Author Archives: Jim

Leaders: You Can Make Your Public Prayers More Meaningful


write your prayersWhen I was a new worship leader, I prepared like crazy for Wednesday nights and Sunday Mornings! I made sure the music charts were written out and CORRECT and that everyone had the one they needed. I would play through the songs multiple times on my own and work on any tough parts. I would create interesting modulation changes! This was all before we even rehearsed the team. Probably like most worship leaders, I took it seriously and prepared everything.

Except for any prayers!

Prayer was the one thing I didn’t need to think about ahead of time. I could always pray in front of others. I had no fear of it, loved doing it, and could make it up on the fly. I was good at it. Or so I thought.

Then one day, it happened.

I listened to several of my preaching tapes, and I was horrified at Read the rest of this entry

It’s Official: People Don’t Want to Sing So Much on Sundays


lucy surprise“We sing too much in church!”

Whenever I say this, those who hear me have one of two responses.  The first one is absolute total agreement, usually told to me via a whisper in the ear or a hand written note that self destructs after I have read it.  There can be NO evidence of this solidarity.

The second response is a casual search for matches, wood and rope so I can be burned alive at the stake as a heretic.  OK, so I am exaggerating a little bit about the first response, people don’t actually pass me a note that self destructs, but you get the idea!

If you have spend any amount of time on Not For Itching Ears, then you are aware of our thoughts on corporate worship and the need to reform it.  We thought it would be a good idea to create some polls about various aspects of corporate church life, and see what readers thought.    So, we created several of them.  The results are still coming in, but so far Read the rest of this entry

Is God Really Calling You To Plant a Church?


cross-with-roots3-e1288037811724“Do we really need another one?” I asked with an annoying tone. I must have been bothered by it, because I asked my passenger Dakota her thoughts on the subject. Dakota is my Golden Retriever, and from what I could tell she was all for it, as long as they gave away tennis balls to all visitors.

In my town, it would seem there is a new church starting every couple of weeks. I understand the idea behind planting a new church. It is suppose to be the most effective form of evangelism known to mankind. At least that is what I was told in seminary, and it would seem our young leaders are being indoctrinated with the same idea.  But is it true?

I think the greatest form of evangelism is one on one. More people are still introduced to God and Jesus Christ via interaction with people outside the congregational walls. Period.

Church planting certainly has its place.   Is it possible to over plant the church? Can there be too many churches in a city? If you are considering planting a church where the church already exists in abundance, it would be wise of you to thoughtfully and unselfishly pondered that question.   I think the answer is a resounding YES!  Take a look at Colorado Springs, CO.  Do you think it needs one more evangelical congregation?  The red dots are churches.

Churches in Colorado Springs

Over church planting in a city can cause a stumbling block for evangelism.  So many different churches can lead non-christians to believe that even Christians can’t figure this stuff  about ultimate issues out.    I can imagine the questions that arise in the mind of the non-Christians: “Why are there so many churches if the claims of Christianity are true?  Isn’t the fact that there are so many different churches PROOF that Christianity is false? Why are they starting another one?  Why do they all believe different things?  If they can’t agree on what the truth is, maybe they are all just a bunch of misguided, well-meaning people who I should not take seriously.”

We won’t even talk about how one more church plant will dilute the scarce resources of leaders, servants, and dinero.

I applaud you for wanting to step out in faith and make a real difference in people’s lives.  Still, I want to issue a challenge to if you are thinking about planting a church.   If God is calling you to a particular area that is church saturated, perhaps it is NOT to plant your own church.  Perhaps you are being called  to come alongside someone else. Here’s an idea:  If God has called you to come to a city where there are hundreds of churches, why not find a job like Paul did and the rest of us do.  Why not volunteer to help another local church like the rest of us?  Why start something new?

Be honest with yourself, isn’t what you are thinking about starting exactly the same thing as the last 35 guys who came here to start something?  Does God really need 36 congregations that are essentially the same thing?   Perhaps it would honor God more and make a bigger impact on the community if you went and helpedp the last guy God sent here.  They don’t have enough money to pay you, but they need your help.  Just a thought.

