Church

On Using Notes

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Here’s a question for you out there who preach/teach regularly in a church setting (I have in mind primarily pastors, but anyone may chime in!). What is your “policy” on using notes? If you use them, do you use a simple outline or copious notes that cover every jot and tittle of the text?

I have used both very detailed outlines and no notes at all. It really depends on how well I know the text. The problem I run into with outlines that are too detailed is that I feel anchored to the notes, as if I have to mention every little detail on the page. This can lead to dependence upon the notes that may detract from any Spirit-led spontaneity. On the other hand, using no notes at all may force a dependence on my own ability, which is not always so dependable! In light of this, I generally tend toward using a simple outline of major points with only a few major subpoints underneath. There are still times when I don’t use any notes at all, I just teach through the text.

So, how do you handle it?

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Revival: Day 4

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Tonight we concluded our fall revival and it was another tremendous service. I can honestly say that in the nearly-6 years we’ve been here, this has been the best revival yet. By “best” I mean that those in attendance were most receptive to God’s word and I think were genuinely moved by God’s spirit to a greater faithfulness to Christ.

It was quite a different experience to hear the Gospel of Mark preached, nearly in its entirety, in a matter of 5 sermons. I am left with the impression that this will be something I will one day consider, but only once I have gained a much stronger hold on the particulars of the individual sections.

The last sermon covered the events from Mark 10:46 through the end of chapter 16 (and, yes, Dr. Meyer believes correctly that the Gospel of Mark ends at 16:8!). These verses essentially cover the events that lead up to the crucifixion and death of Christ, culminating with the resurrection. Dr. Meyer focused on the cross and Jesus’ authority and control over the circumstances of his arrest, trial, scourging, crucifixion, and death, arguing (rightly) that Jesus was never surprised and things were never beyond his control/his Father’s will. No one took his life–he gave it freely. We see that in spite of all the injustice perpetrated by the Romans and the Jews, Jesus remained faithful and obedient to his Father’s will, even though it lead him down a violent and shameful path. Why? Because of his great love for us. So great was it that even in the face of injustice, mockery, blasphemy, torture, and savagery, Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many. May we never lose sight of the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice or fail to understand the weight of what happened on that cross.

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Revival: Day 3

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As you might expect, we had another great revival meeting tonight! Our attendance has been uncharacteristically high and I believe most everyone has really benefited from the teachings of Mark’s Gospel. Tonight, Dr. Meyer preached from Mark 9:14-10:45, continuing to unfold the narrative as it revealed the continued partial blindness of the disciples. What’s so striking, aside from the fact that Jesus chose these 12 disciples, is that it’s quite difficult to not put yourself in their place because we tend to make the same mistakes they did. Yet, Jesus taught them and used them as part of the founding of his church. The essence, then, of the message tonight was that being a disciple is sacrificial life, one that lives for the glory and honor of Christ and has no concern for the applause and laud of men.

I have heard a lot from the people attending this week and they genuinely seemed to be challenged by the sermons. I have enjoyed these messages as much as any I have heard lately (like Thomas Schreiner’s series on Revelation) not only because the word rightly handled serves to confront our errant theologies and reorient us to Christ, but also because I have newfound appreciation for the Gospel of Mark. Most of the discussion of Mark, at least that I’ve been aware of, has circled around the question of its role in the composition of the other synoptics. As you may know, source criticism and all the attention given to Q is well beyond my interests. This week’s messages, among other things, has given me the panoramic view of the Gospel as Mark saw it, and it’s been wholly fascinating! I may just have to give more attention to it!

We conclude revival tomorrow night, and I anxiously await to see how Dr. Meyer will conclude his series.

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Revival: Day 2

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Tonight’s service was great! We are experiencing an increase in attendance for the evening services, which is not the norm from years past! Dr. Meyer delivered a fantastic sermon tonight from Mark 8-9 on discipleship. We have probably all heard a sermon or two on Jesus’ words concerning taking up your cross and following him, but tonight’s message was powerful. I guess it was hearing it from another who explained so much of the larger narrative context–it was simply wonderful.

One of the things that pastoral ministry has taught these last nearly-6 years is the lack of understanding of what it means to be a disciple. And I don’t say this as one who feels as though I have been the most faithful disciple–God knows I haven’t. But being in a position where one has to model the life of a disciple as part of teaching others with the goal of helping them to become better disciples, I see regularly the shortfall of my own obedience, or lack thereof. I so appreciated the message tonight because I heard with fresh ears the demands of discipleship–denial of self, bearing the cross, and following Jesus. Sounds so simple, yet it costs us everything.

