Friday, September 29, 2006

The power of smallness

Dan Horwedel is blogging about Shane Claiborne's Irresistable Revolution. The excerpts from Chapter 12 are particularly strong.

Preach the Word

In his blogging through 2 Timothy, Kirk Wellum reminds Christians of the call to preach the word:
We must admit with sorrow that some of what is called preaching is a travesty. It is too full of the preacher. His wit and wisdom is on display. His personality dominates. He is self-assured and self-confident. He enjoys the spotlight and loves to be the center of attention. He uses the sacred desk as a place to tell his stories and spin his tales and tell his silly jokes. His goal is to make people feel good and in the process make them think well of him. This kind of egocentric display is sickening and explains why we see so little of the Spirit's work in our day in spite of our carefully honed prose and technological gadgets! God will never share his glory with such pompous, self-absorbed hypocrites. He still looks for those who are humble and contrite in heart and who tremble at his word!

But what so often passes for "preaching" in our day is not what Paul has in mind at all. He tells Timothy to, "Preach the word. To be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction". Notice that it is the "word" that Timothy is to preach. Too often this is forgotten. We are to preach the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as they are interpreted in light of Jesus Christ. Nothing else will do.
Amen. Kirk's next post, about the allure of false teachers, is pretty strong, too.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Word-centered ministry?

Michael Duduit asks, "What's wrong with youth ministry?"

Stop preaching to "felt needs"

Albert Mohler has written well on what's wrong with preaching to felt needs. He gives several valid reasons, but this one cuts to the heart of the matter:
. . . preachers who believe they can move the attention of individuals from their "felt" needs to their need for the Gospel will find, inevitably, that the distance between the individual and the Gospel has not been reduced by attention to lesser needs. The sinner's need for Christ is a need unlike all other needs -- and the satisfaction of having other needs stroked and affirmed is often a hindrance to the sinner's understanding of the Gospel.
Amen (HT: Theocentric Preaching).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Remembering the only true biblical hero

Theocentric Preaching, with a little help from Tim Conder, reminds preachers of the danger of interpreting the Bible through the lens of moralism.

Facing the hard parts

In his own struggles with interpreting Mt. 19:4-9, 16-30, Rick Davis makes this observation about expository preaching:
One thing about preaching through books of the Bible (which, come to think of it, is how the Bible is presented, rather than topically); you don't get to jump over the hard parts. You end up forced to put them out there or elicit comment.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Expository preaching to postmoderns

At Pulpit, John MacArthur offers insights on expository preaching to postmoderns:
The bottom line is that expository preaching confronts the amorality of postmodernism with an authoritative message of absolute truth. It’s not a question of debating. It’s not a question of trying to find some way to sneak that in. It’s an issue of confronting this kind of thinking with the absolute authority of Scripture and then letting the Spirit of God make the application to the heart.

Expository preaching is the only thing that is going to change anything. There isn’t any other way to affect people positively aside from hitting them with that kind of authority. In my own preaching, my objective is not to court the postmodern mind. My objective is to confront it—to hit it stone cold in the face with truth. It’s irrelevant to me how the person thinks. It’s only relevant to me how they need to think. So I’m not going to play around with their sensitivities to postmodernism.
Amen. The excerpt is from Part One. You might also be interested in Part Two.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A demotion of promotion

Brad Hustron writes about the futility of church marketing:
Marketing, or better yet Promotion, is engrained within our culture far deeper than just consumerism. Whether one needs to “sell themselves” for job interview or to drum up support for a political campaign, the doctrines of Promotion are pervasive and deeply ingrained in our world.

I suppose that the Your Good Life Purpose Driven Prayer of Jabez Now approach to ministry is an outright demanded and entrenched staple of the American Church. In all phases of ministry, not only is a church body typically sliced into demographic and social groups by its leadership (thereby creating several church bodies in one), it is accompanied by a slew of programs, gimmicks and campaigns that are all designed to both keep the faithful in the pews and to “bring seekers to Jesus.”
Brad suggests the church learn to use "His means, not ours."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Remaining as we are

I've posted last week's sermon text, on 1 Cor. 7:12-24, at To the Word.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sermon Cloud

This site looks interesting (HT: Like a Fire).

Voting like rich men in the name of Jesus

Mark McEntire looks at demographics from the 2004 U.S. Presidential election and concludes that "the church votes just like rich people and the opposite of poor people":
It is now apparent to me that the Christian church in America has been hijacked and is being used to preach a false gospel that promotes unjust wars, winks at poverty and pays no attention at all to racial inequality.

Instead of values like peace and justice, which I understand to be at the core of the genuine gospel, this false gospel places at its center a collection of political positions on issues like gay marriage and stem-cell research.

Notice that this political ideology has used these new issues to move its former marquee issue, abortion, away from the center.
While I question a couple of Dr. McEntire's conclusions, he is correct about a critical point: congregations in the U.S. that hold most faithfully to the authority of Scripture show the least concern for peace and justice. He's also right that abortion, a critical issue of social justice, has quietly been nudged from the stage HT: Monastic Mumblings.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Remembering both of the greatest commands

Mark Lauterbach looks at Jesus' healing of the woman in Luke 13:10 and makes a dynamite observation about true faith and religiosity:

Here is the point: Religiosity misses the person. It thinks of all obedience as having only an interest in God. The greatest commands, on the other hand, are two -- God and man. When we miss reflecting on how our application may serve others, we miss part of how to apply. . . .

Religiosity sees only God and the commands, and labors at application without regard to the humans around it. It is not concerned with justice or mercy, but only with keeping the details of human traditions (specific applications of general commands that have been elevated to the level of the command), even if it means harming people. The story of the Good Samaritan is another case in point -- the religious folks missed the need, and the despised Samaritan revealed an understanding of God and his ways beyond them. It is not that we disobey the Bible -- it is that we figure out how to obey it without regard to people around us.


Following the pattern

Kurt Wellum looks at 2 Timothy and consider's Paul's charge for the young evangelist to "follow the pattern of sound words" he heard from Paul:
We desperately need to hear this message again today. Everyone wants to appeal to the Bible in support of what they are teaching. Even those who are clearly heretical and have departed from the faith once for all delivered to the saints, want to claim that they are following the Bible. But just because someone can find a verse or even a whole lot of verses that seem to support their ideas does not mean they are biblical in their understanding of God's revelation. There is a "pattern of sound teaching" that must be observed; an apostolic pattern that the apostles (including Paul) learned from the Lord Jesus himself. This pattern is stamped upon the Scriptures and provides the biblical context for our understanding of the Bible.

Amen. It's important to be reminded that we need to look beyond proof texts to the pattern of sound teaching that runs through all of Scripture.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Stealing in the pulpit

Michael Duduit has written three challenging posts on stealing sermons (here, here, and here). The bottom line: "If you are too busy to prepare sermons, then you are too busy to preach."

The Bible's not a love letter to you or me

Todd Bolen reminds preachers that the Bible is not God's love letter to you or me:

It’s easier to speak in specifics rather than in general terms, so let’s take the book of Samuel as our example. The book of Samuel had an author (or authors) and it had an audience. That is, the person(s) who wrote Samuel wrote it for a reason and for a certain readership. And it wasn’t me (or you). This sounds basic, but it is increasingly important in a world (and church) that doesn’t seem to appreciate context and recognize boundaries. While the book of Samuel may be difficult to nail down exactly who wrote it, when they wrote, and exactly to whom they wrote, I think we can all agree that the audience was a group of Jewish people sometime between 1000-500 B.C. We don’t need to be more specific for our purposes now. So the point is that the original audience cannot be me (I’m not Jewish) and it can’t be you (unless you’re 2500 years old).

But, you ask, isn’t there a way in which Samuel is for us. Yes, indeed. But that way is not to pretend as if that book was written to and for us. Instead, it is to understand the meaning of Samuel as intended by its original author(s) to its original hearers/readers. That, and only that, meaning is what you must seek. You cannot start with “what is Samuel saying to me?” Once you’ve determined what Samuel is saying to its audience, then you can determine what application it has for your life.

Sounds like rock solid advice (HT: Expository Thoughts). By the way, you can find earlier posts along the same lines here and here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Good stuff at Preaching Now

This week's edition of Preaching Now is an especially rich issue. And you can't beat the price.

Preaching grace and obedience

Bryan Chapell has written a good explanation of the need to preach both grace and obedience:

Legalism makes believers think that God accepts them on the basis of what they do. Licentiousness makes believers think that God does not care what they do. Both errors have terrible spiritual consequences."

HT: Preaching Now

Monday, September 18, 2006

Five contemporary traps for preaching

Albert Mohler writes on the state of preaching today:

Signs of encouragement include a large number of younger evangelical pastors who are unabashedly committed to biblical exposition and represent a resurgence of genuine biblical exposition from the pulpits of churches situated in every part of the country, from the inner city to the suburbs and beyond. This new generation is proving once again that the effective and faithful exposition of the Word of God draws persons to Christ and leads to spiritual growth and to the health of the church. A generation of young ministers, along with others making their way through college and seminary education, may point toward a renaissance of biblical preaching in coming years.

On the other hand, several trends represent issues of genuine concern. In the main, the last few decades have been a period of wanton experimentation in many pulpits and preaching has often been redefined and reconceived as something other than the exposition and application of the biblical text.

