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Monthly Archives: August 2015

We need more creative teachers like this!

If you haven’t caught the West Des Moines Iowa teachers flash mob singing their version of “One Day More” from Les Mis, here’s the link. The event took place at a district-wide welcome back meeting, where the group sang about the One Day More they had left of preparation before classes started on Monday. It is very creative and inspiring. We need more teachers who pour their heart and creativity into their classes and lessons.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in News stories, Passion, Videos

 

Jeremiah is the master of the object lesson

Every preacher has their own unique style of proclaiming the truth of God’s word. While I agree with that statement, especially since I wrote it, I would change the word “unique” to “distinct.” Rather than being a unique style, mine is a composite of many others. In that sense, I stand on the shoulders of many preachers who have gone before me. Each one contributed a nugget or principle that I incorporated into my style.

If someone were to question my multisensory approach to preaching and trying to blend PowerPoint, props, videos, pictures, and comics into my sermons, I would defend my approach by pointing to the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was the master of the object lesson.

When God commissioned Jeremiah to his prophetic ministry, he responded with the age-old excuse, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth” (1:6). God sweeps aside those words with the explanation, “I have put my words in your mouth” (1:9).

Throughout his ministry, Jeremiah not only preaches, but he follows God’s instructions and does so in a colorful, memorable fashion.

  • Ch. 13 – Jeremiah is instructed to take his belt or sash and bury it in the bank of the Euphrates River. Later, God told him to dig it up and he discovered the sash was rotten. Jeremiah uses it to illustrate the futility of chasing other gods.
  • Ch. 18 – Jeremiah visits the potter’s house. In the same way a potter has control over the shape of the clay, so God plans and shapes the future of his people.
  • Ch. 19 – God instructs Jeremiah to buy a flask and then break it in the sight of the people to signify that God is breaking the nation because of its sin.
  • Ch. 24 – Jeremiah has a vision of two baskets of figs, one good and one bad. The good figs represent the people who will be restored to the land while the bad figs represent the leaders who will be judged.
  • Ch. 27 – Jeremiah is told to preach while wearing the yoke of an ox. This represents that the nation will be carried into captivity.
  • Ch. 32 – Jeremiah is told to buy a field in the midst of captivity. This provides a picture of hope that God will restore the nation back to the land.

Not every one of Jeremiah’s messages is accompanied by an object lesson. They are spread throughout the book, adding spice and variety to his messages. They encourage me to keep doing what I am doing as well as to pursue even greater forms of creative expression.

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2015 in Books, Prayer, Scripture, Videos

 

Is Lasting Change Possible?

An old man from the mountains took a trip to the big city. For the first time in his life he found himself standing outside an elevator. He watched as an old, haggard woman hobbled on and the doors closed behind her. A few minutes later the doors opened and a young, attractive woman marched smartly off. Amazed, but realizing the possibilities, the old man turned to his son and said, “Boy, go home and get your momma so I can run her through that thing.”

Don’t you wish change was that easy? Many of us approach change like my favorite theologians, Calvin & Hobbes.

Calvin & Hobbes - change - make others change

We want to change others. But it is much more difficult to change ourselves. We struggle with our addictions, anger, fears, frustrations, bad habits, gambling, drugs, poor attitudes, our relationships, language, lusts, pornography, secret sins … and the list goes on and on. We say we want to change. We may even try to change ourselves. We say things like, “I am going to turn over a new leaf. I am going to try harder. I am going to pull myself up by my bootstraps. I am going to get my life out of the ditch. Things will be different this time. You wait and see.” But ultimately our best-intentioned attempts at change are fleeting and unsuccessful we find ourselves right back in the ditch where we started.

In Mark 10:46-52, we meet a man named Bartimaeus. He was a blind man who sat on the side of the road in Jericho, begging for the meager and chance charity of passers-by. He had long since given up hope on being able to change himself. But then Jesus came to Bartimaeus’ town. Blind Bartimaeus knew it was time for a change and he knew Jesus was the only one who could make it happen. Bartimaeus didn’t miss his chance for change.

Bartimaeus provides us with an example of how to experience real change. Through his encounter with Jesus, we discover that Jesus Christ has the power to change our lives. Jesus has the power to heal and to save.

Helen Keller was once asked, “Isn’t it terrible to be blind?” She responded, “Better to be blind and see with your heart than to have two good eyes and see nothing.” While Bart may have been blind, he had insight. He understood that Jesus was the Son of David, the promised Messiah. He knew that Jesus was his only hope.

When the critics tried to silence him, Bartimaeus cried louder. When some people reach the end of their rope, they give up. Others are like Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. They like living in a garbage can because it is familiar. Blind Bart was not like that. He was desperate to receive mercy. He desperately wanted to change and he knew that Jesus was his only hope.

