Weekly Podcast- Five To Focus

Take 5 minutes every week to focus on your faith and life. Think of it as a mini biblical counseling session. Each episode will explain a concept from Scripture to help you find freedom in Christ and dig your roots deeper into His purposes for you.

5 Reasons Why I Prepare A Sermon Manuscript

Higher-impact vocabulary and illustrations.

When you take time to write everything out, you can more carefully craft your words for greater impact than if you get up there with some main ideas from bullet points.

RG Lee, long-time pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, was known as a master orator and wordsmith. For example, his famous “Payday Someday” sermon included the line, “I introduce to you Ahab, the vile human toad who squatted upon the throne of his nation.”

The same goes for illustrations–manuscripting forces you to take time to think through every part of the sermon, even the illustrations. I know some preachers who are skilled at giving illustrations off the cuff, but I tend to think through mine beforehand if they are actually going to help people connect the doctrinal truth to the illustration.

People might better remember those well-crafted lines and thoughtful illustrations, which hopefully leads to better memory of the meaning of the passage being preached.

Reduces the likelihood of Speaking Tics.

I used to create a bulleted outline with main points and then sub-bullets. But when time comes to actually preach, if you haven’t thought through all of your words, then you’re more likely to let out those tics. Mine were uh and right?. Listening to my sermon recordings and manuscripting helped fix that (I’m not perfect but its better!).

Creates smoother transitions between points.

Similar to higher-impact vocabulary, manuscripting makes transitions between main points smoother and easier for the listener to distinguish. I remember listening to sermons growing up and then wondering what did he just preach? Some of that is the listener’s fault, but sometimes it is the preacher’s fault for not giving clear navigation throughout the sermon. Manuscripting forces you to think through the introduction and conclusion to make them effective.

When I was using bulleted lists, I didn’t focus well on the intro or conclusion. I would just sometimes start by saying, we’re looking at Matthew 12:1-6 today so turn there and let’s go. Yikes! Thankfully, far better ways of introducing a sermon exist.

Allows the message to marinate longer to increase effective delivery.

In a normal week, I’ve got the manuscript for Sunday finished by Thursday, which allows for plenty of time to be thinking on it. I don’t memorize manuscripts and just read them, but manuscripting allows it to be pretty well ingrained in my brain by Sunday.

One Sunday morning, I placed my iPad (I use to display my manuscript) down and another church leader placed his stuff on mine. He had a similar looking device and accidentally took my iPad. I didn’t realize that I didn’t have it until I got up to preach and it was too late to get it. But the sermon content had marinated enough by then that I knew where I was going and I trusted the Holy Spirit to do his work.

Ease of Reference for Future Study.

I am able to look back quickly on how I handled a certain verse or when I used that illustration. I nearly treat it like writing a paper in that I usually put citations in my manuscripts so I can see where I got a definition or a quote. It is also nice to be able to pull up a manuscript in short notice to preach if needed. Maybe you’re filling in for somewhere who got sick at the last minute or you’re on a mission trip and the unexpected opportunity comes. You can quickly pull up a manuscript from a previous sermon, review it, and preach away!

 

How have you found manuscripting beneficial?

 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Showing Appreciation for Your Friends

“Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, CSB)

 

Have you ever paused long enough to be thankful for the people in your life? The friends and family members who continue to shape you, encourage you, support you, and teach you. It has been refreshing to me to do this over the last month, and I would encourage you to do the same.

Whether you realize it or not, the people around you sharpen you. Recently I’ve had this thought:  I can’t believe that I get to know him/her. I have been so blessed by seeing how people around me use their abilities and giftedness to serve the Lord and others, and their commitments sharpen me. We might not be in the same line of work, but their character is refreshing and leaves me proud to know them and learn from them.

I am so proud of people around me doing some incredible things: publishing books, leading university bands, motivating people in their organization as a supervisor, single mothers taking on the world, a dad who works hard hours and still serves his wife and young child well–I could just keep going on. They may not realize they are teaching anyone anything as they are accomplishing the world, but their skills, determination, and integrity are sharpening me.

We should be grateful for friends! Here are a few ideas on how you can show appreciation to these people in their lives:

  • Tell them you are grateful. Seems simple, but have you? Tell them face-to-face or send a note somehow.

 

  • Listen well and don’t control the time you are together. It is easy to dominate conversations because we are naturally selfish, but taking time to really listen to others shows them how valuable they are to you.

 

  • Get into their world. Show interest in what they value. Support their hobbies and events and try new activities with them. I would have never climbed Seneca Rock if my friends didn’t invite me; and I would not have learned a lot of valuable lessons through that trip.
  • Be humble. This might be the necessary attitude behind all of these ideas, but if we do not consider others more highly than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), then we might not be in a position to have friends around!

 

 

 

How do you show appreciation for the people around you?   

 

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

Samson Reveals Your Weakness to Save Yourself

Since I grew up in church and “knew all the answers,” I was blinded to the fact that I needed to be saved from my sin. I thought the message of Jesus and the cross was just for others out there who were doing the really bad stuff. Essentially, I thought I could save myself by my knowledge and behavior.

