Posts Tagged ‘hope’

comfort

My late wife and friend, Patricia, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. After many surgeries and over a year’s worth of chemotherapy, she went into remission. In August of 2006, she complained of chest pain and went to the doctor. She had a chest x-ray done which discovered that the breast cancer had metastasized to her lungs and chest wall. After seeing her oncologist that treated her the first time, he told her this time it was much worse and that this cancer now is of the terminal kind. In January 2007, her oncologist gave her 8-12 months. In August of 2007, she was still here, and was doing her best to keep on living!

I have always wondered why she had cancer. I have always wondered why it has affected me so much. I have heard of others with cancer, Lance Armstrong for one, who has continued to “beat” cancer. Then there are those I’ve known who haven’t won over cancer, my mother, a real good friend named Bill, and countless others.

Then a friend of mind named Jim sent me a reply to a message I sent him regarding a bulletin he sent about his daughter reporting that her friend Hillary had “beat” cancer. It was about her receiving a “wish” from the Make a Wish Foundation. Her wish was to care for some children in a third world country. Her wish came true.

In his reply, he said that my family was “sharing in Christ’s sufferings.” I was taken aback from his reply; I was kind of hurt by that statement. I asked God, “how is Pat being sick sharing in Christ’s sufferings?” How can that be? Then prompted by the Holy Spirit, I looked up the passage, Philippians 3:10, which says, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.”

Did God make her suffer? Did God give her the same cancer – twice? What I came to understand was that God had given her Himself; God was very present with her. He was a God of mystery to her; yet now she knows He is the God of all comfort. She knows that now with Him in heaven. Moreover, I know this now…however much it hurts me inside to actualize the reality that any kind of suffering we experience, Christ suffered the same on the Cross.

Isaiah 53:3-5 explains it, “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

I really know this now. I know this experientially. I feel that most people don’t know this until it actually happens to them. At least, that is how I feel about it myself.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

Through my friend’s words, God’s Spirit touched my heart, and even though I weep at this knowledge, I am comforted as never before. I am comforted knowing that God had compassion on Patricia. He had compassion on even me! God has compassion toward all of His creation. I feel that God may be enabling me to help others to see the compassion of God in times like these, when they are fearful, hurting, doubtful and in despair. Pat went to be with the Lord eleven years ago, July 29th, 2008.

Save

Save

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What is fear? The dictionary says fear is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.

Psychology Today says, “Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. However, often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Traumas or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell.”

What do we fear? For example, there is the fear of man, fear of heights, fear of animals, fear of punishment, fear of death, fear of the unknown, fear of the devil, and the fear of God.

Fear first strikes in the mind. Fear then attacks the soul. Those without God cannot defeat fear.

The born again believer in Jesus Christ can defeat fear. However, for the believer in Jesus Christ, we must qualify what is legitimate fear.

Legitimate Fear

We must fear God. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalms 111:10 ESV)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10 NIV)

“But I will show you the One to fear: Fear Him who has authority to throw people into hell after death. Yes, I say to you, this is the One to fear!” (Luke 12:5 HCSB)

We must fear the Day of Judgment. “Just as human beings have to die once, but after this comes judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27 CJB)

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11 ESV)

“In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment, for we are as He is in this world. There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:17-19 HCSB)

We should not fear punishment, because if we are followers of Jesus, we know He took upon Himself the punishment for sin reserved for us.

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:14-16 NIV)

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human, who gave Himself–a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6 HCSB)

We should not fear death because Jesus died for us, and was raised from the dead and thereby defeated death. “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV)

“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22 HCSB)

Facing Fear

The believer in Jesus Christ must discern when they are fearful, whether or not their fear is legitimate. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)

A believer can legitimately become afraid for very good reasons. However, if there is no legitimate reason to fear, like the near miss of a car accident, or your child falls and hurts themselves, and thoughts begin to enter your mind that are contrary to the nature, character, and the promises of God and what you know is true in your heart, then the fear is coming from something else. That fear could be a demon lying to you.

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Timothy 4:1-2 NKJV)

There are lying spirits. “Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The LORD said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the LORD said, ‘You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.’” (1 Kings 22:21-22 NKJV) For a spirit to lie to a believer, God has to give it permission to do so.

