We Ought to Obey God Rather Than Men

On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court handed down the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. The 5-4 decision mandated the legalization of same-sex marriage in all fifty states, and, in so doing, fundamentally redefined marriage.

Sunday, July 5, I preached a sermon at North Charleston in which we looked at the decision itself, the effects of this decision upon American Christians, and what we should do now. I hope that it can be a blessing to you.

As I emphasized in the sermon, I don’t hate anyone. The last thing I want to do is to make anyone feel as though I hate them. The motivation behind this sermon is to communicate love. The Bible is God’s word (2 Tim. 3:16-17). To study and apply the Bible’s teachings is to apply the love of God to your soul, and to secure the hope of heaven. That is why I preached this sermon.

Click the play button above to listen to the sermon. You can view the slides and download the outline from the sermon below.

[button color=”orange” size=”medium” link=”http://roberthatfield.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/ObeyGod.pdf” target=”blank” ]Sermon Outline[/button]

How I Use Evernote for Balance in My Preaching

Evernote_Balance

I recently told you about my process for writing sermon outlines in Evernote. It’s working so well for me that I have decided to go to the next level with my sermons in Evernote by using it to ensure balance in my preaching.

In episode 65 of the Preachers in Training podcast, I discussed how I used to keep track of balance in my preaching. I created a Pages document in which I listed 30-40 sermon categories in red. As I would preach sermons that fit in the different categories, I would type the date and the sermon title under the appropriate category. It looked like this:

Pages_Balance_Log

I liked this for several reasons.

  • It provided a quick glance at the subjects I have covered well versus the ones to which I needed to devote more attention.
  • It was concise – only about 2-3 pages for an entire year, making it easy to quickly get a handle on the situation.
  • It was great for planning the upcoming year.

However, there were several negatives to this layout.

  • I often felt that I needed more categories, but I felt that adding more categories would defeat the conciseness.
  • Many sermons fit into more than one category, but repeating listings under different categories felt clunky. It was difficult to keep up with where the different sermons had been listed.
  • There was easy no way to link the sermon title to its corresponding sermon outline.

But one day, it hit me. Why not use Evernote tags to keep track of balance in my preaching?

Until recently, I have struggled to come up with a good system for tags in Evernote. I know some people who use the Getting Things Done strategies for tags. Michael Hyatt has an elaborate tagging system that even allows him to assign tasks to his different employees. Until reading his post, I had never thought about using symbols and punctuation to group tags together.

In the spirit of grouping like tags together, I decided to create an Evernote tag for each of my sermon categories. Since I use Evernote for much more than sermon writing and organization (I basically live in Evernote nowadays!), I decided to group my sermon tags together as follows: “SERMON – <Tag Name>.” I chose to simply use the word “sermon” to group the tags together instead of trying to remember some type of punctuation (it helps my simple mind).

This works amazingly for several reasons.

  • I was able to expand the number of sermon categories without losing my simple at-a-glance overview. (I now have over 90 categories!)
  • Evernote’s tag view has a search feature, making it easy to display only my sermon tags. I just type in “sermon” into the search field, and it will only displays my 95 sermon category tags.
  • In tag view, Evernote can display note counts for each tag, making it easy to see how many sermons are assigned to each tag.
  • Also, tag view gives you the option to organize your tags in order of the ones that have the most notes to the least notes.
  • In notebook view (all of my sermon outlines are in individual notes in one notebook called “Sermons 2014”), you can click the tag icon to see which tags have been used in that notebook. It looks likes this:

Tags_In_Notebook

  • Obviously, I can tag my sermon outlines from within the outline note in Evernote, which is huge! Also, it’s really easy to give a sermon outline more than one tag right from within the note.
  • In tag view, it’s really easy to select one sermon tag and see all of the sermons within that category.

So you have some visuals, here’s how my Evernote looks in tag view:

Evernote_Tags

Nice, huh?! Here’s how the tags look from the sermon outline (note) view:

Evernote_Outline

There is one potential issue that I can already see. While my sermons outlines are all together in a notebook by year, I have no way of separating the tags by year. This means that, next year, I won’t be able to rely on the tag counts for a good visual representation of my balance in 2015. My current plan is to rely on the option to see which tags are used within a notebook from notebook view (as described above).

This is all a work in progress, but it’s working really well for me so far. Hopefully it can help you, too!

Question: How do you keep track of balancing your preaching? Let me know in the comments below.

