Room to Lament

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I love that scripture gives us room to weep, to lament – room to acknowledge loss and heartache. Scripture gives us permission to be real.

The psalmist cries out, “How long, O Lord?” Jesus, overcome with emotion weeps at the death of his friend, Lazarus. Nehemiah mourns, fasts, and prays after hearing the news of Jerusalem’s broken state.

Lament is a frequent theme throughout the bible. But how do we help others in the midst of suffering?

I’ve spent the last few days meditating on Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who are rejoicing and weep with those who are weeping.”

Romans 12:15 is an invitation – an invitation to enter into the joys and the sorrows of others. Doing so is an act of love. I think it’s fascinating that Paul never asks us to dismiss the pain of others’ suffering. Instead, he has us enter into it.

The “love section” begins in Romans 12:9 where Paul states, “Love must be sincere.” Paul then spends the next several verses telling us what sincere Christian love actually looks like. It’s more than mere sentiment. It’s action. It’s better than just words. Love celebrates with those celebrating. Love joins in the sorrows of others. Love weeps with those who are weeping – perhaps remaining silent.

I’ve made the mistake of overlooking raw emotion in the hopes of “fixing” someone.

If we’re not careful we dismiss someone’s pain by reciting cliché lines like, “Well, God has a plan.” Or, “God is working it out for your good,” quoting Romans 8:28. We push past the emotion in hopes of bringing a solution. While those statements are true, and maybe our motives are even pure, their timing is off-putting and can come across as insensitive.

Love doesn’t necessarily mean attempting to fix or even counsel someone in his or her suffering. Love mourns with those who are mourning.

Jesus is our greatest example of this.

Jesus stepped into our sorrows. Isaiah describes the Messiah as a man of suffering and familiar with pain (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus was well acquainted with grief. And because He identifies with our suffering, we are to identify with the suffering of others. We lament, weep and groan and as we do so, we carry that person’s burden – perhaps if only for a few moments (Galatians 6:2). We come along side others and say, “You no longer have to carry this alone.” This demonstrates our love for them.

Jesus and Paul give us permission to not only lament but to be concerned with those who are hurting in this world. Jesus shows us that we are not to sit afar nor dismiss the hurts of others. Instead, we enter into their pain, demonstrating the love of God and pointing them to the life of our sacrificial King!

Why wanting change isn’t enough

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The New Year is the perfect time to start thinking about change; setting goals and dreaming of what could be. Most of us desire change at some point or another. But guess what? Wanting change isn’t enough.

I know this may seem obvious if you’re reading this but I’m afraid that for many, it’s actually not. This has been a kind of life long lesson/struggle for me and perhaps you as well.

It’s so easy to assume that as long as we want change (at least in our heads), it’ll just happen. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking change in my life will magically transpire as long as I desire it. But that’s never the case. It just doesn’t work that way. Wanting change is a great place to start but it’s never enough. There has to be follow through.

You play a big part. Wait. Let me restate that. You play a huge part.

You have to make that phone call, send that text, write that email, drive to the gym, get on that treadmill, open up your bible, show up for that interview, sign up for that class, watch that how-to video, send that apology letter, start praying daily, read that book, put down that doughnut, pick up the carrot, wake up early, have that talk, say goodbye, introduce yourself, and so on…

There has to be some action on your part.

Then why don’t we just change already?

I think we often view our goals as giant mountains looming over us. At least this is what I do. They become overwhelming and intimidating. In fact we’re so overwhelmed, we decide to quit before ever starting. How could we ever accomplish such a great feat in 2017?

I get it. I really do. However, it doesn’t cancel out the fact that there must be some sort of action on our part.

As we consider a solution, let’s try and think of it like this. What’s the next thing you have to do to see change? Perhaps it’s something listed above or maybe it’s something completely different. Either way, think about that next thing you have to do and do it!

By the way, this next thing is probably insignificant. Good. It should be. It’s often in the small and insignificant changes that we make or the changes no one sees, where we experience the greatest return. Our smallest actions may actually lead to our greatest changes.

When I think about planting a new church, it’s incredibly overwhelming! There are at least a thousand things to get done. Seriously. But in the midst of all it I hear the Holy Spirit whisper to me, “Marco just do the next thing I’ve placed in front of you.”

So here’s my prayer for this year: That I will do the very next thing God places before me. And when I’ve done the thousand insignificant things, the things no one ever sees, then maybe I’ll see something great on the other side. Maybe I’ll actually experience change this year.

Happy New Year!

Impacting others through sport

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Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go( Joshua 1:9).

