Thursday, June 20, 2013

Daily sermon prep

Preaching I think one of the reasons a preacher might be forced to spend long hours in preperation to preach is their lack of a daily devotional time. I know that in most daily devotional times we don't memorize a lot of scripture. However, if you go over the same trails in the word enough times you become familiar with them. Devotions I think that almost any devotional can lead to a sermon. The problem is that when people are spending a lot of time writing sermons they mix their own devotional times with their sermon preparation and then before long their is no devotional. The question has been posed how do you know when what you are getting out of the word is for you and when it is for sharing with others. Sermons Well, it depends on the question asked I supose. I think if it is good sound Biblical teaching then it is for all of us. If you are a pastor then when you pastor the people God has given you to pastor then you should be drawing out of the sum total of the knowledge and wisdom that God has given you. Knowledge and Wisdom What's the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Well, knowledge is what you know and wisdom is sort of how you use what you know. That's a good enough understanding to realize that when you study the word for knowledge or you get only knowledge out of a session it's like charging the battery. Then when you need to preach the battery is charged and the draw is hopefully not more than the battery. This is why the battery must be constantly charged. So that the charge will be there. Its part our task to be ready to preach in season and out of season. Preparing It's also commanded not to worry too much about what we will say when we are called to answer before our persecutors. Basically, you shouldn't have to prepare an answer for them. Still, it pays to prepare for your next sermon. I guess what I'm saying is that you are always preparing for you next sermon and isn't it true that your life itself should be semron of a sort? I think so and accordingly I think that spending time in the word every day simply studying and "becoming an expert" is absolutely necessary. There was a time when I didn't feel that way. I learned better. Be in the word so often that when you think to speak, the first thing that comes to mind to answer with is, yep you guessed it, Biblical. Thinking like God This writing, the Bible reveals much about the way that God thinks and we should train ourselves to match that course to the best of our ability and with His help get the job done. Don't spend so much time studying that you can't do the work, but study so that when you do the work you do it out of the abundance of the Biblical wisdom you have gained by being in His word.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tough Yards

Tough Yards Life was never going to be easy. Something in us longs for that easy sort of life. The American Dream There was a time in America where the concept of the American dream had become very real. People who worked hard and found a niche were getting filthy rich and changing their social status tremendously. Rags to riches and then of course riches seems to equal ease. Ease and the American Dream Today, it seems the American dream is alive and well but people have forgotten that the dream is not a life of ease or a day when your ship has finally come in but rather a successful strategy for changing your situation. Freedom is not found in someone, some mysterious stranger who will bestow success upon you. It's found in getting the job done because you are working hard and living for God. Working Hard When you put in your extreem effort and trust the outcome to God you will go to bed tired and yet comfortable. Too much ease is not good for a soul. Too meteroic of a rise is not good either. God made us to work and because of Adam's sin we have to overcome many challenges in order to be able to do so. Think of them as thorns and thistles. You have to either navigate around or overcome them in order to plant a successful crop. Getting Sick So, you'll be sick-take cold medicine, take a hot shower, get as much rest as you can, but do not feint. Do what must be done. Successful servants of God almost never take the day off for illness. There are exceptions of course. However, your job isn't better without you. God gave it to you and being sick and missing it is still a sin even if you think you are justified. Is getting Sick a sin? Hold on! Did he just say being sick is a sin? No, but think for a moment how many factors you can control in Christ that go into whether you get sick or not. Bottom line is, if you are so sick that being there legitimately endangers others- Let's simplify, Fever and vomiting in industries where you are in close proximity to people or food, for example-then miss. Being Proactive But, where it is in your control, be aggressively proactive so that you do not get that kind of sick and if you are not that sick, but uncomfortable, get over it and do what you are supposed to do. People push themselves for what they really want and you need to really want this. be faithful and 1) Tend you body (Sabbath, vitamins, exercise, nutirition, sleep) 2) Make your "work" whatever it is, a REALLY high priority. 3) Don't give up without a fight-calling off should be a last resort-which basically means, it should never happen (almost never.) Take it from a guy who used to be a hiring manager. That's what employers are looking for. Take it from a pastor, but more importantly, take it from God's word-James 4:17 he that knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (Where's the excuse of illness?) Get up and go to work for God. Pastor Dan

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Living a Plan (or else!)

Living a plan, having a plan, should we plan? Why should we plan? Adjusting the plan... I somewhat lost yesterday. I was very tired. Sometimes when I get really tired I have a hard time remembering what I did that day. If you are a Doctor and that is not normal please don't tell me what is going on with that. Unless, it's something that sleep, exercise, and vitamins won't deal with. Anyway, when I get really tired I tend to lose day segments. I think I remember everything that's really important like what my wife says to me. However, I can forget time spent on the couch and so on. Forgetting can't be taken lightly. Too much fatigue can't be taken lightly. So, I should have taken certain precautionary steps to recover and.....I did not. So, this morning fatigue declined into illness. Now, I'm sick and repentant. Repentance So, then I repent but repentance is not simply turning from sin as has been often taught. It is turning to God. It technically means to think again or to think differently. So, I'm thinking differently... Too tired to plan? Not adjusting to the new normal of your life as your life changes is tantamount to refusing to go on, so I'm thinking what the new normal is. Plans for me So, I'm thinking that my new normal includes routine and schedule and the like. Should we plan? I know my purpose with relative certainty. We know our purpose with relative certainty. So, I'm thinking what we need to do (barring specific intervention by God) is align our schedules and routines with our purpose. Since it seems that we should have control of our schedules and routines (under God) we should be able to do that. And if we do not it seems as if it would be sin. For him who knows to do good and does not do it-It is sin. James 4:17 So, Sherri and I (I always appreciate her bringing me along) are making some plans and scheduling some things so that we can make our scheduling and routines meet our purpose as much as is possible. Ex. Excercise together before the day begins. Scheduling things is good. Scheduling them at specific regular intervals seems more possible for persons who are at a more mature stage of their life (I'm really hoping this is us.) Just remember to say, If the Lord wills we shall do this or that. Planning I learned this from fasting: When you believe you should set a schedule you should set it before you begin it. Don't start and then debate the length. The enemy prefers you to debate with yourself how long your current assignment is that way at any juncture he can convince you to quit. If you prayerfully set the length before you begin you can stick to it no matter what and then afterwards determine your assignment and length for what's next. If something happens to make the continuation of the original plan impossible then it is impossible. If not, then finish or die trying. Changin the plan If in the middle, you would really rather quit or change course then I think you have to be released from your commitment by God. Pray. If He will not release you then stay the course no matter the cost. Think about the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus prayed for the father to remove the cup but He also prayed not my will but yours be done. That's what we should do as well. IF God says so, stay the course no matter waht. That makes knowing some details about the course up front that much more important. Seems radical? I don't really think so. Pastor Dan

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Conscripts and Walking Dead in Spiritual Warfare

