Monthly Archives: June 2013

It’s not a question of age

Timothy, Paul’s “spiritual” son in the ministry, was very young, and he was fearful and worried about what people thought of his youth. Paul told him to let no man despise his youth. It really does not matter how old or young a person is. If God calls someone to do something, and they have the confidence to go forward, nothing can stop them.

How you respond to your age and, for that matter, how others respond is really up to you. We all age in years, but we don’t have to get an “I’m too old” mindset. Moses was eighty years old when he left Egypt to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. Confident people don’t think about how old they are; they think about what they can accomplish with the time they have left. Remember, confident people are positive and look at what they have, not what they have lost.

Even if you are reading this book and let’s say you’re sixty-five years old and feel you have wasted most of your life doing nothing—you can still start today and do something amazing and great with your life.

Let no one despise or think less of you because of your youth, but be an example (pattern) for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. —1 Timothy 4:12

Lord, You used people of all ages throughout the Bible, and You can use me. Today is a new day, and I am excited about what You have for me to accomplish. Amen.

From the book The Confident Woman Devotional: 365 Daily Devotions by Joyce Meyer. Copyright © 2011 by Joyce Meyer. Published by FaithWords. All rights reserved.

Why victory & winning aren’t the same thing

After a pretty spectacular start to His ministry – the voice from Heaven and all that (Luke 3:21,21) – Jesus embarked on a rocky road. Forty days and nights starving in the desert with just the devil to keep Him company (Luke 4:1-13), a lynch mob in His home town (Luke 4:28,29) and then years of being criticised, tested, plotted against.

If we’d had to walk His path you and I, perhaps we would have retreated to the relative safety of the carpenter’s shop where we’d grown up, and consigned ourselves to the easy option.

Maybe that’s why so many people don’t have victory in their lives … because they’re not prepared to go to the dangerous places where we win victories.

No battles, no victories right?

Maybe in the face of attacks and opposition and setbacks and a lack of approval from other people, we’d have withdrawn to a life that wasn’t our calling to live. A life that God never planned. A life of comfort and safety. A life pursuing our own pleasures rather than God’s will.

Am I being a bit too harsh? I don’t know.

I think sometimes we think that serving God is all about winning – serving God is all about having success. Serving God is about meeting our needs. But the more I see of Jesus’ life, the more I see of His brand of victory, the more it seems that His victory had very, very little to do with any of those things.

The religious leaders came after Him with a meat clever because He was upsetting the status quo. He was preaching blasphemies. He was eating and drinking with tax collectors and prostitutes. He was healing people – can you believe it – on the Sabbath.

How dare He? And then, to top it all off, He declares Himself to be the Lord of the Sabbath!!

“Something … something has to be done about this dangerous heretic” they murmur.

“I know,” – says one of them – “let’s have Him killed. Let’s play the system and get Him crucified. That’ll do it. Jesus loses, we win.”

That’s an all too simplistic, all to common view of victory. The world’s view. Our view. Victory is when I win. Right?

But listen to Jesus on the subject of being crucified:

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father. (John 10:17,18)

So when it comes to living a life of victory, for Jesus, it’s not about avoiding the Cross. Victory for Jesus is not about winning in the sense that you and I might think about winning. If we were in His shoes, wouldn’t we be trying to pretty much save our own skin?

Victory for Jesus is doing what He came to do. Victory for Jesus is doing His Father’s bidding – laying down His life voluntarily and then taking it up again. Victory as it turns out – has little or nothing to do with winning. It has everything to do with living out the call of God on our lives.

In pursuing victory, Jesus put no premium on His own life, His own needs and His own comforts.

Victory was not to be found for Jesus, huddled over His tools in the safety of dad’s carpenter’s shop in Nazareth.

No – victory was to be found on the Cross, as He laid down His life for you and me, so that our sins could be forgiven. Victory was to be found in the empty tomb as God’s power raised His Son to bring you and me a new life.

