5 Practical Steps to Managing a Stressful Period

By | Christians, Church, Faith, Fear, Prayer | No Comments

I realize anxiety is high for all of us. I have a “system” I have used over the years when I’m in an especially stressful season. It is a sort of therapeutic exercise that seems to work for me.

As I type this the current stressor in all our life stems from the COVID-19 Coronavirus. That virus has caused strains on our economies, relationships, calendars and even personal care products. Who knows how long this will last?

God is in control, but you may need some practical ways to navigate these days. Again, this has worked for me.

Here are 5 practical steps to managing a stressful period:

Get a set of index cards. Write what you are most concerned about in life right now on the cards. Put only one concern per card but use as many cards as necessary. Everything you’re concerned or worried about goes on a card.

There is something cleansing about writing out your concerns. Again, it is a therapeutic exercise. (Insider information—you’ll find some of the things don’t merit a card once you must write them.)

Place cards in front of you. After you’ve completed your cards, lay them face up on a table in front of you. This is a bare-your-soul moment. You may feel a bit overwhelmed at this point.

Analyze. How real is this concern? Can you fix it? Are there practical things you can do to address the concern. In this current scene, you may need to limit your exposure to people. You may need to review your budget. Do the best you know how to do. 

After you know what you can and can’t fix, share them with God. He knows them already—better than you—but do it anyway. It is freeing to give your burdens to your Creator.

Pray. Pray something like this: “God, this is what I have before me, which I can’t handle. I’m asking You as my Father, who loves me more than I can imagine, to give me direction, success, wisdom, patience, and understanding in every area of my life. Lead me along the path You would have for me. I’m trusting completely in You. If this season is a success in my life, it will depend on You. I love You Lord. In Jesus name, Amen”.

Rest in God’s hands. Once I’ve left my concerns in God’s hands I must trust Him with them. This may need to be a daily practice. It could even need to be hourly for a while.

This is not a formula. And it won’t necessarily take care of deep or dark emotional issues. Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help. But if you have the normal stress of life, I’ve tried this for years and have always found it helpful.

By the way, I didn’t invent this system. I got this practice years ago by reading the story of Hezekiah in 1 Kings 19.

Waiting For What’s Next Doesn’t Mean You Do Nothing

By | Business, Church Planting, Devotional, Encouragement, Faith, Jesus, Life Plan | 15 Comments

Inactivity rarely produces anything…
Waiting on God doesn’t always mean doing nothing…

Jesus said, “My time has not yet come” (John 2:4)… He was in a time of waiting…yet He continued to act on what He could do…

Do what you know to do today…
Take initiative towards change you know you should make…

In Joshua 3 they had to get in the water before it started to part…You may have to get in the water first, before you start to see results…

Create action…it is often then God begins to reveal the destination He is taking you towards…

What action do you need to take today?

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4 Ways I Discern Saying No to Good Opportunites

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Church Planting, Encouragement, Faith, Fear, Missions, Vision | 16 Comments

Age and maturity has helped me get better at discerning what I can do and should do based on my strengths, weaknesses, passions and dreams. It’s freeing when we become more certain in who God has wired us to be and who He has not.

Still, I’ve learned (through many different seasons of life) that there are often more opportunities than time in life…even God-honoring, seemingly good opportunities. Recently, I have had to say no to some great opportunities. These were things that I would have clearly thought had to be “God appointed”, but as much as they line with my strengths, passions, and dreams I have for my life, I said “no” to them.

How do you know when to say no to what looks like a good thing…perhaps initially even like a “God thing”?

Here are four things I look for in examining my heart before responding. I say no when:

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Start a New Year With A Blank Page

By | Devotional, Encouragement, Faith, God, Vision | No Comments

and find out what pleases the Lord. Ephesians 5:10 NIV

One of my life goals has been to get to a blank piece of paper stage in my walk with God. Ultimately, I want to present God with a blank piece of paper so He can plan my life.

It started like this. Years ago I was explaining to a friend I was at one of those “trying to discover God’s will” points in my life. (I have been there many times before and will be again.) His advice wasn’t something he had thought about a ton before. He admitted it sort of came to him quickly. But, for me it was the word I needed to hear.

He said something like, (Maybe you need to start with a blank piece of paper and give God ample space to plan out the rest of your life. Make yourself completely available to Him.)

I left our meeting, however, with a very probing question for myself. Did I really even have blank piece of paper? And, not in the literal sense. I’m sure I could find blank paper somewhere- even in such a digital age. But in my heart. Had I really released my will to God’s will?

Over the next few weeks, through prayer and discipline, I attempted to get there – at least in that season.

Over the years since then, I have periodically continued the self-examination. To do this I have to be honest with myself and the plans I have for my life. I certainly want to follow His lead, but I think many times my page is loaded with my own agenda. If I want my page to be completely blank, then I need to offer it back to God with nothing on the paper.

But, it leads me to ask you the question:

Have you given God a blank page to plan your life?

Be prepared when you do. God seems to love a challenge. He is great at taking nothing and making something when we let Him draw the picture – write the story of our life. But, I‘m not sure as followers of Christ – and, really as humans, whether we know it or not, if we can fully realize our ultimate design until we let the Creator have His way.

Let me offer a few more thoughts on the subject:

The Biggest Mistake of my Life

Making Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep

Personal Reflection Questions to Start New Year Right

7 Things Which Have Brought Me Success

The beat thing you can do for yourself when planning for life is to give God plenty of margin to shape your plan. Actually, when we give Him our whole life we are in a better when we come with our own agendas.

Stop Seeing the Bible as a Reference Book

By | Encouragement, Faith, God, Leadership | No Comments

Dictionary.

Thesaurus.

Encyclopedia.

We all know what these are. These are all reference books, and a reference book is only used when you need to use it as a source to make a point. The definition reads, “a book intended to be consulted for information on specific matters rather than read from beginning to end.“It’s a source that we pull up when we need to back up a point or further clarify what we are trying to say.

And this is exactly how many of us treat the Bible, simply as a reference book.

We see it as a resource in our pocket to be searched when we are trying to win an argument. As a book of inspiration to post on social media. Or as a book we consult on specific matters but have never thought about reading beginning to end. And this is a dangerous habit for us to fall into.

Why? Because we need to see the Bible not as a book to be referenced, but as a book to be lived, and then let our life be saturated by it. It should be the source of life for us. Not a source that we footnote or cite to make a point.

Honestly answer this question: how do you mainly interact with the Bible?

Do you pull a verse here and there to tweet or Instagram?

Do you Google for a verse every now and then to back you up in an argument?

Or do you daily read it to soak it up and let it transform the way you live?

I promise, this is not a gotcha type of question. I only ask this question to you, because I recently asked the same question to myself. And when I answered it, it made me realize that I had not made the Word of God a big enough of a priority in my life.

It is so easy in our “information at our fingertips” lifestyle to go about our day and simply see the Bible as a reference book that supplements our lives when it is convenient to us or we have a question to be answered. And when we do this, we are missing out on the true riches of Scripture. As Matt Chandler would, “We are adults playing around in the kiddie pool of faith.”

After being convicted of this myself, I found a few ways to get past this type of thinking:

1. Simply, read the Bible daily.

The greatest way to get out of the habit of seeing the Bible as a reference book is to make a daily habit of reading, studying, and applying it to your life. This will cause Scripture to be in your mind and vocabulary constantly rather than just as a reference. It will begin to flood your mind throughout the day, so you are thinking about it not just when you need to defend something, but in every decision that you make.

2. Before you share a verse, read the whole chapter for context.

Sadly, often when we share Bible on Instagram or Twitter, we morph Scripture to fit into our life rather than fitting our life into Scripture. Because of this, we’ll take verses out of context and post them as inspiration even if that is not what the original author intended.

One example is Jeremiah 29:11, you know, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” We love to post this one in hard times, like right after a break up or unexpected job change, but we end up using a verse as inspiration that the author was writing to show God’s judgment to His people.

3. Create a habit of memorizing Scripture

Memorizing Scripture is normally thought of as a super-spiritual habit. But it should be seen as essential for all believers. Think about this, we can memorize lyrics to a song, but we don’t have the capacity to memorize God’s Word? Yeah right. It’s just that we don’t focus on it, so we allow our minds to be filled more with culture’s influence than the Spirit’s influence. But when we memorize Scripture, we are keeping a reference book of the Bible in our mind. When we draw from it, we aren’t looking it up, but rather we are drawing it out from a past reading or devotion.

What are some ways you have made Scripture more of a priority in your life?

Chandler Vannoy is the Brand Manager for LifeWay Leadership. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and is now pursuing his Masters of Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He loves the NBA, C.S Lewis, and good coffee. Connect with him on Twitter: @chandlervannoy.

7 Things To Do in the Spiritually Dry Times of Life

By | Christians, Encouragement, Faith | 24 Comments

Elijah had been used of God to hold back rain from the people for over 3 years, because of their sins. Obviously, he was not well liked as a preacher. I can only imagine the stress he experienced during those years. Something struck me recently, however, that seemed to further complicate Elijah’s situation.

Consider 1 Kings 18:1 “After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.”

According to a couple NT passages, this “After a long time” was actually 3 ½ years. The famine was 3 ½ years long. For 3 ½ years, the people apparently continued to sin, Elijah continued to hold on by faith, but God said nothing. God was apparently inactive, not speaking, even to His great servant Elijah.

Have you ever been there? Has the silence of God in your life ever been eerily strong?

Imagine you had been faithfully serving…God is using you…you are in constant communication with Him…and then suddenly…everything is quiet.

The separation must have seemed unbearable. Elijah is un-liked and unpopular; he’s an outcast from the people and the One he trusted most was seemingly absent. God would soon do a miracle through Elijah, but during this period, all Elijah could do was wait.

If you have been believer for very long at all, you have had periods where it seems God is nowhere to be found. We often call them periods of spiritual dryness. Sometimes I refer to it as being in a spiritual funk.

What should we do during the times of silence, before the miracles of God come through for us?

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