If Only I Had …

My wife bought a book, I believe it was at a yard sale, entitled “Notes to Myself.” There was a huge sticky note attached to the front of the book. It has the following written on it:

If Only I Had …
Expressed how much I love my kids
and thanked my husband for being amazing
and took time to enjoy life and ponder
and prayed, conversing with the Almighty
and ignored all my failures
and cursed all my insecurities
and savored every moment I’m alive
and kissed my husband I couldn’t imagine life without …
and it’s not too late

My blog is about second chances in life. Sometimes we need second chances not because of some great failure, but we need them because of the things we have missed or forgotten. Each new day is an opportunity to let go of the failures of the past AND an opportunity to live better today!

Worship Music

It is hard for me to sometimes believe, but I still have conversations about the use of contemporary worship songs as opposed to traditional hymns. Recently in one of those conversations a man told me that much of today’s music sounds like rock music and hymns sound like Church music. I went on to explain something to him that I think is worth repeating.
First, there is no such thing as Christian music. Music may have been written by a Christian and even done to the glory of God, but music itself – is just music. If I played a few chords of a song you could not tell me anything about the song. Only lyrics are Christian. What the lyrics of the song say is the only determining factor to see if the music is Christian or not. Just because a song is written by a Christian and even played in Church does not make it Christian. The difference between Christian and non-Christian music is the content of the lyrics.
Second, when we are picking out songs for our worship time on Sunday morning we need to think in terms of lyrics first. I ask several questions about every week. Does this song communicate a Biblical truth? Does this song say what our congregations needs or wants to say. Does it tie into the time of service – like prayer or communion or opening song? Does this song connect to the other songs in worship? Does this song connect with an overall theme of the day and the sermon? I am most concerned about singing the truth in a way that resonates with the people and glorifies God.
Finally, I put together a song list. I do not ask any questions about the year the song was written. I usually do not ask about the different vocal parts of the songs (I am a preacher and not a singer after all). I put together a song list that works toward a goal of connecting with the people in a way that brings glory to God. It doesn’t matter if the song was written last week or last century. As a result we sing all types of songs all the time.
Worship music needs to be about something bigger than, “Do you like the music?” It needs to connect with heart, soul, mind and God. Maybe it doesn’t do that for you every week. It rarely does for everyone each week. But it usually does with someone. Each week someone walks in our doors and their heart connects with God’s truth and their life is touched by Him. For that, I praise the Lord, not the music.

Second Chances Everywhere

The NBA finals started last night. I love watching basketball and being from Indiana, I think it is in my DNA. I was thinking about basketball while sitting down to write my blog. The first thing that came to mind was a quote from Michael Jordan that used to be shown in a TV commercial. It is the quintessential quote about second chances:

I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot…and missed. And I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And, that is why…I succeed.
– Michael Jordan

100 posts

This is my 100th Post.
Several years ago I had a blog for about 5 years. I ended up with well over 500 posts. Then, in my ministry transition to Alaska I stopped doing it. I simply got busy with all of the things that come with a new ministry. I kept saying I was going to do it again and finally in 2013 I re-started. Now I am 100 posts into it and enjoying the opportunity to share again.
Thanks for reading!!

Sermon Planning

It is that time of year for me again. The time of year when I try to put together a preaching calendar for at least the next 12 months. I like to have a plan far enough in advance that I am not preaching just on hot topics. I also like to plan far enough out that I feel I give a good mix of sermons. If I am not careful I can run the risk of preaching on just a few of my favorite topics week after week, year after year. This is an annual ritual I go through every summer so that I am ready for the coming year.
I have often been asked if I am an “expository” preacher or do I preach through a book of the Bible (usually chapter by chapter). The I am also asked the opposite question as to whether I am a topical preacher. To be honest, I never know how to answer these questions.
First, I like to preach through books of the Bible each year. I especially like taking a chapter or two and preaching on those for several weeks. Second, I like to preach on certain topics on a regular basis. I picture it this way. Sometimes I have people who come to me and say, “Explain this passage to me.” They have been reading their Bible and they need to some insight into a passage that is hard to understand. But I also have people who come to me and ask something like, “What does the Bible say about divorce?” That person also wants to know what the Bible says and they need to know key passages and issues.
My approach to planning a preaching calendar is to include both types of sermons. I think it is very short-sighted to buy into one type of preaching as being the best. The scripture understands this – some of it is history, some of it is teaching, some of it is parable and some of it is poetry and prophecy. The Bible has many forms and presentations and so should the preacher.
That is my approach to planning my sermons. I would love to other people’s thoughts. What can a preacher do to help you grow in your walk with Jesus? Are they any topics or passages you would like addressed? I would love to heat your insights.

On Purpose

I was recently having a talk with a leader from another Church about Church growth. He was bemoaning the fact that many of the Church’s programs seem to produce very little results. I simply asked him to identify his purpose in each program. You see, as we were talking he mentioned three different groups their Church was trying to reach. One, they were trying to reach lost people. Two, they were trying to get their old members back. Three, they were hoping to attract some new members who were Christians but did not currently attend anywhere. I asked him an evaluation question for his programming; “Who is this program trying to reach?”
I believe that is takes different programs to accomplish each of those goals. What reaches lost people is different from former Church members and that is different from reaching people of marginal faith. His tendency, and mine, is to create one program and hope to hit everyone. It rarely works that way. You need to have focus in your programs and in the actions that surround them to reach a specific task.
After this conversation I began thinking about a greater application to this truth. Much of what I do everyday really needs to be refocused too. For example: As a husband are my actions leading to a better marriage? As a father, are my actions leading to better parenthood? As a Christ-follower, are my actions leading me into a deeper relationship with Jesus? My tendency is to just go about my business and hope for great results. Honestly, sometimes it works. But also, sometimes it doesn’t.
What would happen if I lived more directed toward specific goals everyday, in every area of my life?
What would happen in yours?

Monday Morning Preacher

I have been preaching now for almost 20 years now and I still find some Monday mornings very depressing. On Sunday you poor out your heart and soul and sometimes it just doesn’t go as well as you would have liked. This was one of those weeks. Everyone, including myself, was tired. The energy was low and several people were gone. That made for a difficult setting and then the sermon just did not flow in quite the way I wanted. On mornings like this I am reminded of a quote from Mark Driscoll about preaching:

Simply, preaching is like driving a clutch, and the only way to figure it out is to keep grinding the gears and stalling until you figure it out.
Mark Driscoll, Confession of a Reformation Rev. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 133.

Then I was linked through another blog over to this article about “Why it doesn’t matter if people don’t remember your sermons.”

Finally, I was reminded today of the title of this blog. Every Monday morning God gives me another chance to write a better sermon, to have a better impact and to give others the same chances I get each week.