Can Church Help You Live Longer?

3 Key Connections That Affect Your Health and Well Being

Are you part of something bigger than yourself, or are you trying to do life on your own? Believe it or not, your answer to this question may even affect the length of your life!


I’ll be the first one to admit, I have no problem being alone. In fact, I even went to a concert by myself one time because nobody else wanted to go. Being an introvert by personality has its perks, but over the years I’ve come to the realization that we’re all designed for connection.

In fact, the apostle Paul says the church isn’t like a body, it is a body. Made up of members with diverse gifts who work together interdependently. That means we depend on each other for overall life and health.

Consider this illustration. Whenever any part of the body is separated from the rest, it shrivels and dies. Gross, yes, but true.

How about you? Are you actively involved in a local body of believers? If not, here are three things to look for.

1. Connection to the head. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God and others. One of the primary ways of loving God and others is spending time with them. Daily. You’re deceived if you say you love God and others but you’re not carving out time to spend time with them. You’re even crazier if you say you love God, but can’t stand people. Jesus put loving God and others on the same plane. So as you consider a church to attend, there should be evidence that the people there love God and others. Remember, a body disconnected from a head cannot live for very long. However, if a body is to be healthy, it must stay connected to the head.

2. Members connect with each other. You remember the song, right? The thigh bone’s connected to the shin bone, the shin bones connected to the foot bone. Common sense. People cannot stay healthy unless they are connected to others. The more members connect with each other, the healthier the body.  You can have a pile of body parts but they’ll have no value unless they’re connected to one another.  Likewise, you can have all of the gifts in the world and still be lacking if you are not sharing with others. Good luck if you’re looking for the perfect church. Just like every other organization, the church is made up of imperfect people. Rather than finding fault with every church you visit, why don’t you find a place to plug in and make a contribution? Maybe it’s time to stop focusing on what’s wrong with the church and start focusing on what’s right. Again, healthy bodies are made up of members who connect with each other regularly in meaningful ways.

3. Healthy churches exercise. Specifically, they are on mission. Jesus left us with the command to ‘make disciples’. We do so in three ways. 1) As we go. 2) Teaching them to observe everything that he commanded us. 3) Baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Ironically, while he gave us these specific instructions, he did not give us specific methods. Why? Because though our message never changes, our methods do. As you consider a church, the methods are not as important as the mission. Mission trumps methods every time. Church members can be connected to the head and each other, but if they are not on mission, they are not healthy.  While we’re at it, part 2 (teaching them to observe whatsoever I have commanded you) is the great omission of the Great Commission.  I’ll leave you to think about that.

Meanwhile, another metaphor Paul uses to describe the body of Christ is an army. Again, there is no such thing as an army of one.

Let me say this as lovingly as possible….If you think you can carry out your earthly assignment on your own, you’re wrong. That was never God’s design regardless of how talented you think you are. He has designed us to need and love one another. Until you find a group of like minded people to connect and serve with, you’re going to be miserable. In fact, according to research, there is a good possibility that if you don’t connect with something bigger than yourself, you’ll be dead within the next two years!

A word for….

Pastors.  If you want to revitalize the church you lead, begin by focusing on these three areas. Help people to connect with God, each other, and the mission. If you’ll focus on those three areas, your church will grow healthier.

Parents.  As a leader in your family, your primary goal is to help your kids connect in each of these three areas. It’s important, especially if they’re not old enough to decide themselves, to provide an atmosphere where they have repeated, and continual, opportunities to connect with God, others and the mission. If they’re struggling in one of these areas, that’s a good place to start.

Leaders.  Don’t think for a minute that this doesn’t apply to you and the organization you lead. If you’re a Christian and you’re more concerned with your employees productivity rather than their soul, somethings wrong. When’s the last time you sat down with a struggling employee to help them rather than demand better performance. Maybe God has allowed their poor performance so that they get the care they need.

It would be wonderful if our lives ran like finely tuned Swiss watches. The reality is, churches, organizations and families have their fair share of problems. However, rather than being discouraged by the problems you’re currently facing, look at them as opportunities to improve and succeed. Take some time to diagnose each of these three vital connections.  The feeling of accomplishment you feel, will far outweigh your current pain.

How To Tell Your Story

Helping People Rise

As a pastor, I’m acutely aware that we live in a day and age when people are highly critical of others and lenient on themselves.  No, it doesn’t help that some people make themselves easy targets by their stupid behavior, but that’s no excuse to excuse ourselves.  Remember, when you point the finger at someone else, there are 3 fingers pointing back at you.


Now imagine standing before a King and accusing him of murder!  I know a guy who did just that.  They funny thing is, he was a murderer himself.

