Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What more do we need?

David Fitch: "How can you put the Kingdom of God into a mission statement?"

Living outside the bubble

Nothing in place of God's truth

Chris Gallagher: "I am tired of politics making their way into our Christian relationships causing division based on man made material."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Remembering the overall message

I am convinced that many Christians have no idea how they come across to people outside the church. We must be careful that we do not add to the offense of the cross, the offense of ideas, fads and values that are not firmly rooted in the scriptures. While there is generally more openness to expository preaching, that is not enough to ground people in Christ and prepare them for life if there is not a good grasp of biblical and systematic theology. Expository preaching that is not carried out with an profound awareness of the Bible's overall message is just as liable to go astray as topical preaching that uses the text as a springboard to launch our own ideas. We desperately need both if we are to achieve a personal and corporate Christianity that is glorifying to God, and by his grace, winsome in the eyes of those we are seeking to win to Christ.

"Intimacy, community, ministry"

John Frye looks at Mark 3:14 and identifies a key dynamic in Jesus' selection of the twelve:
Ponder what Mark puts first as the purpose of Jesus' selection. Jesus wanted the Twelve to be with him. "Be---with---him." What a thought. Jesus, according to Mark, did not choose only "doers" who would preach the available kingdom and cast out demons and heal the sick. Jesus chose "be-ers" who would hang out with him. Not serve together first, but live together first.
That's a keeper.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Latest Workman Watch at Unashamed Workman

Colin Adams does a homiletical evaluation of one of John Piper's sermons on 1 Thess. 4 and sexual purity.

No more pretending

Mark Loughridge offers some critical food for thought on trying to separate the bad things we do from who we "really are":
Unfortunately that IS who we really are. We cannot divorce people and their actions. The Bible says, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). We wouldn’t do these things if there wasn’t a desire to do them somewhere deep within.

What we do, we choose to do. What we choose to do, we do because of desires deep within us.

That leaves us with a choice – we can either pull the wool over our eyes and pretend that we are better than we really are, all the while allowing ourselves to rot from the inside out, or we can admit that there is something wrong at the very core of our being and look for a way to have it dealt with.

There is something tremendously freeing about the Bible’s approach. It allows us to be honest with ourselves and with God about our sin. We don’t have to hide anything. We don’t have to pretend that we are better than we really are. But more than that, we can have the problem dealt with – God doesn’t just want to hear about our faults, he wants to transform us. That’s what Jesus offers to do.

Friday, January 26, 2007

More jewels on preaching

John Brand has committed to reading one book on preaching each week in 2007. At A Steward of the Secret Things he shares the jewels he's found in Martyn Lloyd-Jones's Preaching and Preachers here and here.

Asking the right questions

Mark Lauterbach and friends have been looking at his preaching lately with this question in mind: "do people walk away from the sermon with faith in a glorious Savior?"
I think, if you read the NT carefully, you will find that hope in Christ is the backdrop and mood of very letter. Even the most corrective letters end with hope in the Savior.

I also think, if you read your own heart carefully, you will find that hope in self-improvement is the backdrop of everything we do. I do not “get” the Gospel just because I can pass Grace Alone Test. My heart wars for self-salvation, self-beautification, self-commendation and against salvation is from the LORD.

Too true. Mark's whole article, by the way, is worth reading.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Grace for the lost and the found

"Jesus is all that you need. Which is good, because Jesus is all that we have. If you are lost, throw yourself upon His mercy. If you are found, throw yourself on His mercy."

Once again: the case for expository preaching

John Brand calls on some homiletical heavy-hitters in making the case for expository preaching. John also gives his own argument for biblical exposition:
The great problem with so much so-called preaching today is that what is being communicated and heard is not God’s Word but the preacher’s ideas and opinions which have been anchored, loosely or otherwise, on a text of Scripture. Sometimes it appears to have been done for no greater reason than convenience or perhaps to clothe what will follow with some degree of authority but, in reality, the preacher never intended to disguise the fact that his message is precisely that – his message.
So that's the great problem. What's the great solution?
The true, faithful preacher is not concerned about passing on his own views and opinions. The true preacher knows that what his congregation needs more than anything else is the authoritative, inspired Word of God. The task of the preacher is to pass on to his hearers what God has said and that is best done through expository preaching.
John's assertions are very bold, but very well supported.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"The highest value priority you have"

Quoted at Theocentric Preaching, James Grier discusses long-range planning for sermon preparation and says that it's better to cancel services than to step into the pulpit unprepared.

