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Ministry127

Encouraging, Equipping, and Engaging Ideas from Local Church Leaders.
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Thoughts from Rehoboam's Tragic Mistake The story of Rehoboam in first Kings 12 seems increasingly relevant to independent Baptists in the 21st Century. Rehoboam, of course, was the son of Solomon and the one to whom the Proverbs had been written. He was given excellent advice and excellent training.When he became king, the citizens of Israel came and made an appeal to him. They explained that the tax burden placed upon them by Solomon in order to build the Temple and the king's palace had been exceedingly heavy. They asked for some relief. Rehoboam told them to come back in three days and went to see his advisors.There were two sets of advisors: “The old men that stood before Solomon,” and “the young men that were grown up with him.” Unsurprisingly, the two sets of advisors gave him two different kinds of advice. The old men advised humility whereas the young men urged him to defend his honor. The old men counseled patience with long-term benefits in mind. The young men counseled a display of power with short-term benefits in view. The old men counseled Rehoboam to surrender his rights. The young men counseled him to exercise his rights. Rehoboam followed the counsel of his peers with disastrous consequences.Here are few thoughts in regards to this portion of Scripture, which I hope will be pertinent to our service for the Lord Jesus today.It is clear from the story that Rehoboam had already identified with the “young crowd” and separated himself in his mind from the old crowd. He said to the old counselors in verse six, “How do ye advise that I may answer this people” (emphasis mine). He said to the young counselors, “What counsel give ye that we may answer this people?”We should identify with truth more than with age; with that which is right more than that with which we are comfortable.There is a reason most counselors are old. It takes time to live life and learn lessons from the Lord.The people that we “grow up with” make wonderful friends and helpful co-laborers. They seldom make great counselors.Rehoboam's demise began before he chose to follow the advice of the young men. After hearing the advice of the old men, the Scripture says, “But he forsook the counsel of the old men which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him” (1 Kings 12:8). In other words, Rehoboam did not weigh both sides and then choose wrong. The Scripture tells us that he was turning his back on the counsel of the old men even before he decided to listen to counsel of the young men.One might reasonably ask why the Word of God and the testimony of our forefathers is not sufficient for us. Although there is nothing wrong with a book because it is new, why do we spend so much time reading that which is current and so little time reading that which has stood the test of decades and even centuries.Rehoboam had a problem with his attitude, not just with his actions and his advisors. The Bible tells us in verse thirteen that Rehoboam, “Answered the people roughly.” His was not a reasoned approach. He did not reluctantly explain that he could not, at this time, reduce taxes. No, he was feeling his oats, strutting his stuff and demonstrating his power.How often do we observe a chip on the shoulder; a defiant or rebellious spirit in those who challenge Biblical positions that have been long held. Seldom do we see a meek, humble, sincere seeker of truth who works diligently to obey the admonition: “Rebuke not an elder” (1 Timothy 5:1).Rehoboam paid a terrible price for following the wrong advice. I can imagine Rehoboam as he gives his speech. I can see him swaggering off the stage, proud of his exercise of authority, smiling smugly and saying in his heart, “Well, I guess I told them!” But these emotions, if they existed, did not last long. In short order, he lost ten of the twelve tribes he had been given by God and inherited from his father.I have been blessed all my life with godly advice from older men. My father, Dr. Ken Ouellette, taught me, trained me, encouraged me, and exhorted me. I still seek his counsel today. Many elder independent Baptists who have since gone on to Heaven took time to befriend me and give biblical counsel. Many were the times that they would stay up late into the night as I peppered them with questions. I can almost hear their voices today as they imparted words of wisdom. May God help us to love the truth, appreciate the counsel of the “old men,” and, “Continue . . . in the things which[we have] learned” (2 Timothy 3:14).
It has been said, “Leaders know the way, go the way, and show the way.”While I agree with that statement, I have discovered that it only takes place if it happens intentionally. In other words, leaders don't automatically know, go, and show the way—especially all at once and in a systematic way.How then can leaders intentionally invest in their teams? Below are five ways, which I'm specifically applying to the ways a senior pastor can regularly develop his staff. But these could certainly be applied in a variety of settings.1. ModelWhat the senior pastor does becomes a model to the entire leadership team. Endeavor to personally model your ministry philosophy.Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.—Philippians 4:9Additionally, I believe it is important that we, as spiritual leaders, model joy as well. Ministry is about so much more than the motions and methods—it is about serving God and His people from the heart.2. MoldEstablish formal training times, such as weekly staff meetings, annual reviews and retreats. And look for informal opportunities to mentor, invest in, and fellowship with those you lead.Also read together. Our pastoral staff is currently reading the book The Power of Moments to challenge our thoughts on creating special moments for our church family.3. MoveThis is the greatest challenge I face in staff development—being able to transfer responsibilities among a growing staff without hurting people.I challenge our staff to “own” a ministry, and then I ask them to give it back when I feel their responsibilities have grown or that someone else should handle it! The smoothness of this kind of transition greatly depends on the spiritual maturity of the staff member. As a leader, you are somewhat at their mercy, but a mature staff member will be understanding and godly during times of transitions. A growing church—and a growing team—are always in transition.4. MendDo not be so naive as to think that you will never have conflict, misunderstandings, or relational struggles with your staff. But godly leaders who serve together will always pursue spiritual reconciliation and forgiveness.And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.—Ephesians 4:325. MotivatePaying them, caring for their families, and building them with positive words of encouragement and affirmation are necessary to motivation.Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.—Colossians 4:1Someone wisely said, “Help people reach their full potential, catch them doing something right.”Serving God is one of the great privileges of the Christian life. Investing in others doing the same is one of the great privileges of leadership. Don't take the privilege lightly.
Last week my wife and I celebrated our forty-seventh anniversary as husband and wife. That is not as long as some, but a whole lot longer than many! They have been wonderfully blessed years, and I thank God for the wife and home He has given me. Because our wedding anniversary is in February, we tend to spend a lot of them in conferences that are dealing with marriage and the home. This year was no different. We had the great privilege of participating in one at Gatlinburg, TN.As part of the conference, we were on a panel that answered questions about our experiences as married couples. One of the questions we were asked was: “What would you change in your life together if you had the opportunity?” Or at least, that was my interpretation of the question. I answered the question this way, “I would spend less time stressing over particular moments and try to enjoy the journey more.” Now again, those may not have been my exact words, but they were what I was trying to convey.If we are not careful, we can take a short view instead of a long view of life together. I am a control freak—there, I said it! I do not like surprises; I like scripts, and for everyone to stick with the plan, my plan! When situations would arise that were not perfect choreographed, I would object and obsess. As a husband, father, and pastor, I would quickly jump into “fix it” mode and try to manage the situtation.Now, I am not saying that we shouldn't be observant and corrective of situations that need our attention. But some things are just life: they just happen because we are people—they are not nuclear existential threats to our lives. In the words of the wise millennials, CHILL!I look back from a forty-seven-year vantage point and realize how wonderful the journey has been, and how insignificant some of those imagined stress points were. So, with a little more time to give my answer in this article than at that conference, consider three simple thoughts.Process Stressful Moments with a Long-term ViewNot every problem or circumstance can be fixed in the moment or even needs to be. As a matter of fact, we often make the situation worse when we react too quickly on the spot. I am reminded of how the Lord deals with us, as recorded in the Psalms, and the advice that we are given in the book of Proverbs. Our marriages and our children are long-term relationships. Just like our walk in the Lord, they take time to mature and to be perfected. Things need to be fixed, but they often take time. Do not ruin the journey in the moment.The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.—Psalm 103:8He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.—Proverbs 14:29Process Stressful Moments with LoveNow that seems like common sense, and it is; but sometimes there can be a gap between our knowledge and our performance when the stressful moment arrives. Paul tells us that we are, through love, to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. We are going to spend our lives with our spouses, and we are going to have a lifetime relationship with our children. Love will temper how we deal with every situation. Love always responds with a desire to help, not a need to win the argument, prove our point, or to get our way. Love allows us to have the goal of edification and moves us to use words that bestow grace.Process Stressful Moments with a Little LaughterI am an independent, fundamental, separatist Baptist pastor. Wow, that sounds like laughter should never be a part of my existence; but that would be wrong! We have all had the experience where what we first thought was just so horrible or even frightening brought laughter later. That is a common experience because it is a common occurrence. We are not perfect, our spouses are not perfect, our children are not perfect, we make mistakes, and we sin. We do not laugh at sin, but we can learn to laugh at ourselves. It is quite marvelous that the Lord took us on as projects, to make us over into Christ-likeness!Learn to take the long view, learn to practice love, and learn to smile in the stressful moments of life—because they make up the journey with our Lord and each other that is meant to give us meaning and bring us joy!