I never really thought about it, but I suppose the legal system is much more lenient than it once was.  How else could the apostle Paul have killed Christians and gotten away with it?  In some ways, his freedom, was a daily reminder of God’s grace.  And isn’t it funny to think that the accurate charges against Paul were dropped, yet he was brought up on false charges?

The man Paul stood before was named Agrippa.  You can read about him in Acts 12 where he is referred to as Herod Agrippa.  He’s the same guy who had James- the half brother of Jesus killed- and had Peter imprisoned.  Paul has the chance to speak with him on his way to Rome.  Ironically, Paul is more concerned with Agrippa’s welfare than he is with his own,  and he uses the opportunity to rescue Agrippa from the coming judgment.

In a nutshell, Paul shares the story of how he was an over zealous murderer who had an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.  He tells Agrippa Jesus asked him why he was persecuting him and how he repented.  Jesus then orders Paul to witness for him and serve.

Here are three reminders from Paul.

One, the ground is level at the cross.  If we’re going to help others, we have to come along side and remind them that we know what it’s like to be in the same exact mess they’re in when it comes to their standing before God.  If you don’t think it’s really that bad, may I remind you that- like Paul- you’ve killed someone!  That’s right.  Because of your sin, Jesus had to die.  We tend to forget that fact.  When we do, it’s awful easy to look down our noses at others.  However, when we’re reminded of our own plight, it’s much easier to be compassionate with others.

Two, love doesn’t leave people where it finds them.  The scriptures quote Agrippa saying that he was almost convinced to be a Christian.  That’s still a huge leap for someone who seemingly was hardened to God’s love before the interview.  While Paul doesn’t exactly say so, I don’t imagine it was very difficult for him to figure out that Paul was empathizing with him.  The story he told Agrippa was a picture, and then Paul provides illustrations to open a window.  Finally, Paul’s story allows Agrippa to look in the mirror and see himself.  Specifically, he sees himself in Paul’s story and realizes he’ll have to pay a penalty for his own actions if he doesn’t repent.  However, Paul doesn’t leave him there.  He insinuates that just as he once had a bleak and painful future because of his actions, there was a solution!

Three, Paul offers his listener hope!  Someone once said when people tell you about their problems, tell them about your hope.  Paul does just that.  He tells the King that a glorious future awaits him if he will amend his ways.  Agrippa doesn’t have to remain a slave to his passions and lusts, a life of purpose and service is his for the taking!  Friend, whatever you do, don’t leave people in the dark.  Open the door and let the light break in!  Invite them out into the bright clean air of life and freedom.  Be careful that you don’t get so caught up in seeing people as they are that you fail to see their potential.

I don’t know that Agrippa ever became a believer.  But I do know that he had every opportunity because of Paul’s love for him.

Not everybody you share with is going to accept your gift, but that shouldn’t stop you from sharing.  What if you determined, right now, to never stop inviting people to heaven?  And while you’re at it, what if you followed Paul’s example.

To recap, Paul admitted his own guilt and unworthiness.  He says, “Look, I’ve messed up too!  Big time.  I thought I knew it all, and I did every thing in my power to harm and kill others.”

Second, Paul shared about the hope Jesus offered him, despite of what Paul had done.

Third, Paul invited Agrippa to receive the same forgiveness he had received.

Look, in my earlier days as a Christian, I did my fair share of pointing the finger at others while forgetting what it felt like to be in their shoes.  That’s not to say, people don’t need to know the truth.  But the truth without love leads to condemnation.  I’m sorry to say, there have been times when I told the truth, but left people in the dark without any hope because I wasn’t compassionate or got too hung up on focusing on the sin tethering them to the ground.  Jesus wants to cut people free so that they can rise indefinitely.  Their is no ceiling to our potential because of what Jesus did on the cross.

Paul says, “Man, I was such a phony!  I had it all fixed up on the outside, but inside, every thing was a mess.  I had people killed.  True love doesn’t do that.  Now love lives inside me and the last thing I want to do is harm someone, let alone kill them”. (My paraphrase).

Ultimately, the reason we like putting the spotlight on other people’s sin and shortcomings is because it takes it off our own.  Instead, what if every time we were confronted with the sin of others, we were reminded of our own?  And what if instead of condemning others, we used the reminder as an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus and provided an opportunity for them to find ultimate freedom?  You do that when you tell your story in such a way that others are able to relate to it personally.

