A Word From A 2700 Year Old Pastor

By Lance Witt on Apr 16, 2021

Replenish Ministries

Pastors listen to other pastors.  We listen to other people in ministry who are down in the trenches doing the hard work of leading others.

Jeremiah was one such person.  And he was given a very tough ministry assignment.  God let him know in advance that he would not pastor a megachurch. 

Pastor Jeremiah has a good word that is timely for those of us leading the church in the 21st century.

This is what the Lord says…
Stand at the crossroads and look.
Ask for the ancient paths
Ask where the good way is and walk in it
And you will find rest for your souls
Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV)

STAND AT THE CROSSROADS

If you’re going to take the road that leads to spiritual health, you have to stand.  Implicit in the word “stand” is that you have to “stop”.  Stopping and standing go hand in hand.

This is a critical word for people with healthy souls.

Jesus regularly took time to stop, to be quiet, to spend time with his father.  You can’t live life at warp speed without warping your soul.  It is so easy to fill our lives with frantic activity only to lose our bearings in ministry and forget “why” we do what we do.

It’s healthy for us to regularly stand and look at our lives… and consider where we are headed. We are so pre-occupied with everybody else’s sanctification that we forget that our sanctification is still a work in progress.

You have to stop running long enough to make an informed decision about which road you will travel.

Proverbs 14:8  says “the wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways… but the folly of fools is deception”

Give thought to your ways.  Are you living the life God intended for you?  Or, are you so busy, you have little time to stop and reflect and consider the roads that are in front of you.

An old Chinese proverb says, “If you don’t change the direction your going, your likely to end up where you are headed.”  Look ahead. If you stay on the road you’re traveling today, where are you going to end up?

Let me ask you a question… “if we could plot the trajectory of your soul, where does it end up?”

Maybe right now you’re at a ministry crossroads. Perhaps ministry and life haven’t turned out like you’d hoped. Maybe today you find yourself empty and drained from the demands of ministry.

There is hope. There is a different way . . . a better way. But you are at a crossroads and you have to make a decision about the path from this point forward.

ASK FOR THE ANCIENT PATHS…

The past is a friend. Many people have walked the road before us, and we can learn a lot from them. This isn’t about something new but rather something ancient. It’s about following the footsteps of those who’ve gone before us.

There are some disciplines and practices that people have used for generations to stay connected to Jesus… things like fasting, solitude, reflection, scripture memory, Sabbath keeping, prayer, confession, personal worship.  How are you doing at integrating these into your life?

Your highest calling is to love Jesus… not pastor a church. 

Just a few chapters later in Jeremiah, we read these words…  9:23-24

23 This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
or the powerful boast in their power,
or the rich boast in their riches.
24 But those who wish to boast
should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
who demonstrates unfailing love
and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.

What if we really believed that?  How would it change our ministries and our churches?

ASK WHERE THE GOOD WAY IS AND WALK IN IT.

It’s not the fast way. It’s not the busy way. It’s not the successful way.  It’s not even the leadership way that Jeremiah tells us to ask for. It is the good way. God wants you to have a “good” life—a life that is emotionally healthy, relationally satisfying, and spiritually life-giving.

But it’s not enough to identify it, know it, teach it, or preach it.  We must walk in it.  There have been seasons in my life when I was so focused on “leading” that I neglected my own “living”.  We must live well so that we can lead well.  And the order is important.  My leading must flow out of that which I am living.

Then, there is a surprising punch line to the verse.

AND YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.

I thought Jeremiah would complete the verse by saying “and you will find success for your ministry” or “you will prosper in all your ways”.  But the goal of standing and asking for the good way and walking in it is that I would find rest for my soul.

This week I have been reflecting on the word “rest”.  What does it mean to operate from a place of “rest”?

Rest is…

  •   relaxed trust
  •   low control
  •   calm in the midst of chaos
  •   recharging
  •   not striving… not stressed
  •   not frantic

So many of us in ministry are in need of rest for our soul. Could it be that this is what I really need most and even most deeply long for? Could it be God’s first priority in my life is a connected and joyful and refreshed soul? Could it be true in my ministry that his “yoke is easy and [his] burden is light”?  Could it be possible to find the kind of rest for my soul that leads me to say, genuinely, “Jesus is enough”?

