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Preparing for Revival

(This has been adapted and updated from the lectures given by Charles Finney entitled, Lectures on Revivals of Religion).

Finney believed that a revival consisted of two parts: “as it respects the church, and as it respects the ungodly.”

(Hoses 10:12 NLT) I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.’

We have a part to play in bringing revival to the church and the world around us. One of the parts that we play is “plow[ing] up the hard ground of [our] hearts.”

How does one plow the ground and prepare it for a deposit of God’s presence, power, and provision?

Finney offers a simple exercise that will unearth and excavate the ground in our life. He encourages that we examine our hearts by taking an inventory based on our human sin. He believes that when we see clearly our need for Christ, we will focus our entire being on God and when we do revival will come.

Do you believe that? If so, use this exercise to help prepare yourself for revival.

Mr. Finney said:

“Self-examination consists in looking at your lives, in considering your actions, in calling up the past, and learning its true character. Look back over your past history. Take up your individual sins one by one, and look at them. I do not mean that you should just cast a glance at your past life, and see that it has been full of sins, and then go to God and make a sort of general confession, and ask for pardon. That is not the way. You must take them up one by one. It will be a good thing to take a pen and paper, as you go over them, and write them down as they occur to you. Go over them as carefully as a merchant goes over his books; and as often as a sin comes before your memory, add it to the list. General confessions of sin will never do. Your sins were committed one by one; and as far as you can come at them, they ought to be reviewed and repented of one by one.”

SINS OF OMISSION

Ingratitude
Lack of love for God
Neglect of the Bible
Unbelief
Lack of Prayer
Neglect of the means of grace (small groups, attending church, communion, prayer meetings)
The attitude or manner in which you have preformed the above duties
Lack of care for your fellow human being
Lack of concern for the unsaved
Neglect of family and marriage commitments
Neglect of social commitments
Neglect of purity in your life
Lack of concern for fellow brothers and sisters in Christ
Lack of self-denial

SINS OF COMMISSION

Worldly mindedness
Pride
Envy
Critical spirit
Gossiping or Slanderous speech
Careless and irreverent with the things of God
Lying
Cheating
Hypocrisy
Robbing God (time, talents, treasures).
Bad tempers or uncontrolled anger
Being a distraction to those working hard
Offense
Unforgiveness

Instructions

A. Do it now. Don’t wait.
B. Once you have gone through it once, do it again. (You will see other sins)
C. And “yes” do it one more time.
D. Be sure and repent for each one and invite God’s power and grace into your life.

Finney adds:

“Unless you do take up your sins in this way, and consider them in detail, one by one, you can form no idea of the amount of your sins. You should go over it as thoroughly and as carefully, and as solemnly, as you would if you were just preparing yourself for the judgment.”

This inventory and examination is vital to preparing our hearts of a wonderful deposit of God’s Word into our life. As we end this exercise Finney shares about the ‘spirit of prayer’ that can come upon the people of God. I leave you with that picture. May we embrace prayer as individuals and a church as to usher in a ‘spirit of prayer’ as described by Mr. Finney:

“Set yourself to the work now; resolve that you never will stop till you find you can pray. You never will have the spirit of prayer, till you examine yourself, and confess your sins, and break up your fallow ground. You never will have the Spirit of God dwelling in you, till you have unraveled this whole mystery of iniquity, and spread out your sins before God. Let there be this deep work of repentance, and full confession, this breaking down before God, and you will have as much of the spirit of prayer as your body can bear up under. The reason why so few Christians know any thing about the spirit of prayer, is because they never would take the pains to examine themselves properly, and so never knew what it was to have their hearts all broken up in this way.”

T.H.I.N.K.

“Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” (Hebrews 12:3 NLT)

Last Sunday, I taught on how the word “think” is an interesting word in the original Greek. Basically, it has a sense of repetition…doing something again and again.

Clearly, this kind of thinking is designed to create a habit. Almost like meditating.

The opposite of thinking is to “sail by,” or not pay attention.

Thinking takes energy. But if we will invest the energy, then we will be better prepared to endure whenever life gets hard.

Here are five tangible ways to keep your eyes on, and “think” about Jesus:

T—hink on the cross.

“After all, you have not given your lives in your struggle against sin.” (Hebrews 12:4 NLT)

H—ave daily fellowship with Jesus.

“So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.” (1 John 1:6 NLT)

I—nvest in godly relationships.

