Monthly Archives: November 2010

Honoring the Chaplains of the Civil War—The National Civil War Chaplain’s Museum

James I. Robertson, Jr. and others talk about a wonderful museum located in Lynchburg, VA known as the National Civil War Chaplain’s Museum.  It focuses on the role of priests, ministers, and rabbis during the tumult of the American Civil War. 

 

While I have not visited there, it is on my short list of historical places to visit.  I reviewed a great book entitled “Christ in the Camp” regarding the chaplains of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.  Currently, I’m reading through Faith in the Fight: Civil War Chaplains with contributions by John W. Brinsfield, William C. Davis, Benedict Maryniak, and James Robertson. 

For both the Union and Confederate soldiers, religion was the greatest sustainer of morale in the Civil War, and faith was a refuge in times of need. Guarding and guiding the spiritual well being of the fighters, the army chaplain was a voice of hope and reason in an otherwise chaotic military existence. The clerics’ duties did not end after Sunday prayers; rather, many ministers could be found performing daily regimental duties, and some even found their way onto fields of battle. Identifies for the first time 3,694 ministers who were commissioned as chaplains in the Union and Confederate armies and serves as a starting point for any research into the neglected area of Civil War chaplains (Product review on Amazon).

Also of interest is a ministry known as the Re-Enactors Missions for Jesus Christ.  These men seek to minister within the context of the Civil War re-enactments.  Here’s their description:

Welcome to the web site for the Re-enactor’s Missions for Jesus Christ (RMJC).  This site is dedicated first and foremost to the glory of Almighty God.  It stands as a tribute to the heroism of those men who comprised the ranks of the chaplaincy during the War Between the States (Civil War), to their unswerving devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to the missionary work they began in the 1860s.

In like manner, the business of the RMJC is the spreading of the Gospel through the re-printed Civil War period Gospel tracts, the spoken word, this web site as well as the National Civil War Chaplains Museum.

Its members, who serve as chaplains and colporteurs, are sent into the field, not as sham play-actors bent on pretentious historical interpretation, but as men and women of God, solidly committed to preaching, teaching and sharing the Gospel to the winning of souls among the ranks of Civil War re-enactors and enthusiasts across the United States.

On this site is a great little 4:00 clip entitled, “Whose Side Was God On During the Civil War?”  This gives a marvelous answer. 

 

May we thank God for using such a tragedy like the Civil War to use these chaplains as instruments of bringing them (and the re-enactors) to Jesus Christ. 

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Preaching While Fatigued

This past Sunday, I preached while under extreme fatigue.  I had returned from Virginia visiting with family over Thanksgiving, driving 500+ and arriving in town at 10:00 p.m. Saturday night.  I was struggling with ‘car-lag’ and it spilled over into Sunday morning in a big way.  I had difficulty in keeping my thoughts in line, my throat was dry and tired, and all my body wanted to do was sleep and regain some energy. 

While I am not an expert on this matter, pastors can take these steps to help them maintain clarity and focus when they communicate. 

  1. Take some long, deep breaths before you get up to speak.  When your tired, the breathing becomes more shallow, and this means less oxygen to every part of your body—especially your brain.  While your physical body has a lecture or stand upon which to lean, your mind still needs as much sharpness as possible. 
  2. Maintain a simplicity in your content.  When someone is tired, the possibility of rambling increases greatly.  If fatigue comes in on a Sunday morning, this usually means a long tough week filled with many tasks.  Time for sermon preparation was at a minimum.  For many public speakers, this translates into a longer sermon rather than a shorter one.  Your mind does not have the sharpness to discern what to include and what not to include, so you include it all—even some tangents you may not have seen.  What is important is to keep on task and on track.  Say what you’re going to say, say it, then press on.  Be aware of your situation!
  3. If you lose your place, get to the gospel!  It’s easy to lose your place when fatigue grips you.  If you preach from an outline or without notes, but you lose your train of thought or the flow of the sermon, get to the cross and empty tomb—get to the gospel!  So many times, God uses the times when we lose our train of thought to get onto His—never a bad thing!
  4. Maintain a steadiness of pace in your delivery.  Fatigue not only doesn’t shorten a sermon (it often lengthens it), fatigue also quickens the pace of the delivery.  Your body is tired, your mind is tired, therefore your restraint is lowered as well.  The ups and downs, the speaking as well as the well-timed silences—all of those effects are lessened due to fatigue.  You risk just backing up the dump truck of information. 
  5. Put a bow on that sermon—a nice, tight bow.  It’s just as important to know not only how to start, you need to know how to finish.  Start promptly, end promptly.  It’s not just about the clock, it’s about the momentum of the sermon coming to a close when the congregation senses the sermon is done.  Sadly, many congregants understand when a sermon is done before the preacher does.  This increases with the pastor’s fatigue. 
  6. God is in control, so don’t sweat it and sleep well.  God’s Word will not return empty, but will accomplish all it seeks to accomplish (Isaiah 55:11-12)—fatigue or not!  So even if your personal delivery/presentation was not to your liking, your Spirit-fueled passion in preaching the Spirit-inspired Word will be honored by God.  Sleep well—get some rest.  If the Lord permits, you will have another chance very soon to bring it again!

