SEVEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT TEACHING

Teaching has been a part of my life since I was a college student. Beginning with Sunday School classes and teaching practicums, this has been a wonderful journey for me. Here are some things I have learned about the teaching process.

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1. Preparation and expertise is are ongoing processes

People who teach are on a journey. Its a journey of learning, implementing, teaching, and again back to learning. The process continues as we develop as a person and as a teacher. Its not possible to claim that you have mastered any subject. You just have some basic knowledge, and you continue to learn.

 2. Continuously put things in the broad perspective

Students need to be continually reminded of the big picture. Why are we studying what we study? This applies to classes in Sunday Schools to Seminaries. If they don’t get the big picture, they quickly loose focus.

 3. Don’t impress, but aim for clarity

Although it is important to be likable, the focus should not be to impress. Trying to impress students with your vast knowledge and ability can simply backfire. Focus your attention on providing clarity to your subject. Give them opportunities for that “Aha” moment where learning leads to discovery and passion.

 4. Focus on life-change and comprehension than finishing the lesson

As a teacher, you are responsible to finish the course outline. But that should not be your main focus. Aim for life-change. Make sure that your students leave your class as a changed person. Focus your teaching on impacting their hearts, not just their minds.

 5. Connect at a personal level rather than “positionally.”

Although you are the “Teacher,” make sure to connect with the students at a more personal level. Be vulnerable as an individual who is struggling to learn and make that life change in yourself. Go beyond your position as the teacher, and become much more.

 6. Start from where they are and bring them along with you

With whatever subject you teach, figure out where they are at the present. Ask questions at the beginning of the course. Take note of ongoing class discussions and evaluate where they are in their thinking and practice. These discussions help you to see if they are coming along with you or if you’ve left them behind much earlier.

7. Continue to learn from the Master Teacher

Jesus is our best example of one who teaches with his life. He is the Master Teacher from whom we can learn. Develop and maintain your relationship with Jesus. As your life is enriched through a relationship with Jesus, that will overflow from your life to your students.

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SEVEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT TRAINING LEADERS

For leaders, the only way to keep moving forward is to keep developing leaders. Once you stop developing leaders, your progress also stops. Investing your life to develop other leaders is essential to the future of any leader. Here’s what I’ve learned:

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1. Everyone has leadership potential
Working with the view that there is potential in everyone can be quite rewarding. You will see the most “unlikely” people rising up to take the challenge of leadership. When given the opportunity, and when people begin to believe that more is possible, they move forward one step at a time.

2. Each person is different and leads differently
People often lead according to their own personality styles. Allow for differences in styles as you train them. Help them to see the value in the differences. These differences make them who they are in a unique way.

3. Look for FAST people
These are some amazing qualities that cannot be taught but grow out of a development of inate character. So look for people that are Faithful, Available, Submissive, and Teachable. Skills and knowledge can be taught and developed over time. So, when you find FAST type of people, grab them and invest in them.

4. Be in it for the long haul
Developing leaders is a long and ardous effort. Since it is a process which takes years, be willing to put in the time. Some develop quickly and others take time. Hang in there so you can look back in the future and see the long trail of leaders you leave behind. That will be your true leggacy and gift to the next generation.

5. Think of each encounter (and person) as an investment
Every time you encounter someone in your organization, see it as an an opportunity to develop them and bring them up to the next level. This perspective will significantly elevate the quality of your interaction with them.

6. A period of “incubation” is needed
For some people, they simply need time to develop. They may have the qualities that are needed (FAST), but still need time to deal with their personal issues.

7. Finally, release them
The leaders you develop are not yours forever. They will be with you for a time, but eventually they must be released to be on their own or to move on to another organization. Sometimes, another leader, or another situation may be what is needed to move them up to the next level. Ultimately, your true and genuine goal is to develop them.

