Preaching on Topics You Aren’t Passionate About

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If you listen to enough of a pastor’s sermons you will hear a few things:

  1. What he is passionate about.
  2. What he struggles with.
  3. What he wants to become.

Pastor’s tend to stick with what they know or like. If I had my way, I’d preach on a New Testament letter every time. Other guys would preach from a gospel whenever given the chance. A few will throw in some Old Testament wrath of God.

Sunday, as we are going through Galatians, we got to a topic that I haven’t preached a lot on. It isn’t because I don’t care about it or don’t think it is important. Truthfully, it hasn’t come up in any of the series we’ve done. It’s the topic of approval.

Now, we all struggle with approval to some degree. We all care what people think, to some degree. It is just different for everyone.

For me, my struggles center around control and power. I don’t care too much if you like me, but I do care a lot if I lose.

If a pastor isn’t careful, they will only preach on the things they find important. This can be good and bad.

It’s good because it should mean a pastor is passionate about what he is communicating. It’s good because his sermons will tend to be more thorough because it’s on a topic he likes or has read a lot about (because he struggles with it).

If you aren’t careful though, you will end up missing an enormous part of your church. Your church doesn’t have the same struggles you have. They don’t have the same temptations or history or baggage that you do.

Because of that, they need to hear sermons about things you aren’t as passionate about.

This is one of the benefits to preaching through books of the Bible. You can’t skip anything. Now, choosing to preach through Galatians, I knew I was going to hit the topics of legalism, approval and moralism. It is the theme of the book. It is one of the reasons we chose it, because we haven’t had a lot of sermons on those topics.

Pastors will also stay away from topics they don’t want to talk about. Maybe a pastor is more of a shepherd than a vision caster, so he won’t preach a lot about vision. This will lead the church to be aimless. Or, he’s a vision caster who can’t stop talking and no one gets cared for because he never preaches on it. A pastor isn’t an evangelist, so there is no talk on evangelism, just discipleship and growing. Or the other way around.

If you simply talk about what you like, care about, are passionate about or things you know about, you will keep your church from hearing all that God wants to teach them.

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Make me Approve of You

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I preached on the need and desire for approval that we all have. Granted, we all feel it to different degrees. In my sermon, I mentioned how my desire to win, to be right, to have power and control always outweighs my desire for approval. It is still there though.

This blog post may feel more like a confession that I’m letting you in on. Hopefully this will be an encouragement to you or you’ll see yourself in it.

For me, I was convicted how out of my desire for power and control, I can very easily make my relationships about my approval of someone else.

I can be good at putting incredibly high standards on people, making them feel guilty so they will ultimately do what I want.

This is how I control things. In the end, it is also how I can easily help people sin by gaining my approval.

It is interesting when we talk about the idols of the heart or the sin in people’s lives, we focus on the person sinning. We should. They are responsible. In doing this, it is easy to let the people off who cause the sinning. Granted, someone seeking my approval is not my fault and they stand before God on that. I stand before God on how I cause someone to sin or stumble.

That is on me.

As I think about legalism, the gospel, the idols of my heart and hopefully as you think about those things, my hope with this blog post is to get you to realize in your quest for approval, control, comfort or power, you cause others to worship their idol by your actions. In your quest for comfort, you might help someone seek even more control so things don’t fall through the cracks because you are so laidback and letting whatever happens happen. In your quest for approval, you cause others to seek power because you are willing to be a doormat to their sin and ego.

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Your Idols Won’t Carry You

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I talked this past Sunday about the idols of the heart and what drives us to do what we do. Yesterday after breakfast, Katie pointed something out to me in Isaiah 46.

While our idols drive us and only the gospel can transform our hearts to be driven by Jesus. We also look to our idols to carry us, to give us rest, to complete us.

We look for achievement to give us rest. When we’ve accomplished enough, we’ll have enough. When we have enough school, we’ll be enough. When we’ve taken enough vacations, we’ll have enough experiences.

