Category Archives: General

Book Review: Just War As Christian Discipleship

Just War as Christian Discipleship: Recentering the Tradition in the Church Rather Than the State by Daniel M. Bell Jr.
Kindle Edition, 267pages
Published October 1, 2009, Baker Academic

Just War as Christian Discipleship: Recentering the Tradition in the Church Rather Than the State by Daniel M. Bell Jr.  serves as a introduction to the history and formation of Just War Tradition as well as a provocative challenge for the Church to recover and faithfully embody the practice of Just War as a part of Christian Formation. Bell attempts to educate the reader on the development of Just War Theory through the writings of the early Patristics (specifically identifying the tradition in Augustinian thought) through the medieval era and into modern times. Bell argues that in the course of history the Just War tradition transitioned from a distinctly Christian doctrine and practice – rooted in and shaped by faithful convictions and communal confessions – into a checklist used by present-day nation-states to develop international laws in order to govern and guide public policy and warfare. Bell argues that Just War principles (authority, just cause, right intent, last resort, and proportionality) are just as applicable, if not more so, to Christian discipleship and formation than they are to the battlefield. In fact, Bell’s purpose in writing this book to the Church is so “that of learning the tradition, teaching it, and living it… Christians might avoid the hypocrisy of claiming to be a just war people when we do not really know what that means.” (18) Bell’s central claim is that in order to wisely judge the morality (or immorality) of current wars and to discern rightly when the rumors of wars begin to swirl, Christians need to access the necessary foundation for intelligent and faithful moral discernment that will lead us, not to declare a particular conflict just or unjust, but to act in accordance with what Christians claim to believe – that God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, is active in this world and calls His church to love even its enemies. This may be accomplished through practices that are both obedient to God and point to the God of “justice, restraint, long-suffering love, mercy, and (who cares) for the common good and will join us in this common good.” Again, Bell is less concerned with declaring particular wars Just and more concerned with developing a peculiar Just War people. Bell challenges his readers to become true disciples and not merely armchair diplomats.

In this review we will briefly summarize the major sections of Bell’s book followed by critical engagement with Bell’s thesis that the main concern for Christians in regards to Just War Theory “is not how to bolster (a) party or platform while discrediting the other side, nor is it steering politicians and public policy in the right direction” but it is most concerned with “how we might wage war (or not) in a manner that points to the One who came that all might have life and have it abundantly. How can we live as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ in the midst of wars and rumors of war? How do we follow Christ by loving and seeking justice for our neighbors in war?” (20) The review will conclude with a practical outworking for how one might apply Bell’s work in the education and discipleship practices of a local church. 

Just War as Christian Discipleship can be divided in to two distinct sections. Chapters 1-3 recount the history of Just War theory and how Just War as an act of Christian Discipleship (CD) differs from the modern notion of Just War as a simply a checklist for Public Policy (PPC). Chapters 4- 8 consider traditional Just War criteria to compare and contrast Just War as Christian Discipleship (CD) with Just War as Public Policy Checklist (PPC).

Bell begins by detailing the major players and principles that laid the foundation of the Just War tradition and chronicles how the Church’s official stance on war transitioned from one of complete rejection of force and military service to one of acceptance of force and service in war as morally acceptable or just. Giving much of the credit for this shift to Augustine and Gratian’s Just War theory they described as a type of “harsh kindness” firmly rooted in love. War is “kind” and “harsh” when it’s intended outcome is the complete “restoration of the moral order and of the offender’s proper role in that order.” If Bell believes that the Church is ignorant of the history of the Just War tradition and Christianity’s involvement in its development, these opening chapters provide a comprehensive and compelling primer to bring the church up to speed and help her locate where she is within the current conversation. From here Bell attempts to give evidence that Just War is not “a lesser evil” that, given the fallen nature of humanity, we must resign ourselves to engage (or disengage) from. For Bell, Just War is a genuine possibility if Christians are willing to do the hard work of critical discernment of the mind and the even harder work of Christian character development of the heart. In secular history as well as Church history, this discernment and development declined as the church’s authority and relevance waxed and waned. This resulted in grave injustices (sometimes done in the name of God) and the center of the Just War tradition being shifted to the modern nation-state and international law and away from the community of faith. As the subtile for the book proclaims, it is Bell’s intent that this “ongoing conversation about what it means to love and seek justice for our neighbors in war” be reclaimed and recentered in the Church through Christian reflection on and distinctly a Christian practice of just war.

