Sermon | “Spiritual Injuries and the Truth”

I preached this past Sunday at Ambassadors of Christ Fellowship. We are working our way through 1 Peter as a church, looking to see what we can learn about Spiritual Injuries along the way.

Download the sermon outline here.

Dear Pastor, Write Your Own Sermons!

I have been preaching for a long time. I do not preach every Sunday at my church. But, I do preach often enough to know that it is not easy. And, it is not something that should be taken lightly by those who bear the responsibility. It takes a great deal of effort and even time to prepare a sermon. Continue reading “Dear Pastor, Write Your Own Sermons!”

Sermon | “Spiritual Injuries and Our Hope on God’s Promises”

This sermon was preached in Spanish on September 4, 2016.


  1. The unique vision of Ambassadors of Christ Ministries: Spiritual Health.
    • What is spiritual health?
    • Why do we need to be spiritually healthy?
  2. Definition of Spiritual Injuries
    • A spiritual injury is a contradiction between what I believe to be true and what actually is true.
  3. How are we healed from our spiritual injuries?

I just don’t want to preach this

The pastor of our church will be out of town for the next couple of Sundays. So, I have been asked to preach. Preaching can be a challenging task. Having to study the text, interpret it and then try to find ways of helping the congregation to apply it to their lives can get overwhelming.

I have felt this burden before, but it has been particularly poignant this week. As I have done my work to prepare, I have been confronted with some difficult choices to make. I have never shied away from saying what I believed needed to be said, and I will not begin today. What I have felt in a new and more direct way is that weight of this responsibility.

If you are a pastor charged with the teaching and preaching ministry of your congregation, I want to encourage you. You are not alone in your struggle to speak forth from the Word of God. It can be a daunting task to stand in front of your congregation and declare, “thus saith the Lord.” However, you cannot abdicate this responsibility to anyone else. You are the one who has been called and you are the one who responded in the affirmative.

I would also like to say a word to the listener of these messages. I know that there are those who do not take the preaching ministry as seriously as they should. I know that there are sermons that should never be preached. In spite of this there are many pastors who do take their charge to preach seriously. They recognize the great responsibility to not speak their own words, but to speak words that reflect the heart and character of God. If you are a member of church who has a pastor that takes great care and effort in preparing to preach; who does not take the prophetic role of their ministry lightly; who stands in the pulpit every Sunday after spending time with God through the week; if this is your pastor pray for them.

They need your prayers because sometimes there is a sermon that needs to preached that they simply do not want to preach. They recognize how difficult it will be to get it right. They feel the weight of the message because they have labored with the text and the God of the text. They understand that they may be misunderstood and that in the process some may start thinking differently about God.

These are just some of the many challenges that every preacher deals with on a regular basis. Pray for your pastor today. Pray for them often because you never know when they will be working on a sermon where they are fighting against the temptation to give in to the thought, “I just don’t want to preach this.”

Tact and Preaching: The Double Edged Sword

We are far too concerned with what the world thinks about us, rather than what God has commanded for us to do. Being a Christian is not a popularity contest.

I was having a conversation with my wife about three years ago regarding some of the thoughts and words that I was planning on using for a weekend sermon. I have been “accused” of being too direct, too passionate and to brash in the way that I communicate what I read in the Bible. I am still not sure how to take these comments even after having heard them several times over the last few years.

I want to share some of the thoughts that come to my mind when I hear these kinds of comments.

  1. How can I be too passionate about being a Christian?
  2. What bible are you reading when the brashness of the text does not strike you? (i.e., Romans 9:3, where Paul suggests that if it were possible, he would go to hell so that his countrymen might come to know salvation in Jesus. I don’t know how to make that sound nice!)
  3. Why do people keep praying to know God’s will when the Bible IS God’s will, and they’re not doing that yet?
  4. Why do some people get mad at me (who has read the bible) and argue about what it says when they have no basis for what they are saying, thinking, doing or wanting? It is pretty easy to know who has and who hasn’t been reading their Bible.

It’s things like this and a few others that just drive me nuts. My wife said that I just sounded angry. Well, to a certain extent I am.

Being a Christian is not a popularity contest.