Dr. Mohler's article is worth reading (HT: Preaching Now).

Studying, living, and proclaiming

This article is a few months old, but worth reading if you missed it: Mark Driscoll shares his reflections on preaching. Included in his thoughts is a strong thread on the need for a preacher to live the Word himself.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

He's not our example

Mark Lauterbach has written a wonderfully simple explanation about why much of our teaching and preaching on Jesus' temptation in the wilderness is wrong.

Friday, September 15, 2006

You mean he doesn't?

Ben Witherington gives ten reasons why God doesn't want you wealthy.

Update: Dave Warnock has further insights.

What's better than sports cars and clowns?

Doug McHone urges us to "preach big or go home":
After all, there is a myriad of preachers who have made a mockery of their ministries by despising the gospel for a more seeker friendly approach. We have all seen the pictures of a preacher showing up on the stage in a sports car and one who dressed up like a clown. They probably thought they were going to great lengths for God! But they forgot an important point. It is the gospel that is foolishness to those who are perishing, not their antics.
Good point. So if sports cars and clown costumes are out, what is appropriate for making an impact on our hearers?
The context regarding what sort of activity would be considered appropriate is rather simple. Go big in such a way that you honor the biggest thing. Another cliché for you: let the big thing be the big thing.
I agree. Let's stick to the big thing: Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"You, my friend, are the almighty ruler"

Conrad Gempf calls it syncretism. I call it idolatry. We all call it Burger King.

More than a name?

Craig Williams, reacting to comments by Bill Maher, wonders if we in North America are more than Christians in name only:
The American religious world is more concerned about holding on than letting go. We give in percentages, trying to figure out how we can have the appearnace of generosity and still holding on to more of what we've got. We are not close to lavishly sharing out of our abundance. We want the strong Christian who is in-charge and confident that they know God's purposes for our lives. We don't have time for the meek or the humble who might simply trust God without fanfare or great schemes. We want something that works! It's interesting that our culturally dominated Western styled Christianity has led to the observation of a religion that is anemic at best, hypocritical at worst. Christians in name only.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Whose agenda?

Theocentric Preaching has posted a powerful, two-paragraph quote from Alan Roxburgh on a fundamental shift in the Christian story.

It's not an even exchange

Mark Horne writes with wisdom about God's grace:
It seems almost human nature to think that we can find something to do for God that will make Him do us favors. If we live more virtuously, or cut down on a vice or two, then God will have to reward us.

But the problem with this notion is not only that it doesn't take sin seriously but also that it doesn't really comport with the idea of God at all.
As Mark points out, the notion is also pagan.

Not our own

My latest sermon text, on 1 Cor. 7:1-12, is now posted at To the Word.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More on "practical preaching"

The second part of Lee Eclov's "The Danger of Practical Preaching" has been posted at Out of Ur.

Playing a different game

Paul Littleton has been reading Jeremiah and has come to the conclusion that the church ought to be playing a far different game from Republican and Democrat:
I think American Christians (on the right and the left) need to sit back, take a deep breath, count backwards from ten to zero and get a little confidence in the one who said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." If the left-wing nutjobs take over America it will not be because God has slipped off to the bathroom. If the right-wing wackos get their way it will not be because God got caught napping. And if worse comes to worse and some terrorist group infiltrates the U.S. killing you and all your children it will not mean that God lost control of things. It will simply mean that his plan did not work out exactly as you thought it would. But he'll still be God and victory will still belong to his people.

. . . Liberalism and conservatism, both politically and theologically, are simply two sides of the same coin. They both play the same game, by the same rules. They simply play for different teams. Saturday I will go watch the OU Sooners play against the Washington Huskies. They will be going for different goals, but they will all be wearing the same equipment, they will use the same number of players and the rules will be the same for one as for the other. The only thing separating them will be the colors of the uniforms and which end they're driving toward. But it will all happen on the same field of play and they'll all use the same rule book.

More often than not, however, God plays a different game by a different set of rules and invites us to join him. We can put on our team colors and play our hearts out, but that really isn't any different than the guy who scores a touchdown, points to heaven, kneels on one knee and thanks God. He's still playing a different game. Call it religious. Call it Christian. Call it what you want. It's still football. Jesus was often confronted by the religious people of his day and asked to take sides in their doctrinal debates. He always turned the debate on its ear, rewrote the rules, and invited his listeners to play a different game. At his trial the secular authorities invited him to play their game by their rules. He astounded them with his silence.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Avoiding a "homiletical hermeneutic"

Chris Pixley, passing on a few ideas from Daniel I. Block, cautions preachers to avoid a homiletical hermeneutic. If you're like me, you've already made the mistake at some point in the past.