To do this Bell draws a major distinction between what he calls Just War as an act of Christian Discipleship (CD) and Just War as Public Policy (PPC). This is important work because while many Christians, including many local pastors, might be familiar with terms like “right intent,” “just cause,” and “last resort” these virtuous sounding qualifiers have been completely eviscerated through the secular influence of international law leaving them devoid of any true restorative intentions they may have once had.

Too often Christian thinking, teaching, and preaching about war is shallow and undisciplined, uninformed by the tradition. As a result, what we say about war too easily ends up providing legitimation for anything, for forms of war that do not in fact merit the label “just.” Hence, we end up supporting kinds of warfare that are at odds with the just war tradition, even as we think we are a just war people, simply because we do not know the just war tradition well enough to know when we are being misled. (17)

This is the great challenge that the Church must face today. As church leaders, we may not have an audience with Presidents, Prime Ministers, or members of the high ranking military brass. We may not have the cultural authority we once had in speaking publicly for or against political decisions in ways that directly impact and drive the conversations toward spiritual development. However, there is one place where we do have an audience and authority: we have been given these within the local congregations in which we serve. Our pews and classrooms are full of men and women, military personnel (enlisted and retired) and civilians, young and old alike who read and watch the news. At this writing, our people of faith have, just this week, seen images of civilians suffering the effects of chemical warfare launched by a totalitarian government. They have listened to reactions and statements from the international community and have watched as the US government executed an airstrike against strategic military targets in the wee hours of the night. Many of our people will be listening intently as the pundits and talking heads on cable news run down a list of criteria to determine whether or not this or continued military action is “right” or “justified.” As each each criteria is checked, aggression from the enemy will be met with force meted out by Tomahawk cruise missiles or economic sanctions or other punitive means for deterrence. Most of the discussion though will not center around the moral implications for war and the people it impacts but the political significance for relationships between nation-states, the idealogical approaches to force utilized by Republicans and Democrats, and how action or inaction will play out within the international community. People of faith need more than this from us. The Church was given one mission from Jesus and that was to make disciples who make disciples. Like Esther, church leaders must realize that we were born “for such a time as this.” We have been given authority and influence within our churches so that we might raise up men and women who are faithful disciples in all areas of their lives – including discerning whether or not war is justified and, if it is, how we might engage in war in a way that points to God’s intent for his creation. Working through a checklist will not do – that is to simplistic and does not require enough lasting change on our part or on the part of others.  The takeaways or lessons from previous conflicts will be simply forever tied to whether or not the criteria for war was met and not on whether true justice occurred or real peace was  pursued and obtained. To this end, Just War as Christian Discipleship is not a book for individual Christians (or individual Christian soldiers) but for the community of Christian faith, The Church as a whole. Just War must be a “practice of a community; it is a matter not of an individual’s but of the community’s reflection and discernment.” If this is the case, then Bell calls those of us who have authority and influence in the church to make  two commitments in order to help the community to become Just War people.

First we must Love. The community of faith must learn what it means to Love All and Serve All. That includes the marginalized and the tyrants, the combatants and the civilians, those who are near and those who are far. If we fail to Love than we will be driven to react too quickly or move too slowly because we are motivated by fear or simply a general sense of “duty.” Love is the animating principle that unites our heart, head, and hands to respond appropriately and most reflects Our Father in Heaven.

Secondly, we must seek to be Spiritual Formed more than culturally informed. As we lead the Church to engage God’s Word – as he speaks through His Word and through his faithful servants in the past, we will learn to see the world through the ears of God and grow in our ability to  act according to His character. Moving beyond giving lip service to Just War (PCC) principles and proof-texts that “prove” Jesus is for or against particular conflicts is imperative if we are to be formed through the discipline of Just War (CD).

As we listen to the voices that have reflected and discerned these things in the past, we will then struggle to consider and engage in faithful practice today. In doing so, may we challenge the generation of believers that follow us to do the same to Love and Be Formed. Karl Barth famously said, “Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” Only as we are formed into the likeness of Jesus will this even be a possibility.

St. Patrick’s Prayer

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

This time next year…

It’s Thursday, December 15, 2016.

We’re about to close out 2016. 