Sometimes, these lying spirits are demons that inflict fear. “His servants said to him, “We know that an evil spirit sent by God is tormenting you.” (1 Samuel 16:15 GNB)

These lying spirits are used for the testing of our faith, “At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One.” (Ephesians 6:16 GNB)

Sometimes, God can use demons or spirits to aid in the process of sanctification, “Therefore, to keep me from becoming overly proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from the Adversary to pound away at me, so that I wouldn’t grow conceited.” (2 Corinthians 12:7 CJB)

Fear and faith are totally opposite from one another. We must always trust in and rely upon God to be there for us. If we do not, we will invariably become afraid. “So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6 ESV)

Therefore, the enemy, a demon can lie to us, saying there is no hope, or the outcome is dim. We know this is not from God, for God tells us our hope and salvation is in Him, and He will deliver us from evil. “And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13 NRSV)

We must believe God, and trust in His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. “”Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1 NASB)

We cannot truly know God without treasuring Jesus in our hearts. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13 NASB)

Defeating Fear

Negative thoughts come from either our own fleshly minds or an evil, deceitful, lying spirit. These negative thoughts create anxiety. We can become fearful and even terrified. These thoughts could be called, fiery darts or arrows, missiles, or seem like javelins aimed at our hearts to unsettle us. Fear can lead to anxiety. Therefore, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

Finally, we must be strong in the power of His might! We must trust in God through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, because “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 NASB)

Rejoice! In Jesus Christ, we have overcome the evil one and all his minions!

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Social Media – A Tool for Ministry

For atleast the past 10 years, I have discovered and now believe that Social Media is a powerful tool for ministry. Posting on social media sites has allowed me to be salt and light to a lost and dying world by reaching those people who may never visit a community of faith.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)

social-media

Through the use of social media many people can be touched with the Gospel. Social media is an influential tool.

Let’s take for example how I use my Twitter account. I post short Gospel messages each day with a link to The Story.

The Story is an online booklet containing content and design that was created for the believer and unbeliever, to clearly present the Gospel of Jesus. ViewTheStory.com, the online version, was setup for churches, ministires, and individuals to embed on their website. Spread The Truth ministries created the online version specifically for churches, but anyone can use it as a tool to share the Good News.

Each day I post on my Twitter feed anywhere from 8-10 little messages with links to The Story. Each day I check my dashboard at ViewTheStory.com to see how many visits and views were made to the online booklet. So far since September of 2012, there have been 3,247 all time views, and 2,988 all time unique visitors to the link sponsored by Symphony Ministries. Last month a total of 731 people visited and viewed The Story, the Good News of Jesus Christ. I am amazed at the response, and have prayed that of the three thousand people who visited The Story that many of them received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

There are other social media or media outlets that I use to spread the Gospel message. I have learned many things in this Communication in Ministry course related to communicating the Gospel. The main thing I have learned is that when we give a clear, concise, honest, presentation of the Gospel message, it will help the listener or viewer to respond to God’s call to salvation. For that, I am very thankful.

 

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A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

The short book entitled “A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis relates how the author joined the human race when his wife and spirited poet, Joy Gresham, died of cancer. Lewis, the Oxford professor whose Christian apologetics make it seem like he’s got an answer for everything, experienced crushing doubt for the first time during her illness and after his wife’s tragic death. A Grief Observed contains meaningful reflections on that period: “Your bid–for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity–will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high,” Lewis writes. “Nothing will shake a man–or at any rate a man like me–out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.”

This is the book that inspired the film Shadowlands but it is more wrenching, more revelatory, and more real than the movie. It is a beautiful and unflinchingly honest record of how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings.

Although this book is non-fiction it is written like the author of so many famous books of fiction can write.  Yet, from a very personal standpoint, Lewis comes to grips with the reality of terminal illness.  It is always from the viewpoint of “this can’t be happening to me!”  He goes through stages of denial, first of the illness itself, and second of the untimely death of his wife.  Sharing his feelings with her son was very hard for Lewis.  Lewis and Joy’s son Douglas became very close.  The relationship started because he enjoyed reading Lewis’ classics.  Douglas truly admired and respected Lewis. Lewis was always the professor and statesman, and always had that stiff upper lip of the Englishman.  But when it came down to facing his feelings, Lewis was the first to really get in touch with them.  His wife, Joy, helped him get through the times of unknowing before she died.  Lewis and Douglas grew very fond of each other and mourned the loss of Joy together, arm in arm.

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Joy was very warm and caring toward him during her therapy and temporary recovery.  She insisted on spending as much time with Lewis as possible.  They basically did everything together.  What is really touching about this story is what became of their marriage, and the reason why they married in the first place.

