Friday, December 27, 2013


The year is quickly coming to a swift and abrupt close.  I can say the year has been eventful yet exciting.  What a year!  It has been the most trying year in all of my almost 20 years of ministry (and 8 years of being a Senior Pastor).  It has been a year of implementing a ‘few’ changes in our corporate service.  Actually, just one - starting a praise team!  Also re-emphasizing my view of essentials vs. non-essentials within the local assembly.  It has been a trying year, that really made me push pause on many of the plans I had to implement change; BUT I think the pace we took, overall, was and is apart of God’s plan.  It has given me the opportunity to see people for who they really are, to focus on the preaching and teaching of God’s Word and for God to show me that there is a great danger in trying to navigate the vision of Christ’s church based on 2 or 3 people who refuse to move forward.  Lesson learned.  

With that being said, I have no regrets; but there are a few things I would have done differently this year.  For one, I would have spent more time focusing on the young people within our congregation.  In addition, I would have focused much more on guests and friends who would visit our church.  Further, I would have quickly renewed my perspective and strength after the passing of my strongest supporter within our congregation, early in the year.  I allowed the loss of this great woman to take me aback for a moment.  Also, I lost my closest grandparent, my Pawpaw (paternal grandfather) the day before Thanksgiving.  He will be greatly missed.  I also would have blogged more!  I’ll try this again - to harness and strengthen my writing ability in the coming year.  Some of my fellow-bloggers have maintained a consistency that is both refreshing and intimidating, all in one.  As much as I love to write, my insecurities regarding the flow of my thoughts, words and desire to provide something different has given me some pause.  Nonetheless, I’m still committed to writing and the expression of my thoughts.  

I will say that I am excited to see what 2014 will bring.  Let’s go!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Sovereign Lord,
When clouds of darkness, atheism, and unbelief come to me,
I see thy purpose of love in withdrawing the Spirit that I might prize him more,
in chastening me for my confidence in past successes,
that my wound of secret godlessness might be cured.
Help me to humble myself before thee
by seeing the vanity of honour as a conceit of men’s minds,
as standing between me and thee;
by seeing that thy will must alone be done,
as much in denying as in giving spiritual enjoyments;
by seeing that my heart is nothing but evil, 
mind, mouth, life void of thee;
by seeing that sin and Satan are allowed power in me that I might know my sin,
be humbled, and gain strength thereby;
by seeing that unbelief shuts thee from me,
so that I sense not thy majesty, power, mercy, or love.
Then possess me, for thou only art good and worthy.
Thou dost not play in convincing me of sin,
Satan did not play in tempting me to it,
I do not play when I sink in deep mire,
for sin is no game, no toy, no bauble;
Let me never forget that the heinousness of sin 
lies not so much in the nature of the sin committed,
as in the greatness of the Person sinned against.
When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me, by showing me
that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch,
but that in Christ I am reconciled, made alive, and satisfied;
that I am feeble and unable to do any good,
but that in him I can do all things;
that what I now have in Christ is mine in part,
but shortly I shall have it perfectly in heaven.
- Valley Of Vision

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sunday in Retrospect

Well....another great Lord's Day!  

This was not without its challenges; but we had a great day in the Lord.  It has been refreshing (as I've probably said before) to witness some of the things I have envisioned for our congregation come to fruition.  For the laymen's understanding, the experience is akin to witnessing your child become responsible and make wise decisions without your stern direction at every turn.  It is God's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.  

My experience has been quite challenging yet quite rewarding.  Pastoring is hard work!  Yes, it comes natural when you're called to do it.  But it is hard work!  Those who've said it is not hard work, I will not say they are doing something wrong; but will simply argue they are in the minority.  Most would contend.....pastoring is hard work!  However, it is the most rewarding experience in the world.  Going from a congregation I started to a congregation over a century and a quarter old is about as contrastingly distinctive as it comes.  But it has been good for me.  I'm learning a lot, about patience, vision, preaching, inclusion (nothing to do with Carlton Pearson!), balance, Pastoring everyone, and so much more.  

I am really excited about the meeting we had today with those involved in Worship service.  We have been looking on ways to improve our worship experience, and also to flow better in our services.  I envision planning our services, as do some congregations now.  Shout out to Derrick Garrett.  This guy, who is also one of our Deacons in Training, has been a Godsend.  Joining our church about a year ago, he come from a congregation who worked monthly in planning their services.  Glad to have him as our Director of Worship & Fine Arts.  

This past Lord's Day, I also announced our congregation's very first Media Director, Erikka Murphy.  This is a major milestone in our congregation; and it is necessary if we plan to do effective ministry in the 21st century.  Erikka, one of our recent college graduates, will help us bring interactive media to our services, including mid-week; and also assist us in the process of the audio and visual recordings of our weekly Sunday services.  Please pray for us.  This is a huge step; and a necessary challenge for a 141 year old congregation.

I continued our series through 1st Peter.  Here is my outline...

This Joy That I Have
1 Peter 1:6-9
Big Idea: Believers rejoice in the midst of suffering

I.      There is a Joy that comes through Faith (Verses 6-8)

                 a. The Ground of Faith
                 b. The Growth of Faith
                      1. Tests and trials are temporary 'for a little while'
                      2. Tests and trials are tailored 'if necessary'

                 c. The Goal of Faith
                     1. God wants our faith to grow in value—“greater than gold.” Verse 7
                     2. God desire our faith to grow in validity—“proved genuine.” Verse 7 

                 a.     The Hope of Comparison
                 b.     The Hope of Completion 
                           1. We have certainty of Christ’s return.
           a.“Praise”—Christ will say “well-done.”
           b.“Honor”—Christ will give us honorable positions of authority.
      c.“Glory”—Christ will give us glorious bodies and place us in glorious   offices.

                             2. We have the assurance of salvation’s results, verse 9

                a.     There is the Joy of Loving
                b.     There is the Joy of Being Loved

Thank God for the one who made a decision to unite with our congregation today.  Glad to have him.  Also glad to get a few gifts this week for my birthday.  That was great!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Sunday in Retrospect

This past Lord's Day was awesome, outstanding and phenomenal!  Let me tell it, our times as Pastor and people grow each week.  Mind you, I am not a Pastor who says every Sunday was, 'Bananas'.  But I will say that this past Sunday was exceptional.  God has given me a vision of a church that is able to worship multi-generationally.  That is to say, being a congregation who meets equally the needs of four generations.  In fact, I plan to begin teaching on 'One Church, Four Generations' in a few weeks.  This is quite a challenge for a 141-Year old congregation.  Naturally, we have quite a bit of history; and can unknowingly be adamant about remaining the way we've been for so long.  I saw this 'growing pain' very clearly during our mid-year church meeting.  Often as Pastor, I can be challenged (sometimes by God and, at times, by the enemy using the reality of it all) to assess I am not nearly as far along as I thought we were.  Our recent meeting was no exception.  We've made quite a bit of progress; but I walked away a little discouraged, when hearing the way it once was, etc.  But....I maintain we are on the right track.  The church is continuing to grow numerically, financially and spiritually.  

This past Sunday, after an exciting youth trip, we added back our Deacon's devotion.  We stopped for a short while, when our Praise Team (A.L. Randon Ensemble) was added.  I made the decision before our meeting for us to add back Deacon's devotion, believing it would serve 1) to continue to uphold that deep tradition and 2) to expand the vision to minister to our 4  generations.  It went great!

I am most excited about the growth and excitement of our young people.  They have been quite receptive to our ministry there.  I continued our study in First Peter.  

Here's my sermon outline...

Sermon Title: Thank God I’m Saved
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:3-5
The Big Idea: The temporary challenges of life can be endured in light of the eternal salvation of God.


a. God’s rejection of Sin (Context)
b. God’s connection to the Savior (v. 3a)
c. God’s action toward the Saved (v. 3b)
         i. Mercy (Loving-kindness)
         ii. New Birth (Regeneration)

a. We have a ‘Living Hope’
b. We have a ‘Glorious Inheritance’
         i. Our inheritance is incorruptible – ‘…that can never perish'
         ii. Our inheritance is undefiled – ‘…nor spoil’
         iii. Our inheritance is unfading – ‘…or fade’

a. Our inheritance is protected “…kept in heaven for you.”
b. We are preserved “…guarded.”
         i. We are guarded by God’s power
         ii. We are guarded through our faith
         iii. We are guarded until Jesus returns

