“I cannot get away from the wonder of these words, “He came.” The story of pity and mercy and redeeming love are all here in two words: “He came.” All the pity that God is capable of feeling, all the mercy that He is capable of showing and all the redeeming grace that He could pour out of His heart are at least suggested here in two simple words: “He came.” All the hopes and longings and aspirations and dreams of immortality that lie in the human [heart] had their fulfillment in those two words.”

~A.W. Tozer

He Came!

They were waiting…

December 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

Advent: God With Us from The Village Church on Vimeo.

Backwards Preaching

December 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

cropped-iStock_000002841137_ExtraSmall.jpg

People are complex, comprised of various parts (emotions, intellect, action, speech, etc.) which are interrelated and inseparable. (click to Tweet)

What we think affects what we do and say.  What we love also affects what we do and say.

Backwards Preaching

In much contemporary preaching, what a person should do (i.e. the “hands” of a person) becomes the primary target of preaching application points.  This incomplete application of the text will eventually lead to frustration as listeners realize their inability to obey what they have been called to do apart from an inward transformation of the heart.  What the mind and heart think and feel affects the hands and the feet (how they obey, serve, and evangelize).

What Christians cherish in their hearts and think with their minds will affect what they do with their hands and feet. (click to Tweet)  The progression in application should be from head and heart to feet and hands.  The head and the heart lead to proper action and mission. Most application in modern preaching is backwards.  It calls to action before attacking the head and the heart with the truth of Scripture.

 

Evangelism and the Heart

One example is the continual exhortation from pulpits across America to engage in evangelism.  Most believers don’t deny they should speak more of Christ.  Yet research has shown many Christians never share their faith.  Why is this the case?  Do preachers just need to yell a little louder and pound the pulpit a little harder when speaking about evangelism?  The issue with why more believers do not speak of Christ is not a head issue (knowledge), and for many it is not even a hands issue (obedience).  Rather, a lack of evangelism stems from a heart issue.  Many believers do not share Christ because they have lost their wonder over what the gospel teaches and how Christ has transformed their lives.  People naturally commend to others the things that they cherish. (click to Tweet)  If a man gets a new electronic gadget and he appreciates how it enhances his life, then he will naturally bring it up in conversation with his friends and family.  The same is true of the gospel.  If Christians are meditating and being affected by the gospel to the extent that they cherish the gospel, then they will naturally commend the gospel to others.  More seminars, more sermons, and more training on evangelism will not correct the problem.  What is needed is spiritual heart surgery.  The diagnosis for lack of evangelism is a heart no longer amazed at grace.  The cure is to preach the gospel in such a way that hearts are awakened by the Holy Spirit to cherish Christ above all else.  The result will be believers who naturally speak of Christ because they have such a great affection for him.

So as you prepare to preach, aim at the hands and feet through the head and the heart.

Just remember…

November 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

Church Sign

“Men must be so stricken, that being brought to know their guiltiness, they may earnestly fly unto the remedy of pardon.”-John Calvin

Fly unto the remedy of pardon

The Great Commission Matthew 28:16-20 from Lane Harrison on Vimeo.

The Preacher’s Dilemma

November 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

I was privileged yesterday to preach the Word at Lifepoint Church here in Ozark.  It was a tremendous blessing for me to preach after having not done so for over a month.  However, after I finished preaching, I got reacquainted with what I like to call “The Preacher’s Dilemma”.

So what is “The Preacher’s Dilemma”?

I’m glad you asked.  The preacher’s dilemma is guarding his heart against two things that threaten to overtake him immediately after preaching.  The first of those things is pride.  For me this occurs when I preach what I think is a decent sermon.  The people are responsive to the preached Word.  They seem affected by the message preached.  Some are shedding tears of conviction.  Others are coming forward in prayer at the altar.  People come up and encourage and thank me for preaching such a “wonderful message.”  Herein lies the great danger.  If I am not careful, the crafty serpent carefully plants the seed of pride in my heart.  I can think too highly of myself because “I preached such a powerful message.”  I mean, they said it. Not me, right?  So long as I’m not praising myself with my own lips, it’s okay to be a little proud isn’t it?  Absolutely not!  Nothing will destroy a preacher more quickly than pride.  When a preacher comes to the conclusion that he can affect change in hearts as a result of mere oratorical skill, he is sadly deceived.  