From the first meeting of Lewis, Joy Gresham, and her son Douglas, the beginning of their lasting friendship, through the courtship that took many years, A Grief Observed blends the two worlds or cultures of American values and those of the British.  The book brings you into the heart of Lewis like no other book he had written.  When you finish this book, your heart will be warmed and your mind will rest assured of the possibility of loving someone so deeply as to suffer more than the one who is sick.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is going through the illness of a loved one, especially if he or she has been diagnosed as terminal.

Westminster

The Westminster Creed

I believe man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever;
I believe God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being,
wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth;

I believe there is but one true and living God;
that there are three persons in the Godhead:
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;
and that these three are one God,
the same in substance, equal in power and glory;

I believe God has foreordained whatever comes to pass;
that God made all things of nothing,
by the word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good;
and that God preserves and governs all His creatures and all their actions.

I believe our first parents, though created in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness,
sinned against God, by eating the forbidden fruit;
and that their fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery;

I believe God determined, out of His mere good pleasure,
to deliver His elect out of the estate of sin and misery,
and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer;
I believe the only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ,
Who, being the eternal Son of God, became man,
and so was, and continues to be,
God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever;

I believe Christ, as our Redeemer,
executes the office of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king.

I believe Christ as our Redeemer underwent the miseries of this life,
the wrath of God, the cursed death of the cross, and burial;
He rose again from the dead on the third day, ascended up into heaven,
sits at the right hand of God, the Father,
and is coming to judge the world at the last day.

I believe we are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ,
by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit;

I believe God requires of us faith in Jesus Christ,
and repentance unto life to escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin;

I believe by His free grace we are effectually called, justified, and sanctified,
and gathered into the visible church, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation;

I believe that we also are given in this life such accompanying benefits
as assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost,
increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end;
that at death, we are made perfect in holiness, and immediately pass into glory;
and our bodies, being still united in Christ, rest in their graves, till the resurrection;
and at the resurrection, we shall be raised up in glory,
we shall openly be acknowledged and acquitted in the day of judgment,
and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity.

~ adapted from the 17th century Westminster Shorter Catechism

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Thoughts after Resurrection Sunday: Jesus Christ, the Power of God

Remember how the Roman Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate approved a military guard for a cemetery plot and how they took pains to seal the stone to permanently close the tomb of Jesus? That was Pilate’s final word to Jesus, whom he had interrogated earlier that day. During that trial, Pilate and Jesus touched the third rail of worldly politics: Power. Pilate denied that power must be based on truth. Power was his to wield as he decided.

Jesus insisted on the primacy of Truth and that there was only one Power in the world: God’s. All other power was either delegated or allowed until the time of judgment, which rested in the hands of no magistrate, no emperor, no Supreme Court, but in God Almighty. Pilate had no power over Jesus that had not been given to him. And Pilate had no power over the Tomb-although he thought otherwise.

Those wielding power may mistakenly forget about the primacy of truth. When Jesus was questioned by Caiaphas about his teachings, he said, “Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me, what I said to them; they know what I said.” A soldier struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the High Priest?” The soldier used power, trying to coerce Jesus, who had noted that truth could be found in the testimony of others about him.
Jesus refused to give in, saying, “If I have spoken wrongly, bear witness to the wrong, but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” What could the soldier say in response? We are not told. Did Jesus’ penetrating presence and words pierce the soldier’s conscience?

When a truth is spoken to the consciences of those in power, one or the other must give way. Power must yield or truth must be silenced. Classic examples of this confrontation are the peaceful civil rights protests in the U.S. Power at first may seem to win the day-the state may whip, beat, imprison protesters and “restore order” and silence. But if the protesters speak truth to a power that is built on falsehood, they have the power of truth behind them. In the case of civil rights, the broader national conscience had to face the racism for what it was.

Many were willing to suffer to confront racism. In history, the state often does not back down and attempts to silence those who are dissident. It may even knowingly punish the innocent, as did Pilate.

In our current cultural crisis, those who speak truth to power about human life in the womb, the nature of marriage, and religious conscience are often targeted for silencing. Yet we, unlike the state, cannot use coercion in this conflict. Yes, there is power to be had in speaking the truth, just not in the way worldly men prefer to use it, like James and John who wanted to sit on thrones with Jesus. The power of Christians only comes through the Cross, through the willingness to suffer for the truth-and live according to it.

