Friday, March 30, 2007
Please make sure to have a look at this two-sentence idea on what the Lord's Supper says about our theology.
I highly recommend Stephen Webster's list of 10 things he's learned in 10 years of Bible teaching. Here's one:
HT: Terry Pruitt
I am fond of telling my students that, regarding certain issues, if we lined up 12 leading evangelical Bible scholars and asked them to give an opinion, four would say “yes”, four would say, “no” and the remaining four would say, “I don’t know.” This can only prompt us to be gracious when it comes to matters of conscience or areas of ecclesiastical disagreement.
HT: Terry Pruitt
Thursday, March 29, 2007
"We need a fully orbed, widely applied vision of the cross. Pastoral care that is worth doing, walks people back to the foot of the cross where they can see clearly. The story of the cross is the one we need to be telling."
Dave Johnson shares an experience from his past about a church elder who showed no signs of spiritual transformation:
So here’s my question: “What’s up with that?” In all his years in church and in “the Word”, Ray never became a different kind of person. He never changed. He never became more loving, gentle, peaceful, or patient. Indeed, he only seemed to become more angry and rigid as time went on. He became harder to be around. What’s more, no one seemed to be bothered by that, as though something were out of the ordinary. No one wondered if maybe Ray had somehow missed the point.Good question. This is a topic, by the way, I recently addressed at Milton's Daily Dose. The evidence of our discipleship is that we are changing more and more into the image of Jesus Christ in actions and attitudes. When the leaders of a congregation show no signs of spiritual transformation, that church is in serious trouble.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Whatever you may think about his doctrinal flavor, you have to admit that John McArthur is a powerful preacher. Unashamed Workman gives us a clue as to why: 32 hours preparation for each message.
If, like me, your worldview has been shaped by Middle Earth, the Fellowship, and the War of the Ring, then you should enjoy the powerhouse posts Mike Russell has been writing at The Lord of the Kingdom.
John Frye has written a dynamite treatment of Mark 3:21-35 and "who's in and who's out":
For me, Mark 3:34 is a case study in centered-set thinking. Mark writes that Jesus looked around . . . This is a deliberate 360 degree gaze. How do we know? Because Mark adds that the crowd was "in a circle" . . . around him. This detail is important.Yes it is. I recommend reading John's whole article.
Who is in the center? Bingo. Those on the "outside" were natural family--"your mothers and your your brothers." Jesus takes the opportunity to redefine family as those inside who are accepting of and attentive to him and his word. Being accepting of Jesus and attentive to his word are those "who do the will of God" (verse 35). Did you hear the grenade explode? This is radical, scandalous talk!
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
If you like what I link to here, you ought to enjoy what I write on my new weblog, Milton's Daily Dose. Each dose is one to three paragraphs, in concentrated form, on Christian discipleship. I started the blog as part of my job search to show churches what I believe and how I teach. Even if you're not looking for a preacher, you ought to enjoy the treatment. Please come visit.
If you'd like some solid advice on good expository preaching, have a look at this interview with John Koessler. Here's the conclusion:
Yes, my confidence as a preacher is in the power of God's Word. That's one of the most exciting things about preaching. It's not because we like to lecture. It's not because people are staring at us and waiting for us to say something. It's because we are driven by the conviction that God's truth, that those truths recorded in human language, have the potential to transform people's lives. And that's the most exciting thing, isn't it? When you proclaim that and you see God work through it? That's what gets you hooked. And once you're hooked, you never go back.Amen. (Hat tip: Preaching Now).
Monday, March 26, 2007
I seldom link to book reviews, but A Steward of the Secret Things is loaded with reviews of contemporary books on preaching.
Doug Floyd writes: "The world we cling to kills the soul and the body stumbles forward in numbed chaos. Jesus came so that we could finally…die."
The Constructive Curmudgeon reflects on John MacArthur's assertion that "Soft preaching makes hard hearts. Hard preaching makes soft hearts."
Friday, March 23, 2007
It's not often that someone sends a press release to this blog, but I got one the other day about The Brook, a resource site for preachers and church leaders. The site is heavy on video materials, but also has some articles to read.
Jim Martin, reflecting on the writing of David Hansen, considers pastoral ministry as an exercise of love. It's a challenge to live and minister that way without building protective fences around our hearts:
I understand the temptation to be ambivalent. After all, loving people is to set yourself up to be hurt. Yes, loving people can be joyful, satisfying, rewarding, etc. Yes, there are people who will love you in return and whose love will bring great encouragement to your life. There are also people who can and will hurt you. To love is to put yourself "out there" where your heart will be trampled on by some.True. It's a tough way to minister and live. It also happens to be the way Jesus went.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
In a short, elegant post, thebluefish shows how some of the perennial questions about God's goodness and power can be answered through the communion of saints.
