Monday, September 22, 2014

Preaching and the Holy Spirit

A couple of quotes I found today on the necessity of the Spirit in preaching ministry.

All the hope of our ministry lies in the Spirit of God operating on the spirits of men - Spurgeon

How utterly dependent we are on the Holy Spirit in the work of preaching. All genuine preaching is rooted in a feeling of desperation. You go to your study. You look down at your pitiful manuscript and you kneel down and you cry, "God, this is so weak. Who do I think I am? What audacity to think that in three hours my words will be the odor of death to death and the fragrance of life to life. My God, who is sufficient for these things?" - John Piper

Friday, September 19, 2014

7 Reasons People Don't Meditate on God's Word

Doing some research on my message this week on meditating on Scripture from Psalm one and found this helpful article by Tony Merida at Gospel Centered Discipleship.

1. Pride will keep you from God’s Word

Many arrogantly go through a given day without thought of reading God’s Word. They act as though they have no need for the Bible and are sufficient in and of themselves. However, the person for whom God is looking is one with a humble dependency on his Word. Consider Isaiah’s words:
But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:2b)
God looks favorably to the one who places himself or herself under God’s Word daily.
Even the simple act of opening the Bible in the morning, before you leave for your daily labor, is a humble expression that you need God.
2. A misguided fear will keep you from God’s Word
I’ve met some who are intimidated by God’s Word, thinking only the clergy and professional ministers can get it. Let me encourage you with the doctrine of “The Clarity of Scripture.” This is the belief that God gave his Word to be understood by all God’s people. Interpretive principles are important. Scholarship has a place. But make no mistake, Scripture claims that it is written for the “simple” everyday Christian (SeePs. 19:7119:130). Have you ever considered that Paul wrote a letter like Romans to “laypeople,” not seminarians? He expected farmers, blacksmiths, tentmakers, shopkeepers, mothers, and other Christians to understand his letter. God’s people can understand God’s Word if they approach it with a heart of humility, seeking to obey it. Theologian, Wayne Grudem says, “No believer should think himself or herself too foolish to read Scripture and understand it sufficiently to be made wise by it.”[1]
3. A lack of understanding as to how you should study the Bible will keep you from God’s Word
At the end of this series, I want to help resolve this problem, giving you some practical steps in meditating and studying the Scriptures.
4. A belief that the Bible is boring will keep you from God’s Word
Perhaps you’ve used this excuse, or heard this excuse. Maybe it has grown out of experiences with boring worship services or boring preachers. But still, the fault is not with the Bible. The reason I had no desire for Scripture prior to conversion was my heart was hardened. The problem was never with the Bible. The problem was with me.
Sometimes people come up to me and say things like, “You really know how to make the Bible come alive in your teaching?” I know what they mean. They are trying to encourage me, usually. But one day I want to say, “Alive? I didn’t know the Bible was dead! In fact, I didn’t even know it was sick!”[2] God’s Word is living and active (Heb. 4:12).
If you think the Bible is boring, let me encourage you to do the following:
  1. Test yourself to see if you are truly born again (1 Peter 2:1-3).
  2. Test your lifestyle to see if you are addicted to entertainment to the point that you can’t slow down enough to read quietly and meditatively. If so, unplug for a season and read.
  3. Consider selecting a fresh reading plan and study plan. Ask a pastor or a mature Christian for some good study resources to recommend.
  4. Pray hard for the Spirit to illuminate God’s Word so that it burns in your heart (Luke 24:32).
5. Busyness will keep you from God’s Word
Of course, this is not a good excuse, but it’s all too common. Part of the exercise of meditating on Scripture is making time. One must plan to spend unhurried andunhindered time with God.
No one oozes into Christ-likeness. You don’t accidentally become a student of Scripture. Prioritize sitting at the feet of Jesus like Mary, who chose what was best (Luke 10:38-42).
Whenever someone presents this problem of busyness to me, or if I feel myself trying to use this excuse, I’m reminded of a particular cartoon. An overweight man is looking at the doctor who is obviously hearing from the patient that “he’s too busy to exercise.” To which the doctor responds, “What fits your busy schedule, exercising one hour a day or being dead twenty-four hours a day!?” We will prioritize things that matter.
6. Laziness will keep you from God’s Word
R.C. Sproul says, “We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy.”[3] Like the “sluggard” in Proverbs who refused to go outside because “there’s a lion in the road” (Prov. 26:3), we often make bogus excuses as a cover for our indolence.
7. Unbelief in the value of Scripture will keep you from God’s Word
Indeed, a fundamental problem is that many don’t value Scripture and believe its own claims about its potency. What would happen if we really believed that the Bible was “more valuable than gold” (Ps. 19:10)? What if someone would give you one hundred dollars for every verse you memorized? Would that motivate you? And yet, the Scripture itself is more valuable than any earthly treasure.
Consider the powerful benefits of Scripture:
  • The Psalmist declared that God’s Word brings revival, wisdom, joy, understanding, warning, reward, cleansing, purity, and guidance (Ps. 19119:9-11Ps. 119:105).
  • Jeremiah claimed that God’s Word brings joy and assurance (Jer. 15:16), along with brokenness and humility (Jer. 23:29).
  • Jesus explained to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus that God’s Word points to Him, and their hearts burned as he taught them (Luke 24:27).
  • Jesus prayed that his followers would be sanctified by God’s Word, which is truth (John 17:17).
  • Paul affirmed that faith comes by hearing from God’s Word (Rom 10:17).
  • Paul told Timothy that the Scriptures were sufficient enough to produce wisdom for salvation; content for instruction and reproof, and the necessary equipment for ministry (2 Tim 3:14-17).
  • The author of Hebrews stated the Scripture searches the soul and examines the heart (Heb 4:12).
  • The Apostles declare that the Word creates spiritual life, that is new birth (Jas. 1:211 Pet 1:22-25)
  • Peter added that Scripture produces spiritual maturity (1 Pet 2:1-2).
[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 116.
[2] This response is mentioned in R.C. Sproul’s Knowing Scripture, 14-15.
[3] Ibid., 17.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Benefits of Memorizing Scripture

