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If You Are New To Reading the Bible, Start Here:

I get fired up when people who have not really read the Bible very much begin to read it. Because I know that God will speak to them through the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God. So when you read the Bible, you can be sure that God is speaking to you. God’s Word will change your life, in great ways.

One of the questions I often get as a pastor goes something like this: “Which book of the Bible should I start with?”

It’s a good question, because the Bible is not arranged like a novel or history book. The Bible is actually a collection of 66 books, divided into two sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. So if you started reading at the first book (Genesis) and read through the entire Bible until you finished at the last book (Revelation), you would learn a lot but you might also get confused in some sections because the books aren’t arranged in chronological order.

Note: I have written previously about how to read and study the Bible. You can find that post HERE.

So, here is where I would suggest you start reading if you are new to reading the Bible:

1. The Gospel of John. In some Bibles, it’s simply called “John” in the table of contents. This narrative of the life of Jesus describes Him in great detail, and describes some of the greatest encounters He had with people while He was on the earth. And there are amazing truths in this book about who Jesus is, about eternal life, and about following Christ.

2. Genesis. This is the very first book of the Bible, and it describes the origins of all things, and the beginnings of God’s relationship with people, including how He led Abraham & Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and others.

3. James. Incredibly practical, this book will give you lots of “aha!” moments as you read it, with practical guidance on how to live for Christ (with His help, of course!).

4. The Gospel of Matthew. I don’t believe you can read too much about Jesus. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life will give you another person’s insights into the life, actions, words and compassion of Christ.

5. Exodus. Travel with the Hebrew people from Egypt across the Red Sea into the wilderness and to the edge of the Promised Land. Read how God led them, protected them, and taught them along the way.

6. Acts. Journey with the first followers of Jesus in the years immediately following His death, burial and resurrection. See churches being started throughout the Roman Empire. Read about God’s miraculous power changing lives.

7. Ephesians. One of the churches that was established just a few years after Jesus walked the earth was in the city of Ephesus. One of the men who established that church, Paul, wrote them a letter to guide them individually and as a church, giving practical instruction for living for Christ. Those words are just as applicable to our lives today as they were when they were first written almost 2000 years ago.

These seven books should get you started. After you read these, keep going!

May God bless you as you read His Word and put it into practice in your life. God will change your life through His Word, and He will give you an abundant life in Christ.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in reading

 

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The 3 Main Roles of Spiritual Leaders

Last Sunday evening, I had the privilege to meet with nine men from our church who are sensing a call into pastoral ministry. God is working in each of their lives. They are growing in their personal relationship with Jesus. They have a desire for people to come to faith in Christ. They are serving the Lord in ministries, impacting the lives of others spiritually in a positive way.

The Bible gives us guidance on the main roles of spiritual leaders. We find three terms in the New Testament – elder, shepherd, and overseer – that are used interchangeably to refer to the same church leaders. Here is one example:

1 Therefore, as a fellow elder and witness to the sufferings of the Messiah and also a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: 2 Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4)

It’s important to realize this: God desires that all of the followers of Jesus be involved in ministering to others in the ways that pastors and other spiritual leaders minister. The spiritual leaders simply lead the way.

Role #1: Provide spiritual care. The word “shepherd” (v2) teaches spiritual leaders to care for those that they lead with the same attitude and skill that shepherds use when caring for sheep, in the same ways that Jesus cares for all of us (v4). Feed them spiritually with God’s Word, care for them when they are hurting, rescue them with they are in danger, and guide them skillfully on paths that are good for them.

Role #2: Provide spiritual wisdom. The term “elder” (v1) indicates that spiritual leaders give sound guidance and practical wisdom. And the reason that all spiritual leaders can do this regardless of their chronological age is because their wisdom is drawn from the teaching of the Bible. When you seek advice from your pastor or another spiritual leader in your church, they should not give you their opinion. They should help you discover what the Bible says about your situation.

Role #3: Provide spiritual leadership. We learn from the Bible that spiritual leaders are to be “overseeing” (v2) the work of ministry. This means that they literally “look over” things. This indicates a managing, administrative role that pastors and spiritual leaders have. They lead people, manage budgets, oversee ministries, and more.

One important thing to remember: God did not call pastors and other spiritual leaders to do all of the work of the ministry. There is too much work to be done. He calls us all to serve Him! What a amazing privilege, to serve the Creator of the universe and impact the lives of others. Wow.

Spiritual leaders, I implore you: lead the way. Provide spiritual care, spiritual wisdom and spiritual leadership. Inspire, encourage and equip all of the people who are following you to be all that God created them to be!

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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What’s Your Role?

I’ve been part of some great teams in my life: sports teams, volunteer groups, church staffs, churches, more. On great teams, the team members each know what their role is and they do a great job of fulfilling their role.

For a church to function in the way that God intends, each person must know their role and fulfill it to the best of their God-empowered ability.

