Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Archive for the ‘Pastoral Help’ Category

Warfare and Building

Spiritual building and spiritual warfare go hand-in-hand.  Jesus is the Master Builder.  He is building a spiritual Kingdom … the Church, and we are “co-laborors” with Him in the building process.

Simultaneously, we are under attack.  While we are working with Jesus we are being constantly attacked by His enemy and ours.

The juggling act – of building and warring – are beautifully described in the Old Testament book written by Nehemiah.  Take a look at the first three chapters of his book to get some context and then dive into this:

You must understand that you have an enemy!   You didn’t pick the fight.  You don’t deserve to be attacked.  BUT YOU HAVE AN ENEMY, NONETHELESS!  His name … or names … are many!    (Abaddon [Hebrew name for Satan meaning “Destruction”], the Accuser of the brothers, the Adversary, an Angel of light, the Antichrist, the Beast, Beelzebub, the Deceiver, the Devil, the Dragon, the Enemy, the Evil one, the Father of lies, the God of this age [or this world], the Lawless one, Liar, Lucifer, the Man of sin, Murderer, the Prince of the power of the air, a Roaring lion. Satan, the Serpent of old, the Tempter, the Thief, and the Wicked one.)

Jesus told His disciples in Luke 10:18 that He saw Satan “… fall from heaven like lightening” when God banished him from the throne room.

Your enemy, Satan, hates you because God loves you.  Satan’s a liar and a killer.  He loves to murder the innocent, slaughter the weak, poison the hungry, sicken the healthy, and lay waste to children and ruin futures.  He inspires all evil and all wickedness, and he’s so deceptive … he will make everything he does appear to be the work of God.  Peter said of him:  (1 Peter 5:8) Stay alert!  Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.  He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

AND don’t let anyone tell you he is a toothless lion.  He is not!  Peter called him a “great enemy.”   And making fun of him is not going to weaken him in the least.  If you want some biblical advice about how to think of Satan, the devil, look at Jude.  8 In the same way, these people — who claim authority from their dreams — live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings.  9 But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.)  10 But these people scoff at things they do not understand.  Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction.  11 What sorrow awaits them!

I personally know people who once made light of Satan, called him things like “old slewfoot,” and shrugged him off.  They are now broken people, still healing from wounds brought about because they didn’t understand just who they were dealing with!

You are Satan’s prize … or rather, the prize is your eternal soul.  God wants to save it.  Satan wants to destroy it.  It’s as simple and as complex as that!  And he will never fight fair.  In case you were wondering, that’s why life is unfair.  He’s prideful and arrogant.  He steals and destroys.  He’s angry at God and takes it out on you!  You are in a war, and in this war – with the biggest stakes imaginable, there will be casualties!  DON’T BE ONE!

Matthew 24:9-12 –  9“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers.  10 And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other11 And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people.  12 Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.

Those of the words of Jesus!

I want to take you to the book of Nehemiah, because it’s a story of God’s people at war while at the same time, building.  Isn’t that a good and appropriate picture of the Church of Jesus Christ around the world?  We are all warring and building, building and warring.  We’ll take a look at Nehemiah 4:11-23.

First, you need to KNOW YOUR ENEMY!  In Nehemiah 4:11-12 – 11 Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.”  12 The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!”  

Our enemy, Satan and his minions, are described this way in Ephesians 6.   Ephesians 6:1212 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

And in 2 Corinthians 7:5-65 When we arrived in Macedonia, there was no rest for us.  We faced conflict from every direction, with battles on the outside and fear on the inside.  6 But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.

Second, look at how Nehemiah defends the work of God and the people of God!  The principle is that YOU MUST BE EQUIPPED FOR BATTLE!

 Nehemiah 4:13 – 13 So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas.  I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows.

Ephesians 6:10-1311 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.   13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil.  Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 

Next, (Third) you should UNDERSTAND … THE BATTLE IS THE LORD’S!   Nehemiah 4:14 – 14 Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy!  Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!”

Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:10 – 10 Be strong in the Lord and in HIS mighty power.   The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 24:8 – Who is the King of glory?  The LORD, strong and mighty; the LORD, invincible in battle.

Fourth, DON’T BE CAUGHT OFF GUARD!    Don’t go into battle unequipped!  And don’t be caught unaware by the enemy!  In Nehemiah 4:17b – 18a it reads:  17B   The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon.  18A All the builders had a sword belted to their side … 23B …We carried our weapons with us at all times, even when we went for water.

Paul give a warning and then informs us in 2 Corinthians 2:11 – 11 so that Satan will not outsmart us.   For we are familiar with his evil schemes.