The power that raised Jesus was not meant as an assault on the guarding soldiers. They and the sealed stone were not the point. God did not unseal a tombstone to prove that he could empty a tomb. No, Jesus was raised because of a divine truth about the Incarnate Son of God: “It was not possible for him to be held by death.” (Acts 2:24)
Power comes and goes. Truth is truth and stands forever. It cannot remain suppressed. Even the stones will cry out. Yes, stones, and even tombstones. “Suffered under Pontius Pilate” was never the end of the story.

The Gospel truth is that Jesus’ Name is above every name, to which every knee will bow, even Pilate’s.

~  James M. Kushiner, Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James

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View the Story

 

mtdThere is talk in some church circles about “moralistic therapeutic deism.” We may abbreviate this ungainly phrase as “MTD,” in allusion to the popular cable channel showing music videos. Many teenagers and young adults are familiar with MTV; however, few would recognize “moralistic therapeutic deism” as playing any role in their lives.

Yet the contention we hear is that MTD, rather than classic Christianity, is the predominant religion among today’s teenagers and young adults. They may not recognize the phrase, but it describes the belief system that they actually profess and practice. And what’s more: We, the parents and other adults around them, are the ones who taught them MTD. This is a serious charge and deserves serious consideration.

An Inarticulate Faith

The phrase “moralistic therapeutic deism,” you will not be surprised to learn, was coined by an academic: Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith. It has been disseminated more widely by Smith’s associates, including Princeton Seminary professor Kenda Creasy Dean. Based on her research with Smith, Dean published a book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. Dean has become a popular speaker at church events. She delivered a challenging presentation at my local church on a snowy Saturday in February, and I was among the large crowd that came out to hear her.

Smith, Dean, and their colleagues did surveys and in-depth interviews in which they queried thousands of young people about their religious beliefs and practices. Very few, they found, were atheists or hostile toward religion. On the other hand, relatively few were able to articulate and consistently practice a faith that resembled classic Christianity.

The vast majority of the respondents found it difficult to articulate any kind of belief system. They mentioned God, but it was a vague and distant God. They didn’t have much to say about Jesus.

What the respondents did seem to believe, as Smith summarized it, was: God functions as an authority who gives us rules to guide our behavior (this is the “moralistic” part). The main point of these rules is to be a nice person who gets along with other people. If we obey the rules, God makes us feel good about ourselves (this is the “therapeutic” part). But God isn’t involved in a personal or direct way in our daily lives (this is the “deism” part). He may show up in a crisis, to make us feel better about ourselves.

Almost Christian

This set of half-conscious assumptions is what Smith, Dean, and associates call “moralistic therapeutic deism.” It’s not necessarily false. We should seek good relations with the people around us. If we obey God’s commands, we will usually end up happier. God is a refuge in times of trouble.

Yet the Good News of Jesus Christ is so much greater than any of this. Dean, in her talk, showed a side-by-side comparison of MTD and the Apostles’ Creed. The differences were stark. MTD is all about myself and my happiness. The Apostles’ Creed is about the Truine God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–and God’s amazing works from the Creation to the Incarnation to the hope of life eternal.

So how did these teenagers and young adults come to settle for so much less than the Gospel? It wasn’t by rebelling against their parents’ religion. On the contrary, survey respondents by and large felt positively toward their parents and shared common values. Many of them reported that their parents had taken them regularly to church and youth group, and they had few complaints about the experience. It’s just that they didn’t emerge with a distinct Christian faith that they could articulate and practice.

Is This What We Teach Our Children?

Dean suggests a disturbing explanation: Perhaps these teenagers and young adults adopted MTD because that’s what they were taught. That’s basically the philosophy of life they have received from and observed in their parents. It’s what they learned in Sunday school and youth group: Be nice to other people and you’ll have a happy life, and God will be there when you need him. All that stuff about Jesus dying for our sins never really made an impression.

Dean’s presentation provoked some self-examination in me and others at my church: Is MTD what we are teaching our kids? When my wife and I lead Children’s Church, is the message the children are hearing the Gospel of God’s great mercy in Jesus Christ? Or is it something less? Are we preparing them to be nice people or disciples of Jesus Christ?

I must admit that some of the Sunday school curriculum we have used has been very moralistic and therapeutic. We read Bible stories, but the takeaway at the end of the lesson often seems to be that everyone is special to God and kids should be kind to their classmates. There isn’t much said about our being sinners to whom God sent a Savior. I have seen this failing not only in old line Protestant curricula, but also in curricula from publishers that have an evangelical reputation.

How would your congregation fare under this kind of self-examination? Maybe you intend to communicate the Gospel–as my wife and I do–but are you sure that’s what the children are hearing? It’s a question worth asking. The consequences go far into the future–indeed, into eternity.