If you’re like me, you’re reflecting back on the
year — the good, the bad, the ugly. For some of you, this may have been a great year… for some of us, we are ready to put this dumpster fire of a year away into the history books for good!

But let’s look ahead for a moment.

It’s a year from today, and now you’re looking back on 2017.

How do you want to feel?

There are a lot of ways to answer that question.

But here’s one thing I’m sure of. You don’t want to look back on 2017 and feel remorse. 

…Feeling like you wasted another year.

…Feeling like you failed, once again, to accomplish
that one elusive goal.

…Feeling like nothing changed, like nothing’s better.

…Feeling like you drifted along, not fully realizing
the incredible potential you KNOW you have.

It reminds me of that bone-chilling quote from Robin Sharma…

“You can’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”

Whoa.

I don’t want you to feel like you’re doomed to repeat each
year without making significant progress toward what you
really want.

No way.

I want you to have a BANNER year in 2017. I want you to
look back a year from now and WHOOP WITH JOY at what you did and how you grew.

And I don’t think there’s a better way to start than
Michael Hyatt’s course: 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever.

If you truly want to make this your best year ever, and finally make progress against the goals that matter most, then go get Michael’s course:

Make sure you get it TODAY because he is closing
up registration tonight!

If you decide that the course is right for you, I will gladly hop on the phone, email with you, or even FaceTime with you (and even your whole team) to encourage you, walk you through some best practices for goal-setting, and check in with your progress whenever you want.

I’m glad you are a part of this journey. Remember, who you are and what you do matters when The Goal Is Soul.

peace,

                    Micheal Felker

P.S. Registration for 5 Days to Your Best Year Ever closes tonight at 11:59 pm PST. After that, it’s back into the vault like a Disney Princess.

Discover your LifeScore

bye-lifescore-twitter

I admit it.

I absolutely love taking assessments in order to learn a little more about myself and what might make me tick..

Self-discovery can be hard, so any tool that makes
it easier is a win in my book.

That’s why I love this free tool from my friend, Michael Hyatt.

The LifeScore Assessment

You can actually score your LIFE.

Sounds weird, I know, but hang with me.

In ministry, I like to say, “What matters, gets measured.” That’s why we look at attendance, new ministries, and community engagement in order to help us see  what’s working, what’s not, and what are our big opportunities to improve.

With work or home it might be a little easier because we could use our income as an indicator. But what about our health, or our relationships, or our intellectual growth?

Now there is a great tool called the LifeScore
Assessment that helps you do this in less than 10
minutes–and you can get it free for a limited
period of time.

All you do is quickly rate yourself on a scale of 1-12 in each of life’s ten domains.

You read a series of statements that describe specific
situations and pick the one that most closely aligns
with where you perceive yourself to be. Each one
corresponds with a number, and those add up to your
LifeScore.

It’s incredibly simple. But I promise it will instantly
show you your opportunities to grow this year. In fact, if you took this assessment once a quarter  you would have a built-in way
to measure your growth over time and stay motivated toward what matters most to you!

It’s 100% free but it’s just up for a little while. Take
it now while you can:

The LifeScore Assessment

Enjoy!
– Felker

P.S. If you want to improve something, start measuring it. The LifeScore assessment finally gives us an easy way to do this for every area of our lives. Here’s where to find out your number:

Get your FREE LifeScore Assessment RIGHT NOW!

P.S.S. The ebook I posted last week is still available but for TODAY ONLY! Get Achieve What Matters in 2017. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear how some of today’s best leaders prepare for the new year.

10 Things I’m Grateful For Right Now

My family and I had a great little vacation down in Marfa, TX staying in remote little area of the world connecting with God and one another. This is the 2nd year we’ve made this trip and it is well on its way to becoming a tradition in the Felker household.

Over the few days we were away, Sandy and I worked on preparing for the next year and began to set some goals as individuals, as a couple, as parents, and as ministry partners. One of the exercises we worked through was to express gratitude for what we have right now. We each wrote out 10 things that we are grateful for and here is what I wrote:

1) A Supportive, Uplifting Wife
If you know my wife, she is the epitome of love, support, and encouragement.

2) Two Joy-full kids
My children genuinely love one another and are so full of joy. They are growing up so fast and this trip was amazing because of them.

3) A healthy leadership team
I love our leadership team at church and am grateful that God has brought us together and I am anxious to see what He has in store for us moving forward.