I am angry about a church that claims to be obedient, but is not. I am angry about a person who claims to be a disciple of Jesus, and has never made one. I am mad about pastors that preach from the word, but for whatever reason, fail to preach the word itself. I know that this does not apply to everybody directly. This is definitely a generalization, but its true enough that most of us would have to agree to some degree. What scares me about this whole situation in the church is that there is not enough (in my opinion) concern about the direction of the church.

We are far too concerned with what the world thinks about us, rather than what God has commanded for us to do. Being a Christian is not a popularity contest. It is about conviction. As a member of the church, I find it concerning that the church wants to hold hands with the world and agree. The direction of influence must begin in the church and move out from there, and not the other way around.

Sure, we can go to conferences and get the pep talks and hear from the celebrity pastor or speaker, but what am I, the executive pastor of a growing, city church supposed to do? Many times I leave with a second wind in my sails, but with no clear sense of direction of what to do next.

The truth is not always palatable, especially when it calls us to holiness and difficult choices regarding how we live.

Is the truth supposed to be palatable, easy, comfortable or sensible? I just do not see that as I read the bible.

The truth is not always palatable, especially when it calls us to holiness and difficult choices regarding how we live. The truth is not easy, particularly when it challenges the assumptions that we hold onto so dearly. The truth is not comfortable because it forces us to change those parts of our lives that we may love, but are not in line with God’s plan or will. The truth is not sensible! My goodness, if the Gospel made sense everybody would be jumping on board. But, that is exactly what Paul said. The Gospel is foolishness. It is foolishness to who? To those who are perishing.

The balm of the Gospel is what brings healing through transformation. For some of us, that means we will have to endure some difficulties. We will have to address those areas of our lives that are not conforming to the image of Jesus. I want to see less tact and more truth. Less compromise and more conviction. Less concern for the world’s feelings and more consideration for the heart of God. Until then, we will tip-toe around the issues and continue to see the erosion of the churches influence with our neighbors.

Growing Pains, Pt. 1 | “Fellowship”

What is Fellowship?

Fellowship is more than just being in the same room as someone else or even saying “hello” to those that are around us. Fellowship is found not in the halls that we meet nor in the restaurants that have great atmosphere. Fellowship is the sharing of lives. It is coming to a place where those that at one time were strangers to us have now become family. When those people that before we would have seen only once in a while, now for some reason we find yourself thinking about and wanting to be around them more and more. Fellowship is the process where two or more people’s lives becomes a part of our own life.

I do not mean that another person is being nosy or trying to run or ruin our life. But, when another person becomes a loved one, so that you hurt because they hurt, that is fellowship. It is not an easy road to travel, the one called fellowship. It is a slow and sometimes hurtful journey to bring people in that close. It is not easy, but there is something about being able to share with someone, about having that outside influence and strength. Will we be able to have fellowship with everyone in the church? The truth is no, that is not possible, but what are we doing to reach out and invite in those that we can?

Why Is Fellowship Important?

Growth only happens in an environment where trust exists. If we do not trust those that are around us will we be able to grow and feel safe? One of the most difficult things about growing in faith is being able to share our genuine concerns and know that they will not become the talk of the town, or worse the church. We cannot worship in an environment where we feel that we are being singled out. Trust is built by being trustworthy. Love is known by being loving. Fellowship comes when we are neighbors to strangers and family to friends. This may seem like a difficult way of doing it but that is what Jesus did for us. The apostle Paul writes it this way, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8; NKJV).

A large part of what makes fellowship what it ought to be comes from the way that we react to the people and circumstances that are around us. Do we want fellowship to exist? Then let us be the first to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. These are the tools that we are to use to create an environment that will produce fellowship. To answer the question a little more direct, “Why is fellowship important?” we need to understand that it is in the context of fellowship that we love one another and that people will know that we are Christ’s disciples (John 13:35; NKJV).

How Do We Sustain Fellowship?

Here is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. How do we go about sustaining fellowship within a body? The word that comes to mind is sincerity. If true and lasting fellowship is going to exist there has to be sincerity among those that are acting and doing within the body. If what you do is half-hearted or selfish, fellowship will not grow and it will die quickly if these things come into the body of Christ.

Fellowship will happen when we decide that we are really going to care about those that come to our church, whether visitor or member, and we will love them with the love of God.

Book Review | Teaching Through The Art Of Storytelling


Teaching Through The Art Of Storytelling by Jon Huckins was not at all what I expected. It was better! I have read many books and articles on preaching and communication, but this book provided something that was both refreshing and thought-provoking–it provided a biblical rationale for storytelling.

