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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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1. A vision begins as a concern.
As a pastor, you probably have a vision of great revival for your city. But it began as a concern for souls, then it grew into a burden for souls. It grew till it consumed your thoughts. This is the birthplace of vision. God has placed that vision there.
2. A vision does not necessarily require immediate action.
When God speaks to you, he may not be giving you a vision for the immediate. God’s timing is not our timing. When David was anointed king, he did not take the throne for many years. He went through many hardships before he finally became king.
3. Pray for opportunities and plan as if you expect God to answer your prayers.
The Bible says that the steps of the righteous are ordered by the Lord. Begin to pray for the right people and opportunities to be brought into your life...God will order your steps.
4. God is using your circumstances to position and prepare you to accomplish His vision for your life.
Don't let your situation blind your vision. God will use a situation that seems totally opposite of your vision to enable you to accomplish it.
Think of Joseph, he literally had a dream of his brothers bowing down to him, the sun, the moon, and the stars made obeisance to him...he was going to be a ruler of people. Of course that didn't happen for a long time, God used circumstance after circumstance to prepare him for that vision. Joseph could have easily become blinded by each of those, but instead God used each situation to advance him closer to His dream.
5. What God originates, he orchestrates.
If God started it, He will finish it. Many are the times when we can't see the way through, but nothing shall be impossible with God. The Red Sea crossing is a beautiful example of God orchestrating Moses' vision of deliverance for his people.
6. Walk before you talk; investigate before you initiate.
Remember a vision does not require immediate action, a lot of planning and preparation needs to be done in advance.
7. Communicate your vision as a solution to a problem that must be addressed immediately.
Jesus told his disciples, 'the harvest is great but the laborers are few.' Later in the book of John, Jesus said, "The fields are already white to harvest." Jesus was communicating His vision to His disciples in a way they could understand. Fields turn white after they turn golden, today we harvest golden fields of grain. In essence, Jesus was saying, It is almost too late for this harvest, I need laborers right now!
8. Cast your vision to the appropriate people at the appropriate time.
In Acts, chapter one, Jesus has some very important words for some very important people. He waited until this very critical time to cast His vision to them. The Holy Ghost would come after He ascended to heaven, and the Holy Ghost would give them power to be witnesses to all people.
It is very interesting to note that the number of people there was 120. This was the exact number which the Jewish people required to form a council in any city. There were others who had been followers of Jesus, but for one reason or another had departed from this group.
Jesus used these last words to cast His vision for mankind to the appropriate people at the perfect time. The result was life changing revival for millions of people around the world even to this day!
9. Don't expect others to take greater risks or make greater sacrifices than you have.[ read more...]
Problems. If you're going to work with or minister to people, you are going to have problems. Sometimes big problems. Moses was one person in the scripture who had people problems. Millions of them. Everywhere he looked - people problems. How to feed them. How to water their livestock. How to settle their petty problems. How to settle their big problems. Where do the tents go? How about the toilets. Everywhere problems.
Surely with all these problems, the solution must be complex. Big problems should mean big, intricate, thoroughly researched and analyzed solutions - right? Not necessarily. In fact, very often, the solution to one's problem is asymmetric to the problem itself. Big problem, small solution.
When our problem is large or complex, we too often feel that the solution has to be the same. Because of this we usually miss the obvious, simple answer. In Moses' case, it took his shepherd father-in-law's simple mind to figure it out. A shepherd understands that a flock can get too big. When it does, it can begin to overgraze the fields and ruin the good pastures. This simple sheepherder was not educated by the most learned teachers of Egypt as Moses was, but he did understand something about having too many sheep in one place. He knew that when you have more sheep in a field than what that field can contain, you have to hire an under-shepherd to take part of the flock to another field. With that elementary laymen's thinking Moses was able to correct very simply, the extremely complex dilemma the nation of Israel had found herself in. Jethro told Moses to break the number of people down into smaller segments and then place leaders over these small segments. How simple.
The biggest problems that your ministry is facing today probably could very well be corrected with a simple solution. Too often however, we go shopping for the big answer: The complex answer. The expensive answer. The time consuming answer. Here's why: We focus on the negative instead of the positive. Seriously, nearly everyone does. Did you know that in the English language, 62 percent of the "emotion" words are negative, vs 38 percent that are positive. A group of psychologists once reviewed over two hundred articles and concluded that for a wide range of human behavior and perception, a general principle holds true: "Bad is stronger than good." Ask yourself, do you remember more of the bad that you hear about others or do you remember more of the good. A vastly larger audience of people remembers the bad instead of the good.[ read more...]
In his book "How To Increase Giving In Your Church", George Barna gives several key principles for effective stewardship. Our challenge is to create an enviroment and facilitate a mind-set in which people want to donate money to the church for the right reasons. The following are some guidelines toward achieving that outcome.
You are raising money for Life Transformation, not Organizational Survival. Your objective must be to advance the cause of ministry, not to perpetuate the survival of an institution. God can make great things happen in people's lives without an organization through which such ministry happens. Focus on the essential: Seeing lives changed for the glory and purposes of God.
People give to people and causes, not to institutions or programs. If you want to inspire people to become good stewards, help them see themselves as ministers. Their giving is a means of using their resources for the very reason they exist: to know, and serve God with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength. Encourage people to give to the church because it provides opportunities and means of helping people.
Repeat donors must be both inspired and persuaded. Great fund-raisers know how to identify the soft spot that inspires people to give generously. Eliciting such support is more than just finding a "hot button"; it initials penetrating both the head and the heart of the donor. Your goal should be to create a stewardship mind-set. You do not want to have to start from scratch every time you need money; you want to build on a foundation you have worked hard to develop, one that is based on trust, integrity and mutual benefit.
There is no substitute for absolute integrity. None! Honesty, transparency, accessibility - these are the characteristics on which a great stewardship campaign - and genuine, life changing ministry - are based. Integrity is not something to be fooled with. lose it and you will pay a major price for an extended period. Once the people's trust has been violated, the relationship cannot be restored until many years have passed and the donors who were hurt by the infraction are gone. Ministries cannot outlast that era.[ read more...]
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One town may have a wealthy populace while another may be in a poverty stricken area. There is not going to be much need for a food bank in a wealthy area, but it may bring many new contacts and converts to a church in an impoverished area. If a pastor of the wealthy community says, “Hey, we need a food bank.” since he sees the success of the struggling community church, he may be wasting church resources and time.
One church might be a new church and another very established. (Established doesn’t always mean it has arrived, it just means it’s been there for a while.) I have worked in 2 church start ups and in 4 established churches. It is much easier to get things started and rolling in a newer church than one that has been around for 50 years. I could get programs started in one day in that small baby church where it took me months to get the same program started in larger established churches. Because it works overnight in one town does not mean it will work over night in another.[ read more...]
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Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.
"There's one more thing," she said excitedly. "What's that?" came the Pastor's reply. "This is very important," the woman continued..."I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand." The Pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say... "That surprises you, doesn't it?" the woman asked. "Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the Pastor.
The woman explained. "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, "keep your fork." It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming..like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder 'What's with the fork?' Then I want you to tell them: "Keep Your Fork...The best is yet to come!"[ read more...]
"A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just" (Proverbs 13:22).
"Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children" (II Corinthians 12:14).
When we were boys, my brother Rick would say this to me after he slugged me and made cry.
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Coming from a dysfunctional family, my understanding of the role of a man has been blurred to say the least. Looking back at my childhood, I realize that the example of a good man was never shown to me. In my early years of being a father, I realized this when I began feeling and expressing a father's love to my children. It was then that I realized that I had never truly been the benefactor of such caring, protective love. Painful memories flooded my mind often as I would compare the careful love my children received from my wife and I, with the careless and even abusive treatment my bothers, sisters and I received at the hands of our parents.
It was at this point in my life, that I realized I was more a true man than anyone in my family had ever modeled before me. No parent, grandparent, or uncle had shown me what it was to be a man. Their own dysfunctional upbringings had so marred their lives that they were incapable of it. I also realized that I had a Heavenly Father who had been and was my example.[ read more...]
In his book The Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley offers 5 valid points to consider if you desire to be an effective leader. We highly recommend this book to anyone in a leadership position.
- Face it, you are not as good as you could be. So what are you going to do about it? The only way to go farther, faster, is to engage outside help. You can maximize your leadership potential by getting a coach...or two.
- Find someone to observe you in a variety of leadership settings. Outside input is critical. Even if you could watch yourself in a mirror twenty-four hours day, you would never see yourself as others see you.
- Select a coach who has no axe to grind and not reason to be anything except brutally honest. He need not be an expert in your field. What your coach must be able to do , however, is put himself in the shoes of those who are influenced by your leadership.
Most people have problems with finances, but they just don’t know why.
According to the latest surveys, over one-half of all families in America are presently experiencing financial difficulties. And the real truth is many do not seem to know why they are having these difficulties. If these type problems are so common, then it would be important to understand the reasons they exist.
The following is a listing of some reasons of financial difficulties. This listing can be a means of educating oneself in these most critical areas.
- Failure to follow scriptural principles. The Bible is full of guidelines regarding financial principles. In fact, one half of all parables and one out of six verses in the New Testament deal with stewardship. Get the Bible and start an in-depth study of the guidelines and principles in the Word of God.
- Failure to identify priorities. A person and family must identify their priorities if they are ever going to be successful in their financial life.
- Failure to discipline. This horrible word causes people more problems than anything else in the world. Discipline must be exercised in every phase of a person’s life and in the world of finances it is critical.
- Failure to establish goals. A person who has no goal is a person without direction. A person without direction is going nowhere. A person must establish the financial goal for themselves if they ever want to arrive at a successful financial position in life.
- Failure to control spending. A written control is necessary to control impulsive spending. Limits must be established and kept.
- Failure to establish a budget. A budget is not a nervous breakdown on paper. It is a clear guideline of where your money comes from and where it goes. Do not negate the importance of a written budget…it is vital to anyone’s financial success.
In the past, I have written on church trouble from the angle of people in the congregation who found great enthusiasm for tormenting pastors until they finally ran them off. The religious landscape is littered with men who no longer pastor churches and gave up the calling of a ministry because of a situation where they found themselves in great contention with the hidden powers that ran the church. If you are interested you may read those old Barnabas Blog posts from a couple of years ago (Part 1 & Part 2). Since writing those posts, I have observed a few more of these unfortunate situations as they unfolded.
On the other hand, there are also churches that have had endure terrible abuses at the hands of heavy-handed, manipulative, and dark pastors who fall into the category of being a spiritual abuser.
I must say from the outset that this kind of activity to me is totally foreign because of the environment that I grew up in with my own pastor (and now father-in-law) Joe Patterson. Because of his spiritual leadership, I grew up with the idea that the church was the most incredible, warm, and safe place on the earth. It was only after I begin to travel around a bit and grew up some spiritually and mentally that I was exposed to the dark side of the church and ministry. To be quite frank with you, it was a bit unnerving and initially faith-jarring.[ read more...]