Showing posts from April, 2010

On preaching: Dress it up or open it up?

A few words about preaching... I have been to a handful of pastors' conferences over the last four years and listened to many great speakers, and here is an observation. The speaker who talks out of Scripture has the greatest impact.

Most of us pastors want to preach because we love God's Word, and we feel like we have a lot of valuable things to say about it. And, most likely, we do. Our temptation is to want to display our learning and our insights. As a friend of mine put it, we contend with the temptation to want to be profound. Or, as I put it, we want to "dress up" Scripture, treating it like a manikin that will look much more interesting if it is sporting the latest fashions.

Now don't get me wrong, I love to hear a well-crafted sermon. And sermon-making is an art form of the highest degree. However, I am still left with my observation that I seem to walk away from pastors' conferences remembering a Scripture someone expounded rather than the cool pres…

God's eclectic table

James 2 begins like this:

1My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. 2Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

I was reading this today with friends here at King's Harbor, and I was trying to form a picture in my head of what James didn't want and what he did want. He didn't want to see church looking like a typical ancient dinner party, in which people were seated in order of social prominence. Important/rich people at the front, unimportant/poor people in the back -- or maybe outside the door.

What would James want a church gathering to look like? We wou…

Living as adopted children of God

Today I am reminded that many of us struggle with being caught between two identities. Spiritually speaking, we used to be destitute street beggars -- grimy, emaciated children with tattered clothing and a chip on our shoulders. We have been hardened by life without God and are starved for love and grace.

In his infinite love, God takes us as we are and adopts us as his own children. When we are adopted, we acquire the full rights of sonship. Psalm 2:7 paints the picture. God says, "You are my Son; today I have become your father." Normally this verse is interpreted to refer to the moment when the heavenly Father begat the eternal Son. However, there is more to find in this verse. We can also think of it as portraying the moment we are adopted by God the Father. I have enjoyed the privilege of being in the court room for civil adoptions. At the critical juncture of the ceremony, the judge pronounces the adoption, and it becomes a legal reality. With the judge's words, th…

A Maundy Thursday meditation: Jesus' love for Judas

Today is the Thursday before Easter, traditionally called Maundy Thursday (when Jesus gave his disciples the “mandate” to love one another in Jn 13:34). On this Maundy Thursday of 2010, I offer the following meditation on Jesus’ love for Judas.

Going all the way back to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had taught his followers that they should love not only the people who are good to them but also those who hate them and do them harm. This was not a new teaching. Loving one’s enemies was taught in Ex 23:5 and Prov 25:21. However, many rabbis had interpreted Lev 19:18 (“love your neighbor as yourself”) to mean that we only need to love those who are with us, so to speak, in heart and spirit. They considered our neighbors to be those who love our God and fit in with his people. Jesus taught that such teaching went against the heart of God, who does good to those who love him and to those who do not love him. We are to do the same (Matt 5:43-48).

Now let us return to the Last Supper. John te…