Serving Good Sermons

Mouse
(Image from Unsplash)

Dr. Bruce Waltke tells the story of his wife’s days in home economics in college. They did a test on two white mice, feeding them two completely different diets.

They fed the first mouse . . .

  • Whole milk
  • Wheat bread
  • Oatmeal
  • Carrots
  • Fruit juices

They fed the second mouse . . .

  • Coffee
  • Doughnuts
  • White bread
  • Jelly
  • Candy
  • Potato chips
  • Coke for supper

Can you guess the results?

Be Who You Are

Do what you love
(Image from Pixabay)

I had the privilege of being mentored by a man who is now gone. I became one of the first interns on the staff with Ray Stedman at Peninsula Bible Church.

And I saw in Ray something I had not seen modeled in many pastors . . . an authentic life.

Ray was just who he was. I saw it work. I saw a man who was not defensive, who could laugh at himself, who had fun in life and yet was as good a thinker on his feet in question/answer sessions as I’d ever seen.

I saw a man who could love the homosexual and at the same time do an excellent biblical presentation on the sin of homosexuality. I saw a man who had a room in his life for a wayward child. I saw a man who hardly traveled alone, no matter where he went, and always had someone younger with him.

One of the secrets of building character in the lives of others is taking time for those younger than you. Those who are longing for the qualities and the character that have made you who you are. Ray did this for me.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:

Doing Too Much . . . Smiling Too Little

Smiling Man
(Image from Pixabay)

The Christian worker is a strange breed. He or she often wants it to look as if the work is terribly hard. In fact, the more difficult and strained the look, the better.

Christian workers are notorious for what I call the “tired blood” look, better known as the outdated “missionary image.” Or, better stated, the exhausted, overburdened “religious image.”

They usually carry an old, worn-out Bible and walk with a slump, listing to port. They seldom smile—sort of a “please pity me” image. Makes me want to gag!

It’s About Character

Character
(Image from Pixabay)

Our culture is overly impressed with the externals. You must look good on TV to win the political race. It’s the image you need to polish. Spin it just right.

But we all know—and all have seen—that a leader without character is a tragedy getting ready to happen.

As pastors, we know about the importance of character, of course. But knowing it isn’t our assignment. Your congregation requires your character. Your role is filled because character is present, or it decreases if it is absent.

It’s the same with me. The church where I serve as senior pastor has a respect for me and appreciates my efforts (all my weaknesses not withstanding).

But this respect hangs on the fact that I’m committed to modeling character, and I’m not going to let it slip away in the stuff of leadership.

I remember the day my dad drove home and the front windshield of our car was broken. He had blood running down his face and I thought, He’s been mugged!

Remember Your Marching Orders

Soldier
(Image from Pixabay)

Christians have a lot more in common with soldiers than we might think. Soldiers don’t serve to protect themselves but to guard the interests of their homeland.

There is simply no room for ego or grandstanding among soldiers during the heat of battle. What matters is obeying the leader’s commands. I can’t help but think of Paul’s words to his young protégé, Timothy:

Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. (2 Timothy 2:3–4 NASB)

Of course, there’s also an intangible longing that keeps a soldier going: the desire to go home. The soldier isn’t just a military man or woman . . . but a . . . 

Sing New Songs . . . with Old Truths

Amazing Grace
(Image from FreeImages)

Without wanting to be misunderstood, let me say unashamedly that I love the grand old hymns. Throughout my Christian life, I have treasured their historic statements of the church’s faith, having committed many of them to memory.

They have been my dearest companions in dark hours of loneliness and discouragement and my greatest encouragers in times of celebration and adoration.

And while I’m the first to admit that while there’s nothing holy about a hymnal per se, hymns remain an important part of our Christian heritage. Why?

The Ministry of Marriage

Marriage
(Image from Unsplash)

Marriage is one of God’s greatest tools for ministry. For example, consider the impact of Priscilla and Aquila’s marriage. Somewhere in the streets of Corinth, they stumbled across a man down on his luck.

Paul was . . .

  • Weary
  • Homeless
  • Alone
  • Fresh off a demoralizing trip in Athens
  • He needed a place to stay

They cleared out a room. Not for one night, not for one week, but until Paul was called to move on.

Then an up-and-coming young evangelist breezed into town. After his eloquent sermon, Priscilla and Aquila invited him over for dinner.

Acts 18:24–25 states that Apollos was gifted and passionate. Though he was accurate in his teaching, he was incomplete in his theology. This couple corrected his doctrine without quelling his desire.

Priscilla and Aquila simply opened up a room for Paul and a seat at the table for Apollos. Through their hospitality and instruction, they impacted two of the greatest early church leaders.

What about us? Who could we impact that may in turn impact the world?

Discerning God’s Best

Choices
(Image from Unsplash)

How do you make a choice when all your choices are good? How do you tell the difference between what’s good and God’s best? I’m not talking about making a decision between a morally right path and a morally wrong path.

We know the way we should go in that case. Rather, I’m referring to those times when we must decide between two equally good alternatives. Which do we choose? Which way is God leading? Which way is best?

Initially, it helps me to determine priorities by asking pointed questions like:

The Narrow Way

Narrow Path
(Image from Unsplash)

Christ’s claim to be the only way to God is a hard pill to swallow for many people. Even in some Christian circles, people choke on His words.

Is Jesus the only way to heaven? Will a loving God really confine someone to eternal punishment for rejecting Christ?

It’s a current debate . . . but it’s not a new one. The issues have been argued for centuries. In fact, Jesus Himself was asked a similar question:

God’s Decreed Will

Peace
(Image from Pixabay)

God is at the helm of His creation. Not fate, not chance, not some impersonal force of nature but the Lord alone is in full command of your life.

He is the sovereign ruler of the universe, and His decrees govern what happens in His world.

God’s decrees are: