Focus on the Next Hurdle

Veteran evangelist Greg Godwin introduced me to the writing of Glenn Clark.  In Clark’s Fishers of Men he tells the story of a former track champion now involved in ministry. The fellow was being challenged by the long term matters and not seeing the way forward for the long haul.  Clark responded to the fellow’s concern:hurdle-576058_960_720

I turned to the track captain-who, by the way, was the state champion in the low and high hurdles-and said, “Remember the secret that has helped you win many a hard-fought hurdle race in the past. As you left the marks, you did not look at the long row of hurdles ahead of you. If you had, you would have become discouraged before you had run ten yards; but you confined your attention to the one hurdle that was directly in front of you. And the only races you won were races where you ran each hurdle as though it were the last.achievement-703442__340

1. Know the race is long.

2. Know the race has several obstacles.

3.  FOCUS on the next hurdle rather than all of the hurdles.  No more important word than “Focus.”  Today, what is the immediate hurdle before you?  That hurdle gets all the attention!  Now think about what matters could be confusing your focus on that next hurdle?  Paul’s “one thing!”

4.  Run each hurdle as though it were the last. Life can be lived always thinking about the future date when you will finally give it your best! One cannot emphasize every syllable but the current hurdle before you needs your attention.  Give this your best!  Give it your all!

5.  Clark did not say it, but you have to run your race!  A hurdler must focus on the hurdles before him rather than on the runner beside him. Each setting has a unique calling and a unique field in which to work. Harvest may come easy in some place and be a difficult struggle in another.  Keep your eyes on your lane and your hurdles!

Daily Evangelism

The apostles stayed busy evangelizing. They had been imprisoned, intimidated, physically beaten, and warned to stop, yet they returned daily to teach and preach. They practiced daily evangelism. A story is told of Jesus Christ returning to heaven after His resurrection. All the angels gathered for a gala celebration. During the festivities, as the story goes, the angels gathered around the Son of God to hear about His many experiences on earth. Christ told the angels of His many miracles. Then, He told them the story of His death on the cross and how he had risen from the dead on the third day. As Jesus finished His account, all heaven was silent. Suddenly one of the angels declared, “Lord, it’s our turn to participate. We will go to earth and tell the masses of all you’ve done for them.”

The Lord quietly shook His head and answered, “No, that will not be possible.” All the angels were puzzled and another asked, “How, then, are you going to send this message to everyone on earth?” In a confident tone the Master answered, “I have left this responsibility in the hands of eleven fishermen.” With a questioning look another angel quickly responded, “But, Lord, what if they fail?” Jesus answered, “I have no other plan.”

The story illustrates the magnitude of the responsibility to evangelize. The apostles understood the significance of evangelism. God’s only method is men, men devoted to the task of evangelism.white-male-1834099_960_720

Wrong Attitudes Toward Daily Evangelism

Unfortunately, evangelism has mistakenly become the labor of the “super-christian” and not a normal function of Christian living. Music, singing, and sermonizing do not fulfill the Christian’s mission.

Miscomprehension of the Task

Furthermore, let’s consider our attitude toward evangelism. Most Christians do not relish going door to door. Yet there are many other opportunities to evangelize. Christian giants are not needed to evangelize, Christian friends are. Our first error is misunderstanding who we are to evangelize. The mission field starts outside your door. Your co-workers and neighbors are the first candidates.

Wrong Focus

How do we feel about evangelism? We know we should evangelize, so why don’t we do more of it? The answer could be fear, laziness, lack of knowledge, or thinking we are too busy. Usually most of us would simply rather be doing something else. We have no ambition to share the good news.

Irrelevance

Additionally, we lack relevant compassion. Kindness and caring are in shortage. If we do not care, the church should close her doors. We must feel people’s pain. Jess Moody said, “A church, like a newspaper, can soon be out-of-date. When that happens, like the newspaper, it becomes good for nothing but wrapping fish that someone else has caught.”

Bible Instruction to Evangelismstudy-862994_960_720

Jesus distinctly commissioned evangelism:

Matthew, 28:19

There are three instructions given.

First (go, teach)

  • “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.”

Second {convert}

  • “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.”