If and when you become familiar with the way Satan attacks, you’ll understand how important it is to be “armored” (7 components) in the battles.  Paul describes God’s means of protecting us and arming us in Ephesians 6:14-17 – 14 Stand your ground, putting on (1) the belt of truth and (2) the body armor of God’s righteousness.  15 For (3) shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  16 In addition to all of these, (4) hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  17 (5) Put on salvation as your helmet, and take (6) the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Here’s a key verse … one to memorize for the days you find yourself under attack:  Psalm 144:1 – Praise the LORD, who is my Rock.  He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.

And remember this:  VIGILANCE IS THE KEY TO VICTORY!  Look at Nehemiah 4:23 – 23 During this time, none of us — not I, nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor the guards who were with me — ever took off our clothes.  We carried our weapons with us at all times, even when we went for water.

You see this principle of vigilance described in Ephesians 6:18 – 18 (6) Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.   (7)Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Think about this.  There are two major factors involved in living the life of a follower of Jesus:

  • Building – Your primary purpose is to advance the Kingdom of God.  Your enemy wants to stop the building!  Jesus said He would build His Church, and you are (1) part of that building, you are (2) a co-builder with Christ.  Nothing is built unless someone is willing to count the cost of the building and for the building.  If we build wisely, things last and are very fulfilling.
  • Battling – No battles are won unless you armor up, organize your troops, and make sure you’re ready for battle.  There is no neutrality in spiritual warfare.

We are MORE than conquerors in Christ because He give us the means to victory!

9 Areas Every Church Should Measure

Are you measuring the right things in the ministry God has called you to?  Find out in this article by Steve Caton.

via 9 Areas Every Church Should Measure.

How To Amaze Jesus

How To Amaze Jesus

I don’t think that it comes as a surprise to us today that people coming in contact with the unique Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, were amazed by Him.  The miracle worker, healer, and teacher extraordinaire consistently amazed the crowds.  Here’s one example.  In Matthew 7:28-29 you’ll read, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”

But this is a stunner:  on two occasions the Bible says that Jesus was amazed!  That’s right, Jesus was amazed … as in astonished, astounded, shocked, surprised, flabbergasted, dumbfounded, staggered, and the always brilliant Shakespearian King James version … taken aback!

Have you ever pictured Jesus with a stunned look on His face?  A look that says, “Wow!”

Look at Mark 6.  (Second book in the New Testament, sixth chapter)

1 Jesus left there and went to His hometown, accompanied by His disciples.  2 When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were amazed.

There it is again.  People were amazed … even in His hometown of Nazareth.

“Where did this Man get these things?” they asked.  “What’s this wisdom that has been given Him, that he even does miracles! 3 Isn’t this the carpenter?  Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon?  Aren’t his sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at him.

4 Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”  5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay His hands on a few sick people and heal them.   (Matthew 13:58 says, “And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”)  6 And He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Jesus was amazed!  He was amazed at their lack of faith.

How you view Jesus will dramatically effect your confidence in Him, your beliefs about God and truth (Jesus claimed God was His Father, and that He – Jesus – was the Truth), and your opinions on miracles and healing (did they, and can they happen in real life?).  Your perspective of the Carpenter of Nazareth will, according to Jesus Himself, determine whether or not you have a soul-saving, life-changing relationship with His Father (John 14:1-14).

The people in Nazareth saw Jesus as ORDINARY!  No one special.  They were familiar with Jesus.  He was just one of the guys.  Just one of Mary’s children.  A carpenter … and the son of an ordinary carpenter.  So …

What do expect from ORDINARY?  What do you expect from a carpenter’s son?  (Furniture … or maybe farm equipment?)

Here’s a lesson in human nature:  The tendency is that if you grow up with someone, and you compare them to your ordinary self, you’ll tend to expect little of them … or yourself, or your peers.  That’s why all of us are surprised when one of the gang makes it big.  All of us are surprised when someone we perceive as “like us” does something beyond us.

And that’s when our ego responds.  Psychologically … we get offended … and the reason we do is because the peer that rises above us brings awareness to our lack of accomplishment.  Because we’re in the habit of comparing ourselves with ourselves and our peers and our relatives … when someone outdoes us, selfish-humankind that we are – we get offended.

And why do we do that?  Because we’re made to feel small in our own eyes.  The Greek word here for “offended” means “to be repelled because of unmet expectations.”  (The Nazarenes had low expectations of Jesus  – so they were repelled by Jesus’ wisdom, His teaching, and His power to perform miracles!)

