin and allows you to enjoy the time you have with your children and accomplish the most important things:

 

Get Centered 

You are too busy not to spend time with God every day. I think this has to be the first and most important commitment. Attend church every week. Read the Bible and pray each day even if it is just for a short time. This will keep you centered and keep you from running off the rails. That seems counterintuitive to the person with a crammed schedule, but it is necessary for the busy employee, the busy parent, and the busy entrepreneur. Spending time with God, whether in the morning, at lunchtime, or in the evening, is critical to your joy and success. It helps you live by grace rather than guilt.

 

Get Simple

One of the great challenges for busy people is how to find time to fit it all in. Being organized helps, but the key to finding margin is not finding a way to fit in more stuff but learning how to eliminate stuff. This is where learning to say no is critical. You must determine what is most important in your life and schedule that first. Many busy people want to spend time with God, go to church, serve, participate in a small group, and spend quality time with their family. They just haven’t learned to say no to things that keep them from doing it. Your peace and joy come from what you say “no” to as much as what you say “yes” to. Committing to simplify your schedule creates the opportunity to live by a purpose. It is OK to say no. In fact, it is necessary to live the kind of life that matters. Let’s be honest, your children need margin just as much as you do. Let them have time to be a kid. Not every activity is necessary or helpful. Too much business can be harmful to their development.

 

Get Focused

You must determine what is essential and pursue that wholeheartedly. The commitments you make must be meaningful, simple, and doable. I have often made the mistake of setting a goal or planning a schedule that was completely unreasonable. You must bring an intense focus to your planning. Decide what is most important and do that first. Everything else can wait.

 

Get Scheduled

Most people begin with the schedule first. They do not take time to ask hard questions or decide what is indispensable. Until you put God at the center of your day, commit to the essential, and learn the art of saying “no,” you will fall victim to your schedule. Once you have made those critical decisions then you can approach the calendar with confidence and make it serve you rather than you serve it.  

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed. Jesus said that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light. Living by God’s grace empowers even the busiest person to create margin and live joyfully. Obviously, some things are essential. Your children must go to school, study, and live life. Make sure that you put the most important things in your schedule. Everything else can wait.

I’m Back This Week!


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I am thrilled to be back in the office today and back on stage this Sunday. I always enjoy my summer break vacation time. I plan to pastor this church for forty years (until I am 77) if God allows. The only way I can do that is to maintain regular breaks and times of refreshing so I can be at my best. This church needs my energy more than it needs my time. I am thankful that God allows me to take time to focus on Him and get re-energized. 

This Sunday I will talk about How to Forgive Those Who Hurt You Mostas we look at the life of Joseph. I hope to see you at Avalon Church! 

How to Pray Effectively even When You are Busy

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Most Christians would agree that prayer is vital to the Christian life. I also think that most of us think that our prayer life could be better. Being more formal does not necessarily equal better. Matthew 6:7 states, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again.”

Most of the Christians I know struggle with the feeling that their prayers are not quite as good as a “professional’s.” They think that pastors probably have a secret “Bat Phone” to heaven. It probably does not help that many pastors pray weird prayersin public.Why do some people draw out the word “God” and pronounce it “Ga-a-a-a-w-w-w-d?”  

The good news is that if you can talk to a friend, then you already know how to pray. Prayer is simply talking to God. It is aligning yourself under His authority and will. It is asking and receiving. Don’t think that God is too busy running the universe to hear your prayer. That is way too small an understanding of His power and ability and it does not give Him the credit He deserves for loving you. You can talk to God and you are free to talk to Him in the way that best fits your personality. Here are a few ideas to make prayer more accessible to you. 

·     Pray in the car.

I pray a lot while I am driving. Hopefully that is not because of my driving. I find that I can redeem my time and really connect with God while I am behind the wheel and alone in my car.  

·     Pray while you work out.

I have a hard time praying while sitting still. I find that my mind wanders. Praying while I am walking or running gets me connected with God and allows my mind to stay focused. I am a lot like the pastor with ADD/HD who prayed, “Our dear Heavenly Father, thank you so much for…oh, look! A bird!”

·     Listen to your prayer or read your prayer.

A few years ago, I wrote out a prayer list and recorded myself (on my smart phone) reading it out loud, pausing between each prayer request. I included Bible verses and promises as well to help guide me through my prayer. This is a powerful and convenient way to pray and stay focused. I also typed out all my prayer requests, Bible verses that I like to read for encouragement and building my faith, and the faith statements I like to pray daily. It has been a real boost to my prayer life.

