Setting Goals for Souls

I recently preached a message titled ‘We Must Be Soul Reachers’.  Matthew 4:19 states ‘And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’  This verse embodies the vision of the Great Commission.

Mark 16:15-16  And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

We have been focusing a lot this year on the subject of Church Growth.  The church must understand that growth is a Godly principle.  We must place growth at the forefront of our thinking and endeavors.  It requires both a personal commitment and a corporate commitment from the church.

In the message ‘We Must Be Soul Reachers’, amongst other things, I discussed the necessity of setting goals.  As we look at other denominations, we see in several of them, a very strategic and organized effort at outreach.  While we must have the proper tools and an effective approach to outreach, none of that matters if we don’t put the process to practice!  Therefore, I am a firm believer in setting goals!

For example, a farmer begins the planting season with a goal of reaping a harvest.  A doctor begins a procedure with the goal of healing the patient.  A baker begins mixing ingredients with the goal of producing a cake.  We work jobs and pay bills with the goal of getting ahead.  We have been given a goal by Jesus Christ, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

Goals assist us in setting our focus and heading us in the right direction.  Goals help keep us accountable.  For example, if I say I am going to reach one person today, when I lay my head down on my pillow at night, it makes it harder to come up with the excuse that I didn’t meet the right person!  I hopefully will focus my day on finding someone to reach!

We closed out our service by having each member set some individual goals.  How many people am I going to reach each week the remainder of this year?  How many new Bible Studies am I going to teach this year?  How many first time visitors am I going to plan to bring to church this year?

We are already beginning to the results of the saints stepping out in faith, and saying, I am going to do my part, and plant seeds, and water them.  Now it’s in God’s hands to give the increase!

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Happy Father’s Day

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Allow me to take the time today to say Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!  I could take the time to say what wonderful grandfathers I have…I have the best grandpas!  I could tell you how richly blessed I am with such a tremendous father-in-law…God smiled on me there!  But truly, I only have one dad!  And God definitely blessed me with the best!

I came across a poem that probably defines my relationship with my dad perfectly.  It is titled ‘A poem about my Daddy!’…

I drive you nuts,
I’ve turned you grey,
I’ve made you proud,
I’ve spent your pay.
I’ve stressed you out,
I’ve hurt you bad,
I’ve made you laugh,
I’ve sent you mad.
I’ve made you smile,
I’ve made you sob…

Now I know I wasn’t anywhere close to being the perfect son!  I can attest to what I put my dad through, as I raise my children.  I see so much of myself in them.

As I look over the last 35 years of my life and the impact my dad has had on me, so many different things come to mind.  The many times he’s been done wrong, and yet he still stood strong.  Watching him go through a trial no parent should have to face, losing a child to cancer, and yet remaining strong and being there for mom and myself.  Watching him labour diligently pastoring a church in a town, where many other men would have given up, yet boldly pressing forward.

I could continue on and on, and run out of words to describe my dad, but I will close with saying, I am who I am today, because of a dad who set such a great example for me.

I love you dad!

 

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Doubting Christians

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I struggle with our struggle to embrace the super-natural.

Mankind always seeks to understand and explain that which cannot always be explained.  From the beginning, with Adam and Eve, the temptation was understanding.  The serpents tempting words to Eve in Genesis 3:5:  “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Science tries to make human sense of creation.  Medicine tries to make medical sense of miracles.  There are times when the only thing that makes sense is Jesus!

The problem with the church today is we struggle to understand and embrace that God performs miracles!  And that God’s desire is to use us to perform miracles!  There is a true shortage of the use of spiritual gifts active in the church.  Why?  I believe the reason is we fear being ‘super-spiritual’ and the ‘weirdness’ of it, and where it will ‘take us’.

We must understand God’s purpose for the church though!

Acts 1:8  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Acts 2:17   And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

Mark 16:17-18  And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;  They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Now don’t get me wrong…I’m not stating we are to tempt God with foolish actions!  But we can be directed, spoken to by, and used by God!  If we aren’t, then are we truly Christians?  If we aren’t being obedient to the commission given us, then we can’t claim to be followers.

We can’t forget about spiritual gifts?  1 Corinthians 8-10  For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;  To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;  To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

We are His church, and He places in us gifts and abilities to be His hands and feet on earth!  When we fail to believe in and utilize those gifts, we can’t claim full obedience to Him.

What brings about this struggle?  I believe a lack of faith!  Faith is put to the test through action.  Think about it…we encounter a lame man…we offer charity, we offer love, we offer prayer…but look at Peter and John and the lame man:  Acts 3:6  Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

What prevents the church from performing in such a bold manner today?  Remember, Hebrews 13:8  Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.  

