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A Pastor’s Response to “I don’t feel God’s Presence at church”

The other day, I talked with a fellow pastor who was so discouraged. His church was being criticized by people saying they did not “feel God” at church. This pastor was brokenhearted. After reflecting on this a while and after much prayer, I felt the need to shed some light on what some may being feeling concerning the presence of God in church. This could easily be a lengthy blog series posting many different concepts, however, I will try to place this into bullet points.

First of all, let’s get on the same page about what the church is not and what it is. That may bring a lot of clarification by itself.
Church is not… a weekly church service.
Church is not… a building or club.
Church is not… a concert, gig, or party.
Church is… what that Bible calls the “Body of Christ” or the “Bride of Christ”.
Church is… the people of God.
Church is… a time when God’s people come together to celebrate and seek God together.

Now, here are SEVEN reasons why you MIGHT NOTfeel‘ the presence of God at church:

This list assumes you are already a born again believers and have a relationship with God.

1. God is under no obligation to touch you with His presence.

Don’t get me wrong. God wants His creation to feel His presence. That is why we were created. We were created for fellowship with Him. However, as King and Creator of the Universe, He is under no obligation to bless You with His presence just because you showed up for church that day. He is God and His agenda is not our own.

2. Sin separates us from God’s fellowship.

When you sin an break the heart of God, the sin in our lives separates our fellowship with Him. You can see evidence of this all the way back in the Garden of Eden. When the first two people sinned, the result was they had to be separated from God and His goodness. When Jesus paid for our sins by His death, burial, and resurrection our past, present, and future sin can be washed away. However, just because our sin is taken care of in the eyes of eternity, that does not mean there are no consequences for sin. The wages of sin still manifest themselves through earthly consequences and our separation from His presence. If you noticing a lack of God’s presence in your life, make sure there is no unconfessed sin in your life.

3. You get out what you put in.

When you go to church, what is your mindset? Are you ready and expecting God to meet you there or are you critical and wondering what will happen?  When I was sixteen, my parents made me buy my first car. When I asked why, my dad said, “So you will respect it more. You need buy-in.” There are too many people attending church today without any buy-in. They do not give, they do not serve, and they are not really part of the local congregation.  People around the world meet in houses, basements, huts, or underground caves. Therefore, perfection of the service flow has nothing to do with your experience with God. It’s more about the position of your heart and the hunger you have for God’s presence that makes the difference.

4. Do you support your pastors or criticize them?

Remember pastors are people too. It hurts when you are critical because they work hard to try and create environments where people can connect with God. Planning a worship experience is hard work.  It is physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. For me, it usually takes about three days to fully recover from each Sunday only to get ready to do it all over again. I love what God has called me to but that does not make it easier. Your pastor is looking for team players not Monday morning quarterbacks. Trust me, your pastor knows exactly where are the problems are and wants to fix it more than you do.  Join the team and help make things better.

5. The pastoral staff is trying harder than you probably realize.

There are probably exceptions to this one but, for the most part, your church is most likely trying harder than you are giving them credit. It takes a lot of time and energy to schedule people to serve, get the services scheduled, handle all the stuff that goes on outside of Sunday, pastoral care events, counseling, plugging people into ministry, crisis moments, sermon preparation, future planning, financial accountability, etc. The church does not do everything just on Sunday. Many times the church does not have a specific area of ministry covered because no one has stepped into that role yet. If there is an “empty spot” at church that drives you crazy, that could be God showing you an area for ministry. Jump on the team and help your church reach more people for the Kingdom of God.

6. The church needs you on the team not criticism.

I think I have covered this sufficiently above. The main idea is to realize nothing is made better by criticism. Jumping on the team and using your time, talents, and treasure is how you can help make things better.