How I write and organize sermons in Evernote

Evernote_Sermons

In episode 56 of Preachers in Training, I mentioned that I am now using Evernote to write my sermons. I’m not sure why I resisted going to a simpler application for creating a sermon outline. For whatever reason, I thought that I needed the power of Pages with it’s tab functions and whatnot. Until one day I found myself having written three or four outlines in Text Edit on my Mac, and I thought to myself “Why?!”

I have always wanted to get better at Evernote. My procrastination stems from the fact that I originally used it in ignorance. I would just dump tons of information into Evernote, thinking, “One day I’ll get in here and organize things. Plus, I can always just search for whatever I want.” But something felt empty with that type of Evernote experience. I would read the blog posts from all of the productivity and leadership experts and hear them sing Evernote’s praises.

Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve finally taken the plunge and begun my Evernote journey.

Evernote_Sermon1

I gave my old Evernote a quick glance and mercilessly purged almost everything in it. Then, I began rebuilding. I created a notebook called “Sermons 2014” and created a template to use for each new outline. I placed that template into TextExpander for easy access. Now, all I have to do is create a new note in my “Sermons 2014” notebook, and simply type “ssermon” (see the extra s?). Immediately, my template is inserted. It’s even formatted and everything!

Here’s my blank template that I put into TextExpander:

[divider]

“TITLE”
Text

Thesis:
What do I want them to know?
What do I want them to do?

Key Terms:

OUTLINE:

Introduction:
1.

I. ZZZZZZ

A. ZZZZZ

1. ZZZZZ

Conclusion:
1.

[divider]

Contrary to popular belief, the Zzzzz’s are not indicative of when people to go sleep! I use the Zzzzz’s simply as placeholder text. It works for me because all I have to do is double-click the line of z’s to select them, then I start typing. It’s quick and easy for me.

Let’s talk about the title of the Evernote note for a minute. I wanted to structure it in a way that would automatically order itself in the order that the sermons were presented, January through December, AM and PM. First, I set my list preferences to list the notes by title. Then, I decided to use a format that would work well with that list setting. Here are a couple of examples:

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]2014-08-17 AM: “Don’t Just Stand There, Say Something!”
2014-08-17 PM: “What Life is All About”[/box]

It’s simple, but it’s working for me right now. The best part is that Evernote is automatically syncing all of my sermons to the cloud, and they’re all searchable.

What program do you use for sermon writing? How do you back up your sermons and organize them for quick access later? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

“Why Are You Involved in So Many Things?”

I am blessed to be involved in several good works. Aside from my personal responsibilities (to my wife and to my own personal growth as a Christian), my primary focus is preaching for the East Hill congregation. Sharing pulpit responsibilities with my co-laborer, Paul Sain, leaves me with at least one sermon and one Bible class to prepare each Lord’s day and usually two Bible classes to prepare each Wednesday. My studies in preparation for these presentations are always my top priority. Additionally, I’m blessed to be involved in working with the Gospel Broadcasting Network and, of course, The Light Network.

Sometimes I’m asked how I can be involved in so many things. I can assure you that I am not an expert in that field. I’m constantly learning and reevaluating myself to be sure that I use my blessings of time and talent (what little I’ve been given) to God’s glory. However, a question I CAN answer is this one: “WHY are you involved in so much?” It isn’t necessarily because I have trouble saying that two letter word that begins with “N” and ends with “O” (though I don’t use it very often if I can help it). Here’s why I do it.

1. I want to completely immerse myself in the Lord’s work. From the time my feet hit the floor until I pillow my head at night, every moment of my day is spent in the work of the church. This is a tremendous blessing! I get to serve God with the greatest people on the planet while studying and spreading the greatest story ever told!

2. I want to spend and be spent in God’s service. I learned this from the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:15; cf. 1 Cor. 11:1). Here was a man whose convictions led him to bear his cross all through his life as a faithful Christian, ultimately laying it down in exchange for a crown (2 Tim. 4:6-8). I want that, and Paul says that I can have it. He said that the crown is “not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). Paul was grateful for the salvation that His Savior had made possible for him, and he showed his gratitude and indebtedness through his service to Jesus (Rom. 1:15; Eph. 2:11). That’s what I must do (Gal. 2:20).

3. I want to use technology to spread the gospel. I am passionate about communication and media. I studied mass media at FHU, and have always had an interest in it. Radio, television, podcasting, and the internet at large are just a few ways by which we can reach the masses with the gospel of Christ. I know that one person cannot do everything. To me, it isn’t about doing everything. Instead, it’s about doing as much as I can to propagate the message (Mat. 28:19-20). Opportunity + ability = responsibility (at least, to some degree).

