The best preachers use their skills, talents, and life experiences to unpack scriptures and present them in ways that inspire and uplift. They often have a charisma and presentation style that engages their audience and the discipleship today in multiple ways.
Yet, more than that, the best preachers tend to approach scripture differently. They ask questions others don't often ask, questions that provide listeners with skills to create a new life, one that is richer and more meaningful, where they draw nearer to God.
In this episode, Pr. Bob highlights one of the most important questions preachers can ask their congregations and the discipleship today. If you're looking for some inspiration, this episode is for you.
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What Would Your Life Be Like, If?
You see, these great preachers, they don't just spend a lot of time parsing the Greek or Hebrew. Or describing the deeper theological concepts involved in any particular scripture. Don't get me wrong, those are all good things. They can edify us and teach us and enable us to really understand the practical application of that scripture.
If these preachers do spend time on theology, they will certainly turn it around into how that can make your life better. Into how you can live a more fuller, adventurous life, closer to God. But they tend to go deeper than that.
They tend to ask the questions that apply to a person's life. Here's the question that I keep coming around to. The one that I wish more preachers would ask. It's simply this, what would my life be like, if…? What would your life be like, if…?
To describe that a little further, I want to tell you a true story from my life. About 25 years ago or so my wife and I decided we needed a bigger house. Our family was growing. Down the road a piece of land came up, we loved the neighborhood, wanted to stay there. So we stepped out on a limb, leap of faith.
We built a home, a significantly larger home from the ground up. In the process of doing that, we realized, while we're both working, we still have a growing family and kids and expenses. We're going to have to sell this house that we're in. But in that leap of faith, we started building. The finance company at the time was happy to have us do that.
Didn’t See It Coming
So over the course of a few months, as we're building, we're spending more money on this new home. Pretty soon the home is built. We moved into the new home and of course, we're out of the old home. We can at least put that house up for sale and not have to worry about getting out of it. We’re packing it up and cleaning it all the time every time someone wants to come and see it.
So we put the house up for sale. We figure a couple of months. Three months go by, there are no bites. Six months go by, and this is getting tough. We dropped the price. It's just a bad time to be selling a house. Folks moving into that county just weren't moving in very much anymore. Nine months go by, a year. Now I'm paying, we're paying two mortgage payments every month. Not in the plan.
15 months, 18 months. This was a significantly bigger home, and I'm really worried. I will never forget this moment as long as I live. My stomach is turned upside down and I'm thinking, "My God, I'm an educated person, college degrees. This kind of stuff doesn't happen to me." I'm in a position here where one of these homes can go into foreclosure.
I can't keep doing this. How did I get stuck in this situation? 18 months plus of two mortgages, that's how. I didn't see it coming. I remember walking down the hallway in our new home, and we had The Last Supper. It was kind of a plaster slash sculpture of The Last Supper. It was so heavy, we actually had the builder put extra studs in the wall so we could hang it.
God Knew My Needs
We bought it in Charleston, South Carolina. It had to be a hundred pounds. So it's sitting there on the wall and it's in the plaster color, so it doesn't stick out. You don't really see it. I happened to glance over and I saw it. For some reason I said to myself, "Yeah, okay. I get what I have to do." I walked another 15 feet into my bedroom. Fell face down on my bed and I just said, "God, help."
I got to tell you something, I don't know that I actually said it. I heard it in my head. It came from my guts, from my soul. I mean, it just reverberated through my body. It probably sounded like, "Ah." But it was "God, help." I didn't even know what the right words would be, but I knew that God knew my needs.
It was weird because I had just come from a place where I was panicking. And when I did that, flat on my face, I felt that it came out of me. I just heard this thing in me say, "Just get up, that's it. Over." I remember feeling a bit of peace the rest of the night, although I didn't have a better plan. We can't keep dropping the price of this house.
I went to bed. The next morning at 9:00 AM, I got a strange phone call from a person we knew but hadn't really been in contact with. She used to live in that neighborhood and moved away. "Bob, I know you've got that house over there. I was thinking about moving back to the neighborhood. But I really can't buy the house. Maybe can I rent it from you for a little while?"
When God Takes You by the Collar
I knew this person. She had a good job. Initially, had it not been immediately after this prayer, I probably would've responded. "No. We're trying to sell this thing." But it was as if God took me by the collar and said, "Remember last night? Remember you’re crying out to me, remember, this just happened." And it was clear to me. The first thing out of my mouth was, "Yes, of course."
Even though I don't want to rent this house, I need to sell it. This was God's doing, and I'm getting out of his way. And this woman rents this house from me, for the mortgage payment, and then buys it a few months later. I think back on that. Now you may look at that and say, "That's coincidence, Bob." But nope.
Because this event wasn't about you and your faith. It's personal. It was personal to me. And I'm telling you, these things have happened in your life and it's been personal to you. No one else may get it, but God takes you by the collar and he shakes you. He says, "Yep, it's me. I'm here. This is the answer."
There are going to be other times when you don't feel this shake. You don't know what the answer is, and you don't know that I'm listening. I need you to remember this one forever. To know I'm always here, and I answer. When I think back on that, here's my question. What would my life be like if I prayed to God like that for every need I had?
What Would My Life Be Like
For every person who I encounter who needs his help? What would my life be like? And what would your life be like if when you encountered a problem you went right to God? That's your first resource. To not wait the 18 months, but to fall on your face and say, "God, help." What would my life be like and what would your life be like?
Here's another story. Years ago, about 2003, I started a church in Effingham County, Georgia called St. Luke's church. As we got started, we were basically renting early morning at another church. Soon, we would buy a piece of land and we'd put up a building and it's still there. But at that time we were just getting going.