7. You may be a victim of a consumer based culture.

Our culture is becoming more self-centered by the day. There are so many options and so many opportunities to get exactly what you want and exactly how you like it that we begin to believe all of life is supposed to be like that. Modern technology and opportunity is great but we must be careful not to allow ourselves to become spoiled and bring that into the Kingdom of God. The economy of God’s Kingdom is not being served but serving. Jesus said those who want to be first must be the last. It is those who sit in their chairs week after week complaining that end up receiving the least amount of God’s presence. Do not allow the enemy to lie to you by saying that church is all about meeting your needs. Church is a place to gather with your brother and sisters in Christ, celebrate the goodness of God, get equipped for reaching others, then going back out to win more people to Christ. You can look throughout church history. The only time the church began to become stagnant was when it thought only of itself and making itself feel good. As long as we are thinking about others, God’s presence will move among us.

There are more but these are the main points I feel some may be battling with as it relates to feeling God in your church. Let’s not allow the enemy to separate and divide us. Rather, let’s get on the same team and do the work of ministry. There are too many people living everyday without Jesus for us to criticize one another.

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8 Blessings We Get From Serving

We all want our lives to matter. It’s the reason we do the things we do. We chase promotions and leadership positions because we want to make a difference. We encourage our kids to go to college, get a good job, and make lots of money, in hopes that they, too, will make a difference.

There’s nothing wrong with wealth or influence, but those things alone won’t change the world and they aren’t what we were made for.

We were made to build the church (Ephesians 4:11-13). God made each one of with unique talents, personalities and skill sets. And when we ask Jesus into our lives, we’re given at least one spiritual gift. We get the most joy and make the biggest difference when we use our God-given talents, gifts and abilities to build the church (Ephesians 4:14-16).

8 Blessings We Experience By Serving Others:

1. Serving allows us to discover and develop our spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12 compares the church to a human body. Just like our bodies are made of many parts serving specific functions, the church is made up of people with different skills and abilities. Alone these pieces aren’t very useful, but together we create something beautiful.

2. Serving allows us to experience miracles.

In John 2, Jesus was at a wedding and the couple was running out of wine for its guests. He tells the servants to fill several big jars to the brim. When they served the water to the guests, it was wine! The guests never knew what happened; the servants were the ones who witnessed the miracle. The same is true for us when we serve.

3. Serving allows us to experience the joy and peace that comes from obedience.

1 Peter 4:10-11 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms… so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” Serving is a form of worship, a way to express gratitude for what Jesus has done for us,  and to share the love and grace we’ve been given.

4. Serving helps us to be more like Jesus.

We shift our focus off of ourselves onto others through serving.  We begin to see others as Jesus sees them.  And we see Jesus IN others (Matthew 25:40).

5. Serving surrounds us with other Christians who can help us follow Jesus.

When we’re working side by side with other people, a bond inevitably forms. This was part of God’s plan for how the church is supposed to work. That’s why Hebrews 10:24-25instructs us to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together… but encouraging one another.”

6. Serving increases our faith.

As we move out of our comfort zones, God increases our faith by revealing new potential — in ourselves and in His Church.  When we see what He can do when His power is at work within us, we begin looking for the doors He’s opening rather than pushing our way through the one’s He’s closed (Ephesians 3:20).

7. Serving allows us to experience God’s presence in new ways.

Encouragement and healing go hand in hand. As we encourage others and they find healing, we’re encouraged. It’s the reason so many people who go on mission trips say they came home feeling like they got more than they gave.

8. Serving is good for your soul.

Studies have shown that volunteering is so good for the mind and body that it can ease symptoms of stress and depression. Tapping into our gifts and passions builds self-confidence, energy, and strength.  Serving others can also be the best distraction from our own worries.

We make all sorts of rational explanations for not serving:

I don’t have time.

I don’t know what I would do.

I don’t have any special skills to contribute.

They don’t need me.

But the reality is the Lord doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called. God used men and women with similar doubts to change the course of history. Moses didn’t think he was a leader or speaker, but God worked through Moses to bring Israel out of slavery. David was the youngest (and therefore most insignificant) of all his brothers, but God worked through David to defeat a giant and eventually made him a king. Paul used to kill Christians before he met Jesus, but he went on to become one of the most highly-regarded and prolific writers/church planters in history.

