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Posts tagged ‘Divinity’

Why I’m Grateful for President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation.


Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln

In spite of the problems we face in our nation regarding the economy, religious liberty and increasing godlessness, we still have much to be thankful for. I’m thankful for my family, a wonderful wife, good health and a wonderful year of growth and influence through books such as The Harbinger. I know you’ll take time, as I do, to thank God for His many blessings.

It’s also a good time to be reminded of how many problems there were in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln told the country it should put aside a day to thank God for His blessings. Enjoy reading his own words in his proclamation dated Oct. 3, 1863:

“The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

“In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

“Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

“It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people.  I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

“In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

“Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.”

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

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5 Qualities Godly Women Want in a Godly Man.


What qualities do you think a godly man should possess?
What qualities do you think a godly man should possess? (Stock Free Images)

Godly women want a godly man. Well, at least, those who are not called to be celibate. I know I wanted a man who was godly, and after dating a few frogs, I knew the qualities my man had to possess. But I also remembered that I wasn’t perfect and neither could I expect my future mate to be. I had to be willing to love him through his mistakes and sins as he would love me through mine.

My husband turned out to be an amazing godly man and our love story still leaves my mouth gaping. It was only though God’s providence and His handiwork that we met and became one.

So, if you are on the hunt, looking for your wife, allow the Lord to work and allow His handiwork to be displayed—He loves getting the glory. And don’t forget to check out these qualities that may help you become the man your future wife (or even your wife) needs.

1. A servant leader. Women want to be led. We may act as though we can handle it on our own and as if we have it all under control, but that is just what that is: an act. God said that we would want control over you men (Gen. 3:16). Please, men, step up and lead! A leader should be trustworthy, sacrificial, loving, kind and gentle (Eph. 5:25-33; 1 Pet. 3:7). Of course, you won’t be perfect, and neither will she, but with the strength and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, you both can work toward that end.

2. Humility. We women love to see a humble heart. Of course, all of us have pride issues—pride is the root of every sin—but we want to see a man marked with humility. Pride should be something he is daily giving up to the Lord. We can trust a man who has a humble heart (1 Sam. 2:3; Prov. 11:2; Prov. 29:23). We don’t feel secure with a man whose pride is flagrant and who acts as though he has it wired. Who would feel secure?

I know, as a woman, I need to know that my husband has flaws—it makes me feel less alone. It also helps me to know how to pray for my man when there is humility and openness. It also makes me significantly more attracted to my husband when I see humility.

3. A planner. Are you the type of guy to fly by the seat of your pants? Well, chances are your prospective gal isn’t too appreciative of that. That “fly by the seat of your pants” mentality probably trickles into your relationship, making her feel a bit less treasured. May I suggest that you start planning? Women love to see initiative taken (in every area of life). We feel prized when we know there is a plan. Why? Well, because we know we have been thought about and we weren’t an afterthought. Wherever your relationship is, it is never too early to start planning!

4. A gentleman. Every lady loves a gentleman, and every lady who tells you she doesn’t is lying. Well, either that or she is what my husband and I call a “feminazi.” If so, run away, and run away fast. I am from the South, so I am accustomed to doors being opened and men stepping out of the way for women. The South has some positives that you men should take note of! Open our doors, keep a tight rein on your tongue (aka stop the potty mouth!), and treat us like a princess—because every woman is one deep down.

5. Hygiene. I know, this is random, since I have been only noting character traits. However, this needs to be addressed. I don’t know how many guys I run into on a daily basis that look like they just rolled out of bed. Now, I’m not talking about having to go out and buy a $1,000 wardrobe. I’m talking about taking a shower, getting a haircut, shaving and being presentable. When you take a lady out on a date, don’t wear a T-shirt. I mean, come on. Where are the days of dressing up and looking nice? You don’t have to look like you stepped of a GQ magazine, but you at least must look like you cared enough to iron a button-down/polo and gel your hair. Trust me: If you don’t try, well, we probably won’t try to get back in touch with you.

There obviously are tons of qualities remaining that I haven’t broached. However, you can find all of them in God’s Word. Crack it open and ask Him (the Holy Spirit) to guide, convict and change you. I promise you, you won’t lack in anything if you ask Him to equip you (James 1:5-6).