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SEVEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT PRAYING FOR HEALING

In the early 1980’s while I was a college student in Fresno California, I attended a church where the pastor taught that believers are to pray for the sick.  In those days, the idea that all believers are to heal the sick was unacceptable to many. That became the beginning of a journey of learning to partner with God in the work of his kingdom here on the earth. Followers of Christ are expected to do the same things Jesus did while he was here on the earth. Here are some things I’ve learned about praying for healing:

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1. Use every opportunity to pray for healing

I realize that the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Evil are in conflict and not everyone will be healed. But until the fullness of God’s Kingdom comes, I want to take every opportunity to pray for healing. I’d like to take the challenge in engaging in another battle for the Kingdom (unless I have clear direction from God that there will not be healing in a particular situation).

2. Listen carefully to the person and the Holy Spirit

Ask the person where the pain is and listen to them carefully. Value them as a person to listen to the expressions of their hurt and the pain of their hearts as well. While you listen to them, listen to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will give you direction on how to pray for them.

3. Identify the symptoms

By asking appropriate questions, clarify where the person experiences pain. Do they experience the pain at all times or only at certain times of the day? Is the pain more when they do some kind of physical activity like standing, sitting, bending, kneeling, or other activities.

4. Pray with faith

Begin with the understanding that the “war” of the Kingdoms has already been won with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Have faith in God that He can and will accomplish the task of healing. Sometimes it happens gradually, so you may need to pray several times. At other times, the healing is instantaneously.

5. Keep your eyes open

While praying for healing, it is a good practice to keep your eyes open. You will be able to see the effects of the Holy Spirit on that person. Ask the person to keep their eyes closed so they will have better concentration. But you need to concentrate on the entire process of prayer and healing. For that, your eyes need to be open. Sometimes you will see manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and at other times you will see demonic responses on the person.

6. Be interactive with the person and the Holy Spirit

During the prayer, continue to listen the the voice of the Spirit. Along with that, interact with the person and ask if there are changes in their physical situation. Be in constant communication with the Spirit and the person. This will help to guide your prayer time and make it more effective.

7. Give final encouragement and instructions.

Whether the person is completely healed or not, make sure to encourage the person with some instructions. Maybe you can direct them to stay focused and maintain their healing. Maybe there is sin to avoid or habits to be changed. Help them to get set on the right path. 

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SEVEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT CHURCH PLANTING

After being involved in several church plants at various levels, I still feel the urge to go plant another one. I am not sure If I still have the stamina that I had during my earlier years, but the desire is still there. Every time I talk to a church planter, my heart is ignited. I am excited to see how God works in a fresh way each time in every new setting.

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  1. Confirm your calling

Because of the challenging nature of church planting, it is vital that you solidify your calling. The entire family needs to be on the same page with your committment to being a church planter. If one person is unsure, that becomes the weak link that you struggle with for the entire church plant.

  1. Have a clear vision

There needs to be a clear view of what you want the church to be like. What are the most important values that you have? How will those values be worked out in the ministry that you do? Allow your values to impact your outreach, caring, and leadership.

  1. Money follows vision

I heard this great and empowering statement from Steve Nicholson: “Money follows vision”. People respond to a clear and definitive vision. When others detect a compelling vision in you and in your team, they respond with open hearts and open hands. I believe God is just like that. If you are planting without a vision and just setting up an “organization” just for the sake of it, people are not impressed, and God certainly is not. Therefore I affirm that “money follows vision.”

  1. Learn to embrace loneliness

Even with a strong church planting team with you, the life of a planter is a lonely task. You have a team, share the vision, and develop leaders, but ultimately, you are responsible for the entire process. The risk is high, and that certainly leads to a sense of lonliness that others will not understand. Nevertheless, learn to embrace loneliness in your journey.

  1. Don’t fear the uncertain future; God is already there

I like to work from the perspective that God has already seen the beginning to the end. The future is clearly in God’s view. Although our view is limited, we can lean heavily on him knowing that he sees much further ahead. So relax. God has already seen the future, and He is with you.

  1. Be a team player

Always develop a church planting team. The best option is to have a team go with you from the church you are being sent out of. But if for some reason that is not possible, develop a new team whever you are. Share your vision with every person you meet. Share it clearly and with a passion. Repeat your vision so often that you are mumbling it in your sleep. As you repeat your vision, God will draw the hearts of some who will come alongside you and share your vision.

