Sep 03

3 Things Every Preacher Needs To Remember

remember preacherAlthough I have been preaching full-time for the past 31 years, I know that many men have preached much longer than that. So while I know that I still have much to learn about preaching, I do think I’ve been at it to know a few things.

Here are three things I believe preachers need to be reminded of periodically.

1. Remember that we can fool the brethren, but we can’t fool God.  We’ve all had it happen to us. For one reason or another, we didn’t have time or didn’t give time to adequate sermon preparation so we just “threw something together.” And as sure as we do that, we’ll have half a dozen members meet us at the door and say something like, “That was one of the most thought out and helpful sermons I’ve ever heard you preach.” So we think, “Maybe that’s God’s way of reminding me the power is in the gospel, not the messenger.” Maybe, but have you ever thought it might be the Devil’s way of convincing us that study and preparation aren’t important?

Preachers, we need to study and prepare ourselves to preach.  We’re handling the gospel of Christ! Souls hang in the balance. It’s not routine. It’s not a weekly performance that’s one of the requirements to receive a paycheck. Our preaching must be urgent, timely, well thought out, and delivered as one who is preaching to dying men. Don’t approach this task frivolously. We may fool your brethren, but we can’t fool God.

2. Remember that we represent Jesus. Consequently, give special care that you don’t misrepresent him. Don’t be angry about matters that don’t make Jesus angry. Don’t withhold compassion when Jesus would have shown compassion. Don’t be impatient with people when Jesus would have shown patience. Not only do we represent God through the things we say, we also represent God through the attitudes we display. And likewise, not only can we misrepresent God by the things we say, we can also misrepresent God through the attitudes we display. Make sure that not only do people “hear Jesus” when they listen to you, they “see Jesus” when they watch you.

3. Remember our indebtedness. First of all, there’s our indebtedness to Jesus, who saved us from our sins. Then there’s our indebtedness to the people who introduced us to Jesus (i.e. our parents, our Bible class teachers, our spouse, our neighbor or co-worker, etc.). How can we then, who have been given so much, do anything less than our best in trying to share with others the blessings we have received?

While these aren’t the only things a preacher needs to remember, I do believe that we’ll be better preachers if we remember these three things.

 

 

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Sep 02

Church Answers

EasternGraySquirrel2Have you ever noticed how we have “church answers” reserved for “church settings?” These answers are sometimes less than truthful, but they are what we believe the questioner expects to hear.  For instance, you may have heard about the Bible class teacher who asked her young students what has four legs, gathers nuts for the winter, can scurry up and down trees, and has a long bushy tail? The classroom was silent.  No one offered an answer. The teacher prodded her students and demanded an answer, so finally a little boy spoke up and said, “Well, it sounds like a squirrel, but I’ll go ahead and say, ‘Jesus.'”

We may chuckle at this little boy’s response, but the laugh may be on us. If we were sitting in Bible class and the teacher asked us, “What’s the most important thing in your life?” Serving God and going to heaven would surely be the top answers. Well, those are right answers, but are they true?  Would someone following us on Facebook arrive at that same conclusion about our lives?

Here’s my point, don’t deceive yourself and salve your consciences by thinking that knowing all the right answers is sufficient. Instead, make sure your “right” answers are also “true” answers. Give it some thought.

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Sep 01

Government & The Christian: A Perspective

bible_flagImagine a homeless man living on the streets. He’s able to get by never having more than he needs, but always having enough to survive. Then one day a man showed compassion on him by giving him a house to live in with all the amenities, free of charge. Consequently, this formerly homeless man was able to live in great comfort.

However, as time passed, this benefactor underwent a change of heart regarding his generosity. Circumstances caused him to rethink all the acts of kindness he had shown the former homeless man. The first indication of his changed mindset was that he removed the air conditioning from the house. Several months later, he turned off the running water. And finally, he cut off the electricity. Although this former homeless man no longer had some of the conveniences he once had, he was allowed to continue living in the house.

Now then, here’s my question: “What should the attitude of the former homeless man be?”  Should he be “up in arms” about the conveniences that had been taken from him? Or should he be thankful for the period of time he had to enjoy them.

I believe that while he has every right to be saddened by the withdrawal of some of the conveniences to which he had become accustomed, he mustn’t lose sight of the blessings he had, while he had them. None of these things were his “right,” but were “gifts” and he should give thanks for the time he had to enjoy them.

