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Category Archives: Personal growth

Put on the Armor of God

Book Review: Overcomer: 8 Ways to Live a Life of Unstoppable Strength, Unmovable Faith, and Unbelievable Power, by Dr. David Jeremiah

What would happen if you faced your challenges in the name of the Lord? What would life be like if your goal in every situation was to bring glory to His name? What would happen if you fully embraced God’s strategy for victory?

If you did those things, you would be living as an Overcomer. And believe it or not, that’s who you are if you have placed your faith and hope in Christ: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).

This enticement is found in the prologue of pastor and author Dr. David Jeremiah’s latest offering, Overcomer: 8 Ways to Live a Life of Unstoppable Strength, Unmovable Faith, and Unbelievable Power. The book describes how to put on and take full advantage of the armor of God in daily living.

Using the 8 pieces of the spiritual armor listed in Ephesians 6, the author describes how we can overcome weakness with strength, falsehood with truth, evil with good, anxiety with peace, fear with faith, confusion with wisdom, temptation with Scripture, and everything with prayer. Dr. Jeremiah focuses on King David in the first chapter as he was the Old Testament’s greatest overcome. In the final chapter, he tells the story of Jesus, history greatest overcomer. The author combines biblical teaching, personal illustrations, encouraging stories, insightful quotes, and practical ideas that will encourage the reader.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
 

Of Conflict & Critics

One of the occupational hazards of ministry is that not everyone loves what you do and say. Not everyone hangs on your every word and thinks you are wise beyond your years. Some have the opposite opinion and think you are an idiot.

Dealing with conflict & critics, warfare & worries, fighting & fears, all come with the territory. In that sense, not much has changed in 2,000 years. During the first century, that was the experience of the apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 7:5, he wrote,

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within.

The apostle Paul felt pressure from two sources. On the one hand, he faced opposition from non-Christians. He was persecuted by unbelievers. He also had critics within the Christian community. Some of the Corinthians apparently didn’t like his first letter. On the other hand, Paul was burdened with worry over the health of the churches he had planted. He was concerned about the spiritual growth of individuals. His affliction including “fighting without and fear within.”

I suppose I should take comfort in knowing that I stand in good company when I get shot at. I must be doing something right when I am accused of being a “judgmental hypocrite and a failure as a leader” as I was this past year when I didn’t agree with someone’s viewpoint. I’m not alone when I wake up at 4AM concerned about an individual’s spiritual well-being and prompted to pray for them. I shouldn’t have been surprised when a recent visitor commented that, in their opinion, the church would never grow because I lack the right personality to be a pastor. I should understand I stand in good stead when I feel the weight of responsibility for the health and vitality of the church. I stand in a long line of pastors who experience fightings without and fears within.

Rather than worry about the conflict and the critics, rather than whine about the burden of ministry, I need to be faithful to follow Christ and to be and to do what God has laid on my heart. I need to seek to please him rather than trying to keep everyone happy.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2018 in Personal growth, Scripture

 

What do these stones mean?

What do you have that reminds you God answers prayer? What helps you remember God’s good gifts down through the years?

When our children were young, we had a prodigal hamster named Smokey. One Friday morning, we discovered Smokey was not in his cage. We turned the house upside down looking for him. Before sending the kids to school, we gathered together and prayed that God would keep Smokey safe and return him to us. Throughout the day, I continued to pray that God would return Smokey safely so that my children would know God answers prayer. Twenty-four hours later, he showed up in my son’s bedroom. Placing him back in his cage, he gulped down as much food and water as he could hold. We gathered as a family and prayed again, this time thanking God for answering prayer and returning the wayward rodent back safely. Afterwards, I wrote the details down in my journal so that I would not forget God’s goodness to my children.

Following the death of Moses, the children of Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land. Poised on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, opposite the city of Jericho, they awaited the orders of General Joshua. In Joshua 4, God gave Joshua his marching orders, which included a curious directive. Twelve men, representing the twelve tribes of Israel, were to each take one stone from the middle of the Jordan River to the place of the first night’s encampment. There they were to erect a 12-stone memorial over the dry riverbed of the Jordan. These stones were to act as a vivid reminder (a memorial) of God’s work of deliverance and an effective means for the Israelites to teach the next generation.

God commanded Joshua to establish “Stones of Remembrance” (1-7). Kneeling at the foot of the Ark of the Covenant in the middle of the dry riverbed, 12 men pried up large stones and then carried them on their shoulders some eight miles to Gilgal, the site of their new camp site. We don’t know if they piled them in a heap or arranged them in a circle, but it was a monument to the momentous event they just witnessed.

Verse nine indicates that Joshua erected a similar monument in the middle of the riverbed. This second memorial would only be visible when the Jordan was at its lowest level.

There must have been shouts of joy when the priests stepped out of the riverbed and the waters of the Jordan roared back. There was probably dancing and singing around the campfires that night.