Taken from “Theology Matters” http://www.theologymatters.com/

Written by: Alan F.H. Wisdom

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Talking about TED

As the Communication in Ministry course glides midway in its third week, I remember the theme is, “what role do you believe story plays in ministry communication and how might you build stories into your ministry’s communication strategy?” The emphasis is storytelling.

The chapter we are reading in our text, Outspoken, by Shraeder & Hendricks, pp. 90-115 is entitled “Words and Stories.”

Everyone has a story. There is a story about just about everything. There are stories about food, drinks, cars, trucks, and M&M’s. I’m on the path toward a degree in Christian Ministry, and there is a story behind that, but I’m not going to tell it right now. Teased yet?

I get emails from a source called churchjobs.tv and at the bottom of the email there are some links to different resources. One of the links was to an article about TED. A gentleman named Todd Rhoades wrote an article asking the question, “What if our sermons were like TED talks?” Here’s the link: http://toddrhoades.com/what-if-your-sermon-was-like-a-ted-talk

Todd got the idea to blog out this question from another gentleman by the name of Eric Dye. Here’s his link:  http://bit.ly/1D7GKX0  “If Sermons were like TED talks”

Have you ever watched a TED talk on YouTube? I have. I have watched several, and honestly they were all very interesting.

What is TED? TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world. http://www.ted.com/

TED is a platform for ideas worth spreading. TED today shares ideas from a broad spectrum. Meanwhile, independent TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world. http://www.ted.com/about/our-organization

Think about the rules of a TED talk:

  1. No talk can exceed 18 minutes in length.
  2. Speakers must tell a story or argue for an idea. They may not use the TED stage to sell products, promote themselves or businesses. Every talk’s content must be original and give credit where appropriate. Speakers cannot plagiarize or impersonate other persons, living or dead.
  3. Speakers must be able to confirm the claims presented in every talk.

What about this? Can we truly expound the Word of God in 18 minutes? I know there are many ways to preach or proclaim the Word of God, by topic, by subject, by Bible book, etc. Can you say everything about a passage of Scripture in 18 minutes? You may well be able to tell a story in 18 minutes, however, would we truly be feeding our flock on a diet of short bread? Should we feed growing disciples of Christ only the milk of the Word? What about the solid food of the Word? Check out what St. Paul has to say about it, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14 (NRSV)

Ok, don’t get me wrong, I believe in short stories. There are a lot of great short stories in literature. Maybe it would be good every now and then to give a short story, or short sermon, or a short message to get our point across. Maybe our message could best be told condensed or in a more concise manner?

Matthew 28:11-15 tells a short story of how the Roman soldiers were given money to keep their mouths shut about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, the short story had an ending that said, “So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day.” Matthew 28:15 (NRSV) The short story ended up being a story that is now told through the Scriptures, and we live in 2015 AD. Matthew was written at least in 60 AD. So, a short story can have lasting effects. Does this still give credence to an 18 minute sermon, homily, message, or word from the Lord? Well, I must admit it, yes. How could it be accomplished? I think the 18 minute sermon would have to be a story.

What about the Gospel story? Here is an example of short story. The Gospel in a little more than four (4) minutes:

Elijah

The Miracles of Zarephath

God sent Elijah to Zarephath, a small town outside Sidon, on the Phoenician coast, which is now the Mediterranean Sea. Prior to this journey, Elijah was miraculously fed by a raven, and drank from the Brook Cherith, which streamed down the east side of the mountains and flowed into the Jordan River. When the brook dried up, God told Elijah to move. He moved to hide from King Ahab, because Elijah prophesied, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

Therefore, God tells Elijah, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”

King Ahab had been eagerly seeking to apprehend Elijah in order to find some way to convince him to end the drought. However, it is not God’s will for that to occur, and what happens next in Zarephath turns out to be very miraculous itself.

It was apparently very hot and dry, even on the coastline; I am sure these people knew of some humidity during their lifetime living in a coastal town. It sure was dry enough to gather sticks for a fire, her last fire she thought, as she mused as to how she would use the last little bit of flour left in the jar. She had all but given up, and as the good mother, she was, and also a father to her son since her husband died; she would prepare their last meal, and wait to starve to death.

Oh, how many times have we come to the point in our lives where it just seemed so dry and lifeless? As Christians, we are bearing no fruit in our lives worth mentioning. We seem to be just gathering kindling for our last fire, thinking up ways to make it happen one last time, one last fire, one last reason to be a witness for Christ! We become sullen, looking down at the ground, crunching underneath our feet; they burn to remind us of the fire that once was aflame in our hearts for God!

