5 Preaching Pitfalls That Accompany Laziness

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Preachers are wonderful people. Just as no one can understand, say, a teacher’s life more than a fellow teacher, so no one can understand the life of a preacher like a fellow preacher. Since I have the blessing of knowing literally hundreds of preachers, I am constantly amazed by my preaching brethren, and so many give me a great example of ways in which I need to improve.

However, most preachers live a life that is fairly unsupervised (at least by other humans; God knows all, and we need to keep that in mind). It takes intrinsic motivation to stay focused in the work of preaching week in and week out. Too often, laziness can set in, maybe when discouragement is part of the preacher’s life, or maybe when we are simply facing the temptation to be lazy.

When laziness sets in, there are some pitfalls that will accompany preaching. I want to share five, and hope others will add more in the comments.

1. Saturday Night Specials. I’ve said on Twitter before, “Saturday night specials usually aren’t.” Preachers can feel as if they know enough to get away with just throwing some verses together late in the week and then relying on their natural ability to get through 30 minutes on Sunday morning. Every preacher has had to put together a sermon late in the week due to unforeseen circumstances a few times. If this is what you are constantly doing, however, it could be that you are avoiding the work of study, and that could be a sign of nothing more than laziness.

2. Reading Only From Authors With Whom You Agree. We all have a handful of trusted sources that we consult on a regular basis (and we should). However, preachers need to do the hard mental work of reading from writers with whom we do not agree (and I would suggest we need to do it often). It forces us to think through our beliefs and to strive to see how certain scholars arrive at their beliefs.

3. Only Using Personal Illustrations. There are many areas in the pulpit in which I need to improve, and illustrating sermons is right at the top of the list. That said, if every illustration a preacher uses is about himself or his family, that’s lazy. It shows he isn’t looking to other parts of the world (literature, history, sports, nature, etc.) for ways to make a text or topic come alive. His mind needs to be constantly looking for ways to help illuminate the text of God’s Word instead of just sharing stuff from the life of himself or his kids.

[Bonus tip for preachers: if every illustration you make is personal, it can come across as arrogance, especially over time. While you may not think of it that way, and you certainly don’t mean it that way, do you like to hear people talk about themselves all the time?]

4. “Borrowing” Sermons More Than Preparing Your Own. It is fine to borrow sermons at times (so long as you receive permission or give credit). We all have heard a sermon or lecture that helped us and made us think, “The people where I preach need to hear that.” That’s fine! But if you are always just using the outlines of other people, you are shortchanging not only the congregation, but yourself.

5. Relegating Your Ministry to the Office. Should you spend time in the office in deep study? If you don’t know the answer to that question after reading this far into the article, I don’t know what to say. Of course, we do! But, it is easy to just sit behind a desk doing “something” instead of balancing our day or week with time visiting the sick, the erring, the lost, and doing other works that help the congregation grow and be encouraged. For most of us, sitting and reading/studying is easier, because there is no danger of confrontation or getting our schedule thrown off. However, a preacher who is working will get out of the office either daily or at least regularly throughout the week, because he is constantly looking for more ways to “fulfill [his] ministry.”

As I conclude this article, let me say that I have struggled (and still do) with all of these. This is an article for me first, but I hope it helps each of us who preaches to do all we can in the work of the Lord.

QUESTION: What would you add? Share in the comments some of the temptations that accompany laziness in the life of a preacher.

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God Has a Plan

God has a plan and it is different than yours. The sooner you get over this fact the better. While you are accepting this please remember  – God is eternal and He has been about this plan for literally forever. So He has thought it through and since all wisdom begins and ends with Him you can be sure His plan is superior to yours.

Abraham never planned to leave home, but that was God’s plan for Abraham. Abraham never thought he would have children, but God’s plan included the Seed coming through Abraham. After Abraham was told by God what was going to happen, when it did not come soon enough Abraham tried to invent a plan on his own. It was not a very good plan. In fact it was downright deplorable, and all of this from “the father of the faithful.”  In the meantime God’s plan prevailed.

Look back on your life to this point and think about some of the plans you have made that never were realized. What about the person you did not marry that you once thought would be your spouse? What about the occupation you were pursuing, the city you were thinking about making your hometown, or the things that you assumed would still be a part of your life that are now gone? It is humbling to examine where you are and what you are doing and who you are doing it with and compare all of those things with your original plan. It will remind you that you have far less control than you think.

This week marks the ten-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis. That was not in the plan. This year was the 18th consecutive year I have lived in the south. Being from California I can tell you this was never in the plan. We have three wonderful children – again, not in the original discussion.  I am working with a church which a few years ago I never knew existed, in a town I had never visited before, and now it is home and I know of no other place at this moment I could call home this side of heaven.