Change for the Sake of Change Is Not Healthy One thing I have learned after inheriting a church building that is over thirty-five years old: don't change something until you get an idea of why it was there. Sometimes, when I investigate why something was put up, I find it to be a matter of tradition, preference, or taking a shortcut (and okay to remove, improve, or replace). Other times, I discover that there was a reason something was put together the way it was; and I have no business trying to change it without compromising the entire structure of our building.In life and ministry it is no different.Be careful about trying to tear down the spiritual legacy your forefathers have passed down to you. Certainly, there are some man-made traditions that can and should be removed, replaced, or improved. But, there is so much that our forefathers have passed on to us that cannot be changed or removed without compromising the entire structure on which we stand (God's Word).Take, for example, the matter of ecclesiastical separation. Our fundamental forefathers blazed a trail for us of separation from denominations and movements that began to teach doctrine contrary to Scripture. These were men who faced the rise of the issues of their day and, by God's grace, took a biblical stand. Many of them sacrificed their reputations and their present ministries to stay true to sound doctrine. Out of their sacrifice was born the independent Baptist movement.It has been said “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Even so, if we forgot our history it will be to our own detriment. If we begin to follow leaders who have unbiblical doctrine and philosophies (not concerning mere nominal preference issues, but critically fundamental doctrinal issues such as calvinism, Bible versions, ecumenism, etc.), we will by such a choice be moving in a direction that is defiant of God's truth and deviant from the trail our forefathers blazed for us. More devastatingly, we will set our posterity on a course where they will most certainly be led astray from sound doctrine.This is why I say to you: don't try to change or remove something until you get an idea of why it was there.According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.—1 Corinthians 3:10–11Keep in mind, many of the new ideas circulating today have not been proven. Be careful about jumping on the bandwagon and abandoning the biblical philosophy and principles God has blessed throughout church history.But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.—2 Timothy 3:14–15Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.—1 Thessalonians 5:21
With over 750 direct references to music in the Bible, this is an issue of no small significance in Scripture.I've written before on biblical purposes for music as well as on music and worship.Sometimes, however, in lengthy studies or lists, especially in a subject as nuanced as music, we miss the essential and direct biblical directives.Gather several Baptist pastors and music directors together, and you could discuss issues related to melody, rhythm, syncopation, association, instrumentation, and culture's bearing on it all for a long time. (And it could be meaningful and helpful discussion!)But in all the discussions about music, may we not miss the two essentials God gave us in one of the most direct New Testament passages on the subject:Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.—Colossians 3:16What We SingA Barna study found that the focus in modern church music is often not on proclaiming the truth about God or to God, but rather on personal entertainment. “Most Americans go to church to satisfy or please themselves, not to honor or please God.” A much larger percentage of Americans claim that they attend worship services for personal benefit and pleasure than to worship and know God.Yet, when it comes to the music God calls us to use as spiritual Christians to teach and admonish one another, He gives us three specific categories.Psalms—This refers to putting Scripture to music. Of course, the book of Psalms itself was a songbook for the Jews. Some of the songs we sing in church have words directly from Scripture (often from Psalms), and some are songs that are completely comprised of a verse or passage. The Word of God will always exalt and bring praise to the Lord Jesus Christ.Hymns—Hymns are expressions of praise to God for who He is and what He has done. It is thought that some portions of the New Testament such as Colossians 1:15–20 and Philippians 2:6–11 were originally hymns sung in the early church. Our modern-day hymns express worship to God.Spiritual Songs—The Greek word for spiritual is pneumatika, which means “of the spirit.” Spiritual songs express in song the testimony of what God has done for us. These also serve to admonish us and strengthen our faith when they contain true doctrine from God's Word.For instance, when we sing a song with lyrics such as “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,” the song admonishes us to save souls from Hell by sharing the gospel with them. When we sing the lyrics “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, O what a foretaste of glory divine,” it confirms what the Bible teaches about who we are and what we have in Christ.How We SingBut too many Christians who care about godly music stop here—with determining what we should sing.The same verse that tells us what we should sing tells us how we should sing—with grace in our hearts to the Lord!We should not only have the right kind of songs, but we should also have the right spirit in singing them. Both are important to the Lord!With Grace—The attitude in our corporate worship should be one of grace—our response to God's Word and God's work in our hearts.To the Lord—The audience of our singing should be the Lord Himself. When singing is Spirit-generated and Bible-centered, it will always focus on the Lord and to the Lord.Since Scripture speaks much to the subject of music, we should care much about it. But our emphasis in it should be where God's emphasis is—on Him!
Closing the Distance Between You and Your Teenager One of the keys to maintaining a positive and influential relationship with your teenager (or any other person for that matter) is to be aware of and address a wounded spirit. The Bible tells us that a wounded spirit is hard to bear, that strife can separate friends, and that offenses bring with them a hardness of heart. If an offense in our home occurs, just imagine all the damage that can be done.In many homes, parents and their teenagers may not experience a close relationship in part because of an offense that created an injured spirit, which in turn creates distance. Most of us understand that dynamic in our marital relationships; hurt results in distance and loss of closeness. The problem with teens is that they often do not articulate their hurt. They often just keep it inside and little by little allow their hearts to be moved far away from our own, until one day rebellion, resentment, or indifference has taken hold.The answer to this dilemma is simple but not always easy. When you know your child has a wounded spirit because of something you have done; discuss it, address it, and if necessary apologize for your part in their hurt. Too often pride and fear keep parents from being real and asking for forgiveness for poor choices or attitudes. Your esteem in their eyes will only increase if you admit it when you are wrong.If the offense comes because they simply did not get their way and you know your decisions and reactions are appropriate; then hold your ground with kindness and explanation. Give them extra attention and keep the ropes of relationship tight. Do something together to bridge the gap and things will turn out okay. Frequent talks and a little probing will help you know if an offense has occurred and your child has a wounded spirit. If you discover one, deal with it quickly and you will keep the heart of your teen.
We all know we ought to pray more. We all want to pray more effectively. Wouldn't it be wonderful if God wrote a manual on prayer?Indeed, He has! God's Word is the most thorough, powerful prayer book in the world. If you want to be a person of prayer then you must be a person of the Scriptures. George Mueller's life illustrated this connection. He prayed in provision for hundreds of orphans and saw miraculous answers to prayer all of his life. The secret? He began every morning on his knees with an open Bible getting His own heart happy in Jesus and finding a promise He could claim that day.The more attention I give to reading and meditating on God's Word, the more I see my prayer life being transformed. Here are seven ways this happens:1. God's Word will inspire you to pray. As you read about the greatness of God and great answers to prayer for God's people you will find a growing desire to talk to the Lord. “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).2. God's Word will instruct you in prayer. Scripture is full of specific guidelines for praying correctly. The God who hears and answers prayer is the authority on how to prepare your heart for prayer and how to pray in a way that honors Him.3. God's Word will give substance to your prayers. As we read the Bible the Lord speaks to us and shows us truth. Pray about what you are reading today! In this way, Bible reading and prayer becomes a real conversation with the living God.4. God's Word will answer many of the things for which you are praying. Our questions, doubts, and fears are often cared for as we read God's Word. One man of prayer said, near the end of his life, that if he could do it over again he would have given more time to just reading the Bible. When asked why, he said that many of the things he spent his time praying about were actually found right in God's Word! Is it possible that your answer is already in black and white?5. God's Word will give you faith to pray greater prayers. The promises of God are there for us to lay hold on! “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).6. God's Word will keep you from asking for some things. Truth purifies everything and it sanctifies the prayer life. God's Word gets our eyes on God and off of ourselves. If you want to know what God is thinking, read the Bible, and if you want to think like God thinks…keep reading!7. God's Word will renew your mind so that you can talk to a holy God. Scripture points out our sin so that it can be confessed. It also cleans out the pollution that gathers in our thoughts. Ephesians 5:26 says that God makes us clean, “With the washing of water by the word.” This is what the psalmist meant when he said, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psalm 119:9).No doubt there are many other ways that the Scriptures help us as we pray. But there is one truth for us all: We learn to meet God in His Word. Give more attention to the Bible, and you will find that the God of the Word will begin making you into a person of prayer.
