Monthly Archives: July 2008

A passion for the gospel

Dr. John Geddie went to Aneityum (the southernmost inhabited island in the Vanatu archipelago) in 1848 and worked there for God for 24 years. The island had a population of about 3,500 when he arrived. On the tablet erected to his memory these words are inscribed:

“When he landed, in 1848, there were no Christians. When he left, in 1872, there were no heathen.”

J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Leadership

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Posted by on July 17, 2008 in Books, Leadership, Passion, Quotes


Send someone else

There are days when I agree with Calvin, “Here am I Lord, send someone else!”

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Posted by on July 17, 2008 in Fun


Preparing to preach

Coach Bob Knight has stated, “The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win.”

With a few modifications, I think you can adapt his quote to preaching. To preach effectively, you have to be willing to prepare to preach. I certainly can affirm that truth, having learned the hard way what happens when I try to merely “wing it.”

Most of my preparation has been in two areas. The primary one takes place in the study during the week. I was always taught that you have to discipline yourself to spend time immersing yourself in the text so that you know what it means and how to explain it to people. You have to study your audience in order to know how to apply the specific truths from the passage to their lives. My preparation includes understanding the text, thinking through my introduction, illustrations, applications, and conclusion. Since I include visuals in my preaching, my preparation also includes preparing my PowerPoint slides. Maybe I am too detailed or perhaps I just have a healthy fear of embarrassment, but I want to know where I am going and whether or not I arrive at my destination.

In addition to preparing the message, I was also taught that you have to prepare the messenger. St. Francis said, “The preacher must first grow hot within before speaking words which in themselves are cold.” Phillip Brooks put it like this, “Preaching is truth mediated through personality.” While the preacher is not the message, he is the vital medium through which the message is delivered. Thus, my preparation must also include character development, confession of sin, prayer, and my relationships with others.

Many people often ask, how much time do you spend preparing a message? They expect an answer of 15, 20, or 30 hours. Since you have to prepare not only the message, but also the messenger, the real answer is “a lifetime.”

I have recently added a third element to my weekly preparation–preparing the place. I had come across the idea of praying for the facility and the people who would be there on Sunday. About a month ago, I started going into the sanctuary on Friday afternoons to preview my PowerPoint slides. I discovered the colors are sometimes different when projected than they are on my computer screen. So I needed to double check that everything looked good.

After previewing and making the necessary changes to the slides, I started walking around the sanctuary to pray for the people who would be seated in the pews on Sunday morning. As I stand in the front of the auditorium, I pray specifically for the worship team and the musicians. As I walk through the balcony, I pray for the sound people and the technical equipment. As I have walk up and down the center aisle and around the room, I pray that God would bind the enemy, remove distractions, and open people’s hearts and minds to hear the truth. I pray that God would use each teacher and helper to connect with their students. I pray that God would use me and the message to meet people at their point of need. I pray that the message would bring hope to those who are discouraged, conviction to those who are in sin, and encouragement to those who are ready to give up. I pray that people would understand and believe that God can be trusted. As I pace through the aisles and around the sanctuary, I pray that God would bring revival to our church.

On the one hand, I don’t know that I can attribute my success and accomplishments to my efforts in preparation. On the other hand, I have received several comments from people over the past month saying that the sermons spoke directly to them. Initially, I attributed the comments to the sermon series on the life of Joseph in Genesis 37-50. Joseph dealt with real issues and problems and people can relate to him. But I am beginning to wonder if the comments are the initial signs of God beginning to answer prayer and bring lifechange.

To preach effectively, you have to be willing to prepare to preach. Prepare the message. Prepare the messenger. Prepare the place. And pray, pray, pray!

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Posted by on July 14, 2008 in Prayer, Preaching, Quotes


Prayer in the battle

“Many of us have the wrong idea about prayer and solitude. We think these parts of life are what you do while you’re waiting to do something really important. In that sense, we view prayer as equivalent to a football team doing pregame warm-up drills. Everyone knows that the drills only get the team ready for the big game.

There is a real sense, however, in which prayer isn’t the pregame at all. Prayer is where the battles of life are won and lost. We see something like this in Jesus’ life. Again and again, he got alone with his Father and poured out his heart in prayer. Everything else that happened–the miracles, the teaching ministry, his confrontations with enemies–flowed directly from his time alone with God. After all, the only place where his sweat poured like blood was in a garden alone with God, not when he was facing down his enemies. He won the battle alone before leading his followers in the victory parade.”