The other side of the preachers dilemma is to step down from preaching and see that no one is responding.  No one seems affected by what was just preached.  No one really comes up to share with you about how the sermon encouraged them.  Or worse yet, they come forward and give a very shallow pat on the back and a generic sort of “Good sermon, son!”  This can lead my heart to despondency and discouragement.  Anyone who has preached or led in a worship service knows exactly what I’m talking about.  If you pay attention to your heart in those moments after you descend from delivering the Word, you will quickly find your heart given to pride or discouragement.  Pride because you think you did great or discouragement because you didn’t do very well.  Pride and discouragement are two of the nearest companions for preachers on Monday mornings.

Why do I feel this way?  Why do preachers face this dilemma of pride and discouragement.

1) We place confidence in ourselves and not in the preached Word.

2) We have a bad case of misplaced identity.

Our identity before it is “preacher” or “pastor” is Christian.  Our identity is found in Christ.  Therefore, we can preach a message that deeply affects people and guard against pride by acknowledging that it was God the Holy Spirit who brought the transformation.  This lead to humble rejoicing instead of prideful boasting.  It was not my preaching skill that led to transformation.  It was the Holy Spirit attending the preaching of the Word.  This is how transformation happens when the Word is preached.

Likewise, I can “bomb” a sermon and while I may battle momentary discouragement, I ought not dwell there because God the Holy Spirit can still use a frail attempt to impact lives.  The Holy Spirit uses imperfect preachers who preach imperfect message to impact people’s lives.  

So the answer to the preacher’s dilemma is the gospel.

We are not justified by preaching good sermons nor are we condemned for preaching poorly.  Our identity is in Christ and what he has done for us upon the cross to bring us back from our wayward and lost state.  

So preacher brethren, Preach the Word and pray that God the Holy Spirit would use your sermons to impact lives and bring glory to Christ.  

But don’t despair on this Monday morning.  Whether you knocked it out of the park yesterday or you dribbled your sermon through the infield, Christ will never love you any more or any less than he does at this very moment.

Monday Mourning

September 23, 2013 — Leave a comment

Yesterday was one of the toughest days of my short life.  

Announcing my resignation was one of the most emotionally challenging things I’ve ever done.  It’s hard to know that the decision you’ve made would momentarily hurt people that you love dearly.  As I’ve thought about resigning and the emotions that come with it, I’ve identified several that I’ve experienced personally and that other church leaders might experience when announcing your resignation.  I experienced many of them yesterday over the short span of a 12 hour period.  Some of them are very fleeting and others linger much longer.  Here are the few that I’ve been able to identify in my own heart:

Apprehension, anxiety

All the details of our new assignment are yet to be determined.  We don’t know where we are going to live yet.  We don’t know exactly what our income will be.  There are many ways that we are stepping out in faith without having all the answers.  Much like Abraham, we’ve heard God tell us to leave behind a familiar land and go where he shows us.  We don’t know all the details of where we will end up in the long term.  As I meditate on Matthew 6 and the care of our heavenly Father, my anxiety turns to excitement.  What better place to be than in a position of desperate dependence upon God!

Doubts 

Have I really made the right decision?  This emotion was fleeting.  I quickly think back over the multitude of ways in which God has worked and orchestrated this move for our family and if he wrote it in the clouds it wouldn’t be any clearer.  There is no question in my mind that this move is God’s will for our family.  As disciples of Christ, the only option for us is to obey what he commands, even when it is unnerving or unsettling to our current comfort.

Disappointment or resentment

I am my biggest critic.  I’ve been overwhelmed by the emotion of disappointment, not with the congregation, but with myself.  I think about my shortcomings as a leader and pastor, how I could have done things better to leave the church in a better position for the one who will come after me.  This emotion has been remedied by meditating on the gospel and that I am accepted in Christ despite my shortcomings.  I’m better than I used to be and God’s not done with me yet.  

Satisfaction and Joy

In the midst of sadness and mourning, there is also great satisfaction and joy.  Obedience brings a deep and inexplainable joy.  To know that we are pursuing his will obediently has given us great joy that will see us through the storms on the horizon.  

Through it all, I’ve realized Christ is the anchor of my soul.  So if you are a pastor navigating the onslaught of emotions that come with resigning from a church, cling to Christ as the anchor of your soul.  He has been with you.  He is with you.  He will be with you throughout the rest of your life no matter where you’ll be.

An excellent reminder on a Monday morning: