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The Sabbath is not just a day of rest, but it is a time of Sacred assembly. It is a time to gather together to worship and learn about the Lord. Here’s where we have to ask ourselves, “Are we faithful to the House of God?” Do we honor the Sabbath the way God would want us to?
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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.” KJV
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.
Regardless of what you haven’t done in the past you owe it to yourself to begin preparations for your future today. Many ministers do not have retirement plans and will be forced to depend on the government to exist. The government cannot be depended on for your aged future. Changes are being made in government today that threatens the long-term security of America’s seniors.
Let me share an amazing fact with you. If you take a sheet of copy paper and fold it in half it then becomes two pages thick. If you fold it again it would be four pages thick. Fold it the third time it would be eight pages thick. Suppose you continue folding it in half until you have folded it fifty times. How high do you think the stack of paper would be?
Would the stack of paper be twelve inches high? Would it be two feet high? Think bigger; would it be as tall as a refrigerator? What is the correct answer? You won’t believe it.
A piece of paper folded fifty times would reach from the earth to the moon! If you fold it just once more (fifty-one times) it would reach from the earth to the moon and back to the earth again.
You must decide to somehow start saving or investing on a regular and consistent basis. It will add up. Allow interests to compound. I recently read about someone who made a fortune with an online Internet business. He said that he remembers the day he made his first dollar. He thought, “If I can make one I can make two!” Everyday he tried to simply inch his business forward. Eventually his online business reached a tipping point.
Your future is worth the effort to repeatedly do the right things (like folding the paper) and inching forward (one dollar at a time). Start today!
Make family time and relationships a top priority.
The most important people in your life should be your family. The past is over and only the future remains. Begin building better relationships and connections with your family today. There is still time to create what will become sweet memories.
Is healing needed? Are forgiveness, confession and repentance necessary? Bridge the gap. Do it.
The time to ask the hard questions is now. Are you content to see your children or parents only once or twice a year? An amazing fact is that many people will only spend a few hours with those they love over the next ten years. Are a few hours of life all you really want to remember about that special person?
Make the effort and the adjustments to build memories with those you love the most. It is amazing how you blink and the children are grown and gone, and age transforms your face in the mirror.
Do yourself a favor and do not neglect your family and loved ones for everyone else. Be accountable to those you love and you will never regret the memories. In your latter years those memories will become perhaps your greatest treasure and source of serenity.
Keep variety in your lifestyle.
Are you a boring dud as an individual? What things do you do with your spouse? If your spouse knew then how you would be now do you think they would have married you? When is the last time you were spontaneous and fun? Where have you traveled? Name some of your great adventures?
Have you ever looked at how you look when you walk out of your house to check the mail? Do you need to make some personal changes? Is your life’s greatest joy the time spent eating that late night bowl of ice cream you have propped up on your bulging tummy?
Are you like Phileas Fogg, the main character in, Around the World in 80 Days? He never varied anything. Everything in his life was precise and centered only around him.
If so then you need to get a life. Variety is the spice of life, or so it is said. Only you can add variety into your life.
Expand your horizons. Develop meaningful hobbies. Do memorable and exciting things together with your spouse.
If your hobbies take you away from your spouse then develop some mutually interesting hobbies that you can do with your spouse. Don’t allow everything you do to be done alone or with others and not with your spouse.
Invest in friendships.
A man once told me, “I can count on one hand the number of friends I have.” As he said that he waved his hand. He only had two fingers because his hand had been damaged in an accident. What a shame. A life lived and only two friends to show for it.
Do you have good friends? Do you have the kind of friends that are the kind that will be there through thick and thin?
My father-in-law once lost his job. He decided that instead of looking for another job he would just start a business from the ground up. It was a tough time but he and my mother-in-law faced their challenge with courage. His next-door neighbors came over and handed him a checkbook with a $10,000 balance. They told him to use the money as if it were his own and to try to repay them whenever he could. There were no strings attached, no contract and no expectations demanded. It was simply an act of faithful friendship.
Trust and friendship like that doesn’t come cheaply. Friendships are something you invest time and effort into.
Consider the friends you have and make the effort to strengthen the ties that bind you together. Do something to manifest your trust and confidence in your friends. Everyone will benefit from the meaningful relationships that only close friendships can produce.
Guard your testimony and your reputation.