What is our excuse?  Don’t be like Doubting Thomas.  Don’t doubt God’s ability to come through at the right time.  Exercise the Holy Ghost power we behold!

As a camp preacher declared a few years back…when the devil thinks he has me out on a limb…all I can say is…that’s where the fruit goes!  Go out on a limb…exercise faith…believe in the impossible!  The church of yesterday can still live today!

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Rebellion

It’s been way too long since I’ve posted…I’ve had a lot of thoughts, but not the time to get them posted…

Last Wednesday I spoke at the church on the subject of rebellion.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord,
he hath also rejected thee from being king.
(1 Samuel 15:23)

According the dictionary, rebellion is:
1: Open, organized, and armed resistance to one’s government or ruler.
2: Resistance to or defiance of any authority, control, or tradition.

I have a better definition which I believe better aligns from a Biblical stance:

Rebellion is a decided resistance to that which is right, holy, and orderly.

There is a tidal wave of rebellion sweeping across our nation!  It is similar to a hurricane…every wave gets higher, catches more people, and carries them further than they would have ever thought possible!

The issue with rebellion…

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  (Ephesians 6:12)

One must remember, rebellion is not something to mess around with!  Rebellion is a spirit.  (and not a good one)  We wouldn’t threaten ours health and safety by ‘hanging out’ with someone who carried a highly contagious lethal disease.  Why would we be putting ourselves at risk of contracting a lethal spirit!?

Case Studies of Rebellion

Rebellion goes WAY back!

Adam and Eve had ONE simple rule in the garden.  They could eat of any of the trees in the garden, except for one.  And yet Eve visited the forbidden tree, fellowshipped with the serpent, and allowed rebellion to work in her life and passed it to Adam.

Lucifer allowed a proud spirit to take over, which turned into rebellion.

The thing about rebellion…

As I stated at the beginning, rebellion is a decided resistance to that which is right, holy, and orderly.

SIN is an act of REBELLION!  When you consciously decide to go against the Word of God, you are rebelling against His commandments.

  • Gossip is rebellion
  • Stirring up strife in the church is rebellion
  • Disunity is rebellion
  • Not paying your tithes/offerings is rebellion
  • Skipping church is rebellion
  • Disobedience to them that have authority over you is rebellion

Hear this:

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord,
he hath also rejected thee from being king.  (1 Samuel 15:23)

Right before this verse we read, ‘to obey is better than sacrifice’

Proverbs speaks lengthily on spiritual correction…

  • Rebellion despises correction!
  • Rebellion despises authority!

There is hope!

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  (2 Chronicles 7:14)

  • Humility (forsake pride)
  • Submission (to spiritual authority)
  • Prayer (to Jesus Christ)

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Bible Study on Faith

Each week, my wife and I teach a Bible Study 
at an apartment complex for the elderly.  A 
few weeks ago, I taught on faith.  Below are 
my notes from the lesson:

Have-Faith

Matthew 14:28-33  And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

Peter’s struggle began when he took his eyes off of Jesus, and focused on the waves!

What is faith?

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Man tends to view this passage as a promise of receiving all of our desires, if we just have faith.

Psalms 37:4 Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Man should learn to align their desires with God’s desires. The desires of our heart should be for HIS will to be done.

Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

He knows what is best. Each plan is aligning the future for a glorious outcome!

Matthew 6:10 …Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Aligning Our Faith With His Will

A story is told of a man who pledged to get up each morning and pray before going to work. After some time of doing this, his wife mentioned his prayers were getting shorter. He responded, “It doesn’t take much time to give God His to-do list for the day.”

True Faith is not giving God a to-do list.

True Faith comes from first TRULY KNOWING God.

After one truly knows God, one then TRUSTS God to handle the situation.

faith copy

Peter began to sink when he began focusing on the wind and waves, and not on Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ response, “You had too little faith, why didn’t you trust me?”

— Trust in Him…
——-  He knows what is best…
————  He will see you safely through!

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths

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The Need For Laborers

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Luke 10:2  Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few:pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.

i recently read a post asking where to find laborers for the church.  I myself have had the same thought before.  Bible Colleges are full of young people…wouldn’t it be nice to get a few to come help out at the church and intern for a couple years?  Chances are…not gonna happen!  And yet the church needs laborers.  We need Sunday School teachers, musicians, singers, Bible Study teachers, preachers, and the list goes on!

There are several points to this ‘issue’.

#1 – There a churches with a multitude of ministers sitting on the pews.  Don’t get me wrong…it’s great to have back-up preachers available.  But what did God call you to?  To sit on the pew?  There are unchurched cities across the nation, with lost souls begging for someone to come preach to them.  And we’ve got preachers on the pews.  There are small churches with their pastor wearing his time thin, trying to do it all alone, who would give anything for some help.

