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Feedback and Criticism

Feedback and Criticism

For the past 35 years or so I have been involved in speaking, tentatively at first, but with increasing confidence since then. Over the years, I have received feedback of all sorts. Though I initially welcomed all feedback, as I got older, I realized that all feedback need not be good or necessary. Some feedback was, in retrospect, completely unnecessary. I have also heard from other speakers about the different kinds of feedback that they received. As a result, I wondered what kinds of feedback did I want and what did I NOT want. Maybe if hearers understood what was a good feedback, then they can articulate their opinions accordingly. I divided criticism into constructive and destructive types. I, like most other speakers, welcome constructive criticism. Constructive Criticism a. Hermeneutical/Exegetical Concerns Every preacher/teacher of the Bible is obligated to study principles of Biblical interpretation and meticulously study the Bible in order to accurately understand it, before they can attempt to explain it. A preacher is expected to stay true to the truth of the Bible in spite of cultural opinions. If you find that a speaker is not following standard hermeneutical principles of Biblical interpretation, or had made gross exegetical errors (including exegetical fallacies) in understanding the Bible, then that would fall in this category. This includes any verse that is take out of context and a host of other ways that we can misinterpret the Bible. Unfortunately, many people think that since the Bible is easily readable, it is also easily completely understandable. It is, of course, easily superficially understandable and yet, one can spend a lifetime studying it (as many do) and still not scratch the surface. For a sermon on (a few) hermeneutical principles: How to Catch a Pomfret Recommended Reading: Klein, William W. Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Third Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017. Duvall, J. Scott and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, Third Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012. Carson, D. A. Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed. Carlisle, U.K.; Grand Rapids, MI: Paternoster; Baker Books, 1996. b. Pastoral Issues Sometimes preachers can be so focused on understanding the principles of biblical truth and interpreting the Biblical message, that they can forget that they speaking God's truth to people that are sinful and hurting. We have been told to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Sometimes, in our attempt to speak truth, it is possible to sometimes forget to do it in love. Several years ago, I was speaking at a church on the topic of peace. In my effort to show that we can have peace in spite of all the troubles around us, I unfortunately, proceeded to minimize the troubles around us. My listeners included people who were indeed going through those specific troubles. For them, the sermon was not very pastoral. Obviously, this does not mean that the Bible will not make people uncomfortable. It certainly will, and should. People were "cut to the heart" when Peter preached (Acts 2:37). c. Cultural Stumbling Block The message of the Bible needs to be preached in the context of the hearers. Though the message does not change, the delivery of the message will change in the context in which it is preached. Many preachers distance themselves from their hearers by being insensitive to cultural nuances. Indeed, it is not possible for every preacher to make every listener completely comfortable from a cultural standpoint. This is where the hearer also needs to accommodating to be able to understand where the speaker is coming from. However, if there is blatant disregard of a cultural issue that would cause the message not to be heard, then a reminder to the speaker will help to educate him/her. For example, a Western speaker is a little more casual about God than an Eastern person. So, if he jokes about God in an irreverent manner, it will be seen negatively by an Eastern listener. Recommended Reading: Richards, E. Randolph and Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012. d. Unchristian Behavior I once heard a preacher drop an F-bomb while he was narrating a story. What?! I guess if a hearer needs to give feedback about this to the speaker then we have a problem! Yet, if the hearer observes clear unchristian behavior through the sermon, then, feedback is warranted. I emphasize clear, because perceived wrong behavior may be simply preferences, as described below. e. Stylistic Hindrances When I was an up and coming speaker around three decades ago, a Christian brother pulled me to the side and said, "You say, 'okay' a lot". That's it. Just a quick glimpse into something that I didn't know. Gratefully, I accepted his observation and quickly corrected it. This kind of feedback might be obsolete these days since almost every sermon is video recorded. The speaker gets to see and hear themselves and make the corrections accordingly. Destructive Criticism As much as we would like to