One of the greatest things an individual can possess is a good reputation. Every person, and especially every minister, should protect their reputation.
In my mind I can think of multiple men who had built world-renowned ministry empires. Their names were known around the world, and if I named them you would recognize them. The sad thing is that if I named them you would not think of their great accomplishments, of their multi-million dollar buildings, or any of their grand programs. Instead you would think of their act of adultery or other moral or financial failure.
You build your own reputation and others simply state it. You alone will determine if others call you lazy, undependable, a thief, dishonest, faithful, industrious, loyal, devoted, genuine or otherwise.
Always bear in mind that what you may spend years establishing can be destroyed or tainted by one careless act. A lifetime as a great husband would be forgotten and tossed aside by one selfish act of adultery on a business trip.
Reputations include perception. Sometimes what you are isn’t all that matters, but it is how others perceive you. You may be honest but if others perceive you as dishonest then to them that is what you are. You may be faithful but if others perceive you as unfaithful then to them that is what you are. Once people perceive you as being a certain way it is difficult to change their opinion of you.
So, why would they perceive you any certain way? It could be your actions, the way you conduct yourself, the things you say, the company you keep, or any other such thing.
Today you are building your reputation. This is as good a time as any to take inventory of everything that could impact the perception others have of you, as well as to establish some protective boundaries to keep you from destroying in a moment of weakness the things you took a lifetime to create.
Make time for the important things in life.
It is difficult to think about dying because we all desire to live, but death eventually comes to all. To the born again Christian death is nothing to fear but something to embrace as part of our eternal journey.
If you could imagine yourself as a person of extreme old age, nearing death and meditating on their life, what would be the most important things to you? Would it be your relationship with God, your family, your life’s impact on others, or what?
It has been said that nobody nearing death ever says, “I wish I would have spent more time at work”. However, they do say things like, “I wish I had been a better husband, or father, or Christian, or example, etc.”
Make time now for the important things in life. Do it daily and continuously. Allow it to become a habitual daily lifestyle. Eliminate as many non-essential things as possible that are contrary to the things you value in life. Do yourself and those you love a great favor by making a conscientious attempt to increase your emphasis on the important things and to minimize and eliminate the non-important.
Take care of your temple.
Your body is the temple you live in for a lifetime. The quality of the life you live depends largely on the health and condition of your body.
Don’t neglect your health. Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness should be a top priority. Many people have done irreparable harm to their bodies due to abuse or neglect, but the optimum time to begin making improvements is right now.
The ministry is a profession that many use to justify unhealthy lifestyle habits. Eating late, avoiding exercise, neglecting rest and so forth are not only commonplace but also boasted about. That is lunacy! Prayer lines are often filled with overweight and unkempt people who are asking God to heal what they have abused.
Proper exercise and diet helps avoid and even prevents many health issues from occurring. Blood pressure, stress, cholesterol levels, fatigue, diabetes, heart conditions and many other things can be aided or eliminated through the proper care of the body. You are worth it!
When one passes the age of fifty you are on the downhill slope of life. However, most people have a choice as to how fast they go downhill. Fortunately there are many solutions available today and for every price range. One might join a fitness center, the YMCA or YWCA, or even purchase some exercise equipment for the home. There are a plethora of exercise games, dance videos, and so forth available today. Others may choose bike riding, walking, jogging, tennis, golf, hiking, basketball or any number of activities that keep the body fit.
Numerous people in my church family have recently started taking better care of their bodies. Many have lost weight and started exercising regularly. It has already made an incalculable difference. Even the attitudes are better!
Years ago my grandmother became depressed. She started staying in bed and became totally lethargic and lazy. She gained weight, lost energy, and depended on her husband for everything as he cooked, cleaned and did the shopping, etc. Finally she went to her doctor because she was feeling so poorly. After the examination the doctor asked her if she had life insurance. “Yes”, she replied. “Good”, he said. “Why do you ask”, she requested. “So you can pay for your funeral soon,” he replied. “Oh Lord, what is wrong with me doctor?” she asked, thinking she had a severe disease or something. The doctor then told her, “There is nothing wrong with you that exercise can’t cure. If you don’t get out of that bed you are going to die very soon. If you get up and active again you may live 20 more years,” he scolded her. “The choice to live or die is yours”. Fortunately my grandmother started a walking routine that same day. Eventually she lost weight and could do anything she wanted to do. She lived over 20 more years as a result.
