In The Room Episode 3: Justin Taylor

On this episode of In The Room I'm talking with Justin Taylor. He's the author of multiple books, a trusted blogger and the Senior Vice President of Crossway Books. In our conversation we discuss the benefits and liabilities of social media, mistakes that Justin has made as a blogger, and whether, or not we really need "watch blogs." You can find Justin's blog here and follow him on Twitter here.

I’d love to hear the one thing that sticks with you from this week's episode. Join the conversation online using the hashtag #InTheRoom, or leave me a comment here on the blog. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to In The Room on iTunes and have it downloaded directly to your device as soon as it’s available. Thanks so much for listening!


Crafting Sermons That Cut Through The Noise

I think we can agree that in our current culture, you and I are inundated with information. Communication is constant, cluttered, and consuming. This poses a significant challenge for those of us who preach. How do we craft sermons in such a way that they cut through the noise?

Here are five suggestions:

1. Proclaim the authority of God’s Word and nothing else.

In Isaiah 55:10-11, God Himself promises us that His Word never returns void. Think about that! If you’ve preached God’s Word faithfully, you can rest knowing it has accomplished exactly what God wants. That promise doesn’t extend to our creativity, clever thoughts, or compelling illustrations. I’m NOT saying don’t incorporate those things into your sermon. I AM saying far too much of what we call “preaching” is light on the one thing we know contains power: the Word of God. 

2.  Prepare your guts out and don’t wing it.

The fact that God’s Word won’t return void shouldn’t make us prepare less, but more. We need to be sure we get it right. We need to explain, illustrate, and apply God’s Word with surgical precision. Our culture kills itself to prepare its sermons; should we prepare any less? We have the truth. We labor for eternity. The One we preach is worthy of our best. So, no winging it. Pray yourself hot, press deep into the text, and prepare the best sermon you can every time you’re blessed to preach.

3. Present the problem and preach the solution.

Every sermon should be the solution to a specific problem. I’ll give you a hint: the problem is always some manifestation of sin. It may be an issue of disbelief, an ungodly attitude, or a behavior that is contrary to God’s revealed will. Regardless, we focus the truth we proclaim when we identify the problem we’re addressing. Ears perk up when people realize God’s Word holds out hope for something that is causing them pain. 

4. Push on real issues and don’t stick to what’s safe.

The message of the Bible is beautiful, but it’s not pretty. One of the great things about God’s Word is the authentic way in which it speaks about life. It confronts our sin and calls us to repent. Sexuality, relationships, speech, money, politics…there is no subject God is afraid to force us to face. If we’re going to be faithful to the text, we have to say what it says. We can’t pull any punch or ignore any issue. If God has something to say about it, so must we. 

5. Preach to your actual audience and use their language.

Too much preaching is done in language that is either over the heads or beneath the intelligence of its listeners. Some sermons have so many Greek words or Christian cliches, the message is lost on the average listener. Other times we preach like our congregations are stupid and can’t handle the full weight of what the text says. No preacher would step into another country and ignore the language of that country. You’d either learn it or have it interpreted so the audience can understand. But are we doing this work in the context God has placed us in? Know the audience and talk to them.

Our message is too important for it to get lost in the noise. Let’s give our all to insure we’re preaching the right thing the right way. 

The Story Behind The Songs We Sing

One of the first things we think of when we think of Christmas is music. Love it or hate it, we all associate music with Christmas. Think about it, Christmas is the only season that has its own soundtrack.

Christmas-Carols-HD-Starting.jpg

Entire radio stations spring up each year devoted exclusively to running Christmas music into the ground. Four of the top 10 selling albums on iTunes this week were Christmas albums. Some people are so crazy for Christmas music they go caroling! What?! What other time of year is it socially acceptable to stand on someone's doorstep and sing to them?

There's just something about Christmas and music.

If we're honest, however, there's a bunch of songs we sing and don't really understand many of the words we're singing. When was the last time you used words like hark, gloria, or noel in a sentence? Um, the answer is NEVER. 

In fact, I gathered a highly qualified focus group recently to discuss our confusion with so many of the details of the Christmas story. Watch:

It's one thing that we don't know what a few words mean in a song; it's something altogether different when we forget the story these songs tell. 

