Today's Word for Pastors...
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
Today's Preaching Insight...
Don't Neglect Biblical Content or Application
In an article on "Blending Biblical Content and Life Application" at PreachingTodaySermons.com, Haddon Robinson writes: "A church in Dallas invited me to preach on John 14. That's not an easy passage. It is filled with exegetical questions about death and the Second Coming. How do you explain, 'If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself?' How is Jesus preparing that place? Does Jesus mean we won't go to be with Him until He comes back? What about soul sleep? I spent most of my week studying the text and reading the commentaries to answer questions like these.
"When I got up to preach, I knew I had done my homework. Though the issues were tough, I had worked through them and was confident I was ready to deliver solid biblical teaching on the assigned passage.
"Five minutes into the sermon, though, I knew I was in trouble. The people weren't with me. At the 10-minute mark, people were falling asleep. One man sitting near the front began to snore. Worse, he didn't disturb anyone! No one was listening.
"Even today, whenever I talk about that morning, I still get an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. What went wrong? The problem was that I spent the whole sermon wrestling with the tough theological issues, issues that intrigued me. Everything I said was valid. It might have been strong stuff in a seminary classroom; but in that church, in that pulpit, it was a disaster.
"What happened? I didn't speak to the life questions of my audience. I answered my questions, not theirs. Some of the men and women I spoke to that day were close to going home to be with the Lord. What they wanted to know was, 'Will he toss me into some ditch of a grave, or will he take me safely home to the other side? When I get to heaven, what's there?'
"They wanted to hear me say: 'You know, Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for us. The Creator of the universe has been spending 2,000 years preparing a home for you. God only spent six days creating the world, and look at its beauty! Imagine, then, what the home He has been preparing for you must be like. When you come to the end of this life, that's what He will have waiting for you.'
"That's what I should have preached. At least I should have started with their questions. But I didn't.
"It's also possible to make the opposite error--to spend a whole sermon making practical applications without rooting them in Scripture. I don't want to minimize Scripture. It's possible to preach a skyscraper sermon--one story after another with nothing in between. Such sermons hold people's interest but give them no sense of the eternal. Talking about 'mansions over the hilltop' comes from country-western music, not the Bible. A sermon full of nonbiblical speculations is ultimately unsatisfying.
"Some of the work I did in my study, then, could have helped the people answer their questions. The job is to combine biblical content and life application in an effective way." (Click here to read the full article.)
In a recent issue of his Friday Evening devotional newsletter, Tom Barnard includes this story: Eddie Rickenbacker was a fighter pilot and Ace in World War I. His life was a kaleidoscope of events centered around airplanes and cars. He accumulated more than 300 hours in combat flying during the First World War and had more than 20 "victories" (where he survived and an enemy pilot did not). Later he was awarded the highest honors for bravery in battle by the United States and France.
During World War II, he served as a consultant to the military in England, as well as the United States. In October 1942, he was sent on a tour of the Pacific theater to deliver a secret message to General Douglas MacArthur. After visiting bases in Hawaii, his plane--a B-17 Flying Fortress--was en route to another military base in the Pacific when navigation failure caused the plane to stray miles off course, eventually losing fuel and forcing the pilots to crash-land into the rough seas of the Pacific Ocean.
Amazingly, the crew of eight survived the crash, but with injuries--one fatally. They made it aboard their life raft, but with very few provisions. Their food and water supply was exhausted in three days. The crew fought the sun, weather and sharks. They needed a miracle.
On the eighth day, the crew had an impromptu devotional service, praying for a miracle. Time dragged by very slowly. Trying to take a nap, Rickenbacker pulled his military cap over his nose. Suddenly, he felt something land on the top of his cap. It was a seagull. He carefully reached up and captured the gull. It wasn't much of a meal for the men, but it was something. After devouring most of the bird, they used the intestines for bait, with which they caught fish and survived until they were rescued--after 24 days at sea.
Years later, Billy Graham asked Rickenbacker to share the story of his life-threatening experience and the events that led up to his affirming faith in Christ. Eddie said, "I have no explanation except that God sent one of His angels to rescue us." God answered their prayers by sending an angel in the form of a seagull.
Do you sometimes feel like you are adrift in a sea of frustration and hopelessness, praying for a miracle but only seeing endless sea and insufficient provisions for the trip? Pray to God for a miracle. Pray for an angel of the Lord to locate you and deliver you. His angels are always near. Watch for them. (To subscribe to Friday Evening, send your name and email address to Barnard at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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