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Tis' the season of turning tassels. If your family is like ours, your calendar is full of graduation ceremonies and parties to attend. Since we all have a call to impact the next generation with God's Truth (Titus 2:1-5), this time of year presents an exciting and unique opportunity. The graduates in our spheres of influence are at a crossroads, eager to find purpose and identity. Instead of simply offering platitudes and “Atta Boys/Girls” we can seize this moment and hold high the banner of Truth.Here are some ideas for how to bless the graduate in your world by giving gifts that matter.Most graduates might initially disagree, but it's been long enough since my own graduations for me to realize that there are many gifts more important than money. Instead of stuffing some cash in the card you just took so much time to write, consider these gift ideas designed to help you do more than celebrate graduation, but to pass the baton of faith to the next generation. Your graduate needs more than adorable dorm decor; they need resources to keep them rooted and grounded in God's Word. Through years of student and college ministry, these have become some of my favorites.Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/bieshutterb
Most people believe journalists will lie to them. According to Gallup, only 36 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the media and there are lots of reasons why.Most recently, the legacy media has finally decided to admit it really was Hunter Biden’s laptop found in a pawnshop loaded with incriminating information, including incriminating information about Joe Biden, just before the 2020 election. When the media partnered with the Biden campaign to claim it was Russian disinformation, they weren’t telling the truth.They also told the nation a high school kid from Kentucky, Nick Sandmann, was racist because they didn’t like the look on his face, they said border patrol was whipping Haitian immigrants on horseback when they weren’t, and described riots they were sympathetic to as “fiery but mostly peaceful protests.” Big media has earned every bit of skepticism they receive.As a result, many have viewed coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine skeptically. More than one month since the start of the unprovoked invasion, Russia has been brutal. Russian troops have attacked hospitals, including maternity hospitals, residential areas and apartment buildings, and refugee evacuation routes. A bombing of a Ukrainian theater where civilians were sheltering is estimated to have killed 300 people. Overwhelming public evidence and intelligence sources led Secretary of State Antony Blinken to officially declare that Russia is committing war crimes.It is in situations like these that mistrust of the media can go too far. Rather than express shock and sympathy, there is almost a temptation to explain away the legacy media’s narrative. Some of us have become so cynical we assume everything we are being told is false. If they tell us Russia is the bad guy, they must be the good guy. If they tell us Ukraine is an innocent victim of a ruthless dictator, they must be the ruthless dictator.We saw something similar, but different, happen recently when right-wing pundit Dave Rubin announced, along with his same-sex partner, that they are expecting two babies through surrogacy. In the past, Rubin tended to align more with the Left but developed an appreciation for the dangers of wokeness and stood up to the Left’s attempts to silence speech and punish those they disagree with. Upon his announcement, many conservatives, including professing social conservatives at Prager University and Glenn Beck’s Blaze TV, were quick to congratulate Rubin, apparently out of personal affection. It’s one thing to wish Dave Rubin well in life despite choices we disagree with—it’s another thing to celebrate decisions and developments we know to be wrong because the person doing the wrong thing is someone we generally like.Which leads to the larger point.As Christians, we must evaluate the truthfulness of a claim or the goodness of an action without regard to tribal identification or our personal feelings about the people involved. This is what the Apostle Peter refers to as being soberminded. We often think of sobriety as the opposite of drunkenness, but alcohol is not the only thing that can impair our mental capacity. Our emotions can be just as intoxicating. Peter warned us about the danger of emotional intoxication when he instructed us to, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Mental intoxication makes it easy for others to deceive us and makes it easy for us to deceive ourselves.Sober-mindedness is an underrated yet important qualification for leadership in the church (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 2:2). Someone who determines what is true based on how they feel is poorly equipped to lead people, especially the people of God.
