New Blog Post: “The Daunting Task of Preaching”

(The following blog post was originally written for the CRC Network.)

One of my pastoral priorities for this quarter is preaching.  Accordingly, I’m reading Cornelius Plantinga Jr.’s, Reading for Preaching (Eerdmans, 2013).  I attended the “Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching” seminar that he and Scott Hoezee led a couple of years ago in Colorado.  What a formative time!  And now, as I read his book, it feels that I’m back in the classroom, soaking it all in. 

            I appreciate the guidance that Rev. Plantinga gives in his book.  His message that reading is important to the preacher comes through loud and clear.  Good reading makes you wiser, and improves your communication skills.  So I continue to read.  And thanks to Rev. Plantinga, I have a stellar reading list.

            And his book is a great place to start!  One of the things I really appreciate about Rev. Plantinga is that, although a seasoned preacher, he sympathizes with the young growing preacher, like me.  I found the following passage particularly comforting: 

The weekly assignment to preach the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ is daunting. Maybe half a million English-language preachers got up to preach this past Sunday, and I would like us to appreciate the hill they climbed. 

Where else in North American life today do we find a speaking assignment that is comparable?  Where else is a man or woman called forward once a week to address a mixed audience of things of final magnificence?

For starters, the address has to change all the time.  A politician can take a stump speech to LA or Miami and customize one minute of it for the local context.  Else it’s the same speech.  Our regular church minister has just the reverse situation: it’s the audience that stays the same week after week and the address that needs to change. (p. 65)

            This passage got my attention! It gave me some much needed perspective.  I knew preaching was hard!  But at least I’m not alone.  So fellow preachers, let’s stick together!

            And if you’re not a preacher, please know: preaching is hard work.  It is one of the most difficult tasks that pastors are called to do.  So, please give us the benefit of the doubt.  Please encourage us.  But most of all, please pray for us and please, please listen to God’s Word proclaimed every Sunday morning with an open heart and mind to receive what is given. 

            I look forward to growing as a preacher this year, guided by Rev. Plantinga.  I look forward to growing this year as a preacher, guided by the Holy Spirit, who wants the gospel of grace to be proclaimed to a world that desperately needs to hear it. 

New Blog Post: “Worship Retreat”

I have the privilege of taking a worship retreat next week.  This retreat/conference is called the “Calvin Symposium on Worship,” and will occur at Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, MI.  After five years of ordained parish ministry, I’m increasingly convinced of the formative nature of the worship service.  And I’d like to explore this further.  How does the worship service form people spiritually?  How can we as a local church become more effective in evangelism and discipleship through our worship services?  These are some of my questions.  I’m also going to the Symposium because I want to worship the Lord without having to lead a worship service.  Just rest in God’s presence for a while.  Sit at Jesus’ feet!  Dwell in God’s Word, namely the Book of Exodus, which is the worship theme.  So, please pray for me as I attend this worship retreat. 

 

New Blog Post: “Prayer of Silence”

At the Jan. 19/14 worship service at Wolf Creek Community Church, we talked about the importance of solitude and silence.  As difficult as it may be to take solitude, I think most people understand the importance of spending some time alone with the Lord.  But the idea of practicing silence during that time of solitude may be foreign.  But as Henri Nouwen explains: “Silence is the way to make solitude a reality.” (The Way of the Heart, 43) 
At any rate, the following prayer by John Hammond speaks wisely of silence, and even more helps us to get there.  So, I invite you to pray it this week, and see what happens.  Enjoy your solitude and silence!
 
Companions,
The wise tell us that God abides
in silence–
that God speaks in the silent serenity
of the heart.
Let us not speak of silence;
rather, let silence speak to us 
of God.
 
