Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My Book Reviewed in Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette

Many thanks to my friend Don Follis for reviewing my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette. Thank you Don!

More Than a Conference - It's a Family (Join me this Summer!)

Let the transformation begin!
Come away and be refreshed  
Holy Spirit Renewal Conference
A little bit of heaven on earth... 
HIS EMPOWERING PRESENCE
Experiencing the Fullness of Joy
JUNE 26-30, 2016 
Green Lake Conference Center, WI
Come away to the Holy Spirit Renewal Conference for five full days and nights to recharge in the presence of the Lord.  

EIGHT BENEFITS you don't want to miss! 
1. EMPOWERMENT. Hear revelatory, life-transforming, biblically balanced teaching from guest speakers Bob Hazlett and Robby Dawkins, national leaders Clay Ford and John Piippo, guest bible study leaders, and a wide variety of workshops. Be revolutionized!
2. FRESH TOUCH. Experience a fresh touch from God for healing, freedom and life-purpose, and get your joy back!
3. WORSHIP. Know God's love in presence-driven, no holds-barred worship. Know your God and be known by Him. Let the light shine in. 
4. EQUIPPING. Be equipped to operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit as they are demystified and made practical. 
5. CHALLENGE. Be challenged to advance the Kingdom of God, defeat the darkness, and embrace the authority of the believer. 
6. REFRESHMENT. Take time for rest, relaxation and recreation in a gorgeous, tranquil setting. Every afternoon is free time. 
7. NETWORKING. Be part of a loving family of God from all across America and be part of the growing HSRM movement.
8. FAMILY. All ages benefit from the Holy Spirit Renewal Conference. Excellent programs for children and youth. Young adults' fellowship offers connection and friendship. An unforgettable experience for all ages! 
Conference sessions  start at 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning, June 26 and end at 9:30 p.m. Thursday night, June 30. 
Robby Dawkins
Bob Hazlett
Guest Speakers 

Bob Hazlett 

Robby Dawkins
 


Local Accommodations

Conference Center
Green Lake Conference Center  Get directions here.  GLCC is located just west of the city of Green Lake on State Hwy 23 in south central Wisconsin; northwest of Milwaukee.  

Accommodations
Green Lake Conference Center offers on-site hotel and motel facilities, cabins and house rentals, camping and RV sites! Contact GLCC for availability and pricing and to reserve your lodging today (920) 294-3323. Several off-site lodging options are available in Ripon, WI and Green Lake, WI. 
5-Day Conference Pass

The Presence-Driven Church Doesn't Vote

My handheld hummingbird feeders


I took a break today and ate a snack while watching ESPN. The show was about the final NBA game in the series between Golden State and Oklahoma City. The discussion revolved around this question: "If OKC loses the game, will Kevin Durant leave OKC for another team?"

The sports announcer said, "Log in to espn.com to vote on whether Kevin Durant will choose to stay with OKC or go to another team."

This vote is about public opinion. That's all. It has no bearing on what Kevin Durant himself will choose to do. Durant is not going to wait for the outcome of the vote and then act on what the majority has ruled. 

It's the same with voting in the church. A church vote has no bearing on what God himself will choose to do, or desires to do. It's just the opinions of church people. God is not going to wait for the votes to be counted and then act as the majority wills. 

***
My book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God is available 
HERE and as a Kindle book HERE
You can contact me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

Age Me, O Lord

Monroe
I'm reading through the spiritual journals of my Payne Seminary students. God spoke to one of them and said, "You are afraid to grow old." 

I commented to them: "As this becomes more and more your experience you will long to grow old." 

As we abide closer and closer to Christ we gain more of the mind of Christ. Though our body erodes our spirit renews, day after day. After day. We become more human

Greater humanity-as-Christlikeness is the result of constant abiding. We get free-er. We become less rigid, less uptight. We chill out. We let go and let God. "Trust" leaves the theoretical realm and becomes actual. Ah, the thrill of growing older in this way! Once recognized as our earthly destiny in Jesus, who wouldn't want to age?