“But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7 NLT)

N—ever give up. But, always give.

“…then you won’t become weary and give up.” (Hebrews 12:3b NLT)

“They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.” (2 Corinthians 8:2-5 NLT)

K—eep your future in focus.

“Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe.” (Hebrews 12:28 NLT)

“In the Christian faith, if you play hurt, you end up healed; if you stay on the sidelines, the injury just gets worse.” —T.G. Long

Ferguson: What Next?

(James 1:19-21 NLT) “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.

Human anger doesn’t produce the righteousness God desires. In light of the recent grand jury decision and the subsequent looting, rioting, and vandalism that occurred in Ferguson two nights ago, I was reminded of this passage from the letter written by James in the Bible. He tells the church (the brothers and sisters) to do these things:

1. Be quick to listen.
2. Be slow to speak.
3. Be slow to get angry.

Why? Because anger doesn’t (often) lead to righteousness or right behavior. Often anger leads to sinful behavior that hurts us and our fellow brothers and sisters. No one really wins when anger is deployed.

I don’t want to begin to downplay the emotions that people are feeling about living in a city that is clearly segregated by racial lines. However, I thought I might offer a few steps forward, so that we can see our city healed and ultimately begin to love one another just like Christ loved us when he gave his life for us. We didn’t deserve it, but he did it anyway. He modeled for us what it means to truly love our fellow brothers and sisters. We are called to love just like that.

You may be asking the question, “What can I do?” Here are a few suggestions:

1. Pray

I believe nothing of lasting change happens without prayer. Spend time each day praying for the conflict in our city. Spend time praying for the “other side” and watch your heart be changed.

2. Take a walk.

In a similar vein, take a walk through the streets of Ferguson praying for the people and for God to bring peace to this city. Ask God to heal our lands. Pray the Lord’s Prayer over the city as you walk. Spend time praying, walking, and talking with the people of Ferguson.

3. Head towards the conflict.

The church must not retreat in the face of conflict. The church and individual followers of Christ must move towards conflict and be agents of peace. How can you move towards this conflict in our city? Where can you be a minister of reconciliation? How can you be an agent of peace?

4. Listen.

If we would spend less time talking, more time praying, and more time listening, then our city would be a better place. When there is conflict, the worse thing we can do is spend all our time talking. The best move is to listen. When we listen we get to hear people’s stories. We encounter their struggles, their fears, the most human parts of them are revealed when we listen. How could you listen better? Perhaps you turn on the radio commentators, center yourself on Christ, talk a walk, and listen to someone.

It is hard to build bridges alone. Make a commitment to be a part of the change. I hope this helps to stir action in all of us so that we can work towards peace, by offering grace and love to those who are different from us. May we be stirred up to pray, to walk, to head towards conflict, and finally listen. May anger not lead us to sin. May all of our acts be acts that breed righteousness.

Blessings,

Pastor Daniel

Blind Spots

We all need help. Really. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to ignore this question. “Where are your blind spots?” If you can’t see where you need help, then ask for help. I suggest three lenses you might look through:

Lens #1: Ask God

“…I did not rush out to consult with any human beings.” (Galatians 1:16)

Paul is explaining to the Galatians the legitimacy of his apostleship. He didn’t consult human beings for this position. It was given by God. This passage hit me in the sense that Paul didn’t run out and get people to affirm him or tell him what to do next. As you will see in Lens #2 and Lens #3, I am a fan of asking for both inside and outside human perspective. However, I am always concerned when our first move is to reach for this. We should always consult God first and then move out, not the other way around.

Where do you need to consult God today?

Lens #2: Ask your Staff, Family, or close Friends

Simply ask you closest leaders and friends where they think you need help. It is amazing how much can be broken loose with a few conversations.

Ask, “Where do you see that I need help?” Or “Where is it you see me struggling?” Or “Where am I holding the organization back?”

Lens #3: Hire a Consultant

My advice is to hire someone who has street cred and that you feel comfortable receiving feedback from. The worst thing is to hire a consult and then not listen to their wisdom and advice. I have seen this happen before. A consult is hired and the leader disregards the advice or works so slow towards change that nothing is ever really fixed. I remember one time I was siting in a meeting in with a consult and he had identified some real problems within this particular organization. He even used language like, “toxic” and basically said that the leadership needed to KICK the door down and figure out what was going on, because if they didn’t the ship was in real trouble. What did the leadership do? They ignored that advice and slowly tried to implement change. As you probably already guessed, didn’t work!

