Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.
Life in Christ is rooted
in the reality of His resurrection.
What would life be like if you didn’t know its purpose? For many, this isn’t a question to ponder, but a pattern of daily existence. Even those who claim to know the ultimate reason for our lives sometimes become infrequent visitors to the well-spring of meaning and purpose. It’s as if the state of being spiritually dehydrated has become a way of life, even though the water of life is in abundance.
God, however, wants us to regularly renew our mind and soul with the hinge of all history and apex of all meaning– that Jesus Christ through death has paid the penalty for our sin and through His resurrection has provided us the victory of His life. Christ’s perfect life enabled Him to be our substitute, sacrificial death for sin. His resurrection from the dead is God’s divine guarantee that authentic spiritual life is truly found in the life of His Son.
This providential plan accomplished God’s purpose of bringing redemption to His people; and each time we fix our attention on the resurrected Jesus, we are once again renewed to God’s purpose for us – to live in light of the resurrection of Christ. At the beginning and the end of our day – in our trials, in our ministry and in our work – we should think of the conquering Jesus who has all authority and loves us eternally. When life is hard, remember that Jesus is Lord.
Ultimately, the Author of life could never be held by the power of the grave, and Christ’s mission to “make disciples” is truly possible because He really is with us always (Matt. 28:18-20). Each day this week, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, for our life in Christ is rooted in the reality of His resurrection.
By Ryan McCreery, Associate Pastor of Ministry Development
Last month, I attended a
church leader conference in Dallas. It
is one that I have attended for many years on and off, depending on my
availability. It is also one of those
conferences that I get something out of every time and is a great investment for
ministry and for my life as a whole.
Every year perspectives are
shared about ministry taking place in churches of all sizes across America. Like looking out of the plane window at
30,000 feet in the air, we consider what is trending in society and how these
trends are impacting the local church as well as how to respond as church
leadership. Alongside dynamic keynote
speakers, there are numerous breakout sessions offered throughout the week.
For one of my breakouts, I
decided to attend the “Engaging Millennials” session. Honestly, it was not high on my list, but I
was very curious to hear about connecting with the next generation. And, wow, am glad I went! Honestly, it was worth the price of the
Two Christians representing
the millennial generation were interviewed by a session host. The session host was about my age, early
40’s. Those being interviewed were in
their late 20’s, maybe right at 30; one male and one female. They dressed differently than me and used hipster
words that I didn’t understand at times.
As they began to speak, I was ready for all my stereotypes of
millennials – you know, the ones that commercials tend to emphasize – to be proven
true. And, then they started talking
You see, as they spoke, I
sensed the Lord reminding me that I am getting older and that I needed to
listen up. If you are ten to twenty
years older than me, you will tell me that I am still very young. And, from your perspective that is fair. But, if you are 10-20 years younger than me,
I look old and I am getting older. I do
dress differently, and as much as I would like to think my slang is current,
some words were only meant to be used by millennials and my children’s
But, the common denominator
across all generational lines in the church is our faith in Jesus Christ. Pursuing a relationship with God never gets
old. The next generation, specifically,
the millennials want something authentic from Generation X, Baby Boomers and
the Builders generations. Enough with the
polish, they say, we want to believe and follow something real. “What does it look in your life to follow
Christ?” They want to know both your
wins and your losses, not just your wins.
They want to know that you have fallen, and they want to know that you
got back up. Basically, what I heard
these younger believers saying was, “We want you, not your flash.”
Not only do they want to
hear from you in an authentic way, they want to genuinely know you. They want relationships, not programs. It may be surprising to hear this, especially
since the younger generations spend so much time on their screens (phones,
tablets, etc.). You see FaceBook and
Instagram are not satisfying our social need for interaction. Therefore, the next generation want an
opportunity to meet up face-to-face and learn from you, if only you would engage
them in conversation and invite them into your life regardless of what they
wear or how they talk.
Lastly, I learned that the
next generation is hungry to follow something relevant connected to what is
going on in the world around them. That
is why so many jump onboard social causes for raising money or raising
awareness for an injustice. They want
the church to not preach at them, but to help them understand how to take a
stand in love in this world with a biblical worldview. Unfortunately, many millennials are leaving
the traditional church setting, either for good or to start up their own church
because they don’t think church is speaking to the issues they are facing. Wherever they land, they are hungry to
believe in a cause greater than themselves that is making a difference.
As Christians, we have the
greatest mission this world has ever known, but my generation and older is
falling short connecting with the next generation. Millennials are hungry to follow and learn,
but we are missing them. We must find a way to connect with the next
generations for they will be the next generation of leaders in the church. In the Old Testament, Moses passed the leadership
baton to Joshua. In the New Testament,
Paul passed it to Timothy. The question
is, “Who is investing in the next generation today?”, knowing one day it will
be time to pass the baton again.
Stepping out of the breakout
session at that conference was both convicting and invigorating. I was convicted because I realized I let
generational stereotypes overshadow my need to connect with millennials. I was invigorated because God helped me to
see evidently clear their desire for connection and effective leadership.
The opportunity is at
hand. Connecting and investing in the
next generation is key to spiritual health in the life cycle of the
church. If you are my generation and
older, the time is now to intentionally engage millennials. Invite them to coffee to better get to know
them, invest in them relationally by meeting regularly, and encourage them to
serve alongside you in ministry. They
are hungry for biblical discipleship, something that is authentic, genuine, and
relevant to everyday life. If you are
younger than me, don’t be hesitant.
Reach out to the generations older than you. Let the older generations know that you value
their wisdom, desire their biblical perspective, and will commit the time to spiritually
grow together pursuing Jesus.
Before Paul passed away, he
wrote his last epistle to Timothy, his protégé.
In spite of those chaotic times in the life of the church, Timothy was encouraged
to continue in the leadership to which he was appointed, while looking for
opportunity to connect with the next generation. In the spirit of discipleship, we are
challenged to do the same. Let’s not let
spiritual effectiveness end with us. Let’s
reach out to the next generation, spanning generations for the sake of the
Sincerely in Christ,
“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many
witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others
also.” – 2 Timothy 2:2
There are many reasons why conflict happens in our
marriages. Marital conflict can take place over money, sex, kids, extended
family, expectations, household responsibilities, and more.
A main reason why we have conflict on these topics is poor
communication. When couples begin to improve their communication, the health of
their marriages will begin to improve dramatically.
First and foremost, however, we need to be seeking the Lord
and His direction in prayer as we seek to improve our marriages. We need to
pray for our spouses and pray for real transformation to take place in our own
hearts. If we are going to see real change happen in our marriages, then it
will take the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to bring about that change.
As you prayerfully consider and begin to implement these five
steps to improve the communication in your marriage, remember that true
progress will be made if you seek first to put Christ at the center of your
life and your marriage.
Are you ready to have fewer fights and a healthier marriage?
Take a look at these steps to see how you can improve the communication in your
For couples to communicate well, they need to start by
listening to their spouse well. Good listening involves several skills:
Keep Eye Contact: Make sure you keep eye contact while you are
both talking. Looking away can indicate that you aren’t interested in the
Don’t interrupt the other person. If you interrupt what they are saying, then
it shows that you don’t really care about what they have to say – you are more
focused on making yourself be heard or winning an argument.
Listen Mentally: Listen
mentally to what your spouse is saying. Even if you appear to be listening, you
might be starting to tune out your spouse as you prepare your next response or
argument in your head. Don’t do it! Listen fully to what your spouse has to
say, then if needed, take a moment to process your thoughts before responding.
Affirm Before Responding:
Before you begin to respond to what they have said, depending on the situation,
it usually is appropriate to affirm what they have shared before responding.
This makes your spouse feel valued, because you have listened to what they have
said and understand what they are saying. This practice is especially helpful
when you are discussing an issue together.
Questions: After your spouse shares with you in a conversation, seek to ask
questions to help understand what is under the surface of what your spouse is
saying. Asking a follow-up question will help explore what your spouse said, it
will show them that you care, and it will build more trust with your spouse.
Follow-up questions can also help clarify in case there might be any confusion
regarding what your spouse has said. For example:
“You said that you have had a hard week and just
want to relax this weekend. When you say that you just want to “relax,” what
does that look like to you?”
“I know this afternoon will be pretty busy for
you. You said that you will be gone for a while. Can you give me an estimate of
how long you might be gone for?”
“You said that you would be open to eating out
anywhere tonight. Do you have any preferences for where you would like to eat?”
The foundation of good communication skills in marriage is
good listening skills. Start by developing good listening skills, then continue
to implement the following steps.
Adopt an Attitude of Grace
What is your attitude like when you are communicating with
your spouse? What does it look like during an argument? When you both need to
work through an issue and come to a mutual decision, the right way to approach
the conversation is to have an attitude of grace. An attitude of grace involves
having a humble spirit, being open to learning from any potential mistakes you
have made, and being ready to receive the feedback or thoughts that your spouse
has with grace. The Bible addresses the correct way to respond in an argument:
“A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”
– Proverbs 15:1
Are your answers gentle? Adjust your attitude in your
communication and adopt an attitude of grace. By making this change, your
communication will improve greatly and the important conversations with your
spouse will become less stressful and more enjoyable.
Another quick tip on the attitude of grace – go into your
conversations with the goal that you will both be winners. Your goal as a
spouse should not be to win every discussion (which means your spouse loses
every discussion), but that you both can reach a conclusion that leaves you
both as “winners.” It’s not always possible to reach this goal, but it should
be the starting goal of every couple to both become “winners” at the end of a
When talking with your spouse, here are a few ways to make
sure you are treating them with the love and respect that you should give them
and that will help you have a healthy conversation.
Check Your Tone:
What does your tone sound like when you are talking with your spouse? The best
person to ask about this is… your spouse! When you are talking through a
variety of topics, or having an argument, try to make sure that you are keeping
a tone that shows love and respect to your spouse. When you begin to raise your
voice, start to sound mean, etc., that’s when your tone begins to have a
negative impact on your conversation, regardless of what the conversation is
Share Your Feelings: When responding to your spouse, it is important to share your feelings in a constructive way. Make sure that you use non-accusatory language, which can be translated as being on the “offensive” against them. The biggest indicator of accusatory language is when you start sentences by using the word “you.” This immediately puts your spouse on the defensive, when instead you should both want to be having a discussion “on the same side” as each other. For example, here is one way that you can change how you share your feelings with your spouse to achieve this goal:
Bad Example #1: “You are very
frustrating when you take things into your own hands all the time.”
Good Example #1: “I am very
frustrated by ____. It makes me feel sad that I wasn’t able to help you with
Bad Example #2: “You are impossible
to talk to about the kids.”
Good Example #2: “I am having a hard
time right now, because it doesn’t seem like you want to talk about ____ with
the kids. It makes me frustrated that I feel like I have to think through ___
Choose Your Words Lovingly:
When talking with your spouse, select the words you use carefully and lovingly.
Yes, you want to be open with each other, but make sure that your words are
seasoned with love towards your spouse. For Christians, your spouse is first
and foremost a child of God who is deeply loved by his/her Creator. With this
in mind, you should treat your spouse with the same mindset, showing them the
same love that they deserve as a child of God. In this way, you can treat your
spouse as more important than yourself:
nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more
important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own
interests, but also for the interests of others. – Philippians 1:3-4
When responding to your spouse, it can be powerful to say “I
understand” when responding to what they have shared. “I’m sorry” is another
important phrase that should be used whenever you’ve made a mistake that needs
to be owned and that you need to ask forgiveness for. Avoid any harsh statements
and stay away from untrue generalizations like “you always” and “you never.”
Choose your words lovingly and your conversation will be much more enjoyable
Clarify the Statement
or Question: If you want to make sure you are understanding what your
spouse is saying, and there is a chance that there might be some confusion or
miscommunication, then a helpful response is to say “this is what I think I am
hearing. You said __________. Is that correct?” That way, you are not making
assumptions and are clearing up any potential misunderstandings, so that you
can continue to have good communication in the conversation.
