9.13.2012

Writing Your Theology, from memory only.

In a requirement at CPE, I was asked to write theological response to the bold statements [3 paragraphs]. In the notes we were told to use our personal thoughts without citing particular passages. I think this was a good challenge to see how much you could formulate from your own heart/thought. Here is what I have so far:

1.God is…

God is a Spirit and does not have a body like man.[our children's catechism question] He is the Creator of all things.  He exists in three persons united in one essence as: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. His qualities and attributes are perfect. Some of these he shares with his creation (goodness, love, mercy, justice, knowable, personal). Some of these he does not (all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present). God masterfully created a universe full of his beauty which reflects his attributes and we (creation) can learn a great deal about his goodness by observing it.
              God also saw it fit in his divine wisdom to allow/permit evil to exist in his plan without being the author of it. He allows evil to exist to fulfill his plan by showing his otherwise unknowable attributes to his creation, (i.e. mercy, grace). In this allowance, humanity of their own freewill chose to follow their own desires and glorify themselves rather than honor God. Therefore, before the foundations of the world in His divine wisdom he also purposed to save his people from their sin, by sending his own Son, Jesus, to be the perfect image of God. Christ Jesus, fully God and fully man, would fulfill the entirety of the Law that God would require. Christ Jesus would then lay down his own life as substitutionary atonement for the people for whom God would save, thus propitiating the wrath of God on his people. Christ Jesus would save these fallen image-bearers. Christ Jesus resurrected from the dead, as his work was completed and ascended to sit at the right hand of God making intercession for his people.
              The Holy Spirit would come to convict and counsel those for whom the work of Christ is applied through faith. He works the miracle of salvation in the fallen sinner by granting faith and repentance. As the individual operates in this faith given by the Spirit, they are redeemed from the curse and counted righteous. The fallen image-bearer is then adopted into the family of God and sealed till the final day of redemption.

 2. People (in relationship to God) are…

  People are the masterful grand-finale of creation. All people have been created in the image of God. Although humanity has been given such an ability to know God and to reflect his goodness and kindness, the first humans willfully chose to rebel against God and sinned. This dishonoring of God created a separation between God and humanity. A continued result of this sin rippled throughout creation with a curse, nothing was left the same. Not only was our relationship to God changed, but also our relationship to other parts of creation (even ourselves). All humanity has inherited the sin nature/fall/curse from Adam, but also willfully participates in their own personal sin as well. Therefore, all humanity stands guilty before God. In addition to this guilt, no human seeks restoration with God, instead we seek out crafting idols and would rather glorify a corrupted image than restore our relationship with the one true God. No action of an individual will ever rectify this problem. It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit to grant a new heart to an individual that they will pursue God out of faith. As the individual places their faith in Christ Jesus as their only true gift, is this relationship fully restored as an image-bearer.
  It is at this point that they pursue a life of properly bringing God glory through a process of sanctification incrementally. Their life is a daily constant struggle with mortifying the old self and cultivating holiness. Each individual with gifts given by the Spirit seeks communion with other believers to fulfill the commands of Christ, thus glorifying God.
  
3. I am (in relationship to God)…

A fallen creature that has been saved by grace through faith and this is nothing of my own. It was a gift of God. By grace, God has called me to the work of the Chaplaincy to bring him glory. Daily I wrestle with my ability to justify my own sins and craft fanciful idols. I long for holiness, but often find myself comparing myself to my neighbor and feeling ‘holier than them’, which satiates this desire. I find myself many times asking, “Why have you shown me grace? I know how dark my thoughts go. What good can I do that could bring you glory?”
Thankfully, God continues to pursue me even now.

3.28.2012

The After-Sermon Effect.

The Reformed Chaplain's Study/Playroom/Small Group Zoo
The final "Amen." has been said. The music begins and people begin gathering their belongings. Kids are showing parents their Sunday School artwork, while bulletin inserts decorate the trampled floor. You take your mic off, untangle the wire from your sweaty collar. Grab the notes off the pulpit and ease into the sea of people, who you have talked to for the last 30-40 minutes. But now,...its time for them to talk back. The monologue is now a dialogue.

It is at this point I have found my old self emerging from his dying slumber. I hate it, but it happens. I have two clear reactions, but both grow out of my pride.
My first inclination is to tuck my head down and stiff-arm my way to the audio booth, spin move and toss the mic. While at the same moment, I bring my keys out...unlock the truck...crank and make the great Get-A-Way. Untouched. I know why I do this. It is not because I am shy guy. Its because I do not want to hear what people thought. I don't want to hear a bit of thoughtful criticism or insight that might confirm my fears of 'John Craven is flawed.' I want to live in my own guarded fortress of mirrors that praise me as the 'Fairest Preacher of them all.'

My second response is just as dark. It is the lingering around or baiting questions that long for the approval of men. It is subtle, but revealing. It is the reassurance that John Craven still has the 'right stuff'. Its the Pharisee in me, that says, "I sure hope they heard that articulate well-crafted sentence." It shows up at home or in the car en route. Its longing for more than the 'help' of my wife, it is longing for the aggrandizement of my skills.

The After-Sermon Effect is such a lure for me. So, easy for me to preach Christ for 30 minutes and suddenly long for people to worship me after its done. I have learned the scheme and lure. How many times will my eternal reward be summed up with, 'Good Job, John.' spoken by a peer...when what I should be longing for is 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.' spoken by my Savior, Christ Jesus.


Final Thoughts:
1. If you are a layman, do not stop encouraging your pastor due to this blog,...continually be supportive. But please keep Christ as the center of all your praise. This helps us as preachers/teachers not to gloat.
2. Brothers in ministry, let us fight to keep Christ as the object of all worship. The Gospel does not need anymore stumbling blocks, especially pride-soaked, no towel, puddle-making pastors.

3.12.2012

Sunday Worship as Preparation.



(13 Days to go)
After a crazy weekend with the Crisis Hotline Chaplain phone, I managed to grab a few hours of shut eye before Sunday morning. (Few, meaning 2). Therefore heading to church Sunday morning was a little tiring seeing that I wondered if I would pull my composure together in order to even listen to anything. I think we have all been there before.

The music started. I labored to pay attention. Then at some point during a song, a verse of Scripture during the midst of the chorus spoke to my heart. I remember thinking: How merciful a God to be speaking to my heart, when even now I feel (truly mean that) not-present. It wasn't the McDonalds coffee that spurred my butt to holiness at that moment, it was the kindness of God.

Our teaching elder began to preach from Mark. It was familiar, but nourishing. It was amazing that after the service,...I was assured of some issues that I had to resolve that had been bothering me all weekend. I had the confidence to deal with them because I was convicted of my sin in the matter and needed to repent and move forward. Humbled at lunch I addressed our family and made it right.

I didn't look at the passage at all. BUT, I did think of something. I have 3 sermons that I must preach on Sunday, 900, 1030, and 1700 (5pm). I have three sections. If I do my math correctly,...instead of polishing a sermon throughout the day, what if I prepared 3 separate sermons? What if 0900 got Part A, 1030 got part B, and 1700 got part C? The dependency on each section is not too heavy so what if I took this approach? Could this be too cumbersome? Apart from this blog forum, no one would even know.

Just a thought. Today, I look at the Tax section. Hmmm. Wondering why I get this passage so close to April 15?

3.11.2012

Let the Commentaries Begin.

Day 4: JC Ryle & IVP New Teestament Background

Today, I took the first section of the sermon regarding the Tenants and started reading some extra material that may help me understand some of the growing questions that I have with that section.

Some of my questions are:
1. Do people in NT times build vineyards and then just lease them out to tenants, then ask for fruit from them? Is this a Middle Eastern practice?
2. What is the social relationships between tenants and landowners?
3. Is it possible that Jesus is saying that the 'vineyard' is Israel/ blessings of being his people? (I am guessing that is probably the case).
4. Can tenants be the rightful heir of a property if the rightful heir (the beloved son) is killed or dies?

Those are some of the questions at this point. JC Ryle wrote a commentary on Mark, as well as a more well known book...Holiness. I am not very familiar with JC Ryle outside of these two books, but after reading his commentary today. I felt like he gave a simple 3-4 point sermon on this section that was really helpful. Nothing too precise or outlandish...no Greek or Hebrew language references. Just a very concise exposition.

InterVarsity Press, New Testament Background is one of my favorite books as it gives me the insight I need into the cultural nuances that as a 21st Century American would have no idea what I am reading. It helped to show that Jesus was truly making a case that the tenants were REALLY idiots, regarding the inheritance issue. (which was one of my questions) This book is a must for the little blurbs in the passage that have to do with that 'time period'; not much exposition beyond that.

Total reading today about: 10 pages, a little note taking for section I.  About 1 hour today thinking about it.



3.09.2012

The World Doesn't Stand Still for Prep: 16 Days to Go.

DAY 3: If the Lord Permits...
   
   My life and your life does not stop just because you have a sermon to write or an assignment on a calendar. From the time I step foot in my office this morning, I have had a laundry list of things to accompish before I could get to my sermon prep time.
    
     Currently I am working on a NANC certification in counseling, a CCEF class, and also preparing a lesson on Sola Scriptura. I love all it. The problem is making sure that in the midst of the academic/study time that I am fostering a good relationship with people in my life (soldiers, staff, and family).
I say all of this because at the end of this two weeks of preparing, God still holds me accountable for the way I treat my 6 year old little girl, if I 'listened' to the DOD Civilian in a counseling session, and whether I encouraged a brother-in-Christ at lunch today as he seeks career direction.

If the Lord permits:
     Therefore, my goal today is rather simple. I can clearly see after looking at the passage that I have THREE major parts that I am going to focus on primarily. Today, is the first section. I am going to read it today, then try my best to see if any other of the Gospels have a parallel passage that may bring more information into the parable. At the end of the simple reading today, I will formulate a one line sentence with what I believe the author/Jesus was trying to say. This meaning will then be the basis for applications later on next week. But before I get ahead of myself.
Todays Course of Action (COA):

1. Read the section (Mark 12:1-12) that I believe is going to be point 1.
2. Look for other passages in the Gospels that may have more information regarding context/content.
3. Write a basic 'meaning' sentence that will anchor my thoughts later on in developing the 'application' and call to respond.
4. Pray that God will honor this time with granting wisdom and illumination.
5. Humbly live my life.



3.08.2012

How to Slow-Cook a Sermon (17 Days to Showtime)

As Jessica and I begin to wrap up our last couple of months here in Fort Hood, the church that we attend has asked me to preach. As a Chaplain I typically keep my distance from extra curricular activities that might interfere with my primary job, but I have to admit "I love to preach and teach". Therefore, this will be one of the final highlights of our time serving in Killeen.

So, how do you prepare for a sermon? This day by day blog for the next two weeks will show YOU exactly what I am doing in preparing for the sermon. I hope you will see the labor that is involved. I hope you will see the questions that come up. I hope you will gather resources that you will never hear announced from the pulpit. Finally, I want you to hold me accountable. Feel free to ask questions if you desire, and as I walk in and out of the study...I will address them as I go.

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DAY ONE: THE EMAIL ARRIVES  (18 Days to go)
Email hits my gmail account at 0800, March 05.

John,
Would you be willing to preach ....on this particular weekend?  (Mark 12:1-27)

My Response:
Yes. I would be delighted to do so.
 
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DAY TWO: JUST MY BIBLE, NOTHING ELSE (17 Days to go)
As soon as I agreed to it my heart raced as it always does not knowing what this passage is completely about. I was shocked by how many verses and how I would even be able to work through 27 verses in the time allotted. In a previous sermon assignment in Germany, one of my good friends gave me just 1 verse in Psalms 23. I preached for 45 minutes. Now I have 27 verses,...yikes could this expand 20 hours and 15 minutes. Let's hope not. :)
 
I grabbed my ESV Bible from across my desk. Thumb to the passage and notice that I have already marked this passage up from previous teachings or sermons or Angie's scribbles. I make notes of anything that I can currently see on the page that might help me remember discussions I have had about this passage. THEN,...I pause and skim the headings. OH MY! I have a parable, a teaching of Jesus on taxes, and is there marriage in heaven? My pulse races,...I sense the ignorance in all the categories. I can't wait.
 
Then on March 5th, I read the entire passage. No note taking, just listening. What is Jesus addressing here? What came before this passage? What will soon happen after it? I don't know. Resisting the temptation to run to commentaries...just me and the Word for a couple more days.
 
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