Monday, June 9, 2008

Resisting Discouragement

"So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time." Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

There are many things that work to keep us from completing our life-missions. Over the years, I’ve debated whether the worst enemy is procrastination or discouragement. If Satan can’t get us to put off our life missions, then he’ll try to get us to quit altogether.

The apostle Paul teaches that we need to resist discouragement: “So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up …” (Galatians 6:9 NLT).

Do you ever get tired of doing what’s right? I think we all do. Sometimes it seems easier to do the wrong thing than the right thing.

When we’re discouraged, we become ineffective. When we’re discouraged, we work against our own faith.

When I’m discouraged, I’m saying, “It can’t be done.” That’s the exact opposite of saying, “I know God can do it because he said ….”

Ask yourself these questions:
  • How do I handle failure?
  • When things don’t go my way, do I get grumpy?
  • When things don’t go my way, do I get frustrated?
  • When things don’t go my way, do I start complaining?
  • Do I finish what I start?
  • How would I rate on persistence?

If you’re discouraged, don’t give up without a fight. Nothing worthwhile ever happens without endurance and energy.

When an artist starts to create a sculpture, he has to keep chipping away. He doesn’t hit the chisel with the hammer once, and suddenly all the excess stone falls away revealing a beautiful masterpiece. He keeps hitting it and hitting it, chipping away at the stone.

And that’s true of life, too: Nothing really worthwhile ever comes easy in life. You keep hitting it and going after it, and little-by-little your life becomes a masterpiece of God’s grace.

The fact is, great people are really just ordinary people with an extraordinary amount of determination. Great people don’t know how to quit.

[Rick Warren]

Are You Experiencing a Storm?

A lot of ministers I know are becoming weary. The normal trials of life have been multiplied in the current season. We are in a storm.

So, what do we do?

1. Stay in the stronghold of God’s presence. Hebrews 4:16 says: “Let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (NASB). No matter how hard the winds blow outside, the throne room is a secure place. We must learn to abide in the only true stormproof shelter.

When David was fleeing Saul, he endured his trials by making the Lord’s presence his daily habitation. David wrote most of his psalms while battling fear, frustration and despair. Yet he maintained his authority (and eventually inherited the kingdom) because he maintained his praise, worship and intercession. So we must spend more time with the Lord when our circumstances tell us to work harder, worry more and pray less. Only in His presence do we see an accurate picture of how big God is compared to our problems.

2. Throw out your anchor and set your heart on Jesus. It’s interesting that no one really knows who wrote Hebrews. Some scholars have suggested Paul (even though it differs from his other writings), Barnabas, Apollos and even Priscilla.

I doubt we will solve this mystery until all of heaven’s secrets are revealed in eternity. But although we may not know the author, we know the Author. Jesus is described in Hebrews as “the author of [our] salvation” (2:10) and “the author and finisher of our faith” (12:2, NKJV). He must become our central focus if we intend to complete this journey.

Hebrews tell us that our hope in Jesus Christ is “an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil” (6:19, NASB). Are you anchored in Christ, or are you tossed here and there by people’s opinions, waves of doctrine or emotional highs?

Many Christians today run from one meeting to the next, or from conference to conference, to get a word from a prophet or to spend yet another 10 minutes on the floor getting another dose of the anointing. Yet when high winds come, will we stand? Hebrews says our ability to endure is directly tied to our grounding in Jesus alone.

3. Offer a lifeline of encouragement to others. In warning the early disciples about the perils of unbelief, the author of Hebrews says: “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (3:13). In other words, when the storm is blowing we should not only find shelter ourselves but also work to protect our brothers and sisters.

This passage tells us that some people actually walk away from the faith because of discouragement. The storm can get so dark and the clouds so heavy that people faint. Temptation can become so intense that those in isolation become casualties. It is in our power to speak a word that will lift their spirits, overcome fear, vanquish the devil’s lies and inspire fresh faith. If you need encouragement, try giving some away. It will come back to you.

4. Weather the storm to the end. A lot of Christians I know are becoming weary. The normal trials of life have been multiplied in the current season. Right now I am praying with (1) a woman whose husband has chosen to live in adultery; (2) a father whose son was recently arrested for armed robbery; (3) a family that has been fractured because of mental illness; (4) a pastor whose daughter has turned away from God; and (5) a couple struggling to pay their bills because of the real estate crisis. Everywhere I look people are being battered by life’s hardships.

The book of Hebrews exhorts us: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses, surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (12:1). Heaven cries out: Hang on no matter what!

I want to encourage you today: This storm will not last forever. You will emerge on the other side of this trial, and you will be stronger because the Lord stood by your side. Don’t give up. His promise is guaranteed. If you will praise Him in the midst of the raging tempest, and wait patiently for His intervention, He will send His grace, fight your battles, slay your giants, rebuke the devourer, grant your inheritance and reward your faithfulness.

[J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma]

China Funds Campaign to Eliminate House Churches

If it was not working, why would they be against it?

A new report released on Sunday, exactly two months ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games, details the current Chinese government’s crackdown on unregistered Christians, including funding a campaign to eradicate house churches throughout China.

The report, entitled “China: Persecution of Protestant Christians in the Approach to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games,” by U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide and U.S.-based China Aid Association, provides information on different tactics used by the government to restrict the religious freedom of Christians.
CAA said that in May, two independent sources informed it that the Chinese Central Government provided funding to the Ministry of Public Security to escalate its campaign of eradicating house churches in China.

China Aid also said it received reports of “planned intensified persecution,” with greater control and prevention of large Christian gatherings ahead of the Games.

