Monthly Archives: April 2013

5 Pointers For Panel Participants (For Preachers/Pastors)

I’ve been privileged to serve on numerous panels. I’ve had some great experiences and I’ve also had some unpleasant ones. Some were due to my fellow panelists; others were due to my mistakes. There is much I could say, but here are just a few tips to help us preachers/pastors better serve as panelists. These should not be viewed as absolutes, but rather general rules of thumb.

1. Be concise

I know this can be difficult depending on the questions you are asked. Yes, some questions are complex and therefore cannot be answered simplistically or concisely without a preface or reference, context, or clarification. But try to be brief in your responses. Why? For one, there are probably a boat load of questions that have been submitted by the audience, and even if some of theirs are not chosen, they will at least appreciate the fact that the panel was able to address many of them and didn’t get stuck on a handful. Secondly, it is a show of courtesy to other guests on the panel. To be frank, it is frustrating to serve on a panel with someone who monopolizes the time. Preachers/Pastors, you and I both know we can be long winded. So, as much as possible, keep it short and simple.

Side note: Beware of chasing rabbits (which is so easy to do, as you know). Stay on the trail. Answer the question. Make your point. And then put the microphone down.

2. Don’t beat around the bush

This was an old saying that my dad used to tell us when we were skirting around a question by not giving a straightforward answer. It would aggravate him to no end, and so it will with the audience. People can tell when you are avoiding a question. If you don’t want to, are not sure how to, or are not able to answer a question, it’s okay to pass on it.

3. Answer according to the Bible

I remember sitting in the audience at this Christian conference slightly perturbed during a Q&A session. The questions were legitimate. It was the answers that were getting under my skin. Why? Because the panelists were for the most part pontificating over each topic without any regard for the Bible. It should go without saying that in a Christian setting Christian panelists should defer to God’s Word. This doesn’t mean you have to reference book, chapter, and verse. But it does mean that our answers should be informed by Scripture.

4. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Tackling questions that are bigger than our knowledge or experience is a disaster waiting to happen. Don’t attempt to answer questions that are beyond your capacity. Be humble. Remember: our goal as panelists is not to impress people, but rather to impact them. Don’t be the guy (or girl) at the pool who knows he can’t swim well, but sees an opportunity to impress a group of ladies by jumping off the diving board into the deep end, only to be rescued from drowning by a lifeguard. Stay in the section of the pool that you are comfortable in before you find yourself in over your head.

5. Try not to be preachy

If you are on your feet with the microphone snug in the palm of one hand and gesturing with the other, if the musician is tuning up and “you feel your help coming on,” if you shifted from your normal, conversational voice to your “preaching voice,” you just might be doing a little too much for a panel. Seriously though, people who have submitted questions are there for answers or insight, not to hear how many pithy sayings we can rattle off, or who can get the crowd worked up the most, or to see an impromptu exhibition of your preaching prowess etc. Preaching is in us. And some crowds will try to push us there, even in a panel session. I get it. I truly do. But there is a time and place for everything. Save that great illustration (unless it is appropriate for the discussion at hand and it is short) and sermon for Sunday.

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Destiny by Tony Evans

Many Christians are living with feelings of insignificance because they cannot see how they relate to the much larger, comprehensive puzzle of God’s purpose. You may be a fancy piece, a pretty piece, a handsome piece, or a well-crafted piece, but until you connect to the greater meaning for which you were created, you are just a piece without a picture. And as we have seen, this is the greater meaning: God has created us all to bring Him the greatest glory and achieve the maximum expansion of His kingdom through the impact of our good works. Good works are biblically authorized activities that benefit people for time and eternity and that give the credit to God. If you are a Christian, whatever you are called to do will achieve both those things. God’s kingdom is His comprehensive rule over all of His creation. Fulfilling your destiny includes doing the kind of things that manifest the presence of God to a greater degree. Every Christian is a part of God’s kingdom and a piece in God’s puzzle of live. Advancing God’s kingdom isn’t only for professional ministers or evangelists. It is for everyone…That means that everything you do has now become kingdom activity, even if you once considered it to be secular. There is no distinction between the secular and the sacred when you are a kingdom-minded person. Everything is sacred for those who are living underneath the overarching rule of the King in His kingdom.”

– Dr. Tony Evans (Destiny: Let God Use You Like He Made You, pg. 64-65)

A Score and Sixteen Years Ago…

a child was born to Ed and Dorothy Johnson. Ok, THAT sounded old. 🙂

Seriously, I was born on this day in 1977. Every birthday I reflect back on the circumstances surrounding my birth and one particular incident that followed months later, and stop to give God thanks because my life almost ended when it was just beginning.