Thankful for the response to the message; and those who made decisions and came forward.  Looking forward to continuing First Peter next week, if the Lord says the same.!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sunday in Retrospect

This past Lord's Day happened to simply be one of those Sunday's where practically everything went right.  While I am not naive to the realities of 'tomorrow', it was a good refresher for me and us as a congregation.  Attendance was great, all seemed to have a great attitude (if they did not, they didn't let me know), God smiled on the morning Sermon, people responded to the message, choir sang like they rehearsed, liturgical ministry danced in a way that I believe was pleasing to God, and the people were receptive throughout the entire service and day.

Of course, moving to being an experienced Pastor, this has both been Spirit-led and directed, along with premeditation on my part.  This past week we had a Mid-Year Tune Up 2-night revival.  One of my old preaching mentors, Rev. James R. Miller, shared with us last Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Monday night.  Our congregation was tremendously blessed.  More than this, God sent us just what we needed, both in terms of encouragement (as we seek to move forward for the rest of the year) and instruction.  Rev. Miller has blessed me and us in more ways than I am sure he even knows, as Pastor and people.

I began a series yesterday in First Peter.  I've been flirting with the idea of going through this great Petrine epistle for over a year; and I just decided to finally 'jump'.  Typically, I don't start a new series like this in the Summer; but it started off great.  I pray that it grows our congregation, as it has and is growing me personally and devotionally.

My greatest challenge has been to grow in the area of my study of the Word of God, as well as my private devotion.  In my sermonic preparation, I am trying to glean from what I've learned several weeks ago at the E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference, and trying to have the bulk of my sermon done by Tuesday, and written out in manuscript form by Wednesday.  While this has been only a slight change (last year I've tried to complete my sermon manuscript by Friday morning, 8am), it has been a challenge because my preaching has moved entirely to working harder to frame and construct as much of my own sermon skeleton and content, with utilizing a plethora of resources, documenting my sources.  Over the years, I became 'lazy', and utilized some 'sources' that really gave me time to simply deal with the surface elements of textual study, without digging deep in the wells of the Word, FOR MYSELF.  With this change, and wanting to publish, much of my preparation and manuscript writing is now being  re-framed and re-formed.

Here is my outline:

Subject/Title: When Following Jesus Seems to Wreck Your World
Scripture: 1 Peter 1:1-2
The Big Idea: How God's people stay on course when following Christ brings pain and calamity, conflict in this world.


1.    You are Special to God – “elect”
a.    Israel, the chosen people of God (Isa. 43:20-21)
b.    Church, the chosen community (Gal. 6:16)

2.    You are Strangers to the World – “strangers” or “exiles”
a.    The example of Abraham (Heb. 11:8-13)
b.    The experience of Christians (Heb. 13:13-14)

3.    You are Scattered to Serve – “Diaspora” or “Dispersion”


1.   The Word of the Father
a.    Choosing to reveal Himself as Father
b.    Choosing to redeem His people as Children

2.    The Work of the Son
a.    The shedding of His blood
b.    The sprinkling of His blood (Exod. 24:3-8)

3.    The Work of the Spirit
a.    Sanctification—an accomplished fact (1 Cor. 6:11)
b.    Sanctification—a progressive necessity (2 Cor. 3:16-18)


Thankful for the souls who came forward.  And I am looking forward to continuing on with 1st Peter 1:3 this coming Sunday.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dr. P.S. Wilkinson, Sr.

For years, I have heard about the preaching legend and legacy of Dr. Paschal (P.S.) Wilkinson, Sr.  Born on December 8, 1905, he went Upstairs on December 3, 1977, just five days shy of his 73rd birthday.  He was 72!  Growing up, I was often told he was one of the greatest pulpiteers of his generation; from pulpit acumen to preaching prowess, he was said to be in a class all his own.  

Beginning his preaching ministry at the age of 14, he is best known for his role as the Senior Pastor of New Light Baptist Church (San Antonio, Tx) for almost 45 years.  He also served for many years as the President of the American Baptist State Convention and apart of the Educational Board of the National Baptist Convention.  

