Lapel clipper or boy bander?

Bere Gratis live performance

Most preachers I know are pretty particular about their microphone preferences.

They know their options – the lapel clip, the pulpit stand, the handheld, boy band-left ear, boy band-right ear, etc… and they’ve made their choice.

As a boy band lefty myself, I even have a routine for how the cable is run down my shirt, paper-clipped to my collar, and tucked the appropriate way into the appropriate pocket of my pants. It’s odd, I’m aware, but preachers want to know they’ve done as much as they can to ensure the message is delivered well.

This mentality of course impacts sermon development also. I know pastors, whose primary responsibility is to preach, who give 40+ hours of prep to each message. Others with less time are no less consumed with finding the best angle, the memorable phrase, or the knifing illustration. Preachers feel the weight of ministering the Word and work accordingly.

This is how it should be. 1 Corinthians 12 informs us that God’s purpose, His primary calling for some men, is to be His mouthpiece for His people. “God has arranged members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. (v.18)” “He has appointed in the church… teachers. (v.28)”

Preachers are designed to deliver sermons to the church. They love to talk and their people love to listen because that is the way God wants it. That is the way the body needs it. So, preachers take seriously their God-given mandate to teach, even if that means spending 30 hours studying and learning the ins and outs of sound equipment.

But, how many give similar effort to helping their people process the truth after it has been taught?

We have a tendency to work-work-work to get the Word delivered, and then chalk up everything that follows to “God’s Word doesn’t return void” and “It’s God who gives the increase.” It doesn’t and He does, but are we really putting our people in a position to powerfully respond to the message of God?

If we do nothing, if we don’t prepare on the backend like we do on the front, people will sit in their chairs, with hearts full and affections stirred, and nothing will happen. Sure, they will commit to themselves to do something about what they’ve heard. To remember it. To meditate on it. To act on it. But instead of following through, they will get together with other similarly moved brothers and sisters to watch a DVD or listen to a lecture about something else from someone else, somewhere else.

Through the Spirit-led, carefully crafted messages of His preachers, God is already speaking powerfully into the hearts of His people, but when pastors fail to intentionally shepherd the flock to respond to that work, much of the fruit is missed. I’m convinced that thousands of beautiful supernatural intentions die every week because the planning stops with the sermon. It is as though we spend several days of our lives preparing a delicious dinner only to fail to provide a fork with which to eat it.

It matters little how much you plan to get your sermon out well if you don’t give your people a chance to work it out well.

Such preparation doesn’t even take as much work as the sermon itself. Providing people the opportunity to process what God is doing in their hearts through the preaching falls somewhere on the difficulty scale between crafting the message and donning the microphone.

The most obvious way for a pastor to provide that opportunity is to create a brief discussion guide designed to help the body share their conviction, clarify their concerns, and respond to the challenges of the sermon. Someone from the pastor’s team can do it. Someone from this team can do it. But somehow, the moments to which the work of the week has led must not pass without consequence. If the church is gathering at other times throughout the week, one of the centerpieces of those gatherings should be sermon-based, heart-exposing, response-generating discussion. If we don’t create such an opportunity, we shoot the foot of our own function in the body.

When God crushes hearts through the work of His preachers, His people need to huddle together to process and respond to what He is doing. The men, be they lapel clippers or boy banders, who give so much care to ensuring the message gets out in powerful ways, must also create the opportunity for that message to be thought out and lived out in powerful ways.


Brandon Hiltibidal is a husband to Scarlet, a daddy to Ever, an owner of the Green Bay Packers, and a strategist for discipleshipincontext.com. Connect with him on Twitter @bmhiltibidal.

Photo credit: Sergiu Bacioiu via photopin cc

Links I like

3 Checkpoints for Spiritual Drift

Michael Kelley:

Drifting is something that happens over time. It’s slow and steady, almost imperceptible. It can happen so gradually in fact that it goes without notice. That’s the real problem with drifting spiritually – you don’t know it’s happening until it’s already happened.

But what if you could? Are there certain checkpoints that, if they appear in your life, you know that the drifting has started? That the rope tied to the anchor of faith has started to let out? That you are slowly moving in a direction that you didn’t intend to go? I think there are, and here’s three to think about.

Hurry!

Staci Eastin:

Busyness is talked about a lot. We take on too much. We don’t say no to anything, because being busy makes us feel important. Look how much I’m doing!

But for me? I rush because I’m lazy. I want to get done with the dull stuff so I can get to the important stuff. Like, I don’t know, reading. Or Candy Crush.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few Kindle deals for you:

Get The Hard Sayings of Jesus in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get The Hard Sayings of Jesus teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Welcome to a Reformed Church by Daniel Hyde (ePub)
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  • Anne Bradstreet: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Poet by Heidi Nichols (paperback)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Why I Am a Cessationist

Thomas Schreiner:

Why would anyone think that some of the gifts have been withdrawn? I will argue that such a reading fits best with Scripture and experience. Scripture takes priority over experience, for it is the final authority, but Scripture must also correlate with life, and our experiences should provoke us to re-examine afresh whether we’ve read the Bible rightly. None of us reads the Bible in a vacuum, and hence we must return to the Scriptures repeatedly to ensure we’ve read them faithfully.

See also…

Why I Am a Continuationist

Sam Storms:

Let me begin with the consistent, indeed pervasive, and altogether positive presence throughout the New Testament (NT) of all spiritual gifts. The problems that emerged in the church at Corinth were not due to spiritual gifts, but to immature people. It wasn’t the gifts of God but the childish, ambitious, and prideful distortion of gifts on the part of some that accounts for Paul’s corrective comments.

Putting Off Cynicism

Paul Maxwell:

Cynicism is the attitude that encapsulates the ethos of twentysomethings par excellence. It is, I think, the most covert negative emotion. We harbor it in Christian garb: cynicism toward immature men (“man-boys”), hipsters, a denomination or movement, clichés, and a thousand other things.

Cynicism is so undetectable because it is so justifiable. It wears a mask of insight and godliness, but it conceals festering wounds of harbored bitterness against God and neighbor. We need to understand cynicism, because the masks we wear tell us about the wounds we hide, and point us to the Savior who yearns to mend them.

Links I like

Reading the Bible Like Jesus

Thabiti Anyabwile:

Reading the Bible is difficult work. Or at least it can be if we intend to do more than simply read it for enjoyment or duty. There are many things we have to overcome in order to read effectively: the flesh, fatigue, distractions, time pressures from various sources, cold hearts, clogged ears and so on. Even when we overcome all these obstacles of the world, the flesh and the devil, we still find our Bible reading needs adjustment in order to read as Jesus read.

6 Ways to Look Godly While Not Growing

Carl Lafterton:

This time last year, I mentioned six ways to look godly while not growing in your faith — and then spent 2013 battling them, falling for them, and finding several other ways, too. So here, for 2014, are six more ways to look great while doing little…

Save 50 percent on WTS Books’ bestsellers of 2013

Westminster Books has put a ton of their bestselling titles of 2013 on sale for 50 percent off. Sale titles include:

This sale ends January 15th.

5 Reasons We Get Angry

Mike Leake:

In Ephesians 4:26 we are told, “in your anger do not sin”. The question is not how we prevent anger; the question is what we do with anger once it crops up. We all get angry—occasionally righteously angry but mostly not.

Is the Enemy of My Enemy My Friend?

Albert Mohler:

At this point, very careful and honest thinking is required of us. At one level, we can join with anyone, regardless of worldview, to save people from a burning house. We would gladly help an atheist save a neighbor from danger, or even beautify the neighborhood. Those actions do not require a shared theological worldview.

Do You Journal?

I’m not talking about a manly version of keeping a diary (although if you keep a diary, that’s cool…), I’m talking about journaling what God is teaching you through your regular Scripture reading.

Do you journal?

For years, I’ve done it and it’s been very worthwhile, particularly from the standpoint of looking back and seeing what God’s been teaching you over the years. My friend Adam and I were talking about this last night over bison burgers and I’d mentioned that it’s very humbling to look back on things you wrote 3, 4 or 5 years ago that you thought were really insightful and intelligent and think, “Man, I was an idiot!”

Maybe that’s just me, though.

And even though I’ve always really enjoyed journaling, it’s fallen by the wayside in recent weeks. I always have things to ponder from my reading (some of which ends up becoming posts like these), but I’m not always writing it down.

This is probably a trend I should reverse.

So do you journal? If so, how do you keep yourself on track with doing it?

My Memory Moleskine: Philippians 2:1-18(ish)

Last week, I put together a video update (and recited Philippians 1:1-30 with only a couple of minor flubs) and all the while have continued to work hard on Philippians chapter 2. This week on the schedule is Phil 2:1-4, however, I’ve been tracking ahead a fair bit.

Last week, I briefly spoke about false humility (something that verses 1-7 reminded me of), and this week’s reading only continued to reinforce that message.

This struck me most vividly in Paul’s exhortation in Phil 2:12-18:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence, but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to work and to will for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning so that you may be blameless and innocent, Children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, holding fast to the word of life so that in the day of Christ, I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering on the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

One of the interesting things that has come out of this project so far is how it seems to get almost easier to memorize the text. This is good in that it allows me more time to chew and if a hard verse is coming up (and I’m sure that there’s going to be some really complicated stuff in chapters 3 & 4), I can eat up some of the “extra” time I’ve gained.

On the downside, it’s a breeding ground for pride. “Look at me and how smart I am; look at how keen my mind is,” and all that nonsense (people who know me well know this is a big enough problem as it is).

But verse 13 reminds me that, even though I’m working hard at this it’s God who is at work. I can memorize Scripture because the Holy Spirit is (hopefully) searing it into my conscience and heart. And Paul’s command in verse 14, to do all things without grumbling or questioning, it’s a reminder of the need for humility in obedience. Considered in light of Phil 2:1-8 and his vivid description of Christ’s humility, how can I not make it my desire to submit well, as it has been granted for Christ’s sake that I “should not only believe in Him, but also suffer for his sake” (Phil 1:29).

So, that’s what God’s been teaching me through this project this week. What’s He been teaching you?

My Memory Moleskine: Reciting Philippians 1:1-30 (and a Few Words on False Humility)

As promised last week, here’s a video update:

As I mentioned, I didn’t do too bad that time; actually, I probably should have recorded my dry-run as it was much better. Ah well.

This week, I made my way through Philippians 2:1-7:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of me.

I also started on verse eight, but I’m really shaky on it. What’s most striking to me is Paul’s emphasis on unity and humility. I don’t know about you, but these are subjects I need to really get beaten into my head. Just yesterday (Thursday), I fell prey to one of my all-too-frequent sins: False humility. Seriously, I need to learn how to just take a compliment, or say “yes, I did that.”

Instead, I do this stupid, “Aw shucks, it was nuthin’, Der-hyuk” nonsense.  If there’s one thing that’s going to eventually get me in a lot of trouble, this is as likely to do it as anything else. It does a disservice to me, to those around me and ultimately to God, who gave me the capacity to do all the things I can accomplish.

(And as a side note, it drives my wife up the wall, which is as good a reason as any to knock it off.)

That’s it for this week’s update. How was week five of partnering to remember for you?

Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor

On Tuesday, February 1, Dr. Joel Beeke spoke at the Desiring God 2011 Pastor’s Conference, “The Powerful Life of the Praying Pastor.” His topic: Cultivating Private Prayer as a Pastor. Though many visiting this site are not pastors, I hope you’ll find Dr. Beeke’s message beneficial to cultivating your own prayer life.

Video:

Audio: : (Download to listen later)

Below are the notes taken during Dr. Beeke’s session (courtesy of Desiring God):

It is always convicting to receive the assignment to speak on prayer to other pastors. And as I was writing the book that Dr. Piper referenced on prayer, I became increasingly convicted by the Puritans about how little I pray. So tonight, I am preaching first of all to myself. This topic is at the heart of revival of the church of Jesus Christ. My father told me when I was a teenager that the greatest problem of the church today is prayerless praying.

The sermons of the Reformers and Puritans are not that different than ours. We’re saying essentially the same thing. What was so different was their prayer lives. My aim is that we would truly pray in our prayers. So turn with me to Isaiah 64:6-9 and James 5:13-18.