At Birth

I was born 3-months premature, weighing 2 lbs. As reported by my parents, after spending around three months in a NICU incubator and on oxygen for such an extended period, the doctors concluded that it would be a high probability that I would permanently be mentally challenged and blind.

But neither of those things happened. I eventually gained weight, was eating fine, and breathing on my own without assistance. All my vital organs were functioning and developing well. I was released from the hospital with no complications. I was out of the woods, as they say. But not for long.

During Infancy

I had been home for only a couple of months. On Tuesday morning, as I was sleeping in my crib, one of my sisters came to check on me. When she leaned over to look at me, she noticed that I was having difficulty breathing and was turning blue from lack of oxygen. She screamed to my mom, who was heading out to work, to come in the room where I was. They grabbed me and rushed me off to the hospital.

All morning and into the afternoon, the doctors were scrambling to keep me breathing and conscious, all the while baffled as to the cause. My blood was drawn and sent off to the lab. As they waited for the results to come back, and after numerous seizures, I slipped into a comma. Not knowing the cause and therefore unable to appropriately treat me (beyond IVs), the doctors “threw their hands up in the air” out of hopelessness and despair, telling my parents that until they could get the results back there was essentially nothing that they could do, and that they didn’t know if I would survive to see another day. But my parents knew the Great Physician, Jesus. So they prayed.

The lab results came back. It was determined that I had been bitten by a mosquito – probably during a weekend family outing at the lake – that carried a rare baterial disease called “Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.” So they began administering antibiotics, but to no avail. I remained in a comatose state Tuesday and Wednesday with no signs of recovery.

Thursday morning. The doctors walked in and there I was wide awake, eyes open, and responsive. God answered my family’s prayers. He brought me back from the brink of death!

And I am alive today, 36 years later, to tell the story.

So on this day as I celebrate my birthday, I am reminded of what Paul said to the Athenians: “In him [God] we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28a)

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12

R.C. Sproul on Understanding Scripture

In seeking an objective understanding of Scripture, we do not thereby reduce Scripture to something cold, abstract and lifeless. What we are doing is seeking to understand what the word says in its context before we go about the equally necessary task of applying it to ourselves. A particular statement may have numerous possible personal applications, but it can only have one correct meaning. Alternate interpretations which are contradictory and mutually exclusive cannot both be true unless God speaks with a forked tongue.

Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul (pg. 39)

Love and Basketball (Marriage Enrichment)

We are up-to-our-neck deep in basketball season! The Louisville Cardinals defeated the Michigan Wolverines to capture the 2013 NCAA Championship on yesterday, and we are about to embark on another journey through the NBA Playoffs.

I love this game. But not simply just for its entertainment value. There are so many things about the game that serve as great illustrations of biblical truth and principles regarding life, especially marriage. I had one dawn on me a few weeks ago when I was driving my wife to work.

As we were traveling up I-35 in the HOV lane, my wife called our daughter’s pediatrician to see about scheduling an appointment because she had been suffering with sinus drainage, sneezing, stuffiness, and a low-grade temp for little over a week and the over-the-counter meds we were administering to her were not really working. As I listened in on their interchange, there was something that I felt I needed to lovingly address. So after she hung up, I proceeded to talk with her about what I heard. Long story short, the remaining drive time to her job was filled with silence, frustrated gestures, short responses, relational tension and distance. Anybody else been there? 🙂 Exiting off the HOV lane back into the main highway traffic, I thought to myself, “What in the world just happened?” “Did I say something that I shouldn’t have said?” “I was only trying to be helpful.” What did I do or not do?”

After I dropped her off and we said our good-byes, I began to pray – which by the way is something you should do when you are dealing with marital conflict – asking God to help me understand what just went down between us. And He answered…through my wife. I called her later and asked her to help me understand what happened this morning on the way to work. She, in essence, said, “It was not the right time for us to talk about that issue.”

As I waded through the emotional marsh of this relatively minor conflict, God helped me to reach the dry land of clarity by bringing to mind an illustration from the world of basketball:

With the score tied and less than 24 seconds remaining in the game, coaches and players know that if their team has possession of the ball and if they are to have a good chance of winning the game, the player with the ball doesn’t just simply need to rush to score a point, but he/she needs to manage the clock to ensure that the shot that is taken is the last one of regulation.

Simply put, timing is crucial.

Timing matters, not only in basketball, but in marriage as well. So as a “marriage coach,” here’s an axiom that I want to share with you to help you when you are seeking to address issues with your spouse: Be mindful of the clock and not just on making a point.

If you don’t, you will score the point, but you may very well still lose the game.

“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply – and how good is a timely word!”

