Posted tagged ‘condemnation’

Sermon Sorting

September 7, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   September 7, 2016

                                        

I’m in the midst of chaos in my home study. As my mom used to say, “It looks like a tornado went through your room!” She often exaggerated when it suited the point she was making! If, however, she saw my study she would run for shelter.

The reason for the chaos is that I’m going through all my old sermons…all thirty-six and a half years of them! I’m sorting them according to the main scripture text in various piles that cover the floor. I’ve been going about it a few minutes at a time, because my knees can’t take that much floor time! Old knees kneeling over old sermons…quite a combination!

As I’ve gone about the sorting process I’ve started to discover certain things. Although I’m not done yet, Matthew seems to have been my favorite book of the Bible to preach from. Mark is not far behind! In fact, the gospels are getting a majority of the manuscripts. If it was my fantasy football league draft they would be my first four picks in building a solid point-producing line-up.

There are certain books that are missing in my sermons. Song of Solomon and Lamentations did not make the sermon cut. I was always a bit shy about preaching about gazelles and pomegranates in THAT kind of way. And although it is the Word of God, Lamentations didn’t really inspire much hope for me. It was understandably hard to “get up” for preaching doom-and-gloom!

I’m already seeing certain themes appear. In my earlier years of ministry my sermons tended to dish out the guilt more. My task seemed to be to make people realize how screwed up they were. In my later years of ministry the theme of grace filters through my messages more and more. I can’t analyze that too much yet. It could be that I was seeing how ridicule and accusation were becoming more dominant in our culture, or it could be that I was sensing more sorrow in people’s lives because of who they had become. It is always easier to condemn rather than help people reconcile. Whatever winds blew me in that direction, grace has been a guiding theme for me the last few years.

I was never really into “end times prophecy”. There’s a void in my preaching in regards to that. I was much more into present-day living and life application. My emphasis was not on what’s going to happen in the future, but rather what does this means for us now?

When I breathe my last breath I’m not sure whether my bulk of messages will survive “the clean-out.” They may end up in some dumpster, along with my old underwear and twenty year old bottles of cologne. Perhaps one of my kids will feel some kind of “dad obligation” and keep them in a few boxes in their basement…maybe!

They are what they are, simply written two thousand word manuscripts from a time gone by. The bigger question will be what sermons will my life have communicated that will stay with people. The most important sermons are not those written on typing paper. The most important messages are those that a person’s life writes with the kind of ink that never fades away.

Going back to Lamentations, I realize that all those three page sermon manuscripts I have are as nothing. They represent thousands of hours of preparation, revision, and pondering and yet they will one day be gone.

But what my life preaches will be remembered! It’s a humbling thought for a preacher, and yet it is one that keeps things in perspective for me. When it comes to a Sunday morning message I’ve assisted a multitude of people in getting a few moments of slumber, but when it comes to what my life preaches there is always an attentive audience.

My life will preach a sermon today. What will be the dominant theme that comes from it?

When a Follower of Jesus Doesn’t Seem To Be Following

June 3, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                          June 3, 2013

One of the toughest things for a Christ-follower to struggle with is when someone he knows well…someone who has been a follower of Christ, comes to a time when he doesn’t seem to be following anymore.

It is quite convenient at that point for the committed follower to hold to the belief that someone can lose their salvation. It’s the easy way out. He’s in, now he’s out. He’s saved, now he’s not saved. There’s a bad odor present in that. It smells of judging someone’s spiritual condition on the basis of their actions and attitude.

Granted that the Bible talks about faith and actions, but I’ve witnessed a number of followers who can speak the Godly language, quote scripture like an attorney quotes the legal code, testify to God’s provision…and then hold to racist beliefs or a coldheartedness towards the poor.

I believe it is much more difficult, but scriptural, to hold to a faith that is immersed in grace. Grace doesn’t race to condemnation, but rather stays the course with the follower who has seemed to adopt an attitude of apathy.

So what does a Christ-follower do?

It begins with prayer. Cry out to God! Prayer is the seeking of divine intervention and interaction. Sometimes we fall victim to the idea that we have to fix someone. We strategize and come up with a three step plan. Prayer becomes an addendum to the plan.

Prayer is surrendering the person and our thoughts to the Lord. Perhaps God has someone else who will step into the gap…and it isn’t you.

A second step is having dialogue with the person to discover what it is that he believes. What does he believe about faith, how God interacts with us, and his purpose for this life? There’s a lot of weird stuff out there. Most of us have “customized faiths” that we’ve formed around us that best suit our lives. I may have strong beliefs about being stewards of the environment because I do a lot of hiking and backpacking, but doubt that God desires intimacy with me because I’m not comfortable with a faith that involves my emotions. Each one of us, whether we know it or not, has shaped our faith to embrace what we don’t struggle with.

To dialogue with someone who seems to be more interested in NASCAR than he is in having a God thing happen may reveal things that can be slowly pursued. (I want you to notice that I used NASCAR as the example because I have no interest in it. I can not say the same at certain times about Michigan State basketball, fried scallops, and Sunday afternoon naps.)

A third step is guiding conversations with the person about the faith journey. Instead of asking a lot of questions that begin with the words “Why don’t you…” start conversations, or at least the thinking about, with words like “Did you ever think about…” or “Has God seemed to be quiet lately?” or “Do you ever wonder if God is really interested in us?”

Our well-founded concern for the person sometimes causes us to chase him towards the throne of grace, or “guilt him” towards God. Guilt works well in getting out kids to eat their cooked spinach, but does very little good in having someone rediscover the intimacy of God.

Finally, we must stay the course. We see the immediate, but God sees over the next hill. Perseverance is as much a part of running our own race as it is a part of walking alongside someone who is on a different pace. Remember, there are plenty of people who abandon, but few who are willing to stay the course with the person.

Pray long. Be grace. Stay the course.