Bible Study Tools That Fit in One Box or are Under $200

What if you had to put your Bible study tools in one copy paper-sized box? What books would you put in there?

What Bible study tools would you have if you could only spend $200?

Looking for some tools to dig deeper into your Bible study?  Jared Jenkins and I recorded a podcast for Salty Believer Unscripted to try to answer these questions.

You can listen to that podcast here.

We discuss a number of resource tools, both digital and paper.  A couple extremely helpful items made it to the top both of our lists.  One was is ESV Study Bible.  If you don't have one of these, this is the place to start.  The other is Accordance Bible Software.  We both use and love Accordance. And here's a bonus: you can get this really amazing resource for less than $200.

Here's a teaser for Accordance Bible Software if you're interested:



*Photo by flickr.com user Alvin Chua.
** Neither Jared Jenkins or I work for or financially represent Crossway or Accordance Bible Software.  

A Look at End Times, AKA: "An Overview of Eschatology"

A part of the ministry of SaltyBeliever.com is a podcast called Salty Believer Unscripted.  You can find our podcasts on our Resources Page or subscribe to it on iTunes.  (A selection of them are also available at EntrustedWithTheGospel.com.)

If you've never listened to "Salty Believer Unscripted," it's basically an unscripted, unedited 20 to 30 minute conversation between pastors that's recorded so you can join in.  We typically select a series topic (but not always) and chat over coffee.  We just finished a series called "An Overview of Eschatology" which takes a look at what the Bible has to say about the end times.  (At the time of this post, we're recording a series of podcast with other church planters and pastors, getting a feel for what's happening in the ministry of church planting across the country.)

Eschatology is kind of a funny thing. Either people are excessively into it and it dictates how they think about everything or they really don't have an opinion or thought about it at all.  This, I think, is primarily because people are so influenced by how they've seen others behave rather than what the Bible says.  So Jared Jenkins, Benjamin Pierce, Brett Ricely, and I set out to introduce and discuss some of the ideas contained in the study of Eschatology.  And in case you're wondering, we start with "What does Eschatology mean?"

Through this discussion, we cover topics like how we should interpret prophecy, where to find end times stuff in the Bible, why is studying eschatology important, the millenium, the tribulation, and the state of both heaven and hell.  Hopefully this will help you on your journey to better understand eschatology.  Are you a premillennialist, amillennialist, or postmillennialist?  How do you understand books like Revelation, Matthew, Daniel, and Isaiah; and what are they saying about the end?  What's your view on the tribulation and rapture?  Are you a litterlisist, historicists, or something else?  What is the New Heavens and New Earth like?  What's going to happen to this earth?  Why should we care?  We hope to help you answer these and many other questions.  However, we only offer a brief overview.  We don't get too bogged down.

Whether you have an interest in the end times or if you've never thought about it, I hope you'll consider checking out our Salty Believer Unscripted series, "An Overview of Eschatology."


Subscribe to the Salty Believer Unscripted Podcasts:
iTunes  | Non iTunes

Or listen here:

An Overview of Eschatology
-- An Intro of the Terms audio
-- Prophecy: A Difficult Task audio
-- The Near-Far Views of Prophecy audio
-- Scripture, Not Man's Ideas audio
-- Definitions: How We See Prophecy audio
-- Understanding the Millennium audio
-- Why We Should Study for Ourselves audio
-- The Tribulation and Rapture audio
-- The The Glory and Wonder of Heaven audio
-- Hell is for Real audio


*Artwork by flickr.com user, "Rich" is registered under a creative commons license and used by permission. 

Who's Plan is it Anyway?

By Lisa Catherman
12/2/2014

When I got married, I had a plan--four children by the time I was 30.  As the years passed with no children I realized that my plan was not in line with God's will.  I struggled, mostly with God.  My deadline was less than a year away and still the infertility were insurmountable.  Fertility treatments didn't get me any closer to my plan either.  It felt hopeless.

