Preacher's Pundit

In the late 1970’s to ‘80s, there was a popular commercial on T.V. for a brokerage firm, E.F. Hutton. Their motto was "When E. F. Hutton talks, People listen!" This usually involved a young professional making a remark at a dinner party that his broker was EF Hutton, which caused the moderately loud party to stop all conversation to listen at what E.F. Hutton had to say.  I have had to endure watching that commercial so much (we did not have DVR, where I could pause it and fast forward); that phrase is engrained in my mind.  The stock market crash of ’87, bad business dealings, and mergers and acquisitions, silenced E.F. Hutton.  

As Christians, we must never forget, when we pray, God is always listening.  In Revelation 8, we see that prayer is the Christian’s avenue of direct participation to God’s throne.  Notice the words of John in Revelation 8:1-4, “When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.”    

In the court house, before a jury’s verdict is read, there is silence.  A significant announcement is about to be made, lives are going to change. The silence here has to do with delay.  Rev. 10:5-6, the angels states there shall be no more delay, “Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land lifted up his right hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer.”  Why the delay? Why the silence?  Habakkuk wrote, “But the Lord is in His Holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him” (Hab. 2:20). At times, heaven calls for silence, so shouldn’t we at times be silent?  We are often so caught up in our busy lives and schedule, we rarely ever stop and spend some time in delay, in silence.  We need to be on blended knee more. 

What are the 7 Trumpets?  The blowing of the 7 Trumpets is God’s warning judgements, giving the oppressors time to repent.  Our prayers for those to repent do not go unheard, or unanswered. God not only listens to our prayers, He delivers results.  Now of course, the answer will not always be yes.  But to know we have a God in heaven who we can go to in communication by the avenue of prayer is most comforting. James states, “the effectual prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16).  David poured out His heart in prayer in Psalm 55.  He reached to God, “As for me, I shall call upon God, And the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, And He will hear my voice.” (Psalm 55:16-17). 

Are we calling upon God in effectual prayer?  If you are suffering, if you are thankful, if you just want to praise God. Whatever it may be, take time to delay, and go to Him in prayer! 

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These are some of the last words written by one of the greatest men who ever lived. He wrote them while in prison, waiting to die for his faith. He has just spoken of people he trusted who had deserted him. He is lacking even the bare essentials. A man, knowing how difficult his life was, had done additional great harm to him. No wonder he would open this window into his suffering soul and let us all look inside. Despite all this, he was not bitter.

Have you ever felt mistreated, even felt like people were actively against you? Or perhaps felt like people you count on abandoned or neglected you when you needed them? Maybe you have suffered for your faith. It is tempting to become bitter, even to lash out against the church and God.  Paul is a great example of how to think when you feel unsupported and deserted by those you count on. After making that statement in 2 Timothy 4:16, he says some other things that can help us when we feel, at least in a small way, the way Paul felt. 

  • Focus On The Lord. He could see how the Lord had helped through his darkest hours in the past (17). But, as importantly, he had confidence that the Lord would help him through future trials (18). Despite his unfair treatment, he could still say, “To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” When people hurt and disappoint you, look higher!
  • Find Your Higher Purpose. Incredibly, Paul could sift through these sorrows and see God at work to accomplish His will. He’s suffering, but he can see a greater good. He says that he endured these hurts “…so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear.” Can you look for what God, who doesn’t cause suffering, can do to bring good even out of those times? We’re prone to feel sorry for ourselves when God may be showing us and others His power through these situations to save souls and help lives.
  •  Paul doesn’t hold a grudge. Concerning those who let him down and even hurt him, he could say, “May it not be counted against them” (16). Doesn’t that sound like a Savior who asked God to forgive His tormentors? What a mindset! We can nurse perceived offenses, but how much better to be magnanimous toward those who we feel failed us in our hour of trial?

If you’ve never felt unsupported and deserted, you probably will at some future time. The temptation will be great to let it become a spiritual problem for you. Why not remember Paul’s response when he was in his deepest valley? It’s the way up to the spiritual mountaintop. - Neal Pollard 

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“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:35-39). Isn’t that a wonderful thought? We are more than conquerors through Jesus. 

Many people camp on this verse in Romans 8 and never understand commitment to Jesus. W.E. Vine gives this definition of the noun paratheke: a putting with, a deposit.  Paul tells Timothy, “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). What had Paul put deposit with the Lord? It was his soul. Paul is saying he was not ashamed that he had given his soul over to the Lord for safekeeping. Commitment, then, is always connected with giving or making a deposit.  Let us look at the object and the obstacles of our faith to understand commitment.  

