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We Were Here!
By: James Smith
As you look through history, you find remnants of people who preached and believed the Apostolic doctrine. Whether in parts or in whole, the Acts 2:38 message has been found throughout history. Consider the countless, precious people who gave their lives in defense of the Apostolic message. People who suffered the death of martyrdom unnoticed. Praying saints who never did see their world come to Christ. Men and women who held on to the promises of God's Word, in a day and place when it would cost them their lives.
Being Pentecostal is popular today. Even a good Catholic friend of mine recently told me that their services are becoming more Charismatic. I'm not sure what he meant by that, but I guess he was trying to say, that they were embracing the Spirit of worshipfound in Pentecost.
However, time has a way of erasing things. The tide of generations coming and going, dull and even erase people, governments and religions. Why, if we didn't dig into the earth in the deserts, we wouldn't even know that some civilizations ever existed. Whole nations have been erased from the earth without anyone even noticing that they were there. People who were once proud and who ruled large kingdoms are only remembered in small bits of history if at all.
What will be said of our generation should the Lord tarry 500 more years? Now, I'm with most of you on this one. I believe the Lord is coming back very soon. However, we do not know this for sure. What will future generations remember about us? What will be in the history books of the future about us?
I don't believe there has ever been a brighter day for the Church. We are living on a planet with over 6 billion people living on it. If there ever was a day in which God wanted to give a great revival, I believe today is that day. However, we should ask ourselves, are we looking forward? Are we considering the effect of all that we are doing for the Lord, on future people. What will they say about us? Will they remember us?
Some time ago, I read a book about the Nazi concentration camps from World War II. The story was about a little Jewish girl who was too small to work for the Nazis, and had somehow escaped being shot for being too young. It was often their practice to kill someone if they could not work. So, this little girl lived her life through much of the war and many of the concentration camps.
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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...]
The main purpose of interpreting a text is not UNIQUENESS but CLARITY! The first task of the preacher is EXEGESIS – careful, systematic study of the Scripture to discover the original, intended meaning; to find out the original intent of the words of the Bible; to hear the Word as the original recipients heard it. But we don’t just do exegesis when there is an obvious difference between THEN and NOW – it is the first step in studying EVERY text
- Go back to the original and the best sources for yourself first – don’t just begin by consulting somebody’s book! (i.e. Mark 10:23 – one “expert” said there was a gate in Jerusalem called the “Needle’s Eye” which camels could only go through on their knees, but that gate never existed!)
- We must always guard against EISEGESIS – reading our desired interpretation into the text instead of letting the text speak to us!
To provoke your thinking, one of the best things to do is use several Bible translations that you know in advance will differ in their interpretation.
There are three basic theories of translation:
- Literal: advantage – as close as possible to the original; disadvantage – doesn’t account for cultural differences in customs and expressions (i.e. King James Version)
- Free: advantage – eliminates historical and cultural “barriers” by expressing Scripture in modern terms; disadvantage – since it is more concerned with translating “ideas” it is not always accurate in exact wording (i.e. Phillips, Living Bible, The Message)
Causing growth in a church and leading God’s people is a challenge. Looking through the scripture one quickly notices that no leader of God’s people found his role easy.
It often seems that our job as ministers is more reactive than proactive. It’s important to understand that while there will always be a needed degree of reactive management, there also needs to be a healthy measure of proactive leadership.
One doesn’t need to pastor long before he/she finds themselves becoming bogged down with the daily routine of managing a congregation. Your own list of duties preformed regularly would be very comparable to many other Pastors and church leaders. As I communicate more and more with church leaders around the globe, I am surprised to find that even though regions and languages may differ, there are often, very similar “People Problems” that Pastors have to deal with.
Managers organize. They report on what is. Their role is to assign and control people. Leaders on the other hand cast vision. They offer what could be. Their role is to align and motivate people. Notice the difference between these two leadership styles. One is managing what already exists and the other is moving the church forward into new growth and greater increase.
Nearly all pastors and church leaders perform both management and leadership roles. An imbalanced church is often one whose Pastor and leadership team has succumbed to one role or the other. It is the Pastor who has lost his zeal for growth so he simply manages what is already happening. Or it is the Pastor who constantly promotes growth and new programs, but does not provide constant management for the growth that happens.
Have I lost you? Are you already saying, “Now wait a minute. I can’t do it all!” You are right. You can’t. As much as you are talented, gifted, anointed and blessed, you are not Solomon. Moses couldn’t do it all and neither can you. In fact, the church leader that attempts to do all the management themselves will be overridden with the load of caring for God’s people.
