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The following is the manuscript of the sermon I preached Sunday night at Lebanon Road. Following our service, we recognized our five graduating seniors at a special ceremony. I hope you gain from this lesson as I did in preparing it.
Tonight, following our services, it will be a joy to honor our graduating seniors. This is always a special time, and I hope you are planning on remaining following our services to help give them a heart-felt “congratulations” for their accomplishments thus far in life. Our five seniors have distinguished themselves in great ways, and we know they will continue to do so for many years to come.
As parents and adults who care so much for these young people, though, we have apprehension. It is hard to let them go, even slowly. As these next few weeks come and go, these young people are probably going to feel like every adult in their life is trying to crunch countless “final lessons” into their minds.
So, I’m going to start that trend! I want to share a lesson for us all, but that I wrote with our graduates specifically in mind.
It comes from a text of the Bible that you might find odd for a lesson like this.
In Acts 19, Paul is in the city of Ephesus. Verses 11-12 sum up Paul’s work in glowing terms: “And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” Paul’s work was so widespread and so effective, that some other folks decided they wanted to have the same level of renown and fame as did Paul. Verse 13: “Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘I adjure you by the Jesus, whom Paul proclaims.’” Now, there is some humor in that. These were “itinerant” exorcists. If they were so effective, why did they have to move around? Also, the word “exorcist” is a Greek word that includes the idea of an oath. In other words, they were frauds who said some fancy language and claimed they had removed a demon. Now they see Paul actually doing so, so they decide that Paul has really figured out the secret word, and that secret word is Jesus! That’s why their little speech is so specific: “Just in case we aren’t clear, demon, we are saying the same ‘Jesus’ that Paul is saying.”
Now we are introduced to some of these, and they are called the “seven sons of Sceva.” By the way, if you have a translation that calls him a “high priest” that is not accurate. There was never a high priest named Sceva. He was one of the chief priests, but not the high priest. These seven sons were trying to perform this magic trick and prove they could remove a demon. Then, in one of the most hilarious scenes in all of Scripture, the demon speaks through the person who is possessed. His words ring across the years: “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” Can you imagine the embarrassment of these men? They make this speech in which they think they have the secret magic word, and instead, they get one of the great disses in all of Scripture!
Verse 16 goes on to tell us that the demons caused the man to attack them and they had to flee and were wounded. Now, you look at that and you think, “What kind of life lesson for our seniors could you possibly get from that text?” Usually, this text is only used in discussions of the occult, black magic, and other similar topics.
But I want to make one simple application for our seniors, and all of us. Here it is: Live in Such a Way that Hell Knows Your Name.” That’s the application! We need to live in such a way that hell knows who we are. How does that become practical? Briefly tonight, as we encourage our seniors, let’s notice 4 ways we can make sure that happens.
I. Be Fervent in Prayers to the Sovereign
Satan hates it when you pray! Hell can’t stand it when you are fervent and consistent in prayer. For quite some time, there was a PR war going on about prayer in public school. One of the more humorous statements by those who thought prayer should be allowed was, “As long as there are tests, there WILL BE prayer in school!” While that is a funny slogan, it is also a strong reminder to our students. It’s not just at testing time. You need to be in prayer often.
Prayer, at its simplest level, is simply a conversation with God. At a time in life when there are many changes and many new experiences—as well as many temptations—that conversation needs to be strong and ongoing. On the night before He was crucified, Jesus made a statement to some of His apostles. While the statement was for them, it is a principle that we need to remember each day. He stated, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). If you will pray that simple prayer with great thought, fervency, and consistency, hell will know your name.
II. Be Faithful in Perusal of the Scripture
Paul directed Timothy to “Study to show yourselves approved unto God,” and to “handle correctly the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). As you enter a time of transition, it is imperative that you take time to study the word of God. There will be many temptations to put other things first, as your life will be increasingly busy and filled with distractions, but as you face this business, you need to hear what God has to say! Remember what the psalmist wrote? “Be STILL and know that I am God” (46:10). As you go through this time in your life, it will be harder to remain still. Your life will be bustling from one thing to another. But, if you will take moments to be still and spend time alone with God in the Scriptures, you’ll remain close to Him.
Satan can’t stand it when you remember that! And he for sure can’t stand it when you are faithful in your study of the Scriptures. He would like nothing more than to use this busy time of transition to cause you to never open your Bible. But you want to live so that hell knows your name! If you want to live that way, you need to spend time hearing from God through His Word. You need to use the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” You need to allow the Bible to be lamp to your feet and the light to your path.
Satan has the power to know with whom you are communicating. The ultimate way to get Satan’s attention is to be in constant communication with the Lord, through speaking to God in prayer and through hearing from God in the study of the Bible.
III. Be Fighting the Pursuit of the Slanderer
Now, if hell knows your name, you are on the radar, and Satan—the slanderer, your enemy—will be trying to tempt you. Fight that pursuit. There is a great promise given in Scripture that is far too often overlooked, but it is couched in a command, too. James wrote (4:7): “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” We must resist the devil, but we must also have something to go TO. We must submit to God, as well.
Remember that Jesus, at the end of His time being tempted by the devil in the wilderness, told Satan to “be gone.” Luke 4:13 then tells us that the devil “departed from Him until a more opportune time.” Yes, he left, but Satan would look for another chance to tempt the Lord. The same is true of us. If we resist the devil, he will flee from us, but he will know our name. In fact, he knows us well. He will be looking for a chance to tempt us again. But, if you resist and resist and resist, it will become easier each time. Eventually, Satan will know your name all too well, because you are truly submitting to God and you are truly against the forces of hell.
IV. Be Following the Pattern of the Savior
Jesus is the one who “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). He is the One who taught and did (Acts 1:1). As we sometimes sing, “He the great example is, and pattern for me.” We must learn to follow His example—His pattern.
And think of what we have already spoken of: He is our example in fervent prayer. He prayed all night. He prayed until there were drops as of blood coming from His brow. He prayed before and after miracles. He was constant in conversation with the Father. He is our example in knowing the Bible. When a scroll—not a book with an index or table of contents—was handed to Him, He went directly to the passage He desired to share (Luke 4:17). He used the OT Scriptures constantly to prove who He was and what the people were to be doing. He is our example in defeating Satan. He used Scripture to answer each temptation found in Matthew 4, and never gave any of the temptations a second thought.
As you face hardship, temptation, loneliness, anger, sadness, joy, and hurt, remember Jesus. Follow His perfect example.
You may think that we adults are silly. We treat this moment with great emotion and seriousness. But we also know that you are filled with emotions and moods—or will be in the coming months—that are strong and serious.
We want you to succeed in this life. We want you to be the best at whatever it is you choose to make your chosen field of work. But, more than that, we want you to succeed in God’s eyes. We want you to be the best CHRISTIAN doctor, CHRISTIAN teacher, CHRISTIAN homemaker, CHRISTIAN engineer, CHRISTIAN coach, CHRISTIAN preacher…or whatever.
As you face this new phase in life, always remember that you have a congregation standing behind you 100% and cheering you on. But, we will fail you at times. We are human, and we will make mistakes.
Organization is a strange part of my life. I am excessively organized when it comes to my schedule. I live by a calendar and clock, and I literally function better when I have a plan. However, when it comes to storage, filing, and similar areas, I am a horrible organizer. I have tried in the past, but always fall off the wagon.
I really think one reason is that I have never tried a “complete” organization of my stuff. I’ll work on one area, but another will pile up. Then, when I work on that area, the first area goes back to unorganized.
So, over the past few weeks (and, especially, days), I have been trying to get more organized in an all-inclusive way. I still have a few steps to go, since I can’t spend all my time doing this, but the change has been noticeable and good. I thought you might find it helpful to see what I’ve done and still have left to do.
Here are the three areas: Online, Office, and Outstanding (still to go). These will overlap a bit, but I think you’ll find these divisions to be helpful.
I am finally doing better with online resources that are available. Some I have been using for some time, but not as fully as I should have. Here are the steps I’ve made thus far online.
1. Email. I am not checking my email as often, and I am beginning to learn more about how Gmail functions. (More about that in the “outstanding” section). Right now, my steps in email have been to (1) delete many old emails that I didn’t need anymore, (2) forward a few with good information to Evernote, and (3) educate myself on how better to use this email. [NOTE: I am speaking on "Staying On Top of Email" at Polishing the Pulpit in August, so I thought this would be a good exercise no matter what!]
2. Google bookmarks. What do you do with those sites that you “might” use sometime, but you don’t want to try to remember them, and you also don’t want to use up space in your bookmarks for a site you rarely use. I opened a Google bookmark account (free, of course). Within that, I have certain folders for those sites. I then placed a clipper on my browser so I can save sites there more easily. Want to know more? Click here. So far, I use this for Bible study sites that I don’t use regularly, as well as sites for hotels and other random, various things that I will only use every so often.
3. Google Calendar/GooCal. I have used Google’s calendar for a long time, and one reason I like it so much is that it syncs with my iPhone. Now, I have found an app on my iPhone that I like even more. It’s called GooCal. I have 5 calendars on Google (Lebanon Road, family, speaking engagements, podcasts, and blog stuff). Each one is a different color, and GooCal even syncs the color of the calendars, so with a glance, I can know what I’m doing and what area of life it’s in. And I put tons of stuff on my calendar, and ask it to send me an email to remind me of the event. (Both Google Calendar and GooCal are free.)
4. Evernote. You knew this was coming if you know me at all! I have a premium Evernote account (cost: $45 per year), and I store all sorts of things there. I use the premium account because it stores my Word and PowerPoint documents. I even have it set up where it saves those files each time I hit “save,” so they are constantly backed up. I also save web clips, lists (tons of lists), pdfs, and other materials there. And, it’s about to be more (more on that in the “outstanding”).
5. Picasa. I am terrible about keeping up with pictures. Even though I don’t have a lot of pictures, I’m still terrible about keeping up with them. So, I started a Picasa account through Google (cost? Free, of course). I still have a long way to go here, but I’ve started saving pictures here and putting them in folders, so that they are more organized.
But, what if the Internet dies, or these companies go out of business? Keep reading.
1. Clean up! I did a major clean up of my desk a few days ago. Most of the papers were thrown away, but there are still things to go. The first step, though, was just to clean up, especially papers.
2. Set up “stations.” That’s a terrible way to describe it, but I have set up certain areas on my desk for ongoing projects. I stack up books and materials that are being used for (1) my Sunday morning sermon series, (2) my Sunday morning class, and (3) my Wednesday night class.
3. Get ready to go on a file folder raid. I have kept several pages of material, but have yet to file them. However, I put them out of sight to encourage me to keep my desk and counter area cleaner than normal.
4. Use paper. I tried to decide which type of notebook I really use for certain things, and I threw the rest away. I have a small notebook that I keep in my computer bag, and a larger legal pad that I take to meetings. I also have done better about keeping pens in places where I can actually find them.
5. Backup hard drive. I have an external hard drive to which I back up my laptop about every month. I have now added that task to my calendar. That way, if the Internet ever dies completely, or companies like Evernote or Google go out of business, I will still have most of my stuff saved. I might lose a few files, but most of us could lose a few files and still be fine.
Here are the steps I have yet to take, that I think will take this organizational move to the next level.
1. Tags and folders on email. Using Gmail, you can place emails into folders (work, children, etc.), and can tag them to find them more easily. I have not started this yet, because I want to think through how many files I really need.
2. Reorganize Evernote #1. I am going to think through exactly how many folders and tags I need in Evernote to make it more of an online filing cabinet. Here is the blog post I’m using as my guide.
