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Stop Preaching About All the Good People In the Bible!

Old BibleThere are no “good” people in the Bible – at least not in the theological sense – except for Jesus. Everybody else is wrecked and ruined by sin and desperately in need of a Savior. So the way we have traditionally approached character-based sermons has a tremendous flaw. Here’s the traditional approach…


  1. Tell the story of a Bible character.
  2. Highlight the good stuff they did.
  3. Challenge people to follow their examples.

I’ve done plenty of that kind of preaching in my life in ministry, and I wish I could go back and re-preach them all from a totally different perspective. There are some major flaws with this kind of preaching. First of all, it’s moralism. It gives the idea that we can, in our own power, actually DO the good things we see the characters doing. But we can’t. We don’t. We fail repeatedly.

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3 Tension-Filled Issues That Don’t Destroy My Faith

Science Discovery

I believe in Jesus. I believe he is the virgin-born, sinless Son of God who came from heaven to earth, put on flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth. I believe he died on the cross to provide a substitutionary atonement for our sins and then rose again from the dead to rule and reign as King over a kingdom not of this world. He started the church, his body and bride, and commissioned her to share the good news about him and his kingship until he returns someday from heaven to fix everything that is wrong with this world.

You might not believe all of this, or any of this, and that’s your choice. You may struggle to buy any of this because of what Christians have done, what science has taught us, or where logic takes your mind. As for me, I’ve struggled with all kinds of questions over the years and have always returned with a faith stronger than before.

For the sake of those teetering on the edge of a decision about what to do with this Jesus… Or for those who have walked away from the faith for one reason or another… And even for believers who have been afraid your faith is too fragile to be open to difficult questions… I want to openly mention some tension-filled issues that have yet to wreck my faith.

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5 Ways to Recover Your Passion for Pastoral Leadership

Passion

I’ve been there. I’ve been burned out and depressed, discouraged and defeated. I’ve led in atmospheres where every creative idea was smothered by questions rooted in fear. I’ve been distracted by secondary interests. I’ve given into my own emotions and have isolated myself from healthy, life-giving relationships.

And I’ve recovered. That doesn’t mean I’m where I need to be – I’m still on the journey and have a long way to go. But I’ve learned the hard way how to bounce back to passionate preaching and leadership in the local church. From my own past and my own painful experiences, let me shoot from the hip with five big ways you can bounce back from burnout and be a passionate leader once again.

  1. Repent of sin. Dig it out of the depths of your heart – the secret recesses where no one else sees but God and own your sin, especially the seven most life-stealing sins: pride, lust, laziness, envy, unholy anger, gluttony, and greed. If you’re hanging onto these, it’s no wonder you’re feeling defeated. You’re living as though victory isn’t already yours in Christ.
  2. Read the Word. Let’s be honest. Most of the time, when we’ve given into feelings of distance from God and others, we play the victim and pout in the corner, acting entirely uninterested in the things that matter most to our deepest relationships. But God has spoken and this blog post doesn’t even compare to the re-igniting power of the eternal word of God.
  3. Practice the discipline of prayer. Set aside thirty minutes to just pray. If you run out of things to say, sit silently and listen, but don’t cut the time short. It doesn’t always have to be thirty minutes, but start there. I know you don’t feel like it. You’re not even sure God is listening anymore, but deep down you know the truth. So re-join the conversation.
  4. Love people. Get in touch with friends, serve others, and pray for people in pain. Talk about your issues. Isolation is deadly. You have to fight to beat your desire to retreat. The best way to climb out of the misery of self-focus is to intentionally become others-focused. Spend some time praying for others, then see how you can serve them.
  5. Feast yourself on the lavish love and unfathomable depth of God’s grace. Stop living by performance, the to-do list, and the tyranny of the inbox. You can’t work hard enough to make God happy with you. You simply must rest in the assurance that He’s pleased with you in Christ. His grace is always, always, always sufficient!!

Here’s the thing. I like books, blogs, and seminars about leadership and church growth. They give us ideas, inspire us to lead better, and equip us with skills we couldn’t otherwise possess. But none of those things will bring healing like a deepening relationship with Jesus. And that comes through the humbling work of prayer, Bible-reading, repentance, reliance on God’s grace, and ministry to others through acts of love.

You know what to do. Let Jesus become bigger and more glorious in your eyes than ever before.

Why You Might Be Missing Out on Hearing from God

Quiet

Ever been in that place where you wonder why God isn’t showing up? Why there is no fresh word from Him? In places of depression and despair, we are so often yearning for what it seems God isn’t willing to give us – His voice.

Elijah the prophet was there once. He was exhausted physically and drained emotionally. So in a solitary place, God sent an angel to feed him and force him to rest. Then, in a cave, God met him, and the story is written for us to learn from…

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

1 Kings 19:11-13 NLT

God shows up in the smallest, quietest of ways, waiting for us to quiet our souls enough to hear His gentle whisper. We want the earth-shaking revelation and the Pentecost-like wind and fire of His presence. Meanwhile, He invites us to come daily to the solitary place so that, through His Word, He can speak softly to our souls.

Our disappointment with God has much more to do with our expectations of Him than with His performance. We’re demanding God show up in ways that seem powerful to us, but He’s already here whispering through His promises.

You and I love those mountain-top revival-esque moments, and God sometimes works through miraculous wonders, but far more consistently and faithfully, He shows up in our shadows and whispers like a friend who has drawn near to our faces. Sometimes we just need to slow down and get still long enough to hear His Spirit remind us of His Word.

Photo by Michael Hull.

Meekness is the Leverage of Leadership

In today’s world, meekness = weakness. God does not view it that way, however. The Bible says of Moses,”Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3) And in a world where power is everything, Jesus entered the scene in a wooden manger surrounded by barnyard animals. He grew up in an humble village, the son of a carpenter, of modest means. He lived His life serving others, yet Jesus was certainly the most influential leader in all of history.

If you study the lives of Moses and Jesus you’ll find something interesting – they were both great leaders. Both were willing to boldly confront sin and error. Both would rebuke those who believed and lived lies. Both were willing to venture out into the future with faith. Yet they were the meekest men in history. How can this be? You see, we’ve misdefined meekness. Biblical meekness is not weakness, it is really just the opposite.

The Bible’s word for meekness is used in reference to a broken horse, which has all the power to destroy its rider but refrains out of respect for authority. The word is also used to refer to a soldier who has all the might to take on the enemy, yet submits himself completely to the authority of his commanding officer. Meekness is the key to having leverage in leadership. It’s the refusal to demand respect in exchange for commanding it with a life of integrity. It is “controlled power.” Meekness is the willingness to supress those urges to lash out at the wrong time, opting instead to wait for further orders from our commanding officer, Jesus.

Is meekness displayed in your life? How can you submit yourself to Jesus more today? How can you lead others with boldness and courage?