Third (teach, disciple)

  • “teaching them, observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”

It is the three-step process from sin to becoming a fruitful member of the body evangelism, conversion, and discipleship.

“But ye shalt receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

You shall receive power! What is the power for? To be witnesses! We can do all things through Christ which strengthens us. Power is given to evangelize.

While evangelizing and discipleship are not hard concepts, they can become complicated if the church does not have an open-door policy. If you find yourself in this position, please read my other blog on “Closed to New Disciples”.

Jesus’ Example of Evangelism

A very important principle of evangelizing is getting acquainted with people. Reaching out to people and involving them in your life, leads to bonding. Many Christians are isolationist, preserving their smiles and friendliness for other Christians. It is also important to keep in mind the way to which we speak to them. Our role is to convey the truth so that they can understand it. We must be bridge builders from our world to the world of the unsaved.

What are some ways that you have had success with evangelizing? What you have done may be exactly what someone else is looking for so please share your examples with us!

Additional resources are available on this topic from my book titled “Daily Things of Christian Living”, please visit carltoncoonsr.com.

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Daily Unity

On the day of Pentecost, 3120 were converted.  These converts lived a unique set of values. Daily they lived with one-accordance. I suggest that the disciples unity was more significant than where they went each day. 

And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. (Acts 2:46)

Furthermore to complete Christ’s commission to the church, we must daily live with one accord. An unknown poet defined unity in a home-spun way easy to understand:

potatoes-1585075__340Potato Unity

During the time they are in the ground in little clumps, that is not unity. When they are put into a bucket, they are close, but that is not unity. They are peeled, (no skin, no façade) yet that is not unity. When they are sliced and diced, they are closer together, still that is not unity. After doing all the things above we put them together in a pot. We turn the heat on them for a while, and then. . .WE MASH THEM! Then there is unity! It was exactly such elements that produced unity in the early church. Perhaps we should begin by identifying some of the hindrances to the daily attitude of being in one accord.

Things that Limit Same Mindedness

  • Self-centeredness and jealousy restrict unity. Paul encouraged lowliness of mind.

(Philippians 2:3) Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each other esteem other better than themselves.

  • Inability to recognize that there are at least two sides to every story. Each valley has two mountains of perspective.
  • Self-appointed critics, who have nothing better to do than talk, limit unity. Such people constantly look to find someone doing something wrong.
  •  Lack of tolerance hinders togetherness. Paul’s love chapter says, 

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. (I Corinthians 13:4).

  • Majoring in the minors sets aside same mindedness. We get caught up in trivialities, when we are part of a world lost without God.
  • Unforgiveness and failing to deal with unresolved differences causes disunity.

We are weak on Biblical confrontation because we have not been taught the principles. Instead, we talk about our conflicts with everyone but the other individual.

(Matthew 18:15) Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

Jesus taught the proper procedure for dealing with this destroyer of unity. If your brother offends you, you go to him alone; sit down with him and say, “Here is the problem.” If that doesn’t resolve it, then Jesus instructed the involving of other people. In addition, the final court of unresolved conflict was the church. The Bible said that if you can work out your differences, you have won your brother.

Perhaps you find yourself in a circumstance where there are those within your congregation who are dealing with the “My” church mentality. This is not beneficial to the unity of the church. For some additional helpful hints on how to handle these types of attitudes please see my other blog on “Church Terrorism Disciple-making and Church Terrorists – This is “MY” Church.” http://carltoncoonsr.com/discipleship-and-church-terrorism-this-church-is-my-church/

Results of Daily Being in One Accord

In conclusion, unity produces singleness of purpose. Singleness of purpose produces power. Acts records there were daily additions to the “one accord” church. Same is true for today. If we want our churches to grow, we too must have unity!

Do you have recollection of when unity played a key role in the growth of your church? Please share your stories with us!

Additional “Daily Unity” resources are available in my book “Daily Things of Christian Living” on my website at Carltoncoonsr.com.

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Daily Purpose

Luke 9:23

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Daily purpose is one of the 7 things the New Testament speaks of being done “daily.” Our purpose is what helps us find who we are in the Lord.