 

 

Guest blog post by: Veronica Sexton

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Leadership
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Top Posts I Read The Week Of March 17th

The following are The Top Posts I Read The Week Of March 17th:

  1. The Worry Trap: 10 simple ways to break free
  2. “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” —Stephen Covey [Photo]
  3. Three Evernote Alternatives and How They Stack Up
  4. How You Can Find an Antidote to the Poison of Shame
  5. These Mistakes Are Costing You Your Happiness in Life
  6. Don’t Waste Your Pain, Make a Meal out of It

Well, that is my Top Posts for the week.  What other great posts did you read?

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Why Did People Live So Long in Genesis?

Have you ever read through the first part of the Bible and wondered, “How did everyone before the flood live so long?” Honestly for some people, this can create a big problem with their faith because it is hard to get this concept in their heads. To help you get your mind around this, I have a few links for you to read more on the subject and a guest blog post as well. Happy reading and I pray your faith increases as your understanding increases.

Read: Did People Like Adam and Noah Really Live Over 900 Years of Age?

Read: Why Did the People Live So Long before the Flood?

Read: How and Why Did People in the Bible Live So Long?

Here’s more information from guest blogger Don Stewart:

If we accept the ages in Genesis as literal, then we need to answer the question as to why these individuals lived so long. There are several possible reasons to consider as to why the ancients lived longer than modern humankind.

1.Created To Live Forever

Adam and Eve were created to live eternally. The introduction of sin brought on death (Romans 5:12). However, the degenerating processes had only begun to take place with them and their immediate descendants. This could also account for their longer life spans.

2.Lack Of Disease

There would also be a lack of disease at this early time. Since Adam and Eve fell from a perfect state, it would have taken some time for disease to increase. This could have also contributed to the longevity of the patriarchs.

3.Help Populate The Earth

If the earth were to be populated by humankind, (Genesis 1:26) then long life-spans at the beginning were somewhat of a necessity. Otherwise it would have taken an enormous amount of time to fulfill the commandment to fill the earth with people.

4.Accumulation Of Knowledge

Furthermore, if the early inhabitants of the earth did live for long periods of time, then they would have accumulated knowledge to help them survive longer. Scripture does tell us that early man made advances in such things as metallurgy and music (Genesis 4:21,22; 11:6). We should also assume they made advances in other areas-including those which would help them live a long time.

5.Climatic Conditions

Climatic conditions could have been a factor in the longevity of the ancients. There was a possible water vapor canopy that surrounded the earth before the Flood of Noah. This canopy would have produced a worldwide greenhouse effect resulting in a mild climate throughout the earth. In addition, this canopy would shield man from harmful radiation which has an effect on the aging process. At the great Flood this canopy collapsed and no longer protected man and the animals.

After the Flood the ages in which people lived fell off dramatically. The Bible says Noah lived 930 years and his son Shem 600 years. However, Terah the father of Abraham, lived for only 205 years This may provide evidence that there was a water vapor canopy shielding man from harmful radiation. As the years passed, mankind began to live shorter life-spans.

Though this is possible, there is no clear biblical evidence that such a canopy existed.

6.Diet

There are those who argue that diet had a large part to do with the longevity of the people. This view assumes people were vegetarians before the Flood. Genesis 9:3 says that Noah and his descendants would be allowed to eat the flesh of animals. However there was a qualification-the blood was not be left in it. The theory is that the shift from a vegetarian diet to one containing red meat helps explain the decreased longevity of the people after the Flood.

The problem with this view is that there is no clear-cut evidence that people were vegetarians before the Flood. We are never told that they were to only eat vegetables, only that they did eat vegetables. Unless God did some radical restructuring of the human anatomy after the Flood, it seems we were designed to be meat-eaters.

These are some of the possible reasons as to why the life spans were longer before the Flood than after the Flood.

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What’s First Wednesday All About?

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek
my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven,
and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

 

We’re glad you asked! As a church body, it is so important that we are praying and seeking God and it is healthy, essential even, for believers to participate in this type of worship together. Contrary to what we’re so often taught in our individualistic culture, the church can only thrive as a unified community; we can’t do this whole Christianity thing alone.

