What to do when a sermon tests your faith

 

On my way home last night I decided to listen to a Christian radio channel. They usually air sermons which I like to listen to while driving. Some of my most profound thinking time happens in the driver’s seat.

However, last night I was surprised to encounter a message focusing on Nazis, Syrians, the wrath of God, and hellfire. Where was the story of brokenness, forgiveness and redemptive love? I still am wondering about the context of that message.

Now, please don’t misunderstand: I’m not advocating that we should never focus on the reality of God’s justice and wrath which will come swiftly (Deuteronomy 32:35). A gospel of feel-goodery is just as incorrect.

However it saddens me to think that someone somewhere might have flipped on that channel, and presumed misunderstand the meaning of that message, further spreading ignorance and incorrect beliefs.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Acts 17:11 NIV

 

That’s why I draw such encouragement from the Bereans. They are a perfect example of how we as Christians are to receive something we don’t understand. Paul would later exhort the Thessalonians to take the same attitude:

Don’t suppress the Spirit, and don’t stifle those who have a word from the Master. On the other hand, don’t be gullible. Check out everything, and keep only what’s good. Throw out anything tainted with evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 MSG

So, how do we respond when a message leaves us with more questions than answers?

  1. We must be humbleDon’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t assume you have all the answers.
  2. We must be open-mindedDo not despise prophecies. You don’t know if this is a message from the Lord or not.
  3. We must be cautious: Check out everything and hold to what is good. If the message you hear doesn’t immediately agree with the basic truths of Christianity, suspend judgement and seek help.

This is where being plugged into a local church community helps. Make an appointment with a trusted elder or pastor. Ask them to pray with you and help your understanding. There’s an old Russian saying that goes “There is no shame in not knowing; the shame lies in not finding out.”

Does God lead your writings?

Happy Sunday dear readers! I bring you an exciting and challenging realization…

We are starting a new sermon series at my church for the summer, going through this book. I am barely through the first part of the first chapter and I had to set the book down and blog about it! 😉

From the title, one can gather that the thrust of the book is about what makes a healthy church. At first I wasn’t so sure I’d be interested in such a subject, but the more I think about it, there is nothing more important to be aware of than the health of your church. After all, the Church is the hands and feet of Jesus in the world! We are the eyes and ears and hearts of God sent out to love in His name. If we and our congregations are on the path to destruction and blindness, we immediately become workers on behalf of the enemy. C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters come to mind. In that book (another one I encourage you to read!) demons are on a mission to cultivate an underhanded type of misunderstanding; humans sin but think they are doing the right thing.

If you are reading this and you don’t exactly belong to one specific church, or perhaps you don’t believe it’s necessary to belong to a church, I pray that God put it on your heart to still read this book! (Or feel free to listen to my excellent pastor’s sermons on the book starting next week at CBCSB.org)

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Now, the reason I’m so excited about the first chapter: Mark Dever says, an important mark of a healthy church is Expositional Preaching. Expositional Preaching is the practice of taking a passage of scripture and “throwing light” on it. [This is in contrast to Topical Preaching, which is the practice of choosing a topic and then going into the Bible to find all the supporting evidence for that topic.]

The difference is that Expositional Preaching looks to God’s Word first, and gleans all the nuggets of truth, versus already knowing what you want to say and going and finding verses to back yourself up. I realized, or God revealed to me, the major implications this concept has for the art of writing blogs!

If you have your own God-centered blog, this is especially for you: If you’re like me, you’re going through your day constantly mulling over in your mind anything that might be ripe for a post. Learning this tiny piece of Seminary 101 knowledge has completely changed the way I think about forming blog posts. What if…I didn’t already have an idea of what I wanted to write about, but let the Word of God lead me? Have you ever had a friend who dominated the conversation so much that you avoided talking to him at all? How much better if the other person were made to feel included. I’ll be the first one to admit my tendency to dominate my conversations with God, and leave him little room to respond to me.

Disclaimer! This is not to say that topical preaching is bad! In fact, we all need to hear what the Bible has to say to us on a particular topic. And like I mentioned before, I’m not halfway done with the chapter yet. So don’t stop your topical devotionals by any means! I only mean to bring attention to the type of thinking of which I myself am guilty – selfishly writing on topics that only interest me, and with which I am comfortable. My intention is to be more mindful of how I write and with what motivation.

Hopefully this idea is inspiring to someone! At any rate, I know that God works his power in us mightily, no matter what.

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose  for which I sent it. ~Isaiah 55:11