Archive for the ‘Preaching’ Category

In the middle of the message tonight looking at Isaiah 6:6-7.

The prophet has seen the Lord high and lifted up, in all of His glory sitting on His throne.  He has seen the Seraphim calling out in voices of roaring thunder, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, the whole earth is full of His glory.”  Suddenly he realizes he is not holy and he cannot survive.  “Woe is me!  I am a man of unclean lips living with people who are unclean!”

A Seraph flies to Isaiah holding a white hot coal from the altar of incense and touches Isaiah’s lips pronouncing him to be justified, his guilt is taken away and his sin atoned for.  The pain of that moment struck me while preparing to preach.  All afternoon had been a battle against sinfulness in thought, word and deed.  It wasn’t always a successful battle.  I felt the heavy weight of my sins, both tremendous and trivial in many ways.  I even spent time before the message alone confessing sin in my office.

But while preaching the verses in Isaiah 6:6-7 and how God dealt with Isaiah’s sin I sensed time slow down to a near stop as I was speaking.  I continued preaching but suddenly there was something happening around me at another level.  I was convicted not only of my unholiness and sin, but the realization hit me like Isaiah, God should strike me down in the pulpit.  I am not worthy to preach such Good News.  I thought my heart was going to stop right there in front of 30 people. (Our standard Sunday night congregation.)

In the same moment, the words came so clearly, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will save me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  And then time returned to normal without me missing a word or a beat of the message.

I do not share this to sound super-spritual.  I am not or I would not have been in my office an hour before service tonight confessing sin.  Events like this rarely (like almost never in 12 years) happen while I am preaching.  I had long understood Isaiah’s predicament on many different levels, physical, spiritual, emotional.  But I had never been brought into his experience in such a powerful way.

I cannot say enough how grateful I am for Christ’s obedience and sufficient, perfect sacrifice for my sins.  I am not worthy and I will spend all of eternity in awe of God’s grace and mercy to me, a gross sinner.


Read Full Post »

Some of the folks over at Prydain have asked nicely that I post my messages on an upcoming series on holiness.  That’s a really nice request but it makes my head grow fat and light.  Fortunately I have 4 kids, a wife and a church who will pop that bubble first chance they get and probably without even making an effort or knowing that they did it.

Ok, I’ll honor the request, but I wish to say caveat emptor.

I read great preachers, I’m not one of them.  Some of the messages at Prydain and other places humble me with how well the Scripture is handled.  I never think I’m in that category.  To paraphrase, Cap’t Barbossa in the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean, “I’m but a simple pastor.”

Second, due to the size of the messages I generally preach here (25-35 minutes), I will post an executive summary of the messages.  These are the Sunday evening messages.  Much of the message is significantly context sensitive to our own ministry milieu.  I’ll try to eliminate most of that context sensitive material and give the five-ten minute version on this site.  In seminary, I was taught to be prepared for emergencies or the unexpected the require shrinking the message down to the basic points with each point getting only a paragraph or two.  That is what I will try to accomplish here.

A fair notice: Because these are the Sunday evening messages, there will not be a Sunday evening service on Mother’s Day.  I thus, avoid the bullet for another year of having to choose between my wife and my ministry.  Not that there would be much debate.  I have long preferred the reddish blond, Irish lass over other distractions.

However, Father’s Day is still up in the air.  I’ll be surprised if that service gets cancelled, but my vote is already in for honoring the dads in the same way as the moms.  But our congregation doesn’t have enough dads as heads of their households to make the point.  So the issue might be moot.

The series is titled, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Holiness.”  I admit to ripping off the American Declaration of Independence, even though I’m not preaching to Americans.  Or is it John Locke that I’m ripping off, I can’t remember, but I’m not preaching to a church of British, either.  It comes from a couple of sources and some of my personal convictions about the Christian life.  The main sources are Scripture (duh!), Jerry Bridges’ classic book, The Pursuit of Holiness and J.C. Ryle’s work, Holiness.

My convictions stem from a belief that true, real life is only found as we are connected to the Vine, Jesus Christ.  Life is found in receiving God’s forgiveness offered through Jesus’ atoning work on the Cross and life-giving resurrection three days later.

Forgiveness of sins brings freedom from sin’s power in our lives.  It would be hell on earth if we were forgiven of our sins and then thrown back into the devil’s den and told to live perfect lives without the power of sin being cancelled and destroyed in our lives. We can be confident that the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead has crushed sin’s power in our lives.

Such life and liberty offer us the opportunity to pursue the holiness God calls us to live.  He says, “Be holy, for I am holy.”  It can only happen as we receive new life in Christ, and freedom from sin’s mighty power.  The command is real.  God expects us to live holy lives, fully alive in Christ and free from the corrosive power of sin. Hopefully, and with God’s grace, we’ll discover how that can happen.

Look for the messages to be posted here on Monday evenings or early Tuesday mornings.  See ya then.