At don't call me veronica, Tony Myles shares his struggles with preaching faithfully:
Here's the tension...How do we deal with the tension? Simply put, we can't wait till our service is perfect before serving the Lord. Sometimes we have to be willing to fall--and trust that our God will catch us when we do.
- Because I love God I desire to put out the perfect message every week and hope the final product pleases Him.
- Because God loves me I recognize I will put out an imperfect message every week and He will be pleased simply by my faithfulness.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Jeff Weddle reminds Christians that "There are major ramifications of getting your Trinitarian views messed up."
Dan Edelen has a few questions onwhy we hear so little of the Holy Spirit in U.S. churches these days:
1. Why is it that you can surf a hundred Christian blogs and not find a single mention of the Holy Spirit?Dan does more than ask questions. He tells why we ought to be hearing more about the Spirit.
2. How is it possible that you can go to your average Christian bookstore and buy a dozen Christian books and find virtually no mention of the Holy Spirit?
3. Why is it that the institutional churches have either turned the Holy Spirit into a “fairy godmother” or gutted His power to do anything more than help us remember a few Bible verses?
4. In fact, how is it that some Christians routinely allow the Bible to replace the Holy Spirit in the Trinity?
5. How can it be that we can talk about eschatology, soteriology, epistemology, and a hundred other Christian -ologies, but someone casually asks to define pneumatology and entire swaths of mature Christians will scratch their heads?
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
At In the Clearing, my friend Bob calls for preachers to tell the Great Story of the Scriptures:
Show me Jesus, Pastor. Don't assume I need a talking to about getting involved at church. Don't rifle the Scriptures for items that help you make your point. Take me through the Word, re-introduce me to the Great Story. Tell me about Abraham and how he fits into the grand plan, and Moses and how he does, and all the wild and visionary prophets; show me Jesus in the ancient Jewish texts, and show me the Roman world in which Paul traveled, and who it was that set him to journeying, and tell me what he meant when he said, "Not I who live, but Christ lives in me."At a recent job interview, I was asked to summarize the whole scope of the Bible in twenty minutes. I tried to do it in three and so left out a great deal of very important truth. But the very effort of looking over and proclaiming the whole sweep of God's interaction with mankind was surprisingly energizing. I think Bob is on to something here.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Iconoblog has run a three-part series on children and preaching. Here's a sample:
If we love our children as God would require from us as Christian parents, we must teach them to love bible centred preaching. I believe that God expects even our young children to be able to benefit from preaching.The study does well in taking into account social, developmental, and biblical considerations: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 (HT: Unashamed Workman).
Friday, March 16, 2007
If you haven't seen this blog yet, it's worth a look: David Plotz, a self-described "non-observant Jew", is reading through the Bible and blogging about it. Preachers, this is a rare oppurtunity to see how an intelligent, secular writer views the Scriptures when he actually sits down and reads them. You might also want to pray for the light to shine into Mr. Plotz's heart.
Ray Van Neste shares a voice from the pew to say that Christians do indeed want stubstantive sermons:
Preachers are often told that people really are not interested in substantive content in sermons. I know of pastors who have been severely criticized for dealing with texts that people did not find easily digestible, or useful enough in drawing crowds. Shallow, generic “life-thoughts” will appeal to some, but there is an increasing number of people who are crying out for substantive teaching as they yearn to know God and to have something weighty enough to serve as an anchor for their souls.Amen. And at GospelDrivenLife, Mark Lauterbach shares one of those soul anchors from 1 Peter: the sufferings of Jesus.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
"Genuine evangelism occurs not when someone comes to church because of some self-help motivation. No, genuine evangelism occurs when someone is so hopeless that the only hope left is Christ. Anything less is form without substance."
Dan Edelen has written a scathing essay on how the church in the United States is awash in Christian conferences. These conferences draw big-name speakers, thousands or participants, and cost millions upon millions of dollars. Yet somehow they don't seem to translate to revival. In China, on the other hand, the church holds no conferences, yet revival is burning brightly:
What if each of us took the money we had allocated to yet another conference on our calendars and instead used that money to pay for medical care for the uninsured single mother with four kids who lives down the street? What if we took the weekend we would have spent with our posteriors planted in some padded theater seat soaking up a message we already know from yet another “gifted” speaker we’ve heard a bazillion times already and instead spent that time fixing up the house of one of the elderly in our congregation? What if we actually took all the things we’ve already learned about Jesus and put them to use telling others about Him and doing good works in His name so that when we have to stand before Him we look like sheep, not goats?Good questions. Dan is on to something here. My fellow Christian countrymen, are we listening?