If you haven’t exercised in a while please consult with your doctor before beginning any rigorous exercise regimen. Consult a dietician or other expert before drastically altering your diet.
Whatever you do get healthier and live longer and better.
Maintain devotion and intimate time with God.
I have visited the convent and burial site of Mother Teresa in Kolkata, India on several occasions. It is humbling to see where she lived. Her room was sparsely furnished. She allowed herself one pencil at a time until it was used up. She had two changes of garments. She wore one of the garments, as the other was being hand washed and prepared for use again. She rotated them daily.
She did a marvelous work. The “Sisters of Charity” convents, which she founded, impact thousands of people daily around the world. Her writings are amazing. As I read things written in her own handwriting I began to understand that her work was strictly humanitarian. One of the saddest things I ever read was her handwritten note in which she spoke of the daily toil and burden, and then stated that she had not felt God one time in over twenty years! She regretted not feeling God. She had helped so many, but had famished her own soul.
Do not neglect your soul. Spend intimate time with God. Study the Word of God. Establish a consistent prayer life. Practice praise and worship. Keep the Spirit fresh in you. Don’t be like Mother Teresa and get so busy doing the work of God that you neglect the most important thing (your relationship with God).
In Summary, to overcome or avoid condemnation:
- Plan your finances as though you will live 150 years
- ·Make family time and relationships a top priority
- Keep variety in your lifestyle
- Invest in friendships
- Guard your testimony and your reputation
- Take care of your temple
- Maintain devotion and intimate time with God
I can hear my mother still to this day yelling, “Are you listening to me?” Being the single mother of 5 children left her without much patience. I believe much of her frustration as a single, struggling mom, was she felt that no one heard her.
Mom worked all kinds of jobs to try to provide for us kids, so she was not home much. We pretty much raised ourselves. My 4 brothers and sisters were just about as unruly as children left to their own devices could get.
When Mom finally made a pit stop at the house, she would find it in shambles. Then, with the frustration of a mother trying to do her best, but failing miserably, she would simply lose it. “Are you kids listening to me?” The truth of the matter was, we weren’t listening to a word she was saying. We were too busy having a blast doing our own thing.
I once read a story of a pastor who was asked by a woman in his church for a few minutes of his time. The pastor agreed to meet with her and while they talked, she said flatly to the pastor, “My father molested me when I was a little girl”. Without missing a beat, the pastor said, “I believe you.” The woman was shocked! She couldn’t believe that someone had finally believed her.
Through tears she said, “For years I have tried to tell my family members, but no one would listen to me”. It was such a relief to finally have someone who listened and believed her. The pastor asked, “What can I do for you?” “Nothing she replied, I just needed someone to listen and believe me.”
How sad, that little girl carried such pain and shame all those years and had no one to listen to her. I have found that listening is a great way of helping people. As a pastor, I am often asked to do counseling. I find myself doing more listening than counseling. I believe much of the time the person is just trying to find someone who will listen to them.
Listening is not something that comes easy for me. I’d rather be talking. I love to talk. As I get older however, I’m learning to listen more. At least long enough to hear what the other person is trying to tell me.
As I am writing this, my wife has come into the office a total of 7 times to tell me about her day. It takes every bit of my energy to make myself stop doing what I am doing and focus on what she is telling me. I’m careful to listen to every detail, as she often gives a quiz if she feels I’m not listening. “Now what did I just say?” she’ll ask.
People with high energy find slowing down enough to really listen, challenging. Most people tend to speak about 300-400 words a minute, but can only listen to 180 words a minute. If you do the simple math here you find that of the 300-400 words a minute you speak, people are only listening to 180 of them.
It takes extra energy to listen to people. You have to practice it. You have to work at it. As leaders, we need to know that people will be drawn to us simply because we listen to them. Make it a point this week to find yourself in a conversation with someone where they are doing all the talking and you are doing all the listening.
As a leader, how many times have you enthusiastically started a new project, excited about its prospects? Eager to begin, you call together your leadership teams, make plans and set the project in motion. But one thing lacks…you’ve forgotten to answer the questions that need answering.
Starting new ventures is great for creating momentum in the church; however, before you begin you must ask yourself and your team leaders if the project is sustainable in the long run. In other words, can you finish what you start? What’s more, if the right people aren’t in place to make it happen, it is more beneficial to refrain from starting until you have the appropriate people trained to take on the new project.
The Leadership of Jesus
In everything Jesus is our example, and momentum in leadership is no exception. Jesus looked ahead. His death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven were just a few short years away. In order for the church to succeed without Him, He trained and positioned the right people in the right place, ready to carry on His ministry after His ascension.
Often times Jesus said, “My hour is not yet come,” or “It is not yet my time.” He walked in sync with God’s will and timing, cognizant of the preparation needed to complete His earthly tasks. And He made sure His disciples were equipped to continue His ministry after He left this earth.
The Lord is the finest example of leadership we will ever hope to have. His calling and training of the twelve disciples is a model of perfect leadership in ministry. Through Jesus’ leadership style, we can gain a sense of what it takes to create momentum in our ministries. The momentum Jesus created with His twelve disciples still moves forward today, 2000 years later.
By the time Jesus began His ministry and summoned the twelve disciples in Matthew 10, He was halfway into His ministry. That meant that Jesus had approximately two years to train twelve men to carry on the work that He had started just months prior to their calling.
Jesus’ ministry had two phases. In the first portion of His ministry He labored single-handedly for over a year. His miracles and teachings were, for the most part, limited to the area of Galilee. As Jesus gained followers it became clear that He would travel greater distances to reach and teach greater numbers of people. This large group would be unable to follow Jesus wherever He went, especially over the long journeys that became part of His later ministry.
Jesus needed a certain few with Him at all times. He needed to reproduce Himself in a group of willing and faithful men who would be able to carry on His ministry to the world. Thus, Jesus called the twelve disciples.
For the final two years of His life Jesus focused on these men. The crowds grew to greater numbers than before. Jesus would still perform miracles but if the momentum was to continue, He had to direct His passion toward these twelve ordinary men. For several years Jesus trained simple and common people: Fishermen, carpenters, a tax-collector, a zealot and tradesmen. They were all as ordinary as you and I.
How did Jesus select these twelve men? First and foremost, He prayed. In fact, the Bible records that Jesus continued in prayer all night long.
For over a year, Jesus was familiar with the men He would call. Jesus prayed for these men’s souls, their futures, their safety, their understanding and their faith. He prayed for them to develop spiritually into an unstoppable force that would impact the world. We know from Scripture that what Jesus prayed for came to fruition.
Jesus faced controversy from the very beginning of His ministry. His own community literally tried to kill Him after He taught in the local synagogue. Shortly after this, He became popular among the people in the region of Galilee. As the word spread of His teachings and His miracles, huge crowds of people flocked to see and hear Him. The crowds grew so large that He would occasionally teach from a boat on the Sea of Galilee just to get away from the press of people.
Jesus was no doubt the most popular figure who existed in this region at that time. What’s worth noting though, is that Jesus did nothing to use His popularity to advance His cause or gain momentum. In fact, He did the opposite.
Imagine the crowds He could have drawn had He concentrated on marketing His Name? What would have happened had He conceded to some of the religious leaders’ demands? But none of that interested Jesus.
Jesus was controversial for sure. At times, His teachings and messages were so offensive that almost everyone left Him except His faithful few.
Only the twelve simple men stayed with Jesus after everyone else left. It was then that Jesus chose these twelve to mentor, train and disciple over the next two years.
Training the Twelve
By now, Jesus’ ministry had reached a point of no return. The religious leaders of the day made up their minds to kill Him and make an example of Him. The hunt was on and time was short. Wherever Jesus went He worked quickly, getting in and out before He was discovered. The crucifixion was only a few years away and He needed to prepare His twelve disciples to carry on His message.
This two-year period of time was critical to maintain and advance the momentum Jesus established in the first year of his ministry. From this point forward, the whole character and motive of Jesus’ ministry changed. His focus switched from the multitudes to the few. His first priority was to train the men who would become His ambassadors of the Gospel and the momentum would continue through these chosen few.
Twelve was a number Jesus could disciple, mentor, tutor, and teach in a one-on-one setting. Twelve was the number with whom He could have friendship and a relationship.
Less is More
The Lord understood that spending more time with less people would eventually impact the Kingdom in a greater measure than meeting with great crowds of people. Less would become more…many, many more. All of us need to use this concept in training and mentoring other leaders.
