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Dream Bigger – Ask More

“You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:2 ESV)

James the Apostle had the spiritual gift of bluntness. We’ve received the benefit of his brutally honest thoughts, such as when he answers a common question with such a common sense answer. Why don’t I have? Because I didn’t ask. And he goes on to point out that often when we ask, we’re doing so for selfish reasons.

I want to challenge you today to do some pretty important things.

Dream Bigger

Whatever it is you feel is God’s will for your life, think bigger. It’s a virtual guarantee that God is already thinking bigger. His vision trumps ours every time, so it’s a good challenge to try to keep up with Him.

Consider God’s Glory

As you dream, dream for His glory. The purest motive possible is the motive of the nations being made glad in the light of the glory of God. Why are you dreaming what you’re dreaming? For a nicer home? A bigger reputation? Or the glory of God?

Sometimes when our dreams don’t align with God’s will, we expect Him to adjust His will to our desires. We ought to be thinking just the opposite – how can we adjust our desires to His will?

Ask

The most common word for “pray” in the New Testament literally means “ask.” In fact, the word ask is a more literal translation, but pray came to us from old English and we’ve hung on to it as a religious word. So dream in a way that is aligned with God’s will, then ask Him to bring it to pass in your life.

Do

Ever heard that phrase, “Plan your work, then work your plan?” I believe that we should join God in what He wants to do in, around, and through us. We have the privilege, by grace, of cooperating with the actions of God.

So get started.

The Pastor As a Motivator

What NextPastor, no one on the planet bears more responsibility for motivating a group of people than you.

W. A. Criswell, one of my own preaching heroes, defined preaching as “seeking to move a man’s will God-ward.” He went on to define teaching as “instructing that man in the will and ways of the Lord.” I agree with the late Dr. Criswell that both are the tasks of the local church Pastor, but it was his definition of preaching that captured my heart. At the end of every message, I want to issue a strong appeal to my congregation to do at least three things:

  • Consider the truth I have presented.
  • Understand the personal application of it.
  • Act on it.

Motivation is not the primary goal of preaching – seeing lives transformed by the gospel is. But motivation is near the top of the list of priorities in preaching. At the end of our expounding of the Scriptures, people need to know what to do with what we just said, and they need to be provoked to take action lest they be hearers of the Word and not doers.

Therefore, when I preach, I try to do certain things.

Connect the ancient text with the audience’s modern context.

This requires proper exegesis of the grammar of the text at hand, a growing and thorough knowledge of the whole counsel of God, and an understanding of the historical setting of the Word. But it also demands that we tune into the culture around us in order to construct the bridge from “then and there” to “here and now.”

Illustrate the truth from my experience.

My most impacting sermons are always those in which I become real and transparent with the audience, expressing my own struggles with the truth and the issues with which we are wrestling. This doesn’t mean I’m always bearing all the ugly details of my sins, but it does mean that I’m willing to openly display my struggles. It is in those moments that something changes in the room. People begin to connect, listen, and consider that perhaps they too have hope in overcoming these shared struggles.

Issue a clear call to action.

One of the most important questions to ask at the end of your sermon preparation is, “so what?!” Or to put it more gently, “what’s next?” And calling people to action is not reserved for the end of the sermon, I do it in the points of the message as often as possible. This means that each of my “points” is really a verb. It’s a “to do.”

Remember, the goal of Scripture isn’t to transfer information, but to instigate transformation, so make it clear and make it motivational!

Content Marketing Is the Marketing That Matters

Content MarketingRemember when Bubba was running through the list of potential shrimp dishes with Forest? Marketing could be handled the same way. Let’s see, there’s email marketing, attention marketing, social media marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, print marketing, traditional marketing, new media marketing, permission marketing… and on and on we go. Which one matters most for we who are blogging for income? Ultimately, content marketing matters the most.

We need reliable hosting, a uniquely branded design and identity, and robust publishing features. We should be building a mailing list and distributing our content in all the right directions. But at the end of it all, we’re ultimately leading people back to a destination that ought to be worth their time. We’re always concerned with getting people to spend their money on something so that we can profit from our blogging efforts, but where our concern should really lie is with motivating readers to spend their time interacting with our content.

So building a great blog begins with producing great content. It continues as people read, consume, and share that great content, and it ends when decisions are influenced by that great content. The question remaining is, what kind of content is best for content marketing?

Great Content Grabs a Reader’s Interest

Effective content marketing starts with the title, and the style of your title will depend on the personality of your blog. I’m annoyed by article titles that use all lowercase letters (that’s why it’s called “Title Case” after all), but I recognize that one or two words in all lowercase letters sometimes fits the artsy and poetic nature of some blogs. More common perhaps is the approach of giving emphasis to keywords. A well-crafted article title ultimately says “HEY! I’m what you’re looking for! You need to read me!”

Great content entertains. That is not to say it doesn’t have a much deeper purpose, but it entertains in that it attracts and holds the attention of the reader.

Great Content Meets a Reader’s Need

Why is it that “how to” posts always skyrocket in popularity? Why are tutorial sites so successful? It’s because they position their content near the point of pain or need in the minds of their readers.

This is not true only of “how to” articles though. It’s also true of articles that encourage the discouraged, connect the disconnected, and inform the uninformed. It’s true of articles that report news people are eager to learn about and articles that honestly review products and services the reader is on the fence over purchasing.

Having solutions goes a long way when it comes to popularity.

Great Content Moves a Reader’s Will

I’m not referring to playing Jedi mind tricks on anyone or using shady marketing tactics. I’m simply saying that the content of a great blog post (as opposed to that of a great short story or novel) should be designed with the resulting action in mind. What should the reader do next? Great content not only answers that question, but spells it out and makes the action apparent and easy to take.

If you want the reader to comment, to share the article, to check out a related post, or even to look at a product for a potential purchase, you should use the content to move the reader’s will toward that decision.

Great Content Motivates a Reader to Share

It’s the social web. We have a thousand sharing options when it comes to content. We can distribute articles through RSS feeds, email lists, content aggregation services, social networks, and microblogs. The issue isn’t having the space in which to share great content, it’s having the content ready to share when the time comes.

I often find myself giving advice to organizations who are launching blogs or online publications for various purposes. Most of the questions tend to revolve around platforms, costs, and editorial calendars. But I always interject these basic thoughts that often get overlooked: Make it simple. Make it social. Make it sharable.

How would you complete my list? What else goes into the making of great content?

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Your Guide to Great Copywriting and Content

I Believe In Divine Healing

Olive Oil and VinegarWhen W. A. Criswell was asked, “Do you believe in divine healing?” his response was simply, “Is there any other kind?” I love that! James 5 contains a passage of Scripture that addresses prayer. It’s often misunderstood, but if we grasp its meaning, we’ll unlock some amazing truths that will mature us in our prayer life.

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. [Read more…]

Do Something that Matters

One of my favorite movie lines was uttered by Ben Affleck in Pearl Harbor. His character, Capt. Rafe McCawley, travels to London before Hawaii was attaked so that he could fly with the British Royal Air Force. When he lands, his new commanding officer asks, “Why is it so many of you young Americans are so eager to die?” McCawley responds, “I’m not eager to die sir, I’m just eager to matter.”

That sums up my life. [Read more…]