Jesus was amazed one other time in His life.  Take a look at this (Luke 7 – third book in the New Testament, seventh chapter):

1 When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum.  2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.  3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to Him, asking Him to come and heal His servant.  4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with Him, “This man deserves to have You do this, 5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”  6 So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to Him:  “Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, for I do not deserve to have You come under my roof.  7 That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to You.  But say the word, and my servant will be healed.  8 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes.  I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

9 When Jesus heard this, He was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following Him, He said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”  10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Because the Centurion grasped WHO Jesus was … and that all the power of heaven was behind Him … and because the Centurion understood that Jesus had power in and of Himself (!!) … he knew that all Jesus had to do was COMMAND the sickness to leave his servant’s body – and it would be done!

The Centurion recognized that Jesus had power.  The Nazarenes thought Jesus was ordinary.

The Centurion recognized that Jesus had authority. The Nazarenes thought Jesus was “upity.”

The Centurion recognized that faith in Jesus was the key.  The Nazarenes thought their disbelief was the smart (or safe) position to take.

So … Who do you have more in common with, the Centurion or the Nazarenes?  Are you willing to stand alone, with confidence in Jesus?  Or must you stand with the crowd where it’s safe?  Taken to the extreme:  Is Jesus God in the flesh, the Savior of the World … or was He another insane false messiah?

Think about it.



Living Proof

I like seeing a fresh coat of paint on things, so I thought I’d give this birdbath that we have on our deck a nice coat just a few weeks ago.  The problem was … is … rather than taking a wire brush or sandpaper to it, I just spray painted over the old paint.  I got lazy.

Now that it has been out in the weather for a few weeks – in the rain and the heat – I am starting to see little flecks … the imperfections and bubbles that indicate that the rust didn’t go away on its own.  There’s evidence the “cover-up” didn’t work.  I know that it’s only a matter of time before I’m going to have to paint again!

Isn’t that a good snapshot of how most of us have lived since we decided to become a Christ follower?  You know, content to just spray-paint over rust?  We … me included …  just sprayed a coat of religion over our old selves and called it good.

If you did what I did, we were just kidding ourselves.  Since then we’ve learned, haven’t we, that we can go to church, sing the songs, say “God bless you,”  think we’re okay … maybe even righteous … but … WHEN stuff begins to happen … real life … when someone rubs us the wrong way, or says something we don’t like – suddenly that coat of paint begins to chip off and the real person underneath the cosmetic cover rises to the surface and attacks back.

The apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4, that we need to let Christ sand us way down to the bear metal, in order to cover us with His way of thinking and acting.

Shouldn’t there be a difference between a person who says they are a Christ-follower and a person who is not following Christ?  When somebody … you or me, for example … chooses to do life God’s way, shouldn’t our lives look and sound like He is the primary Influencer of our thoughts, attitudes and actions?

According to Paul, there should be a stark, even sobering difference between those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus, the Savior, and us!  But how do we go about the daily business of living for Jesus?

Here’s what Paul wrote (Ephesians 4:17-31):

17 With the Lord’s authority I say this:  Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused.  18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against Him.  19 They have no sense of shame.  They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ.  21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.  23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God — truly righteous and holy.

25 So stop telling lies.  Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.  26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.”  Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing.  Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.  29 Don’t use foul or abusive language.  Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Have you ever noticed how many times the Scriptures tell us that if we want Jesus to transform our lives we must allow Him to transform our minds?  Read it for yourself in Romans 8:7 –  “That the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God.”   The mind is the battle-ground for our actions – for how we live.  Our constant challenge is found in Colossian 3:2, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

If we are committed to living a Christ-centered life, then we must make a choice to surrender our mind, our thought-life, our decision-making processes to God.  We don’t “dumb down.”  Christ-followers change their minds.  And for our minds to change we must make a decision.  In verse 17 of Ephesians 4 it says, “Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused.”  We are asked to make a decision.  We are being encouraged to not only make a decision to love Jesus … but to live for Him as well.

You do realize that even the devil believes in Jesus?  Wrap your mind around THAT!  In fact, Satan is smart enough to tremble at the mention of His name while many people take His name in vain, or use it as a curse.

Believing in Jesus is not enough.  Our belief of Him and in Him should lead us to make a decision that WE WILL CHANGE!  WE MUST CHANGE!

The source of our changed life is God’s power let loose in us (vs. 23), but the goal of a changed life is the positive way we treat each other.  How we care for and treat others is a measure of living a life of love … living a life for Jesus.  Remember, He said, So now I am giving you a new commandment:  Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.”