4) A Loving, Accepting Church
Our church… LOVES. Plain and simple.

5) Wise Friends
Grateful to the men and women around me who walk beside me, counsel me, challenge me, and model Christ for me.

6) Unlimited Resources
We live in a day and age where you can access information 24/7. From books to podcasts to conferences to Skype… the resources to grow or get unstuck are everywhere.

7) An Active Mind
A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

8) Insight to My Inners
Over the last two years, God has granted me some important insights and understandings into how I tick, what brings me health, and what takes away from that health. And it has made all the difference.

9) A Body That Can Move
A body is a terrible thing to waste.

10) It’s Not Too Late to Grow
If you’re reading this… It’s not to late for you either. What are 10 things you are grateful for RIGHT NOW. Write them down, meditate on them, use them as fuel to get up and move. Go… right now… Its not too la

I Need Wednesday Nights

You will not find the warrior, the poe

Last Fall I made a decision to have our Wednesday night Men’s Class meet in my office. As offices go, I’ve got a really great space. It is big. I’ve got a couch, glass panels that serve as dry erase boards. and a couple of FLÜRNGS (funny Swedish sound I call my IKEA chairs). The space can easily hold about 10-12 guys comfortably.

I was tired of having a conversation with a handful of guys stretched out across from one another in auditorium. Proximity leads to familiarity. You can’t get to know one another, trust one another, and do life with one another if you aren’t physically present with one another. Now, there is a different atmosphere and conversation happening during our times together.

This semester we are diving deep into this passage of God’s Word:

1 Corinthians 16:13–14 ESV
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

To act like men, God calls us to live out these 4 actions:

Be Watchful
Be Faithful
Be Strong
Be Loving

I need other men to help me do these things – personally, in my family, and professionally. I don’t know about you but I’m not content to just sit across the room from other guys and just stare at one another.

I’m looking for men that I can…
Fight Beside…
Read With…
Argue With…
Pray With…

Wednesday night classes can be a pain in the butt, I know. We are all busy, we’ve had a long day, and we probably have more work to do once we get home. However, Wednesday nights can be formative.

Wednesday nights can be an opportunity to grow in your relationships – with God, our friends, and other men who need Jesus as much as you do. Wednesday nights help us fulfill our responsibilities to one another. I don’t know what you’ve got on your plate or what might be holding you back from being with your Brothers in Christ tonight.

Don’t give in.

Get to church. Be present and engaged. Pray. Leave equipped to ACT LIKE A MAN… in the name of Jesus Christ.

See you tonight, brother.

Time Has Come Today

Last night I listened to a short message from Dr. Tom Long, author of The Witness of Preaching and Bandy Professor of Preaching, Emeritus at Emory University, entitled, “It’s About Time.” The message is based on John 11:1-44:

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.(This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

 

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

 

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

 

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

 

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

 

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

 

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

 

Then Thomas (also known as Didymus ) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

 

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

 

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

 

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

 

After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

 

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.“Where have you laid him?” he asked.

 

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

 

Jesus wept.

 

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.“Take away the stone,” he said.

 

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

 

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

 

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

 

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

 

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

You can watch Dr. Long below:

 

What I love about this little sermon is that Dr. Long masterfully weaves the story of Mary and Martha’s emotional reaction to Jesus’ intentional delay in saving Lazarus from death with personal and historical stories of how God shows up at just the right time, every time.

Long kept returning to two powerful thoughts over and over throughout his message.

First, Long brilliantly points out that our view of who is running out of time is skewed. It isn’t Life, Justice, or Hope that is out of time. Through His life, death, and resurrection Jesus proclaims that it is “Death… Injustice…Despair” that is running out of time. Isn’t this the promise of the Kingdom of God? God’s rule is breaking into the here and the now. While Death, Injustice, and Despair may be among the ruling class, their kingdoms are breaking apart from within. Their death certificates have already been printed and their time is truly running out!

The second phrase that Dr. Long uses to great effect is that while our culture may participate in and get bent out of shape because of what he calls “atheistic anxiety,” Jesus Christ is the Lord of Time itself. As I am learning in my own life, the fundamental theological truth of anxiety is that our fearfulness is misplaced and out of sorts with what we proclaim that we believe. Anxiety is rooted in the fear of man and what man can do to us. When we give into anxiety and fear concerning a human government, a tyrannical boss, a gossipy-busy body at church we are, in essence, proclaiming that these things are more powerful than Almighty God. We deny His power, His control, His love, and His care for us.

