Jim Shrimplin

We Praise What We Prize

Today, I am reading, “Praying The Bible” by Donald S. Whitney.  It is a good, easy read, but there was a sentence that started me thinking and led to this blog post.  Here is what Whitney wrote, “It is as though God said to his people, ‘I want you to praise me, but you don’t know how to praise me, I want you to praise me no because I’m an egomaniac but because you will praise that which you prize the most, and there is nothing of greater worth to you than I.” (pg. 45; emphasis mine)

There are two ways that you can use this quote.  One way, we could use it to determine what we prize.  Think about what you praise.  Football team, a person you don’t know, your new fast computer, your faster newer car, and the list could go on.  The other way to use this quote would be to determine what you need to praise.  Take a minute and think about, make a list of “What do I  prize?”  Maybe it’s your spouse? Your son? Your daughter?  Some other special relationships?  Your church?  Your job?  What do you prize?

Let’s go back for a minute to what you praise.  Does what you praise deserve the level of praise you give it?  Is it truly one our your most prized things in your life?  Is what you praise on the list you made of what your prize?  If you look at your praise list and there are things on it that should not get the amount of praise you give it, good; now you know what you need to de-emphasis and what you really need to praise.

The same is true with your prize list.  That you prize are you praising or praising God that prize is in your life.  For example, when you look at your prize list and read, “Your spouse” ask yourself, “Do I really praise my spouse as I should?”  “Do I praise God for the church that He allows me to belong too?”  What do I prize?  Am I praising God for it?  Let me add something here.  If you prize a person in your life, I would encourage you to do two things.  First, praise God for that person.  Tell God why you prize that person and thank God that they are in your life.  Second, don’t stop with praise God for that person, go to that person and praise them as well.  “Hey Jerry, I am so thankful that you are my friend.  You have been there for me in the good times and the bad.  I really prize (or treasure) our relationship.”

What do you think that will do for Jerry?  Do you think Jerry will prize you more or less?  Do you think Jerry will feel better or worse about herself?  Do you see the benefits that praising someone could bring to that relationship?  A word of caution: don’t praise Jerry if you really don’t prize Jerry.  She will know that you don’t prize your relationship with her.  She will know that you don’t mean what you say and more than likely it will make the relationship worse instead of better.  Now if you really do prize your relationship with Jerry but you haven’t said it lately or haven’t shown it lately, then maybe you say something like “Jerry, I know I don’t express it as I should but I really prize my relationship with you and I am going to try to do better at showing you that you really do matter to me.”

In time, I believe that the goal should be to praise what you prize and prize what your praise.  In other words, we should be working to make our praise list and our prize list to have the same things on it.  Of course, the real question is where is God your lists?  Do you prize Him?  Do you praise Him according to how much you prize Him?

Dear Lord, help you to prize you!  Help us, Lord, to praise you!  Lord we need you in our lives.  I don’t praise you enough or prize you as I should.  Help me Lord to do both.  I want to follow  you with all my heart today and praise you with all that I am.  In Christ, Amen.

Jim Shrimplin

Cross Down

The wind was so bad in Iowa yesterday…How bad was it?  The wind was so bad in Iowa, yesterday, that it blew the cross down.  When I got to the office today I was greeted with the cross in our “front yard”  lying on the ground.  We had wind advisories which brought the possibility of damaging winds.  The winds came.  The winds blew.  The cross fell.  I am glad that is not what happens in our spiritual lives.

In our lives, every day has the potential to have “damaging winds.”  We never know when the phone will ring and bad news will be proclaimed to us.   Your spouse has left you.  The bill collector plans on garnishing your wages.  The police officer on the scene calls.  Your 23-year-old son won’t be home for spring break.  No matter the situation, we have all have times when the winds of life blow.    Life gets so difficult we wonder if we can make it.

