My first preaching experience

My friend’s first experience at preaching. He has some good advice for new preachers.

The Bradford Blog

It came and went rather quickly. The buildup, just like with anything big and important in our lives, was much longer and grander than the actual event (which could be a separate post itself). The nerves were there as I stepped on the stage for the first time in the role of preacher. But those soon faded away as I began rolling through my illustrations and points in an effort to communicate what it means to live worship as a lifestyle. I will follow up in another post with a summary of my message, but here I want to share a few things I learned and experienced during this process.

1. The process was more enjoyable than I thought it would have been. For about six years now, I’ve had the thought here and there that I would preach one day and I would immediately think about how terrifying that…

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1 Day Shy of 50

Philippians 4:4

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”

Always?  Even on the eve of your 50th birthday?  Absolutely.  You won’t see me behind drawn curtains tomorrow.  I will face 50 with both eyes open.  I will celebrate, rejoice in, embrace and be grateful for 50 years on this planet.  Yes, tomorrow I will find myself on the back 9 of my life and though I can’t say that I don’t hope for my game to improve… walking this course has been invigorating.

I wish to thank every one of my family and friends for making this journey so meaningful.    I rejoice in my wife Janine and thank her for loving me just as I am and for making me better every single day.  As Kenny Rogers so rightly sang:  “I’ll never know just what she sees in me.”  Her love for me serves as a picture of grace.

I rejoice in my children:  Justin, Andrew and Lindsey.  I am so privileged to be their father.  They are my joy and crown.  I am so proud of what they are doing with their lives… that they know the Lord… and that they strive everyday to show love to the special people in their lives.  I adore my first grandbaby:  Sydney (also referred to as “Syd-bean”).  I pray I will get the chance to know her more as she grows up.

I have made some awesome friends around the country.  I may not have the highest Facebook friend count (who would want that?).  But I have a diverse one.  Thank you to all my friends in Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, California, Kentucky, West Virginia, Illinois, Iowa, Ohio, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Indiana, Virginia, Alabama, Germany, and Nevada.  (Message me if I missed your state or country.)  So grateful that God has me as a part of the Grace Bible Church family in Lucas, OH… amazing people.  I have had the joy of touching some lives and being touched by so many more.

Each of you have helped me piece the mosaic of my first 50.  From the depths of my heart I thank you.  And if God grants me another 50… I pray that every single one of you play an amazing part in it.

Well… gotta go buy some candles!  See you at the party!birthday cake

 

What Came Out of the Ark

animals off the arkGenesis 9:22-29; 10

“What are my kids going to end up like?” Don’t you wish you could answer that question?  Or maybe not.  I have met many parents as a pastor that looked at what happened to their children and feel such shame.  If only they had gone to church more… or had gone to church less… or had read the Bible to them more… or went to more parenting seminars.  The guilt is immense.

But I’ve met and talked with enough black sheep to know that it often has not a thing to do with how they were parented.  It had everything to do with their own stubborn will and their poor choices.

Take Ham.   One of Noah’s sons.  You know Noah… the man who walked with God… who alone found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  His son, Ham… made a terrible choice one day.  It began innocently enough.  He caught sight of his father Noah naked in his tent.  No big deal.

It was considerable breach of family ethic back in this day, but remember, the event was not intentional.  It was what he did with what he saw that got him into trouble.  The Scriptures put it gently, that he “told his two brothers outside.”  More than likely his actions were an attempt to show himself triumphant over his father by mocking Noah’s condition.  His two brothers proved more noble by (without looking) covering over their father’s shame.

Noah woke up… and he knew what Ham had done.   He announces what will happen to all three of his boys:  ““Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants he shall be to his brothers.” and “Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.  May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.”

Cursed be Canaan?  What father would wish that on a grandson?  But remember, this isn’t a wish.  It is a prophecy.  Noah could see in the behavior of his son, Ham, something that would be passed down to his son and beyond.  Ham’s son would father the Canaanites.  And they would be wickedly sinful… and they would always end up on the bottom of his three sons.

