Saturday, February 18, 2012

Preaching to the Preacher

I used to think that I learned from the sermon while I was preparing it and that was it. Now I know it is not the only time God speaks to me through my preaching. At least twice in the past couple of weeks I have had content from sermons brought back to mind and applied.

Instance #1: After experience inner turmoil for about ten days without being able to identify the cause, I was reminded of a suggested application at the end of a sermon. That application (to be concerned with living up to God's expectations rather than people's expectations) immediately shed light on what was causing my angst, followed by joy and peace. Now, I just have to live up to God's expectations. How hard can that be?!

Instance #2: Following a sermon (and Church Council retreat Bible study) that identified fasting as temporarily giving up a regular part of life—normally thought of as food—in order to gain more time for something else—normally thought of as prayer, I found myself needing to accomplish four weeks worth of work in just two weeks. I decided to forfeit an activity I enjoy doing as a distraction and focus on getting the work done. Lo and behold, by temporarily giving up something that probably consumed a total of ten minutes a day, I was able to accomplish many more hours of prayer, Bible study, and sermon preparation. I know the math regarding time does not work out but it happened anyway and I thank God!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Last To Know?

When our time with God does something to us that becomes evident to others, are we the last to know? I truly agonized over yesterday’s sermon from John 6:60-69 (22-69) while preparing it, spending more hours on my knees seeking shelter and relief from God than for any other sermon I can remember. Yet, when it came time to preach it, the anxiety and even fear of not communicating clearly was mostly absent. What had been prepared and even rehearsed was preached.
I did not “feel” any different from the hundreds of other times I have preached yet comments received by individuals in each service convinced me that God had spoken powerfully to those who were listening for His voice. The ones making the comments gave glory to God while commenting about what had been preached. I was very relieved and glad when they told me because I had no idea, only the hope that God had answered my prayers with His undeniable and powerful presence.
You might think that the person God uses would always know how powerfully (or weakly) His presence is evident in that person’s life. But God reminded me this is often not the case as He called to mind Moses in Exodus 34:29 as well as Peter and John in Acts 4:13. Apparently, even though everyone else took notice, it was enough for Moses and the two disciples that they were following God.
May that be enough for me!

Exodus 34:29-35 (ESV)
The Shining Face of Moses
 29When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
Acts 4:13 (ESV)
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Getting Personal: A Raw Expression

I don't know of a church doing great things for God without its members doing great things for God.
I don't know of a church fulfilling The Great Commission without members fulfilling The Great Commission.
I don't know of a church being on fire without its members being on fire.
I don't know of a church being luke warm without its members being luke warm.

My desire, my aim, my goal has always included making the gospel personal to individuals in the church. I have believed, hoped, prayed that individual Christians would surrender to God and pursue a lifetime of growth/discipleship in Him and the result would be the Holy Spirit's clear leadership through the unified body of Christ. I don't know what to tell people who say they don't see the church advancing. How can the church advance when they won't/don't/aren't? Is it the Pastor's fault? That's a black and white question. It is or it isn't. Is the Pastor responsible for how the individual members respond to God's Word? The Pastor is absolutely responsible for preaching and teaching the Word and he's responsible for presenting it with as little interference/distraction/confusion as possible. This pastor does not feel this way theoretically. I have lived it and continue to live it—the bottom line truth that "Thy kingdom come and Thy will be done" begins and ends with me or it will never go any further in my ministry. God will not release me from it and I do not believe He releases any one of His children from it.