No one is perfect, and no one will be until the day we see Jesus face to face. However, in order to woo a woman, you have to ask God to change you and make you a man (and future husband) worthy of that high calling.

For the original article, visit fearlessmen.com.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ NEW MAN.

50 Things I Tell Young Pastors.


Joe-McKeever-small

Joe McKeever

1. In all the world there are only three Christians who love change; none of them are in your church.

 

2. When you speak before an unfamiliar group, be careful what you say because you never know who is listening to you. You’ll start to tell a story about some guy in your former church, and his mama is sitting right in front of you.

3. There will never be a time in your life when you know all the Bible and have your questions all answered; if you cannot serve Him with some gaps in your knowledge and preach without knowing everything, you’re going to have a hard time.

4. Your church members should submit to your leadership, but you’re not the one to tell them that.

5. The best way to get people to submit to your leadership is for you to humble yourself and serve them the way the Lord did the disciples (John 13); they will trust someone who loves them that much.

6. The best way to get run off from a church is to take your eyes off Jesus and begin to think of yourself as hot stuff who is worthy of acclaim; from that moment on, your days are numbered.

7. In worship services, try not to talk so much pushing events and meetings that you are worn out by the time you open the Word and begin to preach.

8. Only a pastor with a suicide wish will tell a story about his wife and children in a sermon without their complete and enthusiastic approval. Even if they give it, you should go over it with them ahead of time to make sure they’re OK.

9. Some of your biggest headaches will come from ad-libbing in your sermons, saying things “off the cuff” which you just thought of. Try not to do that until you have fully mastered your tongue.

10. If the Lord is ever to use you mightily in His service, He will first have to break you. (Usually, this involves some failure on your part that comes to light and embarrasses you.) This will be humiliating to you and so painful you wonder if you can go back into the pulpit. However, you will survive and forevermore be thankful for what this taught you.

11. You need to befriend other pastors, old and young. Ministers need fellowship with colleagues. Do not make assumptions about pastors by the size of their congregation. Some of the Lord’s finest pastors and godliest preachers are bi-vocational.

12. It’s not all about you. Some people will join the church and it will flourish; some will leave and your church may struggle. Some will love you and some will hate you. Very little of it has to do with you. People have their own reasons for what they do. Get over yourself.

13. Marry someone who shares God’s call into this type of work or your life will be dragged down and she will be chronically angry at the demands placed on the family.

14. A little conflict in the church can be a good thing. Where there’s no friction, there’s no traction.

15. One of the surest ways to tell you are backsliding is when you no longer eagerly pick up the Bible and enjoy finding new insights. The day you find yourself thinking, “I know this Book; I’ve been there and done that,” you are in trouble.

16. If you cannot serve God by faith, you will not make it in the ministry.  You will plant a thousand seeds along the way that you will never see grow to fruition. Likewise, you will gather a harvest from seed sown by others and cultivated by your predecessors.

17. If your joy comes from numbers and successes and awards, you are setting yourself up for trouble. Jesus told the disciples not to rejoice in accomplishments but “because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). This will keep you steady.

18. If you think of the ministry as a career and find yourself ambitious to go on to bigger and better things, you run the risk of imposing the world’s standards on the kingdom. Serve where He sends you, no matter how small or out of the way, and you may be surprised what He can do at Podunk. Someone once asked, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”  Let God move you when (and if) He’s ready.

19. Get all the education you can, and continue learning and growing the rest of your life. There is no stopping place until you get home.

20. Learn to live on your income. Avoid all debt except on a house. The first few years (when your income is smallest) is the toughest; after that, it should be easier and easier.

21. Off days. Early on, establish with your spouse at least one full day (including evening) each week for yourselves. Have an understanding about this when talking with search committees. Protect it. (Then, help your wife to know that a) you will work hard to protect this day, but b) there will inevitably be exceptions once in a while.)

22. Search Committees. When dealing with search committees, do not become so eager to go to that church that you fail to do your homework (such as looking carefully at the church’s history, its relationships with previous pastors, what income/benefits they offer, the details about the living arrangements, etc.).

