Ahab’s Advice as you Start Your Day

Something to Remember when Strapping on Your Armor

Linwes_armorJ. Vernon Mcgee once told the story of a young seminary student who was about to preach his first real sermon. The young man was quite accomplished in his studies, and he felt more than equipped to communicate God’s Word. As a matter of fact, he was overly confident. When the time came for him to deliver the sermon – he walked boldly, even arrogantly, to the sacred desk. He arranged his notes before him, then gazed over the congregation. As he began to preach, his memory and his tongue betrayed him. He couldn’t remember his illustrations, his words shaky and weak. What he thought would be a 30-minute sermon was over in 10 minutes. Sheepishly he descended the stage after the concluding prayer.

The Senior Pastor of the church was an experienced minister who had seen this sort of thing many times before. He placed his arm around the young seminarian and said, “Son, if you had walked onto the stage the way you came down, you would have come down the way you went up”.

King Ahab of Israel gave similar advice to Ben-Hadad in 1 Kings 20:11 (ESV), “Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off.” No matter what you are attempting to accomplish today – remember that victory belongs to the Lord. He gives you a mind to think and arms to work. As Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). May this thought sober you and humble you as you strap on your armor. 

The Seed in the Stump

The King on the throne is the seed in the stump

Isaiah 6 tells the story of one of the most remarkable revelations of God ever experienced by a man. It was in the year of Uzziah’s death that the event occurred. Uzziah ascended to the throne in the midst of a collapsing economy, a weakened military, and growing threat of an Assyrian invasion. But under Uzziah’s godly leadership, things seemed to be turning around. The economy soared, the military grew strong and hope was alive in Judah. Uzziah was making Israel great again (I couldn’t resist.)

rememberFrom Genesis onward, humanity has waited and watched for the “Seed” that God would provide that would ultimately crush the head of the enemy. Throughout the Old Testament, we see hopeful prospects- Seth, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David… and now Uzziah. Could this be the one? Could it be Uzziah?

Then, at the height of power, Uzziah made a fatal mistake – he allowed the power and strength to go to his head, and he became filled with pride. God punished him by striking him with leprosy, and ultimately he died. Can you imagine how this felt for the average Israelite? Hope was deferred and their hearts were sick (Proverbs 13:12).

It was at this time that Isaiah has a vision of the eternal King sitting upon an eternal throne. In the midst of this revelation, Isaiah’s sin is magnified, then atoned for, and a question is raised. It seems God has a plan to radically change the world, and he desires a human instrument to accomplish his purpose. God asks, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah volunteers. The mission to which Isaiah is called is bleak. He would see no fruit from his service to God, but earthly success didn’t matter – Isaiah had seen God and lived.

Isaiah 6 ends with a faint whisper of hope. In the midst of a tragic loss, that promises only to get worse, God says,

“And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.”

God’s answer to all of man’s problems wasn’t the forest, it was the Seed. And the Seed remained. The Seed in the stump was also the King on the throne, Jesus Himself. The glorious mystery of the nativity is when the God of glory will become the seed of Mary. He is the Seed that Israel and all of humanity had longed for.

A Good Name

Building and sustaining a good name.

Have you noticed that there are some names that bring a pleasant emotion when you hear them, while others bring a feeling of negativity? Remember the bully in middle school? The kid who drove to school, had peach fuzz on his face and always seemed to have a wad of big league chew in his mouth? Would you ever consider giving your child his name? NO! Because he has a bad name – a name that brings stress, frustration, and an array of bad feelings. Next, think of a person who unquestionably loves you and communicates it faithfully. Maybe it’s a parent or a significant other. Hearing their name brings peace and joy – and a myriad of positive emotions. They have a good name.

The emotions that follow a person’s name are the sum total of the residual effects that this person has had on you over the years. This is their name. But remember, a name is less like a resume developed and more like an emotion conveyed.

While there isn’t much we can do to affect the way people treat us, there is much we can do to change how we treat people. In other words, we have no power to change the “name” of others- but we have remarkable power over our own!