Growing up Baptist with the stereotypical “three points and a poem” paradigm of preaching, this book provides a solid understanding of the place of storytelling as a vital and invaluable tool in a communicators repertoire. Does that mean that I will be switching to teaching in this way as the only technique I will utilize? No. But, I have reconsidered my tendency to give my listeners “just the facts” about the biblical text.

My Thoughts

There were three ideas that caused me to pause and think. They were

  1. The historical context of Jesus own upbringing
  2. The teaching style of Jesus himself and,
  3. The application of this method of teaching given our modern context.

I will touch on each of these points and the impressions that Huckins book left.

1. The Historical Context of Jesus Own Upbringing

It is so easy to forget that Jesus was a kid and that he went to school like the rest of us. Now the context of that education was very different because of the 1st century’s cultural realities. But, this does not change the fact that there were teachers, schools and methods and principles of instruction, commonly called pedagogy. What Huckins points out is that Jesus would have been familiar with these practices and that he would have, more than likely, used these methods with his own disciples.

It is so easy at times to forget that Jesus was a human being. A special human being, there is no denying this, but he was a human being nonetheless. And, just because we do not have a complete account if his upbringing, there is no reason to think that Jesus’ educational experiences were that much different from that of his contemporaries. That being said we turn to the second idea that Huckins describes and extols.

2. The teaching style of Jesus himself

The first question that we have to answer is, “What was Jesus teaching style?” What do the Gospels tell us about how Jesus taught and shaped the understanding of his disciples? If we can, at the very least, approach how Jesus went about the process of teaching we to can learn, glean and practice these same principles in our own teaching.

Huckins points out that the majority of what Jesus did was to tell stories or parables. This was not an uncommon practice for rabbis to make up stories that would help their pupils to grasp the concepts and ideas that they were learning. By focusing on one or maybe two key ideas in each story made it easier to address and understand the point being made. Jesus would have been following the educational norms of the day by doing the same. While for some this might make them uncomfortable to think of Jesus using fictional stories, it really is not outside the realm of possibility or probability. Culturally it wold have made sense for Jesus to use a method that the people were accustomed to. Jesus primary concern was the teaching, preaching and spreading of truth.

3. The application of this method of teaching given our modern context.

As I see it there are two issues. They are related because they represent the two extremes. The first extreme is to try and be too creative for the sake of being compelling. The second, is that we are afraid of telling a story or multiple stories because we do not want people to find Truth through a fictional (i.e., false) story.

In response to the first extreme we have to be careful about the reason we tell the story. Does the story actually convey or capture the truth that you are trying to communicate? The way that Huckins’ talks about the story, the purpose is to tell the truth. What this means is that the truth IS being told in the story. It is obvious in that sense. The story causes the hearer to think, but direction and ultimate conclusion can be understood when the full story is revealed.

The second extreme is not better than the first. Out of fear of “deceiving” or “misleading” others we shy away from a helpful tool. If you enjoy reading a good book or watching a new movie or television sitcom is evidence that stories are a part of our experience. To not tap into the imaginations of those who listen to us teach the life changing truths of the Bible would be foolish.


This was a very good book. I enjoyed reading the history of the use of storytelling during the first century. If you are interested in improving your storytelling ability this is a wonderful introduction.

“Faith is…” Series, Pt. 4 | Faith is… Proclaiming the Truth of God

18For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25, ESV)

The Wisdom of a Foolish God

I have always found the statement found here about God’s wisdom to be mind boggling. God in his most “foolish” moment is wiser than all of humanity’s wisdom put together. I know that this is classic Pauline overstatement, and yet I wonder at times if Paul’s intent is to reveal the hubris of the human heart. Too often we think that we have unlocked some secret or hidden nugget of wisdom from God’s treasure trove. I think that this is the danger in attempting to analyze or explain what is only meant to be proclaimed.

I am reminded of Dr. John Piper speaking of the time that he began to understand, too truly grasp what it meant for God to be sovereign.

“As I studied Romans 9 day after day, I began to see a God so majestic and so free and so absolutely sovereign that my analysis merged into worship and the Lord said, in effect, “I will not simply be analyzed, I will be adored. I will not simply be pondered, I will be proclaimed. My sovereignty is not simply to be scrutinized, it is to be heralded. It is not grist for the mill of controversy, it is gospel for sinners who know that their only hope is the sovereign triumph of God’s grace over their rebellious will.” [Source].