Teens Need You to Love Them 1. Nurture them. Ephesians 6:4 tells us, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Nurture speaks of tutoring, educating, and training. This kind of instruction includes mild rebukes and correction but does not respond in a fleshly manner. 2. Remember that they are gradually becoming independent. A wise parent and a wise youth pastor will gradually allow more areas of responsibility and decision-making in the life of a teen.3. Treat them with dignity and respect. Never call them names. Do not demean them in front of others. Ask them to do things rather than ordering them to be done.4. Relate to them. Remember that all teenagers have a lot of emotions inside them. Don't just say to them, “I know how you feel.” Ask God for understanding and say, “Can I guess what you're feeling about this and will you tell me if I'm right?” When they believe you understand them, they will begin to listen.5. Treat minor infractions light-heartedly. Often a parent, a youth pastor, or a preacher will use an atom bomb to punish a teenager for jaywalking!6. Demonstrate love and affection even if it is not reciprocated. It is always right to love people, whether they love us back or not.7. Pray! There is no substitute for asking God to work in the heart of a teenager, give you the right heart towards them, and help you to understand and relate to them.
One of the first books I read in full-time ministry was In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters. Although it is specifically about excellence in business, I was captivated by the realization that if the secular world would care about excellence in the workplace, how much more should we care about excellence in ministry? I have been on a pursuit ever since to have a ministry that honors God.Of course, it's easy to say, “We care about excellence.” But do we actually practice excellence? Do we strive for it?Here are seven ways we work to strive for excellence in ministry:1. A biblical purpose—If our purpose is anything less than to glorify God, we may end up with excellent features, but we will be diminishing our effectiveness in leading people to Jesus. We need His power and to lift Him up more than anything else.2. Internal reviews—Every staff member is reviewed annually according to their written job description. This is a time to give input, receive feedback, and for both the staff member and their team leader to assess their productivity and growth over the past year as well as to address any road blocks or needs for more effective ministry.3. Post-event reviews—After an event—whether it be Missions Conference or a special community outreach or college registration week—we plan a debrief time to assess how it went, what we should be sure to repeat, and how we can make it better in the future.4. External audits—Every year, we hire an outside firm to provide a financial audit of our entire ministry. A couple years ago, we asked Best Christian Workplaces to assess our day-to-day office environment and procedures.In recent years, we've pursued Christian accreditation for both our Christian school and West Coast Baptist College. Although growing up, I was told that accreditation equaled government control of the church, we've since been able to find that there are actually Christian accreditation agencies that are approved by the Department of Education. We've discovered that neither these agencies nor the DOE have control over what we do. While they provide assessment and peer review, they have not given mandates regarding our curriculum or doctrine. Should that day come (and it may), we can and will pull out of the voluntary accreditation. Meanwhile, we're thankful for the high academic standards, strategic planning, and external peer review of other school and college administrators coming to visit periodically and helping us maintain best practices.5. Internal questionnaires—From time to time, we ask our church family, Christian school parents, Bible college students, or other groups within our ministry how we're doing in specific areas. Being open to feedback is one of the best ways to see areas that need attention or growth.6. Consistent staff training—Weekly staff meetings with a lesson or ministry training and annual staff orientation are two great ways to invest in the ongoing development of staff. Additionally, our pastoral staff often reads a book together and discusses what we're learning at our weekly meetings.7. Conferences and personal growth resources—Ministry conferences provide Bible preaching, outside perspective and ideas, and sharpening fellowship. They also provide specific training on needed topics. For instance, at Spiritual Leadership Conference this year, we'll have topics on planning and guiding a church budget, mandatory legal reporting, the role of worship in discipleship, developing your own faith, personal time management, and several dozen more. I'm preparing a session on creating a dashboard for monitoring key indicators of a church's health. Whether it is through this conference or an online Bible class or some other resource, investing in personal growth helps grow your capacity for ministry excellence.Remember, we serve a God who is worthy of our very best. And we serve His church, which Jesus valued so much He paid for it with His own blood.Surely, our Lord and His church deserve our pursuit of excellence.
I was amused when I read a prediction offered in 1962 that reported by 1985, technology would have made so many advances, that the average workweek would be twenty-two hours, and we would only work twenty-seven weeks a year. Our biggest problem would be what to do with so much leisure time! How did that work out for you?When we think of the New Year, we consider our resolutions for changing our behavior and enjoying success going forward. Sadly, we recall that some of our resolutions are repeats from last year. Ephesians 5:15–17 is a passage that can help us in ordering our priorities and establishing our direction for 2019, and I believe there are three truths that God would have us to consider.See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.—Ephesians 5:15–171. Our Time on Earth Is LimitedGod reminds us of this truth in Psalm 39:4: “LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.”I remember (barely) in my teen years, that I thought seventy years old was just shy of eternity! Now as I quickly close in on that important landmark, it seems like such a brief journey. Everything depends on perspective, and we are to have a measured perspective. We do not have endless days or multiple lives to be obedient Christians, great spouses, godly parents, and loyal friends. We have a measured number of days. In Psalm 90:12, the Lord gives us more to consider: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”Several years ago, I read an article entitled “Dead Ahead.” It described a new clock that was being sold for $99.99. The Dead Ahead clock kept track of how much time you had left in your life. It was programmed for seventy-five years for men and eighty years for women. Every day when you got up and every evening before you pillowed your head, you could see how much time remained in your pilgrimage on earth. I hope the goal was to inspire wise living—not eat, drink, and be merry living! We as believers should not even boast of tomorrow, for we know our days are numbered and to be used wisely, which leads us to our next principle.2. Make the Most of Every Worthwhile OpportunityPaul told us to redeem the time, because the times in which we live and the world in which we live is evil. One of the shades of meaning of that word evil is the thought of being worthless. We live in days when people spend their time, energy, and resources on worthless pursuits—things that do not matter and will not last. We as believers are to live lives that are worthwhile! Satan is a thief and his desire is to steal the best years, the best desires, the best goals of our lives and move us toward the worthless.Part of redeeming the time is carefully recognizing that we are to seize every opportunity to learn of Jesus. If we are not wise, we can miss what Mary saw. Martha was busy and cumbered with much that was good to do, but she was not careful about attending to the best.When our lives become a flurry of activity without time dedicated to sitting at the feet of Jesus, we have allowed Satan to steal something very important from us. Jesus taught us that we cannot live by bread alone, but that we need every word that comes from the Lord. We must be careful to redeem the time, but we must seize the most worthwhile opportunities in our lives. In our world, it is easy to be overcome with commitments, information, and possessions, but we must make wise choices. To make wise choices requires us to understand the final principle.3. Understand What the Will of the Lord IsI would never suggest that I know what the will of God is specifically for anyone's life but my own. I would, however, make one suggestion for all of us about discovering and doing His will in the New Year. Make your greatest priority your relationship with the Lord. Making your relationship with the Lord your number one priority will find you prioritizing church attendance, devotional time, family time, and even spending and giving practices. When our relationship with the Lord becomes our number one priority, it is amazing how our whole perspective on life falls into a worthwhile pattern.Robert E. Lee guided his life with the phrase, “Carpe Diem!” or “Seize the day!” Let's seize the day, the year, the life—but let us add to that thought: “Seize the day to the glory of God!”
