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July 30, 2016, 7:52 PM

Sermon Prep for Non-Preachers

I saw this blog post this week and thought that it was great. I wanted to share part of it with you, but the full post can be found at:

What if church members began their own form of sermon preparation?

For countless decades, we have heard about the role of pastors in sermon preparation. The number of hours they need to prepare. The priority of preparation. The role of prayer in sermon preparation.

But what if church members prepared for each sermon they heard? What if they believed their roles as recipients of the Word are also crucially important?

I can see incredible church revitalization taking place if church members took on their own responsibilities of sermon preparation. Here are seven ways members can actively prepare for sermons.

  1. Pray for the sermon. For a few minutes, the church member should pray for the upcoming sermon. That prayer might take place during the week, the night before the preaching, or the morning of the preaching.
  2. Pray for the pastor who is preaching. Pray that the pastor will understand God’s message for that text. Pray that the pastor will have no distractions. Pray that God’s Spirit will fill the pastor in both the preparation and delivery of the sermon.
  3. Pray for yourself as you prepare to hear the sermon. Pray that God will speak to you through the message. Pray that you will not be distracted. Pray for clarity of mind and an open heart to receive the message.
  4. Read the biblical text before the sermon is preached. If possible, read the text from which the pastor will preach. Read it thoroughly. Read it prayerfully.
  5. Take notes. Take notes as the pastor preaches. You will have a greater focus and greater retention. Review the notes at least once during the next week.
  6. Seek an application to your life. Ask God for discernment to help you understand how the sermon should change your life. Seek to understand the sermon not only in its biblical context, but in your life as well.
  7. Share with the pastor “one thing.” If possible, share with your pastor one significant takeaway from the sermon. Pastors hear countless “good job, pastor,” or “nice message, pastor,” but they long to know if God really made a difference in the lives of the church members through the preached word. If you are able to communicate just one takeaway from the sermon in person, by email, or in social media, your pastor will be greatly encouraged.


July 23, 2016, 7:27 PM

1 John 3

Scripture has a lot to say about love. We find passages in all parts of scripture about love. There are entire chapters and book devoted to love. One could even argue that the bible as a whole is God's story about His love for His creation. 

Scripture holds us to a high standard when it comes to loving others. In fact, there are some pretty hard teachings on love in the bible. To be honest, it would be easier to do what the bible says if those two passages where not in there. That may sound funny, especially since we think that love is easy. But the truth is that love is hard and requires sacrifice. Here are a few Love Challenges for you to think about:

1.) Matthew 5:44 – Love your Enemy

This one is difficult for obvious reasons. Usually, they are your enemies for a reason. But Jesus says to love them and pray for them. Which is exactly what He did on the cross. He asked that God would forgive the people who were crucifying Him. When we love our enemy, we are really just being like Jesus. 

2.) Mark 12:31 – Love your neighbor as yourself
Jesus called this the second most important commandment. It may sound easy at first. But think about it like this: What ever I would do for me, I must do for my neighbor. I don't eat until my neighbor can eat too. I don't sleep until my neighbor has a place to sleep too. The list can go on forever, but think about it in terms of family. We would all do whatever it took to take care of our family's needs. Jesus took the umbrella that you place over your family and instructed you to expand it to all those that come into your sphere of influence. 

3.) Ephesians 5:25 – Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her.

This is a beautiful verse that sounds great at weddings, but most of my life I heard a lot more about the verses that come just before it in Ephesians five. Wives submit to your husbands. But, the greatest influence in the relationship belongs to the husband. It is the husband that has the ability to present the wife as something that they are not: blameless and spotless (Ladies you are great, but nobody is blameless). Husbands, you have the ability to build your wife up and change her identity. Jesus did the same for you. But be warned, He had to sacrifice His life in the process. You will have to sacrifice too.
4.) 1 John 3:16 – We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 

This is not really a new command or challenge about love. Here we simply have John explanation of number 2 on our list. John can be summed up here by saying that we are to love our neighbor as our self, and only one person has ever truly done that: his name was Jesus. 

I've put on my business card that Desha FBC is “A Church for You to Call Home”.  But, after looking at these verses, it should really read “A Church for You to Call Family”. That is exactly how the Bible expects us to treat each other, and that is exactly what we should strive toward. 

July 15, 2016, 3:57 PM

Our Biggest Lie

As Christians, we have a tendency to lie to ourselves. I don't think that we do it on purpose. I really don't think that we even realize that we are do it. But, as innocent at it is, we still lie to ourselves. 

The lie that I am talking about is our overestimation of how good or right we are. I say that we do it as Christians, but the reality is that we do it as humans. For example, how many people do you know that actually believe that they are bad drivers? How many people do you know that actually believe they don't look as good as they did in high school? How many people do you know that actually believe that they are not smart? 

We lie to ourselves all the time. We lie about simple things; like how we've aged or our driving ability. We lie also lie about more serious things; like our health or our bad habits. So it only makes sense that we would lie to ourselves about our faith. 

Our biggest lie isn't one that we tell others, but is one that we tell ourselves. It isn't about our driving skills or our diminishing good looks. Our biggest lie is that we tell ourselves that we are a good person.   Not only do we tell ourselves that we are good, but we begin to take it a step farther. We deceive ourselves into believing that we are good, and the other good people are like us. Our biggest and most damaging lie is that we believe we are what God expects from good people. We have so bought into this lie that we have enabled it to warp our entire standard for right and wrong. 

If we are not careful we can be lulled into believing that while our sins are technically wrong, they aren't really that bad. Next, we will begin to believe that those people that we perceive as being bad need to work harder to be like us. We will also begin to believe that those people who we perceive as being better than us are really some sort of fake, goody two-shoes, secret sinner who is holier than thou and therefore actually worse than us.

