Could The Preaching Be Better, Pt. 2

Monday’s blog was about sermons.  

Sermons?

Actually, it was about trying to predict what people want to hear. Having preached for forty years and having delivered 3500 sermons I have some skill in public communication, but thats not the same as knowing what people want.

The variations are intriguing. There are different styles of preaching that people like and many opinions as to how long they should have to listen. There are lots of topics and all kinds of subject matter that people ask to hear about. 

Many of You

Pertaining to Monday’s blog, many of you reached out to me about not getting discouraged. Thank you for doing so and for offering such kindness. But I wasn’t upset or complaining. I assure you that I am neither discouraged or disappointed. In fact, I am enthused and energized! 

No one has been negative or critical. In fact, the comments and suggestions from the groups have all been politely expressed and stated positively.

rick and chicken
Nothing to do with the blog topic. Just me and a chicken.

And Paul

I am reminded of Paul’s admonition to Timothy:

“Preach the word; be prepared always; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. For people will gather teachers who will say what their itching ears want to hear. But you…do the work of an evangelist.” 2 Timothy 4

In Closing

I love being a preacher and I love preaching. Every Sunday I get the honor of speaking to the warmest, more receptive congregation I’ve ever known, and I get to do it twice!

I’ll probably never be good at anticipating what people want to hear. But it’s okay, it really doesn’t matter. As I mentioned yesterday, the sermons I deliver originate from a higher source. 

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. My love to all. 

Shalom

A Divine Helping Hand

What Is The Value of Prayer?

Credentials

I offer the following acknowledging  that I am neither a medical doctor or a mental health professional.

Values

When I think about the value of prayer I land on two primary benefits.

The Spiritual: Being a believer allows me to connect with the presence of God. The Holy Spirit takes me to the place that is not of this world. It’s a holy place, not a location, but a place of divine availability. It’s how I talk to Him. It’s how faith becomes expressed in words. It’s about heavenly power. 

The Physical: Being a believer means that I can share whatever is on my mind, my heart and my soul. Prayer can be offered in a quick moment or in long periods of thoughtful reflection. Nope, God is not my medical doctor, my analyst, or my emotional guru. Prayer doesn’t fix everything or eliminate all problems. Here are some of the benefits prayer provides. 

  1. connection to a higher power
  2. a relationship with the divine
  3. relieving anxiety
  4. the place to take problems 
  5. the place to off load worry 
  6. the way to ask for help
  7. the way to seek assistance for others
  8. the place to confess weakness, sin and struggle 

Other Benefits

Praying lowers my blood pressure and provides me a sense of peace and calm. Praying makes me feel better both spiritually and physically. 

A friend of mine told me that he was struggling with something and the more he thought about it the more angry he was becoming. So, rather than stay angry or get even angrier, he decided to find someplace quiet and pray. It won’t be a quick prayer but a day of confession and connection with his heavenly Father. Whatever his mental and emotional condition when he begins to pray will not be his condition when he is finished. He will come back changed and for the better. 

god lending a hand
We all need a little help now and then, a divine helping hand.

In Closing

I’ll leave you with this.

“Rejoice in the Lord and I will say it again, rejoice. Let your gentleness be evident to all. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Shalom

 

 

Juicy Fruit: A Great Reward

Jesus Wept

It’s true, he did. A family had lost a brother. When Jesus entered their home he found them weeping for their loss, and so, he wept with them. It’s in John 11:35.

This Blog

This blog isn’t about grief, or about Jesus weeping, or even about raising the deceased  from the dead, which Jesus did. His name was Lazarus. It’s in John 11:43-44. 

No, this blog is about the shortest verse in the English language Bible. Growing up, I had several occasions to quote it.

  1. At bible camps when quoting a verse received a reward.
  2. At Vacation Bible Schools when quoting a verse received a reward.
  3. In bible classes when memorizing a verse received a reward. 

Quoting John 11:35 was the least labor intensive path.

You might think those rewards were really special? They weren’t. They were things like a pack of gum or some little doo dad that meant little and were soon lost.

juicy fruit gum

It wasn’t about the rewards.

The Real Reason

The motivation to quote was to avoid negative attention. It wasn’t impressive to quote the shortest verse, it was just the easiest way to avoid embarrassment. I did’t want to be the kid who was laughed at, or have their teasing. It was about my insecurity. 

I’n not sure that peer pressure was a good motivation for kids to learn scripture. 

To Close

That shy little boy had no idea he would grow up to be a preacher, but he did. Over the years I’ve memorized and quoted others verses in addition to John 11:35. It’s a good thing and the rewards have been rich and plentiful. I guess it’s the motivation that changed. 

“Jesus wept”

Juicy Fruit was my favorite. 

The Half Pipe, Someone Had To Do It!

Snowboarding in the half-pipe.

My Past

It’s not that I’m old or past my prime or out of touch. It’s just that back in my day, before cell phones, color TV, and breakfast burritos, the Winter Olympics was about skiing, ice skating, and curling. That’s about it. 

Today’s Olympics

In these modern winter games are sports and competitions that I used to think of as hobbies and kid’s activities. Just the same, last night I watched Shaun White win the gold for the third time in four Olympics. It was exciting to watch, amazing to see, and incredible what those guys could do on a snowboard.

Grandma

My maternal grandmother gave me my first skateboard. It was in the 60’s and I was maybe eight years old. I think it was a Christmas present.

skate-party-wood-decks
Not my skateboard, but very, very close.

Skateboards were all the rage. We didn’t think we were skiing, we thought we were surfing, just like the Beach Boys. But watching the competition last night, I heard terms and phrases that came right out of the skateboard culture. It was cool.

Fun?

You bet it was. I skateboarded everywhere. Every time I hit a small pebble it was like putting on the brakes and I would be launched off the board and onto the sidewalk. This was before knee pads, elbow pads, and helmets. I was always banged up, missing skin on my knees, and bruised. We were idiots. Maybe that explains some things. But I loved it.

We built ramps to jump and set up all kinds of little race tracks. It was summertime in Phoenix, Arizona and we wore denim cut offs, with no shoes or shirts. And no sun screen.  We were idiots. Maybe that explains some things.

To Close

I congratulate Shaun on his amazing achievement and want to say good luck to our whole Olympic team. You guys are doing great.

But 55 years ago, my two friends and I were paving the way for your success.

Just saying.

A Game of Simon Says

Simon said, “I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 

What an awesome thing to say, it was fearless and fiercely loyal.

Then Messiah said, “Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.”

Sifting was done by repeatedly beating the wheat with a stick. The process loosened the outer husks so they separated from the wheat. Then, it was tossed in the air so the wind could blow away the chaff.

winnow
The sifting process: are the wheat or the chaff?

Jesus was saying that Satan was going to, metaphorically, beat Simon with a stick to see what he was made of, to see if he too would just blow away. 

Simon said, “I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Messiah said, “Peter, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

I Believe Peter

He was willing to die for his Rabbi. Here is the evidence:

“Then Simon, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant,”

That happened in Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. But then, it all changed.

“Put your sword away.”

When he had to surrender his sword and watch Jesus go willingly with the soldiers, his world turned upside down.

“You are not one of his disciples are you?” the girl asked Peter. “I am not.” 

The fearless apostle became a frightened betrayer. Simon was being sifted, that was the first of his three denials.

Was he chaff or was he wheat?

For Us

We relate to Simon. We can fearlessly defend our Lord and we can fearfully deny him. It’s about the situation and how Satan sifts us. But here’s the question,

Are we chaff or are we wheat?

To Close

Jesus also said to Simon Peter:

“But I have prayed for you Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you turn back, strengthen your brothers.” 

Jesus knew Simon would deny him.

He also knew Simon would return and help his brothers.

What Does Jesus know about us?

Shalom

Feeling Trapped, Needing to Sin

Most of us pray for forgiveness after we’ve sinned, not before.

Not These Guys

 Jonah was on a ship headed for the Southwest tip of Spain. He was getting away from God and his prophetic assignment, to go to Nineveh, in Assyria, but Jonah didn’t want to go, so he didn’t.

Well, the Mediterranean developed a violent storm and the sailors realized that Jonah was the cause. They asked him what they should do and Jonah said to throw him overboard, they didn’t want to, but they did.

However, before doing so they prayed to Jonah’s God. 

“O Lord, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you O Lord, have done as you pleased.” Jonah 1:14

“Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard.” Jonah 1:15

023-jonah-nineveh300x225

Fascinating

Praying for forgiveness before we sin, what a concept!  

Some Things Some of Us Do

  1. Pray for safety and break the speed limit the whole way.
  2. Teach kids to respect the law and then throw paper and cigarettes on the ground.
  3. Uphold honesty and integrity but justify little indiscretions. 
  4. Hide our sins because we care more about what others think than what God thinks.
  5. Swear, gossip, complain, and grumble, all sinful, but just little sins, right? 