To remedy this, I'm currently teaching a series called "Christmas Carols" at Redemption. It's all about the Story behind the songs we sing. My first sermon was from Luke 1:1-25, entitled "Trusting God's Promise." I focused on the examples of Zechariah and Elizabeth and how they teach us that our limitations, fears, and doubts can't hinder God's plan. 

I'd be honored if you'd listen.

In The Room Episode #2: Luke MacDonald & Andi Rozier of Vertical Church Band

For this episode of In The Room, I stopped by Harvest Bible Chapel to talk with Luke MacDonald and Andi Rozier, of Vertical Church Band. In our conversation we discussed the evolution of Vertical Church Music, what they’re encouraged and concerned about in the modern worship movement, and the upcoming release of their 3rd album “Church Songs” (Available 1.20.15).

I’d love to hear the one thing that sticks with you from this week's episode. Join the conversation online using the hashtag #InTheRoom, or leave me a comment here on the blog. Don’t forget, you can subscribe to In The Room on iTunes and have it downloaded directly to your device as soon as it’s available. Thanks so much for listening!

3 Ways You Can Help With #InTheRoom

It's been an amazing first few days for my new podcast In The Room! As I'm writing this, it's the #12 podcast in the Religion & Spirituality section, which almost makes my brain explode.

Thank you to everyone who has listened, provided feedback and helped me spread the word. I just wanted to let you know how it's doing and tell you about three ways you can help me with the podcast: 

1. Listen to episode #1 with Matt Chandler.

The most consistent piece of feedback I continue to hear this week surrounds how much wisdom Pastor Matt shares on the podcast. What he shares is so helpful for all Christians - not just other pastors.

2. Leave a review for me.

Reviews are one of the main components that iTunes uses to determine which podcasts receive increased visibility. They also help people determine if they will sacrifice their time and give a podcast a shot. So if you have a second, would you mind clicking over and leaving a review?

3. Let somebody else know about the podcast.

The BIGGEST way you can help is simply spreading the word. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Email, just telling people - it all helps. So, if you've enjoyed it and have a way to let someone else know about it, I'd appreciate really it. 

Thanks so much for all your help this week. We're in this together and I hope you'll find In The Room helpful. I love you and thanks again for your help!

5 Questions For Planning A Preaching Calendar

The Bible is surprisingly silent regarding many of the specifics surrounding pastoral ministry. Though it’s clear regarding WHAT we’re to do, the Bible is often quiet about HOW. How we carry out our preaching ministries is a great example of this.

The Bible doesn’t tell us how many weeks out of the year we should preach, how long our sermons should be, nor what specific form our sermons should take (i.e. expositional, topical, etc.).

The Bible also doesn’t tell us how to plan a preaching calendar. A Facebook friend reached out to me recently asking how I plan my preaching calendar. To be honest, I’ve never thought about my process. Since this is another area about which the Bible is quiet, there is room for many different approaches. What I realized in thinking through my process is that my preaching calendar is the result of answering five questions:

1. What type of preacher am I?

Some pastors preach 52 weeks out of the year, others are a part of a teaching team and don’t even preach half that many. Some preachers prefer long series through entire books, while others are more suited to shorter textual, or topical preaching.  

On average I preach between 40 and 45 times a year. I do better with shorter series through chunks of a book rather than long series through entire books. I find topical preaching terribly difficult and do best with one primary text. You have to know these things about yourself before you can plot a productive preaching calendar.

2. What are the special days?

There are holidays and strategic Sundays you may want to take advantage of. Christmas and Easter are obvious, but Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and others present us with unique opportunities to shepherd in focused areas. 

My first step in planning the preaching calendar is typically to identify where the days land and what, if any influence they will have on what I preach those weekends. 

3. What is gripping my heart?

God is always doing something in you and me. As Christians, we must be mindful of this so we can work in conjunction with God’s Spirit in our own sanctification. If you’re a preacher, God may mean at least some of what He’s doing in you to benefit your church as well. 

Many of the series I teach are the result of a text that haunts me, sometimes for weeks on end. Other times, I read a book on a particular topic that is especially formative and know that it’s something that would be helpful for Redemption as well. Consider what God is currently doing in you, as He may want to do the same thing in His people through your preaching.

