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Every Sunday, 52 each year, somewhere in the country there is a challenge occurring between two sports team; auto racing teams, golf matches, track and field teams, etc. Crowds fill stands to witness these events, paying large sums of money to attend. Many of these are televised and broadcast on the radio; sponsors spend millions to support these events were challenges are occurring and winners are idolized. Americans love challenges!

     I believe, after participating in it for over 50 years, there is a challenge occurring in the local congregations across the nation. It is the challenge between the pulpit and pew There is an ongoing dynamic week after week which is rarely, if ever, recognized by those participating in the challenge: the preacher in the pulpit and Christians in the pews.

WHAT THE PULPIT IS TRYING TO DO

Speaking on behalf of the pulpit I believe the preacher is trying to do one or more of the following things in his sermon, which may create a clash with those in the pews:

  1. The pulpit is trying to prayerfully, honestly, and in love handle the word of God properly—“Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:1-6; Ephesians 4:15).
  2. The pulpit is trying to instruct and educate those in the pews.
  3. The pulpit is trying to gain acceptance of God’s word by those in the pews (James 1:22-26).
  4. The pulpit is trying to change minds—repentance—by those who need to do so in the pews (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:26).
  5. The pulpit is trying to convince the pews to obey God’s will (Hebrews 5:8, 9).
  6. The pulpit is trying to plant the word in good and honest hearts (Luke 8:11-15).
  7. The pulpit is trying to help the pew think about personal needs (Lamentations 3:40).
  8. The pulpit is trying to provoke the pews to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).
  9. The pulpit is trying to convey to the pew how much God loves everyone (John 3:16).
  10. The pulpit is trying to encourage the pew to do one intentional thing with the message.
  11. The pulpit is trying to “raise the dead” in 20 to 30 minutes.
  12. The pulpit is handicapped by a monologue instead of a dialogue.

WHAT THE PEW IS TRYING TO DO

Turning our attention to the pew, where, I, too, have spent considerable time over the years listening to the pulpit, here are some of the positive and negative things the pew is trying to do:

  1. The pew should be trying to not only hear but to really LISTEN to God’s word (Psalm 119:11; Romans 10:17). But in reality, many do not really listen
  2. The pew should be trying to exercise preventive measures to keep Satan from stealing the world out of their hearts (Luke 8:12). But in reality, many aren’t proactive in preventing the theft of God’s word.
  3. The pew should be listening with an open mind to what God’s word is saying, but many do not have open minds (2 Corinthians 3:13-15).
  4. The pew should be trying to get and stay on, the same page the pulpit is on. This refers to agreement, acceptance, and action.
  5. The pew, in many cases, doesn’t want to hear a specific truth which is being presented n in the pulpit. Why? Because of personal guilt
  6. Many in the pews have their personal agendas, traditions, and opinions which they are not willing to explore, adjust, or change.
  7. There are those in the pews which are thinking that some other member in the congregations needs to do what the preacher is saying; not them.
  8. The pew is bored with the subject and turns the pulpit off. This is an avenue Satan uses to steal the word.
  9. The pew hasn’t developed a thirst or hunger for righteousness (Matthew 5:6).
  10. The pew doesn’t realize God is trying to “prick their hearts” with the word (Acts 2:37).

When we place these ten attitudes and practices of the pew beside what the pulpit is trying to accomplish, it’s easy to see why and how there is a challenge every Sunday. But there is another facet related to the clash between pulpit and pew.

THE PHYSICAL ISSUES

The pulpit and pew both occupy a place in a physical structure. It is in this building both have agreed to share in the preaching event. Time has been allotted for the coming together to study God’s word in what is traditionally called “a sermon.”

     The challenges faced by the pulpit and pew are influenced by factors in the physical structure. Here are some of those issues:

  1. The temperature may be too hot or too cold. The body responds to both; thus, taking attention away from the message. The cooling and heating system may make an excessive noise which distracts.
  2. The PA system may not be adjusted properly for the message to be heard in every area of the assembly. A buzzing may distract hearers.
  3. The pews (seating) may be very uncomfortable, thus causing the attention span to be diverted for the message to bodily discomfort.
  4. The lighting may be distracting. The light over the pulpit may be too bright, or too dim as to cast a shadow over the preacher.
  5. A touchy distraction is the playing with children by members in the audience; not so much by parents as by those close to the child, i.e. waving, smiling, words, etc.
  6. The of power point may distract for the message “pricking the heart.” The event becomes a “reading exercise” by both the pulpit and pew.
  7. Clock watching, both on the back wall, wrist, and electronic devices.
  8. And oh yes, the checking emails, voicemails, texting, etc. during the preaching event.
  9. There are those who are listening for the signal in the message that the conclusion and end are near and they leave the assembly. Why? Guess!
  10. Physically there is no opening of the Bible or taking notes. Thus, major tools for learning aren’t used.

PREPARING TO FACE AND OVERCOME THE CHALLENGES

The Sunday challenge between pulpit and pew must not be taken lightly. We must keep in mind that Satan, “as a roaring lion,” (1 Peter 5:8) is seeking to devour and steal the word out of hearts (Luke 8:12), by attending every preaching event and creating clashes between the pulpit and pew.

     Now that we are in the aware zone relative to the challenge between the pulpit and pew, we can do something intentionally about reducing it as much as possible. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Study this lesson until you are aware and convinced that a conflict/challenge exists.
  2. Depending on which side of the conflict you are on—pulpit or pew—evaluate your role, plus or minus, and how you will intentionally correct it.
  3. As you sit in the pew remember these commands by Jesus:
    1. “Take heed HOW you hear”
    2. “Take heed WHAT you hear”
  4. As you stand in the pulpit remember these words by Paul:
    1. “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
    2. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1, 4).
  5. Both the pulpit and pew need to remember the goal is to obey and do God’s will:
    1. “But be doers of God’s word and not just hearers only” (James 1:22, 23).
    2. “He’s the author of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:8, 9).
  6. A positive way to eliminate the challenge which may exist between the pulpit and pew is to have a class or study group where you study, discuss, and apply the message.
  7. Both pulpit and pew need to prepare their minds with prayer, attitude adjustment, and commitment to eliminate the challenge (Cf. Ezra 7:10).

     Let’s think about how wonderful and powerful it is when both pulpit and pew are both on the same page. Borrowing from David, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).How beautiful it is when both pulpit and pew are on the same pages during the Sunday assemblies.

 

The Bible Class teacher went around the room asking each student if he or she said their prayers each day. All said yes but little Johnny. When asked why he didn’t say his prayers every day, he replied, “Some days I don’t need anything.”

     We smile at Johnny’s answer but, sadly, many Christians are like Johnny. Some days we don’t need anything or think we don’t have any needs; therefore, we don’t pray. Prayer is our first aid kit to be used only in an emergency. The heavenly Father is on duty 24-7 in the emergency room waiting for us to call.

     When we venturing into thinking about “Restoring New Testament Christianity,” I believe restoring the praying habits we see in those first-century congregations, as a whole, is being neglected. When I research and wrote my book “Don’t Stop Prayer; The Answer is Coming,” I discovered the average congregation prayed on an average of 15 minutes each week. This included opening and closing prayers in worship services, prayers for the Lord’s Supper, prayers in adult Bible classes, etc.

     I deeply believe that we need, as the army of Christ, to raise up prayer warriors. Yes, I know the phrase “prayer warrior” is not found in the Scripture but the concept is. The Bible affirms that every Christian is a “soldier of Christ”: “You, therefore, must endure hardship as a good SOLDIER of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in WARFARE entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who ENLISTED him as a SOLDIER” (2 Timothy 2:3, 4).

     In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote them a graphic description relative to the need to be prepared to continually do spiritual warfare. He starts by identifying why they need to be prepared for spiritual battle: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against SPIRITUAL hosts in the HEAVENLY places” (Ephesians 6:11,12).

     After describing the components of the armor we must wear in order to defeat the devil, Paul zeroes in on PRAYER: “[P]raying ALWAYS with all power and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). This sounds like we ought to pray more than 15 minutes a week as a congregation and especially in our personal and private prayers. In fact, Paul went so far as to command that we pray continually: “Rejoice always, pray CONTINUALLY, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s WILL for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

PRAYER WARRIORS, ARISE

We sing this amazing and challenging hymn but are we really applying it to our prayer life?

Soldiers of Christ, Arise

Soldiers of Christ arise…and put your armor on,

Strong in the strength with God supplies

Strong in the strength with God supplies,

Thro’ His beloved Son.

                                                                                         (Charles Wesley)

As we read in Ephesians 6:10-18, part of the strength God supplies come because of our continual prayer to Him.

     While EVERY Christian is a prayer warrior, just as every soldier in the Army is a warrior with different ranks, tenure, and skills, so it is with spiritual prayer warriors. Because of time, study, commitment, and practice some prayer warriors are more engaged in continual prayer in deeper and more diligent petitions to the heavenly Father.

     The task of the prayer warrior is an awesome one. Paul commands that “requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for EVERYONE” (1 Timothy 2:1). There is no indication that any Christian is exempt from this command.

HOW TO BE A PRAYER WARRIOR

There are several specific beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors which will assist you in becoming a more dynamic and victorious prayer warrior.

  1. Remember you have volunteered and as a soldier of Christ, you have an obligation to pray.
  2. You must study and become aware of the tactics of the enemy—Satan.
  3. You must know and trust your Commander and Chief—Jesus Christ.
  4. Every morning be sure to dress in the full armor of the Lord.
  5. Have a daily and specific plan you are following to be a successful prayer warrior.
  6. Be sure to march forward by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:6; James 1:1-9).
  7. Remember your inner resource is greater than Satan’s ---Holy Spirit (1 John 4:4).
  8. Identify your immediate and daily battlefield. Who and what is Satan using?
  9. Try to see the events of the battle as God sees them. “We win” Book of Revelation.
  10. Never miss “roll call”—the assemblies of the troops to prepare for battle (Hebrews 10:24, 25).
  11. Remember you drawn strength and help from your fellow-soldiers (Read 1 Corinthians 12).
  12. “Don’t stop praying; the answer is coming.”
  13. Think about the advantage of forming a specific group of prayer warriors who are committed to taking the lead in the prayer ministry of the local congregation.

PRAYER HABITS

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “I desire that men in every place should pray” (1 Timothy 2:8).

     The key to being a committed and successful prayer warrior, in a group or individually, is the development of personal prayer habits. What are your prayer habits in the following times, places and situations? Using A-B-C-D-F as a scale, grade yourself in the following areas:

1.___In a restaurant

2.___At family meals

3.___In the work-place cafeteria

4.___Before an automobile or plane trip

5.___Before going to bed

6.___When you get up in the morning

7.___Before you make a large purchase

8.___Before every important decision

9.___Before going to an assembly of the congregation

10.___Silently while in Bible class

11.___For your spouse every day

12.___For your family/children every day

13.___For an enemy or difficult person

14.___For your neighbors

15.___For the sick, shut-ins, and needy

16.___For church leaders

17.___For wisdom and understanding

18.___For forgiveness of specific faults and sins

19.___For spiritual boldness

20.___For lost persons by name

21.___For political leaders

22.___For your personal health and discipline issues

23.___For being more involved in ministry, etc.

24.___For local and global mission efforts to share the Gospel.

25.___For specific congregational goals, stewardship needs, and outreach.

     What’s Your Grade? Each letter is worth the following points:

GRADING SCALE: A—4 points    B—3 points C—2 points   D—1 point F—0 points

Add the points:

YOUR SCORE:_______________

     If you are interested in doing a deeper study of prayer I recommend my book Don’t Stop Praying; The Answer Is Coming. If you would like to have a daily prayer guide I recommend my book One Year Daily Prayer Schedule (Both may be ordered from amazon.com).

 

Here’s a very interesting and often overlooked Scripture:

     “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the VERY HAIRS of your head ARE ALL NUMBERED” (Matthew 10:29, 30).

     Two observations in this text:

  1. Two small sparrows are sold in the marketplace for the equivalent amount of our dime. They were ready plucked and arranged in a dozen on a wooden skewer, or like our kabobs. Somewhat like the fade for chicken wings in today’s society. A sparrow compared to an eagle, dove, or exotic birds was basically worthless. However, that’s man’s evaluation. The picture is that two cheap birds were purchased and one fell to the ground. From man’s viewpoint, it’s no big deal. One is left. The heavenly Father watches over birds and notices even when the cheap bird fall to the ground (Assumed to be dead). The lesson is obvious: If God cares about what happens to birds guess how much more He cares about you and me who are created in His image.
  2. Then Jesus calls attention to every person’s hair. Hair care is a billion dollar business involving cuts, styling, coloring, transplants, etc. A closer look at the text reveals that Jesus used the Greek word arithmeo, from which we get arithmetic. Therefore, Jesus is actually saying God counts every hair on our heads and keeps a tally. Today hair number 1001 fell out; seven new hairs grew in. We only see a mass of hair on our comb or brush but Jesus knows the exact number. Here’s the point: God is aware and involved in EVERY aspect of our lives. Imagine, He actually counts and keeps a record of our hair. This means He really, really, and I mean really loves and cares for us.

     The awareness that God actually counts the hairs on our head should create an awareness of how He knows what’s going on in every area of our lives; especially in our THOUGHT habits which, as a rule, are hidden from those we are around. God is obviously interested and aware of our thoughts because the word appears approximately 75 times in the Bible. For some this truth is encouraging and for others, it isn’t. Why? “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7)

GOD’S GOT YOU COVERED

What follows are some Scriptures which document that God always has us covered. Regardless of where we are, what we are doing or have done, our plans and our thoughts are all, and more, known to him. The Psalmist lays this foundation in the following Psalm:

     “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold you are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. I say, ‘Surely, the darkness shall fall on me,’ even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide me from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You “(Psalm 139:7-12).

     Here are some specific examples of how God has our thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior covered by His continual awareness:

  1. God knows what we are going to THINK before we know it—it is omniscient: (Psalm 139 again): “You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my THOUGHT afar off” (Psalm 139:2).
  2. God knows every word we are going to SAY before we say it: “For there is now A WORD on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether” (Psalm 139:4).
  3. God knows when we are cursing, belittling, mocking, and making fun of people in our thoughts or private places at home: “Do not curse the king, even in your THOUGHT; do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom” (Ecclesiastes 10:20).
  4. The Third Commandment says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…” (Exodus 20:7). This not only refers to the overt cursing of God but also includes the inner cursing God in the heart: “… “For Job said, ‘It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.”
  5. The wickedness which caused God to the destroy the world with a flood originated in the heart and thoughts of mankind: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that EVERY intent of the THOUGHTS of his HEART was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). God has our hearts covered!
  6. God knows where our inward thoughts and attitudes are when we are involved in overt worship practices. Ezekiel was given a vision by God which showed 25 priests outwardly worshipping in the temple but inwardly they were worshipping the sun god (Cf. Ezekiel 8:7-18). God has our worship covered!
  7. A good news point is that while we try and fall short of our spiritual goals, God knows the INTENT of our hearts. He knows we want to do and be right. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a DISCERNER of the THOUGHTS and INTENTS
  1. We cannot fool God with our rhetoric and pseudo-wisdom; He is monitoring our thoughts and lack of real wisdom: “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness’, and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile’” (1 Corinthians 3:19-21). God gives you wisdom from above; He has you covered (Cf. James 3:17, 18).
  2. Jesus made it clear that the sin of adultery could occur within the thinking process of a man. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not COMMIT adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to LUST FOR HER has already committed adultery with her in his HEART (Matthew 5:27, 28). The word lust isn’t referring to a casual look at a woman or noting her appearance. The word lust is the Greek word epithumeo and means to “desire greatly.” (Cf. Galatians 6:7; James 4:2).
  3. God is aware of the fact that when we lie it is because Satan is in our hearts: “But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your HEART to LIE to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the lad for yourself? … You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:3, 4). When we lie to a person we are also lying to God!

     YES! God has us covered. Every location, thought, attitude, behavior, belief, and desire. He is moment by moment looking out for sparrows and counting the hairs on our head. The question is: Are we as mindful of our inner life as God is? Is our thinking agenda God’s agenda? (Philippians 4:8, 9).

     GOD IS COUNTING YOUR HAIRS RIGHT NOW!

Charlie was called on the carpet by his parents because of his continual complacent attitude toward his grades in high school. He was contented, yet unconcerned, with no desire to improve his grades or change his study habits. As far as he was concerned he had been getting passing grades for so long, mostly Bs, a few Cs, every now and then a D,  that it didn’t bother him as much as it did his parents. After all, he was doing better than several of his classmates.

     One has but to take a casual look to see the complacency covering our nation like a blanket of snow in an Alaskan winter. People are feeling content with their own piece of the pie; never mind the neighborhood and city poor who are without food and have staked claims on various streets and reside in cardboard shelters.

     Hundreds of years ago the weeping prophet, Jeremiah, asked a question that is relevant today:

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?

Behold and see if there is any sorrow

Like my sorrow, which has been brought

On me, which the Lord has inflicted

In the day of His fierce anger”

                                                                              (Lamentations 1:12).

Jerusalem’s sins had found her out (Cf. Numbers 32:23). The Book of Lamentation in the Hebrew language is a collection of five poems or songs of mourning the conquest of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah. Payday had come! In the book the prophet paints a graphic picture of the punishment which had come upon the city and God’s chosen people. Why? Because of their own sins. The once glorious city had been brought to ruin because of the greatness of her sins and refusal to repent and obey the voice of God. The people were slaves enduring the distress and famine brought on by their sins.

    The once mighty city was flat on her back, lying on the ground of despair with observers mocking and making fun as they passed by. Verses 1 and 2 paint a very graphic picture of the afflicted city with no comfort:

How lonely sits the city, th

HOW TO DEVELOP THE WRITING HABIT

J.J. Turner, Ph.D.

Author of How to Drop Your Excuses and Start Writing Today (amazon.com)

As a writer, editor, publisher, and teacher of writing I am continually asked “How do you start writing?” Recently at a university book display a publisher “stuck a camera” in my face and asked me to share my advice on how to become a writer. When I quickly answered, “By writing one word at a time”, those gathered around the camera person, along with the camera person, either smiled or had a strange look on their faces. The camera person tried to encourage me to say more but I continued to say, “All writing begins with one word. Period!”

     Here’s a rocket science observation. You can’t write the second or third word until you have written the first word. How amazing is this revelation! Try it and you’ll see I am right.

     Hundreds of books, writer seminars and retreats, along with writing teachers have created a mystic or aura around what it takes to be a writer. Some of the advice and suggestions are on target and some is designed to promote and sell. You are discouraged when you hear about all the rules of grammar, syntax, spelling, word choices, etc. If you are interested in writing poetry you are given a list of dozens of acceptable poetry styles you need to master. No, I’m not opposed in pursuing academic knowledge about writing. My interest is in helping people start where it all starts after they’ve completed all the writing courses—writing one word.

12 KEYS TO DEVELOPING THE WRITING HABIT

Here are 12 simple and basic keys I have discovered which help develop the writing habit. Don’t let the simplistic nature of these keys fool you. Give them thought, questions, and application. Today, write on!

  1. Keep in mind you are developing a new HABIT. It has been proven that it takes on an average 66 days to develop a habit that sticks with you.
  2. Keep in mind you are developing ONE habit at a time; not a multiplicity of habits.
  3. Have a deep and dynamic reason for WHY you will develop the writing habit.
  4. Remember the old K-I-S-S principle: Keep-It-Simple-Sir. Inch by inch it’s a cinch and yard by yard it’s too hard. Choose a familiar and simple subject at first, e.g. an event in your life—past or present.
  5. Never, no never, miss two days in succession in writing something. If you miss one day your chances of continuing drop 55%, if you miss two days in a row it drops to 90%. Keep on keeping on.
  6. Set the time each day you will write. The morning for most persons has been proven to be the best time. The mind is fresh, alert, and productive. Keep the time you choose.
  7. Write out your plan for starting to write. Yes, I said write your plan! This will be your master goal setting agenda, which you’ll change from time to time. Do it NOW!
  8. Keep your practice simple and consistent. You’ll be motived to start launching out but wait until you’ve gotten the writing habit ingrained in your nervous system, etc.
  9. Ask someone to hold you accountable for practicing your writing habit routine. This will serve as a major motivation. Don’t try to make excuses or get out of your commitment to write habit.
  10. Create a reward system for yourself. It may be a certain dessert you enjoy, a book, etc. Give it only after you have achieved a specific goal.
  11. Never surrender your goal to develop the writing habit. NEVER!
  12. START writing right now: Your name:________________ address:________________________

You have already started writing. DON’T STOP.

© Dr. JJ Turner and ©Jeremiah Institute - All Rights Reserved (usage)

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