Thursday, May 23, 2024

Practicing Verses Perfecting

 In John 3:21, Jesus said that those who practice truth come to the Light so that their deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. I am glad Jesus said hose who practice the truth and not those who perfectly live the truth. I could never measure up to perfection. 

I just walked off the football practice field for spring football. For weeks we have been practicing our plays, working on details of route running, catching, throwing, and playing defense. It is somewhat monotonous. Doing the same drills. Running the same plays over and over again. We practice to get better. We may never perfect the game of football, but we can improve a little day after day. 

The same should be said for our Christian walk and living out the principles of the Bible. None of us is perfect. We fail repeatedly. Therefore, we keep practicing. We keep praying, studying, and applying truth to our hearts. We keep working those truths into our daily lives. We may not be perfecting living truth, but we keep practicing to improve. 

There are a few things that I think can help us improve a little more. We need a place, a designated spot where we will seek God. A designated place where we will meet with God in the pages of our Bible and where we will commune with Him through prayer. I am honestly shocked how few people set aside any time on a daily basis to meet with God. Brenda and I do it first thing in the morning. We both have our morning routines. She sits in a recliner in our bedroom to seek God, and I do the same in my chair in the living room. Days started with God seem to go better. Jesus kept the habit of finding a solitary place to prayerfully seek the Father. [Mark 1:35] Should we not do the same?

Another practice should be to gather with others to worship. I realize many people gather with others for worship services. That does not mean that they worship themselves. They may sit in a seat, sing the songs, even crack open a Bible, but never worship one single moment. Worship is putting all the focus on God, engaging the heart as well as the mind, and responding to what He reveals. Worship is not a spectator religion. It is a participatory event. Those who practice engaging in the different expressions of worship will be the ones who get the most out of it. Worship was never meant to be entertainment. It was meant to be an intentional act of the mind, will, and emotions. People shouted in worship in the Psalms, clapped their hands, lifted their arms, bowed, wept, and followed hard after God. These practices help improve the daily performance of living out truth. 

I do not always get it right trying to live for God. I fail more than I want to. I sin still. I can be lulled into  lethargy and amply disarmed with apathy with the best of them. I must keep practicing the truth. I know I must press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. I have much more practicing to do. I am in the pursuit of Jesus who alone is perfect. Hopefully all of us will practice becoming more like Him. 

Friday, May 17, 2024

Uselessly Kindling Fire

 I believe the message of God and His Son Jesus are the most exciting truths in the whole universe. Nothing else even comes close. Opening His word to expound it week after week is exhilarating. Do not get me wrong. It is also exhausting. It takes work. Prayerful study to expound. Someone once asked me what it was like to prepare multiple messages a week. I replied, "It is like writing multiple research papers weekly." A sermon is certainly much more than a research paper. It is God's word. Everlasting food for the soul. Transformative truth. It is a labor of love to prepare messages. I love it, but it is labor intensive. 

From time to time, I peruse tv channels or the internet to watch others preach. It is sad what is passing for preaching God's word today. The first things I am looking for in preaching is whether it is text driven or topic driven. Text driven means it is Bible based. The truth comes from the text of God's word. The next thing I look for is life. Is there fire, passion, the anointing and power of God, or is there just religious motions. 

I realize that God created different people with different personalities. I know I am not standing alone when I say I have heard some dry, tongue and throat parched dry, sermons in my day. I have also heard people quote everyone and everything but the Bible and the Lord in sermons. 

Sometimes I wish I could walk through the screen and grab the preacher by the collar and question, "Do you really believe what you are preaching?" It does not appear so. Nor do the hearer appear to really believe what they are hearing. 

I assure you, I am no expert on preaching. I do strive to be a text driven preacher with passion. God has to speak the word to me before I can deliver it to the people. It is not just words. The word of God is words of life. The pulpit is no stage to showcase talents or put on a show to entertain the masses. Preaching is a sacred task and should only be done by those God chosen and Holy Spirit anointed ones who spend time in the prayer closet. 

In recent days, I saw preachers reading their prayers from their cell phones, preaching from carefully crafted and eloquent sermon manuscripts on iPads, as well as those who fumbled over their words seeming unprepared and uninterested in the subject matter. It grieved my heart. 

God abhors going through religious rituals void of meaning in the heart of His people. True worship should come from the heart. Just as true preaching should come from a heart touched by God. Cold hearted men of God stand in the pulpits delivering ice cold sermons without life. They have no fire because they preach from educated heads and iceberg cold hearts. The fire comes to the heart from time spent in God's presence more than a nose stuck in a book. Book study is important. Only it is not the most important. If a preacher keeps his nose in books without bending his knees in prayer, dead words without power behind them will waft from the well that has long since dried up. 

What is just as grievous is that the people of God accept this pathetic preacher pablum week after week. Nobody stops the sham of shallow religious rituals. Do the people of God hunger for fresh bread of life preaching? Do the people of God even care what diet of sermonic rhetoric they hear week after week? There have been many times when I had to repent for preaching non anointed sermons. I busied myself with many lesser things and did not pray enough. I hastily through messages together just trying to get through another Sunday. I am thankful for those brave souls who called me on it over the years. It drove me to repentance and back to the prayer closet for fresh fire in my soul. 

It might do all of us good if we stopped the Sunday morning production from time to time to do some repenting and refocusing. Like a person trying to start a fire with soaking wet wood, so is the cold hearted preacher who tries to ignite fire in cold hearted parishioners. 

I am not saying every sermon has to be fire and brimstone preaching. I am saying preaching should be done prayerfully and with a demonstration of God's power. I cannot say any sermon I have preached in recent memory was backed up with a demonstration of God's power. It is time for me to repent at the head of the line. I do not want to try and uselessly kindle another fire on another dry Sunday morning. God help me. God help all who preach.