Thursday, September 26, 2013

Are You Getting Healed at Church?

It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?  Are you getting healed at church?  I am not talking necessarily about physical healing, but spiritual and emotional healing.  Are you hearing anything during a church service that can bring healing to your life?

In his book, Rewiring Your Preaching:  How the Brain Processes Sermons, author Richard Cox, who is both an ordained minister and a medical doctor, describes the effect sermons have on the human brain.

While Cox describes many ways the human brain is affected by preaching, one of his statements caught my eye the other day.  He wrote this, “Many view public preaching as education, lecturing, instruction, teaching and edification, and it is all of that, but infinitely more.  At the very base, preaching is healing in the deepest and broadest sense of the word healing, for to heal is to make whole.” (pg. 63)

Preaching is healing in the deepest and broadest sense.  I guess I knew that, but it is interesting that there actually some physiological evidence to back that up.  Preaching is healing because it is worship.  It draws the person into a unique encounter with the Living God.  Preaching reminds us of God’s holiness, His salvation and His grace.  No longer are we alone, struggling by ourselves, imprisoned by the guilt of our sin.  In Christ, God has set us free to live for Him.  Preaching enhances our faith, and faith, as the Bible makes clear, is an indispensable part of the healing process.  Preaching offers hope, that certain reminder that our all-powerful, utterly good, promise-keeping God is aware of our circumstances and has an eternal purpose He is moving toward.  All these things positively affect the physiology of our brain and are able to move us toward wholeness in mind and spirit.

But Cox also has some words of warning for folks like me.  

“Good preaching must be applied uniquely to the preacher before it can be made public, thus allowing the power of the sermon to heal the messenger first.  The preacher first digests the message and, after finding the discourse instructive and healing, is able to apply it to others.  If the preacher is not made more whole by the content, there is little hope that others will benefit from it either.  After the preacher has faced the truths and convictions of the Word in the privacy of the study and personal prayer, it may then – and only then – be viewed as appropriate for congregational consumption.”  (p. 63)

Pastors, take those words to heart.  Your sermon should be doing a healing work in you first before it does a healing work in your flock.  And for those who are not pastors – you now know how to pray for your pastor.  Pray that as your pastor studies and prepares, that God’s Word would move them toward greater wholeness, thus equipping them to offer a message of hope and healing their flock as well.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Book Review – Gods at War by Kyle Idleman

Out of all the 10 Commandments, it is the commandment we break most often.  And it is also likely the hardest commandment to detect when we are guilty of breaking it.  What is that commandment?  "You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:3, ESV)  Or, in other words, don’t worship idols.  Yet that is what is so easy to do – to set something God created up in our lives as the most important thing.  It is so easy to set an aspect of creation up as god, dethroning the One who should be on the throne of our lives.

Idolatry is the topic of Pastor Kyle Idleman’s recent book, Gods at War:  Defeating the Idols that Battle for your Heart.  As Idleman puts it, gods of various types are at war for our souls.  On one side is the God of the universe, the One who created it all, and the One for whom the universe is created to glorify.  On the other side are various other gods, created things and earthly ideas, that war for control of our souls and our lives.  The question Idleman asks is piercing – who controls our heart?  The Creator or some aspect of the creation?

If any of you enjoyed and were challenged by Idleman’s previous book, Not a Fan, you will get the same kind of treatment here.  Idleman is both self-depreciatingly humorous and hard-hitting at the same time.  The book is easy to read yet hard to swallow.  The concepts click immediately, but it is a painful challenge to apply them to our hearts and lives.

The war that is being raged in our lives is being raged in our hearts.  What do our hearts treasure?  What do our hearts worship?  Creation, tainted by sin, has many things for us to treasure and worship.  It presents many ways to grab and hold our hearts.  And when our hearts are captured, our behavior follows.  Yet God, the One who created it all, the One who sent Jesus, the One who loves us with an everlasting love, is a jealous God.  He does not want to share our heart with anyone or anything.  He created us to be His and His alone.

Gods at War spends the time to dissect many of the common idols we struggle with in our world.  The gods of food, sex, entertainment, success, money, achievement, romance, family and me are all laid bare, revealed in all their counterfeit godhood.  They can never truly satisfy.  Their pleasures are fleeting and earthly.  They make all kinds of promises, but they can never truly fulfill them in a way that lasts.  After each chapter, Idleman leads the reader to examine themselves.  Through a series of penetrating questions and then some devotional thoughts, he challenges the idols in our lives and reminds us of who the true God really is.  He reminds us that only God can truly satisfy and only life in Christ is eternal and lasting.

Grab a copy and prepare to have your idols exposed.  And then prepare to enter the gracious presence of our God, the one who can destroy the power of those idols in our lives and make us into people who place Him in His rightful place – on the throne of our hearts.