On Preaching

Preaching, it seems, is more and more recognized as really not all that important. Few of us can rememeber more than a handful of sermons which actually affected our lives. Which stuck with us for more than a day or two. Therefore, and because many pastors have realized this reality as well, we have diminished the importance of the role preaching should play in the church. It has become mere opportunity to be entertaining so the number of people attending the entertainment can be increased for the sake of our egos.

Instead it should be seen as an avenue for real life change. But how, when I've just stated that sermons don't stick with us, can it be an avenue for real life change? Clearly the answer is preaching is meant to be something very different from what we're used to.

Preaching founded on the spirit, bathed in prayer, toiled over with the help and counsel of others, and brought before the Lord as to bring Him and Him alone glory, that would be a different kind of preaching.

I don't know that it couldn't still fall in a twenty minute time slot. But I imagine it shakes peoples foundations substantially more than it makes them giggle. It makes them uncomfortable rather than sending them away with a few points to remember in an acronym.

When empowered by the Holy Spirit it would move the earth, the church, and the pews. In turn then shaking the people from their slumber and calling for action in a way no man, no joke, and no anticdote can. But only the Spirit. The Spirit of the Living God. You know, the All Powerful Creator? Yea. Him.

I think it's time we re-evaluate what preaching looks like in our church. And start shaking foundations. I imagine it will cost numbers at first but when it turns to real life change, how could people not be attracted to that?

Men and Women of Caution

"The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution" - The wife of Archbishop Mowll

This quote is from J. Oswald Sanders' book Spiritual Leadership. First of all I would say, the interesting thing about this book is how different it is from secular ideas on leadership. Which it should be. But nonetheless I'm struck by the contrast. I'm reading another book on leadership written by a Christian but for a non-Christian audience and it is starkly different. It looks at what it takes to build influence over people, then to exert that influence, and create change.

This book takes the opposite direction. What does it take to build servanthood into your life, and then serve others to create change. As believers we really do think upside down.

This quote makes me smile because I've seen caution be the enemy again and again. As I think about missiology from a more and more macro view I think differently than I used to. I would rather plant 7 churches in 5 years and have 3 of them fail than plant 3 or even 4 churches in 5 years. Why? Because we learn when we fail. We get excited about vision when we act. We trust God when we step out in faith. And we will never, ever, be as ready as we want to be.

Please join me in attempting to be one of these men or women who know when to throw caution to the wind and forcefully advance the Kingdom of God.

Blessed and Cursed - (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

"Thus says the LORD:
'Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.'" - Jeremiah 17:5

Contrast this with:

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit." - Jeremiah 17:7-8

This second section is interesting because it's so similar to Psalm 1 - something of a life verse for me. But the first section, vs. 5, is interesting because it declares the same thing in the negative.

The positive section about the man who trusts in the Lord goes in to all kinds of details about the kind of tree the man is, and where it's planted, and the fruit it produces etc... The negative is much more simple. It describes his sin, and then calls him merely, "cursed." I don't know about you but I'd rather not stick around in the "trusts in his own flesh" camp and find out what that entails.

Lord make us men and women that trust in you. That do not cease to bear fruit.

I am a barefoot runner. Here's why I ditched my shoes, and you should too.

I posted this over Christmas to Reddit, and thought I'd reproduce it here.

There is all this hype recently about barefoot running. It will change your life they say. If you're big and prone to injury it will keep you injury free forever they say.

I'm not going to call BS on this stuff, but this isn't why I run barefoot.

I decided to buy a pair of Vibram Five Finger shoes (a glorified sock really) because I had heard some of the hubub.

  • I'm big. 6 foot 200lbs - heavy bones? I heard running without conventional shoes would be easier on my body.

  • I have back pain - sat in an Ikea couch programming for 3 days in a row basically without moving. felt fine. stood up and my back spasmed... three years later - and barefoot I'm finally pain free.

  • My form is terrible. (read, was terrible).

So I took up running without normal shoes. I started slow, ran around a small block and my calves hurt like crazy. I took two days off, then the same small block. Then two days off, then a 1/2 mile in VFF's followed by 3 miles in shoes (my standard run was 4 miles). I did this working up slowly to about 3 weeks before I could run 4 miles in VFF's alone without much calf pain. It took a full 6 weeks before I stopped getting blisters etc...

My experience?

  • There is a very noticeable difference that my calves and feet take all the impact. I can run ridiculously far and my body feels no wear other than cardio exhaustion.

  • My back pain has gone away. Completely. I can sit on the same ikea couch - though it makes me nervous still. And I still can throw it out - but then it hurts for a day and is fine.

  • My feet are invincible.

  • My form is shockingly improved. Same with my posture.

  • I can run on dirt trains with ridiculous rocks and angles and be in no danger of twisting my ankle

  • My average running distance has increased from 4 miles to 7, and I run much faster.

Okay and all of this is true, and you can read it anywhere. But this is not the reason you should ditch your shoes. And It's not the reason I ditched my mine.

Ditch your shoes because it's crazy fun.

The first time I ran around the block (300 yards maybe) I came home to switch into shoes and raved to my wife. I felt like a little kid again. This was the most fun I had ever had on blacktop.

And it just kept getting more fun.

Running was something I had done my whole life for mental stability. I cant stand being in my head unless I work out. I don't care about the physical benefits, and it was always a chore. But I did it anyhow because I needed the mental health.

But now I cant stop myself. I run 7 miles instead of 4 because I cant get myself to stop. I run 7 miles instead of 15 because my wife wont let me run longer than about 45 minutes most days (two little kids).

I've run 12 miles through the mountains and had an absolute blast. I run mostly through the city (out of convenience) and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT.

I hated running my whole life, and now I cant stop myself. Yea, ditch your shoes because of all the physical benefits of barefoot running (i do run fully barefoot too, but mostly in VFF's). Yes ditch your shoes because Nike has fooled you into buying expensive shoes you not only don't need, but hurt you.

But ditch your shoes primarily because it's just WAY too much fun not too.




This has been the single largest change in my life in the last 6 months. Because when I love running I'm mentally much more stable. I spend better time with the Lord and better time with my family. I cannot encourage it enough.

Pray.

Pray for unity among the churches in your city.
Pray for God's name to be glorified in your life, your family, your city, your country, and in all of His creation.
Pray for wisdom in your ministry in your city.
Pray for heaven to open above your city and the Holy Spirit to rain down revival.
Pray for hearts to be softened to the gospel.
Pray for the Lord to lead you to people ready to hear the truth of salvation.
Pray for more workers to go out in to the harvest.
Pray for your family to know the Lord, and for families in your city to be strengthened in Christ.
Pray for your government leaders to turn to the Lord and seek His Kingdom first so they may be wise in governing your nation, your province/state, and your city.
Pray for your city to be transformed to be more like the Kingdom of Heaven.
Pray for the unreached to have a witness of truth to reach them with the only message that can save.
Pray against complacency. Ask God for passion in yourself and His church.
Pray for your church to grow, expand, and radically change your community.
Pray that you'll know how to pray, and you'll seek the Lord more regularly in prayer.
Pray for missionaries everywhere to stand before their creator and awe His glory that they may believe in the value of what they're doing.
Pray for the persecuted believers to be strengthened supernaturally to stand up in the face of evil and glorify their creator.
Pray for Christians in public positions that they would be an example of Christ's humility and love to the world around them, and they would persevere in the faith.

This ought to get you started.

How much does God bless? - Andrew Murray

"And yet God has blessed, just up to the measure and the zeal of His people. It is not for them to be content with this as a sign of HIs approval; but rather to say, If he has thus blessed our feeble efforts and prayers, what will He not do if we yield ourselves wholly to a life of intercession?" - Andrew Murray

God has been blessing the socks off the ministry we've been doing here. How should we respond? Be content with this as a sign of God's approval of what we're doing? Or respond by praying bigger, crazier, more specific, more faith-filled prayers?

I submit the latter.

God has blessed us "Just up to the measure and the zeal of HIs people." Lets pray with more zeal, in larger measure. The borders of the Kingdom of God are ready to be expanded. When we pray the Lord does what it takes to expand them. There are very few called to full time ministry. Everyone is called to ministry of some sort, however, and the one ministry that anyone can be a part of (even without experience) is prayer.

Prayer should not be looked at a second-rate ministry either, but as a first-rate ministry. The foundation on which all else relies. Pray, because if you should stop, those of us who depend on the transforming power of God will grow weak, lose faith, and fail. Pray, because if you do, we will be strengthened. Preach the gospel more clearly, and bring the Kingdom of God.

On Pride (John 13:1-17)

I've spent a good amount of time over the last many months thinking about pride. I even got online and looked up several sermons on the subject. Turns out most of the sermons were pretty worthless, because I realized I know all about pride. I know about it's sinful nature, I know how it eats away at me and destroys my communion with the Lord. What I don't know is how to medicate with humility.

So I turned to my Bible and sought out some answers. Jesus was the definition of humble. In fact He left His throne in heaven to come be friends with scumbags like us and be born into poverty in a world that would kill Him.

But there isn't a whole lot about the incarnation. There is however a beautiful picture of Jesus washing the disciples feet in John 13:1-17:

1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him,
3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God,
4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.
5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”
7 Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”
10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”
11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you?
13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

In reading through I was struck by 4 things.

Vs 1. - Jesus loved His disciples right up to the end. Love is a choice. Love is something Jesus chose to do to us even before we first loved him, and he chose to do it right up to the end, even though we often don't love him back.

Vs 2. - Jesus loved Judas even though He knew He was about to be betrayed. You don't read about Jesus washing the 11 disciples feet, because He washed all of them. He could have skipped over Judas, and a more prideful man would have. But Jesus loved even when He wasn't loved back.

Vs 3. - God gave Jesus "all things." All authority, all of creation, all power, all might, all knowledge, you name it. If there was ever someone who had reason to be prideful It was Jesus. We often act in pride because we think we're better than those around us. But we're not. And more importantly even though Jesus WAS better than HIs disciples he still served them.

Vs 4-5. - Jesus humbly served.

Vs. 6-9. - He served Peter even though he didn't want to be served.

Vs. 10-11. - The same as verse 2, another reminder that Jesus could have chosen to not serve Judas, but served him anyhow.

Vs. 13-17. - Jesus basically says, "Look, you're not better than me. I AM better than you. So if I, who is better than you, serve others, you go and do the same." Vs. 14, 15, and 17 all say, do it, do it, do it. And you'll be blessed.

Lessons?

1. Love until the end.
2. Love even if you're not loved.
3. Serve
4. We are not greater than Jesus, and Jesus served.

This has been significant to me lately. And it has great application with my wife, with my team, and with those whom I'm trying to serve. When we love others and serve them as Jesus did, we cannot be prideful.

Final lesson is unrelated to this verse.

When I stand before the Lord in prayer. I mean really calm my heart and pray. I stand before the all powerful creator, and you'd have to be an idiot to feel His presence and not feel small and worthless apart from Him. But you'd also have to be an idiot to not be excited that He lets you stand there.