Preaching Must Lead People Toward the Image of Christ

In his presentation at the E.Y. Mullins Lectures Pastor John MacArthur made the following assertion which I consider valuable and pivotal for every pastor.

“I have learned through the years that the deeper you go into the things of God, the higher the people go in worship. Shallow preaching produces shallow worship. I can basically walk into a church and listen to the music for 15 minutes and tell you how profound the people’s understanding of the things of God is because it will be reflected in that.

“If people are really going to know what it is to worship God with the mind, they’re going to have to understand the deep things of God, and that doesn’t mean you are oblique, it doesn’t mean you are obscure.

“What is my responsibility as a shepherd? Is it to entertain people? To ignore my people while I talk to the non-people of God? What is the goal of my shepherding and my preaching? It is to conform my people to the image of Christ as much as possible as God uses me as an instrument of the teaching of His Word which does the conforming. The church is precious to me because it is so identified with Jesus Christ.

“I preach only the Word of God, only one book, because it is by the Word of God that sinners are saved and the saved are sanctified. … I leave the effect of that truth to the purposes of God and the mighty work of the Holy Spirit.”


The only survivor of a shipwreck came upon a small, uninhabited island. He prayed repeatedly for God to save him and everyday scanned the horizon for his answer. Even though he was exhausted and in despair, he eventually managed to build a little hut to keep him out of the weather and to store his provisions.

Then one day, after searching for food, he came home to find his little hut on fire. The worst thing that could have happened had happened. Everything he had was consumed. In his grief he cried out, “God, how could you do this to me!” Early the next morning, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. They had come to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?” asked the castaway. “We saw your smoke signal,” they replied.

“Mister, are you ready to find Jesus?”

A drunken man stumbles across a baptismal service on Sunday afternoon down by the river. He proceeds to walk into the water and stand next to the old country preacher. The minister notices the old drunk and says, “Mister, are you ready to find Jesus?”

The drunk looks back and says, “Yes, preacher, I sure am.” So the minister dunks the fellow under the water and pulls him right back up.

“Have you found Jesus?” the preacher asks.”No, I didn’t!” said the drunk.

The preacher then dunks him under for quite a bit longer, brings him up, and says, “Now brother, have you found Jesus?”

“No, I have not, Reverend.”

The preacher now holds the man under for at least 30 seconds this time, brings him out of the water, and says in exasperation, “Man, have you found Jesus yet?”

The old drunk wipes his eyes and says to the preacher, “Are you sure this is where he fell in?”

Christian Decision

Several years ago, a preacher from out-of-state accepted a call to a church in Houston , Texas . Some weeks after he arrived, he had an occasion to ride the bus from his home to the downtown area. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much change. As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, ‘You’d better give the quarter
back. It would be wrong to keep it.’ Then he thought, ‘Oh, forget it, it’s only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a ‘gift from God’ and keep quiet.’

When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, ‘Here, you gave me too much change.’

The driver, with a smile, replied, ‘Aren’t you the new preacher in town?’

‘Yes’ he replied.

‘Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I’ll see you at church on Sunday.’

When the preacher stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said, ‘Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.’

Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. This is a really scary example of how much people watch us as Christians, and will put us to the test!

Always be on guard — and remember — You carry the name of Christ on your shoulders when you call yourself ‘Christian.’

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

I’m glad a friend forwarded this to me as a reminder. So, I choose to do same to you. To pass this to someone, recommend the blog to a friend. I am sure you’ll be glad you did. In doing that you will have ministered to someone today.

May the Will of God continue to guide you, and His Grace, protect you.

Translating Christianese

I couldn’t laugh while reading this. While it is quite funny, it also indicates the way an average christian thinks today. Lord have mercy!

It was shared on the website of The Evangelical Press Association (EPA). Please read it for yourself:

Christianese is a language used in the Christian subculture and understood easily only by other practicing Christians. As Christian communicators it’s important to avoid words in our writing that could be misunderstood or fail to communicate — terms that have meaning only in the Christian subculture.

As a public service, here are some common phrases used in the church, along with their English-language equivalents:

Christianese: “If it be God’s will.”
Translation: “I really don’t think God is going to answer this one.

Christianese: “Let’s have a word of prayer.”
Translation: “I am going to pray for a long, long, long time.”

Christianese: “That’s not my spiritual gift.”
Translation: “Find someone else.”

Christianese: “Fellowship”
Translation: “Organized gluttony.”

Christianese: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”
Translation: “I’m totally clueless.”