Our lifestyle is supposed to be “living proof” that we love Jesus.

Think about that!

“If Christ were here now …”

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name – Mark Twain – is one of the most beloved authors and humorists in America’s history.   He wrote some classics:  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and more.

I found a great story about Mark Twain at the SermonCentral website.   The story goes that Twain “… loved to go fishing, but he hated to catch fish.   The problem was he went fishing to relax, and catching fish ruined his relaxation, since he had to take the fish off the hook and do something with it.   When he wanted to relax by doing nothing, people thought he was lazy, but if he went fishing he could relax all he wanted.   People would see him sitting by the river bank and they would say, ‘Look, he’s fishing, don’t bother him.’

“So Mark Twain had the perfect solution:  he would take a fishing pole, line, and a bobber, but he wouldn’t put a hook on the end.  He would cast the bobber in the water and lay back on the bank.  That way he could relax all he wanted and he would be bothered neither by man nor fish.

“Mark Twain is like a lot of Christians I know.  They have their pole in the water, but there is no hook on the end.  They are not fishing; they are relaxing.

“Do you think this is what Jesus had in mind when He said, ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’? (Matthew 4:19)”

Whoa!

By the way … Mark Twain didn’t speak well of organized religion, hated hypocrisy (especially when it was evidenced in his own life), and thought the Christians of his day were not representing Jesus at all.  He once said, “If Christ were here now there is one thing He would not be – a Christian.”

Think about that for a minute.

Now that you’ve thought about it, if you claim to be a Christ-follower, are you good at it?  Does that claim make your life different … better, more loving, compassionate, generous, and concerned about the eternal impact your life has on others?  Do you look like Jesus in any way (and I’m not talking about robes and sandals)?  Do you sound like Him?  Good questions, aren’t they?

If you aren’t a follow of Jesus Christ, consider this:  Jesus didn’t come to this world to create a religion or philosophy.   He came to build a bridge to God, His Father.  He came to make it possible for us to have a close and eternal relationship with God … something God wanted!  Jesus was crucified by the people of His day, not just because He was so different, or that He pointed the religious people of His day as hypocrites.  His death on the Cross was part of God’s plan to save Mankind from a lost, God-less eternity … and to give us LIFE, here, and now.

Think about that for a minute.

Now … what are you thinking?

The Church … as Anyone Would Love It

I ran across a blog tonight that blessed my soul and challenged my lifestyle.  On a wonderful blog site entitled Shame The Wise (Brian McDaris) he wrote an article way back in February of 2009.  It reads:

WHY DEAD THEOLOGIANS ARE COOL

Epistle to Diognetus
Chapter V.-The Manners of the Christians.

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

Gearing Up for 2010

Thanks to all who’ve been supporting me, in every way, since I departed Trinity for points unknown.Leadership Training International

I’m still in uncharted waters, but confident that Jesus is directing my life.

Leadership Training International (or LTI) continues to excite me beyond words.  Since August I’ve become a “certified instructor” of the curriculum.  Not long ago I finished the highest level of teacher certification LTI offers – “Mobile Advanced Trainer” (or MAT).  That allowed me to travel to Lakewood, New Jersey and Washington, DC to participate with Neal Kelley (LTI’s operations director) in two exciting teacher training events.

After the first of the year the “I” in LTI becomes part of my experience.  I’m traveling to the Dominican Republic, to meet with the leadership of a denomination that has already purposed to use our Foundations for Emerging Leaders curriculum (all 12 modules) to train DR pastors!  I don’t have to “sell” them.  They’re SOLD!  I’m going with my buddy Neal, to meet the people we’ll be working with for years to come.  Neal will then stay in the DR for another week, overseeing our super training event.  Because LTI’s materials are in Spanish (and English, Russian and Romanian), these pastors will learn to teach our curriculum in their own language.  That’s invaluable!

I mentioned that Neal and I will part ways – Neal stays and I fly to Phoenix, Arizona, for the Tommy Barnett “33rd Pastors and Leaders School.”  Once again they’re expecting over 7,000 pastors and church leaders at the “school” – an intense three day event (February 1-3) that challenges conventional church thinking and methodology.  It’s all about “The GREAT Commission,” isn’t it?

Well, more updates will follow.

If you’d like to be one of my partners, write me at revgolf@gmail.com.  I’m looking for people who will enthusiastically share my travel expenses.  Donations of any size are welcome, and air miles would be great!!   I’m incurring costs almost daily now, and I’m serving LTI at no salary … so … any help would be wonderful!