Rest

How did we stay up til the wee hours of the morning when we were at Judson? I’m 47 now and I feel like I’ve really accomplished something if I make it until 10:30 after the news is over to go to bed. How did we have an all-night prayer meeting at one point during Spiritual Enrichment Week? All I know is that as life moves on I need more rest. As life moves on the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 become more and more real. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

What do you need rest from today? Do you need physical rest or you more in need of emotional rest? Maybe it’s a relationship that you need rest from or a pressure that is weighing on you. Weariness can come from a multitude of sources. A hurt, a bad experience, financial problems, marital issues all can lead to a big sigh and an exclamation that “I am just tired”. Know that you are not alone. Know that most of us need rest from something or someone. Know that it is a part of the circle and the cycle of life. Know that God knows that too.

So if most of us need rest, how do we find it? In two words – be countercultural. Culture says run faster – run harder. Culture says don’t let down your guard and be real. Culture says don’t get help or it’ll show that you are weak. God says, take a Sabbath. Jesus says, come to me. If you’re tired – find rest. I’m far from perfect, but I have learned that this ol’ man needs rest. I find it in taking my Sabbath weekly, using my vacation days and actually not working. I find rest in a daily routine that involves exercise and a quiet time with God to start the day. I’ve found rest in ending or putting a pause on a draining relationship for a season. Finding a great Christian counselor is another great tool. The list of how to find rest goes on and on. The two keys are 1. Realizing you need rest and 2. Seeking God as your source of rest.

My prayer for you and me with the remaining days of this summer is that we will find a season of rest and find the path of coming to Christ as a weary, burdened soul.

Eric Rojas, Class of 1990, Executive Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, ILrest

The Wrong Wall

It sure is fun to be a Chicago Cubs fan these days. They are actually really good. You may think it’s the players and the new manager that makes them good and, certainly in part, it is. But the real reason they are so good is the foundation they’ve laid. They have created a winning attitude, made structural and organizational changes that have laid a foundation for success for the players and coaches. If you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, you’ve known about a foundation of winning for decades. Juxtapose the new Cubs and Cardinals with the 1997 Marlins. They won the World Series and had one great year! However, they then traded away all of their good players and went from being the best team in the league to one of the worst. Why? They didn’t have a foundation established for long-term success.

Where am I going with this? Very simply – what is your life built on? In what are you putting your faith, hope and future? You are putting your faith, hope and future in something. What is it? I just had a friend get a divorce. His faith, hope and future were in his family and fortune. In the blink of an eye – just a few months – it’s all gone. Tragic. I had a conversation with a friend that put tons of time, money and effort into his retirement, his kid’s college choice and his work. Nothing bad about those endeavors, but when I talked to him about spiritual matters he said he didn’t believe in God. When I asked why, he said it was a gut thing. When I challenged him that he didn’t trust his temporary future – retirement, college, job, etc to his gut but that he was trusting his eternal future to his gut, he didn’t have a reply. What about you? Again, I ask, what are you putting your hope in? In our college days, we all wrestled with who we wanted to be when we grew up. Well, most of us are now grown. Who did we become?

If you are at a place where you are not a follower of Jesus, I simply ask you why? What are you putting your future and hope in? Are you trusting in that bank account and your family for joy and hope? Have you put all of your effort and resources into temporary life issues without taking the time to truly seek God and what is in store for your life eternally?

If you are a follower of Christ, let me ask if your future hope really looks any different than those that don’t have their hope in Christ. The Christian life isn’t easy, but it is full of joy, purpose and direction. It’s a life of selflessness and service. It’s a life that leads to endless fruits of the Spirit in our lives.

Quite a while ago now, I had a friend tell me something that rocked my world. He quit a huge great-paying job as a senior executive with BP Amoco for a job paying a fraction of what he was making. When I asked this nearly 50 year old man why, he said, “Eric, I’ve been climbing the ladder of success only to realize that my ladder has been up against the wrong wall.”

Friends – don’t gurlet to 10, 20 years from now and realize that your ladder is up against the wrong wall. If you’re climbing the ladder of “God doesn’t exist or this Jesus stuff is weird” – I’m telling you it’s the wrong wall. But don’t take my word on it – study it yourself. Don’t just go with your gut.

If you’re climbing the ladder of what the world tells you you should do and not do and what you should be and not be, then climb down and start over. God is the God of second chances. God is real and wants you to truly know Him through His son Jesus.

