Right now, I feeltired. I also feelthat I’m spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere, and that I’m failing to meet the expectations of others. I feel bogged down in things that need doing, and I feel inadequate to the tasks that loom largest in my life – be a great husband, a great Dad, and a great Pastor.
Right now, I know that God’s approval matters more than the approval of others. I know that He equips those whom He calls and that I am adequate and can do all things through Him who gives me strength, even when I’m tired. I know I am redeemed, forgiven, and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit. So I know that moving forward in faith is the right, best, and wisest thing to do.
Living by what I feel is a deadly choice. Living by what I know, based on the unchanging truth of Scripture, is a life-giving choice.
I know the One in whom I trust, and I am sure that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until the day of His return.
When I was in Bible college, I was taught the same basic sermon preparation methods that thousands of other preachers have learned. It’s a linear outline that usually begins with a major proposition, continues with several major points, each supported with explanatory illustrations and then a conclusion that summarizes the truths presented. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, but my tendency too often is to rely on what I know.
This past Sunday, my wife sat and listened to the message, so I asked her how it went and she offered plenty of encouragement along with a question about why I had chosen a particular illustration that was a little trite and impersonal rather than a life experience we had endured that illustrated the point much more personally. Ultimately, it was easier for me to stay away from the deep, personal story that would have better connected with the audience and play it safe with something more light-hearted. Hence, I missed a great opportunity.
The message was about waiting on God’s “yes” to a prayer while He grows us. I could have shared about our long battle with infertility during which we experienced two miscarriages (one ectopic) and drove four hours round-trip to Tulsa about 40 times seeing a specialist. We endured some rather rough times, but we grew spiritually and God eventually gave us the desire of our hearts. Had I shared this story, my audience would have felt the truth I was explaining, and some might have even personally identified with the experience. Our conversation served as a powerful reminder to me of the value of getting personal with the audience.
If you want to preach more powerfully…
Get personal – unveil your life and let the crowd into your heart and your experiences.
Be specific – it’s easier to give a broad challenge, but more beneficial to ask for a particular response.
Tell stories – people like them more than quotes, statistics, and abstract analogies any day.
It’s tough to get personal, but worth it as it moves people into greater intimacy with Jesus.
I’ve never really considered this before, but Gary Molander makes a pretty deep point about where our audience is when we go into the holiday season. As we design communication pieces, craft messages, and plan services, it’s a good idea to think about the perspective from which our audience is listening – not for the purpose of making the message any more palatable, but to improve our ability to communicate it clearly. Listen in…
My wife, Angie, and I have been riding an emotional roller coaster lately when it comes to the particular issue of having more children. Her and I have both spoken and written about this before. Infertility (for us, it’s secondary infertility – we have one) produces this up and down. Every month is another roller coaster ride, a waiting game.
I once filled in for a Pastor who had a beard. His church was a bit upset with him about something and over lunch, two little ladies wanted me to point them to that passage that declares Pastors should not have facial hair… stop searching, it isn’t in there. Neither does the Bible address the issue of sleeves, but it does encourage us to be in touch with people by having a shepherd’s heart.
Let me start from the end… In order to be effective, you need to influence people. You can’t influence people if you’re emotionally closed off, so you have to open up and wear your feelings on your sleeves. When you wear your feelings on your sleeves, you’re going to get hurt, which is the necessary risk you have to take to influence people. Shepherds feel pain often, CEO’s don’t… at least not as much.
Here’s another thought. If you’re going to wear your feelings on your sleeves, wear long sleeves. One of the most destructive forces wreaking havoc on ministries is an uncontrolled temper. If you’re not careful, you’ll snap to judgment and react in anger. The necessary counterpart to compassionate ministry is patience with people… so wear long sleeves, be long-suffering.
We’re hopefully growing past the old idea that the Pastor should remain in a defensible ivory tower, but we still need to be tender too. Now… don’t criticize me for writing this!
This week has been great. No complaints, so don’t think my talking about emotional up’s and down’s has much to do at all with outward circumstances. Rather, Easter weekend brings it’s emotional roller coaster in the form of our identifying with Jesus.
We travel with Him through the shadows of persecution, the intimacy of the upper room and His final days in the home of His friends at Bethany, and then into the Garden of Gethsemane where Satan and his minions began to chuckle at the sheer intensity of His suffering. We see Him sweating drops of blood over the thought of His coming assumption of our sin and His separation from the Father on the cross, a separation He had not experience for all of eternity. We see Him stripped and spat upon, beaten and bloodied, nailed to a cross and mocked until His last breath.
Isn’t summer supposed to be our vacation from the busyness of life? This summer, for the Cox family, is flying right by in a whirlwind of activity. We’ve traveled to see family in three different states (Missouri and Georgia for Angie, Kentucky for me). We’re getting ready to spend a week at church camp. And then, it will be time for Angie to return to work, for me to get busy with a new church year, and for Ella to begin Kindergarten.
In the midst of being busy in these bigger ways, I’ve also found ministry to families and needs to be rather pressing lately. My phones are ringing off the hook and I’ve done more “people work” in the last few weeks than ever before. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’m very thankful to be needed, to be used in God’s hands, and to watch God at work in people’s lives. On the other hand, I hate what Satan is doing to the people around me that I love so dearly. It has certainly caused me to have an appreciative perspective on my own life. God has been so gracious and merciful to me, especially when I’ve least deserved it!
I will also say that the pressing nature of many of the issues I deal with drive me to my knees. I feel the continual need to remain constant in prayer so that my own spirit is not dragged down by the multitude of problems in the world. Depravity, and its results, can be draining on our frail emotions and if we aren’t careful, we’ll be tempted to despair. But then there is that verse in Romans 8:37, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” More than conquerors, winners, valiant victors in the war called life. And why? Because Jesus died and rose again!