No Questions in Heaven

I’ve said during a couple different worship services in recent years, there’ll be no questions in heaven … only gratitude!

That’s certainly not to make light of the questions we have now or the difficulties any of us face. Certainly, in this life, there are many, many questions, many things we simply don’t or can’t understand.

But many times, we say things like, “When I get to heaven, I’m going to ask God (insert question here).” The implication is, there’s something I’m not really happy about and God has to answer to me. God owes me an explanation!

But when we get to heaven, the past will be the past. The years, even decades, we spend on the planet, will be no more than “a drop in the bucket” compared to eternity. The moment we reach heaven, there will be no looking back, no tears, no questions … only gratitude. We’ll be grateful because we’re in heaven, and because God is faithful. And perhaps those who’ve had the most difficult journeys will be the most grateful!

In heaven, there will be no questions. Only gratitude!

A Heart Strangely Warmed

Today is Aldersgate Day, and it marks 275 years since John Wesley recorded these words in his journal …

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

This experience was huge for Wesley and for the people called Methodists who follow in his footsteps. Prior to May 24, 1738, Wesley was a Christian, serving in Christian leadership. But after that fateful day, he was a new person!

This story reminds me of the disciples Jesus interrupted on the road to Emmaus, hours after his resurrection. After Jesus left, the two disciples said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the scriptures for us?” (Luke 24.32, CEB)

When was the last time your heart was strangely warmed and your passion for God increased?

Under the Influence of the Spirit

I really enjoyed preparing a message for Pentecost Sunday this past week. In fact, it struck me that without Christmas and Easter, there would be no Christianity, but without Pentecost, Christianity would have no power or ability to last!

Pentecost was so important that Jesus’ final instructions to his followers were to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit, till they were baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Paul writes, “Don’t get drunk on wine, which produces depravity. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” Don’t live under the influence of alcohol. Instead, live under the influence of the Holy Spirit. He said they’d receive power for their mission of being witnesses of Jesus Christ after the Holy Spirit comes upon them!

The ongoing challenge is that we may forget our reliance upon, and need for, God. That was John Wesley’s fear for future Methodists. He wrote …

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out. (“Thoughts Upon Methodism,” 1786.)

I’ve long prayed the prayer Jesus’ followers prayed in Acts 4.29: “Lord … enable your servants to speak your word with complete confidence.” But I’ve recently started praying the rest of their prayer, as well: “Stretch out your hand to bring healing and enable signs and wonders to be performed through the name of Jesus, your holy servant” (Acts 4.30). Hopefully, the result now will be as it was then: “After they prayed, the place where they were gathered was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking God’s word with confidence” (Acts 4.31).

Another passage of Scripture that has made it into my regular prayers is 1 Corinthians 2.4-5 …

My message and my preaching weren’t presented with convincing wise words but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I did this so that your faith might not depend on the wisdom of people but on the power of God.

Turning it into a prayer, I often pray, “Lord, let my message and my preaching be presented not with convincing wise words but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that people’s faith might not depend on human wisdom but on the power of God!”

May God pour out his Spirit upon us anew so that we may live, and lead, under the influence of the Spirit!

“Training Camp”

I finally got around to reading Training Camp: What the Best Do Better Than Everyone Else by Jon Gordon, which I’ve been interested in for a while. The book is a fictional story that shares lessons on pursuing greatness.

The story follows Martin Jones, an undrafted rookie trying to make it in the NFL. During training camp, Martin is mentored by a seasoned coach named Coach Ken, who shares life-changing lessons to help Martin be the best he can be.

The book is a quick, and good, read, especially if you like football. The lessons are shared in the context of football, but they’re applicable to life, in general. Coach Ken tells Martin, “Making the team is a goal. But striving for greatness is a life mission.”

The coach says …

You see, everyone says they want to be great, but very few are willing to pay the price. … People think it’s all about talent. But talent isn’t enough anymore. Everyone here has talent. It’s about infusing talent with heart, soul, spirit, and passion.

One important lesson is about the nature of purpose and calling

Regardless of when and how, whether by practical experience, role model, spiritual insight, or lightning strike, the best of the best all had a moment in their lives when their vision became clear. When they said, this is what I truly want. This is what I want to strive for and I will pay the price to make it happen. It was as if they looked through a telescope and saw their future.

On the importance of trying to become your best, Martin recalled his mother’s advice: “To deny being your best was to deny the gift you were meant to give others.” Coach Ken adds, “The best are never satisfied with where they are.”

Coach Ken teaches Martin about the importance of process. He says …

The ideal of the overnight success is a myth. Just as the Olympian must train for years for one defining race, you must wake up each day and practice, prepare, and train to be your best. Don’t settle for mediocrity, but strive each day for excellence. It requires hard work, preparation, and hours of effort, but it’s worth it. … Becoming the best is a process. It’s a long and difficult process and it takes loads and loads of positive energy.

I appreciate the spiritual foundation of the book. Coach Ken tells Martin, “you can’t talk about greatness without talking about God.” He says …

You were made for a purpose and you were created to strive for greatness. But remember that you were made to become great in order to benefit the greater good, not yourself. God blesses us not for our own good but because God blesses through us to bless others.

Coach Ken also contends that it’s not about being the best but about being the best you can be. he says …

… being the best really (isn’t) about being better than anyone else but about striving to be the best you could be and bringing out the best in others.

Are you striving to be the best you can be by developing your God-given gifts and purpose?

5 Challenges From Preach Better Sermons

Yesterday’s free, 4-hour online preaching conference, Preach Better Sermons, was great. It will take some time to process it all, but here are five things that resonated with me …

1. Find your own voice and be who are.
It was great to see different styles among the presenters. At least two communicators (Mark Batterson and Pete Wilson) said they use manuscripts, a practice which doesn’t seem common (or recommended) anymore. More than one speaker cautioned against trying to preach like someone else, encouraging preachers to find their own unique voice and to be who God intends them to be.

2. Make the most of your prayer time just before preaching.
Prayer is a critical part of the sermon prep process, of course, but I loved the prayer routine Steven Furtick goes through just before he preaches. It was pretty intense. And somewhat quirky. His ritual involves scented anointing oil (I love Prayer Idiosyncrasies). I try to be intentional about my own prayer routine right before preaching (see my Desperate Preacher’s Prayer Guide), but after listening to Furtick, I will continue to do some work on my routine!

3. Show up every day.
Asked how he deals with writer’s block, Donald Miller talked about the daily discipline of writing. You never know when inspiration will come, and it’s more likely to come if you show up every day. Similarly, preachers must also develop the daily discipline of preparing. It reminds me that Elijah’s prayer during the showdown on Mount Carmel and Peter’s vision regarding Cornelius both took place during an “hour of prayer.” There’s something about showing up every day!

4. Check your motives.
Crawford Loritts said, “Don’t shoot to be the best preacher, but shoot to be a great preacher.” That’s a critical distinction, and an important reminder. One is competitive with others; the other seeks to honor God. Our goal cannot be to be the best, but to be the best we can be!

5. Focus on intimacy with God.
Crawford Loritts said, “You’ll never preach better than who you are.” Preaching isn’t just about developing and perfecting the right skills. The skills simply help us communicate what’s in our heart in the best way possible. The real power of preaching flows from a heart close to God!

These are five things that challenged me. Earlier this week, I wrote Preaching Requires Investment. This event was a great (and free) way to invest in your preaching!

Check out Preaching Rocket to learn more!