When we have enough power, we’ll have enough control. We’ll have enough followers, enough employees. We’ll be important and feared because we have power.

When we have enough stuff, we’ll be able to slow down and rest. We’ll be able to sit on our new deck furniture, watch our huge TV from our plush chair.

We’ll finally be able to rest, because our idols will carry us.

Except. We lose employees. This year award becomes next year’s forgotten winner. That degree becomes not enough in 5 years when someone else gets one more degree than you. That vacation next year will be a distant memory when you hear about a new place, a new resort, a new experience. That power will fade as your company gets bought out or a new boss comes in and the game changes. And stuff rots and falls apart and last years most amazing TV becomes next month’s “last season’s model.”

Our idols fail. They do not carry us. They do not give us rest.

Isaiah 46:8-9 says:

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

How to Help Someone Find Freedom from an Addiction

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I get asked a lot based on my past how to help someone find freedom from an addiction. I’ve shared in numerous places about my addiction to porn from when I was 11 until I was 21 and then my food addiction that followed that. I can honestly say now that I am 34 and have found freedom from these, it feels good. But, freedom is a long road. My wife Katie talks about her part as my wife in that journey here.

When someone asks me how to help someone find freedom from an addiction or the first steps in this process, here are the most important things:

They must want to be free. 

This may seem obvious, but everyone who asks for help in an area doesn’t truly want help. Too often people are looking for attention, wanting to be the victim or simply draw attention to something or someone. People like being helped and like being seen.

There was a guy who every week would post on his connection card at my church that he would like prayer for an addiction. This went on for over a year. I finally talked to him and asked, “How long is this going to be a prayer request? Are you doing anything to move away from this addiction?” The answer was no.

I knew a woman who said she wanted to be free from an addiction, yet every time I or someone else stepped in to give accountability or help her with it, she would balk. It wasn’t until she lost her job because of that addiction that something changed.

One thing I ask people is, “Are you willing to do whatever it takes to be free?” Any hesitation in the answer often shows a desire to stay in their addiction.

Freedom from an addiction is hard work. It might take years. You will always be in recovery, a moment away from wrecking your life and falling back into your addiction. I know that without boundaries I could very easily fall back into old patterns. The reason freedom is so hard is because those patterns have become an enormous part of our lives.

Identify the “why” behind their addiction. 

Often in talking about freedom, we jump to what to do. Things someone can and should do to be free. Accountability groups, software, cutting up credit cards, breaking off relationships with the wrong people, getting rid of a TV or certain clothes.

These have their place and are helpful.

If you don’t identify why you do something, you won’t find freedom from the real issue. 

That issue is your heart. For me, I simply traded a porn addiction for a food addiction. Both are dangerous and destructive in their own ways. The one main difference is that no one in a church will say anything to you if you put 100 pounds on in a year. Think of a vending machine of sins, going up and picking one. Without identifying the heart issues, we will simply do this.

What drives you to spend money you don’t have? To look at porn? To hoard your money? To work too much or too little? Why do you gossip and put people down? Why do you want to control everything?

The answer to these questions will identify the why behind any addiction you could fall into.

Identify the “when” of their addiction. 

The last thing someone needs to do is identify when they are most likely to fall into this. Closely related to the why question, understanding when you’ll do something will enable you to create an action plan. Are you most tempted when you are tired? In front of the TV? By yourself? With a certain friend? In a certain place? Where and when does it happen?

By identifying these things, you are able to uncover a good process to find freedom from the addictions that hamper your life.

What would you add? If someone asked you this question. 

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Lies Pastor’s Believe

Saturday night I started a series on 2 Peter. One of the themes of 2 Peter is combatting the lies that we believe. All of us believe lies in our lives and those lies shape us. Lies that we aren’t good enough, strong enough, that I owe God, that we can be in control, that God doesn’t love us. Lies like these, shape us.

Pastor’s believe lies as well. I know that might be a shock, but as I was standing in front of our church, I shared for a few minutes some of the lies that I as a pastor combat.

Lie number 1, what happens at Revolution is because of me. All pastor’s know this isn’t true, but we easily believe it is. You can tell by their mood after they hear how many people were at church, what the offering was like, how the kids ministry went. Much of what they feel about their sermon is based on what they can read on people’s face, the connection they feel or lack thereof.

Lie number 2, God loves me more when I preach. It’s getting closer to summer and I always take a few weeks in a row where I don’t preach. As I get closer to it, this lie is starting to creep up. I love preaching. I feel like God has gifted me to do it and I love using this gift for His glory. It is an honor. But it is easy for me to feel like God loves me more because I preach or that I feel his presence more in my life when I am preaching.

Lie number 3, if I’m not at church, it will fall apart. As a church planter, you will battle this. Will people care about your church as much as you do? What happens if your church completely falls apart when you aren’t there? While many struggle with this, I’ve never actually heard of a church closing because a pastor was gone for a week. Revolution will not fall apart if I’m not there, but like lie #1, it is easy to fall into.

As a pastor, you need to do what you challenge your church to do. Wrestle with what these lies reveal. When you believe these lies, what does that say about you, about your belief in God and the gospel. What is the truth of those lies.

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What I Doubt about God

I had a conversation recently with some friends and they asked how you discern the idols of your heart. We talk about this quite a bit at Revolution and what the gospel truth is. While there are some questions that others have developed that are very helpful, they pointed out that for them it seems to be a moving target.

One thing I pointed out that has helped me is discerning idols of the heart is what you doubt about God first or most.

For me, with a Reformed lens, I love the sovereignty of God. I rest in it, trust in it, believe in it wholeheartedly. It makes sense, I see it all over Scripture. It answers the deepest questions I ask. It is one of the easiest things for me to believe about God. When life does not go as I planned, seems out of my control, the sovereignty of God is the first thing I doubt.

Think about the approval idol. Someone who wrestles with this has a hard time believing they are loved by God. When they sin, the have doubts about God’s grace, forgiveness, that he will accept them in spite of their sin. They need to grow in God’s grace.

When it comes to comfort, in the moments of doubt and sin, those who struggle with this don’t believe God is good. They believe there is something else that is better than God in that moment.

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Sunday Afternoon Mind Dump…

  • Been loving this series we are in right now on 1 & 2 Peter, seems to be perfectly timed for our church
  • Last night was one of those nights where the message seemed to hit its mark and be exactly where many people were
  • If you missed it, you can listen here
  • You can also download the study guide questions and family bible study guide questions here
  • Talked through the idols of the heart and how they fall short on giving us the hope we long for
  • If you’re curious about discerning the idols you live out of, you can check out the questions we worked through last night here
  • Finalized the preaching schedule for the rest of 2012 this past week
  • After we finish up 1 & 2 Peter, we’ll do series on Habakkuk and Joshua
  • Really, really excited about working through these 2 books
  • Last night after church, I started reading Letters to a Young Pastor by Calvin Miller, if you are young pastor, you need to read this book, so much wisdom in it
  • I’ll share next week where things are with our Christmas offering, if you’d still like to give to it and help us move forward with church planting, you can do so here or next Saturday night
  • Speaking of church planting, we are looking for where we’d like to plant our second site, so please be praying as we look towards that
  • Lots of details and we need the Holy Spirit to open the right doors and close the ones we need to not walk through
  • This week, Katie and I are going to see The Civil Wars in concert, so excited about seeing them
  • We keep getting requests from guys about being church planting interns, so I’m beginning to work on what that will look like
  • Excited to see how that turns out
  • Pretty excited about next week at Revolution
  • I’ll be preaching from 1 Peter 1:6 – 12 and talking about how we handle life when it doesn’t go as we planned, what that says about God and what that says about us
  • I think it will be a powerful night
  • Gonna sign off and spend some time watching some football with some friends and some people that attended Revolution for the first time last night
  • Love hanging with Revolutionaries
  • In case you missed it on twitter, my super bowl prediction is 49ers vs. Pats, although the Giants would make it a better game against the Pats
  • As a Steelers fan, I hate the Ravens so I can’t pick them

Discerning the Idols of Your Heart

 

Tonight in my sermon we worked through some of the questions that can help you discern the idols of your heart. Each person has a default idol of their heart, what pushes them to make the decisions they do, both good and bad. Tim Chester points that each of us have an idol that is either for power, control, comfort or approval. They overlap and we might have all 4 at different times, but these 4 things push us to sin, succeed and live our lives.

The hope we have is that they will bring us the fulfillment we long for.

For example, when a man works a ton of hours to provide for his family, he is doing a good thing to provide for them. But he might be doing it so that his family will approve of him or that he will have the comfort he longs for.

Or, when one tries to control a situation through organizing every detail, keeping things in order. They might say they are organized or a detailed person, which might be true. It might also mean that it comes from a place of insecurity where they need to control everything instead of trusting in God.

Here are some questions we worked through tonight to discern what the idols of your heart are:

  1. What do I worry about?
  2. What do I use to comfort myself when life gets tough or things don’t go my way?
  3. What, if I lost would make me think life wasn’t worth living?
  4. What do I daydream about?
  5. What makes me feel the most self-worth?
  6. What do I lead with in conversations?
  7. Early on, what do I want to make sure people know about me?
  8. What prayer, unanswered would seriously make me consider walking away from God?
  9. What do I really want and expect out of life?
  10. What is my hope for the future? What will complete me?

Top Post of 2011 – #4: Having Too Many Kids

Over the last 11 days of 2011, I’ll be posting the top 11 posts of 2011. Here is #4: Having Too Many Kids.

A fellow A29 pastor and good friend of mine, Aaron Dailey recently did a video rant on what people, mostly Christians, have said to him about having too many kids. Katie and I have heard the same thing and I don’t get it and how few Christians really seem to believe what God believes when it comes to kids. My favorite was we told someone we thought we might have 6 kids and they said, “If you have that many people will stop inviting you over to their house because it will be so many.” My response? Fine, then I won’t go to their house and they will miss the coolest party.

Here is my challenge as a follower of Jesus:  I am not saying that every family needs to have 20 kids, but when it comes to how many kids you have, what is your motive and heart for that many kids? If we are honest, most couples stop having kids not because they feel like they are overwhelmed, can’t afford it, but because they get in the way of the parents dreams. It pushes on our idols of consumerism, individualism and materialism. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself if you have kids, why did you stop? Why do you want to stop? When you get frustrated with your kids, why do you get frustrated? It is often our selfishness.

I’m the same way. When we had Gavin I told Katie, “If we stop now, I will be 45 at his high school graduation and think of all the life we have left to be empty nesters, just the two of us.” That was all about me. That had nothing to do with God, the gospel, being on mission, raising up missionaries, that was all about me. I’m not saying that couples shouldn’t think of themselves and their marriages before their kids, but that is a different topic and different conversation from how many kids a couple has.

Scripture says:  Kids are a blessing from God (Psalm 127:3) and so many Christians are walking around saying, “I’m good God, I have enough blessings from you.” Or take the first command in the Bible:  “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). That is not a command to do evangelism.

There is my portion of the rant. Not nearly as good as Aaron’s, so check it out:

Top Post of 2011 – #7: My Journey of Losing Weight

Over the last 11 days of 2011, I’ll be posting the top 11 posts of 2011. Here is #7: My Journey of Losing Weight. This one seems timely today as many Americans will eat way too much food.

Over the last week, I blogged about my journey of losing weight and keeping it off. It has been awesome getting messages from people about how this series has challenged and encouraged them. I hope it spurs you to being healthy.

You can read the posts here:

  1. How I got to where I am 
  2. The idol of food (the spiritual side of weight loss)
  3. Have a plan
  4. It’s for the rest of your life
  5. The effects
  6. Do your homework
  7. The idol of exercise & staying in shape