23. Mentors. Find one or two older ministers as your mentors. Call them occasionally to tell what’s going on and seek their counsel. Pray for their ministry.

24. Reading. In addition to theological books and ministry periodicals, read outside your field. Run by the public library and browse the periodicals. Scan through magazines you’ve never heard of. Be alert for ideas, interesting concepts, anything you’ve never heard of. Read a lot of history.

25. Always have reading material in your car so if you are stuck in traffic or in a waiting room, you’re prepared.

26. Attitude. Stay young. Just because you grow older—as you will, if God blesses you with longevity—you don’t have to become rigid and set in your ways. Psalm 92 promises that godly people “will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and very green.”

27. Laugh a lot. Spend time around children and teens. Don’t act like a dignified preacher around them; get down on the floor and play with the little ones. Change into your jeans and sneakers and play volleyball with the teens.

28. On the other hand, do not try to fit in as a teenager (a common mistake of youth ministers). Even if it appears they accept you as one of them, they don’t.  You are a pastor and thus an authority figure to them, and that’s how it should be. But you can still love them and have them adore you.

29. Prayer. Work on your prayer life, both private and public. Just as Paul said “we see through a glass darkly,” he also said “we do not know how to pray as we should” (Rom. 8:26). If he didn’t, it’s a safe bet you and I are poor pray-ers, too. Give attention to your praying.

30. Take care of your health. Exercise—walking is a better form of exercise than jogging because it frees your mind to think over issues, go over sermons, talk to God—several times a week and eat right. Watch your weight.

31. Porn. Guard against pornography. It comes in all varieties and can pop up anywhere, so stay on the alert. Just because we do not go to the illicit websites does not mean we are safeguarding our minds.

32. Be humble. You may need to work at this. Do not call yourself “Dr.” even if you have an earned doctorate.  And do not call yourself “senior pastor” or “lead pastor,” regardless the size of your church. These titles smack of pride. Pastor is an honorable designation. (If others choose to call you by these or other names, that’s fine. Letting people discover by accident that you have an advanced degree is a compliment to you; wearing it on your sleeve isn’t.)

33. Remembering that “character is what you are in the dark,” we would add that who you are when no one knows you are a preacher is the real you. Who you are in the motel room in a distant city is the real you. How you treat the waitress in Denny’s or how you leave a public restroom—these say worlds about who you are.

34. Preparation. If you are too busy to study for your sermons, you are too busy.

35. From time to time, tell your people, “Pastors are not sent to make the people happy but to make them holy and healthy and to make the Lord happy.” Ask the secretary to print this in the bulletin at least annually as a reminder.

36. Conflict resolution. When conflicts arise in the church, do not automatically assume you are the one to deal with them. When someone attacks you, your church needs a few mature, godly and sweet members who can visit that person to ask a) “What’s going on?” (that is, “Why are you doing this?”) and b) to listen to them. If the complainer has a legitimate gripe, they come back and tell you, and together you all deal with it. If they are out of line, the visiting team asks the murmurer to stop this right now. Leaders of the church must possess both wisdom (knowing what to do) and courage (having the will to do it).

37. It’s no compliment to you when all your “calls” to churches have been unanimous and no slam against you that all the votes have been divided.

38. Family. Beware of putting high expectations and demands on your family just because you are the pastor. Children quickly grow to resent this.

39. Toward the conclusion of your negotiations with a search committee, consider asking, “And how much will my wife’s salary be?” When they answer “We’re not hiring her,” smile broadly and say, “Right. I just wanted to make sure you knew that!”

40. You will never exhaust the riches of God’s Word. When you have read a passage a hundred times over 400 years, you will still be making discoveries in it. There is nothing else like this Book. Stay in it.

41. Preparation. Remember that preaching is not a written art but an oral thing. So, once you have finished your plan for the message, go for a walk and preach it aloud. This will alert you to detours to avoid, rabbit trails to shun and potholes to steer around and will make you aware of areas where you need to do more work.

42. Never deliver a sermon you have not preached to yourself at least three times. Likewise, when you plan to read a Scripture in the worship service, prepare by reading it aloud numerous times to prepare your tongue for forming these particular sounds, to find phrases you need to emphasize and so you can do the reading justice.

