Teaching that speaks to hearts & touches lives – Ezra, Joshua, & Barnabas
Here’s what one minister shared about a fellow minister, after listening to his message,
I remember, years ago, sitting at a conference and being amazed and a bit jealous as speakers impressed me with their knowledge and charisma. Then Pastor Cymbala stepped on stage.
He was every bit as captivating as the others, but he spoke in such a way that I forgot all about him.
He made me focus on Jesus.
At the end of the sermon, I was in awe of God. I was focused on His word, not his.
It is clear from his teaching and writing that Jim Cymbala has an agenda:
to make sure that Jesus is the only person glorified.
While many “scholars” make every effort to assure us that we are not intelligent enough to understand the Scriptures without their help,
Jim champions the ordinary person filled with the Holy Spirit. He encourages us to examine the Scriptures for ourselves in the power of the Spirit.
He reminds us that it’s all about Him, and He wants to empower, lead, teach, and use us. All of us.”
Source: Jim Cymbala , Spirit Rising, 2012, Zondervan, pg 8 (Foreword)
We are all called to make disciples for Jesus (Matthew 28:19), hence we all are empowered by the Holy Spirit to teach & live out God’s word … whether its with our own family, one-on-one or in a group … at home, church or the marketplace.
Effective teaching touches lives, … empowering, alive, memorable.
Its a product of both the content of the message,
the content of the character of the person delivering the message,
& indispensibly, God’s anointing by His Spirit.
This involves time spent in attentive study & meditation of God’s word by oneself,
as well as yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life to His Word.
Luke 8:11 (NIV)
… The seed is the word of God.
The right fruit comes from the right seed that is sown on the right ground.
Luke 24:32 (NASB)
They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?”
As its been said,
‘If we can’t live it … then we can’t teach it’,
and if we do not believe what we are teaching … it sounds hollow, lacking passion, conviction, ‘going through the motion’.
Proverbs 2:1-6 (NIV)
My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Were not our hearts burning
when He was speaking … explaining the Scriptures to us?”
Nurtured by prayers in the Lord’s presence,
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them
…. they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:8,13 NIV)
For Jesus, in between his busy ministry schedule, … he consistently prayed, early before the start of each day …
Mark 1:33, 35, 39 (NIV)
33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, …
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Prayer is the difference.
God’s Word must touch/minister/speak to us first, … first-hand (as we seek Him),
before our sharing can memorably touch others, …
Sometimes it may just be one word in our Bible reading that captivates us …other times it could be a phrase or story …
God speaks, … today … are we listening?
If not, our sharing …. becomes academic, clinical, analytical, impersonal, a study … or worse still ‘cut-&-paste’ snapshots from messages of others, like pastor google or pastor facebook … man’s words.
Matthew 14:19 (NIV)
And he directed the people to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven,
he gave thanks and broke the loaves.
Then he gave them to the disciples,
and the disciples gave them to the people.
The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. (John 6:63 NIV)
For the word of God is alive and active. (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)
This is evident in the writings/experiences of the prophets in the Old Testament.
Jeremiah 15:16 (CEB)
When your words turned up, I feasted on them;
and they became my joy, the delight of my heart,
because I belong to you, Lord God of heavenly forces.
Jeremiah 20:9 (NIV)
But if I say, “I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.
In meditating God’s word,
what is God speaking to me.
What did the scripture speak to me today?
How is Jesus revealed?
My heart’s response? Prayer?
Jesus said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,” (John 5:24)
Can we see Jesus in the Scriptures?
Is Jesus the center of our sharing/teaching?
Matthew 7:17 (NIV)
… every good tree bears good fruit …
39 And He spoke a parable to them:
“Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?
40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained
will be like his teacher.
Hence, effective teaching is not measured by eloquence, popularity or fame,
but the fruit of lives touched and changed for His glory.
Not man’s vain glory … but God’s precious glory,
Not just information …. but tranformation to be more like Jesus
everyone …. perfectly trained … will be like his teacher, Jesus.
