Tag Archives: word

listening well

I am sitting in a hotel in Philadelphia, ruminating on the calling of God to be a preacher.  Annually, I attend the Workshop on Biblical Exposition, put on by the Charles Simeon Trust.

This is a come-and-wrestle-and-do-the-hard-work-of-text-preparation workshop  more than it is a come-and-see conference.  There is nothing like it… for my soul, for my sanity, for my sense of purpose.  To declare the immeasurable riches of God from his Word – what does THAT necessitate in my prayer life, in my preparations, in my pastoring a growing churchplant?

I delight to know that God is working through his Word at West Valley PCA, more than through our creativity, our ministries, our vision.  His Word, clearly given, communally received.  And yet, OOOHHH to be a more faithful, more intentional handler of the Word of God!

O, to be a man who “stands in the council of the Lord to see and hear his word, who has paid attention to his word and LISTENED”(Jeremiah 23.18).

Simon Manchester, the primary speaker of the workshop and senior pastor of St. Thomas’Anglican Church in North Sydney Australia – has met me in my spiritual exhaustion and struggle.  Thank you God.  His handling and humble care of the hard task of preaching has encouraged and exhorted me in a much needed way.  I have simply been too busy.  Too spent.  Too scattered.  And today,  I saw the beauty of the Word again.  The joy of plumbings its depths and pondering its questions, and prying its parts.   I pass on to you some notes scribbled in my journal:

A dissatisfied preacher (wrestling and churning and grappling with questions and textual understanding) makes for satisfied people.  A satisfied preacher (that was simple and easy and I know what to say) makes for dissatisfied people.

I beg you: SHUT UP and LISTEN to the Word.  An expository sermon is a “listening sermon” – which is quite different from a non-listening sermon (the preacher has not stopped, struggled and listened before speaking).

I must not be confused at WHAT I am to be doing.  I am preaching the kingdom!

An expository preacher and an equipped congregation “spiral upward” together in a glorious, healthy way.  In other words, the preacher studies hard and delivers a healthy feast from the Word… thus the people of God are equipped to live and sacrifice and to BE the church of God for the glory of God… so they protect and ask their preacher to continue to work hard and study and deliver healthy feasts from the Word (as opposed to pulling him in every direction)… so he does, and they are fed and fulfill the ministry… and so he prepares and preaches all the more… and so they are more equipped and expanding their ministry, through the Word… and so it SPIRALS UPWARD!

Thank you Simon Manchester.  Thank you God for this respite.  Thank you West Valley for caring with me about expository preaching.  May we spiral upward together.

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two posts, two days… what’s going on!

I wanted to drop another post in the post-box.  Not that I have time to be doing this, but…

In working on my exposition (sermon) this week, I have wrestled with Colossians 1:24-2:5.  It has been exactly  that… a laborious, agonizing prep time.  Some weeks are like this.  I am thankful for the struggle, especially when the text from which I am preaching is about the struggle!  Agonizing to get the fulness of the Word right so as to present people mature in Christ!  So… this week, as I was exposed to the Word – then exposed to myself – then to the gospel for myself… I got a bit poetic.  This never happens.  I am a prose guy who writes with two many fragments and not sentences.  Really.  Oh, and I don’t know how to write poetry.  Apparently there are no rules to it (sentence fragment duly noted).

Here you go – from Colossians 1:24-2:5

the Word is the mystery

the mystery is Christ

(and yet there is more)

Christ is the hope of glory

in you.

___

in the Word I rejoice

for the mystery I struggle

(yet I wish I did more)

Still this is my stewardship

for you.

___

to complete what is lacking, seriously… lacking?

to rejoice in suffering, seriously … suffering?

(I need to know more)

this is a mystery

to me.

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A kingdom of humility, contrition and trembling

“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” – Isaiah 66:2

Smack in the middle of a vision of the New Heavens and Earth – the beautiful restoration of God that includes his judgment and justice and KINGDOM – is a beautiful description of the people to whom God’s grace and righteousness will rest.  THOSE WHO HUMBLY AND CONTRITELY TREMBLE AT HIS WORD.

Here we are, on the verge of planting a church in the Lehigh Valley of PA.  The thoughts (and methodological books) pour into my head.  Be relevant.  Be faithful.  Be risky.  Be patient.  Be holy.  Be original.  Be missional.  Be Spirit-led.  Be this or that or this or that.  Many of those things I DO want!  But O God, I want  most for us to be your kingdom on earth! 

What will that be like, I wonder.  One thing is clear according to Isaiah’s kingdom vision.  The kingdom on earth WILL be a place where the Word of God revealed to man is CENTRAL to life and ethics and obedience and worship.  We are to be “West Valley Presbyterian Church that trembles contritely at the word of God.”  Nice.

Whether I am seeing this because I am on the heals of a workshop on biblical exposition, or I am resting in it because it is God’s purpose for me to discover the centrality of his Word while outside of a bunch of crazy Word-centered preachers… I am not sure – except I love the Word.  Yes, it is hard to read.  Yes, it is often uninteresting to our visual and emotive culture.  BUT, it is the living Word and revelation of the Creator of the universe and Redeemer of my soul.  Is it not a powerful gift of grace around which ALL of our church plant should center?!

One thing I humbly had to confess at the workshop was this: I generally try to discern how the text of Scripture applies to me, or the congregation to which I preach.  But the problem with such a philosophy is that I am making myself, or others the center point of relating to God.  “How does this apply to ME?”  It is egocentric (though normal in our Western culture)!  The question is rather, “How do I apply my life to the Word?”  “How do I relate to the TRUTH of the text?” rather than “How does this text relate to my perceived reality?”

All I can say is that I can’t possibly imagine being in the New Heavens/Earth of Isaiah 66 and thinking, “How does this Kingdom fit into my reality?”  No, my reality will be defined by such a kingdom!  This is the reason that the kingdom is for those who humbly and contritely tremble at the Word – because IT IS the bar.  IT IS the barometer of reality.  IT IS the density of the gravity by which things float or fall.  How does my reality square with TRUE, GOD REVEALED REALITY?  That is humbling… it induces trembling.  What a grace – that those who are humbled and contrite and trembling at God’s Word are the ones to whom he will look in his kingdom (66:2)! 

SO, it must be Word-now, because it will be Word-then!!!  The kingdom is thus here and then through the Word revealed!

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