The best Greek NT texts online

If you're like me, you regularly use free online versions of the Greek New Testament in sermon preparation. But how accurate are those online texts?

First the bad news: Computer scientist Alan Bunning has created a database to compare online versions of the Greek NT and found them full of errors. Now the good news: Mr. Bunning has posted corrected versions of several major eclectic texts at the Scientific Greek New Testament Interliner website. James Tauber and Ulrik Petersen, by the way, have been doing similar work for several years.

Hat Tip: NT Gateway Weblog.

Another new preaching blog

Thanks to Unashamed Workman for pointing to yet another preaching blog: A Steward of the Secret Things. John Brand's new blog is off to a very good start, and you'll probably be seeing a few links to Steward in the coming days.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Ruminations on Jesus, miracles, kingship, and fish

If you're planning to preach on Luke 4:21-30 anytime soon, you really ought to see what Conrad Gempf has to say about the pericope. He also shares "further wonderings on miracles with fish."

On "cultural Christianity"

“If you look at the Western world, which is militaristic and capitalistic, decimating the environment, treating animals terribly, and running roughshod over the rights of the poor—how in the world is this possibly based on the teachings of Christ? . . . It really is the equivalent of, like, a vegan owning a McDonald’s franchise and torturing animals in his basement.”
- Moby

Monday, January 22, 2007

"The abandonment of tower-building"

Jesus' parables of the tower builder and the warrior king are not really about the cost of discipleship, says Andy Crouch, but the cost of non-discipleship. And they're of special value for counteracting American hubris (HT: In the Clearing).

Update: Mike Russell has posted a rebuttal.

Ministering at home and abroad

How important is a good marriage for a preacher? John Wesley's troubles with his wife, Molly, were legendary, while Jonathan and Sarah Edwards shared a wonderful, sweet relationship. Doreen Moore's Good Christians, Good Husbands looks at the marriages of preachers Wesley, Edwards, and George Whitefield. You can read Colin Adams's review at titus2talk.

Speaking against clinical abortion

John Piper offers online sources for preaching against abortion (HT: Between Two Worlds).

Friday, January 19, 2007

Indiana high schools and the church

He's writing about small-town basketball, but what Stephen H. Webb says about individuals and communities has strong implications for the local church.

Concise description of expository preaching

At Expository Thoughts, Matt Waymeyer explains the benefits of expository preaching as "a display of what is there." The two elements of that process, Matt explains, are exegesis and presentation:
To the degree that a preacher fails either to accurately interpret or clearly proclaim the biblical text, he has departed from expository preaching by failing to expose the meaning of God’s Word to His people. Think about it. On one hand, if he misinterprets the Word and clearly proclaims this errant interpretation of the passage, he has put something on display, but not the meaning of God’s Word. This is not faithful preaching. On the other hand, if he accurately interprets the passage and has a precise understanding of its meaning, and yet he is decidedly unclear in his presentation of the biblical text, he still has not exposed the meaning of God’s Word to His people. He may have this meaning hidden somewhere in his own mind, but he has not put it on display. For this reason, you might say that the most serious transgression in preaching is to be unbiblical, and the second is to be unclear. To be anything less than biblical and clear is to shortchange the people of God and be unfaithful to the divine mandate.
For an excellent follow-up post, see "A Case for Consecutive Exposition."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

What's really going on

Good point: hermeneutics is spiritual warfare.

Update: Eucatastrophe has more.

Reaching the lost like Jesus did

Mark Lauterbach reminds us that if we really mean to reach the lost with the gospel, we need to build long-term relationships with them. We certainly have examples of that approach:
First, I am struck by the fact that Jesus was so intentional in his seeking of the lost that he had a reputation for hanging out with a bad crowd. There is no other way to say this -- when they wanted to slander him, they called him a friend of sinners! Their slander was a badge of honor!

