You are currently viewing this Website in Internet Explorer 8, which is an unsupported browser.
In order to view this Website, please upgrade your current browser or use one of the following browsers:
I had an informal discussion the other day with a seasoned ministry colleague. In his current role, he works with a lot of young pastors and seminary students, most of whom express that the focus of their energy is on becoming an outstanding preacher. This discussion caused me to reflect back on my earliest ambitions. I admired the pastor of the church I attended during my college years. His passion for applying scriptural truths and his enthusiasm in preaching made me look forward to Sundays with great anticipation. I was seldom disappointed. As one who felt a definite call to ministry, he served as a model for preaching while I finished my bachelor’s degree and prepared to enroll in seminary studies.
My first semester at the seminary was everything I thought it would be. I dug into my theological studies with gusto. I welcomed the challenges of Greek Syntax, New Testament Survey and Systematic Theology. These were a welcomed change from the social sciences I studied at a state university. When I completed my first semester, and traveled back home for the Christmas break, I stopped in to see the pastor I admired so.
I was welcomed into his study, and he now honored me as a ministry colleague, instead of a mere college student. He asked about my first semester, reminiscing some about his own experiences years before. During our conversation, he made a statement that still comes to mind whenever I set my heart to sermon preparation. He said, “As important as theological studies are, I’ve come to realize that most of the people who show up for church every Sunday could really care less about who wrote the Book of Hebrews or the meaning of certain Greek words. They simply need something from God’s Word that is going to help them get through the challenges of the next week.”
That day I realized it was not his command of homiletics or hermeneutics, but his love for his people, and attention to their struggles, that made his preaching so effective. His words have served me well through the years. I encourage you to take them to heart as well.
Several months ago, I attended the memorial service of a man I had never met. The gentleman who had died was a teacher at my daughter's school, and was the father of one of her friends.We arrived early, but the church was already filled with people who had had a relationship with Paul -- former classmates, fellow church members, students, and of course, his family. People continued to arrive, and soon it was standing-room only as people came to celebrate this man's life.
Throughout the service, people shared stories of what it was like to do life with Paul. They described amusing events and inside jokes, and they tried to explain in a few short minutes what this man had meant to them.
One person, though, made a comment that has stayed with me. As the service was ending, Paul's brother said, "I think it's safe to say that we're all celebrating the same person today."
I wonder how many events we've been to, whether it's a memorial service or an awards ceremony, where the person being described in public is different than the person is in 'real life.' I wonder how many families hear stories of great generosity or sacrifice given toward a business or ministry that they never got to witness at home. When the person being lauded on stage is unavailable, or even angry or abusive when the lights are off and the crowd is gone.
We all struggle with being consistent in our attitudes and in how we present ourselves to others. I think the tendency, though, is to work on our public image and hope that it carries over to our more private relationships. Some may think that their sacrifices or generosity toward others will somehow justify their bad behavior toward their family. Others may simply expect that their family will forgive bad behavior because they are supposed to.
We often describe integrity as being the same person in public that one is in private. One definition I read said that integrity is 'an undivided or unbroken completeness.'
Striving toward that level of integrity in our relationships requires humility. It requires being willing to apologize, but it also requires us to work to change the behavior and attitudes that drive our apologies. I think we also need to have someone with whom we can be vulnerable; who will listen, but who also has the freedom to challenge us to be better.
If we work toward that level of integrity in our closest relationships, it will naturally become part of what people see in public.
And that is something to celebrate.
Betrayed by Stan Telchin. Chosen books. www.chosenbooks.com.How would you feel if your daughter told you she believed in Jesus? This Jewish businessman felt betrayed. This is a great book to read as well as passing it on to a Jewish unbeliever. It is a easy book to read and I will tell you up front you will not want to put it down. My wife read this right after me and she read it in one sitting. The Telchins we're happy, close-knit family until the day their daughter called from college with a a shocking revelation: She had become a Christian. Judy's decision prompted her father to set out to disprove the Messiahship of Jesus in order to win her back. He had to study the Bible for the first time in his life to be able to do this. This is around 146 pages long.
The Bowden Dynasty by Charles Barnes and Bobby Bowden. Broadsheet publishers. A Story of Faith, Family and Football. I will tell you up front that I am a Seminole Fan through and through. I love Bobby Bowden. He is a class act. I came to love Bobby Bowden as we Pastored in Jacksonville, Florida for many years. I loved him deeper for his faith and for what he did for Marshall College in the 70's. If you love football you will love reading this great book for relaxation. You will get some leadership tips and you will be amazed at the success this godly man has had through the years, as well as the lives he has impacted. This book is on sale now through Lifeway for $3.50. About 450 pages long. Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom? By Matt Carter & Aaron Ivey. I love reading anything I can get on Spurgeon. If you love Spurgeon you will devour this book. It is an easy read but you will find yourself daydreaming and seeing Sprugeon in London being mightily used of God. This was the first time I had heard of ex-slave preacher Thomas Johnson. I found some good illustrations in this book to use in sermons. You can purchase this book as an E Book for $9.99.
There are a number of places in Scripture where God talks about having bodily organs, such as “eyes to see,” “ears to hear” and “clean hearts.” What is obvious in these passages is God is talking about something other than the physical body parts of eyes, ears and hearts. He is trying to raise our awareness that there are sites to behold, sounds to hear and intents to discern that exceed the capacity of physical organs to register.
I thought about this when reading Matthew 26:41. In the garden, immediately before being betrayed, Jesus spent time with the Father. He withdrew with James, John and Peter, seeking from them support as He cried out to God. You may know the story. Instead of finding his closest earthly friends having his back, they were asleep. His response was simple and direct, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Jesus’ statement points to the existence of an overlap between the physical and the spiritual. Like the shaded section of a Venn Diagram, life is a state at the convergence of the outer and inner, between the physical and non-corporeal, between what we notice and what is more arduous to recognize (could it be, that portion of reality that lacks God’s involvement and presence is Hell and that which possesses nothing but His presence is Heaven?).
Humanity is generally adequately equipped to operate in the realm of the physical. But, that of the spiritual requires extra investment on our part to discern. Never the less, Jesus’ message to Peter, James and John is, we can recognize and move in this area of the spirit. But, it requires the sensitivity of spiritual eyes, ears hearts and other parts.
This concurrent reality of the physical/spiritual can be likened to being in a large room that is bustling with activity. All around people are carrying on conversations, transactions are being made and various topics discussed. As you and those who accompany you enter the room, you engage in one of these exchanges or start one of your own. In this situation your physical senses are overwhelmed, bombarded by the sights, sounds and the atmosphere of it all. Yet, you settle into your discussion, the others falling into the background. Though there is the danger of distraction, you are able to pick out the voice and issue you are involved with.
Now, add to this scenario, the idea you brought your child with you. All the while you are having your conversation, amidst people who are having their conversations, you are sensitive to and aware of your child. So much so, out of the corner of your eye you are watching your child. Your ears are ever sensitive to the sound of your child’s voice amongst all the other sounds in the environment. Your senses reach out to such a degree that when your child moves beyond a predetermined distance, you instinctively know and look for her.
With everything going on, you are aware of your child and make every effort to keep tabs on her. That explains the interesting intersection of this dichotomous existence called life. Everybody lives here. But, particularly for the disciples, this is where we live our relationships with God. Part of us in this world, part of us in the Kingdom. Living out the reality of His Kingdom in the plane of this existence. Which is why Jesus admonished the three to “watch,” to see beyond what is there. To look for that which is not readily visible. For at the moment of Jesus’ time in the garden, more was going on than some “alone time.” A spiritual transaction was underway. For Jesus, it was the wrestling of HIs humanity with the will of His Father. For those who would soon come and arrest Jesus, it was their desires versus the predetermined will of God.
I believe every day spiritual events are taking place. Those who ask about the reality of God are blithely overtaken by these events. They take place with no or little notice by them. Why? Because, though they have eyes to see, they don’t look. Though they have ears to hear, like the crowd at Jesus baptism, they think God is merely thunder (John 12:29). Even Jesus-followers can become so unaware as to be blind, deaf and hard of heart (Rev. 3:14-22).
Let not God pass you by.