Check out the result of 4 different polls and the challenging conclusions arrived at in our post It’s Official: People Don’t Want To Sing So Much On Sundays.

Flow chart For Guitar Players


Flow chart For Guitar Players

We always knew it, now we have proof!

Inspiring Lives From Church History: James, the Great Martyr of Persia


martyrs for ChristPeople have been living and dying for Christ for over 2000 years and history is full of wonderful examples of men and women who followed Christ faithfully. We can learn a lot from studying their lives. Yet, there is something truly compelling about those who suffer for Him and pay the ultimate price for their faith.

When I read the historical record of what some of these ancient brothers and sisters went through, it challenges me deeply. I often wonder how I would respond in such situations. I guess we won’t ever know unless and until we find ourselves in the same place. The one thing I can say with certainty is Read the rest of this entry

Does God Care More About Our Character OR What We Do In His Name?


I'm Right and You're WrongIt is a simple question, really…

In your opinion, is God most concerned with character or accomplishments in our lives? In other words, does He care more about the great things we accomplish (or don’t) in his name and for his kingdom OR who we ARE or BECOMING as his followers. In this poll, you can’t say “both” because the question is which one does he car MOST about?

Why Christians Should Let Non-Christians Off The Moral Hook


I'm Right and You're WrongI feel like I need to get something off my chest.   It bothers me that Christians continually express shock, disapproval and judgment at the way non-Christians live.

You’ve seen it, and maybe even done it:

Doesn’t anyone believe in marriage anymore?

I can’t get over how many people today smoke weed.

Can you believe they just sleep in instead of coming to church?

Did you hear they moved in together? That’s so bad!

What’s wrong with our government? Why don’t they uphold biblical values?

Whenever I hear that, I  feel like saying “Do you seriously expect non-Christians to behave like Christians?”

This article was not written by us over here at NotForItchingEars.com.  I found it over at www.Careynieuwhof.com.  You can read the article on Carey’s site here:  http://careynieuwhof.com/2013/02/why-christians-should-let-non-christians-off-the-moral-hook/  I think he makes some great points in this article, and I thought it was worth reposting.  So here it is:

Think it through.

Most people in the West no longer consider themselves Christian.

Or even if they use the term “Christian” to describe themselves, few believe in the authority of scripture or profess a personal faith in Jesus Christ.

So why would we expect them to behave like Christians? Why would we expect people who don’t profess to be Christians to:

Wait until marriage to have sex?

Clean up their language?

Be celibate when they’re attracted to people of the same sex?

Pass laws like the entire nation was Christian?

Seriously? Why?

They’re not pretending to be Christians. Why would they adopt Christian values or morals?

Please don’t get me wrong.

I’m a pastor. I completely believe that the Jesus is not only the Way, but that God’s way is the best way.

When you follow biblical teachings about how to live life, your life simply goes better. It just does. I 100% agree.

I do everything I personally can to align my life with the teachings of scripture, and I’m passionate about helping every follower of Christ do the same.

But what’s the logic behind judging people who don’t follow Jesus for behaving like people who don’t follow Jesus?

Why would you hold the world to the same standard you hold the church?

Before you judge a non-Christian for behaving like a non-Christian, think about this:

1. They act more consistently with their value system than you do. It’s difficult for a non-Christian to be a hypocrite, because they tend to live out what they believe. Chances are they are better at living out their values than you or I are. Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans. But he did speak out against religious people for acting hypocritically.

2. Your disapproval is destroying the relationship (if you have even have a relationship in the first place). Some of the most judgmental Christians have zero non-Christians friends. Is that a surprise, really? I mean, on a human level, how many people have you made time for this week that you know disapprove of who you are and the way you live? Exactly.

3. Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy. People don’t line up to be judged. If you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them.