Jesus took it a step further. He broke down the twelve into three. Peter, James, and John became what we know as the inner circle; they were the closest to Jesus. These three were instrumental in carrying on what Jesus started. Whatever these three did, the others would also do. Consequently, Jesus spent more time mentoring these three than any of the other nine disciples.
- Peter was the one to whom Jesus entrusted the keys of the Kingdom. He went on to preach the keynote message at Pentecost.
- John was the disciple whom Jesus loved. The Lord shared things with John that he never shared with the others. Many of those things are recorded in the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation.
- James and John were known as the Sons of Thunder, possessing a zeal for God that the others did not have.
Jesus had deeper discussions with these three men and they were closer to the Master than the others. For example, Jesus asked Peter, James and John to join Him when He healed Jairus’s daughter. They were present during the transfiguration and as Jesus anguished in the Garden of Gethsemane. They were the first great leaders of the church and became the foundation with Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone.
Jesus Christ, God of this universe, concentrated the majority of His efforts on three men who would emerge as the leaders of His Church. With Jesus as their commanding officer, these three men experienced hands-on training in the front lines of a spiritual warfare.
As we follow Jesus’ example we, too, will realize that less is more. After all, we can train and mentor a few a lot better than we can mentor a whole group or a classroom of potential leaders.
In everything we do, we should keep these concepts in mind. Don’t start something that you cannot properly manage and maintain. It will fail, having wasted precious time, energy, and resources to no avail. Simplification is key to maintaining momentum in any given organization.
If you would like to learn more about experiencing momentum in your ministry by raising up the leaders around you, take a look at http://www.pastoralhelps.com/momentum-in-ministry-exclusives-page/
Thank you so much for all of you who have prayed and helped support the work that is going on in West Bengal India. As many of you know, we have been very involved in a tremendous work that God is doing in this spiritually hungry part of the world. Please partner with us if you can by praying and fasting Jan 2-8 for the work of God that we will be doing there.
Myself, Pastor Kenneth Gurley, Pastor Fred Childs and Rev. Clifford Pereira and other members of Mission India are traveling this time to Kolkata, the capital city of West Bengal with a total population of over 18 million people. We leave Jan 2. The vast multitude of souls in this city and the overwhelming spiritual darkness there, has compelled us to begin a work for God in this forgotten land. We are believing God for at least 1 million souls from this city in the very near future.
Our immediate goal is to begin working to set up an Orphanage, Host church and Bible College. We will also be meeting with other believers there to organize crusades throughout the city and surrounding remote villages that will be the vortex for a Great Revival for West Bengal.
Please consider partnering with us in any way you can. Our immediate need is a prayer covering. We know that God wants to bring a remarkable revival to this nation who holds 1/6th of the world’s population. We also know that every evil spirit will work to hinder all that we are doing there. Your prayers will enable us to accomplish much when spiritual darkness would come against us.
One of the Primary needs there is to raise up solid Godly leadership. In order to accomplish this, a Bible College is desperately needed. Our great need is to purchase property to hold the school and housing needs of the students. Is there any way you could make a contribution towards this? Any amount will greatly enable us to purchase a property that will be dedicated to training young men and women to do the Work of God. Many Pastors and Missionaries will be the result of this Bible College.
If you would like to know more about Mission India or to make a contribution towards the Bible College that is urgently needed, please visit www.IndiaNeedsJesus.com and click on the donate button at the top of the page. At the bottom of the Donations page is an area called “Any Donation Amount”. Funds from this area are now being used to purchase the Bible College property.
Thank you again to all of you wonderful people who have gotten behind this great work that God is doing in West Bengal India. How I wish I could take each of you there to show you what a difference your prayers and support are making in the lives of so many desperate people.
Rev. James Smith
Oswald J. Smith was a pastor greatly concerned with the task of world evangelism. He wrote, “For more than 30 years I have prayerfully considered the problem: How can we evangelize the world in the space of one generation? Long ago I was convinced that we could never send out enough missionaries. For a while I gave up hope. After travel and study in nearly one hundred countries, I have come to this conclusion – the only way we are going to carry out the Great Commission, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” will be the means of the printed page. By the systematic use of the printed page we shall be able to enter into every home and reach every individual with the gospel message.”