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
At this week's Preaching Now, Michael Duduit offers practical ideas to reinforce preaching in a "snack culture."
John Frye has written a smack-on study of the idea that intellectual assent equals saving faith:
We like to think that forgiveness is a neat, clean transaction just between our mental agreement and God's Word (promise). Other people are actually peripheral or unnecessary. Not so, according to Jesus. There are very real social, relational connections between us and others and God and us. Nothing is private about forgiveness.Amen. John's article is worth reading.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Preachers, as much as possible we ought to understand the minds of those listening to our preaching. For that reason I highly recommend the essay "Short Attention Span Theatre" at Between Two Worlds. It's full of useful links and insights. How about taking a little time and reading it?
Kirk Wellum has written a brief, clear, spot-on essay about Eph. 6:12 and spiritual warfare:
When we think of demonic powers we tend to think of them corrupting us in strange and mysterious ways. But in fact, their approach is often more basic and less spooky than we expect. While we are looking for the paranormal, they work by stirring up sin. More harm is done by walking in sins that Paul tells us are incompatible with the Christian life, than anything else Satan might hurl our way. This is why the armor of the Lord that we are to wear involves things like truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the word of God.Amen.
Monday, March 12, 2007
My latest sermon text posted at To the Word may be decent, but it's certainly not in order.
David P. Gushee has written an outstanding article re-examining the "easy believism" inherent in "Sinner's Prayer" Christianity. Mr. Gushee comes from a tradition that stresses "Believe in Jesus, and you will be saved." He finds something else, however when he actually looks at the NT:
But Jesus never taught easy believism. Whether he was telling the rich young ruler to sell all and follow him or telling a miracle-hungry crowd near Capernaum that to do the work of God was, yes, to believe on him (John 6:28-29), he called people to abandon their own agenda and trust him radically. Radical trust calls for both belief and action.Please read the whole thing (HT: DashHouse.com).
I suggest that we tend to confuse the beginning of the faith journey with its entirety. Yes, believe in Jesus—that's the first step. Yes, invite Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior. Then, empowered by God's grace, embark on the journey of discipleship, in which you seek to love God with every fiber of your being, to love your neighbor as yourself, to live out
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Yes, it's satire, but more real than most of us would like to admit: "I Don't Want Health Care If Just Anyone Can Have It."
Consumerism may have polluted Generation Y even more deeply than it has their parents.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
This month Darryl Dash has been slamming one line drive after another through the gap at DashHouse.com. Here are a few posts worth your time:
Friday, March 09, 2007
Dan Edelen has written a must-read essay on sin that transcends individuals and resides in demonically influenced systems. Here's a sample:
Our society today runs entirely on systems in a way that it did not just forty years ago. Even our churches have become systemized. Some paleoconservatives have deemed this shift “The Managerial Society,” and it’s a form of socialism like the kind we Americans used to routinely mock in the old Soviet Union. Nearly every encounter we have in daily life within the US today has a system lurking behind it. Those systems explain why we have no great men in government now, only systems. Great men and women stand up against political injustice, but systems toe the system line, even if it’s bad for the whole the system operates within.Dan is right that the battle is more than each individual Christian fighting against his or her own sin. It's a war between the Kingdom of God and the realm of darkness in the world order. He and I are most familiar with the systems in the United States, but every culture is dealing with this issue in some form. Dan doesn't believe Christians should merely sit back and let these systems have their way:
Young people today are bitter and cynical because they’ve grown up within these systems and they can’t see any way to transcend them.
Sadly, the one group designed to beat the system, the Church, can’t seem to get off its duff and do what Christ charged it with: tear down strongholds. The glaring error I see within the Church, even in those churches that understand strongholds, is the failure to acknowledge that they go far beyond individuals. We may talk about strongholds in a person’s life, but do we ever talk about strongholds in the entire culture? Not very often!
Too many of us fail to see that systems that break people’s spirits get their power from demonic sources, and we Christians must wrestle against them. . . .
Throughout history, Christians have been at the root of bringing down unholy systems and kingdoms–and not just because they forgave, but because they understood that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.Amen.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Here's more from Paul Lamey on preachers having someone to help us evaluate our sermons (before we preach them).
Kent Brandenburg writes a toe-stepping article about the real Jesus. I found this part challenging:
I believe that most people don’t know who Jesus is. That is sad. He’s Wonderful. He is King of Kings, Mighty God, the Great I Am, and the Jehovah of the Old Testament. He is my Great Intercessor, my Lord, my Savior, the Good Shepherd, and the Great Physician. Every single day I pray for Him to set up His kingdom on this earth. I do yearn for His kingdom to come. And yet people do not know Him. I want to go one step further. I don’t think most Christians know Who He is.I don't know about the rest of the world, but I've often thought that if Jesus were to preach at most churches in the United States today, he wouldn't be invited back.
