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How Much is Your Belt Worth?
1Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.
2So I got a girdle according to the word of the LORD, and put it on my loins.
3And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying,
4Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.
5So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me.
6And it came to pass after many days, that the LORD said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there.
7Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.
In the passage above, we find the Lord telling Jeremiah to go and get a belt and wear it. He then tells him to take his belt and go to the Euphrates River and bury it among the rocks. The Lord comes back to Jeremiah sometime later and tells him to go and dig out the belt. Whenever Jeremiah does this, he finds the belt is now marred and useless.
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Paradox - "A statement seemingly absurd or self- contradictory, but really founded in truth."
Being a Pastor or Christian leader is not easy. Whoever said it was, was lying. Being a Pastor or Minister is rewarding and satisfying, but it is not easy.
The part that is not easy for me is when I do good for someone and they turn against me. It knocks me back a step when someone who I have really bent over backwards to help, lies against me or without gratitude, throws "it" all in my face. If you've ministered for more than 1 year, I'm sure you will be able to relate. If you've ministered for 10 years, you could probably write a book on the subject.
One thing they never taught us in Bible College was how to take a direct hit in the chops and keep a smile. Don't you just love getting bawled out by someone in the office, 10 minutes before service. It's not easy getting up in front of your church to preach a positive message after an encounter like that. But we do it anyway! Why? Because that's who we are. That's what we do. We are Ministers. We do good when people hurt us. What a Paradox![ read more...]
Ever had one? One of those days where you wish you would have stayed in bed? I had one last week. Well, actually I had two of them in a row. My boy Jeremy had just gotten the cast off his arm from the break he received when he fell out of the tree 2 months ago. So, Thursday evening, we decided to take our dirt bikes out and go riding. We had ridden about an hour when Jer flipped his bike on a jump and it landed on his foot, thus breaking it. So to the house we go to get a few things before we head to the emergency room. Before we leave the house though, we should let Molly out. Molly is our 5 pound Maltese. The baby of the family. She is almost ready to come into the house when the neighbors dog comes over and mauls her. She wasn't hurt badly, only bruised and frightened, but we don't have time to comfort her because Jeremy is needing to go get X- rays. This has turned out to be a very bad day.
I wake up Friday morning, thinking, O. K. the worst is behind us. It's a brand new day, right?! Wrong. All I did was turn my head and sneeze. That's all. But now my neck has gone into a spasm and the vertebrae are out and I can't move my neck in any direction more than an inch without causing excruciating pain. So I lay on the bed for an hour. Unable to move. (6 days, and 2 chiropractor appointments later, I'm still in pain.) Boy this is starting out to be a bad day. Unable to get an appointment with a chiropractor, I suffered though a very painful day at the computer, with set back after set back on site development. Finally after a long, frustrating, painful day, my wife and I (still suffering) go to bed hoping tomorrow will be better.
Two hours later the phone rings. It's Kristi, our 17 year old. She was driving back from church camp, a 2.5 hour drive from Indianapolis and fell asleep at the wheel. All she could tell us was that she was in a wreck. She didn't know where she was at and the car is totaled. We asked her if anyone had stopped to help her. "No". "Do you see any road signs?" Frantic and in shock, she replied in tears, "No, I don't know where I'm at." I cannot tell you how fearful my wife and I were. Not only were we not able to tell the police where she was, but we really did not know her condition since she was in shock and unable to tell us very much.
Guessing her time of departure and the approximate distance in the trip, I called the State Police and told them the situation and to look for her on Route 65 between Rensselaer and Lowe, about a 60 mile stretch. Amazingly the phone rings 10 minutes later and the fire department has found her 1 mile off the exit ramp from Rensselaer To our relief she is bruised, but ok. God really had his hand on her. She hit the guardrail at around 65 MPH, completely destroying the guardrail and totaled out the car.