Despite the press of the crowds, despite being on a mission, despite being headed towards Jerusalem and the cross, Jesus makes time for one man. He stops and calls for Bartimaeus. Blind Bart throws off his cloak, sprang up, and comes to Jesus.

Jesus responds with a curious question, “What do you want me to do for you?” You’d think it would be obvious. The man is blind. He wants his eyesight. While Jesus knows our needs, he waits for us to acknowledge them. He doesn’t impose himself, but waits for us to ask for his help.

After Bartimaeus asks to recover his sight, Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well.” The word, “well,” is used elsewhere in the New Testament to mean “saved.” It indicates that Jesus has the power to heal and to save. Bartimaeus’ life is transformed and he becomes a disciple of Jesus.

Where do you need God’s power in your life? Do you have any bad habits you want to get rid of? Do you want victory over addictions, anger, worry, frustrations, profanity, alcohol, gambling, pornography, secret sins, broken relationships, doubt, or workaholism? Are there any good habits you want to start—Bible study, prayer, witnessing, generosity, serving, increased faith? Do you want a stronger marriage or family? What is holding you back?

Since Jesus has the power to heal and to save, let him change your life today! Admit your need and ask God to demonstrate his power in your life.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church on August 23, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Don’t let your love for God turn into legalism

The danger of legalism is around us and within us. We can switch from delight to duty at the drop of a hat. Joy can become a burden if we do not guard our hearts. Our love for God can easily turn into legalism if we are not careful.

Author Cliff Graham vividly portrays this tension in Song of War, the third book in his Lion of War series, his series of novels about King David and his mighty men. He writes about a conversation between King David and Shammah, one of “The Three.”

Shammah walked across the sand and stood next to his king. He stole a glance at his face. The amber eyes were searching for something. Always searching. As though a great secret was beyond the hills, and David alone knew of its existence, but was troubled because he could not answer it.

“Thank you for telling the men of the ark.”

David blinked and turned to him. “You tell them of the ark all the time.”

“But the way you say things… When I say it to them, it comes across as anger.”

David patted Shammah on the shoulder. “You love the ways of Yahweh more than most men I have known, my friend. Just make certain you don’t love the ways of Yahweh more than Yahweh himself.”

Shammah looked at Moab as David did. He heard laughter behind him. He closed his eyes. Felt the sand under his feet. Thank you, Lord.

Don’t allow your relationship with God become a religious activity. Don’t allow your love for rules and rituals to overshadow your love for the Savior.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2015 in Books, Passion, Personal growth, Quotes

 

Preach the WORD

“It is significant that whenever Scripture gives instructions to preachers, the theme is always the same. We are to preach the sure Word of God, and nothing else (not our opinions, pop culture, political agendas, dreams, personal visions, or other speculative notions). We are to preach scripture faithfully in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2); whether it’s easy or hard; whether people respond enthusiastically or not. The Bible is the only message we are authorized to preach in Christ’s name. Anything and everything else is a corruption of the preacher’s high calling.”

John MacArthur, in “The Preacher and his Bible,” Expositor magazine, July/August 2015

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2015 in Ministry, Preaching, Quotes, Scripture

 

Preachers are held to a higher standard

There is coming a final day of accountability for every expositor in which he will be made subject to the searching scrutiny of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though all his sins have been forgiven and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, the preacher nevertheless will stand one day before the One who enlisted him, as a servant to his master, and give an account for his ministry. On that last day, every preacher will be judged, though not for the size of his congregation, nor the number of his staff. He will not be examined for the volume of his budget, nor for the upward mobility of his flock. In large measure, he will be reviewed for his handling of the written Word of God.

So begins the opening paragraph of an article entitled, “The Preacher and his Accountability,” written by Steven J. Lawson in the July/August 2015 issue of Expositor magazine. The author goes on to explain how those who preach the Scriptures need to follow the Apostle Paul’s instructions in 2 Timothy 2:15.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Lawson makes four key points in explaining and applying the verse to today’s pastors:

  • First, rightly handling Scripture requires hard work.
  • Second, rightly handling Scripture requires skillful precision.
  • Third, rightly handling Scripture involves God’s approval.
  • Fourth, rightly handling Scripture avoids potential shame.

Lawson closes his article by stating,

By present standards, we are prone to judge a minister by the visible response to his preaching. That is usually measured by the number of people who come to hear him. It is often determined by the size of the congregation. However, God has an entirely different standard of judgment. It may—or may not—involve the vastness of the crowd who comes to hear the preacher. Instead, God is looking, first and foremost, at the purity of the message itself. The divine criterion is: Did this servant of the Word rightly handle it?

The article is a good reminder for those of us who preach, and one I need to take to heart.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2015 in Ministry, Preaching, Quotes, Scripture

 
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Will I take God at his word?

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Posted by on August 18, 2015 in Bible Study, Quotes, Tim Challies