Dealing with Doubt

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”‭‭John‬ ‭14:1-6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Doubt has the ability to creep into the hearts of the most committed. Thomas, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, dealt with doubt in his relationship with the Lord. And sometimes we as Christians wrestle with doubt in our faith walk, but in today’s post I want to share some ways to overcome it.

Jesus explained to his disciples on multiple occasions how he would be crucified and rise again. But Thomas wasn’t certain. He had some doubts about his knowledge of what to do next. 

Have you ever doubted yourself? Have you ever been uncertain about your future, career, or your relationships? We’ve all had doubts at some point in our lives. Here are some tips to help you deal with doubts. 

Be clear about your doubts. 

Thomas expressed some details about his uncertainties but he didn’t accurately clarify his doubt. He was unsure about where Jesus was going and how to get there, but he didn’t clearly express his personal doubts. He doubted his ability to recall the teachings and follow through on the plan. 

If you’re having doubts, here’s a definition of doubt to help you get started clarifying your feelings. 
Doubt: a feeling of uncertainty, lack of conviction, or lack of confidence.

Now that you have a definition, ask yourself “What is making me uncertain? Why do I lack conviction? Why am I not confident?” Then, express it in one sentence. 

Get some help. 

Thomas did the right thing by talking to Jesus. Jesus was the one person who had the plan, and all of the answers. When you have doubts, it’s important to get the right help from the right people. I’ll admit, venting your frustrations may make you feel good, but venting to the wrong people doesn’t address your doubts. 

So, my advice is to go to the source. Go to the person you’re accountable to in the situation. Express your doubts and ask for their help. I have one word of caution though: go to them alone. Here’s why; Thomas expressed his uncertainty out loud in front of the other disciples and it spread. Look at verses 7-8. 

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
‭‭John‬ ‭14:7-8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Thomas’s doubt has spread to Philip who then expresses his uncertainty. Doubt can grow and gain ground in a group like weeds. I think they call it “sowing seeds of doubt.” Don’t be that person. Instead, go to source alone and give them an opportunity to help you overcome your doubts. 

Keep an open mind. 

This last tip is critical because your attitudes toward your doubts can be your biggest obstacle. Your faith can move mountains but your doubt can create them. 

Here’s what I mean by “keep an open mind.”

“The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
‭‭John‬ ‭20:25‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In this verse, Thomas refused to believe. He basically built a mountain of doubt and said only an earth shaking miraculous revelation could move it. If you’ve already made up your mind and put stipulations on your doubt as Thomas did, no amount of talking will help you. 

Thomas could’ve shared in the joy of the resurrection of Jesus with his fellow disciples sooner if he was more open minded. Instead, he held fast to his doubt until he was confronted by Jesus. 

“And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
‭‭John‬ ‭20:26-29‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Seeing Jesus put all of Thomas’s doubts to rest. He was convinced and affirmed his belief by praising Jesus as Lord and God. Even so, Thomas forfeited a blessing of faith. Jesus told Thomas “because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Don’t allow doubt to hinder your blessings. Doubt can sap your energy and steal your joy. Doubt can make you stagnant, afraid to step out in faith. Doubt can cause you to miss opportunities because you were too uncertain to seize the day. 

I hope this post helps you strategically overcome your doubts.

Find your wilderness

“However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities. So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.”‭‭Luke‬ ‭5:15-16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
In Luke chapter 5, Jesus healed two lepers and told them not to tell anyone. The Bible says “However, the report went around concerning Him all the more; and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by Him of their infirmities.” All of a sudden, Jesus’ ministry work became more demanding. 

Can you imagine what it’s like to personally minister to a multitude of people? The best example I could come up with is from my days working fast food in college. 

In college, I worked at an Arby’s restaurant that was located two blocks away from Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn University. On football game days, all five registers would be opened with all five lines stretching out of the lobby and through the opened double doors. The people just kept on coming. It was stressful, demanding work being pressed by such a large crowd. At the end of the day I was drained and fatigued. 

What do you do when life just keeps on coming? How do you handle the stress and fatigue? Jesus gives us the answer: withdraw and pray. 


We all need to withdraw and rest our bodies to help with physical fatigue. But we also need to withdraw our minds, hearts, souls, and spirits through prayer to help us deal with other forms of fatigue. Here are a few examples:

Decision fatigue – the mind is so overworked making decisions you either choose not to make a decision or all your decisions are automatically “no”. 

Emotional fatigue – your heart has experienced so many intense emotions (joy, anger, happiness, pain) that you’ve become numb and can’t empathize with others. 

Social fatigue – your mind is so overworked trying to fulfill all of your social roles (spouse, parent, employee, parishioner, neighbor) that you begin to act out of character at the wrong times. 

Sensory fatigue – you’ve been so bombarded with images, videos, sounds, and smells that you become annoyed by the hum of the motor on your refrigerator. 

