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The Little Foxes
Pastor Philip Harrelson has contributed a fantastic sermon series titled, “The Little Foxes" to www.PreachIt.org.
We all have spiritual vineyards that we are to be the steward over. The first vineyard that Rev. Harrelson mentions is that of the soul. We also have the vineyard of our family and the church. These are vineyards that we have been chosen to watch over and maintain. However, there are little foxes that are working to destroy our vineyards.
In this encouraging and instructive series, Rev. Harrelson goes into detail and explains how to efficiently “improve the soil of these vineyards.” He describes how we need to meditate on God’s Word every day and pray throughout the week as just a couple of the ways to “water” our vineyards.
Every Pastor, ministry team member and saint of God would greatly benefit to read these messages and apply these life lessons. This is a series that needs to be taught to every church and every team member.
Here is the first paragraph of the first lesson in this series:
Every person has a vineyard. We may not perceive that we are keepers of vineyards but there are responsibilities that we all have for our vineyards. First, we have the personal vineyard of our own soul. It is perhaps the most important vineyard of all that we are to take the most care of. Our soul is the most valuable possession that we have according to the Word of the Lord (Matthew 16:26; 10:28; Ecclesiastes 12:7). The care of the soul is a very tedious and challenging process. It involves the careful work of plowing, planting, cultivating, weeding, watering, and harvesting. Just as a farmer is in a joint venture with God, to care for our soul will have to be a joint venture with God. We cannot do it all alone! We must have God to intervene with Spirit and Word to accomplish His will for us.
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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...]
There is no limit to what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit. It is important to cast a vision of servanthood to lay leaders and those in the church who serve the body of Christ.
Preach servanthood. There can be no greater example of servanthood than Jesus Christ. He was someone who could have expected everyone to serve Him. However he continually offered himself as the servant of all. You get what you preach. If the church needs to be reminded to serve one another, Preach servanthood.
Live servanthood. If Jesus can do it, so can the preacher. People live by our example more than what we preach. If we preach servanthood but live lordship, people will become confused and view it as hypocrisy.
Reward servanthood. Praise those who put others first. Openly applaud those who go out of their way to put others needs before their own. Jesus said, “When you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.” He wanted us to know how important servanthood was as[ read more...]
Five Things you must do to get Unstuck!
Has your church replaced truth with tradition? Have you done the same things for so long that neither God nor man could change things at your church? Do committees and programs substitute for the moving of the Holy Ghost? Has your church become boring and predictable? If so, your church may be stuck in a rut and may be unable to see a way out.
In his book, Rut, Rot or Revival, A.W. Tozer states,
"The treacherous enemy facing the church of Jesus Christ today is the dictatorship of the routine, when the routine becomes "lord" in the life of the church. Programs are organized and the prevailing conditions are accepted as normal. Anyone can predict next Sunday's service and what will happen. This seems to be the most deadly threat in the church today. When we come to the place where everything can be predicted and nobody expects anything unusual from God, we are in a rut.
The routine dictates, and we can tell not only what will happen next Sunday, but what will occur next month and, if things do not improve, what will take place next year. Then we have reached the place where what has been, determines what is, and what is, determines what will be. That would be perfectly all right and proper for a cemetery. Nobody expects a cemetery to do anything but conform. The greatest conformists in the world today are those who sleep out in the community cemetery. They do not bother anyone. They just lie there, and it is perfectly all right for them to do so.
You can predict what everyone will do in a cemetery from the deceased right down to the people who attend a funeral there. Everyone and everything in a cemetery has accepted the routine. Nobody expects anything out of those buried in the cemetery. But the church is not a cemetery and we should expect much from it, because what has been should not be lord to tell us what is, and what is should not be ruler to tell us what will be. God's people are supposed to grow. As long as there is growth, there is an air of unpredictability. Certainly we cannot predict exactly, but in many churches you just about can. Everybody knows just what will happen, and this has become our deadliest enemy."[ read more...]
All too often, our church members don't feel comfortable asking someone if they would like to have a Bible study. One of the main reasons for this, is because they are afraid they won't have all of the answers to all of the questions that the person may ask about the Bible. Many people today want to teach Bible studies to their friends and families, but oftentimes, don't know how to teach a Bible study,what teaching materials to use or lack the experience to feel confident enough to teach one.
One idea to overcome this, is to use the mid-week service to teach your church how to teach a Bible study. In most cases, the people that show up for the mid-week service are the core of the church. They are usually the more "spiritually mature" of your saints. Also, when teaching on how to teach a Bible study, let them know which Bible studies you recommend for them to teach. This will give them confidence to teach a Bible study and when they find one that they feel comfortable sharing with someone, they will be more apt and better prepared to teach.
You can use this outline to teach them how to teach a Bible study:
Psalm 119:89 "Forever O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven."
Psalm 119:161:162 "..but my heart standeth in awe of thy word….as one that findeth great spoil (treasure)"
Psalm 119:11 "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee."
· Establish at the beginning of the study the importance of the "whole" Bible.
1) 1 Tim. 3:16 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God…
2) The Word of God is true! From cover to cover!
A few things to remember when preparing for your study:
· Always bring two Bibles; one for you and one for your student. (Remember, this is a Bible study!)
· Be on time!
· Breath mints are good!
· Choose a Bible Study that teaches on one of these topics:
3) Church History[ read more...]