That said, throughout history, Christianity has seldom found the favor of government. Christianity existed through hardship, persecution, and sacrifice; but it existed. We just so happened to be born in a time and place when our government has been kind to Christianity, even bestowing upon Christianity a “favored status.”  But times are changing.  Many of our blessings are being taken from us. Privileges we once enjoyed are now being removed. What should our attitude be? I believe the answer to this question is the same answer given to the first question.

Friends, Christianity doesn’t need governmental favor to survive and thrive. The blessings we have enjoyed and our parents have enjoyed may be taken from us tomorrow. And if so, that gives us cause for sadness, but not for despair! In fact, maybe a dose of “persecution” is just what the “Great Physician” ordered to awaken us from our spiritual lethargy and renew our zeal and commitment to God and his agenda. Such “medicine” isn’t pleasant, but it just may be good for us.

Give it some thought.

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Aug 17

Would You Destroy A Bible?

Many years ago, a wicked king was presented with a copy of God’s word. The king commissioned a man to read it for him, and after only reading a few paragraphs, the king took the scroll and cut it with a penknife, then destroyed it by throwing it in the fireplace (Jeremiah 36:21-23). By way of divine commentary, Jeremiah records that after the king destroyed God’s word, “they were not afraid, nor did they tear their garments…” (Jeremiah 36:24).

But here’s what has captured my attention with regard to this historical event: As bad as it was for the king to destroy the word of God, it was also incredible, from God’s perspective, that no one feared him enough to tear their garments in light of what was done.

Here’s the thought I want to leave you with — While we may never have the nerve to flagrantly destroy a Bible because we don’t like what it says, might we be guilty of being calloused when we witness others contemptuously “destroy the Bible?” Have we feared? Have we torn our garments? Have we clothed ourselves with sackcloth?

Friends, there’s a time for every purpose under heaven. There’s a time to laugh (Ecclesiastes 3:4), but there’s also a time to put away laughter and lament, mourn, and weep (James 4:9). Don’t allow yourself to become desensitized by an ever increasing culture of disrespect for God and his word. Much of our media (television, movies, music, Internet, etc.) is destroying God’s word just as flagrantly as did that king with his penknife. What will our reaction be? Will we continue to watch, listen, chuckle, and even share, or will we lament, mourn, and weep? Give it some thought.

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Aug 09

We Don’t “Grow the Church”

Grow Church (600 x 337)Are any of you old enough to remember chalkboards in school? If so, you also remember the grating sound of fingernails going down that chalkboard. (It sets me on edge just writing about it). Well, if you know that feeling I’m talking about, then you also know the feeling I have every time I hear someone talk about “growing the church.”

You might be right in calling it a personal “pet peeve,” or even a scruple, but I believe I have good reason for not using such relatively new verbiage. Allow me to share a few reasons I think we ought to rethink the propriety of using this expression.

  1. Nowhere in Scripture can we see this language employed.  Weren’t they interested in church growth in the first century?  Of course they were.  But never do you read of Paul talking about how he “grew the church at Ephesus or Corinth. Peter didn’t write of the success of Pentecost by saying he had grown the church to 3000 members in one day.  On the contrary, what we read is that Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6) which brings me to my next point.
  2. This verbiage takes credit for what we did not do.  God is the one who gives the increase.  Certainly we “plant” and “water,” but growth comes from God. I don’t “grow” the church, God does.  Can you imagine anyone saying, “See that young man over there? That’s my son I’ve grown.” We don’t talk like that.  Of course we fed and nourished him, but there’s a metabolic thing going on that is out of my control and that I have nothing to do with. Likewise with respect to the church, we may “plant” and “water,” but there’s a “regeneration” that is out of my control, and is the work of God (Titus 3:5).
  3. It sounds boastful and arrogant. As it should, for we’re taking credit for something we didn’t do.  I’m not saying that those who use this expression are arrogant, I’m suggesting they maybe haven’t thought it through. When I hear men talk about how they’ve “grown the church,” I can’t stop myself from quietly thinking, “wouldn’t it be better to give that credit to God, where it actually belongs?” When my youngest son was only three-years-old, he once asked me why people give “Mother Nature” credit for what God does? I thought it was a great question, especially from a three-year-old. Like my son, I want to ask the question why we would want to take credit for what God does?

Friends, I’m interested in church growth just as much as the next guy, but I think we ought to give greater care to the words we use. I want nothing more than to use my life to bring glory to God (Ephesians 3:21), and I want nothing less than to claim for myself glory that is rightfully God’s (Matthew 5:16). A more thoughtful use of our words may help us to fulfill both of those desires.  Give it some thought.

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