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Archive for the ‘preaching’ Category

I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I  am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.- Romans 1:14-16

Paul spoke plainly.  The Book of Romans is one of those epistles where Paul lays the foundation for a firm faith in the everlasting covenant offered to the believer through Jesus the Christ.  He shared the immense and extensive benefits afforded to the believer in and follower of Christ.  But also includes the worker’s mission, ministry and message.

The worker has a mission.

As a messenger of Christ, Paul was certain and assured of his mission.  He was to share the message with the Jews first, then he carried it to the Gentiles. 

His mission affirmed that he had no reason to be ashamed of his calling and its work.

The worker had a ministry.

Paul’s ministry went beyond merely preaching.  In Antioch, he and Barnabas stayed on for an extended period of time and taught the people.  He wrote extensively to the believers abroad, encouraging and edifying them through his epistles.  He spread the Good News throughout Asia Minor, Greece and other regions on his missionary journeys.

He let his ministry keep him from working with any degree of shame.

The worker had a message.

We cannot deliver our message if we feel shame about it.  We must be convinced of its relevance and necessity in order to extend the reach of the Word into all if the earth.  No hidden doubts can remain covered when others listen to us and watch us.  Our doubts will emerge somehow and at some point. 

We should be able to say like Paul that we are “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.”

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Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those  who  are  wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight! – Isaiah 5:20-21, NKJV

Some folks see preaching as a means to an end.  In fact, they rarely see visions full of prophecy.  These are the ones who seek to profit from the unlearned and naive within local flocks.

No, you may not detect their underlying motives because they offer sweet serenades rather than sermons.  You may not discern their diabolical schemes or plots to pilfer and plunder, for many have mastered the art of discourses of deception and trickery of the tongue.  They can rattle off verses of the Holy Scriptures to justify nearly any ploy.  Yet, their is uncovered beyond the naked eye.  God sees and knows all.

So what are we to do as defenders of the gospel and truth in His name?

We are to forge ahead despite their lies and treachery.  We are to profess and preach truth, never approaching this life in blind faith.  We are to continue as ambassadors of Christ and extend His love with our ministry of reconciliation. 

Jesus called out the religious leaders of His time.  The prophets spoke out against the ones who went against God’s Word and violated their covenant with Him.  Was Malachi talking to the common man about robbing God? Or, by reading it in context, do you discover that God is speaking to a different audience? Look at it and see for yourself.

Just know that Jesus warned us about such voices of violation.  Paul shared about such wolves among the flock.  Jude said such men had come into our midst.

There are men and women who speak with authority but not of God.  They preach for profit.  They seek your savings as much as your service.  They desire your abundance as much as they want you to worship God with your whole heart. 

Know that they exist.  Know that you have been warned.

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Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. – Jonah 3:10

God can have a change of heart.

Just ask Jonah.  He found out all too well how God could swiftly shift from fury and anger to mercy and forgiveness.  He learned a real life lesson on how much God rewards repentance.

God had it in for Nineveh.  He was set on destroying the city and its people, but he sent a man of God to deliver His Word and reached their hearts.

If God can have a change of heart for repentant people, can you?

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Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. – Jonah 3:10

God can have a change of heart.

Just ask Jonah.  He found out all too well how God could swiftly shift from fury and anger to mercy and forgiveness.  He learned a real life lesson on how much God rewards repentance.

God had it in for Nineveh.  He was set on destroying the city and its people, but he sent a man of God to deliver His Word and reached their hearts.

If God can have a change of heart for repentant people, can you?

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For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her. For John had been telling Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.
-Mark 6:17-20 (NRSV)

Pastors have a long history of political involvement.  That is in contrast to the popular sentiment in America that tosses out the separation of church and state oftentimes during election years and controversial debates on issues like Planned Parenthood, stem cell research and gay marriage.  Regardless of the platform, pastors have a history of braving the foray of politics through political involvement.

Adam Clayton Powell stands out as a pastor who turned to a life of politics for many years.  Prior to ever campaigning for a political office, Powell spent much of his time outside of the pulpit pressuring New York’s city hall for policy changes. Powell demonstrates one manner by which pastors stood out in the political spectrum.

