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Archive for the ‘Haggai’ Category

plane-landing-d0000f7d9dc1c79f640c6

I never finished reporting on the wonderful East African Bible Expositors Fellowship back in May. So here goes…

We started Wednesday with Piers Bickersteth on Haggai 1:

  • God at the margins (v1-11) – neglecting the Temple – i.e. neglecting Jesus, neglecting the body of Christ – the double call to “consider your ways”
  • A big surprise (v12) – God’s people for once actually listen and obey the word! Is that how we react to criticism?
  • God at the centre (v13-15) – “I am with you” – the undeserved presence, Jesus’ promise, he has not pushed us to the edge, the Cross says “I am for you”, he is the one who stirs up our spirits to obedience.

Sam Opolot (of Living Word Uganda) then led us through a session on ‘The Main Message: Deciding on the ‘Heart’ of the Lesson’. A number of things came out as we went through this session:

  • At the centre of the sermon preparation process you can either look at it as two steps – 1) finding the big idea of the passage for the original hearers (aimed at them in the past tense) and then 2) converting that into the message you want your contemporary hearer to go away with (addressing them in the present tense) – or you can see it as one step – find the big idea of the text and state it in such a way that it applies not only to the original hearers but also to the present hearers (c.f. Matt. 15:7 when Jesus makes the big idea of Isaiah 29 speak straight to his hearers).
  • But either way, getting to the Big Idea – the core thrust of the text is absolutely critical. If we don’t get that crystal clear and start moving onto the later stages – application, illustration etc. then it’ll all go wrong.
  • We started to realise in this session that this was exactly our problem. We were starting to move toward our hearers and to think how we would preach it but we still hadn’t done enough work on the Big Idea. So we stopped everything, went back to Matthew 13:1-23 and had another ago. We started to think that the key verse was probably v11 or maybe v9. So our best combined effort on a big idea for the passage was: “Blessed are those to whom the secrets of the kingdom have been revealed but those whose eyes are closed reject the Word/Jesus.”

As we started to look at preparing a sermon outline, Piers gave us a brilliant illustration of a well-constructed sermon as a good plane journey. It was so good, and the implications of a bad outline / plane journey so real it had a number of us almost crying with laughter.

So it starts with taxiing to the runway with the pilot making an announcement, “Good evening, this is the flight to X, we’ll be climbing to an altitude of Y, passing A, B, C, turn East over Lake D before descending to our destination. During the flight we’ll be serving dinner, then there will be a movie, then you are welcome to sleep for a few hours, in the morning we’ll serve a light breakfast before beginning the final descent.” Then the plane gets onto the runway, picks up speed and gently climbs into the sky. Once it’s levelled out there is the meal, then the movie, then the sleep, then the breakfast. Sometimes there are announcements that we are moving from one of these to the next but often there’s no need because a) they were announced beforehand, b) the things that are happening (like dishes being cleared away or lights being turned out) make it pretty obvious, and c) there is a natural logical flow between the stages anyway. Then the plane starts to gently descend before touching down smoothly on the tarmac, slowing, coming off the runway and before long parked at the terminal with the engines off.

What cracked us up was thinking about sermons that we’d given or heard which were basically vertical takeoff, or where the meal, movie and sleep were in the wrong order or all muddled up, or where we were never very clear where we were headed, or where the destination changed half way through and we veered off to another airport, or where the plane just dropped out of the sky and crashed, or where it landed but then took off again and flew around a bit more before a second attempt at a landing…

The illustration seems almost perfect and capable of endless extensions. The only problem we thought of was that it doesn’t work so well if you haven’t flown. It’s a bit elitist. So we were trying to think how you could adapt it for a bus journey…

Overall, it was great few days of fellowship together in Lweza. Great food, lots of fun, lots of refreshment and challenge from the Word.

Looking at 1 Thessalonians was a great way to end:

  • We need to keep focused on preaching the gospel word – this will be hard work, we will face opposition, we will need to refuse some invitations to preach to give sufficient time to each commitment, we will need to burn candles as we labour at the text, but we start in our weakness knowing that the power is in Jesus not in our skill or effort
  • We need to keep one another devoted to Jesus, encouraging one another with the gospel of his saving us from the wrath to come and with the prospect of his return
  • We need to keep praying for one another with joy and thanksgiving

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