The fear of growing old wearies us. The joy (and privilege) of growing old renews us. Therefore age me, O Lord. Like fine wine kept for the wedding banquet, uncork me in my late year and pour Yourself out through me.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Reason You Are Wounded by Rejection

With Linda's piano/vocal students - May 2016
We all need affirmation, as well as realistic evaluation. But there is a disease called affirmation addiction, and it is punishing to the soul. The affirmation addict goes up and down with the approval and disapproval of people.

Are you disturbed when someone dismisses you or assaults you on Facebook? The source of your disturbance is your addiction to affirmation. If you did not live for the approval of other people you would not die by their disapproval of you. You have to choose whose acceptance you will live and die for.

Bob Sorge says, "Jesus was not touched by the praise of man, so he was not wounded by the rejection of man." (See here.) This is from John 5:44, where Jesus faces his followers and says,  How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?
Jesus refused to receive the approval of humanity. He didn't live and die by what other people thought of him. Instead, he lived and died by the Father's approval, and thus was free to live and die for you and me.

***
My book Praying is available as a Kindle book HERE
Paperback HERE and HERE.
Hard cover HERE
You can contact me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

Don't Let Your Sufferings Define You

Howard Thurman writes: "There are many people who would feel cheated if suddenly they were deprived of the ego definition that their suffering gives them." (Howard Thurman: Essential Writings, 56)

Some people are self-defined by their suffering. They are men and women of sorrows, and that is all. To free them of their sufferings, to redeem them, would be to deprive them of their core identity.

Such people resist the redemptive activity of God. They need their sufferings. They will feel like a nobody should their being-victimized cease. Prisonhood is their "normal"; freedom is alien to them.

One way people stay enchained and enslaved is that their chains define and delimit them. To escape this demonic life-condition requires a revelation of their true self, their true identity, as children of God and made in God's image. Only then will they be horrified by their chains and suffering and cry out for release and redemption.

If you are a Jesus-follower and relate to this then read this and apply. 

***
My book Praying is available as a Kindle book HERE
Paperback HERE and HERE.
Hard cover HERE
You can contact me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

Poison: The Praise and Rejection of Man





You can break free from what other people think and say about you, whether affirming or disaffirming. This video by Bob Sorge is very good on this. 


For another killer video teaching by Bob Sorge go here - God Could Have Left Job Alone

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Holy Spirit Is the Inner Sherpa

Explore Inner Space

Al Willingham & I on the equator in western Kenya
One of my favorite spiritual formation verses is Proverbs 20:5 - "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding can draw them out."

When we consistently abide in Christ, God's Spirit moves in the deep waters of our heart, searching us out, restoring our souls, and morphing us into Jesus-likeness. This is the inward adventure, the inverted Mt Everest expedition, the exploration of one's very being. 

This is so terrifying that many refuse to undertake it. Paul Tournier wrote: "What is there then within this sepulchre where all the repressed rubbish of all humanity as well as our own is rotting?" Anyone who has spent many hours of being searched-out by God knows what this is about. All is not well within the depths of our souls, but God longs to go deep and heal us. This is a necessary part of spiritual transformation. God is a physician who wants to open us up and take a long look.

There is nothing like adventuring inward with God. It is exhilarating! Thomas Merton wrote: "A door opens in the center of our being and we seem to fall through it into immense depths which, although they are infinite, are all accessible to us; all eternity seems to have become ours in this one placid and breathless contact." (New Seeds of Contemplation) That's one way to put it, written by one of our great soul-explorers.

"Search me O God, and know my heart." Ask this with sincerity and God says, "Thanks - I'll be glad to." 

We need to be known by God if we are to be of any real use for the Kingdom. What does it profit a person if they gain the whole world but forfeit their soul? Exchange your soul for worldly gain? To do that is to give up on one's soul, to say, "Game over. I quit. I'd rather live in the shallows of life than go deep." OK. But realize that one's losses are character, wisdom, and love, because such things only grow in the deep waters of the heart. 

They are worth finding. Explore inner space, with God's Spirit as your sherpa.

Nothing Can Be Stolen From You


Custer poster, in Monroe
Our house was built in 1863. Looking out the upstairs window of my home office I see the land "owned" by General George Custer's cousin Neville. General Custer and his family lived in a house 400 yards to the west of ours. Did they own that house?

I am certain they lived in it, and claimed the farmland that since has been divided and subdivided many times. But, obviously,  they don't have the house or the land now. They are long gone. Now live on the land they walked on. What they possessed slipped out of their hands, upon their deaths. Therefore, they "possessed" neither the land nor the house, nor their clothes nor cattle nor jewelry or whatever.

To conjugate your life using the verbs "to have," "to own," and "to possess" is to live a life of illusion because, literally, we own nothing. One day someone else will be wearing your clothing, living in your house, and non-attending to your garden.

If the meaning of "to own" or "possess" or "have" includes "This object/person/time/space/place is mine,'" then surely that it false.Thomas Merton, in The Sign of Jonas, wrote: "Now my whole life is this - to keep unencumbered. The wind owns the fields where I walk and I own nothing and am owned by nothing." 

To say that the winds "own" anything is to speak metaphorically. It is instructive to note that to say you or I "own" anything is also to speak, in an important way, metaphorically. Ownership is a limited concept and it is important not to get too serious about it.

To live in the truth of essential non-ownership is to live freely. As you have freely received, you then can freely give. The biblical God-idea is that we have been made "stewards" over a few things that belong to our Master. Hold loosely to them.

If you possess nothing then nothing can ever be stolen from you. (Les Miserables, correct?)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sufficient Depravity

Monarch butterfly, photo taken at Green Lake Christian Conference Center, Wisconsin


Someone once asked USC philosopher and Christian theist Dallas Willard if he believed in "total depravity." 

Willard responded, “I believe in sufficient depravity.” 
What’s that?
“I believe that every human being is sufficiently depraved that when we get to heaven, no one will be able to say, ‘I merited this.’ ”
- Quoted in "Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life"

***
My book Praying is available as a Kindle book HERE

Paperback HERE and HERE.

Hard cover HERE

You can contact me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Holiness and Culture

Trees reflected in the River Raisin
In Exodus 15:11 we read these beautiful words: Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

The holiness of God is majestic. Awe-inspiring. Other. 

This word "holy" means "set apart." Like fine dinnerware gracing the table on the most special celebrations. Like a young man and a young woman who have set their hearts and bodies apart for the marital union.  That's different. 

This word "holy" can be translated as "different." But from what? From this fallen world. Different from the prevailing world system. Different from culture in the sense that one no longer worships before and under cultural liturgies. (On cultural liturgies see James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit.) 

"Holiness" is as different from secular culture as light is from darkness. Holiness is light rather than darkness. Some thing, or someone, who is light would necessarily contain no darkness at all, just as a rose contains not one part dandelion. I began to learn this about God many years ago when I broke free from the evil and boredom of cultural ordinariness and caught sight of holiness. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5) 

I'm talking about the majestic otherness of God. Which brings us to the plebeian subhumanity of us. Hebrews 12:14 says: Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Why? Because God is holy, without remainder. Because I came to love God and desired God more than anything. Because I wanted to know God, with every fiber of my weak being.

More than anything. This is a mark of every true follower of Jesus who is captivated by a life of holiness. This is for every seeker who is sick and tired of trying to fit in with our sex-and-drug-and-appearance world and sets out to pursue holiness and difference, not for the sake of difference, but for the sake of the great calling and majesty of the One who made and sustains all things. (We could here make some post-structuralist, deconstructionst comments on pursuing diffĂ©rance rather than appearance.)