But God is good isn't He! At the end of a second very bad day, I got to hold my baby girl in my arms and thank God for keeping her from certain death. Holding her, I realized that by all rights, we should be in a hospital room seeing the worst.
We can complain about the neck spasms, dog fights, broken bones, and bad days at the office, but when it's all over we really just need to stop and thank the Lord for breath. Thank Him for our children. Thank Him for a job, any job. We would complain about the old junk car that we are driving, but we need to notice the old lady walking home from the grocery store with bags in her arms and a long walk ahead of her. How blessed we really are.[ read more...]
Without fail, every time I fly, I am amazed at what I can see from the window of an airplane. Whether it is scenic mountains and lakes or large cities, I love to see the view from above the world.
I live about forty miles from Chicago and I drive the Chicago highways quite frequently. What a horrible mess they are. Often it takes two hours or more to get from one side of the city to the other. Many times I have sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic wondering what the problem is and promising myself that I will never drive that highway again. Yet, when I fly over the city I can see all of the highways at the same time. I can point out all of the trouble spots in just a few moments. I can see the bottlenecks, I can see the accidents. New perspective is gained.
If you have been through Chicago more than once, you have probably heard of the 'Hillside Strangler'. It is a notorious section of highway near the town of Hillside where two interstates and a road merge into a single lane to enter the Eisenhower Expressway. It has long been dubbed one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the world. It will literally stop you dead in your tracks where you won't be able to move for a long, long time. A few years ago they spent over a 100 million dollars to fix the problem. They widened the entrance to three lanes. However, after all of the time and money they spent to fix this, the traffic flow is only slightly better. People are just as frustrated as before. When you see this area from above, you can see that the congestion has only been pushed further east. The problem is easily seen from the sky, three lanes are not enough for this traffic merger, and they need more lanes stretched out over more distance. The estimated cost to rebuild this section of highway is now well over one billion dollars.
It is amazing how crystal clear the answers are when seen from above. The perspective one can receive from the skies is like receiving new revelation.
During a time of terrible persecution and uncertainty, the Apostle John was banished to the Isle of Patmos. There was no way out. Facing the darkest hours of his life, John had many questions on his heart. He couldn't think his way out. He couldn't see his way out. Though he lived to an old age there, he didn't know he would do so at the time.
However, Jesus knew some things John didn't know. Jesus was about to invite John up into the heavens. Jesus wanted to give John some new perspective and some fresh insight.[ read more...]
What does sustaining hope mean to you?
We live in a world of epidemic uncertainty from politics to the financial world. Even religious views and positions have taken changed dramatically in recent years. Ours is a world with changing opinions and attitudes about God and His church. How people thought about the church 20 years ago is much different than how their children feel about it today.
How does one stay resolute in Hope? Those who feel a call of God to preach His Word to this ever-changing world should guard themselves from the elements that would discourage or dissuade them from the call to "sustain hope."
Sustaining hope means being encouraged when everyone else is discouraged. It means keeping your head up and showing people faith even when situations look their darkest. But, how does one stay encouraged? How do they keep that positive mental attitude when life is hitting them the hardest?[ read more...]
In a recent study of church growth, the following factors and strategies were noticed as being utilized in growing churches while churches that were declining were not using these principles.
1. Reach out to Newcomers. Focusing on the needs and concerns of newcomers, making inquiry convenient and non-threatening, and allowing people to move at their own pace, characterized the growing churches.
2. Build Member Commitment. While reaching newcomers is most important, the growing churches expected much of members, and active involvement of everyone was sought.
3. Train and Involve Laity. There was always a bold, compelling vision for the congregation’s future as well as ways of equipping and deploying laity drawn to the vision for ministry.
4. Make Bold Plans. Churches with goals and dreams far beyond current ministries and resources were more likely to grow than other churches, all other things being equal.[ read more...]
One of the saddest occurrences is when I spend time trying to mentor an experienced Christian minister who is wrestling with regrets, guilt and self-condemnation after they have given a lifetime to the work of God.
Christian ministry should be satisfying and rewarding. The joy, peace, fulfillment and contentment should be overflowing for anyone who has devoted their life to arguably the world’s most noble profession. Surprisingly instead of entering a time of bliss and contentment, a vast number of ministers and their spouses enter their later years disillusioned, angry, bitter, depressed and saddened over missed opportunities, mistakes, bad judgments, regrets, and a list of similar discouragements.
This simply ought not to be.
What about you? Are you living with regret, guilt, or condemnation right now?
Is it easier for you to quote Romans 8:1 than it is to live it?
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
The word “condemnation” means an adverse sentence (the verdict). There should be no adverse sentence or condemnation but reality says there often is. If so, then the question is what caused it? Or, from where did it originate?
Even if you could identify the point of origin for your feeling of condemnation you cannot change the history that caused it. However, you can learn from history, make adjustments, and not repeat the same mistakes in the future. Another key point is that Romans 8:1 reveals the answer to living condemnation free. It says to, “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” To state it plainly: the Spirit will lead you to a condemnation free life and ministry whereas the flesh will lead to condemnation.
From a practical standpoint the following suggestions will assist you in building a condemnation free life and ministry.
Plan your finances as though you will live 150 years. One of the greatest tragedies is that many of us have failed to plan for the day of retirement. It is a mistake you will live to regret. Many of those who chose to spend it all because the Lord was coming and they didn’t want to leave it for the antichrist died broke and foolish. They had no oil in their lamps when the day came that they needed it.[ read more...]
I have so many titles for this article running through my head. "Stinking Thinking". "As A Man Thinketh In His Heart". "You Are What You Think". "So Go The Thoughts, So Go The Man". Let me start by asking you a few questions.
- Are you totally discouraged right now?
- Do you feel overwhelmed?
- Is your mental thought process completely shut down?
- Do you feel trapped?
I have a friend who consistently responds “I’m happy and blessed” when I ask him how he is doing. Now I like this guy, I really do. But, sometimes, I just want to say “get real" when he tells me that. I don’t know, maybe he really is happy all the time. I guess it’s possible. Anything is possible right?!
I’m going to get blasted over this article. I’m going to get tons of emails from the "Happy All The Time Crowd". They’re going to tell me I’ve gone off the deep end. They will let me know that the Christian should always be happy. It’s our right. It’s our obligation. We should always have this enormous smile that tells everyone around us that we are HAPPY.
Christians are not allowed to get bummed out. Christians, especially Christian ministers are definitely not allowed to sink to the cloud of discouragement. A minister should never allow himself to get to a place of feeling down. Right?
Sounds good doesn’t it. But in the real world that’s a bunch of baloney. Just ask the old Prophet of God. One minute he’s killing off 500 false prophets, and wishing he could die the next.
You might agree with me that most preachers are emotional people. Now some people out there are not real emotional, but most of the preachers I know are people who allow emotion to guide them. Now that’s not a bad thing. I’m convinced that the Lord has a hard time using people who are hard to move emotionally. This is why he anointed David to be king when he was only a boy. God said of David, “He’s after my heart”. Other words, he’s a person who is able to touch me with his emotion. Without emotion, David would be led of his own ideas and agenda. But, since he was a person whose heart could be touched, God said, “I’ll use him in ways he never imagined he could be used.”
Emotion is a good thing. We need to be emotional! God is emotional. Look what the scriptures tell us about him.
- He gets angry.
- He gets jealous.
- He laughs.
- He’s emotional!
We, being created in his image are allowed the same privilege of being emotional.[ read more...]
According to the latest statistics, over one-half of all families in America are experiencing financial difficulties. This includes single parent homes. Most people have financial problems, but don’t know why!
In order to be aware of the financial difficulties one has and know what causes them, a person must educate himself to the reasons for the difficulties. The following are a list of reasons that most people find themselves in financial difficulty.
