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Guard the Gates - Part 2
By: Philip Harrelson
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
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John Bunyan’s book The Holy War describes the capture and re-taking of Mansoul. The gates were taken advantage of by Diabolus and his armies because they were not guarded properly. When King Shaddai decided that he was going to gain control of it again, he chose to assault the gates also. The Eye Gate and the Ear Gate were the primary ways of going back into the city. So he determined that he would have his best men to attack the Ear Gate. It literally shook while these men assaulted it. While the allegory is best understood as preaching that is being used to reason with the Ear Gate, Bunyan does an excellent job in describing the ways that it falls back to the control of King Shaddai.
The first to assault the Ear Gate was Captain Boanerges and his first assistant, Mr. Thunder. The second man to assault the gate was Captain Conviction and his first assistant, Mr. Sorrow. The third man sent in is Captain Judgment and Mr. Terror. Obviously Bunyan is describing the most effective tones of evangelistic preaching. Although all of these techniques, authority, passion, conviction, godly sorrow, judgment, and a fear of the judgment awaiting every man, it appears that much of this kind of preaching has fallen by the wayside.
Captain Judgment and Mr. Terror (knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; 2 Cor. 5:11) are dressed in red uniforms with an insignia of a burning furnace. When he stepped up to speak immediately after Captain Conviction, his words rang out.
‘O ye, the inhabitants of the town of Mansoul, that have lived so long in rebellion and acts of treason against the King Shaddai, know that we come not today to this place, in this manner, with our message of our own minds, or to revenge our own quarrel; it is the King, my Master, that hath sent us to reduce you to your obedience to him; the which if you refuse in a peaceable way to yield, we have commission to compel you thereto. And never think of yourselves, nor yet suffer the tyrant Diabolus to persuade you to think, that our King, by his power, is not able to bring you down, and to lay you under his feet; for he is the former of all things, and if he touches the mountains, they smoke. Nor will the gate of the King’s clemency stand always open; for the day that shall burn like an oven is before him; yea, it hasteth greatly, it slumbereth not.[ read more...]
THE PERIL OF SHEEP DISEASES
Rev. Robert Wimberley
11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
INTRO: The word sheep is mentioned exactly 187 times from Genesis to Revelation.
New Ungers Bible Dictionary tells us that the term Sheep can mean several things in the Hebrew….
1. young sheep, a lamb, Heb. keseb.
2. A flock of sheep (rendered "flock," the most frequent word thus rendered, Heb. 'son.
3. ne of a flock, a single though sometimes used collectively (Jer 50:17), Heb. seh.
4. ny four-footed tame animal accustomed to graze, but always a sheep in the NT Grk. Probaton.
Sheep were an important part of the possessions of the ancient Hebrews and of Eastern nations generally. They were used in the sacrificial offerings, both the adult animal and the lamb, i.e., a male from one to three years old, but young lambs of the first year were used more frequently. No lamb under eight days old was allowed to be killed . A very young lamb was called taleh (1 Sam 7:9, "suckling lamb";
(From The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (c) 1988.)
I came across a book several months ago which belonged to my father. It was written by a former English Shepherd who had spent the majority of his life raising and shepherding sheep until God called him to be a pastor. So he traded in his staff for a Bible, and his rod for a pulpit. But he felt that it would be beneficial to write about the first hand experiences he had as a shepherd, since so many of those experiences apply today to the spiritual flock of the Lord.[ read more...]
Good leaders motivate, mobilize, direct and resource people to fulfill a vision. Our Lord knew well how to do all of these with His own disciples.
For too many years we have viewed the Pastor of the church as the sole supplier of edification in the church and as a result, he has little time to develop other leaders around him.
Whether you are the president of a corporation, the quarterback of a football team, a general in an army or a pastor of a church, it is important to realize the value of having a team around you who support and who work to carry out your vision. Without this, your desire to carry your church into a new dimension of revival may never take place. It will never become a reality as you alone do not have the resources or human ability to do it by yourself. God’s will for your ministry is bigger than you alone. You are going to need a team around you to help you get the job done.
Take the quarterback for instance. His goal is to get the ball from one end of the field to the other. He can run the ball. He can throw the ball. He can probably even kick the ball a bit, but he has a problem. There are several obstacles on the other side of the line of scrimmage who are just waiting for that ball to move so they can come and take it a way from him.
His problem is not that he does not know what to do. It’s not that he does not know how to do it. His problem is that he cannot do it alone. It’s impossible. He needs a team around him who will block for him. He needs people who he can hand the ball off to once in a while. There needs to be someone on his team who he can throw the ball to and trust that that person will do all he can to run it through a defensive line of huge, strong, mean, people who do not want the ball to get past them. Most importantly, he needs blockers. These fellas will systematically put themselves in harms way to protect the quarterback. Because if the quarterback is in any way hurt or removed from the game due to injury, the game is over for his team.
You see the quarterback is not the fastest. He is not the strongest. He is not the most agile. He is however, the one calling the plays. He is the one who knows what it’s going to take to get the ball to the other end of the field. The quarterback does not make the touchdowns, he puts the ball in the hands of the ones who will.
Many pastors have thought for too long that they alone are the quarterback, the running back, the blockers and the entire defensive line. For this reason, their churches are too often stuck at the line of scrimmage with no means of advancing toward the desired goal.[ read more...]
There are a number of great ways to preach the Word of God, but one of the most effective is expository preaching.
Stephen Olford defines expository preaching this way;
"Expository preaching is the Spirit-empowered explanation and proclamation of the text of God's Word with due regard to the historical, contextual, grammatical and doctrinal significance of the given message or given passage, with the specific object of invoking a Christ transforming response."
