The 2 Timothy 2:2 Objective

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 3.25.08


Jessica, my daughter, doing what she thought I told her when I told her the fear of Satan is called "Satanophobia."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Eighth: Preach It Man!

In continuing my series on sermon preparation, the final step is to actually preach the sermon. The most I can say about the actual act of preaching is to pray, pray, pray. God will do the work. It is the preacher's job to prepare and remove himself as much from the sermon as possible so the congregation can hear God as clearly as they can. If the preacher prepared well, then he will not wonder what he will say, or how long it will be, or how the passage will flow. He will know the point of the sermon and not chase rabbits all day and so loose the listener. The sermon will be direct, to the point, and will say what need said using the most efficient amount of words. That is not to say sermons should be short or fast - but they should be long for the simple sake of being long. My philosophy is, "I have something to say from Scripture and I will get up, saying as efficiently as I can and then watch God work." My preaching is the weakest link in that process.

As for some of the more practical or physical issues of preaching, most of the mechanics of public speaking can be applied and it will help the presentation. Here are some things to think about:

1. Talk slow and clearly. You have been thinking about the sermon for quite a while now. When you lay a big theological concept on them, take a second or two to let it sink into their minds. Otherwise, they will park there and miss the next few minutes of what you are teaching. You are not talking as slow as you think you are and your nerves make you talk faster than you think you are. Train yourself to preach at a appropriate pace for the audience.

2. You should be able to out-preach a crying baby. Invariably, there will be a crying kid in your sanctuary. Do not let it rattle you. Just keep preaching. The parents will appreciate that you did not point out that their child was unhappy. If you think that something was missed because of the commotion, just note that the point is too important to miss so you are going to repeat it.

3. Use meaningful gestures and good posture. One of most helpful things I learned from preaching class was the issue of what to do with your hands and how to use meaning gestures. To help us students work on this, we were to video ourselves preaching and then play the video back on high speed. This will magnify any repetitive behavior which can really distract a listener from the message. For example, there were some men in the class who rocked back and forth while they preached. At high speed, they looked like Weeble Wobbles. There was another man who lift his arms from his side and put them back down. At high speed, it looked like he was trying to fly. I do not remember having repetitive behavior but I would walk back and forth behind the pulpit but would not let go of the pulpit. As if it was a life raft and if I let go I would drown. As for posture, get your hands out of your pockets. Jingling change while preaching is distracting to the listener. And they will wonder what in the world you got in those pockets. No slouching over the pulpit - it makes one look tired and lazy.

4. People do funny things when listening to sermons. Do not let that distract you. I am not sure what runs though their minds, but people do the weirdest things while preaching. Once, while guest preaching, I looked over at a prominent church leader and he was sitting upright with both hands over his face. His head was not bowed - he was sitting normally as if he was looking and me and listening, he just had both hands over his face. Strange. Recently, when sharing a sermon, I had a man in the crowd shaking his head as if I was way, way off theologically (I was not) and flipping through the pages to apparently find his proof. I have had people just burst out and ask a question about something (that I do not mind at all). There is any number of things that can distract you from what you were saying. Train yourself to stay on track.

5. Preaching is a spiritual exercise and God will work how he wants. Allow me to say, I am not saying preaching is performance. I am saying that if we want to minimize any distraction which would hinder the listener to hear the message, then we need to look at ourselves as well. Do we have distracting habits which would hinder the message? How can we improve the delivery of the message? These points are about attempting to communicate the message as clearly as we can. It has nothing to do with natural ability. I am the world's worst speaker. But there are things I can do to improve and become better at the call God gave me, with His help.

6. Handling compliments. I still do not know how to do handle the comments after the sermon. People will invariably tell you, "That was a good sermon" or something like that. However, we are not want to preach a "good" sermon which people really found entertaining or fun. We want to preach a life changing message which will bring about a change in the relationship between people and their God. When someone compliments one of my sermons, I usually saying something like "I hope it helped" or sometimes just "Thanks." I hate doing that but I think the people 1) are trying to encourage me and 2) do not really know what to say after a challenging sermon. So I am trying to know their heart and hope they know mine.