Spiritual fatigue – you’ve wrestled with the devil and yourself so long in an attempt to live right that you’ve decided church isn’t working, and you’re just gonna let yourself go this weekend. You justify it by saying “I’ve been good so I deserve it.”

Prolonged exposure to these types of fatigue can lead you to snap on your kids, leave your spouse, quit your job, curse out your friends, quit your ministry, leave your church, or worse. 

The best way to respond to this fatigue is to withdraw and pray. Find or create your own personal wilderness where you can be alone with God. Get away from the noise and distractions so you can let God resettle you and recharge your batteries. 

My wilderness is my porch. That’s where I get alone with God to pray, think, and strategize. Sometimes I have to create a wilderness when I’m in public places by putting on my earphones with worship music, classical, or soft instrumental jazz. 

Let me encourage you to find your wilderness. Get alone with God. Let him help you process all of the issues of your life. He will give you to strength to move forward. 

How to deal with unprofitable people

“And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:30‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Jesus tells a parable about servants making investments for their master. The story takes a turn when one of the servants decides he doesn’t want to make the investment because he feels he won’t get anything out of it. Ultimately, the master declares the servant is “unprofitable” (useless, good for nothing) and has him dismissed. I believe this master can teach us something valuable about our dealings with others. 

1. People connected to us should be profitable. They should add value more than they take away. Providing support, encouragement, believing in your dreams should be standard. People in your circle should be building their lives and helping you build yours. 

2. We need to evaluate the value of those connected to us. Basically, we need to know what value they bring, why it’s important to us, and be able to measure their effectiveness. Please note, these need to be real values, not superficial values. 

3. Unprofitable people should be dismissed. You don’t have time to take on a “project person”. For example, trying to change an unprofitable boyfriend or girlfriend never works. Dismissing them brings you closer to the right person. 

4. We need to be profitable also. When you encounter profitable people, don’t be a taker. Instead, find a way to add value to their lives just as they will add value to yours. People who are going somewhere, building their lives, and advancing their careers, are all looking to network and connect with profitable people. Be that person. 

The master had it right. He chose valuable servants worthy of reward and removed those who were unprofitable. We should do the same. 

God and Riches

““No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

This week in the message Turning the Tables Part 2 I talked about our financial priorities. One of the issues addressed in the message was the known tendency of African Americans to be influenced by name brands and luxury items. Simply put, sometimes our desire for luxury items and famous labels can lead us to make poor financial decisions more often than other races. 

Let me say something here. It’s not wrong to have the finer things in life. So don’t go sell your Mercedes and trade it in for a bicycle. Having nice things isn’t the problem. Jesus told the congregation at the sermon on the mount, they couldn’t serve God and mammon (wealth and riches). He says they will either love the one and hate the other. How does that apply to our financial decisions?

It all boils down to the decisions we make in critical moments and opportunities. 

Critical moments are the times when our finances are thin or have impeding obligations on them. Sometimes we’re enticed to make purchases in these lean financial times. If we’re ruled emotionally by our desires for luxury items, we will make ill-advised purchases. The end result is, we put ourselves in uncomfortable and unnecessary financial risk. 

Opportunities are the times when we can use money as a tool to put ourselves in a better financial position. These are times when we’re stable, our money isn’t obligated, and/or we’re blessed with an unexpected increase. When these moments come in our lives some of us immediately begin to imagine the things we can buy with the extra money. Then we spend it just as quickly as we received it. 

Both of these examples ended with decisions to serve our desire for riches. There is however another option; instead of serving riches, we could serve God with our riches. When we adopt a spiritual mentality that says “all that I am, and all that have belongs to God” our decisions are very different. 

In critical times, we would pray and make the choice to take care of our obligations. By doing so we relieve our financial stress and have a more abundant quality of life. From this position of stability we are free to minister to others instead of creating new financial problems in our lives so others need to minister to us. In times of opportunity we would pray for the Lord’s guidance. He could lead us to invest in ourselves by saving the extra money to carry us through the lean times. We could pay down debt, get ahead on mortgage or car payments, or invest it in ministry. 

We can’t serve God and riches, but putting God first and serving God with our riches can lead to an abundant life. Jesus said it best. 

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:33‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Focus on the Money

We’re in a series at GFMBC about personal finance entitled “Turning the Tables”. Yesterday I began with the story of Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers in Matthew 21:12-13. In that message I told our church to “focus on the money”. What does that mean? I’m going to explain but it may help to view the message to get deeper context. 

Turning the Tables Part 1

Focus on the money means: pay more attention to the true value of money instead of focusing our attention on the non-monetary values we attribute to the things money can buy. Non-monetary values can be powerful motivators that lead us to make poor money decisions. Here are some common non-monetary values. 
Emotional value: “If I buy this item, I’ll feel better.”