Our culture has dumbed Jesus down so much that He is hardly recognizable. People in churches are a lot more comfortable with their idea of Jesus than the One in the Bible. When the real One gets presented, they’re often miffed or offended. Churches and their leaders have figured this out, so they water Jesus down for easier consumption. The One in the Bible is worthy of my life and love, but not this placebo.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
No matter how much Christian education you may have received, I recommend you read Royce Ogle's Faith 101.
You might want to have a look at Out of Ur's interview with Veggie Tales co-creator Phil Vischer. Here's a sample:
Near the end we were selling a gazillion [Veggie Tales] videos and I was getting four hundred fan letters a day, but one day I was reading my Bible and I came across the verse that lists the fruit of the Spirit. It occurred to me that none of those things were present in my life. It didn’t say the fruit of the Spirit is impact, large numbers, or selling lots of videos. I realized something was not right.That makes sense: fruit of the Spirit as indicator of spiritual health.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
John Frye, now visiting Ukraine, shares a local preacher's thoughts on cheap grace and its manifestations in the United States:
Sasha is stunned by another USAmerican church feature. We have the luxury of church-hopping. We are so used to this feature that it is hard to understand the spiritual horror that this feature generates in our Ukrainian brothers and sisters. With our franchizing everything in the USA, including church, we cater to the consumer mentality, to the shopper spirit, to the hopper syndrome.Wow.
I report this to Sasha and he sucks in his breath like I am lying to him. I'm not. Sasha shakes his head and looks so bewildered.
"Oh, John, that does not happen here. When we unite to the church, it is a covenant decision. It is serious. We would be horrified to see Christians in Lutsk shifting around from church to church. We pastors would not allow it."
Monday, March 05, 2007
William Willimon asks, "What's the point of worship?" His answer is bang-on:
Love is not love if it is simply a matter of obeying rules, running errands, and performing duties. Some things we do just because we enjoy being in the presence of our loved one. So we sing songs, write poetry, dance, clap our hands, share food, or simply prop up our feet and do nothing but enjoy being with one another. In these purposeless moments of sheer enjoyment, we come very close to what love is all about.Amen. And if you think Dr. Willimon's ideas are sappy or sentimental, I suggest you read his whole essay.
If someone asked a Christian, “What’s the purpose of your worship? Why do you gather on Sunday and sing songs, dress up, kneel, march in processions, clap your hands, shed tears, speak, eat, and listen?” We could only say, “Because we are in love.”
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Mark Loughridge reminds Christians that ripping .mp3s we didn't pay for is stealing: "So if you need to, repent and clean out your hard-drives."
Claude Mariottini has written a fine article about cannibalism in my native state.
Friday, March 02, 2007
Today at Milton's Daily Dose I wrote about salvation as more corporate than individual. At Spiritual Conversations, Larry Chouinard shares related thoughts on identity and community:
Contrary to popular opinion, Paul's letters are much more concerned with cultivating an ecclesial vision of identity and mission, than the personal salvation issues that often dominate Christian discussions. His letters are addressed to Kingdom outposts scattered throughout the Mediterranian world. His instructions and advice are not of the Ann Landers variety, but speak to specific concerns about community cohesiveness and their social identity in the broader culture.Mr. Chouinard goes on to describe three themes Paul directs towards shaping these communities' life and mission. It's well worth reading the whole thing.
. . . . These embedded colonies of heaven incarnate a new public order in the midst of Imperial structures, and embrace values and prorities that often run counter to the prevailing propaganda. The identity and integrity of the community demand resisting the tendency of the [dominant] culture to control and reshape [its] mission in terms that further and promote nationalistic causes or secular agendas. Kingdom loyalties and commitments transcend all institutional and national allegiances.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Nearly every book I've read on church growth calls for targeting a specific age and socio-economic group for evangelism. That approach is perfect except for one thing: it bears no resemblance to the church as established by Jesus and the apostles. With that in mind, it was encourageing to find that Chad Hall, writing in Leadership Journal, has similar ideas:
As a church planter and ministry coach, I've worked with churches who are primarily young and others who are obviously older. What these churches have in common is a voiced desire for community. Yet that "community" is often a veiled form of group narcissism. Young or old, they want to do church with people who are like us and who, in turn, are easy to like.I recommend reading Mr. Hall's full article and finding out what those three things are.
We want relationships in service to Christ's mission to be smooth and tension-free. We don't want to get bogged down in the messy problems raised by how differently older and younger people see the world.
As tempting as it may be to do church with friends only, there are at least three good reasons to resist age gentrification of church.