In God’s good timing, they arrived in the Promised Land on the tenth day of the first month. On that same day forty years previous the first Passover Lamb was selected (Exodus 12:3-6). God had arranged for their arrival in Canaan four days before the annual Passover was to be celebrated, on the very day when preparations were to begin.

The stones of remembrance were to remind people of the past (7), witness to the nations in the present (23-24), create a teachable moment in the future (6, 21-22), and inspire people to trust God forever (24).

Since there was no Instagram account or Facebook page commemorating the event, God provided Israel with a visible reminder of the miracle he had performed (7). This was necessary because Israel was a forgetful bunch (Deuteronomy 6:10-12). Psalm 78 provides the history of a nation who continually forgot what God had done.

The stones also served as a witness to the nations (23-24). The crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan River were meant to inspire the surrounding nations to discover who God is. Rahab heard about the miracles and wanted to follow God (Joshua 2). The stones would be a visible invitation to “come and see” the greatness of God.

The stones would also serve a conversation starter. Over time, the following generations would ask their parents, “What do these stones mean?” The parents could then tell the story in great detail (6, 21-22). As parents, we need to be on lookout for opportunities to teach our children and others about who God is. Skinned knees, school exams, missing hamsters, service projects, ministry trips and many others provide opportunities to teach our kids that God answers prayer and provides for our needs.

Lastly, the stones of remembrance would inspire future generations to trust God forever (24). We have to be careful, though, not to allow memorials to become idols. While Gilgal was a place of remembrance for Joshua, it was the scene of idol worship during the ministries of Hosea and Amos.

I have numerous “Stones of Remembrance” in my office. When I look at a certificate for 30 years of service to Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, I recall the encouragement I received from John, Maggie, Phil, and others during difficult days. I remember the people who trusted Christ as Savior during the many seminars I taught. When I look at the many gifts I received while ministering in Russia, I remember how God answered prayer for safety, health, financial provision, wisdom, and much more. When I look at a family photo, I remember how God answered prayer to provide spouses for my two daughters, and met our needs as a family in countless ways. I also have a shelf filled with journals I have written in over the past 30+ years. They record what God has taught me, how he answered prayer, and the many experiences he has brought me through. All of these serve to help me remember who God is and what he has done.

What helps you to remember God’s goodness in your life?

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 14, 2018. It is part of a series of sermons on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Fear or Faith

Who do you listen to?

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2018 in Personal growth

 

Church attendance trends

Growing up, my family was in church every time the doors were open. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night, youth group activities, Bible conferences, summer camps. We got Perfect Attendance ribbons for Sunday School. If the church held a service, we were there.

Today, people consider themselves regular attenders if they come once or perhaps twice a month. Instead of attending three times a week, they consider three times a month above average. A regular attender may come for a worship service, but seldom attends a Sunday School class or small group Bible study. And serving? Well, that’s asking a bit too much. One hour a week a couple times a month is their max.

We have lost sight of the instruction given in Hebrews 10:24–25.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Instead of worship, instruction, and service being a priority, church is now viewed as one option among many. Soccer, cheerleading, hiking, baseball, sleeping in, family outings, camping, museums, homework, etc., are all viewed as equal or more important than being part of the family of God in a local congregation.

Why are we surprised when our spiritual lives feel anemic?

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2018 in Church, Personal growth, Scripture

 

Fitness goals or lack thereof

With all the rehab I’ve been doing for the past 10 months, I can identify with the professor.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2018 in Fun, Personal growth

 

Statements of personal rededication

On the day that we rededicated our renovated facility, I challenged the congregation to rededicate their lives to Christ and the ministry of First Central Bible Church. I read a number of statements, most of which are part of our membership covenant. After I read the statement, I asked people to say, “Amen,” if they agreed. I included the Scripture reference so folks would understand I was not making up my own arbitrary rules.

1.     I will rededicate myself to Christ and the ministry of First Central Bible Church.
2.     I will love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:34-40).
3.     I will protect the unity of my church (Romans 15:5).
4.     I will act in love toward other members (1 Peter 1:22).
5.     I will refuse to gossip (Ephesians 4:29).
6.     I will follow the leaders of the church (Hebrews 13:17).
7.     I will pray for the growth of my church (1 Thessalonians 1:2).
8.     I will live as salt and light in my community (Matthew 5:12-16).
9.     I will share my faith with others (Acts 1:8).
10.  I will invite the unchurched to attend with me (Luke 14:23).
11.  I will warmly welcome those who visit (Romans 15:7).
12.  I will discover my spiritual gifts and talents (1 Peter 4:10).
13.  I will be let the leaders equip me to serve (Ephesians 4:11-12).
14.  I will develop a servant’s heart (Philippians 2:3-4, 7).
15.  I will help make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
16.  I will attend faithfully (Hebrews 10:25).
17.  I will live a godly life (Philippians 1:27).
18.  I will give financially regularly and generously (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:7).
19.  I will seek to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31).