8 BIBLE PROMISES TO ENCOURAGE YOU

Why do you need encouragement? *Inadequacy for a called task or responsibility?*Weariness of mind, body, and spirit?*Battle fatigue over spiritual warfare?*Discouragement over an unmet goal or unanswered prayer?*Doubts about God’s love and faithfulness?*Conflict with someone you love?*Lack of fruitfulness in your ministry? These are just a few of the factors that threaten our joy or cause us to lose heart. As a frail, depression-prone disciple of Christ, I’m especially susceptible to discouragement. But I’m not without weapons.  The weapon I wield most often to keep me from losing heart is the Word of God, particularly its promises.  Below are eight promises that I’ve memorized and which I repeatedly preach to myself. I’ll let these verses speak for themselves, without my commentary.  But I urge you tp ponder these questions in relation to each promise: What truth in this text encourages me?  Why?What typical situations do I face during the week when I need to preach this promise to myself? 1.   2 Thessalonians 3:3“But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”      2.   1 Corinthians 15:58“My beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that you toil is not in vain in the …

SURPRISED AT SUNRISE

God Penetrates Our Darkness with His Light.                                                                                        A lot of my writing strives to reconcile struggles, especially depression, with faith in a loving God.  But not even a melancholy person like me feels gloomy all the time.  No, sometimes God provides a serendipitous experience and my spirit unexpectedly soars. Like the day on my way to work when a roseate sunrise greeted me, displaying the artistic majesty of God.  Such moments of ravishing beauty make the struggles more bearable.  I was reminded of Psalm 8:1: “O Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth, who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens.” That fleeting work of art inflated what had been a depressed spirit that week.  For that day, at least, the beauty instilled enough zest to fulfill the demands of the day with more-than-usual cheerfulness. When I gazed at the sunrise, I was reminded of a popular saying: “Life is not a dress rehearsal.  Live it to the fullest.” That morning, I lived life to the fullest by stopping to stare at the sunrise.  Later that day, I penned the words that follow.                                              Living That Makes SenseSoak up the sunrise.Work will wait.  Absorb the Lord’s art.Let eye-popping hues …

When Faith Doesn’t Work

I am not a Christian because my faith “works” for me. Talk to a devout Mormon, Muslim, or Buddhist and he’ll extol the here-and-now benefits of his faith. He’ll cite a serenity of spirit, or a sense of order that believing brings to his life. Yet his belief system contradicts mine, so logically these various faiths cannot all be true! If I were a Christian just because faith has utility for me, because my days are more likely to unfold in a smooth, trouble-free manner, I’d be a pragmatist, pure and simple. And I’d be prone to shuck my commitment to Christ the moment a different philosophy or religion appeared to offer me more. Don’t get me wrong. Following Christ is not without rewards in the present. My faith often sustains me, provides perspective for decision-making, and injects a merry countenance. But not all the time. There’s the inevitable warfare with the world, the flesh, and the devil to contend with. And in my case, either chronic depression or weaknesses of temperament sometime get the best of me. I’ll keep praying for relief and I’ll strive for sound mental health, yet I don’t want to be among the growing number of Christians who expect …

I’M TIRED OF THESE 7 LEADERSHIP BEHAVIORS

I’ll start by qualifying what I’m about to write. Most vocational church and parachurch leaders deserve more applause than they get.  They’re diligent, caring, teachable, committed to Christ and His church, and often underpaid in a job fraught with pressure and folks’ unrealistic expectations. I’ve served with godly men whose shoes I could never fill (despite my size 15-6E feet). And in my decades of ministry, I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes. But (ah, you knew that word was coming) I’m growing increasingly tired of certain attitudes and behaviors that I’ve observed among some persons in public leadership.  I’m tired of leaders who blame every instance of criticism or opposition on “an attack from Satan.”  If you don’t think God speaks needed words through unsolicited counsel, reproof, or criticism, go through the book of Proverbs.  List all the verses that call for a teachable spirit in response to such input.   These verses represent a much larger sample:   “He who hates reproof is stupid” (Prov. 12:1b). “He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise” (Prov. 15:31). “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Prov. 12:15). Father, help …

5 STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP PASSAGES IN THE BIBLE

 God’s Word is first and foremost a message book, revealing the story and means of redemption. But it’s also a method book, in the broad sense of that term. Pastors, missionaries, teachers, and evangelists may glean from certain texts how-to ideas for fulfilling their calling, or traits/principles essential to completing their tasks. If you’re in leadership, take yourself—and your staff, if you’re in such a position—through the following texts. Take time to absorb passage details, then answer the questions. Also mull over the accompanying application question(s). If you finish any set of questions in just 10-12 minutes, you’re going way too fast. There’s more to absorb in each passage than meets the eye at first. 1.   2 Chronicles 26  Peril of Pride                *What were the evidences of Uzziah’s effectiveness as a king?               *What words in the text reveal reasons for Uzziah’s success?               *How did Uzziah respond to the popularity that stemmed from God’s blessings?               *In what ways did pride show in Uzziah?               *What was the consequence of his pride?               *What timeless lessons about pride and leadership can you glean from this chapter?               *How does pride tend to show among leaders today? (in me?)               *What are some strategies for curbing pride in leaders?  2.   Exodus 18:13-27   …

