Archive for September, 2014

Here is a helpful article by Frank Viola published at ChurchLeaders.com. I think he’s spot on! You can read it HERE.

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Sep
17

Overcoming a Bad Sermon

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Every pastor has had one or more Sunday worship service they would like to forget. The crowd was down, the room was hot, the music was blah, you name it. But for me the worst is when I drive off the parking lot knowing that the sermon just wasn’t great. Not even good. The content was weak, or the delivery was flat, or both. What do you do following a bad sermon?

1. Be honest about your preparation.
In my experience, content issues are directly tied to the amount of time spent in preparation. It can be tough to have a consistent block of time to do the necessary preparation because ministry needs are inconsiderate. You can’t choose whether or not your week will be free from a funeral or a hospital visit or any number of congregational emergencies. But its not just the content that suffers from lack of preparation. If you’re not confident in your content, you’re not going to be confident in the delivery of the content.

2. Face the music.
I have found that it is helpful to go back and listen to the audio or watch the video of the sermon. Taking time to evaluate the sermon gives one the opportunity to make improvements for the next week. And who knows? It may not have been as bad as you thought!

3. Resist the temptation to seek affirmation.
Every pastor knows who he or she can turn to for a needed word of affirmation, especially after a rough pulpit outing. Seeking affirmation from the fan base doesn’t solve the issue, it provides a false sense of security. Besides, deep down every preacher knows the truth about the sermon at the end of the service.

4. Get back on the bicycle.
If the sermon were an annual event, it would be tough. But you have 6 short days to have an opportunity to “make up” for it. You can’t wallow in embarrassment or disappointment. You’re on the clock!

5. Most importantly, don’t forget the role of the Holy Spirit.
My friend Gary Taylor used to say that God hits straight licks with crooked sticks. Just because you don’t feel great about a sermon doesn’t mean that God didn’t use it in a transformative way. If preaching was all up to us, we’d be standing in front of empty rooms each week. But its not about us. God’s spirit is actively involved in the sermon, and his promise to us is that his word will not return void. We have to trust that his Kingdom purposes do not hang on our sermons.

Categories : Preaching
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Sep
04

Does the Virgin Birth Matter?

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So is the virgin birth that important? Can a person believe in Jesus without acknowledging it? I believe the virgin birth is important four at least four reasons.

First, it made possible for Jesus to be truly human, yet without sin. I affirm that the Scripture teaches that we are all sinners by nature and by choice. What that means is that we have inherited Adam’s original guilt from the beginning. Its in our nature. Because of our nature, we make behavioral choices to commit acts of sin. Because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Christ stands outside of Adam’s guilt. I affirm that though Jesus was fully human, he neither possessed Adam’s guilt nor committed sin in thought, word, or action. The virgin birth provides for a sinless Christ.

Second, the virgin birth affirms the eternal pre-existence of Christ. One of the earliest opponents to the virgin birth was called adoptionism. Simply stated, adoptionism proposed that Jesus was the natural born child of Joseph and Mary, and that upon his birth he was adopted by God to be his son. The only problem with that misguided theory is that is disallows the eternal pre-existence of Christ. I affirm that Jesus has always existed as the second member of the trinity, without beginning or end.

Third, the virgin birth allows for the incarnation. He would be called, “Immanuel, meaning, God with us.” Jesus came into the world fully God as though not man at all, and fully man as though not God at all. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to think of a man wearing a suit. Suppose the white dress shirt illustrates the divinity of Christ. Everyone can see the white shirt. But suppose the man then puts on his suit jacket, representing the humanity of Christ. Does the suit jacket render the white shirt null and void? No. Just because the man puts on the jacket doesn’t mean the white shirt has disappeared. You can still see some of it, though in a limited form. This is what Paul expressed in his Hymn to Christ in Philippians 2:5-11. Jesus emptied and condescended. Why? He came to be with us to identify with us in order to save us.

Finally, the virgin birth is important because it speaks of our spiritual need. Our salvation must come from the Lord. There was no human means possible for us to save ourselves. An intervention was necessary. On one hand we usually get warm fuzzies thinking about the Christmas story. We imagine the nativity with the baby in the manger surrounded by the adoration of those who gathered. But we need to remember that the reason Jesus came was because we were dead in our trespasses and sins, under the wrath of God. The Christmas story is at the same time humbling yet hopeful.

So yes, it matters!

Categories : Jesus, Matthew
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Skye Jethani has written an incredible piece titled, “The Rise and Fall of Celebrity Pastors.” Its thoughtful, well written, and worth your time. You can find the article by clicking HERE.

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Sep
03

The Virgin Birth of Jesus

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I am blessed to be the father of three children. One of the things that made fatherhood special for me was being present for the birth of each one. Each birth was fascinating—even miraculous! I was there, and have a basic understanding of biology. But my awareness of science in no way diminishes the sense I felt of having witness a miracle.

The birth of Jesus is fascinating—certainly miraculous. Matthew and Luke agree. Without hesitation they affirm that Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary by the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit and without a human father.

Just after the resurrection, the virgin birth is the most highly contested event in the life of Christ. Since the second century, the importance of the virgin birth has been embedded in the creeds and confessions of the believing community of faith.

We first apprehend Jesus humanity from below. We see him as a teacher and miracle worker who died and rose again. But the New Testament introduces Jesus to the world from above, pointing out his uniqueness as the Son of God. His miraculous birth and miraculous resurrection serve as bookends that mark off Jesus as one of a kind.

So how did this virgin birth occur? The New Testament is silent about the biology and the physiology of the event. Luke simply states that the Holy Spirit overshadowed a virgin girl named Mary. The word overshadowed, however, gives us a glimpse into what took place. It’s cloud language. Take Exodus 24:15, for example. Moses went up Mt. Sinai to receive the law, and was overshadowed in a cloud. When the tabernacle and the more permanent Temple were dedicated, the glory of God descended on those structures in the form of a cloud. Luke 9:34 tells us that a cloud overshadowed Jesus and the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. And finally, the Bible describes the Second Advent of Christ by saying, “Behold, he comes with the clouds.” Ultimately, there is no biological explanation for the virgin birth. It was a direct miracle of God without human explanation. God became man without ceasing to be God. When God introduced Jesus the world the first thing he asked for is belief.

Tomorrow I’ll share some thoughts as to why the virgin birth is important.

Categories : Jesus, Matthew
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