If you are in a similar situation like I was, Samson could be helpful. Samson might be the most popular person in the Bible who was under the Nazarite vow, but it is also thought that Samuel was under the vow (1 Sam. 1:11-28; Hannah specifically mentions not cutting the hair); John the Baptist (Luke 1:15; no wine or strong drink); and the Apostle Paul (Acts 18:18; he cut his hair because he was under a vow-maybe at the end of a Nazarite vow).  Nazarite is a word that derives from a Hebrew word (Nazar) meaning “consecrated or devoted one.”

Let me highlight details from Numbers 6 where we first read about the Nazarite vow:

  • Voluntary vow by Israelite to separate himself to the Lord
  • no wine and strong drink
  • no vinegar made from wine or strong drink
  • no juice of grapes, no grapes (fresh or dried)
  • nothing produced by the grapevine (not even seeds or skins)
  • no razor shall touch the head
  • nowhere near dead bodies
  • for a specific period of time

Three things are unusual concerning Samson’s Nazarite vow:

  • He did not take it voluntarily; it was his lot from the womb (Judg. 13:5, 7).
  • It was not limited in time; it was to last to the day of his death (vv. 5, 7; cf. 1 Sam. 1:11; Luke 1:15 for similar situations).
  • He broke every one of its stipulations: his head was sheared (Judg. 16:17, 19); he associated with the dead (14:6–9; 15:15); and he undoubtedly drank at his wedding feast (14:10–20; see note on 14:10).

Still, God called Samson out for a specific mission. At the end of v.5, we are told that Samson would start to save the Israelites from the Philistines. The cultural situation isn’t anything new to us by now. The Israelites had turned to their own ways and were serving other gods. God gave them into the hand of the Philistines for 40 years. The Philistines would continue to oppose God’s people and the Israelites wouldn’t find relief from them until near the end of King David’s life as you can read about in 2 Samuel 21. There are a few mentions of the Philistines after David, but David was able to break their power.

So, Samson was given great strength to be able to basically single-handedly take care of the Philistines. We know this was God’s strength upon Samson because the strength stopped when Samson’s hair was cut, which was the last part of his vow to be broken.

You can look at this information about Samson and a Nazarite vow and say so what? Here’s what I hope you will see:

The Nazarite vow was a voluntary claim to say I’m going to be holy.

Salvation today is God’s claim to say I’ve made you holy.

Samson is an example of someone who tried to be righteous but failed apart from the power of God–like me before I understood the power of Jesus and salvation.

Jesus Christ did what no Old Testament leader did—He broke the power of sin and death, and now you can be declared righteous and enabled to live a life of holiness if you profess faith in Jesus and trust Him to save you.

Even the strongest man in the Bible wasn’t powerful enough to save himself. If I were you, I wouldn’t try either.

 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Quick August Update

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Five To Focus 40. Wages According to Labor

The most encouraging truth you might hear today is what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:8. You will be rewarded according to your labor, not according to the growth. We need to persevere in our service to God even if we get disappointed with what we think is happening as a result.

 

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.

Don’t Negotiate With God

Last week we looked at Jepthah’s example in Judges 11 of how to lead with faith by being empowered by God’s work in the past. This week, let’s finish that conversation by knowing that leading with faith means we are persuaded by God’s promises for the future.  

Jepthah seemed like a rational guy when negotiating with the king of the Ammonites. But when the King of the Ammonites would not listen war couldn’t be avoided, Jepthah moves into battle with the Spirit of the Lord upon him.

It is important to note that God empowered Jephthah for the battle that is coming, and Jephthah had already declared that the king of the Ammonites was really messing with God, not him. You would think that Jephthah knew that he was being used by the Lord to bring about justice on the Ammonites. But then you read the crazy account of verses 30-40, which centers on Jepthah’s vow to the Lord in Judges 11:30-31:

And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD and said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.”

The first thing out of his door when he returned home was his only child–his daughter.

Why did Jephthah feel like he has to make a vow to the Lord when he clearly knew God’s work and power in the past?

He sounds like a desperate, scared person at the end of his rope—if you do this, then I’ll do that.

Jephthah is not persuaded by God’s promises for the future. The Spirit of the Lord was already upon Him. Instead, he reverts back to negotiating, but this time he tries to negotiate with God and not men. Negotiation has its place among people, but don’t negotiate with God–you really do not have anything that He needs.

Negotiation can be masked as making a commitment. If this, then that. Lord, I’ll do anything if you just help me…  But it’s a form of bribery. Lord, I really want a certain outcome, so I’ll offer up my services to you.

You’re basically saying God, you really need what I have to offer, so why don’t you do this, and then I’ll let you have what I have to offer.

What a flippant statement to make to the Creator and Almighty of the Universe! Negotiation is the antithesis of faith because we aren’t trusting God to do what we know he can do; we’re trying to bribe God to do what we think he should do.

When you lead, you need to be persuaded by God’s promises for the future. In other words, leading with faith based upon the promises you find in God’s Word. You need to submit your decisions and actions to the Word of God.  

We need to lead with faith, powered by God’s work in the past and persuaded by His promises for the future.

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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