Jerry Falwell was involved in politics.  Falwell led an evangelical Christian movement to bring morality back into the mainstream of American life.  The Moral Majority pushed and pulled on all sorts of matters in the political arena from indecency and pornography to issues like prayer in schools.

Today’s pastors find themselves under fire when congregants and others share that they only want to hear the gospel message from the pastor.  Many will argue for pastors to stay in the pulpit and stay out of politics.

The case can be made for pastors to go beyond many of their predecessors, though.  Look at the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.  There is an element of unrest in America today.  Jesus could view a plasma TV screen today or an iPad and look on compassionately, seeing plenty of sheep without a shepherd in this plentiful harvest. 

The fact is that we need more pastors involved in politics through advocacy and activism.  We need them to stand in the midst of the mayhem like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took a nonviolent stance for civil rights and the poor.  We need them to push the agenda with local and national politicians.  We need them to testify the depths of disparity that exist on the streets and in our communities that extend beyond the homeless to the working poor and shrinking middle class of America.

In essence, we need more pastors who can deliver stirring words outside of the pulpit as much as we need them to handle the Word of God within the pulpit.

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2 Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth!
   For the LORD has spoken:
“I reared children and brought them up,
   but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows its master,
   the donkey its owner’s manger,
but Israel does not know,
   my people do not understand.”
– Isaiah 1:1-3 (NIV)

 

The prophet is a messenger from God.  He shares the Lord’s message for the Lord’s people.  He echoes the words of God for His people.  He embodies the message.  He spreads the message.  He pleads with the people to turn back to God and make things right with God.

The prophet’s assignment may be for a season or a lifetime.  The prophet may see the people undergo countless tests and trials that can bring him to tears.  Or, he can pronounce the coming of judgment on the horizon.  The prophet might remind or rebuke.  He might offer hope or damnation.  It’s not up to the prophet.  It’s all in the hands of God.

The prophet stands before the people, but He is God’s man.  He calls upon the people to live holy lives dedicated and devoted to God.  He is heard by some, but he surely is hated and despised by many.

Ask Jeremiah.  Check with Isaiah.  See what Ezekiel or Joel would say.  Go to Haggai or Zephaniah.  Each one of these and others will share the challenge of being the prophet of God.  Obviously, there is nothing minor about being a prophet in biblical times or nowadays.

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“I fear there are some who preach with the view of amusing men, and as long as people can be gathered in crowds, and their ears can be tickled, and they can retire pleased with what they have heard, the orator is content, and folds his hands, and goes back self-satisfied.” – Charles H. Spurgeon

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. – Colossians 2:8 (NIV)

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. – 2 Timothy 4:3 (NIV)

Oftentimes, the warning of sound doctrine is shared with ministers and pastors, even missionaries, upon ordination.  Hands are laid upon these individuals and they are anointed and appointed for service.   As leaders, those teaching the Bible and indoctrinating new believers into the faith, you will see the importance of sound doctrine serving as the foundation for all that you teach others.  I think we all get that, too.

As the worship leader…?

As the choir director…?

As the minister of music…?

Yep. Yes. Yeah. Uh-huh.  Yep.  You better believe it, brothers and sisters.  We at least owe God that much when say that we are ministering in His Spirit in what we call praise and worship.  Our praise and worship selections should minister to others beyond sounding good and making others feel good.  The selections better speak of how good and how great God is to us.

Let us not fall prey to the trap of appealing to and impressing people.  We do not want to send mixed signals in the house of God.  We want sound doctrine to go along with strong voices and skilled instrumentation. 

If it isn’t biblical, how can it be part of your praise? If God doesn’t do that or do that the way that we’ve been singing it, how does that fit into our worship? We need to get with the church staff and leaders who know the Bible better than us, then assemble the music department from top to bottom so that we can teach how to minister through music and song, praise and worship, with a biblical base and a sound doctrinal foundation.  Someone other than just the drummer and piano player ought to research the songs being played throughout the service.              

It is about worship.  It sets the stage for the Word to be preached.  It ushers souls to the point of readiness to receive the Word through preaching.  It is vital to the weary soul who needs to have his or her hardened heart to be broken up and softened in order for the Word to take root.

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