Conscripts Today, my thoughts drift to conscripts. I guess by saying that I am bringing you in at the end of the thought process. As a friend of mine is keen on saying-Let's back that truck up a minute... Bondage Breaker There is a group of young people in our church which has undertaken to complete Neil T. Anderson's Bondage Breaker study. From the very moment the decision was made I can see Satan working (or at least his buddies) to stop the potential outcome from being one of total victory. Of course, He and his allies are our sworn enemies and so this comes as no surprise really. What amazes me is the diversity of his tactics. It appears as if he has been hard at work preparing for this opportunity for a long time. Leaders and students Anyway, it was the allies, in this case the young people and the leaders that I was actually thinking of when I followed the mental rabbit trail to come up with 'conscripts.' It occurs to me that bringing unskilled warriors into conflict with the enemy is exactly like this. Conscripts So, conscripts were local, non-combatants that were rounded up before the impending battle and armed with whatever was at hand, usually farm implements or house tools but occasionally more sophisticated weaponry. They would be lumped into a unit and stood out on the battlefield to impress the enemy or to enhance the courage of the allied troops. Didn't usually work although occasionally, if there were enough of them or if tactical advantage could be gained they could make a huge impact. Surviving spiritual warfare Typically, the conscripts that survived would be a little better skilled for next time and if next time was soon they would likely be armed with weapons from fallen foes. In a way it was trial by fire and the death toll was always high. Spiritual warfare So, I was thinking how every single thing in life plays a role in spiritual warfare and how most people do not understand or believe that. What's more, those who do believe it often do not have a deep seated conviction and so will fail to stand their ground. Preparing for spiritual warfare I'm saying that those who are now being asked to prepare themselves for real spiritual warfare and to equip themselves by adamantly approaching a good Biblical study are more like conscripts than trained warriors and are possibly headed for a fairly high 'mortality' rate. That is to say, if something is not done then more will 'fall' in spiritual warfare than will be victorious long enough to have a major impact. walking dead However, now I am thinking about walking dead movies...Funny thing about someone who’s already dead and still coming, you have to hit them hard and often to even slow them down. For if one died for all then all have died... So, if these young Christians are sold out for Christ then they will survive-surely not without hits but they will not quit, surrender, or fall. That being said, there should be some fruit that would be measurable. For example, if a young Christian really is the walking dead (speaking metaphorically) then they should be relentless, diving back into the fray (reading , studying, encouraging one another, acting out what they are learning to the best of the ability, and so on.) I am pressed but not crushed, persecuted, not abandoned... conscripts and walking dead in spiritual warfare I guess it all boils down to this. We are not conscripts even if we are not as trained as we should be. We need to embrace the things of God and realize that if He drives us no power less (and all are less) can stop us. Praise God for the valley of dry bones has been brought to life again. Pastor Dan Stevenson

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Excel at life

ON fire Living your life without absolute on-fire commitment is like reading a book to yourself without saying the words out loud. There's something missing. Oh, I know, it's the way people usually do it. It's quiet and they read. They like the quiet, even grow used to it. But the characters grow pail and the sound of someone’s emotions leaves the story. The words flow by. Especially the ones that you don't know all that well and mistakes become tolerable. In a way, I think it's because the desired outcome has changed. Were reading to see what it says and to determine where the story goes rather for the experience of the journey. Public speakers are warned to try speaking the written speech out loud and or practicing before they actually do it in front of people because when you simply read it in your head you overlook the mistakes and don't really improve your potential delivery. Read out loud That's what life without being on-fire for Christ is like. It just sort of slides by... It is somehow less vivid, even less real and some become very comfortable with that lack of depth-I remember an old song with the lyric-Drown me in the shallow water before I get too deep..." Self examination Ask yourself- Is that me? Have I begun to grow comfortable with a shallow life? That's not what God wants for you. He came so that you might have life and have it more abundantly. I'm telling you that God knows that we have a tendency to accept something less than the powerful life that He intends for us. People have been doing it since the garden... I will excel Don't. Say to God today, I will excel for you. I know that through Christ I could settle for something less than the life you intend for me just the same as I could shoot for excellence but I will not settle for less. I will apply the gifts you have made me steward of and I will follow you wherever you lead. Excel prayer for you May your story be out loud and in your face. May you experience life to the fullest. With powerful sorrow and even more powerful joy. God has made you more incredible than you will ever know but He knows and He has a plan...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Breaking mirrors, Swinging bats, and Spilling syrup

