Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Power of 5 Minutes a Day

By Joanna K. Harris
Joanna Harris is an author and blogger with a tremendous passion for God.  You can contact Joanna here.  For more on Joanna and her ministry, check out her website here.  There you can also find links to her other blogs.

Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow. -Proverbs 13:11

I know this verse is specifically talking about money, but I think the same principle can apply to our time as well. Time can easily slip away from us, or we can harness time little by little to make it grow in impact and effectiveness.

One way to do that is to recognize the power of what we can do with just 5 minutes every day.

Jimmy Evans (marriage expert) says that 5 minutes a day of practicing empathy toward your spouse can resurrect a dead marriage. I've also heard that 5 minutes a day of praying with your spouse can greatly improve the quality of your marriage. 

You may also have heard that  
* 5 minutes a day of laughter can improve your health. 
* 5 minutes a day of tidying the house can keep the potential chaos under control (just ask my mom who raised 6 kids). 
* 5 minutes a day of reviewing your goals and strategies can keep you on track and more focused, helping you say "yes" to the right things and "no" to the distracting things. 

In my own life I can testify to the power of 5 minutes a day spent in simply delighting in God. It refreshes my focus and transforms my perspective. 

With 5 minutes a day of memorizing Scripture, over the last two years, I've memorized several Psalms and a few short New Testament books.

Andy Stanley explains that it is small deposits of time, over time, that produces significant results.

5 minutes a day of listening to your kids may go farther than one big outing once a month. 

5 minutes of stretches a day is worth more than one long workout now and then.

I think this principle can be powerful in any arena of life.

I know in my own life that if I don't plan for things, they usually don't get done. Thankfully, 5 minutes a day is something even I can plan for in my schedule, and 5 minutes a day is a good place to start for habits that we eventually want to increase in, such as prayer or Bible reading. 

So, some good questions to ask are,
* Can we use this habit of 5 minutes a day to move toward becoming who we want to be? 
* Can we use this habit of 5 minutes a day to work for what matters in eternity? 
* Can we use this habit of 5 minutes a day to practice doing our part?

The options are plentiful. Where is God leading you? How can you use 5 minutes a day as a powerful tool in your life this week?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Caution: Wet Floor

By: Adam McClendon

Several years ago, my mother slipped on a freshly mopped floor, broke her neck, and ruptured two discs in her lower back. I’ve been much more careful when walking on wet floors ever since.  They are just to slippery.

Around that time, while struggling with some habitual sin in my life, a sage piece advice was passed along.  Someone told me, “If you don’t want to fall down, don’t walk on a slippery floor.”    

The advice was so simple, but so true.  This advice has since revolutionized my spiritual life.  God calls all believers to live a life that is a holy reflection of his glory.  He is so kind to put up “Caution: Wet Floor” signs all around, and yet so often, I’ve ignored those in the past.  I felt they were unnecessary.  “I won’t fall this time,” I thought, and as a result continued to put myself in tempting situations that enticed the desires of my flesh to the point that they pressed me into sin. 

1 Peter 1:13-16 tells believers to prepare their minds for the battle of this world, stop allowing pre-Christian desires to press them into sin, and to be holy people who serve a holy God.

In light of this Scripture, the challenge is straightforward:
1. look out for the warning signs alerting that a dangerous circumstance is ahead.
2. commit to avoid those circumstances at all costs.

So, if drinking and sleeping around is a struggle, avoid parties.

If porn is a struggle, cut off the internet and cable, and trade in the iphone for a flip phone.
If envy is a struggle, close ebay and facebook accounts.

If gossip is a struggle, stop calling people who like information.

If a flirtatious relationship at work is tempting, change jobs.

If bragging, profanity, and telling dirty jokes is a struggle around certain friends, find new friends.

I know this sounds crazy, but often, crazy commitments require a crazy sacrifice.  The point is not to be isolated from the world; rather, in those areas that one struggles most deeply, is most wounded, is most prone to sin, situations that stimulate those pre-Christian desires too greatly need to be avoided at all cost.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

‘Like a well-watered garden’……

Rhonda was a lost sheep that was found and now lives in the glorious grace and love of the Shepherd.

    A few Thursdays back, Don, my husband, asked me when I last watered the secret garden.  I thought for a moment, and remembered it was Monday.  Two days had passed, not that many days really.. but for some of the garden flowers that was another story.  I walked out to see how all had fared.  To my surprise, and dismay, several plants were wilted and lying on the ground.  They had been watered well on Monday, just two days ago!  As I stood there watering, I begin to think of the analogy of our souls and how we must keep them well watered.

    Our souls need careful and faithful tending.  They need watering.  Not with just any water, but living water.  God’s Word, His handwritten love letter to you and me, brings life, cleansing, renewal, nourishment, hope, peace, encouragement, and many other delights to our soul.  Yet, it is too easy to get so busy that we fail to tend the garden of our soul.  It doesn’t take long for the assault of the enemy, and life’s daily demands to leave us thirsty and weary.  For my soul, there are several ways to water it.  Open Scripture and read, to sit quietly and ponder a verse or something from a book I am reading, or music feeds my soul also.  Prayer, watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset, or sitting quietly and remembering the faithfulness of God in my life brings joy to my soul and brings praise from my lips.    As I was standing watering my plants in the garden that day, God was teaching me about the need of daily tending to my soul, and that was nourishment in itself for my soul.  I know speaking hope and truth into another weary soul, reminding one who is downcast that there is hope, and His name is Jesus, feeds my own soul.   God has provided so many wonderful ways for our souls to flourish.