Christianese: “Lord willing . . .”
Translation: “You may think I’ll be there, but I won’t.”

Christianese: “I don’t feel led.”
Translation: “Can’t make me.”

Christianese: “God led me to do something else.”
Translation: I slept in instead of going to church.

Christianese: “God really helped me with this test.”
Translation: “I didn’t study but I guessed good, so I’m giving God credit in the hope that He helps me again.”

Christianese: “She has such a sweet spirit!”
Translation: “What an airhead!”

Christianese: “I have a ‘check’ in my spirit about him.”
Translation: “I can’t stand that jerk!”

Christianese: “I’ll be praying for you.”
Translation: “There’s an outside chance I’ll remember this conversation later today.”

Christianese: “Prayer concerns”
Translation: “Gossip”

Christianese: “In conclusion . . . ”
Translation: “I’ll be done in another hour or so.”

Christianese: “Let us pray”
Translation: “I’m going to pretend to talk to God now, but I’m really preaching at you.”

Christianese: “You just have to put it in God’s hands.”
Translation: “Don’t expect me to help you.”

Christianese: “God wants to prosper you!”
Translation: “Give me all your money.”

(Author Unknown)

To The Disgruntled Preacher – By Gregory K. Hollifield

There’s a fable about a hermit who lived in the desert of northern Africa. Satan’s agents had tried their worst but failed to draw the man into sin. Angered with the incompetence of his subordinates, the Devil himself decided to take a crack at the old man and to teach his demons a lesson. He hissed, “The reason you’ve failed is that your methods are too crude for one such as this. Watch me.”

Cautiously he approached his target then whispered softly in his ear, “Your brother has just been made Bishop of Alexandria.” Instantly the holy man’s face showed that Satan’s venom had hit his veins as a great scowl formed over his mouth and his eyes tightened.

For every preacher whose ministry has been destroyed because of sexual indiscretions, I wonder how many more have had their ministries spoiled by a sulky, dissatisfied spirit? I know from experience how easy it is to fall
victim to this sin. You feel the Lord’s call upon your life. You surrender. Filled with ambition for the Kingdom, you prepare yourself for ministry.
Then one day while you’re out there in the vineyard, toiling away, you look up and see another brother who started later and prepared less enjoying greater success than you. Before you realize what has happened, you have become a disgruntled minister.

In Acts 9:10-19, Luke records the Lord’s conversation with one such servant, a man
dealing with his own mixed feelings. Having struck Saul blind on the road leading to Damascus, the Lord turns His attention to Ananias. (Acts 9:10-19a.)

You can excuse Ananias for being a bit hesitant when he first heard God’s command to go to Saul’s bedside. Through the grapevine he’d heard about what Saul had done to the church in Jerusalem, how he’d been as destructive as a
bull in a china shop. Ananias also had it on good authority that Saul was coming to Damascus to continue his bloody crusade. But was there something more than fear behind his objection? Did the very thought that the Lord
wished to heal Saul and a sneaking suspicion that He was willing to accept and use him just like anyone else take Ananias aback? It’s possible.

Slide yourself into Ananias’s sandals for a minute. By the standard of the Law you’re a devout man, respected in the community. That’s how Paul describes Ananias later in Acts 22:12. For Paul to call anyone “devout” by the Law’s standard was not faint praise. For years you’ve devoted yourself to Yahweh and have been one of the few Jews you know to accept Jesus as Yahweh’s Son. Now He wants you to go and welcome the butcherous Saul into the Christian community. How would you feel?

Looking back we see that Saul’s entrance into the Church forever affected the face of Christianity. This was a watershed event, but Ananias couldn’t see it then. His uncertainty, his mixed feelings about the whole matter were hindering the Kingdom’s progress.

So what does the Lord say? Without explaining or defending Himself, He repeats the command: “Go.” Then He says something more, something we need to hear when we’re dealing with our own feelings about the way God uses us as compared with others. About Saul, Jesus says, “he is a chosen vessel to Me.” What a rebuke! These words remind us that the Lord uses whom He chooses.

Let’s make an important distinction at this point. Jesus calls Saul a “chosen vessel” and not a “choice vessel.” The designation “chosen vessel” draws attention to the One Who does the choosing. The phrase “choice vessel” draws attention to the character of the vessel itself. In the days prior to His resurrection, Jesus chose the Twelve. Following His resurrection, He chose Saul. In the years since, he has chosen thousands more, including you and me.

