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Archive for the ‘exhortation’ Category

But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus – Ephesians 4:20-21 NKJV

Are you growing in Christ?

Would you say that you have deepened your relationship with Him as you increased your knowledge and understanding of Him?

Paul shares with believers that we can find the truth in Jesus.  He affirms that we can grow by learning through hearing and being taught “by Him.”

If we want to grow in Him, brothers and sisters, we need to learn from Him.  Our task is not simple as followers of Christ.  We are pressed, pressured and persecuted for our beliefs.  In order to withstand the devilish and wicked schemes of our day, let us continue growing our faith by following the lead of the teachings and sayings of the Master, the Rabbi and the Holy One of God- Jesus Christ.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.”
-Romans 10:17-18 NKJV

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 Alas, sinful nation, A people laden with iniquity,  A brood of evildoers, Children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, They have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, They have turned away backward.- Isaiah 1:4 (NKJV)

God shared a vision from above.  God revealed His vision of Israel with His prophet.  He showed Isaiah exactly what He thought of this “sinful nation.”

How the faithful city has become a harlot!…- Isaiah 1:21

For Jerusalem stumbled,     
And Judah is fallen,     
Because their tongue and their doings     
Are against the Lord,     
To provoke the eyes of His glory.
– Isaiah 3:8

And so it shall be:     
Instead of a sweet smell there will be a stench;     
Instead of a sash, a rope;     
Instead of well-set hair, baldness;     
Instead of a rich robe, a girding of sackcloth;     
And branding instead of beauty.
– Isaiah 3:24

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;     
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;     
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!     
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,     
And prudent in their own sight!
– Isaiah 4:20-21

What is the view from above today? Does God look down upon us and smile pleasantly as we sit passively and await change to come about by osmosis? Is God delighted as we watch and sit by silently as man and woman go on with earthly merriment and continue to move towards eternal damnation?

Imagine if God were to grant a vision to those who lead the body of Christ today.  Just think it over for a moment.  Let the thought of God’s view from above sink into your mind, heart and spirit.  Thoroughly think through and over what words might fall from heaven as the Lord describes His views of the Christians on earth below.  Let your thoughts wander to the multiple metaphors and various visual images God’s words would conjure up in your mind.

Just take a moment and imagine the view from above.

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11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. – Titus 2:11-14 (NKJV)

Good works are to be part of the Christian church’s DNAPaul stressed that to Titus, his “true son” in the ministry of sharing the Good News, as he instructed him about establishing elders and setting things in order in Crete. Paul instructs Titus, as the appointed pastor over the Cretan believers, to show himself as a pattern of good works.  The people are to learn to become zealous for good works as the Lord’s “special people” by following after the Lord’s example and the example set by their spiritual leaders in the name of the Lord.  The people have to hear about it by sound doctrine and they have to see it by demonstration.  The church becomes more engaged with good works due to what the Lord showed and shared with the world over 2,000 years ago and what the pastor shows and shares with the congregation as the spiritual leader day by day.

We are not to simply sign up and show up for opportunities to do good works.  That’s not the essence of the message from Paul to Titus.  We are to become “zealous for good works,” according to Titus 2:14, demonstrating a fervent spirit for our calling to do good works in accordance with Ephesians 2:10Paul stresses that godly people should not only “be ready for every good work,” as in Titus 3;1, but also learn to “maintain good works” in Titus 3:8, 14.  According to Titus 3:14, our good works lead to our fruitfulness as we meet urgent needs.

  • Is your ministry demonstrating a “pattern of good works?”
  • What sort of trail are you leaving behind? Good works and good fruit?
  • Are others learning to minister to others based upon the example that you are providing?
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works – Hebrews 10:24 (ESV)

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Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 
Malachi 3:8 (KJV)
 
 
Recently, I took some serious devotional and Bible study time to read Malachi. That’s a major undertaking when you consider what the Lord has to say through Malachi and to whom He is directing His words. The primary points of the biblical book are an accusation and warning to God’s people to act like people of God. Whew! That’s heavy stuff, even for seminary students, Sunday school teachers and simple, set apart and sanctified saints.
 
 
Old school Baptists sum up the prophetic book with quasi-biblical phrases such as: robbing God, opening up the windows of heaven, and bring all of the tithes into the storehouse.  These are certainly not verbatim and definitely not theologically sound when used in convenient contextual arenas.  Tithers hold fast to Malachi chapter 3, primarily verses 8-10, but this has nothing to do with introducing or ordaining the tithe.  It is about trusting God and upholding the practice of tithing as means of seeing that God is true to His promises
 
 
People have been utilizing such passages of the Bible to bully and beat up those who do not tithe for years.  Unfortunately, this is due to a failure to maintain a contextual view of the biblical passage and explore an expository and exhaustive explanation of the text in light of audience, intent and culture and history.  Some things may be lost in translation, but one has to keep in mind what type of Bible or study tools one uses.  A paraphrase will not give you an accurate translation since its main goal is to translate thought for thought, while a literal translation seeks to translate and interpret word for word. 
 