This is why our Lord brings us other people into the church. Many Pastors overlook the people resources in their congregation. Since they lack the ability to trust others to a task, many Pastors fail to allow the talents of their congregation to become invested.
Moses had his captains of fifties and thousands. You too have been given certain individuals who can come beside your ministry to assist you in maintaining the growth from the vision you cast.
Do you find yourself routinely doing the job of the church janitor? Did you fix or repair something around the church lately? Are you the office manager? Are you the one who adds ink to the printer? Are you the only one visiting and praying for the sick? Who does the computing and tallying of numbers to record progress?[ read more...]
There are two essential elements of community. 1) interpersonal commitments and 2) a sense of belonging. True community needs both of these elements in operation. Without interpersonal commitments, a sense of belonging would soon be lost as a sense of belonging is derived from and is a result of the interpersonal commitments. Did I loose you there? Ok, let me break it down.
Bob joins a new church. He is warmly welcomed. He soon receives salvation. Bob likes the people and enjoys what he feels in the church. However, as time goes on, Bob soon realizes that since his only real commitment is to come to church, worship and give in the offerings, his commitment level is not very deep. In fact, if Bob only develops a deep relationship with the pastor there, then the Pastor is Bob’s only real reason for staying there. What happens however, when Bob gets upset at the pastor? What happens if the pastor resigns? You and I know what happens, Bob soon leaves. However, what would happen if Bob were was interconnected in a deep level of community or fellowship with 10-12 other people within the church? (Small Group) What if it were possible that Bob could get upset with the Pastor, yet his love for and interconnectedness with these other 10-12 were so deep that he would stay?
Relationships are powerful. A good relationship will build a person up and a bad relationship has the potential to destroy someone. We often fail to realize the value of relationships within the church. We exhaust ourselves with evangelistic efforts and get so excited over the sudden growth or influx of visitors. Yet we then often fail to get those new people into bonding relationships within the church and soon lose them. What we end up with is a person who is easily offended and will have nothing or nobody to stand in their way of an exodus.[ read more...]
Orphanages were already an important part of the everyday social landscape in the United States 100 years ago. As shocking as it may sound, statistics validate that 99 out of 100 babies in orphanages died before reaching the age of seven months!
The institutions themselves were not the problem. They had adequate food, clean environments, and modern antiseptic procedures. Everything to give these unwanted or otherwise orphaned children a safe and secure environment was in place, and yet 99% of the infants died within months after birth. These babies were given a healthy chance at life and yet they died anyway. The cause of these deaths was an illusive mystery for many years.
Research studies have long since revealed that these babies did not die from malnutrition or infectious diseases, but instead they wasted away in a human condition known as “marasmus”.
Marasmus claimed these countless little lives in spite of clean and sterile environments and adequate food, shelter and clothing. Marasmus can be caused by the deprivation of human touch. Babies without adequate human touch can simply waste away and die regardless of their surroundings and environment.
When babies suffering from marasmus receive physical nurturing while being fed their formula the marasmus reverses. They begin to gain weight and thrive. Human touch is vital for survival in the very young.
The System Was Changed
Although it is tragic that countless infants died from marasmus’ deadly consequences resulting from the absence of human touch, it fostered change. Today’s infants that are isolated in sterile environments are taken into the hands of caregivers who give them loving touch therapy three times a day for fifteen minutes. Taking these infants out of their cribs and holding and rocking them by volunteers has reversed the mortality rate. Research has validated that the infants receiving this personal touch grow faster, gain more weight, and leave the facility sooner that other untouched infants do.
The infants are not the only beneficiaries of this “touching” time. Those who volunteer as caregivers or “grandparents” to hold, rock, touch and massage these infants also experience measurable benefits. They reduce their coffee and caffeine intake and make less frequent visits to their doctor. They experience a reduction in anxiety levels, fewer symptoms of depression, and improved self-esteem.
Touch is powerful. When skin touches skin magical consequences occur. Human touch and contact is directly linked to every aspect of health and well-being.
Where Touch Begins
The sensation of touch actually begins in the womb.
The human skin is derived from the same cells as the nervous system and is a perfect instrument for collecting information about our surrounding environment long before birth. A fetus will withdraw from the touch of a probe at less than 8 weeks of gestation, showing that the link between touch and survival is one of the first and most important protective mechanisms to develop.[ 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...]