·     Sit still and listen. 

I do not do this as often as I should, but I have learned that sitting still and focusing on God while not saying anything is a wonderful exercise and leads to some awesome times of prayer. 

Prayer does not have to be a daunting experience. You can pray more than you think you can by simply talking to God and being aware of His presence. What has your experience been? What works for you?

The Key to Getting More Things Done

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Full disclosure. I am bent toward action. My motto is, “Ready, aim, fire,” not, “Ready, aim, aim, aim, and aim some more.” It is true that we must plan well; however, many seem to get “analysis paralysis.” You can wait so long for perfect conditions that you never get anything done. The key to getting more things done is to act now! We like perfect leaders, perfect churches, perfect spouses, perfect children, perfect schools, perfect jobs, and perfect conditions. The irony is that even if those things existed, once we got involved, they would no longer be perfect! The bias should be toward action. 

Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, “If you wait until the wind and the weather are just right, you will never sow anything and never harvest anything.” 

In other words, if you wait for perfect conditions you will never get anything done! Quit waiting for a perfect job, church, spouse, kid, or school and focus on making yourself better. Stop waiting to read the book, get the degree, lose the weight, exercise, start the business, do the project, paint the painting, read the Bible, or change your life. Plan as well as you can. Prepare the best you can. Then pull the trigger. There will never be a better time than now.

Stop Digging Up the Past and Look to the Future

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My very first pet was a cat named Puff. He was cool and aloof, and he liked me. He did not even scratch me when I held him by the throat. I did not know that I was choking him. He must have been able to sense the love.

One day Puff did not show up when I went outside to feed him. That was odd, because he alwaysshowed up at supper time. So, I broke THE cardinal rule that my mom had set for me – “Do not cross the creek for any reason!” I am not sure why that was such a big deal since the creek was only about six inches deep and about a yard wide. But my cat was missing so I took my Indiana Jones self, put on my cowboy boots and my favorite pair of shorts and crossed the creek and prepared myself for the long journey to the tobacco barn. It was about fifty yards away. 

What I found inside the dark, musty old barn was a revelation to me. Lying there on the floor was Puff! Puff was a perfect name for him too, because he was all covered with soot and was a lot fatter than usual. In fact, he was about to burst. Pleased with my discovery and confident that my mom would be proud, I grabbed the bloated feline by the tail and dragged him down the hill, across the creek, and up to the step by the back door of our house.  “Mom,” I shouted proudly, “I found Puff!”

I wish you could have seen her face. It was a mixture of horror, disgust, confusion, and prayerful reflection, as in, “Oh God, why me?” She was very spiritual. Mom did the best she could to explain death, that Puff was no longer with us, and that I should immediately, but gently, drop the cat before it exploded all over my favorite cowboy boots. She did a great job as the undertaker/minister. Finer words have never been said over a dead cat. Puff was buried with grace and dignity. My mom thought it was over. 

Nope. 

Imagine her bewilderment when I came to the back door about three days later and asked, “Why are there worms in my cat?” Now there is a Hallmark moment for you. I had such a positive influence on my mom. She prayed in my presence a lot. She was always saying, “Dear God.” She was such a good role model. 

You need to quit digging up things too. Past hurts, past failures, and past sins need to be buried under the forgiving blood of Jesus Christ and left there. Digging them up always stinks. It shackles you to your past rather than to your future. Everybody has past hurts, failures, and sins. Acknowledge them, ask for forgiveness, release forgiveness to others, and leave them in the past. God only uses broken people anyway. Being broken makes you depend on God and helps you understand others better. Burying the past heals the cracks in your life and allows you accomplish God’s mission for your life. 

So, let’s stop digging up past hurts, failures, sins…and cats. Everybody will be much happier, and it smells better.

How to Handle Stress and Remain Calm

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I have lived in the metro area of Atlanta since 1995. When my family first moved here, I was not used to the insanity of the traffic. I grew up in the bucolic, open spaces of the mountains of North Carolina. Where I learned to drive – Mt Airy, NC - is literally the inspiration for the fictional town of Mayberry in the Andy Griffith show. After living here for nearly a quarter of a century, I now drive faster, more aggressively, and find myself with far less patience on the roads. 

Not long after moving here, I was driving on I-75 and saw a car with a Christian bumper sticker that read, “Honk If You Love Jesus.” In my naiveté I thought that was an invitation to be friendly, so I pulled up beside the car and blew my horn. 

