“The Shepherd”

By Celebrate Recovery

by Andy Petry

I was reminded of something important this week as I was reading: we don’t walk this path alone, but we have a God who is willing to walk alongside us and picks us up like a loving Father when we’re struggling. I was reminded of this passage in Isaiah 40:11:

 

“He tends his flock like a shepherd:

He gathers the lambs in his arms

and gently carries them close to his heart;

He gently leads those that have young.”

 

As I’ve walked through this season, this has been an enormous truth I’ve needed to grab on to. I love every time in the Bible where it talks about God as a shepherd.  Because a shepherd in those times was dedicated entirely to caring for and nurturing their flock, even to the point of fighting off the bears and lions that tried to harm the sheep. This dedication was a beautiful mixture of compassion, strength, and a willingness to live in the middle of the mess and grime that came with living with a bunch of livestock. A shepherd wasn’t afraid of the mess. He loved the sheep with all his heart and fought…

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“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”
Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT)

Do you feel like you aren’t growing fast enough?

When you first become a Christian, you start growing quickly in your faith. After a while, the growth slows down. Your spiritual growth is like a baby; they double in size within their first year. However, that growth isn’t sustained. If they grew that fast every year, they’d quickly be bigger than a house!

God isn’t in a hurry for you to grow—he is never in a hurry! You might be, but he isn’t. He wants you to have a life deeply rooted in Christ. He wants you to stand strong so when the rough winds of life hit you, you won’t get blown over.

In seasons of slow spiritual growth, you may feel like God has stopped caring about you. This is never true because he “delights in every detail” of your life. Your spiritual growth is a process that will take your entire life. You won’t finish growing in a week, a month, or…

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Have You Thanked Your Congregation Lately?

For many people, this has been the most difficult year they can remember. Surveys show that worry and stress—even for pastors—have increased this year at astronomical rates. 

Pastor, I want to encourage you to do something that might seem counterintuitive and radical in the middle of a year like this.

Be grateful. 

Gratitude provides the deep spiritual roots we need when we’re going through tough times. 

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this” (GW).

Even in the worst of times, God wants us to be grateful. That’s why I want to encourage you to express gratitude to your church family. As a leader, your gratitude sets an example for everyone else.

Paul knew this. When he wrote letters to various churches, he almost always started with a “thank you”—usually involving the church’s faith, hope, and love. 

Picking up from Paul’s theme, here are three specific ways you can show…

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11 Ways to Help Your Congregation Apply God’s Word

Many pastors would say the purpose of preaching is “to interpret the text” or “to help people understand God’s Word.” Those aren’t bad reasons, but they are incomplete. 

The Bible says, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11-12 NIV).

The aim of preaching is to change the character and the conduct of the listener so we can lead them to maturity, ministry, and missions. Ultimately, the purpose of preaching is the same as God’s purpose for human beings—for God’s people to become like Jesus.  

That’s why I believe the number one problem in today’s church is “application-less” preaching. How can you put more application in your preaching?

Look for ways to include these 11 practices in your preaching:

Aim for a specific action.

The more you know what you’re aiming for, the easier it is to get a response. A purpose-driven sermon is like a bullet. Your…

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How to Handle Loneliness in Ministry

It doesn’t matter how many people you have around you, you can still feel lonely. Pastors know this well. They’re around people all the time, visiting families, discipling leaders, and making hospital visits. But even during all that activity, you can still experience loneliness. 

The Bible says in Genesis 2:18 “It is not good for the man to be alone” (NCV). But the truth is, all of us will go through lonely times in our lives—even pastors.

There are four causes of loneliness: 

  • Transitions. Life is a series of transitions. Any of those changes can cause loneliness.
  • Separation. When you’re isolated from those you love, whether through a relocation, illness, or relational problem, it can lead to loneliness. 
  • Opposition. When you feel like everyone’s against you at work or at school, loneliness can creep in.
  • Rejection. When someone betrays or rejects you, loneliness can come.

The apostle Paul gives us a great example of dealing with loneliness in ministry at the end of his life. He wrote…

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To be effective in ministry, you must manage your time well. Whether you’re a full-time or bi-vocational pastor, it can sometimes feel like the time you put into ministry gets crowded out by everything else.

The problem with your time isn’t the clock. It’s not your schedule. It’s how you use the time you have. To get mad at the clock or your schedule is like getting mad at the scales in your bathroom. It’s not the scale’s fault that you don’t like the way it reads. Time is simply a measurement. You must learn how to manage it better.

Throughout the last five decades in ministry, I’ve lived out three truths Paul shares in Ephesians 5:15-17. Each truth has helped me use my time better so I can do what God has created me to do. 

You’ll have the time to do everything God has called you to do if you’ll put these principles into practice:

1. Evaluate your lifestyle.

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like ignorant people, but like wise people” (Ephesians 5:15 GNT). Continue Reading

People only accomplish the goals they plan to accomplish. You probably have big plans to engage your community with the message of Jesus, but you need to back that vision up with tangible, written-down goals. 

Genesis 24 and the story of Eliezer provide a great model for us in developing and pursuing goals. Last week, I shared with you five steps to Eliezer’s goal-setting strategy. Here are five more:

6. Diagnose the problems.

To identify the roadblocks and obstacles that often get in your way, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Why don’t I have this already? 
  • What are the barriers?

Once you do, you’ll probably find several kinds of barriers holding you back. 

Consider all the problems Eliezer faced going to a foreign country to get a wife for Isaac. He’s heading to a country where he has never been. He needs to find a woman he has never met. He must convince her to go and marry a total stranger. Then he must get her parents’ consent. 

Eliezer…

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By Eugene

I was an emotional and insecure child. I just never felt good enough. One of my earliest memories was at Christmas time when I was 3. My parents wanted to take a picture of my grandparents holding my brother and sister and asked me to step aside. I stood off to the side and started blubbering uncontrollably. I felt like I had been discarded for the two cuter babies and I was out of the picture completely.

My father drank and my parents frequently argued. I remember being caught in the crossfire at times. Along with my insecurity, this led me to strive for perfection to keep the peace.

In 3rd grade, I went to a neighbor’s Good News Bible school and there I accepted Jesus as my savior. This was a turning point for my family. Mom took us to church and we continued to attend for many months until they had a gospel sing and Dad agreed to go. There he accepted Christ and never drank again, and we became a church going family. But I was still striving for perfection. I worked for straight A’s and just knew that…

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By Sheila Knudson, Celebrate Recovery Northeast Regional Director

“We have this HOPE as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

Hebrews 6:19

In ancient times, the anchor was viewed as a symbol that represented safety. Because of this, Christians adopted the anchor as their symbol of HOPE. The word “anchor” is used in this verse as a metaphor for that “which supports or keeps one steadfast during a time of trial or doubt.”

Even though we aren’t living in ancient times, we all know right now, we can have plenty of trials and things to have doubt about. In our personal recovery journeys, we can be struggling to navigate through tumultuous, perilous and uncertain waters.

During these times of struggle, we have to place our hope and trust in our one and only Higher Power, Jesus Christ. He alone is our Hope and the Anchor for our souls.

As I researched the word “anchor,” I found that there are many types of anchors which are used for different purposes. We can compare those to the roles Jesus plays as the “anchor to our souls.”

Some anchors are…

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By Pastor Rick Warren

“Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 1:30 (The Message)

Jesus is in the business of giving people a fresh start. You may think, “I’ve blown it; I’ve really made a mess of things in my life. I wish I could have a fresh start.”

Here’s some life-changing news: You don’t have to stay the same! When you confess your mess to Jesus, he lovingly and graciously responds by giving you a fresh start.

Beneath all the sins, all the things you’ve done wrong in life, God sees you. He created you to love you. God’s message is, “You can be what I made you to be—and start living in a whole new way.”

God will show you how he sees you, and that will transform your life. When you commit your life to God, he will give you a fresh start. If you’ve never submitted your life to Jesus, do that now. Just say, “Jesus, I want you to…

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Research tells us that more people struggle with setting goals than they do accomplishing them. Sitting down and actually thinking about what God wants us to do with our lives is often the hardest part.

Yet the biggest differentiator between those who were moderately successful in life and those who were highly successful is whether or not they had definable goals written down.

The Bible isn’t silent about goal-setting, either. The book of Proverbs speaks frequently about setting goals:

  • “If your goals are good, you’ll be respected” (Proverbs 11:27 GNT). 
  • “We should make plans, counting on God to direct us” (Proverbs 16:9 TLB).
  • “Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts” (Proverbs 24:3-4 TLB). 

God considers it helpful for us to have goals in every area of our lives (marriage, family, work, financial, physical, etc.) and for us to work toward those goals. 

The Bible doesn’t just tell us to set goals, though. It…

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The way you structure a sermon matters. I believe the biblical text should determine the substance of your message, but the way people hear and learn should determine the structure of your message.

Even when you’re preaching on a single passage, you’re obligated to apply the truth of that passage. But the Bible never says to organize your points in the order of the text. You must make the truth clear, plain, practical, and applicable to people’s lives. You’re not obligated to put the points in order.

So, if you don’t need to keep the points in order, how should you organize them?

Here are seven tips for structuring your sermon for maximum impact.

Keep it simple.

Reduce your insights to a few major points. People can’t follow subpoints unless you give them a handout. Keeping your sermon simple means avoiding alliteration and rhymes. It’s more important to be clear than clever.

Get to the point quickly.

Many of the classic sermons you studied in seminary were long and flowery. But today the audience has changed. You don’t have any Puritans listening…

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