In his book "How To Increase Giving In Your Church", George Barna gives several key principles for effective stewardship. Our challenge is to create an enviroment and facilitate a mind-set in which people want to donate money to the church for the right reasons. The following are some guidelines toward achieving that outcome.
You are raising money for Life Transformation, not Organizational Survival. Your objective must be to advance the cause of ministry, not to perpetuate the survival of an institution. God can make great things happen in people's lives without an organization through which such ministry happens. Focus on the essential: Seeing lives changed for the glory and purposes of God.
People give to people and causes, not to institutions or programs. If you want to inspire people to become good stewards, help them see themselves as ministers. Their giving is a means of using their resources for the very reason they exist: to know, and serve God with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength. Encourage people to give to the church because it provides opportunities and means of helping people.
Repeat donors must be both inspired and persuaded. Great fund-raisers know how to identify the soft spot that inspires people to give generously. Eliciting such support is more than just finding a "hot button"; it initials penetrating both the head and the heart of the donor. Your goal should be to create a stewardship mind-set. You do not want to have to start from scratch every time you need money; you want to build on a foundation you have worked hard to develop, one that is based on trust, integrity and mutual benefit.
There is no substitute for absolute integrity. None! Honesty, transparency, accessibility - these are the characteristics on which a great stewardship campaign - and genuine, life changing ministry - are based. Integrity is not something to be fooled with. lose it and you will pay a major price for an extended period. Once the people's trust has been violated, the relationship cannot be restored until many years have passed and the donors who were hurt by the infraction are gone. Ministries cannot outlast that era.[ read more...]
HE GOT UP AND OUT, NOW WE CAN GET THROUGH
I want to tell everyone; “Because He lives, I am able to overcome whatever.” I am so grateful for the Cross where my sins were nailed and wrath was endured by Jesus, but without the Resurrection all would be for nothing. His rising tells all loud and clear: He was right, His teachings are correct, His sacrifice was enough, divine justice has been satisfied, the blessing of the Holy Ghost would be coming as planned, and anybody who will believe will receive.
Oh, just to think how Jesus defeated the devil in three places: on Earth, on the cross, and through the tomb. I just can't even describe just how I feel. We who have been redeemed and born again know the empty tomb is far more than a story: He lives and lives within us…. The total history that has been accomplished by that empty tomb should inspire each of us to become better Praisers, Givers, and Livers. To think that God, Himself, designed the entire episode so that we could be set free from our sins and become fit vessels for His Spirit to indwell. The raising of Jesus from the dead has revealed the great power of God Himself, for in doing this, the defeat of sin and Satan is now totally obvious. Jesus is alive, making this thing called Christianity a living demonstration of glory and power.[ read more...]
Has it ever happened to you? It happened to me again today. Someone said I said something that I didn’t. They did it to defend themselves and their lifestyle of sin. I guess they figured if they could make me look small, it would somehow make them bigger, or at least more righteous.
Several years ago, I realized that people will (dog) the Pastor or the church in order to make themselves appear better than the church. This way, when someone comes to invite them to church, they can use this as a way of saying, “your Pastor is no better than I am. Why should I come to your church?!” And boy if you did say what they said you said. Or if you did what they said you did, now they have every reason in the world to never come to church. As if by some miracle, you were as wise as Solomon and did everything perfectly.
I believe Jesus understood this. Mary and Martha would have blamed Him for their brother’s sickness and death, but the fact of the matter was it was their own lack of faith that allowed their brother to die. And for their lack of faith, Jesus wept. Adam himself wanted to blame his wife for his own sin. As much as Eve did play some part in tempting Adam, the real one at fault was no one else but Adam.
I’m sure if you have been in ministry long at all, you have counseled people only to have them use your good counsel to try to destroy your character and reputation. Personally, I refuse to allow other peoples sin to affect me. When they want to make excuses and bring my name into the situation, I have decided to quickly turn the conversation around and allow light to come into the problem. “The real reason there is a situation, is you have had an affaire, not that I counseled you or did not counsel you about this.” I think you get my thinking here. There are several examples I could give.
“My brother would have lived if you would have been here Jesus”. No, he would have lived if you would have prayed for him to live. Why bring my name into your faithlessness. “My family would have stayed together if the Pastor would have spent more time with us.” No, your family would still be together if you would have slept in your own bed. “I’d still be in the church if that Pastor wouldn’t have offended me with his preaching.” The only thing that is offended by good preaching, is sin. Why don’t you confess your faults and be healed instead of blaming the Pastor for your unrighteous lifestyle.[ read more...]