Read Full Post »

Kendall at T1:9 offers us this great post on pastors plagiarizing other pastors messages.  I posted the following comments as my intial response to the issue:

Solomon once wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. He might have been right.

I find it hard to believe that after 2000 years of preaching the Gospel that every preacher is saying something has never been said before. Or even required to do so.

I would argue contrary to popular perception in the pew, that the sermon probably has been preached somewhere else depending on the hermeneutic used, linguistic and cultural context and a few other factors. This would especially be so for preachers, priests, and pastors who tend to deliver expository sermons in such a way that they stick close to the outline of the text.

I would also argue as one of my own homilectical Old Testament profs said in seminary, sermon preparation is a lifetime of learning, influences and God-given experiences pouring out into a message for the congregation every week. It is not merely sitting down with the text, a commentary or two (or twenty) and crafting a message for that coming Sunday morning. All of the preacher’s life is in play in sermon development, including things the preacher may have read 15 years ago and barely remembers except for the life change wrought by the Holy Spirit in the words of another preacher.

That said, the preparation of a message that is entirely or mostly drawn from someone else’s material without attribution is sick. As others have pointed out here, just saying “One commentator/preacher said…” goes a long way. Rick Warren and Steve Sjogren have both promoted this mentality of lifting other’s (their’s especially) messages as if their congregational message would fit my congregation.

A few years ago I can remember a well-known pastor, preacher and author telling an audience of fellow pastors from all over the map of Christianity that there were only a few A-list preachers in the U.S. Thus the trend will be to use the messages of those A-list preachers, either via satellite video feed or in the delivery of their message by a local pastor. And he thought this was good.

There is an ego involved in this enterprise. The promotion of sermonic dependency does not create strong congregations, nor bold pastors who can lead their congregations through difficult times. They become what Ayn Rand, I believe, termed “second-handers.” People who live on second-handed experiences and thoughts and thus never truly live their lives.

We need pastors, preachers and priests who are transparent in the pulpit who can speak of their own wrestling with the text and life, even if not with the same style as a radio or TV preacher with a dozen books to their name. Congregations want authenticity from the pastor/preacher, which is why the trust level is broken when the reality of the plagiarism is discovered.

Lots of other good comments and discussion followed.  None of this is to say that Sunday morning or any other service ought to be the Pastor’s Preaching Show.  I’m a firm believer that the message and worship should not be about who is up front, but rather ought to be pointing to Christ in everything.

Pastors who plagiarize other pastors’ sermons are either insecure in their calling and standing before their congregation due to the inevitable comparisons to other well-known preachers; or they are insecure due to other factors, such as a need to be about growing the church, hitting homeruns with their messages every week, or the inevitable time crunch that comes with being a pastor in the 21st century.  It could also be that they are lazy and prefer to do other things with their time.

It is a sad trend unfortunately that has been with us for a while as one of the commenters on the thread noted in mentioning Thomas Wingfold’s being outed as a plagiarizing pastor in George MacDonald’s The Curate’s Awakening (a great book BTW, I would highly recommend it).  A book that was originally written in the 19th century.  If it wasn’t new then, we shouldn’t think it is new today.

Just so everyone is aware:  The original article that Kendall refers to is here.

Read Full Post »

Is it still church when the pastor doesn’t show up, but gives his message by video?

The following set of facts is a true story overheard literally on the street last night.

Everything else went as it usually does in this very large church in a very large city.  The congregation was led in music by the normal group of people, an associate pastor led the congregation in prayer and the offering was taken while someone sang and led the congregation in another song.  Then the pastor showed up on the screen, but becasue the place was so big, no one, but those in the absolute front of the church knew he wasn’t stnding in his usual place.  It wasn’t until the end of the service when people stood up to leave that they realized he wasn’t there, it was all a video broadcast.

So, again, is still church when the pastor doesn’t show up to preach but gives his message by video?

I’m not just talking about video simulcasting to multiple sites, but actually not being physically present to preach at one of the sites because he’s away, travelling back from a conference, or dealing with prior commitments.  Pre-recording the week’s message so the flock still get to see their beloved pastor on the screen and hear his voice speaking to them, just earlier in the week.  And making this the standard operating procedure, not just a once in great while kind of thing.  All of this taking place in a church of thousands, with some exceptionally gifted and well-known preachers and Bible teachers on the staff who could easily pinch-hit out of the jam.

Have we really reduced worship in the word to a video series?  What happens after the beloved pastor leaves or dies?  Can we still run his picture and message on the screen as a re-run?

Something tells me this is not going to be a healthy trend for the church.  Worship in church on Sunday mornings (or Saturday nights, as is also the case in the above example) must be more than a lecture series centered around the personality and speaking style of one man.  This is, in my humble opinion, bordering on idolatry.

I just wish this were an aberration but apparently this trend is growing.  We’ll have to come back to this some other time.

Read Full Post »