4. Judging outsiders is unChristian. Paul told us to stop judging people outside the church. Jesus said God will judge us by the same standard with which we judge others. Paul also reminds us to drop the uppity-attitude; that none of us were saved by the good we did but by grace.

So what can you do?

1. Stop judging non-Christians. Start loving them. Very few people have been judged into life-change. Many have been loved into it.

2. Empathize with non-Christians. Ask yourself, “If I wasn’t a Christian, what would I be doing?” Chances are you might be doing exactly what the non Christians in your neighbourhood are doing. Understanding that and empathizing with that completely changes how you see people. And they can tell how you see them.

3. Hang out with non-Christians. Jesus did. And caught plenty of disapproval for it. I have a friend who continually drops f-bombs in my presence. As much as it bothers me, I never correct him (he’s not a kid, he’s my peer). But I do pray for him every day and we talk about my faith. I pray I see the day when he’s baptized.

4. Pray for unchurched people. It is impossible to remain enemies with someone you genuinely pray for daily.

5. Live out your faith authentically. Your actions carry weight. Humility is far more attractive than pride. When a non-Christian sees integrity, it’s compelling.

I just have a feeling if we in the church loved the world the way Jesus did, the world might come running to Christ.

And, then, the change we long to see might actually begin to happen.

Visit Carey’s site for more of his take on Church life and Christianity:  http://careynieuwhof.com/

The Church…Who Is Closer To The Truth?


PollToday’s poll is at once both easy and difficult. There are only three real answers. That’s the easy part. The hard part? Choosing the right answer. In our opinion, that takes a little thinking. Here’s what we are asking you: Which church tradition, in your opinion, (Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant) is most faithful to the historic Christian faith of the early church (the first 300 years)?

Easy now my fellow Protestants! Don’t jump to what may appear to be an obvious answer. Why, you ask? because we have lumped all protestant groups into one answer. This group included Baptists, Reformed, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Lutherans, non-denominational, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, The Faith movements, Nazarene, COGIC etc. Even though the Anglicans are not really part of the official Protestant movement, we have included them here as well. So, it is not simply whatever protestant group you are a part of, which of course is the MOST faithful, that’s why you are a part of it. It’s the whole thing.

Further, we are not asking which tradition is most faithful to Luther or Calvin or the other Protestant trailblazers. The criterion is which group is more faithful to the version of Christianity that the early church embraced and took all over the world in the first 300 years of church history? Another way of looking at is to ask Which church tradition would the Apostles and the early church Fathers recognize as being most representative of the church they gave their lives to lead and strengthen?

So who has remained most faithful to the Early Church: The Protestants as a group, The Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church?

Take our other polls: What Do You Like MOST about the Church Service and What Do You Like LEAST about The Church Service? and too really make your opinion count for an upcoming post tell us Do You Think We spend Too Much Time Singing in Church?

Saturday Soup for the Soul


sould foodFor Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I Cor. 5:7b-8

9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:9-11

20 Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. I Cor. 15:20-22

Inspiring Lives From Church History: Hesychius 300AD


The_Christian_Martyrs_Last_Prayer_by_leon_geromePeople have been living and dying for Christ for over 2000 years and history is full of wonderful examples of men and women who followed Christ faithfully. We can learn a lot from studying their lives. Yet, there is something truly compelling about those who suffer for Him and pay the ultimate price for their faith.

When I read the historical record of what some of these ancient brothers and sisters went through, it challenges me deeply. I often wonder how I would respond in such situations. I guess we won’t ever know unless and until we find ourselves in the same place. The one thing I can say with certainty is that Read the rest of this entry

Are You Running from God in The Valley of Transformation?


running from dangerDuring the 1996 Superbowl, Nissan launched its now famous “Life is A Journey, Enjoy the Ride” advertising campaign. In the two-minute spot, a young boy finds himself in an underground garage, where a mysterious man shows him some old cars. As the boy begins to leave, the old man offers him a parting word of sage advice: (You have to say this with a thick Japanese accent for the full effect) “Remember….Life is a journey. Enjoy…..the ride.”