She stands at the gate of the city. Why did she wander out? Were there no trees left in the city? Had everyone cut down the trees for firewood? Now, this widow has to go outside her city to find sticks, not a log or two, but just sticks, the remnant of what used to be flourishing. Why is it important to look at this widow gathering sticks at the gate? The Kingdom of God has a gate, and the Bible tells us that the only entrance into the Kingdom of God, or as St. Augustine said in his book, The City of God, is through Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, you are part of the Kingdom of God, the Rule, and Reign of God through Jesus Christ, Who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. However, if you are not a Christian, or maybe even doubt that you are, you stand outside the gate. The city is behind you. Maybe, in your Christian life past, you flourished in your faith; you bore the fruit of righteousness. You may have walked through the gate into the city, but since you were a widow, without a husband, you have been outcast, alone, with no one to identify with, no one to care for you. Sometimes, I am sure we can feel widowed because we feel our faith died. The Bible says we can taste of the heavenly gift, we can see the Holy Spirit working in the lives of others. We can even be witnesses to the miraculous and still never experience faith for ourselves. I can confidently tell you, that even if you were baptized as an infant, you may not be saved. Do you stand outside the gate of the city? Do you stand outside the Kingdom of God?

The Bible tells us that God has already spoken to this widow woman to help Elijah. That adds a new twist to our story this morning. This place, this city, on the Phoenician coast, away from Israel, is a place where God is not worshiped. It is a pagan land, a land of idolatry. Yet, God spoke to her, commanding her to help the prophet. Therefore, Elijah sees this widow woman; I believe he knew her to be the one God told him about. Elijah asks her for some water. Remember, there is a massive drought going on in the land. Perhaps there was a well where fresh water was retrieved. As the widow woman goes for the water, he yells at her something like, “Oh, and by the way, bring me morsel of bread, I’m hungry!”

Brothers and sisters, have you ever had God tell you to bring him a morsel? Morsel is an interesting word the author of First Kings uses to describe what Elijah is requesting. Morsel – a crumb, as if it is rubbed off an actual piece of bread. Maybe a mouthful and that is a relative statement because I know some people that can put a bunch of bread in their mouths! So let us just stay with what it really means, a crumb, a little piece of bread. What was it that God asked you to do? Was it something very minute? Was it something so small, yet so demanding of you that you would say, “I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son that we may eat it and die.” The point here is that God does not command us to do something that He cannot provide us with the means or the ability to do it. She had already had her mind made up, that God could not use her anymore because she just does not have what it takes. There is only a handful of faith, or she can barely sense the anointing of the Holy Spirit in her life. She is just trying to find enough kindling to keep those fires burning in her heart – but she is ready to die because of the despair she has fallen into. She feels there is no hope. God, how can you call upon me to help others when I just do not have the ingredients anymore?

Then Elijah tests her obedience saying, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. First, make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.”

First, when God calls you to Himself, He says fear not! When God calls you to do something for Him, He says fear not! Why? Do not be afraid! Do not despair! God is in control! Brothers and sisters, God is there when the crops do not grow! God is there when a pestilence destroys your crops! God is there when the rain does not come. God is there when the ground dries up. God is there when the flood waters rage. God is there when your husband or wife dies! God is there when you lose a loved one! God is there when your tractor breaks down! What did Elijah tell the widow woman? Fear not. Go, make me a little piece of bread, and bring it to me with what you have already in your jar of flour and oil. Do you remember the parable of the mustard seed that Jesus taught? How such a very small seed was able to grow in a huge tree that looks like a gigantic bush? God tells us even the smallest amount of faith can get us through. We must learn to trust in Jesus, we must learn to trust in God with the little bit of flour and oil in our jar.

But wait, there is more! God just did not leave the poor widow woman with nothing after she makes Elijah something to eat. Elijah tells her that God says her flour will not be spent! God says that her jug of oil shall not be empty!

Brothers and sisters, God is not done with you yet! God is telling you that your flour jar is not empty. The bread of life is Jesus Christ and you should feast on Him. Get your nourishment from Jesus Christ. He is the Bread that gives life. His life is the light of men. He is your portion and your provision. You still have something to give! God is telling you this morning with what is still within you, you have what can feed multitudes.

