Comeback!

Here’s a sermon on making a spiritual comeback and renewing your dream from God. Open your Bible to Joshua 8 and follow along…

Click here to download a sermon transcript (.pdf) so you can follow along.

Last Words

““So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Ac 20:32.

These are Paul’s last words to his friends in Ephesus. They’re part of a heartfelt talk recorded in Acts 20. In many ways, this verse forms my philosophy of preaching and ministry.

  1. I commend you to God… Only God can do in your life and your world what must be done. He is the sovereign–the ruler, leader, boss, guide, and king of your life. My task, as a preacher, is to deposit or entrust (paratithemi) to God. Obvious, I know, but so much of what the church does these days seems to commend people to their own devices, their own efforts, their own practical application of a recipe of steps… instead of to a dynamic walk with a living God.
  2. And to the Word of his grace… I love this title for Scripture. The Bible is the Word of His Grace. It’s sum and substance is Christ: his Person and his Work. If the Bible is all about dedication, service, and sacrifice, it is infinitely more about God’s dedication, service and sacrifice for us (grace) than ours for him (works).
  3. which is able… Literally, “which has the power.” The American church in this century has radically underestimated the power of the Word of God. We have looked for power in techniques or in practical applications. We have looked for power in creativity and modes of communication. We have looked for power in programs and in the meeting of needs. All of these things are valid functions of the church, but they offer NO POWER. The power is in the Word… especially when the Word is wielded as a Word of Grace. “For the Word of God is living and POWERFUL…” The more the church backs away from the Word, in-depth, in its fullness as the “whole counsel of God,” the more impotent the church becomes. Back to the Bible! What power does the Word possess?
  1. to build you up… To create structures in your soul. To restructure your soul–your thinking, instincts, and feelings–so that you have in your soul what Jesus had in his soul. So that you see the world from God’s perspective. So that you make decisions and perform actions according to his will. Same thought as: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Ro 12:2. Notice, it is NOT our discipleship programs, nor is it relationships, that build up the follower of Christ. It is the Word. The Word has that power. We must always point away from ourselves as ministers and back to God and his Word. Yes, some forms of discipleship entail relationship… but the power is the Word.

  2. and to give you an inheritance… The maximum experience of all the grace God has provided us, both in this life and the life to come. We can’t quantify it, but let’s say that God has set aside, in a trust, 100 tons of blessings for every Christian in this life. This is your birthright; your inheritance. Theses blessings apply to every moment of adversity, every trial, every temptation, every heartbreak, every loss, every opportunity, every divine appointment, every ministry, every moment of your life. God’s resources are there for you. But it is your involvement with the WORD OF HIS GRACE that activates these blessings in your life. So many Christians settle for 1 or 2 tons of blessing when you could have 100. Even worse, that 1 or 2 tons in this life sets your maximum capacity in eternity (see Jesus the Great Unequalizer for more). In other words, your capacity for grace in heaven is directly proportional to your capacity for grace on earth. And your capacity for grace is expanded by learning and living the Word of His Grace. The Word has the power to build you up and to give you an inheritance. That’s the sentence here.
  3. among those who are being sanctified… God is the sanctifier. We are the sanctifi-ees. You can consider sanctification–the process by which God conforms you to the image of Christ–“grace capacity training.”

And that’s my job: to commend people to God and the Word of his Grace. I take it seriously, and I wouldn’t trade places with anybody. I love my marching orders!

Grace Rules!

diamond.jpegMaybe I should say it rocks. Anyhoo, it should be the centerpiece of theology–next to Christology, of course (the person and work of Christ). The founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, Lewis Sperry Chafer, wrote:

The exact and discriminate meaning of the word grace should be crystal clear to every child of God.

There’s my guiding light.

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The Magic Pill

magicpill.jpegWhat cures all, solves all, heals all, comforts all, is free for the taking, and most people have a huge supply sitting on their shelves?

“I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 2:21; 5:13, NKJV.