#2 – There are those who God places a call on, but for some reason, they never respond.  Perhaps they don’t know God’s voice, and therefore don’t hear the call?  Perhaps they are scared and uncertain to answer.  Perhaps they have had a need for security and ‘responsibility’ placed within them from childhood and their ‘common sense’ won’t allow them to transplant their family without the security of their home and job?  Perhaps they are in a situation where their leadership doesn’t want anybody to leave for the fear of lower attendance numbers?

#3 – People sit every Sunday and Wednesday in pews across the nation, but never want to get involved.  Involvement, whether it be teaching Sunday School, getting involved in the music, or whatever it might be, requires time.  Their time is spent devoted to their job, their family, and their entertainment.  They don’t want to give up their precious time to work the harvest.  And so the fields remain under-staffed.

#4 – There is also a lack of training.  I completely understand the concept…’I’ll do it myself so I know it’s done right!’  I have problems in that area as well.  But churches need to spend time and focus training people.  Teach others to sing, play instruments, teach Bible Studies, preach, teach Sunday School…  The more availability we have of laborers, the greater the harvest!

And while I’m at it, we should be learning at the feet of our elders!  They won’t be here forever!  They paved a path for the church to be where it is today!  The boldness that took, the focus it required, the wisdom they learned in the process…we should desire to gain from their experience!

So…now…with that being said…get in the field and begin to labor!

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Dealing With Anger

anger-clipart-angry-face-clip-art

Ephesians 4:26 states ‘Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:’

People get upset for many different reasons.  Perhaps they feel they have been done wrong, they feel their family has been done wrong, they feel like no one is listening to them, and the list could continue.

The subject of anger could be a long discussion.  There are many books on it, and to write a short blog will only allow an extremely abbreviated discussion on the subject.

Anger is an emotion!  There are many emotions.  Jealousy, sadness, happiness, irritation, envy…  Many emotions, if dwelt on, can lead to anger.  Emotions are not necessarily wrong.  If left unchecked, they can definitely be wrong though.  What becomes wrong, is the actions taken because of the emotions.

#1 – We must learn to control our emotions!

Emotions cannot be completely helped.  If something happens, you immediately have an emotional response.  You must learn to reign in those emotions.  Our initial emotional response to a situation, is based only upon our personal interpretation of the situation.  A one-sided view of a situation is never a complete view.  We don’t know the full set of circumstances.

So first, we must feel free to have a conversation with whoever else is involved.  We must learn to accept others thoughts and viewpoints.  (Even if we don’t agree, we should give the courtesy and respect of allowing others to be themselves.)  We also must realize, NO ONE is ALWAYS right!

Secondly, we must learn that emotions left unchecked, lead to us being in the wrong!  Look at Galations 5:22-23  ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.’  I don’t read in their the words anger, envy, sadness, depression, etc.

#2 – Don’t act based solely on emotion!

Put plainly…don’t ‘Act First – Think Later’!  We must ‘THINK FIRST – ACT LATER’!

If we act first, we are acting based solely on emotion.  If that emotion is anger, and we act based on that, we are not exhibiting a Christian characteristic!  Didn’t Jesus Himself teach to turn the other cheek!

I have learned that most of the time when facing a situation, if given time, it’s not quite so serious as I thought it to be at first.  Most of the time, I find it doesn’t even warrant any time or attention.

Learn to let things go…quit reacting…and learn to love.

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Change

time-for-change

The big question…

Should things change?  At what point, is change too much?  What about all the differences between churches?

The 17th chapter of John speaks on the age-old statement, we are in the world, but not of the world.  Where do we draw the line on what we accept while in the world, but not allowing ourselves to be of the world?

There are some things that should NEVER change!

Hebrews 13:8  Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Our God never changes!  His expectations of us don’t change!  His Word never changes!  It can not, and will not, be added to, taken away from, or changed!  His great Plan of Salvation does not change!  Holiness does not change!  His instructions to us, ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy’, does not give room for change.  He doesn’t change, and if we are expected to follow after him, there is not room for us to change.

But that brings me to change…

Evangelism

I believe as the world around us changes, we must begin to think broader in our efforts to evangelize the world!  Don’t get me wrong…there are things we SHOULD and MUST stay away from!  We are not going to enter the devil’s playground to seek out followers!  BUT, we live in a fast paced world, that is heading on a fast track to destruction!  Standing on a street corner, or passing out tracts, is not getting us where we need to be!

So what is the solution?  I don’t have a simple answer!  I believe we must invest more money, time, energy, and focus on evangelism!  Don’t grow weary in doing His work!  Go after souls with more stamina than you ever have!  I applaud those who go unwaveringly through their efforts in radio broadcasts, jail ministry, nursing home services, block parties, home fellowship groups, bus ministries, youth and sunday school van runs, and the list goes on!  Don’t get defeated because only one shows up…keep going!

Music

Music has ALWAYS been a source of conflict within the church.  Look at Lucifer…the chief musician…kicked out of Heaven!  One must tread carefully and cautiously in the ministry of music.  Evaluate your purpose…your intent…your heart in every decision made in music ministry!  Spend hours in prayer…take time to fast!

But now to get to my point…there is always the group that doesn’t like any new music.  ALL songs should be from the hymnal!  Then there are those who believe the hymnal is ‘old fashioned’…throw it out and only sing new music!  I can imagine the grandparents in the church back in the days…when the current hymnals first came out!  “We shouldn’t be singing this new stuff….where’s our old music!”

Psalms 98:1 states ‘O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.’

By all means…keep singing the hymnal music…celebrate our beautiful and rich heritage…but welcome a new song…offer up a new praise!  Regardless of the song…as long as it’s words, it’s beat, and it’s intent is to celebrate Jesus Christ, sing it with all your might and lift up your praise!

Visuals

I just gotta go here…I can’t help it!  We live in a visual age!  First impressions are everything!  You may have to paint your building!  You may have to rearrange the platform!  The decor might need updating!  As a matter of fact, the whole facility may need to be put aside, and there may be a move in the future!  Don’t get me wrong…the intent is not about the building, or the decor, or the color…the intent is about EVANGELISM!  And the ‘visual affect’ is what gets someone in the door that wouldn’t have come otherwise, and once there the same ‘old’ HOLY GHOST POWER and ANOINTING begins to do a work…I would call that a SUCCESS!

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Do you want to be a missionary?

vansant

We had a missionary service on Tuesday.  Rev. James Marse, and his wife Stacy and their two children.  They are raising funds to head to Bolivia.  I always look forward to missionary services.  I enjoy hearing about their burden and their calling for the country they are heading to.  When we go to General Conference, and the missionaries and their children march through the building carrying the flags of the country they are heading to, I can’t help but stand their and cry.

There is just something about a family uprooting themselves, and heading to a foreign country, and leaving behind their friends and relatives, that both impresses and motivates me.  These are people who are so sure of their calling, that they will get literally give it their all.  They will change their lifestyle, and sacrifice their comfort, to do what God has called them to do.

My wife and I have been privileged to chaperone on three AYC (10-day missions) trips.  During those trips we have been so blessed to work with some awesome missionaries.  These people have become heroes in our lives!

Matthew 28:19 states ‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’  So what is a missionary?  A missionary is someone who goes to a location in the world, and teaches from the Bible, and leads people to an Acts 2:38 experience!

Do you want to be a missionary?  You can!  As a matter of fact, you can be a missionary right where you are!  You are in the world…find someone, and teach them a Bible Study.  You can be a missionary at your school.  You can be a missionary at your job.  You can be a missionary in your neighborhood.  You can be a missionary to America.  (And trust me…America needs missionaries!)

Be what God wants you to be!  Be what He has called you to be!  BE A MISSIONARY!

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Heroes and Mentors

From the time you are a young child, your life is inundated with heroes!  I remember as a child playing with He-Man and other characters of the day.  Such fictional characters tend to be many children’s ‘heroes’.  Movie stars, sports athletes, politicians, and the list could continue, or people that many in the world look up to.

But who should be our hero?  The first obvious answer, should DEFINITELY be Jesus Christ!  How strange it is that people would like to drive with a fish sticker on their bumper, and WWJD bracelets, but then look up to Hollywood characters that have a serious lack of morals and integrity!?

Another obvious selection would be your pastor!  I was looking through notes of ministers training sessions I have attended, and I had jotted the not, ‘Your Pastor should be your #1 mentor!”  Your pastor has devoted their life’s mission to seeing you, and those in your city, experience salvation!  My opinion…that’s hero-status-worthy!

Another group of people…the preachers, evangelists, and missionaries that have come before us!  I love to read, and some of my favorite books are the stories of our fore-fathers who have paved the way for us today.  They are my heroes.  They fought fights, and blazed the way for us to be where we are today.  If I could just have a portion of their anointing, and their boldness, and their dedication, I would be honored!

So…how does heroes and mentors relate?  Wouldn’t it be an honor to be mentored by your hero?  Many in our world would give an arm and a leg to have that opportunity!

  • Well…read your Bible, pray, and let God speak into your life!  Let Jesus Christ be your mentor!
  • Listen to your pastor!  Seek his advice.  Let him pastor you.  Let him mentor you.
  • Read the books of those who have gone on before.  Practice having the same dedication they did.  Dedicate your time and energy the way they did.

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