If that is where you find yourself today, I want to encourage you.  While the cross in our “front yard” blew over, the cross of Christ will never blowdown.  All the demons of hell and the devil himself tried.  They even thought they had won 2000 years ago. The disciples scattered. The women weeping.  Christ dead!  This is the message of Lent.  That one day we all will return to dust.  We too will die.  But thank God, we know that Easter is coming.

Later today, church members will come and stand the cross back up.  They will dig the foundation a little deeper.  This cross will stand again.  The same thing can happen in your life.  People can come and help stand you back up.  Your foundation can be built on the cross of Christ instead of the shifting sand of life.  You can stand up in the strength and power of God.  You can have Easter resurrection power and you don’t have to wait until Easter.  You can have Christ in your life today!  He can transform your life and set you on the solid rock to stay.

Jim Shrimplin

The Potter’s Wheel

What I know about pottery and making a vessel like one in the picture can all be derived from the picture.  Here is all that I know about spinning pottery.  One, you have to clay.  Two, you have to water.  Three, the potter is in control.  Four, the clay will go around in circles.  Five, the clay has no idea what it will be when it is finished and finally, six, the vessel is nothing without the potter.

I know these are all simple things that anyone can see but let’s talk about how these simple things relate to our lives.  I need to lay some ground rules first.

The first simple thing that I noticed was that the potter needs clay.  This is obvious.  No clay equals no vase.  In the natural, we don’t get these things confused but in the spiritual realm we do it all the time.  Why?  Well, mainly, we forget we are clay.  We want to the be the potter which eludes to point three; the potter is in control.  We want to model things.  We want to make things.  We want people to look at our lives and say, “You really have made something of your life!”  In some ways, I understand the urge to be the molder and maker of our lives.  I mean after all we are created in the image of God and God is a molder and a maker so why not us too.

The second thing that I noticed is that the potter has to have water in order to model the clay.  The Scripture often equates water with the Holy Spirit.  In our potter example, this make sense.  For God, the potter, to form us, the clay, He needs God, the water (Holy Spirit).  When clay is on the potter wheels it can dry out and is not moldable.  As Christians, when we sit on the wheel on life, circumstances can “dry us out” as well.  We need the Holy Spirit in our lives to keep us pliable in the Father’s hands.  It is because of the water the clay can become what the potter intends.

The third point from the picture that I see is that the potter is in control.  Jeremiah 18 tells us just that; the potter control the clays.  “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? Declares the Lord.  Behold, like the cay in the potter’s hands, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.  It at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it.”

In other words, God is telling Israel, “I have got a plan to destroy you.  But, like the potter can make the vessel anything they want so can I do with you what I want.  I can even change mind and not destroy you.  All you have to do is turn from the evil that you are doing.”  The same is true with you and I.  Without Christ, our destiny is destruction but if we turn from our sin and follow Jesus, God will relent.  He will save you.  He will give the right and privilege to be called a child of God.  The only thing we can do is decide if we are going to be “good clay” or “bad clay.”  Are we going to follow the Lord or not?

Like a spinning top, the potter’s wheel spins at his command.  It will spin until the potter decides that the vessel is finished.  As the clay, with no control, all you can do is go around and around.  Sometimes you wish the wheel would stop.  Some people want the wheel of life to stop so bad that they will make it stop.  Those that stay on the wheel in endure the spinning. The potter sometimes pushes firmly to form a vase.  Other times, the potter takes a tender touch.  Not matter whether the touch is firm or tender without the potter’s hand you will not become a great work of art. Finally, the potter looks at the clay. He declares the work finished.  A beautiful vessel has been completed.

The fifth observation comes to the clay as it spins.  As you endure the firm hand of the potter, you have no idea what you will become.  Will you become a priceless work of art that is on display at a museum?  Or, will become a simple, but beloved coffee cup?

Finally, the masterpiece is finished.  You have been crafted by the greatest master-potter that ever sat at the wheel.  Whether we a beautiful work on display or the common cup, the one thing that we need to remember a masterpiece is not a masterpiece because of the beauty of piece.  The masterpiece is what it is because of the master’s touch.  Without the master’s tender touch, we will remain just a lump of clay.

