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Myrrh For A Dead God?
By: James Smith
"And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury." (John 19:38- 40 KJV)
Upon His death, Nicodemus came to Jesus’ tomb and he and Joseph of Arimathaea, wound the body of Jesus with linen clothes and 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes. This amount of burial myrrh and aloes would have been an extreme even for a wealthy person. The usual custom was to use 20 pounds.
Think of this with me. If any of you have ever baled hay on a farm, you know that a bale of hay weighs around 60-70 pounds. This bale being compacted and compressed into some sort of shape by a baler. In Jesus’ day, there were no such machine. They would have had to carry this in a sack of sorts. Imagine the scene of Joseph carrying the roughly 175 pound body of Jesus and Nicodemus carrying the huge sack with 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes for the burial.
Putting myself into this text, I find two men who loved Jesus. Enough, that they would risk their own life to see that the Lord would receive they very best burial they could give. So, Joseph donates his very expensive tomb and Nicodemos, not wanting anyone to smell the decomposing body of Jesus, brings 100 pounds of costly burial aloes. When people walked by the tomb, he wanted them to only notice the beautiful smell of the myrrh and not the rotting flesh of a dead God.
I’m not sure where these two were doctrinally at this point, but I do know that they heard the truth preached to them by the Lord himself. However, I’m not so sure they got what Jesus tried to get them all to understand. “(John 2:19 KJV) Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
People often quote John 11:35, “Jesus Wept”. Recently at a funeral of 2 friends, the minister referred to the Lord as a mourner who also wept at the funeral of His friend Lazarus. I don’t believe Jesus wept because his friend was dead. He sure was not too concerned when they told him about Lazarus being sick a few days prior. I am certain that the reason Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend is because of the unbelief of those whom Jesus had spent much time with, trying to convince them that He was the Resurrection. How many funeral processions did Jesus stop to raise the dead? He had proven to all of them that He was able to raise the dead. I believe He went to the tomb of Lazarus hoping to find Mary and Martha sitting in wait, full of faith that regardless of how long it took, Jesus would show up and when He did, He would raise His friend to life again. Jesus did not weep for Lazarus’s death, he wept because of the faithlessness of Mary and Martha. Hear his rebuke to them, (John 11:25 KJV) “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:”
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Don't you love them? They add so much to a church or organization. Their destructive attitude is so encouraging. They build faith in all who fall prey to their vile contempt. They're such a blessing!
It is funny though, how some people hate to hear a complaint, but love to be the one complaining. I suppose there are many reasons why a person complains. However, I doubt anyone realizes the full impact of it's destructive ability.
Several years ago, I was working on a job with a fellow leader in the church. We were working the midnight shift in a factory. As the night went on, I found myself complaining to this brother about my situation. At the time I felt justified because it was late and I was tired. I was also hurting emotionally and felt that people in the church should be more sensitive to my families needs. I had a list of reasons why it was OK for me to complain.
It has been over 11 years since that night and I have regretted it ever since. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked God to forgive me for allowing that negative spirit to work through me that night.
The real reason I feel so bad about that particular night, is that in fact the church people had been absolutely wonderful to us. They treated us with respect. They often blessed us financially. They always encouraged us. They took us in when we had nothing to offer them in return and placed us in leadership. As I said they were wonderful to us!
I bare my soul today only to point out how simple it is at times to feel justified to complain. I believe it is true that the majority of people who complain, are complaining about people who they actually owe a great debt of gratitude to.
Some time ago we had a man in our church who was a graduate of the school of complaining. This guy had a Masters degree in it. At first, I thought he had a valid points. However, as the years went by and we all grew weary of his negative verbiage, we also began to see the real problem. In fact he was his own problem.
The people he complained about were actually wonderful people who he owed a great debt to. Even his boss who he often attacked, had to have been an angel to have kept this guy employed. The boss was actually trying to help the man by keeping him on. Yet all the time this guy did nothing but talk bad about him.
This man finally left our church. I am thankful for the strong folks in the church who would not listen to him destroy their Pastor. I am also thankful he is gone. I did not realize at the time how much of my energy was being spent trying to please a man who could never be pleased.
The day after he left, the sky was blue and the birds were again singing. In fact they were singing to me. They were singing me praises and telling me how good I am as a Pastor. They were singing these praises from the tops of the trees for all the world to hear. Opps...sorry about that...reality check! O.K. so it wasn't the birds, but it was one or two wonderful people who attended the church I Pastored. They saw what the man was trying to do and thwarted it with praises.
Praise someone today!
"...happy is that people, whose God is the LORD." (Psalm 144:15)
Allen Funt, creator and original host of the landmark television series Candid Camera, perfected an art that has entertained people for over 60 years. From a humble start on radio in 1947, he used hidden microphones and cameras to catch unsuspecting people worldwide—all in the spirit of fun. The show's famous tag line—"Smile! You're on Candid Camera!"—is universally known.