Preaching with Object lessons: So, I like to preach and teach the word of God using whatever object lessons I can dream up.. I like to get people up out of their seats to participate when possible and I know I have a few members who really like it to. I don't think there are any who don't like it. If you are one and you don't like it-There's really no need to burst my bubble... Caged enemy object lesson Bondage and Bars Anyway, this last Sunday one of the sermon points was "The same cage the enemy is trying to trap us with-he is trapped with...And we can use the bars against him. We got five or six people up to represent the bars of the cage and the enemy was inside the cage while the subject (Anna was representing all of us) was outside the cage. I gave the enemy (payed by Kary) the key which represented the keys to the kingdom (the treasure if you will.) As much as Anna wanted the keys she could not get close to the cage because I had given the bars permission to grab her and pull her into the cage. Even when Kary dangled the keys outside Anna could not get close enough to get them without being snatched up by the bars. Then, I took the keys and gave them to Sherri who was still seated by Anna. I told Anna that she could go for the keys and she went and got them easily. From her position inside the bars Kary could do nothing to stop Anna and the bars could not reach Anna. Anna had the keys and I then asked, "So who's in the cage now?" Object lessons and reality That's the way it is. The enemy-let's call him Satan is trapped inside the cage and wants to convince us that he has something we want. He doesn't. Bondage If we get close we just might get snatched up like he did. I talked about how some of the bars are laziness, appearances, pride, self-loathing, settling for less, and anger toward others. I say, not me. How about you? Chosen Last week, I started with a whole mirror tile that said invited on the back and I pointed out that evangelism is about getting people to understand that they are invited. When I flipped the mirror over, I asked can you seee yourself as invited. Can you see yourself here... Being prepared for your object lessons... Then, I had prescored the mirror and I turned and snapped it on the edge of the pulpit down to roughly two-thirds its prevous size. I am not superstitious. Anyway, I explained that some people reject the invitation. Thus the group was smaller. Still others, I snapped the mirror down one more size, are rejected by God because they "say yes" but do not live by what they "say." The remaining group is what the Bible calls "Chosen." I then quickly swapped out the remaining mirror piece with a piece that I had prepared in advance with the word chosen written across in red permanent marker. Then I asked, Can you see yourself here. I went on a few moments talking about what it means to be chosen of God and what that should look like in our lives. Teh Problems with Object lessons This hasn't always gone so well. Once, I attached fishing string to the ceiling tiles which was suposed to break when I pulled on it and when I pulled it resisted breaking. It took me several pulls. Just recently I used little squares of material and placed them in the back of the chairs before service. When the time came I asked people to "throw in the towel" as an indicator of surrender to God's course for their life. The problem was, the material edges were shedding and we are still finding little bits of material all over the church-little gold strings from the freyed edges. I shrug. The answer from God Once a long time ago when I was a youth director at ETBC, I got a game out of a book. The game was a relay where teens would carry bowls on the bare feet by stepping in a light layer of syrup in the bowls. They would walk, run, stumble there way to the other line where they would procede to clean their feet while the next person took the bowls on their feet. Right before the game I was looking for bowls and I got the bright idea to use stainless steel mixing bowls so that they would be easier to clean after. However, Syrup does not stick to stainless steel very well and the resulting catastrophe spread syrup all over the carpet in small droplets and I do mean all over. I got down on my knees and scrubbed every last spot with a wet rag. I did this without help primarily because I felt stupid. I decide to pray while I was down there and you know what God said back to me during my prayer time scrubbing syrup out of the carpet. He said, "It needed to be done." No, not the syrup, not the scrubbing, but the ministry. I may be a screw up sometimes, but the reality is that a chosen person's screw up is better than a rejecting person's excellence. Once, when I used a bat and large paper banners to represent breaking free from sin. I swung the bat just one time while I let others do it all but that once. Meanwhile someone was holding each side of the paper banner and the bat was supposed to demolish the banner which had the name of something that has the tendancy to lead people into bondage. It worked every time except, except for the one time I swung. I hit one of the guys holding the banner in the knee with the bat. The paper tore but the swing was off course and I clocked him in the knee. Well, he's still in the church today and he can almost walk normal now. No, actually it wasn't near that bad, but I'll bet it hurt and everyone saw it. I will not quit Here's my commitment to everyone who cares. I will keep screwing up for God as long as He wants me to. I will try anything and everything that is not sin to get the gospel out and to make it clear and understandable. So, watch your knees, I'm bringing the gospel. Is that Maple Syrup I smell? Psator Daniel Stevenson New Heights Church, Church Planting,and Life Station