I pray you find this series on Sermon Preparation helpful. If so, please leave a comment or two on the steps that you found helpful. If you end up preaching this sermon, please let me know how it went and if these posts were helpful. Also, if you have a link to your sermon, I would love to hear it.

Diagram -> Outlining -> Excursus -> Word Studies -> Commentaries -> Excursus -> Refining -> Illustrations -> Practice -> Preaching

Too Busy to Post

I have not posted for several days because I have not had the time. I am not complaining as I enjoy having projects I must complete and time lines to work with. I have transformed one of our house's bedrooms into a home office for my wife, I have preached a Wednesday night study for my pastor, I began "teaching" an online Philosophy of Religion class with OBU MTI, and maintained the house while my wife left town on a business trip. Those are the things I can remember.

So, for what it is worth, I just thought I would notify anyone who reads this that I will attempt to begin blogging again. Sorry for the break. I hope someone noticed. :-)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Geekfest 2008...Revisited

In a previous post, I mentioned how I was looking forward to some movies. Well...that was then, this is now. Many of those movies have trailers out and they look fun. Here they are:

Speed Racer

Star Trek: Under Construction

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Batman: The Dark Knight
This is just a tad disturbing so do not watch if you are creeped out easily or are afraid of clowns (the bad guy, after all, is "The Joker").

I could not find the trailers for X-men or Wolverine. But nevertheless, the above movies should be fun to watch. I am a sucker for superhero movies, cartoon-into-live-action movies, and great-books-turned-into-movies movies. Should be a fun summer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Seventh: Practice

In the continuation of the series of post regarding sermon preparation, we next turn to the issue of practice. We have worked a lot on this passage (1 Timothy 1:3-11) and have developed a decent sermon so far. The next step I take at this point is practicing delivering the sermon.

Now, first of all, some may have the concept of "practicing" delivering a sermon. I am sure thoughts such as, "If God has anything to do with it, you will not need practice" or "I do not want to practice my sermon, I only want to say what the Holy Spirit wants me to say." While these are valid thoughts, practice does not negate these concepts. In fact, practice can hone the thoughts what God would have you say to the audience to which you are speaking.

In addition to this, public speaking does not come naturally to me. When asked to extemporaneously give speeches or even announcements I have a hard time communicating correctly. I invariably flub some important part or leave out some integral detail. I do not want this happening when I preach. Why would God call someone who is that bad at public speaking to preach? I continual ask Him the same question. I rest on Paul's statements that I am strongest when I am at my weakest and the weak things of the world are what God chooses to work through.

When I practice my sermon, I do just as I would if I was standing before the congregation. I pray over my sermon, although at this time I am praying for God to prepare my heart and the people's heart who will be receiving this message. I am praying for God to show me what exactly He would want me to share with the people. Then I begin. I preach through the material I have prepared. I have a pen with me and when I come to a place that needs work or I feel like something needs added, I make note of it and move on. I also time myself. I want to know how long this message will take to preach through.

Practicing the sermon does several things for me. First, it helps me smooth the rough edges off the sermon. If there are awkward moments in the sermon or transitions that do not seem to flow, I can identify those and work on them.

Second, it helps me memorize my sermon. I know what is coming and do not have to looks at my notes when preaching the sermon. Also, when the sermon is memorized, it helps me live it out when I am running around town. If I am preaching about loving the lost and my sermon notes are running through my mind, I will think about the slow cashier differently (and it may provide a good sermon illustration at the same time).

Third, practicing the sermon helps gets more of "me" out of the sermon. That is, if I am unprepared then the audience gets a lot of me - my thoughts, my mistakes, my misspoken words, etc. Practicing helps minimize the things that may distract the listener from getting the whole message.

Finally, it may help me create a whole new "shape" for the sermon. For example, as I practiced our current sermon on 1 Timothy 1:3-11, I started with an illustration about counterfeiting and how Abraham Lincoln founded the Secret Service. This made me think that perhaps a good way to approach this sermon is something like "God's Secret Service" or "We must be God's Secret Service Agents." Then the main points could be a creative use of that topic. However, I was not able to do that as the time came for me to preach it without having time to "redevelop" the sermon in that manner.

I have one more note about practicing. I want to mention what practicing is not. I do not practice my sermon so I can produce the highest level of emotion in the congregation that I can. I do not practice my sermon so that I can have the best pointing jesters or waving or whatever. I am not practicing so the sermon will be my best performance ever. These are self-focused reasons for practicing and one must always remember to avoid such practices. I practice my sermons so that the message can be clearly heard and I can be removed as much as possible in the delivery.

We are almost through this series. While not a complete study of sermon preparation, it may help in giving a direction in which to move toward.

Diagram -> Outlining -> Excursus -> Word Studies -> Commentaries -> Excursus -> Refining -> Illustrations -> Practice -> Preaching

Monday, March 10, 2008

Book Review: Naming the Elephant

I recently read James W. Sire’s book Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept. It declares itself a companion book to Sire’s The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. The Universe Next Door is an essential reference book every Christian leader needs to read and have on their bookshelf. This book is an examination of eight major worldviews to which the majority of people on the planet hold. It begins with a definition of what a worldview is. However, eventually Sire was not happy with his own definition.

That is where Naming the Elephant comes in. This book is entirely about redefining a worldview. I found this refreshing because Sire is not apologetic for saying that while his definition was adequate it could be better defined to clearly communicate the definition of worldview. Sire begins Naming the Elephant with a history of the definition of worldviews. This discussion is worth the price of the book. Sire lays out in detail the trail of philosophers, Christian and secular, who have had the greatest influence in the development of the concept of worldview.

Next, Sire provides the reader proof of the need for the reworking of the definition of worldview. He moves from that topic to showing that a worldview is more than a set of presuppositions but is more of a way of life. This is important because of Sire’s previous definition of worldview. Following this logically and sequentially is Sire’s thought on how the concept of worldview impacts individuals and societies.

It is only at this point that Sire provides his redefinition of a worldview. Sire’s original definition of worldview, found in The Universe Next Door, says,

A worldview is a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic makeup of our world. p. 16

With the risk of spoiling the ending of Naming the Elephant, Sire’s new definition of worldview is,
A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being. p. 122.

Some of the main differences Sire points out, are a worldview is “a fundamental orientation of the heart.” In other words, it is a spiritual issue. A worldview shows where the person is at spiritually. Or perhaps said backwards, where a person is at spiritually will define their worldview. It is expressed as presuppositions and it impacts the way we live. It is my opinion this redefinition is clearer and helpful for the dialogue.

Sire finishes his book by discussion what difference this discussion makes. Since worldviews are a spiritual issue, and since they impact the way we live, we should understand how to use our worldview. Understanding what a worldview consists of and how that is manifested in a person’s life will provide the Christian leader with an essential “tool for analysis.” If we know what we are looking for as we read various authors’ work, their worldview shines through their words. As we look at art or listen to music, worldviews issues are easier to pick out. Our worldview helps us identify others’ worldview which in turn can help the Christian leader minister a bit more effectively.

The entire book was just a little over my head. I felt like I was in the deep end of the pool and was able to keep my head above water most of the time but very often my head would go under for a short time. I feel it is always good to read to stretch oneself in ones reading and this book did that for me. It is a good resource for anyone wanting to delve deeper into the topic of worldviews.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sixth: Illustrations

In continuing my series on sermon preparation, we turn to the topic of sermon illustrations. Illustrations are an integral part of the sermon. To begin with, sermons are well communicated when each main point has explanation, illustration, and application. That is, you state the main point and then explain what the author is saying about that principle. After that, a good illustration will help hammer home the point you are attempting to make. Finally, application MUST be made. Howard Hendricks says,
Observation plus interpretation minus application equals abortion. In other words, every time you observe and interpret but fail to apply, you perform an abortion on the Scriptures in terms of their purpose.