4. I want to improve. Selfishly speaking, my involvements compliment one another to (hopefully) produce a better me. I desperately want to be a better Bible student and to have greater Bible knowledge. I want to improve as a speaker and a teacher. I want to become more comfortable in front of people, cameras, and microphones so that I can get out of the way and I can focus on spreading the message to the best of my ability. My preaching and media involvements help me to do that. They constantly keep me humble by reminding me how much I need to improve, while giving me opportunities to be better.

I struggled with whether to post this here. I hope it doesn’t sound prideful. This is nowhere near my intent. Today’s post has been a personally therapeutic exercise to remind me of God’s goodness in allowing me to do what I do to His glory. If this post has helped to remind you about why you give your life to Jesus, then my mission has been accomplished. To God be the glory for anything that we can do!

Question: How is your life blessed through your service to God?

How iPreach on a Political Topic [Podcast]

[highlight]Click here to listen to the episode of iPreach from The Equip Network.[/highlight]

Not long ago, I was privileged to join Adam Faughn and Dale Jenkins on their famous iPreach podcast during their summer series. What an honor to be on their great show! They assigned me the the following topic: “How iPreach on a Political Topic.” The realm of politics can get really sticky really quickly, can’t it, preachers? Here are my humble thoughts. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

1. Preach biblically. It’s not about your opinion or political persuasion. Let those to whom you preach hear it from inspiration. This really applies to any sermon we preach, doesn’t it? We speak from God’s authority, because the power is in the message, not in the messenger (Rom. 1:16). Remember that it’s not about the right or the left; it’s about being Christ-centered. Address contemporary issues from a Christian worldview.

2. Preach boldly. We aren’t the only Christians to have lived in a world of political land mines. The OT preachers preached boldly against many of the political tactics of either the Israelite nation or a nation under whom the Israelites were captive. Spend some time contemplating the messages and the missions of the great Old Testament men and women. People like Daniel, Jeremiah, Esther, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Obadiah, Nahum, and others. Then, bring it into the New Testament age by considering Peter and John (Acts 4:13, 19-20, 23-31).

3. Preach persistently. The temptation is to avoid those “hot button” issues. Perhaps you have preached previous sermons on those topics that have resulted in criticism. Maybe you’re afraid that the people won’t listen to what you have to say. Your message is important! It’s God’s Word! Preach on, brother. Remember that Jeremiah wept over the hard-heartedness of the people to whom he preached, yet he continued to preach the Word (Jer. 20:9).

4. Preach respectfully. As you stand before the congregation, you are likely addressing people on both sides of the political fence. When discussing political figures (either candidates running for office or those who are currently serving), remember that no candidate is perfect. You cannot unreservedly endorse one side over the other side. Further, remember that you have a spiritual obligation to pray for them (1 Tim. 2:1-2). When Paul stood before Felix and, later, before Agrippa, he spoke to them respectfully, acknowledging their authority in the civil government (Acts 24:10; 26:2-3).

5. Preach faithfully. My preaching on a political topic should reflect my allegiance to Christ, and not to any political party. After all, I belong to Him (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23). If you’re going to follow Jesus’ example, you will love righteousness and hate iniquity (Heb. 1:9, KJV).

6. By all means, PREACH. We simply cannot remain silent on these issues. Preaching on political topics, when done appropriately, will make the pulpit relate to ever day lives. These types of sermons move past the pew into hearts and help Christians to grow on a personal level. They speak to HEARTS and, hopefully, mold hearts to conform to the image of Christ.

What do you think? How should preachers go about preaching on political issues? Leave your thoughts below.

Preaching the Tough Stuff

We’ve all heard them – the toe-stepping, “hell fire and brimstone” sermons that render uncomfortable those who, just moments before, sat comfortably in the pew. They’re the sermons that cause everyone to think, “was the preacher talking specifically to me today?” In many ways, these tough kind of sermons separate the spiritually weak from the spiritually strong because the weak go away blaming the preacher, while the strong leave challenged to live a better life. The hard sermons bring us face to face with who we really are and what we’re really like, and sometimes that is not a pleasant sight to behold.