believe that there is only good feedback, unfortunately, it is not true. People also tend to give bad feedback. a. Preferences A joke that a speaker says may not be funny to you. Or, the numerous things that are said as illustrations - songs, stories, narrations, etc, may not be to your taste. Please don't waste your breath complaining about it. No one's preferences will ever be fully satisfied. Of course, if the illustrations are morally wrong, then feedback is necessary, as mentioned earlier. b. Anything that is unsaid This seems to be a favorite of listeners. Someone always wants to suggest that a speaker should have said this or that. The issue that this criticism does not consider is that in today's preaching there are many factors that go into a sermon. Something may not be said in a sermon for at least three reasons. First, there is no time to say everything that we want to say. A considerable portion of my sermon preparation time is removing things that I would have said if there was endless time to say it. We cannot argue and counter-argue every point. Some things will be left unsaid. Second, what is said in a particular sermon is its own context. For example, if we are in a sermon series on Pride, and many things have already been said about the topic or will be said in the following week, then the speaker may decide NOT to say something about it this week. Thirdly, when a speaker is preparing the sermon, he/she prayerfully goes over the sermon numerous times asking God to help include everything that needs to be said at that time. And then, he/she adds to the sermon and deletes from the sermon as needed. Some things are said, some things are not said, and not everything can be said. c. Things that offend Christians. People get offended by all kinds of things. People today seem to be offended by more things than ever before. I wonder if this is related to an increasing self-centeredness - the consumer-is-king mentality. We think that things revolve around us and everything needs to be customized to our convenience. Thus, many things in any conversation can cause anyone to be offended. One can be offended by the reference to God as Father because their father passed on at an early age. One may be offended by a sermon on relationships if their wife cheated on them. One may be offended by an illustration on food if they are battling obesity. You see, anyone can be offended about anything. But to make it a problem for everyone is slightly selfish. If someone is offended on a personal preference, then he should keep that criticism to himself. Just because I have an allergy to peanuts does not mean that I insist that the airline ban peanuts from its flights. Instead, it is my responsibility to carry epinephrine with me. d. Things that offend Non-Christians A sermon being offensive for being truthful is not a valid reason for feedback. Jesus offended many people because He spoke the truth (eg. John 6:60, 66). Biblical truth was counter-cultural during the time of Jesus and during the time of Paul. Truth is always counter-cultural and thus will always be offensive to non-Christians. However, if the truth is not spoken in love or could be said better, then feedback is invited. A preacher's first responsibility is to God and to interpret accurately the word of life. Everything else is secondary. e. Out of Context Taking a sentence or phrase out of context. Anyone can find anything and everything to be offensive when one starts taking things out of context. I recently mentioned Mike Tyson in a sermon. The illustration was a hypothetical situation about Mike Tyson play-fighting with his 5-year old son. Soon after the sermon, a woman came up to me indignantly, "You used Mike Tyson as an illustration, do you know that he is guilty of domestic violence?" I started to say, "It doesn't matter that he was guilty of domestic violence, it is not relevant to the illustration." She heard, "it doesn't matter...", and was outraged. "How dare you say it doesn't matter, I'm going to complain about you to the church!" (I don't know if she did). If she had a minute to listen, this would have been my explanation: "Just because I use a person as an illustration does not mean that I condone all his behavior. Mike Tyson was convicted of burglary as a teenager. Am I condoning burglary? He was convicted of raping a woman. Am I condoning rape? He is a spokesman for marijuana. Am I condoning the use of marijuana? In fact, Jesus used David as an illustration about eating consecrated food (Luke 6:2-4). Does that mean that Jesus agreed with David's previous actions of adultery, lying and murder?" Any destructive criticism that is received needs to be sent where it belongs - to the trash bin. Speakers are human beings and have to navigate numerous tightropes in preparing a sermon and speaking in today's society. Teachers are disciplined by God more than other believers (James 4:1), and attacked more by Satan. There is no necessity for speakers to have to deal with unnecessary destructive criticism. Yet, since all speakers also are a work in progress, constructive criticism is certainly welcome. Anush A. John Photo by Alberto Bigoni on Unsplash

