“Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.”
2 Timothy 4:15
Listen up, Pastors:
It felt so right to get it right that I won’t ever forget the good feeling in my soul or the shocked look on her face. She had been in the church several weeks, was already in a small group, and I met her by the coffee pot in a member’s home many, many years ago. I guess she saw it as her ‘chance,’ because the floodgates opened and the tirade rushed out. Read More
February 18, 2015
There is no way, humanly speaking, I would be preaching today if my mom had not instilled in me a love for God’s Word. From my earliest memories, she gathered her own kids with the neighborhood kids, and through flannel graph and passionate storytelling deposited in our little souls a love for God’s Word. Read More
February 05, 2015
I confess to a little ‘blogger’s block’ the past few weeks, at least in part due to my own grieving over the fall, failure, fallout, and firestorm about men formerly in ministry who are very dear to me personally. In the past two years, I count 6 or 7 . . . wow, wow, wow. Knowing their backstories provokes my heart to greater mercy than those who only think they know. But I don’t have a single word of critique about others on any side of any battle, not in public at least. I can say this for sure: Men, for the most part, are far more stricken with self doubt and awareness of their own sinful flaws than ever seems to reach the public awareness. Further, those who have failed in significant ways often come to a new and deeper awareness of their need for daily grace and the importance, above all, of extending that grace to others. Oswald Chambers has rightly said, “I will never despair of any man, when I rightly discern what lies in me apart from the grace of God.”
But that is an incredible hardship, “rightly discerning what lies in me.” If we were better at the discipline of personal reflection and confession, we would be better men for Christ and His church. Where this discipline is neglected, we grow in pride and presumption. Worst of all we grow in self-righteous oblivion about our own condition. As ministers of the gospel, we need frequent personal detox. We need time to cultivate our own souls and revive the authenticity of our own relationship with Christ. From Isaiah’s “unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5), to Peter’s “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8), to John’s “When I saw the Lord, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17), all genuine contact with our Creator Christ initially produces an immense sense of personal sin.
As ministers of the gospel, we need frequent personal detox.
How long has it been since you had tears of conviction about yourself, instead of the sorry substitute of self-righteous superiority over others? How long since you were truly grieved by an accurate assessment of the actual condition of your soul in God’s eyes? When rejoicing in our positional standing of ‘declared and treated as righteous’ through faith in Christ impairs our comprehension of here-and-now stalled sanctification, we can be sure that hyper grace has found a home in our hearts. As Tozer said, “A man can believe in total depravity and never have any sense of it for himself at all. Lots of us believe in total depravity who have never been wounded with the knowledge that we’ve sinned.” What an incredible insight. To get there, to get to accurate self-examination that dismantles self-righteousness and elevates afresh our reveling in grace for self and others, we need three things: 1) attention to the voice of conscience; 2) listening for Holy Spirit conviction through the Scriptures; and 3) insight from a trusted friend who knows us well and observes us frequently.
1) Attention to the voice of conscience.
To harness the directives of a biblically-informed conscience, defined by Hobbes as the soul gazing upon itself, we must search our own hearts and confess our own sins. But what exactly am I gazing upon? What can I do so I don’t just sit still in feigned spirituality and let my mind wander? I find it helpful to pray in four areas, with my Bible and journal open and a pen in hand.
a) Look up. I turn to God in His Word, which is a mirror, and get down on my knees in prayer, centering my life back on the Lord. b) Look back. Where have I been this week? And this month? What failures should I confess as sin and forsake? What priorities have been lost that must be regathered with focus and emphasis? c) Look around. Who am I neglecting? Who have I hurt? Who has needs I should be meeting? I’m not alone in this world. Other people matter to God and they should matter to me, too. d) Look ahead. What’s up ahead? How should I be different? How can I make it so? What is important that has been neglected? What’s unimportant that has had my attention? Read More
January 27, 2015
Today is not a rehearsal for anything. Today is your life. Read More
January 22, 2015
“There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more.” Proverbs 11:24
Have you experienced this principle firsthand? How about your church? Kathy and I have. And as our church family has scattered what the Lord has entrusted to us, over time we have experienced the kind of unexpected provision that only He could bring. You can’t out-give God—and I would rather have 90% in partnership with the Lord than 100% on my own. But many people struggle in this area. How can you help those you lead to live and experience the blessing of a generous life? That’s what today’s Fast 5 is all about.
December 30, 2014
“Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.” Martin Lloyd Jones once said that, and it’s a favorite quote of mine. If a man can speak dispassionately about the Word of God, he has no right to be in a pulpit. But you can have right theology and authentic passion, yet not be growing consistently in the impact and effectiveness of your preaching.
I know what it feels like to reach Monday and wish I’d done some things differently on Sunday—no doubt, you know the feeling too. By this weekend, we’ll be into a new year. So for today’s Fast 5, here are five impactful things you can do to preach a better sermon, starting this weekend.