43. When you are invited to guest preach in other churches, do not reinvent the wheel. This is no time to hammer out a new sermon but an opportunity to use something you have previously preached. This allows you to improve on it. In time, this may become a favorite sermon you preach in many places.

44. While your sermon machine is always on (and you will always have a notepad nearby when reading anything), make it a point to read Scripture devotionally—asking the Father to feed your soul—every day.  Read for no other purpose than to listen to God.

45. Stewardship. Tithe your income and more through your church.

46. If you are not a faithful tither, you will have a hard time teaching your people about stewardship and taking a stand against materialism and greed. Eventually, if someone finds out you are not tithing—as they will—they will use this against you. Be blameless in all things.

47. Keep in mind that no one ever started tithing when they could afford to do so. Everyone needs just a little more money. As with everything else in the Christian life, you will do this by faith or not at all. But no matter how painful it is, get started. The first year is the hardest; thereafter, it gets easier. Some day you will look back with pleasure that in this one area at least, you got it right.

48. Benevolence. Don’t be so hard-nosed toward people who come to your church asking for financial help. Be wise, yes, and be on the alert for con men and scam artists. But never forget that our Lord said, “Give to everyone who asks of you” (Luke 6:30). He did not say we have to give them what they ask for or as much as they want. Try to give them something.

49. If you stop to help a vagrant, it’s perfectly fine to be generous without making the supplicant earn the money by listening to your lecture.

50. Witnessing. Become a personal soul-winner. Learn how to initiate a conversation with a stranger and how to explain briefly the plan of salvation and lead them in the sinner’s prayer. Then watch for opportunities. (The Holy Spirit will send plenty of occasions to those who are prepared and watching.)

Written by Joe McKeever

Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

Happy Are the Mourners.


“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

What does Jesus mean? Why is someone blessed when they grieve? Why mourn just to be comforted? Why not skip both? 

Jesus isn’t talking about grieving over a tragic event, but mourning over our sins.

“They shall be comforted.” By these words Christ refers primarily to the removal of the guilt that burdens the conscience. This is accomplished by the Spirit’s application of the Gospel of God’s grace to one whom He has convicted of his dire need of a Savior. The result is a sense of free and full forgiveness through the merits of the atoning blood of Christ. –A.W Pink 

Paul describes this mourning in 2 Corinthians 7:

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10

There are 2 kinds of grief: godly and worldly. Worldly grief is feeling bad because you got caught or things went wrong after you sinned. It’s regret because you look bad in others’ eyes or you messed up your life. But worldly grief doesn’t cause us to repent or turn to God. Years ago, a couple of us repeatedly appealed to a woman committing adultery. Her sin devastated her marriage and children. She was grieved – she wept and wailed but refused to break off the relationship. She shed tears but was unwilling to change.

The Corinthians’ grief led to repentance. “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret.” This kind of mourning results in blessing – when our grief over sin leads us to repent it yields the incredible comfort of salvation.

Godly sorrow regrets hurting God and we want to change, not to improve our lives or escape shame, but to please God. And when we mourn in this way, we’re comforted – with God’s assurance our sins are forgiven.

Godly mourning is a sign we’ve been born again. Unbelievers may grieve because their sins make them miserable, but not because they offend God. For believers, while grieving over our sins isn’t pleasant, it should encourage us that we do this because God’s Spirit dwells in us.

There are many other weaknesses and failures believers mourn over: our spiritual coldness and ongoing struggles with sin, our distracted worship and lack of desire for God’s Word and prayer. We wished we loved the saints more, had more compassion. These too show we’re born again. We wouldn’t care if God hadn’t changed us. The fact that we wish we were better servants pleases God.

The Comfort of God

Jesus doesn’t want us to mourn over our sins just so we feel bad but desires us to know his comfort, God’s full, free forgiveness and cleansing from sin.