 
I would also like to add a warning about commentaries, especially when one is seeking a clear understanding of the text and its surrounding passages.  Understand what type of tool you have and how to use it.  The root word of commentary is comment.  When you read Matthew Henry’s commentary, it is just a comment by Matthew Henry on that book of the Bible or the entire Bible itself.  What you get is an insight into that particular person’s views on it.  If i use Matthew Henry, I am limited to the depths of Matthew Henry and the prevailing theology of his time.  Ever hear about the Dead Sea Scrolls? Were they discovered before or after Mathew Henry’s commentary? How about Martin Luther’s? Commentary usage requires careful steps to avoid slippery slopes.
 
 
Clearly, once one reads Malachi as an entire study, it becomes as glaring as Jeremiah or Isaiah, even Hosea.  The message is about God’s relationship with His people.  God desires a restored relationship with His people, but if they keep going the way that they have been going there’s no redemption or reconciliation.  God has to stop the nonsense and put the challenge before the people about testing and trying Him to see if He is faithful in delivering His promises.

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And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness. – Ezek. 3:3, NKJV

According to Ezekiel 3:1-3, the messenger is to devour the Word.  He is to take it in so much as to fill himself with it.  As he is filled by the Word, he is to taste of its sweetness which is like honey.  He is to devour it, taking in its fullness, and fill himself with it.  It is to serve as his sustenance.

He must then prepare himself to regurgitate the Word that he has taken in as God’s message to His people.  The Word is both the messenger’s filling and fueling.  It is his filling for his own satisfaction.  It is good for him to partake of it.  It is his fueling for the people’s sake, taking the Word to them with the utmost urgency.  He has tasted of it himself and knows of the value it contains.

O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.- Ps. 34:8

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Technically Speaking
(Also Known As: The Massacre of the Message)

There will come a day before the last days
When prophets will instant message sermon series
And blog their latest Holy Land and missionary adventures
And then post images of JC, formerly known as Jesus Christ,
On MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook
Without even considering what it means to the masses.
Preachers will preach from portable pulpits,
Giving mobilized messages of mass confusion
With cordless microphones and big screens overhead
As every bell and whistle explodes with evangelistic effort
Reaching multimedia masses over colossal airwaves
In the blink of an eye with the click of a button.
Missionaries will no longer be stumped by adversaries
Who cast the first stone during online forums on salvation
And the doctrine of total depravity versus God’s elect.
Seminary scholars will wrestle with street theologians
In text message arenas and with YouTube streaming
While electronic scanners are beaming bar codes for benevolence.
The message will find a new medium.
The new medium will carry the message.
Nothing will be lost.
The Good News will be just as good as it’s ever been
And the blood of Jesus will work the same as it did on Calvary.
Only we’ll Photoshop the image of Jesus on the cross
To keep it politically correct and all.
We will touch up His makeup to make Him up
To be a multicultural blend of all the ends of the earth
So that no one will be excluded or offended by his name in His name.
By the time we get done with the Last Supper,
There will be a disciple in wheelchair and one openly gay
Along with an obvious woman of color with a baby on the way.
There might even be a meatless meal of veggie trays.
The message will find a new medium.
The new medium will carry the message.
Nothing will be lost.
The Good News will be just as good as it’s ever been
And we will use the image of Christ
To endorse everything from blue jeans to bottled water.
The message will find a new medium.
The new medium will carry the message.
Nothing will be lost.
Nothing much will be gained.
Nothing will be said
For our methods will have left the message
Virtually dead in an online atmosphere
Among a universe of the spiritually dead.

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Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.Philippians 2:5 (NKJV)

It’s all in your mind.  What makes a difference is already within you, if you believe in Christ as your Savior, but what may be holding it up, what may be blocking it from becoming your way of life, may also exist within you, too.  It may be what’s in your mind.

God wants you to have the mind of Christ.  God wants your thought process to change.  He wants your thoughts to mirror the thoughts of Jesus.  He wants your mind to operate like the mind of Christ.  The New Century Version says that we should “think and act like Christ.”

Yet, a lot can clutter our mind, especially in this “information age.” We are so connected these days through Facebook, IM, Twitter, Gmail, and other means that we can often grow disconnected to the serious business of being a Christian.  We can easily lose our way and find ourselves thriving in worldly success and failing at faith. 

God is calling you to be like Christ.  He wants you to become like the Son.  He is not asking you to be Christ.  He is not asking you to die on the cross for the sins of the world.  He is not expecting you to be Christ, but He does expect you to be like Christ.

We should embody the very essence of Christ’s being, starting with a change within us that manifests through our actions and interactions, even our words.  Yes, we were created in His image at Creation, but we have not been transformed into “new creations” until we accept and embrace being changed by Him to become like Him.

For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
John 13:15 (NKJV)

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While Paul was saying these things to defend himself, Festus said loudly, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Too much study has driven you crazy!”- Acts 26:24 (NCV)

Paul has met his divine appointment.  He has faced fate faithfully, sharing his personal testimony blended with a thorough mix of the Good News and a  history of God’s people of faith.   Yet, we also learn that God can prepare us for a lifetime for that divine appointment.  He can train us for years for just one singular moment.  I suggest 5 strategies for approaching your Bible study lessons to take your teaching and preaching to another level.

  • Purpose: Identify the “why” for your study.  Why are you studying this text/ passage? What’s the point? Know your purpose before you even start.
  • Preparation: Once armed with your purpose, you can prepare accurately.  You cut to the chase in your Bible study and sermon preparation.  You will see things differently, seeing a clear pathway to your goal as the Spirit leads you.
  • Practice: You practice to perfect.  As you practice, you review your material with your audience in mind.  You start to get a feel for your pace and how to personalize your presentation.
  • Performance: You have to show and prove.  That’s where you give it your all and hold nothing back.  Do what you do to His glory.
  • Post-Performance: You have to review what you have already done.  You want to perfect your presentation skills.  Did you connect with the people?Did you connect the people with your material? Be able to identify what needs more work and how to rework it to make it work out for the better.

Let this simple serve as a general guide for you.  As you become more and more practiced, you will be able to identify particular methods that help you more than others as you prepare to teach and preach.  This simple guide is a plan to help you get started and stay on track from start to finish.  Keep in mind that God’s will is supreme and overrides all that is suggested here.  Let what is presented here simply help you become more confident in what God has for you as it confirms what He lays upon your heart.

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Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop… Mark 4:20 (NIV)

You have heard the Word.  What has it produced in you? The Lord speaks of the Word falling onto “good soil.” The answer to the question may have more to relate to your own receptivity to the Word.  Are you receptive to the Word? In order to be responsive to the Word, you have to be receptive to it.  There isn’t much that you can do with the Word if you have not received it into your heart.  Your head can help you understand the Word, but it is within your heart where the Word can take root.

Preachers need to be communicators.  In proclaiming the Word, they act just as the sower did in this parableThey simply sow the seed.  Sowing seeds is part of the preacher’s task in bringing forth the message of the Good News of God.  In his sowing, he may be required to break stony hearts and resistant hearts along with planting seeds into fertile hearts.  Yet, that’s part of his job.  That’s what he is called to do, but the audience is called to serve like the soil.

How do you serve as soil? Prepare yourself for the message. Many modern-day pastors send out an email or post an announcement on their church’s website about their sermon series and the next week’s message usually accompanied by the biblical text.  Even those ministers who do not use technology tend to share either by church bulletin and sermon outline or by way of sharing verbally at the conclusion of the message about what’s next.  Pray that God opens your heart to His Word.  You can get prepared, but you also need to pray.  You need to pray that God helps you become receptive to His Word.  Listen to His Word as it is preached and shared with you.  If you are serving during service and can’t simply sit through an entire message due to duties that must be fulfilled, i.e. ushers, deacons, and other servants, consider purchasing the CD or DVD of the message and listen at home to get the full breadth of the message.  Listen and learn.  Take notes.  Take and make notes during the sermon and when you listen to it alone at home.  This is not simply a studious exercise.  Search for clarity.  Seek understanding.  See where God is leading you as a believer in response to this message.  Ask God.  Ask Him what He wants from you.  Ask Him what He wants for you.  We may not obtain what God wants for us because we are not willing to part with what God wants from us.  Think about it.

Not everyone responds exactly the same way.Shane Claiborne

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Depend on the Lord in whatever you do,
and your plans will succeed.
(Proverbs 16:3, NCV)

Lord, I pray for Your help with totally depending on You.
My way is not working.
Let my works glorify You as well as my words.
Be Lord over all that I have
And get as much glory as You can stand to gain from me
And what I have to offer.
Bless You, Lord. Bless You.

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Check out Blue Fish’s Never Too Early video on Tangle.  The message touches our youth and children as well as young adults.  It is never too late.  Yes, Moses was at least 80 before he led the children out of Egypt and Abraham and Sarai were advanced in years before they had a child, but God is not a respecter of persons. God can use whoever whenever and however He chooses to do so.  He will use whoever He calls.  Let us use such videos and other items to share with our children and youth on answering God’s call for service.

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You search the Scriptures, because you think you will find eternal life in them. The Scriptures tell about me. –John 5:39 (CEV)

Where do you “search” for the Scriptures? There are some places where I believe you can search the Bible and get deep into your study without going deep into your pockets for software.

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