Here I am, trying to “stay awake”

“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober – alert and clearheaded…”.

1 Thessalonians 5:5-6

For me, today’s big focus is about getting ready for a Friday evening speaking gig at a Raleigh church. Their men’s ministry is hosting a “Spring Retreat” and asked me to keynote the event.

The real challenge is going to be that of keeping my message simple and focused. When I hear “retreat” I typically think Friday evening through Sunday morning, where I speak five times, the guys participate in breakout groups, and we finish up with a short message around communion. What I don’t want to do is to try and cram all that content into one hour!

I guess I could simply use my usual Friday evening intro? Another approach would be to reboot and condense the 90-minute workshop I did with a New York Church a few months ago? Both would work, but both fall short in one critical aspect, and that’s the fact that this is the last week of April in 2022, and I believe the best material is always fresh, because God is still speaking and I am most certainly still learning. Day by day.

It’s like my wife Rebekah’s classic response to a question from a preacher search committee. They asked, “How do you prepare your sermons?” They were looking for things like Bible study habits, resources, technique, research protocols, methodology, tie-ins with current events etc.

Her answer was simple. “I try to stay awake…” she said.

I think I may use that idea as my introduction Friday evening, starting with the scripture from 1 Thessalonians. What Rebekah meant (and still means) by “Stay Awake!” involves spiritual alertness; active dialogue with Jesus in the process; remembering that the scriptures are alive and not static; embracing the “reformed and reforming” principles of theology; listening to her people, as well as paying attention to the life of the church and what is going on in the world; being engaging enough that she doesn’t put herself to sleep with her own preaching.

Friday evening, I should try to stay awake too!

  • So I want to share how transformational it is to live every day in the context of “staying awake” as a fully engaged follower of the way of Jesus!
  • I want to impress how valuable it is to have a “band of brothers” for support, encouragement, and accountability.
  • I want to suggest a practical model for what that can look like in a church (of any size).
  • I want to make it clear how such a ministry will positively effect stability and health and growth and positive witness, far beyond its proportion to the numerical size of any given church.

In short, I want to do what John suggests at the very beginning of his epistle:

From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us. We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!

1 John 1:1-4

If I can communicate even a little of that, then I will be pleased – DEREK

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