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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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- Touch it Once – Be decisive: Handle mail only once and move on. Don’t shuffle papers with the vague “I don’t know what to do with this so I’ll put it here for now” Syndrome. Use a simple DRAFT technique – Delegate, Read, Act, File or Toss – the first time you touch it.
- Think Before Acquiring More – Evaluate before accepting new items. Get off mailing/routing lists that serve no purpose. Ask yourself if you really NEED this item.
- Organize Before Increasing Space – The more space you have, the more inclined you are to be a saver. Keep things as simple as possible by retaining as few items as you absolutely need.
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"...and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass." (Rev. 21:21)
It's nice and relaxing to sit back and close our eyes and let the words of John come to life in our minds as he describes that great City. We look around and see the great and high wall which is made of jasper. In fact, the whole city is pure gold like unto clear glass. The foundations of the wall are garnished with all manner of precious stones. We notice that there are twelve gates and they are all pearls. What a beautiful, pure river that flows from the throne of God! And finally we look down and to our delight, the streets are pure gold. That's right, not just paved with gold, but they ARE pure gold. What a beautiful City that He has prepared for us! Heaven is going to be wonderful!
However, eventually we have to open our eyes again and realize that we are still here. The trumpet of the Lord has not sounded yet. We haven't been raptured away to be with Him. We aren't yet walking on streets of gold; no, we are still walking on asphalt.[ read more...]
Every so often while reading the Bible, I get flashbacks to my years in Sunday School. Most of those flashbacks come from the 'memory verses' I had to memorize each week for Sunday School. It never ceases to amaze me that thirty years later those verses are still stored somewhere in my memory.
Recently, while reading the book of Jeremiah, I had one of those flashbacks and it led to a deeper study of this story.
You will probably recognize these words just as I did;
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
What a powerful verse this has been to me and to many others over the years.
Imagine comforting and powerful this must have been for Judah to hear. Judah had been taken captive by Babylon. They had no future. Their land, their possessions and their children had been stripped from them. They thought God had abandoned them. They thought God was done with them. Then, the prophet Jeremiah brings this promise of hope and deliverance.
As comforting as this was to Judah, most of us overlook an important detail of this prophecy found in the previous verse;
10 For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
The promise of deliverance was given, but it would take seventy years for deliverance to come. An entire lifetime for most. That meant almost every person who was taken captive would die in captivity. Imagine receiving a promise that your answer has come but then discovering you would have to wait seventy years to receive it. That is like receiving no answer at all.
During Jeremiah's time there were many prophets sharing many messages. In this particular story, there was another prophet named Hananiah. Hananiah shared what sounded like a similar message to Jeremiah's, except for one slight variation;
2 Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.
3 Within two full years will I bring again into this place all the vessels of the Lord's house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon:
4 And I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, that went into Babylon, saith the Lord: for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.[ read more...]
"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...]
One of the most exciting and powerful methods of preaching is to share the story (biography) of a character in the Bible. This method is extremely valuable in building people and moving people from one level of ministry to another. God's desire is to grow His Kingdom. His Word is full of ordinary and less than ordinary people who He used to accomplish this purpose. It would behoove us as pastors and leaders to use this method of preaching a lot more than we have in the past. There is nothing more powerful than the testimony of a life that has been transformed by the power of God.
The proper definition of biographical preaching is;
The method of preaching that expounds a Bible character, based on careful exegesis, to deduce the principles that regulated his or her life and to apply the principles to the modern listener. A simpler definition is; Biographical preaching is preaching that provides a biography of the life of a person from scripture and draws a moral lesson or message from that story.
It is essential to understand that all preaching in its most basic of forms is (or at least ought to be) expository in nature. By that I mean that every scripture you share in a sermon should be exposed and expounded upon. Even when only one verse is used in a topical sermon, there is a degree of exposition that takes place. In the same sense, biographical preaching is a type of expository preaching. You are telling the story of an individual rather than the story of a chapter or a book. Instead of exposing a passage of scripture, you are exposing the life of a person in scripture. Your text may include several passages of scripture about the character.[ 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...]
