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Archive for May, 2010

“. . . And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”
Joshua 4:7 NKJV

The children of Israel needed these stones. They didn’t need them erected as an idol. They needed these stones to serve as a reminder, a memorial of what God had done on their behalf. These stones would not simply serve as a conversation piece. Joshua shared: They will be a sign among you. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these rocks mean?’ These stones would allow the children of Israel to share their testimony with their children and their children’s children.

It’s one thing to have testimony, but many of us need to have lives that serve as a voiceless testimony of God’s goodness to us. People need to see God in our lives as much as they hear about Him from us. We need to demonstrate and display the change that God has made in our lives. People will see it. Although they may not recognize it, they will see it as something different that sets us apart from others.

Proverbs warns us not to remove the landmark set in place by our forefathers. In Proverbs 22:28, the Word teaches that the landmark was set in place for a reason that was given to those who came before us. Let us learn about that reason before we set our hearts and minds on removing it. In Proverbs 23:10, greed is addressed by warning people not to remove the ‘ancient landmark’ or oppress the poor by taking their land. Our obsession with accumulation may make us oblivious to the way we treat others, even our ancestors and their legacy.

With a lifestyle that respects the past, people will see us as blessed and ask what does it mean and how did we arrive at such a place in this life. We will be able to share about His goodness and His mercy towards us. God wants to work through us to reach others. Let the ancient landmark serve as a reminder to us that our lives our on display before the entire world. Keep it as a memorial.

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5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. – Nehemiah 8:5-6 (ESV)

The people of God were in some bad shape.  In fact, the people of God were in real bad shape when it came to the Word of God.  They had strayed from God and His commandments and it cost them dearlyThings were not going well for them economically, socially or spiritually. Yes, the walls and gates had been rebuilt, but the people of God were in need of reconstructing their own spiritual lives. 

Nehemiah chapter 8 begins to unfold their journey towards rebuilding their spiritual lives.  In order to rebuild your spiritual life, you are going to need some connection to God and His Word.  The psalmist clearly states that his own affliction and troubles were for his own good since they caused him to go to God’s WordJeremiah’s lamenting leads to his praise and thankfulness for God’s new mercies and His faithfulness despite our fickleness.  What we learn about getting spiritually straight is that His Word lays the foundation upon which we need to build the change.

The Word will set the stage for the following three things in succession:

 

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… but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.- 1 Samuel 30:6 (KJV)
Leadership is lonely business. David knew that firsthand. He had personal knowledge of what toll leadership could take on a man. There was an issue at hand, and the situation caused a stir among the camp, leaving David as the King James Version states distressed. David sought the Lord.
You may find yourself in a similar leadership position. The people are up in arms about something. They are doing anything but singing your praises. You wish you could cut your losses and leave them all behind, but that would not demonstrate genuine leadership. You, much like David, will need to encourage yourself in the Lord your God.
You will need to do something. You will need to do something on your own as a leader.
You are going to need to:

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…The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.- 1 John 3:1 (ESV)
For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. Luke 16:8 (NIV)
The world did not know him according to the first verse posted above. In fact, John wrote earlier in his gospel account: He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. Believe it or not, John also said that Jesus came to His own people and they did not even receive Him. Needless to say, Jesus was not received well by the world.
Yet, the world did something different with His Word. While many did not accept Jesus as the Messiah and the Anointed One, the world did take His Word to a totally different place. The world took His Word and did something different with it.
The world tainted His Word. It puts everything else alongside His Word and simply held the Word without reverence or much regard. The world twisted the Word. It bent the Word this way and that way to make it work for them. They use the Word in such a that makes the Word as more of a reference source than a relied-upon source. The world tweaked the Word. It added some here and removed some there, straying away from the truth of the Word.
Don’t rely on the world. Rely on the Word. Put your full trust in the Word. As a Christian, the world does not understand you because the world does not understand Him. Stay with the Word.

