Love is War

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As I think about our impending Easter celebrations, I am glad that God came to wage war on our behalf. And… that love is often His weapon of choice.

“Love is War” from Hillsong United

The Beautiful Resurrection in Ordinary Circumstances

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“The resurrection is the most essentially and entirely divine of all Christ’s works. It stands out forever as at once the mightiest miracle and deepest mystery connected with His redeeming work. The significance of its power is beyond all human conception or measure. For, if it be not true, the whole claim and promise of grace is confounded. But if it be true that Jesus burst the bands of death and revealed Himself as Death’s conqueror, then all the claim He ever put forth is substantiated, and all the promise He ever made is confirmed. When we view its simple and stupendous action in the Gospel records, we are face face with supreme revelation and measure of the divine power. Victory over sin and death, and a living hope for the sons of men, are its clarion notes of triumph. God in all His might is seen without any veiling medium. and we are at the same time uplifted in His greatness and humbled in our own littleness.

“Yet its story of triumphant power is wonderfully interwoven with some of the most tender and human stories which the whole history of God’s ways withn men contains. For example, what could be more beautiful than the account of that sabbath evening walk to Emmaus? And how often, indeed, has it been repeated in actual fact in this our own day, as disciples of Christ have walked together after worship on sabbath evenings? Many a time has the Risen Lord walk with them just as of old, intertwining His friendship with theirs, and affording them indubitable proofs that He is alive from the dead! Or what more simple than the record of His appearance to the eleven in the upper room, hallowed by such precious memory! Or what more heartening than His reassuring talk with the sorely puzzled Thomas? Or what could bring His tenderness nearer to the hearts of His people than His persuasive questioning of the downcast Peter, or His kindly care for the hungry fishermen in the preparation with His own hands of breakfast for them?

“All these simple and beautifully human stories are given to us as parts of the first Easter story, as though to emphasize the fact that the precious jewel of truth is to be set in the common and ordinary circumstances which go to make up the life of us all, that its beauties may be realized and reflected.”

by J. Stuart Holden (1874-1934), Vicar of St. Paul’s Church, Portman Square, London
from his message “The Unrecognized Victory” in Classic Sermons on the Resurrection of Christ

8 Thoughts on Preparing an Easter Sermon

Posted on by Philip Nation in Preaching | 2 Comments

Today, ministers awoke throughout the world thinking about Easter Sunday. For those of us who preach each week, the opportunity to proclaim the gospel on Easter is one of the great joys in life. In some churches, they will hold services for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Some churches will have enormous events on Saturday or on Sunday afternoon. Worship leaders, music ministers, deacons, church staff, and leaders of every level will prepare for the highest attended day of the year. But, for the preacher, much of the week’s emphasis will be on the sermon.

A few in our ranks knew months ago what passage they would use and have already planned the sermon. Others have identified the passage and will prepare the message this week. We will all pray, read, study, and pray some more as the week speeds by. The following are a few of my own thoughts about preparing for the Easter sermon.

1. Be persuasive. The sermon is an opportunity to be winsome. The biblical example we have from Paul is to persuade (Acts 18:13; 2 Corinthians 5:11) rather than offend. Let the gospel be the stumbling block where necessary, not our manner.

2. Set Easter as your standard and not your exception. Holidays like Easter and Christmas can be treated as the times to ratchet out your best preaching. This year, I want to make them the standard by which I will teach all year.

3. Pray well. I’ve read it in various places (but have never found the original citation) that Martin Luther said (or wrote), “He who has prayed well has studied well.” We would agree that the statement is true. Study for a sermon without prayer is a fruitless endeavor.

4. Don’t be a jerk. We’ve heard the stories that are painfully true of the preacher who, at the conclusion of the Easter message, wished the crowd a Merry Christmas because “that’s when we’ll probably see some of you again.” If you are tempted by such embitterment, see statement #3 and pray some more.

5. Hold Jesus higher than your church. We love our churches. We should. As leaders, we are called to such a love. In our Easter message, it is fine and appropriate to describe the beauty of being a part of the church, benefiting from, and contributing to her ministries. But, there is a limit. On Easter, celebrate Him more than anything else. Test your Easter message to ensure that you do not talk more about programs than Jesus.

6. Talk about sin. A temptation will plague you to avoid anything that feels negative. After all, you want new people to come back. The devastating consequence of sin, however, is a subject that people need to hear. To share the gospel, we must share the necessity of it.

7. Offer hope. I don’t know of anyone who would say, “I have enough hope.” On Easter, offer people the substance of what they intrinsically desire. As you preach, point toward the One who makes all things new.

8. Tell them how to respond. On Easter, you and I will declare that spiritual life is found in Jesus. Many who will be in attendance do not know how to respond to the gospel. As you preach, tell them how to respond to Jesus. Your church has its normal manner by which people can respond to the gospel. On Easter, declare the goodness of Christ and plead with people to place their faith in Him.

Ocean Depth and the Malaysian 370 Black Box

Posted on by Philip Nation in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Washington Post has created one of the most interesting graphics I’ve seen. It concerns the depth of the ocean and the signal from the black box of Malaysian Airlines flight 370. It is a tragic story and we all hope that answers can be found. An Australian navy vessel has detected what they believe to be the black box at an enormous depth in the Indian Ocean. The depth at which the wreckage of the plane may be resting is staggering. Scroll away.

MALAYSIA-GRAPHIC-570

SOURCE: Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Hydro International magazine, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, BBC.co.uk, and Plosone.org. GRAPHIC: Richard Johnson and Ben Chartoff – The Washington Post.

 

 

My Five Prayers for Easter Sunday

Posted on by Philip Nation in Church | Leave a comment

Easter Sunday. The very mention of the phrase encourages me. On that day, Christians will gather to celebrate and declare that Jesus Christ is indeed risen from the dead. We will point back in time to the empty tomb of Jesus and look ahead to the hope we have because of Him. As we get ready to celebrate this day, here is what I am hoping will take place in our churches.

We will point back to the empty tomb of Jesus. The physical resurrection of Jesus is not something to dance around in our day. In fact, there has never been a day to obscure the fact that we believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I pray that, on Easter Sunday, you will happily and boldly talk about how Jesus was dead and now He is alive. It is my prayer for all believers, not just the pastors among us.

We will point forward to the moment where our tomb will be empty. The resurrection of Jesus has global implications about what happens in the life of the multitudes of people who trust in Him. But, I pray that we will keep Easter Sunday personal. To those who are around us, we need to assure them of the personal resurrection that is assured to them in Jesus.

Make it about Jesus and not a circus-like atmosphere of ministry clutter. As a church leader, I’m tempted to throw everything I can at guests on that day to convince them to return the next week. This week, I met with our worship leader to discuss our Easter Sunday service. It is our hope that people will be so deeply touched by the Holy Spirit that they will be drawn to Christ, and consequently, His church.

The sermon will be focused. Over the last year, it has become apparent to me that, left to my own devices, I will preach for 33-36 minutes. I do not know if that is good, bad, or inconsequential. What I do know is that 36 minutes is a long time for someone to listen to person wander across too many unplanned ideas. As one who preaches, I am praying for God to make me highly focused in my message so that Christ will be lifted up.

Lots of people. I am unashamed in the prayer that more people than we could ever anticipate will attend our churches on Easter Sunday. We need a spiritual awakening in the culture and revival in the church. For that to occur, people need to be under the teaching of God’s Word and the influence of the saints in worship. I pray that your church and my church will experience a massive influx of people on Easter Sunday so they can receive the Good News of the gospel.

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