Feeling Trapped

The sailors were desperate and felt trapped. Their ship was about to break up and they had to do something.

Don’t we feel trapped sometimes? So, we lose our cool, get irritated, and say and do the wrong things. Maybe out of frustration, and maybe out of fear.  

It’s hard to do right every time. Jonah and the sailors didn’t, and neither do we.

To Close

Keep the faith. Stay strong. Wrestle with temptation. Give thanks that we have a Savior who gives mercy and grace. Thank God that he lifts from our shoulders the burden of moral perfection. Thank you Lord!

“Lord, we’re absolutely going to kill this guy, but please don’t hold it against us.”

“Okay boys, chuck him over the side.”

Uh Huh

Shalom

It Was An Excellent Game!

“Underdog Beats Favored Champion

There were five kinds of viewers of last night’s game:

  1. Patriots Fans
  2. Eagles Fans
  3. Football Fans
  4. Socializers
  5. Commercial Watchers 

Some rooted for the Patriots. Some rooted for the Eagles. Some wanted a close, competitive game. Others watched because they were at a party. And some watched to watch the commercials. 

01SuperBowlParty-e1359779980743-560x275

It was the Super Bowl. 

A Good Game

I thought it was entertaining. It had several lead changes, some fantastic plays, and was close down to the final seconds And my wife had excellent snacks. 

But the underdog beat the favored team. 

The Underdog

There’s just something special about the little guy upsetting the big guy.

In regular life, where the consequences matter, it gets more serious. Both David and Goliath stepped onto the battle field, but only one stepped off, it was the shepherd boy, a huge upset.

We have giants:

  1. competitors
  2. enemies
  3. rivals
  4. setbacks
  5. circumstances 

 How we face our giants may be as important, or even more important, than the outcome.

Jesus Said This

“Blessed are you when insulted and persecuted…” Matthew 5:11

“Be reconciled to your brother.” Matthew 5:24

“Make peace quickly with your adversary,” Matthew 5:25

“If someone strikes you on the cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:39

“Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

To Close

It’s not a popular viewpoint. Some say it reeks of cowardice and appeasement. But Jesus taught that loving one another was more important than winning the fight.

Certainly, we should stand for truth or we’ll fall for anything. Conviction is vital. But our  path is one of peace, not the sword. We don’t beat others with clubs, or with the truth, we shouldn’t be beating heads at all.

“Underdog Beats Favored Champion”

Congratulations to the Eagles for upsetting your favored opponent!

But for regular life:

“As much as possible, as far it depends on you, live in peace with everyone.” 

Shalom

 

 

 

The True Conquerors

Here is a famous quote about Alexander the Great:

“Alexander wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.”

Actually…

There is no known record in antiquity that verifies the quote. In fact, it’s probably a misquote from something Plutarch wrote:

“Alexander wept upon hearing that there were infinite worlds, realizing that he had not yet conquered even one.”

Alexander
A Conqueror of Worlds

And Another Conqueror?

He wasn’t a general, or a conqueror, but he was used to help a nation become conquerors, the Assyrian Empire.

His name was Jonah and he was a prophet of God who was sent to the city of Nineveh, a tough assignment as prophets didn’t preach to Gentiles, didn’t go to their cities. 

In fact, he refused and boarded a ship headed the opposite direction. But he ended up in the sea, and in a manner of speaking, was rescued. So, he reluctantly went to Nineveh and preached a message of repent or parish. And they repented, even the King.

The Greater Lesson

There was a time when Assyria was in chaos and vulnerable. That’s when Jonah preached to them and turned them to Yahweh. But later, after regaining their supremacy, they turned away from God and became Israel’s nemesis.

Did God preserve the Assyrians, so he could later use them to attack and deport the faithless people of Israel?

Did Jonah understand what God was doing?  Could he see that the people he helped to turn to God would one day be used by God to attack his homeland? 

To Close

I don’t know if Alexander wept or not. But Jonah did. He wasn’t a soldier, a general, or a conqueror of worlds. He was a prophet and he served God’s greater purpose.

God has a great purpose for us as well. Perhaps less grand than that of Jonah, but still a purpose of divine origin: to build up, to encourage, to serve and to be the light of God.

Alexander wept for there were not more worlds to conqueror.

Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t, it doesn’t really matter.

For we are the true conquerors.

 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Romans 8:37