John 11 says to us all… Jesus, the Lord of Time, the Beginning and End, has enough power to raise someone from the dead. Surly, He strong enough to overcome any enemy that you are currently facing.

Dr. Long’s entire message is a great reminder that the Kingdom of God, established by Christ Jesus, is breaking in the here and now and we will experience it in full when Christ returns and there will be no more time.

12 Things To Pray Over Your Kids

Today is a BIG DAY as our kids and teens start a brand new school year.  At the beginning of our worship service yesterday, I shared a handful of things that I am specifically praying over our kids this year and I invited our church to join me in praying everyday for our kids, families, teachers, and coaches. My hope is that this list will help you begin a prayer habit in your life and serve as a great starting place for you to pray with and for your kids this year.

God uses the number 12 over 180 times in scripture to signify holiness, completeness, and authority. Thinking of this, I wrote up a list in my journal of 12 areas of love and concern that I am entrusting God with when it comes to our kids and the 2015-2016 school year.

1) Strength – How you begin helps determine how you finish. My prayer is that our kids will begin this new year strong and that God will give them strength to endure through next May.

2) Boldness – In Acts 4, Peter and John were released from prison with the strict warning  from the Jewish and Roman authorities not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus at all. In a culture that encourages Christians to keep faith private, the early church’s prayer for boldness is a great reminder and challenge for us all. “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” (Acts 4:29)

3) Protection –  “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.” (Psalms 5:11–12)

4) Peace – The school year can awaken all kinds of anxieties. Let us pray that anxiety will not rule in the hearts of our kids and teens.  “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

5) Rest – As the school year goes on, let’s pray that in the midst of busy schedules, tests, events, and games that our kids will find time to pause, find margin, and experience real, lasting, life-giving rest. “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalms 16:9–11)

6) Growth – Our kids will grow in every way imaginable – mentally, physically, relationally, emotionally, spiritually. My prayer is that they will experience the same growth that Jesus experienced as he grew up. “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52)

7) Success – Success isn’t measured by a A on a test or GPA score. Success, for the Christian, is doing the will of God in all things. Romans 12:2 tells us that as we renew our minds so that we will have the mind of Christ, we come to understand, pursue, and be transformed. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

8) Relationships – Friends will determine the direction and quality of our lives. Share Proverbs 13:20 and challenge your kids to “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

9, 10, & 11) Parents, Teachers, and Coaches/Directors – To His disciples, Jesus was the perfect embodiment of a loving parent, a committed teacher, and a challenging coach. The men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving our kids desperately need our prayers. Let’s commit to praying for the adults in our kids lives consistently and intentionally. “I thank my God every time I remember you.In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:3–6)

12) Worth – One of the greatest thing that I am praying over our kids is that they will see that their worth doesn’t come a grade on a test, an achievement on the field, or the number of awards the receive. We are loved by our Holy, Heavenly Father and find our worth in Him and Him alone. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Four Things You Can Do Today to Help You Manage Stress

Today I want to talk with you about STRESS. I don’t know everything there is to know about stress but I do know 3 things:

1) There is no such thing as a stress-free life. 

Jesus never promised us a stress-free life. In fact he promised just the opposite. In John 16:33, Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble.” There really is only one thing you can count on in life and that is stress. (Death and taxes being two of the biggest offenders.) That’s the bad news.

The good news is found in Jesus’ promise: “I’ve told you these things, so that in me you may have peace… But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Each of us have dealt with our own fair share of stress this year and unfortunately, as long as we draw breath on this planet, we will continue deal with stress. Jesus says that peace isn’t found when all of the stresses of life are gone. He tells us that we can have peace in Him even IN THE MIDST of the stress. The old saying is true: Know Jesus. Know Peace.

2) Even on its best day, leadership is full of stress. We can all swap stories from our most stressful days in leadership. Some days I look back on and think, “There was no classroom, book, or conversation that could have prepared me for having to deal with that particular issue.” (Ask me about the truck left in our parking lot overnight and the portrait of his beloved painted on the tailgate.) Tony Morgan’s book on leadership called, “Killing Cockroaches,” is the perfect picture of what it is like to deal with all the negative stresses in our lives and ministries. Headaches and pressure points arise from out of nowhere and we have to deal with them as fast as they come at us whether we want to or not. It’s just how it is.

