They Both Boomerang

You know, of course, how a boomerang works—you throw it out, it does its work, and then comes back to you. It was originally used as a weapon; now (in our society) has become a toy.

Listen to what else becomes a boomerang:

A merciful person benefits himself; but the cruel person hurts himself.   Proverbs 11: 17 (CCNT/Proverbs)

What you throw at another returns! Of course, you shouldn’t show mercy in order to receive it. And, you certainly won’t be cruel in order to receive cruel treatment in return! But in God’s order of things, you can look for boomeranging events to happen!

“Why don’t people treat me better?”(you may wonder). How do you treat others? It’s an interesting concept—isn’t it? Think about it and start interpreting your life experiences in relationship to their boomeranging effects.

What the World Needs Today

Here is what the Thessalonians had to say about Paul and his associates when they came to town:

These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too.   Acts 17:6 (HCSB)

They were wrong, of course.

“Wrong? How so?”

They had it backwards; or, might I say, upside down?

“What are you talking about?”

Simply this: these preachers were not turning the world upside down; they were turning it right side up!

“Oh.”

Ever since Adam, things have been upside down because of man’s sin. When the Gospel is preached, and people believe, for the first time they begin to live as they were intended by God to live. Of course, not perfectly so.

“No one is perfect; as Jesus was. Will believers ever become perfect?”

Yes.

“When?”

When He returns to earth and transforms us into the perfect creatures he intends us to become.

“When is that?”

It is the next thing on God’s given agenda.

“Date?”

No one knows the date. We are to be ready for it to come whenever it does.

“Do all of these wars and rumors of wars indicate that it is near?”

No—just the opposite.

“Really? There’s talk like that.”

I know, but it is not biblical.

“Please explain.”

Can I let Paul do so?

“Sure.”

OK. Here’s what he says:

About the times and seasons[1] . . . when they say ‘peace and security,’ then sudden destruction comes on them (I Thess. 5:1, 3 HCSB).

“Oh!”



[1] Of what he had been discussing in I Thess. 4.

A Challange for You

what is highly admired by people is revolting in God’s sight (Luke 16: 15 HCSB).

Here’s the challenge—

  1. List as many things as you can that fall into the category of “revolting to God.”
  2. Place a check mark next to all that have a place in your life.
  3. Determine (biblically) what you must do to eliminate them.

Skillful in the Wrong Things!

Things had gotten worse than many realized. But God was about to let them know how bad they really were. He said:

My people are fools. They do not know Me. . . They are skilled in doing what is evil, but they do not know how to do what is good (Jeremiah 4:22, HCSB).

As a result, God was about to send the Babylonians to invade and destroy the land, including Jerusalem and its temple. Then, they would awaken – but too late.

How about God’s church today? Are there fools squabbling over non-essentials, teaching all sorts of heresy, and drifting farther and farther away from the truth? How much evil living is there among those who purport to serve God—but actually do not? Have they become skilled at doing all of the wrong things . . . and have no idea how to do the right ones?

How does one acquire skill? By constant practice. Obviously continuation in the foolish ways in which modern Christians live is just such practice. Search your lives. In what are you skilled—good or evil?

If you are contributing to the breakdown of society by your foolish ways, repent and begin to do those things that please God! That is the skill that you need to acquire. Time may be short before destruction takes place. Don’t wait to begin.

The Only Real Answer to Violence

We’ve heard of all sorts of supposed solutions recently to the problem of violence:  better education, stiffer laws, training police in how to handle it—you name it and, chances are, someone has already beat you to suggesting it.

Perhaps it’s time to listen to what God says about the matter:

Without revelation people run wild, but one who keeps the law will be happy (Proverbs 29:18 HCSB).

Apart from a divinely-given standard, and the acknowledgement of it, there will never be a society that is peaceful, happy and genuinely civilized.  The Scriptures, of course, are just such a revelation. God knows what leads to peaceful living, and has told us in the Bible. As less and less people submit to God’s Word, things get worse and worse. That it should faithfully be preached and believed more and more is the only answer to the present chaos.

Christian, what are you doing to bring this about?

 

 

Exposition—Is That What’s Needed?

To hear some pastors speak, one would think that ‘exposition’ was the cure-all for modern preaching. Personally, I don’t agree. To set exposition over against other elements in preaching, as these men are inclined to do, is a great error that has lead to the rise of the Bible teacher who lectures in the place of the herald of God who proclaims. In Scripture we are called heralds, not expositors.

Of course I believe in exposition; without adequate exposition there is nothing to herald. Without proper exposition, the divine authority of the message is undercut. Now exposition is only a part—a very important part—but only a part of heralding; it is a serious mistake to equate the two. It is not because I am against exposition that I am issuing this warning. My concern is to counter the notion that preaching may rightly consist of exposition without, or instead of, heralding.

Now, I have been using the word ‘heralding.’ I must explain this currently neglected term. The common Greek word for preaching in the New Testament is kerusso. This word means “to speak like a herald, to cry out, to proclaim.” In the Greek city-states, which were true democracies (i.e., every citizen voted on every issue), the population was made up of three kinds of persons: slaves, freedmen, and citizens. In many places the citizens, those who alone had the power to vote, were in the minority. When a public question demanded a vote, therefore, it was the task of the kerux, or herald, to travel around the city proclaiming the fact and calling out the citizens from among the general populace. They then assembled at the call of the herald, discussed the issue, and voted.

The word for ‘church’ that is used in the New Testament is ekklesia, which means “the called-out ones.” It was first used to designate these Greek assemblies which consisted of the persons called out from the general populace by the herald. Thus, it expressed exactly the idea that God wanted to convey—that His people are called out of the world by His heralds to transact the business of the city of God.

The word kerusso, and its cognate, kerux, are used of both the preaching of the gospel to the lost and of the proclamation of God’s Word to believers. These basic terms appear in every sort of preaching context.

It is not my concern to discourage Bible teaching (in Scripture the herald is also called a teacher); I am interested instead in preserving the concept of heralding. The stance of the teacher-who-is-not-also-a-herald is the stance of a lecturer rather than preacher. He enters the pulpit to talk about the Bible rather than about God and the congregation. Moreover, he tends to put himself up front rather than the One who sent him. He is tempted to become the great expositor, the magician who knows how to open the Word and pull gospel rabbits out of it. His efforts are directed not so much toward changing people as toward explaining Scripture. His mission is to inform. While the herald also informs, he does so as a means to an end. Exposition is not a thing-in-itself; it is a part of something larger. Exposition is done with a focus. For him, exposition is a means of persuading the members of his congregation to believe or disbelieve something as well as a means of moving them to action. He is concerned about bringing God and the congregation into confrontation with one another in Scripture.

While what I have just said is not true of all who call themselves expository preachers, it is frequently true and in some respects—having to do with stance—true of just about all. The stance of the so-called expositor is that of someone talking about the text: “This passage naturally falls into three parts.” The stance of the herald is that of one who is talking to a congregation about their relationship to God from the Bible. The expositor says, “God told them …” whereas the herald says, “God tells you …” The stance of the former is that of a literary and theological analyst whereas the stance of the latter is that of one ministering the Word to the persons before him in order to bring their lives into conformity to God’s will. One speaks primarily of the long ago and far away in the Bible; the other speaks primarily of the present from the Bible.

Well, then, how much exposition does the herald do anyway? Just as much as the expositor. But he does it in a context. It is his concern that the purpose for which the passage was given by the Holy Spirit be uppermost in what he says and does when preaching. Therefore, he makes the Spirit’s purpose the purpose of the sermon. The exposition is not a thing apart; it is made to serve the telos, or intention, of the Holy Spirit in producing the passage. Exposition is done in the service of something else, not for its own sake.

I know that I will be charged with caricaturing expository preaching, but I have been careful to point out that what I am criticizing is a tendency growing out of a wrong understanding of the place of exposition that too often, but not always, characterizes it. To call preaching exposition rather than proclamation is a decision that, in itself, is clearly indicative of the tendency of which I have been speaking.

What, then, is the place of exposition in heralding? If it is not an end in itself, if it is not the goal of preaching and is not to be equated with preaching, then what part does it play in heralding? Exposition plays two important roles. First, exposition is the means by which the preacher explains what God has to say to the congregation about their relationship to Him and to their neighbors. Apart from exposition, there is no message to herald. The Christian herald proclaims the message of Another, not his own; exposition makes that message known. It is by exposition, when done within a context in which the congregation (rather than the Amalakites) is addressed as the subject of the passage, that God speaks His Word to His people today. Secondly, exposition which successfully enables people to understand what God is saying lends authority to the herald’s words. Listeners see where he got the message that he proclaims; they see plainly that it is not his message, but God’s, and that the herald is simply there to help them to understand what God is saying, to urge them to comply, and to show them how to do so. That is the place of exposition.

