"...and I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever!"

Monday, October 13, 2014

Four Things to Forget

I read an article last week for preachers about four things they should forget before they get up to preach. Preachers everywhere can relate because if we aren’t careful, these “monsters” will destroy our effectiveness in that 20-25 minute (45 minute-1 hour for some) opportunity. But in all honesty, these statements apply to Christians everywhere. Here are four things we should forget and my personal commentary for each:

       1)      Forget Your Sins

Refusing to forget the sins you’ve committed will prove to be detrimental. If you constantly dwell on how bad you’ve been, you can’t possibly dwell on how good God is. Don’t forget that you’re a “sinner” because that will make you a liar (1st John 1:10), but don’t constantly recall what God promises to forget (Hebrews 8:12).

2)      Forget Criticism

We’ve all been deeply hurt by negative evaluation. There’s such a thing as constructive criticism, but most criticism isn’t constructive; it’s destructive. Therefore, don’t let criticism define you. God is still cheering you on.

3)      Forget Mistakes

We all suffer from the foot in mouth disease. We all take turns being…well, for a lack of better words…dumb. That’s part of life. You’re going to make mistakes. There’s only one man in history that didn’t make mistakes and He was God in the flesh. Learn from your mistakes, but just like with your sins, forget them. You’ll be glad that you did.

4)      Forget Successes

Surprisingly, this is the hardest one to forget. You’ve done great things in your life. We all have. But if you want to be “great”, keep doing great things. Don’t be a “has been”. Be a “still is”. As Paul said in Philippians 3:12, “…press on…” Your life isn’t over. Keep living it.

For as often as we remember we should also forget. Give it a try. You might find a greater sense of peace surrounding your life.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

3 P's of Passion

As a preacher, I’ve always been intrigued and inspired by a statement about Jesus’ effectiveness in teaching. Mark tells us, “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as teachers of the law.” (Mark 1:22, NIV) The first part of that beautiful sentiment isn’t too surprising—of course they would be amazed—they were looking at the Son of God face to face, even though few realized it at the time. It’s the second part that has long challenged my mind and critiqued my communication—“he taught them as one who had authority, not as teachers of the law.” What exactly defined Jesus’ “authority”?

Jesus was obviously the voice of authority, a direct mouthpiece of God in the flesh. To borrow the presidential term, this authorized Him to “carry the big stick”; but, it wasn’t just His Messiah-ship that made Him stand head and shoulders above the rest—it was the way He presented the material. The teachers of the law had been delivering similar messages for years, minus their own traditions and interpretations that didn’t fit into God’s puzzle of holiness. But Jesus on the other hand—Jesus had a way of presenting the material in a way that shined light on heavenly authority. What ingredient  was missing from the man-made (tasteless) recipe of his contemporaries?

If I were to guess one thing, it would be passion.

When He talked, people listened. His message was built on an old purpose that produced new products. It was a message that was seen not only on His face but from His heart. It was a message that changed people forever.

How can we be more passionate about telling the Jesus story? This isn’t just an article for preachers—this in article for all servants of God called to make the gospel  known. How do we, as disciples of the Christ, deepen our passion to promote God’s purpose?

Consider these 3 P’s:

1)      Remember how powerful the message is

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2nd Corinthians 5:2, NIV). Righteousness (Jesus) was sacrificed for unrighteousness (us), that the unrighteous might become righteous? When was the last time you thought about the power of that transaction? It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t balance on the check ledger. But it happened. Go ahead—try to top it with another story. It’s not possible.

2)      Remember how powerless you are.

Jesus said that apart from Him we can do nothing. As “sin” which has become “righteousness”, we can’t forget where we stand on the spiritual scale in our own shoes. If 10 is “excellent” and 1 is “terrible”, we don’t graze zero,even if we stand on one foot and lean to the left. But with God’s grace and Jesus’ blood, ten is not only possible but probable.

3)      Remember the privilege of sharing it.  