THE OBJECT OF OUR COMMITMENT 

In what do you want to succeed? Do you want to be a soul winner? A parent young people look up to? Or maybe a good speaker or song leader? The list goes on and on.  The point is, have you given yourself to, made a deposit to, entrusted to the end? Commitment is not born out of like or dislike. It is born out of the sense of determination and discipline that reaches beyond desire.  Are you committed?  Some say they are but do not teach a Bible class. Christianity is not built on convenience. In fact, many times, it is quite the opposite. Are you willing to lay down your time, talent, treasure, and testimony to Jesus? You decide the “what,” and God will decide the “HOW TO!” 

THE OBSTACLES OF COMMITMENT 

You say, “I know what I want, but there are so many things in the way.” There use to be a TV program where NFL stars compete in an obstacle course.  They try to beat the time of the other athletes.  If there were no obstacles, would we want to watch? Would they want to compete?  They used the obstacles as stepping stones, and we need to do the same in life.  Struggle is an obstacle in life. But guilt is one of the largest obstacles. It divides the mind, destroys self image, and will defeat everything we do. Jesus tells us when we entrust our souls to Him there is no reason to feel guilty. Most guilt is based on a bad attitude. We must have a positive mental attitude, but our spiritual life must be in order (Matthew Chapters 5-7).

We are to be committed because Jesus demands it.  Let us make a commitment by putting our souls on deposit with the Lord and use the obstacles to help make us stronger. Let us all examine our commitment. We can be more than conquerors.  

    

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Many feel they are not leaders in the Lord’s church because they do not hold a title, such as an Elder, Deacon, or minister. Many women in the church may not see themselves as leaders because of what the Bible teaches concerning who are the ones to have authority as teachers and spiritual overseers in the church in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. We must realize we are all leading somebody.  Parents lead their children. Grandparents lead their grandchildren.  Bible class teachers are leading their classes in God’s Word. If we are serving, teaching, guiding, helping others, we are leaders. The question is, are we being good and effective leaders?    

Here are three essential qualities a leader must possess to be effective.

ESSENTIAL QUALITY #1 – A Good and Effective Leader has CHARACTER

How can any organization, group, or church for that matter, thrive without having character? They cannot. Leaders are men/women with vision, tenacity and skill. They are the ones who communicate with their people in a way that inspires. They find ways to solve problems. However, what do those qualities matter if they cannot be trusted? If one has an exciting vision, yet, they lie, make empty promises, have agendas to satisfy self, and don’t practice what they are “preaching,” they will fail, they will have no influence as a leader. When one has integrity, he/she will live and lead with a moral and ethical principle. They do not just comply to the “rules,” they understand how essential it is to carry these principles and inspire others to reach for them. They also realize that living and leading in life with integrity does not mean they will never fail to live up to these qualities at times. What matters is having the strength of character to learn from making mistakes and seeking to continually improve themselves. Paul wrote, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” Romans 5:3-4. 

ESSENTIAL QUALITY #2 - A Good and Effective Leader has COMPASSION.  

When I hear the word, compassion, I think of Jesus! He showed compassion to ALL He came into contact with. The meaning of compassion is to recognize the suffering of others, then take action to help. We are to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves ... defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9).  Leaders are moved with compassion to help others. If we do not have the love for souls, then why are we here? Let us live and lead with compassion.   

ESSENTIAL QUALITY #3 – A Good and Effective Leader has COMMITMENT

Committing to someone or something is much more than being interested in something. It is defined as “lay something down before, to deposit, to trust.” Jesus was so committed to saving souls, He laid down His life for His friends (John 15:13). The Bible often relates the word to giving. If we are to be committed as leaders (and Christians in general), we should be giving of ourselves fully to the cause we believe in. Are we so committed to our faith that we are willing to lay down our lives?  

We are all leaders, so let’s be good and effective ones!  

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This past week we were able to take a few days and camp at Calaveras Big Trees. As any of you know that have had the privilege of visiting this park, it is a wonderful experience. While we were there we saw the bounty of God’s creation: white headed woodpeckers, Canadian geese, and of course the beautiful trees. We saw various types of pine trees, blooming dogwood, yew cedar, and of course the enormous Sequoiadendron giganteum, better known as the giant redwood. To witness these awesome trees and not acknowledge the seeds, for they came from the mind of God, is beyond my comprehension. Their structure, longevity, and gigantic size boggle the senses. While many facts about these giants are amazing, one fact in particular captured my attention. Instead of the bark growing in a vertical direction, many of the oldest sequoias have a noticeable twisting growth pattern in their bark. Our guidebook stated that, “Trees with spiral growth are more flexible, and therefore better able to withstand wind stress and snow loading.” The twisting seems to be caused in part by strong battering winds and the trees constantly reaching for sunlight. In other words, if the tree withstands adverse conditions, it ultimately will cause the tree to be stronger.

This caused me to think of challenges, persecution, and hard times that come in the lives of Christians. These battering episodes in our lives can at times seem like more than we are able to bear. But James tells us, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) So, when trying conditions come in our lives, maybe God is using it to strengthen us and prepare us for a long life of service in His kingdom. Maybe we should take a lesson from Sequoiadendron giganteum.

           

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