Friday, May 23, 2008

It was funny to me....

So Andrew and I were at the convenient store waiting behind an Animal Control Officer getting a slurpy and two hot dogs. My sarcastic mouth started talking before I realized he carried a gun and said,,, "Animal control huh, always chasing hot ....dogs." I laughed, he didn't. But at least he did not shoot me.


No, I am not talking about some knock off farming club for kids, or the pro wrestler HHH, or the gas guzzling SUV. The three H's refer to how I approach my preaching. Around 3 this morning as I stared into the darkness I thought it might be something to share on the blog. Though it is a bit formulaic, I think it would help you to know how sermons germinate.

#1 - Heart
Preparation - I ask God to break my heart over a reality that shouldn't be. I may also ask him to fill my heart with a dream that should be. In this way, I am asking God to grip me with a message that must be preached.
Delivery - The first step in a good message (IMHO) is that it touches the heart. I truly believe that the emotions are the gateway to real change and though they can often be manipulated, that is no excuse for abandoning them.
Example - This week my world has been rocked by several deaths. One of members had his son die of an aneurysm, I wept. A classmate from college died unexpectedly of a sinus infection of all things leaving a wife and toddler, another person told me Wednesday night that her ex-husband and his entire family were killed in a car accident, and then news broke yesterday of Steve Curtis Chapman losing his daughter Maria. This has caused a great deal of emotion to well up inside of me. As anyone would, I have been wondering what God's greater purpose might be.
This emotion has opened the door for me to move to the second H.

#2 - Head
Preparation - As I prepare this second part of my message, I am asking God for His Word on my reality. We cannot stay in emotion, we must move to the intellect. I want God to show me what that simple truth is, so that I may understand and know Him more. The only reliable source of God's truth is His Word. That is why all of our preaching must be from the Bible.
Delivery - It is my goal to have the entire sermon summarized in one simple phrase. If someone asks what was church about. I want them to be able to quote it. Getting God's truth into people's heads is my life ambition.
Example - I spoke to a group of students this week and afterward a girl came up to me and said "Eight times" I asked her what she meant and she told me that I had said "choose today who you will serve" 8 times. Now my goal was not for her to count, but for her to get it. I think she did.

#3 - Hand
Preparation - Practicality is the difference between preaching and teaching. Too many churches gather every week to listen to teachers. don't get me wrong, teaching has its place in church, but bang for buck preaching is where it is at.
Delivery - The climax of every sermon for me is the point when we turn the corner and begin to see what we must now do with the emotional energy and intellectual truth from God's Word. We want a message that we can take home and use.
Example - Growing up in church world we had "quiz teams" churches used to compete their kids against each other and took pride in how much details their kids knew of the Bible. I remember studying things about the Bible that were far from practical and again (in my humble opinion) would fall into the endless genealogy category. I am all for Bible study, but let's study something we can use.

Now, why am I showing you my play book? Because we are on the same team. As we gather for worship this weekend, I want you to know that God has burdened me with a message that you need to hear. He has given me an insight into why bad things happen to good people from John 9, and I want so much for you to get this truth into your head. Because I know that armed with this simple story of the man born blind, and the reason for it, that you will be better equipped to deal with your own tragedies and to bring glory to God in the midst of your pain.

I know it is Memorial Day weekend, but you have got to come to church! I have something that I need to tell you. Something that will change the way you deal with tragedies.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Deconstructionist's Ethic

I am having a conversation right now about some fundamental changes occurring in fundamentalism. I am not ready to go public with the story because I believe it to be at a very sensitive time and many that I talk to don’t even understand the question. There are times when, in order for fundamentals to remain, the structure that houses them must change. However, deconstructing the box that holds our valuables is often seen as an attack on the value itself. Here is an example…

Let’s say that you have your photos in one of those nice albums with the stick paper and plastic coverings. One day, you arrive to see your friend tearing the plastic covering from the book and taking the pictures out. “What are you doing!” you exclaim. To which he replies, “I am saving your valuable pictures.” He then takes them to the computer and scans them to digital format.

In reality, he was destroying the container that once preserved the valuable for a time, but that would not survive indefinitely. The struggle is to know when the right time for deconstruction arrives. When is it no longer appropriate to carry our valuable gospel in a box that is no longer practical to the point that it erodes the valuable that it once held?

I spoke to one pastor recently who asked “why do you need to tear one system down to build another up?” This was a very valid observation and I quickly agreed with him. However, on second thought, a new system can not be fully installed without first removing, or abandoning the old. Here is where the rub is and the sparks fly and names are called. Attacking the old system for its present shortcomings are never the end, but a necessary part of building the new. And perhaps, there will be some who will successfully defend the system and go down with the ship.

If this will be the case, when do we abandon ship, and who if anyone do we try to rescue. Promoting our answer to those on the ship would no doubt be labeled as mutiny, and yet to leave a brother onboard while we truly see the water rising is no good either.

So I ponder. I sit at the keyboard and write to think. I rehearse again what I believe to be the deconstructionist’s ethic and how if at all something needs to change in fundamentalism so that the fundamentals will survive to the next generation. As a young fundamentalist I am pulled from the right to “not remove the old landmarks”, and from the left to adjust to globalization and the way things are. I know deep down that hard decisions will have to be made. So today I ponder the deconstructionist’s ethic.

Steven Curtis Chapman's Daughter Killed

I awoke this morning to learn that Steven Curtis Chapman's 5 year old daughter Maria was accidentally run over and killed by her brother. Our prayers are with the Chapman family during this time of loss. I am almost sure Maria is the inspiration for his song about Cinderella, and know that they will have many hard days ahead. You can read the story here. I had someone ask me recently about children who die prior to coming to know Christ as Savior and their state in eternity. Here is what I believe.

1. All have sinned. - Romans 3:23
2. Everyone must accept Christ as Savior. - John 3:18
3. Even a Child is know by his doings - Proverbs 20:11
4. There is a time when a person first understands the concept that they are a sinner.
- We would refer to this as the age of accountability.
- This may vary depending on the child.
- We should raise our children to accept Christ as soon as they realize that they "need" Christ.
5. Children who die before they are "Saved" are "Safe."
- By this we understand that God is righteous and does not condemn innocents.
6. Children who die before they accept Christ go to heaven.
- My belief in this is based on King David's words after losing a child.
- David grieves as long as the child is sick, so much that his servants fear telling him of its death.
- Here is what David says...

2 Samuel 12:22 - 23 (NKJV) 22And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

- David faithfully understood that Though he could not bring the child back, that he would see him again.
- From this I believe that "Cinderella" Chapman has found her castle, and though we grieve for the family, we do not grieve for her. Please take a moment to pray especially for her brother who needs a special measure of grace.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Time of my Life - American Idol -

Pastor Gabe told me tonight at church that his friend and producer Reggie Hamm was flown out to L.A. for the American Idol Song writing competition. I hate that the show went long and he did not get his props. Such is show business. Congrats Reggie!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Boy! I Missed Cornerstone

  • Yesterday, my family and I went to St. Petersburg to speak to Park Street Baptist about the things God is doing at Cornerstone. It is always a fun thing to go back to a church where you worked many years and see faces of people who you ministered to many years ago. It has been six years and a lot has changed there, but some things never change. I love Pastor Dan and he has a great vision for the church and their family life center is almost complete.
  • Gavan Searles spoke for us at Cornerstone and did a great job conveying his passion for the unchurched in Clermont. I was able to hear Gavan's message on Saturday night and I am excited to see what we can do as a church to come along side Gavan and Life Church.
  • We are going to be hiring a summer intern starting June 1st named Brandon Carmichael. Brandon was in my youth group way back in the 6th grade and now is a senior in college getting a degree in missions. I am looking forward to seeing how we as a church can pour into the life of this young man. - I will be talking more about this later this week.
  • I apologize to everyone for the fritz that our wireless mic has been on. Last week we took it to the shop but nevertheless, it still has issues. I am personally embarrassed that Gavan had to speak using a hand held mic.
  • One thing about being at another church is that it reminded me of how thankful I am for our staff and volunteers. Gabe has our music program at the quality level of a church of 1,000 and beyond. Beyond the mic issues, Everything went very smoothly in my absence and the offerings were great. I am so happy to know that it really has nothing to do with me.
  • I hate not knowing who was there and who was absent. As the church grows, it has become increasingly difficult for me personally to keep track in my head of all our absentees and newcomers. Being a control freak, I wish we had RFID scanners installed to track everyone's movements, but then again, that sounds a bit creepy. Let's just say that I miss,,, missing people.