Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Preaching (page 1 of 7)

Something Different

At the height of WWII RAF Officer Tom Allan, seeking peace and solace for his soul wandered in to a service in London where Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was to preach. Allan spoke of the inauspicious beginning of the service and the earnest, unadorned demeanor of the pastor. As Allan explains, things changed when the word of God was opened and the pastor began to expound the Scriptures.

“Then a curious thing happened. For the next 40 minutes I became completely unconscious of everything except the word that this man was speaking – not his words mark you, but something behind them and in them and through them. I didn’t realize it then, but I had been in the presence of the mystery of preaching, when a man is lost in the message he proclaims.” (The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 258)

Oh! for that unction again in our day! Oh, that God would so visit our services and that His anointing would fall upon me and all who speak His Word in these tumultuous days. May God come in mighty expressions of self-disclosure as His Word is opened, read, and expounded in simple clarity!

When Darkness Falls

Summer is turning to autumn. In fact, as I type these lines, today’s the day. For some time now darkness has been stealing the light from us. Here in Northeast Ohio we lose forty-nine minutes of daylight during the month of September. Since summer solstice we’ve lost three full hours of each day’s light.

Had you noticed? Perhaps by now you have, but it happens so incrementally that it is nearly imperceptible. Then one day you awaken asking where the sunrise has gone. One evening you have to head inside sooner than you’ve been accustomed to.

Darkness falls. It’s the way the world works.

dark-way

Darkness falls. It’s the way some lives unfold. Darkness encroaches, and I’m not speaking only of the celestial kind.

If statistics prove true—and we have no reason to believe they won’t—the darkness of depression has already fallen on about ten percent of the people that moved in and around your life today. Did you notice? If your life intersects in some way with twenty other people today the probabilities are that two of them are currently experiencing some significant level of depression. Did you see them? Notice them? Detect their struggle?

Maybe you find yourself asking, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”  (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5).

Depression is a reality that inserts itself into every life—if not in personal experience, then in the experience of someone in your family, school, workplace, neighborhood, and, yes, even your church. It’s true: followers of Christ deal with depression too. Sadly, some feel shame for even being in the struggle, which only serves to deepen the darkness.

Depression is a wide river. In places it narrows into angry rapids, and in others it broadens into slower moving doldrums. It is deeper in some places, more shallow in others. It is fraught with hidden snares and snags hidden beneath an otherwise serene surface. Powerful currents remain unseen by most, but they grip and refuse to release those caught in their power—dragging them ever downward, deeper into despair.

All that is to say, depression has commonalities wherever it is found, but it is experienced personally and uniquely. Depression may manifest itself differently in each life, but it is darkness all. Solomon was right: “The heart knows its own bitterness” (Prov. 14:10a) . . . and the rest are left only guessing and trying to imagine.

Beginning in November I’m going to begin a series of six messages on Sunday mornings that address the all-too-common reality of depression. I would surely appreciate your prayers. Pray not only for me, but also for the other two men–a psychologist and a trained clinical counselor–who will each take one of the messages. Pray that these weeks and our messages will truly be healing for the wounded, burdened folks who will be present.

Here’s how I’ve outlined the series:

When Darkness Falls: Walking Through Depression

  • Fading Light: When Darkness Sets In (John Kitchen)
  • Failed Light: You’re Not Alone in the Dark (John Kitchen)
  • Shared Light: Help for Those Who Love the Depressed (Mr. David Teare, M.Ed., Ed.S., LPCC-S)
  • Seeking Light: Help for the Depressed (Dr. Donald Lichi)
  • Finding Light: Helps Along the Way (John Kitchen)
  • Full Light: The End of all Depression (John Kitchen)

Preaching as Worship

“I have not run away from being your shepherd …” (Jeremiah 17:16a)

jeremiah

Preaching/prophesying is not easy, but Jeremiah did not flee from it. He did not relish the message he was given, the prophet-breaking process by which he was made fit to receive it, nor the heart-breaking process of delivering it. But he did not quit; he did not fail to deliver the message of the Lord.

“You know what came out of my lips; it was before your face.” (v.16b)

Is that not the key? The message was, of necessity, spoken to the people, but spiritually, inwardly “it was before [the Lord’s] face.” That is to say, it was presented to the Lord as worship even as it was being presented to the people in preaching.

Preaching as an act of worship–this is fundamental to faithfulness in preaching. Apart from this cynicism takes over, other offers become too alluring, the impetus to quit becomes too strong. Not fruitfulness nor effect, but worship must be our fundamental motivation. For there will never be enough results to counter-balance the weight of preaching’s burden. But making it fundamentally an expression of worship to God transforms it into a warm, personal, intimate relationship. This makes the faithfulness worth whatever its price.

The Goal of Preaching

Not the goal of preaching …

IMG_20160617_203452281(from a t-shirt a friend gave me)

The goal of preaching …

“… pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ … that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” (Colossians 4:3-4)

Preaching as Life

IMG_20160416_101311

I first put this on the wall of my study almost thirty years ago–sometime during the first week of October, 1987. I had run across the quote several years before and decided it was descriptive of the preaching I wished to offer and the life I wished to lead. It was before the days of personal computers and desktop publishing, so I asked my dear wife, Julie, if she would lend her skillful hand and write this out for me. I framed it and on a fall day in Wisconsin in 1987 drove a nail in the wall of my study and posted it where I would see it often . That was my first week as a full time pastor, of being crushed under the weight of submitting myself week-in and week-out to the Word of God and to the God of the Word and then seeking, somehow, by His grace, to speak it faithfully to those He put before me. It has hung there before me every day, ever since.

I’ve spent many moments contemplating that second sentence. I have come to read it in three ways:

  1. I read it in the light of Jesus reminding us that, “… out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45b)
  2. I read it in light of what Paul was saying when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20a). And thus I can speak, trusting that “God [is} making his appeal through” me (2 Cor. 5:20) and that I might be “one who speaks the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11, NIV).
  3. I read it in the sense that was on the mind of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones when he said. “Any man who has had some glimpse of what it is to preach will inevitably feel that he has never preached. But he will go on trying, hoping that by the grace of God one day he may truly preach.” There is the grinding hard work and discipline of studying the Word of God, of submitting oneself to it, of preparing to speak it … all undertaken in hope that God will somehow speak His Word through you into another life.

So when I look up and see this on the wall before me, I am reminded that the fabric of a preaching-life is woven of these threads: my life (#1) offered up to Jesus in such a way that I become the conduit through which His life (#2) is made known to others, and this, lived out over the course of my entire lifetime (#3), is my great hope that one day I might “truly preach.”

And since I am sitting here typing for you in my study on a Saturday morning, you’ll excuse me as I turn my attention back to Philippians 3:17-4:1 (the Scripture portion for tomorrow’s word) and give myself again to the labors of preaching, in hope that perhaps tomorrow will be the great day when God finally allows me to “truly preach.”

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