So, then, preacher, “herald the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Don’t merely expound it; herald it. Preach for correction, reproof, encouragement as well as to inform. Herald the Word! That is to say, proclaim it clearly, fully as God’s Word to men and women today and you will see life and growth as well as knowledge among those to whom you preach.

Knowledge

Paul’s desire for his people, the Jews, was that they might have knowledge. Not just knowledge in general, but knowledge of the Gospel which (if believed) would save them.

He says, in Romans 10:2, that “they have a zeal for God, but not according to that knowledge.”

There are people today (not only unsaved Jews) who have a zeal for God—trying to save themselves by their good works—who are also w/o the saving knowledge that Christ died for guilty sinners, bearing their punishment, so that through faith they would obtain eternal life.

Knowledge of the saving sort is found only in the Bible, or in the writings, sermons, and witness of those who learned it from the Bible.

He says, in the next verse, that they attempted to establish their own righteousness rather than be counted righteousness by God through faith in Jesus Christ. In what are you trusting for salvation? Is your knowledge of salvation sure and clear? That’s probably the most important question for you to settle right now—if you haven’t already.

What Preachers Need Today

Throughout the Book of Acts there is an ever-occurring term that stands out. Indeed, this descriptive term is so characteristic of the apostles’ preaching of the Gospel that Luke is careful to use it even up to and including the very last verse of his book!

“What is it?”

Let me quote that verse an see if you can pick it out.

“OK. Go ahead.”

Speaking of Paul’s house arrest, here is what he writes:

He stayed two whole years in his own rented house . . . proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance (HCSB).

Do you see the word that I have in mind?

“Not sure… is it ‘proclaiming?’”

A great word—shows us how he never stopped preaching. But that’s not the word I had in mind.

“How about ‘teaching?’”

Another good choice— but not what I had in mind.

“Then it must be ‘boldness.”‘

Bingo! You got it.

“Thought I never would. Why do you point this out? Isn’t boldness a bit careless? You know what the word means—’he boldly jumped over the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle’—and so on?”

No! No! No!

“What do you mean, ‘NO?’”

I mean NO!

“Why say NO?  Everyone knows that boldness can lead to carelessness—why would Luke characterize Paul’s teaching that way?”

Glad you raised that question. You see, this isn’t the ordinary word for boldness—it is a special word.

“How does it differ?”

This word means “to speak the truth without fear of consequences.  How we need that sort of preaching today!

“You’re right.  Thanks for clearing that up.”

You’re welcome.

Preaching to the Elderly

There is not much concern shown for the elderly in the preaching that I have heard in the last few years. At one time the elderly in our midst were considered valuable and important members whose wisdom was sought, cherished and followed and whose presence was an honor. Now, all too often, in our society which glorifies youth, they are looked upon as a burden. Frequently, that same attitude, unconsciously adopted, is extended to preaching.

Concerns of all of the members of the congregation should be mentioned in preaching. Just as Paul frequently speaks in categories of young men, young women, old men and old women, addressing those belonging to each according to their peculiar circumstances, so too should we be aware of the particular needs, problems and responsibilities of each (in his first letter John also makes such distinctions.) And we should be sure that what we preach is adapted just as regularly to the old as to the young.

What are some of the concerns of older persons to which we ought to direct our attention in preaching? Here is a list with which you may begin:

  • Death—the fear of it, the biblical facts about it, the certainty of eternal life and eternal damnation, etc.
  • Grief—proper and improper ways of grieving.
  • Work—how to be useful in doing non-remunerative things for Christ.
  • Pain and suffering—its meaning, how to endure it, etc.
  • Sickness—why it comes, what can be done about it, the relationship of attitudes to sickness, etc.
  • Wisdom—how it may be shared with others, especially the young.
  • Grandchildren—what can be done to become a powerful influence for good in their lives.
  • Time—how to use it wisely rather than frittering it away before the TV.
  • Attitude—the importance of this, especially in relationship to children, in-laws and others.
  • Weariness—how to avoid and how to handle it when it comes.
  • Growth—how to keep from drying up in old age.