However, just a few months before my 30th birthday God began our family. I thought I would be childless but God said we were just getting started. In May 2006, we brought home our oldest son, Asher. He was a healthy beautiful 10-week old baby whose biological mother had chosen a life for him that she was unable to provide. We were thrilled God lovingly chose to bring him and us together as a family.

In late 2007 I started amending my plan and we began to prayerfully consider the possibility of growing our family. We decided to try fertility treatment again. After four months, we saw our first positive pregnancy test in nearly a decade of marriage. We shared our joyful news with everyone we knew and some we didn't. At our 8-week ultrasound we saw a little heartbeat and rejoiced in the life growing inside me. Although we didn't know the baby's gender, we felt that it was a boy and had chosen the name: Matthew.

At my 12-week visit the doctor informed me that our baby had likely died just a week after my previous visit. I was sent home with a prescription to induce the miscarriage. It was a grueling weekend. Physically, the pain was beyond anything I'd ever experienced. Emotionally, I cannot express what it's like to watch what you know was your baby being flushed down the toilet.

After nearly a year of grieving and severe depression, We were ready to try adoption again. We finished our home study in May 2009 and notified our contact.  On July 29, 2009, we picked up our son, Daniel, from the hospital. He was two days old.

At that point, we felt like we were done. We were blessed beyond our wildest expectations. We agreed not to do fertility treatment and we both felt like we couldn't afford the financial or emotional toll again that came with each adoption process. The likelihood of another pregnancy seemed impossible given that I hadn't been on birth control for years.  I was settling into God's plan and felt blessed.

But while we thought were were done, God had other plans.  We were beside ourselves when in the summer of 2013, we had a positive pregnancy test.  It was only the second after 15 years.

The pregnancy seemed to be going perfectly. We saw our son Titus on our 20-week ultrasound on November 18th. To our shock and horror, he was born the next day.  Titus lived only a few minutes.

In the following Spring, we found ourselves staring at another positive pregnancy. The impossible was possible and happening, again.  It's a little different this time. I'm considered 'high risk.' I've had a cervix cerclage. There are weekly progesterone shots to help prevent preterm labor. I've seen my doctors every two weeks since the beginning and they've had a look at the baby every time. Now we're nearing the end. Our daughter, Lydia, is due in January 2015. I'm not arrogant this time around. I'm thankful for every day we have with this little one. I know anything can happen.

My plan was much like those of my friends. Get married--spend my twenties having babies. Be happy.  But God had a different plan.  For a while I thought there would be no children, but that wasn't God's plan either.

My family may not look typical. On the surface, I appear to be a pregnant mother with two boys, but I know differently. I'm a mother of many. God in his sovereign mercy and grace has seen fit to bless me with many children.  Each life, each story is a beautiful miracle. Each child has blessed me with tears of joy and tears of heartache.  All these years later, I'm thankful that God's plan was not my plan, that His ways are higher than mine. I'm thankful for the testing and sanctification through fire and tears.  Believe it or not, I wouldn't change a thing.  And, I'm thankful God has allowed me to be a mother in His timing, His way.  I'm thankful for God's plan.

*Photo is from Pixaby.com and used with permission. 

None is Righteous, No, Not One

November 25, 2014

It's claimed that two great evangelists were in a theater together.  They were good friends and often traveled as a team to preach evangelistic revival meetings.  Before the film started, the newsreel played and gave accounts of the holocaust.  One man sat in horror before the graphic images on the screen and could only doubt God's goodness.  The other man saw the pictures and could only see a greater need for the Savior.  The first was Charles Templeton; the second was Billy Graham.

Truth be told, Templeton struggled with doubt until he finally declared himself an agnostic in 1957.  It may have been the images of the holocaust that started him down this road but there was probably much more involved.

Images on the news, such of the events playing out in Ferguson or Isis slaughtering Christians or wars or abortion or the sexual assault of children or human trafficking give us a glimpse of the deep darkness that resides within mankind.  'Depravity' it is often labeled.  And as we see such depravity it should--if we're honest--show us the potential blackness of our own hearts.  If it were possible for a news camera to examine our souls, we would see equal, if not greater atrocities with us, only waiting for the chance to rage onward.  The Bible calls this darkness sin.