 

Jim Shrimplin

Speak Through Me

Almost from the moment that I became a Christian, I have wanted God to speak through me.  I love it when God uses me to teach others about the Scriptures, but there is also an annoying side as well.  You say, “Pastor Jim how can there be an annoying side to God speaking through you to teach someone about the Bible?”

This is the annoying side, but also a wonderful side as well.  Yesterday, I was teaching Sunday School and when I teach Sunday School I don’t have a lot of notes.  I just go where the class conversation takes us.   A student asked a question and I give, what I thought was a great answer, but now I can’t even remember the question let alone the answer. Whenever I give an answer that I feel in the moment in a great answer I can tell, it is the Holy Spirit speaking through me.  I know that I could not give that “good” of an answer in my own strength.

So you have probably guessed that the annoying part is forgetting how I answered the question.  The wonderful part is that I know that God spoke through me to give a better answer to a question than I can give on my own.  I know at that moment God’s Word, God’s voice, has not returned to Him void.  His Word spoken through me and has returned to Him.  It has done what He wanted it to accomplish and that’s the wonderful part.  The reason that this is annoying is that when I get home later that day I can’t remember the teaching so that I can reflect on it and develop the thought even more.

Are you sitting there and asking, “How do I get the Holy Spirit to speak through me?”  Here at my 5 tips on allowing the Spirit to speak through you.

 Tip 1: Study.  I know not the tip you wanted to hear but there is a good reason this is the first tip.  What’s the reason?  I’m glad you asked.  People who want God to speak His Word through us need to God’s Word in us.  Don’t have it; can’t give it.  Therefore, spend time in God’s Word through reading Scripture, meditate on God’s Word, memorize passages, and listen to preaching.  I can’t tell you how many verses I have memorized because I have heard them over and over again in different preaching and teaching settings.  So Tip 1: Study.

Tip 2: Be teachable. As I write this blog it is Monday morning and kids all over America are waking up and getting ready to go to school.  Teachers are also getting ready for school and of course, the teachers will teach and the students will hopefully learn.  Now, we don’t just take people who say, “I want to be a teacher” and put them in a classroom.  No, as a society, we require them to be taught.  We ask them to be teachable enough to learn how to become a teacher.  They spend four years or more learning the basics of teaching and the good ones never stop learning.  They have a teachable spirit.

As Christians, we need a teachable spirit and a spirit that is open to the Holy Spirit teaching us.  In John 14:26, John penned these words, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”.   Notice that the Spirit will teach and we will remember.  These are our first two tips.  We study; we remember.  We are teachable; He can teach us.

Another passage dealing with the Holy Spirit as our teacher is Luke 12:12.” for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say”  I believe that this is God does for me when He speaks through me.  He gives me the words that I need to say in my Sunday school class.  He gives me the words I need when I am preaching.  He gives me the words of life to give to someone else.  I know that this passage is talking about when, as Christians, we are brought before authorities to defend our faith, but I think it can also apply in this situation as well.  After all, what I am doing when I teach the Bible?  I am “defending” the Scriptures.

Tips 3 and 4 go together.  The 3rd tip is to teach, preach, and witness every opportunity you get.  The more you do these activities the more “comfortable” you become.  The more comfortable you become, the more opportunity you will have for the Holy Spirit to speak through you.  Tip 4:  Remain humble.  When you begin to teach, preach, and witness for God and He starts speaking through you, people will come to you say, “Wonderful message. Thanks a lot! I needed that word today.”  At that moment, you need to do all you can to stay humble.  It is easy to let pride take hold and start taking credit for something you didn’t do.

What do you do to stay humble?  Acknowledge that God has spoken through you and give credit to God.  There is no better way that I know of to stay humble than giving the credit to someone else especially when you didn’t do what they are saying you did.  What do I mean by that?  You get through giving the Word of God to someone and they come to congratulate you or thank you on a job well done.  But, you know God is the one that really taught your class he only used you to do it.  Acknowledge that fact.  Say, ” I am glad you enjoyed it but truthfully that was all God. ”   So teach, preach and witness but stay humble.

The final tip, tip 5, is to be patient.  The implantation of all these tips into your life will take time; you need to be patient.  Great Bible teachers and preachers have spent a great time with God’s Word. The average English Bible has over 700,000 words in it.  You are not going to learn all there is to know about all those words in a weekend Bible study or a 4 year Bible degree.  In fact, you will never get to know all that the Bible has to say because God is infinite and so is His Word.

So if you want God to speak through you, study the Word, be teachable, teach/preach when possible, stay humble and be patient.

Jim Shrimplin

Why Do We Pray?

There is nothing that can affect your life more than prayer.  But, why do we pray?  Do we pray to get things from God?  Do we pray to have our bodies healed?  Do pray to get rid of stress and anxiety?  Why do we pray?

I have listened to and read a lot of stuff about following God over the last 25 years.  In the last couple of months, I have started to wonder if, as Christians, are we doing prayer correctly?  I don’t mean are we praying correctly.  What we I am asking is do we seek the correct things is prayer?

While there is nothing wrong praying for sick loved one, in fact, we should pray that prayer.  Is praying for someone’s healing the overarching goal of a lifetime of prayer?  Is getting the bigger house the goal?  Is getting the new job the goal?  What is the goal of prayer?

When you realize the ultimate goal of prayer, it will revolutionize your walk with Christ.  Here it comes.  Are you ready?  The ultimate goal of prayer is not getting more stuff but getting to know God.  You don’t get up early and pray so that God will give you a new car.  You don’t get up early for God to get you a new…whatever it is you want.  No.  The point of prayer is to get to know God better.

We all have that one person that we would love to meet.  Maybe you have already meet them.  You stood in a line for 3 hours to get their autograph and tell them how much you love what they do.  They said, “Thanks.”  You said can I get a picture with you.  Next thing you know all your friends are liking your post.   You did everything in your power to get close to that person for just a few minutes. Now what?

Let me ask you something.  When was the last time we spent three hours waiting for the Lord in prayer?  I know I haven’t in the last year or maybe even 5 years.  Yet we will wait on our “earthly lord” for three hours to get to talk to them and get their autographs.  If we really believe that getting to know Jesus is the most important thing in our lives, how come we spend so little time on it?

Please don’t think that I am throwing stones at you.  I am not.  I throwing stones at myself and you get to watch.  You get to wonder “Am I next?”  Is God going to discipline me like this?  I hope He does because getting to know Christ is the most important thing we do in a day.

 

Jim Shrimplin

Two Day Rule

 

Jocko Willink, ex-Navy Seal, preaches a topic that I need to hear. It is not a passage of Scripture but it is a principle that is Bible friendly. What is this principle that I speak of? It is this, “Disciple = Freedom.” I don’t know about you but I need to realize how this principle could affect my Christian live. Here is how it works.

Take a minute and name that one thing that you have difficultly with in life. You got it? Let’s say money is your difficulty. Your week and your money never end at the same time. Your money always runs out first. You have a big salary so that’s not the problem. This is the problem. You have no discipline and therefore you have no financial freedom. The big paycheck caused you to go out and get a big house, more house than you needed. You thought to yourself, I make enough I can buy anything I want. Now you have everything you wanted but every credit card is maxed out. Your bank account sits empty while you have more junk in your basement than you know what to do with.

The principle is simple, but you will find the execution hard. If you want financial freedom you have to exercise financial discipline. You want freedom to run a marathon? You have to put in the discipline of running everyday. You want freedom in Christ? You have to have the discipline to pray, read your Bible, do good things for others, and all other things that will draw you closer to Jesus.

So what does Freedom = Discipline and the Two Day Rule have to do with this blog post. Everything! The Two Day Rule is a form of discipline. This form of discipline says, “I will not miss doing something two days in a row unless I am sick or something happens that I have no control over.”

I am going to impose the Two Day Rule on myself. This is my commitment that I am making to myself. “I will not miss two days of posting to my blog in a row unless I am sick or something happens to me that I have not control over.” That means if I know I am going to be driving all day one day and will miss posting than I write two post the day before or whatever I have to do so that I don’t miss posting.

What do you need to apply the principle of Discipline = Freedom mantra too? What in your life needs the Two Day Rule? I want to encourage you to do it. You need to pray more because your life is out of control? Apply the Two Day Rule. I will not neglect prayer for more than one day and ever two days in a row.” Want the Freedom to use the Bible when you witness to people? Apple the Discipline = Freedom principle. I will be free to use the Bible in my witnessing because I will read my Bible everyday. I will not miss more than one day and never two days in a row.

Pastor Jim do you do this perfectly? Nope. But with God’s help I am going to get better. I am going to use these two great principles to get closer to the Lord and help you as well by blogging more. Talk to you tomorrow.

 

Jim Shrimplin

Prayer by Timothy Keller Introduction

The last couple of weeks I have been reading a great book on prayer. Timothy Keller’s Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God is one of the best books I have read, well, listened too. I drive a lot and one of the things that I do while driving is I listen to audio books. That is how I first consumed Keller’s book. It was so good that I ordered a physical copy and I am in the process of re-reading it. I am also in the process of teaching from it in our prayer services at the church I serve. I want to give you a little review of the introduction of his book plus add some of my own thoughts. Well here it goes.

In the introduction, Keller introduces two types of prayer; communion prayer and kingdom prayer. Communion prayers are the types of prayer that brings the believer into God’s presence. These prayers do exactly what the name implies. They provide you communion with God. The follower of Christ senses God presence in their spirit. Unfortunately, Keller tells the reader that most Christians struggle with sensing God presence. The man or woman of God goes to prayer and rarely feels like the are communing with God.

This is one place that I agree and disagree with Keller all at the same time. There are a lot of Christians that never sense God while praying, but on the other hand their are a multitude that do. If you look into church history, you would find that there are two paths that church and individuals took theologically. One side we call head knowledge and the other we will call heart knowledge. What are these two patches you ask?

Well, the head knowledge path of church history refer to those that emphasized knowledge about God over and above experiencing God. Of course, some of the great theologians have come from this camp. People like John Calvin who wrote a tomb entitled, “Institutes of the Christian Religion” and Martin Luther who started the Reformation. They knew God for sure but it was through the mind more than the heart.

There are plenty of people and denominations that come out of these traditions. In fact, Keller himself comes out of one those denominations, Presbyterian Church U.S.A. He quotes Donald Bloesch, former professor at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa and is the school from which I received my Master of Divinity degree. UDTS is a PCUSA seminary and is a sister seminary to Harvard also a PCUSA affiliated school. Therefore, I could see why Keller would lean the direction that he does.

On the other side of the coin are Christians that emphasize the heart knowledge. What is interesting is that UDTS also have a United Methodist program and United Methodist would fallen into the heart knowledge category. In this heart knowledge path, Christians put more of an emphasis on knowing God through the Spirit. Theology in this camp is still important but they don’t forget about the Spirit speaking to their spirit.

In fact, tracing the movement from John Wesley today you would find a connection between Wesley, the Holiness Movement and the Pentecostal movement. If you looked at the denominations who consider Wesley their founder and Pentecostal movements like the Assemblies of God, you would think there is no way they could have common roots but they do.

I have only touched on one concept that Keller writes about in the introduction. I would recommend that you buy the book to read or the audible book and listen to Keller’s book. It is filled with great information.

If you are thinking about purchasing Keller’s book or Calvin’s book, please consider using the links below or the links in the post. If you do, you would be supporting this website and the cost of operating it. Thanks in advance.

Jim Shrimplin

Your Past Is Not Your Prison

America has a trend running through it’s veins. It seems that everyone is looking to play the victim. Here is how it happens. You wake up one morning and you realize that your life is all messed up. Nothing is going the way that you planned. You don’t own a house. You don’t have a white picket fence. You don’t have two kids, one boy and one girl. You don’t have a successful career. Everything that could go wrong seems to be going wrong. You wonder how you got into this mess so you begin to reflect on your past.

