On Sermon Writing

preacherI know from my interactions with readers that most visitors to The Master’s Table are Christians. Many write blogs of their own, author or review Christian books, or are otherwise involved in church culture. Not surprising since many of my posts are devotional in nature; my writing explores what it means to serve God, worship, share the Gospel and so forth. I’ve blogged on meeting Christian writers, musicians, speakers and pastors; working at summer VBS; serving on the stateside mission field; publishing a book about who God is and how we relate to him. On occasion I have not only published sermons but written on the act of preaching.

While the vast majority of the readership here is Christian I have no way of knowing how many actually preach the Gospel. We all know a good sermon when we hear one or at least know what we like. But how familiar with the process is anyone that has never prepared a sermon? While there may be those that joke their pastor only works one hour each week surely no one that has put any thought into it actually believes that. Surely. I’m not going to write a step-by-step guide on how to DIY your own sermon. But I would like to share some insight into what goes on in the mind of the preacher before the sermon is being delivered. Continue reading

He Lives; Now What?

Romans 8 11“I serve a risen savior, he’s in the world today.” Those are the opening words to the hymn He Lives (Alfred Henry Ackley, 1933). Easter Sunday has come and gone, but Jesus is more than alive, he is risen! He was dead and became the firstborn of the resurrection. Jesus told Martha in John 11:25 that he is the resurrection. Death, hell and the grave have been defeated. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55 Continue reading

What Shall We Do?

Peter preaches In the first chapter of Acts, Jesus told the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the promise. He then ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father. In Acts 2 they were gathered in one place and the Holy Spirit filled the entire house. Each one filled with the Spirit began to speak in tongues, and they went out into the streets of Jerusalem. This event is known as Pentecost and is still celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday. Some in the crowd that day objected that the Apostles were merely drunk and Peter responded with a turning point sermon in the history of the church.

Continue reading

Whom Shall I Fear?

The one who goes before me, the one who stands behind is a reference to God leading Israel out of Egypt and through the wilderness. He fought their battles for them; He defeated their enemies. God took a group of slaves without weapons or resources and made them a nation, in much the same way as Christians in 1 Peter.  The one who reigns forever, he is a friend of mine should not be taken tritely. The maker of heaven and earth, the creator God that has ordained the events of history and in whose image we are made has called us his friends. Jesus told the disciples he was more than their master; they were his brothers in the faith and ultimately his friends.

Whom shall I fear? What is there to be afraid of? The people we worry about offending are created in the image of God but remain under his judgement unless they hear the Gospel and repent. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom 10:14) Sometimes people respond with arguments as if there is a debate to be won. We don’t have to win the debate. Arguing with the umpire about where the strike zone is will not change his call. The rules of the game were decided before hand and are not being made up as the it goes along. So it is with life. Heaven and hell are real places and God has decreed the standard or admittance. What are we afraid of? “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt 10:28)

God created the heavens and the earth, and all that lives on it. He establishes kings and kingdoms; Jesus told Pilate he would have no authority at all unless it was given to him by his Father. Noah, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Gideon, Mary, Simon Peter etc. were not super saints with some extraordinary ability. Each person in the Bible that did anything for God was a mortal man or woman that acted in faith and God used. When God asked who he could send Isaiah responded “Here I am, send me.” We should say the same thing each day. The fields are white unto harvest; send me. There are hungry children starving in Africa; send me. There are hungry children and elderly Americans starving right here; send me. All around us people are hurting, searching, working themselves to death to obtain junk that will turn to dust, empty in their souls and ignorant of the Gospel. Send me, send my family, send my church.

Imagine being hired by a couple to babysit. You do not answer to the children you are caring for, but to the parents when they return. In a general sense all people everywhere are God’s children. Are they being cared for? We have an advocate with the Father. He will be with us to the end of the Age. The Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of every believer. He is a friend of mine. Let me ask once more; whom shall I fear?

For Jews and Gentiles

JehoshuaA couple of weeks ago, our Sunday School lesson focused on how the first Christmas was for a Jewish audience.  Joseph and Mary, the inhabitants of Bethlehem, and the shepherds who visited on the night of Jesus’ birth were all Jews.  Jesus came first to his own people, knowing he would be rejected, all to fulfill God’s plan.

This week we looked at Christ’s birth for Gentiles.  Consider these words of Simeon, who met Jesus at his dedication at the Jerusalem temple:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
(Luke 2:29-32 ESV)

It had been revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Christ in his lifetime.  Notice that when Jesus was only weeks old, Simeon recognized he was both light for the Gentiles and the glory of Israel.  Sometimes we get this funny idea, even if we don’t put it into words, that throughout the Bible God sort of rolls with the punches.  Sometimes we make it up as we go along, but that doesn’t mean God does the same.  He didn’t come up with the plan of salvation after Israel failed to keep the Law.  And offering salvation to the Gentiles was not some sort of plan B when the Jews rejected Jesus.

God knew all along, and the birth, life and death of Jesus were all part of his great plan.  The birth of the Christ is good news for all mankind.

The Nearest Thing to Heaven

How many times have you bitten into a delicious slice of cheesecake (insert favorite dessert here) and made the statement “I’m in Heaven?”  Listening to beautiful music, attending a wedding reception, or perhaps sitting at home in a rare moment of peace and quiet can move us to feel that way at times; this is what heaven must be like.  Do you ever feel that way at church?

My dad wrote a song about the church titled The Nearest Thing to Heaven.  Like old country music, even Dad’s gospel songs were made of two things: 3 chords and the truth.  The point of the song is simple; the Church (universal) should be the nearest thing to heaven you can find on earth.  While he acknowledges there are problems and that no person nor congregation is perfect, the Church is (or should be) filled with God’s people.  The Church is made up of disciples of Jesus, who are continuously learning to be more Christ-like.  In short, the Church should be populated with God’s people, led by and filled with the Holy Spirit, and working for the Kingdom.  With Christ as its head, the Church should be the body.  That should be manifest in our worship and in our service.  Worship takes place in the church building, while our service takes place Monday through Saturday outside of the church building.

Do you enjoy going to church?   Continue reading

The Read and Share File

Tim Challies shares truths supported by scripture on the topic of evangelism.

The title of the post – Is There a Holy Spirit? – may give the wrong impression.  Bobby Jamieson at 9Marks Blog is describing two ways to fill a church, and how you answer that question has a lot to do with how you proceed.

What is the best thing you can do for your pastor?  According to The Blazing Center it’s pray for him.

I actually took this picture myself, then added Luke 1:78.  That’s a genuine eastern Kentucky sunrise.

Boston.com, the online presence of the Boston Globe, shares 22 pictures of the Jewish festival of Purim.

On a whim, I searched for “sunrise service” on Google.  Enjoyed this short entry on Wikipedia.    Here’s an excerpt:

The first Easter Sunrise Service recorded took place in 1732 in the Moravian congregation at Herrnhut in the Upper Lusatian hills of Saxony. After an all-night prayer vigil, the Single Brethren, the unmarried men, of the community, went to the town graveyard, God’s Acre, on the Hill above the town, to sing hymns of praise to the Risen Saviour. The following year, the whole Congregation joined in the service. Thereafter the “Easter Morning” or “Sunrise Service” spread around the world with the Moravian missionaries. The procession to the graveyard is accompanied by the antiphonal playing of chorales by brass choirs.

And then I stumbled onto this:

Read more here: http://www.capitalchurch.net/ministries/easter-service/  There were 120 at the first service in 1979; on April 8 they expect 6,000!