Recently, heard a pastor begin his message by saying,
“As the Word is proclaimed, I hope you will know Jesus better,
and grow to be more like Him’
Consider Ezra’s ministry recorded in Nehemiah,
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 8,9, 12
all the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate.They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which theLord had commanded for Israel. 2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.
3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand.
And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.
The message was nearly 6 hours, & the people listened attentively.
8 They read from the Book of the Law of God,
making it clear
and giving the meaning
so that the people understood what was being read.
God’s Word was clearly explained to the people,
Ezra did not merely tell the people … he explained to the people,
making it clear, giving the meaning
Paul’s prayer request:
Colossians 4:4-6 (NIV)
4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
Ezra read the Book of the Law of God, verse by verse … and explained. He explained the text of the Book. He did not cherry-pick verses to fit his message. The Book was the source that shaped his message.
Continuing with Ezra in Nehemiah 8,
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.”
For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
& the people’s hearts were touched, convicted by God’ Word.
… weeping as they listened to the words of the Law
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy,
because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
The people left the meeting rejoicing, because they now understood the words.
The goal of teaching is …. the listeners learn
… not just completion of the delivery of information.
Have our listeners learned?
A further question is, can they take what they’ve learned and teach/disciple others ? (2 Timonty 2:2)
This is the wisdom of Jesus’ use of parables; … the Bible is filled narrative stories.
To teach clearly and effectively,
it helps that we ourselves are clear in our understanding of God & His ways
i.e. the content,
expressed in simple words, framed in a logical structure,
rather than rely on slick powerpoints, or cliche soundbites, or simply stringing ‘spiritual’ Christianese words together.
When a message lacks a logical structure, its not easy for the listener to be attentive.
Just ask yourself, out of the 50+ Sunday sermons you’ve heard in the last 12 months … which ones can you remember? Why was it memorable?
This is what was said of Ezra,
Ezra 7:6, 9,10 (NIV)
6 this Ezra came up from Babylon. He was a teacher
well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given.
The king had granted him everything he asked,
for the hand of the Lord his God was on him.
…. for the gracious hand of his God was on him.
10 For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord,
and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.
in some ways, its similar to what was said of Jesus,
Luke 2:52 (NASB)
And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Ezra was well versed in God’s word
he devoted himself to the study,
and more importantly in observance of God’s word,
He lived it, before he taught it.
Ezra himself was both a student and doer of God’s word.
Hence, he taught from his experience and walk with God,
Ezra ‘live the talk‘… & ‘walk the talk‘,
Ezra was an example,
… hence the fruit of his ministry.
Ezra understood God’s word was to be practically lived in his life,
not merely read,
… hence, the fruit.
Paul wrote – I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27 NLT)
Satan could quote the Bible as well as anyone else,
but his trouble is that he doesn’t live it
– Marion E Wade
Living out consistently God’s word …
not just in church or Sunday
or only when one is speaking/ministering,
‘in the spotlight & off’.
Matthew 7:24,25 (NIV)
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
And crucially, through his devotion to the Lord,
the gracious hand of his God was on him.
God’s Spirit was upon Ezra.
Ezra had God’s anointing upon him.
Ezra not only brought God’s word but also …
Ezra was not self-righteous or prideful … he was a man of prayer, he prayed much for his people.
He humbly identified himself with them …. here’s excerpts of his prayer in Ezra 9
5 ….“I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. 7 From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.
10 “.. for we have forsaken the commands 11 you gave through your servants the prophets …
13 “What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this.
Note, Ezra’s use of ‘we’, ‘us’, our‘ in his prayer,
rather than ‘they’, ‘theirs’, ‘you‘
Whichever perspective a leader takes … will be verbalized in their messages, conversations and attitude towards others.
…. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
A ‘them’ and ‘us’ attitude becomes … self-righteous, judgmental, unloving, and lacks the grace of Jesus. Furthermore, it promotes conformity, performance … rather than diversity & respect in the body of Christ … and a lack of grace & love to those who have yet to believe in Jesus.
Honestly, can we fruitfully minister to others
… if we do not love & respect them as ourselves?
Sadly, sometimes, others hear so clearly our attitude,
more than our words.
Even children can see and hear.
1 Corinthians 8:1 (NIV)
…. knowledge puffs up while love builds up.
Behind Ezra’s powerful public ministry,
was a private intimate prayer & Word ministry before the Lord.
His messages were birthed & nurtured in prayer.
We must talk to God about men before we talk to men about God
– Bill Bright
Prayer is the difference.
The spiritual leader should outpace the rest of the church,
above all, in prayer.
– Oswald Sanders
In Acts, this was said of Barnabas
22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.
23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Barnabas, … a good man,
… full of the Holy Spirit
and full of faith,
& he encouraged them
a great number of people were brought to the Lord
Continuing in Acts 11,
Acts 11:25,26 (NKJV)
25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. 27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.
… taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
The fruit Barnabas & Saul’s teaching ministry – others in Antioch could see a difference in the disciples, acknowledging them as Christians, i.e. followers of Christ.
Barnabas was also humble to collaborate & partner with Saul (Paul),
and other ministries in the body of Christ – prophets from Jerusalem,
so that the church in Antioch was built up …. very quickly.
Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul.
Barnabas went to seek for Saul as he knew the potential that was in Saul (Paul) to bless the church. By sharing the pulpit at Antioch with Saul, Barnabas demonstrated he was willing to help kick-start the ministry of others … invest in nurturing others to their fullest potential …. even though, someday Paul’s ministry will probably eclipse his.
He was interested in building the Kingdom of God, not his own ministry. Hence, he was willing to collaborate, cooperate and jointly co-labor with others to bless the body of Christ.
Barnabas focus was to invest and impart into the lives of others.
Earlier, when Saul first believed in the Lord,
Acts 9:26 (NKJV)
26 And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.
Barnabas became a bridge in a time of distrust, suspicion … a peacemaker, a mediator, a door-opener …. introducing Saul to the apostles.
And much earlier on,
Acts 4:36 (NKJV)
And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Barnabas demonstrated his generosity and love for the Lord. By the example of his words and deeds, he was called Son of Encouragement …. His encouraging spirit, tone & attitude definitely came across in his teaching as well.
At Antioch, Barnabas encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
I’m sure we’ve all been inspired by teachers in school who have encouraged us along the way; such teachers are memorable. We all need encouragement in our walk. An encouraging environment enhances learning.
The mediocre teacher tells.
The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher inspires.
— William Arthur Ward
In teaching and/or helping others,
1 Thessalonians 5:14 (AMP)
…. encourage the timid and fainthearted,
help and give your support to the weak souls,
[and] be very patient with everybody [always keeping your temper].
Hence, don’t be frustrated if progress is slow,
… may be our explanation is not clear or simple to understand.
Simplify, explain jargon/context.
Try another approach. Be creative.
2 Timothy 2:23-26
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
Sharing Christ .. in a Christ-like character.
Teaching delivered in an encouraging & patient way … inspires others to learn and act.
not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition,
Our attitude is just as important as our content.
Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)
The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Encouragement, inspiration speaks to minds & touches hearts
… heals hearts.
Proverbs 16:21, 24 (NIV)
21 The wise in heart are called discerning,
and gracious words promote instruction.
24 Gracious words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
Colossians 4:6 (NIV)
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt ….
Proverbs 16:21 (NLT, GNT)
The wise are known for their understanding,
and pleasant words are persuasive.
A wise, mature person is known for his understanding.
The more pleasant his words, the more persuasive he is.