  1. Spend your time for the broken and needy

Jesus came for those whose world is simply broken or shattered. Spend your time and efforts for such people. The broken are not only the poor. In every social and economic strata of socitey, brokenness is rampant. When you step into the lives of people, you begin to see how intense and how broad that brokenness is.

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SEVEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT BEING A PASTOR/LEADER

Through my years of being a pastor, I’ve learned a lot about what not to do as well as what to do. Each year was a learning experience as I have ministered on two continents. In both situations, I have learned much over these years, but the most important lesson is that the pastoral ministry and the local church are not to be ignored. God has a great plan for the local church, and he will use pastors who are selflessly committed to the task.

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  1. Know who you are and what you are passionate about.

If you don’t recognize who you are and what is important to you, you will always remain unstable. This unstability will cause you to vacilate in the midst of important decisions that need to be made in your leadership.

  1. Be sure of your calling and know who called you.

Whenever people tell me they feel called to ministry, I ask them to have it confirmed. You’ve got to be sure of your calling and be firm that God has called you to the pastoral ministry.

  1. Listen to everyone but follow your heart.

Be open to listen to every kind of idea and opinion. But as you do that, be sure to follow your heart. Of course, this implies you know what your heart tells you. Calm yourself down each day and listen. Listen intently for the voice of the Holy Spirit as he speaks to your heart. Ultimately it is that voice that you must heed.

  1. Turn rare commodities into common items

Sometimes we see people who use their spiritual gifts to gain prominence and recognition. Those particular giftings are seen as rare commodities in churches. But when we train a large number of people to operate in their spiritual gifts, the situation changes. All of a sudden, that which was rare becomes a common aspect. The same principle can be used with leadership, teaching, preaching, serving, or other practices. Make it common and ordinary.

  1. Genuinely love people .

It is imperative that you as the pastor love the people and express it in a genuine way. If you can’t or don’t experss it genuinely, then they may never sense it.

  1. Stay out of politics even if it kills you

Politics will kill your vison. Once your vision is gone, you are just as good as dead.

  1. Plan on staying for a long time in the same church.

Just as the concept of follow-through is important in sports, it is vital in your pastoral ministry. Be willing to stick it out in the long run.

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SEVEN THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT PREACHING

My first sermon was at the age of 15 to a small group in DeWitt Clinton High School, and then on the streets in New York. I’ve always had a desire to be faithful to the text of scripture, communicate clearly, and to see life change. Here is a list of seven things I’ve learned about preaching. I’ve kept my explanations to a minimum as this is written for a wider audience.

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  1. Preparation begins much before the sermon preparation begins.

Life is preparation. Your sermon is developed not just from a study of the text, but it develops through your life. The same message preached by two different people will be completely different since these two individuals are entirely different. Their lives have been entirely different.

  1. Preach to yourself first

Allow time for the message of the sermon to do its work in you. Only then will your sermon be complete. Sermons prepared at the last minute will have much less impact than sermons that have been lived out in the preacher.

  1. Preach from your heart.

Be faithful to the text and do good exegesis and exposition, but when you preach it, allow it to come from the heart. When something comes from your heart, it best communicates to the hearts of your listeners.

  1. Appeal to their minds

Make sure your sermon flows logically. Otherwise, your listeners will block it from going down to their hearts. Allow the sermon to appeal to their minds first, and the Holy Spirit will touch their hearts and make the appropriate change of mind, heart, and life.

  1. Aim for their hearts

As you appeal to their minds, make sure your ultimate aim is to impact their hearts. Only a true heart change will impact a life change that is genuine and lasting.

  1. Leave the rest to the Holy Spirit

When you conclude your message, trust the Holy Spirit to convict and apply the message to their lives. Don’t try too hard to push for results. You’ve been faithful to the task of preaching, and the Holy Spirit will be faithful to the task of convicting and bringing life change.

  1. When you finish, walk away.

As you allow the Holy Spirit to work in the conclusion by convicting and applying, learn the art of “walking away.” It’s not about you anyway. Its his church, and its his ministry. Don’t take the entire burden on yourself, and don’t take the credit for yourself either. It all belongs to God.