Holiness runs towards, not away. Holiness presses on, not languishes in. People who grow in holiness do so out of love, not out of fear. Holiness is attraction, not disappointment. Holiness is actualized possibility, not limitation. Holiness is liberation, not bondage. Holiness is revolutionary, not complacency. We leave the steel nets of our culture lying on the beach-heads of mediocrity so as to follow after He who is set apart and, ontologically, different.

Longing for God and finding Him. That's what holiness is about. 

Holiness is unique and non-comparative. When He found me and showed me His glory, I was ruined for this silly world of recurring sinful sameness that God died for. 

***
BTW, if you are interested...  My book Praying is available as a Kindle book HERE

Paperback HERE and HERE.

Because He Lives, I Can Face Today

I took this photo of a bald
eagle a few hundred yards
from our house.
If you lived on earth for just one day you would encounter tragedy, either immediately or mediately. When tragedy strikes it is not good to suppress or deny it. It's not good to put a happy face on it. When something is bad it's not good to say "It's not so bad." Putting a happy face over tragedy breeds hopelessness. 

"Hope" only kicks in as one goes through the dark valley. Hope is only possible where there is some level of darkness. Don't say, "This valley is not really so dark." It is. To say otherwise adds insult to injury. Instead, grieve and weep with those who grieve and weep. In addition, offer real hope. How?

Thomas Merton wrote: "We must not strive to maintain a clime of optimism by the mere suppression of tragic realities. Christian optimism lies in a hope of victory in which we pass beyond tragedy to glory with Christ crucified and risen." (Merton, Seasons of Celebration)

The source of our hope lies in looking at things unseen, not things that are seen. Confidence in the unseen future with Christ is rooted in the historical reality of Christ's cross and resurrection.  This is Paul's point to the Corinthians, expressed in his second letter to them.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
- 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Because He lives, I can face whatever today brings.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Long-Term Marijuana Use - This Is Your Brain on Drugs

A Harvard-Northwestern study has found differences between the brains of young adult marijuana smokers and those of nonsmokers. In these composite scans, colors represent the differences — in the shape of the amygdala, top, and nucleus accumbens. Yellow indicates areas that are most different, red the least.Credit       The Journal of Neuroscience

From age 18-21 I was a regular marijuana user. One day - the day of my conversion to Jesus - I stopped, forever. To quote Eric Clapton ("Cream"), "I'm so glad, I'm so glad, I'm glad, I'm glad, I'm glad."

That was during my college years. Dr. Hans Breiter, professor of psychology and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University, says that “Working memory is key for learning. If I were to design a substance that is bad for college students, it would be marijuana.” ("This Is Your Brain on Drugs")

Breiter is co-author of a Harvard-Northwestern study published in the April 2014 Journal of Neuroscience. ("Cannabis Use is Quantitatively Associated with Nucleus Accumbens and Amygdala Abnormalities in Young Adult Recreational Users.") The results of the study are:


  • Recreational marijuana uses results in structural differences in two areas of the brain. (See "Casual Marijuana Use Linked to Brain Abnormalities.") 
  • "With the brain developing into the mid-20s, young people who smoke early and often are more likely to have learning and mental health problems." 
  • High-THC marijuana is associated with paranoia and psychosis, according to a June article in The New England Journal of Medicine. “We have seen very, very significant increases in emergency room admissions associated with marijuana use that can’t be accounted for solely on basis of changes in prevalence rates,” said Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a co-author of the THC study." 
  • In the Harvard-Northwestern study "all smokers showed abnormalities in the shape, density and volume of the nucleus accumbens, which “is at the core of motivation, the core of pleasure and pain, and every decision that you make,” explained Dr. Breiter."
  • "Evidence of long-term effects is also building. A study released in 2012 showed that teenagers who were found to be dependent on pot before age 18 and who continued using it into adulthood lost an average of eight I.Q. points by age 38."
My last joint was 45 years ago when my mental fog was healed. To quote another Clapton Cream song, "I feel free!"

***
See also:

Science News, "High-potency pot smokers show brain fiber damage." "People who use especially potent pot show signs of damage in a key part of their brain."

