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PREACHING WITH THE AMAZON KINDLE

I am a bibliophile, and I like being that way. 

For me a book is a beautiful thing in and of itself.  Harper Lee once wrote that it was a sin to kill a mockingbird, for me it is a sin to throw a book away.  Books should be kept and treasured.  When their bindings begin to come undone, use a little tape to firm it up and treat it with extra care. 

A bookshelf lined with various volumes is my favorite piece of furniture.

My favorite book is the Bible.

This is why I was surprised when I used the Amazon Kindle and liked it.  I’ve read a couple of full books on the Kindle, and my daughters have read several.  A friend from church gave it to us a while back, and I’ve slowly warmed to it.  So much so that the last two weeks I have used it while preaching in place of my fully awesome lambskin black ESV single column Bible.  I wondered if there would be a difference in the experience by using the digital reader instead of a paper and ink.  There was.

  • For starters, the Kindle is so much lighter than a Bible that it is easier to handle.  Because of the lightweight nature of it I find I do not worry about dropping it or bending pages and all the other things that run through the mind while handling a big book. 
  • Two Sundays ago I used it to read a large section of Scripture from John 6 and loved the way the Kindle’s “next page” function helped me read smoother.  There was no page turning—no noise in the microphone, no licking thumbs, no pause while the page settles.  The next page of text just popped up instantly.  
  • I also liked how the Kindle font was bigger than the font on a printed page.  I could see it better.  

There are however, some limitations to using the Kindle Bible in a preaching setting.  The most glaring one is that to change from one part of the Bible to the next, the user has to go back to the menu and then use that tiny little button to navigate through the books.  Heaven help the person who needs to get to Malachi or Amos.  That button is the second negative.  If I’m just preaching from a single text, then the Kindle is fine but my fat, stubby, arthritic fingers have a very hard time using that stick out joystick button “thingy.”

I think I am going to try and use the Kindle from now through Easter to keep experimenting with it.  The net effect has been positive, and I bet my Kindle can do things I don’t know it can do and I am anxious to learn those.  I’ve noticed many people at church come with their Kindle, and I hope by my using it we can encourage people that the Word of God is not about the format it is in, but whether or not we read and study it.  If the Kindle helps with that, then I want to affirm it.

RETRO SONGS MAKE GREAT SERMON TITLES

Each December I plan my sermon preaching schedule—text or topic and series emphasis—for the entire coming year.  But I work on it all year, writing down ideas for the upcoming year.  So, I’m already thinking about what I might preach in 2012.  One of the things on my mind is the possibility of a series of topical sermons that have titles based on retro-songs.

1.  “Love Shack”—This B-52’s classic is a great title for talking about the way in which Christians should love one another.  Then the sermon could take a turn to describe exactly how this love is shown in the context of messy church life.

2.  “Living on a Prayer”—Bon Jovi sang about desperate times.  I’m thinking I could craft the sermon to be about how our everyday lives could be guided by prayers all along the way.  Waking prayers, devotional prayers, prayers said while grooming, prayers for work, prayers for noontime, prayers in the afternoon, prayers at dinner, and nighttime prayers.

3.  “Beat It” –The first music video I ever saw was Michael Jackson’s cautionary tale about fleeing from a dangerous situation.  I think this would be a great sermon about how to avoid sin and temptation. 

4.  “Suspicious Minds”—Okay you know I had to get Elvis in there.  This could be a sermon about how trust is necessary in human relationships, particularly marriage.  I can easily see, though, extending it out to include parent-child relationships as well as to friendship.

5.  “Stairway to Heaven”—This one is easy.  First, some time could be spent unpacking some theological imagery already inherent in the song and then talk about how Jesus came to earth and that the cross sort of makes a stairway to heaven which allows us, through Christ’s sacrifice and our following him, to enter into heaven.

6.  “With or Without You”—Okay, I freely admit I could preach a sermon based on many U2 songs because many of them are theologically rich with obvious biblical connections.  But this one is the only one I would use in this series.  What I would do is focus on how God’s will and plan is doing with or without us.  Our greatest joy is to participate in his work and be a part of the celebration.

7.  “Welcome to the Jungle”—No retro list would be complete without something from G-N-R, right?  So this sermon would feature a description of the world as a spiritually dangerous place in which we must be careful.  Perhaps 1 John would be the best place to jump off of.

Whether I preach these or not I do not know.  Regardless, it was fun thinking about it.  Maybe its time to push play on my 80’s playlist on the old iPhone.

APOLOGETICS MARRIAGE CONFERENCE

Recently I was invited by my super-cool publisher, Anthony Horvath to participate in his second internet apologetics conference.  I was a part of the line-up last year and had a great time talking about literary apologetics.  This year the theme is marriage.  While it is tempting to just show scenes from The Princess Bride as the material for my talk, I decided instead to actually try to say something.  Now, since I am a pastor who likes to give his opinion, and they invited me to talk, I assume they have a taste for pastoral opinions.  Therefore, this year I’m just letting it rip.  Below I have posted a brief section of material for your preview.

I see stress on families that goes deeper than are people staying married or getting married.  One of these is economic stress. 

Economic stress exists in several strains.  One is the stress of underemployed people having to cobble together multiple jobs, none of which are very fulfilling, in order to make ends meet.  This type of economic stress has destroyed many couples notions of time together, weekends away, or family vacations.  It is a shock to me how many families in our church never take a family vacation.  It is not so much that they can’t afford it, it is that they work in so many disparate places which are not professional in nature and there is no vacation allotment. 

A second aspect of economic stress is the pressure put on young people who want to get married by their Baby boomer parents to wait until they are ‘financially stable’ to do so.  I hate to break the news, but young couples who just get married are never financially stable.  It’s okay to be poor. 

Kim and I were so poor when we got married that a Methodist charity paid for the ICU bill of our first daughter while I was attending a Baptist seminary and all we ate for a year was waffles because someone gave us a waffle iron and the mix was cheap.  It’s okay to be poor and work your way through.  It creates gratitude and hard work.  But I will never eat a waffle again, but I am thankful for those waffles.

There is a third type of economic stress . . .

. . . a secondary stressor which is time.  I’ve already talked about multiple jobs, but now factor in such things as gymnastics, school plays, little league, church, and don’t forget soccer.  If I were king of the world, I would outlaw children’s soccer leagues.  I’ve seen more families fall away from the faith because they enroll their children in soccer leagues which practice three nights a week and then play games every Saturday and Sunday morning.  Curiously, many of these same families often end up in marital trouble or even divorce. 

There is a correlation.

One more time stressor, and I suppose this is the pastor inside of me speaking, but digital social networks are killing marriages.  I love Facebook and all my Facebook friends and I am trying to get used to Twitterfication and they can be powerful tools for connecting and ministry.  In fact, I often do a lot of pastoring on Facebook with the people in my church and with people I’m connected to in other ways.  But if a husband or a wife spends more time per day on Facebook than he or she does with his or her spouse, trouble is brewing.  It’s the age-old problem of emotional adultery . . .  

And that brings me to the last stress on marriage that I wish to share.  This is the sex and romance stressor.  Somewhere . . .

WANT TO SEE MORE?  You can by registering for the online conference right now, just click here

 

BONHOEFFER, METAXAS AND ME

One of the kind women in our church somehow spied my reading wish list and saw Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas on it so she bought it for me.  That is no small thing, as this is a fairly expensive book.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and told the author so by sending him an email.  He actually wrote me back, which was pretty cool.  I do this for most authors I read who are living, as I’ve found it difficult to do for those who are dead (oddly, much of what I read was written by dead people.)  I find it interesting how a lot of authors never write back.

I’ve studied Bonhoeffer’s works in seminary and on my own, so I was familiar with his theology but I did not know that much about his life other than he resisted the Nazi’s, spent some time in America, and was eventually executed by the Nazi’s because of his role in the plot to assassinate Hitler and overthrow the Nazis.  Metaxas’ thorough book filled in so many gaps.  I learned much.

  • I did not know that Bonhoeffer had such a negative view of the church in the United States.  He seemed to think of us as a shallow cesspool of lazy theology.  Metaxas paints the portrait of him barely able to stomach the preaching of Fosdick or those like him.  I was aware that Bonhoeffer was moved by the Black churches he attended, but I did not know they played such a pivotal role in his spiritual development.  It was only amongst the Black brothers that Bonhoeffer was able to have authentic Christ-centered spirituality.
  • The way I always understood it, Bonhoeffer did not come to resist the Germans until late in their reign of tyranny.  I always thought this because of his late execution and that the failed assassination attempt was so late in the war.  However, Metaxas clears up the murky early years.  Bonhoeffer, as well as the rest of his family, resisted the Nazi’s from the outset.  They saw them for what they were—evil thugs spawned from Hell.  It was in this way that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a prophet—not just in the sense of speaking ethical truth but also in the way we usually think of.  Bonhoeffer saw it coming and somehow he knew it would cost him everything.
  • Pastor is a precious word to me—and it is loaded with meaning.  Before reading this book I thought of Bonhoeffer as a writer—professor—theologian and even a hero who resisted evil, but I’d never thought of him as a pastor.  That changed with this volume.  Now I see him not as a lecturer, but as one who pastored children in Barcelona, refugees in England, and prisoners in the death camp.  His last act before being executed was leading a worship service for the other prisoners.  Now when I think of Life Together or Cost of Discipleship some of the power of the words is made stronger when I think of them coming from a fellow pastor rather than a theologian.
  • I did not know about Bonhoeffer’s sweethearts.  Apparently he had two of them, one of whom he was engaged to when he was killed.  Not much to say on that front other than the extra added sadness it brings.

I may have to add Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s photo in my study to hang on the wall with the other heroes who watch me work.

 

See also:  Letters and Papers