(Proverbs 15:23, NIV)

Holy Week Recap – “He Has Risen” Sermon

Good Friday

On Good Friday, I was blessed to have the opportunity to preach. One of my friends is assigned by his pastor the responsibility for putting this service together every year. For the last couple of years, he has put an interesting, yet biblical spin on this service. This year, the focus was on seven prayer requests of Jesus in John 17, the High Priestly prayer. I was given the task of preaching #7: A Prayer for Immortalization (John 17:24-26). It is quite a challenge to expound on God’s Word with such a tight time constraint (roughly 10 – 12 minutes). But I was grateful for the opportunity to serve.

Resurrection Sunday

And then there was Resurrection Sunday at Westside Baptist Church. I had been prayerfully anticipating this engagement for weeks. To summarize, the people were gracious and hospitable, the worship was biblical, Christ-centered, and energetic, and the fellowship was genuine. I preached on 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, 58 and entitled the sermon, “He Has Risen!” Below is the essence of what I shared at their 7:45 a.m. service. I pray it speaks to you even now. We are jumping to the tail end of my introduction.

“He Has Risen!”

Paul takes this idea of there being no resurrection of the dead in relationship to Jesus’ resurrection and hypothetically draws it out to its logical conclusions or consequences. Paul in essence says, to not believe in a resurrection from the dead is to not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, which in one way metaphorically rips the heart out of the chest of Christianity. However, with a stroke of the pen, beginning with a simple 3-letter conjunction, Paul turns this hypothetical case on its head. He turns it upside down. He writes: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (vs. 20). With this one verse, all the hypothetical logical negations are turned into positives. And so, for our remaining moments together, I want to show how the resurrection of Jesus affects six aspects of the Christian life that Paul mentions in this 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians.

1. Our preaching (vs. 14)

If Christ has not been raised then our preaching is in vain. But because he has risen, our preaching is relevant.

It is through the preaching of God’s Word that non-Christians are confronted with and convicted of their sinfulness, and are made cognizant of their need to turn from sin and trust our Risen Savior, the Lord Jesus, for forgiveness.

Paul says in Romans 10:14-15, “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? And 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!”

It is also relevant to our lives as Christians. It is a means of grace that God uses to work His Word into the fabric of our hearts. Through the preaching of God’s Word, we are conformed into Jesus’ image, comforted in our trials and suffering, confirmed in our obedience to Jesus, and convicted, corrected, and challenged in regards to sin and holiness.

Because Jesus has risen, our preaching is relevant. So keep prayerfully, wisely, lovingly and courageously preaching the Good News to your non-Christian family members, co-workers, friends, neighbors, and among ourselves.

In a pluralistic, post-modern world that says there are many ways to God (if there is a God at all, they say) and that seeks to shame you for preaching such an exclusive, only-one-way-to-God Gospel, preach it anyhow. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Rom. 1:16)

2. Our faith (vs. 14, 17)

If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is in vain, and we are still in our sins. But because he has risen, our faith is needed.

The resurrection of Jesus showed that the price He paid for our sins by offering his perfect life unto death on the cross was accepted by God, thus securing our right-standing before God: forever forgiven, accepted, adopted, redeemed, and justified. To say it more succinctly, Jesus’ death was the payment. His resurrection was the receipt. This is why Paul says that if Jesus has not been raised, our faith is futile (pointless, it doesn’t matter) and we are still in our sins.

But in order for that to be true in our lives, in order for Jesus’ payment for our sins to be accredited to our spiritual accounts, faith is needed, not our works.

“But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Rom. 4:23-25)

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

3. Our representation of God (vs. 15)

If Christ has not been raised, then we have been found to be misrepresenting God. But because he has risen, our representation of God is true.

Through the resurrection, God the Father declared the Lord Jesus to be the Son of God. He is who he said he was, and he accomplished what he set out to do, which was to save us.

Hear the words of Paul that were divinely inspired by God, “concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 1:3-4)

So, know that when we share the Good News of Jesus and the rightly divided Word of God, we are representing God correctly, even when the world disagrees with, ridicules, or condemns us for taking such a stand or position.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Rom. 8:31-34)

4. Our fellow Christians who have died (vs. 18)

If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. But because he has risen, their death is not final and our grief is bearable.

We are able to grieve over the death of our saved loved ones and friends with hope, knowing that our Risen Lord Jesus will reunite us one day.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:13-17)

5. Our hope (vs. 19, 20b)

If Christ has not been raised, then we are most to be pitied because we lived our lives with a false sense of hope in eternal life with God after death. But because he has risen, our hope is guaranteed.

To all of us who believe in Jesus: we have a living hope that we will live with him forever. His resurrection assures ours.

“Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.” (2 Cor. 4:13-14)

6. Our laboring (and living) for Jesus (vs. 58)

If Christ has not been raised, then our labor is in vain. But because he has risen, our labor for Jesus is valuable (and our living for Him is now possible).

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58)

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