Friday, October 30, 2015

Fallout from a Good Sermon

For the past three weeks, in our quest for a church home, we've visited a church that we think just might become our church home. Finding a church preaching the Word and not worldly philosophy has been a huge challenge, but we might finally be at the end of our search.
Last Sunday, the senior pastor of this church preached a sermon on the whole armor of God. Since then, I have been driven to think about, ponder, look up and study the passages he preached from because his preaching was so spot-on that it fueled further study. 

This is fallout from a good sermon. 
This is what pastors want their people to do.

Many times, I'm looking up the sermon passage because I'm uncomfortable with the content of the sermon and I'm searching to see if what was preached was true to the passage. Mostly it hasn't been for the past three years. Mostly it's been a quest to feed myself the truth of a passage because whoever "preached" it did not. 

That has not been the case for the past three weeks. The first week we visited, they had a guest speaker, a missionary, and he was true to the text. The next week, the senior pastor preached and he was spot-on, just as he was this past week.

His text last Sunday was Ephesians 6:13-17 and he preached on the whole armor of God, focusing on the helmet of salvation and he referred back to Isaiah 59:16&17 where God sees no intercessor so He brought salvation unto him and he put on righteousness as a breastplate and the helmet of salvation and verse 20 where it says, "And the Redeemer will come to Zion...." and this has all served all week to nourish my soul.

He said the helmet of salvation guards my mind so I'll remember the permanence of salvation; that I have a future with Christ. We are saved from the penalty of sin. We are saved from the power of sin. 

Do you see what a good sermon can do for the heart of the people? It's Friday and I'm still contemplating this sermon and excited to hear more this Sunday. I take notes. I devour this. 

I do not have this reaction when a pastor preaches philosophy or some list of how to do this or that. I don't care how he feels about how anyone does this or that, I care about God's Word, which He manifests through preaching.

It's the preaching, people, not the program. It's not the style of preaching, either, because there is only one way to preach and that is expository. Anything else is not preaching.

This daughter of Abraham has been empowered, encouraged, strengthened and motivated.

If all programs were thrown out the window and only the preaching remained, God's Word, the ministry and the advancement of His kingdom would still thrive.
It's the preaching.
Get this.

Monday, October 26, 2015

What I Learned from Barbie

When I was a little girl, I had a Barbie doll. Mind you, I had only that one. I treasured that doll. Then one day, the dog chewed her up.

One of my sisters had a Barbie and she shared her with me from time to time, so I wasn't totally without Barbie in my life. A family friend had every Barbie imaginable  - and the playhouse! Imagine my joy when we played at her house. I remember wondering why she ever did any other thing besides play with those Barbies.

A few years ago, there was an uprising against Barbie because some felt she was too unrealistic to be a good role model for young girls. This confused me at the time, but I wasn't real motivated to say much about it. Today, however, I saw a commercial for Barbie that prompted me to write. It was an excellent commercial and hit on the points of how Barbie helped me in my life. Click here to see the commercial.

As a child, I never compared myself to Barbie. I never felt I had to measure up to her image. She
was/is just a doll and I knew it then as I know it now. I don't remember ever aspiring to look like her. My Barbie had long, blonde hair and I did not. I'm a brunette. I've always been short, so Barbie's comparable human height wasn't on my mind. She was pretty and to have something so pretty was what was important to me. She represented something I could hope to have because she showed me that something better, a prettier life away from violence and abuse, existed.

What was on my mind when I played with Barbie was what this commercial portrays.  It was all about what could be. What I could become. What could happen. Playing with Barbie was about the hope of something better. It was about thinking that I was good enough to own something pretty and something that didn't actually "fit" on our rustic farm.

Even when Barbie was being bashed, I still bought her for my daughters. A couple friends could not believe I would buy Barbie after all the negative news came out about her. But, I still thought Barbie was pretty and always wanted my girls to have pretty things. I also knew my daughters knew the difference between themselves and a doll, so they would not aspire to look like her. No one looks like anyone else, so the uniqueness of each of my daughters would not be compromised because they owned and played with Barbie Dolls. And, they wanted Barbie and I was so happy to be in a position to give them what they wanted every now and then.