We are faced with a choice.  Do we see this depravity and then doubt God's goodness or do we see this depravity and proclaim a greater need for Jesus?

First, we ought not be surprised by the depravity of mankind.  We see it throughout the Bible.  Sometimes we see God intervene directly, but often it is God's people who are empowered by God to bring the redemption of the Gospel through the proclamation of God's Word.  We are called to make Christ known because according to John, Jesus is light coming to a dark world, brilliance coming to our blackened hearts.  Darkness hates the light and can't remain.  The light overpowers the darkness.  And Christ, the light, frees us from this darkness.  (See John 1, 3, and 12.)  Christ is the perfect, sufficient, and only answer to our sin.

Furthermore, God's Word shows us the depth of mankind's sin, so we should not be surprised to see moments when our dark souls come out and play.  Quoting the Old Testament, Romans 3:11-12 says, "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one" (ESV).   But it does not simply have to end with us thinking man is evil and without hope.  There is hope.

Romans 3 continues to show mankind where hope is found.  Romans 3:23-25 reads, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (ESV).   Romans 6:6 says of those who have placed their faith in Christ Jesus, "We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing" (ESV).

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23, ESV).

If we believe that the Bible is God's Word, which I do, than we ought to see Ferguson as a city crying out for help.  In that city the depravity has boiled over and can be easily observed.   Isis should be more proof of the truth of God's revelation to his creation.  The atrocities we observe should remind us of God's explanation of our darkened hearts without him, his condemnation of our sin, and his free offer to bring us to salvation through faith in his son, Jesus Christ.

God help us all!   May we see the world turn to Jesus.


* Photo Mstyslav Chernov and is registered under a Creative Commons license. 

God is Sovereign

November 19, 2014.

One year ago today my son, Titus was born.  One year ago today he died.

I hate it when people say I was robbed.  Robbed by who?  Some say God.  Some say nature.  Mother nature can be a cruel monster they'll utter.  And robbed of what, exactly?  The only thing I was robbed of is what God never intended for me in the first place.  My faulty expectations were stripped away.  God is sovereign.  That remains.

In a conversation I shared recently, the death of Titus was compared to the tragic loss of a teenager because a drunk driver swerved his car.  "God is sovereign in both situations" I argued.  "And the better thing to happen did because God is good.  Titus' death, while very difficult for me to understand, is what God willed for his own purposes and glory." My friend felt differently.

"I guess your loss" the friend said, "was part of God's plan, so I can see how you can say 'God is sovereign' and this brings God glory somehow.  But it's not as if a drunk driver robbed a you of your teenager or something. That's very different."

As I thought about his comments, I realized that his man's theology gives a lot of power to sinful behavior as well as simple men.  "Is the drunk driver more powerful than God?" I asked; "Because if you say no, then I wonder why God would allow the drunk to swerve his car.  Unless God is wicked, which the Bible say's he is not, he must allow such a thing for some purpose that will bring God glory?"

Today I am sad at the loss of Titus.  I sometimes catch myself fantasizing about what was never to be.  But I know that God is sovereign.  The Bible proclaims it to be so.  I know that Titus' short life was purposed by God and I pray that he brought God glory.  The same is true for the lives of my other children, and my wife, and me, and the congregation I pastor.  

I find my comfort in the sovereignty of God.  And as I remember and celebrate Titus' life, I praise the one who strips me of my faulty thinking.  No, God didn't rob me.  Instead, he gave me a gift.  And for that I'm thankful.

Happy Birthday Titus.

An Evening of Eschatology



As Jared Jenkins, Benjamin Peirce, and Brett Ricely spent some time chatting in a Salty Believer Unscripted podcast series, "An Overview of Eschatology," a video came up in our conversation.  It's titled "An Evening of Eschatology" and it's free on YouTube.  John Piper is the host.  Dr. Jim Hamilton represents the Premillennial view, Dr. Sam Storms the Amillennial, and Douglas Wilson the Postmillennial viewpoint.  (We've had Dr. Jim Hamilton and Douglas Wilson on as Salt Believer Unscripted guests in our series on Preaching.