“I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified” Chuck Swindoll,Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, p. 61.

Spurgeon on on the Work of Grace

If he gives you the grace to make you believe, he will give you the grace to live a holy life afterward." Sermon, "Justification by Grace."  In other words, the same grace that leads to faith in Christ for our salvation is the same grace that leads to faith for our sanctification!  

The Value of Memorizing Scripture

Dallas Willard, professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, wrote, “Bible memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation. If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. That’s where you need it! How does it get in your mouth? Memorization.” Dallas Willard in “Spiritual Formation in Christ for the Whole Life and Whole Person,” Vocatio, Vol. 12, no. 2, Spring, 2001, p. 7.

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Uncanny Prophecy in an Unlikely Place - A quote from Neil Postman

I read the book, Amusing Ourselves to Death in 1990, five years after it was published.  I read it on my honeymoon!  It was enlightening then but is even more so to look at it now almost thirty years later to see how relevant it is today. This quote is from the preface.  I am re-reading it now for my current sermon series, "The Word is Your Life." 
“We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares.

But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us. Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Consequence of Not Making the Bible Central

In 1859 and then again in 1904 a deep and penetrating work of the Holy Spirit engulfed the country of Wales. Wales had already seen many other periods when God had moved in revival-perhaps more than any geographical location in the history of Christianity. But these two spiritual awakenings were two of the most significant. In both cases, the Holy Spirit produced a profound increase of love for God among professing Christians and moved in the hearts of tens of thousands of people who did not know Christ, bringing them to repentance and a relationship with God. But there was a striking difference between the two revivals.
                Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge compared the two awakenings and commented about Evan Roberts, the best-known preacher of the second: “Roberts, a gifted exhorter who led meetings filled with prayers, singing, and testimonies, did not prioritize Bible teaching. Compared to the 1859 revival, fewer Welsh preachers taught biblical doctrine. Instead, many new converts sought mystical experiences.”
                The positive effects of the first revival both for the church and for society persisted for many years. The second revival., lacking an emphasis on the Bible, was “gone as quickly as it came.” Hansen and Woodbridge remarked about the second awakening: “After several years, Wales returned to its previous state of religious indifference.” The second revival was like a sparkler that spouted brilliant colors for a moment, sputtered, then grew suddenly dark. The difference between the two revivals was the Bible. Kenneth Berding, Bible Revival, preface.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Bible Has Power

Another excellent article from Paul Tripp.
Growing up, my father made it a priority to read the Bible to us every morning. I don't remember him ever making a comment or explaining a verse, but he diligently woke us up for "family worship" at 5:00am.
I don't know the final spiritual state of my father, so I can't say with certainty why he chose to do that, but something significant happened to me during those devotional readings: I was introduced to the power of God's Word.
By grace, my Heavenly Father raised up my earthly dad to be a spokesperson for His Word. Now it's my joyful calling to teach from the same Book that served as my alarm clock growing up.