A Person of Favour

A Person of Favour

Acts 27 - The Shipwreck 1. Obedient Our words can only follow our reputation 2. Outnumbered a. Exclusive b. Opposite Gal 5:16-17 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 3. Opportunistic a. Components in the lay preaching of the gospel b. Crossover connections i) ________________ ii) ________________ Colossians 1:21-22 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. Questions for Discussion What must you do to repair your reputation? What must you do to make earthside circles? What must you do to make heavenside connections? Photo by boesijana on Unsplash

The Control of Strength - A Sermon on Meekness and Discipline

The Control of Strength - A Sermon on Meekness and Discipline

Matt 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 1. Our Position In every religion, you belong because you behave.
In the Christian faith, you behave because you belong 2. What is Meekness? Meekness is strength under control 3. How is Meekness Produced? James 3:3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. a. The _________ of Discipline Hebrews 12:10-11 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. b. The __________ of Discipline Hebrews 12:7-8 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Three Levels of Discipline Level 1: __________ 2 Samuel 11 Level 2: ___________ Exodus 13:17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” Level 3: __________ Matthew 26:53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? Matthew 27:12-14 12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor. Those iron bolts of Rome in the pierced hand of the crucified Christ could well have become thunderbolts of wrath. He could have hurled his anathemas across a guilty world, summoned from the ramparts of heaven twelve shining legions with drawn and flaming swords and marched to Armageddon then and there. Instead that lovely man cried ‘Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.’
- John Philips, Exploring Romans Questions for Discussion How can we approach life knowing that discipline is a necessity? What lessons has God been trying to teach you in the past? What level of discipline are you predominantly at? Do you want God to use you? Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Voices at the Door - A Sermon on Listening

Voices at the Door - A Sermon on Listening

Acts 16:6-10 6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Youtube Video - coming shortly A. Doors 1. Open Doors. a. _____________________ Rev 3:7-8 These are the words of him who is holy and true… What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. b. ______________________ Acts 16 2. Closed Doors. a. _____________ b. __________________ c. __________________ What are you not doing because you are waiting to reach somewhere? B. Levels of Listening 1. ______________ Voice 2. _____________ Voice. Acts 9 Matthew 26: 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” 42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. 45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” Ukrainian marine battalion engineer Vitaly Skakun Volodymyrovych Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Map: Biblical Places Maps, Logos Bible Software, 2009

The Clue in Complaints

The Clue in Complaints

We are blessed in so many ways and yet many times we don’t realize or recognize it. As a result, the general demeanor of our lives is characterized by complaining rather than gratitude. At any given time, the average person is less likely to be actively grateful and more likely to be indifferent and worse, ungrateful for the current state of their lives. Yet, what we actually complain about can be a clue to how fortunate we are. For example, suppose you are driving to work and you are delayed by a few extra red lights. You complain about it because it has delayed you by 5 minutes. Instead, suppose, as you are driving along, you run over a nail, your car wobbles and you end up with a flat tire. You sigh, because now you have to pull the car to the side of the road, pull out the wrench and change the tire. You will now be late to work by 2 hours. Instead, at a red light, suppose you were rear-ended by an inattentive driver and your fender became damaged. You shake your head (and say some words) because now you have to pull over to the side of the road, call the insurance company and follow up at a car-shop to get it repaired. It will delay you by a few hours and you have to go another day to get the car repaired. Instead, suppose your car was smashed by a speeding driver. You will likely miss the whole day at work while you get your car towed to the shop. You will also need multiple days off as you fix your car. Suppose, your car was totaled and you suffered a broken leg. Now you have to call someone to take you to the emergency room and to a few orthopedic appointments. Your car needs major repair and will be unavailable for multiple days. Your leg could be in a cast for six weeks with mild alteration to your life. Suppose, instead, your car was totaled and you suffered head trauma with bleeding into the brain. Now, the issue is brain deficit with numerous months lost at work and major life changes. You might complain (when you finally get out of the ICU) about the lost days and brain deficit due to the trauma. However, you definitely wont be complaining about a couple of extra red lights, would you? In fact, you will long for a couple extra red lights instead of any thing else that could happen. If we are complaining about red lights, then it merely shows that we are not in a car accident, with damage to car and body. Our complaints are a clue to how fortunate we are. Instead, when we come to a couple of red lights (and any other roadblock in life), rather than complaining about them, why not thank God that we are not in the ICU with brain damage. Life could always be worse and so there is always reason to be grateful. Photo by John Arano on Unsplash