Bob Briner & Ray Pritchard in The leadership lessons of Jesus

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Posted by on July 13, 2008 in Books, Prayer, Quotes


Rethinking retirement

Like many other football fans, I have been caught up in the ongoing saga of the on-again-off-again retirement of Green Bay Packers great Brett Favre. “I-want-to-play-I-don’t-want-to-play; I’m-committed-to-the-team-I’m-not-committed-to-the-team; Give-me-my-helmet-or-give-me-my-release.” Knowing very few of the facts, I am not in a position to pass judgment on who’s right or wrong in the situation. But I am intrigued, none the less. And when the Packers come to Seattle to play the Seahawks on October 12, I’m curious as to who we will be rooting against.

One thing is certain, when it comes time to retire, you need to have a purpose in mind. You cannot merely retire from something, you must retire to something. For a Christian especially, there is no retirement from knowing and serving God. One may retire from a job, but not from life, and certainly not from ministry to others. Retiring from work in order to spend every day on the golf course or the ski slope will soon lose its attractiveness and fulfillment. All play and no work–or all work and no play–are equally boring.

In an article entitled “Rethinking retirement,” Dr. Howard Hendricks wrote,

“Retirement, supposed to be the chance to join the winner’s circle, has turned out to be more dangerous than automobiles or LSD. . . . It is the chance to do everything that leads to nothing. It is the brass ring that unhorses the rider.

Retirement too frequently is an assignment to no man’s land, grossly ill-fitted for contemporary culture, producing a suddenly unemployed person without a mission. Studies consistently show that the average person dies within seven years after retirement, and it is not uncommon for people to die within the first two years.

The reason is clear: There are two lines in a person’s life; the lifeline and the purpose line. When the purpose line evaporates, it is just a matter of time before the lifeline ceases.”

For the believer, retirement may be God’s way of releasing a person from daily responsibilities to allow him or her to devote more time and energy to serving others. Instead of a time of withdrawing, retirement should serve as the kindling for the bonfire of old age. It should allow us to go out in a blaze of glory. Rather than retire from service, the biblical model is that we are to serve until the day God calls us home.

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Posted by on July 12, 2008 in Culture, Passion, Quotes


Surviving a leadership cave-in

In Jesus on leadership: Discovering the secrets of servant leadership from the life of Christ, author C. Gene Wilkes points out that one of the challenges of leadership is how to lead without giving in to the personal preferences of others. The key is remaining focused on what God has called us to do and not allowing the wishes of others to deter us from that task.

“Servant leadership means being servant to the mission and avoiding the temptation to please others. . . . My personal journey has taught me that leadership means staying true to the mission, not necessarily to the wishes of the people–even the majority of the people. I now live by this axiom: ‘You cannot lead by consensus, but you must have consensus to lead.’ Consensus is a by-product, not a method, of good leadership. A 51 percent vote does not determine the will of God. A servant leader, however, gains the support of that 51 percent in order to complete the mission entrusted to the entire group. Personal preferences are secondary to divine purposes.”

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Posted by on July 12, 2008 in Books, Leadership, Quotes


God’s curriculum for character development

In Joseph: Overcoming obstacles through faithfulness, author Gene A. Getz presents one of the more provocative quotes I have ever run across. It illustrates the truth of James 1:2-4, that God uses trials to develop and shape our character.

“Samuel Rutherford once stated that we should ‘Praise God for the hammer, the file, and the furnace.’ He went on to explain that the ‘hammer molds us, the file shapes us, and the fire tempers us.’ All three experiences of course are painful, but we can praise God for them because we know and love the God who wields them. A.W. Tozer, commenting on Rutherford’s statement wrote, ‘The devil, things, and people being what they are, it is necessary to use the hammer, the file and the furnace in the holy work preparing the saint for sainthood. It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.‘”

Howard Hendricks once wrote in a letter to me, “Often the disappointments of life are a part of the Lord’s curriculum to prepare you for an even more determinative ministry. Nothing is ever wasted in the will of God. . . Your future is as bright as the promises of God.”

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Posted by on July 11, 2008 in Books, Personal growth, Quotes