More on Preaching…

Woodrow Wilson’s dad, Joseph Ruggles Wilson, points out how preaching “is not an imitative exercise….It is these live men whom God supremely calls; men who have eaten the word, as a prophet did, and into whom it has passed to become a perpetual throb in their hearts; so that when it comes forth again, it will proceed upon its errand, bearing the warmth of their innermost experiences; those experiences wherein are traced the musings which continued until they could find vent only in fire; the fire that burns quickly into other souls, melts where it burns, and remoulds where it melts.” – quoted in Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, p. 75

Wilson’s point (and Chapell’s) is that the preacher must speak out of his experience with God’s Word.  There is no short-cut.  Commentaries are helpful, but are not to be used at first.  Chapell finishes, “Let the Holy Spirit work in your heart and mind to develop a message a commentator would approve, not design.”  May those who prepare sermons, messages, talks, Bible-studies, etc. be couriers of God’s Word after it has impacted our hearts first. 

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Well-constructed sermons…

“Well-constructed sermons require unity, purpose, and application.” – Bryan Chapell in Christ-Centered Preaching, p. 44. 

I like where he’s going with this.  A friend of mine today asked me to provide feedback for one of his sermons.  I thought this was a step of genuine humility and leadership, as it was not necessary for him to make this request…it came on his own initiative.  He wanted to get better and make sure that he was communicating God’s Word in such a way that spoke to his listeners.  Thank you for those of you who take steps of maturity and want to be lifelong learners as you speak to others about the truths of God.

The Road to Unafraid

Struecker

If you want a read a book by someone who’s “been there, done that” – this is the book for you.  Jeff Struecker talks about his experience as an Army Ranger as well as his faith in Christ.  During the famous battle in the streets of Mogadishu (1993) he recalls his words to a fellow Ranger… “the difference between being a coward and hero is not whether you’re scared, it’s whay you do while you’re scared.”

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“Who am I?”  This question of identity could cost you your life.  In Les Misérables, this question haunted a man who had to decide if he would own up to his sins (and his real name) for the sake of setting an innocent man free.  Would he do it?  Would he take ownership of who he really was?  If he didn’t confess his true identity, no one would ever know…except him…and God.  He would go free and the other man, who was in custody and on trial, would be condemned in court, though innocent.  The song goes as follows:

He thinks that man is me
He knew him at a glance!
That stranger he has found
This man could be my chance!

Why should I save his hide?
Why should I right this wrong
When I have come so far
And struggled for so long?

If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned!

I am the master of hundreds of workers.
They all look to me.
How can I abandon them?
How would they live
If I am not free?

If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned!

Who am I?
Can I condemn this man to slavery
Pretend I do not feel his agony
This innocent who bears my face
Who goes to judgement in my place
Who am I?
Can I conceal myself for evermore?
Pretend I’m not the man I was before?
And must my name until I die
Be no more than an alibi?
Must I lie?
How can I ever face my fellow men?
How can I ever face myself again?
My soul belongs to God, I know
I made that bargain long ago
He gave me hope when hope was gone
He gave me strength to journey on

[He appears in front of the court]

Who am I? Who am I?
I am Jean Valjean!

[He unbuttons his shirt to reveal the number tattooed to his chest]

And so Javert, you see it’s true
That man bears no more guilt than you!
Who am I?
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What about you?  Who are you?  God gives grace to the humble and Christ came to save sinners.  I Timothy 1:15

Moody and the Battlefield

D. L. Moody

I’ve been briefly looking at D. L. Moody’s experience during the Civil War using a book called A Passion for Souls: The Life of D. L. Moody by Lyle Dorsett.  During the war, Moody decided not to become a regimental chaplain so that he could move freely amongst a larger number of troops and minister to them.  He succeeded as he worked tirelessly at Camp Douglas in Chicago conducting prayer meetings and ministry for both Union Soldiers and Confederate POWs, even helping to raise funds to build a chapel there.  Moody also took trips to Cairo, IL, a major launching point for Union troops under General U. S. Grant.  His most somber experiences came when he made a number of trips to the front lines,  ministering to many wounded and dying Soldiers.  Near the battlefield of Pittsburgh Landing, the evangelist recalled a Soldier in a hospital bed:

“…he wanted me to help him die.  And I said, ‘I would take you right up in my arms and carry you into the Kingdom of God, if I could; but I cannot do it.  I cannot help you die!’  And he said, ‘Who can?’  I said, ‘The Lord Jesus Christ can – He came for that purpose.’  He shook his head, and said: ‘He cannot save me; I have sinned all my life.’  And I said, ‘But He came to save sinners.'”

As Moody turned to the Gospel of John and began to read, the Soldier “caught up with the words, ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.’  He stopped.  He asked me to read it again, and I did so.”

After the third reading, a change came over the Soldier and his face lit up.  The Soldier himself repeated the verse in a faint whisper… “He opened his eyes and said: ‘that’s enough’ don’t read any more.’  He lingered a few hours, pillowing his head on those two verses; and then went up in one of Christ’s chariots, to take his seat in the kingdom of God.” (Dorsett, 98)

As the early enlistment hype slumped into the harsh realities of war, Moody worked tirelessly to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  Moody’s ministry on and off the battlefield should encourage us to think outside the box, recognize moments of opportunity to share God’s grace, and not be afraid to give up creature comforts for the sake of the Kingdom.