Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Neither Boredom Nor Burnout

I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire. (Luke 24:32)

I’m about to say something crazy, but it’s true.

It’s not the usual way of thinking, but it’s God’s way, so listen up.

If your church has a total of a hundred people including one pastor, then your pastor should be doing one percent of the work of that church.


Think about it.

Let me say it again. If your church has a total of a hundred people including one pastor, then your pastor should be doing one percent of the work of that church.

Did you just spit up a little?

I’m telling you, this is the way the body of Christ is designed to work. We each have a vital part in the body, and we each need to fulfill our part.

Now you might be thinking, “That’s the pastor’s full time job. I have to go to work everyday. I can’t be doing the same amount of church work as the pastor. That’s ridiculous!”

That’s true...IF you have pigeon-holed the work of the church into, like, 5 duties that a pastor does. Forget about that.

The question is, are you fulfilling your part in the body of Christ? You have a unique part, with unique giftings and callings from God Himself. And your part in the body is your part in the body, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The pastor has HIS part in the body, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. EVERY BELIEVER has their part in the body, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Are you fulfilling your part in the body? If everyone in your local congregation of one hundred people is fulfilling their part in the body, then each person is doing one percent of the work of that local congregation.

Don’t pigeon-hole God’s work into the, like, 10 jobs that you think of as “church work.” God’s work is the work of His entire body, which is explosively loaded with gifts and callings, the vast majority of which never see the light of day.

But Doug, I can’t be doing all that church work. I have to go to work, and look after my kids, and take a little time just to enjoy life, you know.”

Yes, I know. And more importantly, God knows. He created you. He knows EXACTLY, PRECISELY WHAT YOU NEED. He put inside of every believer just what you need in the form of His Holy Spirit. He has gifted you and called you; and your most fulfilling, abundant life will come when you fulfill your part in the body of Christ.

Now the title of this lesson is, “Neither Boredom Nor Burnout.” Many Christians go sailing off in one of those two directions.

First, boredom. My daughter told me the other day, “I think so many Christians are drinking alcohol today because they are bored.” What? If you tap into the Holy Spirit and all that God has for you, boredom will go flying out the window. Fulfilling your part in the body of Christ will be the most exciting adventure you have ever been on, if you will just take the time to diligently seek God and let His Spirit lead you.

Second, burnout. Many Christians will hear a message like this, get fired up, and dive head first into church work, doing everything that comes their way.

Listen. I’m telling you to seek God and fulfill YOUR PART in the body of Christ – and that’s not anyone else’s part. You can’t do anyone else’s part. When you try to do your part and other people’s parts in the body, you will burn out. Then you can drop out altogether and say, “I got burned out in church.” Don’t fall for it.

But when you truly follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in order to understand and follow and fulfill YOUR part in the body, then you will not burn out.

Pastors who are overwhelmed? You are likely trying to fulfill several parts in the body that aren’t yours, which you cannot do.

Deacons or elders or teachers or whatever who are getting burned out in church – you are probably doing more than you are called and gifted to do. You need to fulfill your part in the body, no more (that leads to burnout) and no less (that leads to boredom).

So I close with the shocking line I opened with, and I’ll leave you to pray about it and seek God.

If your church has a total of a hundred people including one pastor, then your pastor should be doing one percent of the work of that church.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Comparison Competition Provision Pleasure

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

How are you doing in life?

How do you know?

Is it by comparing yourself to others?

“I’m doing cruddy because I’m not on a plane to Hawaii like my friends on Facebook.”

Comparing ourselves to others is a terrible trap and a waste of time.  Either we feel bad because others are doing better, or we can feel proud because we are doing better.

But how can you know how you are doing in life if you don’t compare yourself to others?

“I guess I’m doing okay.  At least I’m not as bad as those people, wow, look at them.”

That’s comparison.

And then there is comparison’s evil twin:  competition.

Competition is basically organized comparison.  It’s adding standings and prizes and gold medals.  

“How am I doing in life?  Why, I’m the XYZ trophy winner.  I’m doing great!”

But again, that’s just comparing ourselves to others.  Is there a way to know how we are doing in life without comparison?

Well, there is provision.  How am I providing for myself?  

Leave out comparing yourself to others, because someone else will always be providing more.  The question is, are you providing enough to meet your needs, and then the needs of your family? 