4. What do our people need?

Every church is different. The spiritual maturity of your church may be different from the spiritual maturity of mine. There may be theological issues people need clarification on. Maybe there is a particular area of Christian practice where people need instruction. The epistles are great examples to us of good pastors having a pulse on what God’s people needed to hear.

Two ways I gauge this are questions and prayer requests. I pay attention to the questions I’m asked after services and in counseling. Similarly, I read through all our prayer requests that come in on Sundays and look for areas of doubt, discouragement, or disappointment that seem to be common. If themes appear, I preach into them. Regardless of our means, we all need to have some pulse on these issues. 

5. What haven’t I preached? 

In Acts 20:27, Paul tells the Ephesian elders, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” It’s bad form and pastoral negligence when preachers only preach to their pet issues. God’s Book is big and has lots to say. That means that our preaching should be diverse and cover a wide range of topics. 

As much as possible, I try not to preach the same text over and over. If I’m preaching on generosity and have already preached from 2 Corinthians 8 on the topic, I will choose another text to preach from. I know this will get harder the longer I preach, but I want to teach as much of God’s Word as possible so that I, too, am benefitting from the full counsel of God.

There are no set rules for how far out you should plan. I used to do 12 months but found that to be too much. By the time I was six months into the calendar, I was changing stuff. This is how I learned that being about six months out is best for me personally. 

Your process will be determined by what works for you. Preach Christ from God’s Word week in and week out and everything will work out:-) I hope these questions are helpful and aid you in your pursuit of teaching the full counsel of God.

In The Room Episode 1: Matt Chandler

Matt Chandler is the Lead Pastor of The Village Church in Dallas, TX and President of the Acts 29 Network. Matt is one of the most downloaded preachers on iTunes and one of those rare leaders with increasing influence across multiple tribes. In our conversation, Matt discusses why he believes he’s able to speak to audiences so directly and still be so loved. We talk about what aspect of his preaching young preachers should NOT replicate, as well as the difficulty of discussing sexuality as a Christian in culture. I'd love to hear your feedback, so join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #InTheRoom, or leave me a comment. If you'd like #InTheRoom downloaded directly to your device when new episodes release, you can subscribe here...

 

7 Things I'm Thankful For Today

"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him...abounding in thanksgiving." 

Colossians 2:6-7

1. A God who faithful even when I'm not.

2. A wife to love, laugh and live life with.

3. A quiver of healthy and hilarious kids.

4. A pulpit from which to preach God's Word.

5. A church filled with people who call me "pastor."

6. A mission to give my life to. 

7. A wealth of loyal, loving friends who stretch me. 

What are some things you're thankful for today?

#InTheRoom Podcast

I have a new project I’m SO excited about and want to invite you in to! Beginning Monday, December 1, I’m hosting a bi-monthly (which I think means twice a month??) podcast called #InTheRoom

 

The concept is simple: I want to bring you into the room with pastors, authors and artists for conversations about the craft of ministry. This is a project I’ve thought a lot about. While there is much I’m still trying to figure out, here are three values you can count on from #InTheRoom

1. Authenticity

These are real conversations with real leaders about real issues. I’m not after canned principles that sound great on paper, but fall sadly short in practice. It won’t be scripted and the only thing I’ll ever edit may be my stuttering attempt at asking a coherent question:-).

2. Diversity

I have a deep conviction that I have something to learn from everyone. Regardless of tribe, philosophy, or strategy - if you’re making disciples of Jesus, I want hear about how you’re doing it. I want to talk with people I may not agree with on every issue (let’s be honest - do any of us agree with anyone on every issue?) because I want to be challenged, stretched, and grown.

3. Vulnerability

I don’t just want answers to the same five questions every leader gets asked on every conference panel. I’m striving for a look behind the curtain of each guest's heart, mind, and ministry. I’m not interested in just stories of success. I want to hear about fear, failure, and the grace of God that is sufficient for all.

So here’s my big ask: Will you listen to the first episode and help me spread the word? 

My first guest is Pastor Matt Chandler and it’s packed full of awesome. I promise you’ll be blessed by so much of what Matt has to share. 

Email, tweet, Facebook, Instagram, homing pigeon…use whatever means you want, but help me get the word out. To join the conversation online, just use the hashtag #InTheRoom. I’m excited about how God’s going to use this podcast in my life and yours. So make a note - Monday December 1. I’m looking forward to having you #InTheRoom!

