Thursday, May 27, 2010

Here's one for the "I suck" moments...

My wife jokes that after a sermon or Bible Study that didn't go exactly as amazingly as I had planned, that I experience "I suck" moments. I anticipated a deep & passionate response to the study, and at the end it all felt pretty mundane. The comment below from a pastor really helped me to think long term about my all-too-mediocre teaching ministry. Apparently, when "I suck," God still rules! (HT Justin Taylor)

"All is not lost when the after-sermon desert offers no water. This moment may have been meant to prepare some for what they have yet to face. It may be meant to call out to others months from  now when they are more heedless or needy than they are today. It may serve as one more evidence of the hardness of one’s heart. It may serve as one more piece in a puzzle God is putting together for another–the picture will not complete for some time, but completeness will not happen without the corner-piece offered by the sermon today. Those who are changed seemingly in a moment by your sermon today have had multiple moments of God’s working prior. Take heart. There is seed there though it lay beneath the ground. Step out into the barren field dear friend, and pray for His rain to fall."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"This is an A & B Conversation..."

If you went to a real, public elementary school, you undoubtedly were insulted a few times with the following "joke": "This is an A & B conversation, so C your way out of it." Ha. Very funny, I know. If you were to interject your own statement into the conversation of 2 much cooler children, you would be met & subsequently humiliated by this joke.

I find that I need to say this at times in my relationship & communication with God through his word. Let me explain. I get several opportunities to teach the Bible each month (7 times in May alone). This means that I spend a lot of time each month preparing & studying for lessons. This is all good & enjoyable, since I get to do what I love- study God's word- in preparation for these lessons. But...

Since I work a full-time job whose main function is not teaching the Bible, this means that I can be short on time to prepare. So many times I attempt to "kill two birds with one stone" by coupling my personal devotion time with sermon preparation time. I tell myself, "It's still the word of God, right? God's word is still powerful and active in my life, whether I'm reading it for leisure, devotions, sermon preparation, homework, at church, home, school, isn't it?"

It's true, theologically speaking, that God's word can always be effective for its purposes (Isaiah 55:10-11; Hebrews 4:12-13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). However, when I am studying for a sermon, I am bringing a third party into the conversation. As I read and pore over Scripture, I am not simply thinking about what God demands of me or what he is revealing about himself. Rather, I am thinking how I can package and express His truth to a third party (usually ADD high schoolers). The more I try and couple my devotions with my sermon preparation, the less I focus on the A & B conversation that must be happening.

I grow spiritually from my sermon preparation & study. I really do. I am forced to learn things and express things that I would not normally come across in personal devotion. However, this cannot replace the one-on-one relationship that I so desperately need with my Creator. It would be much like only going on double dates with my wife & another couple, and never ever spending quality time alone. When I've been teaching a lot, and therefore studying a lot, and yet I find myself dry, it is most often because I've never truly been alone, in an A & B conversation with God through His word.

Not everyone reading this is a teacher. So what or who is the third party for you that you too often allow into your conversation with God? Is it leading family devotions? Is it reading your Bible only while at church being taught? Is it reading only in groups of other believers? I fear too often that we I don't have the mind of David, who wrote, "One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple" (Psalm 27:4). If anything or anyone is getting in the way of this "gazing on the beauty of the Lord," I think our response must be, "Hey, this is an A & B conversation..."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Shepherd God- Psalm 23

Sermon preached at Revive Church, Glendora, on May 2, 2010.


Bible Passage.