Tuesday, December 06, 2011

On Reading Sermons

When you do so much reading it is difficult to join with you in what you are saying. Reading tends to keep your emotion and intonation out of your presence and voice. In the same way that affirmation brings the person you are affirming along with you and puts them on your side, so too does emotion in the message. The preacher needs to get fired up about what he is talking about and then that emotion needs to carry over into the listener and bring them along with where the preacher is going.

Reading tends to cause you to lose the congregation's attention because you lose eye contact, you tend to read in either a sing songy tone, or a monotonous tone, or with a steady speed. Speaking extemporaneously allows you to vary what you are saying to keep the flow interesting for the listener and to engage them in the subject. They want to hear what you are saying because they are caught up in what you care about, because you care about it, and they care about you.

Reading keeps your personality out of the message. Some think this is a good thing because, they say, it lets Jesus and not the preacher shine through. But that goes against the  Scriptural model. The Biblical preacher speaks for God, but each preacher is different because each one is also preaching. Isaiah is clearly not like Job. And Moses is clearly not like Paul. You can tell them apart because each man was also preaching. A preacher needs to let his own person shine through so the people can rally around him and come near to Christ with him. This can be done by a person reading most of his sermon, but only in rare circumstances and not for very long periods of time.

Friday, December 02, 2011

We Played the Flute and You Did Not Dance

Luke 7

If you are careful, when you read the bible, you will see two very stark differences between the world of the Bible and the world we live in. First is that the culture of the godless world is incredibly godless. They evil seems to be able to get no worse. People kill one another at the drop of a hat. Kings and princes rule with absolute authority and no one, other than someone equally terrible has anything to say or do with it. At least in our world, people are generally nice. You can disagree on almost any topic without worrying that the one you are talking to will kill you the moment you turn around.

The other stark difference is that the Godly are immeasurably more godly than we are. Christians and god fearers in both Testaments are regularly killed for their faith. They are tortured, they are sawn in two, they are crucified, they are starved, lose their homes, are spit upon, families leave them, you name it, they receive it gladly because they know they have a glorious home waiting for them with Christ. You could say that this only highlights the first point. But I bring it up to show that Christians in the first century believed the truth of the Gospel to the point where they would put up with any and every affront to their personhood to obtain what was promised.

Living Together In Faith

We call this part of the service, Communion, because that is what we do here. We commune. We eat, we drink, we fellowship with and in the Lord. We do it in a somber and controlled way. In the early church they used to have what they called “love feasts.” It sounds like they had a rollicking good time. In Corinth, they even had people drinking enough wine to get drunk and eating so much that they were accused of debauchery and gluttony. I think it would be good to figure out a way to make the service a serious feast in both senses of serious: seriously lavish, and seriously solempne, as CS Lewis coined the word.

The main point of the service is to remember that we are all one in Christ Jesus. Jesus died on the Cross for us, rose from the dead with us, and now sits at the right hand of the father on high, interceding for us.

With a sermon like the one we just experienced we may be tempted to think we aren’t worthy to participate in this sort of meal. But this is the best place to begin acting out our faith.

Do you believe that Jesus died for your sin, even your sin of unbelief? Then this table is for you.

Do you believe that Jesus lives so that you can live a new life, filled with the kind of life that many of the saints in history lived and in other parts of the world are living? Great! This meal if for you.

Do you believe that try as hard as you might, much of the time you just can’t get it right? And do you believe that that is precisely why you need an arbiter, an intercessor, and a mouthpiece? Do you believe that only Jesus can fulfill that role? Wonderful! This meal is for you. So, come and eat, come and drink.

The Bema Judgment

I recently was reacquainted with a doctrine called the “Bema Judgment of God.” The Bema judgment is the teaching that says that at the end of time, before the final judgment of God all men will be judged for what they have done in this life, whether good or sinful.

The teaching comes primarily from Romans 14:10 which says “we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” and 2 Cor. 5:10 which says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

Everlasting God

O God, you are the everlasting God, you were before anything, and from you everything came. And because of you everything that lasts will last because you hold it in your hand and in you all things hold together.

O God, you are the everlasting God, you chose our father Abram from Ur of the Chaldeans and separated him from his relative and his land and brought him into a foreign land in order to create an everlasting covenant.

O God, you are the everlasting God, you sent your only Son to die in our place so that we could be included in that same covenant. You raised Jesus from the dead so that we could live new lives.

O God, you are the everlasting God, you chose us to continue the everlasting covenant into all eternity.

We come to you now, in the great Name of Jesus asking that you would accept our worship because he died for us and now intercedes on our behalf. We know fully that you are from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.

And so Everlasting Father, we worship You now through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end, amen.

Terminal Illness

At times like this it is good to remember that God is God. We/you don't have to do anything except wait on him and remember that he is God. Everything will work out the way he wants it to work out and everything will work out for his glory.

What I mean by times like this isn't the events that are happening all around you. I mean the results or affects that you can have in those events. These, in particular, are events whose results are totally outside your ability to control them. Nothing you can do, say, think, or feel will change anything. You can only rest in God's judgments, mercy and grace. You can only draw closer to him and wait and see what he's going to do.