     As we feed our flowers nourishment, and prune them for better and healthier production, water them for sustaining life, so our souls need this same tender care and prudent attention.  It isn’t about opening our Bibles and reading a prescribed passage, shutting our Bibles and ticking off a box for “another thing done today,” and feeling proud of ourselves.  Such an attitude can leave a soul garden dry as dead man’s bones!  It is about life, caring, tending, awareness, honesty to yourself and others.  It is about falling and finding mercy and grace.  It is about loving and being loved in a manner outside of our own ability.   All this involves a living and working relationship with Christ, His Spirit alive and working in us and thorough us, which comes from a well-watered garden.

    I encourage you to water your soul garden well today.  I promise you it will make a world of difference in your life, and the lives around you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Once Upon a Time

By: Adam McClendon
Adam is the Lead Pastor at Springhill Church and the Director of New Line Ministries.

The other day, I came home.  My son, who just started second grade, was out back playing and my wife asked me to read a story he had written for school.  Second grade stories are incredible, so I was thrilled until I began reading.  His story was about our moving to another state two months earlier.  Here is his story:
Once upon a time, when I got home from school, my dad called me over and my sisters.  I thought to myself, “I bet my sisters did something.”  When we sat down, my dad said, “We are moving.”  I got so mad, but when I came down, I wondered, “Why do we have to move?”  I asked my dad, “Why do we got to move?”  He said, “Because I feel like that’s where Jesus wants us to go.”  Then he said, “You got to go.”  So, when we moved and we went into that house and looked around, it was time to go to bed.  I thought, “This house is a good house for me and my sisters and parents.”

Aspects of this story make me proud and others make me sad.  Here’s why:

1. He assumed his sisters did something wrong, and not him.  Now, that’s funny.

2. My 7-year-old understood that the call to follow Jesus was more important than comfort.

3. He didn’t give in to his feelings but processed.

4. I didn’t realize that he was still processing.  I shouldn’t assume so much.

5. What brought him a degree of peace after moving was knowing that his family was secure in a good environment.

Watching your family sacrifice for decisions you as a parent make is incredibly difficult.  I’m thankful, in this circumstance, my child realized the decision was made out of a desire to follow Christ.  He’s struggling with the consequences of my “good” decisions and not my sinful ones.  Nevertheless, it is still a process for him.  My son is still working through the pain of his move, and, as his father, I pray that God gives me wisdom in leading him to see Christ in this midst of it all.

At the same time, I watch my son in the midst of his struggle and realize that I can learn from him.  Just as I have placed my son in a position he doesn’t understand and have asked him to trust me, God as my Heavenly Father occasionally puts me in similar situations.  These situations are often painful from my limited perspective and bring me to question, “Why?”  As my Father takes me down life’s uncertain roads, I pray that God will help me to respond by trusting him even when it doesn’t make sense to me, believing that the home at the end of the line is worth the journey. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

15 Pointers for Preaching

By: Pastor Brian G. Najapfour

1.    Preach doctrinally. Don’t only teach Bible doctrines such as justification and sanctification in your Sunday school. Preach these doctrines also during your worship service.  

2.    Preach discriminatorily. Address both believers and unbelievers in your preaching. Don’t assume that everyone in your congregation is saved. But, don’t think either that no one is saved.

3.    Preach applicatorily. Apply your text to your listeners. With the use of practical illustrations, help them apply your message to their daily life. Remember a sermon without an application is like a lecture. You are preaching, not lecturing.    

4.    Preach clearly. Organize your thoughts. Avoid high-sounding words. Consider the children in your congregation. If you have to employ a big word (e.g. justification), explain it using simple words.

5.    Preach evangelistically. Yes, preach against sin, but don’t stop there. Preach about salvation too. If you preach the Law without the gospel, you will make your congregation despair. Further, don’t think that the gospel is only for unbelievers. Believers need it as well for their sanctification.

6.    Preach powerfully. Preach with the unction of the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle Paul did, “[M]y speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5).

7.    Preach prayerfully. Pray before, during, and after you preach. Humbly acknowledge that without God’s help, you can do nothing. Realize that God alone can change the hearts of your listeners.   

8.    Preach expectantly. Remember nothing is impossible with God. Expect greatly that He will do wondrous things—saving sinners and sanctifying saints. Be confident that His word will not return to Him void. He can even use your worst sermon to accomplish His wonderful plan.

9.    Preach persuasively. Show that what you proclaim is God’s word. Announce, “Thus says the LORD.” Also, don’t be afraid to declare God’s truths, even if by doing so some of your hearers might be offended. You are not to please people but God. 

10.  Preach passionately. Love not only preaching but also the people to whom you preach. And if you love your congregation, you will feed them with spiritually nutritious food.

11.  Preach faithfully. Be faithful to your announced text(s). Don’t just read your text, and leave it. Use it. Expound it. Preach from it.    

12.  Preach seriously. Preach in this manner because the very word that you preach is sacred. The God who has called you to preach is holy. Your message is a matter of life and death, heaven and hell. Thus jokes have no place in the pulpit. Preachers are not called to be entertainers.

13.  Preach Christ-centeredly. Learn from Paul who says, “I…did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). In the words of the Puritan preacher William Perkins (1558-1602), “preach one Christ, by Christ, to the praise of Christ.”

14.  Preach exemplarily. Live what you preach. Demonstrate holiness, not hypocrisy. Acknowledge with Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843), “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.”   

15.  Preach soli Deo gloria.  Your ultimate goal in preaching is to glorify God. Never attempt to take that glory that belongs to God alone. Sing with Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915): “To God be the glory, great things He has done.”

           Oh, Lord, help me to preach!