Saturday, June 12, 2010

How to Listen to a Sermon

The following comes from George Whitefield, a British Methodist evangelist, who lived from 1714-1770. This is every bit as relevant now as it was then.

Keys for getting the most out of what the preacher says

Jesus said, 'Therefore consider carefully how you listen' (Luke 8:18). Here are some cautions and directions, in order to help you hear sermons with profit and advantage.

1. Come to hear them, not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty. To enter His house merely to have our ears entertained, and not our hearts reformed, must certainly be highly displeasing to the Most High God, as well as unprofitable to ourselves.

2. Give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God. If an earthly king were to issue a royal proclamation, and the life or death of his subjects entirely depended on performing or not performing its conditions, how eager would they be to hear what those conditions were! And shall we not pay the same respect to the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and lend an attentive ear to His ministers, when they are declaring, in His name, how our pardon, peace, and happiness may be secured?

3. Do not entertain even the least prejudice against the minister. That was the reason Jesus Christ Himself could not do many mighty works, nor preach to any great effect among those of His own country; for they were offended at Him. Take heed therefore, and beware of entertaining any dislike against those whom the Holy Ghost has made overseers over you.

Consider that the clergy are men of like passions with yourselves. And though we should even hear a person teaching others to do what he has not learned himself, yet that is no reason for rejecting his doctrine. For ministers speak not in their own, but in Christ’s name. And we know who commanded the people to do whatever the scribes and Pharisees should say unto them, even though they did not do themselves what they said (see Matt. 23:1-3).

4. Be careful not to depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought to think. Preferring one teacher over another has often been of ill consequence to the church of God. It was a fault which the great Apostle of the Gentiles condemned in the Corinthians: 'For whereas one said, I am of Paul; another, I am of Apollos: are you not carnal, says he? For who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but instruments in God’s hands by whom you believed?' (1 Cor. 1:12; 2:3-5).

Are not all ministers sent forth to be ministering ambassadors to those who shall be heirs of salvation? And are they not all therefore greatly to be esteemed for their work’s sake?

5. Make particular application to your own hearts of everything that is delivered. When our Savior was discoursing at the last supper with His beloved disciples and foretold that one of them should betray Him, each of them immediately applied it to his own heart and said, 'Lord, is it I?' (Matt. 26:22).

Oh, that persons, in like manner, when preachers are dissuading from any sin or persuading to any duty, instead of crying, 'This was intended for such and such a one!' instead would turn their thoughts inwardly, and say, 'Lord, is it I?' How far more beneficial should we find discourses to be than now they generally are!

6. Pray to the Lord, before, during, and after every sermon, to endue the minister with power to speak, and to grant you a will and ability to put into practice what he shall show from the Book of God to be your duty.

No doubt it was this consideration that made St. Paul so earnestly entreat his beloved Ephesians to intercede with God for him: 'Praying always, with all manner of prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and for me also, that I may open my mouth with boldness, to make known the mysteries of the gospel' (Eph. 6:19-20). And if so great an apostle as St. Paul needed the prayers of his people, much more do those ministers who have only the ordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit.

If only all who hear me this day would seriously apply their hearts to practice what has now been told them! How ministers would see Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven, and people find the Word preached sharper than a two-edged sword and mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the devil’s strongholds!

More to this Mess Then Oil

I don't write about political matters as much anymore for a variety of reasons, which could probably be a blog in and of itself. However, I found the following article to be an eye-opener. We all know that Obama promised "hope and change" until none of us could stand to hear it one more time. My idea of change when it comes to politics involves representatives of the people actually putting the needs of a nation ahead of their special interest money buddies. This is clearly not happening in this administration. The following is courtesy of Charles Payne at "WStreet Market Commentary".

By Charles Payne, CEO & Principal Analyst

6/11/2010 12:34:37 PM Eastern Time

This BP situation keeps getting more interesting. Within two weeks of the spill, no less than thirteen nations offered assistance. They have all been turned down. This is nuts and more than hypocritical considering criticism aimed at President Bush for not accepting aid from Cuba after Hurricane Katrina. We are talking about help being offered by our closest allies and nations with vast expertise in deepwater disasters: Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K. (the UN offered help, too). According to Foreign Policy magazine, Belgians say they could clean the mess up in four months or less.

So what gives? The Jones Act, which isn't named after Van Jones but could have been. The Jones Act is in section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. The act states all goods transported between U.S. ports must carry a U.S. flag, be constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and have a U.S. crew who are permanent residents. The act also says these ships must have union crews. The act has already devastated the US. shipbuilding industry, which has been saddled with higher costs and limited opportunities. As a consequence, only 1% of the world's shipbuilding occurs in the United States.

It seems certain President Obama hasn't waived the Act because of his obligations to unions. By the way, President Bush waived the Act after Katrina, and help came in from many nations. As culpable as BP is for this, their partners in crime seem more and more to be the Administration, which appears to take its marching orders, even on environmental disasters, from environmentalists and unions. This is shocking stuff especially as the White House is looking to break more contract law and dictate the actions of an independent business. I don't know if BP is going to fold on the dividend; if there is a hint they couldn't pay for the clean up they should.

If, however, the company is going to be forced to pay for political decisions by the Administration, but otherwise could meet new obligations, then it should stand for shareholders and capitalism. In the meantime, there is close to $3.0 billion in the Oil Spill fund and it grows by $667,360 a day; we should be using that money to help the people in the Gulf. It's not, and it never will go to help those people because the fund and the new hike is nothing more than a way to punish oil companies in lull of a windfall profit tax so eagerly sought for a long time.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Francis Chan's Last Sermon

Francis has left his post as pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA after 16 years because he feels God calling him to inner city ministry - probably Los Angeles. So, I was very curious as to what he would say in his final sermon to his congregation. What was on his mind and heart after being there from the beginning when it was just a couple dozen of them meeting in a home?

The passage he chose was Revelation 21:1-8:

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

5And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6And he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

Although I have only heard Francis preach a handful of times, it is not surprising that his final message was very much like the other messages I have heard...and much like his book "Crazy Love". He really picked up on the word cowardly in verse 8. He implored his congregation, as he does so often, to live for God completely and without fear. Don't trade in what is infinitely eternal and worthy for those things that are detestable and temporal. If you are not ashamed of God, He will not be ashamed of you. He referenced Matthew 10:26-28:

26"So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Don't fear man. Don't live like a coward because of what others may say about you or do to you. If they kill you for following God than you are just following in the footsteps of your Savior. How wonderful your reward will be. Only fear God. For if you refuse to follow Him than you truly have something to be worried about.

I think every sermon should center on at least one of two primary themes: 1) The Gospel; and 2) Our response to it. Ideally, each sermon should include both. For without both there is no relationship between us and our Lord.