As our Lord is coming to the close of His earthly life and ministry, He shares a meal with His closest followers, girds Himself with a towel, draws a bason of water, and kneels to wash the feet of His friends. It is a wonderful lesson on humility that convicts me each time that I read it. It is my desire to be that kind of a servant.As we consider John 13 and John's account of this impactful event, I think it is important that we not overlook the very first verse of the chapter. I believe it holds a key to why Christ did what He did with that towel and bason of water. In that verse we read these words: “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” Jesus served these people because He loved them!Many years ago I was concerned about a man who had accepted a pastorate. At the time, this man was not a very gifted pulpiteer. A friend commented to me, “He doesn't have to be a great preacher as long as he is a good lover. People will put up with poor preaching if they get good loving.” I have never forgotten that statement, and I have tried, for more than thirty years, to be sure that my people have received “good loving.”We can determine in our hearts to serve, and we can run on that fuel for a while. Inevitably, serving will become laborious and we will eventually find ourselves operating on fumes. The alternative to that motivation is to love God and love people. If you love God, you will find joy in serving Him. Likewise, if you love people, you will want to serve them. Kneeling down at someone's nasty feet is not such a difficult task, if you love the people to whom those feet are attached.Jesus operated from a heart of love. He genuinely cared. He did not weep at Lazarus' grave because Lazarus was dead. He wept because Mary and Martha were broken-hearted and He loved Mary and Martha. Jesus did not have to force Himself to spend time with the crippled man by the Pool of Bethesda, He approached that man because He cared about him. Jesus had to go to Samaria. He did not have to go because He was making Himself go, He had to go because there was a woman there for whom He cared.I would rather be good at loving people than to be a good preacher, a good administrator or a good supervisor. It is compassion that makes a difference, not so many things that we think make us more effective. Love is powerful. Love is impactful. Love is necessary. However, there is more to this passage than just the statement that Jesus loved the people. The Bible states, “…He loved them unto the end.”Too often, we claim to love people, and we do love them as long as they behave like we think they should. Over the years, I have seen many ministry workers who obviously loved the loveable. As long as those to whom they ministered “toed the line,” they were quick to express their love to them. Thank God, that was not how Jesus loved.Jesus loved unto the end. Of whom was John 13:1 speaking? It was speaking of His disciples, including Judas. He did not love them as long as they did the right thing. He loved them unto the end. He did not love them as long as they dressed a certain way, walked a certain way, talked a certain way, or lived a certain way. He loved them unto the end. He did not love them as long as they kept the rules at the Christian school. He loved them unto the end. He did not love them as long as they took a stand for what was right. He loved them unto the end.Yes, Jesus loved them unto the end of His earthly life, (and beyond). He also loved them unto the end of themselves. When they came to the end of the dead-end road that led them away from the Saviour, He still loved them. Much like the father loved the Prodigal when he had gone as far away from home as his conscience would allow him to go. From the pig pen, the wayward son knew that his father loved him.When our young people disappoint us and rebel against all they have ever been taught, may they know unto the end, that they are loved. When our church members allow temptation to overcome them and sin to take up residence in their hearts and lives, may they know unto the end, that they are loved. When those in whom we have invested the most seem to appreciate it the least, may they know unto the end, that they are loved. May we love them the way we will want to be loved if we walk away. May we love them the way we will want someone to love our son or daughter if they are overtaken in a fault.Over the past three decades, I have been let down too many times to count. People for whom I had the highest hopes have driven me to some of my deepest disappointments. I have watched some of our Christian school graduates make tragic decisions that have destroyed their lives. I have watched faithful church members walk away from the Lord in betrayal, and in some cases, denial. Again and again I have felt so helpless. I have felt that there is nothing that I can do to make any difference whatsoever. Then I am reminded of John 13:1. There is something that I can do. I can love them unto the end!
Ministering to Small People Is Not Small Potatoes In Matthew 18, we observe a scene in which Jesus brings a child into the midst of a large crowd. No doubt, as Jesus was speaking about entering into the kingdom of Heaven as a little child, the young toddler was melting the listeners' hearts. But at the end of His discourse, Jesus gave a sobering warning. The audience no doubt hushed while Jesus scolded anyone who would offend one of these little ones. “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6b).As we serve God's little ones, we should remember how seriously Jesus took children's ministry. Children's ministry is not merely an opportunity to have the kids out of the adult service or to babysit them until their parents are done fellowshipping in the lobby. This is a time that we should take seriously as we influence and mentor the next generation in God's Word.We often complain about how younger generations are leaving church at any opportunity, but what are we doing now when they are in our church? How can we take children's ministry seriously every Sunday?In Our ValuesThe world is targeting this up-and-coming generation, known as Gen Z. They sit in church for a few hours a week (if that), but the agendas and advertising of the world have their ears for the majority of their lives. Through media, entertainment, and virtual reality, Generation Z is being inundated with the world's philosophy— which is, simply put, do whatever feels good (1 John 2:16).As children enter our classrooms, we must remind ourselves that Satan's targets are surrounding them. We should never waste our time with activities that don't communicate or reinforce God's Word in their lives. Whether you have been serving in ministry twenty-five years or twenty-five minutes, let's focus on the value of the children whom we are privileged to teach. Jesus did.In Our VisitsGeneration Z is becoming numb to real, face-to-face relationships. What can you give the kids in your class that Disney, Instagram, and Apple can never give them? A Christ-focused, real relationship. Our desire should be that these children, “May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:18–19).Show the kids in your ministry that you are not just concerned with their time in Sunday school, but that you care about their entire lives. Drop by their homes with a surprise gift or set up an appointment to talk with their family about their next spiritual step. Show them the love of Christ, and they will love Christ in return.In Our VoicesThis generation is used to fast, bright, and captivating screens communicating to them constantly. The average Gen Z-er is used to five different screens communicating to them simultaneously, contrasting the average millennial with only two screens. The few hours (or even minutes) that we have with them should be the highlight of their week.Use technology. Use enthusiasm. And most importantly, use your voice to teach and explain the Bible in creative and thought-provoking ways. The Word of God is the only influence in their lives that can change their eternity. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23).
This January marks Terrie's and my thirty-third New Year at Lancaster Baptist Church. A few weeks ago, we were able to host several families from our church who were here when we came or who we were able to lead to the Lord in those first couple years. Their faithfulness over the decades is such an encouragement to us.In this season of the year, when many of us are focused on our newly-set goals and investing our energy in developing new habits, it's easy to overlook the obvious—that there is great value in consistency and faithfulness over time.We all know that God blesses faithfulness, but sometimes we forget how significant those blessings are. Here are five blessings that come through faithfulness:1. Faithfulness Develops FaithWhen you think back to what challenged your faith in the earliest days of your walk with the Lord compared to what challenges it now, usually you can see growth.This is because faithfulness is an exercise of faith. And faith is a muscle that grows over time. Do you want more faith? Keep being faithful.As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.—Colossians 2:6–72. Faithfulness Proves the Reality of GodWhen a Christian continues forward despite opposition and setbacks, it sends a powerful message to others that God is trustworthy and able to sustain those who follow Him.Think of Paul and Silas and the Philippian jailer. The jailer didn't ask, “What must I do to be saved?” in Paul's first days of ministry at Philippi. It was after the jailer watched Paul and Silas' response to persecution and their steadfastness through it that he asked them for spiritual help.Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?—Acts 16:29–303. Faithfulness Builds Families and RelationshipsWhat a blessing it has been over the years to see families in our church who have remained faithful to the Lord and stayed in the church where God was working in their lives. I've watched God strengthen marriages and develop the spiritual roots of young people through parents who have remained faithful.Faithfulness also build relationships within the church. As you serve the Lord with the same people year after year, the depth of friendship and fellowship in that relationship grows.Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.—Hebrews 10:254. Faithfulness Gives a Clear ConscienceWhen you are faithful even if your service for the Lord doesn't have the visible results you desired, even if circumstances go differently than you hoped, you can have a clear conscience. And you can know God is working in ways you cannot see.And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house,—Acts 20:205. Faithfulness Produces FruitNo farmer quits in disappointment at not seeing crops the day after he plants his fields. He knows it takes time. Similarly, fruit in the Christian life—both the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of souls—takes time to multiply. And those who are faithful reap the benefit of seeing it developed.And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.—Galatians 6:9
