Month: July 2014

What to remember when you’re suffering

When we are hurting, it helps to pull out one of the preachers of old and hear him remind us that God ordains affliction for our good and his glory. Here’s what the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), said about the benefits of suffering:

“God’s great design in all his works is the manifestation of his own glory. Any aim less than this were unworthy of himself. But how shall the glory of God be manifested to such fallen creatures as we are? Man’s eye is not single, he has ever a side glance towards his own honour, has too high an estimate of his own powers, and so is not qualified to behold the glory of the Lord. It is clear, then, that self must stand out of the way, that there may be room for God to be exalted; and this is the reason why he bringeth his people ofttimes into straits and difficulties, that, being made conscious of their own folly and weakness, they may be fitted to behold the majesty of God when he comes forth to work their deliverance. He whose life is one even and smooth path, will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence, but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God. They who navigate little streams and shallow creeks, know but little of the God of tempests; but they who “do business in great waters,” these see his “wonders in the deep.” Among the huge Atlantic-waves of bereavement, poverty, temptation, and reproach, we learn the power of Jehovah, because we feel the littleness of man. Thank God, then, if you have been led by a rough road: it is this which has given you your experience of God’s greatness and lovingkindness. Your troubles have enriched you with a wealth of knowledge to be gained by no other means: your trials have been the cleft of the rock in which Jehovah has set you, as he did his servant Moses, that you might behold his glory as it passed by. Praise God that you have not been left to the darkness and ignorance which continued prosperity might have involved, but that in the great fight of affliction, you have been capacitated for the outshinings of his glory in his wonderful dealings with you.” (Morning and Evening, July 19)

Listen to Jesus!

Need a children’s sermon on the Transfiguration? Try this one…

Title: “Listen to Jesus!”

Scripture text: Mark 9:2-13

Materials you need: A soccer ball and, if possible, a photo of a famous soccer player like Tim Howard

Opening question: How many of you like to play soccer? (interact with the children’s answers)

download (1)Message: Let’s pretend for a few minutes. Let’s pretend we’re at soccer camp. Soccer camp helps you become a better soccer player. And let’s pretend it’s the last day of soccer camp, and the coach says, “Today, boys and girls, a special guest will be joining us. He happens to be one of the best goalkeepers in the world. In fact, in the 2014 World Cup game against Belgium, he made 16 saves–a World Cup record! His name is Tim Howard!” (show photo) 

What would you do if Tim Howard were to show up at soccer camp? How would you behave? Do you think it would be OK to cut up and joke around with your friends while Tim Howard was telling you about playing soccer? (No, of course not!) What if you got scared and nervous and started saying all kinds of bizarre things. Suppose you said, “WOW! Tim Howard! This is amazing! I’m going to run to Wal-Mart right now and buy a tent, and I want to put you in the tent!!”–would that be a good way to react to Tim Howard? (No!)

Well, let me tell you a story that happened in Jesus’ ministry. One day he took Peter, James, and John up a high mountain. The Bible says that there Jesus was transfigured before them. That means his whole body was suddenly lit up like the sun. Mark 2:3 says “his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.” Two men from Old Testament times–Moses and Elijah–suddenly appeared with Jesus and talked with him. And Peter got so afraid and nervous about what was going on that he started saying the craziest things. He said, “Rabbi, it’s good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” The Bible says Peter did not know what to say, he was so terrified. I suppose he was scared and nervous and puzzled and amazed, all at the same time.

All of a sudden, a cloud came down and overshadowed Jesus, Elijah, Moses, and the three disciples. God the Father spoke from the cloud and said, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him!” And with that, the cloud disappeared, along with Moses and Elijah.

That’s a really wild story, isn’t it, boys and girls? But it shows how important it is to listen to Jesus. He is much, much greater than a sports hero like Tim Howard. He’s greater than Moses and Elijah. And guess what–he’s here with us this morning. He’s right here in our church. Of course, his body is not with us, but he is here in the person of the Holy Spirit. He’s also here in his Word, the Bible. We’re about to hear from him in the sermon. So I hope each of you will listen carefully to the reading and preaching of the Word of God. God loves us so much that he sent Jesus to earth 2,000 years ago, and he’s still speaking to us today through the Bible. Jesus is God’s beloved Son. Listen to him!

How do you handle failure?

I’ve come across a new book that looks like a great read. It’s called Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure, by J. R. Briggs. According to Scot McKnight the book deals with “four basic areas downloadof failure for pastors:

1. Mighty fall: sexual, moral failures

2. Tragic event: cancer, shocking terminations, betrayals

3. Slow leak: wearing down of the soul. Constant drips of discouragement

4. Burned out: crisis to crisis wears a pastor down. The system overheats and it burns out.”

Add to these things the other pressures faced by ministers of the gospel (expectations of success and church growth, the allure of celebrity, the constant need to produce rich Bible messages, staff demands,
etc.), and you have a real recipe for debilitating guilt and shame.

Looks like a must read.

Great Children’s Sermon Idea

Here’s a creative idea for reaching the children of your church. My son-in-law is a pastor on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. He gives a children’s sermon every Sunday. During the summer months he does something the kids (and adults!) of his church love. He calls it the “mystery box.” Here’s how it works.

The mystery box is just a shoebox covered in bright wrapping paper. Each Sunday my son-in-law gives the empty box to a randomly selected child. The child takes the mystery box home and brings it back the following Sunday with something inside. The rule is that the child can put anything s/he wishes inside the box, but obviously it must be able to fit in the box and it can’t be anything alive or at one time alive. Also the child cannot get the help of an adult, and s/he must not tell anyone what’s inside the box.

The next Sunday, the child brings the mystery box to church. When it’s time for the children’s sermon, the child hands the box to the pastor who must open the box, show the congregation what’s inside, and come up with a short children’s object lesson on the spot. Some of the objects in the box pose quite a challenge but it’s a fun way for my son-in-law to show the kids how the Bible speaks to anything.