Looking back on those early mornings, I'm reminded of the words from the prophet Isaiah: "My word...shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11).
In this Article, I want to look at Isaiah 55:8-13 and encourage you to read the Bible for three powerful reasons:

1. The Bible Has Revealing Power

From the beginning of time, there has been an immeasurable distance between the mind of God and the comprehension of humans. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9)
Even in a sinless world, Adam and Eve were completely dependent on God for revelation. They didn't come into existence knowing what life was about. They didn't know who God was or why they were created. As soon as Adam took a breath, God started telling him all the important things he needed to know.
We're no different than Adam and Eve, except that they received revelation while walking and talking with the Creator. Today, we receive our revelation through the Bible. It's where we need to go to discover who God is and why we were created.
You need to read the Bible because you're a human being. You simply don't have the capacity to understand life without divine help. Without God's Word, your existence won't make any sense.

2. The Bible Has Exposing Power

If Adam and Eve needed God's Word in a perfect world, how much more do we need it with our sin-infested hearts? You see, you'll never have a completely pure motivation in your life; every aspect of your personhood has been corrupted.
We need the Word of God to help us know what is good and true because it doesn't come naturally: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8).
You need to read the Bible because you're a sinner. You simply don't have the ability to move through life with a clean heart. Without God's Word, you don't have what it takes to live righteously.

3.The Bible Has Transforming Power

The ultimate purpose of the Word of God is worship. We were designed to worship the Creator, but sin now captures our heart and we worship the creation instead (Romans 1:25). Only the Word of God can take us from one side to the other.
Isaiah 55 talks about this transformation using a bizarre metaphor: "Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off." (Isaiah 55:13)
You don't need to be an expert botanist to know that rain gives growth to whatever already exists. So in this metaphor, the rain should create a bigger thorn bush, not a cypress tree. But the Word of God has transforming power.
The Bible has the unparalleled ability to grip us at our roots - our sinful, creation-worshiping heart - and transform us into an entirely different person.
You need to read the Bible to experience change. You simply can't experience spiritual growth on your own. Without God's Word, you're going to remain a prickly thorn bush.


The purpose of this Article is not to persuade you to rise at 5:00am everyday and read the entire Bible in 365 days. It's very possible to read the Bible diligently and with a hard heart.
Instead, I wrote this Article in the hope that you might admit to three things: your dependence on God, your sinful heart, and your need for change. If you read the Bible with that type of humility, get ready to be soaked with the powerful rain of God's Word!

Bible Study Struggles

I am starting a three week series titled, "The Word is Your Life, about the importance of the bible in the lives of those who follow Christ.  During this series I plan to blog articles on the bible.  This one is from Paul Tripp.

I have a confession to make. It’s embarrassing and humbling, but I’m willing to make it publicly:I’m not always excited about reading and studying the Bible.
I go through periods of what I would call spiritual boredom, when the “old, old story” just isn’t very exciting to me. On my worst days, reading God’s Word feels burdensome to me, and my heart is motivated more by duty than worshipful joy.
When I hit these periods, there are 3 things I require myself to remember:

1. I Remember God’s Grace

One of my favorite passages in all of Scripture is Isaiah 55 – I’ve written about it here and here.This chapter gives us visual picture after visual picture of God’s amazing grace, and because it does, it’s not surprising that the crescendo of this chapter is a visual picture of what the Bible is able to do in us and for us.
You’ll never find joy in Bible study until you understand that reading God’s Word is not first a call to duty, but an invitation to receive a wonderful gift. Your Bible is a gift of God’s grace that’s able to do what no other gift can do—change your heart and your life. Scripture really does have to power to turn thorn bushes into cypress trees!

2. I Remember Jesus

Reading God’s Word is much more than reading dusty, abstract theology, becoming familiar with ancient religious stories, or getting principles for daily living. You’ll never have joy in your Bible study unless you understand that it’s God’s invitation for you to commune with his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In John 5, Jesus’ claims are questioned by people who are purported to be experts in Scripture. Christ says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39).
Open your Bible and what do you encounter? Not a thing, but a Person, and His name is Jesus. Reading and meditating on your Bible is God’s means of welcoming you into daily fellowship with your Brother, Friend, Savior and King—Jesus.

3. I Remember To Remember

I’m so prone to forget God, forget his grace, forget my identity as his child, forget that he supplies all that I need, forget his unstoppable sovereign plan, and forget his eternal kingdom. When I forget God, I tend to put myself in his position and make my life all about me: my will, my feeling, my plan, my wants, and my needs.
Putting myself in God’s position always leads to spiritual dissatisfaction because the world was not created to do my bidding. So I need to be reminded every day of God’s awesome glory, his gracious presence in my life, and my special identity as his child. His Word was given so that day after day I would remember.
So, tomorrow, when you don’t feel like opening your Bible, remember God’s grace, remember your friend and brother, Jesus, and remember how quickly you forget. Pick God’s Word up not with the burden of guilt or as a call to duty, but because it’s a gift given to you by a God of amazingly tender mercy and grace.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Small Business Tips: 5 Steps to Building Great Customer Relationships

This is for developing your small business but applies to churches also! Found this at crowdSPIRNG.

You started a business and slowly, surely you have been acquiring new customers. They buy your products, they pay their bills. And they bring you their problems. Not the kind of problems they share at home with their spouse or on the couch with their shrink. Rather they share the problems they have with whatever it is you sold them. They want you to do it differently. They want their money back. They can’t make your website work. Customers inevitably run into issues and expect that you will help them find resolution.
And really there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, your customer’s problems represent a major opportunity for you to build a relationship with them, surprise and delight them, and build a great reputation and engender strong word-of-mouth. How can you do this? It’s simple, really; building great relationships with customers is little different from building relationships with friends. It is a mater of spending time, paying attention, listening and responding. It works the same with customer relations; just like you learn to appreciate your new friends as you spend more time with them and get to know them better, you’ll build lasting connections with your customers, too.
Here are 5 straightforward things you can do to build strong ties, encourage word-of-mouth and create relationships that will last!
Strike fast. First things first: attack. Whether a new customer walks into your shop or a new visitor loads a page on your site, this is the moment to begin the magic. Say hello, whether in person or via a banner or pop-up and have a smile on your face whether that face is physical or digital. It is critical that you begin the process immediately in order to let the new customer know that you are available, accessible, and interested in them as a person. If you are a service provider look for ways to educate the visitor about what you do and the values with which you do it; if you are bricks and mortar retail, be a welcoming presence so they feel comfortable asking questions; and if you are a web-based business make sure that your contact us information is front and center.
Follow up. Be sure to follow your initial introduction with a kind “May I help you find something?” or a “Welcome aboard” email if they register on your site. Studies have shown clearly that the follow-up is the most important step in building a lasting relationship. It is important that you not be annoying or overbearing in these communications, but a special offer, or simply a nice, personalized email goes a very long way to building those warm/fuzzy feelings.
Know them. Whether you get to know about the people who buy your products or services by talking with them and asking them about themselves, or by gleaning their data from their web visits, it is essential that you try to learn about your customers as people. They are, after all, individuals with different values, priorities, and needs and you can only serve them well if you know a bit about them. Keep track of their buying data so that you can offer them the things they want, survey them so that you can ask specific questions, send them offers so you can better understand what they find important.
Solve their problems. Whatever it takes is what you’ll need to do in order to build that relationship and create that great word-of-mouth buzz. Listen to their suggestions, make returns and credits a breeze, and when they ask you for your help with something, do it fast! If a customer calls you or writes you, get back to them as soon as you can. If someone calls, be sure to pick up the phone or call them back as soon as possible. And if someone walks in the store – greet them with a smile and ask how you can be of help.
Ask them to come back. When they leave your shop, shoot them a “Have a nice day and see you soon.” When they haven’t been on your site for a while, shoot them a “We miss you” email. The point is to stay in touch and try to remain top of mind with your customers; you want them thinking about you, talking about you, and coming back to you soon. Remember that business is a 2-way street; you are dependent on your customers for their business and they on you for the service you provide or the products you sell. Build a strong, mutually beneficial relationship and they will come back over and over and over!