You are UP to the task!
I know that we are living in very discouraging times. We’re dealing with a pandemic and a political mess, cultural upheaval and a wave of people stepping away from the local church. It’s hard!
But if you lead the church, you have within you everything you need to do this well!
I wrote a post and wanted to pass it along about how you ARE up to this!
Lectionary Sermon Starters
For Sunday, June 12, 2022
In case you need it:
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
The eighth chapter of Proverbs is all about what it looks like to seek guidance from all that God has revealed. (While a case can be made that wisdom here is symbolic of Christ pre-incarnation, I believe it’s stretching the original author’s intent to make that the basis of a sermon on the text.)
Every generation differs from the one before in terms of values, technological advances, and power. But wisdom is timeless. A principle of wisdom that would have guided an ancient patriarch to make a healthy, holy decision will still guide a teenager in the best possible direction today.
James, the brother of Jesus, echoed the universality of the offer of wisdom to any who seek it (James 1:6). Wisdom is freely available, but how often do we bypass this precious resource and rely on our broken instincts, popular opinion, or ideologies that have repeatedly strayed from God’s path?
And how do we collect wisdom? It’s popular to say that the only true source of wisdom is the Bible itself, but this would be selling short the value of the world God created. We can observe and learn. We can reason. We can apply logic. We can see certain principles at work in nature and in typical patterns of human interaction.
Remember the old hymn, Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed?
There’s a controversial little line hidden in that hymn that changes, depending on what hymnal you’re reading. The original version includes the line:
Alas, and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
But in some newer hymnals, the lyrics have been updated to be more culturally sensitive (and maybe less gross):
Alas, and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?
What I really love about the eighth psalm is how mankind is assigned a high level of dignity, but still pales in comparison to the majesty of God the Creator.
An entire generation of western culture has remained obsessed with self as the center of all things. While self-help, self-development, self-growth, self-esteem, etc. are terms with merit, the side effect is that we’ve placed ourselves on the throne of all existence.
At the same time, many of us grew up under a theological mindset that so overemphasized sin and depravity that we’ve felt ourselves worthless in the eyes of God. This, combined with our focus on individual conversion and who is in and who is out has given us a false impression that those who have followed Jesus are priceless because of their redemption from sin alone.
The truth is in the middle, and that’s what the psalmist teaches us.
Mankind is, indeed, quite special. Every person reflects something of the goodness of our Creator and possesses inherent worth and dignity. So it is always right to remind people of their intrinsic worth and value and of how special it is to be human.
And on the other side of the coin, we must also acknowledge our desperate need for help, for salvation, and for grace from God. Because of God’s goodness, we are made good. But without God’s goodness, we are helplessly lost.
How can a person walk in true confidence?
We live in a world that urges us to see the power within us apart from God. The self-help and self-esteem movement promises that if we’ll simply be positive enough about ourselves, we will be able to accomplish anything.
Before we take issue with that line of thought, we have to acknowledge that we have often embraced a theology that runs to the other extreme. We’ve taken the doctrine of depravity to the point of favoring self-loathing and self-hatred, which are just as unhelpful and just as unbiblical.
The beauty of being a follower of Jesus is that we have the inside track on a completely different way of thinking. We get to choose the middle way in which each of us is infinitely valuable because we are made in the image of God, but we were created to rely on the presence and power of God at work within us so that we could rise with confidence as redeemed people.
Our creed is not that we are amazing on our own or that we are sufficient without any connection to our Creator. Neither is it that we are worthless lumps of clay with no value to God or to his world. There is another way and Paul lays it out for us.
Paul, in this passage, tells us that a past event changed everything – the work of Christ – and that our faith in that finished work prepares us and equips us to walk through life differently. We get to walk as those who are justified.
He also tells us of the present possessions we enjoy as a result of the work of Christ in the past.
First, we possess unfettered access to God. The door is always open to our prayer and our meditation. God is willing to commune with anyone who approaches him with faith in what Christ accomplished.
