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 The Person God Uses (1)

Is there a secret why God uses some men mightily and others it seems moderately? I sincerely believe there is. After being in ministry for over 50 years, (pastoring and teaching in colleges, seminaries and Bible institutes), mentoring over 300 pastors, missionaries and evangelists, and preaching in over 1000 churches, I have come up with several principals and promises that are true of those God uses. 

"But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor and some to dishonor. 

If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work" 2 Tim. 2:20,21.

This is not to put down anyone but to wake up anyone who is saved, called of God but not seeing the "hand of God" upon his or her ministry and wondering why someone else with far less ability and potential is seeing God's blessing in most unusual ways. Some are vessels unto honor and some to dishonor but there is a way to become a vessel unto honor. "if a man will purge himself, he shall be a vessel unto honor," of gold and silver if you please.


 The Person God Uses (2)

Is there a secret why God uses some people mightily and others it seems moderately? I sincerely believe there is. After being in ministry for over 50 years, (pastoring and teaching in colleges, seminaries and Bible institutes), mentoring over 300 pastors, missionaries and evangelists, and preaching in over 1000 churches, I have come up with several principals and promises that are true of those God uses. 

1.  Purge Yourself

"If a man purge himself, he shall be a vessel unto honor, meet for the masters use" 2 Timothy 2:21. This is the Motivation lesson for last month. Look it up.

2.  Humble Yourself

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time" 1 Peter 5:6. The opposite of "humility" is "pride."

"Pride goeth before destruction" Pro 16:18. "When pride cometh, then cometh shame" Prov 11:2. Pride and arrogance...do I hate" Pro 8:13. God says a pastor must not be a novice, "Lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil" 1 Tim 3:6. Pride was Lucifer's problem and downfall. See Isaiah. 14:12ff and Ezek 26."God resisteth the proud but giveth grace to the humble" 1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6.

God warns for a man, "not to think of himself more highly that he ought to think but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith" Romans 12:3. How do you get this attitude? Simple, read the Word of God and know, you can have nothing, except it be given to you by God, John 3:27, without God you can do nothing, John 15:5 and what you are, you are by the grace of God, 1 Corinthians 15:9. 

Solomon had the right attitude when he said, "I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge they people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" 1 Kings 3:7-9. Whatever your ministry, be it ever so humble, you are not able to do it without His wisdom and ability. 

This is the key above all keys to real humility. Samuel reminded King Saul, "When thou wast little in thine own eyes, wast thou not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the Lord anointed thee king over Israel?" 1 Sam. 15:17. There it is. Humility is not determined by outward action but starts with inward attitude, being little in your own eyes. What a beautiful attitude to have. Then God can exalt you. Then He can use you in a great way to His glory and not your own. How important it is to pray what we were taught when the Lord Jesus said, pray, "Thine is the power, thine is the glory" (Matt 6:13). Pray it "daily" until it is internalized and we do not take any credit that belongs to God alone (Isaiah 42:8) and He has to demote you like He did Nebuchadnezzar. Read Dan 5:12-31, it is powerful. 

Oh, dear people, just remember, "Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one and setteth up another" Psalm 75:6,7. How stern must have been the words of Samuel when he "said unto the people, it is the Lord that advanced Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt" 1 Samuel 12:6. Whatever progress you have made, promotions you have gotten, heights you have attained, GIVE GOD THE GLORY or you are sunk. 

The person God uses is the one who "humbles himself under the mighty hand of God" and He will exalt you in due time! He does not mean to humiliate yourself or brow beat yourself but "in all thy ways acknowledge him" Proverbs 3:6. Exalt the Savior and not self and He will exalt you and it will be wonderful and you will be used.


The Person God Uses (3)

1. Purge Yourself

"If a man purge himself, he shall be a vessel unto honor, meet for the masters use" 2 Timothy 2:21. This is the Motivation lesson for last month. Look it up.

2. Humble Yourself

"Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time" 1 Peter 5:6. The opposite of "humility" is "pride."

A powerful lesson was given to Peter. Remember when the Lord told Peter how he was going to die and Peter pointing to John said, "What shall this man do?" Jesus said, "What is that to thee? Follow thou me" Jn 21:22. In other words, "That is none of your business, Don't worry about him, "you follow me." I have learned I don't have time to straighten out my brother preacher or anyone else. I have more trouble that I can handle trying to straighten me out. If I can get me walking with God so He can use me that is all I need or want. 