Don’t Walk Away:
Are you getting frustrated during a conversation? Most spouses have either a
“fight or flight” mentality that shows itself at some point in heated
conversations. Those with a “fight” mentality will stay in the conversation
until things are worked out. Those with a “flight” mentality will begin to
retreat from the conversation at some point, either physically or by simply not
engaging in the conversation anymore. If you need some time to think or need to
walk away for a few minutes to cool yourself down, make sure you talk to your
spouse about it first. Ask them, “I am getting really upset and I need to cool
down so that I can continue this conversation well and treat you lovingly like
I should be doing. Do you mind if I take a 5-minute walk to cool off and
collect my thoughts?” Make sure that if you do this, your spouse agrees to it,
otherwise it can have a negative impact on your conversation.
Pick Your Battles
Do you and your spouse fight a lot? Maybe you need to take
some steps to grow in your communication. However, another factor to improve
your marriage is deciding what is worth the time, effort, and intentionality it
takes to talk things out. You have to decide how to “pick your battles” in your
relationship. Are you making a big deal out of small things? For example:
Are you bothered by the way your spouse
organizes the dishwasher?
Is your spouse an irritating driver at times?
(ex: too slow, too fast, etc)
Does it bother you how your spouse asks you if
you want to do something, when they are obviously asking you to take care of it
yourself? Here’s an example: “Would you like to change the baby’s diaper?” Hmm… let me think about if I would enjoy
that experience today…
Does this sound like you? If so, you might need to let some
of the little things go and just focus on the bigger conversations that need to
happen. Don’t make mountains out of mole hills. Just focus on the big things
and let the little things go. Most of the time, the little things won’t matter
to you long-term anyways. If some of those small things eventually start to
become bigger things, then you can talk about them together.
Pray For Your Spouse
Do you want to improve communication in your marriage? Don’t
forget to pray for your spouse regularly. Pray for them every day. Before
having big conversations, take time to pray beforehand and afterwards. When you
seek the Lord for wisdom and ask Him for good communication in your marriage,
you’ll also begin to focus more on how your conversations can be honoring to
“Lord, as we begin this conversation, we ask that you would give us the
wisdom to make the right decision. We ask that you would help us communicate
well and listen to each other well. May we put each other before ourselves and
show love and respect to each other in this conversation. In Jesus’ name,
Ready to Improve Your
Communication in Your Marriage?
If you apply these five steps, you will begin to see
improvement in the communication in your marriage. However, don’t start this
process by thinking “Wow, my spouse has a lot to work on!” Start by working on
it yourself. Model it for your spouse. For a while, the improvement might even
be one-way, where you are the spouse improving the communication in your
marriage. However, over time, you will begin to see improvements in your
communication, and your spouse will notice these changes and might even put
them into practice himself/herself.
While working on the communication in your marriage, don’t
forget that Christ needs to be at the center of your marriage. Everything you
do in your marriage should be to honor and glorify Him as you seek to follow
Him daily in your life and in your marriage. We are called to make our attitude
like Jesus’ attitude, who gave us the ultimate example of humility (Phil.
The health of every marriage can improve greatly through
improved communication. Are you ready to have a healthier, deeper, stronger,
and Christ-centered marriage?
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
Have you realized the significance of your current situation? One of my mentors reminded me on several occasions, “Bloom where you are planted”. Whether the present state of the soil of your life is rough or rich, our relationship with Christ allows us to bear the fruit of His character as our hearts abide in His Spirit (John 15:4-5).
Ponder Mordecai’s words to his adopted daughter Esther, the Jewish Queen who had been married to the Medo-Persian King in the fifth century B.C. Mordecai exhibited a healthy faith in God’s sovereign power to preserve the captive Jewish people who were facing extermination, with or without Queen Esther appealing to the King to address this travesty. He simply appealed to God’s providential timing when he told her, “Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
Have you considered that God has you
where He wants you to fulfill His purposes in this time? Do not underestimate your significance in
light of our Father’s providence. As we
begin this year, take some time to reflect on how you arrived at this present
point and ask the Lord to help you understand how He would desire you to live,
love and serve Him. Praise God with
thankfulness and look to Him with eagerness to help you think through and write
out what His “next steps” would be for you in your relationships and
responsibilities. Remember, the Lord
Jesus has prepared you and placed you, “for such a time as this”.