A Decision To Followfollow me

The first decision we have to make is do I want to follow the Lord? If we so choose, there are three badges of discipleship.

  • Self-denial
  • Let him take up him cross
  • Follow me

Often times it can be a struggle for people to make this decision. If you find that this is the case far too often, I have some helpful hints in one of my other blogs on spotting the fatal flaws in disciple making. Can you spot the four fatal flaws in disciple-making?

head-2713346__340The Challenge called “SELF”

Self enjoys money, food, recognition, success, and pleasure. Self has its own agenda. Our “self” is expressed in many ways. It often acts jealous, angry, boastful, or envious. We are a very self-oriented society.

Self-will At Work

Self-will caused Eve to bite forbidden fruit. Cain’s offering was worship in self-will. Of the three enemies of our salvation, flesh is the most difficult to overcome.

Self, the Sinner

Sinful humanity says, “I’m going to live the way I want to live.” The four principal manifestations of self-assertion are:

  • Self-sufficiency, “I can do it.” It is the opposite of trust. It puts no confidence in God.
  • Self-will, “I don’t care what the Bible says, I’m going to live as I please.” Stubbornness is the opposite of submission.
  • Self-seeking, “I’m the greatest.” It’s this business of boasting and bragging. It is the opposite of honoring others.
  • Self-righteousness, “I’m good within myself.” It is the opposite of humility.

Daily Self-Denial

One biblical translation says, “If any man come after me let him ignore self, and ignore self’s desires.” Ignoring self’s desire is the bottom line of totally following Jesus Christ. Jesus said that He had to have his Father’s help. If he who did no sin could do nothing of himself, what makes me think that I can do this alone? I am spiritually impotent until I discover the need for God in my life, and begin denying my own capability. The only way to get there is through self-denial.

Living Self-Denial

Self-denial puts “self” on the back burner. Self has no voice or vote in any decision. God’s word and the guidance of the Holy Ghost will order the path of a man who is a denier of self.

Daily Purpose

Far too many are Christians without commitment. The majority do not know what God has called and equipped them to do. This makes for frustrated spectators sitting on the church sideline. Jesus instructed, “. . . take up your cross (purpose) daily and follow me.”

We want the crown without the cross. We long to experience success without bearing a cross of responsibility.

It’s all wrapped up in a cross. We should ask, “Do I have a purpose?”, and “What is my cross?” If you have the desire you reach down and pick up a cross, but God does not forcibly load it on your shoulder. The Bible says, “If any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross daily. . . . .”

sheep-690198__340Follow Christ

Christ also said, “Follow Me.” The very term Christian means to be a follower in the footsteps of the anointed. Loren Yadon’s study of the twenty-third Psalm concluded the sheep following close behind the shepherd always eat the best and purest grass. People who follow closely after the Lord, always receive the greatest blessing.

Our “self” is often at odds with the Lord. Living self-denial and daily self-denial are all things that we have struggled with. What are some ways that you have overcome your “self”. Please share your stories with us!

I have book recommendations as well as other useful information in my book “Daily Things of Christian Living” available on my website at http://carltoncoonsr.com/product/daily-things-of-christian-living/.

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Daily Prayer for Daily Bread

Matthew 6:11

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

Jesus’ pattern of prayer includes the request, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Most Americans find His instruction irrelevant. We do not awaken to pray “Father, the shelves are bare, would you provide some bread?” There is no need because we have tremendous financial blessings. Further, we no longer live day to day. James the apostle advised against looking beyond today because we do not know what tomorrow holds.

James 4:14

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

There are 7 things the New Testament speaks of being done “daily.” Doing these 7 things are the difference between strong Christianity and mediocrity. These make a great series of lessons to teach a local church.

A “Give us this day our daily bread” lifestyle is important for three reasons:                                                                                 bread-1643951_960_720-3

  • It testifies of a dependence on God.
  • It focuses on the bread things. Ancients called bread the staff of life. Bread things are the basic elements of live.
  • We need a regular (daily) feeding from God’s hand.

Daily Affirm Dependence

If your radio receives a clear signal, you might say, “It’s a powerful radio!” Flip a switch and lights illuminate the room. You could say, “Those are bright lights!” the fact is radios and light bulbs are frail. Neither is productive unless connected with a power source. Neither is the child of God unless he connects with God. Our strength is not in ourselves. We depend on Jesus Christ and must live each day seeking to be “plugged in” to Him.

socket-33137__340

Daily Bread-Basic Necessities

In Jesus’ day, bread was the staff of life. When I was a child our family had bread at every meal. Supper meant biscuits or cornbread.  I’ve never heard Dad say to my mother, “Faye would you bring the cream puffs and caviar?” However, I have often heard him ask her for the bread. Bread was basic stuff, nothing flamboyant about it. “Lord, give us daily bread.” True Christian living does not ignore the basics.

John 6:35

“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. “ Jesus called himself the bread of life. Simply put, we need Jesus Christ every single day of our lives. Furthermore, we need to be content with HIM. Jesus’ instruction taught that we should focus on daily basics. Jesus told the Jews:

John 6:51

“I am the living bread which came down from Heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever and the bread that I give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.”

Christ is the basic element of life. We must get empty for Christ to be valuable to us. Vance Havner said, “The best preparation for the bread of life is a good hearty appetite.” Jesus Christ should be the basic experience of each day. Daily bread is important in any walk of life. If you are looking for ways to implement this into your congregation read my other blog post on “How to Develop a Sustainable Prayer Program for a church of any size”.

Daily (consistent, regular) Portions

people-2596890_960_720

What a strange diet many people follow in their Christianity! Sunday is the feeding day. A time to spiritually gorge. Monday starts a six-day fast during which nothing remotely spiritual enters the mind. The following Sunday is again the feeding day. Isn’t this living as though Jesus taught, “Give us on Sunday our weekly bread.”

When Israel lived on manna, they had to gather each day for themselves. They could not gather two days’ blessings except before the Sabbath. The same principle can be applied to the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Yesterday’s nourishment does not give strength for today or tomorrow. Daily living Christians constantly reaffirm their dependence on God; accept that the bread of life is not an option, and realize that daily portions are absolutely necessary.

Verses that offer spiritual application:

  • Joshua 1:8

    He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

  • Psalms 119:15

    I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.

  • Philippians 4:8

    Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I hope that you have found this information beneficial in your walk with God.  I am interested in how you petition Jesus for “daily” bread? Each person does this in a different way. Your approach will likely help others!

 

I have additional information available in this same series from my book titled “Daily Things of Christian Living”. Please visit my website at http://carltoncoonsr.com/product/daily-things-of-christian-living/.

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Green Screen Living

Surviving Depression–Look Behind the Green Screen

Depression

Hope and Despair

Mental or emotional depression is compared to many things. Let me add another. Depression is for the mind and emotions like the physical experience of walking through a swamp. My upbringing was in central Louisiana. On occasion, I duck-hunted in a swamp. At times, I’d walk several hundred yards through water mid-thigh, with mud sucking at every step. Wading through a swamp is muddy, messy, slow and exhausting. Similarly, depression is also muddy, messy, a slow trudge. It is also similarly exhausting.

To make matters worse, the swamp of depression seems perpetual. When a hunter is trudging back to higher land, he can see and know that dry ground is just ahead. Such is not the case with the swamp of depression. In every direction, there is the swamp extending as far as the eye can see.

It is a mental and emotional trip through the thigh-deep water with muck sucking at your boots each step.

The swamp goes forever. It seems that life does not exist beyond depression. Every sun-rise will find you in the same swamp. Walking through a swamp of depression is hard. When the swamp is the only thing, you can see it generates unspeakable despair.

The swamp of depression is real. It is exhausting and debilitating. Let me offer expanded perception.

Depression surrounds you with a “green screen”

“Green screen” is the technique of photographing or filming a person or object against a green monochrome backdrop. With the use of technology, a different image then replaces the monochrome backdrop. The person in the photo may not have traveled to the desert or mountain. Photographic or cinematic sleight-of-hand created what you see.