3. Reorganize Evernote #2. With nearly countless resources online, many of the files I have in my filing cabinet are obsolete. So, I am about to undertake a major move: I am going to scan in many of the resources to Evernote, and empty out many of my files. I’m not quite going paperless, but I’m going to go with far less paper. With Evernote’s ability to search text within pdf’s, and with the ability to add things to the file (like when an illustration is used), I think this is going to work better.
4. Reorganize Evernote #3: Add meeting notes to Evernote, too. After I take notes in a meeting, I am going to place them into Evernote, so they are searchable.
5. Avoid Google Docs, unless….. I like Google Docs, but have yet to adopt it as my word processor. The reason is simple: outlining on Google docs is terrible. If they ever make outlining as simple as it is in Word, I will probably change, so that my documents are in “the cloud,” too. I will keep using PowerPoint, though, because I know how to use it, and I like the way it lets me do what I like to do.
6. Start the same process at home! One of my goals is to have more organization among things like our financial documents, and to do better with our family pictures and other documents, too.
7. Spend some time thinking about organization. Not just the “nuts and bolts,” but just what needs to be done. My plan is to take 30 minutes per week–early in the week–just to think through where I am and what needs to be done.
8. Get 2 items for my desk. There are a few pieces of paper that I need nearby, so I am planning on getting a standing file holder for my desk to hold about 3-4 files that I like to have nearby at all times. (I can’t put things in desk drawers. I literally forget about them. I’ve been that way for years.) Also, I want a wooden inbox. Yes, that’s old-school, but I am terrible about just setting things down in random places. I think these two items will help me keep the few pieces of paper I need to have at hand taken care of, instead of having multiple piles all over the place.
There is where I am, and where I hope to be going.
What tips and resources do you have that have helped you?
Over the past 24 hours, the world’s eyes have been focused on the announcement by our President that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a raid in Pakistan. This stunning revelation caused a myriad of reactions, from throwing parties to outrage.
How to react to this type of news is difficult. Here are some thoughts I’ve had in the few hours I’ve had to reflect on this from a Christian perspective.
1. The government can execute “justice.” That seems to be the “buzzword” around this event. For almost 10 years, bin Laden has been the single most wanted man in the world by our military. Following several attacks–most infamously 9/11–his death was warranted, as the Bible gives government the right to use “the sword” on evildoers (Romans 13:1-7, especially verse 4). So, when one does as many evil acts as this man did, it is justice being served when such happens.
2. I feel some sadness. Really? Yes. I am always sad when someone–famous, infamous, or otherwise–dies without Jesus Christ. As evil as Osama bin Laden might have been, he still was a man with an eternal soul. It saddens me to read or hear of someone dying without knowing the real Lord.
3. I am upset when I see people using this event as an excuse to poke fun at Islam. I do not agree with that religion, but religion is such a deeply personal thing that making fun of it is not the way to win people over to the Truth of the Gospel. Specifically, people have been making fun of some of the promises of the afterlife made in the Quran, and are now saying that bin Laden “wasted his life” and is finally realizing that these promises were not real. Such, in reality, is not something to be made fun of.
4. Evil was not ended last night. On May 1, 1945, the world learned that Adolf Hitler was dead via suicide. As evil as he was, evil continued. The announcement on May 1, 2011, that Osama bin Laden is dead will not end evil. Our adversary, the devil, continues to work, and continues to be effective in what he does. In other words, bin Laden, as evil as he might have been, was not the “face of evil.” Only Satan is that, and he continues to exist and work.
5. Patriotism is wonderful, but we are citizens of heaven first! I love America. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I am thankful for our history and I often pray for our future. But we must remember that we are citizens of heaven first and foremost. Our greatest celebrations should not be over the killing of a physical enemy, but over the winning of a lost soul. Be thankful for our nation, and love her dearly, but love heaven more.