Brothers and sisters, God says your jug of oil shall not be empty. In the Bible, oil is used to describe the substance used to anoint someone, or pour over someone who is being consecrated for a specific office or task. Oil in both the Old and New Testament represents the Holy Spirit. If you are a Christian, the blessed Holy Trinity of God dwells within you in the Person of the Holy Spirit! What joy! What solace! What a relief! God is within us, not just with us! His anointing teaches us all things, gives us wisdom, gives us power, love, and a sound mind. The oil of God gives us strength to resist temptation. The anointing of God sanctifies us by His Truth; His Word is Truth, hallelujah! Your jug of oil shall not be empty! It will remain full until you each go home to be with the Lord or He comes back in glory! Either way, His Holy Spirit has taken up residence within you; He has regenerated you, declared you righteous in God’s eyes, sets you apart as holy unto the Lord, and gives you His gifts, and enables you to bear fruit unto Christ-likeness. You do not have to be a barren tree! You can bear the fruit of a holy and righteous life. Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans! I will not leave you fatherless, comfortless, parentless, and bereaved, I am coming to you!” Jesus also assures us by saying, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” Fear not, for the Holy Spirit is your oil of gladness!

Dear friends, as the Holy Scriptures attest, God accomplished what He said He would do. Elijah, the widow woman and her children ate for many days. In verse 16 it says, “The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.” God is not like a human being, who will lie, cheat, steal, and not keep the promises they make. No, God is God, Who cannot lie, and He cannot contradict Himself, nor go back on His Word, because His Word is Truth, for He is Holy, Just, and Righteous.

Consequently, there comes a time as we go through our Christian lives, our flour jar full to overflowing, and our jug of oil never fails, then something catastrophic or tragic happens. We get the diagnosis, or the telephone call, or the report of an accident. What happens then? What happens when we, full of faith and hope for the days ahead hear the news of the sudden death of a loved one?

For this widow woman, one of her children, a son, comes down so sick that he dies. The first thing that we do is tell God, “What have I done to deserve this?” Why is it that we come to the immediate conclusion that God has something against us when tragedy strikes? On the other hand, like when our home is hit by a tornado.  Do we realize that we hold on to our loved ones? Do we realize that we hold on to our homes, our tractors, our pickup trucks, our snowmobiles, our sports cars? Do we realize that we idolize things in our lives, or maybe we even idolize experiences in our lives? Elijah says to the widow woman, “Give me your son.” We must give all that we are, all that we possess, all who we love, to God. God has given us many great gifts, some of which you are sitting next to right now. Nevertheless, we must surrender them to God. We must put God above all of them. We must put God on the throne of our lives. He is Lord. Jesus is Lord. God is King. We serve in His Kingdom. God is on the throne of His Kingdom. We must love God so much, that it would seem that we would hate these things or father, mother, sister, brother, wife, husband, and child. God says, “Give Me all of you – so I can give you all of Me that you can contain.” The Bible does not say much of the widow woman’s faith or trust in God through the words of Elijah. However, she did trust in God, but blamed Elijah for some reason.

What does God say when this happens? Sometimes He will test us and try us as the Refiner of gold and silver. Seeking to view Himself in us, He heats up the gold or silver to a temperature that separates the dross, the dirt, the sin, that has mingled with the new creation in Christ Jesus that we are. Once the dross has reached the surface, God skims it off, gently, to not push down, or mingle again the dross with the pure gold or silver. When the process is finished, the Refiner can see His own image in the gold or silver. The Bible tells us that we will be transformed into the image and likeness of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, by the renewing of our minds in the power of the Holy Spirit.

God hears the cry of the widow woman, her heart saddened that her son, probably because of malnutrition has succumbed to a disease that took his life. We say to ourselves in cases like this, “if only I did thus, and so.” If only. If only. Nevertheless, God says, wait, there is more!

Elijah took the child into his arms and took him up to his room. The number three has significance in the Bible. The Trinity is one example for God, the Three in One, and the One in Three. Then Elijah, it says in verse 21, “stretched himself upon the child three times.” The Hebrew word for stretched is “madad” which means to stretch or to measure. The Greek text for 1 Kings 17, to me, gives us a bit more insight into what Elijah did. The Greek word is emphusaō, and this is a word that means to puff, blow on, or breathe on. I believe that Elijah breathed on or breathed into the child three times and he was resuscitated. Sounds like Elijah gave the child artificial respiration. I do not think that was the case though, for man did not know of this life saving technique at this time in history. What this scene does represent is Elijah, the prophet, representing God breathing life back into the child. That is just what happened. The Bible says in verse 22 that “the soul of the child came into him again.”