True prayer is putting ourselves into our petitions, crying out to God Almighty and praying in our prayers. The problem is not that we don’t pray, but rather that seldom we truly prayerfully pray in our prayers. What is this praying? The primary exercise of faith. Private prayerful praying is the work of the triune God. It has more to do with God than with us. It is Heaven’s greatest weapon that we have at our disposal as a minister of the gospel. This kind of praying is supposed to be half of our vocation—giving ourselves to the Word and to prayer. [Read more...]

The Greatest Gifts Can Become Deadly Substitutes for God

The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18–20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.

Jesus said some people hear the word of God, and a desire for God is awakened in their hearts. But then, “as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). In another place he said, “The desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). “The pleasures of this life” and “the desires for other things”—these are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.

John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer, 14-15.

HT: Adrian Warnock

Preschooler Theology: “Why Do Monsters Scare Me?”

So, a while back, my oldest daughter started talking about being afraid of monsters. I don’t remember exactly where she picked up on this, but it caught me off guard.

See, it’s a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, monsters like what you see in Monsters Inc. don’t exist. But, demons are very real (whether we like to think about it or not), and it’s possible that our kids who are saying they see monsters in their closet are possibly seeing some sort of demonic manifestation.

So how do you start explaining that to your kids?

Here’s how my dialogue with Abigail typically goes:

Abigail: Why do monsters scare me?

Me: Monsters try to scare you because they don’t want you to trust Jesus. Monsters don’t have to scare you because Jesus is the King of the whole universe and everything has to do what He says. Jesus is bigger and stronger than any monster, so when He tells them to do something, they have to do it.

Abigail: So can we tell them to go away?

Me: Yep.

Abigail: Can you do it?

Me: Sure.


That in a nutshell is my conversation with Abigail every couple of nights.

I really hope I’m not traumatizing her with this.

Now what about you? If you’re a parent, how are you handling this subject with your kids? If you were brought up by Christian parents, how did they explain this to you?

Healthy Examination of the Soul

Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the prophets of old had risen. Herod said, “John I beheaded, but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him.

On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing.

—Luke 9:7-11—

Occasional retirement, self-inquiry, meditation, and secret communion with God, are absolutely essential to spiritual health. The man who neglects them is in great danger of a fall. To be always preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, and working public works, is, unquestionably, a sign of zeal. But it is not always a sign of zeal according to knowledge. It often leads to adverse consequences. We must make time occasionally for sitting down and calmly looking within, and examining how matters stand between our own selves and Christ. The omission of the practice is the true account of many a backsliding which shocks the Church, and gives occasion to the world to blaspheme.

J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke

HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes

My Memory Moleskine: Philippians 1:19-26

So far, this Partnering to Remember project has been a lot of fun—but it’s also been a lot of work.

But it’s the good kind of work.

My third week into memorizing Philippians I hit a snag. That snag?

Philippians 1:20

…as it is my eager expectation and hope that I would not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always, Christ would be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

(In case you’re wondering, yes, I did type that from memory. I did check it to make sure it was correct afterward, though. Is that cheating?)

This is one of the most complicated verses I’ve come up against so far. To actually get through it, I ended up splitting it into three separate chunks and working on it over the course of two days. While this slowed down my progress a little, it did give me an opportunity to chew on the content of this verse a little more.

Paul’s confidence in Christ is inspiring. In verses 18b-19, he writes, “Yes and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, this will turn out for my deliverance…”

He’s in a filthy Roman prison. He’s likely going to die for all he knows, but he is confident that Christ will deliver him from his imprisonment should He choose to do so. And what’s Paul’s response? “That with full courage now as always, Christ would be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”

He’s not concerned about whether he lives or whether he dies.

He’s only concerned that Christ be honored in both.

I’m trying to imagine what it’s like to live in that confidence; it would be incredibly freeing, wouldn’t it?

If there’s one thing I’m hoping to come away from in the rest of this project, it’s that I can have the same kind of confidence that motivated Paul to say, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

How has week three of partnering to remember gone for you?

My Memory Moleskine: Philippians 1:12-18

Two weeks into my memory moleskine and how am I doing?

Last week, I managed to get a full two weeks memorized in one. The upside is that it left me some wiggle room for memorizing the rest. The downside is it left me a little cocky for week two.

