Movements EverywhereFinding Energy to Persevere

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments

As you might imagine, there are plenty of things that drain my energy in the course of a week. Sometimes it is an interpersonal problem. Sometimes it is the sheer volume of activity filling my schedule from morning through evening.

So what refills and restores my day in and day out? Ultimately it is God who rejuvenates me by the power of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 27:1 contains the words, “The Lord is the strength of my life.” Isaiah 40:29 (King James Version) says, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.”

What I have discovered, though, is that God often uses certain activities and people to accomplish that purpose. Let me list a few.

Listening to the Word

On most days, I walk for 1.5-2 miles. During that time, I listen to the Bible on an MP3 player. Often, I hear a passage (or even a phrase) that is just what I needed to hear that day. Because I am consuming many chapters, I am exposing my mind and heart to many possible lessons and encouragements. That is exciting!

Praying

Often my “emotional drains” are problems which defy and easy solution. Since their magnitude is “over my head”, I ask for solutions which are “over my head” as well – solutions that are from God. And while I am waiting for God’s supernatural wisdom, I cast my cares on the Lord (as I shared with you in a recent Connection article). That really helps stop the drain on my emotional energy.

Helping People

Another energizer for me is to help people. Sometimes it is as simple as giving an answer to a question. Most of the time those questions are spread throughout meetings and phone calls. At times, though, the help occurs in response to a situation which arises.

An old friend of mine wrote me an email, explaining about how his wife’s Alzheimer’s symptoms were getting worse. She was becoming extremely forgetful-even of my friend’s name. So I called him. We spent some time sharing back and forth. My mom had Alzheimer’s, so I could relate. But probably the best help I provided him was to pray for him. When the call was over, I felt a special energy from the Lord.

Teaching

I am also energized by helping others understand something for the first time. One of the joys for me in coaching soccer for a number of years was that I had a chance to help the girls on my team learn skills, tactics and teamwork. During practices, there was nothing quite like one of the girls coming up to me with a huge smile, saying, “I got it, coach – I did it right!”
I love to teach important principles from the Bible for living life and ministering to others.

Time with Judy

A final thing which is very energizing to me is to spend time with Judy. She is my best friend – my most special relationship. We both travel a fair amount, and when we are home we have a lot of things that keep us busy. So, when we have a relaxed dinner together, it charges my battery.

How about you? What does God use to give you the energy to persevere?

Steve

Movements EverywhereOne of My Daily Prayer Requests

Monday, June 30th, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking at a campus ministry fundraising dinner in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Early the next morning, I was catching a flight out of Sioux Falls and had just enough time to grab a snack at the Sheraton Hotel Club Room before leaving for the airport.

The woman working there was just setting things up, and we struck up a conversation. Her name was Mindy. She was a single mom of three kids, and had a full-time job during the week. But she needed to work Saturday and Sunday mornings to make ends meet. She was a Christian, yet was struggling to live above her everyday circumstances.

As I was polishing off my yogurt, I said, “I know a book you need to read. Its subtitle is ‘How to live above your everyday circumstances.’”

Mindy said, “I’d love to read it.”

I wrote a few words to Mindy on the inside of the front cover and gave it to her. Although I had to leave, I said, “Mindy, may I pray for your?”

She said, “Oh, please do!”

I prayed for a minute or two, asking God to meet her financial and other needs. As I looked up after the prayer, there were tears streaming down her face.

How did that ministry opportunity happen? I believe it happened because not an hour before, as I was having my devotion in my hotel room, I prayed that God would allow me to touch a life that day – that I could be a tangible conveyer of God’s love to some individual in need.

I pray that prayer every day. Why? Jesus said to love our neighbors.

That is one of the two “Greatest Commandments.” And often, love-our-neighbor opportunities are right there in front of us. We just need to pray and start looking for them. So, how can we show love? Love involves sensing needs and helping meet them.

I didn’t have to analyze too hard to sense that Mindy’s life was filled with stress. She was raising three kids by herself. She had experiences a failed marriage. Her former husband was not helping financially. She had to work seven days a week.

