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Though I've stood and preached many times, the act of delivering a sermon is never routine. Every message is its own opportunity. There have been times when I've felt less engaged than I ought, times when preaching felt more like work than it did worship. But it's when my eyes look up from the text, and meet those of my hearers, that the task I'm engaged in becomes clear. In those moments I realize that my voice is the vehicle by which God's Word is transmitted to open ears. The Scriptures make hearers hungry. The The pulpit makes preachers humble.
Two powerful words show up in Scripture: But God. The first indicates a contrast. The second names the one who has acted in a different way. These words appear early in the biblical story. God destroys an evil world with a flood. But God remembered Noah and those who would be saved in the ark. The words appear again in a first-century letter to a church. At times–though rare–people will sacrifice themselves to save the life of a worthy individual. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
Why do I want to write? Good question. The funny thing is, there was a time when I hated reading and writing. Now I am drawn to both subjects. The best answer I can give as to why I want to write is that I want to be able put my thoughts into words. It's about the process as well as he result. I want to be able to write, and when finished say, “That's what I was thinking about. That's what I wanted to say.” Writing is a vehicle for expression. Now to find someone who will read it.
I'm not resolved. Not the way that Jonathan Edwards was. I was reading about Edward's resolutions today. These were the guardrails this man of God placed upon his life in order to live out his calling in Christ and to maximize God's glory. Edwards prioritized not only the spiritual disciplines, but the results he hoped those disciplines might achieve. As I think about the disciplines I would like to see in my life, perhaps I need to rethink my strategy. The disciplines must not serve themselves, but rather the higher purpose of knowing God and walking in obedience to Christ.
Writing is hard. The hardest part is the initial idea. It's that first bite that gives the most trouble. Sometimes you take a bite, chew, and immediately wish to spit it out. The subject matter not only has to capture the interest of the reader (if anyone actually reads it), it has to grab the writer too, the one who tends to offer the harshest criticisms. Unless the writer's own story is worth retelling, the idea needs to be seasoned with enough creativity and imagination. Not too much flavor. Just enough to leave an aftertaste that leads to another bite.
I was singing today and my voice is now tired. It's nothing a little rest won't cure in time. But if I tried to sing now, it wouldn't sound very good. It would be very obvious that my voice lacks power. But God's voice is full of power. That's what Psalm 29:4 (ESV) says, “The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” My voice can do a lot of things, and it can even be loud, but that's not the same thing as power. When God speaks, He speaks with true power.
Sleep is a wonderful thing. At the end of the day sleep is a welcome reward. Morning will come and the day with its worries will follow. Asleep we are in our most vulnerable state. Our guard is completely down. We trust that the world will be where we left it when we put head to pillow, and that no one will trouble us while we rest. Like Jesus asleep in the boat in the midst of the storm, so too can I rest in the sovereignty of God no matter what's happening around me when my eyes are closed.
This year one of my goals is to read the ESV Study Bible. Not just the biblical text, but the notes, articles, and helps too. So far, in reading the introductory material my first take away is this: the Bible is a complex work. I don't necessarily mean that it's complicated (though some portions are challenging to understand). I mean the Bible is a work that is not only sacred text, it's literature, history, law, art, and more. This is understandly so as the Scripures are the revelation of a complex (yet knowable) God. I am eager to read on.
Sunday. On most calendars it's the first day of the week. For me, it's the day that the week leads up to. My wall calendar starts with Monday. As a pastor I spend my week preparing for Sunday. By the end of the week I have thought through every minute of Sunday morning. Now imagine what it would be like if every churchgoer did that? Not from a pastor's perspective but from that of a worshiper. Rather than show up and participate, what if the average church member took the week to anticipate what was coming Sunday? What might happen?