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Outdo One Another

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I wrote a little book designed to be an aid to ministry staff that work together, viewed especially through the lens of an Pastor and an Assistant or Associate Pastor.  I want to encourage co-laborers to strive together and to consider how they might “outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10).

This book can be purchased directly from the Publisher in all formats or you can purchase print or Kindle versions at Amazon.

Quick Post: Scripture based Prayers

“They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in…The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters.” Genesis 7:15-16, 18

Heavenly Father, Thank you for rescue from the flood of judgment against my sin and guilt through the Ark of your Son. Keep me in the safekeeping of that ship; shut me in that I might be kept by you, for you. And bring me safely to the new earth in due time.


“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

Heavenly Father, thank you for being well pleased with Your Son and His Work, so that you are well pleased with me. May I rest today in Your pleasure.

Reading the Word Effectively

This was originally published as a guest post on the preaching blog propreacher
Reading the Word

Photo credit: George Redgrave cc

One of the most important parts of the sermon is what happens before you preach: reading the text to the congregation. If you don’t do this, than you are robbing your congregation.  And by all means do not close your Bible after you finish reading. In doing so you subtly or not so subtly communicate that what comes after the reading is all about you and your message. Again, you are robbing your congregation.

So, how can we read God’s Word before the sermon effectively?

Here are some ways to do so:

1. Read with Authority:

Do you have something to say or not? The authority to proclaim God’s Word does not reside in the frail vessel, but in the Spirit who illumines hearts and opens eyes. If you do not believe in what you are reading, please exit stage left.

When you are confident in the Word and it’s transformative power, your congregation will experience real change.  God promises that His Word is powerful (Hebrews 4:12) and will not return empty (Isaiah 55:11-12).  Therefore, read with authority.

2. Read with Eye Contact:

Obviously, you lose eye contact when you read, but your goal should be to maintain some eye contact with your readers.  Hopefully, they have heads down following along, but you still should strive for connection.  In doing so, you help bridge the gap between pulpit and pew.

The way to accomplish this is twofold.  First, know thy text.  Hopefully by the time you are stepping into the pulpit you have spent ample time with your passage.

Secondly, “scoop the text”.  That is, read a little bit ahead and place in your mind.  You can do this with whole sentences and phrases.  Maintaining eye contact will assure the congregation that you are engaged with them.

3. Read with Intonation & Variation:

One of the cardinal sins of preaching is to bore your congregation. It can be deadly – ask Eutychus.  If you read the Word of God like you read the phone book, then you are doing it all wrong.

Different genres of Scripture require variation in speech. The Gospels read differently than Psalms, which read differently than Hosea. Even the same passage can do with some variation. For instance in Psalm 34, David opens with a call to worship that sores to the heavens and invites the listener to join in. But later, when you might lower your voice and speak more softly, David reminds us that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and afflicted.

Sometimes God speaks with power and other times He whispers tenderly.  Let your reading reflect this awesome reality.

4. Read with Confidence:

Let’s be honest, there are some difficult passages full of strange names and places.  Even with knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, those passages can be intimidating.

I have heard a couple of unique approaches. You can read a few names and then skip to the end of your passage. Or you can just use initials to identify the people or places.

I would rather have you practice. The best way to do this is to listen to someone read the passage ahead of time. Max McClean is a wonderful reader of the Word. Also some websites have audio versions, like the online ESV Bible.  This will give you confidence when reading the Scriptures.

Remember, reading your passage is an important part of preaching.  When you read with authority, while maintaining eye contact, reading with intonation, and with confidence you invite your congregation into a sacred dance with the Lord of  the Word.  Don’t neglect this vital starting point of preaching.

Preaching the Whole Counsel

This post was originally written and published as a guest post on the Preaching blog propreacher

When I was 16 years old and still a babe in Christ, I once remarked that I didn’t need to read the Old Testament. I didn’t think you could find Christ in the Old Testament. How wrong I was!

I can blame my ignorance, in part, on not being raised in the Church and never hearing the Bible stories. I couldn’t distinguish Noah from Jonah. I was a functional Marcionite, long before I knew Marcion’s name.

Bible and shadow of Cross

Photo Credit: damianeva cc

A little history lesson: Marcion was an early church father, who served as the Bishop of Sinope and lived in the late first century until the middle second century.  He would be condemned by the other early Church Fathers. Why? He viewed the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament as competing deities. There was no grace to be found in the Old Testament.  He called the OT God by the name demiurge, a mere tribal deity of the Hebrews. This led to his rejection of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Unfortunately, our pews are full of many functional Marcionites. They just don’t see any use for the Old Testament. They don’t see Jesus.

We must lay the blame for that at the feet of pastors who consistently avoid preaching the Old Testament. I get it. It’s hard and there are many passages that create difficulties. How do we handle the annihilation of the Caananites, for example. But Jesus, on the Road to Emmaus gave us the big picture. He told us all of the Scriptures speak and lead to Him.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Luke 24:45-48, ESV

Keep in mind that the New Testament had not been written yet!

So, we have our marching orders. We cannot ignore the Old Testament. How then do we find balance in our preaching, so that we preach the whole counsel of God’s Word? Commit to preaching both Testaments.

I do this by alternating my preaching series between the two. I learned this from the pastor I worked under out of seminary and I am grateful for that leading. I preach expository series, but this can work with topical series too. Just make sure you draw on the full teaching of Scripture.

Even with special series, I try to alternate my preaching. So, at Advent I will preach the promise of the Coming of Christ one year and then the Reality the next. In so doing, I point my congregation to the full teaching of Scripture. I am committed to drilling Marcionism from their hearts.

Additionally, books by Biblical Theologians, like Graham Goldsworthy and Sidney Greidanus may help the preacher connect the redemptive story of Christ together.

Preacher, commit to preaching the whole counsel!

Quick Quote: J.C. Ryle

…the Prince of Peace is stronger than the king of terrors, and that though death, the last enemy, is mighty, he is not as mighty as the sinner’s Friend…Our Lord Jesus Christ never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His heart is still as compassionate as when He was upon earth. His sympathy with sufferers is still as strong . Let us bear this in mind, and take comfort in it. There is no friend or comforter who can be compared to Christ. In all our days of darkness, which must needs be many, let us first turn for consolation to Jesus the Son of God. He will never fail us, never disappoint us, never refuse to take interest in our sorrows. He lives, who made the widow’s heart sing for joy in the gate of Nain. He lives, to receive all laboring and heavy-laden ones, if they will only come to Him by faith. He lives, to heal the broken-hearted, and be a Friend that sticks closer than a brother. And He lives to do greater things than these one day. He lives to come again to His people, that they may weep no more at all, and that all tears may be wiped from their eyes.

From Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, commenting on Luke 7:11-17

Quick Post: Prayer is inefficient

Why do I resist prayer? One reason is because it is inefficient. It doesn’t help me cross “to do” items off my list. It doesn’t fit into my GTD rubric. But we don’t pray because it is efficient or expedient (not to mention that the things I am praying about rarely have quick fixes or easy answers), but because it leads me to entreat my Heavenly Father to act in ways I can’t with a timing I won’t understand. Prayer does not lead to efficiency, rather it leads to deeper dependency.

Being Proud of Myself

Words from my wife…

lydiatisdale

I think i might actually have a new emotion about last year. In the midst of the screaming anger, shrieking fear, and whimpering helplessness there is a new whispering pride. We made it. I made it. Adam’s year was awful…but so was mine. For the first time in our marriage, we struggled through something that we didn’t and couldn’t share, as chemo isolated him from everyone – including from the kids and me. It is not an overstatement to say that we survived by the skin of our teeth just as he did…we all survived different trials.
I often feel guilty for talking about my difficulties last year. Don’t get me wrong – that guilt doesn’t seem to stop me from talking about it, it just makes me feel vaguely wrong. I’m trying to get over that. I’m also beyond ready to feel better. I want to feel like…

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It’s Been A While

It’s been a while.
To feel the blood coursing through my veins.
To feel alive. 
It’s been a while.
To think clearly.
To think confidently.
It’s been a while.
To see through the fog.
To see beyond the veil of tears.
It’s been a while for cancer decimates,
Body,
Mind,
Soul. 
But,
It is not greater than the Spirit inside me.
It is not greater than the Grace given to me.
It is not greater than the Love that saves me. 
Yes, it’s been a while. But only a while.
“Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Family Photos and A Need for Good News

So, very, very good from my good friend Matt.

Echoes and Stars

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Ask my wife. I hate having family pictures made. They always make one of us mad or frustrated at the kids. The smiles and laughter and beauty of the kids captured is only part of the story of those moments. Behind the scenes there is bribery, threats, and more threats of punishment.

Last night I was looking at some pictures my wife took on a short family vacation with some friends. In most of the pictures we are smiling in front of monuments and have our arms around each other.

There were a few times smiles were hard to come by. My daughter got sick because of some medicine she is taking that aggravated anxiety. The boys fought. Tempers flared. Mine especially. We were all tired. Sometimes , I couldn’t tell the difference between being upset because my kids were being disobedient and being just embarrassed of their behavior in…

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Simple Faith, Simply Beautiful

I really appreciate this short meditation by my friend Chris. Thanks for writing this!

Striving With God

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I’ve spent the better part of the day with my family at the hospital. My step-dad had a procedure, nothing too major, but major enough that several family members felt the need to join us to offer their prayers and support.

I don’t come from a particularly well educated family. I don’t say this in an insulting way, it’s the reality. This doesn’t mean they are unintelligent, in fact in real world smarts it is actually quite the opposite. Most of my family grew up very poor, and in an area that most people would call ”the country”. I often refer to my family members as “simple” people. Again, some would see this as an insult. I do not.

Along these same lines, if I were to describe the faith of my family members, I would say that they have a very simple faith. Again, for some this would not…

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Monsters of One Kind and Another

As usual, my wife writes more eloquently than I am capable of and with more truth than I can muster. I admire both.

lydiatisdale

Today is one of those days when I really need to stay away from Facebook. It is not just the obvious time-suck that I am trying to avoid (rather unsuccessfully, at that), but the engendering of the proverbial green-eyed monster. Yep. Everyone whose kid is being good, loving to write/read/obey/not act like any kid who lives in my house, everyone who is going on a fabulous trip, and everyone who is in general happy with his or her life is making me crazy at the moment. This is, of course, ridiculous. For one thing, I am not having a bad day, week, month, or even year. Finally. I simply seem to lack the basic human capacity to be happy for anyone today. Yes. I know. This is entirely my problem. See? Staying away from Facebook….

Unfortunately, my envy-monster is not the only one I’m seeing evidence of on social media…

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The Voice of Despair

I have been thinking about something in a sermon that I preached quite awhile ago that I remembered recently.  Something I need to hear and be reminded of right now.  From my sermon on 1 Samuel 27 (if you want to see the Scriptural context), I made this bit of application <in italics below> in one of the main points:  

      The voice of despair speaks into our lives, as well.  If you think about it, you will realize that we are always speaking to ourselves.  We have conversations with ourselves about our lives.   I’m not talking about hearing voices, nor am I trying to psychoanalyze here.  I’m talking about the inner monologue or even dialogue (if we get to arguing with ourselves) that takes place in our heart.    One commentator said that “all of us propagandize our souls”.   And if the propaganda is something other than the truth of God’s Word, His Character, His Sufficiency, His Promise, then we are in trouble and might begin to look to Philistia for our salvation, than to the Lord.   

    Who would you say is David’s greatest enemy?  The easy answer is Saul.   And certainly Saul has been a great enemy of David.  But the reality is that David is his own worst enemy at this very point.   And we are our own worst enemies.   We too look for heavenly comfort from earthly sources.  We buy into the idea, telling ourselves this lie, that “if only” I had or I was  __________, then everything would be okay.   And those lies then shape our decisions and the direction of our lives.    David is the fainting king.  And we’re just like him – not kings mind you – but full of fainting, faltering faith.

What does the voice of despair say to you?  What do you say to yourself in dark moments?  Where are you tempted to run instead of the Lord?  And what does God say to you, about you and about your circumstances?  My guess is that they are quite different, if we actually get around to seeing what God’s Word has to say to us.  I know that that is my need. I need a different voice in my head and you probably do to.

15 Things I Wish I’d Known About Grief

Cancer creates it’s own kind of grief…this was helpful for me and hopefully for others who face all sorts of grief.

Identity Renewed

After a year of grief, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve also made some mistakes along the way. Today, I jotted down 15 things I wish I’d known about grief when I started my own process.

I pass this onto anyone on the journey.

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1. You will feel like the world has ended. I promise, it hasn’t. Life will go on, slowly. A new normal will come, slowly.

2. No matter how bad a day feels, it is only a day.  When you go to sleep crying, you will wake up to a new day.

3. Grief comes in waves. You might be okay one hour, not okay the next. Okay one day, not okay the next day. Okay one month, not okay the next. Learn to go with the flow of what your heart and mind are feeling.

4. It’s okay to cry. Do it often. But it’s okay to…

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