Provision is an important measurement for how you are doing in life, but it probably takes less than you think.  Providing all the latest whizmos for your kids is not the measurement.

“But then they won’t be happy!”

And that brings us to our final measurement for how we are doing in life:  our pleasure.  Are we happy?

We can measure that, minute by minute, but is pleasure a good measure for how we are doing in life?

So much of life isn’t what you would call pleasure.  Even the addict whose only goal is seeking pleasure doesn’t feel that much pleasure.

If you lived on a yacht on a beautiful island full of beautiful people and music and non-stop good times, before long it would just be boring.

So how are we doing in life?  We often answer that question by comparison (I’m winning!), or provision (I’m rich!), or pleasure (I’m so happy!)

But I want to suggest a different measurement for how we are doing in life.

God created us.  God put inside each of us fantastic raw materials.  We have gifts.  We have callings.  We have a purpose.  We have a part to play, assigned by God. 

So the question is, are we doing it?  Are we doing what God has gifted us to do and called us to do?  Are we running in the lane that God has assigned to us, and running for all we’re worth?

That is a measurement worth measuring.

That is a standard worth rising to.

That will bring us the best answer to that pesky, age-old question, “How am I doing in life?”

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

Monday, May 25, 2020

A World Full of Raw Materials

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

God hides things.

Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing...”

When God created the world He concealed literally tons of things.

Picture Adam and Eve in the garden.  And even if you don’t believe in the garden, we all agree that when you go back just a few thousand years the world was a pretty primitive place.  It was beautiful but rough, and you certainly wouldn’t have looked around and even fathomed all the discoveries that were yet to come.

At that time the world was packed full of raw materials, but they were hidden.  We didn’t know about electricity, for example.  We didn’t even know about metal.  We didn’t know about seeds.  I mean, if nobody told you, you’d probably eat an apple and think, “What are these stupid black things in the middle?”  So you’d throw them out in the dirt, and one day you’d see a plant growing where you tossed the seeds, but you didn’t know, so you were like, “Pull that stupid weed.  We don’t need weeds around here.  We’re hungry.”

We didn’t know it at first, but seeds are some of the mightiest raw materials in the world!  But were they obvious?  No.  They were hidden.

Now think of all the things under ground:  silver, gold, coal, oil, but Adam and Eve didn’t see a single one of them.  The world was full of raw materials, but they were hidden.

God hides things.

And the same is true when it comes to people.  God has packed each one of us with raw materials, but they are hidden and need to be discovered!

I was watching my twin grandchildren when they were quite young.  They both had pulled the straw out of their little cups and I said, “Put it back in.”  They were probably too little to do this, and my granddaughter did what was natural.  She tried and tried but didn’t yet have the ability to do it.  But my grandson surprised me when he put the straw straight into the hole.  I thought, “Hmm, that was interesting.”

And since then I’ve noticed that he has a great eye for mechanics and the size and shape of things and how they work.  Meanwhile, his twin sister is already reading like a much older child and is very good with words and speaking.

These are raw materials.  We didn’t know they were there, but we are discovering them.

Every one of us, every single human, including you, is full of raw materials.  Your creator, God the Father, put them in you, and they just need to be discovered.

And they are so different.  Look at this planet and there are tons of raw materials and they are so wildly and wonderfully different.  

And the raw materials that God has put inside you are different.  Maybe you want to be more like other people, but your skill set is different.  Your giftings are different.  And God’s calling on your life is different.  

First Corinthians 12:11 tells us that God distributes gifts to each person according to His will. 

God has plans for you!  And He has given you the giftings that line up with His plans.

Every person has gifts.  Every person is packed with raw materials, and it is our job to discover them and maximize them.  We are to discover our own, and we are to help other people discover theirs.

THEN the body of Christ will be humming along on all cylinders.  THEN the church will be living up to her potential...once we realize that every single person is packed with raw materials from God and it is our job to discover them and help them grow.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Is Your Ladder Leaning Against the Wrong Building?

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

This is one of my all-time favorite illustrations.

A man spends his life climbing the career ladder.  He finally gets to the top, only to realize that it wasn’t what he really wanted after all.  He made it to the top of the ladder, but the ladder was leaning against the wrong building.

I heard that illustration as a young man and thought, “Wow, I don’t want that to be me.  I don’t want to spend my life climbing the wrong ladder.”

So how can you know?  How can you make sure that the ladder you are climbing is going the right way?

Well here’s one thing I’m smart enough to know.  I don’t know!  

I don’t know the future.  I don’t know where the world is headed.  I don’t know how long I’ll be here.  I don’t know what the coming generations look like, so how can I possibly know if I’m climbing the right ladder, if I’m spending my time on all the right things?

Thankfully, I have found a simple formula.  

“Wow, Doug, so you’re actually saying that you found a simple formula for living a successful life?”

Yes, and I’m about to share it with you, free of charge.  Here it is, ten simple words.  Get ready to memorize it and immediately put it into practice.  Are you ready?  Here it is.

God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

I’ll say it again, and this is your key to life, the key to living a successful life, to climbing the right ladder every time.

God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

That’s from Hebrews 11:6.

One thing I love about this formula is that it is very measurable.

Some things about the Kingdom of God are hard to measure, like how much do you love God?  That’s hard to measure.  How are you doing at loving your neighbor as yourself?  It’s hard to know for sure.

But are you diligently seeking God?  That’s measurable.

James 4:8 says that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us, so the question is, are we spending time drawing near to God?

Jesus said, “Go into your room, shut your door, and pray to Your Father.”  Are we doing that?  How often are we doing it?  How consistently are we doing it?

That is how well we are diligently seeking God.

How often are we entering into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise, like it says in Psalm 100?

Are we spending “extravagant daily time with Jesus,” like they say in the book “Live Dead”?

This is a winning formula.  It will keep us from wasting our days, climbing the wrong ladder.  This will keep our priorities straight, and give is the wisdom and knowledge we need to do it right, day after day...good for now and good for eternity.

And it’s so measurable.  We can easily know if we are doing it well or not, and if not, we can make the change immediately, starting right now, and here’s that formula one more time, from Hebrews 11:6.

God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

We Gave Away Our Dinner Table

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

We gave away our dinner table.

My wife and I raised our four children around that table.  We had thousands of meals and conversations at that table.  I think our close family dynamic today has a foundation in all those family dinners.

But it didn’t start that way.  There was a time when we were not having family dinners.  I was working each evening until 6, and when I came home, the kids had already eaten.  The family was a bit more scattered and I don’t think we even thought about it.

Then I went to a big Promise Keepers conference in Indianapolis.  Yes, there were great speakers, but the most dynamic thing for me happened during the singing.  

There I was, singing along with thousands of men who filled the stadium, praising the Lord, and all of a sudden a phrase popped into my head, out of the blue.  It just said, “Start having family dinners.”

I actually kind of shook it off and kept singing, but then it came on stronger, so I stopped singing, sat down and wrote it down, “Start having family dinners.”

One thing about this is that it would actually put a greater burden on my wife than me, so I brought it up to her with a little humility.  “I think God wants us to start having family dinners.”

“No problem,” she said.  “I’ll just start giving the kids a snack after school, then we can all eat together when you get home from work.”

And what a blessing it was!  It became a great, daily gathering time, our family coming together to talk and share and interact, and to build and grow our relationships with one another, relationships that are still strong today.

Relationships that were forged around the family dinner table.

I believe that God leads us in three main ways.  We have the Bible, of course, and I believe we should all be prolific hearers and doers of the Word.

And we have the body of Christ, our fellow believers, our teachers and preachers and brothers and sisters, and God can speak to us through them.

And we have the Spirit of God inside all believers, who gives us the more specific directions we need, sometimes very specific directions like, “Start having family dinners.”

And now we’ve given away our family dinner table.  We gave it to our daughter and her husband, and I just hope and pray that they and their four children will be as blessed as we were, as God binds their family together in love and joy and commitment to one another for decades to come.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Why Do Christians Lock Their Doors?

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

Why do Christians lock their doors?

That’s what someone emailed me, and it’s a great question.

Why do Christians lock their doors?  If you say you trust God, and you believe He will protect you and keep you safe, and His angels are watching over you, you surely don’t need to lock your doors, right?

Well, that’s the exact attitude I had as a young believer many years ago.  I was like, “Wow, God’s got me!  I don’t need to lock my apartment or my car.  I don’t even need to lock up this bicycle...which I just leave out here in the open, under the apartment stairs.”

I didn’t have a care in the world, trusting fully that God would take care of those things for me.

Then one day I came home and noticed that my bike was gone.  Now fortunately I had spent some time playing football with the boys in the apartment complex so I just went out and started asking around, “Have you seen my bike?”  Sure enough, they had.  One of them had taken it for a joy ride and dumped it in the weeds out back, and he fearfully went and retrieved it for me.

Thank God I had my bike back, and I had learned a good lesson:  lock my doors!

God has given people free will, and some of them will take your things if they get a chance, and God will let them.  Not always, I suppose, but often enough to know that we should be wise and take precautions.

I put this in the category of testing God.  For example, we don't sit here like baby birds with our mouth open for food, even though we trust God as our provider.  No, we go and earn our food, just like the Bible tells us to do.  "Those who don't work shouldn't eat."  It would be testing the Lord to ask Him to provide while we do nothing.

The same holds true when trusting Him for protection.  In this pandemic, I'm praying and trusting God for protection (which frees me from worry and anxiety), while I also practice social distancing and hand washing.  

When you read the Bible you will see over and over again, God has His part, and we have our part.  Even in the famous Psalm 91 about protection that so many people are quoting today, you can read God’s part and our part.

I think it would be testing God to ignore what I know to be wise practices, like hand washing, like working hard, like locking my doors.

In Matthew chapter 4, Jesus was tempted by the devil.  The New Living Translation says, “Then the devil took Him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, 'If you are the Son of God, jump off!  For the Scriptures say, 'He will order his angels to protect you.  And they will hold you up with their hands so you won't even hurt your foot on a stone.'"

Then came Jesus' powerful reply in verse 7.  The Scriptures say, “You must not test the Lord your God.”

So that is why I lock my doors.  I believe that to do otherwise is to test the Lord which we are told not to do (except in the case of tithing in Malachi 3:10).

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Go Fishing in the Word

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I’m Doug Apple...and my heart is on fire!  (Luke 24:32)

Go fishing in the Word.

What can we do in these days of social distancing and flattening the curve?

Go fishing in the Word.

Are you feeling anxious and concerned about what this coronavirus is doing to the world?

Go fishing in the Word.

Are you asking, “What can I do?  What should I do?”

Go fishing in the Word.

God told the prophet Isaiah, “This plan of Mine is not what you would work out, neither are My thoughts the same as yours!  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than yours, and My thoughts than yours.”*

I’m in.  I’m all in!  I mean, I totally believe and accept that God’s ways are higher than my ways, and that His thoughts are higher than my thoughts.  But how can I know His ways and His thoughts?

Go fishing in the Word.

What do I mean, “go fishing in the Word”?

When you go fishing, actual fishing, for fish, you cast out a line and slowly reel it in, feeling for nibbles until eventually, oh wow, fish on!

You can do the same in the Word.  You get out your Bible and you start reading, and what you’re doing is fishing.  As you read across the verses, it’s like slowly reeling in that fishing line.

Maybe this verse doesn’t strike you, and that verse doesn’t strike you.  That’s fine.  Keep reading.  Yes, every verse is important, but keep reading.  What you’re feeling for is that nibble on the line, and by that, I mean the Holy Spirit of God inside of you grabbing your attention on some verse.

See, the Holy Spirit of God lives inside every born again Christian.  God puts His Spirit inside of us to teach us and to lead us.

In this time of coronavirus, are you ready to be taught, and to be led?  I am!

How can we be taught directly by the Spirit of God?

One way is to go fishing in the Word.

Open up your Bible and start reading, and watch for it.  All of a sudden one of those verses, one of those Bible passages is going to jump off the page.  Something you read is going to make your heart burn within you.  It’s going to make your spirit leap inside of you.

When that happens, stop right there.  Dig in and feast on what the Spirit of God might be trying to say to you through that portion of Scripture.  Study it.  Learn it.  Memorize it.  Ingest it and let it do what God means for it to do in your life today, right now.

God’s ways are higher than our ways.  His plans are not our plans, and our plans are rubbish anyway compared to His, so let’s get His plans and His thoughts.  Let’s find out and do exactly what God wants us to do in these challenging days, and how can we do that?

Go fishing in the Word.

May God bless you today.

I’m Doug Apple.

*Isaiah 55:8-9 TLB