3 Healing Reminders When the Holidays Are Hard

The holidays are hard.

Finances are stretched, relationships are strained, and emotions are often sensitive. As a result, the holidays are frequently a difficult season, rather than the joyful one we’re pressured to project. 

Maybe you have no idea how you’re going to afford Thanksgiving dinner, or Christmas gifts this year. Maybe you’re dreading the inevitable conflict with a contentious family member. Maybe you’re increasingly aware of the residual pain of a loved one lost. 

If the holidays are hard for you, I want to give you three healing reminders…

1. Jesus is with you.

This can be a lonely time of year for many. It seems all you see are happy couples, happy families, happy friends celebrating together. The holidays also increase our awareness of how much we miss loved ones who have passed away. If you’re feeling lonely this year, listen to the words of Hebrews 13:5:

“I will never leave you; never will I forsake you.”  

What you feel doesn’t dictate what’s real. You are NOT alone. Jesus is with you. 

2. Jesus gets it.


Jesus knows what it is to have conflict with family. Jesus knows the pain of loved ones lost. Jesus knows what it is to be stretched thin, even overwhelmed. Hebrews 4:15 says,

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” 

Because Jesus has experienced what we have, He can empathize with us as well. There is no pain that Jesus is not intimately familiar with. You may feel misunderstood by everyone, but if anyone gets you, it’s Jesus. He understands how you feel, so draw near to Him. 

3. Jesus is sufficient. 

It’s great that Jesus is with you, even better that He understands, but the real question is, “Can Jesus do anything about it?” My opinion on that doesn’t matter. Listen to what Jesus Himself says:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor.12:9) 

Regardless of where you are, what you’re going through, or how you’re feeling, Jesus is sufficient for you - He’s enough! He can comfort, heal, sustain, forgive, and set you free. 

Jesus’ power is not in question.

Jesus is with you.

Jesus gets it.

Jesus is sufficient.

The question is, will you draw near to His throne to receive the grace you need to endure, maybe even enjoy this holiday season?  

Captains Of A Sinking Ship

There has been an unfortunate trend within Christianity these past couple of decades. An increasing number of us have a deep desire to assimilate into culture rather than stand as a refuge of hope outside of it. 

Understand, I’m not saying we should all move into the woods, burn our secular music (anyone else do that when they were young?), or stop watching movies. I am saying that we need to get honest about the desires of our hearts. 

Many of us want to live like, look like, and sound just like our culture SO THAT we will be respected and accepted by it. That’s like wanting to be captains of a sinking ship.

When the Titanic struck an iceberg and began to sink, people were scrambling around doing lots of things, but there was one thing nobody was doing: posturing to be captain of the ship. Their only concern was getting off the ship and for some, to help as many others as possible do the same. 

In the same way, our concern shouldn’t be ego-boosting influence within the culture. Our culture is in opposition to God and will thus sink just like the Titanic. Our concern should be having and helping others experience peace with God and that’s impossible to do AND be universally accepted by a culture in opposition to God. 

In Luke 6:26 Jesus said, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to false prophets.” Here’s an important point:

If no one speaks well of you, you may be a jerk. If everyone speaks well of you, you’re not living like Jesus. 

So whose pleasure and approval will you live for today? Will you seek the approval of the sinking ship of our culture or the approval of our sovereign God? Culture will sink, God will not. Let’s be sure we’re seeking the right approval. 

How True Change Happens

In our house, it's my job to take the garbage to the curb on Monday mornings. On more than one occasion in the summer months, I’ve walked outside to find both the inside and the outside of my garbage can covered in…

Wait for it…

MAGGOTS. 

If you’ve never experienced this, I don’t even have the words to describe just how disgusting it truly is. It smells horrible, looks horrible and believe it or, not, sounds horrible as you can hear them sliming all over one another. (Still reading? I know it’s gross, but I have a point…)

Let’s say I grab my hose and spray off the outside of the can and don’t do anything about what has caused the real problem on the inside. What’s going to happen? Within moments the can will be covered again because what’s on the outside came from the inside. Sin is the same way. 