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 some 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.
- 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.
In The Holy War by John Bunyan we find that for Prince Emmanuel to take back the city of Mansoul, he will go through the same gates that Diabolus took advantage of. In the first part, there were a listing of four of the captains and their first lieutenants who were assigned to go after the gates. From the analogy that Bunyan uses, these four men were preachers who were specifically going to gain a foothold in the Ear Gate.
The first captain is Captain Boanerges along with aide, Mr. Thunder. They all wore black and the insignia on their uniforms was three lightning bolts. They led a company of ten thousand men. Obviously, Bunyan gets his word picture from the description of James and John who were referred to as the Sons of Thunder by the Lord. They were men who appealed to the authority aspect of ministry.
For Mansoul to be redeemed, the gates will have to be stormed with authority. This brings up the question as to where a preacher gets his authority. This is not the contrived and manipulative power that comes from spiritual abuse but rather it is an authority that confronts the issue of sin and points to the way of redemption. For this kind of authority to come to a preacher’s life there are some key components that will have to be incorporated.
Before going further, here are the words spoken by Captain Boanerges:
Be it known unto you, O unhappy and rebellious Mansoul, that the most gracious King, the great King Shaddai, my Master, hath sent me unto you with a commission (and so he showed to the town his broad seal) to reduce you to his obedience; and he hath commanded me, in case you yield upon my summons, to carry it to you as if you were my friends or brethren; but he also hath bid , that if, after the summons to submit, you still stand out and rebel, we should endeavor to take you by force.
First, he will have to be a man who has an absolute confidence in the authority of the Scriptures. This means that he will have to believe that Scripture as we have it today is infallible (2 Timothy 3:16-17), inerrant (Psalm 12:6; 19:7-11; 119:140), authoritative (Psalm 119:89), and sufficient (2 Timothy 3:17). For the lightning bolts to be able to thunder from a pulpit, the man who is standing in that pulpit must have the belief that what he is preaching is literally the words of God.
Second, he will have to be a man who unwaveringly preaches those Scriptures. This means that a preacher ought to make a commitment to preaching through the whole of the Scriptures. He cannot afford to take a hodge-podge approach to preach here and there and cherry pick the texts that come to his mind but rather to make a commitment to work through books of the Bible and make them useful for the edification and equipping of the saints (Ephesians 4:12-14). We will have to clearly mark the thought that however the Word is handled in the pulpit will be the way the Word is handled by those who hear us. If you place a high priority on the Word, you shall discover that over time, the congregation will place a high priority on the Word also.[ read more...]
"And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled" (Luke 14:23)
compel: to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly
Most people are "nervous" when it comes to inviting guests to church. In fact, most people are afraid to even talk to someone about Church or about God. They are afraid that they won't have all of the right answers. They are afraid of rejection and many other things that the devil will use to get them to dislike outreach. So, how do we get our people to buy into inviting people to church? We must first ask the question "Are the leaders of the church soul-winners?" Is winning souls something that drives us every day? Remember, the sheep will follow their shepherd.
1. You can't sell something if you haven't yourself bought into it first. If soul-winning is your passion and what drives you, it will come out in every message and in everything you say and do. It is a part of you. It is who you are. It's not a chore or an inconvenience to you, but it is part of your make up. You do it without thinking about it and it has become second nature to you. If you passionately preach and teach on soul-winning long enough, the people will feel your excitement and buy into what you are selling.
2. Teach on this Biblical fact: Witnessing is a command. Once we receive the Holy Spirit, we receive the Power to be a witness. Jesus instructs us that we SHALL be witnesses (Acts 1:8). He doesn't ask us if we want to or if we feel like it or if it fits into our schedule. He commands us to be witnesses. When we invite people to our church we are displaying our witness. We are showing them that going to church and learning more about God is what we enjoy doing and that it is part of our life.[ read more...]