Somebody is always watching you, so why not smile. All too often, we’ve all been in church services where the people who were on the platform, hardly ever smiled. In some of these instances, I personally knew these people and knew that they had a great sense of humor and personality, but watching them from the audience I realized that they hardly ever smiled while on the platform. I know that there are times of deep worship when there is crying and weeping before the Lord. I'm not talking about these instances. What I am referring to are all of the other times while on the platform. Most of the time our musicians and singers are on the platform for most, if not all, of the service. Pastors and other spiritual leaders usually sit on the platform for all of the service also. Spending all of this time in front of the congregation becomes second nature to us and we develop the bad habit of not smiling. Sometimes while leading worship service, preaching or even singing, we scrunch up our face and it looks like we are mad at something or that we are in a bad mood. All the while, we may be in the best mood ever but it comes across to the audience in a different way.
A smile is an inexpensive way to change your looks. ~Charles Gordy
"If you're happy and you know it then your face will surely show it." In fact, all of the leadership of the church represents who the church is to the congregation and also to the guests. If you are the greeter who stands at the front of the church and welcomes everyone into the sanctuary, you definitely should be smiling. You are the first face that members and guests see and it should be a happy, welcoming face. If you are a Sunday School teacher, make a conscious effort to smile, whether you are teaching that Sunday or not. If you are a musician in the church who is normally on the platform but maybe you have the service off and are sitting in the congregation, make sure you are still smiling. You would be surprised who is watching you to see who you are whenever you aren't in front of everyone.[ read more...]
In his research of leaders, both historical and contemporary, author Robert Clinton found that few leaders actually finish the race well. His two books, The Making of a Leader (NavPress) and The Mentor Handbook (Barnabas), explain that finishing well could be defined as a life that until its end is increasingly more in love with Christ, more committed to His service and more devoted to godly leadership.
What causes a leader to continue to grow, to stay on track and to finish well in life and ministry?
Five Habits of effectiveness. Effective leaders learn to become intentional about their character growth and formation. In this development of a leader we can make three general observations:
- God develops a leader over a lifetime;
- God uses people, circumstances and ministry assignments to shape the life of a leader; and
- Leadership plateau is often indicative of a growth issue within a leader's life.
To help us become more intentional about our health as leaders, let's explore five insights from leaders who have finished well.
- Healthy leaders are lifelong learners. Leaders pursue three types of training: personal training, (personal growth, projects, personal research); informal training (workshops, seminars, conferences); and formal training (continuing education, degree programs).
- Healthy leaders are committed to serve and develop others. Be alert to potential leaders in your sphere of influence (II Cor. 1:3-4; II Tim. 2:2).
Based on surveys of more than 15,000 people, the following traits were selected as the key to effective leadership:
· Being honest – 87%
· Being forward-looking – 71%
· Being inspirational – 68%
· Being competent – 58%
- Honest people have credibility – and that’s what gives leaders the trust and confidence of their people. High credibility leaders foster such things as greater pride in the organization, a stronger spirit of cooperation and teamwork, and more feelings of ownership and personal responsibility. What are some of the other characteristics of credible leaders?
- They do what they say they will do. They keep their promises and follow through on their commitments.
- Their actions are consistent with the wishes of the people they lead. They have a clear idea of what others value and what they can do.
Have you ever run out of gas? At one moment your car is cruising down the highway, and the next it’s sputtering to a stop. You get out and start pushing it to the nearest gas station, but as soon as you stop pushing, the car quickly comes to a halt. Without gas, a car can’t do much of anything.
The same is true with a person and motivation. Without motivation, it’s just hard to get going. On the other hand, when you’re empowered by motivation, no task is too difficult. Having motivation is like putting gas in your tank. It’s what keeps you on the road. If you’re having trouble motivating yourself, here are several suggestions to help get going:
Add Up The Rewards Of Beginning – When you have trouble getting started, remember the benefits of beginning. Remind yourself that the finished product will bring you satisfaction. And keep in mind that the highest reward for our effort is not what we “get for it”, but what we become “because of it.” If that’s not incentive enough, consider the negative things that could happen if you don’t begin. Often, those negative costs only increase the longer you wait.[ read more...]
Failure – In the business world, this word isn’t an option. But in the church, it almost seems like a requirement. Look at the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. While the Bible lauds their faithful successes here, check out their Old Testament stories, and you’ll find that God used people who repeatedly failed and doubted him.
So the next time you feel like a failure or even a hypocrite – encouraging your congregation to live one way when you’re failing in that very same area yourself – remember God’s amazing penchant for using seemingly imperfect, irresponsible, and faithless people to further His kingdom. In fact, here are some specific places where you might be feeling like a failure, along with promises for you to claim.