The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter

Luke 24:13-35 1. ____________ 13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him. 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.” Acts 1:6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 2. ____________ 25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 18: 31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” John 8:17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. Most parts of the Times’ account of the events inside that church just south of Santa Fe, and of the “chaotic” production that preceded them, were corroborated by at least two people.
- Alex Blair, Entertainment Movies 3. ____________ 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of school, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.
–Philip Schaff, History Of The Christian Church. I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.
- H.G. Wells, Atheist Historian Applications How is Christ central to your life? What is hindering you from believing the truth you already know? Photo by Noorulabdeen Ahmad on Unsplash

The Risk of Obedience

The Risk of Obedience

Deuteronomy 30:1-20 1. What is Love? Love is an inner feeling of intense affection that defines relationships. 2. The Bridge from Love John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. Obedience is listening under authority and compliance with requests. - J.I. Packer 3. Utter Inability Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Man’s power to think lifts him above the beasts of the field. In this age of scientific enlightenment and advanced technology, we have every evidence that man has a brilliant intellect. Yet at the same time it is strangely clouded to spiritual realities; for despite his genius in so many realms, man betrays a most remarkable denseness when it comes to the things of God. He has no natural understanding in this realm at all. His mind, incisive in so many ways, is warped and twisted when it comes to eternal and spiritual issues. The damage wrought by sin runs deep into the very roots of the thinking processes of man. His imaginations are often filthy; his memories often betray him; his deductions are often false; and his conclusions are often wrong. - John Phillips, Exploring Romans 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony 17 “You shall not covet 4. The Supreme Example Luke 2:51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. What was it like watching him pray?
When he saw a rainbow, did he ever mention a flood?
Did you ever feel awkward teaching him how he created the world?
How did he act at funerals?
Did the thought ever occur to you that the God to whom you were praying was asleep under your own roof?
Did he ever have to ask a question about Scripture?
Did you ever think, That’s God eating my soup?
- God came near, Max Lucado Phil 2:7–8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! References: for the definition of love - Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Lexham Bible Dictionary. Photo by Liam Simpson on Unsplash

Assessment and Apology - A Sermon on Spiritual Indifference

Assessment and Apology - A Sermon on Spiritual Indifference

Nehemiah 1:4-7 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. 5 Then I said: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. Deut 28:64 Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. Babylonian Empire Persian Empire Ezra Nehemiah 1. Assessment 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. 2. Confession Remorse vs repentance. 2 Corinthians 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 1:6 I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. The sin of spiritual indifference. 3. Forgiveness 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. Mark 15:22-24 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

The Grandness of God's Work

The Grandness of God's Work

(Due to the visual additions it may be better to watch this sermon video than to listen to the podcast.) 1. The Grandness of God’s Work in Creation Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. a. The Beauty (of God’s creation) b. The Detail (of God's creation) c. The Smallness (of God’s creation) d. The Largeness (of God’s creation) Psalm 8:3-4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? Genesis 1:27-28 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Heb 1:3. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. 2. The Grandness of God’s Work in Redemption Eph 1:4-10 In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 3. The Application in Life and Ministry a. ____________ 1 Cor 3:5-8 5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose… b. ____________ c. _____________ d. _____________ 1 Cor 9:26-27 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. e. _____________ Phil 3:8, 10 I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. Jer 31:34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. Reflection/Discussion 1. Which of the blessings did you need to hear the most? 2. What changes will you make in your life and ministry knowing that God is doing almost all the work of Creation and Redemption. 3. How has your knowledge of God increased in the last one month? What steps will you take to increase in the knowledge of God. Photo by Gautier Salles on Unsplash