Psychological Medicine, "Effect of high-potency cannibis on corpus callosum microstructure." (Vol. 46, Issue 4, March 2016)

***
Oh - BTW - recreational marijuana use is against the law. So for a follower of Jesus whether or not to recreationally use marijuana is a no-brainer - it's against the law. Unless breaking the law is needed to advance the cause of Christ [like Jesus-followers in oppressive atheistic cultures] then it's beyond-difficult to see how recreational marijuana use would promote Christ.

Resolution: Be Transformed from Dissonance to Consonance

I took this picture of turkish delight
while in Istanbul. A man walking is reflected in the window.
It appears like he is eyeing the candy.

"Resolution" - the act or process of resolving." 
"The act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones," thereby "solving" something.  
"The act of determining."

"Resolution" - in music, "the passing of a voice part from a dissonant to a consonant tone or the progression of a chord from dissonance to consonance."  

For example, if a musical piece is in the key of C, G is the 5th. A musical piece that ends on the 5th begs to be resolved to the 1st, or tonic chord, which is in this case C. The unresolved 5th causes one to inwardly strain and lean towards the anticipated 1st. 


To "resolve" - fixity of purpose, resoluteness. For example: His comments were intended to weaken her resolve but they only served to strengthen it. (From here.)

If you are a Jesus-follower, don't make resolutions. Just resolve, today.

1. Resolve to inquire of the Lord.  

2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed,Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. (2 Chronicles 20:2-4)

Bring life's dissonance to the Lord. Now. 

Inquire of God, regarding the chaos and incompleteness. You've tried to figure out how the ending will be; instead, seek God about this. Not just once in a while, but today and every day. 

Place your trust in God, now. Get alone with God and receive direction. Like God called Jehoshaphat to declare a fast in response to unresolved dissonance in Judah, so God has promised to shepherd you through all things. God is willing to direct your paths.

Resolve to inquire of God, today and every day.

2. Resolve that your mouth will not bring destruction

2 May my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right. 

3 Though you probe my heart and examine me at night,
though you test me, you will find nothing; 
I have resolved that my mouth will not sin. 4 As for the deeds of men—
by the word of your lips
I have kept myself
from the ways of the violent. 
(Psalm 17:2-4)

I will keep my mouth shut unless my words serve to build up others.  

I will meet, often and alone, with God. I will abide in Christ. I will dwell in his presence. God will shape and form my heart into Christlikeness. (Gal. 4:19) This Jesus-heart will be what comes out of the space between my lips.

Resolve that your mouth will not destroy, today and every day.

3. Resolve not to defile your soul with the enemy's "turkish delight."

7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. 
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel... (Daniel 1:7-9)

Daniel refused to allow King Nebuchadnezzar to redefine his identity. Daniel "resolved"; i.e., Daniel "set upon his heart" not to pollute himself. 

Daniel set his heart "not to compromise himself by accepting his redefinition as a Babylonian. This is the matter of allegiance.

In C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund meets the White Witch, who seduces him with a delicious piece of  "turkish delight." He eats it, betraying Aslan, and his defiled heart falls under the Witch's dark spell.

Today, resolve not to compromise your allegiance to Jesus as your Lord.

4. Resolve to know Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

This is not rocket science. Learn about Jesus. Learn Jesus. Fix on him. Sum all things up in Jesus.

Resolve to know Christ and him crucified. Today. 


Be transformed from dissonance to consonance.
Tomorrow...



***
My book Praying is available as a Kindle book HERE. $9.99.

Paperback HERE and HERE.

Hard cover HERE

You can contact me at: johnpiippo@msn.com.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Collected Thoughts on PREACHING


(One day I may systematize these.)

How I Prepare for a Sermon


Detroit
1.  I print out the text and carry it with me throughout the week.

2.   I meditate on the text. I read it over and over and over. I let it get into me. As I am doing this, God speaks to me. I write down what God says to me.

3.   I ask these questions:
a.   What is the text saying?
b.   What is the text saying to me?
c.   What will this text say to our people?

