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Momentum - Leading the song service
By: James Smith
Don't slow it down to fit your expectation of what the service should be doing.
It doesn't have to be a fast song, just don't let it be a dead one.
The last song should be the most powerful one.
If the congregation is worshipping, let them enjoy the presence of God for a while.
[ read more...]
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42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
1. A Praying Church.
The first century church continued in prayer. The fact that it continued means that it had previously started. These people had been praying long before the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in the book of Acts.
Acts 1:14 KJV14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
Before the church ever experienced growth there was prayer. Corporate and unified prayer. This was the foundation of what happened in Acts chapter two. Prayer is the most basic and necessary requirement of any church. Prayer is the foundation upon which everything else is built. A praying church is a church that is ready and waiting to do whatever God desires to do amongst them.[ read more...]
Failure – In the business world, this word isn’t an option. But in the church, it almost seems like a requirement. Look at the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. While the Bible lauds their faithful successes here, check out their Old Testament stories, and you’ll find that God used people who repeatedly failed and doubted him.
So the next time you feel like a failure or even a hypocrite – encouraging your congregation to live one way when you’re failing in that very same area yourself – remember God’s amazing penchant for using seemingly imperfect, irresponsible, and faithless people to further His kingdom. In fact, here are some specific places where you might be feeling like a failure, along with promises for you to claim.
Correcting and confronting people about sin when you know the pitiful condition of your own heart. Remember that God detests sin, but he already knows that you’ll fail Him. Victory doesn’t come through any power of our own, but only from God’s strength over evil. Approach God and admit your weaknesses. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-9)
Preaching on quiet time when you don’t have one. Change the terminology if you need to. A quiet time is just a means of recharging your own spiritual batteries on a semi-regular basis – even if it’s not a daily quiet time. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Being still is hard to do if you’re running in the opposite direction. What will happen if you stop and listen to God? “You’ll be made new in the attitude of your minds; and you’ll put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23- 24)
Speaking on bringing people to the Lord when you haven’t led anyone to Him in years. Double-check your source and motivation. Jesus said that only people plugged into Him could be fruitful. “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. I am the vine; you are the branches. If[ read more...]
When you become a pastor you don't get past the need to hear the Word of God preached. In fact preaching is just as much for the saved and it is for the sinner.
1. Preaching saves preachers.
Since God chose preaching as His method to save mankind, one must continually hear the word of God preached in order to stay saved. Preaching saves sinners and saints alike. Hearing one's self preach is not enough to make that happen.
1 Cor 1:21
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
2. Preaching causes us to be accountable and to examine ourselves.
One of the dangers of only hearing yourself preach is never having anybody else correct you. You become in danger of being your only standard of right and wrong. Preachers need to hear the Truth just as much or more than anybody else.[ read more...]
When God fills us with His Spirit and we become a member of the body of Christ (Romans 12:5) we automatically have a ministry. What is that ministry? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:
17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
We have a ministry of reconciliation. Reconcile is a verb that means to reconsecrate (devote or dedicate to some purpose). Our responsibility to our world is one that requires us to reach out and "minister" to those in need. There are various ministries that we can take on. Whether one is a greeter as David desired in Psalm 84:
10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.[ 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...]
How important are relationships anyway? I don’t know about you, but in my life, one of the things that has caused me the most pain, is relationships with other people. The relationship between myself and my parents when I was growing up was a most excruciating experience. I nearly took my own life as an adolescent because of the painful experience of relationships in our home. My brothers and sisters beat up on me and literally tortured my brother and I at times.
I have to admit, my understanding of proper relationships or relationship skills was pretty messed up for almost half of my life. For that matter, even for the last 20 years of ministering to others, I have to admit, I have suffered painfully at the hands of relationships with people. People I have trusted have stolen from me and lied on me. People I have loved, have hated me. People I have helped have turned on me. I don’t know about you, but relationships with other people, have really hurt me.
On the other hand, my relationships with some other people have been my salvation. Had it not been for a relationship with a friend in High School, I may have never been introduced to Christ. My relationship with my Pastor helped mold my character as a young man. My relationship with other ministers has solidified my faith and walk with God. My relationship with other Christians, has renewed my faith in people and allowed me to experience a proper relationship experience. In fact many of the brothers and sisters in the church are closer to me than my own siblings. My relationship with my wife has given me something to work towards every day. My relationship with my children is my passion.
Relationships. A good relationship can make you, but a bad relationship can destroy you. The chance we take to have a good relationship is almost not worth the risk to many people. They have been so hurt by relationships that they choose rather to become introvert and avoid relationships with other people at all costs. Their way of avoiding another painful experience is to avoid all close relationships.[ 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...]
There’s a difference between leadership and management. Management consists primarily of three things: analysis, problem solving and planning. If you go to any management course, you’ll find it revolves around those three things. But leadership consists of communicating your Vision and Values.
If you don’t clarify the purposes as the leader, who will?
Here are a few guidelines:
Believe it or not, the bigger your vision, the easier it is to reach. People are rarely motivated by small visions. They will follow a big vision easier than a little one. People need a purpose. Giving them a grand vision will enable them to connect as some level with that vision. If your vision is narrow, you may fail to interest some people. However, if your vision is large, it will leave plenty of room for others to get involved.
Don’t worry about solving the problem before casting the vision. A good example of visionary leadership would be the United States President, John F. Kennedy. Regardless of what you think about his politics, Kennedy stood up one day in the early 1960’s and said, “We will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.” He was clear; he was precise; and the vision was something people could look to. Now, here’s the interesting thing – when he said it, the technology to put a man on the moon hadn’t even been developed. That’s visionary leadership! Just because you don't have all the pieces of the puzzle just yet, does not mean that you can't share the vision. Let others come along side you who will bring those pieces to the table.
Your God determines how big your goal is. So, how big do you think God is? The issue is not who do you think you are, but who do you think God is? In your dreams for ministry, don’t limit yourself by saying, “What can I do?” Instead ask, “What can God do? What can God do in this place?” Then, use every single tool and resource that God puts in front of you - no matter what it looks like. Judging whether or not a resource if "of God" will limit God's ability to bless you in your work for Him.[ 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...]