4 Elements of an Effective Biblical Apology People are dangerous! Our sinfulness often brings with it the capacity to hurt others. We hurt one another with the words we say and with the things we do or forget to do. Sometimes we injure our relationships with others through carelessness or negligence. When this happens, we need to learn to find the grace to forgive as the Lord has commanded us to do.Forgiveness is one of the great themes of the Christian faith. We learn from the Bible that God has forgiven our sins and that He expects us to pass along that same forgiveness to others. Forgiveness, though sometimes very hard to do, is absolutely necessary in order for our personal relationships to stay strong. It grows us into the image of Christ and frees others and ourselves from the bondage of bitterness and resentment.No doubt many of us have heard numerous sermons, Sunday School lessons, and devotions on the subject of forgiveness. It is important to realize, however, that there is not only a scriptural obligation on the part of an offended party to forgive, but there is also a responsibility on the part of the offender to make things right.It is a universal experience to be hurt, to be offended, or to suffer injury in a personal relationship—everyone knows this pain. Husbands at times say things to hurt their wives; wives now and then hurt their husbands. Parents, children, friends, and associates all know the bitter sting of being falsely accused, taken advantage of, or hurt in other ways. However, it is also true that it is a universal experience to cause offense. Our selfishness and insensitivity frequently injure others. Any time human beings live near each other, they will most likely hurt each other.Intentionally or unintentionally, we are dangerous. We get hurt. We put up barriers. We distance ourselves from those who have hurt us, and—if we are not careful—we let bitterness and resentment grow in our hearts. To prevent this, we need to learn to forgive, and we need to learn to apologize. Apology is often the forgotten responsibility when people hurt other people, but apology and forgiveness are the hand-in-glove requirements for damaged human relationships to be properly restored. The problem is that both of these things are hard on our pride. The only thing in this world more difficult than forgiving someone is asking someone to forgive you. An apology is the highway that must be paved for forgiveness to travel.We can learn a great deal about biblical apology from David. In Psalm 51, we get a glimpse into the heart of this man of God after he had committed an array of unimaginable sins. His heart was broken, and he knew he had damaged his relationship with his Heavenly Father. So David—in a desire to restore the joy and intimacy he once enjoyed with God—offers a sincere apology to God. From David's confession we can learn four elements of an effective biblical apology.1. Remorse and RegretThe starting place for a biblical apology is expressing remorse and regret. When our actions hurt people, the injured party needs to know that we are remorseful—that we can identify with their injury.We can encapsulate this principle in three simple words: “I am sorry.” Saying these words can go a long way in healing another's heart.It is impossible to miss David's remorse over his actions: “Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:2–3). David was truly sorry for what he had done, and he wanted God to know it. He recognized his actions hurt others, and he sincerely acknowledged that to the Lord.An apology cannot stand alone, though. It must be coupled with true contrition. It was David's words spoken with humility that God took notice of in Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” A flippant apology only adds to the damage. It is a second insult. An injured party does not want to be compensated because they have been wronged; they want to be healed because they have been hurt. Only a sincere apology can heal the hurting. It is important that we do not offer excuses for our actions, that we ask nothing in return, and that we are specific in our apology.It may not be enough to simply say, “I am sorry.” The offended party is healed by hearing that you know specifically what you did that hurt them. If you lost your temper with someone and said hurtful words to them, your apology needs to recognize this. It would sound something like this: “I am sorry for losing my temper today and saying things I should not have said. I realize my words were hurtful, and that is not the kind of person I want to be.” Expressing remorse with a contrite spirit is something we all need to learn to do.2. ResponsibilityThe second component of an effective biblical apology is encapsulated in saying the three most difficult words known to mankind: “I was wrong.” These words take us beyond remorse to responsibility.David not only was remorseful for what he had done, but he also accepted full responsibility for his actions. He said in Psalm 51:3, “For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” David acknowledged his sins and admitted they deserved judgment.This step is vital. The admission of failure holds the potential to bring true change in our hearts. Saying “I was wrong” takes courage because we are afraid of what the admission of guilt will bring. But leaving outcomes up to God is an important part of growing up in Christ. Admitting guilt also requires humility, trust in the Lord, and maturity. It is a function of integrity—admitting I am not the person I want to be, but I am still trying to get there.3. ReconciliationThe third step in offering an effective biblical apology is learning to say, “Will you forgive me?” Expressing remorse communicates that you understand you hurt someone. Admitting that you were wrong is owning responsibility. But saying “Will you forgive me?” brings reconciliation. Years ago I learned that when I had offended my wife, in order for her heart to fully rest again, it helped her to hear me ask if she would forgive me. This is because these words are more than a question; they are also a statement. They say to the offended party, “I want our relationship to be restored; you are important to me; and my pride will not stand in the way of my love for you.”These three phrases combined say to the injured party that there is still hope. “I am not finished growing, I have not given up on myself, and I don't want you to give up on me either.” Alexander Pope said, “A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong; he is merely saying that he is wiser today than yesterday.” And, I might add, that there is still hope for our tomorrow. One of life's greatest failures is not admitting that you have failed. No one has ever choked to death on the words, “I am sorry. I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?”David cried out for reconciliation to God when he asked the Lord not to cast him away from His presence. His relationship with God was more important than anything else in his life.4. RepentanceThe first three components could be communicated with words, but this fourth component is an action. True repentance is the final component to an effective biblical apology. It will never be enough to simply apologize. As sinful and dangerous people, we also need to change. Repenting not only recognizes that what we did was wrong, but it also expresses a desire to do right.We owe it to the people we love to be at our best for them. An apology is a desire to continue growing. It is the best way to keep a contrite heart and not be at odds with the Lord. An apology is required to safeguard the important relationships in our lives, and it is necessary to do what's right!
Cultivating Your Heart for Revival Revival is more than simply having a special guest preacher and a few extra nights of meetings. True revival is a work of the Holy Spirit. That is why Habakkuk prayed, “…O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years…” (Habakkuk 3:2).Revival Will Come When We Recognize Our NeedDo you ever get discontent with your spiritual progress? Do you ever hunger for something more from God, or sense conviction from the Holy Spirit that things are not what they should be or could be? As long as you and I are content to keep the status quo spiritually—as long as we think we are doing fine—revival will not come.Denial of our true condition is a major obstacle to revival. Real revival will not come until we reach the place where we cannot and will not ignore the truth of our spiritual condition. The simple fact is: if we never take time to let God speak to our hearts, and show us our need, we will never experience revival.Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.—Psalm 139:23–24Revival Will Come When We Confess Our SinRevival is held back when God's people refuse to get right with Him. How can the Spirit of God freely work when our hearts are pre-occupied with other things? David understood this and sought the Lord's cleansing and restoration in Psalm 51:10–13.Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.I am constantly amazed at God's grace in my life. He truly is patient and longsuffering with me and is always, always, ready to hear my cries for mercy and forgiveness—when I repent and confess my sin to Him.For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.—Isaiah 57:15Did you notice? God will revive the spirit of the humble and the heart of the contrite ones. We often quote 1 John 1:9 which says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But we often forget the verse begins with the word if and that is the great pivoting point. No confession—no forgiveness and no reviving of the heart.The importance of confession is seen in 2 Chronicles 7:14 as well.If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.Will revival come? Yes, I believe it will, but only to those who are of humble hearts and willing to confess and forsake their sin.Revival Will Come When We Ask for ItWhen we are confronted with our sin, the devil tries to keep us from moving toward God. He tries to hinder us even after we have fully and honestly confessed our sin and received God's forgiveness. Remember the words of David? “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” David understood that a clean heart needs the joy of God once again.Jeremiah 29 has one of my favorite passages of encouragement. It reveals God's message to Israel at a time when they were going to be chastened for their sin. God extends to His people—including you and me—an offer of His presence and renewed Spirit: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. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord:—Jeremiah 29:11–14We need revival, and I believe God is ready to send it when He hears our prayers lifted up to Him and sees our seeking hearts. Paul wrote to the believers at Philippi, “That I may know Him.” That should be our cry and heartbeat.God invites you and me to see what He can do in us, through us, and for us.Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.—Jeremiah 33:3Revival Will Come When We Are in the Place of RevivalAnd let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.—Hebrews 10:24–25
Sanctification beyond Standards Perhaps you have heard the statement, “Jesus loves you just as you are, but He loves you too much to allow you to stay that way.”It's true. God loves us unconditionally, and He doesn't love us more or less based on if we are currently growing or backsliding. But He does call us to grow in Him.For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…—1 Thessalonians 4:3Sometimes I'm afraid we give the idea that sanctification is the process of developing more or “higher” Christian standards.Standards that are rooted in biblical principles are certainly part of how we live out the process of sanctification. But they aren't the starting place…or the ending place.So what are the ingredients for this biblical process of sanctification?1. Gospel MotivationFor the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.—2 Corinthians 5:14–15This isn't about us trying harder to white-knuckle our way with stronger discipline and higher standards. It is about us knowing Jesus and being compelled by His love.God calls us to grow in our knowledge of Him and in His grace.But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.—2 Peter 3:18Grace is the inner disposition of God in our hearts, and it motivates us to “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).2. Holy Spirit ConvictionWe're not left to ourselves to figure out in what areas we need to grow. This isn't a process of trying to copy other Christians or measure up to random expectations.The Holy Spirit who indwells us (Ephesians 1:12) works in our hearts. He convicts us and shows us where we're wrong when we grieve Him.And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.—Ephesians 4:30Sometimes He does this in my life as I read His Word, sometimes through preaching, sometimes in a moment when I am displeasing Him.When the Holy Spirit convicts us, we can respond, or we can quench His voice.Quench not the Spirit.—1 Thessalonians 5:19We grow in grace as we respond to the Holy Spirit's conviction.3. Biblical ApplicationThe Bible is God's gift to us for this process, and it is central to it.All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:—2 Timothy 3:16Doctrine teaches us what is right. The Bible gives clear direction on what is right and wrong. If we want to believe and walk in truth, we must spend time in God's Word. One of the outflows of that will be developing personal standards based on biblical convictions from God's Word.Reproof points out where we are wrong. The Holy Spirit often uses His Word to convict us of sin and point out where we are grieving Him.Correction leads us how to get right. God's Word does more than just condemn wrongdoing; it shows us how we can gain restored fellowship with God and begin living a purified life.Instruction teaches us how to go forward on the right path. Through His Word, God nurtures and cultivates His likeness in our lives (2 Peter 1:4).Do you want to grow in sanctification this year?You need motivation, conviction, and application.Let the love of Christ in the gospel motivate you. Respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Increase your personal application of God's Word.