6. With the military taking this length of time to find one man, I was also reminded of the power of human focus and dedication. Many of us cannot focus on something for 10 hours, much less 10 years! Yet, our men and women in uniform continued steadfastly on one task for all this time. They are to be commended for that, and should serve as a sterling example of what can be done when we are steadfast and focused.
7. The real war is never over. It is possible that one of these days a President will declare “the war on terror” to be over. That President will give fascinating details and we will welcome home troops from years of fighting. But there is always a war going on. It is the war over the souls of men and women, and it will not end until our Lord returns.
I am thankful that our government used “the sword” against bin Laden. I truly am. I do not celebrate his death, but I see it as a necessary step of protection and of doing what is right.
I am also thankful for our men and women who have been fighting in this conflict and who continue to do so. They are amazing, and they are truly heroes. Never forget them, nor their families.
I am thankful to live in America, and I pray that this nation will remember her true history–one grounded in God–so that she may continue to be, and continue to be great.
May God bless this nation, but may He do so because we are seeking Him first and foremost.
The greatest sporting event is set to begin tonight. Real fans fill out brackets that include the “First Four” games!
As much as I love the sport of college basketball, I am terrible about picking the tournament. I say that to tell you this: if you go against my picks, you’ve got a great chance of doing very well!
Here they are, with a few of my “trivial” college hoops tidbits thrown in.
“First Four” games
(16) Alabama State over (16) Texas-San Antonio [Mascot? The Roadrunners]
(12) Clemson over (12) Alabama-Birmingham
“Round of 64″
(1) Ohio State over (16) Alabama State
(9) Villanova over (8) George Mason
(5) West Virginia over (12) Clemson
(4) Kentucky over (13) Princeton
(6) Xavier over (11) Marquette
(3) Syracuse over (14) Indiana State
(7) Washington over (10) Georgia
(2) North Carolina over (15) Long Island [Fun fact, the Blackbirds of Long Island used to play their home games in an old theater. One side of the stands were on the old stage.]
“Round of 32″
(1) Ohio State over (9) Villanova
(4) Kentucky over (5) West Virginia [Rematch of Elite 8 game in the 2010 tournament]
(3) Syracuse over (6) Xavier
(2) North Carolina over (7) Washington
(4) Kentucky over (1) Ohio State [Since the committee named a "#1 overall seed" only 1 has won the national title. Almost half have failed to reach the Final Four. I think that continues.]
(3) Syracuse over (2) North Carolina
(3) Syracuse over (4) Kentucky [Rematch of title game in Rick Pitino's only title year at UK. 'Cuse gets revenge...but a few years late.]
“Round of 64″
(1) Duke over (16) Hampton [Hampton is one of four schools--along with Richmond, Santa Clara and Coppin State--to win a tournament game as a 15 seed. No 16 has ever beaten a 1 seed.]
(8) Michigan over (9) Tennessee
(5) Arizona over (12) Memphis
(4) Texas over (13) Oakland
(6) Cincinnati over (11) Missouri
(3) Connecticut over (14) Bucknell
(7) Temple over (10) Penn State
(2) San Diego State over (15) Northern Colorado [UNC has been in Division 1 for only 5 years, and is making their first ever appearance in the tournament. Remarkable to do that in just 5 seasons.]
“Round of 32″
(1) Duke over (8) Michigan [The winner of the Michigan/Tennessee game will give Duke fits. This is a potential huge upset game.]
(4) Texas over (5) Arizona
(3) Connecticut over (6) Cincinnati [With 11 teams in the tournament, the Big East has a lot of potential match ups, but one in the 2nd round? Absurd!]
(2) San Diego State over (7) Temple
(1) Duke over (4) Texas
(3) Connecticut over (2) San Diego State [If you have not watched SDSU play this year, make sure you do. This is a fun team to watch, and they have a great mascot: the Aztecs.]