Of course, we were all lost in his eyes -- but there were folks who were lost and knew it, and there were folks who were lost and did not think they were. Generally, Jesus seemed to find that the "real sinners" were aware of their sin, and the self-righteous were offended that he thought they were sinners. And, of course, he was not just socializing -- he was on a mission, a physician to the sick. But, the real sinners were attracted to him -- and the self-righteous were offended -- and that remains a test of whether I am preaching the Gospel.

Amen. In getting to know those outside the church, Mark reminds us, we "will learn how to speak to them and what their real objections are . . . "

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Expository why and how

Big Orange Truck makes the case for expository preaching:
Listen, I was a die-hard topical preacher. I was taught that expositional preaching was boring and impractical. In my circle of fundamentalists, expositional preachers were caricaturized as old, dusty, liberal theologians. Boy was I misled!

Then one day I learned that expositional sermons simply communicate the intent of a text. It asks the question, "what does this text really mean?"
And if reglerjoe convinces you to preach expositionally, Steve Weaver offers a six-part series to teach you how (HT: Unashamed Workman).

Monday, January 15, 2007

Third year

Today is the second anniversary of Transforming Sermons. I started this blog as a way of helping preachers to, well, transform their sermons into sermons that transform. Preaching is the passion of my life and something I enjoy sharing with others. This blog has helped put me in contact with fellow preachers and Christians from around the world. I thank you for reading, and I praise God for making it happen. I hope it has helped you, amid the cacophony of Internet and media noise, to focus on the Word.

In the two years since this weblog began operation, 0thers have started blogs dedicated explicitly to the practice of preaching. Of particular note are Expository Thoughts, Soul Preaching, Stronger Church, Theocentric Preaching, Unashamed Workman, and (most recently), Preach the Word. You can find these and others (when all the feeds start showing up) at the Preaching Blogs Group Page.

May this third year of Transforming Sermons be a blessing to you and an offering to the glory of God.

Best of the best

One of the very best Christian bloggers, Dan Edelen, has compiled links to the Best of Cerulean Sanctum in 2006.

A lesson in grace

All Christians are called to service. But in some cases the very work of serving God can result in a false conception of the place of service in the Kingdom. So here's something all Christians, particularly vocational ministers, need to remember. The words come from Adrian Warnock's account of his own growth in discipleship:
The truth is, sadly, that like so many of us, there have been many times in my life where I have been so caught up with what I was doing for God that I forgot that the most important thing He wants from me is for me to simply be His son and worship Him.
Amen. While hard work for God looks good on the outside, it's possible for service to arise from a false belief in our indispensability to God. The lesson of grace, however, is that God uses us not so much because we're helpful as because he loves us.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Don't do it!

Beware of becoming a crypto-Christian.

Update: Dan Edelen has another take: "We American Evangelicals already are and probably have been Crypto-Christians for a very long time. Yet somehow, we continue to think of ourselves as the standard by which all Christianity is measured, both past and future." Ouch.

A few more preaching tools

Unashamed Workman has another strong workman's toolbox this weekend. I'll probably be blogging about some of its preaching links in the days ahead.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Preaching in Scripture

Unashamed Workman has posted part two of "The Case for Preaching." Today's installment shows what the Bible has to say about preaching.

Not addition, but transformation

John Schroeder, reflecting on the words of Dallas Willard, offers some on-target observations about spirituality and transformation:
The Christian "experience," proceeds in precisely the opposite direction that most people think religion is pointed. We do not find ourselves in Christ, WE FIND CHRIST! And unless we put ourselves aside, our view of Him will always be blocked.
The goal of Christian discipleship is not fulfillment, but the cross.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Self-care and ministry

Jim Martin is asking for input on how to encourage ministers who have become discouraged in their vocation.

Resources for Epiphany 2C

At Proclamation, Will Humes has created a Google Notebook of preaching resources for Epiphany 2C. If you're doing lectionary preaching, it looks to be a dynamite addition to the standard web source, The Text This Week.

"Through the lens of the empty tomb"

In reading the New Testament, Mark Lauterbach has noticed that the apostles were not as concerned with their sin as Christians are today:
I want to be faithful to the language of the Bible. It seems to me that the person and work of Jesus dominates the NT and that even the sin of Christians is viewed through the lens of the empty tomb. The look at sin is ruled by the look at the work of grace now experienced. The apostles, by accent, focus more on the NOW than the THEN. And in so doing, they magnify grace.