These are simply a few suggestions about the sorts of things that concern older persons and ought to concern others who must care for them. You may wish to preach some entire sermons on the biblical teaching concerning one or more of these areas, and in considering other topics, you might touch on any one of these areas illustratively. You do not always have to single out the elderly by name, but you must deal with their interests (obviously, their interests also are interests to others.) Yet, it is wise at times to speak to them directly. That is true especially when they are likely to plead age as an excuse to call what you have said generally, “not applicable to older persons.” Should you suspect the possibility of such a response, you might anticipate it and cut it off at the gate by saying something like this:

Now I know that there may be some of you more elderly folk out there who are saying to yourselves ‘Well, that’s fine for the young folk, but I’ve served my time. I just don’t have the gumption to get up and do things that I once did …’ Let me tell you that there is a place for every person in this congregation to serve Christ. We’re not planning to wear you out—we need you older members for a lot of projects around here—no, you’re too valuable to us for that. But, we do have some tasks that are suited to you and that I am certain you will be excited to do for Christ. Let me tell you about some of them . . .

You see, preaching like that holds the elderly in respect. They are noted as persons of value to the congregation (they are so long as Christ gives them life); they are considered when allocating tasks for congregational projects; their tasks are suited to their age and they are not allowed to use age as an excuse for not serving Christ. All of these factors—but especially the last—are of importance in conserving and utilizing the wisdom and energy of older Christians in the church.

But while there is also need to preach to them directly about their ills and ailments, etc., perhaps it is even more powerful to use exemplary and illustrative material about older persons incidentally. Pleasant incidents about the joy that an aged saint gave to those who were with her on a hospital ward might be mentioned illustratively. The witness of an older person that led a youth to Christ may be held up as an example. How an older person adapted to a very difficult change with Christian flexibility might be used powerfully for the benefit of all. (“If he, at his age, in his circumstances could do that, what of some of the rest of you younger members who are complaining that your lives are too routinized to alter? Once again it seems that it is our older people who are setting the pace for the rest of us.”)

And, it certainly wouldn’t do any harm when preaching about Abraham to point out incidentally how much God expected of a very old man, and how—by the grace of God—Abraham was enabled to do everything that was expected of him. That God expects much of older persons today ought to be emphasized.

When preaching to older persons there is wisdom in using illustrative material from the days when they were young. You will capture their attention and hold it raptly if you do. You don’t have to preach it as “the good old days,” but you certainly should learn something from such an expression about the interest that older persons have in times past.

One final suggestion: you ought always to be concerned about the hearing of the older members of your congregation and you should be sure that they can hear what you say. Don’t assume that they can hear because they don’t complain; they maybe too embarrassed by their hearing impairments to do so. Ask them. There is no excuse for people failing to hear because of poor acoustics, faulty sound systems, etc. Today, all such problems can be solved easily. Be sure they are. And, when you have something in a sermon that is especially for them, it is good to speak loudly, slowly, distinctly and in a low pitch. I stress the latter because the ability to hear sound at a high pitch usually disappears first in the elderly.

So, what am I saying? Simply this: keep older persons in mind as you prepare your sermons. It is all too easy to focus on the young as the rest of our worldly society has been doing. But the church, and (especially) its minister, ought to know better.

Did Jesus Suffer in Hell?

Some teach that he did.  They refer to the quotation of the Psalm that the apostle Peter quotes (Acts 2:27):

You will not leave My soul in Hades.

“There you have it” they say. “His soul went to hell (Hades) at death—why else would this be true?”

Well, let’s think about it for a moment.

When after three hours of darkness suffering on the cross Jesus said, “It is finished,” what did he mean? Certainly, that was not a cry of relief! He was saying “I have completed the suffering for sinners that the Father sent me to accomplish.” That is to say, redemption is finished. Well, that statement seems to contradict the idea that Jesus has to suffer additionally in hell, doesn’t it?

In addition, consider this: The word Hades doesn’t mean what we (today) mean when we speak of “hell.” It comes from the Greek root id which means “seen.” In Greek, if you want to negate something, you add an alpha (a) privative to the word. Do that with this term and you get “Unseen.”[1]

Hades is the “unseen world.” In it is both paradise and the place of suffering. Remember, Jesus said to the thief: “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.” That’s where His soul was: in the third heaven (see 2 Cor. 12:2-4), which is part of the unseen world.

Be careful not to fall for the heresy that teaches the work on the cross was incomplete and needed to be supplemented by further suffering.


[1] There is also the fact that it has a rough breathing ( h-sound ) at the beginning.

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