We know that progress in the Christian life comes by looking to Jesus (Hebrews 12:1–3). Additionally, God has designed the Christian life so that others lead us in the faith. For instance, a Christian parent should model God's love and point their child to Christ. A Sunday school teacher or small group leader should provide a mentoring and modeling leadership. Pastors are to provide oversight and live with a growing faith others can follow (Hebrews 13:7).On at least six occasions, Paul called to others, “Follow me.”Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.—1 Corinthians 4:16Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.—1 Corinthians 11:1Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.—Philippians 3:17And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost:—1 Thessalonians 1:6For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you;—2 Thessalonians 3:7Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.—2 Thessalonians 3:9Those who say, “Never follow people; only follow Jesus” are overlooking an important biblical truth. We do follow people as long as they lead us to Jesus.The key, however, in following men who lead us to Christ is that we do not find our identity in leaders or in the movements of men.If you have fallen into the trap of finding your identity in a leader or a movement, the first step out is repentance—not blame.Too often, when someone recognizes that they did fall into this trap, they immediately blame a leader or past environment.The truth is that this issue is a struggle for all of us. Finding your identity in a leader, your alma mater, or church is not an uncommon problem. It is true that there are churches that expect undue followership in every area. But it is also true that we ourselves have a tendency to seek from others the identity that Christ wants us to find in Him.Leaders who miss this truth find themselves in a disappointing pendulum swing. It works like this: a young leader looks to men instead of to Christ—not for leadership, but for acceptance and validation. For a while, he receives it, but over time, he finds it is hollow. (No human leader can provide the acceptance the human heart needs.) Then, with a heart that has become somewhat jaded toward his heritage or personalities who disappointed him, he swings the pendulum the opposite direction and gives up on the idea of following godly leaders altogether. You might hear him say something like, “Don't follow men; only follow Jesus.”Some who see their heritage in a negative light could, instead of becoming angry, consider repenting of the desire for acceptance outside of Christ that crept into their heart.I know this happened in my life in my 20s and 30s. God had to lead me through a series of trials, which I wrote about in Guided by Grace, to bring me to the end of myself. I had to repent of looking to men more than I should. I endeavor to seek daily what direction is most pleasing to Jesus.However, leaders who realize the emptiness of the self-journey and blame others for their own idolatry will come to a place of resentment that only leads to discouragement. They may overcorrect in their responses and find themselves, if not in another faith tradition, at least much farther away from their earlier positions of doctrine and practice. Sometimes these folks quit serving the Lord altogether.This is not an exaggeration. It is a reality I have seen repeatedly.However, a leader who instead recognizes idolatry for what it is and repents doesn't resent previous leaders or experiences; he realigns his own identity to enjoying the acceptance he already has in Christ. “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).Specifically, he has the opportunity to continue following others who point him to Christ and to a continued walk with Him…while finding himself complete in Jesus alone.As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him…—Colossians 2:6–10
Sanctification Should Open Doors for Soulwinning I have concluded that it is far easier for God's people to be different than it is for us to make a difference. In fact, it is often far more comfortable and convenient, even satisfying, to retreat into our minds, our homes, our churches, and celebrate our being different than the world, while smugly thinking ourselves to be a little better. However, that is not what the Lord commanded us to do.We are not to live in isolation from the world but in purposeful relation to the world, in order to evangelize. Although we should declare the truth in our sermons, when we thunder from our pulpits and discuss in our small groups the same topics with the same people who think just like we do, we can be pretty sure we make very little difference in a very spiritually needy world.The Lord called us to be salt and light.Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.—Matthew 5:13–16If we are going to make a difference, we must accept the challenge of evangelism. Call it what you want—soulwinning, visitation, witnessing, outreach—frankly, we just need to get over clever semantics and get to the business of making disciples! Though most of us do not consider ourselves reformed in our theology, too many have become practically reformed by the absence of real evangelism in their lives and ministries.Too many Christians live thinking that their community is not open to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That kind of thinking is not reality, but fear. The truth is that if we, from true hearts of caring, share the truth with people—some will get saved!The greatest obstacle to winning people to Christ is not their lack of need, or our community's opposition to the gospel, and certainly not God's inability to save. The obstacle to winning people to Christ is our unbelief, apathy, pride, and self-interest. We rightly spend millions in foreign lands and expect missionaries to reach the lost, while our own communities and neighborhoods go unreached.Though our attention and our arguments are often over methodology, the real issue is a problem with our hearts. We fear rejection: we despise being thought of as “not cool!” But we forget that we are servants. Our great mission in life is not to be well thought of by men, but to be well-pleasing to the Lord, who commissioned us to tell others about Him. We are literally surrounded by people who need the Lord.In whatever godly way you decide is appropriate, let me encourage you to take the following steps in relation to the lost:1. Embrace Them!Yes, they are different than we are in lifestyle and perhaps appearance. They may have even criticized you or your lifestyle. But they are your mission field—they are your generation!—and God has called you to care about their souls.We do not compromise our appreciation of God's holiness by accepting them where they are and prayerfully trying to influence their lives, to move them to where God wants them. I am so deeply grateful for those who embraced me as a foolish, rebellious young man and played a part in moving me toward the will of God for my life. Like the Lord, they looked beyond my fault and saw my need! We are different from the world, so that we can make a difference in the world!2. Engage Them!It is my opinion that door-to-door visitation is still an effective tool for evangelism. I am so old-fashioned that I still give out tracts! OK, you are not comfortable with that; but the end of your discomfort cannot be an abandonment of God's command. How are you engaging the lost? How are you creating conversations about eternity and our need for the Saviour with lost men and women in your neighborhood, the workplace, or on your school campus? They still need the Lord! It is fine to be innovative, but it is not ok to be disobedient.And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.—Mark 16:153. Evangelize Them!The purpose of our embracing and engaging the lost is to win them to Jesus Christ. We want to be community-minded, neighborly, and helpful in so many ways, but all as a vehicle for the greater good of introducing them to our Lord! God saved us and sanctifies us so that we will be glaringly different than the world. Our sanctification is good for us, but the ultimate purpose of our sanctification is the glory of God.In other words: God makes us different so that we can make a difference—find a way!