American society is in the midst of a communications explosion. All sorts of electronic and print media vie for people’s attention. Amid this cultural revolution, there you are, trying to communicate the most important message of all time – the good news of Jesus Christ. How can you possibly compete? Following these 10 principles will ensure greater impact for your preaching.
- Believe in what you say. Ferdinand Foch said, “The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” All the crafting in the world can’t save a message that has no passion in it. If you can’t get excited about a subject, don’t preach on it.
- Believe that people can change. Keep in mind that all great communicators have one thing in common: They expect their message to change lives.
- Live what you say. Unless you have credibility, even the best content will get you nowhere. If you don’t live it, your listeners won’t either.
- Know when to say it. Be observant of people’s reactions to your message. When you sense that people are receptive, it is time to ask for a response.
- Know how to say it. Creativity greatly enhances communication. Use all the tools you can to make the message interesting and memorable: plays on words, acrostics, humor, stories, skits, music – all can help increase your impact. Avoid being too predictable. If people always know what you are about to say or how you will say it, they will tune you out.
Most people have problems with finances, but they just don’t know why.
According to the latest surveys, over one-half of all families in America are presently experiencing financial difficulties. And the real truth is many do not seem to know why they are having these difficulties. If these type problems are so common, then it would be important to understand the reasons they exist.
The following is a listing of some reasons of financial difficulties. This listing can be a means of educating oneself in these most critical areas.
- 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 the Bible and start an in-depth study of the guidelines and principles in the Word of God.
- Failure to identify priorities. A person and family must identify their priorities if they are ever going to be successful in their financial life.
- Failure to discipline. This horrible word causes people more problems than anything else in the world. Discipline must be exercised in every phase of a person’s life and in the world of finances it is critical.
- Failure to establish goals. A person who has no goal is a person without direction. A person without direction is going nowhere. A person must establish the financial goal for themselves if they ever want to arrive at a successful financial position in life.
- Failure to control spending. A written control is necessary to control impulsive spending. Limits must be established and kept.
- Failure to establish a budget. A budget is not a nervous breakdown on paper. It is a clear guideline of where your money comes from and where it goes. Do not negate the importance of a written budget…it is vital to anyone’s financial success.
It’s not unusual to feel stuck, trapped, and unable to move from a situation you feel is stifling. Actually, it’s part of life and growth. But, getting “stuck in” and “growing through” situations are different. Here are ten ways to shift from one to the other:
- Step back and ask yourself what’s really going on. When you’re caught up in the stuff of everyday life, it’s easy to lose objectivity. It’s good to set aside a little time each day to challenge the obviousness of what seems to be going on. Is there a lesson to be learned that you are missing? Might that setback really be a step forward? Will things really turn out as badly as you think they will?
- Consider whether what’s happening has happened before. Is this a unique situation or is it just another example, in different garb, of an issue you’ve failed to confront before? If it’s the latter, maybe now’s the time to solve it and move on.
- Assume that present events and circumstances may be less of a “problem” than parts of a larger “process.” There’s a fair case to be made for the notion that, in this life, all is process rather than result. In other words, what this life is really about is growth and learning. Viewed in this light, where you’re heading is not as important as how you choose to get there. (For those who are strongly goal-oriented, this may be tough to swallow.)
- Ask yourself what you can do next. It’s the small steps that lead to successful journeys. Don’t get sucked in by the suggestion that you’ve got to solve it all today.
- Do something – anything! When you’re stuck, taking any step puts you in a different place and helps change your perspective, even if it’s a wrong move! And, doing something could be a conscious decision to do absolutely nothing!
A topical message is a sermon when a passage of scripture is used to support a single topic. You should be able to state what the topic is in a single sentence. This topic is then communicated to the hearers through the use of several different scriptures that all address the truth of this topic.
There are many pros and cons to topical preaching. Many Bible scholars feel that expository preaching is the only way to preach. They point out that you must preach verse by verse through the text in order to keep the story in its context. This is correct and very true, but a good topical sermon can also be kept in context if prepared properly.
When you look at the New Testament examples, both Peter and Paul preached on topics and used scripture to support their points. They did this very well in the epistles. The most famous sermon in the entire Bible is a topical sermon. The Sermon on the Mount is considered by most Bible scholars to be the greatest sermon that Jesus ever preached. The beatitudes are in this sermon, the Lord's prayer is in this sermon, and The Golden Rule is in this sermon. Jesus spoke on topics and used Old Testament scripture to supports His teachings. He did not preach verse by verse through entire chapters or books. Even the Old Testament prophets were very topical in their messages. If we are using the Bible as our example on how to live, we should also use it as our example in how we preach.[ read more...]
What would an ineffective pastor look like? Here are seven habits of highly ineffective pastors and how you can avoid them.
- Be reactive. Effective people are proactive. They take responsibility for their lives and aren't swayed by their physical or social environments. Being proactive means responding by choices and values, not by emotions or circumstances.
- Focus only on short-term results. A good habit says, "Begin with the end in mind." This attitude will help you keep a heavenly perspective throughout your day-to-day work.
- Do the least important thing first. An effective pastor will look at all the things in his or her life and prioritize them. The people or items at the top of that list will receive the pastor's first and best attention.
- Think win/lose. Truly effective pastors will look for win/win solutions. They find agreements that benefit and satisfy everyone involved. This principle is especially valuable with staff and volunteers.