But, this is a coming post.
Back to the point at hand, illustrations help the preacher communicate his point clearly and help the audience remember the point.

Here is how illustrations made their way into our sermon on 1 Timothy 1:3-11. (Click here for our outline as it currently stands). As I was refining the outline (see previous post) I was also thinking of illustrations. For example, the first main point is:
I. We must have ministries marked by sound doctrine
          A. Watch for counterfeits
          B. Watch for divisions
          C. Watch for the goal - LOVE

This got me thinking about identifying counterfeits. The "standard" illustration is the "you must know the real dollar bill to identify the counterfeit - and the better you know the real dollar the easier it is to identify the counterfeit" but I figured many had already heard that illustration in a sermon about combating false doctrine. Therefore, I wanted to find something new or original to make my point of identifying counterfeits.

Next, the second point says:
II. We must avoid ministries marked by false doctrine.
          A. Their direction is off.
          B. Their discussions are empty
          C. Their desire is wrong.

This made me think of an illustration about false signals leads the follower astray. I wanted to find an illustration about that.

I could not think of anything for the last point while refining the outline so I needed to continue to think about that. I also wanted a illustration to kick everything off that captured the idea of the entire sermon. I was thinking something about the impact of counterfeiting on the economy and comparing that to the spiritual life.

Now that I had a good idea of what I was looking for I began to search for some good illustrations. What makes a good illustration? There are many things. Mostly, for me, I want to find personal illustrations first. I had a story about me, a compass working wrong, and me being lost in Fort Worth, TX. It is a somewhat amusing story but it communicate the point of following a false signal: "The compass may say west but you are going east. That is the way it is counterfeit teachers proclaiming a counterfeit gospel. They lead people astray" and so forth.

Next, I try to find illustrations I have not used before and have not been used so much they are almost expected from the audience. This is the same as them not listening. There are several places I look for illustrations.


I have several books of sermon illustrations. They are categorized by topic. I usually try to pick up these books when I see them on sale or in the discount bin. The trouble with these type of books is that, first, they are not that personal, and second, others have used them. However, you may not be able to get around that. When there is a good illustration, use it make the most of your point.

In the case of our 1 Timothy 1:3-11 sermon, I found most of the remaining illustrations on At least, I found the idea for the illustration on that site. Finally, I searched online for information about counterfeiting and was directed to the Secret Service's website. This provided me some great information for the beginning of my sermon.

Here is a list of the illustrations that I decided to use in the sermon (they are all listed except the illustration of my personal illustration). This search online really helped me because I found a great illustration for the final point of the sermon regarding the purpose of the law. When I read the illustration you see on the above link, I thought immediately of an object lesson of the level. I could bring a level in and show them the illustration.

Here are some things to note about illustrations:

1. The sermon is about teaching God's Word and illustrations help bring out the meaning of the text in a way that is memorable. The illustration is not about being "funny" or even "clever" it is about making the greatest impact with God's Word. It is a tool to help communicate God's Word.

2. The Emergent Church folks say the way we should be preaching is telling stories with God's Word to illustrate the story (I have sat in meetings with other pastors who seriously were talking about this as if it was a great idea). This is plain and simply wrong. There is no story anyone needs to hear and no story that will change anyone's life other than the Gospel story. I firmly believe that the Word of God must be plainly taught and illustration help make the point the author is attempting to communicate. You can take or leave illustrations but you cannot minimize God's Word to an illustration.

3. This is the not the part of the sermon that should take the longest time in preparation. That is, if you exegesis is weak because you have not taken the time you needed with it, an illustration will not help you have a biblical sermon. It may be entertaining but not biblical. Sometimes you may not find the illustration you are looking for and you have run out of time. Preach the Word. It is the Word that God promises to not return void, not our illustrations.

Our sermon is really ready to get into shape to preach. That will be the focus of the next post.

Diagram -> Outlining -> Excursus -> Word Studies -> Commentaries -> Excursus -> Refining -> Illustrations -> Practice -> Preaching

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Street Where You Live...or Die

The other day, or other month, Colorado Springs Police Department published a list of the most dangerous intersections in the city. Here is the map of the top five with a description of each intersection. Click on the marker to read the description.

View Larger Map

Here is an article with the entire list of the top 25 most dangerous intersections in Colorado Springs.

I am thankful that while my family and I pass by many of these intersections every day, we have not been in an accident for quite some time. We go past where these accidents "live" and are not injured so far. It gives a whole new meaning to the song,
I have often walked down this street before
but the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before.
All at once am I several stories high
knowing I'm on the stree where you live.

Book Review: 1984

I recently reread George Orwell’s 1984. I had first read 1984 in 1984, when I was in high school. I am not sure I appreciated much of the books message but this time it was an interesting read. Since 1949, when Orwell wrote the book, I am sure there has been countless reviews of 1984, so I will not review it as much as pull out some thoughts I had while reading it.

While reading this somewhat disturbing book, it really struck me how many little details in Orwell’s book were very close to reality today. First is the issue of the technology in the book. Things like the telescreen and the versificator are technology essentially used today. Granted, our TV’s do not transmit, but Tivo does monitor your viewing and provide you with suggestions based on your viewing habits. Computers can show a picture while projecting another with a small camera. These are eerily close to the telescreen. Songs are not written without any human invention as in the story, but one person on a computer can create a symphony (although, they usually don’t and it usually comes out more hip-hop than anything else). One really cannot contemplate today’s popular music and it almost seems its purpose is to numb the mind of the masses. Compared to something like Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, where each movement presents a musical interpretation of a season, today’s music seems a little less complicated, to say the least. Will it be long before pop songs are written entirely by a computer with no human behind it?

Second, some of the philosophical issues are very real today, which is exactly the point of the book. Orwell did not believe the socialism of his day went far enough. He conveys this thought through one of his characters, O’Brien, he says,
“We are different from all the other oligarchies of the past in which we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that.”

This does not mean Orwell was against socialism. He just did not believe it would work in it form in which it existed in his day. And he was right. He believed that for it to work, socialist leaders needed to be honest about their motives, and do everything they could to keep the proletariat from raising to the middle class. This can also be seen in the book from Winston’s continual thought, “If there is hope, it lies in the proles.”

It always strikes me about those who reject a capitalistic society desperately want a system of governance in place which would allow them to think differently and act differently than the "oppressive capitalist", when everyone under a socialist government are not allow them to think differently from the government and cry out to be saved. The problem with their thought process is they begin from the false premise that people are good. They believe people will work hard and at the same level as everyone else. They believe people want to share. The problem is, as Scripture reveals, people are not good at their core, they to be compensated fairly for the work they do, and they are by nature selfish.

The final thing which was eerily close to circumstances today is the issue of revisionist history. Historians are essentially allowed to rewrite history and that revision then is the way it happened. This was evidenced by my wife and daughter on a recent trip to Washington D.C. They were either in the rotunda or in the Supreme Court and were listening to another group being led on a tour. The tour guide pointed to the images which were obviously Moses and the 10 commandments. The guide told the group, “The one through ten Roman numerals on those two tablets represent the first ten amendments to the Constitution, which we call the Bill of Rights.” This simply was not the case. However, someone has “written history” and has declared these were not the Ten Commandments but the Ten Amendments. Thus, that is what they are and have always been. This is but one example which permeates children’s textbooks and other areas of our live.

1984 has some vulgar content in it but overall it is fascinating read, if read critically. As the version of the book I read said, it is a warning. If you have some extra time, I would suggest rereading it. It is not the best book I have ever read but it is a classic and it is worth being reminded of the warning.

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