Look at Jesus,
Luke 4:21 (NIV)
All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”, ….His ordinary background, credentials,
All spoke well of him, …. He consistently ‘walked the talk’, a sterling reputation
the gracious words that came from his lips … expressed in His words & attitude
…. ordinary, yet extraordinary, memorable, influential
As Paul encouraged Timothy,
1 Timothy 4:12 (NIV)
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example
for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
Children learn by imitating the adults around them …
from the lyrics of Stephen Songheim’s song ‘Children will listen’.
Careful the things you say,
Children will listen.
Careful the things you do,
Children will see and learn.
Children may not obey
But, children will listen.
Children will look to you
For which way to turn,
To learn what to be.
Careful before you say,
“Listen to me”.
Children will listen.
Hebrews 13:7 (NASB)
Remember those who led you,
who spoke the word of God to you;
and considering the result of their conduct,
imitate their faith.
Is our faith & walk worth imitating ?
The fruit of Joshua’s ministry is recorded at the end of Joshua,
Joshua 24:31 (NIV)
Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.
This is extraordinary fruit
Israel served the Lord
… in Joshua’s lifetime, and after his death,
who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.
Joshua did not build a whole generation’s faith around his leadership or personality or his anointing or his vision … but solidly in God. Their eyes were on God, not men. That’s how this generation’s faith continued to flourish even after the death of Joshua … throughout the lifetime of the elders who outlived Joshua.
In the book of Joshua, Israel followed God’s word,
experienced God’s specific guidance in each step and battle,
They personally experienced & encountered God first-hand,
God’s awesome power and miracles through His word (eg Jericho);
Joshua diligently followed God’s instruction in Joshua 1,
Joshua 1:5-9 (NIV)
As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua was to,
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips;
meditate on it day and night,
so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.
Then you will be prosperous and successful.
This was the God’s commissioning instruction to Joshua, who was leading Israel into war and conquest in Canaan.
Jesus echoes these words,
John 15:5-8 (NIV)
5 I am the vine, you are the branches;
he who abides in Me and I in him,
he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.
7 If you abide in Me,
and My words abide in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
he who abides in Me and I in him,
he bears much fruit,
apart from Me you can do nothing.
If you abide in Me,
and My words abide in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Amen, may the Lord work in us and through us, as we abide in Him and His words, and be filled with His Spirit.
Undoubtedly, Joshua was well discipled by Moses. He was also well tested, before he was appointed to lead Israel (1 Timothy 3:10).
And here’s a little detail of what Joshua developed from his formative years,
10 All the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door. 11 So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.
Exodus 33:10,11 (NKJV)
As Jesus said, he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
As we serve Him, with the anointing of the Holy Spirit,
as we share His word, the Lord confirms His word.
Matthew 9:35 (NIV)
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
Mark 16:20 (NKJV)
20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen
Acts 14:3 (NIV)
So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.
Jesus’ ministry & finished work on the cross is about restoration of the whole person – body, soul & spirit.
The early church in Acts prayed in the midst of opposition,
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly
speak your word with great boldness.
Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders
through the name of your holy servant Jesus.
After they prayed,
they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and spoke the word of God boldly
The Bible is filled with stories/testimonies of God’s supernatural power manifested in ordinary people’s lives.
People heard God’s word, …. saw … & experienced God’s presence, tangibly, personally, first-hand,
and through their encounter with the Lord
… hearts/lives changed.
Hebrews 2:3,4 (NIV)
how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Paul sums it well,
1 Corinthians 2:1-3 (NIV)
And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.
2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.
4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,
5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom,
but on God’s power.
Amen, with the Lord’s help,
may our listeners’ faith rest on God’s power,
… rather than on wise and persuasive words and human wisdom,
and may they understand & experience God through the testimony about God and a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.
1 Corinthians 4:20 (NASB)
For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.
2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB)
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed,
accurately handling the word of truth.
Teaching Jesus accurately – Apollos, click here
Jesus’ teaching method … inspiring, life changing, real (Click here)
Teaching | Discipling | Ministry
by 林弟兄, bro Lim
April 2, 2015
Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
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