Understand, I’m not suggesting depression is fake. The defining characteristics of:

  • Sadness without reason
  • Lack of motivation
  • A sense of helplessness
  • Worthlessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of focus
  • Less energy than usual
  • No pleasure in things you have always enjoyed.
  • It being a struggle to maintain normal social activities
  • Breathing taking all of your energy

All of these, along with several other symptoms are as real as this morning’s sunrise.

Depression’s Green Screen

But there is a falsehood in depression. It prompts my “green screen” analogy. Our mind can create its version of a “green screen.” Remember, a “green screen” allows an unreal image to become part of the picture being seen.

In depression, when you look ahead – you see the swamp. It extends as far as your eye can see. Look behind you, and it seems you have been in the swamp forever. All past success has little value while in the swamp of depression. On every side is the same – more swamp. The dark, muddy, and forbidding surrounds you. Every single step is an effort. Beyond that, the “green screen” says your current struggle will be there for every tomorrow. The sense that the depression will be perpetual is debilitating.

Does this not describe depression?

Depression’s green screen lie tells you that you are surrounded by a perpetual swamp of despair. The fable is that you have been here forever and that your life has no value. That part of depression is a “green screen.

Look Past the Green Screen

Surviving depression may become a bit easier, if you can know the lie for what it is. Depression, regardless of its source seldom lasts forever. Mine never has. High ground awaits. But, the false “green screen” would have you think different. Know better!

Use your past survival as a source of present encouragement

Many readers will have already walked through this swamp. In your previous journey through depression, didn’t it also seem as though the marsh would never end? You felt hopeless back then. Remember! You felt then, just like you feel now. Most people eventually come out of the depression. Your earlier depression may have lasted six months, a year or five years. You survived. Remember that survival – it will help you make it now.

Really Think about Tomorrow

For a moment limit your feeling and elevate your thinking. By the way, what we “think” and what we “feel”  are not the same thing. Emotions can be illogical. Look at your calendar. Before you walked into the swamp of depression what coming event would have brought you joy? Is a grandchild about to be born? Maybe, college graduation is just ahead? Perhaps, a conference you have always enjoyed awaits. Possibly, some of your “laughing friends” are coming to town. “Laughing friends” is my term for the small group of people with whom we can laugh with abandon. For most of us, such friends are a rare treasure.

I know what you are thinking, “Pastor, the idea of spending time with anybody or going to any event makes me feel exhausted.” Remember, in this exercise you are not feeling. You are “thinking.” When you think about it, there is great value in the time with those “laughing friends.” Somewhere ahead there is the likelihood of better times. There is a reason to slog on. The surrounding green screen says it is not so. Remember, it is a green screen. The green screen lies!

Really Think about the Past

For a second moment, limit your feelings and elevate your thinking. Open the pictures and videos on your phone or get the box of photos from a closet. Look at the pictures. Think about what you are seeing.  Some examples from my world:

  • Pictures of Lane and Chris as boys,
  • The picture of our two grandsons (holy children to me) at three years old having a whispered conversation on the drive leading to our home.
  • The pictures of our wedding
  • A framed copy of my first published book, Daily Things of Christian Living.
  • The video clip of 18-month-old Elsie, for the first time, discovering her shadow and head-butting it.

These help me peek around the green screen of despair. My life has not been so bad. Pictures of experiences shared with “laughing friends” like Stan and Melba, Tim and Joan, Jerry and Phyllis, Perry and Loretta, or Roy and Debbie help remind me. I have not always been walking through this swamp. As you look at your pictures – remember.

God IS – There!

Job had a similar experience. Job was depressed with good cause. He looked for God in front of him and behind him and on each side. (Job 23:8-9) In spite of Job’s search, God was not to be found. Job was seeing “green screens.” What Job felt was Job’s emotional reality. But, what Job saw was not the conclusion of this. Job said, “He knoweth the way that I take . . ..” (Job 23:10). Job’s based this final conclusion on faith, not feelings. While in his dark place, Job did not know where God was. By faith, Job understood that God knew right where he was.

In conclusion, take heart – this describes your situation as well.

Depression is real.

Depression being permanent – unlikely.

Your past life having no value – nonsense.

All of that is a “green screen.” Know the green screen surrounding your depression for what it is.

Daily Things of Christian Living