Victory for Jesus was all about – completely about – what He did for His Father in Heaven and what He did for you and me.

It had nothing whatsoever to do with what He did for Himself.

Which is why you have to conclude that victory and winning …. are two entirely separate things.

Are you called to ministry?

One of the most important issues every Pastor has to work through is their call to ministry. Over the years, I’ve discovered there will be times when the only thing that keeps you going in the ministry is your call. When I teach Pastoral ministries classes or have the opportunity to mentor young men who feel called to preach, the first two issues I talk to them about are their conversion experience and their call to the ministry. If you are not clear on both of these issues you have no business going into the Pastoral ministry. So let me give you just a few thoughts about how to know whether or not you are called to ministry:

1.) Can you do anything else an be happy?

This was a question that my Pastor asked me when I surrendered to the ministry and that I ask anyone who tells me they feel called to the ministry. It is actually a question that is derived from Charles Spurgeon’s “Lectures to My Students.” The point of this question is that the call to preach must be like an all consuming fire in your life. Those who are genuinely called find that they simply can’t do anything else.

2.) Has God given you a clear Word from His Word?

The night God called me to preach our Pastor was preaching from Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” The moment I read these words, they thundered in my soul and I felt that God was speaking directly to me. At the moment I had the overwhelming sense of God’s call to preach the gospel wash over my heart and I knew I could do nothing else. I received a clear Word from God’s Word.

When I talk with men who feel called to the ministry, I always stress the importance of being able to hang your call on specific passage of Scripture. God speaks to us from His Word! I am not saying that the call will not be accompanied by a strong emotion or experience of grace, but apart from a clear Word from the Word of God, we are prone to misunderstand or misinterpret. If you feel called to ministry, search the Bible until you have a clear Word from the Word to confirm your call.

3.) Do you meet the qualifications?

The qualifications for ministry are found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-16. I am not going to get into the specifics of these qualifications in this post, but I do want to say that anyone who is called to preach must meet these qualifications before they assume the office of Pastor. I am not saying that any of us are perfect and at times we all falter or come up short in some of these areas, but generally I am seeing far too many men going into the ministry trying to explain away or minimize these qualifications. Whenever I meet someone who does not take these qualifications seriously it is evidence to me that they are not called.

4.) Has the congregation affirmed your call?

Receiving the affirmation of the church is perhaps the single most important step in confirming your call to ministry. In my denomination, we have a two step process of first licensing a man to preach and then later ordaining. In both of these steps, the affirmation of the church is crucial. In licensing, the church affirms that they see the gifts necessary to be an effective minister in the life of the candidate. They are essentially saying, “We think there is some potential here and want to give the candidate opportunities to demonstrate their call.” Usually what happens then is the person who feels called will get some opportunties to preach and minister within the local church.

This provides the church the opportunity to examine his qualifications, his gifts, and frankly, whether or not he can preach. Eventually, if all goes well and the candidate is called to a church he will go through ordination. Which involves being questioned by and ordination council and then affirmed by the calling church.

My council to young men going into the ministry is to seek as much input from other members of the church as possible. In my experience, they are usually in a better place to objectively evaluate our call to ministry. The bottom lines is this, if you are called to the ministry the church will see it. If you can’t convince the church you are called, then you are not called to the ministry.

5.) Can you minister for the applause of God alone?

What I mean by this statement is that in the ministry you cannot be a people pleaser. Your only job is to please God and do what He tells you to do. This means that you will often be unpopular or even hated for preaching the Word of God. If you desire the applause of men more than the applause of God, you are not fit for the ministry.

You will cave to popular opinion and be unwilling to say the things that may make you unpopular. As a preacher you must be willing to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2) You must be willing to be faithful even when that will make you unpopular. Can you minister for the applause of God alone? If not, don’t preach! If so, then PREACH! PREACH! PREACH!

How to manage opposition & criticism

Life isn’t one long race, but lots of short ones.

