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The Spirit, the Preacher, and the Word (Part 2)

Biblical Eldership Resources (website: http://biblicaleldership.com/) recently published my “10 Steps to Better Preaching.” They have asked me to deliver two messages on the topic “Faithful Preaching and the Power of the Spirit” at their conference in Rochester, NY, in March.

I am looking forward to preparing these messages — and these posts are part of my work toward that goal. I want to think with you about some of the critical questions concerning preaching and the Holy Spirit, such as —
(1) How do I know I am preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit?
(2) What is involved in His illumination ministry?
(3) How does the Holy Spirit make a difference in our preaching?

Let’s look at our section of John 14 once more . . .

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

 

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2017 in God the Holy Spirit

 

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The Spirit, the Preacher, and the Word (Part 1)

Friends:  I have been asked to participate in a March conference with Biblical Eldership Resources.  I will be presenting two messages on the subject of preaching and God the Holy Spirit.  In light of that assignment, I want to take a number of posts to think through some passages that may shed light on the awesome task of proclaiming God’s Word.

Jesus’ “Upper Room Discourse,” as you know, deals with a variety of subjects, not the least being the coming and ministries of the Third Person of the Trinity.  Let’s look at several verses in that discourse which is found in John 14-16.

Jesus gives an amazing promise in John 14:

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

 

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2017 in God the Holy Spirit

 

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The Eavesdropper — A Short Story

Joe E. Mudd never intended to pursue the career of an eavesdropper.  Career?  More like a hobby, really.  An avocation.  [That’s a great word, he thought to himself.  Avocation.  What would you call a fruit with a hobby?  An avocado avocation!  He laughed to himself at his juvenile humor].

His hobby started rather innocently.  Today one can easily become an eavesdropper by just showing up in public.  Cell phones!  People have normal-voiced conversations with others on their cell phones.  Some even put their conversation on speaker.  Wow. That sure makes it easy to eavesdrop.

[What an interesting word.  Eavesdrop.  He pulled out his iPad and looked it up.  eaves·drop verb, eaves·dropped, eaves·drop·ping, noun verb (used without object)

1. to listen secretly to a private conversation.

verb (used with object)

2. Archaic. to eavesdrop on.

noun Also, eaves·drip [eevz-drip]

3. water that drips from the eaves.

4. the ground on which such water falls.

Origin:  before 900;  (noun) Middle English evesdrope, evesdripe, Old English yfesdrype;  as v., probably back formation from eavesdropper, late Middle English evisdroppyr,  apparently literally, one who stands on the eavesdrop  in order to listen to conversations inside the house; see eave, drop, drip

So the word originally had the idea of someone who literally stood on the eaves of a house to secretly listen to the conversation of others, Joe thought to himself.  That sounds like the GUTTER, he laughed.  I’m in the gutter listening to people’s private conversations!

Joe also prided himself on his powers of observation.  As he sat in the local Starbucks, he watched the customers come in for their morning fixes.  What a cornucopia of outfits!  [That’s an interesting word too.  Cornucopia.  Hmmm.  This one he looked up:  cor·nu·co·pi·a [kawr-nuh-koh-pee-uh, -nyuh-] noun

1. Classical Mythology . a horn containing food, drink, etc., in endless supply, said to have been a horn of the goat Amalthaea.

2. a representation of this horn, used as a symbol of abundance.

3. an abundant, overflowing supply.

4. a horn-shaped or conical receptacle or ornament.

There was certainly an overflowing supply of  variously attired, caffeine-addicted adults who flowed into this establishment each morning, like heroin addicts needing their methadone shots.  So sad, Joe thought.  To be so enslaved to a chemical.  What a waste!

But he caught his mind wandering.  I need to focus, he told himself, if I’m going to get anything done today.

By getting something done today Joe did not actually mean work.  He hadn’t worked in years.  His “disability” — he sneered at the term — allowed him to leave his job at the post office in style.  When that sorting rack had fallen on him, lawyers seemed to come out of the woodwork to help him with his case.  The settlement had been adequate, although he was left with a permanent limp.

But today he needed to clear his mind and listen.  The coffee shop had about 18 people enjoying their favorite, over-priced hot (or cold) beverage.  This morning there were seven gathered in couples and four sitting by themselves.  The two women to his right were talking non-stop about exercise regimens, muscle aches, and diet plans.  Joe pointed his finger toward his mouth like he was going to force himself to throw up.  What a waste of human breath, he thought.

In front of him sat two young teenage girls, one studying her blueberry muffin, the other checking her phone for hoped-for messages.  The couple at the table in the center of the Starbucks spoke softly with one another.  The man’s back was to Joe.  He was a large man, dressed in a dark suit, sitting on a wooden chair that looked like it was going to collapse at any moment.  Joe thought about the fragility of life, of how people routinely take the stability of chairs for granted, never realizing the amount of faith it requires to sit one’s entire weight on a chair which one has not first tested for stability and strength.  [Another great word.  Fragility.  frag·ile [fraj-uhl; British fraj-ahyl] adjective

1. easily broken, shattered, or damaged; delicate; brittle; frail: a fragile ceramic container; a very fragile alliance.