Communicating Christ's Love to Others February is the month for expressing love. I am glad there is one day set aside on our calendar to let others know how much they mean to us; yet does expressing our love have to be a “one day” event? The quality of our relationships is certainly not defined by the events of a single day! Valentine's Day should just be one of the many special days of the year that we focus on communicating Christ's love to others.So this year instead of expressing our love to our family and friends on just Valentine's Day, lets commit to expressing our love on a more consistent basis. I recently read a touching story of one man's daily expression of love:Some of you probably remember the comedian Jack Kublesky. He was from Waukegan, Illinois and passed away years ago. His professional name was Jack Benny. When Jack was a young man, he was working in the same studio as a young lady he wanted to date. He thought she was beautiful, but he was too shy and embarrassed to ask her out. He couldn't get up the courage or the nerve so he started sending a single, red rose to her desk with no note attached to the rose.Every day she received the red rose. Finally one day, she asked the delivery man who was sending her the roses. He said a guy named Jack who worked in the same studio. She found out who he was. Finally they began talking and Jack asked her out for a date. She thought that after they started dating the roses would stop. But they didn't. They kept coming…a single rose every day.They were engaged and she thought the roses would stop. But they didn't stop. They even kept coming after they were married. Every day a single rose would show up for Mrs. Benny.After five years, and ten years, and decades later a single red rose continued to show up. Jack Benny died. The day after the funeral, a single rose showed up for Mrs. Benny. After several days Mrs. Benny went to the florist and said, “I don't know if you realize this or not, but Mr. Benny passed away. I know it is kind of you, but you don't need to do this any longer.” The florist responded, “Mrs. Benny, you don't understand. Jack made provisions years ago to provide you a single red rose every day you are alive.”This story challenged me to communicate my love more consistently! Perhaps you, too, need to express your love more often. Here are a few ideas to help get us started:Celebrate the 14th of each month as Valentine's Day.Buy extra Valentine's Day cards and send them on a no special occasion day.Email someone special Bible verses that show love.Bake heart-shaped cookies in August!Leave ‘heart shaped' notes in inconspicuous places for your loved one to find.Have a “Child of the Week.”“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.”—1 John 4:7
We Must Stand Fast for the Truth One of the great travesties of today's contemporary church philosophy is a lack of spiritual conviction.Notice I did not say a lack of communicating spiritual conviction, for that's not the greatest problem.In fact, what started as an attempt to make truth more palatable by making the church more like the world, has become the church being more like the world without truth. Now, many Christians don't even know clear Bible truths, easily understood by basic scriptural application.A recent example of this was when self-professing Christian singer Lauren Daigle was asked in an interview what she believes about homosexuality and responded, “I can't say one way or the other, I'm not God.” I'm not God either, but I can pretty easily say what He clearly said in Romans 1.I'm reminded of what Howard Hendricks said almost four decades ago, “In the midst of a generation screaming for answers, Christians are stuttering.“The saddest part to me about the exchange in the interview mentioned above is that there are Christian young people who listen to Daigle's music, hear her answer, and become more confused in their hearts regarding their identity.When Bible-teaching churches embrace worldliness, there is a cost to the church. And that cost is a drift from truth.Consider this mission statement of a well-known university:To be plainly instructed and consider well that the main end of your life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ.Would you ever have guessed that was from Harvard? Founded in 1636, Harvard once employed exclusively Christian professors, emphasized character formation in its students, and rooted all its policies and practices in a Christian worldview. This school served as a bastion of academic excellence and Christian distinction.As I write, however, the homepage of the website for Harvard Divinity School explains, “HDS offers a rewarding immersion in the world's faith traditions and theological subjects and creates a broad educational experience where all voices are welcome.” Also on the homepage are links to learning Buddhism and understanding God through Islam. On their about page is a student testimony: “When I came to HDS I worried about how I would fit in as an atheist and Humanist. I found that this is a place of incredible tolerance and interest in stepping beyond the familiar.”Indeed, drift is possible.And worse, it's happening all around us. Many churches today are drifting instead of continuing.Twenty years ago, the push that brought worldliness was the “seeker-sensitive movement.” Today, the push is an embracing of “culture.” It is true that not all culture is wrong. But it is also true that the world is no friend to the child of God or the local church.Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.—1 John 2:15–16Churches today are so concerned with relevance that the lost world can't see the difference Christ makes in a life!We must guard against drift. After all, keeping the faith is not guaranteed. That's why God commands us to purposefully do it.Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.—1 Corinthians 16:13Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.—2 Thessalonians 2:15We are seeing a falling away from truth when we should see a standing up for Christ.Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;—2 Thessalonians 2:3If we are to make a true impact for Christ—not just build a large crowd or membership, but see lives changed with the gospel—we must be steadfast in the truth.Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;—2 Timothy 3:12–14
Three Observations We Can Make to Measure Spiritual Growth—Part 1 Growing up on the island of Guam, I noticed palm trees with white paint around the base of the tree trunk. I remember asking my dad why those trees were painted white at their base thinking he would give me some profound answer. He simply replied, “The white is there to measure the growth of the tree.”It's interesting that in every aspect of life, we attempt to measure growth. Most of us can go to a place in our childhood home where mom lined us up against a wall or a beam and tracked our growth through the years. Growth often indicates positive health. So, if we are interested in measuring growth, how does one measure spiritual growth. Psalm 1 gives some valuable insight in observing or measuring spiritual growth. Over the next three articles, we will look at observations that we can make to measure spiritual growth.Observation #1: A person that is growing in Christ no longer takes pleasure in worldly carnality.Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, not standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.—Psalm 1:1A young Christian, or one that is not growing, struggles with the pleasures of carnality in the world. It is a constant battle. When a believer seeks pleasure in the world, his growth in Christ will be hindered. Let's consider the alternative to seeking pleasure in the world.1. Rather than taking pleasure in carnality with the world, seek godly counsel (“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.”)Seek godly counsel for protection.Where no counsel is the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.—Proverbs 11:14One of the ways God offers protection to believers is through the structure of authority. When we are submissive to authority, we are growing. Often, we make an excuse for our lack of submission to authority citing the lack of quality in the authority. However, God is more interested in the quality of our submission than He is the quality of the authority He allowed to be over us. It is a double blessing when the authority over us is godly authority! In either case, we should embrace God's structure and seek counsel for protection so our growth in Christ is not stunted.Seek godly counsel for purpose.Without counsellors purposes are disappointed; but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.—Proverbs 15:22Lacking purpose is a sign of immaturity. When a teenager is unsure of what to do, it is wise for him to seek counsel for the next step. The same is true with believers in general. When we aren't sure what to do, rather than halting growth, we should seek counsel to help establish purpose.2. Rather than taking pleasure in carnality with the world, seek godly company (“…nor standeth in the way of sinners.”)When a believer is stunted in his growth we often wonder “what happened?” According to Galatians 5:7: “Ye did run well; who did hinder you…,” we may be asking the wrong question. Many times when a believer is hindered in their growth for Christ it is not a “what” that is hindering, but a “who” they are standing by that hinders them. Rather than surrounding ourselves with company that will try to get us to fail, we should seek godly company. If we are going to grow in Christ, we must surround ourselves with people that also have a desire to grow in Christ.3. Rather than taking pleasure in carnality with the world, seek godly content (“…nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”)A scorner is a person that actively enlists others for their anti-God cause. For the most part, we would never “sit down” with the scorner, but we may unintentionally invite them into our lives by what we watch, listen to, or read.It's time to cast out the scorner and seek godly content for our lives. I am an advocate of Christian education for this reason. Why would we willingly seat our young people at the desk of those that would openly scorn God and His Word? If we are going to grow in Christ, we must cast out the scornful content and seek godly content in God's Word and other reliable resources.Measuring a person's growth as a believer is more about looking at their direction. A believer that is growing in Christ will move away from embracing pleasure in carnality with the world. Instead, they will be moving in the direction that seeks godly counsel, godly company, and godly content.In part 2, we will make another biblical observation from Psalm 1 that indicates positive spiritual growth.
The Judeo-Christian roots of our nation are showing up these days in places many of us have never even noticed, but simply assumed as normal.For instance, the phrase “So help me, God” as part of the oath administered to a witness before testifying in some courts or before Congress. No one really knows where the phrase first originated. That it was common in England before the colonists is certain. Also, that it is adapted from a similar phrase in Scripture (Ruth 1:17; 1 Samuel 3:17) is apparent.But last week, a key committee in the US House of Representatives began working to eliminate the reference to God from the oath normally administered to witnesses.The current version of the oath reads as follows:“Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony that you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”The proposed revision would omit the appeal to God and substitute it with a reminder of the might of the government (“under penalty of law”):“Do you solemnly swear or affirm, under penalty of law, that the testimony that you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”We've come a long way from when George Washington voluntarily added “So help me, God!” to his oath of office as he became president.It reminds me of several years back when one of our political parties held a vote at their national convention to determine if God's name should even be included in the party platform. So large a contingent of the group yelled protests that the vote had to be taken three times.Removing God from our national vocabulary does not eliminate His power to judge.Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.—Psalm 2:1–3Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,…And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind…”—Romans 1:21–22, 28As Christians, may these moments serve as reminders to us that we are in the midst of a nation that needs God. And in these days, when our country seems to be doing all in its power to wipe a consciousness of Him and our accountability to Him from our national memory, may we—like Paul who found himself in an even more godless culture—stand firm in our gospel convictions and be bold in our gospel witness.For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.—Romans 1:16
If We Trust God, We Will Give Him Our Treasure In Proverbs 3:5, 6 we read, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Just a few verses later, we read, “Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase. So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9, 10).The bottom line is this: if I can trust God with my eternal soul, then surely I can trust Him with my temporal stuff. As it comes to this matter of trust, our priorities must first be in proper order. We know that our Lord is indeed trustworthy and reliable. His purposes and promises are the highest and holiest of all, and He has no ulterior motive. He desires our full trust and complete commitment.We are all prone to lean unto our own understanding. We think we can figure out a better way for us sooner or later. However, God admonishes us not to lean or rely upon our own reasoning. We simply need to trust God. There should be no areas of our lives where we shut God out and this includes our finances.There is no denying that the measure of our trust is always evidenced by the management of our treasures. To “honour” the Lord is to show respect to Him through the wise management of His resources. We recognize that all we have comes from the Lord and we must steward all we have for the advancement of His work on earth.Will you trust the Lord and commit yourself to obedience in honoring Him as you return the tithe and give offerings? Will you determine to take God's resources entrusted to you and steward them for His glory?