Social value: “If I buy this item, I’ll fit in.”

Esteem value: “If I buy this item, I’ll be perceived positively by others.”

Experience value: “If I make this purchase, I’ll have a special or unique experience.”

Physical value: “If I make this purchase my body will feel pleasure.”

Possession value: “If I purchase and possess this item, my life will be better.”

Adding these non-monetary values to our purchases can cause us to overvalue the things we buy. As a result, we may pay more for the items than they’re worth. “Time is money” but adding non-monetary values to the things we buy could cause us to make ill-advised purchases at the wrong times. We can be falsely motivated to make purchases while missing out on opportunities to make better use of our money for investments in our lives. 

We need to focus on the money, understanding it’s true value. In the long run, the money is more important than the things it can buy. When we focus on the money, we’re less likely to overspend. We’re less likely to be tricked by slick marketing or predatory sales practices. We’re actually more likely to save money and have money in excess. 

When we focus on the money, we are better able to reap the full benefits that money can provide. We’re better able to spend our money to take advantage of real opportunities. We are even better positioned to reward ourselves in ways that are meaningful and financially sound. We can even employ our money to make more money. 

Swagger is genetic. 

A lesson from Niger.  
While on the Mission to Niger last month, we saw thousands of young men walking the streets daily. To me, there was something familiar in the way they carried themselves. After meditating on this familiarity the Lord showed me what it was: swagger.

You see, the young African men in Niger walk with the same cadence we see in young African America men. They have an unmistakable bravado and swagger about themselves. There is a pride and self esteem in their speech, attitude, and walk.

This amazed me because the young black men in Niger aren’t immersed in African American culture. We’re more than 200 years removed from the slave ships that brought our ancestors to America yet, we could transport these young men to any black neighborhood in America and they would fit in just fine. Why is that? Swagger is genetic.

The expressions and dancing we see in African American professional athletes and entertainers is the same in young men in Niger. The loud, expressive black church services in America mirror the singing and dancing in Christian churches in Niger. There is no doubt in my mind that our people are from Africa because we’re alike.

That got me thinking. If swagger is genetic, how does that relate to our faith. Peter gives us the answer.

“by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
‭‭II Peter‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
http://bible.com/114/2pe.1.4.nkjv

The Apostle Peter says our faith in Jesus Christ gives us access to promises from God. Through these promises we can be partakers of the divine nature. Godliness is spiritually genetic. No matter where we go in the world, we should display the Lord’s nature.

There should be no mistaking our Christian heritage. People should hear our speech and praise and know we’re believers. Our walk, attitudes, and actions should make it evident we are born again. We may be more than 2000 years removed from the physical presence of Jesus but his love, compassion, and witness should flow from our lives. 

Our Daily Bread

A lesson from Niger.

During my recent mission trip to Niger, Africa, I noticed a startling difference from the United States. Traffic lights! After spending a week in the city of Niamey, I only saw 5 traffic lights and 4 of those weren’t even on. But, even without traffic lights, thousands of people took to the streets each day.

  
Cars, trucks, vans crowded with people, camels hauling goods, mules pulling carts, motorcycles darting through traffic, and countless people walking, all moving to a rhythm. The city was alive and chaotic. At first glance, it seemed like everyone was rushing to important business or appointments. But, a closer look revealed something more significant; all of this activity is directed at one goal…gathering daily bread.

  
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
http://bible.com/114/mat.6.11.nkjv

People around every corner were searching for their next meal. In the mornings, we saw people hurrying to get their first meal. After this, we saw people of all ages laboring or selling goods to make money to buy their next meal. Getting daily bread is well established in the culture of Niger. One of my friends asked a farmer why he didn’t plant more in his field and sell the crops. The farmer said he had enough for his family to survive.

The American capitalist entrepreneur in me wanted to say “seize the opportunity and work to get ahead to be happy”! But what I came to realize is that most of the people of Niger whom we encountered were already happy. They were living in their context, not our get more, do more, need more context. It’s easy to go to Niger and think the people would be happier if they had the luxuries we posses. But, even without running water, electricity, central air, Walmart or Target, fast food, and iPads; we still saw smiles on faces. Why? Because the people of Niger are thankful for the daily provisions they receive from God.

This is a valuable lesson for us. Many people in our western culture have an abundance of things, but a deficit in joy. We have nice cars, beautiful homes, electronics and appliances to make life easier, and the wealth to travel the world, but suffer from high levels of depression. Many of us are discontent with what we have because we always want more. I’m not saying we should look at the people of Niger and be thankful because we are blessed with more than them. I’m not saying we can’t complain because we’ve been blessed with so much more than they have. Instead, I’m proposing we should look at their attitude of thanksgiving and joy (regardless of what they have) and learn to be thankful as well.