If you're interested in Eschatology (the study of end times) or you're feeling a little uninformed and would like to get an overview of the various viewpoints, I'd like to encourage you to watch the video above.  I also invite you to check out our Salty Believer Unscripted series, "An Overview of Eschatology."   You can subscribe on iTunes or with another podcast device or find it in the Resources section of this website.

Subscribe to the Salty Believer Unscripted Podcasts:
iTunes  | Non iTunes

Overview of Eschatology

Salt Believer Unscripted has embarked into the future, that is, we've started a series that looks at eschatology.  This is not to say that we're going to start wearing sandwich boards that read, "The end is near."  We're not going to scream through a bullhorn.  And we don't need to identify The Anti-Christ because the Apostle John already has (in 1 John 2:22 he says he's anybody who denies the Father and the Son).  No, we're simply walking through an overview of eschatology.

If we're not going to get over-excited about end times symbolism and preach every sermon about our view of the end, why are we doing it?  Well, because we want to do our best to understand Scripture.  Avoiding specific Scriptural teaching just because people get crazy about it and it's kind of strange is not a sound practice for a student of the Bible.  Also, because Revelation 1:3 says, "Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near."  If people are blessed to read the book of Revelation, that is stands to reason that we probably ought to study it.  I suspect the same is true of Isaiah, Matthew, Daniel, the letters of the Paul, and all the other books of the Canon.  And finally, because a listener asked after seeing a trailer for a Hollywood's attempt to explain it.

If you'd like to join us for this series, subscribe to our podcast or find the series on the resource page of Saltybeliever.com.

Subscribe to the Salty Believer Unscripted Podcasts:
iTunes  | Non iTunes

*Artwork by Phillip Medhurst is registered under a Creative Commons Licence. 

Taking Big Risks

Over the past few weeks I've heard and read a lot about taking risks.   Christian men should be willing to take risks, I've heard.  I've read that church planting is about taking a faithful leap into the unknown. While I understand what these kinds of statements are getting at, I'm beginning to wonder if I believe them.

When we think of Neil Armstrong stepping off the ladder of the lunar lander to come down into the dust of the moon, we have to think about the risk he took.  But if we pull that view back some and see the many, many steps he took before he took that "giant leap" it makes the giant leap look much less risky.  Why?  Because he had so much faith and confidence in the men, equipment, research, and history supporting his mission.

As we journey with God, day after day, and follow in the path he lays before us, we should see serving our Lord as far less risky.  We should hold fast to a deep trust already built through all the little steps we've taken with God.  Seeing how much God has ordered our steps and how much he as been the Greater Provider of the outcomes, we should feel no risk when we walk with him.  Trusting God should be easy.  The problem however, is our sinful nature.  We often doubt God and that leaves us feeling like we're taking giant leaps with Jesus.  The risk is not found in doing what God calls us to do; the risk is letting go of our own ideas and strength to follow God's call.  And when we do submit and trust the Lord, amazing things will happen.

I've faithfully ventured into the work of planting a church.   If I were to believe many of the books I've read, I'd probably feel like I were stepping off a lunar lander.  But the reality is this: Christ says he will build his Church (Matthew 16:18).  If it is Christ who builds his Church--to include every local church, what risk am I really taking?  He's the builder and I should have faith and confidence in him.  He knows what he's doing and his care for what he builds far surpasses my level of care.  Whether Redeeming Life Church gets off the ground or not, it's Christ's church, not mine.  If this is true, and I believe it is, how much risk does a church planter really take?  None, other than letting go personal pride and trusting Jesus.  There's no risk if the church planter has faith in Christ.  (I type this and at the same time know that I'll still feel like I'm taking big "risks" when I choose to let go of my own ideas and desires and follow Christ's plan for Redeeming Life Church.  It's the curse of sin.)

