Friday, June 10, 2011

The prep...

Last week I finished a short sermon series I had titled "Why do we do that?" which looked at the basic elements of our Church worship service. This included "Worship" "Missions" "Giving" "Communion" "Prayer" and "Study Scripture" I found it a very enjoyable series to prepare but at the same time a very difficult one. Any one of those topics could have been a very lengthy series, and quite frankly some of them might be one day. The purpose of the series though was to take a short journey through some of the basics. Now I am turning my attention elsewhere.

This weekend is very full for our church as we go through a church consultation process with our Fellowship. Much work has gone into this process in the background and this weekend we have a whole series of meetings with the team that has come in. The intent of this process it to help our church re-focus and help us to start pulling all in the same direction. This process has great potential to help us long-term. Short-term however, it helps me because I'm not preaching on Sunday which has allowed me some much needed prep time.

You see I like to plan things out. When I was in seminary, I did a fair bit of pulpit supply but rarely did I know much in advance and very rarely was I in the same place two weeks in a row. This meant many one-off messages. Now that I'm pastoring full-time and preaching every week I have an opportunity to plan further out. This planning out a whole series (10-16 weeks depending on the book we're working through) takes a lot of work on the front end but it allows me to work through what themes will get worked throughout the series. This is helpful, especially in some of the epistles where the writer is hitting on the same themes throughout the letter.

Anyway, the past couple weeks I've been preparing to preach through James in July & August. This has meant much reading and studying of the book itself and a number commentaries on it. Today I finished one of the hardest parts of this prep, outlining the entire book into individual messages. In someways this is difficult because it looks like James was intended to be a single, standalone sermon. It seems kind of strange to break it up into 10 parts but that is how we work through sermons these days. James is an interesting book, full of very practical stuff. One of the things that struck me in my prep was that one author postulated that James wasn't intending to convince one of the Gospel, acceptance of the Gospel is expected, rather, he's trying to tell how to live in light of the Gospel. There are some great challenges in James and I'm sure his original audience got as uncomfortable as many of us do when we hear what he has to say.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Why do we read the Bible?

I've recently heard it said that the Bible is the bestselling, most cherished, most owned, most loved and least read book in America. I'm sure if we could look into every home in we would find at least one in most houses. In some we might only find a tract or perhaps a Gideon Bible provided at a critical time in the recipient's life. If we a "good Christians" we likely have a more than one. We may have a heirloom family Bible. One of those big, old Bibles with worn & cracked leather binding and pages yellowed by the years. We may have a small Bible given to us in Sunday School as a child. We may have several different translations, collected over the years as different translations have been favored by different churches or Pastors. Technology has now made it possible for us to have umpteen translations that we can search and compare right on our phones. (Christianity Today had an interesting article about this last month)

A quick count of my own office came up with 11 different Bibles. I have 3 study Bibles (ESV, NASB, NKJV) I have several of just the text (ESV, NIV, Message) I have both a Greek NT and a Hebrew OT to remind me of the many hours I spent learning the original languages in seminary. I have a Reader's Hebrew/Greek Bible that has helps to make reading in the original languages a little easier. I have interlinears that put the Greek and English side by side to help me even more. Some of them are leather-bound of some kind, some hard cover, some paperback, I even have one, printed by these smart folks that is completely waterproof which I use when I'm outside in case it rains.

We must question why the Bible is such prevalent book. Why do we keep so many around? Is it because we like the look of leather-bound books? Why do we read it? Why do we go to church every week to hear it read, sing songs from it and about it and then listen to a preaching talk about? Do we like the stories? Do we find it engaging and entertaining? Do we believe it is the Word of God, communicated through His faithful servants wrote it, preserved it, copied it, translated it and made it available to us.

The Bible is to be our handbook for life. It tells us where we came from, how we ended up mired in sin, how God loved us enough to provide a way out of our sin, and finally how God is going to put everything back to rights. It tells us how we can have a relationship with God. It tells us how we should live our lives as people of God. It is something we are to study, and take to heart. We must do this because the Bible is to be the standard by which we evaluate our lives and the teachings we follow. 

If you haven't spent much time with the "Good Book" today is a great day to do so.