World Record for Sermon Application (Nehemiah 6 Follow-up)

February 21, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

My normal sermon routine is this.  While I am prepping for a sermon, I put my points together that I want to make.  At some point during the  week, something happens to me that shows me that the someone needs to preach the message to me.  My sin seems to creep up on me during the week leading to a sermon.

This week was different.  Nothing in particular interesting happened.  Well, I take that back.  I got violently sick late Sunday night and spent most of the day on Monday and Tuesday in bed.  However, that would have been a great illustration for a completely different sermon.

Anywho, instead of a pre-sermon exposing of my sin, it was a post-sermon exposing.  It wasn’t long after the service was over, in fact.  I do believe that it may have been a world record for the amount of time it took for me to try and apply my own sermon.

You see, in Nehemiah 6, Nehemiah is dealing with critics.  What I said is that we need to brush aside critics and not let them distract us from what God has called to do.  The goal of the critic is to stop you.  When you obsess over their criticism, you have, in fact, stopped.  Easier said that done.

Enter the critic Sunday afternoon.  You know, I have grown accustomed over the years to people challenging something I said.  I have also grown accustomed to people not liking my style of ministry and teaching.  I can appreciate that my style is different and difficult for some.  That’s why I’m glad that there are so many churches.  However, this was not a sermon tweak or an “I don’t get you.”  This was..well it doesn’t really matter what it was.  I don’t want to talk about it, because I don’t want it to be interpreted as a pity party or a backhanded way of seeking attention or compliments.

Suffice to say, what the person said hurt, badly. I let it bother me, for quite a while in fact.  Part of it was exhaustion.  (Did I mention that I had been sick? Also, did you know this was play performance week for Maylee?  Long, tiring week.)  Regardless, I did the opposite of what I was encouraging others to do.

I ultimately shook it off, but I do find myself asking whether there were some practical things that I could have done differently to shake it off sooner or not let it bother me at all.

In no particular order:

1) Don’t beat yourself up that it hurt.  Hurtful things hurt.

2) Understand that most critical people are hurting and need compassion from us.

3) Ask yourself, “What is the truth from this that I could apply?”  There is probably a nugget of truth there, which is why it hurts.

4) Pray for them

5) Read verses that show you how much God loves you.

6) Call a friend/family member and ask for encouragement. (Don’t be afraid to act hurt and needy.  You know, since you are hurt and needy)

7) Did I mention pray for them?

I could list a whole bunch of don’ts, but you’re doing them already and you know you shouldn’t.  OK, I’ll put one.  Don’t play out “the next conversation” in your mind.  It’s not worth it.  It’s obsessive.

Why yes I am preaching to myself.  Why do you ask?

Sticks and Stones… (Nehemiah 4 Preview)

February 4, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership, Teaching

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  I’m not sure where that ranks on the all-time childhood taunts, but I have it pretty high.  However, it’s definitely behind, “Nanny, nanny, boo-boo,” and “I’m rubber and you’re glue…”

Actually thinking about it, it really isn’t that great of a taunt, because it’s not remotely true. (Well I guess neither is “I’m rubber…” but as always, I digress.)

I have fallen and hurt myself many times, including onto sticks and stones.  I have even broken a bone.  You know what?  I really don’t remember what it felt like.  If I think about it, it doesn’t hurt me again.  On the other hand, there are things that people said to me over 30 years ago (including a sob story that I will tell on Sunday), that I still remember and still hurts when I think about it.

Sticks and stones break bones.  However bones heal much faster than feelings.  We will spend the bulk of our time on Sunday talking about how we deal with discouragement.  I wanted to take a little time here to look at it from the other side.  Don’t be a discourager.  I think that there are way too many Christians who fancy themselves as having the gift of “prophecy” or “exhortation” which is really just Christian-ese for I like to line people out and rebuke them and tell them what I don’t like about them.  You can say that you have a “prophet’s heart,” but prophets spoke from God.  Often we speak out of being annoyed or bothered personally.

Ask yourself this question before you say something that will hurtful.  Hold on, a good first step is to stop and think about whether or not it will be hurtful.  Then think twice before you say it.  Then ask yourself this question, “Will this encourage them to get better or discourage them to even try?” Then ask, “Am I doing this because I care about them or because I care about me?”

God wants us to be involved in each others’ lives and help each other get better, but far too often we are motivated out of our own hurt and frustration and a neck-rolling “I’m gonna tell them something.”

What if the discouraging hurtful thing you were going to say would stick with them 33 years later and it still stuck in their gut and hurt, would you still say it? (seriously, it’s a great story)