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Revival: Day 1

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Yesterday, we began revival services at our church. They generally are much like any other Sunday, only we have a guest preacher and worship leader. Dr. Jason Meyer, professor of NT and Greek at Louisiana College, preached from Mark 1-6 in the morning service (yes, the first 6 chapters!) and from Mark 6-8 in the evening service. I must admit that I wasn’t sure how he was going to cover that much material in one sermon, but he did and did it well. When I preach, especially through epistles or didactic sections of the Gospels, I preach small sections (though sometimes I wish I had a bit more time to cover longer pericopes). I’ve never heard a sermon that covered so much ground, but this was truly great. Dr. Meyer obviously did not treat every verse, often addressing entire accounts as supplements to the larger purpose of the gospel. The passages he did treat at any length were enlightening and challenging, to say the least. In sum, I would say the thrust of the sermon was the revelation of who Jesus was and that revelation permits us one of two reactions: acknowledging Christ as God, Savior, and King, or denying him as such. A powerful message to be sure!

Sunday night, Dr. Meyer preached from Mark 6-8, now focusing on the the authority and deity of Christ. I wish I had the recall to reproduce his message because I would rank it up there among the most challenging I’ve heard in some time. These chapters, as they were handled in the sermon, showed the various reactions to the person and claims of Jesus. I am more familiar with the Gospels of Matthew and John, so I was glad to know we would spend the whole revival series in the Gospel of Mark. One of the things that struck me in the two sermons was the extent to which Mark employs the OT to illustrate and substantiate Jesus’ own claims and demonstrations of his deity, not to mention the passion and intensity with which Dr. Meyer presented the texts!

So far, it has been a wonderful time of worship and fellowship! The funny thing about revivals here is that there is little in the way of visible response (e.g. people at the altar, manifestations of conviction, etc.); however, I have learned not to count on merely the visible as evidence of God’s Spirit moving in people’s hearts. I believe that when the Word of God is proclaimed faithfully and accurately by one who has been empowered and equipped by God, the Holy Spirit will work in the hearts of those who hear. They may not come to the altar, they may not manifest externally the conviction of the Spirit, but I rest assured that he is speaking to them. Of course, we would all like to have Acts 2 results, but I leave all of that to God and simply trust that he knows what he’s doing!

I am anxious to hear tonight’s sermon and I hope to post my thoughts on it later tonight.

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Revival

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Tomorrow we begin revival at our church. As I mentioned before, Dr. Jason Meyer will be preaching. He blogs at Conquered by Christ and is the author of The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology. I have a copy of it, but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to read very much of it yet. I am rather glad that he will be preaching in my place tomorrow, not only for the opportunity to hear great preaching, but I’ve come down with a cough and sore throat, so I would be straining to preach my usual 30-minute sermon.

In addition to revival, tomorrow is also game day! My Saints will be taking on Nick’s Giants in the Superdome! It will be a homecoming of sorts for Giants QB Eli Manning, but I don’t think that will matter to the Saints defensive backs! It should be a great game and, if the Saints should lose, I won’t mind the Giants being the team that beats them. But, I feel a Saints victory coming!

I am hopeful and prayerful for a great revival and look forward to what God will do!

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Tied Up

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Last night, after our evening service, I was talking with the folks and taking care of the usual post-service routine (turning off a/c, lights, locking doors, etc.). One of our members had brought a friend with her and I wasn’t able to meet her before the service began. So, afterwards I introduced myself and made typical friendly chit-chat. They had come to our discipleship time, the subject of discussion for that time being baptism. We had a good discussion and she freely joined in the conversation, which is always welcome! Turns out, she had LOTS to say after church!

After we exchanged pleasantries, she wanted to know what “they taught me in seminary” about Ezekiel 47. Now, I had overhead her say earlier, in the lull between discipleship and evening service, something about the “NIV” and “chapters left out,” so when Ezekiel 47 came up, I was trying to prepare myself. Her question was, basically, is Ezekiel 47 about the millennium? What ensued was approximately 15-20 minutes of her explaining the answer she sought from me! She covered the millennium, the Jews, the Temple, Acts 2 and “Jesus’-name-only” baptism (which she informed me was the apostolic way!), and a host of other issues. Anytime a question was posed, I had roughly 3-5 seconds to respond before she commenced with her explanations.

