Keep Your Radar On

Keep Your Radar On

One of the secrets to effective preaching is simply this: keep your radar on at all times.  The definition of radar is this, according to the  Merriam-Webster Dictionary of the English Language:

1. A system for detecting the presence, direction, distance, and speed of aircraft, ships, and other objects, by sending out pulses of high-frequency electromagnetic waves that are reflected off the object back to the source

2. Used to indicate that someone or something has or has not come to the attention of a person or group.

‘the band has been kind of off the radar these past few years’
awareness of GodYou may be wondering, “What does that have to do with preaching?   Let me explain.  When our spiritual radar is working properly, we begin to detect that God is doing something, right then and there.  Maybe the best example in Scripture is Jacob.  When he was running away from his older brother after stealing the birthright blessing, he came to a place where he stopped for the night.  He laid down with his head on a stone (he must have really been tired), and went to sleep.  A dream interrupted his night, as he saw heaven open, and angels ascending and descending on a ladder that reached up to God himself.  There God gave him a promise to be with him.
What was Jacob’s response?  He awoke and thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”  He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place!  This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”  (Genesis 28:16-17)

The Spiritual Radar

This idea of God being present in surprising places is also expressed by the poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning in these short lines:Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush aflame with God; But only those who see take off their shoes; The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.

The point I’m making here is that you will do well to keep your radar on at all times, looking for ways God is present.  This practice or discipline will greatly enrich your spiritual life, but it will also enrich your preaching.

For Instance

As I write this post, I have the picture of two men from my church, both of them leaders in the church and community.  I got a call one Sunday Jesus present in the worldafternoon from one of these men, asking if I could join them at the home of a third man from the congregation.  This man, their friend, was an alcoholic, and he had drunk way too much.  He had a gun, and was threatening to kill himself.  I joined the two men as they cared for this depressed and hopeless person.  After a couple of hours, they managed to have him turn over the gun, and we were able to get him into a hospital for care.

It turned out that this wasn’t the first time these two men had helped the third in similar circumstances.  I walked away from the hospital and suddenly realized that I had been with Jesus for the past few hours.  These men were the hands, feet, and Jesus.  He was there through them, and I wasn’t aware of it.   When you keep your radar on you will see Him more often.

Radar and Preaching

Sometimes spiritual radar will detect situations like that above.  At other times it will give you direct application to man pruning treepreaching.  For instance, I learned that a member of my church was the owner of a nursery, producing trees and plants for the public to beautify their surroundings.  As we planned worship one time, that fact came back to mind.  While I preached about the ways that God prunes us, this man was pruning a tree on one side of the stage. It was a powerful demonstration of the truth of the Scriptures.  At one point, he shared the principles of pruning a tree to maximum fruitfulness.  I doubt people soon forgot that message, and they may have remembered the illustration more than my words.

In the last few posts I’ve talked about the expectations that the congregation has for the preacher.  One of those expectations is that you will keep your radar on at all times.  As one old saint put it to his pastor, “Go out in the world this week, and then come back next Sunday and tell us what you have seen and heard.”