7 GUIDELINES TO HELP YOU PREPARE FOR YOUR GROUP BIBLE STUDY

Do you prepare your own small group Bible studies or Sunday School lessons? Do you receive published curriculum from your church, but typically revise the lessons in view of the characteristics of your particular group of learners? Do you strive for an interactive session that involves learners, rather than merely lecturing to them? If you answer “Yes” to any of those questions, review the following guidelines for choosing learning activities.  These key words and accompanying questions will spark your thinking and help you make wise methods choices. 1.   Message What teaching approaches will clearly and accurately convey the truths in my Bible passage?  Is it realistic for my learners to discover these truths under my guidance? Should I lecture briefly on context and background to set the stage for intelligent discussion?  Is the material so complex or controversial that this lesson requires more lecture than normal? Remember:  when it comes to Bible study, methods always serve the message. 2.   Environment How does the physical environment of the meeting place affect my choice of learning activities?  Would another group nearby be adversely affected if I employed a noisy mixer or role play? What techniques does the physical setting or lack of equipment eliminate?  …

6 QUESTIONS FOR ENHANCING APPLICATION IN YOUR TEACHING OR PREACHING

The late Larry Richards, biblical scholar and Christian Education specialist, lamented that even good Bible teaching usually stops at the level of interpretation.  In Creative Bible Teaching, he viewed a focus on application as the missing element in much Bible teaching.  In The Seven Laws of the Learner, Bruce Wilkerson made the same point. To increase your sensitivity to application during your message or group Bible study, ponder the following questions during your preparation for teaching. No doubt there is some overlap among these questions. 1.   What is the relationship between the truths in this passage, and my learners? A good communicator keeps one eye on the biblical text, and the other eye on the target group. The truths in a passage are objective.  Truths don’t change no matter who we’re teaching.  But which truths we emphasize or how we illustrate them may vary with the audience.  2.   What roles, relationships, and responsibilities serve as contexts for their application of this Bible passage? Application scenarios we discuss, illustrations we offer, or life-related questions we pose will differ depending on whether the audience consists primarily of teens, businessmen, housewives, or retirees. When push comes to shove, we don’t teach lessons, classes, courses, …

4 WARNINGS FOR CHRISTIAN LEADERS

Inherent in the nature of ministry, and in our still-sinful bent, are dangers for all of us who lead or teach God’s Word.  I repeatedly preach these four warnings to myself.  1.  Beware of pride.There’s a subtle tendency for us to take credit for what God does through us.  How pride shows in leadership includes, but isn’t limited to, unwillingness to accept counsel or reproof; ingratitude; complaining; impatience with others;  subtly drawing attention to our accomplishments in conversations, and an anemic prayer life. (John Wesley said, “No one who prays, struts.”) For a sobering case study on the moral erosion pride causes, read 2 Chronicles 26.  Ask:  What caused Uzziah’s pride? How did pride show in him? What were the consequences?  What personal word is the Holy Spirit saying to me through this narrative?  2.  Beware of basing our identity on our accomplishments.What do we rely on for a sense of significance or identity?  Often it’s the number of people we lead to Christ; the number of churches we plant on the mission field; the growth in members and budget in our local church, or the number of followers we have on social media. But our basis for rejoicing and …

6 PROMISES TO ENCOURAGE THOSE WHO SERVE

 Opposition. Weariness of mind, body, and spirit. Feelings of inadequacy. Discouragement over apparent lack of fruitfulness. What instills resiliency to face these and other obstacles to ministry motivation? For me, one answer is memorizing timeless promises in God’s Word.  The six promises that follow provide high octane fuel that keeps me going.  1.  1 Corinthians 15:58   Therefore, my  beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. Paul attached his call to ministry perseverance, caboose-style, to the promise of resurrection.  That our service won’t be in vain (empty-handed) is as sure as Jesus’ resurrection, and ours.  Also see the sow-reap principle in Galatians 6:7-9.  Paul applies it positively so we won’t lose heart in ministry.  2.  Matthew 28:19-20    Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Though God guarantees His constant presence to all believers (Isaiah 41:10; John 14:16; Hebrews 13:5), Jesus applied this particular promise to those …