- FAILURE TO FOLLOW SCRIPTURAL PRINCIPLES. The Bible is full of guidelines regarding financial principles. In fact, one-half of all parables and one out of six verses in the New Testament deal with stewardship. Get your Bible out and start studying. Ask your pastor for more information. See a Christian Financial Counselor for assistance. You will find great guidelines and principles in the Word of God.
- FAILURE TO IDENTIFY YOUR PRIORITIES. Just exactly what do you want? More things or better financial stability? Prioritize your desires and needs and stick to it.
- NO DISCIPLINE! That one horrible word causes us more problems than anything else in the world. We need to exercise discipline in every phase of our life, especially when it comes to discipline! Discipline yourself to limit unnecessary purchases and wasting money. Discipline yourself to set down once per month to analyze your finances. Discipline will be the greatest thing you can establish in your life. Work diligently with disciplining yourself.
- FAILURE TO ESTABLISH GOALS. A person who has no goal is a person without direction. A person without direction is going…nowhere! To solve your financial difficulties, you have to establish a clear goal. Where do you want to be one year from now; five years from now, etc.? Write your goal down and work toward it.
- NO CONTROLS. This compares to discipline, however, it means to have written controls over your spending. Write down what your limits are. Review them frequently.
- FAILURE TO ESTABLISH A BUDGET. A budget is not a nervous breakdown on paper. It is a clear cut guideline of where your money comes from and how it is to be spent. It only takes about 1 hour per month to maintain a budget so that you can control the process of knowing where your money is and how it is spent. Don’t negate the importance of a written budget…it will be the greatest factor in helping you get your finances under control.
- UNABLE TO CONTROL IMPLUSIVE SPENDING. If you don’t follow the direction of your budget and discipline yourself, you will be unable to stop spending when you see that item that you just must have. Don’t spend any unnecessary money until you discuss it with someone. You must control your spending if you ever hope to get ahead financially.
I doubt there has ever been a day or society more dysfunctional than the one we are living in today.
Children are growing up in homes with absent and all too often abusive fathers and mothers. These children grow up in an emotionally or physically abusive atmosphere. One recent statistic stated that 1/3 of the homes in America are verbally abusive homes. Where husbands stop short of hitting their wives, but instead wound them with words that cut deep into her heart and emotional make up. Many husbands are grown men with childhood scars that leave them wounded little boys for the rest of their lives. These same men are often emotionally unable to minister to the sensitive needs of their own children and thus a new generation of dysfunctional adults are born.
The individual is wounded, emotionally scarred and hurting spiritually. There is in America a vacuum of need in the individual's life. It may well be said that there has never been a time when this vacuum has been greater.
We have a Savior who can answer the needs of the individual, yet with this wonderful touch of God on our lives, we are all too often unable to transfer God's loving touch to the hurting, needy individual.
Where is the catalyst that will bring Christ to this hurting world? The catalyst is the Church, yet the catalyst is sometimes unable to accomplish her part. We have to ask ourselves, why? The disciples tried their best to shut Blind Bartimaeus up. They were so inebriated with their own relationship with Jesus that they almost angrily tried to shoo Bartimaeus away. Never noticing his need, they said, "Leave the Master alone".
The individual in America is an emotional mess, with wounds and scars that alcohol, drugs and psychologists cannot heal. The Church is this person's only hope. However, in the traditional church setting, the individual is not always wholly ministered to. Many people have needs that cannot be completely met in the traditional church service. If a silent poll were taken in the average church, I believe we would be surprised to hear what some people would say concerning their personal, spiritual and emotional needs being met.
In the Home Friendship Group setting, the individual has an opportunity to not only be ministered to, but to minister to others. The Bible does tell us to "edify one another". A true family unit is developed when adult members share in the responsibility of preparing food for fellowship times, praying & worshiping together, caring for the children of the group, and hosting meetings in one another's homes.[ read more...]