Correcting and confronting people about sin when you know the pitiful condition of your own heart. Remember that God detests sin, but he already knows that you’ll fail Him. Victory doesn’t come through any power of our own, but only from God’s strength over evil. Approach God and admit your weaknesses. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:8-9)
Preaching on quiet time when you don’t have one. Change the terminology if you need to. A quiet time is just a means of recharging your own spiritual batteries on a semi-regular basis – even if it’s not a daily quiet time. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Being still is hard to do if you’re running in the opposite direction. What will happen if you stop and listen to God? “You’ll be made new in the attitude of your minds; and you’ll put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:23- 24)
Speaking on bringing people to the Lord when you haven’t led anyone to Him in years. Double-check your source and motivation. Jesus said that only people plugged into Him could be fruitful. “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. I am the vine; you are the branches. If[ read more...]
If your ministry is only one of your jobs, here are 12 tips to make the road a little smother.
In light of the fact that 50 percent of all North American churches have 75 people or fewer, many pastors do not receive full salary from the church they serve. This forces them to consider options such as finding other employment on the side or having a spouse work to help make ends meet.
- Guard your attitudes. Sometimes it is hard for those “called into the ministry” to accept the fact that they may have to work “secular” jobs at times. These are understandable feelings, but will lead to bitterness of heart and cripple our ministries unless we overcome them.
- Look primarily to God. It is easy to become resentful toward people if we look to them as our sources. God is our ultimate employer and provider, not the church.
- Beware of get- rich-quick schemes. A pastor desperate for additional sources of income may be vulnerable to the allure of multilevel marketing and other “easy money” systems.
- Assess the hidden costs of having a spouse that works. After the cost of travel, food on the road, child care, house cleaning etc, you may find that it is cheaper for them to stay home. A job or career is often times more of an outlet or escape. Check all the motives and the real cost involved.
- Make the most of the situation while you’re at it. Working a secular job can actually have many overlooked benefits other than just additional income: contact with unchurched people and experience with realities of work environments.
- Define your ministry. Bi-vocational pastors should beware of trying to have a “full- service” ministry. You need definite limits and boundaries. You cannot do everything, so you must have a clear focus for what you will handle.
Though God gets all the credit for growth in any ministry, there are practical steps pastors can follow to make their cities their congregations and enlarge their ministries for Christ:
1. Know your call and catch the vision. If a pastor has the vision, the mind-set, to break out of traditionalism, great things can happen. Don’t lock yourself in a box. Find a need and determine to fill it.
2. Be faithful in the little things and be consistent. “One thing about pastor is that he is very predictable,” says Jennifer Mallan, an outreach pastor at Church Without Walls. “He does the same things every day, so people know they can count on him. You know that on Wednesdays and Fridays our trucks will be out; on Saturday foods are prepared. It’s never hit-and-miss. Pastor has parented the city very well.”
3. Realize that it takes time to grow. You have to prove yourself. You want to show that what you are doing is not fly-by-night. Ask yourself, “Am I building my own kingdom or really helping my community?”
4. Put people around you who will catch your vision. Build a team that has diverse talents to accomplish the vision you are called to fulfill. Focus on a particular hurt and cure it; find an ill in society and figure out how to solve it. Realize that you and your team will need to put 100 percent into bringing a solution to the problem. Bridge the gap.
5. Work within all aspects of your community. Realize that the support of city council members, police chiefs and other leaders is necessary for the large-scale success of any growing ministry. Meet with city leaders when you first start and share your vision. Then get on a council agenda once or twice a year thereafter to give a progress report.
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While in Bible College many years ago I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Chorale. It was a big thing to make the Chorale. We were to go on a two-week tour during the summer break. It was the highlight of our summer. I don't know why, but recently one of the songs we sang during that summer tour has been on my mind. I can't remember much of the song except the main line of the chorus, which was also the title of the song. It was called, "Shut up and March".
The theme of the song centers around the idea that talk can only do so much good. There is a time to quit talking and a time to get on with the business at hand. I frequently tell my employees, "A little less chatter and a little more clatter, please." I think you get the idea.
When Israel fled from Egypt after 400 years of slavery they thought they had gained their freedom. The Pharaoh had finally relented and allowed them to go. On their very first night of freedom, they set up camp on the shores of the Red Sea. I can imagine how their spirits were soaring. They were looking forward to a bright future. However, in a moment's notice, their freedom was taken from them again. The Pharaoh had changed his mind. He had assembled his mighty army and come to take Israel back. When Israel saw the Egyptian Army they panicked and began to cry out to God. They began to curse Moses for leading them out.
When this barrage of words came against Moses, he responded with some of the most inspiring words in Scripture;
13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
14 The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.[ read more...]