Of course the commercial was designed to sell Nissan’s, so people could “enjoy the ride” in a nice car! It had a different impact on one young pastor who was watching.

I paused to reflect on my life and the journey I was on Read the rest of this entry

Inspiring Lives From Church History


The_Christian_Martyrs_Last_Prayer_by_leon_geromePeople have been living and dying for Christ for over 2000 years and history is full of wonderful examples of men and women who followed Christ faithfully.  We can learn a lot from studying their lives.  Yet, there is something truly compelling about those who suffer for Him and pay the ultimate price for their faith.

When I read the historical record of what some of these ancient brothers and sisters went through, it challenges me deeply.   I often wonder how I would respond in such situations.  I guess we won’t ever know unless and until we find ourselves in the same place.   The one thing I can say with certainty is that these accounts inspire me to live for Christ.  That is why today, we are beginning a new series.  In it, we will highlight men and women who suffered for Christ, because of their faith.  They won’t be long posts, so you should be able to read them in less than 5 minutes.  My Prayer is that they will cause you to reflect on your own life and faith, inspiring you follow Him more deeply.

Today, we will read about Mark, the Bishop of Arethusa  (361 AD)

Mark, Bishop of Arethusa, suffered for his faith in Christ under the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363). By order of the emperor Constantine, St Mark had once destroyed a pagan temple and built a Christian church.

When Julian came to the throne, he persecuted Christians and tried to Read the rest of this entry

The Mystery of Our Faith….


cross-with-nail 2Christ HAS Died,

Christ IS Risen,

Christ WILL Come again!  Amen

Holy Week Prayers: Saturday


holy-saturdayHoly Saturday:

 O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on his holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Don Francisco’s “He’s Alive” Live Video


This song, was a big hit back in the day. Every time I ever heard it, it moved me! I still does today. Check out the live video of Don Francisco’s “He’s Alive” below.  I hope it encourages you this Easter weekend.

Jim

Were You There? I Was


Question mark peopleI came across this sermon back in the early 90′s.  Each month, Preaching Today send me a tape of an exceptional sermon.  When I put this one in the old tape deck and started listening, I was immediately drawn into the story of Jesus on the way to the cross and Simon of Cyrene.  By the end of the message, I had been reduced to a weeping young pastor marveling at the scene of The Cross.
 
Not many people know about this moving sermon preached in 1944.   We are letting you all in on it.   I can’t think of a better audio to listen to on this Good Friday.   Hope you enjoy, from all of us over here at NotForItchingEars.com.
 

Were You There?

With emotional brush strokes of dramatic narrative, Dr. Marshall’s gripping account of Simon of Cyrene meeting Jesus on His way to the Crucifixion puts the listener at the very foot of the Cross. After experiencing this message, there is no longer any doubt about the answer to that famous question: We were all there. (Preached on March 9, 1944)

Whatever Happened To This Message of The Cross


In honor of Good Friday, we are re-posting the very first article published at Not For Itching Ears…

The sign said, “Now serving Starbucks coffee!”

It was the late 90’s and the premium coffee craze was taking the country by storm. Everyone who liked coffee LOVED Starbucks or soon would. So it wasn’t surprising that some business would be utilizing the brand name to promote what they were doing. It made pretty good sense. It would not have fazed me a single bit if any other company was doing it. However, this massive sign was hung in front of a local evangelical Christian church. The message was crystal clear: “Come to our service on Sunday, we have free Starbucks coffee!”

With the arrival of the church growth movement and the seeker-sensitive ministry focus it birthed.. Read the rest of this entry

Holy Week Prayer: Good Friday


Lamb of GodGood Friday Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Holy Week Prayers: Maudy Thursday


lastsupper“Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

Holy Week Prayer: Wednesday


The Cross4Wednesday in Holy Week Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon: Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time, confident of the glory that shall be revealed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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