She needed help in order to cope. And I knew that the starting point for coping is appropriating God’s power. I didn’t have long, but I did have enough time to pray for her and to give her something to guide her in her journey.

Follow the model of Jesus

Much of what we read about Jesus in the Gospels is Him touching lives. Often, we see Him giving encouragement to people and meeting physical needs as He passed by.

Consider Zaccheus, for example. Jesus immediately saw a man desperate for acceptance, a sense of forgiveness and some direction on what was right to do. Jesus spent one meal with Zaccheus and his life was dramatically touched.

Let me give you one more reason I pray that God will let me touch a life each day: It’s an exciting adventure.

I am absolutely amazed how creative God is in opening doors. One morning several weeks ago on my morning walk, I saw a man’s wallet on the side of the road. His credit cards and money were still in the wallet along with his name and address. I was able to find his home telephone and called. His wife answered. She was absolutely effusive in her joy that I had found the wallet. She told me why. She was the one who had lost his wallet by leaving it on top of the trunk of his car. I thought to myself, This wasn’t just a chance to touch two lives, but to contribute to a happy marriage as well.

Let me encourage you to pray specifically that God will use you to touch people’s live every day.

Steve

P.S. “GodTools, the digital version of The Four Spiritual Laws is now available in iTunes and Google Play app stores to help you in this exciting adventure to touch a life each day.

Movements EverywhereA Humble Heart

Saturday, May 31st, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Some years ago, I did a Bible study asking the question: What is the attitude of heart that seems to please God the most—in both the Old and New Testaments? The one attitude that was most frequently visible was a humble heart.

Sometimes it took a while for people to understand this idea, but eventually Moses, Job, Peter, Paul and many others got the point. In Job 32:1 it was observed of Job: “So these three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.” By the way, Job was a very upright person. But, we are told in Job 38:1-18: “Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. ‘He said…Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?…Who marked off its dimensions?…Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?…Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?’”

After hearing this, Job’s conclusion was, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). Job finally understood: Only God is great, and next to Him, Job occupied a very humble position.

That kind of simple, profound humility needs to be our attitude as well. And it will affect most everything we think about and do. If some circumstance doesn’t go as we would like, the natural human tendency is to complain. Yet, the truth is that God is in control. So whatever comes our way it is filtered through God’s wisdom and love.

If I complain, I demonstrate I am questioning whether God really does have my best interest in mind. I am saying that I know better than God what I deserve. I am being proud. In 1 Peter 5:5 we read: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” It is much smarter and more fruitful to experience the grace of God versus His opposition.

In addition to a humble heart toward God, we need to have a humble heart toward other people. Philippians 2: 3, 4 tells us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Applying this part of humility is harder because people are not all-wise and all-loving like God is. Nonetheless, we are instructed to give up “our right to get our way.”

A good example with Judy and me relates to the temperature of our home when we go to bed. Judy thinks 70° Fahrenheit is very comfortable, but I feel cold at 70°. It has been a fascinating process to watch us try to settle this issue with humble hearts. Judy says she wants me to be comfortable, and I say I want her to be comfortable. Now there is a good Christian “argument”—where each party says, “Let’s have it your way!” By the way, we generally settle on 73° or 74°. It’s just that how we got there is the reverse of a normal negotiation. And our relationship only deepens as we seek to serve one another.

Let me be quick to say that being humble does not mean we can’t have opinions and express them. It certainly doesn’t mean we don’t make clear what God’s Word says.

What having a humble heart does mean is that it is not all about us. We are a part of something much bigger and better than our agenda. And when people sense in us humility coupled with love, they know we have something more—something they will likely find very appealing. As we live life with a humble heart, we will advance God’s kingdom wherever we go.

Yours in Christ,

Steve

Movements EverywhereS-T-R-E-S-S

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments

I suppose I have more than the average amount of causes for stress. Sometimes there are financial challenges. Other times there are people challenges. And then there are challenges that give evidence of spiritual warfare. So, what do I seek to do when I am under stress?

