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Devastating

January 27, 2010 1 comment

I’m reading the DMin dissertation of a friend of mine who has completed his Beeson program at Asbury Seminary.  I’m enjoying it.  That’s a strange, strange thing to say about a dissertation, but he is writing on something I’ve never heard anyone talk about before: the spiritual discipline of preaching.  Without recognizing what was happening, I’ve been encountering this in my life over the last few weeks.  Sadly, I’ve relied on my knowledge and my ability to prepare messages throughout the course of my 6.5 years in ministry.  Recently, however, I’ve been running up against the Bible as I prepare to preach.  The only way to describe it is to say I’ve heard the Spirit say, “You must preach this gospel to your own heart first!”  That’s discomforting to the one who has become comfortable.

My dissertation writing friend quotes United Methodist Bishop Will Willimon in saying that a preacher’s preparation is “a weekly willingness to allow the Word to devastate the preacher before it lays a hand on the congregation.”  Wow.  As I understand it, Willimon says the Word of God must first lay waste to my idols, to my pride, before I can proclaim the gospel in such a way that the Word does the same in the lives of my people.

As a personal example of the truth behind Willimon’s statement – and evidence that God is working in my own life – before I read this statement and even before I had a conversation with my dissertation writing friend, I encountered this devestation last week.  I was preparing a message on one verse, Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  I was preaching on what it means to be crucified with Christ and how the gospel shapes us.  I prayed and prayed more than I have in some time over a sermon and this time I actually asked God, “What are you saying to my heart in this verse?”  That’s a bad question to ask God for someone who really doesn’t want to know the answer.  I heard, loud and clear, “My most besetting sin is my ruthless determination to protect my fragile ego.”

Woe to me, for I am undone.

Here’s the reason I know that devestating nugget came from the Holy Spirit: it’s 100% true.  When I guard my heart from my wife, I’m protecting my ego.  When I am tempted to or am successful in telling a “white lie”, I’m protecting my ego.  When I pretend to be someone I’m not, I’m protecting my ego.  When I lack transparency and vulnerability in ministry, I’m protecting my ego.

This caused a lot of tears for me in the last week, but I am so very grateful.  For one, since God disciplines those he loves, I know that my Father is working to mature me.  For another, instead of pushing me away, this discipline is causing me to experience a sweet and joyful communion with Jesus in ways I have not before.  Don’t be afraid, preacher, to be open to the devestating work of the Word of God in your preparation.

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Craziness

January 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Festus told Paul, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.”

Not his great learning – the gospel.

Categories: Uncategorized