Thursday, November 27, 2008
It's the kind of world we live in, but the kind of God we serve demands (in a logical sense) Thanksgiving:
Last night my mother-in-law fell and broke her hip.
After a very late night, I was awakened earlier than the rest of the house by a call from Kathy's other brother. So, I and a cup of coffee are doing a little computering.
Thanksgiving always involves an act of the will. That is made abundantly clear in the little OT book of Habakkuk. If things aren't going as well as you like for you, I encourage you to make it your Thanksgiving reading. I imagine that our Pilgrim Forefathers had to adopt that "determined thanks" stance that I see in the prophet.
I will give thanks.
Monday, November 17, 2008
For some time now the point has been made that people won't listen to preaching anymore. We have to use PowerPoint and videos, we need to put on carefully scripted shows, and never quote Charles Spurgeon or do anything else "preacherly." People who have been making this point overlook some well-known and very popular preachers. Even listening through my keyhole, I am aware of a number. Many of them are best known through radio, so obviously the video element is not a factor in their effectiveness.
- Chuck Swindoll keeps on telling stories, enthusiastically laughing at his own jokes and highlighting the intense practicality of the Word of God.
- Granted it appears that Charles Stanley has bought some hair, but he is still counting off 3 of this, 5 of that, and 7 of the other thing on his long slim fingers.
- John MacArthur, and James McDonald seem to just talk about the Bible.
- Even from the grave Oliver Greene and J. Vernon McGee continue to have a following. I think they died before Powerpoint was invented.
Another preacher, Allistair Begg, has helped me clarify thinking on this. Part of the reason he has impressed me comes from the fact that he has come to some of the same conclusions I have, only he said it better. (Don't you love it when someone agrees with you?) You'll have to do the research if you want to find out more (and if anyone wants to send me a link to any of this, I'll be glad to post it.) since the input Preacher Begg has had in my life has been through borrowed Cd's and a couple of Pastor's Conferences I have attended at Parkside Church. Begg acknowledges that many critics claim that people won't listen to preaching anymore. In part he--and I--agree with that conclusion, but not for the reasons that are usually given. Since I don't have Begg's words in front of me, I don't want to take a chance on misrepresenting him. So the following points are mine. These opinions have been shaped by the Scottish preacher's words, though.
People don't listen to preaching because:
- Much of it isn't worth listening to. I notice this in particular when I go to funerals. Here preachers have the opportunity to talk to the people that they wish they could talk to on Sunday. If what they do at the funeral-chapel is typical of what they do at church it is easy to understand why people don't listen.
- Much of our preaching lacks authority. Messages that are like presentations of feel-good magazine articles garnished with scripture offer little of interest to people in need. Oprah and Dr. Phil have a bigger budget than we do. If we try to play in their court we'll lose. If we preach God's word, we win, because they don't.
- We seek to preach what people want to hear, or what they think they need to hear. Pastor Begg said something to the effect, "We cannot preach what people want, because no one is demanding the gospel."
- This one is mostly mine. We act as if all the truth of God's word can be mastered with little thought or effort. Proverbs talks about digging for treasure. Paul told Timothy to be diligent in his approach to the Word of God, 2 Timothy 2:15. I haven't read the book yet, but I understand that Bill Hybells has something to say on this matter.
In other words much of the lack of interest in preaching can be attributed to the sorriness of the preaching being offered up.
I've been thinking these thoughts for several years now. The recent election provided further confirmation that the day of preaching is not past.
- It is not coincidental that the best speaker won the presidential race.
- Then there was the highlight of the campaign. Sarah Palin's fresh, frank, folksy, effective rhetoric energized the race.
- Mike Huckabee did more with less, and landed himself a job on Fox News to boot, on the basis of his ability to speak clearly and persuasively. In case you didn't know, or forgot, Mike Huckabee is Rev. Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist pastor.
- Huckabee went to Seminary with Rick Warren. The civil forum at Saddleback clearly showed that a preacher who actually believes something could speak sensibly, persuasively, and reach across barriers.
- In my state we elected a new Senator. No doubt Mark Warner (No relation to John Warner, whom he is replacing) was helped by the Democratic tidal-wave, but Governor Warner is also a much more effective speaker than Governor Gilmore, whom he not only beat, but buried.
The preacher--the good ones at least won.
For those of us who seek to persuade people, It's Something to Think About.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Especially, on the presidential level, this has been a very emotional campaign. As I am doing a final edit of this piece there is a spot on TV about parents with adult children who are voting the opposite of their parents. One dad said he could hardly talk to his daughter. Find a way to get over it! Unless we deal with the emotion properly, it could get in the way of our moving on to the business at hand. And it is clear there is business at hand.
It is clear that this election will make history. We will have elected either the first African-American President, or the first female Vice-President. This has been the most expensive Presidential race in history, and some commentators are predicting a record vote. It seems that the campaign has lasted so long that some of babies the candidates kissed at the beginning of their run were old enough to vote for them by the end. By Tuesday evening nearly half the nation will be disappointed--some bitter. With all there is do before us, we had better get over it.
- For those of us who know the Lord, the bond that we share in Christ is more important than the political divisions that come between us. If our political enthusiasm led us to actions that offended others, we ought to make that right.