What are some helpful tips for you?

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Preaching While Fatigued

This past Sunday, I preached while under extreme fatigue.  I had returned from Virginia visiting with family over Thanksgiving, driving 500+ and arriving in town at 10:00 p.m. Saturday night.  I was struggling with ‘car-lag’ and it spilled over into Sunday morning in a big way.  I had difficulty in keeping my thoughts in line, my throat was dry and tired, and all my body wanted to do was sleep and regain some energy. 

While I am not an expert on this matter, pastors can take these steps to help them maintain clarity and focus when they communicate. 

  1. Take some long, deep breaths before you get up to speak.  When your tired, the breathing becomes more shallow, and this means less oxygen to every part of your body—especially your brain.  While your physical body has a lecture or stand upon which to lean, your mind still needs as much sharpness as possible. 
  2. Maintain a simplicity in your content.  When someone is tired, the possibility of rambling increases greatly.  If fatigue comes in on a Sunday morning, this usually means a long tough week filled with many tasks.  Time for sermon preparation was at a minimum.  For many public speakers, this translates into a longer sermon rather than a shorter one.  Your mind does not have the sharpness to discern what to include and what not to include, so you include it all—even some tangents you may not have seen.  What is important is to keep on task and on track.  Say what you’re going to say, say it, then press on.  Be aware of your situation!
  3. If you lose your place, get to the gospel!  It’s easy to lose your place when fatigue grips you.  If you preach from an outline or without notes, but you lose your train of thought or the flow of the sermon, get to the cross and empty tomb—get to the gospel!  So many times, God uses the times when we lose our train of thought to get onto His—never a bad thing!
  4. Maintain a steadiness of pace in your delivery.  Fatigue not only doesn’t shorten a sermon (it often lengthens it), fatigue also quickens the pace of the delivery.  Your body is tired, your mind is tired, therefore your restraint is lowered as well.  The ups and downs, the speaking as well as the well-timed silences—all of those effects are lessened due to fatigue.  You risk just backing up the dump truck of information. 
  5. Put a bow on that sermon—a nice, tight bow.  It’s just as important to know not only how to start, you need to know how to finish.  Start promptly, end promptly.  It’s not just about the clock, it’s about the momentum of the sermon coming to a close when the congregation senses the sermon is done.  Sadly, many congregants understand when a sermon is done before the preacher does.  This increases with the pastor’s fatigue. 
  6. God is in control, so don’t sweat it and sleep well.  God’s Word will not return empty, but will accomplish all it seeks to accomplish (Isaiah 55:11-12)—fatigue or not!  So even if your personal delivery/presentation was not to your liking, your Spirit-fueled passion in preaching the Spirit-inspired Word will be honored by God.  Sleep well—get some rest.  If the Lord permits, you will have another chance very soon to bring it again!

What are some helpful tips for you?

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Do Churches Really Need the Holy Spirit?

For some reason, we don’t think we need the Holy Spirit.  We don’t expect the Holy Spirit to act.  Or if we do, our expectations are often misguided or self-serving.  Given our talent set, experience, and education, many of us are fairly capable of living rather successfully (according to the world’s standards) without any strength from the Holy Spirit.

Even our church growth can happen without Him.  Let’s be honest: If you combine a charismatic speaker, a talented worship band, and some hip, creative events, people will attend your church.  Yet this does not mean that the Holy Spirit of God is actively working and moving in the lives of the people who are coming.  It simply means that you have created a space that is appealing enough to draw people in for an hour or two on Sunday.