He has chosen us to be vessels. As vessels we are to bear His name to others, clay jars carrying the water of life. Second Corinthians 4:7 reminds us that none of us in ourselves are sufficient for this task. Only the power of the God Who has called us can keep us from cracking up under the stress of it all.

Like Saul of Tarsus, every true minister of the Lord is a chosen vessel. Before we move on, let’s pause here to ask an important question. Can a man make himself commendable for God’s use? Yes and No.

Yes, according to 2 Timothy 2:20-22. By forsaking, fleeing from, and following after the things Paul mentions in these verses, you can make yourself commendable for the Lord’s greater use. That may sound presumptuous, but that is what the Scripture indicates.

I remember how this thought rubbed me the wrong way the first time I seriously considered it. I had a friend in Bible college named Tim. On a Sunday night we were driving back to school from a weekend of preaching at a local church. Tim said, “Holly,” that was his nickname for me, “I believe the sky’s the limit for me. I grew up in a preacher’s home. I’ve been preaching since I was a kid, and I’ve kept myself pure. There is no telling what God can do with me.” That sure sounded arrogant at the time, but based upon 2 Timothy 2, he may have had a point.

The Lord looks for certain things in a servant. Men look for degrees; God looks for desire. Men look for a charismatic personality; God looks for a quiet and teachable spirit. Men look at what the man has made of himself; God looks at what He can make of the man in the future.

Can you make yourself commendable for the Lord’s use? Yes, and no.

No, based upon Romans 9:10-13. Before Jacob ever drew his first breath, before he ever prayed his first prayer, before he ever rejected his first temptation, God chose him. In the same way, He chose Jeremiah, John the Baptist, you, and me. That’s a humbling thought, isn’t it? Before you were born, the Almighty God chose you to follow in the footsteps of His own Son and serve as one of His messengers.

That thought humbled Paul. He knew that the Lord had chosen him. Ananias told him so, the Spirit confirmed it, so, too, did the church at Antioch. Paul knew that he was chosen, but listen to his testimony, “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am…”

Imagine for a minute how it humbled Peter and the rest of the apostles to hear that the Lord had chosen Saul to join their band. They had walked with the Master and rode the roller coaster of public sentiment with Him for three years, and now, out of nowhere, God wants to add Saul. More than that, He wants to give him a ministry that they would never have. That’s humbling. What do you do? You either accept it as the King’s prerogative, or you bow up and become an obstacle to the Kingdom’s progress.

Ananias needed to be reminded, we need to be reminded, that the Lord uses whom He chooses. To carry it one step further the Lord uses whom He chooses as He chooses.

The Lord’s choice of a man encompasses the scope of that man’s ministry. Jesus chose to give Saul a cross-cultural, international, prominent ministry. He chose Saul to bear His name before the Jews, Gentiles, and kings. What about Bartholomew? You remember him. Bart was one of the Twelve who walked with Jesus for three years. We really don’t know what kind of ministry he had. Certainly it wasn’t anything as big or as flashy as Saul’s. It seems unfair when you think about it.

Have you ever gone to an associational meeting and heard some old boy stammer his way through a sermon? He couldn’t preach his way out of a brown paper bag laying on its side with the top open, but then you thumb through the minutes and see that his church is running 500 while yours is running 50.

There’s a passage from the Psalms that you need to remember in times like those. Psalm 75:6-7: “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another.” To quote Ecclesiastes 9:11, “the race is not to the
swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill,” and I would add, nor is the biggest pulpit to the best prepared.

If you’re a Type A personality, that’s hard to accept. None of us want to be like Reuben. Two statements summarize his life: What potential! and What a waste! We all want to succeed and succeed big, but God doesn’t always measure success like we do. When He chooses to use a man, that choice will encompass the scope of that man’s ministry. He chooses some for big ministries and others for smaller ones but none for unimportant ministries.

For most of the men God chooses to use, that choice will include some suffering.

Suffering in ministry is not necessarily consequential. Saul the minister did not suffer as a consequence for inflicting so much pain upon others during his unsaved years. That is unfortunately the way we often read this
text. Ananias complained about what Saul had done, and we read God as saying, “Don’t worry. I’ll get even with him.”

Yahweh is not the Hindu god Vishnu in disguise. You don’t have to worry about working off bad karma from your pre-conversion days during your post-conversion days. If you pastor a small church, are fighting an unruly board, or are the target of a gossip’s sharp tongue, it isn’t because of something you did before you were saved.