God can infuse life back into us again, when we think there is no life left in us. God can breathe newness into our lives when we believe that we have grown stale. God tells us this, even when we go through very hard times, with words that mean, “see, your son lives.” The son can represent an area of your life that you consider dead or dying. It could be a sinful behavior that you cannot seem to shake. On the other hand, it could be you are ill, and you are having a hard time reconciling your condition. In any situation, God comes to us, He carries us through, or He delivers us from it, all based upon His sovereign will. God can prove to you that His Word is Truth. God sent His Son Jesus Christ to provide for the redemption of our souls. Jesus Christ paid the ultimate price to redeem us from bondage to sin and death. Jesus Christ was the atonement for our sins, once and for all.

God can infuse His life into you today. The Bible says that anyone who calls upon the Name of the Lord will be saved. Have you entrusted your life to God? Do you truly believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Word of God, our Savior, and Lord, that God has raised Him from the dead, and that He now is at the right hand of the Father in heaven? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved. Can it be any more plain? Can you say like the widow woman, “Now I know that you are the Son of God Who has taken away the sins of the world.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, receive what the Word of God is giving you today. Charles H. Spurgeon once wrote, “The word of God will repay searching. God does not bid us to sift a mountain of chaff and only find one grain of wheat in it, but the Bible is winnowed corn – we have but to open the granary door and there it is. Scripture grows upon the student. It is full of surprises. Under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to the searching eye it glows with splendor of revelation, as if a vast temple paved with wrought gold, and roofed with rubies, emeralds, and all manner of gems. There are no goods like the merchandise of Scripture truth.” Lastly, the Scriptures reveal Jesus: “They are they which testify of me.” No more powerful motive can be urged upon you than this: he who finds Jesus finds life, heaven, all things. Happy is he who, searching his Bible, discovers his Savior.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Strategies

Communication Strategies In Ministry

I graduated from Crown College with a BS degree in Christian Ministry.  I have learned the essential skills necessary for the communication of the Gospel and biblical truths through a variety of available mediums (this one included). I am studying current mediums for communication, using the basic principles of exegesis and hermeneutics, strategies for effective communication, and preaching. I hope to be further equipped to formulate an effective communication philosophy and strategy for ministry.

Finding a mentor, to me, was like looking for the holy grail. I know what I was looking for, but the search was not uncovering my mentor. You see, I live 70 miles from the church I attend. My wife and I minister there. She plays piano for worship sometimes, teaches children’s church, and I have supplied the pulpit several times. Our pastor left to take another church, so I could not use him as my mentor resource. I had visited several churches in the town where I live. I got to know two of the pastors, and haven’t really been in communication with them for a while. I was afraid to ask them for their help. Who likes rejection? I did not even consider dropping this course on account of this hunt for my holy mentor. I prayed and agonized about what to do. So, I am sitting here in my office, and the Lord prompted me to send an email to both of the pastors. What have I got to lose? My grade, my GPA, all my effort! Thanks be to God! He does provide and He does supply all of our needs. I found the holy mentor! We had our meeting and he signed the agreement! So, onward and upward. Whew.

I believe like Luther and Calvin, that my salvation is totally monergistic. All God, and none of me! However, when I became a Christian, born again, regenerated, transformed by the Holy Spirit, my interaction with God became synergistic. God tells me what to do, and I am supposed to do it! However, even if that is the case, God’s Word tells me that “it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13 (NRSV) Even though my relationship with God is interactive, He still helps me. He doesn’t leave me without what I need to live in union and communion with Him. He enables me, He enables my will, and He enables my effort. Why? All for His good pleasure. Our wills and our actions are the very arenas where God’s own power is working. His grace still amazes me.

How does this relate to communication strategies? Well, did you get a picture while reading this story? Did you see me as one of Monty Python’s characters riding a stick pony along the wooded landscape? Did you picture me going along hill and dale until I finally came upon that glorious email sent from above saying, “sure I’d be glad to sit down and talk with you about this?” If you did, that’s awesome. If you didn’t, was my communication strategy working? Did you get another picture in your mind while reading this? Either way, the point is that there are many means to communicate – and this blog is one of the means that I use to present the Gospel to a lost and dying world. It works for me.

Application? Always trust in the Lord. Always trust Him for anything and everything. Jesus said that if we ask anything according to God’s will, our prayers will be answered. God will provide the means to accomplish the task He has assigned to you. That says a lot about the content of our prayer….but hey, that’s another sermon!