Here are some things to consider:

  • Take inventory on what causes someone to have a good name.
  • Write a list of practical ways people have treated you that cause you to have a pleasant response to their name.
  • Consider ways you can replicate their behavior in a way that is consistent and authentic in your own life.

Developing a good name is a worthy endeavor. King Solomon wrote – Proverbs 22:1 (ESV)

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.

Preaching to Future Generations

How to preach sermons that will outlive the preacher

When I was called into ministry in 1995, my audience primarily consisted of Baby Boomers, my parents generation. I had to learn to preach God’s Word in a way that they could understand. As I grew older, I found that I was preaching to more and more of my peers – the Busters. Today, I’m seeing that an ever growing aspect of my congregation are the Millennials, my children’s generation.

There are a variety of nuances to how each of these generations receive the preaching of God’s Word. But essentially they are all sinners in need of a Savior and the rules of logic work the same for each. Presuppositions change.  I’ve noticed a need to do more “pre-evangelism” with Millennials that wasn’t required with Boomers. When I said “God” to a Boomer congregation, it was assumed I was referring to the Triune God of scripture. When I say “God” to a group of Millennials this isn’t always the case.  I have to back up a few steps and start the conversation at a different point.

However, it is important as we consider preaching to various generations that we remember there are a dozen more generations ahead of us if Christ doesn’t return before they are born. So our approach must be two dimensional.  We must reach out geographically AND generationally.

evergreenpreaching1. The Sermon must be Evergreen – 

Thus we must preach in such a way that our messages are “evergreen”. I borrow this term not only from the forestry world, but the world of blogging. A good blog post is considered “evergreen” meaning it will be just as valuable in six months as it is today.

An evergreen sermon is one that was just as true in the first century as it will be in the 31st century. Preaching evergreen sermons requires us to peel off some the cultural influences, references, and illustrations that we are accustomed to employing. Evergreen sermons will also be more effective at crossing ethnic and cultural barriers.

Think about the most popular podcast preachers or radio ministries.  Typically, communicators will be very careful to avoid references to recent events, cultural colloquialisms, and anything that could date the sermon or cause a barrier to comprehension.

2. The Sermon must be Deep – 

Evergreen sermons are also as deep as they are broad because the goal is to so develop the hearer into a true disciple that he or she will replicate themselves in others. This is the only way we can assume that the truths we proclaim will progress to a generation beyond us.

By deep I don’t at all mean beyond comprehension, but I do mean they must go beyond a surface understanding. When developing a thought from the text, take the time to mine out the theological concepts that are behind it.

3. The Sermon must be Available –

If your sermon is going to impact many generations, it must be available to them. It is believed that Apollos was a far greater preacher than Paul, but you can’t confidently quote a single sermon from Apollos. Why? We have no record of his sermons (unless he wrote Hebrews). The lesson is – write things down! Make sure you capture your thoughts in a way that will outlive you.

I see the ministry of the Word as fivefold:

  1. Discover – that is study the Word in a spirit of prayer.
  2. Develop – that is write sermons in a way that convey the truth of the text to your people.
  3. Deliver – that is preach the sermon in a way that taps into their mind, will and emotions.
  4. Disseminate – that is ensure your sermon is captured in print, audio, video and delivered on as many platforms as possible. If possible convert your sermons into book form.
  5. Devote – this is, “rinse and repeat”. This process should be done with great patience – trusting God to give the increase.

Theology in Ancient Graffiti

The Alexamenos graffito

2016-12-13_21-35-10The Alexamenos graffito is a piece of Roman graffiti scratched in plaster on the wall of a room near the Palatine Hill in Rome from around 200AD. The Greek inscription reads something like “Alexamenos worships [his] God.” While it was meant to demean Alexamenos, it perfectly communicates his theology and how it was received. He worshipped Jesus, as God, who died on the cross. This Gospel was not well received by his friends.

Have you ever considered the fact that some of the things people say about you may be around for 1,000 years. Will it reveal the sincerity of your faith? 

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Black and White Etching

Ironically, in the next chamber adjoining where the Alexamenos graffito found – another etching was discovered which reads –  Alexamenos fidelis, Latin for “Alexamenos is faithful”.

2 Corinthians 2:15–16 (ESV)

15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?