Your Arguments Are Making My Head Hurt

I recently delivered a sermon for one of our congregations that I knew they would be interested in hearing. They are a lively bunch and love to debate each other. They even meet after their service for discussion, which can often get quite heated.

I knew my topic would be provocative for them. However, I didn’t give much thought to just what kind of impact my sermon might have on them. And THAT was irresponsible.

[img] Arguing couple

I myself love to discuss ideas. I am a committed life-long learner and accept that I can learn much from the knowledge and experience of others. Indeed, it was in such a context that my sermon topic arose.

My team and I are leading a course for new Christians. During one of the classes, the question of the inherent authority of the apostle Peter came up.

To give you some quick background: In The Gospel of Matthew, Jesus commended Simon Peter for his faith. Jesus then made a provocative statement about Peter that has caused all sorts of heated debates ever since.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
(Matthew 16:13–20)

Because this question came up, I had to do some research and offer an answer. Which I did, and discovered some interesting points in the process.

I realised, then, that I was rostered to deliver a sermon for the previously mentioned congregation. I expanded my answer out to a full sermon, knowing that this congregation would very likely be interested in this topic, as I’ve already written.

Here’s the problem: In preparing the sermon, I naturally had to share points to apply my insights from this story to the everyday lives of my listeners. Which I did. My application points were two-fold: 1) Be consistent in faith and lifestyle; and, 2) Stop the debating!

I don’t know if you have every delivered and shared a sermon. For me, something weird always happens: As I’m delivering my sermon, my mind is thinking through the relevance to and response of the congregation. I can’t stop this from happening, this second guessing. As any preacher will tell you, one just has to push through this.

Anyway, such thinking always happens to me. Except, this time, I startled myself with the realisation that I had not paid attention to my intended congregation for this sermon. I knew they would be interested in the topic. I knew my viewpoint would not be acceptable to everyone and that there would be discussion afterwards —we had very good discussion afterwards, by the way. But, my point in saying, “Stop the debating!”, was a general point that Christians should not allow friction to tear our communities apart. The problem is that I forgot that, for this congregation, such friction was a constant threat.

I was quite irresponsible in not paying more attention to my intended congregation. Yes, they were interested in my topic, but my topic had the potential to cause much more serious friction than I was willing to consider. My application was a general statement, whereas I should have applied my message to their specific situation.

Yes, they needed to stop debating, but I needed to couch this in much more considerate language and expand my application so much more than I had done.

Words are powerful and those who teach carry an awesome responsibility upon their shoulders. The apostle James wrote,

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
(James 3:1)

Especially when we share the good news about Jesus with others we would do well to be quite intentionally considerate. Spend more time than you think you need in applying the Bible to Christian lifestyle. When done right and well, such sharing has the potential to build me up and encourage them to a much better way of living in this world with one another.

If you would like to read the sermon for yourself, you can do so by clicking this link: “Your Arguments Are Making My Head Hurt

Is Your Faith Big Enough for Others?

When one’s faith has become so small that we pray for our own needs and wants, yet ignore the plight of those around us, something has become seriously wrong. Our faith is not big enough for others.

[img] Compassion statue

I have found myself to be quite stressed and distracted lately. Of no use to anyone.

I used to have such a burden for others. Others seemed to naturally open up to me about their struggles and questions. I connected with others easily.

However, because my schedule is now so full, and I cannot possibly meet all of the demands I have placed upon myself, I no longer have time for others. And it has become increasingly apparent that others can see this in me and are no longer drawn to connect with me. This is not good for anyone.

I was reading today a story from the life of the apostle Paul that has really caused me to reconsider my life. This story has inspired me to regain my compassion.

In Acts 27:1-44, we read that the apostle Paul was under arrest and on his way to Rome to present his case to the judgement of the emperor. He was under guard and about to board a ship. Because of his previous experience with shipwrecks (2 Cor 11:25), Paul had warned the sailors not to set sail (Ac 27:10). All appeared calm, so the decision was made to set sail anyway (Ac 27:13).

As the story goes, “before very long” a mighty wind began blowing and, soon, they were in the midst of a disaster (Ac 27:14-20). They were forced to abandon cargo and necessary equipment, and gave up hope of survival.

After a few days, Paul encouraged the sailors, soldiers, and prisoners to recover their strength by eating. Although he had warned them previously, he offered them these inspired words,

I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.

Indeed, it all transpired exactly as Paul predicted. Paul’s faith wasso strong that he was, personally, granted a vision. An angel reassured him that God would protect him and continue to lead him on the journey to Rome, which was exactly God’s plan for Paul. What I find so fascinating about this story is that the favour shown to Paul was extended to the others (cf. Gen 6:7-8).

Paul could have rested easy and secure in the knowledge that God was looking out for him. Instead, his faith was large enough that he began to minister to the emotional and physical needs of the others —sailor, soldier, and prisoner alike. His compassion was such that he did not hold back the word given to him by God, but shared that encouragement. The grace extended to Paul would guarantee the safety of all on board the ship.

The command of God is for us to love our neighbours (Mt 22:39). Even more than this, the covenant of God is that he would bless his people that we might be a blessing to others (Gen 12:1-3). The tendency of Christians to only think and pray and believe for themselves fails on both these counts.  When one’s faith has become so small that we pray for our own needs and wants, yet ignore the plight of those around us, something has become seriously wrong.

Never lose sight of the compassion and love of God for you, shown in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Jn 3:16). And know that the comfort and confidence and blessing you receive, by faith, can and should overflow into the lives of those around you. You just may be surprised to discover that others are suffering exactly the same circumstances as you. May your faith be large enough for others!

How to Avoid the Subversion of Television

[image] Media Images Girl with Remote Control

I came across the following quote from Bryan Fischer, director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy for the American Family Association, in a conversation with conservative talk show host Kevin Miller:

What’s illustrated [by Modern Family] is the way that the media influences the way that people think about life. The portrait there that’s being presented is designed to make you think that same-sex households are wonderful, they’re loving, this is paradise, this is the optimum nurturing environment for children, to make you think that heterosexual marriage is bondage, it’s dreary, it’s gloomy, and we know that the social research indicates exactly the opposite. You know, that’s the danger. It’s just like getting a little bit of poison over a long period of time, eventually getting enough accumulation in there where it can be kind of lethal to the organism. And I think that’s what you’re seeing with a lot of this programming. It has to do with kind of the basic view of morality and marriage and life and family that people have. It’s very corrosive; people are just watching TV to be entertained, not realizing that their view of life is being twisted in a way that’s very harmful to them and harmful to our culture.

Now, I know that some will react badly to my saying so, but I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly with the above statement.  Even if you are pro-same-sex-marriage, you cannot deny the subversive power of television and other forms of media to undermine the beliefs and values of passive viewers.

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Kenneth Boa on glorifying God

[image] on glorifying God
If we wish to serve and glorify God, the most authentic expression of this desire will be in the ordinary activities of life.
(Kenneth Boa)