I did mange to utter “I haven’t studied Ezekiel 47, so–” before she resumed her discussion, and I almost got out “Well, we might disagree on that,” but alas, I was too slow on the draw!

So, I got tied up! All the while, her friend (the member of our church) was motioning and stating that they needed to go, which fell on deaf ears!! I must say that she was a very kind lady who just had a lot to say about the Bible–she wasn’t there to correct me (I don’t think she was anyway!). She said she’d like to stop by sometime and talk about the Bible, to which I said, “I’d love to!”

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Invitation to Follow Jesus

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Today, I preached my a.m. sermon from 1 Cor. 4:8-13, understanding Paul to have been comparing the Corinthians lifestyle (pursuing wisdom according to the world) with the cruciform lifestyle as exemplified by Paul and the apostles. In the final verses, Paul states that the appropriate response to hardship is not to return evil for evil, but to respond as Christ would have, only possible if one has been crucified with Christ. Paul’s final words, recorded in v. 13, reveal how the world views those who live in cruciformity:

“We are, even now, like the world’s garbage, like the filth of all things” (HCSB).

In my closing comments (which serve to transition into the invitation) I lamented that it seems that many who profess to be believers and followers of Christ and fill countless pews Sunday after Sunday are no more than casual observers of the Christian faith. Perhaps they, like the Corinthians, found salvation in Christ, but have since found the allure of the world or the approval of society more appealing than the denial of one’s self and living for the glory of Christ. Consequently, the church becomes little more than a social gathering, a club of which they are now members.

I then spoke for a few minutes on the nature of the Christian life, arguing that following Christ has never been an easy thing (in terms of cultural approval). I live in an area where Christianity, or should I say “going to church,” is more the norm than not. But I reminded the congregation that being a disciple of Christ involves more than just showing up at church any given Sunday–being a disciple is the life of sacrifice.

I closed the sermon by stating that Jesus’ death was no invitation to receive “your best life now,” cozy up and be pals with Jesus, or any other such nonsense. The death of Christ and his invitation to follow him I summed up thusly: “Come and die.”

Matthew 16:24-25 – Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. (HCSB)

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Sermon Series: Hebrews

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I’ve mentioned in a number of comments how my study/prepartion for preaching through 1 Corinthians has been quite informative pastorally. In our evening service I have recently begun a series in the book of Hebrews, and, I must say that it has been a laborious, but rewarding, task.

If you’re familiar with Hebrews, even just the English translation of it, you knowt that it can be a diffiicult book to understand at times. I’ve just spent several weeks working through chapter 1, a most fascinating chapter to be sure. It seems odd for me to think of anyone in the church to have an overly-high view and fascination with angels (I don’t believe the audience of the epistle were to the point of angel worship), but one must always ask: “Why did the author feel it necessary to include this?” This is especially true considering Jesus’ superiority over the angels occupies most of chapter 1.

Hebrews 1 is not terribly difficult grammatically (there are a few tough spots), but what is somewhat challenging is working through the numerous OT references. I was convinced of the full deity of Christ many years ago, but studying this chapter has reaffirmed this essential truth to our faith.

I am referring primarily to the following c0mmentaries in my study:

I may post some comments or questions as I continue through the text, time permitting.

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

Upcoming Revival

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Every year at our church we host a fall revival. Last year we were fortunate enough to have one of my seminary profs and dear friend preach. This year we are equally fortunate to have Dr. Jason Meyer preaching. He is the professor of New Testament and Greek at Louisiana College, as well as Dean of the Chapel.

I’ve heard Dr. Meyer preach a number of times and not only is he a superb exegete, but also a man whose love for Christ and God’s Word is evident. He blogs at Conquered by Christ and has written a number of thoughtful posts at Café Apocalypsis. His book The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology was recently published by Broadman & Holman and I am sure would be worth your investment. ;-)

One of the reasons I so look forward to revival every year is somewhat selfish–I get to sit and listen to God’s word. As a pastor, I most enjoy preparing and proclaiming God’s word to my congregataion, but I like to sit and hear God’s word just as much, especially in a church. I have listened to numerous sermons online and they have been fruitful, but I prefer to be in a church when hearing a sermon.

So, there you have it. If you take the notion to pray for us concerning this, I simply want God to have his way with us, that his word would pierce our hearts and minds so that we live for him and his glory, no matter the cost.

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason