I wish I was better at it, but I’m not.
Better At What?
Better at preaching. I’ve been preaching for forty years and still haven’t figured out what people want to hear. I’ve delivered around 3,500 sermons, a number representing Sunday morning and evening sermons, workshops, meetings, seminars, retreats, and special occasions.
I’ve probably improved over the years, but who knows?
Over the last several weeks, with a few weeks to go, I’ve conducted vision groups with my church. Each group has averaged about 15 people with a total of 27 groups. When finished I will have met with about half of the adult congregation.
I ask each group the same three questions, primarily for their feedback relating to our vision for the future. But one of the questions addresses our worship services, including the sermons. Here are a few of the comments I’ve received about my preaching:
- Sermons are too long.
- Sermons are too short.
- Need sermons that have more heart.
- Need sermons that address personal struggles.
- Need sermons about coping with culture.
- Need sermon series that are topical.
- Need sermon series that go through books of the bible.
- Need sermons with fire and brimstone.
- Need more sermons that step on our toes.
- Need sermon series about other beliefs.
- Need more lessons about family.
- Need more lessons from your holy land travels.
- Need lessons that teach us how to defend our faith.
- Need lessons about coping with failure.
- Need lessons that teach us how to live right.
- Could the sermon notes be printed each week?
- Could you speak louder?
- Could you speak softer?
- Could you preach sermons like I used to hear when I was young.
- We should not have sermons every week.
None of them were critical, negative or unkind. They were just comments.
Well, I appreciate the feedback. I do. I don’t know what I’m going to do with all of it, but I appreciate it.
I think they like it that I took the time to ask. In the interest of full disclosure, there’s been many comments about how much the sermons are appreciated.
I can’t please everyone all of the time. Actually, I can’t please everyone any of the time. Perhaps the goal is to please a majority of the people a majority of the time.
I preach what the Lord puts on my heart. I preach what comes out of my study, prayers, and mediation. I preach what the Holy Spirit gives me. Is it effective? Is it what people want to hear? I don’t know. I’ve never been very good at figuring out what people want to hear.
I wish I was better at it, but I’m not.
They brought me the wrong thing, and it took too long, and was burnt.
What did I do?
Take a look.
A Warm and Loving Presence
That’s what it takes according to a four decade study of 350 families with each family having three or four generations. The research was aimed at answering the following questions:
- How is religious faith transmitted to the each generation?
- Why are some families successful at transmitting faith and others are not?
- Can the reasons for success and failure be identified and measured?
An Interesting Project
Social scientists invested 40 years surveying the members of each family’s generations. The same survey was give each year asking about faith and levels of religious commitment. And the results?
This Sunday at the Southeast Church of Christ in Friendswood, TX at 8:30 and 10:45, I’ll be sharing the primary results of the study. You are welcome to come or to watch online from our site: www.southeastonline.org
And if you care to, take a few minutes to watch: VLOG: “I Love Being a Father”
How many kinds of dads are there? What kind of dad did you have or still have? What kind of dad are you? Forgive me if the following seems stereotypical:
- The engaged, loving, attentive dad
- The missing in action dad
- The always too busy dad
- The deceased dad
- The dad who is divorced from your mom
- The abusive dad
- The harsh, bullying, uncaring dad
The best scenario is for every family to have two loving parents who are present, engaged and leading their children well. But that’s not always how it is, is it?
I have deep respect for single parents who strive to provide everything they can for their children, doing everything that normally requires two parents to do. God bless them.
The Apostle Paul commended Timothy for his faith, which he said came from Timothy’s mother and grandmother. His dad was mentioned too but not for his faith. Single moms can raise Godly kids. Single dads can raise Godly kids too. But for each, it’s tougher.
What happens to the home, to kids and to families, if the father is present but unengaged? Or if he leaves and has minimal involvement, if any? How much harder is it for everyone?
Each generation has its challenges for passing faith to the next generation. How are we doing in transmitting our beliefs to our kids and grandkids? What’s our report card?