At times I feel like am looking into the vastness space far above the earth and required to take a step out in to it.  But that's just a feeling that comes and goes and I grow in my relationship with Jesus.  Peter on the other hand, actually did step out of the boat and walk on the stormy waves.  (See John 6 and Matthew 14.)  Many would say he took a risk getting out the boat, which from our perspective is probably true considering none of the other guys accepted Jesus' invitation to walk on water in the middle of a storm.  But the bigger risk was to take his focus off Christ.  Without Christ we try to go under the power of our own steam.  Letting go of my own effort, knowing just how little steam I really have, feels like the bigger risk when in reality the risker thing is placing our trust in ourselves.  Sadly, letting go of our pride, ideas, and fleeting strength is often the gamble we fail to risk and the decision to place our trust in ourselves only leads to failure.


If you'd like to stop taking risks, take a leap off the ladder and come join our family at Redeeming Life Church

*The photo used in this post was taken and published by NASA and is in the public domain.   

Playing the Bride

Many little girls fantasize about their future wedding day.  They dream of an amazing dress, flowers, a big beautiful cake, and dancing.  In their aspirations all eyes are on the bride.  Everybody is saying, "isn't she beautiful!"

Many little girls strive to achieve this fantasy as they grow into women.  They design their big day around the plan they've been brewing for a lifetime. It's a lot of work with little chance of living up to the expectation.  But something serious is missing--the groom.

How easy is it find a bride-to-be tasting cake, picking flowers, and planning the ceremony with the groom-to-be simply in tow?  How often do we hear, "this is the bride's day?"  I've been know to say those very words to stressed out grooms.  It seems exhausting on the bride and taxing on the groom.

As I've been 'playing at church,' or rather, working to build a core team to start another Christian congregation in the Salt Lake valley, I've felt as though our little baby church plant is like the little girl dreaming of her wedding day.  Our team is 'trying it on' with ambition and aspiration, but often what we're looking to is the trappings of the local church, not the Groom who calls the Church his bride.

It's so easy to be busy.  It's easy to chase after the 'stuff' of the local church.  Growing leaders desire to have people fellowshipping in their homes with little understanding the fellowship the Bible actually calls for.  We want to build systems that get people connected to our congregation but we don't fully grasp the necessary connection to God's Kingdom.  We want to be heard as wise but are unsure about our willingness to truly get into the messiness of real lives.  We (certainly myself included) get excited about graphics and colors and chair arrangements and sound systems and forget that none of these things have eternal significance.  Potential preachers want to stand in the pulpit and preach a good sermon with little thought of the shepherding and care that the pulpit demands.  All of this is because we hold to a worldly view of the marriage we have with Jesus.  At times we're putting the dream before the reality; we're assembling a wedding day without the Groom.

The Bible provides us with a picture of a bride and a groom.  We are the bride and Jesus is the Groom.

Ephesians 5:25-27 charges the husband to love his wife, but it also gives us a beautiful picture of Christ's love for his bride.  It reads, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (ESV).

Jesus makes his bride beautiful!

How much more joy might the Bride of Christ have if we would get our priorities right?  How much more beautiful would the local church be if Christ were truly our passion and the 'stuff' came second or third or somewhere else down the line?  The stuff is so tempting because we often want all eyes on us as we desire the community around us to look at our local congregations and say, "isn't it beautiful" or "isn't this church cool."  Too often church leaders and preachers (myself included) want people to say, "Wow, great sermon" or "yes, I really like the _________ here" (fill in the blank with your favorite 'stuff').

While it is so easy to say and so hard to do, I believe it's critical that we dump our dreams and fantasies of what the local church should be and look to Jesus because he is not only the groom, he is the Head of the Church.  Jesus is our senior pastor.  And the Senior Pastor cares little for the 'stuff' and much for you and me, his bride.


(If you'd like to see more about what God's Word says about Christ and the Bride, here are some chapters to get you started: Psalm 45; Isaiah 62; Matthew 25; Mark 2; Revelation 19, 21, and 22.) 

*Photo by Amy Ann Brockmeyer is used with permission. 