God sought to preserve man in the ark… to save him from destruction… but the seed of sin was carried on within the human heart even after the judgment fell.  Noah’s drunkenness and Ham’s actions are evidences of that.  And quickly the sin of man begins to spread on the earth again.   “These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, by their nations; and out of these the nations were separated on the earth after the flood.” (10:32)

God would need another way to redeem man.  Another stronger ark of safety.  Jesus.

The late Adrian Rogers once preached:  “Noah’s ark is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ in this way: The ark is like a great coffin. It doesn’t have a bow; it doesn’t have a stern; it doesn’t have a helm because it is under the control of Almighty God.   The ark keeps the judgment waters out. God shut Noah, his family, and the animals inside the ark. …  God sealed them in. Nobody could open the door. But, there was a window. Noah could open the window and look up. Do you see the parallel?  Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In whom [Jesus] ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.”  We are in Christ, sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. It is in Jesus that we know God the Father. Is it not true that when we come in to Him, we are closed in to look up? The way that we look into heaven is through Jesus Christ, the Ark of Safety.” (source)

How did sin continue on the earth after God had wiped away sinful man?  It sprang from out of the ark… from the depths of their fallen hearts.  Man-made arks can save you from drowning but can do nothing about your sin problem.  And just as Noah’s “perfect” family still turned out little sinners in need of redemption… your family will do the same.  Just as a church can only produce a healthy, safe place to worship and perhaps a good churchman or churchwoman… it cannot make redeemed believers.  That is the work of God.  A church can only expose sin and then point to the Savior.

So: pray for your kids.  Invite friends to your church.  Encourage and counsel lost family members.  But if they don’t turn out right.  It is best to put aside your guilt.

Remember and hope.  You too were a fallen sinner once as well.  And you made it onto the right boat.  Pray that they to will do the same.

What Every Rainbow Says to Us

Genesis 9:1-17double rainbow

Three moms that lived through the pain of watching their sons drift away from God, wrote a book in 2002 called: Lost Boys and the Moms Who Love Them. One of the moms, named Heather Kopp, wrote about her wayward son, Noah.  Her son had to submit to weekly drug testing to keep off of drugs. He didn’t seem to know who he was or where he was going… particularly in the spiritual realm. Heather wrote: “Once your baby—no matter how old he is—is lost, so are you.”

She then tells a story of an event that gave her some hope in the midst of the lost state she found herself:   “One recent night I asked Noah how it went the night before.  He said it was okay. Except for the part where everybody else got high before the movie and then again after the movie while he waited outside the car.  I told him I was sorry. And I was proud of him.  “But God spoke to me,” he announced.

“Really?” (This was not typical.)

“Yeah,” he said. “While I was standing around outside waiting for those guys to get high, I saw a double rainbow.”

He wasn’t really able to articulate what God seemed to be saying through the double rainbow, but I wasn’t going to push. I reached up to ruffle his hair, and, surprisingly, he let me. Then he trotted off to the shower, a little boy inside a man-size body.  I kept thinking about that double rainbow all day. Maybe it was God’s way of saying to my Noah, “Hey, you. Look at this cool rainbow. There’s beauty in life I don’t want you to miss. And no amount of dope will make it more beautiful.”
And maybe Noah’s telling me about it was God’s way of saying to me, “Remember my promises. No matter how far he wanders away from you, he’s never out of my sight.”  (Lost Boys and the Moms Who Love Them, p. 5.)

How ironic that God spoke to a twentieth century Noah through a rainbow.  And that it indirectly spoke to his mom as well… granting her a message of hope.

In chapter 9 of Genesis, God makes a promise to the Biblical Noah in regard to His judgment of mankind.  “I will establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth.” (9:11)  Often when God makes a promise to us (one He wants us to be sure to remember) He creates a physical sign to memorialize it.  The sign of this Noahic covenant is the rainbow… a multicolored reminder of many attributes of God.  The next time you see it raining… and can see that the sun is shining as well… run outside to see the spectacle of God’s bow hung in the sky… and then remember a few things.

1)  Remember God’s Restraint.

The Hebrew term in verse 13 is the same term used when referring to a bow in archery. God is telling Noah, that in regards to judgment with flood, I’m hanging up my bow.  “I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.”  (9:16)  When we see evil continue to run rampant on this earth, it is tempting to think that God might be powerless to stop it.  What it should tell us is: God is extremely powerful in His restraint!  Praise God for the cease-fire!