Remember, being self-aware is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself and to the organization you are leading.

Blessings,
Pastor Daniel

Next Level Leadership

The best leaders I know are self-aware leaders. They know their strengths and their weaknesses. They don’t let their ego drive the proverbial car off into the ditch. They are self-aware.

Strengths and Weaknesses

If you don’t know your strengths and weaknesses, I recommend two things:

1. Take the Strength’s Finder.

2. Ask someone you trust to help you identify your strengths and your weaknesses.

Danger Zone

In other words, where are you most vulnerable to temptations? What has the potential to wreck you, and everything you have worked for in your life? This is such an important question for leaders to answer. If you don’t know you are already in trouble.

This might help you identify your danger zones. When you’re hurt, angry, lonely, or tired, what do you reach for to help you cope? Be honest and don’t just say, Jesus!

Know Your Limits

We all have limitations. It is vital that we know these, because there is nothing worse than a leader who can’t recognize his/her limitations. They stunt growth in the organization, simply because they are egomaniacs who think they are the best at everything. Know what you are good at and what you are not. Don’t hold talented people back simply because you can’t let it go. You are human and therefore have limits. Know them!

Running on Empty

Check your R.P.M.S.

1. Relational

2. Physical

3. Mental

4. Spiritual

If you will gauge these four areas of importance and have someone give you feedback, then you will have a good sense of where things are currently in your life. You will be more self-aware.

Blessings,

Pastor Daniel

Hey Pastors, It’s Mother’s Day!

This day strikes fear in the hearts of many pastors and preachers. It can be like trying to walk across a field full of landmines and not lose a limb or better yet your life.

If you have pastored very long you know exactly what I am talking about. So for all you pastors out there sucking your thumb in the corner hoping you don’t mess it up I have a few suggestions that may help.

1. Carefully consider the wide range of mother-types.

This will help you avoid saying something flippant or excluding someone, unintentionally. Here is a very good resource for doing this: Mothers – Resource

2. Talk through your message with a few seasoned veterans of motherhood.

Invite their critique so that you can effectively communicate the gospel and the love that God has for moms. Again, remember the goal is to communicate the best you possibly can.

3. DON’T be afraid to preach reconciliation and forgiveness.

As we all know, many families function with a certain level of brokenness and secrets, that may be straining all relationships in the family. I am sure we have heard the old adage, “If mamma isn’t happy, then nobodies happy.” Calling for forgiveness and reconciliation can be a very helpful thing on Mother’s Day. It might be the only time all year they are all together in one place.

4. DON’T have mothers stand up on Mother’s Day.

I repeat DON’T have mothers stand up. This one might sound a little weird, but just trust me. I have it on good authority that this is always a bad a idea. If you’re struggling with this one, simply ask yourself, “Would you like to be singled out as not being a mother at church, especially if you really long to be a mother?

I hope all goes well on Mother’s Day at your church. We do a thing at Elevation called “Bring Yo’ Momma to Church”. It has been really a fun day. I even fly my mother in for the festivities. We encourage everyone to invite their mom if they can. We give flowers, cupcakes, and even hold a drawing for some lucky mom to win a really nice gift.

Blessings,

Pastor Daniel

God takes spineless nobodies and makes them into powerful somebodies. #FirstThursday

A Great Question For All You Leaders Out There

I was filling my car up at the gas pump this morning and I had a thought. It was kind of like that moment when Doc in the 80’s hit “Back To The Future” fell and hit his head in the bathroom, and when he gained his senses, he had the idea for the flux capacitor. In that moment time travel was born. Amazing!

Okay…maybe it wasn’t that big of a discovery or thought, but I thought it would be helpful to all you leaders out there today.

Here is the question:

“What is the one thing you need to do today, that will help your organization move the ball down the field?”

After you pick your jaw off the floor I will explain. I know it is a simple question, but I have found it to be one of the best questions we can ask ourselves everyday of our life. This questions gives us 7 principles that are vital to organizational leadership.

1. Attainable

2. Focus

3. Active

4. Time-oriented

5. Servant-hearted

6. Purposeful

7. Futuristic

I know I sometimes start the day with an overwhelming sense of all the things I need to get done, or all the things I want to get done. How about you? I believe this question will help you today, unless you don’t put it into practice, which means you will never experience time travel. Enjoy!

