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Guard The Gates - Part 4
By: Philip Harrelson
I have taken my inspiration from this series from the book written by John Bunyan called The Holy War. The previous messages (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) were instructional in how we should work to control the gates of our mind. Early in the book, Bunyan introduces us to what he terms the Council of War. At this council, there is a conglomerate of devils that all are sitting down trying to make a determination of how they are going to get into the city of Mansoul to destroy it. There are four schemes that they consider prior to the attack of the city.
1. Whether or not all of the wicked hordes should attack the city or should they send just a single soldier in to gain access to the city.
2. Whether or not they should go as they are, which would be easily recognizable to the citizens as intruders, or should they go in disguise.
3. Whether or not to show their real intentions at the start of why they have come into the city or to assault the city with words and ways of deceit.
4. Whether or not they should determine which of the citizens were the most prominent and influential and then destroy them before attacking.
This council of devils finally made a decision that they will go in by subtlety and deceit. Giant Diabolus will go in as a Dragon (Rev. 20:1-2) but by clever disguise in the role of the serpent. A decision is also made that they will kill Mr. Resistance who is the greatest man of Mansoul because he has such a godly influence over the people who are living there.
So once all of these decisions are made, Giant Diabolus in the form of a serpent ascends up close to the Gates—primarily the Eye Gate and the Ear Gate—and sets up the ambush. The Eye Gate is described by Bunyan as the place of Perspection. We might call it our perspective, perception, mindset, attitude, aspect, or our viewpoint. The Ear Gate was the place where the entire Town gathered to hear any information that would be applicable to them for direction of life. What Bunyan was hitting at was the thought that what we see and hear has a huge amount of influence into how we think.
Giant Diabolus begin presenting his spiel of things and when his great swelling words began to capture the residents of Mansoul, they started moving closer to him so they could see him. This was the great mistake because when Captain Resistance moved out of his place of protection and stood on top of the Gate, one of the cruel archers shot him in the head and killed him. Shortly after the death of Captain Resistance, Lord Innocency dies from an unclear reason. Bunyan says that he died either by a “sinking qualm” that came over him or from the “stinking breath of that treacherous Villian old Ill-pause.”
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"Not on your own, but with God's help you can!"
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
If you asked anybody, "What amazes you most about what Jesus did while on this Earth?" You would get responses like, "He raised the dead," or "He died for my sins" or "He healed the blind and the lame." No doubt that each of these are amazing works of God, Calvary can never be denied as the greatest work that Jesus did. I would have responded the same way. Calvary aside, one of the most amazing things to me that Jesus did while on this Earth was transforming the twelve into disciples, and ultimately into the leaders of the first century church. That was an amazing accomplishment.
I know firsthand as a leader and a pastor how difficult it is to change people. I understand how much time it takes to cause habits and thinking to change. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that the twelve disciples were total idiots, but let's be honest, they didn't have a whole lot going for them. They were definitely less than ordinary. They didn't have a lot of natural talent. Their intellectual abilities were lacking. Each one of them was prone to failure, bad attitudes and mistakes, no one more than the leader of the group, Peter. Almost every one of them had issues with their faith. They all had bouts with doubt. On one occasion, Jesus said of them;
25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Jesus called them fools, yet He also saw them for what they could be, instead of what they were. These twelve "fools," or at least eleven of them, went on to turn their world upside down. They became the propagators of the Gospel after Jesus ascended. They built the church from the ground up. Their ministry continues to influence us to this day. So the answer is 'yes', a loser can be turned into a leader. A fool can become a person of wisdom. In fact, more often than not, God typically calls these kind of men and women to become the leaders in the church[ read more...]
In this unpredictable and changing world, the one thing we can always control is the way we think. While we have little control over circumstances or the actions of others, we can control our reactions to them. And anyone can learn how to think more positively and operate with a better attitude, regardless of circumstances, temperament, or intellect. To begin thinking more positively and leading your people to do the same, follow these guidelines:
Act like the person you wish to become.
To start thinking positively, begin by acting positively. Most of us wait until we feel like taking action, but that’s going about it backwards. Instead, by putting our desires into action, we can establish a habit of thinking positively – and this results in a positive attitude.
Cultivate a Consistent Positive Attitude.
To reap a successful harvest, a farmer doesn’t plant seeds and then just expect them to grow on their own. He must continually water, weed, fertilize and nurture the growing plants if he wants them to reach maturity. Likewise, if we want a successful life, we need to spend time everyday nurturing our attitude. Focus on the positive and successful. Don’t feed the weeds.
One of the many amazing stories in the Bible is the story of the twin sons of Isaac, Jacob and Esau. Although twins, these two boys were radically different. Esau loved the outdoors and became a hunter. Jacob preferred to stay at home and learned how to cook. Esau was born first and was covered in hair. Jacob was born second with a death grip on his brother’s heel. Esau became a daddy's boy. Jacob was sheltered by his mother. Without sharing the entire story, I will fast forward to a part of the story that has always bothered me.
Note the four statements in bold type;
18 And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son?
19 And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.
20 And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son?And he said, Because the Lord thy God brought it to me.
21 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son,whether thou be my very son Esau or not.
22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.
23 And he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau's hands: so he blessed him.
24 And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am.
Though Isaac had intended to bless his oldest son, Esau, Jacob deceives his father and comes in Esau's place to receive the birthright. From the moment that Jacob begins to speak, Isaac is suspicious that something is wrong. The first suspicion comes from how quickly 'Esau' manages to go out and kill an animal, bring it back, clean it, cook it and then serve it to his father. The second suspicion comes from Jacobs’s voice. As soon as Jacob speaks, Isaac immediately recognizes the voice of his second son. The Scriptures show that on at least three occasions, Isaac questions the identity of Jacob. He knew something was wrong. He smelled a rat. Yet, instead of investigating any further, Isaac goes ahead and gives the birthright to Jacob.
This is very strange and bothersome behavior from Isaac. Not only because he knew something was wrong, but also because Esau was his favorite son. Considering the love he had for Esau why did Isaac bless Jacob instead? Why did he not investigate to make sure he was blessing the right son? Why didn't he ask more questions? Why didn't Isaac seek the truth? Very strange indeed.[ read more...]
As leaders and pastors, many of us are involved in growth programs in our various ministries. Whether you pastor a church or lead a small group, it is critically important to have a plan of action for the growth of your ministry. However, it is a serious error to place the program above the person. You, as the person, must take priority over the program. Your program will only be as successful as you are. Your program will only be as successful as your relationship with Christ. If you make personal growth your priority, church growth will happen out of the excess of what is happening in your own life. Your life will be the example to the people you lead. You will be a living testimony. You will have a story to tell.
It is so much easier to lead people if there is a surplus of energy, ideas and anointing in your own life. Take the time to make personal growth a priority. A Plan of action for personal growth is just as important as a plan of action for church growth.
Three must do's for Personal Growth:
1. Get in God's Presence.
When the Old Testament priest went beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies he was literally stepping into the presence of God. It was there that God communed with him and spoke to him everything he needed to hear.
22 And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel.
It is a good thing to talk to God every day, but it sure is a lot better when God talks back to me. That is what happens every time I get in His presence. God speaks to me. God communes with me. God tells me everything I need to hear. I must have the voice of God in my life. If I have God's voice in my life, people hear God's voice from me.
In God's presence we grow our person. The presence of God is where we find God's will, God's anointing and God's voice. If you have those three things in your life, people will follow you. Make the time to get in God's presence every day.
2. Get a life.
Every person in ministry needs a life outside of church. We need to get outside of the walls of the church. There are a couple of reasons for this; First of all, you can't personally win anybody to Christ if you have no life outside of church.
Jesus was very good at building relationships with unbelievers;
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
The reason Jesus built relationships with publicans and sinners was because they needed Him. The people outside of our walls need us more than the people inside our walls. We need to build relationships with the unsaved in our communities. This is how we win the lost.
Secondly, your life needs to be interesting. The reason our messages or ministries lack impact is because they are not interesting and the reason they are not interesting is because we are not interesting. Take the time to get a life outside of church. Do something different. Get a new hobby. Join a softball league. Go build an orphanage in Africa. Start a soup kitchen for the homeless. Get a life.[ read more...]
In the past, I have written on church trouble from the angle of people in the congregation who found great enthusiasm for tormenting pastors until they finally ran them off. The religious landscape is littered with men who no longer pastor churches and gave up the calling of a ministry because of a situation where they found themselves in great contention with the hidden powers that ran the church. If you are interested you may read those old Barnabas Blog posts from a couple of years ago (Part 1 & Part 2). Since writing those posts, I have observed a few more of these unfortunate situations as they unfolded.
On the other hand, there are also churches that have had endure terrible abuses at the hands of heavy-handed, manipulative, and dark pastors who fall into the category of being a spiritual abuser.
I must say from the outset that this kind of activity to me is totally foreign because of the environment that I grew up in with my own pastor (and now father-in-law) Joe Patterson. Because of his spiritual leadership, I grew up with the idea that the church was the most incredible, warm, and safe place on the earth. It was only after I begin to travel around a bit and grew up some spiritually and mentally that I was exposed to the dark side of the church and ministry. To be quite frank with you, it was a bit unnerving and initially faith-jarring.[ read more...]
The expression of guarding the gates really has to do with guarding the mind. As noted in the previous message, John Bunyan wrote another classic although much less recognized than Pilgrim’s Progress entitled The Holy War which tells the story of Mansoul being captured and taken over by Diabolus because of the gates being compromised. That same plan is still being effectively carried out in our generation. People of every kind and status within the church have a responsibility to not let this kind of thing take place. This is especially true of those who are actively called into the ministry. If the shepherd can be toppled, the sheep will scatter.
It was explored how that study allows a man who serves a church to guard his mind. While that is a good measure to take up, there is another crucial “guard” that we have to recognize. It is the aspect of prayer. Of all the disciplines involved in a Christian’s life, prayer is the most difficult one to maintain conversely it can be one of the most joyous and powerful tools we can find in our spiritual arsenal. A preacher must maintain regular habits of communion with God in prayer. If a minister is not careful he can come to the place in which he will neglect his place of prayer because of his attention to the Kingdom. He may have all kinds of grand truths rolling through his soul because of the constant exposure to the Word. He can be so busy with various meetings, discipleship of new converts, and counseling of those who are in the throes of some dilemma of life, and obligations to duties of the organizational stripe, that he can entirely neglect his prayer life. In fact a minister is more likely to omit his praying than a new convert who has just come in to the church.
Diabolus loves to get the men involved in ministry to fall to the temptation of substitutes for prayer. Sermons on prayer, reading books on prayer, attending prayer conferences, and hearing sermons on prayer can never take the place of prayer. One can even come under the belief that church attendance, praise, singing, giving, and doing measures of physical labor at church can be a valid substitute for prayer. What soon happens is a tendency to resort to all of these things to move us into a position for revival without true heart-felt prayer.
Pastoral prayer is a great biblical concept and it has great authority. There is an ingredient of spiritual authority that comes to life when a pastor will discipline himself to prayer for his people. From the outset, I have to tell you that this is NOT an easy task to do. Prayer that is truly heart-felt and sincere rarely takes place (for me, perhaps not others) when we just decide to get on our knees and begin to pray. There has to be some stimulus of preparation that is involved in it. There are useful things that you will learn to use to help put your mind into a vein of prayer.
There are times when reading books on prayer will be very helpful to put you into a mindset of prayer. Some of the ones that I have regularly gone back to frequently and year after year are listed below:
E. M. Bounds Complete Works on Prayer—There are eight books in a single volume and are very rich and motivational toward opening my heart for prayer. The Necessity of Prayer, The Essentials of Prayer, The Possibilities of Prayer, The Reality of Prayer, Purpose in Prayer, The Weapon of Prayer, Power Through Prayer, and Prayer and Praying Men.
Leonard Ravenhill on Prayer—Ravenhill’s material is becoming increasingly rarer to find in bookstores these days. He was a staple for many of the preachers who attended the Deeper Life conferences scattered around the nation in the 1970’s. There have been times that I have read just a page or so of Ravenhill’s material and found it incredibly rich in preparing my heart and mind for prayer. Particularly helpful a [ read more...]
"Today I yield the floor to Rev. D.E.Haymon. I came across this wonderful article this week and with his permission would like to share it with you. If you have an article that would be an encouragement to our ministerial audience, please feel free to forward it for consideration. "
“Dealing With Self- Doubt”
We wouldn’t worry nearly so much about what others think of us—if we knew how seldom they did! Our natural social and emotional insecurities sometime make us feel far more vulnerable than we really are. I’m talking about self-consciousness—the feeling that everyone (at least someone) is watching and carefully critiquing every move we make.
Having a clear conscience goes a long way toward giving us self-confidence. When we have nothing to hide, there’s nothing to fear! This Scripture clearly lays it on the line: “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). Someone long ago said, “I’d rather go to bed with a mangy dog than try sleeping with a guilty conscience.” Of course, both the filth and stench of the dog, or the conscience, would equally make sleep impossible.
We may safely assume that many of the complaints made in the Psalms, especially those written by David after his sin with Bathsheba, and having hired the assassination of her innocent husband, reflect abject fear. Even after his confession, David carried the scars of his evil deeds. It is especially touching that, to clear himself, he honestly accepted full responsibility. “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight,” he said, then added, “That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psa. 51:4). Literally, he committed himself to whatever horrible thing God might say or do in judgment for his sin. Oh, that all might exhibit such humility![ read more...]
Home Friendship Groups (Cell ministry), are gaining greater and greater interest as we hear the success stories from those who have ventured into this ministry. The largest and fastest growing churches in the world are churches with HFG's.
10 years ago, the Lord began to speak to me about a model of ministry that to my knowledge, no one was doing at that time. (little did I know) Often, I would look over the congregation and notice people who were faithful to church services, but because of a lack of available positions in the church or their inability to find their own personal ministry, they weren't doing much for the Lord. I also noticed that many visitors and new converts were coming into the church and going right back out since they had no one to befriend or disciple them. As much as these churches had great evangelistic efforts, there was no clear cut program or ministry that was designed for the purpose of retaining new converts.
A short time later, my wife and I began a new church in Chesterton, IN. Within a year, I became very frustrated. I was attempting to model this young church's government and ministry after the larger well established, management driven churches I had been a part of. About that time, I began to hear about Cell ministry. I even found some books which told of the tremendous success of Yonggi Cho's church in Seoul, Korea and Rick Warren's church in Saddleback, CA, as well as several others.
It wasn't long before the Lord directed me to Pastor Anthony Tamel's church in Oak Creek WI. I attended their New Wineskins seminar and wept as they showed me that God was changing my paradigm for church evangelism and discipleship.
With their help and training, we soon brought HFG's to our small church in Chesterton and watched as the Lord transformed peoples lives to both disciple and become discipled through HFG's.
After 6 years of pastoring the church in Chesterton, I began to feel the Lord direct me to turn the church over to the man who assisted me. With that, I heard God tell me to not take another church right away. I felt that the Lord was directing me to make myself available to help teach and train other churches, in the area of Home Friendship Groups.
After discussing this burden with two area Pastors of larger churches, they both asked me to come there and help them train their leaders and raise up HFG's in their church. Both churches now have young, successful HFG ministries.
I have spoken at several churches on the subject of HFG's and have worked very closely with other pastors who have or are in the process of raising up HFG's in their local church.
Home Friendship Groups are very much like early Apostolic evangelism. It's entirely more reflective of true Apostolic ministry than most of today's church structure that is management driven at best.[ read more...]
Put It In Writing
The written word is persuasive. A spoken word is quickly forgotten, but put the same words in writing and the phrase is instantly given new credence and respect. For that reason, putting it in writing is a wise practice. When everything is written out, you're able to see clearly what needs to be accomplished, how it will be done, and what your responsibility is. By putting it in writing, you're making a commitment.
Putting it in writing will also motivate you and keep you on track. By writing down your goals you make a commitment to them. Written goals urge us to action and determine direction.
Decide for yourself what your goals are and when and how you wish to reach them. Then after you have written them down, keep them in a place that is in plain view throughout each day. As you accomplish each one, cross it off! As you do, allow yourself some personal gratification. There is therapy in seeing a long list of goals accomplished.
A things to do list will ease the mental stress of the day. Often our minds are more on thinking of what needs to be done rather than on what do do to get something done. It is easier to set a pace for the day when you have a written list. Plan your day by allowing yourself an allotted amount of time for each item. Write that time next to each item. Don't let other people or situations keep you from accomplishing each task.[ read more...]