Paul was no dummy.  He wrote at least thirteen books in the New Testament.  If while his life was in danger he used the opportunity to save someone else rather than preserve himself, what’s stopping you and I on a daily basis?  Especially considering the fact that most of the time our lives aren’t in danger.  You see, the real person who was in trouble, though he was vulnerable, wasn’t Paul.  It was Agrippa who was tottering on the edge of destruction.  And so are many of the people we meet on a daily basis.  So let’s be like Paul and help them.  Tell your story and when you do, God may just allow others to see themselves in it.

What To Do When Your Sky Is Falling

Have you ever had one of those days when it seemed like the whole world was conspiring against you? I have and it’s no fun. Here’s what I do when I feel like the sky is falling.


Take for instance, the upcoming election. Many believe it’s the end of the world. One bumper sticker I saw the other day, pretty well sums up how many people are feeling. It read, “Giant Meteor 2016- Hope for the Future!

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to vote as the Lord leads and open the windows on November 10th. Chances are, the birds will still be singing.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows”. Luke 12:6-7

When we start caring about ourselves more than we ought to, we have a tendency to forget about how much God cares for us!

Sparrows are one of the smallest birds, yet the scriptures tell us that although they are of little value in man’s eyes, they are of great value to him! In fact, not one of them is forgotten before him.

Right now, it may seem like your sky is falling, but you need to know that God cares for you. Not just you in general, but all of your details. Your health, finances, children, marriage, job….God’s got you covered. So even if your sky does fall, you can be sure God’s ready to do something about it.

Someone once said 9 out of 10 problems coming down the road at us, end up in the ditch. I don’t know how true that is, but in my own experience it sounds about right. Usually the problems we face are actually opportunities in disguise.

If you’ll only wait one more day, you may be surprised how quickly things can change in 24 hours. This isn’t just speculation, I’m speaking from experience.

Remember George in “It’s a Wonderful Life”? George was the kind of guy who put everybody before himself.  He even decided against college to fill his father’s vacated C.E.O position at the home town bank.  One day his uncle misplaces the bank’s deposit and the town finds out about it. The next day, they all come to withdraw their money and the bank goes belly up. To make matters worse, George is at his breaking point and mistreats his family and gets into an argument with his wife, so he goes out into a ferocious snow storm.

Now angry and hopeless, George gets drunk and crashes his car into an oak tree. In fact, things get so bad, he contemplates suicide. Just as he is ready to jump into the icy river, his angel, jumps in before him. Now rather than thinking of suicide, George jumps in to the frigid waters to rescue his angel. Up until this point, George has been thinking about nobody but himself.

How about you? Is the decision you are about to make based on what is best for your family and friends or is it all about you? Right now, it feels like you have to take matters into your own hands. Right now, you probably just want to start feeling better and happier.  Would you do yourself a favor?

Sleep on it.

Don’t find out the hard way like George did that it pays to stay at home. You don’t have to go somewhere else and start a new family to be loved.  God loves you right where you are. What you need to do is trust him and wait.

Here’s a prayer to get you started.  “God, treat us kindly. You’re our only hope. First thing in the morning, be there for us! When things go bad, help us out!” Isaiah 33:2 (The Message).  Notice Isaiah sees himself as part of a larger group.  He doesn’t just pray for himself, he prays for others also.  We’re all in the same boat.    I’ll bet there are many others feeling the pressure just as much if not more than you are.  Don’t just pray for yourself, pray for them.

Chances are things didn’t get this bad over night and it’s going to take some time to rectify. If God has preserved you this long, wouldn’t you agree he’s capable of doing so a while longer. Do something rash and your sky just might fall. Instead trust God is going to keep your sky from falling. He’s pretty good at that you know.  The sky is not falling, Henny Penny.  It was just an acorn.

“He is before all things, and by him all things consist.” Colossians 1:17

Get Radical About Your Future

Retooling the Power of Vision

“Judy, we don’t smoke anymore!”, my friend told his wife 50 something years ago.


Up until that time they’d both smoked about a pack a day.  However, my friend decided that needed to change.  While I don’t necessarily agree with his deciding for both himself and his wife, I do believe it was a wise choice.  They never smoked another cigarette in their lifetimes.

So what’s your future look like?  Do you believe things are going to change, or are your expectations low?  If you’re going to win, you need to begin preparing now. Here’s how to start.

When I first thought about pursuing a Doctorate, I was often discouraged because it was so easy to imagine failure. The work would be too hard. I wouldn’t have time. I’d miss a deadline. In an instant, everything I’d worked for would crumble in an instant. Ultimately, I’d fail out of the program. Sound familiar?

Lets face it, the things you envision tend to come true. So if you want to win, you have to start by deciding what that’s going to look like. In the words of a poet, “This is all a daydream we dreamed long ago.” In most cases, you began the journey to your current location and vocation years ago. So if you envision yourself doing something different in the future, you have to start picturing what that looks like today.