11 And He [God] personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.

14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head — Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

Here’s the big idea that I see in Ephesians 4:11-16 — God trains us all so that we will work together to become Christlike in every way and expand His kingdom.

1. God trains all believers. (vv11-12)

  • Apostles – those who are “sent out” from here to there, such as missionaries, church planters and others
  • Prophets – not those who foretell the future, but rather those who clearly discern and boldly declare the truth, in line with the teaching of the Bible
  • Evangelists – those with an intense desire to share the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ with everyone everywhere
  • Pastors & teachers – those who are called to lead the church in loving people, caring for them, showing compassion, and teaching people how to follow Christ
  • Saints – not a special select group of “holy” people, but rather all of those who have put their saving faith in Jesus Christ, those who have been “sanctified” (literally, “set apart”) to live for Christ, all believers in Jesus

2. God tells us what to do: (vv11-12)

  • The apostles, the ones sent out with a mission, remind us that we are all to be willing to go to new places as God leads us, whether that be across the street or around the world, or somewhere in between.
  • The prophets remind us that we are to declare truth everywhere we go. We declare truth in line with the Bible, declaring its absolutes even in the midst of an ever-changing culture, remembering always to speak the truth in love.
  • The evangelists inspire us and equip us to share the good news of Jesus with everyone we meet, everywhere we go, as the Lord opens the door for conversations.
  • The pastors and teachers show us how to love people, care for them & teach them to follow Christ.
  • All of the saints are to serve in the ways that God empowers, equips and leads them. For instance, when we see in a need that our neighbor has, we should not expect someone else to minister to them. As much as we are able, we should serve and help them. The ministry may be listening to them, encouraging them, making a meal for them, sharing the gospel with them, or a host of other things. Let’s all serve the Lord.

3. God tells us how to measure success: (vv12-16)

  • Total involvement. The Bibles says, “all” (v13), “the saints” (v12), “by the proper working of each individual part” (v16). God expects us all to serve Him, not just a select few.
  • Unity. Verses 13 and 16 remind us of how important it is that we stand united in our faith, focused on Christ, and how strong we are when we stand united with each doing their part.
  • Spiritual maturity. We are to grow in our knowledge of the Scriptures, and grow in obedience to God. Over time, we should learn more and more to walk like Jesus, as verses 13 and 14 describe. (More on that HERE)
  • Growth. A church will see spiritual and numerical growth as each individual fulfills the role that God has called them to do. Read verses 15-16 again. The growth may come slowly or quickly, but the growth will definitely come over time.

So, what’s you role? Are you walking in obedience to what God has called you to do? What’s your next step of obedience? Take that step.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Walk Like Jesus

Following Christ is more than just holding a set of beliefs. Following Christ is about how you live your life: where you go, what you say, the things you do. To “walk like Jesus” means to pattern your life after the example of Christ and to trust in Christ daily for guidance and strength to live your life in ways that honor Him.

17 Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. 19 They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more.

20 But that is not how you learned about the Messiah, 21 assuming you heard about Him and were taught by Him, because the truth is in Jesus. 22 You took off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires; 23 you are being renewed in the spirits of your minds; 24 you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.

25 Since you put away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don’t give the Devil an opportunity. 28 The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need. 29 No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. 30 And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption. 31 All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:17-32)

1. Your old self is not the way of Christ. Notice in Ephesians 4:17-22 the many descriptive words referring to your “old self,” meaning the way you were before Jesus changed your life. Words like futility, darkened, excluded and callous are used to describe this way of life. That way is not the way of Christ. As a believer in Jesus, you are not bound to that way of life anymore. You have been set free to walk like Jesus.

2. To walk like Jesus, you need to learn from Him. You don’t need to just learn about Him; rather, you need to learn from Him. See verses 20-24. This learning begins with you having a personal relationship with Christ. It continues throughout the rest of your life as you read the Bible, pray, and ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide you you to walk like Jesus.

3. Walk like Jesus every day. Not just on Sundays and special religious holidays. Walk like Jesus at home, at work, in the community, everywhere you go, every moment of every day. How? Ephesians 4:25-32 gives us guidance. Here are four questions to consider in light of these verses:

What words are coming out of your mouth? Your words should be the same kind of words Jesus would be using, with the same tone he would be using. Words to build up, not tear down. Words that are truthful, never lying. Words that honor God and encourage others.

What do your actions say about who you are? Jesus was not an angry person. When He displayed anger, it was righteous indignation because people were being mistreated or led astray. He responded to every situation in a pure, controlled way. Also, Jesus was an honest person. He did not steal. What about you? You may not be stealing from stores or banks, but do you ever cheat on your taxes or steal someone’s joy through hurtful words? See Ephesians 4:26-31 for guidance.

How do you treat people? Jesus lived a life of kindness and compassion. What about you? See verse 32. The ways of kindness and compassionate are the ways of Christ. Walk in these ways.

How do you deal with people who hurt you? It is natural to want to seek revenge, to harbor anger, and to lash out against those who hurt you. But, the way of Christ is the way of forgiveness. See Ephesians 4:32. Walk in this way.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Seven Ways To Develop Your Leaders

As spiritual leaders, we have the opportunity to work with some incredible volunteers and staff members who dedicate their lives to following Christ and leading others to follow Christ. We have a God-given responsibility to develop them in such a way that they can develop others who will in turn develop others (2 Timothy 2:2).

God has plans to use these leaders to minister to people in times of need, to lead people to faith in Christ, and to teach people to walk in the way of Jesus. So how do you develop leaders?

1. Pray for them. Talk to God on their behalf. Ask Him to bless them, encourage them, and use them greatly for His glory.

2. Inspire them. Tell them stories of God working in the lives of others. Give them examples from the Bible of God using ordinary people in extraordinary ways. Share with them a clear vision for their role as a leader.

3. Equip them. Give them the training and tools they need to do their job well. Provide ongoing support and help as needed.

4. Listen to them. Show them that you care about them by listening to them. You will discover they have great ideas and an important point of view that will make your team stronger. As you listen to them and share with them, you also will discover the depth of who they are and a real friendship will develop.

5. Encourage them. Find specific ways to offer an encouraging word. Compliment them. Tell them when they are doing a good job. Thank them.

6. Problem-solve with them. When they run into challenges, make yourself available to them. Help them to think through options for next steps and how to choose the best option.

7. Minister to them. Be aware of their needs and meet them as the Lord leads, according to your ability. Create a sense of community among your team where everyone meets each others’ needs. Some practical things to do to meet needs: prepare a meal for them, visit them, pray with them, and point them toward other resources that are available, about which they may be unaware.

What a blessing to be able to lead leaders. Lead them well.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Driving Tip #241

Driving tip #241: Move your vehicle over to the side of the road when you encounter a funeral procession

Different cultures show respect to grieving families in different ways. One of the ways that we show respect to grieving families here in the USA is to move our vehicles over to the side of the road when we encounter a funeral procession, whether that procession is driving toward us or if it comes up from behind us. But let me assure you that plenty of people who have lived in America all of their lives don’t follow this driving tip.

Let me encourage all of you to follow this tip, and while you’re pausing there on the side of the road, offer a prayer for the grieving family. Pray that the Lord will comfort them during their time of loss. Pray that family members and friends who may not yet have saving faith in Jesus will put their trust in Him. 

For those who may be new drivers, here are some ways to recognize a funeral procession coming down the highway:

  • A long, single-file line of vehicles driving slowly with their bright headlights on
  • A hearse leading the procession
  • Police vehicles many times are in front of the procession, stopping traffic at intersections so that the procession can go through traffic lights and stop signs without pausing
  • Other vehicles that have already recognized that this is a funeral procession will have already moved over to the side of the road out of respect for the family

Now I know that some of you are thinking that you may not have time to pause for the procession. You may already be running late for your next appointment. This is why you may want to leave a few minutes early for the places you go, in case you encounter surprises along the way. (That’s the subject of another Driving Tip post… coming soon.) And whether you are running late or not, try to think how you would feel if you were the grieving family and someone came zooming by the procession. Obey the “golden rule” — treat others the way you want to be treated. 

So to sum up this driving tip: when you see a funeral procession, move your vehicle to the side of the road, and wait until the funeral procession goes by before you resume your safe driving. While you are pausing, pray for the family and friends who have lost a loved one. The Lord who hears our prayers will strengthen and comfort them.

And how cool would it be to get to heaven and hear someone say something like this: “One day I was driving in a funeral procession and I had this overwhelming sense of God’s love. On that day I heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I put my trust in Him. I’m in heaven because someone prayed for me.” 

Safe driving!

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Driving Tip #52

Driving Tip #52: Be ready when the light turns green

How many times have you been behind another vehicle at a red light waiting for the light to turn green, and then when it turns green the vehicle ahead of you doesn’t move at all?

You quickly notice that the person ahead of you has their head down, usually looking at their smartphone. They may be sending a text, updating their status on social media, or advancing to the next level on their favorite game. Or they may doing something else that’s distracting them: talking to their passengers, changing the radio station, or eating a sandwich.

After you gently tap your horn to get them to notice the green light, they frantically look up, pause for a moment, then accelerate, and barely make it through the light while it turns yellow, preventing everyone behind them from making it through the light as it turns red.

So here’s a tip: when you’re at a traffic light and the light is red, keep looking at the light. It’s going to turn green pretty soon, and the people behind you will be ready to go through the intersection quickly and safely right behind you. Be ready when the light turns green.

Happy driving everyone!

Special thx to my wife Kim for her idea for this post!

:-)

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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