Friday, March 25, 2011

Object of our worship

One trend that I see when I listen to men within our fellowship teach and preach is an apparent confusion about Who we worship.  In trying to assert the absolute authority of the Bible, many bow down before the printed page as the object of worship.  While it is true that Jesus is the Word, making the Bible the central focus of our worship can be a dangerous prospect.  We generally giving the largest portion of our assemblies to preaching and Bible study.  Prayer seems quite neglected in many churches and reflection even more so.  God has promised (as we know from the Bible, both Old and New Testaments) that He will be Lord of our lives in first position or we are not giving Him His rightful place.  To replace the Sovereign LORD with words about Him is to put an idol between us and God.  We know God through the Scripture, true, but we need to appreciate that our worship is directed by Scripture toward the Father.  Only when God is LORD to us does the Scripture find its proper place as a revealer of His nature and desires.
Up until the spring of 2009, no one outside of a small village in Scotland had ever heard of Susan Boyle. Boyle, who was 47 at the time, lived in her deceased parents' home with her cat, had few friends and fewer prospects. It was an appearance on "Britain's Got Talent" that turned Boyle into an overnight sensation and millionaire.
Boyle walked out onto the stage of the show in a frumpy dress and with messy, graying hair. The crowd and even the judges laughed at her initially. She said she wanted to be like Elaine Page, Britain's most famous West End/Broadway singer. Eyes rolled in the audience and again laughter was heard. Then as the music to "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables began to play, Susan Boyle sang. She was not even through the first line before the audience were on their feet. As her voice swelled and filled the auditorium, one judge gaped, one wept and one smiled knowing that this woman's life would never be the same. Since that night, Boyle has sang all over the world (including duets with Page) and sold millions of records proving the old axiom that your can't judge a book by its cover.
I wonder who among us has a talent that needs to get out? We may not look like what people expect in an evangelist, a Sunday School teacher or missionary, but perhaps we have that desire hidden in our hearts. Let us not be guilty of burying a talent from God in the ground, but rather let us dream big dreams with God as our Helper.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I ran across a quote attributed to Tolstoi that caused some serious reflection.

"To sin is a human business, to justify sins is a devilish business."

All to often when I (and I presume others as well) make a mistake or willfully choose and commit a sin I am conscious immediately the action was wrong.  What compounds the problem of sin is that often, as a course of self-preservation, I immediately try to justify the sinful thought or behavior.

"Well, I wouldn't have said that if he hadn't..."
"Everyone does _________ from time to time."
"It's only a little sin."

No doubt in the course of my life I will sin.  What I must change is my tendency to justify sin and replace it with an attitude of humble brokenness and repentance.  Since I still believe in absolute truth I must acknowledge that anything I think, say, or do that is contrary to God's truth is in fact a sin and as such something which, left unforgiven, will separate me from God.  This realization, of course, brings discomfort when I realize that I have often placed willful sin between me and God.  This willingness to attempt to justify what is unjustifiable is perhaps the act which separates me from fellowship with God even more than the offending sin.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pondering...

"You'll never be able to speak against sin if you're entertained by it." -John Muncee

For quite a while now I have given some thought to my ability to speak against sin.  For most of my Christian life I have lived on the premise that I would never condemn anyone for something that I myself was also doing or had done.  For example, I have never spoken passionately against profanity because I myself have often times been profane.  I did not think I should judge and certainly if I did judge I didn't want to be a hypocrite.  This line of thinking has led me often not to speak up when most likely I should have primarily out of fear that someone would say, "Well, you do it too."

I am wondering how to find balance.  The easiest answer of course would be to correct my own offending behavior, but realistically there will always be some area I stumble in.  And even if I could attain perfection I am not sure even then it would be necessary to rebuke others at every opportunity available.

Although I hate to admit it, I am still often entertained by or entertaining sin.  While I realize this truth I am not sure of the application.  I need to realize in a very real way that sin is what causes separation not only from God but also between people.  Since sin is divisive it ought not be entertained or seen as entertainment.

I'll think on it more and let you know what I come up with...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Preparing for Sundays

The longer I preach the more difficult it gets to prepare for a Sunday.  I would say that most of my preaching friends say the opposite is true: that the more you preach the easier it gets to prepare.  I think I have difficulty preparing these days for several reasons.

  • It's been a long time since I heard someone else preach.  When you aren't hearing other people teach and preach you begin to forget how it feels to be in the audience listening to a lesson.  While I read other preachers' sermons and articles, it's not the same as a live church experience.  Also, I am not hearing new ways to present material and that can lead to being stuck in a rut style wise.
  • I know more now and it is harder to know what to share and when.  I feel like through reading and prayer I know more about the Bible than I did five or ten years ago.  Just because I know it though doesn't mean I need to share all the details of every theory with the congregation.  I am having to learn that not everyone is wanting deeper study all the time.  I am trying to put most of my deeper teaching into the two Bible classes and making the sermon more general to fit the entire congregation.
  • I have preached all my favorite texts more than once.  As much as I want to study the Book of Acts forever, I am having to learn to explore new, unfamiliar texts and topics.  My lessons are usually textual leading to application, but lately I have been trying some topical lessons like "Love for the Christian" and "Why I Preach Baptism."
  • I sometimes doubt that my preparation matters.  This one is a hard one for me because sometimes if I prepare too much I can ruin a lesson.  Other times a passage will come to mind and I can go with it relying on past knowledge and common sense application.  It is also difficult (I think for all preachers and teacher) to know if what you are saying is making any impact.  As people leave the building and thank you for the lesson I have noticed they say about the same things whether the lesson was one of your best or not so grand at all.  I am blessed to have a few members who give an honest but kind opinion of my preaching each week.
I hope that gives a little insight into my Sunday preparations...better get back to it!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Long time...

It's been over two months since I shared a blog entry. 
Honestly, I have felt like I didn't have much to share.  My health is about the same and my spiritual life continues to be a roller coaster.  My finances are a bit strained due to taxes and unforeseen car repairs.  Life has been fairly day-to-day without anything extraordinary happening.
I am trying to learn to be content in the life I have.  For several years I have been waiting for things to "get back to normal" so I could really start my life.  Through talking with my therapist I have begun to realize that I am already living my life.  I have always wanted to do great things, and I have come to realize that the great things I am able to do are not as grand as I had always dreamed.  For now and maybe for the rest of my life, I simply need to do the best I can to be a good son, brother, citizen, minister and follower of Christ.  I am learning (or at least attempting to learn) contentment in my current circumstances.  I have never been content with anything and so this is difficult for me.
One day at a time.