Not long ago someone sent me an email that I have re-read countless times. It blesses me again and again. It is from a self-proclaimed Christian turned atheist turned Christian again. In this email he blesses me with one of the best compliments I’ve ever received when he said, “I believe you are one hell of a preacher and a great person overall.”
That’s not something a (former) preacher hears every Sunday as he’s shaking hands by the door on the way out of the church!
What a great day God gave us Sunday.
It’s awesome when God does His thing and touches people’s hearts. Any Sunday when four people decide to meet Christ in the waters of baptism is a great day. That never get’s old!
Thanks, God, for letting me be part of what you’re doing in people’s lives.
A few days ago I wrote about a wonderful worship experience I had last Sunday. It was simple and comforting, and I was blessed to be there.
This morning I had a different sort of worship experience; and I was blessed in an entirely different way. Variety is good.
The service opened with Latin Prayers; a call to worship spoken in Latin. I only understood a word or two but there was something majestic and reverent about the experience. I felt as though I was entering the presence of God. Perhaps the tongue of angels is Latin.
We sang traditional Christmas carols (in English), but we sang them as if they were anthems. There was power in the music. We didn’t sing them particularly well because they were difficult to sing. It was as if we had to stretch ourselves to reach the height to which these songs could take us. Again, I felt as if I was in the presence of heaven’s angels.
A “homily” followed. Not a “sermon”. . . and certainly not a “message”. . . it was definitely a “homily”. There was a formality about the reading of God’s Word. The speaker didn’t read a passage to illustrate his point. Instead, the passage was the point. The speaker’s words were mere illustrations of what the Bible had to say. The speaker had an authority about him that didn’t come from a powerful personality. Instead, it came from the expectation that he was speaking on behalf of God. We were not co-learners or fellow explorers of the Bible with him. We were the students and he was the expert. He was sharing his wisdom with us. He didn’t do this in an arrogant way, but in a comforting manner that made us feel secure in where he was leading us.
The service concluded with a soaring benediction which we were told to “receive”. Again, we were the students, the underlings, and the speaker was speaking on behalf of God as he bestowed on us the message from on high.
I left that worship experience feeling a little higher because I was a little lower. That service indirectly reminded me that I am the created and HE is the creator. I find myself feeling secure because I know He is God and I’m not.
A few weeks ago I used “Cardboard Testimonies” during a sermon at CPC. Many churches have done these moving testaments to God’s grace. Check out some of these YouTube vidoes if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
Many, many people responded during our first service by coming forward and writing their own testimonies. Interestingly, no one came forward in the second service. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s interesting.
But one response really stands out to me in a BIG way. It happened later that afternoon in my garage. My eight-year-old daughter, Kaleigh, and her friend Luka, apparently had a spiritual discussion about that morning’s sermon while they were playing. I guess they were listening more than I realized, because later that night as I was clearing out the garage to make room for our van, I found a cardboard testimony that she had written that afternoon. It tore me up!
Here are pictures of the front and back of her testimony (I’ve also included subtitles if you can’t read her handwriting or decipher her spelling).
I can’t tell you how much this thrills me; both as a dad and as a preacher. As a dad, I’m overwhelmed to know that my daughter gets it! She actually gets that God’s grace in her life leads her to obedience. She sees (in her limited, eight-year-old way) that Jesus makes things better!
As a preacher, it’s nice to know that someone is listening.
I ran across a new preaching term while reading Perry Noble’s blog.
While ranting about the temptation to preach what the people WANT to hear rather than what God has called you to preach (just one rant among many in his absolutely awesome blog post), Noble used the term, “A mere preaching whore.”
That’s a term I had not heard before. . . but boy does it communicate!
Noble defines a mere preaching whore as “one who is paid for a service [preaching] for the pleasure of another person”.
That’s something every preacher and church member should contemplate.
How often does the church pay a preacher (or any other staff member) to perform a service for the mere pleasure of the church?
When a church is more focused on itself than on others that church has ceased being a church and become something else (IMHO).
I’m no longer doing much preaching, but I still have the heart of a preacher. I guess that’s why I’ve been so drawn to Jeremiah lately.
A friend gave me wise counsel not long ago. I was lamenting some things in my life and he said I needed to find a Bible character with whom I could relate. He said I needed to live with that character for awhile and explore that person’s strengths and weaknesses and watch how God dealt with that person. He said I then should be honest about how God is dealing with me and my strengths and weaknesses.
As soon as he said that, I thought of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah was a preacher who hated to preach; yet, he HAD to preach. He preached not because he was told to, but because he HAD to. There’s a big difference between preaching because you have to and preaching because you HAVE to.
It’s one thing to put a sermon together because Sunday is just around the corner and you have to deliver the goods. It’s an entirely different thing when a sermon you’re preparing puts you together — just after it rips you apart.
Early in his ministry every preacher learns of Jeremiah 20:7-18 where Jeremiah’s schizophrenic dilemma comes spilling out in a prayer to God. He tells God how much trouble preaching has caused him and that he has decided not to preach any longer. Yet, he quickly finds that he’s miserable when he doesn’t preach. So, he accuses God of mockery and deception, but then he praises God for defending him, just before he curses the day he was born.
It must have been a wild ride for Jeremiah. . . and all the while God wouldn’t let him go. He was teaching Jeremiah. He was growing Jeremiah. He was preparing him and using him for something great.
I don’t know what God has planned for me. Maybe it has something to do with preaching and maybe it doesn’t. I guess the best I can do as God works on me is to pray (and live) Jeremiah’s prayer, “For to you I have committed my cause.”