Monday, August 31, 2009

Upon hearing discouraging news

Along with some other new friends, I was at Green Lake Conference Center to help assess some potential church planting couples. Some were not recommended at this time.

I wanted to encourage some of my new friends who faced the disappointment of not being recommended.

Here's what I wrote to them. Maybe it will help you.

It was a great encouragement to meet you. No matter how you think the assessment went or what lies the enemy now wishes to whisper in your ear, I know these 10 things to be true about you:

1. You are precious and honored in the sight of Jesus. “You are precious in my eyes, and honored,” (Isaiah 43:4).
2. You are in Christ and because of this, you are also His beloved in whom He is well-pleased. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” (Matthew 3:17).
3. You are the apple of His eye. “Keep me as the apple of your eye,” (Psalm 17:8).
4. You are one over whom the Lord God rejoices with gladness. “He will rejoice over you with gladness,” (Zephaniah 3:17).
5. You give Him cause to sing with great passion and joy. “He will exult over you with loud singing,” (Zephaniah 3:17).
6. You will never be forgotten. “I will not forget you,” (Isaiah 49:15).
7. You are engraved on the palms of His hands. “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands,” (Isaiah 49:16).
8. You are His wonderful work of artist beauty. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,” (Ephesians 2:10).
9. You have a future and a hope; God has plans for you. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29:11).
10. You will be “chased down” by God’s goodness and mercy everyday for the rest of your life. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,” (Psalm 23:6).

Who hurt you?

Who hurt you? Do you nurse the hurt? Or do you live according to Romans 12:17-21? God has given us modern-day examples of how to live His way.

Just ten years ago in January, 1999 an Australian missionary named Graham Staines and his family were serving Jesus in India. Staines had spent 34 years serving the people of India in the name of Jesus. He was the director of a Leprosy Mission.

Staines and his two sons, Phillip, who was 10, and Timothy, who was 6, were attending an annual gathering of believers to strengthen to teach. In the night he and his sons were sleeping in the family station wagon. They were trapped inside their vehicle by a mob of radical Hindus who were opposed to the spread of Christianity. There was no escape. The mob set the station wagon on fire with Staines and his sons inside. They were burned alive. The three charred bodies were recovered clinging to each other.

Staines left behind his widow, Gladys, and daughter, Esther. So, what would be her attitude toward the people who murdered her husband and two sons? Her response was in every paper in India to the glory of Christ. She said, just a few days after the martyrdom, “I have only one message for the people of India. I’m not bitter. Neither am I angry. But I have one great desire: that each citizen of this country should establish a personal relationship with Jesus Christ who gave His life for their sins… Let us burn hatred and spread the flame of Christ’s love.”

It might be tempting to dismiss this immediate response as the “spiritually correct” response. Maybe she was in so much shock and grief that she was unaware of what really was going on deep in her soul. So, perhaps she just said what she knew the Christian community wanted to hear. We wonder, “What would she say now, ten years later?”

Well, just a few months ago, Gladys Staines went back to the very place where her husband and sons lost their lives. She said, "During these ten years, there have been times of sadness. I feel sad that I do not have my husband to support me, to guard me. But these are just momentary emotions of sadness which also fill me with great hope, the hope of heaven and of being reunited with my husband and children in paradise and seeing the Father face to face. This guarantee fills me with consolation.

"I cannot express how I felt when I got the news of my husband and sons being burnt alive. I told my daughter Esther that though we had been
left alone, we would forgive and my daughter replied, 'Yes, we will'."

Gladys still says, "I forgive… because I have first received forgiveness from Jesus. I have encountered the presence of Jesus in my life and this is the spirit I share. When we forgive, there is no bitterness and we live our lives and continue the task entrusted to us with His grace and peace… All Christians who have known the intervention of Jesus in their lives will have this gift to forgive and to be the witnesses of His peace and presence.”

So, who hurt you? My guess is that you haven’t been hurt this badly. If she can acess the grace of God to forgive this way, so can you.

You say, “But I’ve already blown this!” You’re right. You need Jesus. He’s your pardon. He forgives us for failing to live this way. He died on the cross to pay for all our sin – including our bitterness and revenge-filled hearts.

You say, “But I don’t know how to do this!” You’re right. You need Jesus. He’s your pattern. We can look at His life and see how to live this way. No one was wronged worse than Jesus. No one got a raw deal as bad as His. No one was abused more. No one was rejected more. And no one was as innocent. So what did He do. He said, “Father forgive them.”

You say, “But I don’t have the ability to live like this!” You’re right. You need Jesus. He’s your power. We can abide in Christ and have hope to live this way by His power.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Questions for preparation for preaching

Before a preacher preaches, he must make observations of the text. The following questions may be used by preachers in their study to help them become aware of what they see. Preachers don't want to overlook the wealth of truth in the scripture.

This list of questions have beeen developed from notes given in a lecture on preaching by Dr. Robert Vogel of Southern Seminary.

Questions for Observation and Interpretation

Terms - a word as it is used in a given context
Are there any recurring terms?
Are there any unusual (non-routine) terms?
Are there any profound terms?
Are there any forms of words that should be noted (e.g., the tense and mood of verbs)?

Syntax - the relations and interrelations between terms, or structure
How do various phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs relate to one another?
What are the implications of the conjunctions in the passage?
What is the significance of any repeated expressions?
Are there comparisons and contrasts in the context?
What is the relationship of the subject to verb?
What is the relationship of the verb to the complete predicate?
What is the relationship of the modifier to the modified?
What is the relationship of preposition to object?
What is the relationship of pronoun to antecedent?
What is the relationship of clauses to one another?

General literary form or forms
If the text is a narrative, how does that inform the interpretation?
If the text is poetry, how does that inform the interpretation?
If the text is law, how does that inform the interpretation?
If the text is an epistle, how does that inform the interpretation?
If the text is a parable, how does that inform the interpretation?
If the text is apocalyptic, how does that inform the interpretation?
Does the text include figures of speech and if so, how does that inform the interpretation?

Historical or cultural phenomena
Are there practices mentioned in the text that need to be researched?


These observations should prompt interpretive questions. The answers to these questions will be found in further study. Vogel says, "Anything you don't understand about the passage, question!" The preacher at this point is seeking to get at what the passage means by what it says.

Expository Preaching

I'm auditing a class on the subject of preaching from Southern Seminary. We've opened an extension center at Cuyahoga Valley Church called NEO Seminary.

We've looked at the definition of expository preaching from about a dozen Christians leaders who have written on the subject.

Here's a definition that I've built from reading and processing the various definitions.


Expository preaching is the engaging communication of a biblical truth derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a Bible passage in its context.

The Holy Spirit first applies the truth to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through the preacher, decisively applies it to the present-day needs of the hearers.

The single, central theme of the text that is to be opened and made plain in the message is to receive both its shape (its major points) and content of its message from the Biblical text itself.

The preacher's passion must be to preach the biblical truth in such a way that he accurately teaches the meaning of the text and leads his listeners to discover its implications for their life situations so that they respond in obediance and become more like Christ as a result.

This definition pulls thoughts from the following leaders:

Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching; John Stott, Between Two Worlds; Walter Kaiser, Journal of Evangelical Theological Society, September 1991; Merrill Unger, Principles of Expository Preaching; Dan Baumann, An Introduction to Contemporary Preaching; Jerry Vines, A Practical Guide to Sermon Preparation; and Hershael York, Preaching with BOLD Assurance.

Please pray that CVC preachers, including me, preach this way! It's a way that honors God and brings good to His people.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Christ-less-ianity vs. Christianity"

I had the privilege of performing the wedding ceremony of Walter and Nandita Smiechewicz back on June 25, 1995. Walt had served as a missionary and is now working in corporate America in California. Nandita is from India. When they were married, I made this notation: "I believe God will use them in a very significant way for His kingdom."

Last night Walter sent out a very thought-provoking email prompted by an August 15 Newsweek article by Lisa Miller, "We are all Hindus now." Below is Walt's email and my response.


Within our "baby-boomer' generation America has turned into a Hindu country. "Not possible," you say. But consider the fact that survey after survey shows Americans (even evangelicals) largely believe in what Hindus believe in - reincarnation; many paths to god; any religion can lead to eternal life; Americans consider themselves 'spiritual' but not religious.

Americans have a view, no longer of orthodoxy of beliefs, but a cafeteria of beliefs, i.e. "I can pick from a variety of religions; whatever seems to fit my lifestyle."

So what happened? It is as if we are in the locker at halftime - a game we thought we were playing very well - and come to learn we are behind by double digits. So what do we do in the second half?

Playing the same way doesn't look like an option. We face turning over the task of world evangelization to the next generation having lost ground. The generation that comes after the baby-boomers appears to have more work to do. Not less.

Some questions to consider:

How did this happen on our watch?
Has the "seeker friendly church" approach brought in more people but watered down the gospel so it is no longer the gospel?
Did the Church become too political and focus too much on the so- called "culture wars" and lose sight of Biblical truth?
Were the poor and disenfranchised forgotten by the Church?
Did our preaching and teaching become too "self help" oriented?

Just some thoughts from a fellow traveler.

All the best,



Great thoughts that make me wonder if a series sometime on "Christ-less-ianity vs. Christianity" is in order at CVC. Stay tuned...

Have you heard of "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism"? Google it. It sounds similar to Miller's conclusions in the Time Magazine article.

Have you read "Christ-centered preaching" by Bryan Chapell? He says much preaching today is biblical moralism that is devoid of the redemptive grace of Jesus. He says that preachers say, "Obey these rules - live this way - to please God, to have a happy marriage, a successful career, a better life," as if somehow we can make God "like" our filthy rags so that He makes our lives work. Then preachers say, "You can do it!"

Of course, we can't. We need the forgiveness and the power that only come through Jesus. So, Chapell says that what we need in the church is truly Christ-centered preaching.

That might help to address the issue you are raising, Walt. Thanks for making us think.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Prayers for preachers to pray before preaching

In his book, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, John Piper suggests that preachers use a five step process to be spiritually ready to preach.

I want to do more of this and to ask others to pray that this will be more and more true of me as I stand before God's people. This five step process might be a good thing to place in the front of one's preaching Bible.


Admit to the Lord and utter helplessness without Him.

Pray for help: beg for insight, power, humility, love, memory, and freedom to preach the message for the glory of God's name, gladness of His people, and the ingathering of the elect.

Trust in a specific promise in which to bank hope for that hour.

Act in the confidence that God will fulfill His Word.

Thank God that He has answered.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Re-gifiting yourself to God

Yesterday, I taught from Romans 12:1-2. And I asked CVCers to use the folloing prayer as a guide to help them give themsleves to God. Could you pray the following and mean it?

A sample prayer to help you daily “Re-gift” yourself to Jesus...

Dear Lord Jesus, I present my body to You today as a living sacrifice.
I give You my mind that I might think what You think.
I give You my heart that I might fell what You feel.
I give You my eyes that I might see what You see.
I give You my ears that I might hear what You hear.
I give you my mouth that I might say what You say.
I give You my hands that I might do what You do.
I give You my feet that I might go where You go.
I am not my own. I have been bought with a price. I belong to You.
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

What if we actually took the time to print this prayer. What it we posted it in several strategic places in our homes and workplaces? What if we prayed that prayer at least once a day – maybe several times a day – for the next 30 days? Do you think it might make a difference in your life?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Don't Waste Your Life

All three of my sons like Christian rap. And they especially like the artist, Lecrae. Me, too. In case you're wondering why, then check out the rap "Don't Waste Your Life." (For those of you who can't listen fast, the words are here for you below.

Lecrae was inspired by John Piper's book "Don't Waste Your Life." If you haven't read it, do it!

Don't wanna waste my life

Verse 1:
I know a lot of people out there scared they gone die/
couple of em thinking they'll be livin' in the sky/
but while I'm here livin' man I gotta ask why,
what am here fo I gotta figure out/ waste my life/
no I gotta make it count/
if Christ is real then what am I gone do about/
everything in Luke 12:15 down to 21/
you really oughta go and check it out/
Paul said if Christ ain't resurrect then we wasted our lives/
well that implies that our life's built around Jesus being alive/
everyday I'm living tryin' show the world why/
Christ is more than everything you'll ever try/
better than pretty women and sinning and living
to get a minute of any women and men that you admire/
ain't no lie/
We created for Him/
outta the dust he made us for Him/
Elects us and he saves us for Him/
Jesus comes and raises for Him/
Magnify the Father why bother with something lesser/
he made us so we could bless Him and to the world we confess him/
resurrects him/
so I know I got life/
matter fact better man I know I got Christ/
if you don't see His ways in my days and nights/
you can hit my brakes you can stop my lights/
man I lost my rights/
I lost my life/
forget the money cars and toss that ice/
the cost is Christ/
and they could never offer me anything on the planet
that'll cost that price.

Verse 2:
Yeah do it for Christ if you trying to figure what to do with your life/
if you making a lot money
hope you doing it right because the money is Gods you better steward it right/
stay focused if you ain't got no ride/
your life ain't wrapped up in what you drive/
the clothes you wear the job you work/
the color your skin naw you Christian first/
people living life for a job/
make a lil money start living for a car/
get em a house a wife kids and a dog/
when they retire they living high on the hog/
but guess what they didn't ever really live at all/
to live is Christ yeah that's Paul I recall/
to die is gain so for Christ we give it all/
he's the treasure you'll find in the mall/
Your money your singleness marriage talent and time/
they were loaned to you to show the world that Christ is Divine/
that's why it's Christ in my rhymes/
That's why it's Christ all the time/
see my whole world is built around him He's the life in my lines/
I refused to waste my life/
he's too true ta chase that ice/
here's my gifts and time cause
I'm constantly trying to be used to praise the Christ/
If he's truly raised to life/
then this news should change your life/
and by his grace you can put your faith in place
that rules your days and nights.

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