4.   I study the text.
a.   I use biblical commentaries.
b.   The rule is: not just any commentary will do. Find trusted Jesus-following scholars who have invested their lives in studying the text. I have a list of trusted names. E.g., Craig Keener, Ben Witherington, Richard Bauckham, Craig Evans, Robert Mounce, Grant Osborne, R.T. France, Gordon Fee, Andreas Kostenberger, Joel Green, N.T. Wright, and so on…
                                      
And people the above scholars recommend.
Note: some scholars are especially excellent in certain biblical books because they have invested a lot of their lives in them. For example, Gordon Fee is especially valuable on 1 Corinthians.
c.   When God speaks to me while I am studying the commentaries, I write it down.
d.   I take notes on the commentaries. These notes appear in my sermon notes. 

5.   As I am doing these two things – meditation on the text, and study of the text – I type out the sermon, often word-for-word, that God wants to speak through me.

6.   I take these notes and walk with them…, reading them over and over…  take drives in the car with them… I preach them. It always happens that, while doing this, God preaches to me. Often, usually, this gets very emotional for me. I feel passion building towards the text and what God has said and what God is saying to me and what God is going to say on Sunday morning.

7.   When I preach on Sunday morning I want to know that I have given my entire self to preparing for this message. I never step up to preach without having given it my all. Average sermon preparation time for me each week is 10-20 hours. 

8.   I feel a holy responsibility in preaching. I do not want to lead my people in the wrong direction. Therefore I study long and hard. And, I pray the text,

9.   I always have this expectation that God is going to show up, and make my mere human words into words from Him, for us all.

10.               With my focus on meditating on the text, and studying the text, and praying the text, my belief is that God, in the sermon, will give me and my people words from Him that are rooted in Scripture but are extrabiblical revelation – viz., “now-words from God.”

11.               As I preach I give God the right to lead me, even into things that I have not yet thought of. Usually, God does a fair amount of slicing and dicing my message into His message.

12.               If my people are spoken to by God, rather than being impressed with some “great sermon,” then I know the real thing has happened.

13.               I assume and expect God will do something through the preached Word. I am alert and attuned to this. Sometimes, even while preaching the message, I don’t know what God will do when the message is done. At other times I have a strong sense of what God wants to do, and I lead my people in this. In no way do I think I’m going to end the message with an “Amen” and then say “We’re out of here.” The preached word is going to bear fruit in people’s lives, immediately. The preacher needs to respond to this, and lead their people. 