For this reason, events like First Wednesday are so important for our church, and so exciting! Our relationships with God and with each other are strengthened as together, we give God time to move and speak to us.  If you love the weekend services at RLC, we know you’ll love First Wednesday.

Here’s what to expect>>>

  • We start this service off with an amazing time of worship with the RLC Band.
  • After that I will give you a short, practical teaching from God’s Word.
  • Finally, we go back into a time of worship. During this time we also celebrate the Lord’s Supper together, and there’s an opportunity for one on one prayer if you would like.

It’s all in a laid-back, more personal atmosphere. We know that on Wednesday evening you may be a little tired, so don’t worry, we keep the service limited to about an hour long. You’re welcome to bring your kids into the service with you, or there’s childcare available through first grade.

God is so good, and we’re expecting Him to do awesome things at First Wednesday, so come out and join us! Don’t be nervous about who you’ll know or how comfortable you’ll be with the whole event; prayer isn’t about anyone but God, and Christianity isn’t about being comfortable. And besides, when’s the last time you heard someone complain about spending an evening soaking in the presence of God?

We’ll see you there!

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Leadership
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Solomon’s Leadership Advice On Alcohol

So, I have a habit of reading through the book of Proverbs every month. Each time I do, different verses jump out at me as though they were never there before. I have learned more about living a great “common sense” lifestyle by doing this than through any other leadership book out there. Recently, I was in a conversation with a fellow leader who really wanted to understand God’s ideas on alcohol and leadership.

This is from today’s reading>>>

“Leaders can’t afford to make fools of themselves, gulping wine and swilling beer, Lest, hung over, they don’t know right from wrong, and the people who depend on them are hurt. Use wine and beer only as sedatives, to kill the pain and dull the ache of the terminally ill, for whom life is a living death.

“Speak up for the people who have no voice, for the rights of all the down-and-outers. Speak out for justice! Stand up for the poor and destitute!”

Proverbs 31:4-9 MSG

Here are three things I gleaned from these verses>>>

1. Leadership is not about you and what you want. It is about others.

I have grown weary of people aspiring to leadership positions for their own personal gain. The higher up the “corporate” ladder you go, the more of a servant you must become. The part time employee works for a pay check. The leader of the company works so those he leads have a better tomorrow.

2. Keep any substance in its proper place.

“You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.” -1 Corinthians 6:12

You can become a slave to anything when it calls the shots instead of you. Make sure you are not using anything out of its intended purpose. Make sure you are calling the shots and not your appetites.

3. You need a clear mind so you can be a voice for those who have none.

What we need today are more leaders who are willing to lead people toward all God has created them to be. There are so many people who look fine on the outside by are screaming on the inside for purpose and to feel as though they are making a difference with their lives. As a leader, our job is to constantly be the arrow pointing them in the right direction.

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Top Posts I Read The Week Of February 23rd

The following are The Top 10 Posts I Read The Week Of February 23rd:

  1. How to Stay Positive in the Workplace
  2. Why your Morning Shower should be FREEZING
  3. 11 Incredible Things Only People Who Do Planks Every Day Understand
  4. How To Make A Good First Impression
  5. Mentally Strong People Mindset: Accept Failures Without Doubting Yourself
  6. 8 Signs You Have A Growth Mindset That Makes You Mentally Stronger
  7. Everyone Is Talented In Their Own Way: The 9 Types Of Intelligence You Should Know
  8. 50+ Amazing Tips To Stay Mentally Strong In This Difficult World
  9. 17 Small Things To Do Every Day To Be Much Smarter
  10. 7 Things Emotionally Intelligent People Don’t Do

As you can tell, I really loved LifeHacker this week. Do you have a blog you constantly go back to for personal growth reading?