Making Necessary Facility Upgrades without Splitting a Church When I arrived at Bible Baptist Church a little over two years ago, we had a five acre piece of property, a spacious auditorium, lots of classrooms, and zero debt; but the roof was falling in, much of the property was in disrepair, and every classroom was filled with superfluous material, which made it impossible to use them for ministry.I have always enjoyed organizing things; I have always hated church junk rooms; and I had always believed that God would call me to a church in this specific kind of condition to see vitality restored, but the magnitude of the disrepair and disorganization was daunting to me.As I took note of the limited financial resources, I realized that resolving this situation was going to require a great strategy of faith.We are now a little over two years in, and we have finally painted the last classroom in the educational wing just in time to expand our Wednesday night children's program which has run out of space.Here are the steps that I followed in those early days to develop a strategy and plan to remodel, repaint, and reorganize every room on our property without splitting the church, going bankrupt, or losing my mind.1. LoveThe 1 Corinthians 13 formula for ministry is anything minus love equals nothing:Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.—1 Corinthians 13:1–3The greatest advice I have ever been given about pastoring is to love people, and I believe that should serve as the foundation for even our building improvement plans and strategies. People must sense that the basis of building is a love for God and a love for people, but they will be most motivated and supportive when they sense that, in the midst of it, you actually love them personally.I realize that there are varying degrees of philosophy about how to treat the established leadership of a congregation that has been in decline for a long period of time. I cannot speak to every situation, but I sensed early-on that we were specifically blessed in that the remaining deacons and workers in our church were faithful people who loved the Lord and loved their church, but really did not know where to start with correcting this particular problem. I believed that it was my biblical responsibility and duty to love and shepherd these people rather than to come in and fight them to make the most effective changes at all costs.Sometimes, new pastors have the idea of just going in and doing whatever needs to be done as they see it—painting the walls, trashing the junk, ripping up carpet, etc., but I realized that these things which were junk or unimportant to me were stored in these rooms for some reason that I did not understand and that relationships would need to be built in order for me to effectively do anything with all of this stuff.With new eyes, I could see what needed to be done, but I did not have the longevity of experience to understand the giving that someone did back in a special offering where, in a sacred act of worship, they gave sacrificially, by faith toward the purchase of this now, dated, grotesque piece of furniture, or the hours they spent giving of their volunteer time and service to paint the walls what is now an outdated color, or the fact that someone they loved dearly created this particular artifact which has no value to me.2. AssessWith love as my first motivation, I wanted to find out why all this garbage was piled up and create a strategy for removing this mountain of rubbish. One-by-one, I met with anyone who I deemed to be a stake-holder of any kind in our ministry, and I had them personally give me a tour of the facilities. I asked each of them questions about the obstacles, disrepairs, and rooms.What I found as we went through the rooms was that they were thinking many of the same things that I was thinking about the messes and the necessary repairs. They gave me much valuable information about the history of the church, a history of how the rooms were used, and a few of them even articulated a vision for how the rooms should be used in the future.3. StrategizeFollowing the tours, I compiled the information that I had received, and because of my limited resources, I just drew a map of the buildings on a giant, wall-sized post-it pad. With this, I made the first draft of my proposed plan for each of the rooms.I also compiled a task list of all the necessary repairs in each room and organized each list into the order that each task would need to be competed.Finally, I organized each room of the building into a priority list based upon the importance of using each space.4. CastNow, it was time to cast the vision. First, I started with the most influential people in the church. As they had walked me through the facility before, I now walked with them through the facility and made suggestions to them about how the room should be used, and the tasks that would need to be completed in order to make this happen. This allowed for me to get feedback from them. At this stage, I was not worried if there seemed to be some resistance in one area or another because, in this setting, this gave me the opportunity to hear their concerns and to think through ways to address their concerns to either alleviate and eliminate those concerns or to use those concerns as a point for improving the overall project.At the next leadership meeting, I unveiled the next draft of the large map that I had drawn and we were able to discuss the strategy now in a group setting. Actually, at this point, as I recall, there was unanimous approval because individual concerns were already addressed by the time we got to the meeting, and because each person in the meeting already had time to process the necessary changes and their implications privately.Finally, we unveiled the plan to the congregation and established a schedule of work days to get the work accomplished.5. ImplementThe fact that we received unanimous approval of the plan in the leadership meeting and that the presentation of the plan was readily received by the general church membership in such a positive way gave me the impression that our congregation was eager to follow the strategy right away. I was wrong. It turns out that churches which get into a state of disrepair do not get that way because they have been assessing, strategizing, and implementing their plans.I still recall that first work day. We all arrived on the property. My wife, one other lady, and I went right to the classroom which had been selected as the first one to complete, and everyone else went and did a flurry of other random projects around the property until, at a certain point, they all gathered in that same classroom where they began to discuss all the things that needed to be done before we could even begin to paint the room. I realized that they were having a committee meeting—all the while, the other three of us were actually painting. I started to realize from their conversation that they were incredibly focused on all the details necessary to make the rooms as excellent as possible, so I started using this word to keep them motivated—“usability.” We just wanted to make the rooms usable. This shifted their paradigm and gave us forward movement. Once that room was painted, they actually all came back and expressed their approval, and that created a momentum for completing the remaining rooms, and we continued the process of making rooms usable all across the property—systematically moving and removing furniture, painting and reorganizing rooms as they needed to be used, and we have now been implementing a plan for strategically raising the level of excellence across the property as well.
At the beginning of the new year, you eagerly set goals to reach forward for Christ in multiple areas. Both through your goals and the early action steps you have taken, you stretched forward.But now it is four weeks into the new year. What are the underlying decisions you need to make to sustain that momentum?A very visual answer to this question is found in Psalm 18—David's psalm of praise as he looks back over his life:It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.—Psalm 18:32–33The hind is a female deer, known for her swiftness and agility. When she runs, she reaches forward with her front legs, and then brings her rear legs up between them and repeats the process. This is a picture of how God desires to enable our forward momentum for Him.Early in our Christian walk, we eagerly press forward for the Lord. Like the deer reaching forward with her front legs, we make great strides toward growth.These early steps of growth are energizing and exciting. (And, as spiritual leaders, they're fun to watch others make as well.)But as we grow in the Lord, sometimes the steps of growth aren't as noticeable. Sometimes the next steps, rather than obviously reaching into new territories, are more like the deer brining her rear legs up—they serve to reinforce our progress and to commit us to forward momentum.So what are the “hinds' feet” reinforcement steps, the forward momentum, that will carry you onward through the new year?Here are three:1. Move Forward in Your SpiritIt's not just what you do, but why you do it, that sustains ongoing labor for the Lord.Throughout Psalm 18, we see David's spirit focused on God in love, faith, gratitude, and joy.I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower….He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me….As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.—Psalm 18:1–2, 16–17, 30It's all too easy to get stuck in a spiritual rut of going through outward motions, even while our spirits are diminishing.To sustain forward momentum for the Lord, we must grow in our spirit.This renewal and growth comes through our daily walk with the Lord and our renewal in His Word.For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.—2 Corinthians 4:16And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:—Colossians 3:102. Move Forward in Your StandDavid had a lot of ups and downs in his life. Over the years, he had times of great prosperity and times of great adversity. But when he looked back over the years, he was able to say that he had not changed in his spiritual convictions.The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.—Psalm 18:20–21It's useless to set goals for spiritual outcomes if we neglect the spiritual foundations for even attempting those goals.For instance, why set goals for reaching people with the gospel if we lose our biblical convictions of salvation through Jesus alone?If you want to sustain forward momentum for Christ over a lifetime, don't lessen up or change your convictions.Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;—Philippians 1:273. Move Forward in Your StewardshipSometimes we make moving forward for the Lord more about us than about Christ. Sometimes it is about gratifying our desires to grow (whether that be personally or in ministry) rather than about giving our all to glorify God.David's heart was God's glory, not his own.The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.—Psalm 18:46If we want God to be exalted through us, we must live as open-handed stewards, recognizing His ownership in every area of our lives.A Forward-Moving ChurchThese three commitments for forward momentum are not only true for individual Christians. They are true for churches as well.A church can have every desire in the world to reach people with the gospel, and it can even set goals to do so.But these steps forward will not consistently cover new ground for Christ without the reinforcement commitments of individual members to move forward in their spirit, stand, and stewardship.So yes, reach forward for Christ. Set goals. Look forward with Spirit-filled ambition to make a difference for the cause of Christ. Swallow up the ground with your “front legs.”But be sure you're brining the hind legs forward with the underlying reenforcement to sustain momentum.Grow in your spirit.Become more grounded in your stand.Remain committed in your stewardship.

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