Were the above points helpful? Please leave your response in the comments section of this blog post by clicking here.

How Long Will God Continue to Forgive?

Love and betrayal

“Where are they coming from? Where are they going?” He frantically searched with bewilderment, but couldn’t find where the ants were coming from. They were crawling in and out of his laptop computer from every conceivable location. Surprised by this intrusion, he continued his search to figure out where they were coming from.

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Matthew was a very careful user of his computer. A few months prior to this incident, he experienced “the mother of all computer disasters” – a crashed hard disk, with no warning signs. After going through the long process of getting it repaired under warranty, this intrusion by the ants was totally unexpected, and brought further fears of an impending disaster.

 Surprise turns to fear

When he finally found the hiding place of the encroachers, his surprise turned to fear. The computer case, of all places, meant to protect his computer from such intrusions became the home for these ants! I’m sure he felt cheated and betrayed by the very instrument meant to protect his computer.

 First class betrayal

Often, those who should protect, are the ones who deny and hurt. Jesus experienced a similar scenario when he was betrayed by one of his 12 disciples. While he was on the Mount of Olives praying with them, Judas came to betray him into the hands of his enemies. Jesus said, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48) Our closest friends are the ones we least expect to betray us, yet Jesus knew Judas’ plans much in advance.

Throughout the four gospels, we see the love of Jesus expressed in various ways. Second only to the Cross, was his prayer for his disciples in John 17. He distinguished his disciples from the rest of the world; for they belonged to the Father. He protected them and kept them safe by the name given to him by the Father. He wanted them to have joy to the fullest measure. The culmination of his prayer was his desire to see the love of the Father in them, and that Jesus be in them. Such close love and union was his desire for his disciples.

It was immediately after prayer, that Judas came to betray him with a kiss. This reminds me of Michael Card’s song that says, “why did he use a kiss to show them -that’s not what a kiss is for.” After experiencing a relationship with Jesus closer than most of the people, he was willing to betray him with a kiss.

 How much will God forgive?

At the cross, he showed his love for all people, including his enemies, when he says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34). Could this prayer apply for Judas also? Why not? Are there limits to the love of Jesus?

 Does God still love me?

Many continue to struggle with their failures and weaknesses. Somehow they are afraid that there is no longer any possibility for God to love them. They fear that they have crossed the point of no return with God. But the reality is that God is not angry at you. He still loves you. His ultimate aim is to develop you into the image of his son Jesus.

 So, go to him. He loves you.

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How to Handle God’s Silence in Your Life

Do you remember the time you called your friend and got no response? Calls were unanswered, emails ignored, and missed calls were not returned. Maybe they are just busy – you know their schedule. Then you wonder if this “silence” is intentional or unintentional. Maybe they are upset with you regarding something. Maybe its nothing to worry about at all. Everything is fine. Whatever the case, it troubles you considerably.

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That Eerie Feeling

There are times when our prayers seem to go nowhere. The lack of response from God troubles our hearts more than anything else. We wonder if God has forgotten us. We consider the possibility that God is angry with us. Surely there must be a reason for this divine silence.

What’s the purpose of His silence?

Sometimes, God’s silence allows us time to think and to learn. That divine silence allows us to experience – for a brief time – what it is to live without God’s guidance. It can be an eerie feeling, like the “calm before the storm.” But quickly we realize that God’s voice is truly essential.

God also waits in silence for our response, for our obedience. In essence, “the ball is in our court.” He has done a tremendous work in our hearts, and now it is up to us to obey. God waits in silence since it is “our move” now. Certainly it is a divine silence of expectation.

Here is the scary part of God’s silence

The most dangerous form of God’s silence is when he allows us to have our own way. He has spoken to us on numerous occasions, but we have failed to obey. We’ve had our own agenda, and we wonder why God is disturbing us. So God steps back and allows us to live and experience life without his guidance. Although this may seem like a favorable option for a time, we soon run into danger. We continue in our own way until we realize that what we needed all along was his voice.