I’ve seen it many times. I’ve experienced it myself.

Missing the game winning shot in front a couple thousand people. Been there!

Giving your best at a tryout you have been preparing for only to have the team take another player. Been there!

I’ve seen athletes so afraid to fail they don’t try at all.

Winning and losing is a part of sports, so why do we fear failing?

We shouldn’t! At the end of the day it’s not really failure at all. Does God love you any more or less based on how you perform in sports? Of course not!

Too often in sports we spend time worrying about results that we have no control over. Players should focus their attention to detail, their work ethic, and the way they treat other people each and every day. Instead of worrying, the Bible says we can give all of our cares to God.

“Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time.  Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

As a former player and now coach, trainer and speaker, sports continue to teach me many things about life and faith. I have come to find out that fearing to make a mistake, is a mistake. God loves you, you’re not perfect so there is no need to act like you’re supposed to be. God loves you regardless of your performance on the court or field. God is not looking for perfection so stop carrying a burden you were never meant to carry.

Sports can be used to develop relationships, have fun, learn important lessons in how to work with others and how to compete. Playing sports only lasts for a short period of time, but the takeaways can last a lifetime. So while you can play, enjoy competing and learn as much as you can from everything that happens along the way.

You do not have to be famous or even a great high school basketball player to have a significant impact on those around you. I often remind high school and junior high players how cool it is that people are actually spending their money to attend one of their games. That’s special and should not be taken for granted. With that comes the opportunity to impact everyone in attendance. Basketball in particular is a sport where people can get close, they see your facial expressions, body language, read your lips and depending on distance hear what you say.

What a great opportunity to show teammates, opponents and everyone in the stands what you stand for. Whether you are sitting on the bench or playing the entire game, be a player that can take advantage of the opportunity you have to positively impact others and be a light for Christ!

I was recently talking on the phone with a parent whose son I was training. In short this was the conversation.

He said, “Steve you’re a believer aren’t you?”

I said, “Yes.”

He replied, “I can tell. I know it’s not something we have talked about, but I can tell by your actions, behavior, and following you on social media.”

We then continued to talk more about faith and impacting others, especially his son. Our conversation brought this verse to mind:

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions (1 John 3:18).

Every day we have the ability to positively impact others. Whether it be at a practice, on the bench, in a game – the opportunities are everywhere. Don’t let your success in sports determine your self image, behavior, and attitude. Use sports as a tool to make a difference regardless of your playing time and the level you may reach as a player or coach.


Steve Cramer is the owner of Cramer Basketball LLC based in Bowling Green, OH and has trained thousands of athletes from professional players to 1st graders from around the country.

You can follow Steve on twitter @steve21cramer

You can also find him on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram: Cramer Basketball

4 Things I’ve Learned From a Decade of Church Ministry

4 Things I've Learned from a Decade of Church Ministry

My husband and I have served in church ministry now for over eleven years. He’s worked as a worship pastor and I have maintained several different roles. For the first 5 years, I operated as a personal assistant to a senior pastor. When we started our family, I stayed home to raise the kids but continued to volunteer and support my husband.

In these many years of ministry, we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. The truth is I’m glad I’ve seen it all. It has pushed me to search my own heart and discover the truth of God’s nature. I’ve also come to learn what the church should look like and how it should operate.

Here are 4 things I’ve learned in the last decade:

1. God is relational.

He is full of grace, love, compassion and truth. He doesn’t shy away from telling us the truth and coaching us, but He loves us more than anything. Jesus demonstrated God’s relational heart by spending time with people. He cared for people and enjoyed their company. He made disciples, which happened through relationship. People need people to journey together and learn from each other. Isolation, fear, silence, condemnation, performance, legalism, law—these are not God’s ways and He doesn’t want us to be bound in these ways. God loves, uplifts, promotes, and restores.

2. The Church should be about empowering people.

I believe that the church is not a castle to be run by the “pastor king.” Instead the church is a representation of the Kingdom of God on earth for all of God’s people, belonging to God’s people, to build up God’s people. People are everything to God. There is no church without the people. People should be empowered, their talents utilized to the fullest, their personal callings encouraged, and their voices heard.

3. Faith must be balanced with humility, honesty, and brokenness.

My husband and I have worked in churches that were heavily bent toward the “Word of Faith” teaching. While I believe the doctrine of faith should be taught in the church, I also believe it must be balanced with the acknowledgment that we don’t always beat sin and sickness. Sometimes things happen that we don’t understand. God doesn’t want us to live bound by guilt because we haven’t received our healing or because we are struggling financially. Sometimes Christians get cancer and die. Does that mean they had sin in their life or unforgiveness? Does it mean they didn’t have enough faith? No. It does not. God is love. He does not kill or punish his people because of their “lack of faith” or sin. That is condemning and demoralizing.

