The Word of God is vital. As time goes by I have sadly seen how motivational preaching, personal experiences of men and women, and dreams and individual revelations have replaced the Word of God in the Church’s pulpits. Continue reading
Within a culture that values independence and celebrates individual expression, many Americans tend to view the concept of submission with disdain. “Stand up for your rights” has become a battle cry. “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” is the mantra of success. Continue reading
Braxton and Johnathan discuss the infusion of an atheistic message into pop-culture. Star Trek, Supernatural, Assassins’ Creed, John Lennon and a host of other high-grossing titles have at times mixed unbelief with entertainment. Is this more dangerous than academic atheism? How should Christians respond?
Recently I visited the city of Tombstone, and was impressed about how a whole city grew up overnight because silver was found. This reminds me of being in Africa and hearing a pastor tell people that he believes they have just as many natural resources in their land as in other lands. He believed they have precious metals, minerals and oil in their land, but that their people have not been able to make use of them. In a similar fashion, the Church possesses a lode of rich teaching in the books of 2 Peter and Jude which are often neglected. Continue reading
A 21st century response to authority based on I Peter 2:13 would not be a normal response. It would almost be supernatural. In fact, with the societal challenges facing our culture in the US, I would dare say that any Biblical response to authority in the 21st century that would resemble the words of Peter would have to be supernatural…that it is a believer’s response. Continue reading
Hell is one of the most horrifying concepts in the Bible. For most of the 20th century there was little question among the people in the pews as to what the Bible taught on this tough subject. You don’t want to go to hell, because you don’t want to experience everlasting fire. Oh, by the way, there’s brimstone too. Let me tell you, as a child I had no idea what brimstone was, but it was still a tortuously frightening word. And then as an afterthought you won’t be with Jesus. There is, though, a renewed debate over this issue and it’s time to define the positions for the layman. Continue reading
For effective ministry to exist, one cannot undermine the role of the Holy Spirit. As I work in ministry, my qualifications will simply not matter if I am not hooked to the Holy Spirit in everything I do. When you walk in the Spirit, God will equip you to do His work at the right place and time. As Paul was writing to the church in Corinth, He explained that he didn’t preach with eloquent words but in the power of the Spirit. He states:
“When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.” (I Corinthians 2:1-5)
Paul had his focus right as he did not want honor for himself but wanted listeners to see God’s power at work through him. In everything we do as ministers, may we never forget that all the credit goes to the amazing God we serve.
As the Holy Spirit works through you and prepares you to preach, next we must recognize the importance of good preparation and planning. To put it simply – to speak well, you must plan and prepare well. This process involves detailed planning when researching a message, developing a message, and delivering a message. While researching a message you will spend great time in prayer and thoroughly analyze the Scripture you plan to preach on. Write down your own thoughts and look at commentaries and other publications on the subject. So often I don’t spend enough time with research and at the end I simply feel rushed. There is no excuse on my part for preparing at the last minute and then expecting all the details to fall into place.
When developing a message you must also spend a great deal of time in prayer. Look for ways to point to Christ in the message. Consider your people and where you want to take them with the message. Begin to construct the message making sure that you define the main point, purpose, proposition, and application you will cover. Ask yourself what type of sermon you want to deliver and develop the important parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. Don’t forget to be creative and use everything you have to pull the listener into what you are saying. Use illustrations, wordsmithing, and creative reading to capture your audience. Paint a picture so clearly that listeners will never forget the image you placed in their minds.
Have you ever stood in front of an audience and been afraid to put yourself out on a limb for fear that you will look just plain dumb? That is how I am with illustrations. I know they are powerful but I am so afraid of getting the details wrong that often I avoid them. This summer at camp I used an illustration about a hand. One of the kids was saved that night and a week later his mom told me he came home and said “I’ll never forget the story about the hand!” Something I feared so much, God used to get the attention of a 13 year old kid. God is truly amazing.
Last, as you prepare to deliver the message plan, think, and re-write. Get yourself in the mood to preach! Deliver the message with passion. Show your listeners you love them and care! Make sure they clearly understand the main points and have an idea of what you are challenging them to do. Don’t forget to go back over the sermon after you have delivered it and reevaluate. Critique yourself and the response you gained from your listeners. Developing a great message takes time and planning. It is important to not lose sight of your relationship with the Lord and the role the Holy Spirit plays in your life. Focus on the Lord, love Him, follow Him, and listen to the Spirit guide you as you prepare. The Lord will continue to surprise you in the ways He will use you and bless your ministry!
The resurrection of Jesus is important for several reasons. First, it witnesses to the immense power of God Himself. To believe in the resurrection is to believe in God. If God exists, and if He created the universe and has power over it, He has power to raise the dead. If He does not have such power, He is not a God worthy of our faith and worship. Only He who created life can resurrect it after death, only He can reverse the hideousness that is death itself, and only He can remove the sting that is death and the victory that is the grave’s (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). In resurrecting Jesus from the grave, God reminds us of His absolute sovereignty over life and death.
Second, the resurrection of Jesus is a testimony to the future resurrection of human beings, which is a basic tenet of the Christian faith. Unlike all other religions, Christianity alone possesses a founder who transcends death and who promises that His followers will do the same. All other religions were founded by men and prophets whose end was the grave. As Christians, we take comfort in the fact that our God became man, died for our sins, and was resurrected the third day.
The resurrection was not only the supreme validation of His deity; it also validated the Scriptures which foretold His coming and resurrection. It also authenticated Christ’s claims that He would be raised on the third day according to John 2:10-21. If Christ’s body was not resurrected, we have no hope that ours will be (1 Corinthians 15:13,16). In fact, apart from Christ’s bodily resurrection, we have no Savior, no salvation, and no hope of eternal life. As Apostle Paul lamented, our faith would be useless and the life-giving power of the Gospel would be altogether eliminated.
Because our eternal destinies depend on the truth of this historical event, the resurrection has been the target of Satan’s greatest attacks against the church. Accordingly, the historicity of Christ’s bodily resurrection has been examined and investigated from every angle and studied endlessly by countless scholars, theologians, professors, and others over the centuries. And even though a number of theories have been postulated which validate anything other than His literal bodily resurrection. On the other hand, the clear and convincing evidence of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is overwhelming.
The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of redemption—both for mankind and for the earth. Indeed, without Christ’s resurrection and what it means—an eternal future for fully restored human beings dwelling on a fully restored Earth—there is no Christianity. The Resurrection proved that Christ was divine.
The fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross does not prove in itself He is God. Jesus proved His deity by fulfilling the prophecies of His death and by His return from the grave. The Bible declares that “by being raised from the dead [Christ] was proved to be the mighty Son of God, with the holy nature of God Himself.” (Romans 1:4, The Living Bible).
The Resurrection proved Christ’s power to forgive sin. The Bible asserts, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17). By rising from the dead, Jesus proved His authority and power to break the bonds of sin and to assure forgiveness and eternal life to all who accept His gift of salvation.
The Resurrection revealed Christ’s power over death. The Bible records, “Christ rose from the dead and will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him.” (Romans 6:9, TLB) The Resurrection secured our victory over death as well and “lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with him in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 2:6)
The Resurrection defeated God’s enemy. From the moment of his original rebellion until the day of the Cross, the devil fought viciously and cunningly to overthrow the kingdom of God. Satan must have thought he had dealt the final and decisive blow in this age-old war. But this was the devil’s most serious miscalculation. The Cross was heaven’s triumph. And when Jesus Christ arose, the power of sin and death was forever shattered. Because of the Resurrection, Christians need never fear Satan or death again!
What images or thoughts come to your mind when you hear the word “counseling”? What does counseling entail and who can do it? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines counseling in its simplest terms as “giving advice.” One might argue that everyone in some form gives counsel to others, whether they realize it or not. Jesus gave counsel as he taught the multitudes, only the counsel He gave was much more than mere advice- He shared the “words of life”. It was often in the form of warnings, guidance, admonishment, exhortation, encouragement, commands, imparting wisdom, and rebuking. He warned of the failure and consequences of being “hearers” of His words, but not putting them into practice as “doers” as well (Matthew 7:24). When a pastor shares the Word of God on a Sunday morning he is providing “biblical counseling” to His Congregation.
As a biblical counselor I have encountered a number of churches who make it clear that they do not do counseling. When a church makes this statement about counseling it often means that they do not provide personal counseling to individuals struggling with some of the common issues of life like marital problems, anger, depression, anxiety, etc. Many in the church believe that these issues are better left up to the professional secular counselor. There are certainly legal risks in offering “counseling” to individuals today and many churches prefer not to assume them. But what might be the implications of not offering personal biblical counseling to members of the flock and to those involved in the wider ministry of the local church?
Hopefully we believe Peter’s promise in 2 Peter 1:3-4 that God has granted to us “all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” Implicit in this passage is that the Gospel does more than call us to make a salvation decision.It is the offer of life and peace- now and in the hereafter. Jesus came that we may have life and peace, and that we may have it abundantly (John 10:10). These are not some vague promises made by Scripture that the church should only espouse collectively to the body in a sermon on Sunday morning. They are very real and specific promises and principles that should be shared, admonished, encouraged and exhorted both to the body collectively by the pastors, and personally by the body, one to another, individually as each member grows in their knowledge and faith in the Lord Jesus and His words. Shall we say to the body of believers in the church, and to those who are yet to believe, that God’s only answer and provision for the plague of sin is in His atonement for it? No. Please do not get me wrong, for this I am foremost and eternally grateful. However, He not only spared us from the penalty of our sin, He set us free from the enslaving and suffering nature of it. In Christ we are justified and free. This is awesome news when shared collectively on a Sunday morning or in a small group Bible study. It is also news that the individual captive needs help to hear and understand when wrestling to break free from specific personal struggles and sin. Jesus counseled collectively to the masses and He also compassionately ministered at the personal level as He counseled the woman at the well.
As believers we are all called and equipped to counsel one another biblically from the scriptures (Colossians 3:16). We can debate how formal this ministry ought to be, but it is a vital part in bringing hope and growth to the body of Christ and to those who need to know Christ. How vital you may ask? I have previously counseled with individuals who left their church in despair because they sought such counseling from their shepherd and were turned away. In fulfilling our mission to share the Gospel and make disciples, we need to be able to guide people beyond the despair of life’s struggles.I believe imaging Christ through biblical counseling is vital to the ministry of the church.