Good point. Mark's observations, by the way, bring to mind Krister Stendahl's classic work, "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

On repentance

Brian Nicklaus has posted part two on "The Lost Art of Reptentance," and John Piper has written a thought-provoking message on "How to Deal with the Guilt of Sexual Failure for the Glory of Christ and His Global Cause" (HT: Between Two Worlds).

Moral development in the Kingdom

Chris Erdman reminds Christians that morality is a matter of the Kingdom, not the empire:
Often when American Christians talk about morality they have the wider society in view—they wring their hands at the moral slide of our nation over the past decades, they lament the loss of certain benchmarks they believe were needed to hold the moral center in our country. . . . But the New Testament’s moral teachers—our ancient pastors and catechists—don’t have the empire or nation in view at all. Their sights are on the church. Disinterested in the larger empire, they aim to instruct Christians in the manner of life is worthy of those whose identity is bound to Jesus Christ. . . .

And so this moral teaching cherished by the church for two thousand years is aimed not at a nation or empire, but at a small community of people who, because of their worship of God, might live in and amidst whatever empire they find themselves in, offering their own generous participation in its life, while recognizing that they are called and formed to live a moral life that often runs up against the values, assumptions, and moral behaviors of that empire.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Satellite Bible atlas

Thanks to Justin Taylor for turning me on to It's a biblical atlas tied in with Google Maps and with hyper-links in the biblical text (ESV or KJV). The site is not only free, it's ad-free.

The preeminent place of preaching

At Unashamed Workman Colin Adams has begun making the case for the priority of preaching:
We’ve all heard the criticisms. From the subtle jibe, “the preacher went on a bit this morning” (which persists no matter how short the sermon gets) to the blatant diatrabe, “preaching is an outdated form of communication.” It seems that despite all the advances in 21st century education, attention spans are shorter than ever. Moreover, in an image conscious culture people cannot deal with an onslaught of words.

Apparently. But this blog - and an increasing number of evangelicals - takes a different view. We believe on the basis of Scripture that there remains a place for preaching. A pre-eminent place.

Amen. Part two of "The Case for Preaching" is scheduled for Friday at Unashamed Workman.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Fitting into the Kingdom

Team Swap gives sound advice on finding the right fit in Christian service.

Loss and spiritual formation

John Schroeder considers personal loss and offers his own insights on spiritual formation:
We design our churches to provide comfort and security for the people that come to them, and yet God seems to have something very different in mind. It is in our discomfort and insecurity that we most readily find Him and what He would have for us.

Amen. John's post, by the way, reflects on Dan Cruver's account of profound loss.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Off-topic: writing about myself

I'm honored that Jollyblogger David Wayne asked me to participate in this meme, but in order to stay on topic here, I've answered at The Storage Room. If you'd like to participate, consider yourself tagged.

Solid preaching tools

Unashamed Workman offers a fine set of tools for preachers in today's Workman's Toolbox.

Problems with "the grace culture"

Brian Nicklaus's thoughts on the downplaying of repentance in the church are worth reading:

Someone comes down the isle during the invitation song. It is a godly man or woman convicted of the guilt of his/her sin and wanting to confess publicly and ask for the prayers of the church family. The preacher or shepherd proceeds to praise this individual, commenting how we all struggle with sin, how many struggle with this specific sin, and great it is that the person confessed publicly, etc.

With the good intentions of encouraging a beloved christian, we effectively downplay the awfulness of sin, godly sorrow, and repentance. Have you ever snickered when someone confessed to lying or gossiping or running a stop sign? Those people who are super-sensitive, we assume they are neurotic. Good grief! Everyone sins, right?

Well, yes. But as Brian points out, there's an underside to the idea that "it's all about grace."

Update: John Schroeder continues the discussion at Blogotional.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A note on blog groups

I've recently updated the two Blogdigger groups I edit: Church of Christ blogs and Preaching blogs. The feeds for several blogs haven't been working, in most cases due to changes in Blogger feeds. These blogs are now back in the CofC blogs group and should begin appearing by Saturday: Abductive Columns, Already & Not Yet, Believer Blog, Fajita's Blog, Phil Wilson's Blog, PreachingPoetic, and Tentpegs. Also, J.P. Manzi is back with a new weblog, Return of the Prodigal Blogger. The preaching group is doing well except that I can't figure out how to make the feed work for Buzzard Blog (sorry, Justin).