Second, our suffering makes sense. It all matters. God never wastes a hurt, and this passage reminds us of this truth. Paul actually says we get to “boast” in our sufferings – not that suffering is, itself, a good thing, but rather we get to rejoice in the result of our sufferings – our growth in character.
And thirdly, we possess an unshakeable hope for the future. Elsewhere, Paul has told us that the Holy Spirit is like a downpayment on the future. That is, our present walk with Jesus assures us that our hope is absolutely sure.
If you want to be more confident with others, start with seeing how it is possible to be confident with yourself and with God on the basis of the gracious act of God saving the world through his Son.
We want the power of the Holy Spirit. We want to do amazing, miraculous things. But the real purpose of the Holy Spirit isn’t to amp up our emotional energy or to give us magical powers (though his very real power is very supernatural).
The primary role of the Holy Spirit, as the third member of the Trinity, is to direct our attention to Christ, the second member of the Trinity. Yes, the Spirit of God is fully God, but his active ministry today is one of showing us, reminding us, and revealing to us the finished work of Christ that saved the world.
I love that the Spirit is given this title – “the Spirit of Truth.” If anything at all is true about God, about the world, or about us, then the Spirit of God certainly knows it and seeks to offer to us a right understanding of it all.
According to Jesus’ words in this passage, the Spirit takes on some specific Son-centered ministries:
- Guiding us into truth (and presumably away from error).
- Speaking to us what he hears from God.
- Pointing to the glorified Christ.
- Declaring to us the ultimate triumph of Jesus.
In other words, the message of the Holy Spirit isn’t about how amazing the Holy Spirit is. And it’s also not about how amazing you or I are as human beings.
The Spirit’s primary message to us is all about how amazing Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be.
Miss an Issue?
Read The Reflectionary Archives!
Creative Sermon Series Ideas from MinistryPass
My favorite resource for sermon series and message ideas, complete series graphics, and video bumpers (but NOT full notes or sermon outlines) to get you started is MinistryPass! Each week, I’ll feature a series I would recommend checking out for the upcoming season of the church year. This week:
From the Description:
This four-part sermon series explores what it means to be made in the image of God.
After working through the Lectionary passages for June 12, I’m convinced people desperately need to hear that God made them for a mission, and shaped them for service. Each person possesses inherent worth and dignity and serves a grand, divine purpose by God’s initiative.
But most people don’t believe in themselves in the sense of believing that God placed within them the ability to do life in a holy, healthy, and purposeful way.
Books, Links, and Resources for Pastors and Church Leaders
I also want to share helpful and encouraging resources each week including articles I’ve read, books I love, and practical tools for leadership. This week:
- Grab the Ultimate Writer’s Toolkit Free Ebook.
- Michael Hyatt on Eight Leadership Lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr.
- From The Daily Upside, an article about how More Than a Third of 250k Earners Live Paycheck-to-Paycheck.
- Ron Edmondson writes about 5 Legitimate Fears of Church Planters.
- Carey Nieuwhof on 9 Warning Signs You’re Suffering From Toxic Productivity.
- Mark MacDonald on 8 Church Communication Mistakes You’re Probably Making.
- Rick Warren on 6 Truths to Keep in Mind When Tempted to People-Please.
- I just updated my list of 6 of the Best Commentaries on the Bible, and the top one is my personal favorite – the New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary.
- There aren’t enough great books on marriage out there. One of my favorites is John M. Gottman’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.
Support The Reflectionary
The Reflectionary is always free so there is never a barrier to receiving it, but if my writings, videos, or other resources help and inspire you and you have the resources, feel free to partner with me in any amount.
Or, if you can’t partner long-term but would like to so do, feel free to give a one-time gift in any amount.
Coaching for Pastors and Leaders
When a leader grows, the world gets better. Healthy teams, led by healthy leaders, create healthy organizations! Whether you’re going through transition, walking through discouragement, or pressing onward enthusiastically, I’d love to have a conversation with you about what leadership coaching can do for you and your church or organization.
Also, if your church needs help with communications, website design, social media, or marketing with paid ads to reach newcomers, that’s what I do full-time now and I’d love to help!