Every day has it’s own set of things to achieve and challenges to face and they vary from day to day. To be successful is to keep plugging away – we all need perseverance.

A manager once addressed two thousand members of his firm’s sales force during a sales convention:

“Did the Wright brothers ever quit?” he asked his staff. “No!” they responded. “Did Charles Lindbergh ever quit?” “No!” they shouted. “Did Lance Armstrong ever quit?” “No!”

“Did Thorndike McKester ever quit?” There was a long, confused silence. Then a salesperson shouted, “Who in the world is Thorndike McKester? Nobody’s ever heard of him?” “Of course you haven’t!” the manager snapped back. “That’s because he quit!”

Developing perseverance

3 qualities you will need to develop to persevere through the tough times:

Resilience: means you are flexible, you don’t snap easily. Instead, you’re able to spring back when life twists or bends you out of shape.

Vision: we create things in our minds before they are created physically. Without that vision, nothing develops; everything stagnates.

Purpose: You need purpose, because if your reason for doing something is powerful enough, you will stick at it regardless of your limitations.

Keep looking at the positives

To reach your goal, you’ll have to go through storms

Storms will reveal how good your foundation is

You can make a success out of a shipwreck—sometimes you’ve just got to throw things overboard.

Often the worst thing that could happen turns out to be the best. A fire that burned the Gloria Jean’s Coffees warehouse and offices to the ground actually catapulted us to a whole new level. It set us up for the future.

Fear is a dream killer

Here are some simple strategies to get back to reality:

Clarify exactly what you are worrying about

Ask yourself, What’s the worst-case scenario?

Decide to accept the outcome, whatever that might be

Do what needs to be done

Don’t isolate yourself

Allow your support team to help

Give the problem to God

Peter Irvine

www.peterirvine.com

Peter is Co-Founder of Gloria Jean’s Coffees, author of ‘Win In Business’ and ‘Building your Business, your People, your Life’ and keynote speaker.

Boston attack: a pastor’s perspective

Monday at 2:50pm two bombs went off in my city. These bombs, designed to injure, did their work. At least three were killed, and hundreds were injured.

All of this leaves us with questions. Who did this? More desperately, why?

The Boston Police will, along with the FBI, launch a full-scale investigation. And the brave and gifted officers and investigators will doubtless find the individuals responsible.

After that, pundits and politicians will start to work on policy changes to insure this doesn’t happen again. Then, when time has passed, other politicians will use this as an issue to show their side has the answers.

But behind all of that work, much of good, lies the why. Deeper than culture. Deeper than religion. Deeper than policies, nations, kings, money, and every other reason we will hear in the coming days to explain this act of violence lies the reason truest of all: sin.

All of us – friends and enemies, kings and peasants – are touched and marred by this realty.

We are all alike fallen from grace. And now, having our visions skewed, perpetrate actions of sin against one another from a cloudy heart which all the while believes itself to be in the right. The broken breaking the broken.

And yet, tragedy like this shows us another aspect of ourselves. It’s the part we see when perfect strangers run headlong into the smoke of fresh explosions to help their fallen neighbors.

We see it when a man removes his shirt to dress a wound. A doctor manages his ER in the face of overwhelming injury. A citizen opens his home to those without one tonight.

We are all alike fallen, this is true. And yet there’s more to us. We are also image-bearers. There’s something of God – his likeness – which comes out even in the darkest of moments. Especially in them.

And this duality should tell us something. We are fallen, but not merely. We are a race of insurgents against God made in the image of the very God against whom we’ve rebelled. Love, art, charity, grace – these are ours because they were given to us by Him.

So what are we to make of it all? What are we to think when tragedy mingles with beauty? When pain accompanies grace? When blood spills with tears? We could start by calling to mind the cosmic event wherein this happened first and finally.

There was one who not only showed us the image of God, but was His exact likeness. He, shining like the sun, brought grace and truth, kindness and undeserved mercy.