Imagine my surprise when the frazzled woman glared at me and flipped me off! She shot me a bird. She gave me the one-fingered salute. She gave me half a peace sign. She should remove that bumper sticker from her car if she doesn’t like good Christian horn-blowing. 

I can give her the benefit of the doubt because I have certainly felt stressed out before. When you feel the blood pressure rising, the veins popping out on your forehead, the nostrils flaring, and your middle finger twitching, here are a few things to try. I believe they will help. 

·     Breathe. 

Sometimes just breathing deeply can release and reduce stress. In. Out. Repeat. When you feel anger swelling within your breast, just breathe. 

·     Give thanks.

Whenever I feel frustration building, I can either give into it and let anger rule me or I can start thanking God for all he has done. Being thankful helps release your frustration more than you can imagine. Start thanking God for as many good things as you can think of and then thank him for the situation that frustrates you. He gets glory from this. The Bible tells us to give thanks in everything. Being thankful works. You can start by thanking God for Jesus, salvation, grace and lots of his blessings. Rather than getting frustrated by traffic, thank him that you have a car and a job. You will start feeling relief immediately. 

·     Make a joyful noise. 

Psalm 100 tells us, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” Singing out loud to the Lord is what the Psalmist had in mind. Try singing and being thankful. It helps. 

·     Let it go. 

The Apostle Paul wrote to us and said that we should give all of our cares and burdens to the Lord because he cares for us. Determine in your mind to release your stress and problems to the Lord. You will be much happier, and your drive time will be much more tolerable. And when someone honks their horn at you, you will wave with all five fingers.

 

Five Things Every Dad Should Do with his Kids this Summer

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Father’s Day was yesterday, and I challenged our dads about their greatest responsibility as a father. If you missed it, you can listen to our podcast or check out the message on Facebook. As a follow-up to the message, here are a few things scripture challenges every dad to do. 

1.   Be a good example. 

Proverbs 22:6 states, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”(NLT) Some dads take the approach, “Do as I say, not as I do.” That never works. Direct your children by being a good example. One of the best ways to do this is to bring themrather than send themto church every week.

2.   Spend time with your kids. 

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”(NLT) The point is that you must teach them about Jesus in the normal rhythms of life. The only way possible to do that is to spend time with them regularly. 

3.   Point your kids to Jesus. 

Psalm 127:4 tells us, “Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.”(NLT) Dad, you are a warrior. You must lead, provide, and protect your children. Your children are like arrows. An arrow can only fulfill its purpose when it is pointed to the right target and released at the appropriate time.

4.    Be the Influencer-in-Chief. 

Ephesians 6:4 instructs us, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”(NIV) This verse is very clear. Fathers must influence their children by leading and teaching them the ways of the Lord. You are the greatest influence in their lives! 

Fathers make sure to use the short time God has given you while your children are in your care to make a difference in their lives. Use your time this summer to be the best dad you can be!

 

 

 

Avalon Church Online is Now Live!

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I am so excited that we are now able to offer you a way to worship with us, even when you are out of town or have to work on Sundays. We recently launched Avalon Church Online. We now stream our services live on our Avalon Facebook page. If you “like” the page, it will send you a notification when the live streaming is about to begin. Not only do our services stream live, they are also available for viewing until 11:59 PM the same day. During live streaming you can post a comment, fill out a Next Step Card, and give by clicking the description. 

Not only is this a way for you to worship and stay connected when you are unavailable to attend, it is also a great way for you to invite friends and family to experience Avalon Church. Tell your friends and family about it. Invite them to join us on Avalon Church Online!

 

What Pastors Do During the Week and How You Can Pray for Them

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People often ask me, “What do you do during the week?” That is an honest question since most people only see the work that a pastor does by speaking way too long on Sundays. 