The bottom line is to accept yourself like He made you and put all you have in His hands and love Him with all of your heart and He will use you beyond your wildest imagination. Since I learned that God has let me and my wife go to 60 countries, preached in 1500 churches and seen thousands of people receive the Lord Jesus. TO GOD BE THE GLORY. 

Someone asked what kind of a bush was it that Moses saw burning? It doesn't matter, any old bush will do if God is in it. 

"The best thing you can do is to become very good at being you"
 


The Man Who Purges Himself

"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves" 1 John 1:8. David had committed adultery, the baby had been born and he did nothing about it. He needed Nathan to put his finger in his face and say, "Thou art the man" you have sinned 2 Sam 12:7. 

There is a multitude who have not committed adultery as did David, 2 Sam 11:4 or killed someone as did Moses Ex 2:12, or cheated and stole as Jacob did Esau Gen 27 but who are in a desert place and not seeing the blessing of God. Some have "left their first love" Rev 2:4, some have gotten "lukewarm" Rev 3:16 or just not doing what they know they ought to do Jas 4:17. They are not "fishing for men" Matt 4:19, they are not praying, Jas 4:2 or they are not "meditating in the word, night and day" to become successful Josh 1:8 or they are not filled with the Spirit Eph 5:17 and are fruitless or discouraged, Josh 1:6, 7, 9, 18 and hiding under a Juniper tree as was Elijah 1 Kings 19.

Please believe me, I am agonizing over every word I am writing and saying it with my heart full of love for you as you read it. Jesus said, "The harvest in plenteous" Matt 9:37. "If a man purge himself, he shall be a vessel unto honor, meet for the masters use." I did not write this! God promised it and everyone who purges himself can be mightily used of God. "He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief" Matt 13:58. "If we would judge ourselves" and then "confess our sins" 1 Jn 1:9 ( see Ps 51:3-13, sinners shall be converted) and "purge ourselves" 1 Tim 2:21, we can get in on the harvest that is plenteous. 

Peter was a good example of one who "purged himself" and was greatly used of God. He was up and down all through the earthly life of Christ. Then he blew it big time when he denied the Lord Jesus three times. His response though was to weep bitterly Luke 22:63. Then the Lord Jesus appeared to him 1 Cor 15:5. We do not know where and when but I am sure I know what Peter did. He fell at His feet and asked, "Can you ever forgive me. I am so ashamed, please forgive me." In John 13:7 'Jesus when he was washing the disciples feet, said, "What I do thou knowest not now but thou shalt know hereafter." He was washing their feet, Peter knew that but what He was teaching them was that foot washing is forgiving us our sins and washing out feet spiritually when we sin and get our feet dirty in our daily walk. We wash others feet when we forgive them of their sins. It is the fulfillment of what we are told to pray. "Forgive us our sins as we forgive..." Luke 11:4.

He purged himself and God used him to preach on the day of Pentecost when 3000 were saved in one meeting. He was a vessel unto honor and of gold. You can be too if you purge yourself of every sin, whether small or big, that is "every before you" as was David's. Don't cover it or condone it but confess and forsake it and "be filled with the Holy Spirit" as Peter was when he preached with holy boldness and heavenly blessing in Acts 2.

Next month we will have another promise on how to be used of God. Don't miss it.


Bobby's Funeral

Bobby Oliver was my best boyhood buddy from the time I was 5 years old. How I remember his dad sitting on the porch, it seemed for hours, reading the Bible. I was not saved but it impressed and impacted me immensely. Bobby's mother let Bobby go with me some place one time if I would go to Sunday School with him the next Sunday. That is the only time I ever went to SS as a boy. She impacted my life.

Over the years we have kept in touch. For several years he had been in bad health. Last February when Celeste and I were at their home he had a heavy heart for his son, Dan, was not saved. He wanted so much to see him saved before he died. Maxine, Bobby's wife was in good health, though she had open heart surgery. Later, Bobby knew he was near death and asked if I would preach his funeral. I was honored and assured him I would. To everyone's surprise Maxine died suddenly, November 9. Their local pastor, Dr. Coons, preached Maxine's funeral, gave the gospel, the good news that Christ died for our sins, paid the debt in full and rose again. Glory, Bobby's son Dan, his wife Diane and son Dane all got saved that day. Bobby had the joy of seeing his prayer answered because a godly preacher used the best occasion to preach the gospel and graciously offered people the opportunity to receive the Lord Jesus. Eleven days later Bobby went home to be with the Lord. I went to Starke Florida to preach his funeral. Dan, his new born son, picked me up at the airport and what a joyous two days we and the other two brothers and families had.

Over the years I have been to too many funerals where the gospel was not preached and no one was given the chance to receive the Lord Jesus. What a tragedy. My heart aches just thinking about it. Dear Preacher, preach the gospel at funerals and graciously ask people with their heads bowed at the close, to pray to receive the Lord Jesus. I told sometime ago, how I preached my father's funeral and over thirty people prayed to receive the Lord Jesus and looked up at me to indicate they had then and there received the Lord Jesus. What a joy, I had but it also brought joy to the Father and heaven as well. We must by all means and at all times do all we can to help people go to heaven instead of hell.


Ushers

All church growth books, seminars, studies and teachers stress the vital need to put people to work, to give them a place of ministry or you are far more apt to lose them as drop outs or to some other church where they will get involved. The old saying is so true "use them or lose them." You do not have to be a full grown Christian to serve the Lord as an usher. How many ushers does a church need? Well, I want to suggest one practice that could easily use more ushers.

Have you ever seen, that is almost a silly question, where they will use only two ushers to take up the offering. Just a couple of weeks ago I saw this happen. I cringed. They will come down the center aisle and start the offering plates at the end of the row. When the plates get to then of the row the people must pass it over their shoulder to the people behind them. That seem absolutely absurd to me. Have you ever seen them drop the plate trying to do that? I have and it certainly is not doing things "decently and in order" as the Scriptures teach.

How simple to put more people "serving the Lord" by having an usher on each end of every aisle, no matter how small the church and how small the crowd. I remember as a seventeen year old new Christian, when I was asked to help take up the offering one Sunday night in my home church. Believe me I felt it was a sacred honor and privilege and took it very seriously even though I had not been taught a thing about ushering.

The offering is a vital worship of the Lord. Taking up that offering is a vital part of our worship of the Lord. Everyone who ushers should be made to feel they are serving the Lord.


Come to the Altar

Vibrant and growing churches and their pastors have learned there is great value in people coming to an altar, humbling themselves, kneeling and doing business with God. People who are not use to an altar need to be taught and trained in the value of it. There are several thing I learned as a pastor that really worked about an altar. Of course you do not have to come to an altar to do business with God or to be saved. In Matt. 13 God tells about the seed that fell by the wayside, how the enemy, Satan himself, will snatch away what was sown in the heart. Does he ever do it today. How often I have seen someone under deep conviction who did not respond and the next day they are back to their old hard heart. How many times have we all felt the moving of God in our hearts and felt like falling on our faces before God. That is one of the most precious and special moments of our lives. We must respond. Remember when Jacob was "left alone" and his life was transformed as he wrestled with God. I have seen hundreds do the same on their knees at an altar at the front of the church. The whole church needs to be taught to pray for those who come and not ever to wonder what they did or why they came. I have seen old fashioned revival break out when people get on their knees, confessing sins or dedicating themselves to God or yielding themselves afresh to God or surrendering to the ministry. In our church people perfectly free to kneel, even for very small things and get things settled with God. Lets teach and train our people to keep short accounts with God and not quench the Spirit when He moves in our hearts.


How Shall They Say Amen

Paul expected people to say Amen in the Corinthian church if you please. One dozen times it says in Deut. 27 "and all the people shall say Amen." All through the Bible God uses the word Amen and people say Amen. It means "so be it" or "I agree." It is beautiful when it is done in the Spirit and from the heart. As someone has said it is like saying sic em to a dog when a preacher hears it from someone in the congregation. Every preacher can tell you he has been preaching his heart out and not have a clue whether he is getting through and anyone is with him or not. Then comes that sweet, even soft, Amen and it is a real shot in the arm. God says people are to do it. Then it helps and blesses the people when they begin saying Amen. They will listen more attentively. "If two agree" God declares it shall be done. How wonderful when the people agree with what is being sung in praise to the Lord and when someone preaches and the people agree and express it by saying Amen.

Someone said, "We are either frying in emotionalism or freezing in intellectualism." Neither should be true but in today's culture too often we have squelched our emotions or quenched the Spirit so that it isn't said in the average church. This ought not to be so. Most of us are scared of hearing ourselves. You can change that by getting people to vote an any matter by saying all in favor say Amen, not say yes or Aye. Someone sings a solo or the choir sings, how simple and easy to say, "If you enjoyed that say, Amen" and people will. They begin to get used to it and if instructed and encouraged to do so when God blesses someone through a song or sermon they can begin to say Amen. Today many churches are encouraged to clap or "give them a hand" for a song or whatever and that is fine. Pastor, train your people. It works. I have seen a church transformed by training them in such things as saying Amen. Try it, it works.


Use Your People

There is a gold mine of people waiting to be used and useful for the Lord. These are handicapped, invalids, shut-ins, aged and many others with time on their hands who cannot get involved at the church or in activities who could "read for the preacher" and teachers of the church. A great idea that was given when I was in my doctoral program was to give Christian magazines, papers and books for people to read and find material that a pastor or teacher can use in his sermons and teaching. Illustrations, quotes, historical, archeological, Greek and Hebrew meanings, etc., just to spice up a sermon or message. Get the reader to look for things you can use and mark them so they or someone else can copy them onto 3 by 5 cards to file for future use. Every preacher has a ton of books, periodicals and papers on his shelves that he has not had time to read and file to use when he needs it. One preacher I know has 20,000 illustrations filed that a lady in his church got for him just this way. What a wealth he has at his finger tips! This lady has had a fabulous ministry of "helps" that will last for eternity. Carefully thought out instructions need to be given to those who read as to exactly what to look for. The readers will be blessed and grow spiritually from it as well as being so useful to the kingdom of God. Now and then the pastor can tell who found the illustrations or quotes and honor the helper as well and encourage them in their ministry for the Lord.


Greeters

The most important people in your church on Sunday are visitors. Somehow God brought them there and you must do all you can to see why He brought them and meet their needs of salvation and spiritual growth. How often have you visited a church and no one spoke to you? That is totally unacceptable. How can it be remedied? Simple. Have greeters chosen, trained and assigned to meet all who come in the door or your church. Most Christians do not know what their gifts are. How then can they know where they belong and where they can exercise their gifts? To be chosen, they must be taught what their gifts are. A greeter should have the gift of helps and hospitality. They must be taught to watch carefully for visitors and not just stand around talking to friends and members. This happens too often. What a joy it is when people know what their gifts are and have a definite place to exercise and invest those gifts effectively for eternity. This is the fulfillment of Eph 4:12, "For the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry." This is one element that can transform a church. There must be at least one young couple with a baby who can identify with a first time visitor with a baby and welcome them and get them to the nursery. Older couples can reach older couples and young people to meet young people, single ladies to meet single mothers, teenagers to meet teenagers and so on. This just seems to be a natural thing but I have been in hundreds of churches where there is nothing like this taking place. Most places have a few "ushers" in the back handing our bulletins. That will not cut it. No business would be run with such inefficient methods. Someone with proper gifts should be assigned to head up the greeter program and make it the best in the city.


Train Your People

Pastor, train your people! Too many things go on in a church haphazardly. Most people are spectators and not participants. We must train our people to enter into every public prayer by saying 'amen', if only under their breath, to what is being prayed. BUT "how shall they say "Amen" seeing they understand not what you are saying," 1 Corinthians 14:16. You see God expects them to say "Amen". It makes a world of difference when people are taught and trained to enter into every prayer and not let their minds float all over the world.

Also, how shall they say "amen" if they do not hear what is being prayed? Have you been in a service when an usher prays for the offering with his head bowed facing the front and no one can hear what is being said? I have and it is frustrating to me. Have those leading in prayer to come to the platform and pray into a microphone so all can hear and enter into the prayer. Even then, they must be taught to pray loud enough for the person on the last row to hear. By the way there is a multitude of older people with hearing problems who don't go to some churches for the simple reason they cannot hear the preacher preach or others speak because they do not speak loud enough. Teach your people to not look down at the people on the front row for they will speak softly to them alone and not realize it. Look to the back row and speak to them.

What do most people do when they cannot hear? They shut them out. Their minds wander. Who's fault is it? It is ours. We should teach people to pray so all can hear and enter in. They should come on the platform and speak loud enough so all can hear and "agree" with them, saying "amen" if you please to what is being asked of the Lord. Teach and train your people to enter into prayer by saying "amen", at least silently, to agree with them (Matthew 18:19). We must make it possible for people to enter into prayer.


Let the Preacher Preach

Sometimes I have said to singers, "If you promise not to preach I, will promise not to sing." Let the singers sing and let the preacher preach. Over and over I have seen singers take 3-5 minutes of the preacher's time introducing their song or telling some funny or foolish story before they sing. It will kill a service before the preacher ever gets started. We have all seen someone just blabber on and on with announcements or introducing the visiting preacher. Oh my, let the preacher preach. Churches will pay a thousand dollars to fly a speaker across the country and then, with all the announcements and introduction of singers and the preacher, leave him only 15 or 20 minutes of time to preach. Why take precious minutes to introduce a soloist or trio that the whole church hears week after week. Let them sing and let the preacher preach.


Taking the Offering

Recently I preached a four day series of messages in a church where the pastor has practiced what I mentioned last month about taking the offering. Each service he quoted a verse about offerings, giving, collections, or stewardship and then explained it in just a minute or two. He just taught the Biblical basis for giving. It was captivating and so effective. The church has one of the most healthy financial situation I have seen. They have $200,000 in the bank. Then I received, by far, the largest love offering I have ever received. There was no begging for money and no pressure to give. He does this every week in his regular services. This would work for every church and it honors the Lord and makes giving so spiritual and non-offensive. Try it, it works.


Giving

We need to train people to give as the Bible says we ought to give, not beg people to give to meet the budget. A good way to do this would be to use a different Biblical admonition each week. God told Moses to admonish the people that "they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering" (Ex. 25:2). The people had just come out of bondage. They were so grateful and they gave generously of what they had. Listen to this staggering statement, "the people bring much more than enough for the service of the work. So the people were restrained from bringing" (Ex. 36:5,6).

That would be some announcement today. Quoting such verses and then saying a few words to remind them how we have been redeemed could make giving much more meaningful. People would probably give much more. Try it and let me know the results.


Funerals

What a place to preach the gospel and give people the opportunity to trust and receive the Lord Jesus. You will have more non-Christians at a funeral than in your church on Sunday. There will be loved ones who are not saved and for whom people have been praying. They would love for their family and unsaved friends to hear the gospel and get saved. I was there when my mother passed away. Bless the preacher, he did not come close to telling my family members and friends the good news. It is so easy to graciously say, "I have a message of comfort for each one here today." 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18 is a great passage to use at a funeral. Then it is so easy to give the gospel, how the Lord Jesus suffered and died for our sins and rose again so we can live forever. At the close ask everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes for the closing prayer. Then without any pressure, invite people to pray in their hearts to trust and receive the Lord Jesus as their Savior. I preached my own father's funeral and had over 30 pray to receive the Lord Jesus and asked them to look up at me to indicate they had done this. I wept for joy here, and my father rejoiced in Heaven, as did my Heavenly Father.


The Lord's Supper

Training yourself and your people is vital for pastors, teachers and leaders. There is no magic in taking the Lord's Supper. The real blessing comes as you take it in "remembrance of me." This demands that you think, or meditate, on what He did. We must teach people as they take the bread to meditate on how the Lord Jesus suffered and died for our sins. This brings a deep joy and blessing to know His death took care of the penalty of our sins. He paid the debt in full. Then, as you take of the juice, you are reminded how the Lord Jesus shed his blood to take care of the pollution of our sins and that His blood cleanses us from all sin. Best done with our eyes closed, meditating on these things will bring real joy and gratitude in a person's heart. Having someone or the choir sing a song about the suffering of Christ or the blood of Christ while the elements are being passed enhances meditation.

In the book of Deuteronomy, God reminds Israel over and over how they were in bondage in Egypt and they were to remember the day they came out and keep the Passover as a reminder. The Lord's Supper reminds us that we too have come out of bondage at a great price. Then it shows the Lord's death till He come again. We have had people saved in our service as they heard and saw the Lord's Supper taken. Years ago, I heard Dr. Harry Ironside telling of people being saved at an observance of the Lord's Supper and I took his advice and made much out of it.

 

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