- We need to understand that not all Republicans are cold-hearted war-mongers, nor are all Democrats devoid of concern for the life of the unborn. Politics are complicated. Some of my friends make decisions that I don't understand. It is appropriate for us to have spirited discussions about the issues (in the right context), but it is not acceptable for me to "demonize" others or to assign motives to them that may not be theirs. Political campaigns lend themselves to caricatures--one dimensional cartoons--real life is populated by very complex individuals.
- No doubt in the months to come a new version of an old bumper sticker will proliferate, "Don't Blame Me, I Didn't Vote for ________." It's amusing the first 10 times you see it--a little--OK, very little--but the attitude it expresses is pretty non-productive.
- Don't gloat, either--that is if your side won. That is perhaps even less productive than the whining about losing. Sooner or later, politically or otherwise, you are going to need their help.
- We must be committed to get along with those we ought to get along with. I imagine that Simon the Zealot and Matthew the former tax collector had some interesting discussions.
God is still on the throne. This will get too long if I explore God's sovereignty, so you work on it on your own. Bottom line: If my guy won it won't bring in the Kingdom of God. If the other guy won that doesn't mark the beginning of the Great Tribulation.
Who ever our new President-elect is, and the other newly elected candidates, we need to pray for them, and those who continue in office. 1 Timothy 2
Transitions are critical times. Pray.
From my perspective as a pastor, having heard the discussion that led up to the election, it is clear to me that there is a great need for the people of God to clarify our thinking. What really matters?
Gene Veith, writing on his blog, included part of an article by an Australian journalist that included this quote, "This election marks the triumph of celebrity as the essential organising principle of US politics." (You can find more on Veith's blog, http://www.geneveith.com/. You'll need to scroll down a ways.
This is not a criticism of just the other side. This campaign has impressed me with how thin the thinking has been. Some of the ads and speeches have contained outright lies. The implication is, "Go ahead and lie to them. If it is what they want to hear, they'll like it, and many who don't like it won't be smart enough to figure it out." The majority of the campaign was based on half-truths and stuff that doesn't matter. From Grecian columns to expensive wardrobes to appearances on Saturday Night Live everything was about looking good.
People who don't know what they believe can be easily led astray. Lot's of Christians don't have a clue.
- Are there wars worth fighting, even if people die in them?
- When does human life begin? Is all human life worthy of protection?
- What is the purpose of government? What do we have a right to expect from our government? Concerning what do we have a right to expect government to leave us alone?
- What does the Bible tell us about human nature that needs to be considered when setting up an effective government?
A while back I asked one of our elected officials to tell me where the line is that he would not step over in relation to one of the moral issues of our day. In essence he said he didn't know. Yet that didn't stop him from making decisions on that issue. My friend-the-politician could get the answers if he wanted to. I have to assume that he prefers to be ignorant--or to profess ignorance--because it gives him/her greater flexibility. Some of us are doing the same in relation to our vote. One of our Presidential candidates said when asked when human life begins that to answer that question is above his pay-grade. The person who is going to lead the nation in protecting life ought to have an answer to that question. The other candidate professes to believe that life begins at conception, yet is not willing to follow through with the consistent, though hard, conclusion that therefore all human life is worthy of protection. (Or make a cogent argument as to why those particular humans should not be protected) Why is that we laughed at the candidates on Saturday Night Live, but we did not ridicule such inadequate answers? Could it be that we don't know either, that we are more comfortable being ignorant, that we are not willing to follow through on what we do know?
Before the personality and emotion of the next election kicks in dig in and get some answers.
I figure that some of you have some thoughts on this matter. If your comments show promise of leading to reconciliation, I'll be glad to post them for others to read.
To my friends whose candidates won, congratulations.
To the rest--well, there is next time.
PS. As I was preparing this post, I heard that Barak Obama's grandmother just died. Pray for the family. It kind of puts things in perspective on a number of levels.
Our musicians did a great job leading us in, and sharing, music.
At our 11:00 service we began with a Baptismal service. I figure that baptism ought to focus on the one declaring her or his faith, so we have the person being baptized share their testimony. Yesterday the 2 young ladies, good friends of one another, and members of the Jr. Hi. Sunday School Class, where I get to hang out, Kayla Douglas and Makayla May did a wonderfu job in sharing their story of faith. I wish that we had video of our services online (I'm looking for someone willing to do that) so you could easily see and hear these young ladies' testimonies. You can get a DVD if you want, write me and I'll pass it on to the crew that handles that.
Way to go M&K!
As an into to the message, "What Have We Done With Christmas?" we used a spoof of the 12 Days of Christmas. You can see it here, http://www.worshiphousemedia.com/index.cfm?hndl=details&tab=MM&id=7867
The little movie was made even more amusing by the fact that our son's new in-laws were guests in our home over the weekend. They are definitely not like the ones in the video.
Anyhow, I had a good time.
From those who cleaned our building, to ushers, to musicians, to K&M, to all who came, thanks.
I mentioned that the parents of our daughter-in-law were weekend visitors. Not only did we enjoy getting to know Wanda and Steve better, we enjoyed showing off our lovely part of the world to them. I am blessed to live in such a lovely part of God's creation.
I'm praying for the election tomorrow. My hope is in the Lord!
live 4 Jesus.