The Balanced Christian Life

The normal Christian life (if there is such a thing) is one of balance.  But balance of what?

Preaching on Romans 2:12-29 this week at Redeeming Life Church, I noticed a picture of the balance the Bible speaks of.  Romans itself offers a nice illustration.  The first 11 chapters of the book are Paul's systematic theology.  It's what we should know.  It's our doctrine. Romans 12:3 through the end of chapter 16 provide us with a picture of what it looks like to live like a Christian.  It's what we should do and how we should act, all based on what we believe.  Romans 12:1-2 is the point in which these two things should intersect.

It's like an old hinge.  One side is fixed, anchored. This side is our knowledge, doctrine, and theology.  It's what we believe.  The other side is attached to the part that moves.  It's our actions.  It's ministry.  This side of the hinge is what we do.  And the pin in the middle that holds it all together is our love and submission to Jesus Christ.  (Take a look at Romans 12:1-2 with this illustration in mind.)

As we journey through the Christian life, most of us will default to one side or the other.  For most Christians one part of the hinge is larger than the other and we often see the world around us from the perspective of our larger side.  The lynchpin is the critical piece however.  How we love Jesus and submit our lives to him is not only what allows these two parts to work together, it's what we must entirely orient our lives around.  It's what make the hinge work.  Without the pin, the two sides become something other than the Christian life.  They become ugly.  They becoming idols.  But when the hinge works well, we have balance, joy, and faithfulness.  These two parts, working well together, held together by Christ, should be our desire.

*Photo used in this post comes from pixabay.com

Scriptures Every Christian Should Know

Jared Jenkins and I set out to record a Salty Believer Unscripted series called "Scriptures Every Christian Should Know."  It seemed easy enough.  What Scriptures should every Christian know?  But it's really not that easy.

How do you determine which Scripture is more important that other Scripture.  We had a hard time narrowing them down.  Are the Scriptures in red more important that the others because Jesus spoke them during his earthly ministry?  That's a faulty question because John 1:1 tells us that Jesus is the very Word of God.  And we find in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is breathed out by God.  How can one verse be important enough to know and the others be on the list of Scriptures not worth knowing.  Are the ones that go nicely on a coffee mug more important than others?  The truth is, Christians should read and know all the Scriptures.

In addition, Jared and I were often tempted to discuss the verses that might not be as popular but still very important to the Christian life.  This is probably not right, but we found this cropping up in the moments just before we hit the record button.  (We don't script or plan much and a series like this probably takes more planning than we generally allow ourselves to do for this podcast.)

We eventually ended this series, although we could have continued it for months.  In any case, here are the 12 verses we did end up discussing.

Scriptures Every Christian Should Know
-- Introduction and John 3:16 audio
-- Ephesians 2:8-10 audio
-- Deuteronomy 6:5-9 and Isaiah 64:5-6 audio
-- Isaiah 26:3-4Isaiah 32:8, and Acts 9:26-31  audio
-- Romans 8:28-30 and Jeremiah 29:11 auido
-- 1 John 1:9 and Matthew 5:17-20 audio
-- Philippians 4:13 and Philippians 4:6 audio


Subscribe to the Salty Believer Unscripted Podcasts:
iTunes  | Non iTunes

*The photo used in this post comes from pixabay.com. 

Oh, What a Selfish Generation!

September 30, 2014

Lydia dances up on the flat screen and I watch in amazement.  She twirls and kicks, raises her hands to her face, and at times, turns her back to the audience.  She's 22-weeks old and beautiful.

At Lydia's most recent ultrasound, I found myself struck by the serious reality that there are people who passionately argue that this little girl is not a life worth protecting in the face of a mother or father's selfish desires.  My thoughts went back to last November 19th, when I watched the early birth of my son and his short 15 minutes of life as he tried to hold on.  (Titus is the one pictured in this post. You can read mine and Lisa's thoughts on that here.)

When does life start?  For a sea turtle our culture has decided that it's worth protecting before the mother even lays her eggs on the beach.  Don't mess with a sea turtle making her way out of the water.  And those eggs she laid in the sand are under the protection of federal law.  The unhatched life of a sea turtle is valuable.

If Lisa and I were hit and killed by a drunk driver on the way home from the hospital, the state would charge the driver with THREE counts of vehicular homicide.  Lydia's life would be respected, even in the womb.  The court would respect her as a person.  However, if Lisa and I, after seeing Lydia on the screen, determined that we didn't want to be her parents, there are still options to terminate her life.  If the mother determines that her 22-week-old baby has no value, we call it a fetus and can provide a procedure to remove the inconvenience.  However, if the father decides to punch his wife in the stomach and the same fetus dies, we call the fetus a person and we charge the father with murder.

The only explanation I can provide for this madness is selfishness.  We are a wicked and perverse generation.  Our decisions are driven by our need to have it the way we want it.  We'll call her a person when we want her; however, we'll label her a fetus when we can't face the truth that we're actually willingly killing a child.

We're so selfish!  But let's be honest, I'm selfish too.  God, in his sovereign wisdom allowed Titus to be born too early to have a good chance for a long life.  I wanted him with me and my family.  I had hopes and expectations for my son.  I wanted his life to be so much longer.  I want the same for Lydia.  I have my own selfish expectations.  I have my own desires just as much as the woman who wants to kill her baby.  I'm selfish too.

The answer to both areas of our selfishness it to submit to God and his will.  We must die to our own desires, especially when life is on the line (which include our own).  We must conceded that Jesus is Lord and he knows best.  In the case of the woman who wants to end the life of her dancing little girl, she must see that God has made the life living in her womb in light of a choice she made that led to the conception of her child.  The father must see this too.  Yet so many still spit in the face of God and believe they know better than he.  And in the case of my own selfishness, I must to remember that God is sovereign.  He knows best.  In both cases, the selfish (which is all of mankind) must trust in the Lord, for he is the giver and creator of life.

When a Sermon Speaks

September 23, 2014

When I was in seminary I would often tune into the Liberty University convocations as well as the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary convocations.  (There's a difference.  Liberty is the undergraduate school which also includes a number of secular-type masters and doctorate degrees and LBTS is a seminary with masters and doctorate degrees of a biblical, theological, or spiritual nature.)  There were some memorable sermons, but one in particular changed my entire approach to seminary, ministry, and even life.

God used the following sermon by Francis Chan in November of 2011 to really get inside my soul:



Jump ahead to September 2014.  I am serving in full-time ministry as well as planting a church. Ironically, I'm teaching a preaching class for the Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary CLD program in an effort to improve my ability to preach.  I selected some sermons that we're viewing and critiquing as a group.  Chan's sermon at Liberty was one of them.  

In preparation for the class, I watched the sermon again with the critique form in mind.  Based on the form, Chan's sermon doesn't cover all the 'correct' bases; but then, neither would Piper, Chandler, DeYoung, or even Billy Graham's sermons.  (My certainly don't and I'm starting to feel okay with that.)  This should probably cause us to re-think the seminary and 'textbook' approach to building sermons with an effort to keep the Holy Spirit at the forefront of our mind as well as an understanding that God uses different preachers how God will use different preachers. 

When I watched the Chan sermon a second time, it really didn't strike the same chord like it did when I first heard it.  I wondered what effect the sermon might have on the class, especially as they would be viewing it with the form in front of them.  I started to wonder if I was losing the passion I had in seminary after seeing the sermon the first time.  Had a few years of ministry and a handful hard critiques from others snuffed out the fire?  What happened? 

But then I watched the Chan sermon a third time in the class, without the form.  Again, God used this sermon to dig inside my soul.  I felt fired up once more.  Again, I have this passion to "look like a guy who walked out of the Bible, not the Bible Belt," as Chan says.  

Francis Chan's passion is moving.  It should liberate preachers who get a little fired up.  His excitement to preach and his joy doing it reminded me how blessed I am to have the opportunity to serve the Lord.  I'm blessed to have the opportunity to preaching God's Word, even if my style and approach doesn't stack up against the textbooks or professors or pastors who do it differently.  And I hope I can love Jesus and his Word and let that overflow out of me all over the place, even in my preaching.  