In Matthew 23:25-28 Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for projecting pure lives apart from pursuing pure hearts. We do the same thing. We go to painful lengths in order to project that we are righteous people. We go to church, tweet a verse from our quiet time, give generously, serve sacrificially and live in community with other believers. Understand, those are all good things, but Jesus said we can succeed in all those things and still miss what matters most - our hearts. 

Sin is a problem of the heart (Matthew 15:18-19). The reason you and I do what we do - the reason we struggle with pride, deceit, anger, lust, gluttony, and laziness - is because our hearts are poisoned by sin. This is why any solution to sin and its fruits that does not address the heart is entirely unhelpful. We’re not sinners because we sin, we sin because we’re sinners (Ephesians 2:3). 

So, how do we move from external obedience to internal transformation? Simple: Only the perfect blood of Christ purifies our hearts. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

The more we press into the purifying work of Christ, the more we change - from the inside out.

 

The Battle Continues

“It is finished.”

Those may be the three most life-changing, sin-destroying, and eternity-altering words in the Bible. 

Having lived a sinless life Himself, Jesus took the sins of the world upon His own shoulders and died the death that we deserved, in order to give us the life we didn’t. As He humbly hung and breathed His last, He uttered these three words of victory - “It is finished.” There is no more price to be paid. There is no more atonement needed. Jesus paid to purify our hearts and lives because we could not. But don’t miss this: 

When Jesus said “It is finished,” He was speaking of the war, not the battle. 

Christians are called to kill the sin that Jesus has conquered. Jesus dealt the decisive and devastating blow to our sin, but a battle still rages and we must fight. We’re to work, toil and strive to suffocate our sin.

Sadly, too many Christians cry about sin and its effects but give zero effort to actually killing it. In fact, it seems we do nearly everything other than kill our sin

So, what would it look like for you to go to war on your sin today? Prayer, God’s Word, and Biblical community are all weapons God’s called us to wield in our war on sin. The war has been won, the battle continues. The question is, will you take up these weapons and follow the Spirit of God into this battle? 

What Do You Champion?

We’re all champions of something. I don’t mean in an athletic sense. A champion is a person who fights for a cause, product, or way of doing something. We’re all champions of something, the question is “what”?

In Matthew 5:9 Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” So according to Jesus:

The children of God are champions of peace.

A peacemaker is someone who strives to live peaceably and pursue peace at every opportunity. Notice, there’s an active and a passive component to peacemaking. Let’s start with the passive component…

Peacemakers Are Peaceable.

To use a biblical term, a peacemaker is NOT “quarrelsome.” In 1 Timothy 3:3 Paul says elders aren’t to be “quarrelsome.” So to be peaceable means to be un-hostile, or inclined and predisposed to peace. Peacemakers aren’t looking for a fight all the time.

We all know someone who is always looking for a fight. Social media is filled with people like this - quarrelsome, cheerless, combative people. You could post a picture of kittens and sunshine and they’re like, “Really? Kittens and sunshine? I like puppies and rain.” Maybe you live with a person like this. Maybe you are a person like this. This kind of combative attitude is the opposite of being a peacemaker. Peacemakers strive to live peaceably. 

Let me qualify this by saying that living peaceably doesn’t mean you live a life of appeasement. Appeasement seeks to sweep things under the rug so as to avoid conflict. Being peaceable doesn’t mean you avoid conflict, it simply means you don’t go looking for it. 

Peacemakers are peaceable. 

Peacemakers Pursue Peace.

Notice Jesus doesn’t say, “Blessed are the peacekeepers.” He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Peacemakers try to live at peace, but they also try to make peace in relationships that are broken and fight for peace in the world. 

I had a conversation after preaching a few weeks ago with someone struggling through a relationship with lots of conflict. They loved this other person, but there had been no communication for a while and they weren’t sure how to initiate it after such a long time. We came up with a little plan, covered the plan in prayer, and they set out to put it into action.

That’s peacemaking. 

Where is your peacemaking opportunity today? Maybe you have an opportunity to ask God for the grace to live more peaceably. Less combative, more kind. Less aggressive, more loving. Maybe  you have an opportunity to pursue peace. Maybe you need to apologize to someone, or initiate reconciliation. Maybe you have an opportunity to mediate peace between two friends. 

The children of God are champions of peace. Let’s remember the peace we’ve been given by God and pursue the peacemaking Jesus has called us to.

Talk Less. Listen More.