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Your work, brethren, is to set your church on fire somehow
“The Soul Winner” – Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The preacher is to serve as the ultimate communicator.  The preacher is to bring forth a message that brings the Gospel to life.  Get the point: it is not a message that comes directly from the Gospels but a message that sheds light on the Gospel (the Good News of God as noted in the Word). 

In the words of C.H. Spurgeon presented in The Soul Winner, the preacher’s goal is to set the church on fire with spiritual fire by his convicting, not convincing, and by his ways as well as by his words.  Spurgeon urged his fellow brethren to stick to the text, the Scriptures, and to be impressive, instructive and interesting.

  • Impressive people draw other people.  They captivate others with wonderment and awe.  Don’t pride yourself on being impressive.  Be impressive with how you present the Word.  So, let others see how you are able to craft sermons and Bible lessons in such a way that they leave with you having made an impression upon them by the way you presented the Word.
  • Interesting people keep other people’s attention.  Spurgeon cuts it straight when he says that you can’t expect people to become saved when you have put them to sleep.  Be impressive and interesting.  What are the “hot button” issues of life for young and old, man and woman, rich and poor, and any others? Let your presentation of the Gospel touch the varied situations and circumstances of this earthly life to get people interested in hearing more about Jesus, not simply hearing more from you.
  • Instructive people keep others coming back. Leave people with something learned that can be applied.  Preaching on eternal life doesn’t bear fruit until people are willing to live their lives in the newness of salvation and the freedom of submission to the lordship of the Savior.  Teach them the way.  Offer them what they can use again and again.  Teach them the truth, and then  let the truth set them free.

Let these words work their way into your development of messages and lessons, even Bible discussions, for both now and the future.

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Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver,
and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.-
 Jeremiah 9:6 (ESV)

Beware! Look out for those who are closest to you.  Yes, I mean your brother and your neighbor.  The warning in Jeremiah calls every brother a deceiver and every neighbor a slanderer.   Yet, the warning says for us to beware and put no trust in such people, even those who are close to us.  Beware!

Beware! Do not grow complacent, comfortable, and confrontational.  Complacent people could hardly care at all.  They are careless, if at all.  Don’t grow complacent.  Comfortable people won’t make a move.  After all, they are comfortable.  That’s  why they are called and considered comfortable.  Then, there are people who are confrontational.  Confrontational people stir up stuff and get stuff started with other people.  They are the type of people who others see coming and see their way out of the way of the confrontational person.  Most people don’t like to be around confrontational people.  Beware of such people or becoming like them.  If you are already one of them, then you need to take care to humble yourself and change your ways.

 Accept the challenge to be a God-fearing person in these changing times.  Keep your eyes open.  Be watchful.  Don’t be deceived.

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We are accountable, not excusable.- William Wilberforce

Some may not be familiar with William Wilberforce other than the motion picture Amazing Grace. Yet, Wilberforce demonstrated the faith and fortitude that is needed among professing Christians in public office. Whether it be the influence and inspiration of John Newton’s stirring words from the pulpit or Amazing Grace or the atrocities witnessed and expressed by those like Olaudah Equiano, Wilberforce was stirred into action by those who shared with him about the African slave trade along with his faith. As a man of faith, Wilberforce raised awareness and sought action against the inhumanity of the slave trade.

We are accountable to God. Wilberforce simply said: “Sin has consequences.” When we realize that the grace of God is the saving force that sent forth Jesus Christ as our Savior, then we realize the immense accountability that comes along with the mark of Christianity. To truly follow Christ, let us walk and talk as Christ did. Let us be accountable to the Master as stewards over all that he has bestowed upon us.

The words of William Wilberforce are simple and true. We are accountable to our Lord and Master. We have no excuse for not being vigilant in our faith to execute rather than claim excuses. In our times, we need Christians who will assert themselves in raising awareness and stirring up advocates for the issues of our times. We need Christians who will take action as a force of faith rather than simply taking force by faith. We are accountable without excuse.

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