I think we would all have a higher quality of emotional and spiritual life if we learn to be thankful for daily bread first. It doesn’t matter if we have an abundance or if we’re living paycheck to paycheck, we can still open our hearts to God in thanksgiving and have joy. Before we ask God for anything else, we should thank him for what he has already provided. It doesn’t matter if we have a little or a lot, all that we have comes from God.

10 questions every church member should answer. 

This weekend, our church, Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, held our annual church conference. One of the things I get to do during the conference is share an annual address. Usually, my address will recap the year, and cast vision for the next year, but this time, the address was very introspective and focused solely on next year.  

Using Ephesians 4:11-16, I asked our congregation 10 questions. I’d like to share them with you because I believe they are relevant to the growth and success of any church. 

  
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:11-16‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In this passage, Paul describes what the church should be. Based on this description I have 10 questions we need to answer. 

1. Will you position yourself to be equipped?
Paul says spiritual leaders are given by God “for the equipping of the saints”. 
We may need to change our minds about the ministries of the church. When we’re offered the opportunity to participate in the teaching ministries of the church, what will be our response? 

2. Will you join in the work of the ministry?
Paul says we’re equipped “for the work of ministry”. 
Last year, we gave every member a chance to serve. This year, we will do the same. Will you serve in our ministries or stay on the sidelines?

3. Will you work to edify the body of Christ?
Paul says we’re equipped for ministry, “for the edifying of the body of Christ”. 
We’re challenging every member to do one thing to make our church better. Instead of talking about what should be done, get involved and do what you can. 

4. Will you be united in the faith?
Paul says “till we all come to the unity of the faith”. 
Come in from the fringes. Buy in to the vision and the purpose. Change your mind. If we’re still saying “them” and “they” when speaking about the church, instead of we and us, there is a problem. 

5. Will you get to know Jesus?
Paul says we should come to the unity of the faith, to “the knowledge of the Son of God”
We need to learn the shepherd’s voice. We need to know what he’s like. If we’re all listening to the same spirit, we will all arrive at the same conclusions. 

6. Will you seek perfection?
Paul says we’ll come “to a perfect man”. 
We need to commit to growing into the best we can be. We need to make some lifestyle changes and overcome habits and vices. 

7. Will you believe in God alone?
Paul gives us something to chew on when he says “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting”. 
Teams who change coaches too often, rarely win because they’re unstable. They hear too many voices. People who try to follow different belief systems are just as unstable. We need to put our complete trust in God alone. 

8. Will you speak the truth in love?
“but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ”. 
We need to get along without being easily offended. We don’t need to bring an offense and we don’t need to take offense. This means we must trust each other. We can’t grow if we’re always offended by what others say. 

9. Will you bring something to the table?
Paul describes the church like a human body and says “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies”. 
Every part of the body is important. We are inter-dependent. We all have a contribution to make. That contribution may take many forms; time, talents, and treasure. 

10. Will you do your share?
“according to the effective working by which every part does its share”. 
God has a purpose for our participation in the church. There are ministries that need us. If we’re holding out on God, we’re stunting the growth of the church. 

Conclusion:
I believe the right answers to these questions will bring the result Paul shares in this passage; “causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Prayerfully ask yourself these questions and I believe you’ll experience a deeper, more meaningful, church membership. 

On A Mission

NigerHave you ever travel to another country? I’m traveling to Niger, Africa in January 2016 on a mission. It will be my first time traveling out of the country so I’ve decided to let you in on my journey.

Let’s be clear; I’m talking about Niger, not Nigeria. Niger is one of the top five poorest countries in the world. Repeated famine, disease, and war have left the country devastated. Only about 2 out of every 5 children reach adulthood and many areas of Niger are classified as “Fourth World”.

So, why am I going on a mission to Niger? I’m glad you asked. I was encouraged to go on this mission by my friend, Theron Nixon. Upon returning from his mission to Niger last year, he invited me to a follow up meeting where I heard about the work God was doing through missionaries in that country. Here is the compelling reason that resonates with me. In Niger there is an opportunity to win the nation for Jesus Christ. At this time, Niger isn’t “closed” to the gospel. By telling God’s story and showing His love through the building of schools, digging of wells, providing medical treatment, and nutrition assistance, we win the right to be heard.

What exactly do I expect get out of going to Niger? Good question. Personally, I want to go to Niger to broaden my ministry perspective. I want to see the world through fresh eyes. I want to see a ministry that is impacting lives and learn how to do the same in the community where God has planted me. I believe this mission will make me a better pastor and community leader. Ultimately, I want to make this mission opportunity a reality for others in our church.

How can you get involved? I need your prayers and support. Pray for the success of the mission and our safety. Pray that our group of 14 missionaries will have a life changing encounter with God. Additionally, if you’re able to provide some financial support, it would be greatly appreciated. You can learn more about the mission and make a donation here: http://www.greaterfriendship.com/mission-to-niger.html .