We're really not OK

John Schroeder remembers the book I'm OK, You're OK. As John points out, there's more to Thomas A. Harris's book on transactional analysis than just the cover, but the title itself seems to have had its own impact on popular culture:
When I look around me today, at the state of the church, and the state of society as a whole, there is a lot of people thinking they are OK without letting God make them OK. The result is that everybody I am talking to is OK, but somehow the world is still just in awful, awful shape. How can that be? The practical ramification of that is that we spend a lot of time fixing the world, through politics and programs, ministires and messages, and almost no time trying to fix ourselves, that is to say, letting God fix us.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Bought with a price

Well, it's almost a week late, but I've finally posted the text of my 1 Cor. 6:12-20 sermon.

Worship is encountering the Lord

Although his fondness for all-caps can be a little bit DISTRACTING, Dan McGowan offers spot-on wisdom on worship.

Learning to read the text

Chris Erdman wonders if the church can't take a lesson from the synagogue, where members are systematically taught how to read the text:
There is a catechesis that is inevitable. Communities catechized in how to read their texts have a better chance of avoiding the pitfalls of the hidden and subtle catechesis of the cultures that form them often in ways opposed to what their texts urge upon them. Communities are often well-schooled in being consumers or nationalists, for example, and are therefore terribly susceptible to reading the Bible poorly.
Too true.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

More than the bottom line

Out of Ur has posted an essay (previously published in Preaching Today) by Lee Eclov on the danger of practical preaching. I recommend it (the article, not practical preaching).

Idolatry of achievement

Paul Martin calls achievement the new idol:
At some point in our lives, we compare ourselves to each other and find that we don’t measure up. This is especially present in what I call the Tiger Woods syndrome. My wife and I used to golf occasionally. She would usually wind up frustrated at some point because she couldn’t strike the ball like Tiger. It is unreasonable, but it IS what we compare ourselves to.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Resources for gospel-centeredness

Dan Cruver has created a gospel-centeredness resources page at eucatastrophe.

Is God a little bit boring?

Daryl Dash continues to hit long balls at Theocentric Preaching. Here's a sample:
Nobody ever comes out and says it, but I think a lot of people think that theocentric preaching is boring preaching. The underlying assumption is that God is a little bit boring, or at least irrelevant to us. A preacher who helps us understand God, and our lives in light of God, is not as interesting as a practical sermon focused on our needs.
After years of needs-based preaching, I've become convinced that God-centered preaching is the way to go. It may not give listeners the immediate take-home value, but over the long haul it's the way to build disciples.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The love of books and The Book

Bill Williams reminds us not to become so enamored of books (or blogs) that we neglect The Book.

Renewing heart and mind

At Expository Thoughts, Jerry Wragg writes that simply changing behavior is not the same as building true discipleship:
The Bible is clear that life transformation occurs when the mind is renewed! Preaching should first renovate the hearers reasoning, confront their humanistic worldview, cement new theological convictions, bring sinful motivations under the captivity of Christ, and smash all idols of the heart. By the time a sermon has traversed these crucial “implications”, first for the original hearers and then for today, practical life changes will become much clearer as the Spirit “applies” the surgical word, renewing the heart and mind.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Our missionary God

Eddie Arthur offers a theological view of the missionary nature of God.

Faith to change

Brad Hightower shares insights on faith and powerlessness:
We have often been taught that faith is belief in a creed or a series of immutable truths. Jesus is God; Jesus died for sins; God is all powerful all loving creator. All these things are true but they are not biblical faith. Faith in the Gospel is that I through faith in Jesus Christ can enter the kingdom today. Today is the day of salvation. This is not a faith in immutable truths but faith in change in our lives today. Change. Faith is faith for change. Radical complete change. Change from worldly passions to holy affections. Faith to go from materialism to generosity, from resentments and gossip to love and forgiveness. Faith to become fruitful for God. No matter how difficult or impossible it seems faith meets our powerlessness.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Did he really mean that?

John Mark Hicks wonders: when Jesus said, "sell your possessions and give to the poor" (Luke 12:33), is it possible that he meant, "sell your possessions and give to the poor"?

Are we capable of trust?

Jim Street has been teaching the Psalms. From them we learn that God is faithful and righteous:
However, God is also free. Just as we can count on God to always do the right thing we can also count on God to act out of God's own freedom. I believe that is why we often read the Pslamist crying out, "When, O Lord?" Or, "How long, O Lord?" Or, "Where are You, Lord?"

. . . . The awareness of the freedom of God, to my mind, is what drives the Pslamist to make promises or bargain with God. The Psalmist is trying to get God to make a move.

I often put it this way: "Our problem is not in wondering whether God exists or whether God loves us or whether God will be faithful to us or whether God will do the right thing or not. Our problem is the anxiety of wondering whether God will show up by Friday at 3."