In that same chapter of 2nd Corinthians 5, Paul says that God includes us in this wonderful ministry of reconciliation. Even though we were the “sin” that was made “righteous”, God empowers us in His eternal goal of bringing people back to Him. When we deserve death, God wants us to point people back to life. Why do we have such right? We don’t, but praise God that He doesn’t give us what we deserve, but what He desires. We are Christ’s ambassadors.

Passion isn’t always defined by loud preachers or challenging teachers. Passion is often found in a mindful memory which tells THE saving story. As a powerless creature, it’s your privilege to present this powerful message.

At the very least, do better than the teachers of the law.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Will You Share?

The past few weeks have been consumed by hours of meaningful ministry—hours that have deepened my appreciation for God’s family. I’ve been challenged by people that I deeply respect. You think you know people until you really know them. Now sure, that’s cliché to the max, but it’s true. Unfortunately, we don’t always appreciate what it means to truly “know” someone.

In the church, I believe we do a good job knowing each other, to the extent that we know about each others families, likes and dislikes, schedules and hobbies, hopes and dreams. We do a good job knowing when someone looks down. We do a good job knowing when someone looks stressed. We do a good job knowing when someone hasn’t been to services. We know who answers the questions in Bible class. But really “knowing” each other? Not even close. What’s even scarier is not knowing when people need us to know; not hugging or encouraging the person that might be one bad day away from catastrophe.

The past few weeks have been full of some of the most meaningful conversations I’ve ever had. These conversations weren’t with my wife or even with people that I’ve known for a long time. These conversations were with people I’ve been acquainted with—have worshiped with—have eaten with—but not people I’ve shared with. These conversations took place over some great BBQ, which is the perfect way to begin a conversation. But both conversations ended in a better understanding of who a person is, what makes them tick, and how the journey of faith is supposed to be traveled as a company, not a contractor.

When we have the courage and humility to step off the pedestal of pride to share our troubles and struggles, God elevates our hearts. Isn’t this what Peter meant when he said, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, that He may lift you up in due time”? (1st Peter 5:6). You can’t be lifted until you fall. With no humility, there’s no stability.

As the church, we do a huge disservice to ourselves when we don’t share the struggles were facing and embracing. Obviously, some matters are best kept private between good friends. When James tells us to confess our sins (or struggles) to each other, he doesn’t qualify the number of ears that must be present, but he does qualify that it must be more than you (James 5:16). In other words, confessing or sharing only works when someone else listens.

If you haven’t found someone to share with, you’re damaging your own spirituality. If you don’t know how to find someone, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Some advice—find someone you can trust, but don’t find your best friend. Why? When you share with someone you don’t know as well, you begin to realize that we fight the same battles. The phrase, “What goes around comes around”, doesn’t always have to be bad. You can learn from someone who has been there, and by learning, a meaningful friendship is formed.

Isn’t that profound? Not at all—just biblical. The very thing the church was doing in Acts 2 is the very thing we struggle to follow. “All believers were together and had everything in common.” (Acts 2:44) That commonality wasn’t just goods and money—it was life. If we’ll be more intentional about living life together, just maybe, by the grace of God, we’ll enjoy the favor of all the people. 

Give it a try. Something tells me (the word of God) that it works.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Honey vs. Vinegar

I met up with a good friend last week. As we discussed the various events taking place in our lives, and the different courses our lives are beginning to travel, he told me about one of his favorite “sayings”, but it didn’t originate with him. It’s a saying that is packed full of theological importance; a saying that contrasts the difference between honey and vinegar; a saying that he learned from his grandmother.

She would always say, “Some people are as sweet as honey. Some people are as sour as vinegar. But, I will choose to be sweet like honey—because honey is stronger, stickier, tastier, and it always lasts longer.”

 As God’s people, we need to remember that wisdom. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Two rights never make a wrong. Our words and actions need to be as sweet as honey, because these are the virtues of God. “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)

Are you sticky and sweet, or slick and sour?