The Word of Faith movement emphasizes a rights-centered gospel and claims God’s prosperity as a right to live lavish self-focused lifestyles. The truth is that our prosperity is Jesus Christ, and our wealth isn’t determined by how much money we give to the church. When the solution for breaking poverty and lack is giving to the church, the only person who becomes prosperous is the preacher. The real solution to breaking poverty is proper money management and creating a budget.

4. Ministry goes far beyond the walls of the church.

I do ministry at my home everyday with my children. I tell them that Jesus loves them. That’s ministry. I share how to treat others and love others like Jesus loves us. That’s ministry. When we care for our sick animals, that’s ministry. When we make a food basket for a family in need or our widowed friend, that’s ministry. When we mourn with those who have suffered loss, that’s ministry. More ministry happens outside the man-made walls of churches than inside of them. Why? Because you can’t box in Jesus Christ. His love can’t be contained, and we can’t even fathom the awesomeness of his love and grace. It’s too big!

With all my heart, I do believe in the church. I believe it can bring hope and healing to a hurting and broken world. When church ministry is done right, it’s a beautiful thing.

In the next decade, I know that I’ll learn even more and I’m glad for that! I want to continually learn about God, what He desires to do, and how He wants to minister.


Reference: “10 Ways the Word of Faith Movement Went Wrong” by Joseph Mattera. http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/41054-10-ways-the-word-of-faith-movement-went-wrong

Catie Cordero is an author, blogger, storyteller and lover of coffee. To read more from her, check out her website: http://www.catiecordero.com. You can follow her on Twitter @catiecordero.

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What is God’s will for my life?

What is God's will for my life-

I’m going to take a wild guess and say you’ve probably asked this question once or twice. Here’s the bad news: I don’t know God’s exact plans for your life. I don’t know for certain your career path or what college you should attend or even what home you should buy.

But what I do know is God’s will of desire. These are the things we know for certain that God desires from His people as outlined in Scripture. Here’s an example.

Towards the end of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, Paul gives 3 clear commands. Following these commands he says, “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Wait, did you catch that? God has graciously given us His will through the words of the apostle Paul. No more wondering! Check out the verses below.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Let’s take a closer look at the 3 commands given by Paul.

1. Rejoice always:

To rejoice simply means to take delight in or to be glad. As followers of Christ we’re actually commanded not to be persistently sullen or dismal. Instead we’re to be marked by joy that comes from within not dependent on circumstances. If you want to read more on Paul’s thoughts on rejoicing, just read the book of Philippians where rejoicing shows up in some surprising ways.

2. Pray continually:

 Paul commands us to pray continually. Prayer is to be the language of God’s people and the heart of our communion with Him. It seems as if Paul is telling us to be continually conscious of God’s presence, acknowledging his nearness, and continually looking to Him.

3. Give thanks in all circumstances:

Easier said than done, right? It’s not always easy to give thanks, especially in the midst of trials. But when we think of the grace of God for us in Christ and how Jesus took our place on the cross, there is always plenty to be thankful for! Our hearts are to be filled with gratitude, not entitlement.

These are the things God desires for each of us. When we’re stuck in indecision, we can fix our hearts on God’s certain will. When we’re trying to figure out what’s next, we can act on what we do know God wants of us. When we’re confused about life, we can rest secure in God’s will as outlined in Scripture: Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances!

Why I can’t stand some of the songs that are sung in church

Church_worship

“I can’t stand some of the songs that we do in church.”

This is what I’ve heard people say (myself included).

We’ve all been there haven’t we? You’ve been at a worship service, shown up and you’re ready to belt your heart out to God. The band comes out and starts with the guitar riff to “Happy Day” and you’re like, “oh not this song again…”

Or…your cousin is getting confirmed down at the local (insert denomination here) church and so you show up with your plaid shirt and skinny jeans, judging every hymn that is blasted from the 1970’s era organ.

Our attitudes towards worship change to every different song and style that is presented in front of us. “Days of Elijah” is belted out like a battle cry from every corner of your church and you feel the life sucked right out of you, but when “Holy Spirit” starts, you fall prostrate in front of the stage.

What makes one worship song more impactful than another? Do our emotions play a part in our worship or does a real encounter with the living God do it for us? As humans, our hearts are constantly at war with our minds, as we differentiate between how something makes us feel verses how it actually is. This inner speech can be recognized as Subjective verses Objective thinking.