Blessings,

Pastor Daniel

Good Riddance

Good and Bad Figs

After King Nebuchadnezzar* of Babylon exiled Jehoiachin* son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, to Babylon along with the officials of Judah and all the craftsmen and artisans, the Lord gave me this vision. I saw two baskets of figs placed in front of the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem. 2 One basket was filled with fresh, ripe figs, while the other was filled with bad figs that were too rotten to eat. 3 Then the Lord said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” I replied, “Figs, some very good and some very bad, too rotten to eat.” 4 Then the Lord gave me this message: 5 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: The good figs represent the exiles I sent from Judah to the land of the Babylonians.* 6 I will watch over and care for them, and I will bring them back here again. I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them. 7 I will give them hearts that recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly. 8 “But the bad figs,” the Lord said, “represent King Zedekiah of Judah, his officials, all the people left in Jerusalem, and those who live in Egypt. I will treat them like bad figs, too rotten to eat. 9 I will make them an object of horror and a symbol of evil to every nation on earth. They will be disgraced and mocked, taunted and cursed, wherever I scatter them. 10 And I will send war, famine, and disease until they have vanished from the land of Israel, which I gave to them and their ancestors.” (Jeremiah 24:1-10) NLT

Israel is in a real pickle.

They have completely ruined their relationship with God. The northern Kingdom has been exiled. Judah is on the verge of exile and Jerusalem is about to be totally destroyed by the Babylonians.

In the previous chapters Jeremiah has been throwing down on the idolatry of Judah and her leaders. He has been teeing off on the prophets of Judah for their continuous lying and false prophecy.

Into this context, God gives Jeremiah yet another object lesson. This time he has him identify two baskets of figs. One is full of good figs and the other is full of rotten figs. A little weird if you ask me, but God always has a reason for the things he asks us to do. So Jeremiah plays along.

Much to my surprise and perhaps yours as well, God explains that the good figs represent those in exile and the bad figs represents those who are going to be made symbols of evil.

I didn’t expect God to say that those in exile were the good fruit. Think about it. Did you?

I suspect not. We don’t think of exile as a good thing and yet that is exactly what God is saying. In this case, to be exiled means to be cared for and watched over. It means to be built up and planted deeply. It means to be given a new heart that leads to wholeness. It means that God is going to work with you to make you better. God is going to reshape this remnant in exile into the Israel he has always wanted. They have lost their way and God is going to help them get back on track.

I know it sounds crazy, but exile can be a good thing.

It can mean that God is shaping you into the person he desires. It can mean that God is forming into you a new heart. It can mean that God is making you whole again. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty amazing, even though the context is exile. I feel like I would take some exile to get those benefits. How about you?

Are you in exile right now? Are you experiencing the consequences of your own sin and disobedience? Have you been living separate from God? If so, just remember it isn’t over until it’s over. God is still able to shape you through these challenges and make you better. Matter of fact, Jeremiah seems to tell us that he does his best work in exile. I guess it is because we are ready to listen.

Blessings,

Pastor Daniel

What’s Your Word?

My word for the year is GROWTH.

I find it helpful to capture my “focus for the year” in a word, so that I can stay focused on one main thing all year. There are always things competing for our attention in life. Life is complex. Period. I am amazed at how busy we can get. It is very difficult to remain focused. They say in leadership, that “growing organizations always move towards complexity.” I believe this is truth. In addition, they also say, “that unless you put a system in place to deal with the complexities of the organization” you will always be overwhelmed and at the edges of capacity. Have a yearly word will help!

Organizations aren’t the only things that move towards complexity. I believe just about all of our world, family, relationships, etc move this way as well. So if this is the case, which I believe it is, we must put something in place to keep us out of the weeds.

Last year, my word was HEALTH. After praying and seeking the Lord, this was the word that kept sticking out in my mind. So I went with it. It really helped to keep me focused and on point throughout the year. I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to get done, but it kept me focused and when things or life got a little busy or overwhelming it was the word I could return to and find clarity and direction.

I know of one leader, who after prayerfully considering what God wanted him to do, came to the conclusion that the word that needed to guide his next year was the word, “NO!” I suspect some of you can relate to that as well. Learning to say “no” can be a very difficult discipline in life. For some of you, learning to say “yes” can be just as difficult. You always say “no” and your life is always the same.

So what’s your word for the year? If you will do this I promise it will help! Give it a try and see what happens.

Blessings,

Pastor Daniel

 

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