September 24th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

Preaching is terribly important.

In fact, it may be more important now than it ever has been. Everyone – both Christian and non-Christians – have some thought, idea, or question about preaching and what preaching should be.

What we like. What we don’t like. Who we believe is effective and who isn’t, all of these issues are front and center in the mind of the hearers when it comes to preaching.

Since Christians spend a good bit of time throughout their lives, sitting in pews and listening to preaching, it’s fair to assume that each would have opinions. Therefore, I’m not surprised to find an increasing number of people asking me about the preaching event and preparation for preaching. In recent weeks I’ve been contacted by preachers, youth ministers, lay persons, elders, and all other stripes of church members about my preaching, their preacher, their preaching, or becoming a better preacher (This is not necessarily because I am a great preacher, but rather because I’ve become well-known and greatly teased for my all too frequent railings about bullet points). To shed some light on my process, I’m going to spend a few posts dealing with – what I hope – is a helpful approach to the weekly homily. I pray I don’t bore my “non-preacher” readers with a shade too much “inside baseball.” Let’s start with a few words from a preaching giant, Dr. Fred Craddock:

[tentblogger-youtube eCCo5RWxqZg]

Share with us: What do you think makes good preaching? 

 

Posted in Bible, homiletics, preaching
September 10th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

Tomorrow our nation, and our allies around the world, will pause to remember the events of September 11th. As a teacher, my wife Rochelle, will cease teaching science and spend the day guiding students through reflection about the terrorists attacks in New York and Washington. My daughters, in first and fourth grade respectively, will do much of the same.

In advance of September 11th (and since this blog post every Tuesday and Thursday), here a reflection on peace which I penned last year.

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There are any number of scriptures we Christians don’t take seriously, but maybe none are taken less seriously than Romans 12.18-20. Here, the apostle Paul instructs the church this way: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’”

Living at peace is tough business and “Christian America” has particularly struggled with it in the wake of September 11, 2001. The reasons are obvious. We were struck! Hit! Devastated! All by an enemy that had long been at war with us, though many of us knew or cared very much about them. At the time it felt reassuring to hear President George W. Bush tell New Yorkers — and the rest of the world — that the people who did this would hear from us.

We needed protection from the twisted minds that could envisage, plan, and celebrate the kind of destruction visited New York, Washington, and Shanksville, PA. Innocent people were targeted, children were killed, families undone. It was a slaughter, pure and simple. And in some sectors of the world, there was dancing in the streets.

It was no wonder then that so many of us — Christians, that is — supported combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. I did! Full steam ahead.

And I wasn’t shocked to learn, even years after 9/11, that the majority of Christians supported torture in some instances. It’s not that we’re evil or vengeful, it’s that we’re human. We have spouses and children; parents and grandparents; friends and classmates; that we love, that we want to protect, and we have a country we want to flourish.

What’s more, many of us believe that God has blessed us to live in the best, most humane, most prosperous and healthy country in the history of the world. And we want the best of that country to live forever and would love for others around the world to enjoy the benefits and blessings of our system. In sum, the September 11th attacks came from a place of evil, and as scripture teaches, evil must be resisted.

But the scriptures teach us about peace too.

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August 22nd, 2013 | 8 Comments »

Legalism is the worst feeling in the world. I know from experience.

A Quick(ish) Story:

Even a 5-year-old who's right about everything can still mix up his shoes.

Even a 5-year-old who’s right about everything can still mix up his shoes.

One of the great oddities of my life is that I can’t remember anything before I turned five. I’m pretty sure that means I need therapy. My memories start at five. I have memories from church when I was five. I started playing Jr. Tee-ball when I was five. I remember going to my best friend, Kendrick’s, birthday party when I was five; but I don’t remember anything before then.

What I remember most about five was my kindergarten. I remember arriving early each day. My dad would drop me off on his way to work. I was usually the 1st student there. Everyday, I’d hop out of his 1974 yellow Ford Pinto (that car was ballin’!), and I would sit in the corner of the large playroom. As other kids arrived they would get out toys and play together, but I just sat in the corner, wedged between a large, worn, brown, particle board bookshelf and an even larger counter.

I would sit there and sing songs to myself. Most songs I had learned in church: “Softly and Tenderly,” “Oh, Why Not Tonight,” “Just as I Am”, etc….I suppose I had a thing for “invitation songs”. But I never really engaged the other kids at school. I kept to myself and hardly ever played with anybody. Why? The kindergarten I went to was a “Baptist” kindergarten.

I had been taught – by the time I was five – that only the people who went to my church were real Christians. I knew at five that those “evil Baptists,” with their instrumental music, choir robes, and “pastors” – not preachers – weren’t the kind of people I was supposed to be around.

In fact, before my parents enrolled me in school, I overheard them “discussing” it, so I knew I ought to be concerned and prepared to not let the Baptists co-opt the purity of my faith. That Christmas as the kindergarten was preparing for the Christmas pageant, I was vehemently opposed – I said that too: “I’m vehemently opposed” (I had an advanced vocabulary for five). I didn’t want to participate in this unbiblical, man-made tradition. It was something “the denominations” did.

My parents forced me into it – obviously because they were not as devoted as I.

By the time I was five, I had become a hard-core, dyed-in-the-wool sectarian. At five, I was a Jr. theologian. I had figured out how it all should work. As a child, there was no way for me to know how childish that was.

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Posted in Bible, church
May 28th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

You have a role to play in helping your preacher preach better. At the top of the list are time and prayer.

A sermon, like any form of communication, can go in one ear and out the other. Worse, a sermon can find hospitality in the head and hostility in the heart. Many of us struggle with the weekly homily. We struggle applying it, remembering it, living it out, and making sense of it in a world wherein we hear so many messages all the time.

Try theses 5 Strategies to “Getting” the Sermon.

1. Dwell In The Word. If Sunday morning is the first or only time you’ve spent in the scriptures this week, you’re bound to miss a great deal. Understanding God means encountering him in the scriptures. Knowing the scriptures will give  the sermons a depth and richness that only accompany knowing the Bible.

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April 30th, 2013 | No Comments »

“How will I feel after I do this?” is the most important question you’ll ever ask. And most of us aren’t asking it nearly enough.

In the last 3 to 4 years, Rochelle and I have discovered a disturbing number of friends, acquaintances, leaders, and mentors who have made awful decisions. Many have had affairs and/or left their spouse. Even at our distance from the center of these relationships, we were disappointed and hurt.

We were mostly scared! Scared because many of these people we held in the highest regard. If it could happen to them it could happen to us. In each instance, without hesitation, we confessed that our friends were folks who pursued God wholeheartedly but has made terrible and devastating mistakes.

What Were They Thinking?

Rochelle I couldn’t help but ask, “What were they thinking?” As far as we could figure, they weren’t. At the very least they weren’t thinking about the relational and emotional debris of their actions. Asking, “How will I feel after I do this?” changes our calculations about our behaviors and words.

Everyone is susceptible to momentary lapses and basic human frailty can position any of us for errors whenever our guard is down. That’s why we need constructs to help guide is when we aren’t thinking straight.

Our failures aren’t about thinking, though. They’re about asking.

We need better questions than, “Do I like this?” or “Am I happy?” guiding our lives. These kinds if questions set us up for momentary desires that will lead us to destruction. This way of thinking makes gods of our stomachs, as the Apostle Paul says (Phil. 3:19).

“How will I feel after I do this?” is a question good for any instance:

  • When you don’t want to workout …how will I feel after I do this?
  • When you want to post that nasty comment on Facebook or a blog …how will I feel after I do this?
  • When your children have annoyed you to the point of insanity and you want to light into them …how will I feel after I do this?
  • When you come up with that snarky comeback to your spouse accusation…how will I feel after I do this?
  • When you want to buy that new and shinny item even though the budget is tight…how will I feel after I do this?

If you want to live a better life, start asking the most important question.

Posted in Bible, character
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