The Lord told Ananias that Saul would suffer for His sake. Chances are, if you’re suffering as a minister, you’re suffering for His sake and not for some past sin’s sake.

Suffering is not incidental to ministry. If Saul’s sufferings were to be incidental, Jesus would not have brought them up here.

Suffering is a real and significant part of the ministry. A few years back a friend told me that I looked like I was 38 or 39 years-old. Problem was I was only 33 at the time. He added six years to my age. Then it hit me. I had pastored about 6 years. The way I figure it, one year of a dog’s life equals six years of a man’s life, and one year of a preacher’s life equals two years of a layman’s life. Ministry can be tough, and suffering is not incidental.

Suffering is more than additional to ministry. The Lord was not saying, “Saul will bear My name to the Jews, Gentiles, and kings, and, oh, by the way, he will suffer for Me, too.” Suffering is not just something thrown into ministry for good measure. So what is it? What was it for Saul?

Suffering is often central to ministry. Officers in the Lord’s army aren’t known by the stripes on their sleeves but by the stripes on their backs.
Suffering was to be central to Saul’s ministry. For him, the purest gold of ministry emerged out of the hottest flames of tribulation. The Lord said that Saul would stand before kings bearing His message. Read Acts again. Rarely, if ever, did Paul stand before any government official except under duress, in the chains of a prisoner. Were it not for the suffering, Paul
would not have enjoyed much of the ministry that he did. Think of it, he wrote five books of our New Testament from prison.

Unbeknownst to you, you will perform some of your best ministry during your worst moments. Missionary Adoniram Judson suffered through years of barrenness trying to win the cultured Buddhist Burmese to faith in Christ. He spent years witnessing to them and translating the Bible into their language. Early on, he took a rough character by the name of Ko Tha Byu under his wing. Kotie was of the Karen people.

The Burmese looked down upon the Karens. “You can teach a buffalo, but not a
Karen,” is what they said. Judson finally succeeded in winning Kotie to Christ. As he traveled throughout Burma, Kotie went with him, witnessing to the Karens scattered across the land. To Judson, the Karens were a side-issue. His main concern was ministry to the Buddhist Burmese.

Today the mission to the Buddhist Burmese counts a membership of 20,000. The number of Christians among the Karens and Karen-related peoples numbers into the hundreds of thousands. Church growth father Donald McGavran claimed, “The Christward Movement among the Karens may well be the source of a Church numbering millions, and exercising a decisive influence upon the history of all South-East Asia” (Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, B149). Judson did not realize that he was performing his greatest ministry while
suffering through those barren years. So take heart! The most important results of your ministry may be taking place when you feel your worst.

Ananias knew on the front end that suffering would be central to Saul’s ministry.

Over time, Paul learned to embrace his suffering. In Philippians 3:10 he expressed his heart’s desire with these words, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” If you truly desire to know Him, to serve Him, you’ll probably need to suffer along the way.

After some initial resistance, Ananias went. Saul received his sight back, was baptized, and received the Holy Spirit. Christianity would never be the same. All of that happened only after Ananias learned to accept the fact that whom the Lord uses and how is His choice alone. The sooner we learn to accept that fact, the better off the Kingdom will be.

The Christian mystic Meister Eckhardt claimed that the foundation for spiritual blessing is to live alone before the goodness of God with nothing and no one in between. Out of His goodness God has chosen you and me to be
His vessels. What He chooses to do with or through anyone else is no loss to us but is a gain for the Kingdom. Let’s learn to accept that and let the Kingdom move forward.


Presentation Versus Content

In a past issue of the Preaching Now newsletter, Michael Duduit wrote: “As the father of two boys, I’m learning some of my most important lessons around the breakfast table.

For example, he wrote, “I have learned that the nutritional value of the cereal is of far less concern than the box: what’s on it and what’s in it. Is there something interesting to look at on the box, and/or does it have some special prize inside? If Jimmy Neutron is on the box, then it’s a keeper. (For those of you without small children, and who are thus culturally unaware of the latest cartoon celebrities, you’ll just have to trust me on this.)”

It appears that his boys consider presentation more important than content. While he knows that’s not true, he’s also learned that they’ll absorb some pretty nutritious content if the presentation gets their attention. They’ll even eat healthy stuff if it looks interesting enough!

This, I believe, is a great lesson for preachers and public speakers.

Discover Your Language by Max Lucado

Suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2: 2–4)

Oh to have heard this moment in Jerusalem. Andrew describing God’s grace in Egyptian. Thomas explaining God’s love to the Romans. Bartholomew quoting the Twenty-third Psalm to Cretans. John relating the resurrection story to the Cappadocians.