God is not angry with us

In his silence, he simply waits for our return. God is not angry with us. Many fail to return to God thinking that he is angry with them because of their lack of obedience. They wonder if God will accept them back. Rather than being angry, he is like a hopeful parent waiting for the children to return home where they belong. No matter how late it is, he is waiting, ready to open the door.

God’s silence – for any reason – is his choice. Job experienced that in his own life and he responded: “When he is quiet who can condemn? When he hides his face, who can behold him, whether it be a nation or a man? (Job 34:29)

Our obligation

Although we don’t have the option to question God regarding his silence, we have the obligation to return. We return not for his benefit, but for our sustenance and future. That eerie divine silence may mean several things, but certainly we are to learn the lessons of life and quickly return to him.

How have you responded to God’s silence?

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Ever Wonder if God Knows What He is Doing With Your Life?

We were all students struggling to work and pay our own way through our Masters program. The pressures mounted even more as our final exams were just a week away.

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A few of us gathered to pray and we shared our struggles. One person, as he shared his troublesome predicament, blurted out loud “I just hope God knows what he is doing.” Then there was silence. We all looked at each other wondering what we just heard. One person said to him “What did you just say?” Then he realized what he said and corrected himself “Well…I suppose God does know what he is doing.”

I’ve looked back to that incident many times over the years and realized that I’m no different. It’s so difficult to trust, and so easy to complain. Although our situation may not be so severe, we have much in common with Job who said “Today also my complaint is bitter; my hand is heavy on account of my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would lay my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments.” (Job 23:1-4)

As we increase our words of complaint and gather with others who do, we get sucked into an irresistible current that pulls us down. As Job sat with his friends, they did not help his situation at all. They simply confused the whole situation. Job complained, and his friends condemned! What a combination to get tangled up in.

I’m grateful for the few who are willing to call us into account for our complaining attitude. They stop us in our tracks and ask “What did you just say?” Then, the silence obviously proves the point.

Yes, God is our heavenly father and we have the option to come before him and complain. But we need to move away from that complaining mode as quickly as possible and move into the place of trust in our Father who is truly in control.

Have you had an amusing experience of complaining?

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Painful Reality and Positive Results

The opposition was severe. The stones continued to smash against their bodies until every drop of blood drained out. They held on and waited in horror – waited for death.

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Others were sawed in two. Every nerve in their bodies reacted as their flesh was torn apart by the saw. The ghastliness of this severe torture was the price they paid for their faith in the one who loved them.

 Some experienced the sword in such an uncommon way. As the metal blade ripped their bodies open the pain shot through their entire being. This gruesome act was more than what any of them could bear. Finally their bodies fell, never to rise again.

 For the more unfortunate ones their only wish was for death to come a little quicker. These were people who endured a slow, agonizing death. They were tightly wrapped in animal skins and left in the hot sun. As the sun grew hotter the animal skin would get tighter as it shrinks. This gradual shrinking would squeeze their bodies tighter and eventually cause dislocation of bones and multiple fractures throughout their bodies. Finally they would be crushed to death in a long, agonizing torture; simply unimaginable.

 A list of such gruesome atrocities against followers of Jesus are mentioned in Hebrews 11 and makes the conclusive statement: “of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38).

 These stories may have been a reflection of the events in Acts 8 where followers of Jesus were severely persecuted. This is the situation where Stephen was stoned to death. “And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the Apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:1-3).

 Reading such accounts may cause us to think that the end had come for the ministry of the church. With severe persecution and the scattering of the believers, it would be difficult to see how the gospel could proceed any further. But the following verse gives us a clear picture of what actually happened: “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Along with preaching the word, we see that many signs and wonders were performed by these scattered believers. The impact of the persecution was not to stop the work of the church, but to expand it much further to the “ends” of the known world. God took that disastrous situation and turned it around for good. The scattered believers simply remained faithful to their calling.

What are you facing today? No matter how difficult it is, just hang in there; trust God and remain faithful.

How do you respond when you hear of such acts against the church?  

Give your response in the comments section of this blog post by clicking here.

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