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Joshua 18-20

Part 1 of 6

 

It has been a long time since I preached my first sermon. That agonizing experience was in the Portland, Oregon Rescue Mission. On the western end of the Burnside Bridge on the northern side of the street locked between other brick buildings this iconic structure has stood for decades.

 

Preaching is one of those few professions where this endeavor is done with no guarantee of monetary reward. Once in a while something very special happens but often the earthly reward is modest. Others are comical.

 

After preaching a special service for a church the chairman of the Board walked me to my car with words of gratitude and handed me a bag of tomatoes. I do not even like tomatoes. When it came time to fill my gas tank for the long drive home, I used my own money to make the journey.

 

Another time I flew to another state where I had been invited to speak at a conference. When the chairman of the board dropped me off at the airport after speaking several times over two days, he commented, “Well, I hope that you enjoyed your visit with us and had a great vacation here.”

 

More later…

IMG_3078Once we were total strangers.  Our paths had never crossed.  Each of us had lives that were being lived completely without each other.

Then, something changed.  It was not fate or the realignment of the stars nor was it even the meal that we had eaten that night.  Instead, it was the blessing of God that rearranged our lives to connect at church.

We were all ardent followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.  As men we each had a wonderful wife who stood faithfully by our side.  Then, independently of one another, we sought our Savior for not only our faith but also for our devotion in life.

I was their pastor.  They were men in the church who showed great initiative, maturity and passion for the truth of the Scriptures.  I watched as they lived our faithfulness, availability and teach-ability.

IMG_3080Over time I heard them teach, carry on mature conversations, and express their convictions with wisdom and insight.  I was convinced that these men could do more.  We talked about pushed a new envelope in spiritual productivity.

I wanted to teach these men how to preach.

As I explained the plan, they each responded as I expected.  They wanted to think it over and prayerfully consider the opportunity.  Of course as wise men they would talk it over with their wives.

One by one they agreed.  They were looking forward to our times together. It was exciting to teach good men the skills to pass on spiritual and eternal truth to others.

Of course the proof is in the pudding.  Each of these men were assigned dates to preach in church. I was right there with them when they did.

The receptivity was powerful.  People could see that there was a reason that they respected these men.  The words that they spoke were organized, powerful and sincere.  What human ears heard was something spiritual.

Our souls knitted together as we studied God’s Word.  It was not adding to our human prowess.  Rather our time was deepening our devotion to our Savior and to each other.

Time took us in separate directions.  Yet, a reunion was born in heaven.  We reunited and a special meal was the excuse.

Like the return of the Magnificent 7, we gathered without hesitation, without a loss of words and no shortage of good blessings to report.  Time slipped by and the evening grew late.  Soon, too soon we said our farewells as devoted friends and committed followers of our Savior.  I love these guys!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

By Friday night I knew that I was going to feel the pressure.  I assessed where I was in the process of preparing Sunday’s sermon.  My conclusion was clear.  I was not where I needed to be to feel comfortable, being well prepared to speak on behalf of Almighty God.

Oh, I had put in the hours of studying.  My work ethic that is applied to sermon preparation has been steady for decades.  I was taught and I have taught others a simple formula.  For every minute of speaking there is an investment of an hour of preparation.  Yeah, I know that it sounds like an exaggeration, but it is actually a realistic guideline.

For a typical 30 minute sermon, there is 30 hour requirement for preparation.  Some weeks this kind of regimen is impossible.  Meetings, emergencies, counseling doesn’t allow this kind of investment.  But, when I can I will strive for this kind of plan.

Usually, I start the preparation on the Sunday before I speak.  That’s when I read through the Scripture that is scheduled for the next week.  I like to read, reread and reread that passage again and again. 

When I can think through the logical development of the passage in my mind, then, I began to feel comfortable with it.  Preaching is as much an art form as it is a science.  Throw in a lot of hard work and you have an idea of what is required of everyone who climbs behind a pulpit.

Standing in front of hundreds of people each week is a serious responsibility.  The challenges and burdens that these lives carry is overwhelming.  How can one person speaking be practical and impactful to so many different lives facing so many different trials in life?

It is not human talent that can accomplish this feat. Nor is it entertainment that can keep bringing people back.  Neither is it a planning issue that persuades people to faithfully return.

Instead, there is a mysterious supernatural phenomenon that is possible when preaching is exercised.  When the inspired Scriptures take center stage, then, the Almighty takes over and speaks through the preacher and the people hear from HIM.  Personally, I don’t want to get in His way.

Instead, I try to see the people through His eyes.  People whose lives He treasures are my audience each week.  Bringing it every seven days is a magnanimous task, but I am so honored to do it again and again.

photo credit: yahoo image

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