1. Recognize the signs of stress taking its toll.

Most often the signs are obvious and directly related to the cause. But at other times the toll can be having trouble sleeping, being distracted, or responding in a way that is out of character. If I toss and turn and can’t get back to sleep in the middle of the night, it often means something is distracting and troubling me.

Your symptoms may be different, but I suggest you become sensitive to noticing when they occur.

2. Cast your care on the Lord.

Fist Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (Interestingly, the word translated anxiety is merimna in Greek and has the connotation of distracting care.)

This verse offers one of my favorite promises in Scripture. I can cast my anxieties on the Lord because He loves me and wants to help through troubling times. So, the first thing I do, once I recognize that I am stressed, is to cast my cares on God: “God, I can’t handle this, but you can. Please help me cope with the distracting care.”

Normally that helps immediately. But sometimes I get overly concerned again. What do I do then? Cast that same care on the Lord again. If it comes back again, I do the same thing. Before too long the “care” seems to stick with the Lord, for which I am very grateful.

3. Ask for wisdom concerning the real problem.

Most of the time my concern isn’t imaginary; it is about a real problem. And, just because God has given me peace doesn’t mean the problem is solved. If the problem had been easy to solve, I and others would have probably just solved it. So, where abiding stress is present, probably supernatural wisdom is needed to figure out what to do.

And how do we appropriate supernatural wisdom? According to James1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” That is another scriptural promise I claim often.

Recently, I was having trouble determining what to share in an upcoming talk I was to give. As the date for the talk approached, and I still had no ideas, I became a bit stressed. So, I asked God for some breakthrough ideas. He gave them to me so quickly, I wondered why I hadn’t claimed James 1:5 sooner.

4. Walk with God continuously.

No doubts you have heard me share this thought before. But it is so important that I don’t hesitate to repeat it. We need to communicate with God constantly throughout the day.

There are many benefits to that, but one of them is that God then fills our hearts with His abundant peace. That is what Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6, 7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I hope my many experiences in dealing with stress will be helpful to you. On the one hand, all of us are way over our heads to be able to deal with life as it comes at us. On the other hand, it is well within God’s power to give peace and solutions.

Movements EverywhereWhere My Heart Is

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Often, Judy and I host events in our home for different groups of our staff members. There is usually a time for questions, and frequently Judy and I are asked about our experience in walking with God. So I thought it would be good to write about some attitudes and practices I have found helpful in my relationship with God.

Let me first say that I have a long way to go in my walk, and I am not holding myself up as a perfect example. But, the following do help me stay close to God and His plan for my life.

Gratitude

I make entries in my journal every day, and the first category is thanksgiving. I find a thankful spirit is a huge contributor to my overall willingness to trust and be close to God.

When “good things” happen, that is easy. When our daughter, Debbie, gave birth to our first granddaughter, Grace, on December 23, it was easy to be grateful for a beautiful, healthy child.
But when “bad things” happen, it is harder to be grateful. When Josh’s beloved grandfather, Marty, died rather suddenly, it was devastating to Josh. One of Judy’s primary ministries to Josh at that time was to help him say “Thank you, God” by faith.

Job says in Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.”

Engagement

I have found that the intensity of my walk with God is directly proportional to how constantly I am engaged with Him during the day. I try to have a running commentary with God concerning what is happening, what I see and how I feel.

In some ways it is similar to how Judy and I often maintain our relationship by debriefing about the day over dinner, or by texting or calling during the day.

Intentionality

God loves for us to do what He asks us to do. He also is pleased when we make the most of the opportunities He puts before us. And if we learn anything from the master’s reaction to the one-talent servant in the Parable of the Talents, God is quite displeased when we aren’t proactive in making use of what He gives us.

All of that has caused me to conclude that walking with God involves intentional action on our part – action to accomplish what He calls us to do. The Scriptures are loaded with examples of people who acted on God’s call:

1. To leave home for a distant land (Abram).
2. To defeat a Philistine giant (David).
3. To leave everything and follow Jesus (Peter).