What motivates preachers to preach the tough sermons? Why would he choose to use his Sunday sermon time to discuss negative or hard to hear concepts? I don’t think any of us enjoy to hear about hell, the eternal punishment of sinners. I think Peter would say that the tough sermons must be preached so that we do not forget Jesus’ great sacrifice for us (2 Pet. 1:9, 12-13, 15; cf. Luke 22:34, 60-62). Paul would tell us that he preached the “electric” sermons because “the love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14). He would admit that many of his sermons were delivered with tear-filled eyes (Phil. 3:18), but preaching the truth is necessary, “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2; cf. 1 Cor. 9:16). Stephen would remind us that God blesses those who preach the necessary, hard sermons (Acts 7:54-60).

Jeremiah definitely felt the weight of preaching the tough stuff. It weighed so heavily upon him that he contemplated giving up.

For when I spoke, I cried out;
I shouted, “Violence and plunder!”
Because the word of the LORD was made to me
A reproach and a derision daily.
Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not (Jeremiah 20:8-9, NKJV).

It seems like Jeremiah thought his preaching did more harm than good. It was as if his preaching only amplified the sin that existed among his people. He decided it would be best for him to simply be silent than to continue down this path. But God’s Word is too powerful to be hidden. Notice that this hard sermon was even hard for Jeremiah to preach. This is often (if not always) the case when preachers must preach the tough stuff. It wasn’t that Jeremiah enjoyed bursting bubbles or tearing people down. It was the fact that he had the light to show the way of righteousness (Psa. 119:105). He had the life preserver that would save his fellowman, who was drowning in iniquity.

Today, preachers have the powerful, profitable Word of God that shows us the way toward heaven (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 4:12). To withhold any part of the message – a part that could be the very part that motivates someone to obedience – is to withhold true love for God and true love for others (John 14:15; 1 John 3:18).

Love is the motivator for the hard sermons – love for God, for Christ, for the Truth as revealed by the Holy Spirit, and love for others.

——————–
This week on Preachers in Training, Ben Giselbach joins me to discuss “Preaching the Electric-Topic Sermons.” Join us live in the chat room this afternoon at 3:45 PM (CST) or watch it Thursday (when it’s released) over at The Light Network.

God’s Word on Dealing With Discouragement

Today’s post is a PIT+. These posts will provide bonus material that will supplement the conversation on this week’s episode of Preachers in Training (on The Light Network).

This week, I will be joined by Andy Brewer and Brad McNutt, gospel preachers from Tennessee and Kentucky respectively. Our discussion this month centers around burnout. If you are a preacher, a youth minister, or a Christian at large and you have ever struggled with or gotten close to the line of burnout, then this month’s podcasts are for you.

Everyone has suffered from discouragement while trying to live for God. In fact, we have plenty of Biblical examples of those who struggled through and found help from the Father. Several years ago, I wrote a sermon that I titled “Dealing with Discouragement” It is a study of 1 Kings 19, when Elijah felt alone in the world and wanted to give up his work. Click here to download a PDF version of my slides from that presentation. My prayer is that they will point you to God’s Word and aid you in times of need. These passages have certainly done that for me.

As preachers – and as Christians – we cannot give up. The work in which we are involved is too important. The consequences of quitting are too severe. Keep on keeping on!

Preacher, Are You Growing?

Preachers are people, too. They are susceptible to temptation, to depression, to spiritual backsliding, and much more – just like everyone else is. But preachers are also different from everyone else. The congregation looks to the preacher to be the source of spiritual power. He is the one to whom they come when they need counseling from God’s Word. He still has to preach the sermon or teach the class regardless of the week that he has had or the depression that his heart feels.
Preacher, what are you doing for yourself to ensure your spiritual growth and continued faithfulness? In one of my classes at FHU, the professor offered these suggestions for a preacher’s spiritual growth:
  • Plan daily personal devotional time. Read the Bible for your benefit.
  • Make a list of people and causes for which to pray.
  • Make time to be alone with God.
  • Be the spiritual leader in your family.
  • Be in the homes of those who are sorrowful and suffering. Visiting those who are suffering will lift your spirits as well as their’s.
  • Attend meetings of spiritual growth and development. Go to Polishing the Pulpit, area gospel meetings, special rallies, and lectureships. Also, listen to podcasts, online sermons, WVBS videos, the Gospel Broadcasting Network, and more.
  • Spend time with people of great faith. This can be another preacher, but it could also be one of your elders, or any faithful member of the church. We’re bettered by being together.
  • Share your faith.

Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (1 Tim. 4:16).