Subjective thinking is defined by Merriam Webster dictionary as a thought process based on opinion or feeling rather than fact. Is it wrong to be moved by one song more than another? Absolutely not! That’s what makes us human and more importantly, unique. Our subjectivity is put on display when a piece of art penetrates our soul and moves us in a special way. The fact that we are subjective is good news; we know that God loves us and cares about us as individuals. It is the essence of our free-will self.

Objective thinking is defined as being based on facts and not on feelings or opinion. If we look to our Father as the object of our worship, then the reflection on His character should be our worship to Him. It means that if we find ourselves unable to engage during the worship time, we can relax. We can look at the truth, the words and the objective behind the song that is being played. The objectives of most worship songs are to bring glory to God by singing about Him or singing to Him.

Have we become a culture of subjective or objective worshipers?

 I believe that there can be a balance between the two. Objectively, God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever; however, when I make statements like “I don’t like this worship song or I can’t stand that worship song anymore,” I become more critical than subjective.

I put on a mask of cynicism and negativity that clouds my objective worship to the triune God.

If we base our worship on fact; on objectivism, we encounter the fact of an Infinite, Holy, Everlasting, Righteous, Almighty, Alpha, Omega, The First, The Last, Author of Salvation…

Shall I go on?

Facts, my friends.

So, when I sit in my local (insert denomination) church and I see this in the hymnal:

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder

Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;

I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,

Thy power throughout the universe displayed

I worship. I worship even if I can’t find the melody line. I worship even if the piano is playing it too slow. I take on the posture of a true worshipper of the triune God. My soul reflects the words of worship found in Psalms 19:

“The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim His name. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they give knowledge…”

The facts and truth ring loud and clear. After all, Jesus taught us that true worshipers would worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth.

It’s ok to be subjective and objective. Let’s not forgot the object of our worship but let’s also allow God to move in us and to write a new song on our hearts. It’s ok to have favorite songs. It’s ok that one song ministers to you more than another. Praise the Holy Spirit for using songs to reach us where we are. But let us be worshippers who are thankful for the truth – for the Object or the Objective of our worship.


Adam is a worship leader at Bay Valley Christian Church. You can follow him on twitter @AdamCArnold. 

Are we too distracted?

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Do you remember the last time you were in a conversation? I’m talking about the kind where you actually sat in front of another person and spoke face to face – not texting.

My wife says my iPhone is a huge distraction for me. She’s right. I’ll be tuned in on Facebook or Twitter, heck even the weather channel app for that matter – and totally miss out on being present. There have been times, sadly, where I have ignored someone who is in front of me because of my buzzing and beeping phone.

It may be a good time to ask the question: Are our digital devices actually more of a distraction than a help?

Tim Challies, author of The Next Story, explores the ramifications of living in a world of ever growing digital technology. He points out that one of the harmful effects of all of our distraction is that we’re unable to engage in critical, focused thinking. He writes:

“Instead of focusing our efforts in a few directions, we give scant attention to many things, skimming instead of studying. We live rushed lives and forget how to move slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully through life.”[1]

It’s true. We are constantly on the move with little breathing room to ever reflect. This scattered and unfocused way of living seems to be at odds with what the Scriptures call us to:

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him… –Psalm 37:7

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God…” –Psalm 46:10

I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds. –Psalm 77:12

meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. –Psalm 119:15

It’s evident that Scripture beckons us to a focused and reflective meditation on God and His character. God has a way of communicating through the quiet. It’s not that God has a hard time speaking. He speaks continually through His Word. The problem lies on our end. We have a hard time listening because of the constant barrage of noise and distraction all around us. Most of that noise unfortunately comes from our own cell phones and other digital devices.

Think about it: Can you sit still for several minutes or are you constantly looking for the next distraction? Are you comfortable with quietness or chomping at the bit every second to get your hands on your mobile device or tablet?

Challies goes on to say that focused thought requires time and cannot be rushed. If we’re constantly distracted, jumping from one task to another, how can we ever be still? How can we enter into deep and thoughtful reflection of God’s Word? How can we ever hear Him speak to us?

Truth is, if we’re going to think deeply, we must remove distractions.

Maybe it’s time to take your phone, put it on silent, and place it in another room. (I pretty much had to do that to write this blog post). Start with 15 minutes of reflective Bible reading. Refuse to get up and check your phone for emails, texts or social media. And just maybe, the silence may give way for God to speak afresh to you.

I think I’ll start by taking my own advice!


[1] Challies, Tim. The Next Story. 117.