While we know the providence of God is working in those who love Him (Rom. 8:28), I do not believe for one moment that my choices had nothing to do with where I am today. Some things are chosen for us, because life throws curve balls. Some things we choose ourselves, because we have free will. But through it all we need to let go and let God. We need to understand that our plans are feeble and imperfect. But God’s plans are perfect and if we will accept them He will always work them out to our best eternal interest.

Before the foundation of the world, God had a plan (Eph. 1:4). This included Calvary and a Man hanging on a tree. It is the most beautiful story ever told. It is the theme of the everlasting kingdom of heaven. When you think of any plans you are making, always think of the cross. It will remind you that no matter your goal, God’s plan for you is even greater. Pray and plan within His will. His will is going to be done either way. And it is your choice to be in His will or not.

The Bible is God’s written will for man. God’s providential care is God’s unwritten will for those who follow the will that has been written. God’s plan is that we obey the first and trust in the second. When we do this, somehow everything turns out better than we could have ever dreamed.

“There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21).

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Bible Study Basket: A Great Christmas Present Idea

Last year, we shared some links for a Christmas shopping list, and many of you took advantage of some of the ideas. [If you want to see that list, here’s the link.]

This year, instead of tons of different products, we thought we’d give you one idea that you can build in your own way. This is a great idea for all those holiday parties or for that one hard-to-buy-for person on your list, because it is flexible and something that is actually important.

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It is a Bible Study Basket!

The idea behind this gift is obvious: it is a collection of items that helps someone with their Bible study. It is all those “little” things that someone never seems to have on hand right when they need them, all in one place.

Of course, this gift assumes the person already has a Bible they like to use for their own personal study. In case they don’t, however, here are 4 that might be a great gift to help them get started with their own Bible study.

English Standard Version Wide Margin Reference Bible

The MacArthur Study Bible (New King James Version). [Note: We do not endorse every study note in this study Bible, but it is good overall.]

New American Standard Bible Side-Column Reference Wide-Margin Bible

…and the ultimate, if you have a lot of money to spend: New American Standard Bible Wide-Margin Reference Bible (goatskin cover)

Now that we know the person has a nice Bible to take notes in, let’s start building the basket! Here are some things to include in the gift for the Bible student on your list:

1. A Companion Book. We suggest one of the following two options, depending on your budget.

Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible by Scott Duvall ($28.90). We have not read every word of this book, but it is a great tool to helping you work through serious Bible study without being so technical that it will bore the reader.

A Study Guide to Greater Bible Knowledge by Wayne Jackson. The link provided is just to show you the book. Likely, you can find it in a bookstore less expensively by calling around. I know, for example, that Gospel Advocate keeps it in stock most of the time. This is a wonderful little book that helps someone get started with how to study the Bible.

2. Two kinds of pens. Serious Bible students are crazy about selecting a type of pen or marker. Honestly, I have never tried tons of kinds, but I have found the ones that follow to be the best of those I have used, and several articles and videos online agree. These are a must-add to the basket.

Pigma Micron Pens. These archive-level pens have a very small tip and almost never bleed through the page. I love them, and use them for a lot more than just marking in my Bible. Depending on your budget, mix and match these different packs:

6-color pack ($13.12)

An extra black pen ($5.83)

Crayola Twistables. No, I’m not kidding! Highlighting is a staple of Bible study for a lot of people, but regular highlighters bleed through the pages terribly. These crayon sticks rarely bleed through and, personally, I like the color more than a regular highlighter, which is too bright. Admittedly, I have only tested these, but I like the results. If your Bible student is a fan of highlighting, they will love these! Pick up at least one pack, and depending your budget, you may want to add two or three packs.

Crayola Twistables, 18-pack ($5.69)

3. Straight edge. For those who like to make sure their notes and underlines are perfectly straight, an edge is really helpful. Again, we offer two options, based on your price range.

Helix Stainless Steel 6-inch ruler ($6.38). This may seem a bit pricey for a ruler, but the metal ruler will stay in place as you work better than lightweight plastic.

Oxford Half-Sized Index Cards ($1.79). These 3 inch x 2 1/2 inch cards serve a dual purpose. They help keep a straight edge for underlining or writing, and they serve as notecards for those who want to use them for extra notes or memorizing verses. The price above is for a pack of 200 cards.

4. A bag to put it all in. Here is where you can save even more money. Instead of buying an actual basket to put all these things in (that may or may not get used again in the future), why not get your Bible student a nice bag to put their Bible study material in, and give the gift in the bag! Obviously, this is an optional part of the gift, but it might make a nice touch for someone on your shopping list.

Mead Five-Star Stand and Store Pencil Pouch ($9.78). This bag is small, but the best part about it is that it stands on its own while someone is using it, so the Bible student can see all his or her pens, rulers, etc. at a glance without cluttering up the workspace. It also makes studying when a big workspace is not available much easier, since everything is together.

So, there you have it. A customizable gift that will actually be helpful. Hope you enjoy this little idea, but more than that, we hope the gift of Bible study helps someone you know and love prepare for eternity!

QUESTION: What did we forget? Put your suggestions for items to include in a Bible study basket in the comments below!

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I Remember Thanksgiving

I remember Thanksgiving. 30 years ago, in 2014, we celebrated with turkey and dressing around a large table near Jasper, Alabama with Leah’s family. We talked to my family on the phone. For one day, everything seemed to be slower and life was centered around things that were important.

But that was 30 years ago, and this is 2044. Oh how times have changed.

Now we still get together with family on this day, but we all have to take a vacation day from work. It is no longer considered a true “holiday.” Some schools are out, but only because they haven’t had to use this late November Thursday as a makeup day for snow or some other bad weather.

Stores are open all day. It used to be that some people would spend part of Thanksgiving Day looking at sale ads for what was called “Black Friday.” That day-after-Thanksgiving Friday was a crazy day of shopping, meant to give a jumpstart to the Christmas shopping season through all kinds of sales. Now, the Thursday is just another shopping day, as people started looking for those trinkets and toys for Christmas a few weeks ago.

I miss the way Thanksgiving used to be. While I know some of it was manufactured, it was calming to think that people slowed down a bit, said a prayer, and spent time with their family. Whether every family really took time to say what they were thankful for, it was reassuring to think that some did. I know the ladies in our family had to cook a huge meal, but even they said that this day was slower than nearly any other. I miss that.

I miss the world seeming to just stop for a day and reflect. I miss the gratitude that was reinforced in a lot of traditions. I miss wiffleball in the front yard when it was warm in November, and reading by the fire when it wasn’t.

Somewhere in our mad rush to get more stuff we forgot how to take just one day to be thankful. I miss that.

But I won’t forget it. I remember Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Proclamation

This Thanksgiving Day, I would hope that all of us would take some time away from parades, meals, football, and preparations for ‘Black Friday” to reflect on how this unique holiday got started. It is interesting to me that, both the Congress and President Washington were involved in this proclamation.

It seems to me that, while we may have made a lot of progress in a lot of  areas during the past 225 years, we might be well advised to “return to our roots” when it comes to our acknowledgment of, and dependence upon, God.   — Jim Faughn

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Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

Friday, Um, Non-Finds?

Each week, we publish our Family Friendly Finds on Friday. This week, to be honest, we just did not get it done. Between moving and having our internet turned off early at the house, there was no way to piece together the links as we usually do.

Also, we are taking next week a little lighter. We currently have just two posts scheduled, and may just stick with that schedule. Our goal is to be back with our usual number of posts on Monday, December 1.

Thanks for understanding, and thanks for continuing to come back to A Legacy of Faith!

Episode 9: Making Thanksgiving Memorable {Podcast}

Player not working? Click here to listen on the blog.

Thanksgiving is coming soon, and we want you to be ready. In this episode, which is a re-release of an episode of the Faughn Family Podcast, Adam and Leah share some ideas to help your family make this Thanksgiving more than just another day. Enjoy!

LOFpodcast

 

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Music Credit

Opening theme: “Josie Has the Upper Hand” by Josh Woodward

Closing theme: “Afterglow” by Josh Woodward

The Memories of a House

memories of a house

Tomorrow, they start packing and Friday we move out. For about 6 1/2 years, one address has been the place we called home. It has been a wonderful house.

Still, it is made up of wood, concrete, vinyl siding, carpet, metal and other material “stuff.” Through the designs and work of people with different skills than I have, all this “stuff” becomes a beautiful and functional place to live. When looking for a place to live, we think about if our couch can go here or if all our pots and pans can fit in there; we consider if this room will work for an office or den or if that room will be the bedroom for one child or another. It is utilitarian.

…and then you live there awhile.

That back yard is where we put our child’s first swingset. It was cold, so her first ride on the swing was in a coat and gloves.

The oddly-laid-out living room has been the home of countless family devotionals, movie nights, and games.

The red dining room (that we liked at first, then thought we would change until we decided to move) has hosted scores of people and helped us connect with so many individuals. It is also where we put together puzzles and tried to teach manners.

In that light green room upstairs, I watched my daughter start to pick out her own clothes (sometimes), fix her own hair, and dress her dolls. I picked her up for our daddy dates at the bottom of those stairs.

In the blue room, I wrestled on the bed with my son, and watched him gain a love for reading about God’s world. I saw him make train tracks in the floor and caught him flexing in his mirror a time or two.

In another room, I continually saw my wife grow in her beauty and grace. From getting ready in the morning to reading Anne of Green Gables after I had turned off my lamp, she continually amazes me and fascinates me. We have cried so many tears over people we know who are hurting, and have laughed at so many inside jokes in this room.

It is just a house, but in those four walls, life happened. Too rapidly, at times, but it happened. Mistakes were made, triumphs were celebrated, tears were shed, and lots of laughs were shared. Meals were enjoyed, friends were entertained, and a few storms–literal and figurative–were weathered. We even had our mailbox destroyed once.

…oh, and the bare spot on the front yard? That’s just from kids being kids.

…and the front porch? I have read more books to my children out there than I can count.

…and our first day of homeschool? It was in the room that was listed as an “office.”

And on and on it goes.

It’s just a house, but memories are everywhere. It is hard to leave it behind.

Until I remember that the home isn’t made of the material stuff. It is the three special people who have helped make all the memories throughout the years. You see, we are leaving a house behind, but we are taking a home with us.

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Photo background credit: ME! The picture is from the day we moved into our house in Hermitage. Needless to say, all of us have changed (the kids have gotten bigger, I have lost some weight, and Leah has only gotten more beautiful).

 

Praying Together

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One recent religious survey noted that the average minister only prays three minutes each day. I found this astounding. I do not know if it is accurate, but if this is true, is it any wonder why the church is not growing?Hey wait a minute…maybe we should ask ourselves how much we are praying? It’s not that there is a required amount, but rather it has to do with where we are in our spiritual lives. Prayer is key. Prayer can change everything.

I am finding that one of the most important things I can do to change and improve my own prayer life is to pray with others. When we pray with our spouses it changes our marriage. When we pray with our family it brings God into our home in a greater way. When we pray with our friends we share our lives together and our friendship grows. When we pray with the church we have more confidence in our spiritual journey.

Here are a few suggestions that I believe will enhance your prayer life:

1. Have a prayer list.

  • Sit down and think of all the people who have special needs and all the problems people are facing. A prayer list helps you focus on issues others are struggling with and humbles you. You will realize how many people need prayers, and you will be reminded about how many blessings you have.
2. Pray more in your Bible classes.
  • It would be a good idea for each of our Bible classes, if we started and ended with a prayer. It will change the way you study. It will allow God to be present with those who are looking into His word.
3. Make a regular time each evening to pray with your spouse.
  • When couples communicate with God they also communicate with each other. If you have never heard your spouse pray, you are missing out on knowing them as well as you could.
4. Teach your children how to pray, and help them to pray regularly.
  • There is nothing more rewarding then listening to your child as they learn to pray. As they improve, you are developing in them a relationship with God that they will never regret.
Prayer is not a job, it is a privilege. We desperately need to pray.
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” ~ James 5:16
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Zager & Evans Miscalculated Slightly

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Those of us “of a certain age” may remember an unusual song recorded in 1969. Among the things that were unusual about it were the following:

  • It was recorded by a folk-rock duo from the state of Nebraska (of all places).
  • It held the #1 position on the record charts longer than any other record of that year (even though such notables as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Fifth Dimension, The Temptations, and others also had #1 hits that year).
  • It has no chorus. It just sort of progressed through an imaginary future timeline.
  • It had a unique (and unusual) subtitle; Exordium & Terminus (Beginning & End).

For those who are not “of a certain age” and for those who are, but who may have forgotten this unusual song, I have in mind is In the Year 2525 by (Denny) Zager and (Rick) Evans. (No, I did not remember or even know their first names. I had to look them up.)

Anyway, here are some of the lyrics of that song:

In the year 6565

Ain’t gonna need no husband, won’t need no wife
You’ll pick your son, pick your daughter too
From the bottom of a long glass tube

Folks, we are there! In fact, if my math skills haven’t completely deserted me, we are there 4,551 years earlier than the song predicted.

As evidence of that, consider the following headline from the online edition of The Washington Post of October 2, 2014:

White Woman Sues Sperm Bank after She Mistakenly Gets Black Donor’s Sperm

The opening paragraph of the article states:

An Ohio mom and her same-sex partner are suing a Chicago-area fertility clinic for sending sperm from a black donor instead of the white donor’s sperm that she ordered.

A little further in the article, the reader learns this information:

After poring over pages of donor histories from Midwest Sperm Bank three years ago, Cramblett and her partner, 29-year-old Amanda Zinkon, selected donor No. 380, who was white. Cramblett used the sperm to get pregnant and, months later, the two decided to reserve more sperm from that donor so Zinkon could one day have a child related to the one Cramblett was carrying.

During that process, the couple learned the truth: An employee at the fertility clinic allegedly misread a handwritten order — and Cramblett had been inseminated by donor No. 330, who was black.

So, having a child is no more than a business transaction now. I can’t help but wonder what sort of “return policy” there would be on something like this.

God’s design was and is for one man to marry one woman. Together, they were and are to bring children into the world and nurture and train them.

He is eternal. His will is binding; Zager & Evans and Crablett & Zinkon notwithstanding. For that matter; the government, social pressures, liberal theologians, etc. notwithstanding.

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