“While Chinese house churches have long suffered persecution, this is believed to be the first time that the authorities have systematically cracked down on the ‘third wave churches,’” the report noted. “These are churches amongst the more educated and wealthy sections of society with greater awareness of their rights, which generally meet in urban areas and have been tolerated, even though operating under certain restrictions.”

Tactics used to crack down on unregistered Christians include: targeting well-established unregistered churches; sending landlords directives ordering them to not rent space to those engaging in religious activities; charging Christians in the Xinjiang region of separatism; expelling foreign Christians; targeting repression at the Chinese House Church Alliance; and carrying out the largest mass sentencing of house church leaders in 25 years.

The report also highlights the “disturbing news” that some house church Christians were arrested and fined for trying to help victims of the massive earthquake in Sichuan Province.
“As we mark the two month countdown to the Beijing Olympics today it is truly disturbing to report the deteriorating picture for China’s unregistered Christians,” said Mervyn Thomas, chief executive of CSW. “As China takes her place in the spotlight for the Olympic Games it is important to highlight that she must play by international rules, including her binding international obligations on human rights.”

In China, there are five government-sanctioned religions – Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism. A government-affiliated association monitors and supervises the activities of each of these faiths.

Protestant churches are required to register and operate under the government’s umbrella organization, the China Christian Council. But many protestant Christians refuse to work with the CCC, arguing that God is the head of the church and not the government.

China has an underground Christian population estimated to be as high as 100 million, although experts are quick to point out the difficulty in obtaining the real count.

Open Doors and many human rights groups have reported increased incidents of Christian persecution in China last year as it prepares for the Olympics. The watchdog group’s 2008 World Watch List ranks China as the tenth worst persecutor of Christians in the world.

Meanwhile, China Aid Association, in its annual update, reported persecution worsened in 2007 compared to 2006.

Open Doors has organized a prayer campaign for Christians in the West to pray at least one minute each day at 8 p.m. Beijing time (8 a.m. EDT). The “One Minute/One Year/One Country” campaign began Aug. 8, 2007 and will go to Aug. 8, 2008 – the day the Beijing Games begin.
On Wednesday, CAA president Bob Fu will be in London to speak about persecution of Chinese Christians. Also, activist Chun Ki Won, who was imprisoned by China for helping North Korean refugees, will also speak about China’s human rights violation.

Full Report:

Have a Great Day

  1. Determine to have a good day. Make up your mind that you are going to make the best of this day, no matter what! A firm decision to live positively is half the battle.
  2. Start your day with a prayer. Before you get started, pause and thank God for your life and ask for guidance and wisdom.
  3. Don't sweat the small stuff. Isn't it funny how we can become so uptight about non-essentials? My friend, Eunice Walker, calls these petty frustrations "bugs on the windshield of life." Refuse to let minor annoyances get the best of you.
  4. Look for postcards from heaven. Every day God sends postcards that say, "I love you." He hides them in the most unexpected places - and you have to search in order to find them. Each day is packed full of blessings for you to enjoy. Look again!
  5. Release your resentment and regret. Some people are hostage to the past. Regret and resentment (the siamese twins of misery) bind us up so we cannot enjoy the present. Yesterday is history. You can't go back and change it - but you can do something about today. Make the most of your moments - and do not allow bandits from your past to rob your joy.
  6. Invest your life in service to others. One of the best ways to be happy and fulfilled in life is to be a blessing to others. Look for ways to help and encourage other people, and you will be rewarded with happiness. I've never yet met a generous grouch.
  7. Always tell the truth. Honesty brings freedom to the soul.
  8. Nurture your most important relationships. Be sure to cherish your faith, family and friends. Don't get so caught up in the hectic pace of making a living that you forget to make a life. The human heart is rich, indeed, when full of love.

In Pursuit of Excellence

Psychologist and executive coach Graham Jones believes that the real key to excellence is mental toughness. In the current Harvard Business Review he writes that the most successful keaders do five things to get better and stay that way.
  1. Learn to Love the Pressure. To do that you must dedicate yourself to constant self-improvement. That is made a lot easier if you learn to compete with yourself and block out the drama of those around you. It’s a choice. “Greg Searle, who won an Olympic gold medal in rowing, is often asked whether success was worth the price. He always gives the same reply: ‘I never made any sacrifices; I made choices.’”
  2. Fixate on the Long Term. Map out short-term goals in every area that affects your performance to make sure you meet your long-term goal. Long term success is paved with small achievements.
  3. Iron Sharpens Iron. Spend time with people who will push you the hardest. “Smart companies consciously create situations in which their elite performers push one another to levels they would never reach if they were working with less-accomplished colleagues.”
  4. Reinvent Yourself. Once you become the benchmark, you need to keep reinventing yourself. To do this you need to develop an insatiable appetite for feedback; you need to be “hungry for advice on how to develop and progress. One word of caution, however: While it’s good to feel challenged, you need to make sure that any feedback you get is constructive. If criticism doesn’t seem helpful at first, probe to see if you can get useful insights about what’s behind the negative feedback. Get more specifics. You should be able to see concrete improvements in your performance after getting detailed coaching advice.”
  5. Celebrate the Victories. Think of it as constructive celebration. Otherwise it can lead to complacency. “Celebration is more than an emotional release. Done effectively, it involves a deep level of analysis and enhanced awareness. The very best performers do not move on before they have scrutinized and understood thoroughly the factors underpinning their success.”

In the end, the keyword is resilience. Jones concludes, “Most of those participating in the Olympics this summer will walk away from the games without grabbing a single medal. Those with real mettle will get back into training again. That’s what truly separates elite performers from ordinary high achievers. It takes supreme, almost unimaginable grit and courage to get back into the ring and fight to the bitter end. That’s what the Olympic athlete does. If you want to be an elite performer in business, that’s what you need to do, too.”