How true is it that we can’t force our children to love the Lord? We can’t make them believe. We must train, teach, mentor, encourage, support and pray for them. We must make sure they have every opportunity to know the love of God. But in the end, its up to them to decide.
It’s vital for parents to have strong convictions and a good understanding of how to pass their faith to their children, and to their children, and so on. And having a loving father, or father figure, is still the best case scenario for faith transmission.
A Warm and Loving Presence?
We will see.
Tradition: “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation.”
Growing Up In Church
- Sitting in the same place every time.
- Using only the King James version
- Members urged to “go forward.”
A tradition created by religious leaders and preachers. Also known as “the invitation” or “altar call.” Reasons for “going forward” or “responding to the invitation” included:
- salvation, asking for baptism
- confessing sin
- requesting prayers from the congregation
- repentance for bringing shame and reproach on the church
Tradition or Scripture?
No where in Scripture is a person required to “go forward.” It’s not commanded, nor are there examples of it and it’s not inferred that anyone did. People responded to the gospel at all hours of the day and night, but there is no sense that it happened on Sunday mornings in church. The gospel was preached publicly, in the marketplace, or in homes with people gathered to listen.
But somewhere in our history, the “invitation” was offered whenever the church gathered, and over time it became a tradition and was elevated to the level of biblical authority. It became a sin to not offer the invitation.
Satisfied Our Justice
It’s legalistic practice grew to Pharisaic proportion. People were embraced or rejected based on going forward, or not. Church membership was tied to the practice of “going forward.”
If a member had “sinned publicly” then that member was guilty of bringing reproach against the church, of shaming the congregation. Therefore, they had to publicly repent and ask forgiveness of the church. Examples of shame:
- Public intoxication
- Sexual sins
- Unwed girls who were pregnant
- Rowdy or unseemly behavior
I’ve witnessed unwed girls “going forward” for forgiveness for shaming the congregation. The girls did most of the repenting, I guess pregnancy is difficult to hide. In forty years of ministry I have never seen a young man go forward for getting a girl pregnant.
And the Lord?
Repentance and Godly sorrow are good things. God is looking into our hearts and sees our humility and brokenness. Its good to seek his grace but I’m not sure that any of us has the right to limit it’s access to the front row of the church.
Too many have been judged and rejected because they failed to live up to the traditional expectations of tradition bound believers.
Here’s some sins I’ve never seen repented of in public:
- Judging others
- Self righteous attitudes
- Gossiping about church members
- Factiousness within the church
- Binding traditions as if they were the word of God
I guess those sins aren’t public enough to warrant walking down front.
the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation
Some are good and some need to die and be buried.
Mexican food on the left, hamburgers on the right and gumbo in the middle, we chose the left. When it comes to following our Lord, lets strive for down the middle!
“Teach us to count our days.”
Who Said That?
It wasn’t David or Solomon, or one of the prophets. It wasn’t Jesus. It was Moses, but don’t bother searching for it in the Torah because it isn’t in there, its found in the Psalms, its Psalm 90, “A prayer of Moses the man of God.”
Count Our Days?
Verse 2, “…from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
Everlasting is a long time. Longer than we can count.
Verse 4, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day.”
A thousand years isn’t nearly as long as everlasting but its bucket fulls of years longer than we will live.
Verse 10, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures.”
That seems more like it. Odd though that Moses wrote that and lived to be 120 years old. I guess he had lots of enduring strength.
Verse 12, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Everlasting is hard to count in days. A thousand years is 365,000 days, I can count that high but I won’t live that long.
Seventy years is 25,550 days and eighty years is 29,200 days. Lets split the difference and call it 27,375 days. Okay Moses, we have counted our days and now we need a heart of wisdom. Has it come yet?
Was Moses saying its wise to admit that we won’t live forever so its good to live life fully? We only get so many days. We get whatever we get, but the point is, what are we doing with the time?
168 is the number of hours in a week, we all get the same amount, how do you use them?
936 is the number of weeks in 18 years. From the moment your children are born to the day they walk across the stage is 936 weeks. Count the days moms and dads.
40 Sundays is the national average for family’s having their children in bible school, forty Sundays a year.
45 minutes is the average amount of time a child will spend in bible school each of the forty Sundays they attend. Doesn’t feel like thats gong to be enough does it?
Moses was right. We need to count our days for they are not unlimited. What we do with our time matters. What we do today matters. How much we invest in the spiritual training of our children matters. Don’t miss it.
“Teach us Lord to count our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
If you read my VLOG last week then you know it was about my high school track experience. It was a message about striving to keep the faith and to run our race with perseverance.
What I didn’t mention was that in the spring of my senior year I decided not to run track. It wasn’t so I could play baseball or tennis. No, I joined the drama club, which proved a most unpopular decision. I was worried sick about what people would think and say. Some of those I worried about:
- the Track Coach
- the Track Team
- my friends
- my girl friend
- my parents
In a small town High School the boys that played sports played all of them. We were a fraternity. The best players in football were the best players in basketball and track. I was one of the best and they were depending on me.
My fears were well founded. I was ridiculed and teased. Some treated me differently, including the coach. But not my parents who supported my decision and not the Drama Club who were happy to have me. We rehearsed after school at the same time the track team worked out. I had played football and basketball and track since Junior High, and enjoyed it, learned from it, and won my share of medals and trophies. But as it turned out, I also loved being in drama and acting, it was so much fun.
A Hard Choice
My decision went across the grain. I chose drama over sports. I chose performing on a stage instead of competing on a track. It wasn’t easy to go against the grain, they called me “loser” and other words I won’t put in print. It wasn’t pleasant and I knew what it was like to be on the outside.
Our culture demands that everyone fits in, to do what’s expected even if it’s not in our best interest. Kids are under enormous pressure to blend in, to keep their heads down and not be different. Difference is a killer. Difference gets noticed and attacked.
For believers with kids, you face challenges that are bigger than ever. The dynamics are the same: the need to fit in, be accepted, and peer pressure will always exist. But the consequences are worse. The bullying and ostracizing are more intense.
I am struggling to accept it, but the nation I love is slowly becoming a place where living as the light of world is ridiculed, anathema and increasingly belittled.
Making the choice to be different is still the calling of God for his people. It has never been easy and now it seems harder than ever. Please accept my encouragement to keep trusting in God and to keep struggling to be the light of the world.
It’s never been easier to blend in.
God bless you, stay strong and keep the faith.
I like Easter, it’s a fun holiday, a religious one, but fun. My earliest memories are:
- New clothes for Easter Sunday
- Mom hiding Easter eggs
- Chocolate bunnies wrapped in brightly colored foil
- Chocolate bunnies that tasted a lot like wax
- Wondering how I knew what wax tasted like
The word “easter” seems to have originated from a pre-Christian goddess in England named Eostre who was celebrated at the beginning of spring. The only reference to her comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eight centuries.
Bruce Forbes, a religious studies scholar, wrote this:
“Bede wrote that the month in which English Christians were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus had been called Eosturmonath in Old English, referring to a goddess named Eostre. And even though Christians had begun affirming the Christian meaning of the celebration, they continued to use the name of the goddess to designate the season.”
This year, Easter is April 1. But the date for Easter changes every year. The reason is that Easter always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. So in 2019, Easter will be April 21 and in 2020 it will be April 12. Last year, for 2017, Easter was April 16. The year before, in 2016, Easter was March 27.
But our Easter celebration isn’t based on the goddess Eostre or the British monk. It’s aligned with Constantine who favored Christianity, who convened a meeting of Christian leaders who resolved that Easter be celebrated on a Sunday, and it be the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox.
Many cultures connect Easter with the Jewish feast of Passover, commemorating the liberation of the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery.
However you recognize Easter, whatever meaning, significance, or cultural traditions you observe please remember that its about the risen Son of God.
The Resurrected Messiah-Our Hope and Our Glory
(the chocolate bunnies are nice too)
Helping the Helpless
It’s so like Jesus to help those in need and its even more like him to help children in need. Take a look at this week’s VLOG.