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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Cultural Preaching June 21, 2017

A sermon on redeeming your crises; Half-ful or Hopeful; and, a chip off the ol' block.
Welcome to Cultural Preaching
June 21, 2017
Welcome to this week's edition of Cultural Preaching. I am honored to share this resource with you. Know that I am praying for all who receive this email with gratitude for your service and faith.

This week, the "Preaching" section includes a sermon on the powerful witness of suffering faith. In "Pastoral," we'll look at five reasons for optimism in a pessimistic day. In "Personal," we'll consider Michelangelo's David as a metaphor for our souls.

In addition, I tweet on current news occasionally throughout the day. I invite you to follow me @JimDenison.

An elderly professor once advised me, "Son, be kind to everyone, because everyone's having a hard time." When Christians face suffering, we often wonder why our all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful Father would allow our pain. But we can know that our Lord redeems all he allows.

One way God redeems our suffering is by using our faith in hard times as a powerful witness to others. This week's message, Redeeming Your Crisis for God's Kingdom, develops this theme by focusing on Stephen and his effect on Saul of Tarsus. I hope it is helpful to you.

William Ralph Inge claimed, "No Christian can be a pessimist, for Christianity is a system of radical optimism." Despite the challenges Christians face in America and around the world, God's Kingdom is continuing to advance.

In Half-full or Hopeful? I offer five reasons for optimism in a pessimistic day. If you choose to address the subject of suffering faith (see this week's sermon), these facts and principles may be of help to you.
I enjoy walking in our neighborhood early each morning. There is a small creek in our area that runs alongside a century-old church building. A bench overlooking the creek is one of my favorite places to sit and think.

Earlier this week I was sitting on that bench. The old (likely apocryphal) story of Michelangelo's strategy in carving the statue of David came to mind. When asked how he was able to use such flawed marble to make such a masterpiece, the great artist explained, "I saw him in the stone, then chipped away everything that did not look like him."

I have seen Michelangelo's statue at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence and can attest to his stunning achievement. As I stood before it some years ago, the thought occurred to me: God wants to do with me what Michelangelo did with David. He seeks to conform me to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29). To do this, he must chip away everything in me that doesn't look like Jesus.

Here's where the analogy breaks down: unlike the marble used by David, I must choose to cooperate with the Artist in his creation. I can decide that I want the world to see me more than it sees Jesus in me. I can seek to impress people with myself when I preach, teach, and write.

Or I can say with John the Baptist, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).

The great theologian J. I. Packer was right: it is impossible to convince you at one and the same time that I am a great preacher and that Jesus is a great Savior. Choose wisely.
It is a great honor to share this ministry with you. May the Lord empower and encourage you as you serve him today.

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Rev. Darian L. Hybl
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