5 Imperatives for Preachers I recall the first time a little girl asked me to sign her Bible after I had preached in the fall of 1972. Signing my autograph was easy, but I knew it was customary for preachers to put a verse beneath their names. For some reason, 2 Timothy 4:1–8, came to my mind and since then I have always used those verses with my signature. When God called me to preach, I knew I had very little to offer God, but I knew that His Word was powerful and could change lives forever. I have asked God to let my preaching be dominated with His Word, rather than my opinion, my advice, or my experiences.I love the admonition of Paul to Timothy—preach the Word! Preach means “to cry out, herald, or exhort.” Haddon W. Robinson states, “Preaching should so stir a man that he pours out the message with passion and fervor. Not all passionate pleading from a pulpit, however, possesses divine authority. When a preacher speaks as a herald, he must cry out ‘the Word.' Anything less cannot legitimately pass for Christian preaching.”Paul goes on to say in 2 Timothy 4:2,“…be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” Like a military officer, the aged apostle gives five important imperatives to young Timothy as he begins his ministry of preaching.1. ReadinessThe command to, “Be instant in season, out of season” carries the picture of a soldier on duty, ready for battle at any moment. Dr. B. Myron Cedarholm used to tell us “preacher boys” in college to always be ready, “To preach, pray, or die.” Preaching is not something we do only when we feel like it or when the audience is receptive to our message. Later in verses 3–4, Paul reminds us, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” Harold T. Bryson reminds us that “the proclaimer of God's Word needs to stay with the task of preaching whether he feels like it or not…. The preacher must be faithful to preach the Word regardless of whether listeners welcome it, reject it, or ignore it.”2. ReproveThe next imperative—to “reprove”—applies to human reason. This word carries the idea of a lawyer cross-examining or questioning a witness. Refuting error or proving something wrong is a huge part of the preacher's responsibility. A few verses earlier in 2 Timothy 3:16, the Holy Spirit reminds us that the Word of God is profitable for reproof. In Titus 1:9–11 we see that a preacher must be one who is, “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake.” Ephesians 5:11 states, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Bryson explains, “To reprove in preaching means to present the axioms of the Christian faith or to refute in a reasoned manner the errors marshaled against the faith.”3. RebukeIn the first century, the verb rebuke referred to moral censure. When people turn from the truth of God's Word, often the next step is into sin. As preachers, we must be willing to confront people with what the Bible says about their sin. In 1 Timothy 5:20, Paul stated, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” In Titus 1:12–13, he says, “…the Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” Like Nathan of old, the preacher must be willing to expose sin and declare, “Thou art the man.” Preaching must reach the conscience of a man if change is to take place.4. ReviveThe word exhort in our passage has a double meaning, in that it means “to comfort” as well as “to urge.” Many today are hurting in despair, discouragement, and disappointment. The preacher must revive the heart of the despondent with the Word of God. But he must also urge and persuade the apathetic to action. Reviving the indifferent to obedience is needed today in this Laodicean age of “going through the motions” and “comfort zone” Christianity. The need of this hour is revival, and the preacher of God's Word must exhort God's people to awaken out of their sleep and redeem the time.5. RemainThen Paul tells the preacher that he must do all of this with, “All longsuffering and doctrine.” Preaching requires a faithful patience. The seed must be sown, then watered, cultivated, fertilized, and, in time, harvested. James uses the farmer as our example in James 5:7–8: “…behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts….” As we are faithful, God promises to give the increase. “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10–11). No other endeavor in life promises those kinds of results!Bryson again writes, “Anyone desiring to be a preacher must hear the imperative, ‘Preach the Word!' and then begin to obey the mandate. Preaching the Word is the task of a born-again believer who has received a unique call of God. When God calls anyone to expound the Bible, He bestows the gift of expounding. God gives abilities to interpret, skills to communicate, and competence for speaking. But God's gifts do not come without human cooperation. The preacher must study the Bible, learn people's needs, develop communication skills, learn sermon organization skills, and develop constantly in the many areas of the preaching task. To preach the Word means to act as if everything in preaching depends on God and to work as if everything depends on the preacher. Preaching involves a pilgrimage full of glories, challenges, discouragements, delights, failures, improvements, and possibilities.“The message of the biblical preacher is the most important message in the world. It calls for an all-out human effort coupled with the supernatural moving of the Holy Spirit, in both preparation and presentation. This involves hard work. There is no substitute.”Preaching requires a 24/7 commitment. The message cannot be separated from the messenger. Good food served with dirty hands is undesirable. The construction of our homiletics and the condition of our hearts must be in harmony.