We were four or five months into this thing and we had our council in place. But we didn't have a lot of other processes and systems. Every time we did something, it was the first time we did it. Well, I'm at my home. Because we didn't really have a place, the church phone number was my home phone number.
I get this voicemail on my home phone number. "Hi pastor, my wife and I, we live here and we don't have a lot. We're kind of hurting right now. I'm not sure we're going to be able to pay our electricity bill. I just wondered if you all could help." Now, I'm sure they were going through the phone book.
We were pretty new and I'm sure they're going down a list. I got that voicemail and I kind of saved it and walked away. And I thought to myself, "This isn't for us." We were just getting started. We're barely making enough money to pay rent to this church.
What Stands Out in My Mind
We hadn't really talked about this among the council and the leaders of the church. You got the United Way. There are mega-churches out there in this county. This is a drop in the bucket for them, and I kept saying that to myself. Then about nine o'clock I had enough and I went back to the phone and I called them back. They were stunned. Somebody called them back.
I said, "Are y'all home?" "Yes, sir." "Give me your address." "Yes, sir. Here it is." "I'm going to be there in 20 minutes."I got in my car and I grabbed the church checkbook, which I just happened to have. On the way there, I called the head of the council, what they called the senior warden. I said, "Look, here's what I want to do." She said, "That's fine." I get to their house, I met them.
It was like they said. You could tell they didn't have a whole lot of anything. I wrote them a check, I put it in their hands, and I left. Now here's the thing. Yes, of course they were appreciative. And yes, of course they were kind of stunned. Yes, of course they need it. But none of that made any difference. None of that is really what stands out in my mind.
You know what stands out in my mind? On the way home I had this sense of peace. I had this sense of joy. This is what you're supposed to be doing, it’s really what I got in my head. It was a feeling I'll never forget, and I kept telling myself, "Hey, this isn't you. Your natural inclination would have been to not give them this money."
What Kind of Disciple Are You Going to Be?
"This isn't you, don't feel proud. Don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing." This is what I'm here to do now. Can we always do that with everyone who needs help? No, but that's not what it was about. It was about God working with me to give selflessly.
Early in the life of this church, he was saying, "What kind of church are you going to be? And Bob, this is your decision. You're the leader of this church. You decide what kind of church this will be." I will never forget that feeling driving home. It was every single Christmas morning and it doesn't matter what they did with the money.
It doesn't matter what other churches gave them money. What matters is they had a need and I could provide for that need. I did it in the name of Christ. And I think back on that, and I wonder. What would my life be like if I gave not out of my abundance? We had the money. But if I gave like that, and if I gave out of my lack, like the widow and her might.
What would my life be like if I responded to everyone's needs like that? How would God help me, give me more, bless me, if you will? And how would your life be different if you responded to the needs of others around you? Not out of your abundance, but out of your lack? What would your life be like? And what would your relationship with God be like?
One Final Story
Years ago I was working for a university in a department that had a number of faculty members. There was one faculty member who was generally not liked. The reason he wasn't liked is because he was quite arrogant and he just didn't like anyone. He was a difficult person to work with. And he particularly didn't like me for whatever reason.
Maybe I was probably the senior person in the department at that time, and maybe he saw me as a threat. I don't know, but it was pretty clear. He would go into his college classrooms. And he’d say negative things about me to students, which is really out of bounds. But it's a university. You can probably get away with saying and doing things at a university.
But you can't get away with saying and doing in other environments. So he took that opportunity. There was one particular incident that I won't get into the specifics, but he really did me wrong. It was just not right, unethical. He misrepresented, he basically lied about a number of things. And he really messed me up. Generally not appreciated by me.
So as time went on, here's what I found, when I would pull in the parking lot and see his vehicle, my stomach would turn every single time. This happened over the period of a year. Where every single time I'd pull in that parking lot and I'd see his vehicle, I’d feel anger, resentment. My stomach would turn.
One day I said, "I can't do this anymore. I can't. This is hurting me. It isn't even about him anymore. It's about me and God."
The Decision to Turn to God and Ask For Help
I said, "God, if you're going to want me to forgive him, then you're going to have to help me." I will never forget that feeling. Much like when I laid on my bed and cried out to God to stop the double mortgages. I just felt, "Okay. It's done." I left it. The very next day when I pulled into that parking lot and saw his vehicle, I laughed. I felt nothing, I thought, "Oh my goodness. God, I didn't do any of this. You did this."
I made the decision to turn to God and say, “Help me,” but the resentment was gone. The anger was gone. I didn't do any of that. I've got to wonder. Is my first response in any situation where I'm offended or insulted is to offend back, revenge, insult back, hit back? I think it is. What would my life be like if it wasn't? What would my life be like if every single time I felt the need to forgive someone or that someone in my life should be forgiven by me is to go to God and say, "Help me."
Because I'm human and this hurts and I'm angry. There's injustice here, God. Of course my first response is to fix the injustice. That may mean strike back. But what if I don't do that? What if my first response to any situation where I'm insulted or offended or hurt was not to hit back? But rather to forgive as I would want to be forgiven?
I Need God's Help to Forgive
Asking God for that help is the key. We say, "Well, forgiveness is divine." No, it really is. That's not just a nice platitude. I need God's help to forgive. How come I don't ask for it more often? What would my life be like if I did? And what would your life be like if you did as well?
You see, in all these situations, I have got to wonder. What have I missed in peace, in life satisfaction, in joy? And you have the same stories. What would your life be like if…? If I chose to forgive and ask God for His help? Or if I gave out of my lack, not out of my abundance?
If I went to God first, face down, crying out to him every time I had a need or someone I knew had one. It's about possibilities. But here's the thing: we have today. We have the next moment, we have the next opportunity. So let's take it and see what our life would be like. Amen. Thanks for listening.