That is a pretty heavy definition, let me simplify; "The text does the talking, the preaching, the teaching and the transforming." The message is already there, you just have to open it up and discover it for yourself. Expository preaching forces the man of God to open his own heart first and allow the scripture to change him before it ever changes his audience.
An expository sermon comes from a portion of text that is usually at least one paragraph in length, and where at least a good portion of the story is told in its context. For an expository sermon to have impact, the story of the text must be opened up to your audience. A casual reading and retelling of the scripture is not quite what it is about. Nor is it a step by step outline of each verse. There is a message in the story of the text that must be shared in a meaningful way.
There is a pressure in our culture today for preachers to be 'relevant' to their audience. In doing so, expository preaching has become less and less popular. Many insist that it is no longer effective. Most of today's mainline preachers have adopted the 'topical' style of preaching in their attempt to become relevant. In this style of preaching they choose a topic and then go to the Word to see what the scripture says about it. The danger in this is that they become so topical in their preaching that there is very little of the Word of God left. The one or two scriptures they do use are often taken out of context and used in ways that alter their intended meaning. I would like to say that there is nothing more relevant for our culture today than the Word of God. The Word of God transcends time, tradition and culture. The writer of Hebrews declares that the Word of God is quick enough, sharp enough and has enough power to pierce into the thoughts and hearts of every person.[ read more...]
One Snoopy cartoon depicts the famous beagle of Charley Brown lying on the roof of his dog house and complaining that everyone is constantly demanding something from him. He has so much more to do that he can possibly get accomplished. In the final frame of the cartoon, Snoopy sighs, “I hate being head beagle!”
Being head beagle is not always as glamorous as it appears to be. Amazingly, people struggle to become the top dog. There is some kind of allure to the top position in any given profession and the ministry is no different. An intoxication to be the one at the top of the ladder oftentimes blurs the true calling and divine purpose of too many people.
Few however, know the true cost of being the one with the title before his/her name. At the same time, those who are the One at the Top, overestimate their own true value. Any organization that only thrives because of the charisma of its sole leader is in trouble. In the day that the person whom the whole organization is revolving around falls away or steps aside, that organization is going to struggle to find direction for its immediate and future direction. Few churches/organizations who follow this pattern can survive completely with the loss of their fearless leader.[ 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...]
How do we preach to those who have heard it all? Here are seven ingredients:
- Round out Bible characters. For many sermon veterans, familiar Bible characters are flat, one dimensional, either good or bad. But real people have inner tensions, complications, and mixed motives. When a preacher portrays that, listeners identify readily.
- Get specific about application. An example is more powerful than an explanation. There’s a world of difference between telling someone that prayer changes things and sharing a fresh example of a situation transformed by prayer.
- Let it grip your soul. A critical quality in preaching effectively to those who’ve heard it all is sincerity. If our sermon is honest and heartfelt, a truth as common as “Jesus loves you” can thunder in the hearts and minds of our listeners.
- Address the tough question. We would like to think that hearing a lot of sermons would answer most of a person’s questions. But people who have heard it all love to hear a preacher tackle the tough ones.
Early on in my days as an RN, I greatly enjoyed working with patients who had come through multiple trauma situations. Even when I was in nursing school, I would frequently spend my evenings at work as a patient care tech, in the Emergency Department or in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. The reason was because these areas were generally the hubs for patients who had multiple trauma insults to contend with. Then when I graduated from nursing school, I went to work in the SICU and it was there that I found a niche specifically with neuro-trauma and the other injuries associated with the brain and the spinal cord.
There have been numerous times that I have seen patients that hardly had a mark on their body but had been dealt a massive blow to the head to the extent that they never recovered. In fact, far more than I would like to have liked, we would send them to long-term care facilities basically in a very obtunded or comatose state. Never again would they function normally and be able to assume even the most basic of daily functions of living. A perfectly healthy body but with horrific brain injury that disabled them.
John Bunyan wrote another classic besides Pilgrim’s Progress. It was a book called The Holy War. The focus of the story was the capture of a city called Mansoul. In it Diabolus (the devil) has taken it and the battle rages as the Prince Emmanuel works to recapture it. The way it was overcome was because the gates of the city had been compromised. Diabolus and his wicked imps had traversed it by taking advantage of the Eye Gate and Eye Gate which are symbolic of the use of the senses to cause the capture of the city.
It is imperative that a minister guards the gates of his mind. He is constantly under the assault and duress of the devil and because of this, our mind must be worked on very diligently to prevent the capture of it. Don’t be surprised at the tares, which may loom among the wheat because this is the way it has to be. In fact Paul cautioned the ever-vigilant servant when he expressed the fact that there must be heresies to grow like clover in a pasture. The reason is for the church to be approved by God (1 Cor. 11:19).[ read more...]
Jesus died for the sins of the world. His mission was very broad. He did not die for most, several or some. He died for all. When He suffered on the cross, He did not have only a few hundred or a few thousand on His mind. What held Him to that tree was every single man, woman, boy and girl who would ever live on this planet. Is our own directive is the same? Are we quite satisfied with a few hundred and would we be very satisfied with a few thousand. Think about it. If your ministry directly affected 1,000 souls on a weekly basis, would you be satisfied?
We have to stop thinking small. Jesus did not think small. The scripture does not speak small. This gospel was given that every single person ever conceived could have a relationship with Him. For too long the Church’s growth has been limited by our small thinking.
Over 7 billion people on this planet today are missing out on Heaven. We have churches who run 50 and are Pastored by people who are quite satisfied with 50. We also have churches running 50 who are Pastored by people who are so bothered because they cannot get their church to grow, that they doubt they were truly called to the ministry. These people get so frustrated, that they give up and are defeated by their inability to reach their community.[ read more...]