Flexibility

Yet, while we need to focus on certain priorities, we also need to be flexible to redeem the unplanned opportunities God sends our way. Just a few days ago, I was at a restaurant putting the finishing touches on my preparation for a wedding ceremony I was to conduct in just a few hours. I wasn’t really looking to minister to anyone.

However, an older woman was looking for a place to put her tray down and eat. The only available spot was the table next to me, designed for two people. I encouraged her to sit at the table when she asked if sitting there would bother me. What I didn’t know was that there were two more people with her. When they all sat down, one of them was right across from me at my table.

Within a few minutes, I realized I needed to set aside what I was working on and talk to them. All three were strong Christians, but had some questions. I had a chance to share some thoughts and give them each a book, which I thought would help them. I had packed the books in my briefcase “just in case” someone might cross my path who could use them. I find that God often presents unexpected opportunities, and I have learned to be flexible in my walk.

I hope these thoughts and examples will be an encouragement to you as you walk with God.

Movements EverywhereWorldwide Day of Prayer

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Greetings,

Our next Worldwide Day of Prayer (WDP) will be Tuesday, April 22. Some of us will come together in small groups to pray. Others will gather in much larger groups. Whatever your context, it is a great privilege to be part of a global movement that commits itself to prayer. Prayer is a central part of who we are.

The biblical theme of our day comes from Hebrews 12:2: “Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus.”

The recent Winter Olympic Games featured many different events. But no matter which event, all of the athletes were disciplined and persistent toward their focus. In our pursuit to see spiritual movements everywhere, we must be diligent to maintain our focus on Christ.

It is not difficult to slip into a pattern where the time demands of ministry compete with our ability to put God first. The self-effort of athletes reaps rewards. But fruitfulness in ministry comes as we remain dependent upon God and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. When we pray with our whole heart, that happens.

Join me in setting aside the fourth Tuesday in April to re-focus our hearts and minds on Him. And over these next few weeks, I invite you to take a fresh, thoughtful look at Hebrews 12:1-3.

Running this race together,

Steve Douglass
President, Campus Crusade for Christ/Cru

Submit prayer requests to: global.prayer@ccci.org

Movements EverywhereWhere My Heart Is

Friday, February 28th, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments

The first week of January, I set aside some time to pray, think and plan. It started slowly, but one morning I awoke at 4 and began to write down some fresh thoughts concerning how I seek to challenge Christians to involvement in the Great Commission. Perhaps this simple outline will be an encouragement and help to you as it is to me.

See

Sometimes, Christians don’t have a good picture of what fulfilling the Great Commission looks like. The may think it only involves the gospel being presented to crowd of tens of thousands, or ministry being done in the context of church services. But a lot of ministry occurs one-to-one, in small groups, by email and text and on Facebook. Often, Christians think of the Great Commission as being fulfilled elsewhere-in some distant land - as opposed to right where they live.

Our job is to show people what it means to “go”, “make disciples”, “teaching them to obey”, etc., in it simple essence. This draws people into close fellowship with God, which is His master plan.

Believe

Another problem Christians often have is that they don’t believe the Great Commission can be fulfilled - at least any time soon. They maybe haven’t heard much about what God is doing around the world today – tens of millions of people coming to Christ in recent years in China and India alone. They perhaps haven’t heard that Jesus is appearing in dreams to unbelievable numbers of people in the Muslim world. So we have the privilege of motivating people with news about the extent of God’s power and the current reach of the gospel around the world.

Own

All of this leads to where we seek to help Christians “own” a piece of fulfilling the Great Commission. It starts with them becoming motivated to be involved. But that has to lead to seeing something specific they can picture themselves doing. Then they need to take some steps of action - to be trained, equipped and deployed into ministry activity.

Part of what we do with Christians is to show them how. That was the original motivation for Bill Bright to write The Four Spiritual Laws booklet - to show Christians how to share their faith with others.

We now have a multitude of strategies, trainings and materials to show Christians how to have a ministry impact on others. Let me tell you an example involving FamilyLife’s The Art of Marriage video seminar.