And… He also experienced the deepest and darkest violence humanity has ever accomplished – the destruction of the image of God, Christ himself.

There, tragedy mingled with beauty, pain accompanied grace, and the blood of God himself spilt along with his tears. The gospel shows us that, in Christ, darkness, selfishness, terror, sin, and depravity can be and will be once and finally overcome.

That’s the hope – the only hope – for the deepest why of pain.

Tonight I’m praying for my great city. I’m praying that the image of God within her will rise above the brokenness which marks her.

But, cosmically speaking, there’s only one way that happens – and it’s not when we simply look within. The deep problem lives within too.

The image of God within us must connect – or reconnect – with the likeness of God sent for us, Jesus himself.

Yes, I’m praying for my city. I’m praying for the victims. I’m praying for the first responders. I’m praying for families.

But most of all, I’m praying for that grace which comes from God alone to overcome all that besets her.

Please, pray with me.

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Find Pastor Mabry at adammabry.tv

The soul-corroding acid of anxiety

Yesterday, I preached a message from Matthew 6:25-33 dealing with subject of anxiety and worry. In his book, Anxiety Free, Dr. Robert Leahy reports that 18 percent of Americans will suffer from anxiety disorder. That is twice the number of people who suffer from depressions and if we add in those who report having some type of anxiety disorder at any point in their lives, the number increases to nearly thirty percent. Leahy says that “The average American child today exhibits the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient did in the 1950′s.” Let that sink in for a minute.

I experienced my own bout with anxiety a few weeks ago when I ended up spending four days in the intensive care unit due to problems related to my blood pressure. When I first went in they were not sure what was happening or whether or not I was having a stroke. After a couple of days of not sleeping and under the constant concern about what was happening to me, I experienced wave after wave of anxiety, that honestly felt as if it would tear me apart. Anyone who has ever experienced a panic or anxiety attack knows the helpless fear that washed over your entire being in these moments. Amazingly, I have been preaching through the Gospel of Matthew for the better part of the last year and have just now come to Matthew 6:25-34. The experience of the past several weeks has helped to give me a renewed insight and appreciation for this passage. One of the first things that we need to notice in this passage is that it gives us the causes of our anxiety. Let me show you five causes of anxiety that I have found in this passage:

1.) Anxiety is caused by a limited worldview (v.25)

In verse 25b, Jesus asks “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” The simply truth is that we often get anxious because we develop a purely materialistic view of the world. In other words, we allow our hearts and minds to become so captured by the things of this material world that we neglect to focus on things of eternal significance. This is a great trap for the soul and ensnares us in the troubles and cares of this life, while neglecting the weightier and more significant issue of eternity. Our lives are more than physical and temporal, we are created for eternity. Maintaining a Biblical worldview, therefore, is essential for eliminating anxiety.

2.) Anxiety is caused by a low theology (v.26)

Sometimes our anxiety is caused simply by having too low of a view of God. Notice in verse 26, that Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” There are really three important truths taught in this verse. First, God is aware everything that is going on in your life. If He is aware of the needs of sparrows, He certainly is aware of your problems. Second, God is able to meet these needs. He feeds seemingly insignificant sparrows, surely He is able to feed and take care of you. Finally, YOU are important to God. If God cares for sparrows, surely He will take care of you and I who are created in His image. Meditating on these three truths alone will cure a great deal of anxiety.

