Monday, September 14, 2020

"Good" Sermon vs "Powerful" Sermon

      I listened to two sermons today. Let me begin with the "second sermon." I was told that the second sermon was "good," so I decided to listen to it. It was on Facebook, and comments went even farther than "good," saying it was "great," "amazing," and even "awesome." I listened, and to be honest, I didn't really think it was any of those. I would label it, "okay" at best.

     Nevertheless, I have listened to many "good," and even "great" sermons in my life. The tables beside my study chair are filled with notes taken from these sermons. I am thankful for these "good" and "great" sermons, and they are important. They are Bible based, teaching sermons which are usually expository (the best in my opinion), taking the Bible verse by verse and breaking it down, or topical, sharing what the Bible says on certain topics. We NEED these kinds of sermons. But....

     Let's move to the "first sermon." I listened to this sermon simply because I usually listen to this pastor's sermons. After hearing it, I thought, "That was powerful!" After the second sermon, I began thinking about what the difference was between the two sermons. What made the first one so "powerful," and the second one "okay?" In fact, why do I end up labeling any sermon as "powerful," while labeling others as "good," "okay," or even "bad?"

     Two common characteristics are always connected with a "powerful" sermon: #1. It is filled with Holy Spirit power. You can sense it. You can feel it. It is undeniable. #2. It is grounded in Scripture. In addition to this, are one or more of the following characteristics:

People all over the room are weeping.

People all over the room are on their faces.

Unsaved people flood to the altar crying out to be saved.

Saved people flood to the altar crying out in repentance for living lives not in line with the Bible.

Addictions and bondages are broken.

The sermon creates a renewed hunger for God's Word.

The sermon creates a renewed passion for worshipping God.

The sermon creates a renewed fire to go out and change the word for Christ.

     After hearing sermons like these, if they are online, I immediately start thinking, "Who can I share this with?" "Who needs to hear it?" "Whose life can it change?"

     Many "good" and "great" sermons have come and gone, and I have mostly forgotten what was said during them (although they live on in my notes, and I have used bits and pieces in my studies). And, the "okay" and "bad" sermons I generally forget before the day's end (in fact, sometimes I even forget what was said before the sermon is done). Honestly, I have had my fill of these Scripture light, sin light, judgment light, love heavy, self-help, feel good, "powerless" sermons.

     On the other hand, I can still remember huge chunks of the "powerful" sermons, even years later. Some have changed my life. In fact, I was saved in October of 1994 at a Billy Graham Crusade after hearing a man share one of these (it wasn't Billy Graham).

     While not technically a "sermon," this is also why I love to listen to people who share "powerful" testimonies from the pulpit of how they were saved. I actually heard one of these last week from a young man who came to America as a Muslim apologist, and eventually became a Christian. I have no doubt that at the end, dozens of people were saved when he led them in a salvation prayer.

     As I said above, we need "good" and "great" sermons (amidst the millions of "bad" sermons), but as this world becomes increasingly godless, evil, and crazy, I find myself yearning more and more for Holy Spirit filled, life changing, "powerful" sermons, where the power of God is magnified and on display. I don't think I am alone in this.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Thankfulness During The Coronavirus

     As I write this on 3-20-20, we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic called the Coronavirus. During this virus outbreak, I have seen both the best and worst in people. As Christians, this can be our time to rise up and shine, and I have seen some great examples of individual Christians, and churches doing this very thing.

     I am "thankful" for these Christians who are making a difference right now, and this is what I want to focus on here: "thankfulness." In particular, I want to focus on the "thankfulness" that we should have as Christians. It is not always easy to be "thankful" in the midst of our trials, but the Bible tells us that we should be. In fact, the Bible tells us to "rejoice" in them (James 1:2-4)(Rom 5:3-4)(Jn 16:33). 

     Obviously, finding things to be "thankful" for when the world we know is crashing down around us can be tough, but even when things are at their worst, there are ALWAYS things to be "thankful" for if we look for them. Somewhere on this planet there is "one" person who has the most difficult life of anyone. The odds are very good that you aren't that one person. Therefore, it is safe to say that someone, somewhere has it worse than you do. Frankly, I suspect that many people have it worse than you. (The fact that you have a PC/phone/tablet to read this puts you ahead of much of the world.)

     What do you have to be "thankful" for? While this may vary from person to person, let me give you some ideas:

That you have salvation in Jesus Christ.
That you can go to the Lord in prayer at any time.
That you have the ability to worship the Lord without restrictions.
That you aren't dying from a lack of food.
That you have clean water to drink.
That you have a roof over your head.
That you are able to walk.
That you have heating and air conditioning.
That you have family and friends in your life that love you.
That you have your health.
That you have decent clothes to wear, and shoes with no holes.

     If you really focus on this, I am sure you can think of MANY more things as well. 

     I often urge Christians to take some time once in a while to go to the Lord with "only" a prayer of "thankfulness." Don't ask for anything, but simply "thank" Him for everything that you can think of. When you focus on all of the things you have to be "thankful" to the Lord for, this can be a source of great peace.

     In the midst of this Coronavirus outbreak, I have found some new things to be "thankful" for. Here are a few: 

     I am "thankful" for pastors who have used the internet to reach out and offer messages of encouragement to me and others during this time. 

(***If you are looking for another thing to be thankful for, imagine what your life would be like right now without the internet.)

     I am "thankful" for people who have been picking up and delivering food and products to those who are unable to get out. 

     I am "thankful" that God continues to provide for my wife and I during this time, even with a loss of income.

     I have found renewed "thankfulness" to God for calling me, and giving me the ability to minister to others (especially during this time of "social distancing") through my website (JesusAlive.cc) and this blog. 

     I am thankful for being an "introvert!" When you work in ministry, as you might imagine, being an introvert can have some definite disadvantages. At times, this gets me down. Right now, I truly believe that God has equipped me for such a time as this. While nearly everyone is going "crazy" right now being shut in, this time of isolation has had little effect on me. Most of my days are spent studying the Bible, writing Bible studies, and answering Bible questions on the site to help people. Right now, I have an opportunity to do this even more, and I am trying to take advantage of it.

     To my "brothers and sisters" in Christ who gather with me on a weekly basis to study the Bible, I miss you. This separation reminds me of how thankful I need to be for the love, prayers, support, and faithfulness you have given to me.

     The other day, I began trying to picture what my life would be like right now in the midst of this chaos if I didn't have the "peace that passeth all understanding" (Phil 4:7) that I received when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. As I pondered this, I have found "thankfulness."

     Finding thankfulness is something that God has been working on in my life over the years. Over time, I am getting better at it. Perhaps, like me, God is trying to show you some new things to be "thankful" for right now during this trial. Look for Him and His blessings in your circumstances, and give Him thanks.

     Friend, in Christ, God has a "perfect" plan for your life. Nothing that is going on in your life, or in the world right now is a surprise to God. God is in total control. (1 Th 5:18) "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

"Good" Sermon vs "Powerful" Sermon

      I listened to two sermons today. Let me begin with the "second sermon." I was told that the second sermon was "good,&qu...