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Books
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God Smuggler

Book: God Smuggler
Author: Brother Andrew
Amazon Link: Click here

From The Publisher:

In the anniversary edition of this electrifying real-life story, readers are gripped from the first page by the harrowing account of a young man who risked his life to smuggle Bibles through the borders of closed nations. Now, sixty years after Brother Andrew first prayed for God’s miracle protection, this expanded edition of a classic work encourages new readers to meet this remarkable man and his mission for the first time.

Working undercover for God, a mission that continues to this day, has made Brother Andrew one of the all-time heroes of the faith. His narrow escapes from danger to share the love of Jesus will encourage and embolden believers in their own walks of faith.

My Observation:

Books like this are a must for every Western Christian. It is so easy to forget that we are so blessed to enjoy our faith so freely. Books like this remind us how precious our faith truly is.

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Divine Direction

Book: Divine Direction
Author: Craig Groeschel
Amazon Link: Click here

From The Publisher:

Every day we make choices. And those choices accumulate and eventually become our life story. What would your life look like if you became an expert at making those choices?
In this inspiring guidebook, New York Times bestselling author Craig Groeschel shows how the choices that are in your power, if aligned with biblical principles, will lead to a life you’ve never imagined.
Divine Direction will help you seek wisdom through seven principles. You’ll consider one thing to stop that’s hindering you; how to start a new habit to re-direct your path; where you should stay committed; and when you should go even if it’s easier to stay. The book also includes criteria that will help you feel confident in the right choice, and encourages you with principles for trusting God with your decisions.
What story do you want to tell about yourself? God is dedicated to the wonderful plan he’s laid out for you. The achievable and powerful steps in Divine Direction take you there one step at a time, big, or small.

Other Review:

Craig Groeschel has written another terrific book. I haven’t stood behind him watching him make his decisions, but I’ve seen him stand behind the ones he’s made, both the easy ones and the hard ones. These are true words from a humble guy who lives what he talks about. (―Bob Goff, author, New York Times bestselling Love Does)

Not many people can write a book that makes following God look easy. But that’s exactly what Pastor Craig Groeschel has done in this down-to-earth, practical, life-giving message. This isn’t just another book about decision making; it’s more about the story of our whole lives that our daily decisions create. We don’t have to live by chance; we can live on purpose, on course, and part of the larger story God is weaving on the earth. (―Judah Smith, lead pastor, The City Church; author, New York Times bestselling Jesus Is)

I believe our daily choices take us into our lifelong destiny. That’s why I am so excited that Craig Groeschel’s book Divine Direction challenges us on those small choices. This book will help you to see even the smallest decisions through the lens of God’s purpose as he calls you to step into his divine direction for your life. As someone who has learned the hard way about the power of good and bad choices, the principles in Divine Direction really resonate with me. If you’re ready to get out of your rut and make better decisions, Craig’s message is a great place to start your new journey. (―Dave Ramsey, bestselling author; nationally syndicated radio show host)

This book by Pastor Craig Groeschel is a must-read for anyone who has been stuck not knowing what God has planned for their life or how they should be listening to his lead. I’m so thankful for people like Craig who can come alongside us with wisdom, humor, and insight! (―Jefferson Bethke, author, New York Times bestseller Jesus > Religion)

When I have a big decision to make, after consulting God and my wife, the first person I go to for guidance is Craig Groeschel. His God-given ability to isolate the important issues and distill biblical wisdom into action steps is second to none. Divine Direction is your access point to these life-changing insights. (―Steven Furtick, pastor, Elevation Church; New York Times bestselling author)

Craig Groeschel has written a practical yet spiritually grounded book that is certain to help you decide on your next steps in life. In Divine Direction, Craig unpacks seven decisions you can make today that will influence the stories you tell in the future. (―Andy Stanley, senior pastor, North Point Ministries)

There was once a form of capital punishment practiced in China called ling chi—death by a thousand cuts. None of the incisions were a big deal, but together they were lethal. In Divine Direction, Pastor Craig Groeschel will help you avoid living a life of a thousand cuts. (―Levi Lusko, senior pastor, Fresh Life Church; author, Swipe Right)

We often want to know what God’s will is for our lives. The answer may be a little different for each of us, but Divine Direction will give you a great framework for finding out what your story can be. With simple, practical, achievable goals, Craig helps us see the little steps that make a big difference in our lives. (―Kyle Idleman, author, Grace Is Greater)

My Observation:

I loved this book. It is vintage Craig G. He cuts straight to it and gives great info. Something I am going to add to my yearly list.

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Books
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Fresh Wind Fresh Fire

Book: Fresh Wind Fresh Fire
Author: Jim Cymbala
Amazon Link: Click here

From Publishers Weekly:

The Times Are Urgent
God Is on the Move
Now Is the Moment to …

ask God to ignite his fire in your soul!

Pastor Jim Cymbala believes that Jesus wants to renew his people—to call us back from spiritual dead ends, apathy, and lukewarm religion.

Cymbala knows the difference firsthand. Thirty-five years ago his own church, the Brooklyn Tabernacle, was a struggling congregation of twenty. Then they began to pray … God began to move … street-hardened lives by the hundreds were changed by the love of Christ … and today they are more than ten thousand strong.

The story of what happened to this broken-down church in one of America’s toughest neighborhoods points the way to new spiritual vitality in the church and in your own life. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire shows what the Holy Spirit can do when believers get serious about prayer and the gospel. As this compelling book reveals, God moves in life-changing ways when we set aside our own agendas, take him at his word, and listen for his voice.

 

My Observation:

This book is something every Christian should read. It reminds me to never underestimate the importance and power of prayer. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes and ideas:

  • God is more powerful than anybody’s past, no matter how wretched. He can make us forget – not by erasing the memory but by taking the sting and paralyzing effect out of it.
  • It may not seem obvious at first glance, but the way we make decisions in life tells a lot about the kind of faith we have in Jesus Christ.
  • No matter what I preach or what we claim to believe in our heads, the future will depend upon our times of prayer.
  • Jesus called fishermen, not graduates of rabbinical schools. The main requirement was to be natural and sincere.
  • I despaired at the thought that my life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on our behalf.
  • Faith never denies reality but leaves room for God to grant a new reality.
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Books
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The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands (Book Review)

Book: The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands
Author: Lysa TerKeurst
Amazon Link: Click here

From The Publisher:

Are you living with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule and aching with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul?

Lysa TerKeurst is learning that there is a big difference between saying yes to everyone and saying yes to God. In The Best Yes she will help you:

Cure the disease to please with a biblical understanding of the command to love.
Escape the guilt of disappointing others by learning the secret of the small no.
Overcome the agony of hard choices by embracing a wisdom based decision-making process.
Rise above the rush of endless demands and discover your best yes today.

My Observation:

This book is meant for ladies but I actually enjoyed it. Here are a couple of my favorite quotes and ideas:

  • We must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please.
  • Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less.
  • The decisions you make today matter. Every decision points your life in the direction you are about to travel. No decision is an isolated choice. It’s a chain of events. If you choose wisely, your future will reflect that. But if you don’t choose wisely, the decisions you make now will take you to places you don’t want to be later.
  • The one who obeys God’s instruction for today will develop a keen awareness of His direction for tomorrow.
  • Not making a decision is actually a decision. It’s the decision to stay the same
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The Top Posts I Read The Week Of February 10th

The following are The Top 10 Posts I Read The Week Of February 10th:

  1. How To Overcome Negative Emotions Using 5 Writing Techniques
  2. 6 Best Valentine’s Gifts For Her This 2017
  3. 4 Ways to Enjoy Each Day and Do More With Your Life
  4. 3 Best Journal Notebooks (Our Review for 2017)
  5. 5 Ways to Change Fearful and Worrisome Thinking
  6. Time Management Tips: How Not to Get Overwhelmed
  7. 8 Smart Home Gadgets You Need in Your House
  8. 5 Ways To Keep Your Children Safe Outdoors
  9. Forgetting These 7 Little Things Makes Every Day More Stressful

Well, that is my Top 10 for the week.  What other great posts did you read?

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