Preaching Guidelines



  • Explain needed terms. Find how certain key words were heard by the listeners/readers in first-century Jewish-Greco-Roman culture. Give definitions as needed. But do not use "Webster's Dictionary." The listeners and readers of 2000 years ago were not 21st-century Americans.
  • Give context as needed. Again, the goal in explaining the text is to acquire the eyes and ears of the first-century Middle East/Greco-Roman listeners and readers. Some biblical texts demand more context than others. In this regard know your audience, and determine how much background context they will need.
  • In preaching you are a spokesperson for God; a voice speaking for God. For me this has to do with the importance of preaching. Every time I step up to preach I take this seriously and joyfully. I do not want to misrepresent God. I refuse to take this lightly. For me it doesn't matter whether I'm preaching before 5, 500, or 5,000. Note this: most of the great moves of God in history happened when God moved in one person, or a few. They did not, mostly, happen in mega-situations. So when you preach, I fully expect that God will be saying something through you that will be for some of us, or many of us, or all of us.
  • Prepare spiritually by praying the text. For me this means carrying the verses with me at all times. I pull them out, read them and re-read them. I pray them. What does that mean? Prayer is talking with God about what we are doing together. So, preaching is a true collaborative event - me and God; God speaking to me and through me.
  • Ask, "God, what do you want to say when I preach?" In preaching there are two central moments: 1) what does the biblical text say? I want to be true to that. 2) What does God want to say through the preached biblical text? That's what I seek God for. God can reveal this to me days, even weeks, before the preaching event. Or, as he often does, he can reveal this to me as I am preaching. But here's a caution: I feel God will mostly do some on-the-spot revealing only when the preacher has prepared and prayed and studied with all they've got. I do not see God saying, "John doesn't prepared at all for these things, so I'll keep on rescuing him so people will think he's a great preacher." I don't think so.
  • The text needs to speak to you. What does God say to you, through the biblical text? If the text doesn't speak to you and influence you in some way it's hard to see how God's going to use you to influence others. When and as God speaks to you through the text, it's quite likely that what God is saying to you is going to also be a very good word for those who listen to your message.
  • Use analogies and personal examples to illustrate - as needed. This will be part of the word becoming flesh in you. The Gospels are essentially narratives. Judeo-Christian culture is a narrative culture. For we Jesus-followers, the Jesus-event is our "controlling life-narrative." "Story" is cool. Your story (what God is doing in and through you) is very cool.
  • What does God want to do after you preach? Here's what doesn't work, at least for me: "That's it, sermon's over, Amen, have a great day." No, God wants to "do" his Word in people. Of course this can and does happen before the preaching and during the preaching, and in various unknown ways in the hearts and minds of people. God's not limited in this regard. But when I am preaching I am listening for the Spirit's direction - how does God want to play this thing out, right now? This can mean, for example, that I invite people to be prayed for. At Redeemer we've seen this work itself out in a lot of different ways.
 

Some Thoughts on Teaching, Preaching, & Life

Randy Clark at Redeemer
Here are some things I believe are important when it comes to teaching, preaching, and living the Jesus-life.

• Give to others the best of what you have to give. I cannot think of one time I have preached and not given 100% in preparation. I never sing the worship song "Lord, I Give You My Half-Job." I never step up to the plate not as ready as I can be. Give 100% every time you teach or preach. The size or type of listeners means nothing, View every occasion of teaching and preaching as the last opportunity you will have to do this. This does not mean I preach great sermons. But I always give it everything I have. As a pastor I have weeks where I am called to help others more than usual. On those weeks I may not have the time I think I need to prepare. At that point I say to God, "You know I've done the best I can. Now come and make it better than what I have to offer." And, consistently, God does.

Don’t try to be someone else. Don't waste your time comparing your teaching, preaching, and life with anyone else. This is freeing for me because I have tried to teach, preach, and live like others. Now, at age 64, I feel less interested than ever in being like someone else. Mostly I want to be like Christ.
• Focus on pleasing God, not on pleasing people. If you are a people-pleaser you will end up saying nothing, and the nothingness that comes forth from you will displease some people. When we teach and preach God's Word, some will not like it. You will not be universally liked. Therefore be disliked for the right reasons.

Work for God, not people. Work so as to please God and experience God's pleasure, not the pleasure of people. Of course if what you do and say pleases God then real Jesus-followers will be pleased as well. Trust in God to pay you a wage. He is your Master. Desire his "well done." God’s approval is what counts, not the approval or disapproval of other people.

• What people think of you does not matter; what you think of people matters greatly. God loves people who like and dislike you. Ask God to so transform your heart that you love others like Christ does. It is freedom to be unconcerned about what people think of you. Only such a free person can then love other people. When Jesus hung on the cross and said "forgive them," behold the perfectly free person who loves even his enemies, and whose love is not a function of peoples' love for him.

 Be transparent. But remember: transparency has boundaries. Use personal examples and illustrations in teaching and preaching. It's not only OK to tell stories of personal failure it is needed so people can be free of the illusion of clergy-pedestalness.

• Don’t teach or preach your current struggles. People will begin to focus on you rather than what you want to say to them. If you are a sex addict get help. Realize if you confess your sex addiction to your entire congregation you will then become the issue. The time may come when you tell people about this. If so, it will be long after you are healed and set free. Transparency does not mean an open book for all to see everything in your soul.
• Don’t talk about other people without their permission. In a sermon, that is. In preaching never talk about other people’s failures (re. people that you know). In life strive to lift people up, not point out their flaws. If God has shown you the flaw or sin of another person it is only so that you can pray for them.