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Can You Feel It?

amazing-grace.jpegChallenging Some Worship Myths, 3rd & final part

7. The myth that repetitious worship music is bad. Understand where I’m coming from before you hurl rotten tomatoes. I grew up on a solid diet of hymns. I love them. To this day, my heart resonates with Stayed Upon Jehovah. Immortal, Invisible. Great Is Thy Faithfulness. Toss in some Thee’s, sprinkle on some Thy’s, and I’m there. Those songs had CONTENT; they were a Bible class set to music. How about this glorious classic for great content: Continue reading

We May Not Be Deep, But at Least We’re Superficial

aliendrummer.jpegChallenging Some Worship Myths, part 2.

5. They myth that worship equates with emotion. We may not be deep, but at least we’re superficial. When Jesus talked about worshiping in spirit and in truth he didn’t mean emotion (Jn 4:23,24). By spirit he meant the deepest part of your being; the part of you that connects with God. By truth he meant the meat of the Word of God (Jn 17:17). True worshippers worship God in the deepest part of our being which connects to God by means of the meat of the Word of God. The deep things of God (1 Cor 2:10). The whole counsel of God (Ac 20:27). The meat, not just the milk (1 Pe 2:2).

Major premise: Continue reading

Onanism

tamar.jpegSo this past weekend I preached from Genesis 38. This is one of the “R-rated” chapters of the Bible, and many long-time Christians told me they had never heard a sermon from that chapter of the Bible. Ever.

Hey, we can’t pick and choose. I started at Gen 37 and we’re going straight thru the whole Joseph story. It’s all God’s Word, and we pastors shouldn’t skip the hard stuff. We have to wade straight into it. So many people live the soap opera of Gen 38. They need to hear God’s wisdom for their lives. Continue reading

Emerging Monkery

monks.jpegOkay, I love the emerging church, but sometimes you guys make me shake my head in wonder. Call me old, call me a relic. Fine, I’ll take my lumps. But when young seminarians are told to stand in their evangelical seminary class and recite an Orthodox prayer, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me” over and over, in a droning unison, for at least five solid minutes, I gotta say something: Continue reading

HeavenQuake… (on LOIS PETERSON)

There was a high magnitude quake in the evangelistic spiritual realm over Chicago today. At its epicenter was the passing away of one of the finest evangelists I have ever known.

I first heard the name of Lois Peterson disdainfully–almost as if the speaker was spitting. She was not popular among the old guard at my church.

  • “I can’t believe that she lets people smoke at her Bible study.”
  • “A woman shouldn’t teach men.”
  • “She’s not under anybody’s authority.”
  • “She doesn’t believe in the old sin nature.”
  • “Her ear rings are too big.”
  • “She said ‘damn’.”

Others despised her for these reasons. The rest of us loved her for them.

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Welcome to a Pastor’s Weekend (a.k.a. Be Nice to Your Pastor)

I never take meetings on Fridays. It is the one day in my week totally devoted to preparation for preaching four times the coming weekend. I do some sermon prep every single day. But Friday is all for the sermon. Saturday afternoon too. Then on Saturday night I preach. Once on Saturday. Three times on Sunday.

Lesson 1: Don’t hassle your pastor after Thursday.

A sermon is like a bird that keeps on pecking at your head until you preach it. It’s a constant distraction. It’s similar to the feeling you had in college when you got behind in homework, and now assignments are piling up. You couldn’t do anything without thinking about those assignments. I don’t do anything all week long without thinking about my upcoming sermon. It just keeps pecking.

Lesson 2: Don’t ask your pastor how long it takes to prepare a sermon. He/she is always preparing a sermon. When people ask me that question, I answer, “My whole life.”

Before I preach I hunker down in my office and pray. I am not chatty. I am focused. I am nervous. I am on high alert. Warren Wiersbe, the great pastors’ pastor, who preached at the famous Moody Church in Chicago, wrote, “I wish I had a tunnel from my study to my pulpit.” I totally get that. Because the second I emerge from my office to walk to the auditorium, people start chatting with me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love people. I love the people of my church. And I truly enjoy hanging out and visiting with them. Chatting is a good thing.

Except during those pre-sermon moments when I’m so focused on the spiritual conflict ahead that it’s hard to chat about the weather, or to answer the question if I know where Erich is, or to explain what time an event on Tuesday is supposed to be finished and do they have childcare. Continue reading