Jeff Brawley owns a successful welding business in a small town in Missouri. Over time, he and his wife, Sheila, sensed that God wanted to use them to reach others for Christ and make a difference in their lives as they grew in faith. As Jeff started ministering to men, he realized many needed help in their marriages. He and Sheila heard about the The Art of Marriage video training. They organized an event at their church, and 75 couples attended. Sometime later, they organized another event, and 150 couples attended. Five of those couples brought the training back to their churches. One of those events was attended by 50 couples.

In these events, many people have come to Christ, learned how to walk with the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, and how to grow in their marriages. All this happened as a result of a couple who thought they weren’t educated enough to be effective in ministry, but just stepped out in faith. We helped them see how they could do that – how they could “own” a piece of the Great Commission.

Involve others

What Jeff and Sheila did shows one more thing we help people do – involve others. We help Christians encourage others to:

1. See and understand what the Great Commission involves.
2. Believe that God is at work fulfilling it through Christians today.
3. Own some piece of all that.
4. Involve others as well.

We have an exciting assignment, don’t we?

Movements EverywhereWhere My Heart Is

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 | Uncategorized | No Comments

Some years before God gave the vision for our ministry to Bill Bright, Bill had a dramatic encounter with the Lord. He and a few other young men were in a meeting with Henrietta Mears. All of a sudden, they had a special sense of God’s presence and their hearts burned within them.

Afterward, he and the others formed the Fellowship of the Burning Heart, challenging young men and women to commit their lives wholeheartedly to the Lord.

Bill’s experience of a burning heart reminds me of the experience of two men walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus a few days after Jesus was crucified. In Luke 24:13-35, we read of how Jesus encountered these two men on the road and engaged them in a conversation about the Christ. In verse 27 we read, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”

Wouldn’t we have loved to tune in on that Bible teaching session! So, it is no surprise when Jesus was suddenly removed from their presence at dinner that, in verse 32, they asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
We then read that they immediately returned to Jerusalem to tell the Eleven what they had experienced.
Let’s think for a moment about what caused their hearts to burn.

Encounter

For one thing, they had an encounter with Jesus. They said their hearts burned “while He talked with us on the road.” I saw a young man on a college campus in North Dakota have a somewhat similar experience. Just after he prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, he said, “It feels like 40 pounds have been lifted off of my shoulders. I feel very different and excited!” He encountered God.

Understanding

Another factor that seemed to cause the two men walking with Jesus to have burning hearts was that He opened the Scriptures to them. They understood like never before. It was an “aha” experience!
I suspect we have all had “aha” moments. When I travelled to various campuses and spoke on “How to Get Better Grades and Have More Fun,” I would watch students experience that same feeling. When I shared in 10 minutes how they could write a better paper in one half the time, some would slap their foreheads and say, “Oh yeah, I get it!” And when I got to the gospel, I would “see” on many faces, “You mean I can have a personal relationship with God?”

Hope

In verse 33, we see the two men returning to Jerusalem with excitement and hope. Just hours before, in verse 17, “they stood still, their faces downcast.” So it wasn’t just that they understood the Scriptures, but also that they were infused with tremendous hope by what they had understood and experienced. Jesus was alive!

Losing heart is a terrible thing. I see it out on the athletic field sometimes during games. When one team has a few bad breaks, they give up and then lose by a big margin.

After forming the Fellowship of the Burning Heart, Bill Bright found that setting rigid, impossible rules to follow led to pursuing them in the power of the flesh and finally led to failure. He lost hope until, “I realized that placing Jesus Christ at the center of my life and claiming the power of the Holy Spirit to live and witness for Him is the only way I can live supernaturally.”

Conclusion

So what about you? Is your heart on fire for the Lord or pretty flat and unmotivated? Bill Bright was very concerned that he would somehow fall away from his passion for God. Whenever people would ask what to pray for him, he would say, “Pray that I never lose my first love for God!”
That is a good prayer for each of us as well.

Steve