Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Holy Spirit Special

Last Sabbath I preached a Friday night special; actually it was a Sabbath morning special. I usually use my Fridays to finish my sermons, but last week my whole week including Friday was crazy, and I didn’t get in until 11:00 that night. So I woke up at 5:30 on Sabbath to finish my sermon.

I had considered recycling; there are three fresh sermons in my ‘garden’ that I haven’t preached at that church yet. But the Holy Spirit told me to preach another message this Sabbath, so I obeyed. The only problem, I didn’t have the time to properly prepare the sermon.

So I’m sitting on the platform, waiting for the special music to end, and hoping that the singer will drag out her notes just a little longer. I know the message I had was solid, but I didn’t have time to prepare it properly, not even a run through. So I pray to God, “It’s not about me; it’s about you. So Holy Spirit please come and make something of this.”

After the sermon a lady came up to me and said it was the best sermon she ever heard me preach; even the critical crowd at my church said it was a good sermon. Later that after noon I went over to visit a fellow at the hospital, and he said that everyone visited him before said to tell me it was a good sermon. The funniest part was that I knew it wasn’t because of anything I did; my preperation was terrible.

Actually, that sermon was good because my preparation was terrible, and that forced me to undertake the most important part of preparation. Acknowledging that it’s not about me; it’s about God and what He’s going to do through me allows the Holy Spirit to come in and do something that we are unable to on our own. And that’s true not just for preaching or even pastoral work but for anything.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Physical Activity

“Tomorrow morning will be the morning I go for a jog,” I though as I went to sleep. I woke up at 7:00, and the characteristically bright northern summer sun was not beaming through my window. Then I heard the steady beat of rain; “Tomorrow,” I thought as I rolled over.

What makes it so easy to put off physical activity? For me, it’s the fact that I can usually find something ‘more important’ to do insteadThat sermon’s not going to write itself. And computer nerds have an added set of excusesThat blog’s not going to redesign itself.

I’m a sedentary person by nature; there’s nothing I enjoy more than flopping down on the couch with a good book. But when I think back on the times in my life when I was really physically fit it was because I had a physical goal. In Montana I jogged to I could climb taller mountains; in Australia it was because I wanted to climb Uluru without passing out in the heat. (I never did make it to Uluru, but the training came in handy when I hiked up to that Wok bowl tower in Hong Kong.

So what I need is a fitness goal to motivate me, and I think camp meeting should do. Last year, playing sports with the kids got me in shape by the end of week, but this year I’m going to be physical animal when I arrive. If the prospect of being the soccer hero on a team of 12 year olds doesn’t motivate me, I don’t know what will.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Reading Cafe

On Friday I went to a “Reading Cafe” at the local Christian school where one of the Grade 2s in my congregation served me a course of pure Dr. Suess. When he called and asked me to come I had about five seconds of internal debate which could be summarized with the question, Is this an effective way to spend my time? For some reason I said yes; I think it was the Holy Spirit.

So I spent nearly two hours at the school. I had lunch with the young man, and then played some basketball with him and his friends. I also met another young pastor who ministers in a nearby church.

From a baptisms/souls-won-for-Christ point of view it was an unproductive noon hour, but from a relationship building point of view it was pure gold. It meant I had to stay up a little later finishing my sermon, but that boy now knows that his pastor cares about him (and will probably be more inclined to listen to his sermons in the future). The experience reminded me of how important it is to minister to the whole congregation and not let its future fall underneath our radar.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Teaching Kids The Sanctuary

This years camp meeting falls in the centennial year of my conference, so there's going to be lots of heritage stuff going on, so for the Juniors (they put me in charge again) we're planning to do an Adventist pioneers theme. We'll tell them stories about James White and Joseph Bates, play old-time games, and generally try to instill in them a sense of where they come from and where they're going as Adventist Christians. I think it's super important for them to hear the stories of intense Bible study, devotion to God's will, and miracles that form our denominational identity.

This is where it gets tricky, because you can't really talk about Adventist heritage without talking about the Great Disappointment. And you can't really talk about the Great Disappointment without getting into the 2300-day prophecy. And if you introduce the 2300-day prophecy then you've got to tackle the rest of the sanctuary message.

So this is the challenge I've set for myself and the two other getting-less-wet-behind-the-ears pastors I'm working with: to teach a bunch of 10-12 year-olds the symbolism of the tabernacle, the time prophecies of Daniel, and the investigative judgment. The other guys think I'm slightly nuts; I think I'm slightly nuts. But I have this strong conviction that if you can't teach a doctrine to kids you probably shouldn't be teaching it at all.

So I guess I'm putting Fundamental Belief 24 to the test as much as myself, but I believe that it can be done. My plan is to focus on the atoning (covering) aspects of judgment using the vision in Zechariah 3 as the central text. Then I hope to show what this doctrine says about God's love for them and how they can love Him back.

What do you think; am I on the right track? How have you handled this topic with kids? What have you found to work?

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Rules

There are certain members in my church who are always pressing me to be more strict, or in their parlance to “uphold the standards.” Nothing makes them happier than a sermon that exposes sin or calls for a higher degree of commitment. Even the less fanatical (if I may use the word) members of my congregation see defining theological and ethical boundaries as a major part of my role. It was probably one of my biggest surprises in ministry that many church people actually like theological spankings, even when they’re on the receiving end.

Laurence Iannaccone is an economist who published an explanation of this phenomenon. I’ll leave the summary of the details to Slate magazine which published this article:

Why Strict Churches Are Strong

The question this essay raises is not whether we have rules and guidelines; they are an emergent property of human interaction. The question is whether our rules and guidelines promote will foster elitism or promote spiritual growth among even the least spiritual member. The Pharisees are a good example of the former, and Jesus is the best example of the later.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Article: Online Tools

I have a new article up on Just Pastors about online Bible study tools. If you're into Bible study, I suggest you check it out. They're free, and they're not just for pastors.

Online Tools

Monday, May 08, 2006

Youth Rally

Our region held a youth rally this weekend, and kids from an hour to two hours away came to Grande Prairie as well as a guest speaker and youth from Edmonton. Most of the youth groups in our churches have four to six youth, so they were really stoaked to get together with other Adventist kids. It was a ton of work, but a very satisfying result.

The thing the youth liked best about the rally was the music.

I also laid out a scavenger hunt for them. They had to find clues hidden in the park that would hint at the next ones location. Assembling the clues revealed an encrypted phrase: TLWRHOLEV

And to top it all off, I saw one of God's ugliest creatures (a moose) having supper outside my door.