(1) Duke over (3) Connecticut
(11) Southern California over (11) Virginia Commonwealth (just in case you were wondering what “VCU” stood for)
“Round of 64″
(1) Kansas over (16) Boston
(8) Nevada-Las Vegas over (9) Illinois
(5) Vanderbilt over (12) Richmond [One of the hardest games to pick in the first round. The Spiders play a slow-down style that will give Vandy all they want.]
(4) Louisville over (13) Morehead State
(6) Georgetown over (11) Southern California
(3) Purdue over (14) St. Peter’s [Mascot? I can't make this up: the Peacocks.]
(10) Florida State over (7) Texas A&M
(2) Notre Dame over (15) Akron (the Zips!)
“Round of 32″
(1) Kansas over (8) Nevada-Las Vegas
(4) Louisville over (5) Vanderbilt
(3) Purdue over (6) Georgetown
(2) Notre Dame over (10) Florida State
(1) Kansas over (4) Louisville
(3) Purdue over (2) Notre Dame
(1) Kansas over (3) Purdue
(16) North Carolina-Asheville over (16) Arkansas-Little Rock [in the battle of the hyphens]
“Round of 64″
(1) Pittsburgh over (16) North Carolina-Asheville
(9) Old Dominion over (8) Butler
(5) Kansas State over (12) Utah State [I think this is the game of the first round. As you'll see, whichever teams wins this game goes a LONG way in this tournament.]
(13) Belmont over (4) Wisconsin
(11) Gonzaga over (6) St. John’s
(3) Brigham Young over (14) Wofford [They are the Terriers, as is Boston University. Does it say something that we have two teams known as the Terriers in one tournament?]
(10) Michigan State over (7) California-Los Angeles (I know, it’s UCLA, but I like writing them out for some reason….always have.)
(2) Florida over (15) California-Santa Barbara
“Round of 32″ ready for madness?
(9) Old Dominion over (1) Pittsburgh
(5) Kansas State over (13) Belmont
(3) Brigham Young over (11) Gonzaga
(2) Florida over (10) Michigan State
(5) Kansas State over (9) Old Dominion
(3) Brigham Young over (2) Florida
(5) Kansas State over (3) Brigham Young
(1-West) Duke over (3-East) Syracuse
(1-Southwest) Kansas over (5-Southeast) Kansas State [how cool would that be to see these two play in the national semi-finals???]
(1-West) Duke over (1-Southwest) Kansas
Yes, I am a Duke fan, but I rarely pick them to win the national title. I am always honest with how far I select Duke to go in the tournament. The reason I am picking them this year is that I truly believe that their point guard, Kyrie Irving, is going to return to the lineup by the second weekend. If he does not, my brackets will look terrible. If he does, I believe Duke wins.
Now…just pick the opposites and your brackets will be fine!
I’m typing this brief post during the 8:30AM lecture on Wednesday. I’m listening to one of my heroes of the faith, Dr. Earl Edwards. He is preaching on Micah 7 under the title “The New Exodus,” and, as always is helping us gain deeper understanding of that great text.
But what I want to mention here are the other speakers. If you have ever been to a lecture in Loyd Auditorium, you have been able to hear the muted sounds of other speakers, delivering lessons in the four balcony auditoriums, which are just divided by a thick, rolled-back curtain.
While it does make it hard to concentrate at times, I love that sound. It is the sound of four other faithful teachers sharing truths from God’s Word. One of the great things about these programs is the choice of speakers and topics that one has interest in. I can picture in my mind’s eye those sitting in the balconies, enjoying and learning from their lessons as much as I am as I type this.
May there always be enough faithful students of God’s Word that these background, muted sounds continue!
So, I had a new experience at the lectures today. I spent the afternoon…….not at the lectures at all!
I was feeling terrible, so I stayed in bed for a couple of hours. I felt well enough to attend Open Forum and the evening session.
As I rested, I missed the lectures. I knew, though, that I needed to get some rest and feel better. Tonight, I’m mostly better, and I’m praying that a good night of sleep will help me get back to normal. I hope Wednesday is a full day of learning and fellowship!