Do you see it. This is what it means that faith is the proclamation of the Truth of God. As we are confronted with the Truth of God, that in Christ we have new life and we who were enemies now have access to the mercy seat of God’s grace, is not something to be merely understood. This truth must be experienced. This is the nature of freedom inducing truth. The truth sets us free. This is what Jesus said, but he never went into the details of why it sets us free or of how the truth sets us free. Jesus simply states that this is the effect of truth in our lives. Why do we fight so hard at times to understand, when what God has asked is for us to enjoy. We want to dissect rather than delight in what has been provided. At the root of this attitude is an ungrateful heart. The American church is so comfortable that it fails to see it’s own tantrums anymore. Only a spoiled child will look at a perfect gift and ask for more.

Paul in his letter to the Roman church says these simple and yet amazing words.

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14-17, ESV)

At the heart of the Christian faith is a story that must be told. It is in the telling that new life is born in the hearts and minds of sinners. We should not be surprised by this. Stories stimulate us to think beyond the hear and now. Stories transport us to far away places and help us to consider and contemplate perspectives and possibilities that are difficult, dangerous or even childish.

The Love of God Compels Us

Jesus’ story is the foundational reality of why, if we claim to have become Christ’s, we must be about the proclamation of God’s Truth. Our awareness and growing dependence upon Jesus is what drives us forward in growing boldness. There is something different in us now that we have come to know the Son of God.

14For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. … 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 18-21, ESV)

Many today do not feel the compelling power of the Gospel. We have grown accustomed to its message. We have lost sight of its purpose. We have looked upon the broken and battered body of the Lamb of God and found it trivial and mundane. The cross is a compelling reality, not because Jesus was nailed to it, but because I wasn’t. He hangs in my place and yours.

Proclamation is the Fruit of Conviction

I think that at the heart of this expression of faith is how little conviction I see in the people of God for the Truth of God. I am not talking about believing that there is a God or even that He has spoken. There are many who have laid claim to truth. The problem for them is that the truth that they claim in not rooted in the character of God. Truth is not always about discovering what is “already there.” This is the fundamental difference between the faith of Jesus and the rest of the religions of the world. Truth is not an idea or a philosophy or a pattern of living. Truth is a person. Jesus is truth because everything that he said and did is true.

Therefore, when we make it our life’s aim to proclaim the story and life of Jesus we are proclaiming the truth of God. There is no higher truth to spread throughout the whole earth. There is no greater endeavor to which we can dedicate our lives. There is no cause more worthy of our best efforts. Truth is not just something for which me must learn to live. Truth must become something for which we are willing to die!

I think of those first few weeks and months as the young church was making sense of what it was going to look like as they obeyed the command of Jesus. There must have been times where they were still wondering how it all was going to pan out. Their only certainty was that their faith was their only hope. Here is how Luke recounts the events in Acts 4.

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.17But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:13-20, ESV)

What makes this event so amazing is not that they wiped the sweat from their brows and said to themselves, “Glad we dodged a bullet back there!” No, that is not the response of a man or woman that has seen what these disciples have seen. They go to their fellowship and they do what, under different circumstances, would be seen and understood as foolish and careless. They ask for boldness to do it again!

23When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. … 29And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23, 29-31, ESV)

Where is this prayer in our churches? We pray for clarity, openness on the part of the hearer and even favor with those whom we will encounter. Why do we think that disciples twenty centuries removed from the events can do better to pray for something that was not even upon the minds of those disciples that were twenty minutes removed from Jesus’ ascension?

We must seek boldness to proclaim the Truth of God, which in the end is Jesus himself.

O God, help that we who are called by the name of your Son would make boldness a virtue of higher regard than comfort, safety or even wisdom. Boldness is what is needed among the lost and the pretentious. Boldness is the antidote to pride because it forces us to trust in you to deliver. I pray for boldness. Grant that I may proclaim Your truth, the message of Jesus the Christ, to a world that prefers to turn a deaf ear to what you have proclaimed in the heavens. The works of your hands are a testimony of your majesty. O that we who are weak, would turn to you and trust in your strength and power before those who portend to be powerful and of high repute. There is no name worthy of our total alligience, but yours. In the name of the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus, Amen.

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