One of the BEST things about the social media is how it gives everyone a voice. One of the WORST things about social media is how it gives everyone a voice. Social media has made it so easy for you and I to rip off a tweet, status update, or blog post about every passing opinion that goes through our minds. As a result, we do lots of talking and little listening in our culture.  

James 1:19 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” This verse is an indictment against the way we’re to prone to live and behave, especially in our culture of 24-hour news cycles and social media. We form fast, strong opinions that we spout despite having painfully limited information. 

I don’t know about you, but my feeds are filled with everyone sharing their “two cents” about complex political issues, celebrity shortcomings, and situations surrounding visible Christian leaders. Understand, I don’t have a problem with opinions and public debate. What I think we should all have a problem with are opinions formed without first-hand information. 

If we’re not careful, we end up fueling a fire we’re called to extinguish. This is what happens when we’re slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to get angry. The more we talk, the less we listen. The less we listen, the more we’re liable to harm. We harm by hurling insults and we harm by repeating information that harms. Christians are called to be peacemakers. So, as a general rule, if it doesn’t build up, it shouldn’t be on our lips. 

So, what if we spoke less and listened more today? What if we dug deeper and sought to understand, before we labored to be understood? Would it really break the internet to have one less post about about Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick, or whatever other leader is in our collective crosshairs this week? 

This doesn’t mean we don’t learn from what’s happening around us or engage the larger conversation happening within Christianity. The Bible simply demands that our speech build up rather than tear down. We need to ask ourselves...

  • Am I trying to build up, or tear down?
  • Is this true?
  • Do I know for a fact?
  • Am I the person to say this?
  • What am I trying to accomplish?
  • Does this glorify God?

We have to ask these questions. I suck at it but today I want to listen more than I talk and seek to understand more than I seek to be understood. Join me?

A Reminder Of Who We Preach

It's easy as a preacher to get "up in your head" while preaching. Here's an important reminder of who we preach from my good friend, Pastor James MacDonald...

"In order for God’s voice to move through a human mouthpiece, that person must have a true sense of Who the sermon is about, which begins with a clear understanding of whom it is not about. We have all seen the preacher who is so self-conscious that the voice of God is lost. Do you like me? Do you think I am interesting? Am I keeping your attention? Did you find that humorous? Am I pushing you too hard? Are you glad you’re here? Will you come back next week? Have I spoken too long? Am I doing a good job? When such issues of insecurity plague the mind of the preacher ad nauseam, God’s voice in the sermon is silenced. Nothing stifles the Vertical thunder like a horizontal preacher full of insecurities because he sees his role larger than it actually is. A favorite story I have known so long that I lost the source involves C. H. Spurgeon working with a group of young preachers and one in particular who was handsome, articulate, and very self-inflated. When his turn to preach came, he bounced to his feet and bounded up the steps with great energy, wanting the giant Spurgeon to sense his enthusiasm as he entered the pulpit. Early in his sermon, however, the gifted novice fumbled his notes, floundered at regaining his composure, and failed to even finish what he had begun. Quietly he stooped to recover his fallen paper and bowed his head as he slipped from the stage and snuck to his seat, brushing back a tear. Turning to him, Spurgeon said, 'If you had gone up the way you came down, you could have come down the way you went up.' Bam, I love that story! It reminds me of Paul’s instruction to all preachers: 'For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.'" 

From "Vertical Church: What Every Heart Longs For. What Every Church Can Be."

 

The Promise of Seeing Jesus

The power of a promise is an amazing thing. Think about it…

The promise of dessert has the power to get my kids to eat dinner. The promise of graduation has the power to help many students endure difficult seasons of education. The promise of promotion has the power to cause people to pursue excellence in their workplaces. The promise of a new mobile device has the power to cause us to hate a perfectly good mobile device we already own. The promise of weight loss has the power to woo us into horrible things like juice fasts and wheat-less diets.

Few things have more power than a good promise. The Bible is filled with promises. The Bible promises that one day Christ will return and restore all things to the perfect condition in which they were created. On that day Revelation 22:4 promises us that we will “see His face.” That may seem insignificant, even anti-climatic to you, but let me tell you why I think that may be the most significant promise in Scripture.

When you look into the face of Jesus, every ounce of pain will pass away.

When you look into the face of Jesus, all the doubt and disappointment will disappear.