• Know your audience.

• Remember that you don’t know it all. You don’t have to. But you do have to study, prepare, and pray like crazy.

• Be clear rather than profound. In your clarity God's Spirit can move. In your profundity and obfuscation even the Spirit asks, "Huh?"

What you say needs to be coherent, connected.

• Stay on-topic.

• Make eye contact.

• Want people to understand you. Therefore enunciate, use complete sentences, get free of annoying vocal and bodily mannerisms, don't speak too fast, speak so people can hear you, go watch the movie "The King's Speech."

• Teach and preach what people are to do, not on their failures. Good teaching and preaching builds up, not tears down.

• If you fail morally, people will not listen to what you have to say. This is a sad truth. It's sad because we all fail morally. Trust will have to be regained before you have a  voice again. It can happen. This will take much time.

• Continue to grow deep. What we especially need today are more deep people, not people who know more things. Deep soul-growth will impact your teaching and preaching. Spend much alone-time with God.

• Teach and preach as a servant. Desire not to be on TV. This is not about you being viewed as some "great preacher"; it's about you preaching about a great God who is infinitely greater than your preaching.

• Teach, preach, and live with passion. Note that passion looks different in different cultures. My ancestry is Scandinavian-Finnish. We are not exactly "hopping" people. Mostly, we'd rather bale hay than talk in front of an audience. But God has placed a fire within my hay-baling heart. And you don't have to advertise a fire.

• If you teach, preach, and live so that some people surpass you in excellence, then be very happy.

• When, in your teaching and preaching you are wrong, admit it. I've done it. If you haven't then you are dishonest.

• Never talk down to people.

• You will be criticized. John Calvin, in his Commentary on 1 Timothy 5:18, writes: "For none are more liable to slanders and calumnies than godly teachers. Not only does it arise from the difficulty of their office, that sometimes they either sink under it, or stagger, or halt, or blunder, in consequence of which wicked men seize many occasions for finding fault with them; but there is this additional vexation, that, although they perform their duty correctly, so as not to commit any error whatever, they never escape a thousand censures. And this is the craftiness of Satan, to draw away the hearts of men from ministers, that instruction may gradually fall into contempt."

 Listen to your critics. Even if some of them are not loving.

• Remember: The foundation of all God-filled teaching and preaching is love. In your teaching and preaching be loving. It is, after all, possible and necessary to speak the truth in love.

PREACHING – the DEEPER ISSUES and a few smaller matters

Jerusalem

1.   Spend much time alone with God.
a.   Real authority comes from a person who knows Christ.
2.   The goal is formation into Christlikeness, not becoming a great preacher.
3.   Let go of the need to be liked.
a.   The basic question in not “How am doing?”
b.   It's not my well-being or sense of value that is on the line.
c. This is not about you being "relevant" or cool.
4.   Keep on being changed yourself.
a.   Remember: you can’t change other people.
b.   Never preach towards a specific person or persons. Preach the text. Let God instruct or convict people.
5.   Forgive others for what they have done to you.
a.   If you are a hurting person you could hurt others in your preaching.
6.   Confess to others and asked for forgiveness, as needed.
7.   Be led by the Holy Spirit.
8.   Prepare all your life for the next sermon.
a.   You don’t just turn on preaching like flipping a switch.
b.   A sermon will be the overflow of who you have become and are as a person.
9.   Be mastered by the biblical text.
a.   Authentic, authoritative preaching is not about mastering certain techniques; it is about being mastered by certain convictions.
10.     Find your own voice.
a.   Stop trying to be someone else and let God use you.
11.     Preach with authority.
a.   Speak assertively.
b.   Articulate your words clearly.
c.   Project your voice.
d.   If people can’t hear or understand you it’s a waste of time.

12.     Preach like it’s the last message you’ll ever give.