There are the bad days of stress, but there are also the good days. Even on the good days, we experience stress. It is stressful to check in with our people. It can be taxing to lead and serve those whom we love and care for. People and their issues can be frustrating at every stage of life – babies, kids, teens, adults, and retirees. However, we get to share in their lives and help guide them from where they currently are to where God wants them be. We get to work side-by-side with them to build the Kingdom. It is rarely easy, but there are times when the stress pays off.

3) You’re never going to get it all done. You’re never going to get it all done. (I know I typed that twice.) One of the greatest sources of stress is our never-ending to-do list.

In Leadership: There is always going to be another problem. There is always going to be another budget issue. There is always going to be another meeting. There is always going to be another email to write.  As long as you are in leaders, there is always going to be something else to do.

In Ministry: There is always going to be somebody else to reach for Christ. There is always going to be somebody else to disciple. There is always going to be another pastoral care visit. As long as you are in ministry, there is always going to be something to do.

In Life: There is always going to be another project to complete. There is always going to be a parenting issue to handle. There will always be relationships that need nurturing, repairing, or reviving. There is always going to be mistakes made. There is always going to be times when grace must be administered wether we have the strength or not. As long as you are alive, there is always going to be something to do.

Four Things You Can Do to Help You Manage Stress Today

The question you should be asking is not, “How can I eliminate stress from my life?” Instead, ask yourself,  “How should I manage stress in my life?” You will never be able to eliminate stress but, you can minimize the consequences of stress in your life by engaging in some Stress Management Best Practices. Try these four on for size:

Be Still. Take a few minutes and simply be still. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb, close your door, and just sit, breathe, and simply be present. It will be ok. The world will not stop spinning. They will call back… they always do. I use an app called Headspace to help me meditate for 10 minutes each morning before I start my day. By pausing at the very beginning of the day it helps me focus and prepare mentally, physically, and emotional for whatever may lay ahead.

Pray. I can’t think of someone in scripture who had to deal with the stresses of leadership, ministry, and life more than David. Whether he was facing down literal giants like Goliath or the giant sin in his own heart; dodging spears from King Solomon or enemies on a battle field; herding sheep or wrestling bears David turned to God in prayer.  No matter what you are facing today, God knows and would love for you to share your stresses with him. The book of Psalms is filled with prayers for every season and emotion. If you can’t find the right words to express what is on your heart, David has you covered.

Be Thankful. Paul tells us in Eph 5:15-20, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We live is very stressful times but there is a simple antidote for feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out: Thankfulness. Instead of listening to Nirvana or Jason Aldean or Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo and the Morning Sports Crew on your way to work, turn off the radio and turn up the praise in your own heart. Simply begin each morning by listing at least 3 things you are grateful for. Keep a running list in your cleared or reminder app and refer back to it during the day when you are tempted to let stress steal your focus.

Rest. I’m giving you permission to rest. Don’t burn the candle at both ends. Rest is an important component to your health and your long-term ability to lead. I don’t get sick very often but, when I do, there is usually a direct correlation to the fact that I have not been sleeping as much as I should have. We all have seasons where we don’t get enough rest but when those seasons turn into eras, you are flirting with disaster. Go to bed 10 minutes earlier tonight. Put down your iDevice or turn off the tv. Use one of your vacation days to push pause. None of us would violate the 10 Commandments by murdering someone or building a golden calf to worship on the weekends. However, most of us have gotten way to comfortable violating the Sabbath and forgoing the rest that God has commanded for our lives. If your life has gotten out of rhythm, my bet is that you’ve for to long without getting enough rest.

Bonus: Want to find some rest “outside the box?” Studies have shown that taking a 15-20min “power nap” can have amazing results on your productivity, outlook, and overall health. Leadership guru, Michael Hyatt, has written a few compelling articles on the WHY behind taking a few minutes to rest in your day and HOW you can begin taking advantage of this powerful tool. Check out his article, 5 Reasons You Should Take a Nap Everyday or listen to his podcast on The Secret Power of Naps.

Exit Question:

What do you do to help manage the stress in your life? Leave your favorite Stress Management Best Practices in the comments and share what you do to manage the stress in leadership, ministry, and life.