PreachingNOW Vol. 7, No. 12 March 17, 2008 From the Editor: Why Easter Matters Articles: Celebrating Easter Attenders Herding Cats Illustrations: Invite a Friend at Easter EasterFocus, Christian WalkPunishment Link of the Week Preacher’s Bookshelf Humor And Finally… “We live and die; Christ died and lived!”(John Stott) Sign up now for a 1-year subscription to Preaching Magazine. That’s 6 great issues for only $39.95-a savings of over 15% off the newsstand price! Subscribe Today Vol. 7, No. 12 March 18 , 2008 Michael Duduit I enjoyed the first of novelist Anne Rice’s “Christ the Lord” series, in which she retells the story of Jesus in a fictional manner from His perspective. In that first novel she helps us imagine what it would have been like for the boy in Nazareth to gain a growing awareness that there was something different and special about His life. In the second book just released, The Road to Cana (Alfred A. Knopf), Rice shows us Jesus as a young man who is part of a large, loving family and yet set apart. In this book He comes to a full realization of His divine identity, is baptized by John, and faces temptation in the wilderness. That last episode is powerfully portrayed and concludes with these words of Jesus to the tempter who has failed: “It’s I who’ve come to reveal that your despair is a fraud! I’m here to tell one and all that you are no Ruler, and never were, that in the great scheme of things you are no more than a filthy brigand, a thief on the margins, a scavenger circling in impotent envy the camps of men and women! “And I will destroy your Fabled Rule, as I destroy you – as I drive you out, stamp you out, blot you out – and not with hulking armies in baths of blood, not with the raging smoke and terror you so crave, not with swords and spears dripping with broken flesh, I will do it as you cannot imagine it – I will do it by family, by camp, by hamlet and village and town. I will do it at the banquet tables in the smallest rooms and greatest mansions of cities. I will do it heart by heart. I will do it soul by soul. “Yes, the world is ready. Yes, the map is drawn. Yes, the Scripture goes forth in the common language of the world. Yes. And so I go on my way to do it, and you have struggled here once more – and forever – in vain.” We celebrate Easter because He who surrendered Himself to a cross is the same One who rose victorious from the grave. And because He lives, we also can live. (Click here to learn more about the book The Road to Cana.) Michael Duduit, Editormichael@preaching.com A sponsor has enabled us to offer special scholarships to full-time students who wish to attend this year’s National Conference on Preaching in Washington. To apply go to www.preaching.com/student Be sure to check this week’s Preaching podcast – an interview with Dan Kimball as we visit about preaching in a postmodern setting. To listen or download go to www.preaching.com CELEBRATING EASTER ATTENDERS In an article originally published in the LA Times, Preaching Contributing Editor John Huffman writes: “How do I feel about Christmas and Easter attenders? “I am excited to see them. I have a great desire to observe someone come to life-saving faith in Jesus Christ and then become active in the community we know as Christ’s church. That’s why on Christmas Eve and Easter, I try to present the very essence of what it is to be born again spiritually by the power of Jesus Christ.“I try to understand them. There may be valid reasons why some people come only on holidays. “Perhaps they have had traumatic experiences in church-even Christians can be cruel. Some may have been burned out by committee work. Perhaps the church didn’t really preach Jesus Christ and was just a social club. Some have even been spiritually abused by an overeager family member who has tried to force them into the faith. “Others may have suffered a major personal tragedy that has rendered them emotionally incapable of sitting through a worship service … “For others, it is simply a case of rebellion against God. These persons stay away because they don’t believe in God or they are very hurt by something God has allowed them to experience. Or they may know they’re living with some area of unconfessed sin and they don’t want to be hypocritical. “Some people have never really understood what the Christian faith is all about. These two festive holidays are like the theater previews of coming attractions: They are interesting; they whet the appetite; but they are not the movie. “Christmas and Easter are not designed as an end in themselves, but to encourage a person to a full-time, 365-day-a-year commitment of one’s life to Jesus Christ-finding forgiveness, meaning, and strength to live one day at a time, knowing that the name of one’s higher power is Jesus Christ!“I am sad. I know that as much as we all pray and work, some simply will not take seriously the claims of Jesus Christ. There are those who may continue to attend for a period of time. Some will be radically converted. Others will drift back to their old lifestyles. This breaks my heart. Yet, even Jesus taught that not all will respond positively.“Finally, I am hopeful. Every Christmas and every Easter there are some who come home to Jesus. They see beyond the civic and religious festivities to the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ…” (Click here to read the full article.) INVITE A FRIEND AT EASTER In a recent email to Saddleback attenders, Rick Warren wrote: “Easter will be celebrated on March 23 – the earliest Easter since 1913! (Easter is a different day each year because Passover is determined by the lunar & solar calendars). In a recent national survey, most Americans said they’d accept an invitation to attend a church during Easter season if someone would simply invite them! They are waiting to be asked!” In another national survey, the Barna Institute identified five different groups of Americans: The Unattached (23 percent of Americans) haven’t attended any church service in the past year. About one-third of this group never has attended a church in their lifetime. The Intermittents (15 percent of Americans) have attended a church in the past year, but not in the past month. About two-thirds of this group has attended a church within the past six months. The Conventionals (56 percent of Americans) have attended a church in the past month. The Homebodies (3 percent of Americans) attend only a house church. The Blenders (3 percent of Americans) attend both a conventional church and a house church. How do the unattached think? The Barna National Survey discovered they are: – More likely to feel stressed out.– Less likely to believe they are making a positive difference in the world.– Less optimistic about the future. Fifty-nine percent consider themselves to be Christians! Sixty-two percent say they pray during a typical week. The Survey concluded: “The best chance of getting the Unattached to a church is when someone they know and trust personally invites them, offers to accompany them, and they believe the service will address an issue or need they are struggling with at that moment.” ACT NOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR MINISTRY It’s less than a month away, so plan now to join us for the 19th Annual National Conference on Preaching, which will be held April 7-9 in suburban Washington, D.C. “Preaching and the Public Square: Where Do Pulpit and Culture Meet?” is the provocative theme of the three-day event. You’ll hear speakers and panelists explore how preaching can and should engage cultural issues in the 21st century. You’ll get great ideas from a selection of practical preaching workshops. At NCP 2008, you’ll enjoy insights and inspiration from some of America’s finest preachers and teachers, including: Chuck Colson Rick Warren James MacDonald Barry Black William Willimon A.R. Bernard Mark Batterson James Emery White Robert Smith Jr. J. Alfred Smith Timothy Warren Greg Thornbury and many more. To learn more or to register, visit the NCP website at www.preaching.com/ncp or call (toll free) 1-800-527-5226. EASTERIn a Preaching magazine sermon called “Easter as an Earthquake,” William Willimon concluded with these words: “In the fifties, in China, there was a devastating earthquake. But as a result of the quake, a huge boulder was dislodged from a mountain thus exposing a great cache of wonderful artifacts from a thousand years ago. A new world suddenly became visible. “When the stone was rolled away, and the earth shook, we got our first glimpse of a new world, a world where death doesn’t have the last word, a world where injustice is made right, and innocent suffering is vindicated by the intrusion of a powerful God. “The women came out to the cemetery to write one more chapter in the long sad story of death’s ascendancy, one more episode of how the good always get it in the end. This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper of resignation at death’s dark victory. “And then – the earth heaved, an angel appeared, the stone was rolled away, Caesar’s soldiers shook. The angel plopped himself down on the stone in one final act of impudent defiance of death, and the soldiers and all that, and said to the women, ‘Don’t be afraid. You’re looking for Jesus? He isn’t here.’ “Then that angel turned to the soldiers and said, ‘Be afraid. Everything your world is built on is being shaken.’ “Nobody went back the same way they came.” (Click here to read the full sermon.) FOCUS, CHRISTIAN WALK Have you ever wondered why a pigeon walks so funny? According to an interesting article in the Detroit Free Press, a pigeon walks the way it does so it can see where it’s going. Because it can’t adjust its focus as it moves, the pigeon actually has to bring its head to a complete stop between steps in order to refocus. This is the way it walks: Head forward, stop; head back, stop. Don’t laugh — that’s how it goes! In our spiritual walk with the Lord we have the same problem as the pigeon. We have a hard time seeing while we’re moving. We also need to stop between steps — to refocus on where we are in relation to the Word and the will of God. That’s not to say we have to stop and pray and meditate about every little decision in life. But certainly our walk with the Lord needs to have built into it a pattern of “stops” which enable us to see more clearly before moving on. (Michael Gibney, SermonCentral.com newsletter) From the March-April issue of Preaching …In an article on “Three Reasons to Attend a Pastors Conference This Year,” one of the reasons is the need for new perspectives: “As pastors, we’ve all commented on those congregations that seem locked in concrete, resistant to changing situations or new opportunities. Yet as we serve year after year in pastoral ministry, it’s all too easy to fall into the same trap of doing things the same way because we grow stale. “Attending a great conference can remind you there are new and fresh approaches to some of the same challenges you face. By hearing speakers, attending workshops and sharing with other participants over lunch or an after-session cup of coffee, you gain new insights about approaching some of the issues that confront you as a pastor or leader. One breakthrough idea can more than pay the cost of the event!”_______ Every issue of Preaching contains insightful articles on preaching, plus great model sermons and practical resources. If you’re not a current subscriber to Preaching magazine, click here (or call, toll free, 1-800-527-5226) to go begin your subscription! Also in the March-April issue of Preaching: Insightful articles on preaching and culture – including Mike Milton’s article, “Biblical Preaching in a Pluralistic Culture,” plus our annual survey of the past year’s best books for preachers (including our Preaching Book of the Year and our Top Ten list), sermons by Chuck Swindoll and Stuart Briscoe, and much more. Order your subscription today! You’ll find lots of Easter resources and links to other sites at:http://peggiesplace.gospelcom.net/easter1.htm “If Jesus bore the cross, and died on it for me, ought I not to be willing to take it up for Him?” (Dwight L. Moody) In Getting Into Character: The Art of First-Person Narrative Sermons (Brazos Press), pastor/playwright/actor Stephen Chapin Garner offers practical advice for preparing and presenting first-person narratives that will be fresh and engaging. Pastors who don’t have much experience with such sermons will find this a helpful resource and an encouragement to try such sermons from time to time. Using multiple learning approaches, Greg Ogden and Daniel Meyer help leaders further develop their gifts in Leadership Essentials (InterVarsity). Dealing with topics like character, vision, and specific challenges faced by leaders, this resource would be particularly valuable for staff training, though it can also be used individually. With identity theft a growing problem, pastor Mike Breaux takes a creative turn with the topic in the book Identity Theft (Zondervan), discussing how we can reclaim the authentic person God created you to be. I suspect this grew out of a sermon series (as do so many great books!), and it offers some great ideas to other pastors for developing their own series on the topic. (Click on the title to learn more or order from Amazon.) PUNISHMENT The frustrated father complained, “When I was a youngster, I was disciplined by being sent to my room without supper. Our son has his own color TV, phone, computer, and CD player.” “So what do you do when your son misbehaves?” asked his friend. Dad replied: “I send him to our room!” TOP 10 INTERESTING THINGS YOU LEARN WHEN YOU HAVE SONS 1. A king-size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2,000 sq. ft. house 4 inches deep. 2. A 3-year-old boy’s voice is louder than 200 adults in a crowded restaurant. 3. When you hear the toilet flush and the words “uh oh,” it’s already too late. 4. Certain Lego’s will pass through the digestive tract of a 4-year-old boy. 5. Play-Doh and microwave should not be used in the same sentence. 6. Super Glue is forever. 7. Garbage bags do not make good parachutes. 8. The spin cycle on the washing machine will make cats dizzy. 9. Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy. 10. You probably do not want to know what that odor is. The worst part of all is that no one noticed. That’s what happened when the DJ on a small independent radio station in Britain spent an hour talking on his breakfast show without pressing the button to make his show live. As a result, listeners could not hear him. Andy Greener is a volunteer DJ at Radio Teesdale. Instead of his show, listeners heard 60 minutes of music and jingles as an automated back-up system kicked in to prevent radio silence, according to a BBC news story. The station manager, listening at home, tried to call in, but Andy was too busy talking – to no one in particular – to answer the phone for quite some time. Eventually he got through and Greener began broadcasting again. Talking while no one is listening? Preachers can sympathize. 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