5 Imperatives for Preachers I recall the first time a little girl asked me to sign her Bible after I had preached in the fall of 1972. Signing my autograph was easy, but I knew it was customary for preachers to put a verse beneath their names. For some reason, 2 Timothy 4:1–8, came to my mind and since then I have always used those verses with my signature. When God called me to preach, I knew I had very little to offer God, but I knew that His Word was powerful and could change lives forever. I have asked God to let my preaching be dominated with His Word, rather than my opinion, my advice, or my experiences.I love the admonition of Paul to Timothy—preach the Word! Preach means “to cry out, herald, or exhort.” Haddon W. Robinson states, “Preaching should so stir a man that he pours out the message with passion and fervor. Not all passionate pleading from a pulpit, however, possesses divine authority. When a preacher speaks as a herald, he must cry out ‘the Word.' Anything less cannot legitimately pass for Christian preaching.”Paul goes on to say in 2 Timothy 4:2,“…be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” Like a military officer, the aged apostle gives five important imperatives to young Timothy as he begins his ministry of preaching.1. ReadinessThe command to, “Be instant in season, out of season” carries the picture of a soldier on duty, ready for battle at any moment. Dr. B. Myron Cedarholm used to tell us “preacher boys” in college to always be ready, “To preach, pray, or die.” Preaching is not something we do only when we feel like it or when the audience is receptive to our message. Later in verses 3–4, Paul reminds us, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” Harold T. Bryson reminds us that “the proclaimer of God's Word needs to stay with the task of preaching whether he feels like it or not…. The preacher must be faithful to preach the Word regardless of whether listeners welcome it, reject it, or ignore it.”2. ReproveThe next imperative—to “reprove”—applies to human reason. This word carries the idea of a lawyer cross-examining or questioning a witness. Refuting error or proving something wrong is a huge part of the preacher's responsibility. A few verses earlier in 2 Timothy 3:16, the Holy Spirit reminds us that the Word of God is profitable for reproof. In Titus 1:9–11 we see that a preacher must be one who is, “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake.” Ephesians 5:11 states, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Bryson explains, “To reprove in preaching means to present the axioms of the Christian faith or to refute in a reasoned manner the errors marshaled against the faith.”3. RebukeIn the first century, the verb rebuke referred to moral censure. When people turn from the truth of God's Word, often the next step is into sin. As preachers, we must be willing to confront people with what the Bible says about their sin. In 1 Timothy 5:20, Paul stated, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” In Titus 1:12–13, he says, “…the Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” Like Nathan of old, the preacher must be willing to expose sin and declare, “Thou art the man.” Preaching must reach the conscience of a man if change is to take place.4. ReviveThe word exhort in our passage has a double meaning, in that it means “to comfort” as well as “to urge.” Many today are hurting in despair, discouragement, and disappointment. The preacher must revive the heart of the despondent with the Word of God. But he must also urge and persuade the apathetic to action. Reviving the indifferent to obedience is needed today in this Laodicean age of “going through the motions” and “comfort zone” Christianity. The need of this hour is revival, and the preacher of God's Word must exhort God's people to awaken out of their sleep and redeem the time.5. RemainThen Paul tells the preacher that he must do all of this with, “All longsuffering and doctrine.” Preaching requires a faithful patience. The seed must be sown, then watered, cultivated, fertilized, and, in time, harvested. James uses the farmer as our example in James 5:7–8: “…behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and the latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts….” As we are faithful, God promises to give the increase. “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10–11). No other endeavor in life promises those kinds of results!Bryson again writes, “Anyone desiring to be a preacher must hear the imperative, ‘Preach the Word!' and then begin to obey the mandate. Preaching the Word is the task of a born-again believer who has received a unique call of God. When God calls anyone to expound the Bible, He bestows the gift of expounding. God gives abilities to interpret, skills to communicate, and competence for speaking. But God's gifts do not come without human cooperation. The preacher must study the Bible, learn people's needs, develop communication skills, learn sermon organization skills, and develop constantly in the many areas of the preaching task. To preach the Word means to act as if everything in preaching depends on God and to work as if everything depends on the preacher. Preaching involves a pilgrimage full of glories, challenges, discouragements, delights, failures, improvements, and possibilities.“The message of the biblical preacher is the most important message in the world. It calls for an all-out human effort coupled with the supernatural moving of the Holy Spirit, in both preparation and presentation. This involves hard work. There is no substitute.”Preaching requires a 24/7 commitment. The message cannot be separated from the messenger. Good food served with dirty hands is undesirable. The construction of our homiletics and the condition of our hearts must be in harmony.
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