2. vulnerably delicate, as in appearance: She has a fragile beauty.

3. lacking in substance or force; flimsy: a fragile excuse.

Origin:

1505–15;  < Latin fragilis,  equivalent to frag-  (variant stem of frangere  to break)

We all suffer from fragility, don’t we?  The late-20’s-something females at the corner table were talking a mile a minute.  As they got up to leave, Joe was thankful.  Man, could those women talk!  They were attractive, but didn’t seem to invest much energy in listening to what the other was saying.

Joe had been coming to this Starbucks for a few months now.  His eavesdropping had become very practical at times.  He remembered overhearing one elderly lady say to her companion, “I’m having the worst time with my kitchen sink.  It just seems to leak, and leak, and leak!”  She looked so distraught, he thought to himself.  When she and her friend left, Joe followed them out and delivered his now famous line, “I am so sorry, but I couldn’t help but overhear a bit of your conversation.  I know a great plumber who’s reasonable and polite and has a great reputation.  And he’s not a relative!”  He recalled the elderly lady’s face light up as he gave her the contact information for Pete’s Plumbing.

But not all my eavesdropping has been successful, he reflected with a frown.  That couple that was going through a terrible fight with each other.  Man, they did not want my help when I suggested a marriage counselor to them.  I thought the guy was going to take my head off!  They were furious that I had been listening to their domestic battle.

Maybe today I’ll have better luck.  Ah, here comes an older woman and a young girl — and they’re sitting right next to me!

Joe’s heart began beating faster.  He had once thought about buying one of those spy things that magnified other people’s conversations.  They weren’t that expensive and apparently allowed you to hear with “crystal clarity” (per the TV ad) what others were saying.  You just had to “point the small directional mike toward your target.”  Joe was tempted, but he thought to himself, “That’s an unfair advantage.  I want to do this au naturell!”

The older woman’s name was Margaret; the younger woman’s Melissa.  Although they were huddled close together, Joe could hear almost every word they were saying.  He had been working his way through the book Lip-Reading Made Simple, so he felt that he could accurately follow their conversation, as long as he watched their lips carefully.

“I’m so glad you decided to have coffee with me, Melissa,” the older woman said.  “I’m sure this is a difficult time for you.”  [Difficult time.  Why?, wondered Joe].

“Mrs. Hamilton, I’ve always considered you like my Mom.  I’m sure she would be quite disappointed with me right now.”

“Sweetie, please call me Margaret.  And your dear mother, God rest her soul, I believe would be quite proud of you.”  [What in the world are they talking about?].

“I can’t believe this has happened to me!”  [What?  What has happened to her?]

“Melissa, you’re only sixteen, but you shouldn’t be surprised about, you know, this being a possibility.”  [My goodness, is the young woman pregnant?!]

“I know.  I know.  Margaret, do you think God will forgive me?”  [Oh, boy.  Are these a bunch of religious kooks?]

“Dear, you know what the Bible teaches.  God promises to forgive those who come to His Son Jesus, admit their wrong-doings, and believe in their hearts that Jesus paid for their bad choices by His death.”  [I thought God grades on the curve — our good works versus our bad works?]

“Margaret, but this is a pretty big wrong-doing, isn’t it?”

“All of us fall short of God’s standard of absolute perfection, don’t we?  That’s why we need someone to rescue us from our bad choices, our bad attitudes, our failure to worship the real God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

Joe sat back in his chair a bit, taking a sip of his water.  He thought to himself of all the inane conversations he had listened in on, but this one was different.  He cupped his hand behind his left ear to hear better.

“Margaret, I know you’re a religious person.  I’m just not into religion right now.”

“Sweetie, let me clear something up for you.  I spell ‘religion’ d — o.”

“D — o?  I don’t understand.”

“D — o.  Religion is what you do.  And the problem with religion is that you never know if you’ve done enough.  In fact, if you really think about it, doing good things can never make up for the bad things we’ve done in the past — or the bad thoughts we’ve had.”

“I understand, I think.”  Melissa was listening hard.

“Melissa, I’m into Christianity.  And Christianity is spelled D — O — N– E.”

“Done?”, Melissa asked.

“Yes, Dear.  DONE.  The Bible says Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves.  He paid for our wrong-doings because of His love for us.”

Margaret and Melissa got up from the table, having finished their drinks.  [No! No! thought Joe.  I want to hear the rest of your conversation!]

Joe didn’t know what to do, but he followed the two women outside, meekly walked up to them, and said, “I’m so sorry, but I couldn’t help overhearing some of your conversation . . .”

