With the NBA playoffs still occasionally making headlines despite the media circus that swirls around the Los Angeles Clippers and their bigot billionaire boss, Donald Sterling, I am reminded that preaching is a lot like the game of basketball. There are times when you are hot, and there other times when you just can’t hit the basket.
I’ve had my fair share of both experiences. (Preaching, not shooting hoops.) Sometimes I feel as if I can turn my back to the basket, flip the ball over my head, and know it will slip in with nothing but net. Then there are times I give it my best shot and can’t even hit the backboard. The funny thing is that those times when I’m on are often the times when I let the Holy Spirit do the work, and the times when I’m off correlate with my strange idea that I can do it better myself.
So how do you preach? With power, with conviction?
“But Pastor Jon, I don’t preach at all.”
Oh yes, you do. Every one of us preaches -- by our lives. If we are to have a viable church, an effective Christian influence in Arlington and the other communities in which we live and work, then we need the Spirit’s presence in our lives. If somehow we expect to help meet the deep needs in people’s lives, only the power of God is sufficient.
The only thing that will make a church relevant today, the only thing that will give you credibility and make you useful in serving the Lord will be God’s presence in your life. When we live Christianly -- being open to God giving us new depth and integrity in our faith, we will find that who we are will “preach” loudly in a society that craves authenticity and soul.
Christian character in a world of racial bigots, greed, and frivolous sexuality is an unanswerable and powerful kind of statement. It is one that we as followers of Jesus Christ must make in our daily life. Please notice I am not talking about an increased religiosity or “churchiness” -- a superficial coating of sweet evangelical piety or a display of phony churchmanship. I am talking about you and I being in contact with God in such a way that somehow, despite all of our imperfections and weaknesses and mistakes the presence of Christ can still be seen in our lives.
Is there evidence of this in our lives today? In my life? In yours? If so, it will preach. And meanwhile, go Doc Rivers! Go LA Clippers! And go First Baptist family! Preach it!
The Salvation Army Massachusetts Division
Mass Brass Concert
Monday, May 12, 2014
Here at First Baptist Church of Arlington
On Tuesday nights we are studying prayer. It is the third study we have done on prayer in our small groups. We are using a book and DVD by Philip Yancey called “Prayer - Does it Make Any Difference?” Last night we spent the session talking about how to pray. Some people wonder if they are praying the right way. Yancey says that if you are praying you are doing it the right way. In other words, there is no wrong way to pray. He said that prayer is a way of relating to God, not a skill set like double-entry booking.
How can you make prayer “work” for you? Here are some suggestions that were offered:
1. Set aside at least one specific time each day for prayer.
2. Create an environment for prayer - perhaps lighting a candle or playing music in the background while you pray.
3. Find a specific place that encourages you to pray. For example, an outdoor garden, a quiet place in your home, or sitting in your car during your lunch break.
4. Meditate on God and consider how he must feel about the issues and people you are praying for.
People have been praying for a long time. So we have mentors to instruct, guide, and encourage us. The Bible includes approximately 650 prayers of faithful believers who have gone before us. These prayers show how people in a variety of moods and circumstances have talked to God about important matters throughout history. They offer insight into prayer and how to pray. During the coming weeks as we journey through Lent, I challenge you to read some of these prayers with me. How about one each week beginning Ash Wednesday.
Week one - March 5 - 11
Genesis 18 - Abraham?s pray for Sodom
Week two - March 12 - 18
Exodus 15 - Moses? song to the Lord
Week three - March 19 - 25
Exodus 33 - Moses meets with God
Week four - March 26 - April 1
2 Samuel 7 - David?s response to God?s promises
According to Yancey, studying the Bible gives us a glimpse of the broad sweep of God's actions in history. It gets our own lives off center stage. We can review the big picture. We can place our own small story in the context of God's larger story. We learn that we are not the only ones who have wrestled with God or who has endured a time of wilderness and testing. Focusing on prayers from the Bible may help us recognize God's voice and improve our own prayer life.
Who will accept this challenge? Let me know, and we'll see what happens.
In a recent devotional I read this passage from Zephaniah 3:17 NLT:
“For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
There are a lot of promises in this one short scripture:
1. God is with you.
2. He is your mighty savior.
3. He delights in you with gladness.
4. He calms your fears with his love.
5. He rejoices over you with joyful songs.
I know that we sometimes feel that God is far from us, yet we are promised here in scripture that he is with us. Not only is he with us but that he saves us. He helps us through difficult times. He is there whether we feel his presence or not. We have only to trust his word and realize his presence is near. We can reach out and find him near.
He delights in you! That seems like a strange concept. We make God happy. Of course, he knows our faults and sins, yet he provided a way through Jesus for us to come before him blameless. What a gift he has given us. And he delights in being our father.
He calms your fears. He knows when problems are swirling all around you. He senses your need to be held close and for your fears to be calmed. In those times he is your Comforter.
He rejoices over you with joyful songs. Anyone who has held a baby and sung quietly to him or her, knows exactly that feeling. Our god, the creator of the universe, loves you enough to sing joyfully over you. He loves you with an unconditional, everlasting love.
Who reads Zephaniah anyway? Don’t we prefer to read John or Luke? Yet here, hidden among the books of the Old Testament, God speaks directly to our hearts. You and I are blessed to be children of this great king!