The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Category Archives: Principles of Serving

Toxic Success: How Thriving Ministries Can Drive Us Away From God

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Mark and Emma are a husband-wife missionary team who have been engrossed in a thriving evangelistic ministry for the last ten years.  Their work is so consuming, so exciting, and so rewarding that it has become their entire life.  When they are out in the field, it’s all about helping other souls grow closer to God.  When they are alone together, the ministry is all they talk about.  The work is so intense, the feedback so encouraging, and the subject matter so important, that they feel totally satisfied. They plan to keep going like this for the rest of their lives.  Why not?  They’re doing God’s work.

But then, after a decade of work, the unthinkable happens.  Mark and Emma suddenly have their funding cut off and then they get forced to leave their mission field and return to their home country on another continent.  As they settle into their new home, they also settle into a deep depression.  They simply don’t know what to do with themselves now that they have no ministry to focus on.  Even worse, they realize that they’ve totally lost touch with each other.  Before they got engrossed in the ministry, they were very close.  But somehow in the last ten years, they’ve gone from feeling like best friends to feeling like polite housemates.  The intimacy feels lost, and they no longer enjoy each other’s company the way they used to.  As long as they had other souls coming to them for help all day every day, sacrificing their personal time together felt like the noble thing to do.  But now all of those souls are an ocean away, the rush has ended, and they suddenly realize that they’ve lost something truly precious.  Read more of this post

Being Called by God: The Responsibility & The Risk

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One day John’s boss calls him into his office and announces that a new position has opened up in the company. It’s a prestigious position—one which will give John a lot more clout than he currently has. John is shocked and thrilled when his boss promotes John to the new position right then and there. Now John has a new title, a bunch of new responsibilities, a new staff, a new office, and a ton to learn. Does merely receiving the promotion mean that John will be a success at the new job? Not hardly. The promotion is merely an opportunity—it’s now up to John to decide how he is going to use the opportunity. He might do great, he might turn out to be mediocre, or he might miserably tank. If his boss isn’t happy with John’s work, John could get fired. The promotion isn’t a guarantee of success or of job security. Promotions can be taken away the same way they are given, and when they are taken away, it’s bitter. It would be less humiliating for John to get fired from his low ranking job than it would to be fired from a high ranking position. His new promotion has not guaranteed his success, but it does come with extra responsibility and the threat of extra humiliation if things don’t work out.

Among Christians there is endless fuss surrounding the subject of Divine callings. Yet while we’re busy envying titles and prestige, we’re forgetting about the great responsibility and risk that come with Divine appointments. If you get iced out of a church congregation as an untitled layperson, it’s certainly a painful experience, but you can find another church where the people are less twerpy. Meanwhile, the whole community isn’t gossiping about what happened to you. But if you’re the pastor who the church board just decided to fire, there’s now a bunch of flack and embarrassment following you around and making it difficult for you to find a new position. Once you gain a reputation for being a “somebody” in the Church, you end up being the target of intense scrutiny and criticism. There’s enormous pressure to compromise, and there’s a growing mob of folks who are eagerly waiting to celebrate your demise. But beyond the human realm, there’s God. He’s the One you’re serving, He’s the One who gave you the promotion, and He is holding you accountable for how you use it. Read more of this post

Dealing with Intense Persecution: Aligning with God’s Priorities

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Disillusionment happens when we go into a situation with unrealistic expectations. Assuming that God’s support of us will always fit our definition of support is a false assumption that many Christians make. Because we’re human, we naturally expect God to act in ways that make sense to us. “I’ll always be with you,” is supposed to mean, “I’ll beat back your enemies every time they try to take you down and shelter you from all pain.” Well, no, this isn’t how it works. Sometimes God is going to hand us over to our enemies and set them up to look and feel like they are triumphing over us. Sometimes we’re going to be in serious agony. When we just focus on stories like Paul and Silas singing worship songs in jail and Stephen getting high off of some Divine vision in the midst of being stoned, we end up thinking that we can count on God to always give us these kinds of experiences. Well, no, we can’t. God never said that He’d always give us Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego kind of courage whenever we’re looking death in the face. Plenty of times He actually wants us to go through emotional meltdowns and physical torture—sometimes right in front of our enemies. After he’d been trapped away in some miserable prison for a very long time, the prophet Jeremiah was terrified of going back. He pleaded with his king—a rebellious twerp named Zedekiah—to spare him from further torment. How humiliating is it to find yourself pleading with some God hater to have mercy on you? This really doesn’t fit our definition of “victorious” because we’ve been downing too many stories about martyrs who go out with smiles on their faces. Read more of this post

Preparing for Difficult Assignments: Succeeding Where Others Have Failed

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Suppose God told you to step off the edge of a high cliff and just keep going. In other words, He told you to walk on air. But wait a second—humans can’t walk on air. They can’t walk on water, either, but Peter did for at least a few seconds. What do you do when God calls you to do what is humanly impossible? What do you do when He assigns you a mission which thousands have attempted before you only to fall flat on their faces? How many corpses can you step over on a battlefield before you panic and run away, convinced that you’ll be the next one to fall if you keep pressing onward? Read more of this post

Why God Wants You to Stay Selfish

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God designed humans to be utterly selfish beings. This means that we have self-serving motivations behind everything we do. Our relationship with God is no exception. We initially submit to God not because we think He’s so glorious, but because we don’t want to fry in Hell. After that we only serve God in order to get things from Him—things that are extremely important to us.

To avoid getting bogged down in condemnation or unnecessary frustration, you need to have an accurate understanding of how God defines spiritual maturity. God has no intention of turning us into selfless beings. God doesn’t want us to morph into passionless, opinion-less automatons who sit around droning mechanical praises at Him. On the contrary, God wants us to remain self-serving creatures who only serve Him in order to get something that we consider to be supremely important. Maturing has nothing to do with changing our give-to-get nature.  Maturity is about God changing what kinds of rewards we are interested in. Read more of this post

Present Convictions vs. Past Commands

Present Convictions vs. Past Commands

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God’s direct convictions to you must be viewed as superior to any other command you have received from Him in the past or read in the Bible. Convictions always trump commandments. Those who pleased God in the past learned this principle and we find examples of them applying it in the Word. According to the Old Covenant Laws, prostitutes were to be publicly executed. They were certainly not to be slept with or married. This was a clear command which Yahweh had given His people through Moses, and yet later on He told the prophet Hosea to go out and marry a prostitute named Gomer. Because Hosea understood that personal convictions trump written commands, he immediately obeyed God. He didn’t sit there saying, “No, God, I won’t disobey Your commands.” This is what Peter said when God spoke directly to him about eating unclean meat (Acts 10). At first Peter responded the way many of us respond today when the Holy Spirit convicts us to do something that counters a previous command of God. Read more of this post

Ministry Opportunities: When should you get involved?

Ministry Opportunities: When should you get involved?

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When is it time for you to start lending a helping hand at your church? Or, as some would say, when is it time for you to get off your duff and prove that you’re a serious Christian? Ah, the power of wording–we really know how to zing people with guilt, don’t we? And when that clipboard and pen are thrust into your hands and the director of such-and-such ministry says to you, “We could really use your help. We’re very shorthanded and you are clearly gifted in this area,” then what can you do but sign up? After all, if you hand the clipboard and pen back, you’d feel like a jerk. But why? Despite what they might think, other human beings are not the Holy Spirit incarnate, and you need to get your work orders from Him, not from people who have overextended themselves and are now desperate for you to help them prop up a ministry that God is probably trying to kill. Read more of this post