Scriptures: Jeremiah 6:16Proverbs 14:8

Lance Witt (website: Replenish Ministries)

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

https://www.sermoncentral.com/pastors-preaching-articles/lance-witt-a-word-from-a-2700-year-old-pastor-2550

VIDEO You Lift Me Up!

Posted on  by Joe Rodriguez

Do you have a bucket list? I do. Of course, it includes visiting what I consider to be some of the most awe-inspiring lighthouses in the world, but it also includes riding on a hot air balloon! Hot air ballooning is a worldwide fun and memorable activity for the entire family. There are over 20 locations in my home state of New Jersey alone. Now, if I could only get to ride a balloon like the one pictured above, that would just be SUPER cool and a dream come true!

Would you believe it if I told you that this lighthouse balloon actually flew in 2019 from none other than Readington, New Jersey? And, would you believe, I missed it?! The QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Association with PNC Bank flew this 115 feet tall (11 stories high) hot air balloon during that year’s festival. I am hoping that they bring it back again sometime in the near future. If they do, you know I will be riding it for sure and scratching it off my bucket list!

This majestic lighter-than-air aircraft rising high above the ground reminds me of that famous inspirational song titled, You Raise Me Up.

Although there is no verifiable information that proves that this song was intended to be a hymn or that it was inspired by the Christian faith (lyrics by Brendan Graham), it’s truly amazing how most of its lyrics are reminiscent of some Bible verses. Coincidence? Maybe, and perhaps that is why it still resonates with those who consider the Almighty as the source of their strength, the lifter of their soul.

“But thou, O Lord art my protector, my glory, and the lifter up of my head.”

Psalm 3:3

Consider the parallels I found between the song and portions of Scripture.

When I am down, and oh my soul is weary
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” – Psalm 119:28

When troubles come and my heart burdened be
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” -Psalms 73:26

Then I am still and wait here in the silence
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.” -Psalm 62:5

Until you come, and sit awhile with me
“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.” -Psalm 145:18

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains
“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” -Psalm 40:2
“So that He sets on high those who are lowly, And those who are saddned are lifted to safety.” -Job 5:11

You raise me up to walk on stormy seas
“When you pass through the waters, I [The LORD] will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you…” –Isaiah 43:2

I am strong when I am on your shoulders
“… I [The LORD] have made you, and I will carry you; I will sustain you and deliver you.” -Isaiah 46:4b

There is no life, no life without its hunger
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” -Matthew 5:6 

Each restless heart beats so imperfectly
“Why are you in despair, my soul? And why are you restless within me?” -Psalm 42:11a

But when you come and I am filled with wonder – Sometimes I think I glimpse eternity
“The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy. ” -Psalm 65:8

In a sin-stricken world where godlessness and evil are ever-increasing, songs like this one testify to the hope that can still be found among its inhabitants. Family members, friends, and even people we have never met have and perhaps continue to play a significant part in encouraging, guiding, and helping us rise above our challenges. However, there is only One who gave His life so that all who accept Him as Lord and Savior could rise up to become all that He made them to be. And not only to rise up in this world but also unto the world to come; The eternal hope of glory!

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we shall be forever with the Lord.”

1 Thessalonians 4;16-17

And as we rise above our fears and doubts in this life, let us not forget that as lighthouses for God we also need to rise up and shine the glorious light of His salvation; wherever this earthly pilgrimage takes us. Remember it’s not just about us being lifted up, but also about us lifting others up with love, kindness, respect, and above all, the words that grant eternal life and healing for the soul.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!

Isaiah 52:7

If we put God first and seek His kingdom and righteousness, we can fulfill our purpose in life and experience both earthly and spiritual success, joy, hope, and peace in the midst of all the chaos around us. That’s because only in Christ there is fullness of life. So, whether you are in the lowest of valleys or on the highest of mountaintops, look up and cry out to God. Seek more of Him and get ready to be lifted up higher than you have ever been!

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Matthew 6:33 NLT

“… I [Jesus] came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”


John 10:10

Prayer: Heavenly Father,
Thank you for all the people you have placed in my life to lift me up when I am down. But you, O, Lord, are the true lifter of my soul. When I need a shoulder and no one is readily available, you are always there. When I face challenges, you help me overcome. When I face obstacles, you help me climb. When I face 
discouragement, you give me hope. When I am weak, you give me strength. When I am heartbroken, you heal me and fill me with joy. When I am anxious, you grant me true peace. Lord, you are the only One who can raise me up from the lowest place.  And because You are the Sovereign and Almighty God who is above all creation, I will lift up my head and trust in you no matter what I face in life. Raise me up so that I can also be a lifter to others and guide them to your throne of unconditional love, mercy and grace. Amen!

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You Lift Me Up!

The power of integrity and taking a stand

Greg Laurie contrasts behavior of Moses with brother Aaron

Awhile back I came across an interesting headline in Forbes magazine: “Success Will Come and Go, but Integrity Is Forever.” The article pointed out that building integrity takes years, but it only takes seconds to lose. How true.

Billionaire Warren Buffett says that when you’re looking for someone to hire, you should look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. Then he adds, “But the most important is integrity, because if they don’t have that, the other two qualities, intelligence and energy, are going to kill you.”

Moses had integrity. The Bible describes him as “Moses the man of God” (Deuteronomy 33:1 NKJV). And when Moses the man of God temporarily left the scene, it was complete chaos. He left his brother, Aaron, in charge of the Israelites while he went up to Mount Sinai to receive the commandments.

But while Moses was away, the people went to Aaron and basically said, “Hey, you know what? We need something we can worship.”

So Aaron told them, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me” (Exodus 32:2 NLT). Then Aaron took all of the gold, melted it, and formed it into the shape of a calf.

When the people saw it, they said, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” (verse 8 NLT).

Meanwhile, Moses was up on the mountain. And when he came down and saw what they were doing, he said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you to make you bring such terrible sin upon them?” (verse 21 NLT).

So why were the people worshiping a golden calf? They came from Egypt, and Egypt essentially was idol central. They had all kinds of images they worshiped, and the people were used to this sort of thing. So they reverted to it.

We see from this story that one man, Moses, lived a godly life and influenced millions of people. On the other hand, one man, Aaron, lived a compromised life and had a horrible influence on others.

Not only that, but Aaron lied. He said to Moses, “You yourself know how evil these people are. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has gold jewelry, take it off.’ When they brought it to me, I simply threw it into the fire – and out came this calf!” (verses 22–24 NLT).

George Washington said that it’s better to offer no excuse than a bad one.

Aaron initiated this. He was responsible, but he didn’t take responsibility for his actions. It was on his watch that he helped the people commit idolatry. He should have stopped them cold and refused.

And to make matters worse, he wrapped it in religious jargon to do away with the guilt. He said, “Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord!” (verse 5 NLT).

This still happens. People will make sure they carry out a token spiritual action like giving thanks before a meal, but then they’ll go commit a gross sin. God doesn’t want to hear their grace at mealtime. Rather, God wants them to repent.

We find a fascinating passage in the Old Testament book of Amos, where God says, “Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living” (5:23 NLT).

Did you know there can come a point when you’re singing praises to the Lord and God effectively says, “Stop already! I don’t want to hear it. Your lifestyle contradicts what you’re singing. What you’re doing is offensive to me”?

That’s what was happening when the Israelites presented a burnt offering and worshiped the golden calf. God was saying, “I don’t want your burnt offering. I don’t want you to worship false gods. I want you to love me with all your heart.”

What a contrast Moses and Aaron were. Moses set an example that the people could follow, while Aaron set a bad example. Moses was known for his decisiveness, conviction and doing what was right. Aaron, on the other hand, was known for his indecisiveness, weak will and desire to fit in.

You see, Aaron didn’t want to offend anyone. In the same way, sometimes we’re afraid to make a stand because we don’t want to offend.

Don’t do that. Make a stand. Do what is right, not what is easy. In fact, sometimes when you do what is right, it’s very hard.

A man or woman of integrity does the right thing whether or not someone is watching. When Aaron was with Moses, he was “godly.” And when he wasn’t with Moses, he was pretty ungodly. He gave in, and he led the people in their sin.

Sometimes we’re the same way. When we’re around strong believers, we’re strong – kind of. But the moment we’re away from them, we crumble.

Find strong Christians to be around. And in time, you need to be that strong believer yourself.

The highest compliment we can pay is to describe someone as a man or woman of God. May that be said of us, not just by casual acquaintances, but by our family and close friends, by those who know us well.

“I am only one, but I am one,” said Edward Everett Hale. “I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”

Make your stand for what is right, and God will bless you for it.

 

Original here

An Open Letter to Pastors and Christians …Stand or Fall

 

July 3, 2018

 

A paraphrase that is often attributed to Alexis De Tocqueville—a Frenchman who authored Democracy in America in the early 1800s, helps to open this letter: “I looked throughout America to find where her greatness originated. I looked for it in her harbors and on her shorelines, in her fertile fields and boundless prairies, and in her gold mines and vast world commerce, but it was not there.”

“It was not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her success. America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Over the last few decades, Americans have seen the destruction of the institution of marriage between a man and a woman, the removal of God’s Word in several areas, and the blatant murdering of millions of babies. This is an indictment against America and the pulpit is partially responsible – our silence speaks volumes.

The pulpit regulates the spiritual condition of God’s people which affects the nation. A lukewarm, sex-saturated culture (and church) simply reflects the lack of conviction in the pulpit as well as the pew.

Sadly, many pastors are exchanging truth for passivity, boldness for cowardliness, and conviction for comfort…they are not aflame with righteousness. We aim to be motivational speakers rather than preachers of righteousness.

Pastors (and Christian leaders alike) must take responsibility for the spiritual health of today’s church, and the nation. We don’t need more marketing plans, demographic studies, or giving campaigns; we need men filled with the Spirit of God.

Pastors, we are not just cheerleaders, we are game changers. We are called to stir and to convict so that change takes place. Granted, there are many wonderful pastors and churches—I appreciate their ministry, but, as a whole, the church has drifted off course. They have lost the compass of truth. Here are four ways to re-set the compass.

1. Return to the prayer closet. Without prayer, “the church becomes a graveyard, not an embattled army. Praise and prayer are stifled; worship is dead. The preacher and the preaching encourage sin, not holiness…preaching which kills is prayerless preaching. Without prayer, the preacher creates death, and not life” (E.M. Bounds).

When God brings change, prayer has been the catalyst. Martin Luther prayed and the church was reformed. John Knox prayed and Scotland was revived. John Wesley prayed and America was restored. George Whitefield prayed and nations were changed. D.L. Moody prayed and America fell to her knees. Amy Carmichael prayed and India received the gospel. And so it goes…when you pray, you move the hand of God.

The dry, dead lethargic condition of the church simply reflects an impotent prayer life. While 5-minute devotionals and prayers are good, they aren’t going to cut it in these dire times. We need powerful times of prayer, devotion, and worship. “Without the heartbeat of prayer, the body of Christ will resemble a corpse. The church is dying on her feet because she is not living on her knees” (Al Whittinghill).

Sermons should not come from pop-psychology and the latest fad; they must come from the prayer closet where God prepares the messenger before we prepare the message. It takes broken men to break men. Unplug the tv, turn off Facebook, and get back into the Word of God, prayer, and worship.

2. Return to a separated life. If a pastor fills his mind with the world all week and expects the Spirit of God to speak boldly through him from the pulpit, he will be gravely mistaken. “The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man. Dead men give out dead sermons, and dead sermons kill. Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher” (E.M. Bounds). Who he is all week is who he will be when he steps to the pulpit.

3. Worship must be a priority. A pastor who does not worship is not prepared to preach. Many sing “about” God but they have never truly experienced Him—head knowledge without heart knowledge. Styles of worship range from the old, beloved hymns to contemporary. All worship should be God-centered, Christ exalted, and doctrinally sound.

Worship allows us to shift our focus and praise toward God. Whether you prefer hymnals and organs or contemporary bands, is really not the issue. The issue is: are you truly worshipping God in “spirit and in truth”? He is the Creator of heaven and earth. He is not a cosmic force, universal love, or a doting grandfather; He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We must worship Him. He created, redeemed, and saved us. As one of the countless hymns declares so well, “O’ The Blood: washes me; shed for me…what a sacrifice that saved my life, yes the blood, it is my victory!”

4. Preach the difficult truths – they set people free. The church cannot neglect, water-down, or avoid preaching sin, repentance, or the fear of the Lord in the hope of not offending or securing an audience. Difficult truths often offend, and rightly so, sin put Christ on the cross. The goal of preaching is faithfulness to God, not crowd appeal. The church, as a whole, may have forgotten the fear of the Lord, but it doesn’t follow that we should.

Let it not be said of us today: And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord because pastors failed to be preachers of righteousness. The burden of responsibility rests squarely upon our shoulders. It’s our choice—stand, or fall!

But there is hope: “Therefore say to them, Thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you…” (Zechariah 1:3). That’s a life changing promise – return to Him and He will return to you.

 

Original here