2)  Remember God’s faithfulness

“When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (9:16)  God’s bow reminds us of God’s faithfulness because He has kept his word to us.  Despite the sinfulness of man, He has not caused the world to be flooded again.  Every rainbow HE looks upon today remind Him to be faithful to His promise (though He hardly needs a reminder).  Every rainbow WE look upon today should remind us that HE is indeed a faithful God.  (We do need the reminder.)

3)  Remember God’s patience.

Our twentieth century Noah (in the above story) didn’t quite know what God was saying through the rainbow, but he knew God was saying something.  Perhaps the rainbow was a symbol to Him of His patience toward him.  For although the sign of the rainbow states that God has withheld further judgment on the earth by flood, there is coming a judgment by fire.  “…the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.  But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.  … But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.  (1 Peter 3:6,7 & 10.)  The rainbow reminds us that God isn’t winking at sin, but being patient with sinners.  There will be a day when the justice of God will have to be satisfied.

4)  Remember His Majesty

Remember when you saw your first rainbow?  Remember that feeling of awe?  Then you have a sense of the wonder that Noah must have felt.  It came at the end of a rough 40 days and 40 nights.  The rainbow was have been overwhelming to his senses!  And although it was a sign of the covenant to him, it also represented God’s majesty to him.  That element of the rainbow’s symbolism is found not only here in Genesis, but also in the book of Revelation (4:3) and Ezekiel.  Ezekiel describes his vision of Divine Glory in this manner:  “As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance.  Such was the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 1:28)  Stand in awe of His majesty!

Where do the storms of life find you today?  Are you kind of like the mom of our 21st Century Noah?  Trying to maintain your faith as the flood waters continue to rise in your life?  There is hope beyond the disaster that has flooded your world.  Remember God is a God of restraint, faithfulness, patience and majesty.  And every rainy day or so… He likes to remind us.

A Praise Progression

Man playing a guitarGenesis 8

Those of you who play an instrument or who are into music theory already know what a “chord progression” is.  But for those of us who can only play the radio a quick definition might be in order.  A chord progression is “a series of musical chords, or chord changes that ‘aims for a definite goal’ of establishing (or contradicting) a tonality founded on a key, root or tonic chord and that is based upon a succession of root relationships.” (source: Wikipedia)

Okay… if you aren’t musically inclined, that probably meant absolutely nothing to you!  So why bring it up?

Because I see in Scripture a “praise progression” that also “aims for a definite goal” and establishes a “tonality” in life… that is… if we follow the progression all the way through to praise!

The progression is:  Waiting, Being Heard, Hoping, Being Rescued, Praising.

The most obvious praise progression is Psalm 40:1-3 – “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.  He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.”

The progression goes like this:  I waited; God heard me; I hoped (this is the patient part); I was rescued (He brought me up.); I sang a song of praise.

I have read a lot of books on prayer that say you should praise God for being who He is, not for what He has done for you.  That sounds great in theory… but how can you not praise Him for all He has done for you?  He PUT that song in your mouth… you cannot help but sing it!  The natural result of the progression is that “many see and fear and trust in the Lord.”  Harsh chords of pain and waiting and patience are resolved in the end and the sound is so sweet!  It is enticing!

What does this have to do with Genesis 8?  This is first “praise progression” of the Bible!

Noah was caught in a waiting period. – “The water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days.” -Genesis 7:24

God remembered Noah. – “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark..” (8:1)

God sends hope.  – “The dove came to him toward the evening, and behold, in her beak was a freshly picked olive leaf.” (8:11)

God rescues Noah. – “Then God spoke to Noah, saying, ‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons, and your sons’ wives with you.'” (8:15-16)

Noah praises God. – “Then Noah built an altar to the Lord…” (8:20)

Maybe you are struggling to praise the Lord today.  Your life is cooped up in a smelly old ark.  You may feel bitter or angry at your circumstances.  Praise is more difficult at different stages within the progression.  How difficult it is to praise Him with your heart in discord!  But remember this:  The chord WILL be resolved… whether in this life or the next.  Right now, your praise will just take a different form depending on where you are in the progression.