Some in the crowd were cynical, accusing the disciples of early morning inebriation. But others were amazed and asked, “Whatever could this mean?” (v. 12).

Good question. Crowded city. Prayerful followers. Rushing wind and falling fire. Fifteen nations represented in one assembly. Disciples speaking like trained translators of the United Nations. Whatever could this mean?

At least this much: God loves the nations. He loves Iraqis. Somalians. Israelis. New Zealanders. Hondurans. He has a white-hot passion to harvest his children from every jungle, neighborhood, village, and slum. “All t
he earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Num. 14:21 ESV). During the days of Joshua, God brought his people into Canaan “
so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty” (Josh. 4:24 ESV). David commanded us to “sing to the Lord, all the earth! . . . Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Ps. 96:1–3 ESV). God spoke to us through Isaiah: “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa.49:6 ESV). His vision for the end of history includes “people for God fr om every tribe, language, people, and nation” (Rev. 5:9 NCV).

God longs to proclaim his greatness in all 6,909 languages that exist in the world today. He loves subcultures: the gypsies of Turkey, the hippies of California, the cowboys and rednecks of West Texas. He has a heart for bikers and hikers, tree huggers and academics. Single moms. Grayflanneled executives. He loves all people groups and equips us to be his voice. He commissions common Galileans, Nebraskans, Brazilians, and Koreans to speak the languages of the peoples of the world. He teaches us the vocabulary of distant lands, the dialect of the discouraged neighbor, the vernacular of the lonely heart, and the idiom of the young student. God outfits his followers to cross cultures and touch hearts.

Pentecost makes this promise: if you are in Christ, God’s Spirit will speak through you. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover your language.

With whom do you feel most fluent Teenagers? Drug addicts? The elderly? You may be tongue-tied around children but eloquent with executives. This is how God designed you. “God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well” (Rom. 12:6 NLT).

For whom do you feel most compassion? God doesn’t burden us equally. “The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men . . . He fashions their hearts individually” (Ps. 33:13, 15).

[God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT)

Gracious Father, I am deeply grateful that you took the initiative to reach out to me—even in my sin and selfishness—in order to bring me into your eternal kingdom, through the work of Christ. I cannot fathom such love! And yet, Father, I admit that too often I try to hoard your grace, putting up walls of protection that I might keep hurt out and blessing in. I confess I am like the clam that shuts itself up in its shell, afraid of threats from the outside. Lord, I recognize that you call me to unshell myself and to partner with you in your mission of love. Unshell me, Lord, so I, too, may reach out to a lonely, discouraged, and even hopeless world. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

From Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference Copyright (Thoma s Nelson, 2010) Max Lucado

Faith, Prayer, Atheism

There was a little old lady who would come out every morning on the steps of her front porch, raise her arms to the sky and shout, “Praise the Lord!”

Well, one day an atheist moved into the house next door. Over time, he became irritated at the little old lady. So every morning he would step out onto his front porch and yell after her, “There is no Lord!”

Time passes with the two of them carrying on this way every day. Then one morning in the middle of winter, the little old lady stepped onto her front porch and shouted, “Praise the Lord! Lord, I have no food and I am starving. Please provide for me, oh Lord!”

The next morning, she stepped onto her porch and there were two huge bags of groceries sitting there. “Praise the Lord!” she cried out. “He has provided groceries for me!”

The atheist jumped out of the hedges and shouted, “There is no Lord. I bought those groceries!”

The little old lady threw her arms into the air and shouted, “Praise the Lord! He has provided me with groceries and He made the devil pay for them!”

Thanks and best regards,

IAT Boluwatise

Worth Sharing

This is a story worth sharing indeed. It came in a mail from a friend. I love it, you should too.

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, were talking at a reunion and decided to go visit their old university professor, now retired.

During their visit, the conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in their work and lives. Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups — porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain-looking, some expensive, some exquisite –telling them to help themselves to the cof fee.

When all the alumni had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said, “Notice that all the nice-looking, expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress. Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most cases, it is just
more expensive and, in some cases, even hides what we drink.What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups, and then you began eyeing each other’s cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee; your job, money, and position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life.

The type of cup one has does not define, nor change, the quality of life a person lives. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us.”God makes the coffee, man chooses the cups. The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They just make the best of
everything. Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Enjoy your coffee!

Thanks and best regards,

IAT Boluwatise

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