The Empty Space - A Sermon on Waiting

The Empty Space - A Sermon on Waiting

1 Kings 17-19 1. The Reality of Waiting. 1 Kings 17:1-6 Luke 12:36. like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 2. The Uncertainty of Waiting. 1 Kings 17:7-24 3. The Promise in Waiting. 1 Kings 18:41-46 Hab 2:3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. God’s will is God’s will only in God’s time. 4. Lessons In Waiting. 1 Kings 19:1-8 a. Trust It is ironical that a believer trusts God to take them to heaven but struggles with trusting God to get them through earth. There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You're sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You're teaching us to trust
– Michael W Smith, Sovereign over us, 2014 b. Preparation Not only does God have to build up certain areas to make us useful for the calling but he also has to break down certain areas that would be detrimental for the calling. 5. The Purpose of Waiting. 1 Kings 19:8-15 Reflection/Discussion 1. During your past/current waiting periods, how has God been working on Trust and Preparation? 2. If encountering God is the main purpose of waiting, how does that change your attitude and decisions during the current/next waiting period? Photo by Nirmal Rajendharkumar on Unsplash

Sleep in Heavenly Peace - A Sermon on Rest

Sleep in Heavenly Peace - A Sermon on Rest

John 7:37-38 37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” Something's wrong, shut the light, heavy thoughts tonight
And they aren't of Snow White
Dreams of war, dreams of liars, dreams of dragons' fire
And of things that will bite.
Sleep with one eye open
Gripping your pillow tight

Enter Sandman, Metallica, The Black Album, 1991 1. Intermittent Physical Rest a. Multiple Layers of Physical Rest. b. Getting Physical Rest Time management: We are doing what is necessary, but we are not managing our time well. Necessary Activity: We are doing what is unnecessary and cannot manage our time well. 2. Continuous Non-Physical Rest a. Non-physical restlessness “You don’t show the monster too many times because you’ll get used to him and you never want to get used to him. …The best screening room in the world is … your brain. So, it’s learning to tap into the human brain to show just so much. Let the brain do a lot of the work. That’s where you start to tap into people’s anxieties.” - Ridley Scott b. Getting Non-Physical Rest Matt 11:28-30 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mark 4:37-38 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. Continuous non-physical rest is found in an ongoing fellowship with the eternal God. Reflection/Discussion 1. What physical and non-physical burdens are you carrying? 1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Matt 11:28-30 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 2. What is preventing you from having an intimate fellowship with Jesus 3. What concrete steps will you take to get intermittent physical rest. • Time management • Unnecessary activities Photo by Hamza Bounaim on Unsplash

Burdens and Freedom

Burdens and Freedom

A Sermon on Forgiveness Psalm 51 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. 1. The Burden of Being Unforgiven a. Perception of the Offendee. b. Reality of the Offendee. Psalm 51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; Psalm 51:3… For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Where is that knocking coming from? What’s happening to me, that I’m frightened of every noise? Whose hands are these? Will all great Neptune’s oceans wash this blood clean from my hand?
No, instead my hands will stain the seas scarlet, turning the green waters red.
- William Shakespeare. Macbeth 2. The Burden of Repeated Sin a. We sin because we are _________ to sin Psalm 51:5. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. b. We sin because it is _________ to sin Romans 7: 5, 7-8 5 For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. 7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the law, sin was dead. c. We sin because we _________ to sin Heb 11:25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. Romans 7:24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 3. The Burden of Forgiveness Matthew 18:32-35 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” O Lord, remember not only the men and woman of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness. 4. The Freedom of Forgiveness Psalm 51:11-12. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me Psalm 51:14-15 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. Luke 7:44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Forgiveness restores a relationship at a great personal cost to the one forgiving. Reflection/Discussion List of names to forgive, including yourself Which burden do you struggle with the most? What steps will you take to correct it? Picture: Photo by Adli Wahid on Unsplash