You don’t have a house because your parents never taught you how to handle your finances. You don’t have a picket fence because someone told you the American Dream is dead. You don’t have have two kids, one boy and one girl because when you were 14 someone called you ugly. You don’t have a successful career because a high school counselor suggested that you major in underwater basket weaving in college. You have decided your position or lack of position is not because what you did but what someone else has done to you. You are a victim. Your past is defining you. Your past is your prison keeping you doing what God called you to do.

Prison is not the place for victims. No, prison is the place for those guilty of a crime but your past has put in prison. You can’t move forward in life because your past screams, “You can’t do that!” You don’t have the talent. You don’t have the this or you don’t have that. You can’t move because the prison cell of your past is holding captive, but your past was never to be used in this way.

How is your past to be used in your life? First, your past does not have your be your prison. Your past was meant to be your testimony. When life says, you are failure! You don’t own a house.” You respond, “I may not have a home in this life but God has a mansion for me just over the hill top. You don’t have picket fence. You don’t have the American Dream. You respond, “No I don’t have a picket fence and I don’t have the American Dream but I have a God given dream. I know that God is going to do something great in my life. When life says, “You can’t do that for God.” You respond, “Yes, I can because I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.”

When God is in control of your life, your past is not your prison. It is your testimony. You past is not to keep you from doing things for God. Your past is the key to unlocking someone else’s future. Your past, your testimony is someone else’s inspiration to follow Christ. Your past is to show people what God can do in their lives if they will let him. The problem becomes that we want to use our past as our prison to explain our future failures.

Today, I want to encourage you to not be a prisoner to your past. Give your past to God. Watch God heal your past. Watch God work out the bad things in your past and change them into God things. Watch God turn your life around. Then tell others what God has done for you then you will be able to watch God use your past to change someone else’s future. Don’t be the victim! Be the victor in Jesus’ Name!

Jim Shrimplin

Where do you keep the Word of God?

The second place that some people keep the Word of God is in their minds. What does that look like you ask? Good questions. Keeping the Word of God in the mind comes in two forms. The first form can be found in a person that knows what the Bible says but does not believe it.

A classic example, a person who studies the Bible not to know God but to come up with ways to convince Christians the Bible is wrong. They come up with apparent contradictions in the Bible show them to their Christian friend and say, “See the Bible is not trust worthy.” Unfortunately, the arguments can be pervasive to those that are not familiar with Scripture.

As Christians having the Word of God in our heads is a better thing than it collecting dust on a coffee table. The Word of God in our head only allows us to know things about the Bible like: Who are the characters are, the time period of the story, the location the story take place, the genre of the passage, who the human author of the story, etc. A person with the God’s Word in their heads maybe able to quote long passages, but never experienced the God contained in the Scriptures.

Jim Shrimplin

Where do you keep the Word of God?

In my library, I have lot of books. The other day someone came into my office and asked, “Have you read all those books?” I gave him a long answer of how some are reference works so you don’t sit down and it them cover to cover. But you, I will give you the short answer, “No.”. I have not read all the books in my library. I have not even read all the books that I should have read cover to cover. I have a place for my books called a bookshelf.

Most of my books set on the bookshelf year after year and never get touch let alone read. They might make me look smart but really setting on the bookshelf they don’t me any good. Unfortunately, that is where most people keep the Bible. They keep it on the bookshelf. It rarely gets read and it is never understood. The Word of God does this person no good.

There is another way we can keep the Word of God on the bookshelves of our lives. How? When we read it and then walk away from it. We go to church hear the preaching of God’s Word and then go out to eat like we were never there. We just go through the motions of church, but come Monday morning we are the same person we were on Saturday night. No transformation. No Change and the sad part is there are lot a people that thinks this is okay. I hope and pray that this is not you or me.