It certainly does not mean that people walk out the doors moved to worship and in awe of God.  People are more likely to describe the quality of the music or the appeal of the sermon than the One who is the reason people gather for “church” in the first place. I think the worst part is when you get outside the church’s walls and interact with believers and nonbelievers in the same sphere.  Can you really tell a difference?  If you didn’t recognize their faces from church, would you know from their actions and lifestyle that they were followers of Jesus?  Honestly, sometimes I am embarrassed by some of my “Christian” neighbors because my unbelieving neighbors seem more joyful, welcoming, and at peace.  Why does this happen?  And how is this even possible?

(Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, ch. 1)

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Wishing All of You a Very Happy Thanksgiving!

I wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!  In the midst of the family, the food, the football, and the fellowship with friends that you do not forget to that the Father for all the blessings He provides through the atoning work of Jesus Christ! 

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America Has Much for Which to Be Thankful

“America has much for which to be thankful. The unequaled freedom enjoyed by our citizens has provided a harvest of plenty to this Nation throughout its history. In keeping with America’s heritage, one day each year is set aside for giving thanks to God for all of His blessings. …

“As we celebrate Thanksgiving … we should reflect on the full meaning of this day as we enjoy the fellowship that is so much a part of the holiday festivities. Searching our hearts, we should ask what we can do as individuals to demonstrate our gratitude to God for all He has done. Such reflection can only add to the significance of this precious day of remembrance.

“Let us recommit ourselves to that devotion to God and family that has played such an important role in making this a great Nation, and which will be needed as a source of strength if we are to remain a great people.”

(Ronald Reagan, 1914-2005, in his first Thanksgiving proclamation as President of the United States, 1981)

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How Does God Make His Appeal to an Unbelieving World?

16From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I preached on this passage of Scripture this past Sunday night.  Preaching is a glorious and harrowing experience.  Many times, God brings items to mind from Scripture while preaching that I did not see during the preparation time. 

I finished up the series on gospel-gripped character and the trait of being a reconciler—that is, bringing peace between a sinful humanity and a holy God.  This is our ministry as ambassadors who are citizens of one country (heaven – Philippians 3:20-21) in another country (here and now): to tell others to “be reconciled to God.”

The phrase which truly spoke to me was the phrase emboldened above: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through usWe are not only seen as those who are ones “according to the flesh” (v. 16), nor even as “a new creation” (v. 17).  We have been given “the ministry of reconciliation.” (v. 18).  This is a stunning development–

Rebels turned righteous turned reconcilers—this is how God makes His appeal to an unbelieving world.  Through us!!

May this continue to give us as followers of Jesus a myriad of reasons to be thankful!

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Sunday Night Reflections from “The Creek” (11.21.10)

Week after week, I am continually stunned at how God’s Word goes forth and how God’s love binds our people together in the cross of Christ!

  • I’m so grateful to Ron Chaffins, our Minister of Music and Youth, who took time before the offertory hymn to ask for testimonies on what folks were thankful for.  Tears flowed when seven-year-old Lilly told of how that of the 10 lepers Jesus healed one day, only one came back—and she wanted to be that leper that came back to thank Jesus.  Next was Lillian, an 89-year-old seasoned saint who was thankful for life and thankful for Jesus.  Over a dozen people spoke up of thankfulness for family, for healing, and mostly for Jesus!  That’s the type of church I always envisioned—a safe place where people can share praises and petitions! 
  • About 1/3 of our total attendance this morning were college students from EKU and UK.  Praise God in seeing these hungry young students crave the gospel, take notes, and track along with the sermon!
  • I preached on Romans 1:18-32 on “Why a Thankful Heart Matters.”  If a heart is not upwardly thankful, a downward spiritual spiral will ensue.  “For although they knew God, they neither honored him nor gave thanks to him….”  We begin serving the created rather than the Creator.  And if we desire this, “God will give us up” to unspeakable passions and impurities—idolatries, homosexuality, and a whole litany of sinful issues from the heart (Romans 1:29-32). 
  • As for our Operation Christmas Child 100 Box Challenge, God dominated and demolished that goal.  We brought in 118 boxes.  That, my friends, is 118 lives touched with the love of Jesus and the gospel! 
  • We have a ton of people who have signed up for our Thanksgiving Fellowship Meal on Tuesday, November 23.  It starts at 6:00.  To help defray some of the costs, it’s $3.50 for individuals, $10.00 for families—but if money is an issue, don’t worry about it.  This is a helpful time to kick off the Thanksgiving-Christmas season by getting our minds and hearts in a thankful attitude.
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Do I Present a Passion in Preaching?