For some years now, I have been trying to get a hold of a copy of the one book he had written, 'Pilate's Judgment Hall.'  This book is a collection of the sermons and messages preached from the pulpit of New Light.  Interestingly, when I was a teenage preacher, I had the opportunity to hear a tape of an older P.S. Wilkinson preaching.  Needless to say, it left an impression.  Considering myself a student of preaching and preachers, I have coveted the idea of attaining a copy of his book.  While I am certain a few preachers have a copy, I only personally knew of two - My father, and the late Rev. R. L. Sanders, who pastored for years the Mt. Gilead Church in Forth Worth, Texas.  

After about 10 years of searching, I happened to come across a copy of Wilkinson's book.  While the book was written in 1948, many of the pages missing, I have found a richness and depth to his preaching that is peerless and impressionable.  While I am, by far, no Pashcal Wilkinson, Sr., the single book has renewed my commitment to writing and written communication.  What I would give to have more of such a great preaching legend.  I am convinced that, as I struggle to refresh my mind with new, meaningful, and varying insights from God's Word and others, that each and every servant of God would build a legacy that is unique to their own calling.  I hope to share excerpts in the future of this great preaching legend.  It has blessed me tremendously.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Sunday in Retrospect

We had another awesome day in the God this past Lord's Day.   I am often amazed by God's amazement  and surprised by God's surprises.  Pastoring a congregation 141 years old and counting, one can find a sense of traditional monotony that seems just want what's always been.  However, it amazes me that God seems to just show His hand in diverse ways and forms beyond what we've just grown accustomed to.  

I continued my series on 'God's Got An Answer'.  I shared, 'God's Answer for Life's Uncertainty.'  Today we celebrated our graduates.  We had 7 graduates this year, one is away and graduated college.  She will be home shortly.  I'm looking forward to God using her to lead our young people, in some way.  

Here is my outline for this past Sunday's messages...

Text: Joshua 5:10-12
Subject: God’s Answer for Life’s Uncertainty
The Big Idea: God’s faithfulness to provide is seen and shown when the manna stops, the road ahead seems uncertain and the promise awaits.
  1. God stops the manna to alter our appetites
  2. God stops the manna to reform the focus of our faith
    1. It requires a faith that plants (Work)
    2. It requires a faith that is patient (Waiting)
  3. God stops the manna to add new depth to our delight  

Grateful for the 5 who came forward today, including one as a candidate for baptism today.  Go be praised!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Sunday In Retrospect

It's Memorial Day!!!  How I thank God for the sacrifice of our fallen troops who've protected our freedom in this country.

This past Lord's Day we celebrated 141 years as a church.  What an awesome day it was.  We began last Wednesday with a special service with Rev. A. L. Prince and the Bethlehem Baptist Church as our guests.  We had an awesome time!  Sunday morning I shared in God's Word.  I attempted to lift a passage out of Judges 7:1-7, using as the title, 'God's Answer for Moving On.'  This was a continuation of a series I am in entitled, 'God's Got An Answer.'  Totally a change in direction from where I intended to go (i.e. - I planned on using the general outline of topics, 'God's Answer for anxiety, worry, doubt, etc.); with me, however, it always seems God changes my plans!  How appropriate, in dealing with the subject of Gideon in our lesson!

My outline:
The Big Idea/CIT: God's plan, power and provision is often wrapped in human limitations.
I. God wants to show you that everyone who is present is not providentially prepared
II. God seeks to teach you the priority of prayer
III.  God desires to guard His glory
IV. God seeks to reveal the power of His presence

I thank God for the 4 who made decisions yesterday and our candidate for baptism.

In the afternoon, Rev. Kevin VanHook and the St. Peters Baptist Church came to be with us.  We had great fellowship and worship; but the Word was timely and uplifting!  Pastor VanHook shared in the scripture Luke 6, the story of Christ preaching in the synagogue; and the miracle of healing the man with the withered hand.  His points were standing, stepping, stretching.  I enjoyed it!