Together,
Let us enter through the door of serenity,
the silence of our heart
 
The chatter of our fears, our angers, our anxiety–
the chatter of our desires and curiosity,
of our projected plans and unfinished work–
falls away in serenity
and makes space,
for a new heart
created in the silence of prayer,
created in the prayer of silence . . . 
 
a heart that is free,
peaceful, quiet and calm
a heart that is one . . .
 
a heart so large and wide
that it embraces the God of all
and the all of God, 
the God who is silence speaks all languages,
the God who is silence speaks in all creatures,
the God who is silence speaks one word,
the God who speaks of Love.
 
                                             —John Hammond O.S.B. 

New Blog Post: “A Practical Guide to Lectio Divina (Spiritual Reading)”

A Practical Guide to Lectio Divina (Spiritual Reading)

  1. Choose a text of Scripture to read.  It doesn’t have to be long!
  2. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. (Solitude)
  3. Quiet your heart and mind in the best way you know how.  (Silence)
  4. Then slowly read the passage once. 
  5. Reflect on the passage.  What is the Lord saying to you through it?  Rest in God’s presence.
  6. Read the passage again. 
  7. Respond to God’s Word.  What would you like to say to God in the light of this passage?
  8. What do you feel the Lord is calling you to do based on this passage? How and when will you follow-through?
  9. Go on with your daily tasks, meditating on God’s Word as you go.

New Blog Post: “The Lord is Still Building His Church”

Last week I had the privilege of attending a Classis (AB) Home Missions Committee meeting in Edmonton.  I’m the secretary of this team, which seeks to plant new churches in Central and Northern AB, and help existing churches live more missionally.  I confess these long trips and meetings can get a bit tedious, but I left feeling energized, as I was reminded: the Lord is building his Church.  As it turned out, I commuted with Pastor Rick Abma, who is one of leaders God is using to expand his church at this time.  And next week (Jan. 26), we’ll have the privilege of installing Rick as “Neighborhood Pastor.”  So please come out to celebrate and support Rick and his family in their calling.  And please prayerfully consider how you can also expand the Church of Jesus Christ in your neighborhood.  (I know that Pastor Rick would be glad to talk to you about that.)  Sometimes we wonder if the Lord is really building his Church.  But I can assure you he is, and I’m honored to be part of his mission in this community and world.

New Blog Post: Introducing a New Sermon Series: “Sabbath Practices”

Over the years as pastor I’ve noticed that many people are tired in January.  Indeed they’re also excited about a New Year.  But after a busy fall of life and ministry, and after a full Christmas season, people can be exhausted.  This can lead to fatigue, discouragement, frustration, and sometimes even burnout. Accordingly, I feel called to preach on Sabbath Practices at this time, to help us all become refreshed.  So over the next three weeks at Wolf Creek Community Church, we’ll study three different Gospel texts to help us explore how Jesus took time for renewal.  Jan. 12: Mark 6:30-46; Jan. 19: Luke 10:38-42; Jan. 26: Luke 11:1-13. I invite you to come and experience the rest of God as we learn about Jesus’ Sabbath Practices.

New Blog Post: “Epiphany”

Pastor’s Weekly Blog Post: “Epiphany”

This Sunday (Jan. 5) is the Second Sunday after Christmas Day.  So we continue to celebrate the birth of our Lord.  But we’ll do so today in the context of Epiphany.  Epiphany is a season of celebrating the revelation of the Savior, the light of the world.  As Philip F. Reinders writes in Seeking God’s Face (Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2010): “Drawn by the light of his star, the Magi came and signaled the universal scope of Christ’s mission, where the nations of the world come to worship the King of kings.  Epiphany calls us to live God’s mission, announcing the good news of Christ’s arrival to every culture and to those who live across the street, bearing the light of Jesus to the nations and to those who share a home with us.” (p. 107)  So I invite you to follow the star with the Magi today, which will lead us to the manger—where we all belong. And then after that, after a busy fall and Christmas season of ministry, we’ll take Sabbath for three weeks, as we review some “Sabbath Practices.”  And then we’ll explore the identity and purpose of Jesus as we study the Gospel of Mark.  Happy New Year!