I Corinthians 3:11 sums it up this way, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Eric Rojas, Class of 1990, Executive Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL

Are You Foolin’ Around With God?

Are You Foolin’ Around With God?

I love April 1st. It usually means that spring weather is finally here in the Chicago suburbs. It means that the Chicago Cubs are about to start a new season (this really is the year!). Often it’s close to when Spring Break falls in the calendar. And…you get to play some practical jokes on people. I’m not a huge jokester, but I love a good laugh and occasional prank. I won’t get into the details of some of the Judson pranks back in my day, but, let’s just say, I still can’t believe maintenance got all of those chapel pews turned around by Senior Chapel!

One of the areas of my life that I am learning to not mess around with is my relationship with God. I have to admit that there were some times during my Judson tenure when I was a pretty bold face hypocrite. I was one person in Bible class, in chapel and, at times, another person in other segments of my life. I’d like to think that as a dad, husband and pastor those times are all behind me, but I can’t. Why? Because I am sinful just like you. However, I can say that by God’s grace those times of hypocrisy in my life are minimal compared to my past.

What about you? Who do you claim to be? If there was a jury of your people network, who would you get convicted of being? Being in the church world for almost 30 years now, I still am amazed (in a frustrating sense) of how way too many Christ-followers live. They come to church, maybe even read their Bibles a little, maybe serve a little and then live the majority of their lives no differently than their unbelieving friends. Gossip? No problem. Excessive drinking? No problem. Having the mouth of a sailor? No problem. Sleeping with a boyfriend, girlfriend or having an affair? No problem. Looking at porn? No problem. Getting completely caught up in materialism? No problem. While the sins themselves are a problem, the bigger problem is that people don’t see those actions as sins or as a problem in and of themselves.

Here’s what Jesus said about foolin’ around with Him and your faith in Revelation 3, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” Friends, that’s my prayer for you as well. If you’re hot for Christ – keep going – way to go! Keep working out your faith with fear and trembling and minimizing the foolishness day by day. If you’re cold, realize that the next part of Revelation 3 is when Jesus says He’s going to spit you out of His mouth. We don’t need to get into the theology of what that means right now. Just know that it’s not good. He wants all of us – every part – all of the time!

Use this season of April foolishness to drive us to the season of spring – new life and new beginnings!

-Eric Rojas, Class of 1990, Executive Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL

6 Ways for Leaders to Deal with Depression

6 Ways for Leaders to Deal with Depression

It happens to the best of us. It can happen when you wouldn’t expect it to. It can happen and you don’t realize it is happening. It can cause us or those we lead to do some uncharacteristic things. What is “it”? It is depression. “It” has different names such as “down in the dumps”, “the blues”, or even “the winter blahs”, just to name a few. When depression hits you or someone you lead, it is important to deal with it properly and thoroughly. I was in a conversation recently with some friends that rightly thought that someone they lead was dealing with depression. While needing to deal with the performance issues, I really appreciated our discussion of how to deal with and care for the person. That got me thinking that this would be a good Leadership 360 topic. While, admittedly, just a start of a discussion on the topic, here are 6 ways for leaders to deal with depression that I’ve discovered over the years.

  • #1 – Recognize the signs. It’s important to be able to recognize depression. The warning signs list includes issues or a combination of issues like: a perpetual feeling of helplessness or hopelessness, loss of interest in daily activities, appetite or dramatic weight changes, change of sleep patterns, loss of energy, unusual anger or irritability, reckless behavior, concentration problems and even unexplained pains and aches. As leaders, we need to try to be honest and aware of our own personal struggles and to be able to see into those we lead as well.
  • #2 – Really know those you lead. If you’re not heavily invested into the lives of those you lead, you may not recognize when these warning signs arise. Make sure that you are spending quality time having conversations that get to the heart of their heart.
  • #3 Understand that depression is very complicated and is not solved with a quick conversation. Gary Collins, in Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide, lists seven major categories of causes for depression, and six major approaches to treating it. Each one has multiple options within each category. In addition, people use the word “depression” to cover everything from disappointment over losing a baseball game to the terrifying gloom that drives people to suicide. As such, knowing your local resources, such as physician and counseling options, is important. Someone may work out of their depression fairly easily in a short season of time, while others may need your help in getting treatment and more progressive help over a long season of time. Be ready to invest and to help for whatever amount of time is necessary.
  • #4 – Do not tackle depression alone. If you’re dealing with depression, personally, or helping someone you lead, you need others and, most importantly, God, to help.
  • #5 – Look to God’s Word for guidance. While the Bible doesn’t mention the word depression, it certainly has thoughts and principles to help guide us.
    • The role of our emotions – Christians base life on truth, not feelings.Philippians 4:1 commands us to rejoice (whether we feel like it or not!). And James 1:2 asks us to “Consider it all joy when we fall into various trials.” Notice that James doesn’t tell us to feel joyful; he tells us to reckon, to choose to think about your situation as a spot where you can have joy.
    • The role of faith – Choosing to trust truth rather than your feelings may require a lot of faith. And if that is what we mean by asking if faith can solve depression, then faith may be enough in some cases. Trusting what God says rather than your feelings is certainly a more realistic approach to life!
    • The role of God’s advice – Many people talk about “faith” and only mean a vague hope that God will somehow pull them through. That’s too nebulous a concept to be reliable. Many of the same people who claim to have faith keep plunging through life ignoring God’s principles for healthy living. If we spurn the good advice that the Bible contains, we won’t escape the consequences – even if we have faith.
  • #6 – Celebrate that there is hope! Isaiah 41:10 tells us to, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” While trite phrases aren’t very helpful, God’s Word is there to be a help and to give us hope because it is live and active and truth! Stay strong – lead strong – there is hope coming!

Again, let me reiterate that depression is a very complicated and dangerous issue. As leaders we need to be aware and be ready to help.

 

-Eric Rojas, Class of 1990, Executive Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL

Yep, It’s Thanksgiving!

Like everything else you’re going to read this month, this blog has a theme of thankfulness. Don’t get me wrong, I am a very thankful person in general. That’s probably my problem. I see people, even good Christian people, that put on their thankful airs at Thanksgiving but that are crodgity, unthankful people the rest of the year. Yep, it’s thanksgiving – so what? Here’s my so what for this year – an encouragement to make a difference. If you’re a thankful person already, be more thankful! If you lean more toward the crodgity camp, then break out of it and be more thankful BEGINNING this Thanksgiving and have it continue for the rest of the year and the rest of your life.

We all have different circumstances in our lives. I remember at Judson that there were two professors for a core class I was signed up for. There was one prof I loved (I’m disguising the names and classes to protect the innocent) and there was one prof that really, really annoyed me. When I found out that I got the latter of the profs I was ticked off. I remember spouting off about it to some of my friends. One of the friends then decided to taunt me with the fact that they had been assigned the good prof for that class. Ok, so that is a juvenile example of life from 20+ years ago. However, the point is valid. Instead of being thankful for health, the ability to go to a great college, having awesome friends and many wonderful professors and mentors, I chose to be ungrateful. Thankfulness and being grateful is a choice.

Life may really stink for you right now. I get that. However, I can guarantee you that if you take a thankful approach to life, your life’s perspective will improve even if your circumstances don’t. I have a friend that is wheelchair bound. She will never walk again due to an accident and compounding disease. However, if you talked with her you would never know it. She has been able to do great things in life not only despite her circumstances but because of her circumstances. That can be you, too.

Two Bible verses to encourage us in thankfulness. I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Psalm 107:1 tell us what needs to be the focus of our thankfulness when it says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and his steadfast love endures forever.”

Yep, it’s Thanksgiving. Make a difference this Thanksgiving and, most importantly, for the rest of your life. Do it for God, for yourself and for the people’s lives you impact. That will make this Thanksgiving one to remember and truly be thankful for.

Tongue Twisters for Life

You’ve probably heard that the strongest muscle in the body is the tongue, right? Well, that isn’t really true. (Sorry if one of the profs at Judson told you that!) The reality is that the strongest muscle in the body is either the heart or one of the jaw muscles according to the science community. They believe that the tongue has been referred to as the strongest muscle in the body because it seemingly never grows tired with all of its daily work.

I actually believe that the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body but not because it doesn’t get tired or because I was taught that as a child. I believe the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body because of its power. On the positive side, the tongue can give encouragement, love, instruction, life and happiness. That’s quite a bit of positive power. On the negative side, the tongue can bring death, destruction, discouragement, hurt, sadness and despair. That’s a lot of harmful power.

Here’s my question for you – have you developed your tongue muscle and trained it to be a powerful instrument of positivity and not harm lately?

You haven’t trained your tongue recently if…

  • You find yourself regularly putting your foot in your mouth.
  • You find yourself getting angry and saying things that you don’t really mean.
  • You recognize that you are a “Debby downer” always bringing up the negative side of a topic.
  • You wish you could take back things that you say.
  • You catch yourself sharing gossip or confidential matters that you shouldn’t be sharing.
  • You boast about yourself on a regular basis.
  • You blame God for difficulties in your life.
  • You use the Lord’s name in vein and swear without any thought or conviction.
  • You are judgmental toward people that aren’t like you.

Be honest, how many of these apply to your life?

Here are the Biblical contrasts, truths and areas where you can begin your training.

  • Matthew 12:33-35, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”
  • Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
  • Proverbs 13:3, “Those who guard their lipspreserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.”
  • James 3:5-8, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

The reality is that we can’t train our tongue ourselves. We can certainly be more conscientious and diligent, but it will take the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives to tame this powerful beast. The reality is, as well, that it is a life-long training regiment. I encourage you to take the following practical steps to start your training:

  1. Be honest in your evaluation of your tongue.
  2. Pray for help to train and tame it into a tool of encouragement.
  3. Memorize Bible verses that speak to the areas that you are most in need of training. ‘

While physical training is of some value, this kind of training will cause exponential impact in your spheres of influence. As one author said, “Mightier than the sword the tongue may be, but the tongue is mightiest of all.”

Eric Rojas, Class of ‘90

Life Lessons I Learned as a Volleyball Dad

Life Lessons I Learned as a Volleyball Dad

We recently returned from our last trip with our daughter to the AAU National Girls Volleyball Championships in Florida. 126 courts of volleyball girls all screaming while referee whistles are blowing continuously. Sounds like a little bit of heaven, doesn’t it? Well, we did have a blast with her and the team even if it did mean Excedrin had to come to the rescue on more than one occasion.

While I was watching games for several days, it dawned on me that there truly were some life analogies and lessons to be learned for me through this experience. Here’s what I picked up that I pass along to you for your consideration:

  1. Don’t shy away from or be afraid of new experiences. I don’t think I ever attended a volleyball game while I was at Judson. I did a lot of things and really tried to make the most out of my experience, but I don’t recall doing that. When my daughter initially wanted to play volleyball, after two boys that played baseball – something that I knew, I was a little apprehensive. I had heard horror stories of school and travel volleyball and just didn’t know the sport. I could have persuaded her to something else, but I didn’t because this is what she wanted to do. Well, it turned into a fantastic experience for her and for us. Isaiah 43:19 says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?” Always pray and seek God’s guidance, but when He leads you to something new embrace it!
  1. Don’t yell at the ref. I admit it, my teaching gift comes out quite frequently when I’m driving or at a game. I feel this deep desire to let the driver next to me know the rules of the road such as slow drivers are to drive in the right lane! At games, I feel a deep longing to let the ref know that I think he is wrong at times or that he doesn’t know the rules. Yeah, I’m wrong. I know it. I confess right now. It won’t happen again…as much…I hope. But, my point is this – we sometimes don’t like God’s rules either and yell at Him. We don’t like Him convicting us or pointing out our sin or shortcomings. We stop reading the Bible because it convicts us. Something bad happens in our lives and we shake our fists at God. We need to just stop that and play the hand and the game that’s been given to us to play. Yelling doesn’t help in a game and it doesn’t help with God.
  1. There is a season to laugh and to cry. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a season for everything under the sun. In sports, there are great days and tough days. We learned to celebrate the victories and good days very well and we learned to learn from the defeats and tough days and just recognize them for what they are. “You’ll get ‘em next time” really doesn’t work after a tough loss. We learned to say, “yep, that was a tough loss.” We also learned to take in the moment of a victory. In life, most of us need to celebrate more – we really do. It’s so easy to just want to move on to the next thing. Take each moment for what it is – in celebration and in difficulty.
  1. Respect the game, the coach, the ref, yourself and the fans. We’ve had some good and bad coaches through the years. The best ones taught my kids to be respectful at all times. That’s a great life lesson. We overheard a mom from the other team at a baseball game this week yelling at a player on our team, “Way to not be respectful you little blankety-blank.” But, she didn’t say “blankety-blank.” Do you hear the irony in that? We need to live lives that respect ourselves, our family, our community, our God and His Word. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is that your life’s default mode? Is that what you are known for?

There are many other lessons that I could have or should have learned, but there are a few for grins and giggles. Next time you’re at a ball game, see if you can come up with and apply some to your lives as well.

-Eric Rojas, Class of 1990, Executive Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, IL