Barbie Dolls were good for me as a child. Barbie represented hope and change and possibilities. Today, this is a relatively new thing for a toy company to represent, especially to girls, but Barbie has always represented this to me.

Thank you, Barbie.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

I am Ruined

In our search for a church home, we have been visiting many different churches. We are having trouble, however, because churches are not preaching the Word, they are preaching a social gospel that does not represent God's Word nor His message for mankind. We are extremely saddened and frustrated by this. I have taken to listening to proper sermons I find online because my soul is hungry for God's Word and I can't find anyone preaching It.

They are preaching philosophy.
They are preaching ideas.
They are preaching secular humanism.
They are preaching nonsense.

Let me give you some examples of things we've heard from pulpits for the last 2 1/2 years:

Jesus is a replica of God.
If you put God in the copy machine, Jesus would come out the other side.
You own your spouse like you own your toothbrush.
A wife is just the husband in another body.
The entire book of Philippians is centered around the fight of those 2 women in chapter 4.
I am the pastor; I rule over your entire life and you have to raise your family the way I say. (This one wasn't said in so many words, but it was practiced with disastrous results.)
You have all the power to change your life.
God can't work without your cooperation.
You can stop God's plan.
I see things in the Scriptures that no one else ever sees.

Most churches we've visited are big on series preaching. They choose a theme and preach a series centered on that theme. One church chose "The Fight" and formed "Fight" clubs for men, women and children. One church chose "Unstuck" and is attempting to tell people how to get unstuck from what they perceive holds them back (from what I don't know because no one said). The list goes on. Churches are choosing these series and searching out God's Word for verses that support their series themes.

A series theme is chosen, then verses are looked up to support the series founder's ideas on what the series should represent. These verses, always taken out of context to fit, sound so good and so right and so reasonable that the people are blinded by their application. Their souls cry out, "Yes!" while their spirit, unbeknownst to them, is led astray and destroyed. Instead of going home from the sermon more acutely aware of how great God is and more keenly aware of how great a gift Christ gave, they are puffed up with "You can do this," "You can choose," "You hold the power," and their faith is chipped away by their inward focus. They begin to believe it's all about them and they look inward to themselves constantly to make sure they are exercising all that power the pastor said they have. Are you choosing the right response to your spouse? (God won't bless your marriage if you're not.) Are you making sure your tone is proper when you speak to your children? (They will grow up into ungodliness if you don't!) Are you using your time wisely and not being idle? (God will not answer your prayers if you don't.) And the list goes on. And while all this is happening and the saints are completely preoccupied with their own behaviors, no one in their circles is hearing the gospel from them and their message becomes "Me! Me! Me!" instead of "Him! Him! Him!" These are all lies. God is not bound by anything you do, say, think or feel.

Where is the cry of Isaiah? Where is the sure-footed doctrine of King David to exalt our living God instead of ourselves? Where is the terror of Daniel? Where is the boldness of Paul to preach only Jesus and Him crucified?

I am ruined. I cannot tolerate this shallow preaching and gross misrepresentation of God's Word. My husband was my pastor for 32 years. He does not preach this fluff. He does not allow a subject to determine a sermon. He only allows God's Word to determine a sermon. Right now, while we are working to plant a multi-ethnic church, we are searching for a church home to belong to, but it is  not to be found. We have visited every church within reasonable driving distance and have been repulsed by the preaching in every single one of them.

We fought for the gospel throughout our years of full-time ministry. I am astounded that some have never had to fight for the gospel. We had to fight hard to keep the Name of Jesus in the pulpit and on our lips. Amidst threats, assaults and character attacks, we kept on for Him. Once you fight that hard to even keep His Name on your tongue, you develop a complete intolerance for anything less.

Put every sermon you hear to the test. Hold it up to the light of the gospel and see if it measures up. If it contradicts even one attribute or character of God, it is rubbish. God will not violate His own attributes in His own Word and no sermon should do that, either.

If a sermon is not expository, I'm not listening. I'm done. I'm ruined.