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Things Looking Down?

c-PastorsHeart-AO PhotographyA divine plan for propelling us onto new spiritual plateaus

Bright and sunny with a soft breeze.

That was the climate this particular morning and exactly how I like it when headed out for a walk. My then-2-year-old son, Jude, loved our walks for many reasons, but particularly for the thrill and excitement of the downhill runs in his stroller. These hills couldn’t come soon enough for him. 

We had barely left when Jude yelled, “Let’s go faster!” Pointing to the uphill crest in front of us, he leaned forward in enthusiastic anticipation. I looked at the graduating elevation before me and realized he had his directions mixed up. An incline wouldn’t give him the speed he was looking for; the hill had to turn in the opposite direction. Sure, we could gain some speed, but it would be more difficult (certainly for me, the one pushing). What he wanted would be best achieved when this uphill journey pointed down.

I assured him that on the other side of the summit, where the curve of the paved road seemed to meet with the sky, he’d get what he wanted—a full-speed race down to the bottom. A downhill journey would set the perfect stage for maximum momentum to occur.

Where We Find Full-Speed Faith

“Things are looking up.”

That’s what we say when the downturns of life reverse direction. We much prefer the “uphill” portions of our journey—the seasons where things are headed in a positive trend. None of us would likely choose the more difficult “down” times over the easier to manage—or at least easier to accept—rise of the “up” ones.

Yet time and again, experience shows us that spiritual momentum and full-speed faith are often best achieved when things are looking down. Somehow, when our days and details are not going in a way we’d prefer, eagerness in our seeking and searching for God picks up the pace and intensifies in speed.

To be clear, we can most certainly experience spiritual growth when things are going well. Thank the Lord that difficulty is not a requirement for discipleship. But in our quest for happiness and ease, could we be sacrificing the spiritual growth we deeply desire on the fleeting altar of good times? Is it possible that in our drastic attempts to keep ourselves and our loved ones from experiencing the “downs,” we are being robbed, and robbing others, of the optimum environment for spiritual speed to be gathered, distance to be covered, endurance and character to developed, and quickened faith to be cemented into place?

Scripture says it this way: “When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy ... your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow” (James 1:2-4, NLT).

Lean Forward

Maybe, instead of merely detesting the “down times,” we can also be expectant of the high-speed work God is preparing to do in us while we’re passing through adversity. Maybe, just maybe, the warp speed with which He wants to propel us to the next dimension of our callings will be best achieved on this side of the hill of life.

We can and must address and encourage each other through harsh realities, yes, and we can also count it as our privilege to make our requests for His intervention in our lives known. But we must also have the sting of joyful and holy fervor that reminds us our more difficult days are propelling us onto new spiritual plateaus. Somehow, through this, we start trusting more fully, believing more abundantly, expecting more wholly and our hearts start percolating with a newfound spiritual passion.

Things looking down, my friend? I pray that things will look up again soon. But until then, lean forward into the fast and furious winds of grace and prepare for the ride of your life.


Priscilla Shirer is a Bible teacher who speaks nationwide. She has written multiple books, including A Jewel in His Crown. With her husband, Jerry, she founded Going Beyond Ministries. For more information, visit her blog at goingbeyond.com or follow her on Twitter @PriscillaShirer.

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Get a Life, Get a Sermon

c-KingdomCulture JoePortnoy
Are your sermons as well-lived as they are well-studied?

Afew years ago I played hooky from our Saturday night service and hit the ski slopes with my son, Parker. It was the last weekend of the ski season, so it was our last chance to go after a life goal we share in common: learning to snowboard. It was an amazing day, but one moment is frozen in my mind forever.
We were riding up the chair lift when I had an epiphany. I realized that my life had completely revolved around National Community Church for the better part of a decade. In one respect, that's the price you pay when you plant a church. But it was as if the Holy Spirit said in no uncertain terms: "Get a life!"
Let me be blunt: If your life is boring your sermons will be too.
If you have no life outside of church—no hobbies, no friends, no interests, no goals—your illustrations will feel canned, your ap-plications theoretical instead of practical and your sermons will be lifeless instead of life-giving.

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Revival Generations

Today’s move of God is for tomorrow’s church, tooC-Kingdom-Culture

John Adams once said that “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.” 

What a time to live in when you constantly hear about Stage 4 cancer getting healed, missing limbs growing back, marriages being restored, deaf ears opening up, blind eyes now seeing, cancellation of debt, children’s hearts turning back to their parents.

The church has a unique and tremendous opportunity to see the kingdom of God continue to touch our world in our time and to see it increase in the next generation. It’s important that we live our lives in such a way that will set up a generation we will never see for success.

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Forever Changed

One trip to Israel was all it took to make me repriotize my life and ministryc-PastorsHeart

 

After 19 years of international ministry, a weekly television broadcast, establishing a consultancy for pastors and other initiatives, I have experienced something that has caused me to entirely rethink my approach to ministry and also my theology. It has changed the way I prioritize, the way I preach and the way I pastor. This life-changing encounter was with the land of Israel.

After sailing in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, standing in the Garden of Gethsemane and peering into the field where the battle of Armageddon is to take place, I realized that much of my ministry had been based upon personal introspection—what I had read and what other scholars had interpreted. Moreover, we often allow English grammatical rules to interpret biblical text and biblical culture.

However, Western theology often opposes Eastern thought. For instance, the Western mind argues the truth; thus we have so many denominations and different reformations. But the Eastern mind simply obeys the truth. In the past, this difference in approach would have inhibited me from fully absorbing the Scriptures. But my trip to this unique place changed all that. I can now personally identify with Naaman the leper who took soil from Jerusalem back to his native land of Syria, so that he could stand upon it and worship the God of Israel.

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Covenantal Alignment

Eight reasons Christians need to be active in standing with Israelc-Kingdom-Culture

 

We as leaders find ourselves in a sobering moment in history, which calls us to take a stand with God’s covenants in the earth. It is our responsibility to do kingdom business until He comes (Luke 19:13).

More than 10 years ago, Robert Stearns asked me to join him in encouraging Christians to pray every year on the same day for the peace of Jerusalem. It is a daunting task to stir the global church to unity in prayer, but the millions of believers who now do just that the first Sunday of every October are proof that God’s grace is on this important issue.

The most essential things I could hope to pass on to the next generation of church leadership are these several reasons for standing with Israel:

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