So pray:

Lord, I’m waiting.

or Lord, remember me.

or Lord, I sense you are sending me hope.  (I see the olive branch!)

And if you have found your chord resolved… if God has rescued you… Sing the Song of the Redeemed!  And if for nothing else… praise Him for Calvary… praise Him for the cross… praise Him for the hope of resurrection!

John McArthur once referred to Jesus as “the harmonizer of all discords.”  What an apt description for the lover of music theory… and for this rest of us…  who know a good song when we hear it!

Blessings!

Noah: Another Review

NoahGenesis 6:16

No.  I didn’t see Noah (2014 Paramount Pictures).  There was no one reason why.  I’m not a special effects junkie.  I tend to be discouraged by Hollywood’s attempts at bringing the Bible to life.  I was busy.  I just decided to sit this one out.

I didn’t, however, escape from a flood of reviews about Noah.  They were everywhere and were a mixed bag even from within the Christian community.

Christian movie blogger Brian Godawa wrote about what troubled him:  “Flat characters that you just don’t care about. A sick twisted hero that you just don’t care about. Look, I know your hero has to have a character flaw, but this is so extreme that you can’t stand Noah, and you just want to leave the theater.”

Ken Ham (of Answers in Genesis) wrote:  “Friends, last night I watched the Hollywood (Paramount) movie Noah. It is much, much worse than I thought it would be—much worse. The director of the movie, Darren Aronofsky, has been quoted in the media as saying that Noah is “the least biblical biblical film ever made,” and I agree wholeheartedly with him.”

I was intrigued by a review by Greg Thornbury of The King’s College in New York.  While he had some major theological objections to the film he saw in it some redeeming qualities: “The grim, gritty, and supernatural antediluvian biblical world takes us back into ancient history, of origins. Who are we? What has gone wrong with the world? Where is justice? Is God there? What does he have to say? That ancient world sets us back on our heels and forces us to take stock in this strange new world inside the Bible.”

This leads me back to another reason I didn’t go see Noah.  I confess I might not give the Bible story that good of a review!  If you look beyond the cute Noah’s Ark set in the church in the nursery, and actually read the story in Genesis… you feel the horror of it all.  It is hard not to see the scene through the eyes of anything but a children’s picture book.  Maybe the film might “set one back on their heels” for the first time.  In the Genesis account, God meant business.  Most of the evil and foolish men He had created were wiped out in this Million year flood.  This is as frightening a plot as any thriller Hollywood has ever dreamed up!

Stories about judgment are never an easy read.  Whether it is in Genesis 6 & 7 (at the Bible’s beginning) or in the Book of Revelation (at the Bible’s end)… these are not stories for the squeamish heart!

But as one stands there contemplating the destruction and the surge of the water don’t forget… the ark!  Yes, the judgment of God was severe and He destroyed just about all flesh on the earth.  There was a completely different perspective just on the other side of the ark’s door.  They were singing Hallelujah!

Four  facts of life we all need to see and embrace from Noah’s tale:

1.  There is a coming judgment for sin.  “…for the earth is filled with violence… I am about to destroy them…” (Genesis 6:13)

2.  A way of escape has been made.  “Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood…” (6:14)

3.  We need to enter the escape hatch before it is sealed.   “And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded them…” (7:16a)

4.  God is the one who makes the protective seal.  “…and the Lord closed it behind him.” (7:16b)

We can’t hold the waters back with our own efforts of goodness.  There is no human who can provide their own protection.  Only God can do save us.  And He did that in Christ.

Peter writes in the New Testament how: “…God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood.  And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (3:20b-21 NLT)

The review from within the ark is a much different one than one from outside its protective walls.  One day the final judgment will take its toll on this earth.  But those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb will find themselves rescued from the wrath of the Lamb.  I don’t deserve such mercy… but I am thankful He saved me.  Like a child protected in their home during a thunderstorm I can sometimes take my salvation for granted.  Help me never to be ungrateful.

How about you?  Have you responded to God?  If not, come to Jesus.  He will not turn you back.

Have you been baptized in order to picture this great saving act of God?  If not, then surrender to His will and be baptized to symbolize what He has done for you.

Hurry, He might be about to seal the door.