A dear senior saint at my church has the gift of encouraging me in some pretty amazing ways.  Her name is Agnes—and even with the passing of her husband of 65+ years last year and even with her celebrating her 89th birthday recently, I am amazed at the sparkle in her eyes and the energy she has.

A few weeks ago, Agnes came up to me and said, “Now, I know you can preach!”  That was encouraging and humbling all at the same time.  You see, that morning I had misplaced my notes in my haste to get myself, my wife and four young children out of the house.  So, I held my Bible in my hand and just preached—and God truly blessed in a number of ways.  At first, I felt odd about these comments, but them I began to get it: this showed that my sermon was in my heart and spirit, not just on my manuscript!  This is crucial for preachers. 

What caught Agnes’ attention was that I wasn’t “shuffling” papers (my manuscript is about 4-5 pages long, and I turn those pages and set them aside), thus giving it a lecture type of feel.  She apologized later for, as she put it, “trying to tell me how to preach.”  But I appreciated the comments and she was spot on!

She also gave me another comment.  She mentioned to me that she sometimes has a hard time hearing, so she doesn’t catch every word that I preach.  Nevertheless, she told me she liked the fact that I used a lot of gestures when I preach.  I tend to be animated (on a scale of 1-10, I am about a 7).  She said those mannerisms conveyed a passion that truly ministered in ways that I never imagined.

C.J. Mahaney passed along a quote from D.A. Carson about what his students remembered from his 35+ years of teaching.  You may be surprised:

If I have learned anything in 35 or 40 years of teaching, it is that students don’t learn everything I teach them. What they learn is what I am excited about, the kinds of things I emphasize again and again and again and again. That had better be the gospel.

If the gospel—even when you are orthodox—becomes something which you primarily assume, but what you are excited about is what you are doing in some sort of social reconstruction, you will be teaching the people that you influence that the gospel really isn’t all that important. You won’t be saying that—you won’t even mean that—but that’s what you will be teaching. And then you are only half a generation away from losing the gospel.

Make sure that in your own practice and excitement, what you talk about, what you think about, what you pray over, what you exude confidence over, joy over, what you are enthusiastic about is Jesus, the gospel, the cross. And out of that framework, by all means, let the transformed life flow.

So I have been more and more convinced that it’s not just a presentation of information, but a passion and an aim to persuade and influence as the Spirit persuades and influences leaders.  So praise God for women like Agnes and for men like C.J. Mahaney and D.A. Carson who remind us to put some passion into our preaching. 

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We Need Churches to Defy Gravity

In a recent leadership conference, I heard Andy Stanley say that established churches tend to gravitate inwardly rather than outwardly.  I believe he is correct.  Whether those members gravitate toward a past pastor, a present program, or a past era that they treasure, there is a gravitation toward safety, security, and comfort.

I wish to humbly submit that we need churches to defy gravity.  Shall we not be a body who desire to reach those who are unreached?  To minister unto those who most need ministering?  Rescue those who need rescuing?  Win those whose souls need winning?

David Sills said once, “The last command of Jesus must be the first priority of the church” –that last command being Matthew 28:19-20, also known as the Great Commission.  We are to go and make disciples!  This is not the path of least resistance–but sadly in many churches it is the path of most resistance.  We risk wishing to simply have our own souls and own needs taken care of–but we shudder at the thought of getting involved with anyone else’s souls or anyone else’s needs.

In the notion that we are to have a ‘personal relationship with Christ,’ we stick to the wrong word–the personal.  It is merely a “Jesus-and-me” mentality.  All that matters is our relationship with Christ–yet the majority of evangelical Christians in America never share that Christ with any other!

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  May we defy gravity by looking upward and outward, and moving in that same direction.  In that way, we will most be able to help serve our churches and help them thrive in the name of our Lord Jesus.

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