The purpose of this blog is to encourage you to pray for your pastors and church staff and to learn how to encourage them in the best way. The Bible teaches us to pray for our pastors, leaders and even our government officials. Ephesians 4 tells us that pastors are a gift to the church. Pastors teach God’s Word, lead spiritually, guide, pray for people, counsel, proclaim the gospel, help families, and many other things that help people connect with God and grow in their relationship with Jesus. (1 Timothy 5:7; Hebrews 13:17; Galatians 6:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Corinthians 9:11, 14; Philippians 1:3-5; Hebrews 13:7; 1 Peter 5:2; 2 Timothy 4:2) 

So, what do pastors actually do during the week? It is common for people to think that pastors sit around high-fiving angels, listening to worship music, and playing golf all day. Pastors are accountable to God for the people they lead. They are held to a higher standard and often feel the pressure of criticism. It can be intensely personal and emotionally draining leading a church. Think of running a church like running a business (like where you work), running an educational institution (we teach birth through adults every week), managing a volunteer organization (like the Red Cross), and a running a counseling center all in one. Then think about a time that you had to give a speech in front of lots of people… and your job depended on it. Then think about doing that every single week. My purpose is not to impress you with our work ethic but to get you to pray for our church staff. Our staff works really hard to serve Jesus by serving you. 

Here are just a few things that pastors (and church staff members) do every week. 

•          Prepare sermons and lessons – I normally spend at least 15-20 hours per week doing this

•          Meetings – staff meetings, planning meetings, deacon and elder meetings, ministry team meetings

•          Plan weekly services

•          Practice music for the services

•          Plan technical, sound, and visual items for services

•          Do long term planning for sermon series and outreach

•          Recruit and train volunteers for all the different ministries

•          Manage small groups

•          Write lessons for small groups

•          Follow up with guests

•          Write letters 

•          Plan advertising

•          Work on area-wide mail-outs and evangelism strategies

•          Manage budgets for each ministry

•          Pay bills, prepare financial reports, manage funds, deal with banks, and set up financial counseling

•          Budget projections, comparisons, and forecasting

•          Enter contributions for each person

•          Plan weekly student services

•          Recruit and train youth leadership

•          Hospital visitation, funerals, weddings

•          Marriage and pre-marital counseling, financial counseling, family counseling

•          Work on, shoot, prepare, and edit service videos and online content for Avalon Church online

•          Baptism planning

•          Follow-up with those who receive Christ

•          Help people take their next step, Next Step Classes

•          Prepare all church communications including websites, in-service communications, blogs, e-mails

•          Prepare sermon podcasts and video broadcasts

•          Manage the church website and social media and prepare, shoot, and edit service videos, and visuals

•          Work on sound, lighting, and video equipment

•          Respond to complaints

•          Data entry for new members, visitors, baptisms, salvations, and other decisions

•          Manage purchase orders and requests

•          Run a business office

•          Manage the church office

•          Manage the church calendar for church-wide events and individual ministry events

•          Manage and maintain the facilities

•          Background checks for nursery, preschool, and children’s workers

•          Buy and choose curriculum for preschool and children’s ministry

•          Leadership development

•          Plan for major events like Easter and Christmas

•          Children’s ministry planning

•          Missions planning

•          Set designs for new message series

•          Printing

•          Computer work

•          Vision casting

•          Prayer

•          Writing for emails, lessons, books, and other teaching content

I could go on, but you get the point. There is a lot of work to do and all of it would be in vain without many volunteers as well. There is no way our church staff could do this without you. It takes hundreds of volunteer hours to pull off a service at Avalon Church. That is why it is so important that you volunteer! 

Pray for our pastors and church staff. Pray for their families, their leadership, their encouragement, their protection, their health, their finances, and their growth. When you have the chance, let them know how much God has changed and blessed your life through their service. It will be a HUGE blessing to them and will encourage them to continue to serve Jesus by serving you. 

 

 

 

How to Turn a Bad Day into a Good Day

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If you are old enough, you probably remember the old Michelob commercial that famously said, “Some days are better than others.” I think it is fairly reasonable to concur with that statement. Some days sure seem to be better than others. Pay day is better than the day before it. A vacation day at the beach is better than a twelve-hour day at work. Graduation day is better than the day a research paper is due. Of course, these kinds of days are all about your circumstances. We must learn how to live above our circumstances and to choose joy. So, how can you turn a bad day into a good day? I think the Bible gives us answers. 

1.     Remind yourself of what you believe.I think it starts there. What you believe affects your thinking and your actions. Your view of God affects everything you do. It certainly affects your attitude. I like to rehearse several faith statements each day at the beginning of my day. It helps me remain focused on my faith and remain positive. Hebrews 11:6 states, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Mark 9:23says, “Anything is possible if a person believes.” It is important to remind myself of what I believe so that when tough times come, I am able to combat the negative spirit that can easily overtake my mind. 

2.     Read the Bible regularly.The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:1-2 that we must let God transform our minds and our way of thinking if we are to please him. The only way to transform your mind and shape it in the way God wants is for you to fill your mind with his word and meditate on it by reading the Bible and listening to sermons that explain the Bible. Romans 10:17 reminds us, “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” One of the best ways to fight against negativity is to combat it with truth from God’s Word. 

3.     Use the power of words.You and I need to learn that our words have power. Solomon wrote that there is life and death in the tongue. We speak life or we speak death. This is not the same as just being a positive person. Some people are hopelessly unrealistic in their outlook and never even come close to reality. We must commitment to remaining positive because you have developed the mental and spiritual toughness to believe God and his promises. Not all things are always positive, but the outcome can bring glory to God, so I will remain positive because I know God is in control. There is a tension here between two concepts in the Bible. One is that God is sovereign, and he controls everything (which he does). The second truth is that I must work hard and make wise choices (which I must). I will speak either faith or doubt, life or death, fear or confidence. 

Mark 11:23-24 “I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, 'Go, fall into the sea.' And if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that what you say will happen, God will do it for you. So I tell you to believe that you have received the things you ask for in prayer, and God will give them to you.”

4.     Surround yourself with the right people. If you surround yourself with negativity and negative people, you will be influenced by their negativity. On the other hand, surround yourself with positive people who love God and watch your attitude get better!

I hope that you will turn your bad days into good ones, cloudy days into sunny ones, and gloomy days into happy ones. Keep your eyes on Jesus and you will do it!

 

Here’s a Story about Why We Do What We Do

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It is always important to come back to “why” you do what you do. For me, that is easy to remember when I watch the people of Avalon. Seeing people get saved, follow Christ, grow in their faith, and make a difference always reminds me on the “why.” Recently, I was reminded of this in a very tangible way. Zack Moore and Mary Susan Milam got married a couple of weeks ago. It was a beautiful wedding and lots of work went into it. But what meant the most to me was watching the people involved. Zack and Mary Susan grew up in the student ministry at Avalon Church. Our volunteers poured into their lives. They both attended college and volunteered in Avalon Student Ministry. Today Zack is the student pastor at a church and he and Mary Susan are pastoring and pouring into the lives of others. Because someone invested in them, the gospel continues to be spread. Someone gave. Someone served. Someone made a difference and now they are doing the same. That kind of thing does not happen by accident. It matters what you do!

If you commit to attending, giving, and serving, then I believe that you will have a great summer. I certainly hope you get to spend some time away on vacation and get spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically renewed. But make sure that the time you spend disconnecting serves you by making you more connected to Jesus. Stay faithful while you are in town this summer. 

One way to stay connected even when you are out of town is by automating your giving.By automating your giving, you help Avalon Church maintain a strong commitment to our mission of bringing people, wherever they are, into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.This empowers you to make a difference even when you are away. 

Here’s why it is important:

  1. Automating your giving shows that you are serious about the gospel.By setting up your giving automatically, you make sure that your giving is consistent and faithful.

  2. Automation makes giving easier.  Let’s face it, when we are out of town, we are really busy and distracted. But by making your giving automatic, you make sure that you stay involved in the mission. It is great, and it is convenient!  

You can set up your giving automatically by going to this link: https://avalonchurch.churchcenter.com/giving.It is simple and easy and takes all the hassle out of giving.  

Or if you like the convenience of our text to give option, you can text this number (84321) and set up automated giving as well. 

I hope you have a great summer and get fired up for Jesus! 

From Burnout to Balance


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This past Sunday I talked about going from burnout to achieving balance in life. Burnout is an interesting concept. What is it? What causes it? How can you manage it? Burnout can be physical, mental, or spiritual. It can take a toll on you emotionally as well. 

We often experience burnout simply because we get tired. Not to oversimplify it, but often we fail to manage our schedules and get the proper rest. The result is weariness, which can lead to a feeling of burnout and stress. Being tired is normal. That kind of burnout can be managed with proper rest and scheduling

Sometimes burnout happens because we lack focus. When we lose our sense of purpose, we feel burned out. It causes us to be unthankful and affects our attitude. People often feel like quitting because they have no clear purpose, or they have forgotten why they do what they do. 

Here are a few simple things that will help you rebound from feeling burnout:

1)   Prioritize your relationship with God.