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2017 in short stories

 

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Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die! (A Study of John 11) Part 25

As we look at this last section of John 11, we see that His intention in allowing His friend Lazarus to die (and then be gloriously raised to life by Jesus) resulted in two reactions: (1) belief on the part of some; (2) a prophesied plot to take Jesus’ life. Let’s read our section one last time …..

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.

Caiaphas was God’s messenger (without Caiaphas’ awareness or permission) in predicting the death of the Lord Jesus. Jesus has to withdraw from the public, spending time with His disciples.

Many tried to see whether Jesus would attend the Passover. But Jesus was a wanted man. The chief priests and the Pharisees wanted Jesus’ presence reported so He could be arrested.

And so ends John 11. We read in the next chapter of John: “9Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”  Jesus’ plan worked to perfection! Many were believing in Him. Not all. But many. At the cost of Lazarus’ earthly life and at the cost of Jesus’ sacrificial death, belief in the Lord was the result. For some.

The religious leaders’ hatred of Jesus was so strong that now they wanted to kill Lazarus as well. Presumably, this man did die a second time, either at their hands or through “natural” death.  But it was well worth it.

 

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2017 in John 11

 

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Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die! (A Study of John 11) Part 24

In our previous post, we used our “sanctified imagination” to speculate about the Father and Lazarus having a conversation in heaven.  Let’s return to our text and notice the last section of this amazing story …..

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.

There was a clear reaction to Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead. Some “believed in him” (v. 45). Others reported Jesus’ action to the religious leaders who then called a special meeting of the Sanhedrin (vv. 46-47).

We get to listen in on their deliberations. They acknowledge Jesus’ “many signs” and fear the Romans will step in and limit the freedoms they enjoyed from their occupiers.

Caiaphas, that year’s high priest, makes an incredible statement: “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (v. 50).

God’s Spirit has power even over those who would seek to destroy the Lord! This miracle of raising Lazarus seems to be the work of Jesus which seals His fate. (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in John 11

 

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Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die! (A Study of John 11) Part 23

I believe there is a place for what I call sanctified imagination. If Christians are right about their immediately going to be “with the Lord” upon death, wouldn’t it be the case that Lazarus has just spent several days with His Lord? In heaven?

I know. I know. Some believers think that the Old Testament saints went to a kind of pre-heaven, a holding tank where they awaited the Lord Jesus’ completing the work of atonement and then they would be transferred into heaven proper.

I know the theory. I don’t buy it. I don’t think David and Moses and Abraham were in a lesser state of existence after they died simply because they were Old Testament believers.

So, if we assume Lazarus had been with the Father in heaven, let’s go one step further and imagine a conversation the two had together:

The Father: “Lazarus, it is so good to have you here!”

Lazarus: “Yes, Lord. That sickness was awful and I thought Your Son would save me from death, but I’m sure He had His reasons for staying away.”

The Father: “Yes, Lazarus. About that. We have a plan, but we need your help.”

Lazarus: “My help? I’m dead, Lord.”

The Father: “Yes, yes. I know. And I’m sure you are enjoying the sights and sounds here in heaven with me.”

Lazarus: “Absolutely. It makes death almost welcome to be here with You!”

The Father: “Lazarus, there was something far more important for my Son than His keeping you from dying.”

Lazarus: “Whatever could that be, Lord?

The Father: “Raising you from the dead, as a public event, would provide a significant proof of my Son’s identity and that I sent Him to planet earth on His mission.”

Lazarus: “I’m more than glad to help, Father. But wouldn’t that mean . . .”

The Father: “Yes, Lazarus. I’m afraid so. I need you to go back and get resurrected.”

Lazarus: “Father, I will do it. I want Your Son brought glory more than anything else. More than I want to be with You here in heaven!”

The next voice Lazarus heard was Jesus’ — and it was shouting, “Lazarus, come out!”  (to be continued)

 

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2017 in John 11

 

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Friends Don’t Let Friends . . . Die! (A Study of John 11) Part 22

Let’s look at our next section of this amazing miracle …

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

Jesus has the onlookers get involved in this resurrection event. He commands them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (v. 44).

I’m sure it is a sacrilege to try to imagine that scene in the following way, but I can’t help it. I picture Lazarus having to spin around so that the burial wrappings could be removed. Some of you have played that game in which you hold the small end of a baseball bat and put the large end on the ground and you spin around three times real fast and then let go of the bat and promptly stagger around like you’re drunk and you then fall to the ground? That’s how I picture what’s happened to the new Lazarus!

He is now free. He is now alive again. He is now, uh, naked. Mostly. But who cares about propriety at such a time as this? He’s back with his family. I wonder what he experienced just before Jesus raised him from the dead? (to be continued)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2017 in resurrection

 

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