I am confused about what's going on between the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers.  The Pacers have been quite a great contended, almost winning the first game, winning the second, both played in Miami for the semifinals.  Now....if game 3 back in Indiana, they lose BIG!  At this point, I'd love to see Miami's bubble burst.  But I am beginning to think it is highly unlikely.  I think Miami has this one in the bag.  I'm calling Miami vs. Spurs for the Finals, starting June 6th!

I really enjoyed watching Hangover III by myself this past Friday on opening day.  (footnote: I watched Hangover II several months ago and Hangover I a few weeks ago, all for the very first time.  I love them, unfortunately).

About to take my family to the movies after some BBQ.

I hope to blog again soon....  Many Blessings.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday in Retrospect

It's been a good day!  It's been a great Lord's Day!  No doubt, Sunday is my favorite day of the week.  I suppose it's always been.  Growing up as a 'church kid', I am one of the dying breed of generational Baptists who remembers going to church 'all day' on Sunday.  Yet still, it's my favorite day.

I've been in a series the past couple of weeks entitled, 'God's Got An Answer.'  I confess my idea was sparked from the late Dr. Stephen F. Olford's Biblical Answers to Personal Problems.  Last time (prior to Mother's Day) I used a passage out of 2 Corinthians 12:7-11 and titled the message, 'God's Answer for Your Suffering.'

I used as an outline:
I. Accept the Reality of our Suffering
II. Recall the Necessity of our Suffering
III.  Remember the Sublimity of our Suffering
IV. Rejoice in the Victory our Suffering

Today I continued in Genesis 13:1-17, titling the message, 'God's Answer for Letting Go.'

I. Take inventory of what you have, verses 1-7
II. Choose the high road, vs. 8
III. Address the issue, vs. 9
IV. Be clear on the meaning of victory, verses 10-18

It was a busy week with traveling to Lafayette for one of our college graduates, cutting in on my study time.  I wasn't pleased with my preparation when standing today.  Admittedly, I took what I call my 'rough draft' to the pulpit.  When I prepare my sermons, I go through each sentence (speaking aloud, writing and rewriting each sentence) and interjecting stories, illustrations, anecdotes, quotes, etc.  Unfortunately, none of this was done by the time I stood this morning.

However, God is faithful.  I thank God for the six people who came forward today, two who came by Christian Experience.

It is true - God uses us in times and moments we may least expect; and in ways we fail to anticipate.  All in all....I'm thankful!

Now....time to prepare for next week!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

The Patented Preacher

By Warren Wiersbe

Taken from Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching, The by CRAIG BRIAN LARSON; HADDON ROBINSON. Copyright © 2005 by Christianity Today International.

Why is it that so many preachers do not enjoy preaching? Why do some busy themselves in minor matters when they should be studying and meditating? Why do others creep out of the pulpit after delivering their sermon, overwhelmed with a sense of failure and guilt?

“It doesn’t make sense!” said my pastor friend.
We were lingering over lunch and discussing the Bible conference I was conducting in his church. I’d just commented that the church was having a strong influence on the students and staff of the nearby university.
“What doesn’t make sense?” I asked.
“Where you and I are serving,” he replied.
“You’re going to have to explain.”
“Look, I’m really a country preacher with a minimum of academic training, yet I’m ministering to a university crowd. You write commentaries, and you read more books in a month than I do in a year, yet your congregation is primarily blue-collar and nonprofessional. It doesn’t make sense.”

The subject then changed, but I have pondered his observation many times in the intervening years. I’ve concluded it’s a good thing God didn’t put me on his “Pastor Placement Committee” because I would have really messed things up.

I’d never have sent rustic Amos to the affluent court of the king; I’d have given him a quiet country church somewhere. And I’d never have commissioned Saul of Tarsus, that “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” to be a missionary to the Gentiles; I’d have put him in charge of Jewish evangelism in Jerusalem.
Al l of which brings me to the point of this article: If God has called you to preach, then who you are, what you are, and where you are also must be a part of God’s plan. You do not preach in spite of this, but because of this.

Why is it, then, that so many preachers do not enjoy preaching? Why do some busy themselves in minor matters when they should be studying and meditating? Why do others creep out of the pulpit after delivering their sermon, overwhelmed with a sense of failure and guilt?

The Difference a Witness Makes
Without pausing to take a poll, I think I can suggest an answer: They are preaching in spite of themselves instead of preaching because of themselves. They either leave themselves out of their preaching or fight themselves during their preparation and delivery; this leaves them without energy or enthusiasm for the task. Instead of thanking God for what they do have, they complain about what they don’t have; this leaves them in no condition to herald the Word of God.

One Christianity Today/Gallup Poll showed that ministers believe preaching is the number one priority of their ministries, but it’s also the one thing they feel least capable of doing well. What causes this insecure attitude toward preaching?

For one thing, we’ve forgotten what preaching really is. Phillips Brooks said it best: “Preaching is the communicating of divine truth through human personality. The divine truth never changes; the human personality constantly changes—and this is what makes the message new and unique.”

No two preachers can preach the same message because no two preachers are the same. In fact, no one preacher can preach the same message twice if he is living and growing at all. The human personality is a vital part of the preaching ministry.

Recently I made an intensive study of all the Greek verbs used in the New Testament to describe the communicating of the Word of God. The three most important words are: euangelizomai, “to tell the good news”;kerysso, “to proclaim like a herald”; and martyreo, “to bear witness.” All three are important in our pulpit ministry. We’re telling the good news with the authority of a royal herald, but the message is a part of our lives. Unlike the herald, who only shouted what was given to him, we’re sharing what is personal and real to us. The messenger is a part of the message because the messenger is a witness.

God prepares the person who prepares the message. Martin Luther said that prayer, meditation, and temptation made a preacher. Prayer and meditation will give you a sermon, but only temptation—the daily experience of life—can transform that sermon into a message. It’s the difference between the recipe and the meal.

I had an experience at a denominational conference that brought this truth home to me. During the session at which I was to speak, a very capable ladies’ trio sang. It was an uptempo number, the message of which did not quite fit my theme, but, of course, they had no way of knowing exactly what I would preach about. I was glad my message did not immediately follow their number because I didn’t feel the congregation was prepared.

Just before I spoke, a pastor in a wheelchair rolled to the center of the platform and gave a brief testimony about his ministry. Then he sang, to very simple accompaniment, “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.” The effect was overwhelming. The man was not singing a song; he was ministering a word from God. But he had paid a price to minister. In suffering, he became a part of the message.

The experiences we preachers go through are not accidents; they are appointments. They do not interrupt our studies; they are an essential part of our studies. Our personalities, our physical equipment, and even our handicaps are all part of the kind of ministry God wants us to have. He wants us to be witnesses as well as heralds.

The apostles knew this: “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). This was a part of Paul’s commission: “You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:15). Instead of minimizing or condemning what we are, we must use what we are to bear witness to Christ. It is this that makes the message our message and not the echo of another’s.

The Myth of “The Great Sermon”
It’s easy to imitate these days. Not only do we have books of sermons, but we have radio and television ministries and CDs by the thousands. One man models himself after Spurgeon, another after A. W. Tozer; and both congregations suffer.

Alexander Whyte of Edinburgh had an assistant who took the second service for the aging pastor. Whyte was a surgical preacher who ruthlessly dealt with man’s sin and then faithfully proclaimed God’s saving grace. But his assistant was a man of different temperament, who tried to move the gospel message out of the operating room into the banqueting hall.

During one period of his ministry, however, the assistant tried Whyte’s approach, without Whyte’s success. The experiment stopped when Whyte said to him, “Preach your own message.” That counsel is needed today.

Every profession has its occupational hazards, and in the ministry it is the passion to preach “great sermons.” Fant and Pinson, in 20 Centuries of Great Preaching, came to the startling conclusion that “great preaching is relevant preaching.” By “relevant,” they mean preaching that meets the needs of the people in their times, preaching that shows the preacher cares and wants to help.

If this is true, then there are thousands of “great sermons” preached each Lord’s Day, preached by those whose names will never be printed in homiletics books but are written in the loving hearts of their people. Listen again to Phillips Brooks:

The notion of a great sermon, either constantly or occasionally haunting the preacher, is fatal. It hampers…the freedom of utterance. Many a true and helpful word which your people need, and which you ought to say to them, will seem unworthy of the dignity of your great discourse… . Never tolerate any idea of the dignity of a sermon which will keep you from saying anything in it which you ought to say, or which your people ought to hear.

Preaching Christ, Not Myself
Let me add another reason for insecure feelings about our preaching. In our desire to be humble servants of God, we have a tendency to suppress our personalities lest we should preach ourselves and not Christ. It is good to heed Paul’s warning in 2 Corinthians 4:5: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” But we must not misinterpret it and thereby attempt the impossible. Paul’s personality, and even some of his personal experiences, are written into the warp and woof of his letters; yet Jesus Christ is glorified from start to finish.

During the past twenty years, I have been immersed in studying the lives of famous preachers of the past. Most of these ministered during the Victorian Era in Great Britain, a time when the pulpits were filled with superstars. If there’s one thing I learned from these men, it’s this: God has his own ways of training and preparing his servants, but he wants all of them to be themselves. God has put variety into the universe, and he has put variety into the church.

If your personality doesn’t shine through your preaching, you’re only a robot. You could be replaced by a CD player and perhaps nobody would know the difference.
Do not confuse the art and the science of preaching. Homiletics is the science of preaching, and it has basic laws and principles that every preacher ought to study and practice. Once you’ve learned how to obey these principles, then you can adapt them, modify them, and tailor them to your own personality.
In my conference ministry, I often share the platform with gifted speakers whose preaching leaves me saying to myself, What’s the use? I’ll never learn how to preach like that! Then the Lord has to remind me he never called me “to preach like that.” He called me to preach the way I preach!

The science of preaching is one thing; the art of preaching—style, delivery, approach, and all those other almost indefinable ingredients that make up one’s personality—is something else. One preacher uses humor and hits the target; another attempts it and shoots himself.

The essence of what I am saying is this: You must know yourself, accept yourself, be yourself, and develop yourself—your best self—if preaching is to be most effective.

Never imitate another preacher, but learn from him everything you can. Never complain about yourself or your circumstances, but find out why God made things that way and use what he has given you in a positive way. What you think are obstacles may turn out to be opportunities. Stay long enough in one church to discover who you are, what kind of ministry God has given you, and how he plans to train you for ministries yet to come. After all, he is always preparing us for what he already has prepared for us—if we let him.

Accepting What We’re Not
I learned very early in my ministry that I was not an evangelist. Although I’ve seen people come to Christ through my ministry, I’ve always felt I was a failure when it came to evangelism.

One of the few benefits of growing older is a better perspective. Now I’m learning that my teaching and writing ministries have enabled others to lead people to Christ, somy labors have not been in vain. But I’ve had my hours of discouragement and the feeling of failure.

God gives us the spiritual gifts he wants us to have; he put us in the places he wants us to serve; and he gives the blessings he wants us to enjoy.

I am convinced of this, but this conviction is not an excuse for laziness or for barrenness of ministry. Knowing I am God’s man in God’s place of ministry has encouraged me to study harder and do my best work. When the harvests were lean, the assurance that God put me there helped to keep me going. When the battles raged and the storms blew, my secure refuge was “God put me here, and I will stay here until he tells me to go.” How often I’ve remembered V. Raymond Edman’s counsel: “It is always too soon to quit!”

It has been my experience that the young preacher in his first church and the middle-aged preacher (in perhaps his third or fourth church) are the most susceptible to discouragement. This is not difficult to understand.

The young seminarian marches bravely into his first church with high ideals, only to face the steamroller of reality and the furnace of criticism. He waves his banners bravely for a year or so, then takes them down quietly and makes plans to move. The middle-aged minister has seen his ideals attacked many times, but now he realizes that time is short and he might not attain to the top thirty of David’s mighty men.

God help the preacher who abandons his ideals! But, at the same time, God pity the preacher who is so idealistic he fails to be realistic. A realist is an idealist who has gone through the fire and been purified. A skeptic is an idealist who has gone through the fire and been burned. There is a difference.

Self-evaluation is a difficult and dangerous thing. Sometimes we’re so close to our ministry we fail to see it. One of my students once asked me, “Why can’t I see any spiritual growth in my life? Everybody else tells me they can see it!” I reminded him that at Pentecost no man could see the flame over his own head, but he could see what was burning over his brother’s head.

A word from the Scottish preacher George Morrison has buoyed me up in many a storm: “Men who do their best always do more though they be haunted by the sense of failure. Be good and true, be patient; be undaunted. Leave your usefulness for God to estimate. He will see to it that you do not live in vain.”
Be realistic as you assess your work. Avoid comparisons. I read enough religious publications and hear enough conversations to know that such comparisons are the chief indoor sport of preachers, but I try not to take them too seriously. “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12).

Although we are in conflict against those who preach a false gospel, we are not in competition with any who preach the true gospel. We are only in competition with ourselves. By the grace of God, we ought to be better preachers and pastors today than we were a year ago.

If we are to be better pastors and preachers, we must be better persons; and this means discipline and hard work. The “giants” I’ve lived with these many years were all hard workers. Campbell Morgan was in his study at six o’clock in the morning. His successor, John Henry Jowett, was also up early and into the books. “Enter your study at an appointed hour,” Jowett said in his lectures to the Yale divinity students in 1911–1912, “and let that hour be as early as the earliest of your businessmen goes to his warehouse or his office.” Spurgeon worked hard and had to take winter holidays to regain his strength.
Obviously, we gain nothing by imperiling our health, but we lose much by pampering ourselves, and that is the greater danger.

The Gift Is Sufficient
If God has called you, then he has given you what you need to do the job. You may not have all that others have, or all you wish you had, but you have what God wants you to have. Accept it, be faithful to use it, and in due time God will give you more.
Give yourself time to discover and develop your gifts. Accept nothing as a handicap. Turn it over to God and let him make a useful tool out of it. After all, that’s what he did with Paul’s thorn in the flesh.
Preaching it not what we do; it’s what we are. When God wants to make a preacher, he has to make the person, because the work we do cannot be isolated from the life we live. God prepares the person for the work and the work for the person, and, if we permit him, he brings them together in his providence.
God knows us better than we know ourselves. He’d never put us into a ministry where he could not build us and use us.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Sentence Sermonettes

The Almighty gives the best to those who leave the choice to him.
Sin thrills and then it kills.
The heart of religion is the heart.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life.
Sin always carries with it a built-in deception about judgment.
If you are happy, tell your face about it.
Are you on a collision course with God?
Your soul will live forever, somewhere — ​where?
Love gives and forgives.
Good works are the fruit, not the root, of salvation.
God’s will is not always easy, but it is always right.
Not to decide is to decide.
Sin is personal but not private.
Life without Christ is an empty existence.
Every problem is in reality an opportunity.
Prejudice is a lazy person’s substitute for thinking.
Hell is a place of no hope.
People judge each other by rank; God judges all by service.
Happiness is a sweet perfume you cannot pour out on others without getting a few drops on yourself.
No joy is complete unless it is shared.
Not failure, but low aim, is the real crime in life.
A sharp tongue will cut your own throat.
Life is like a bicycle — ​stop pedaling, and you fall.
Worry is a mental tornado.
A problem honestly stated is half solved.
Blessed are those who can give without remembering and receive without forgetting.
You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair. — ​Chinese proverb
One may be better than one’s reputation but never better than one’s principles.
It is evil not to do good.
Is your heart on its knees?
Love is the only effective way to deal with a problem.
To poison a person’s mind is a worse sin than to poison a person’s food.
If you kicked the one responsible for most of your troubles, you wouldn’t be able to sit down for six months.
Forgiveness: man’s deepest need and highest achievement.
Two things are hard on the heart — ​running up stairs and running down people.
Most friction in life is caused by the tone of the voice.
Unfounded and unnecessary fears are deadly enemies that paralyze the will, poison the affections, and if allowed to continue, may destroy the soul.
If you want to be rich, give; if you want to be poor, grasp.
Cast all your care on God! That anchor holds. — ​Alfred Tennyson
It is natural to be religious; it is supernatural to be Christian.
God’s wisdom is both timely and timeless.
Gratitude is the memory of the heart.