And this was a bad week to be cocky.

Philippians 1:12-18 is a surprisingly tricky set of verses. Where v. 15-18 are relatively smooth sailing, v. 12-14 are fairly complex. One of the great challenges of memorizing in the ESV is that, because it’s a formal equivalence translation, it sometimes has rather unusual sentence structure. I had to spend several days on these verses before feeling somewhat confident in them.

One of the more exciting things about this project is being able to see real progress. Before I started I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to keep the verses I learned the prior week (or as it progresses at the beginning of the project) in my mind. This is where the discipline of constant repetition comes into play. I find myself reciting Phil 1:1-11 at least two times a day now, and I really enjoy it, especially as I play with emphasis. It’s a lot of fun to try to imagine which words Paul would have been stressing as he dictated the letter.

The other pleasant side effect of the project has been how applicable each section has been week-to-week. As we prayed at the end of the Truth Xchange conference, Phil 1:9-11 were incredibly timely to keep in mind as we had spent several days seeking to grow not only in our knowledge and discernment “so that [we] may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,” but that our love might abound more and more as we seek to apply this knowledge at home.

So, that’s been my second week. How has week two of partnering to remember gone for you? What challenges have you seen, and what has been the most exciting thing for you so far?

My Memory Moleskine: Philippians 1:1-11

So last Saturday, I started working on memorizing the entire book of Philippians as part of Tim Brister’s Memory Moleskine project. When I started the project, I didn’t know how it was going to go – would it be quick and painless? Excruciating? Somewhere in between?

And the answer is… yes.

Surprisingly, it was a lot easier to make it through the first six verses than I anticipated. I actually picked them up very quickly (by Sunday night I could recite them from memory without much difficulty).

However, the one significant challenge that I came across was with one word: “all.

You’d think that it would be a simple one to remember, but for some reason I kept tripping up on it. Phil 1:3 says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,” but it would come out, “I thank my God in my remembrance of you.”

Already the weeding has begun.

I’m, as of today, a good part of the way through week 2 (Phil. 1:7-11) and the “alls” are coming at me again. (As is the weird sentence structure of v. 7.)

Still, I am persevering, and for the most part have these verses down. Since I can’t prove it to you in typed form, you’ll have to wait until I get brave enough to do a short video post of the whole first chapter.

Are you partnering to remember? Tell me about your journey to remember Philippians so far.

Building (and Rebuilding) Your Library

About a week or so ago, Nathan Harbottle asked me a great question on Twitter:

If you had to start your personal library over, what would be your first 3 purchases?

Interestingly enough, this something I’ve had to do before. When I first started my library, it was books by Rob Bell, Erwin McManus and I think one book by Craig Groeschel. (I even had a copy of Wild at Heart. I never read beyond chapter 3.)

It was not a terribly robust library, nor was it terribly deep.

Then, for some reason, I decided to get a copy of 18 Words by J.I. Packer, and it rocked my socks. It also set me on a path to building what I think is becoming a fairly well-rounded, theologically sound library.

So, back to Nate’s question. What three books would be my first purchases if I were starting over again?

Aside from a good study Bible (I profiled a few here in the “Get Serious About Your Studies” series), I’d recommend getting the following books to start off:

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul (Cover)

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul

Why? In The Holiness of God, Sproul helps believers gain a better grasp of this all-too-often neglected attribute of God. Sproul is a master at communicating complex subjects in a way that is completely understandable for the average layperson and encouraging a deeper passion for the Lord in his readers.

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

Why? Knowing God is one of the first books I ever read that left me in awe. Packer’s insights into the central pursuit of the Christian life—not simply knowing things about God, but knowing God intimately—are a great gift to believers.

Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem

Why? In Christian Beliefs, Grudem addresses 20 essential doctrines of the Christian faith in a way that is clear and accessible. It also includes chapter review questions that are perfect for private reflection or group study. This is a book that I wish I had had the day after I got saved. Seriously.

As an immediate fourth pick, I’d also recommend getting a copy of Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul. It’s packed with great principles on how to study the Bible in a way that will keep you from winding up in some pretty scary places theologically.

What three books would you recommend?