“On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. ‘Don’t be alarmed’, he said. ‘He’s alive!’ Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate.”
In spite of the fact that I intended to put a post on line having to do with the “rapture” and the different sides of this argument, I at the last minute decided to slip a tag-on post to go along with my last one having to do with John the Baptist, or more specifically how GOD uses people and what it may be that He is expecting of those that are in leadership position today, and what it sometimes takes to get the message across. The rapture post is still coming; in fact, I don’t believe I will put it on line all in one piece, so it will come Part 1, 2, and probably 3.
I am writing this due to a well thought out comment by a good friend. It is a blessing to have good people that keep us on our toes throughout this very short life before we enter eternity. There are a few people that I can say have been “favorites” that I’ve been privileged to have in classroom settings that I have taught over the years, and this man is one of these people. I have always learned from every one of them, probably more from them than they ever did from me!! No matter what stage of the walk we are in, we all learn from each other. That is how GOD designed it. It is said that “iron sharpens iron”.
I agree with most all that was said, for sure, but would like to add a few additional comments that might help to round the subject out a bit. When one looks at those that claim leadership today, how many have really anointed themselves into the positions that they hold? How many have put themselves—or conned naïve followers into setting them up in ultra lavish lifestyles, saying that this is how GOD instructs leaders to be taken care of. Scriptures that speak of taking good care of leadership are used as proof but are twisted and badly abused. The ones that are hurt the worst, are the poorest of all who give what they do not have to give. Most in the world watching are not stupid and can see through the sham. They see the hypocrisy. They look at the “kingdoms” being built, and to the unbelieving world, it doesn’t look any different than what movie stars, politicians, or powerful corporate CEO’s are doing. Let’s be honest. Who are we really living for?? Are we serving Christ or is it a self-inflated and corrupted view of ourselves? Could it be that we have forgotten that Jesus said that those that would be the first will be last, and the last shall be first? Hmmm.
Jesus gave the example of being a servant to everyone around Him—and He was GOD walking in the feet of a man! He didn’t even have a home. He was not teaching that people should not have a house but, but was making a deeper point that is lost on much of modern western Christian leadership. Jesus of course knew He was here to die so that He could purchase the human race. Having a home here when He owned the universe was of no importance whatsoever.
I have to offer a whole-hearted “amen” to the fact that a great many people out of what many, even me, may call “seeker-friendly” churches live lives that are more solid, more mature, better principled, Biblically ruled, and so on. I myself was raised with a Baptist upbringing and I’ll have to say that the greatest percentage of what I know from Scripture, as far as Biblical stories, principles, facts, even memorization of Bible verses, was from the years I spent in Sunday School in the Baptist Church. Nothing since ever came close. By the way, this is not at all saying that the Baptist Street in heaven will be closer to the Throne than the Presbyterian Street! My years preparing for ministry of course was studying in a different way and with a different emphasis, and was very important to the preparation for what my life’s work was to be.
I am going to make a statement here that will undoubtedly offend many, but please do not let it do so. Pentecostal or Charismatic people as a group quite often show themselves, or at least have so in the past, to be some of the least mature and most gullible Christian people on earth. Now, I’m saying that with trepidation because I have no interest whatsoever in offending the Holy Spirit and the work that He in His sovereignty does. He is not the problem. It is people! More correctly, it is the lack of teaching from the leadership of people that only have a great desire to serve GOD to the fullest, in any possible way that they can. As a result, they often follow a class ‘A’ charlatan because they don’t go to the scriptures and prove what has been taught to them. It takes work to do this, but it is absolutely necessary. As a result, great crowds of people become clones of each other. One sees another doing something and they imitate it. Others call it a working of the Holy Spirit, but so very, very often, it is not that at all. It is pure flesh! There is great damage in this. I have to mention the other side of this though. We can become so afraid of getting burned that we put the fire out. That has happened in our highly intellectual society. We have decided that we are smarter than GOD and draw a line in the sand for Him to stay behind. That has also happened to our beloved America. This however is becoming a detour to what I am after here…
I am 62 and have lived a very full life. I have seen much, done much, heard much, read much, studied much, made a whole lot of mistakes, done a handful of good things, and am very much looking forward to grabbing onto the nail-scarred feet of Jesus very soon and not let go until He makes me do so. I owe Him my life and my eternity.