When you look into the face of Jesus, the clouds of confusion that consume so much of this life will finally clear.

No wonder Jesus said true happiness was tied to seeing God (Matthew 5:8). As it turns out, the thing we’re all looking for is what we’ll only experience when we look into the face of Jesus. 

The promise of seeing Jesus should have great power in our lives. This promise should encourage us, inspire us, motivate us, humble us, and give us a deep hope of better things to come. Christ is coming, Christian, and on that day you will see His face. In that moment, all seasons, experiences, and problems that seemed so significant will be eclipsed against the backdrop of seeing Jesus’ face . . . I promise. 

Stop Serving Jesus Like It's Jury Duty

It is one of my greatest dreads: going to the mail box and finding that horrible little card informing me that I have been selected for jury duty. They might as well write, “You’ve been chosen to have all joy sucked from your life on this date.” No one wakes up on a Tuesday thinking, “I really wish I could be selected to sit in a uncomfortable box and make $17 a day to listen to people argue.”  Nobody serves jury duty because they want to; we serve jury duty because we have to. 

The problem is, many of us serve Jesus the same way. 

Often you and I serve God more out of duty than delight and as a result, dishonor God and miss out on the joy of obeying Him. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

That word “righteousness” is used a couple different ways in the New Testament. For instance, when the Apostle Paul uses it, he does so most often as a synonym for “justification”, the instantaneous act of God declaring us forgiven of sin and righteous by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. However, Jesus doesn’t use this word that way even one time in the gospel of Matthew. When Jesus uses the word “righteous”, He’s talking about obeying God’s will God’s way. Now, notice that righteousness has two parts.

1. Righteousness means obeying God’s will.

This is pretty straightforward, right? To obey God’s will means we do what He says to do and we don’t do what He says not to do. But, that’s not the totality of the righteousness prescribed by Jesus.

2. Righteousness means obeying God’s will God’s way.

This means we obey God out of love and delight rather than out of begrudging duty. One of the things we’re trying to teach our kids at our house is to obey right away, all the way, with a right attitude. That’s what Jesus longs for from you and me: immediate, complete, and willing obedience. 

God doesn’t just want your obedience, He wants your heart. Righteousness is obeying God’s will God’s way. Until we obey God’s will because we want to, because we love God and want to trust and serve Him, our lives may appear righteous, but God sees otherwise. We need to repent of doing even the right thing the wrong way.  We need to stop serving Jesus like we do jury duty and start serving Him out of the love and delight that He delivers by grace.

The Need For Renewed Preaching

Friday is the day many preachers are sitting down to do the difficult work of writing yet another sermon. I'm familiar with the thoughts that pervade our prep: "Is this going to come together? Does it even make any difference? Will God use my imperfect preaching to accomplish His perfect will?"

Despite the questions and doubts, we sit at our keyboards today and pound out our best attempts at a clear, concise and compelling sermon. If you're a preacher like me, allow this inspiring reminder from Lloyd-Jones of the importance of our task to fuel your efforts today:

“Is it not clear, as you take a bird’s-eye view of Church history., that the decadent periods and eras in the history of the Church have always been those periods when preaching had declined? What is it that always heralds the dawn of a Reformation or of a Revival? It is renewed preaching. Not only a new interest in preaching but a new kind of preaching. A revival of true preaching has always heralded these great movements in the history of the Church. And, of course, when the Reformation and the Revival come they have always led to great and notable periods of the greatest preaching the Church has ever known.” 

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones from Preaching & Preachers

 

What are you preaching this weekend? I'd love to pray for you...

 

Want John Piper To Teach You To Study The Bible?

Like many, I've always loved the preaching of Pastor John Piper. He inspires me as a preacher, theologian, and writer. More than anything else, Pastor John has helped me love to study the Bible. This is why I was so excited to hear him say that he wanted to give the remainder of his life and ministry to helping people learn to the study the Bible for themselves. The result of this vision is Look At The Book

Look At The Book is a collection of 8-12 minute video labs in which the camera is on the text, not the teacher, and Pastor John walks us through his own meditation on the text. I've watched a few of these and found them to be instructive, informative, and inspiring. I'd highly encourage you to check out this important project. You will benefit richly.

To get you started here is a short meditation on Luke 12:32.