I preached my first sermon twenty-five years ago, on October 17, 1993, at the ripe age of 15. After spending the first nine months filling in for pastors, preaching “fifth Sunday youth services,” and being the “evangelist” for several revivals, I began to serve a church as an interim pastor. Nine months into that interim pastorate, the church I served realized they couldn’t get rid of me, so they asked me to be their pastor. Except for a two-year journey in the desert of youth ministry (typed jokingly) I’ve stood behind pulpits in three states as a pastor.
Early on in my preaching ministry I developed the habit of preaching in series. There are times when I’ll preach a “stand alone” message that is not part of a series, but during any given year, 95% of the messages I preach will be part of a series of messages. Those message series will either be grouped by topic / theme, or they’ll focus on a particular passage or book in the Bible.
There have been times when I’ve paused a series for a Sunday or two, maybe to accommodate a unique service or to address a specific text that speaks to an issue that’s been heightened in our culture. For example, I stepped out of the series I was preaching the Sunday after 9/11. But I have never suspended a series of messages in order to preach an entirely different series of messages. Until now.
If you’ve been hanging out at FBC on Sunday mornings for the past several weeks you know that I am currently preaching a series of messages from Revelation 2-3, which focus on the message Christ delivered to specific churches in the past, but which still has application for any church today. We’ve worked through most of those letters, with two more messages to go. But we’ll put a tremendously long pause on that series as I introduce a completely new series of messages this Sunday.
I have been pondering and praying about such a shift for a few weeks. Breaking out of a series without having it tied up nice and neat is a difficult thing for me to initiate. My preference is to finish a series in successive order. However, I could not ignore the reality that the Spirit was speaking to my heart.
You see, over the past couple of months, I have spoken with people engaged in spiritually battle, or I’ve witnessed first-hand the tremendous onslaught of the enemy against God’s people and against the Lord’s church. I would never, ever divulge the confidential conversations I have with people. Nor would I ever reveal tender circumstances in which I’m called to mediate, counsel, or help people navigate. And it does not violate any of those confidences to simply state that in these past many weeks, those under my pastoral watch and care have endured many deep and steep valleys.
Thankfully, Scripture is not silent concerning these valleys. As I contemplate the collective grouping of struggles and trials that I’ve witnessed recently, I’m drawn to several places in Scripture which speak to those issues. To help me better process a Christ-like response, and to enable all our congregation and guests to hear the truth of Scripture regarding those seasons of life, I will share a six-part message series titled “Mixed Emotions: When Faith and Feelings collide.”
Over the course of these six messages, we will learn what God has to say about things like finding rest, dealing with depression and despair, what to do when our heart is filled with worry and anxiety, how to embrace a biblical response to the anger we face, how Jesus can take away our shame, and what Scripture has to say about how we can pursue, find, and experience happiness.
As I’ve shared before, people tend to be in one of three situations when it comes to experiencing a valley in life. You may be in the middle of one right now. If not, you might have just come out of one. If neither of those is your experience, chances are you’re about to go through one soon. Life in our fallen world is a rhythm of moments on top of the mountain and times spent in the valley. Thankfully, we don’t have to travel through the valley alone. In fact, God has equipped us to be able to not only endure the valley but thrive in it as our faith meets AND EXCEEDS our feelings. That will be our focus in this series, and that will be my prayer for you.
Let’s get started this Sunday at 10:30 as we look at “The Quest for Rest” from Hebrews 4:1-11. I hope to see you there.