Tag Archives: Gospel

5 Ways to Prepare the Way for the Lord (at Christmas and Beyond)

design7John the Baptist was chosen by God to get people ready for the first Advent -Christmas. You and I are chosen by God to get people ready for the second Advent –the soon return of Jesus Christ!

Isaiah prophesied about the coming Good News: “Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:4-5) Think about it! The birth of the Savior removed the obstacles that kept people from God. Jesus broke down the barriers that kept sinners away. No wonder Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year.” People far and wide are given access to a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ!

Handel’s Messiah, “Every valley shall be exalted…” is a very exciting piece of musical genius. The message, based upon Isaiah’s prophecy is, everything is about to change! Jesus is coming to earth in the form of a baby and, because of the Incarnation, nothing will remain the same. We celebrate His birth!

But now, since Jesus came the first time, we must prepare people for His return. As John the Baptist went before Jesus announcing His arrival, we must precede His coming by announcing that He is about to return. The responsibility to prepare others for the coming of Jesus is not John’s alone. We also bear the responsibility of letting people know about the Lord.

Let’s think about five ways that we may do this:

  1. Focus on the Gospel: Good News = Jesus! Jesus is the hope that the world desperately needs. Don’t get caught up in the trappings of the holiday; put Jesus first. Our lives will point to His second coming.
  1. Stay Grateful. Let’s avoid the temptation to become greedy. We have so many things; God has been so good to us. Let’s express our thankfulness to God for all that He has provided and let’s learn the art of contentment.
  1. Make the most of the season. These are evil days and the Word tells us to make the most of the time in days like these (Ephesians 5:15-16). People all around us are hurting and they are more open to spiritual solutions during the holiday season. Be sensitive to the needs of others and make the most of your opportunities to share God’s love with them.
  1. Invest in eternity. Is someone in your life impossible to buy a gift for? While we should buy gifts for one another, possibly we should consider a present that could change eternity. Rather than another gift from a family member, I would rather see a donation to an orphanage, support for a missionary family, a gift for a nursing home resident or a Bible for someone who has none. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:19-21 to lay up treasures in heaven rather than on earth. Let’s invest in eternity!
  1. Commit to live Christmas every day of the year. One reason why so many people are sad and depressed during the holiday is that they focus on one day rather than upon a lifestyle. December 26 is not the end of Christmas; it is the beginning of a Christmas lifestyle. The results of the birth of Jesus are every day and they last forever. Let’s celebrate as much throughout the year as we do during the holidays. We celebrate by anticipating the coming of the Lord!

An appropriate celebration of the first Advent helps us to prepare for the second Advent. Let’s prepare those we love for the coming of Jesus. Christmas is the best time of year to become a Christ-follower!

Our job:

Prepare ourselves for the most sacred time of the year and for what is just ahead.

Prepare our families.

Prepare our church.

Prepare our community.

Get ready, Jesus is coming!

Advertisements

It’s Getting More Difficult (Ministry in the Modern World)

design[12]Experience should make your job easier. I am not finding that to be the case. The older I get and the more time I spend in Christian ministry, the more challenging it seems to become.

Monumental shifts in our cultural contexts leave the church in unfamiliar territory. While we once enjoyed the favor and respect of the community, we now find ourselves on the receiving end of rejection and even disdain. Worse than being rejected is being ignored. Because the Western culture has, for all practical purposes, abandoned a Christian worldview, churches that adhere to traditional Biblical tenets are dismissed as ignorant or hate-filled. Times are rapidly changing for those in ministry.

Because of these dynamics, ministry is not getting easier in America; on the contrary, we are facing greater challenges and resistance than we have in the past. Some Christian leaders are not responding well. Some of us are behaving more like Peter on the night of Jesus’ arrest in the Garden. We pull out our swords and lop off ears (in Jesus’ name, of course)! There are too many Malchus’ in the world. These are people who are suffering from the mis-reaction of Christians to social pressures. There is a time for us to leave our swords in their scabbards. (see John 18:10-11)

I have a few suggestions that may enable us to more effectively navigate these tumultuous waters.

1. Recall that we are not the first to be rejected for the cause of Christ. Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

2. Maintain proper perspective. While we are experiencing new opposition to our faith, there are countless brothers and sisters around the world who are giving their lives for the sake of the Gospel.

3. Pray for those who persecute you. Some of the most difficult passages in the Bible have to do with loving our enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36)

4. Embrace the opportunity to minister to the world. When in the middle of pushback regarding your faith, pray for the chance to share the Gospel. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (I Peter 3:15b)

5. Remember, it’s not our fight. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18) God is well able to take care of His business, don’t make cultural resistance your personal battle.

6. Be tough to the very end. Those who do so will be saved. “Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

I wish I could tell you that the pressure that ministries face will ease in the near future. I don’t believe that it will; in fact, I believe that it will only get more difficult. I can tell you that our current situation doesn’t catch God by surprise. He remains in control. He has promised to be with us. And He will be victorious in the end.

Hang in there, Child of God. Great will be your reward.


Good Communication Goes Beyond the Stage

Good communication goes beyond the stage

 

Preaching and communicating are not necessarily the same thing.

This is not a post about preaching. This is a post about how some people are great preachers but not great communicators. There may be a difference.

I know and have heard some dynamic preachers. They can hold an audience in the palm of their hand. They evoke passions and emotions with their sermons. But too many of them are terrible communicators. What in the world do I mean?

Simply because a preacher can engage an audience does not mean that he or she is good at communication. The difference may be understood by categorizing communication into two groups: Group communication and individual communication.

Good preachers know the Bible.

They know how to utilize inflection and tone in their voice.

They use effective body language.

They are authoritative.

They are convincing.

But a guy or gal can be great at these things yet suffer from poor communication skills.

Good communicators look you in the eye and you know they are listening.

Good communicators return phone calls.

They answer emails.

They respond to others.

They remember what they told you and what you told them.

It is very difficult to be a good communicator unless you actually care.

I am not saying that good communication is more important than preaching. It is not. I am saying that preachers need to be reminded that good communication goes beyond the pulpit.

In my opinion, in order for a preacher to be effective, he or she must also be good at communicating with individuals. If he or she is not, they will need to make sure that someone close to them is good at this kind of communication and keeps them connected to the people around them. Otherwise, they lose credibility when their individual communication falls through the cracks. Their preaching will suffer because their smaller-scale communication is weak.

If you are a preacher, work on improving your preaching – it is a vitally important calling. But also work on your one-on-one communication. Pay attention to people. Respond accordingly. I think you will find that your preaching also improves.


The problem isn’t those who’ve never heard of Jesus. The problem is those who refuse to tell them.

An age-old theological conundrum is: What happens to the people that die who have never heard the Good News of Jesus?  Does God hold them responsible for something they have not heard? We know that those who reject Jesus will not spend eternity in heaven (Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”). But will God send people to hell if they lived in a place where the Gospel has never been preached?

Without diving into a theological debate, we can rest in the fact that God is just and loving. He will do whatever is righteous and fair with these people.

Considering our cultural context, I think there is a more pertinent issue at hand:

The problem isn’t those who’ve never heard of Jesus. The problem is those who refuse to tell them.

I wonder what God will do with those of us who refuse to tell people about Jesus. What about those who are called to go to the parts of the world that have never been reached? What will God do with them (us)?

While we can’t say what God will do with those who have never heard, we should be concerned if He has asked us to tell them, and we refuse to do so.

cross retouched


why I won’t preach politics

President Obama really ticked off a bunch of my friends yesterday. When he issued his “evolution” statement on the topic of gay marriage, most conservatives in the US went ballistic.

For the record, I am prolife. Very prolife! I believe in the sanctity of marriage, that God provides this gift for men and women to live together under His blessing. I believe that homosexuality is a sin. I believe that those who live together outside of marriage are fornicators. Let’s see, whom have I not yet offended?

And for the record, I preach these things from the Word of God, often. In fact, just last Sunday, prior to the President’s announcement, I preached from I Corinthians 6:9-11 which tell us that those who indulge in sexual sins and are homosexual will not inherit God’s Kingdom. You just can’t change the meaning of those verses. But I am not preaching politics. I am preaching the Gospel.  But I sincerely try to preach the truth with humility, in love, seasoned with grace.

On many occasions, I receive emails from friends in our church who want me to preach about politics. Through the years, I have heard it all. “How will they know who to vote for if you don’t tell them?”. “People don’t have the right values, you need to preach about how this particular politician is against the Bible”. And so on.

Here is my position: I am not called by God to preach politics. I am called by God to preach the Gospel – His Word. I do not believe that the problem in our country is politics. I believe the problem is, people are ignoring God’s Word. The answer is not for preachers to preach about politics. The answer is for preachers to preach the Bible. Politics never saved a soul. The cross of Jesus saves everyone who is saved. Preach the Good News of Jesus!

Here is the greatest reason why preaching the Bible is better than preaching politics:

The Bible never changes – it is true for all people at all times. Politics change. There is no hope in politics. Jesus is hope!

I believe our country is in deep trouble and headed the wrong way. I am in deep disagreement with many of our leaders. I think the president is wrong. But I am not planning to give these misguided politicians my valuable preaching time.

The Gospel is the Truth!

The Truth will set you free!

Jesus is the Truth!

Let’s just preach Jesus.