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” Romans 4:7-8

The Rhythm of Grief and Comfort

We grieve when loved ones reject Jesus, then are comforted when he saves them. We mourn when brothers and sisters sin against us, but are comforted when we forgive them and are restored. We mourn when we endure various trials, but we’re comforted when we see Christ formed in us. We grieve when a brother or sister goes home to be with the Lord, but are comforted knowing they rejoice in God’s presence. We grieve over our weakness and lack of desire for the Lord, but we are comforted knowing that God sees us as righteous in Christ.

We are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” 2 Corinthians 6:10. And we look forward to that day of ultimate comfort when “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4.

Mark Altrogge

Where you can find wisdom that endures.


But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

 James 3:17

It’s amazing to think about all the advances in human thought that have been brought about over the years. Isaac Newton was sitting under a tree one day when an apple fell on his head, inspiring him to coin the Universal Law of Gravitation. And when Gutenberg saw a scribe diligently copying a scroll, he thought there must be a better way and invented the printing press.

It was Einstein who conceived the Theory of General Relativity and turned the science world on its head. And the great writer William Shakespeare penned some of the most prolific theatrical plays in the history of the world.

Yes, mankind has had some amazing thoughts that have changed the world. But I believe none of them compare to the profoundly simple words of the shepherd-king named David, who wrote, “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). In that phrase, He summed up the essence of life: to acknowledge God and find our satisfaction in Him.

Wisdom without God is temporal. But godly wisdom informs us for this life and the life to come. So grow in knowledge and remember that wisdom that truly endures comes not from the world, but from God!

FILL YOUR MIND WITH GODLY WISDOM THAT ENDURES FROM THIS LIFE TO THE NEXT!


For more from PowerPoint Ministries and Dr. Jack Graham, please visit www.jackgraham.org

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Get the best from 2012 to be your best in 2013


Dear Friend,

While many pastors shy away from addressing controversial issues, I sincerely believe you need to hear straight, “bulls-eye” biblical teaching on many of today’s hot topics. Not only to grow in your faith as a believer, but to give winsome, compassionate answers to the hard questions our culture is asking.

That’s why I want to send you a special new resource today – my CD series called The Best of 2012.

This series contains 10 of my most popular and compelling messages from 2012, and it’s a resource that’s sure to help you in 2013 because it includes messages such as, “Are All Religions the Same?”, “Lessons on Leadership,” and “What Is a Christian?”

The Best of 2012 is my gift to thank you for your donation to help PowerPoint continue to proclaim God’s Word and truth ’til the whole world hears. So please request your copy when you give today.

Thank you!

Jack Graham
PowerPoint Ministries

4 Ways Churches Break Attendance Barriers.


empty-churchAlmost any time I mention numbers related to church life, I anticipate some responses about the value of numbers and congregations. In the 1980s, this type of discussion came primarily from more liberal churches that weren’t growing.

Some of these leaders felt that declining membership and attendance were likely a sign of health. The members who really cared about the church were the ones who remained. They could make the biggest difference without the more nominal members remaining as obstacles.

Today, it is not unusual for me to hear from more conservative church leaders that declining church numbers may be a good sign because it is an indication that the numbers reflect true regenerate members. But for the purpose of this brief article, let’s assume that attendance growth is a positive indicator. Presumably more people are hearing the gospel and being discipled when a church is growing.

It is in that context that I hear almost every week from church leaders whose churches seem stuck at some level of attendance—100, 200, 500, 800 and so on. I even got a call a year ago from a church where the pastor was concerned that attendance was stuck at 7,000!

After 25 years of consulting and researching local congregations, I have found four common approaches churches take to break attendance barriers regardless of size. There are certainly more than four possibilities, but allow me to evaluate these four more common approaches.

1. Create new groups. These groups may be home groups, small groups that meet in coffee houses, Sunday school classes, ministry groups or others. Church leaders are intentional about creating groups on an ongoing basis. They typically have goals for the number of groups they start.

Evaluation: Frankly, I have seen great success with this strategy (and recently wrote about this strategy). I would speculate that as many as 8 out of 10 churches that strategically create new groups grow to new attendance levels. The mystery to me is why most churches don’t have this strategy.

2. Create new worship services. A church moves from one service to two, or from two to three, or even more. The move is typically precipitated by one or more services running out of space.

Evaluation: Most of the time the new service does aid the church in breaking attendance barriers. But keep in mind, the church was most likely growing already until it ran out of space. The new service simply takes the lid off so the church can continue to grow. I would caution a church, however, about moving to an additional worship service if it’s not already in a growth mode. The worship center can seem vacuous if one nongrowing group is split into two nongrowing groups.

3. Create new venues. This principle is similar to adding worship services, but the church uses a different facility for the new service. That new facility may actually be a new campus. It may be an ethnic service meeting in the church facilities in a different room than the worship center. It may be a merged church from another location. The possibilities are many.

Evaluation: The results thus far are positive. As a church adds a new venue, there is a natural increase in attendance. The multicampus form of this new venue is growing in use and popularity with mostly good results. We are still a few years away from being able to measure the midterm impact of new venues on growth. I would be willing to speculate that the results will be very positive.

4. Have a major event. The church’s strategy is to have one or more events that will create sufficient excitement for members to invite those who aren’t attending church. That event may be tied to a major holiday such as Easter, Fourth of July or Christmas. It may be tied to a significant tradition in a church. The plan is to get people to attend who would not regularly attend.

Evaluation: I have studied a few hundred churches that use the big event as their major growth strategy, and the results are not good. Attendance tends to rise for a few weeks on and after the event, but then it settles down to previous patterns. Churches can spend a lot of money on big events, but I hardly ever see a church break an attendance barrier consistently, even with those large amounts of resources dedicated to it.

What successful approaches have you seen to break attendance barriers? What do you think of these approaches I have highlighted? Why do churches not create new groups regularly and strategically when it has proven to be the most effective method for growth and for breaking attendance barriers?.

Written by Thom S. Rainer


Dr. Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 12 years, where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master’s of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

4 Tests to Determine if a Desire Is From God.


surprised woman
(http://www.stockfreeimages.com)

My friend was sick with frustration. You could see it all over her face and hear it in her voice as she talked about unmet expectations at her church.

“You’re never satisfied,” remarked her husband. Unlike his wife, he was happy with their full-gospel church, and he felt fulfilled in the ways he was serving there. Everything was in place—a beautiful new building, committees ready for action, outreach efforts underway.

But for my friend and others at her church, there was still a deep sense of dissatisfaction. It wasn’t a rumbling, like complaining, but more a gnawing hunger for something more: the life-changing presence of the Holy Spirit.

I identified with my friend’s feelings; I had experienced them myself. Perhaps you have too. It may not be your church that leaves your spirit wanting; it may be your job. Or perhaps your marriage is missing something. Maybe your whole life feels empty!

Deep inside, you know there must be more, but your hope is drained when well-meaning friends try to offer biblical counsel, telling you to let go of your lofty expectations and learn to be content with what you’ve got.

But is this counsel truly biblical? My understanding is that it is not. Scripture does not declare all dissatisfaction to be a product of the flesh. Although we often use the words satisfaction andcontentment interchangeably, they don’t mean the same thing, and confusing the two may alter the course of our lives.

Satisfaction vs. Contentment 

In English, to be satisfied means to have your fill of what you desire, expect or need. Similarly, in the original Bible languages, numerous words translated satisfy imply a completion and a filling.

Contentment, on the other hand, refers to a sense of gladly accepting what is offered to you, knowing that more could be had, such as politely accepting a salad when you really wanted a steak. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines it as being “happy with one’s lot.”

Sadly, some people believe the biblical charge of contentment is a mandate to relinquish all their unmet desires. But if we abandon every expectation for increase, we may do more than smother our hopes and dreams. We may immobilize God‘s perfect will in our lives by settling for less than what He has ordained for us to have and do.

Interestingly, most Scriptures that refer to contentment pertain to material wealth, not spiritual fulfillment. Consider the oft-quoted passage in 1 Timothy 6:6-7: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (NIV). Paul is referring here to the riches of this world and exhorting believers to value eternal things more.

Again, Paul writes, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty” (Phil. 4:11-12). Here he is discussing the support he has received from the Philippian church, pronouncing his reliance upon God for even his essential physical needs.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money,” we are told in Hebrews 13:5, “and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”

God’s Word does command us to be content with our means. But when it comes to eternal matters of the heart—our walks with God, relationships with others, finding meaning in life—God wants us to be filled to overflowing. When Scripture refers to our being satisfied, it’s often in the context of hunger and thirst of the soul. “Blessed are you who hunger now,” says Jesus, “‘for you will be satisfied'” (Luke 6:21).

One summer day, our family went to the beach. While my husband went off to study a book under the shade, I waded along the shoreline with our 2-year-old daughter, Olivia, who was reluctant to go into water beyond her knees. As a mother, I was happy to play with her in the sand, watching her waddle around in the gentle waves. I was content!

The day grew hotter and hotter, though, and after a while the sizzling sun began to beat down on our heads. Eventually, splashing along the shore was no longer enough for me. Wading up to my knees wasn’t invigorating. I felt as if I were melting, and I needed something more!

The deeper water was calling to me, and I was no longer content to do the “Mommy thing.” I simply had to satisfy my body’s need to cool off! As soon as my husband joined us and took over the responsibility of watching Olivia, I dove in deeper for a real swim. How refreshing that was! How satisfying!

I might have been content to cool off in an air-conditioned building rather than in the water, but leaving the beach without going into the water would not have satisfied me. I would have felt as if I had missed something wonderful.

Satisfaction Checklist 

And so it is with your spirit. It’s OK to be dissatisfied in your spiritual walk. That’s what beckons you into the deeper waters God has for you.

“‘Come, all you who are thirsty,” says the Word, “come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?'” (Is. 55:1-2).

If you find yourself wanting more, don’t assume there’s something wrong. Stop to consider the nature of your yearning. It is possible to know whether the desires in your heart are of God or not.

How do you tell? How do you determine whether to let those desires go and be content or press on until your heart is truly satisfied?

1. Examine your motives. James warns us, “You desire but do not have. … When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2, 3). In light of biblical contentment, you must first search your heart to see if your desires have eternal significance.

Jesus, knowing that man’s heart is easily enticed by earthly things, tells us to “store up … treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6:20), not only because earthly things will pass away but also because He wants our hearts to be given totally to Him.

“Where your treasure is,” He says, “there your heart will be also” (v. 21). Follow the trail to your treasure chest, and there you will find your heart.

2. Fear the Lord. “He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them” (Ps. 145:19). A healthy fear of God will make you humbly aware of your accountability to Him.

If your heart seems to be guiding you to do a new thing, first yield that desire to the Lord and see if He releases you to pursue it. Once He makes His leading clear, follow it—or satisfaction will continue to elude you.

3. Be diligent. “The sluggard’s appetite is never fulfilled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied” (Prov. 13:4). You may have a godly desire in your heart, but don’t expect to simply wake up one morning and find yourself living your dream. You must birth it in prayer, ask the Holy Spirit what to do and then do it, whether it requires taking a baby step or a great leap of faith.

Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to achieve your desires except pray and wait on the Lord. But even then you must live in the present.

Look around you. What is your current sphere of influence? Can you find a way to serve God there with a glad heart?

If so, you will eventually hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21).

4. Continue to hope. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12). If you are inclined to “just be content” in every area of your life, ask yourself if you have lost hope. Perhaps a renewed hope in the Lord would give you reason to press on until you can truly say your heart is satisfied.

It is His desire to give us this hope: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart'” (Jer. 29:11-13).

In Oswald Chambers’ classic devotional My Utmost for His Highest, Chambers writes about vision becoming reality. “God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision,” he writes. “It is in the valley that so many of us give up and faint.”

Chambers explains that God inspires us with vision but does not entrust us with the reality of it until we have been molded to His likeness, as clay on the potter’s wheel.

“But don’t lose heart in the process,” he writes. “If you ever had a vision from God, you may try as you will to be satisfied on a lower level, but God will never allow it.”

My friend and the “hungry” people in her church refused to be content playing church. They pressed forth in prayer, and soon the church leadership recognized the need as well. They began to lead the congregation out to deeper waters of revival, raising the standard of their Christian experience.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SPIRITLED WOMAN.

ANAHID SCHWEIKERT

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