The problem is, there are real and imagined enemies, between you and your dreams!

Meanwhile….Challenge+Action Plan= Success!

That’s right, there are many imaginary enemies you have to defeat, let alone real ones, but you can do it. My brother and I went camping with my Dad when we were kids and we were thoroughly convinced there was a Bear outside the tent the entire night. We saw his shadow and heard him. In reality it was just my Dad and his buddy talking late into the night around the campfire.  Even as grownups, it’s easy to imagine there are Bears outside our tents.

Meanwhile, challenges aren’t unique to only you, we all face them. The good news is 9 out of 10 fears coming down the road toward us, end up in the ditch. Likewise, the fanged enemies we do end up coming face to face with are toothless by the time they reach us. There’s always a Cyclops between you and your dreams, you just have to figure out what it looks like to overcome him. Call it mental preparation, psyching yourself up…whatever works for you. You can achieve success but only after you take the time to size up your challenge and develop a game plan.

Nevertheless, before you’re ready to conquer your real enemies, you have to defeat your imaginary ones. Kids do it all the time. They have no problem imagining themselves overcoming their enemies. In fact, they all see themselves as the good guy overcoming evil. A stick becomes a sword and they conquer their enemy every time, single handedly. Things change as they get older.

As we age, we lose our imagination. It seems like most of us start out brave, but after a few setbacks, we lose heart. Before you know it, we’ve lost our ability to envision success. Is it any wonder we don’t succeed?

Here are some tips for reimagining your future.

First, Consider David.  What separated David from his contemporaries was his ability to envision success. Call it what you want, faith, confidence, the results are the same. Stepping up to face Goliath was as natural as breathing for David. He had spent years out in the fields fighting enemies both real and imagined. In fact, when he talked with King Saul he talked about how he had struck a marauding lion and a bear at the same time and then killed them, while watching his flocks by night. Then when it’s time to face Goliath, the same chain of events happen. David unleashes his slingshot and strikes Goliath in the forehead with a stone. He then slays him with a sword, Goliath’s own sword, in fact. Hmmmm….a coincidence? I don’t think so. When Goliath’s companions witnessed his death, they fled. Face your greatest fear and your smaller ones will flee the scene too!

Second, Challenge+Action Plan= Success.  Focus on the results and nothing will change. Focus on the changes that need to take place and you’ll achieve your results.

Three, Get radical. Radical change leads to radical results. If you take the slow road, it’s going to take you longer to get there every time. The bible emphasizes quick change. We’re to take off our old garments and put new ones on. For most people, changing clothes doesn’t take a week, it happens in a matter of minutes. Stop envisioning failure and start imagining success.

Four, Inflate yourself and deflate your enemy. David’s father, brothers and even the King himself, discouraged him. Not only that, they emphasized Goliath’s greatness and size! Good thing David didn’t listen. If you ignore those who would discourage you and trust God, you can achieve the unimaginable.

Five. Get rid of fear and start living by faith. The scriptures state “the just shall live by faith” (4x). If the bible says something once, it’s enough. When it says the same thing four times, you can be sure it means business. In the world we live in, it’s easy to imagine the sky is falling. The only antidote is faith. Rather than Fearing Everything and Running, Face Everything And Rise. What does that look like? It looks like you imagining yourself doing great things, not failing.

Six, Play the movie of what it looks like to succeed. Michael Phelps does before every race and it shows. He even imagined what it would look like to win if his goggles fell off as he was nearing the finish line. They did, eventually, and he still won the race.

I’ve often wondered what God meant when he said that David was a man after his own heart. I’m beginning to think that God meant David possessed from his youth the ability to easily imagine himself coming out on top with God’s power. I very well may be wrong. However, there’s no denying the fact that David had mountain moving faith! If it’s impossible to please God without faith, it follows that God’s heart sings when he watches us walk by faith despite our circumstances.

Goliath, on the other hand, was also confident and no doubt had a difficult time envisioning defeat. The difference is, unlike David, Goliath’s faith was in his own strength and abilities, not God’s! The rest is history.

If you’re working on an advanced degree, imagine what it’s going to look like to walk across the stage on graduation day. Better yet, imagine how good you’re going to feel when your achieve your accomplishment.

Is there an area you’ve been imagining failure? What does the reverse look like? It may be your career, your marriage, your relationship with your children. Fear will paralyze you. Stop worrying about how you’re going to lose your job, your wife and your kid and start thinking about what it looks like to win. Take the steps necessary to avoid that type of outcome. Imagine yourself retiring with a sense of accomplishment with your wife at your side and your grown kids celebrating with you. David struck his fears head on and slew them and so can you!