Even though this sounds cliché, it is the important to protect you from burnout. It can be tempting to neglect this important discipline when you are too tired or too busy. But making time to worship, pray, read the Bible, serve, and spend time with others in Christian community is critical to your long-term mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Sometimes just a quiet moment allows you to pray and reflect and gather your thoughts. Burnout is often a battle for the mind. 

2)   Simplify and control your schedule.

You must learn to say no to some things in order to say yes to better things. No is a powerful word and is necessary to avoid burnout. You must do the first things first and prioritize the important. This often begins by simplifying your schedule.

3)   Rely on God’s grace for your success.

I believe hard work, education, training, and determination are important. But these things are not as important as God’s grace. Learning to depend on God’s undeserved, unmerited, and unearned kindness and favor requires that we unlearn some of our human tendencies. Rest in God’s grace and then work. We work from rest not for rest. 

4)   Get help. 

Talk to someone. When you feel overwhelmed, overworked, and underappreciated, make sure to get help. Don’t try to handle it alone. Talk to a professional, a pastor, a mentor, or a friend. Being a part of a small group helps. It is in the context of community that you are able to get the support you need and the strength to climb out of the trap of burnout. 

 

 

Winning the War Against Worry



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We all struggle with worry. It comes with the territory of our fallen human nature. When you read the story of creation, you recognize that worry was not a problem before Adam and Eve sinned. They were in a perfect world, in a perfect relationship with God, and in a perpetual state of bliss. But once they sinned, they immediately began to worry. They recognized that they were naked and tried to cover their nakedness with human effort. Unfortunately, we inherited their fallen human nature and proclivity to worry. 

Worry damages us. Studies link worry to high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and a host of other maladies. Worry has a powerfully negative effect on our attitude and outlook. But it affects our spiritual lives even more. To put it bluntly, worry is a sin. Worry is the opposite of faith. God’s Word tells us that “whatever is not of faith is sin.”The Bible clearly states that God is pleased with our faith; therefore, it goes without saying that he is not pleased with unbelief, which is the root cause of worry. 

Let’s look at what three experts wrote about this. All three knew Jesus. All three became Apostles in the early church. All three faced daunting persecution and all three eventually died for their faith. The constant threat of persecution and death seems to me to be a pretty good reason to worry. But Peter, James, and Paul received God-breathed instructions on how to handle worry. What they wrote was meant for our instruction and spiritual development. 

Peter wrote, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT) 

Paul believed, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” (Philippians 4:6-7, MES)

And finally, James penned, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:6-8, ESV)

Here are a few transformative principles that will empower you to overcome the worries in your life, no matter how formidable they are. 

1.    Learn the art of the transfer. 

Give means, “to cast upon.” We are to cast our worries onto God. We are to transfer them like we would put a load of lumber in a truck. You wouldn’t carry building materials from the hardware store on your back. You would place them onto something that was designed to carry them. We must learn to transfer our burdens and worries to God and leave them there. You wouldn’t pick up the load of lumber halfway home and start carrying it. Give your cares to God and don’t take them back.

2.    Have a conversation with God about it. 

Pray about your worries and problems and then leave them with God. Notice that Paul said we are to turn our worries into petitions and praises. God certainly wants us to acknowledge our worries, but then we are to praise him for his love, strength, and goodness. The more we praise God for things in our lives, the less power they have over us. This allows you to keep Christ at the center of your life, not your worries. 

3.    Rest in God’s grace.

The overwhelming beauty of God’s grace is greater than any worry. He gives us his kindness and favor because he is good and generous. We don’t earn it and we certainly don’t deserve it. When we rest in his grace, we acknowledge his love for us. We rest in his power, knowledge, and purpose. His grace frees us from worry. When you worry, you are not at rest. When you rest, you will not worry.

4.    Constantly submit your life to God.

When we submit our life and situation to God, we can live in freedom. We no longer stress over things we can’t control. We act and live in faith. Being double-minded literally means to be of two souls. In other words, we trust in our strength one moment and God’s strength the next. We vacillate back and forth like a Ping-Pong ball. When we worry, we rely on ourselves. When we trust in God, we rely on him. In order to have the kind of faith that overcomes worry, we must have a singular mind and trust him. The more we trust him, the closer we get to him and the more our burdens shift to him. We must intentionally submit to God in the midst of our circumstances. You will not naturally do this. It must be an exercise of faith. 

You don’t have to worry. God wants you to give your worries to him so that he can carry them for you. He is stronger than you. He wants you to trust him and rest in his grace. Only when we do that can we live truly worry-free lives.