Ryan Strother

Five To Focus 03. Encourage By Supporting

Athletes perform better with coaches who support them; someone trying to lose weight will have better success with people supporting them, cheering them on. The same is true with our faith. How can you support others to encourage them to serve God in big ways? Follow Barnabas’ example as you listen to this episode of Five To Focus.

 

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5 Ways To Strengthen Your Faith During Your Commute

  1. Enjoy silence. This idea seems crazy in such a busy world, but it might be the most peaceful time of your day! Sure, you’ll hear vehicles and other sounds, but let silence be a calming morning mercy to help prepare your mind for a productive day. On the way home, let it help you digest the day’s activities, or prepare for being present at home or ready for evening activities.
  2. Pray and/or meditate. It is kind of like Jesus’ getting away in the mornings (Luke 5:16); we just do it in a vehicle. Talk to God while you drive (this might help with your road rage too!). Or use this time to meditate on a passage you read recently. Justin Taylor’s article at the Gospel Coalition summarizes Donald Whitney’s methods of Scripture meditation—try this.
  3. Listen to the Bible.  The YouVersion app (and others) have audio versions of certain translations. Imagine how much of the Bible you could hear while driving! Hearing it will help store it in your heart (Ps 119:11) and will never return void. Many newer vehicles have bluetooth connectivity that would allow you to listen through your phone, or you can find Bibles on CD, maybe even at your library.
  4. Learn with podcasts and audiobooks.  If you’re in the car for 20 or 30 minutes at a time, why not challenge your mind with new information or be encouraged by leaders in different fields? In your podcast app, look up a topic that interests you and explore the options. Again, with bluetooth connectivity, you can listen through your phone in your car. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you are listening to Five To Focus! But search through the Christianity category and you will find many options. Bonus tip:  Most podcast apps allow listening at 1.5x or 2x speed, and you usually can hear every word still while taking less time to listen to a podcast. Audiobooks are very popular now with services like Audible and even OverDrive (free options using your public library card account).
  5. Make Phone Calls. Maybe you’re in a sales position and need to speak with your clients. Maybe you need to talk with a family member or church member. Or maybe you’re a pastor and just need to check in with some of your church members. Imagine if you just made one call a day during your commute. That’s 4 to 5 more contacts with church members every week—and it’s effortless and helpful.

 

Of course, be safe and pay attention to the road!

 

What do you do during your commute?

3 Questions To Ask on Mondays

  1. What is happening this week for which you need to be prepared?
  2. What is happening in the next month for which you need to be prepared?
  3. Who do you need to contact this week?

Pastors, ask yourself or have an assistant ask you these questions as you start the week. I have found them helpful to be better prepared and less forgetful.

What keeps you organized and prepared?

Five To Focus 02. Encourage By Being Generous

We look to Barnabas again to teach us how to be an encouragement to others. How does generosity connect to encouragement, and how you encourage people with your generosity?  Get practical in this episode of Five To Focus.

 

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Sermonary v. Logos Sermon Editor

The only tool like Sermonary that I’m aware of is the Logos Sermon Editor in Logos 7. Sermonary’s Kickstarter campaign was funded so quickly, proving there is a need for something better than Word for preachers to type out sermons.

I backed Sermonary and have been able to play with it for several weeks, and I have been using the Logos Sermon Editor tool for a while now. So, I took notes as I used them side by side and am sharing them here to help other preachers determine what could be helpful for them. Keep in mind that I’m just a simple preacher and do not understand all the technical details of a software platform.

I’ve organized this review into 3 categories: Accessibility, Writing, and Additional Resources.

Accessibility

Sermonary:

  • PRO: Can edit and access everything from any device.
  • CON: Being web-based only has limitations. When they are in maintenance mode on the website, I can’t access my content. And that was VERY inconvenient, especially for a pastor who has a tight schedule with specific times carved out for specific tasks.

Logos:

  • PRO: Not web-based, so you can access it on your computer even without internet connection. Still, everything syncs across devices.
  • CON: Cannot edit on every device. Editing is only possible on the computer. You can view your sermon on every device, but not edit.

Both programs store files on their servers, not taking up space on your computer.

Writing

Sermonary:

  • PRO: The templates, called Block Editor (already existing templates and you can create your own), are excellent for helping write well. You will be sure to include transitions and other important elements that are easy to overlook on a Word document. If the block editor is restrictive for you or you just don’t like it, you can choose to use the Standard Editor, which is just like a Word document. You can still include headers, and you have all the same formatting options.
  • CON: If you change the editor from Block to Standard on the same sermon after you have content typed in, the content does not transfer. The content seems to only stay in the editor mode where you originally typed.
  • PRO: The sermon ideas section is a nice feature. Sure, you could set up an Evernote notebook for this purpose, or possibly even a note within Logos, but it is nice to have everything in one place.

Logos:

  • PRO: You can indent bullets and regular paragraphs at different levels. Sermonary does not offer this feature. You can use bullets but only at one level.
  • PRO: Speaker Notes. I use these every week. I like to give illustrations a blue background color, and notes to self (“Read the passage here…”) a red background color. There are many options here for what you need. However, Sermonary naturally separates all of these elements out and even lets you choose to hide certain elements during podium mode. Sermonary does not, however, include as many options as Logos for this task of speaker notes. Sermonary just added the feature to highlight and change text color, but it does not offer saved formats with background colors or other options.
  • CON: The spell check feature just does not seem to work right. I’ve never been impressed with it. Whereas, Sermonary uses Grammarly or other spell checking programs in your browser.
  • CON: Cannot use voice dictation. I’ve had to use my phone’s Notes app, which syncs with the laptop immediately, then copy and paste to Logos. It’s almost not worth it.

Both use different header styles and your basic word processing tools (bold, italic, etc.).

Additional Resources

Logos Sermon Editor is connected to your Logos library, which can be massive. Another nice feature in Logos is that your sermons will appear in your searches. You might have forgotten that you preached on a certain topic, but your search will show it and will help you remember how you handled a certain text in the past.

Sermonary probably isn’t designed to be like Logos in this regard, but its resources are very useful for making writing easier and better. Being able to include illustrations and commentary is valuable. Some illustrations can be added to your library for free, and you can purchase resources from Sermonary (I don’t believe any are included in the subscription).

One major limitation of Sermonary in this category is being able to quickly insert Bible verses. Logos has the copy Bible verses tool with many options for exporting a verse or passage. Hopefully, preachers are inserting Scripture into their sermons!

Conclusion

If you don’t own Logos 7 with the sermon editor tool, then Sermonary is definitely worth subscribing to. Nothing else like it exists. You’ll be better organized in writing your sermons, have access to some resources if you choose, and have a great “live preaching” tool with your device (although if you can’t rely on internet service while preaching, I’m not sure I would risk Sermonary since it is web-based).

If you already have Logos 7, then stick with it. While Sermonary has nice features, there is nothing there outside of podium mode that warrants a complete switch over.

Whatever you use to write sermons, preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:2)!

 

What do you use for sermon writing?  Share your tips below.

Five to Focus 01: Distracted From Hearing God

Five To Focus, episode 1. Distracted From Hearing God.

Distractions are all around us. This episode looks at a comical situation in Mark 8:11-17 to give practical tips on limiting distractions so you can hear from God through His Word.

 

Sources

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-distraction-online-political-sean-pennperspec-0308-jm-20150313-story.html

Feedback

If you have a suggested topic for an episode of Five To Focus, simply fill out this form. If you would like to discuss this episode, you may comment on this post or interact with @rstro on Twitter.

Are Churches Ready To Meet the Adoption Need?

Not every Christian is called to adopt, but every Christian is mandated to care for orphans (James 1:27). A Child’s Hope Int’l states, “There are approximately 500,000 children in foster care in the United States. It’s estimated that 120,000 are eligible for adoption. With over 400,000 churches in the United States, if one person in every 3rd church would say ‘I’ll take one’ all of the children would have a home.”[1] The church can meet the need.

Now consider this: I heard someone say once that the Church is not ready for Roe v. Wade to be overturned as many would desire. If the children who would have been aborted are not, but are given up for adoption instead, who will raise them? Is the Church ready to meet the need?

Think of the gospel impact the Church could have through adoption. To some degree, adoption is a picture of what Jesus did for us: reaching into a hopeless situation to bring hope and joy and fulfillment of life. Most churches could start by providing foster and adoptive families to their county children’s services. A need always exists there.

If you study soteriology (the study of salvation), you will know that adoption is an incredible part of our salvation. Christians are adopted into the family of God (Galatians 3:23 – 4:7; Romans 8:15-17), and we ought to be grateful! Millard Erickson defines adoption (spiritually) as the “transfer from a status of alienation and hostility to one of acceptance and favor.[2]”

Now think about this: God created physical life and God gives spiritual life (through Jesus Christ, including the process of spiritual adoption).  The Bible only advocates two ways of parents raising children: 1) through the physical process of a husband and wife bringing a child into the world, and 2) through adoption or orphan care (James 1:27). Therefore, raising and caring for children mirrors the work that God has already done.

Adoption illustrates and explains the love of Jesus. Is the church ready to meet the need?

 

How is your church meeting the foster and/or adoption need in your community?

[1] http://thechildrenarewaiting.org/adoption/fostercare
[2] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd Edition (Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, MI, 2013), 891.

 

Fanny Crosby: Faithfulness through Obstacles

What will you do the day before you die? For Fanny Crosby, it was to write another hymn.

Biographies of faithful believers can inspire us to continue living boldly in our faith and Fanny Crosby’s story will not disappoint. If you have ever looked at a hymnal, you have probably seen her name. Other than the Wesley brothers, Fanny Crosby’s name might appear more than any other composer’s name in hymnals. Her hymns are full of theological richness and joy, like “Draw Me Nearer,” “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour,” “Near the Cross,” “Rescue the Perishing,” “I Am Thine, O Lord,” “To God Be the Glory.”

Now let me fill you in on a little of her story.

Frances Jane Crosby was born in Southeast, Putnam County, New York (near Poughkeepsie), on March 24, 1820. She developed an infection in both eyes at just six weeks old, and the doctor’s treatment ended up blinding her for the rest of her life. Toward the end of her first year of life, her father died. Her mother, Mercy, raised her alone and taught Fanny not to turn to self-pity but self-sufficiency.

Crosby enrolled in the New York Institute for the Blind and spent twelve years as a student there and another eleven years as a teacher. She taught a man named Alexander Van Alstyne and eventually married him on March 5, 1858. Alexander was an accomplished organist and composed to the tunes of many of Fanny’s hymns. She collaborated with many great hymnists of her time like William Bradbury and William Doane, and she was published by some popular publishers like Ira Sankey and P.P. Bliss.

Let nothing stop you from serving the Lord in the ways He has gifted you. Fanny certainly overcame adversity. She never let her circumstances paralyze her faith. Crosby died on February 12, 1915, with a total of around 9,000 hymns to her name and her last one written on February 11. I hope we all can have the same kind of faithfulness to the end of our lives!

 

Sources consulted:

  • Nichols, Stephen.  http://5minutesinchurchhistory.com/fanny-crosby
  • Watkins, Keith. “A Few Kind Words For Fanny Crosby.” Worship 51, no 3 (May
    1977): 248-259.

Why I Love Hearse Rides

I always enjoy hearse rides.

After officiating a funeral service, I usually ride in the hearse with the funeral director to the cemetery.

I enjoy those rides because I have great discussions with funeral directors. It is especially interesting to talk with them about their beliefs in life after death because they see death all the time and are naturally confronted with this topic. But in all of the conversations (sometimes about some interesting situations and facts!), none of the funeral directors have told me they have seen a dead body raised to life.

Maybe you have not seen a physical resurrection (I haven’t), but have you ever thought about the joy that comes in seeing spiritual resurrection? We should be proclaiming the gospel and seeing this all the time–dead souls made alive again!

Ephesians 2:1-2 says, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”

Graciously, “even when we were dead in our trespasses, (God) made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5). Once we are made alive, we are given the task of proclaiming the message of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).

I saw a great reminder of the joy and task of participating in spiritual resurrection when I read the words from a hymn called “Soldiers of Christ, In Truth Arrayed.” Basil Manley wrote this hymn for the first graduation ceremony of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary circa 1860.

The first two verses:

Soldiers of Christ, in truth arrayed,
A world in ruins needs your aid:
A world by sin destroyed and dead;
A world for which the Savior bled.

His Gospel to the lost proclaim,
Good news for all in Jesus’ Name;
Let light upon the darkness break
That sinners from their death may wake.

 

I’m thankful that my soul is alive in Christ and I’m thankful that I can participate in God’s mission of seeing souls come alive!

Tyndale and Wycliffe, Strangling and Burning

The Bible caused William Tyndale to be strangled and burned to death–do not take it lightly!

In 1526, Tyndale translated and published the first-ever mechanically-printed New Testament in the English language. The King James Version came out in 1611, and it is remarkable to think that almost 100 years before, producing the Bible in English was considered heresy that would lead to death. Tyndale’s famous last words at his execution came true: “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.” Read More

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