Do you see how we lie to ourselves? We begin to believe that those who are worse than us by our standard are worse than us. Not only that, but we begin to believe that those who are better than us by our standard are worse than us.  We somehow turn ourselves into God's magic Goldie Locks of sinners.  God doesn't want sinners worse than me and He doesn't want sinners better than me. I'm the perfect sinner. 

The truth is: We are the perfect sinner, but no sinner is perfect. That is exactly why we needed a perfect savior.  God just wants sinners to reject their sin and believe in the savior that He sent for them. 

July 9, 2016, 5:41 PM

God's Big Love

I've been thinking a lot lately about the state of my life and how it got there. Truthfully, I've really been thanking God for how good life has been for me the past few years. Extra truthfully, I've really been repenting of my disgruntled attitude during the years that I did not agree with Him on the way my life was going. It was in the back and forth of this process that I think I had a breakthrough; only time will tell. 

I was in the middle of being thankful and being sorry when I realized that I was actually thankful for the years that I was sorry for. I'll explain:

We often forget that God's love is different than every other type of love that we know. I think it would be fair to say that it is so different from our love that we just don't really understand it at all. We try to understand it, but we can't. We experience it, but we can't always comprehend everything that we experience. 

So, in my prayer time I am basically saying to God: “In light of how my life has turned out now, I will give you a pass for how you had my life situated back then. I'm so thankful now that I'm a little sorry for doubting you back then.” As I type it out now, I realize that it was not near as good of a prayer as I thought it was then. I suppose that is why God smacked me. It was like he plainly responded: “Josh, don't you mean that: In light of how good life is now, you are even more thankful for those years back then?” 

To be extra extra truthfully, my first response to that was NO.  But, the more that I thought about things, the more thankful I became for the years of loneliness. God opened my eyes to all the ways that he drew my heart closer to his. He showed me all the ways that he used those years to refine and prepare me to be a husband and a father. He showed me how the years that I considered wasted, were really the years where the hardest work was done. 

At that moment, it felt like load after load of God's love was dumped into my life. 

We often interpret the darkest days of life as God's silence and distance. We think: “If God was here, life wouldn't be so dark.” But, we forget that the world went dark on the day of God's greatest expression of love. (Mark 15:33)   

July 2, 2016, 1:31 PM

The Lord's Supper

A large part of today's focus will be on the faithfulness of God. We often say things like God is faithful or God is merciful or God is good. But, what do we mean when we say those things? I think we see the significance of God's faithfulness in the Lord's Supper, and I think we see the significance of the Lord's Supper in God's faithfulness. 

Before we really think about what it means for God to be faithful, we must first think about what exactly is God being faithful toward. So, to whom or to what is God being faithful?  The answer may surprise you.  At the most basic level, I think God is faithful to four things:

  1. God is Faithful to Himself.
  2. God is Faithful to Jesus.
  3. God is Faithful to His Original Intent for Creation.
  4. God is Faithful to Those Who Seek Him.

God is Faithful to Himself. Throughout scripture we see God make promises. In Hebrews 6:13-20 we see that when God makes those promises, He swears by Himself. An interesting point that we should not overlook is that the Old Testament law requires at least 2 testimonies for something to be held as true. God offers two witnesses to His promises in His oath by Himself. Witness 1 is Himself. Witness 2 is His word. This passage tells us that it is impossible for God to lie. 

God is Faithful to Jesus. Throughout scripture, Jesus is set up as the center piece of all creation.  Everything in the Old Testament points forward to the saving work that Jesus will accomplish on the cross. Everything in the Gospels illuminates that magnificence of that saving work. Everything after the Gospels evaluates how we should live in light of that saving work. All of creation will bow to Jesus, in submission to His authority. 

God is Faithful to His Original Intent for Creation. The world is not as it is meant to be. It has been wrecked by sin. Sin has caused more problems that we will ever understand. Scripture says that it has already caused God to destroy the world once by water. Scripture also says that sin will cause Him to destroy it once more by fire. Perhaps the greatest damage that sin has caused is depriving the world of God's holy presence. You and I were meant to walk with God and talk with God just like Adam and Eve in the garden. But, we cannot because of our sin. God is making it possible for His creation to once again be in His holy presence through the work of Christ on the Cross. God is making all things new. He will see to it that His creation is not stranded. 

God is Faithful to Those Who Seek Him. Scripture says that if we will confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9). It also says that if we want to draw near to God, we must believe that He exist and that He rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus said to knock and the door will be opened. Scripture is full of promises and examples proving that if we will seek God, God will find us. 

God is faithful.  It is who He is. But, knowing that and believing that are two different things. In scripture it is easy to see God's faithfulness. In real life, it is easy to doubt God's faithfulness. It is almost like we expect to be the person that God pulls the rug out from under. We assume that God has spent all of history plotting the elaborate practical joke. 

Knowing that God is faithful can give us some comfort. But, unless we believe it the comfort is short lived. In times of waiting on His faithfulness: comfort will turn to anxiety, anxiety to loneliness, loneliness to anger, anger to bitterness, and bitterness to death. 

As we take the Lord's Supper this week, we do so committing ourselves to trusting in God's faithfulness. It is a representation of His faithfulness to Himself in that He has provided a Messiah. It is a symbol of His faithfulness to Jesus whose body was broken and restored. It is a reminder of His faithfulness to those of us to seek him. Finally, it is an anticipation of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb where we will celebrate the new heaven and the new earth. 

Worship today through the Lord's Supper, trusting in God's faithfulness. 

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