Because I can’t work anymore I am able to listen to a lot of speakers. I have really heard a wide variety. I have heard more than my share of those that have used their time behind the podium for their own agenda to unload their rants about most everything. There are also plenty that don’t feel bad airing out all kinds of dirty laundry in public. Others take the time to destroy others ministries in order to build theirs up. It’s amazing how holy we can make ourselves look because of a particular view we may have on something and then discredit someone elses walk with GOD because they understand the scriptures differently. This is especially disturbing when it has nothing to do with heresy at all. How the heart of Jesus must hurt over this! What a shame. So, I also agree that this is something that happens quite a lot.
I must say though that I have found some of the most fascinating people to listen to, and I am finding more of them all of the time! I find myself losing track of time when I’m listening to them, and I can’t seem to get notes scribbled down fast enough! These are people who are humble, yet have such an intimate walk with GOD and vast understanding of His Word that just makes the time fly by! I think in our culture we can get jaded into thinking that there is nothing worth listening to for more than a few minutes at a time, or the speaker becomes guilty of unloading nothing but a lot of baggage. That really depends on their walk with GOD.
As people, we can allow the secular world to take all the time they want or think they need to say what they are going to say, whether it is politically, socially, or in a teaching session in college. The only subject that we are afraid to take more than a few minutes has to do with the wonderful things of GOD and what His plans are for the human race for eternity? Should we be afraid to take the time to share some detail of what is going on in this world today? It is spinning out of control and people are running scared!! WE HAVE THE ANSWERS!
I preached my first sermon at 17, and was scared to death! I had put hours into a sermon on the three crosses on Calvary. My sermon was done with a small group from the Bible School and when it came my turn, I unloaded everything I knew in about 10 minutes! But, with time and experience, I got better. Three and one half years later I was teaching a church college class in the east bay of San Francisco during the Haight-Ashbury days with somewhere around 60 kids, and it was one of the most enjoyable things I ever did.
As for teaching and sermonizing, I found that I had never ever better try and put GOD into my human time-box. Any time I tried, He messed it up for me, or He’d leave me doing my own thing which was no good at all either. Some people hardly know the difference though. God is not one to relinquish His sovereignty to anyone.
I’m afraid that assuming that John the Baptist had three one minute sermons may be a little hard to validate. There is no evidence to back this. Neither is there any evidence to back the fact that they were long sermons either, but we do know that the people came out to him by the thousands and had been for a long period of time. I’d say that the Holy Spirit filled prophet had a great deal to say, as the true ones do today.
If one does research into the culture of John’s day, teachers taught for hours at a time. Jesus did so. as well. In fact, the sermon on the mount was very long. The incident when the 5,000 men plus women and children were fed was after Jesus had been teaching them for three days straight and they were not going to have enough strength to walk back home.
We can try and take exception to the fact that this was Jesus, and so a unique situation but, once again culture shows us that it was not just Jesus. Teachings at the temple quite often were long. Others were short. One thing we know: The Sabbath was GOD’s day, and was used as a day of rest and to worship Him, and for a lot of teaching. In fact, it was quite customary throughout Israel’s history for the Word of GOD to be read for hours at a time. We don’t do that today. Our Sundays are of course not like that today. We excuse ourselves by saying that we are free of the law, but there is nothing in scripture that sets us free of honoring GOD on the Sabbath—whichever day we may happen to choose. I have not done this nearly as I should in my own life, but am gradually finding myself being drawn by the Spirit of GOD to gear myself more and more in that direction. Could it be because we are about to personally step into His Presence?? I suspect so.
I believe that the Word of GOD, when it is delivered by the power of the Spirit of GOD, with the required time in intimate prayer, sufficient research and study, and documentation where necessary, it won’t matter a whole lot how long the delivery of the sermon or teaching is. This is because GOD is going to grab the attention of the people in the audience. If I have to do it, GOOD LUCK! But, if He does it, then the job will get done.
A seasoned person has life experiences to draw from. There are always stories, and people love stories. I have had countless people tell me that they love the stories and could I please tell more! They can relate to them. It is something that they can touch, taste, and eat! They will take this home and never forget what they heard—and not necessarily because the sermon was short. But, on the other hand, it may at some times be real short. It’s GOD’s choice. I’ve always found that GOD fed me the majority of the things I needed to say as I was talking. Scary? Yes, sometimes. Have I misspoken? Oh YES! But, GOD always knows what He is doing and He’ll help us past the blunders.
Proverbs 10:19: “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains His lips is prudent.” This sounds like a great verse of Scripture for short sermons, lol ! I doubt it has anything to do with sermons or teachings though. This can very well apply to a person trying to justify their actions in something that they have done, or any number of other situations that this may apply to.
I started this post with the ultimate example of a long sermon in the book of Acts when Paul spoke so long that a man fell from a third floor window asleep and was killed. This was apparently about an eight hour sermon from what I’ve found. In the NIV version of the Scriptures it says Paul kept talking, but the King James says that he was “preaching”. Bad situation? You bet! But, GOD was in control.
I would like to end this post by making sure that it is understood that this is not at all written in the form of an argument. These are just thoughts, and they come from a whole lot of years of watching, experiencing mistakes as well as successes. I’ve watched many rise and fall. I’ve crashed and burned myself. But, got back up and here I am. I’m watching many today who are working so hard to build their ministries, or maybe their kingdoms? But, that is the problem. It is not suppose to be their ministry. It is not their church, it belongs to only One—Jesus.
We are facing the end of this dispensation and the Bible proves it quite handily. The world is in a crisis like never before and is becoming worse with each passing day. As I write this, the US has one of the most powerful nuclear carrier groups headed toward the Mideast along with way more support ships than normal. There have been military assets being set in place for a while now because the Pentagon knows full well that the Mideast is near the flashpoint that will not only ignite the whole mideast, but probably a good portion of the rest of the world as well.
Major things are in the air. Syria has twice now threatened to rain thousands of missiles down into downtown Tel Aviv, Israel. Israel has made it very clear to Mr. Assad of Syria that even if only one missile lands in the city, Damascus will pay the price. Hezbollah was told the same just recently by being told that Beruit will be destroyed as well as the rest of Lebanon if Israel is not left alone. And this is the very tip of the iceberg folks. Only the very tip.
We need to provide a place in our churches where people find GOD! Not our own opinions, and slants, biases, etc. (you’re right on the money there). They need to find GOD’s Presence. In our own fellowship Sunday, I found myself having one of the best times in the Presence of the LORD. The music was very good, but not just good. It drew us into GOD’s throne room. It became very easy to worship and pray. One lost sight of who was there or was not there. Time meant nothing! After this, there was a special time of prayer, but it was nothing contrived. It was the real deal! Real people! And the REAL GOD! He was there! Then there was a sermon, which was not long at all. I don’t really know how long. Half hour I suppose, but three very clear points having to do with prayer that really works. It was very clear, had down to earth examples, humor, and was very easy to understand. One could remember it without even writing the notes down. GOD met us and we were all better for it.
Today I am running into fearful people everywhere. There is only one solid thing to point them to. GOD.
About once a year I read a book written a few years ago by Randy Alcorn called “Safely Home”. Without going into the storyline, it does go into a great detail as it develops this novel built on true life facts in China today, about a man who showed a commitment to His LORD under circumstances that most of us can’t even imagine here in America.
We complain here about being held in church a few minutes too long sometimes where in most places in the world they walk hours if not all night to get to the place where the gathering is being held and stay there all day. Then, they walk all night to get back home so that they can go to work again the next morning—all this under threat of being caught and murdered for their beliefs.
Maybe we should worry less about being perfect in our delivery of our church product?? Our time is very limited now. There is very little time left and being afraid to take five extra minutes of someone’s time, when GOD is nudging us now, might very well cost them their eternity. At the same time of course, we need to make sure that it is not our own agenda that we are following, but rather the agenda of the KING of Kings.