If you have a blog in one of these groups, please remember to ping Blogdigger after each post or group of posts. The only way I know how to do this is through Pingomatic (if you know an easier, more effective way, I'd like to hear it).

If you have a blog that ought to be in one of the groups but isn't, I'll be happy to add your feed. Please let me know.

Update: Administrator Greg Gershman says Blogdigger is in the process of working on the root problem of the feed glitch.

"A difficult exercise. . ."

Now this is a rich combination: Tolkien on preaching.

Resisting the "Christian-Industrial Complex"

Michael Spencer is on to something when he writes about a "Christian-industrial complex" that fosters a product-focused discipleship of Osteen, Warren, Kincaid, Jabez, Moore, and Lucado products:
1) the marketers are effectively leading evangelicalism through the high powered, high financed marketing of these products, 2) actual pastors are doing little to provide alternatives to this kind of marketing, but are often using these marketing promotions as the sources for sermon series and worship themes, and 3) the evangelicals buying these products are virtually without the ability to discern what is happening to the Biblical concepts of the Christian life and discipleship.
iMonk calls on Christians in North America to pull away from the allure of mega-marketing:
Get yourself and your families out of this mess. Look at what’s happening and say NO to it. Pastors: Talk to your people about books worth reading. Get your sermons from the Bible, not some marketer. Critique the fads. Most of all, present the savior and the call to follow him. Tell Lifeway to take their next marketing ploy to the shredder. Resist the remaking of the Christian faith into buying stuff, wearing stuff, going to stuff, doing programs and spending money. Remake your Christian experience this year into something that’s not just another fad. Get angry if you need to, or just quietly say “I’m not part of this anymore.” Get off the train and walk. Wave at the sheep on their way to the next sheep convention to get a sheep shirt and a bag of sheep books.
Amen. (HT: The Upward Way Press)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Beyond worldy approaches to God

Unashamed Workman has a helpful analysis of a sermon by Tim Keller on the prodigal sons in Luke 15. The analysis is worth reading. I suspect many of us will find Mr. Keller's interpretation to be a fresh take on a well-worn parable.

Service in victory

In the light of a recent bowl game upset, Jeff Weddle reflects on Luke 12:37 and service as an eternal quality of God:
The Lord will come in victory. He will have stomped the bad guys. One would think that at this point His serving days would be over. He won’t serve after He has defeated every enemy that exalts itself against Him will He?

Yes, yes He will. You can’t remove service out of the nature of our God. That is a huge distinction between the God of Christianity and the gods of other religions. Our God serves us and doesn’t need anything from us.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Latest at Preaching Now

The latest issue of Preaching Now is strong. Included in this week's issue are an excerpt of Thomas Schreiner's article (original here) on preaching the OT, a helpful reminder about avoiding cliches in preaching, and other good resources.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Still feasting

Doug Floyd reminds Christians that the feast of Christmas isn't over yet.

Through the church

Kent Brandenburg has written a solid essay on the "call" to Christian ministry.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New preaching blog

Although it's actually been going for some time, a new blog devoted to preaching is being "launched" today. Colin Adams has begun Unashamed Workman as a daily blog with a disciplined format. It looks like a fine new web resource for preachers. The site is now part of the Preaching Blogs Group, and I look forward to reading UW daily.

The heart of the gospel

Bob at In the Clearing is thinking about J.I. Packer and the true heart of the gospel:
I looking for the gold, the real value, the deep things beneath the chaff of the contemporary. In my experience, preachers tend to talk a lot about God's ability to take care of us, to see to our circumstances. Ah, yes, "circumstances." God will help you through them. God is greater than them. Are you dealing with money issues, relationship issues, these issues, those issues? Give 'em to God. He's good, strong, and loving. He'll take care of you. That's the adumbrated contemporary gospel. And you know what? It's not the gospel of the New Testament.
And what is the heart of the gospel? How about the propitiation of sins?