3.) Anxiety is caused by overestimating our own ability (v.27)

At the heart of worry is the wrong-thinking that says we can control or determine our own destiny. Fundamentally, it is an overestimation of our abilities. In verse 27, Jesus asks, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single our to his span of life?” Here we see the acidic nature of anxiety most vividly. In the throes of anxiety we buy into the lie that merely by worrying about something, we can control or change the outcome. In reality, no one has ever changed a single thing by worrying about it. One night when I was in the hospital the nurse was concerned about my heartbeat and made the off-handed remark that she needed to keep an eye on it. That was all it took to set me into a tail spin of worry. In fact, that night I refused to go to sleep, even fighting against the medication they gave me to help me sleep, because I was worried about my heart beat. I was determined to watch it and make sure it didn’t go too low. As you can imagine, this was a futile endeavor and it nearly broke me the the next morning. It seems stupid and foolish now, but at the time anxiety had absolutely convinced me that I could control my own heartbeat. I imagine that if you looked carefully you could find places where the acid of anxiety is eating away at your life simply because you have overestimated your ability to deal with a problem by yourself.

4.) Anxiety is caused by underestimating God’s love (v.28)

In verses 28-32 Jesus reminds us of the amazing love of God, which brings us to the most important cause of anxiety— when we underestimate the love of God we end up neglecting the Gospel. I am convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the single most important thing that we can study and meditate upon. The deeper I reflect on the gospel the further I am transported into the love of God. The gospel is the ultimate remedy for the acid of anxiety in our lives. Anxiety will eat away at our lives and take away our joy. The Gospel on the other hand takes further into the grace, mercy and love of Jesus. The more we understand how much God loves us, the more we learn to trust Him even when we are going through the challenges of life.

Have you experienced the acid of anxiety eating away at your life? It helps to share your story with other believers.

Three powerful lessons from a small giant

Every now and then, you meet a giant in your life. I’m talking a good giant here, not a bad one. The sort that Isaac Newton spoke of when he said:

If at times it appeared that I could see further than others, it’s because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants.

Here are 3 powerful lessons that I learned from a “small giant” in my life.

His Name Is Phil Littlejohn

He was the pastor of a tiny church – the Oyster Bay Christian Church – in the southern suburbs of Sydney, Australia, when I arrived there a broken man, just a few months after giving my life to Jesus in October 1995. Phil had been the pastor there for ages – in fact, he’s only just retired.

Now Phil is a great and passionate Bible teacher, so I learned a lot from his teaching.

But as is always the case, you can learn so much more from the sermon preached through a man’s life, than you can from the ones he preaches from the pulpit. So here are the three big lessons I learned by watching Phil live his life:

Lesson 1 – Stickability

Phil used to talk a lot about what he called – stickability. Just hanging in there through thick and thin. Just showing up – whether it felt good, or not. Whether it was convenient, or not. I don’t know quite how long he pastored that church – must be over 3 decades.

He had it when it was big. He had it when it was small. Some days the people loved him. And some days those whom he’d ministered to, poured his life out for, laughed with and wept with … stabbed him in the back.

Some people love to live out what I call a convenient Christianity. Do it when it feels good and doesn’t cost you too much. Funny, I’ve been looking for that form of Christianity in my Bible – but I just can’t find it anywhere.

Yep. The biggest thing I learned from Phil … is stickability.

Lesson 2 – Humility

Without a doubt, Phil is one of a handful of giants in my life. He had me preaching within months of becoming a Christian. He encouraged me to go to Bible college. He laughed with me and most importantly he wept with me. So much of what I share with millions of people each week through my radio programs, I heard first from him.

In every sense, he is one of the giants upon whose shoulders I stand. But … here’s the paradox.

He leaves a small footprint. In fact, the bigger the giant, the smaller the footprint.

Phil is, physically, a small man. His surname is Littlejohn. His voice is rather high pitched – by his own admission, not well suited to preaching or teaching. An odd giant indeed. But, it’s not just his physical stature.

If ever there were a man who personified Paul’s command for us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should (Romans 12:3) – it’s Phil.

He genuinely doesn’t care about title, position or reputation. While he’s a strong and effective leader, he seems not to factor himself into the decision making process. He’s interested in building teams and achieving outcomes instead of promoting himself.

I arrived at the Oyster Bay Christian Church back in 1995 with an ego the size of a small planet.

Yep – the small footprint of a true giant was the second most important lesson I learned from Phil.

Lesson 3 – Religiosity (NOT!)

And the third one follows pretty close on its heals. Phil had a very healthy disdain for religiosity. He refused to be called “Reverend”. He refused to be bound by religious traditions. Here was a man with a passion for opening the Word of God, discovering what God was saying to us, sharing it with the flock under his care and living it – to the best abilities – with the life that God had given him, in the place that God had planted him.

I remember when I asked to be baptised. He said “Well, who would you like to baptise you?”

I was shocked – Well you of course! You’re the minister.

What followed was a lesson – there’s nothing in the Bible that says that the ordained minister has to baptise you. In fact, there’s precious little about being an ordained minister at all.

Through that and many other lessons like it, God birthed a passion in my heart to open the Bible, hear what He was saying, and share it with others.

Plain and simple. No religious bells and whistles.

A Quiet Reflection

On that day in February 1996 that I wondered into that humble little church in Oyster Bay … I simply had no idea of the journey that was about to begin. I had no idea the lessons the Lord would teach me … through this small giant.

And Phil, on the occasion of your retirement, the most powerful thing I can do, is to share the Word of God with you:

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:11,12)

Berni Dymet – adifferentperspective.org

The smoke clears: on tragedy and mission

As I stood and sang with hundreds of other Christians, “It is well with my soul,” my heart was filled with hope. I was, along with other pastors, praying for the grace of God to shower our hurting home. In solidarity we were gathered, keenly aware of the presence of God with us. It was a great experience… interrupted. Leaving, I walked through the streets of downtown. An eery hush marked a city known for noise. The place seemed abandoned, except for military and police personnel—like something out of a sci-fi movie. The church meeting felt full. The city felt empty.

This contrasting experience caused me to wonder what the church’s next step should be. Honestly, I felt something like frustration. “Surely,” I wondered, “there must be more Christians can do than pray and sing. Surely we can scatter as powerfully as we gather.” I wasn’t the only one felt this way. A friend in our church who came from the same event, through the same streets, summed it up by saying, “A simple ‘is everyone here okay?‘ elicited streams of conversation from a shop clerk, a waiter—those who watched hundreds wander through their doors on Monday. Boston is aching and has no idea how to really, truly make it better.”

So as the smoke clears, what’s the church’s move? Walking through downtown I found myself asking, “Lord, show me what you want us to do.” I walked. I wondered. After some waiting, a thought occurred. Perhaps it was memory, perhaps divine guidance. I’m not skilled enough to parse between the two. But the thought came as though God himself were saying, “I’ve already told you what to do. Go.” I knew what that mean. For the Christian, “go” is a very meaningful word. “Go” is the standing order that Jesus himself gave to the church which, until he returns, is in effect. We’re to go to the hurting, empty streets. We’re to go to the aching who can’t make it better.

Going, by the way, doesn’t mean simply showing up with water, blankets, and medicine. I mean, this is Boston. The best hospitals in the universe are here. It’s a world-class city. The people don’t lack for much, materially speaking. So when we go, what—or more accurately, who—do we bring? Well, put simply, Jesus. The city doesn’t need my stuff, they need my savior.

Tragedy has a unique power to open the human heart to its frailty—to true need. If that is true, then should we not bring truest grace to truest need? The dramatic contrast between the prayer meeting and my street walking shook me. My city is hurting. Could it be that his people have a moment to speak to the pain that we’re all suddenly aware of? Isn’t it possible that God, in making beauty rise from ashes, is opening an opportunity to speak this truth? I think it’s more than possible, it’s what God does. The gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection shows us that God is able to make the greatest good arise from the most torturous evil. The emotional whiplash I felt between my two experiences last night showed me at least this: Boston should get a shot at singing, too. The church has to go into this city.

Yes, I will sing “It is well with my soul.” And as the smoke clears from this tragedy, I’m going work harder than ever to invite Boston to sing along with me.

Adam Mabry – www.adammabry.tv