A guy once challenged me about what the sermon is and what it's for.  He saw the sermon like the breakfast meal--it's something you need regularly but it's not something that is really life changing in a single moment.  His argument was that it's sermon after sermon after sermon over many years that brings about change.  And this is true for some, but certainly God can use a single sermon to speak and move a person.  And maybe you'll hear this sermon and it won't speak to you at all.  But for me, at two different times, God has used this sermon to speak to me in ways I pray are life changing.  (It's unlikely that you'll ever see this Francis, that's for faithfully preaching the message God gave you to preach and to it with passion.) 

Soli Deo gloria!
Bryan 
Salty Believer

Planning a Preaching Schedule

Preaching calendars are fascinating things.  It seems few preachers plan the same way.  Some plan out three years in advance, others three minutes. Some like to do short series, some much longer treks.  There are preachers who love topical sermons and those, like me, who prefer to work through books of the Bible.

Redeeming Life Church, a new church plant I pastor, is working through the Book of Romans.  After looking at a number of outlines, reading the book a couple times, and filling a scratch page, I worked out 41 sermons through Romans.  I've seen it done in 16 (each chapter becomes a sermon) and I've learned that R.C. Sproul did it in 58 sermons.  John Piper did it in 225.

After I worked out the 41 sermons, I placed them on a calendar, keeping in mind special holidays and Sundays where we might not be in Romans.  For example, we'll have three Christmas sermons from the Psalms.  This gives me a good idea where I'll be at any given time.

In addition, it's our hope to have a some of our House Fellowship leaders and potential future elders preaching in this rotation.  I personally do not believe the pulpit should be the responsibility of one man, so I'd like to have these other men preaching.  Ideally, I'll preach about 50% of the year and these men will carry the other 50%.  Having the sermons on a calendar for nearly a year out greatly helps them know what text they'll be preaching from and offers each man a great deal of time to prepare.

We do something else I've yet to see being done at other churches.  Redeeming Life is introducing the text in our House Fellowships during the week.  Many churches will preach on text and then community groups or small groups will have a discussion the following week on what was preached.  Not us.  The week prior to the particular sermon, the House Fellowship leaders discuss what will be preached.  We believe this allows the Word of God to churn around a bit in the mind.  The response, we pray, will be more significant because it's not brand new information.

The House Fellowship leaders are not teaching everything on the text, but instead, providing some initial thoughts and leaving some hanging questions.  They are leaving room for the Holy Spirit to start working.  Then the church hears more on the text the following Sunday.

The challenge our schedule presents is the need to have info to the House Fellowships one and a half weeks ahead of the sermon.  I'd like the House Fellowship leaders to have time to pray over the text, work on some thoughts, and be prepared to lead a discussion.

So my schedule looks something like this:  On the Monday before the sermon being preached in two weeks, I begin studying and gathering some initial thoughts.  This continues on Tuesday.  Then on Wednesday, I write up some thoughts and questions to post on the Redeeming Life Church website as well as some additional material that's sent to the House Fellowship leaders.   Then on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I look back to the study and materials I did the previous week and start working out the final details of the sermon coming that Sunday.  The process continues the next week, and the next, and so-on.

My sermon prep is really a two-week process and I'm always working on two sermons at the same time.  The advantage is how much I feel the sermons are interconnected from week to week.  I also believe there's value having the church chew on a text for a week before it's preached.  I suspect the call for a response to God's Word  is more compelling when the hearer has been thinking on it for longer.  I also feel this approach will greatly enhance our spiritual growth.  That's not to say it doesn't come with challenges.  It keeps me on my toes and I pray it will greatly improving my preaching.

If you're in the Salt Lake area, please be our guest.  If not, you can still find more information at the Redeeming Life Church website: www.RedeemingLifeUtah.org.


*Photo of "Planner" by Flickr.com user, Nomadic Lass, is registered under a creative commons license and is used with permission.