Friday, June 29, 2007


Tomorrow my family will be moving to North Wales, Pennsylvania, to work with the North Penn Church of Christ. Thanks to those of you who have been praying for us during the transition, and we appreciate your continued prayers.

The joy of sermon block

Yes, it can have a positive side.

Saved for what?

God did not save us so we could focus on ourselves. He saved us so we could focus on loving him and others. Being a Christian is not about the pursuit of happiness. Rather, it is about the pursuit of holiness. It is about dying to self and living for God. It is about serving God and others. Just take the great commandment and the great commission as examples of where we should be focused.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Facing the hard truth

Parents, is your child's birthday party hardening him or her to the gospel?

"The slow, hard work of character formation"

Many ministry leaders want success, a big church, or a crowd. But how many of us want a real life? How many of us want a life in God? . . . We can have a character that produces love, peace, patience, kindness…but it will slow us down. It might mean the church won’t grow as big as quickly. It might mean the crowd will get smaller.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What price growth?

I'm afraid these cartoons (#1, #2, and #3) are often too true a picture of church growth strategies (thanks to JW for the links).

The power of profligacy

As Dan Edelen considers the practice of profligacy, could he really speaking to Christians in the United States?

Some Christians believe this world is not their home. They won’t be understood by the rest of the world, nor by some other people who say they believe in Jesus. They’ve said no to many of the things the world offers and that’s an exceedingly hard thing to do.

. . . it’s one thing to say you believe something. It’s another thing altogether to believe something so much that your life looks radically different from the rest of the crowd. The crowd says so many things and believes so many things, doesn’t it? But who is willing to die to the voice of majority and give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose? In a way then, the true profligate may be the one who appears to have every thing deemed good by the world’s standard, but will one day wind up losing it all in tears and flames. He has gained the world, but lost his soul.

After reading Dan's post, I have to wonder: are there actually Christians who spend $500 for a cell phone?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Speaking through prayer

Jim Martin asks, "What do our prayers say about us?" and wonders, "Suppose that our prayers began to reflect the priorities of Jesus."

Preaching it all

At Biblical Preaching Peter Mead has been looking at preaching OT stories: "It is not easy to preach Old Testament stories well, but 'all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful . . .' All of it. Preach it all."

Mr. Mead also looks at preaching OT stories as illustrations.

Monday, June 25, 2007

What is repentance?

The recent series at on repentance is a like four jewels in a platinum setting. Every post is full of wisdom and beauty: Part 1 (A.W. Tozer), Part 2 (N.T. Wright), Part 3 (Ron Martoia), Part 4 (C.S. Lewis).

Learning to think for ourselves

I can think of no more conformist message in liberal societies than the idea that students should learn to think for themselves. What must be said is that most students in our society do not have minds well enough trained to think. A central pedagogical task is to tell students that their problem is that they do not have minds worth making up. That is why training is so important, because training involves the formation of the self through submission to authority that will provide people with the virtues necessary to make reasoned judgment.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Focus of preaching

What's the focus of our preaching? Is it aimed at glorifying God or making people feel better?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cycling the race

Ministry, like cycling, is a team activity.

"You are the man"

J.D. Hatfield writes about being a congregational minister and preaching a passage you know is going to step on toes:
You pray and pray that God would let the light of Christ shine and that you would not grow bitter or cynical, and use this as an occasion to add your two cents in to help "straighten them out". You pray and prepare with an extra diligence and caution, knowing that this could be a life-changing event, for both of you, for all of you whom hear. You point the finger at yourself first, and ask God to help.

The day comes, and you even preface your sermon with the prayer that God would give them as Jesus said, he who has ears to hear, let him hear. You stick completely to your notes as you have basically transcripted most of it already, so as to not set sail into the soil of your own imagination. Some of the crowd seem to be repenting right there in their seats. The person in question seems to be looked at by others (right or wrong). People know what is going on and what God is saying.

When the message is over and the service done, the "person whom you just knew was going to be affected, or should have been affected" comes to you and says that the sermon was great, was needed, and really should serve as a wake up call to some people.
Preachers, can you relate?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Ending well

Patience and repentance

Let’s never confuse God’s patience with indifference. Let’s never take it for granted. Let’s not show contempt for it. Rather, let’s respond today with repentant hearts and lives to his gift of salvation; for we are not promised tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Christians and pornography

"Garbage in, garbage out."

Update: More here

Revival superstition

Darryl Dash takes a look at "cargo cult Christianity":
Real life is not found in copying the externals of programs and techniques, no matter how good these may be. Life never comes from these. Real life comes from a move of God that can't be copied, marketed, or branded.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Staying put

Preacher, do you know how to "stay put in the text"? Steve Mathewson talks about when we should and how we can here and here.

Say what?

John Schroeder takes a look at relatively new opportunities for Internet sin, and how, in a sense, it leads to the same old temptations:
Transgendered, virtual, homosexual adultery - we have to be pretty far gone to even imagine such a thing, let alone carry it out.

I'm fairly certain most of my readers are at this point congratulating themselves for not being perverted enough to have ever imagined such a thing, which, or course, instantly puts us in the same category of depraved sinner as our virtually transgenderd friends, although our path onto that pile is via pride instead of sexual sin.

Good point.

Monday, June 18, 2007

What's the problem with chapters and verses?

They encourage "verse jacking."

A father's faith

I'd hoped to post this yesterday, but Eric Jones's article about Noah's life and its implications for fathers today is still relevant:
It was Noah’s faith that allowed [him] and his entire family to be saved. The faith of a father can protect his family from many storms in this life. It can provide a spiritual protection and set the tone for the entire family. Men, your faith affects more than just your life. It impacts your entire family. Your faith matters. How you live your life matters. Your walk with God matters. Don’t take your role as father and spiritual leader of your family lightly. You set the tone, provide a covering, and what you do today affects generations to come. The stakes are high. Put your trust in God.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Not the preaching, but the preached

Remember, preachers: "Ultimately, it’s the Spirit of God that transforms lives."

Eucatastrophe has a few thoughts on the subject, too.

Justice and the church

Paul Middleton is thinking about discipleship and justice:
How many times in modern religious life - outside of freakish cults or the radical lifestyle of the Amish - have you ever heard of someone taking out a second mortgage on their house to help out a brother or sister in Christ who has become overwhelmed with medical expenses? How many have sold real property for a similar purpose?

We simply never hear about those sort of things because we either view them as far too radical or we begin to fear that such a proposal sounds too much like socialism. That, and in America and the west we have a long, entrenched history of valuing individual property rights very, very highly (the original version of the Constitution set out to guarantee everyone the right to life, liberty and property). We might sacrifice a little disposable income, if we believe we have it to spare. But we don't go so far as to sell something off of value to help a brother or sister pay for a surgical procedure. But Biblical justice might very well do just that.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Treasure chest of Bruce

If, like me, you've profited from the writings of F.F. Bruce, you'll enjoy the Biblical studies articles available online at

Learning to read

Steve Mathewson reminds ministers that our preaching not only conveys truth; it teaches listeners how to interpret the Bible themselves:
Remember, people learn how to read their Bibles from listening to your sermons! After a steady diet of your sermons, will they opt for a ‘concordance approach’ in which they simply look at the cross-references for every major word in the passage they’re reading? Or, will they develop the instinct to look for the flow of thought, to trace the argument, and to reflect on the figures of speech within this passage? As believers mature in their faith, we want them to make connections between texts of Scripture. We want them to think theologically (in terms of both biblical and systematic theology). But they will not do this well unless they learn first to stay put in a text.
Good point. Part 2 of Steve's series offers a practical example of staying put.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wright on!

Preaching, culture, and imagination

Kevin Vanhoozer offers some important insights on preaching and cultural programming:
My own hunch is that we need to recover the imagination in order to set the cultural captives free. I believe that many people in today's society, and church, suffer from an impoverished imagination. By imagination I mean the cognitive power of seeing things together, as wholes; clearly a worldview is an affair of the imagination, at least in part. In any case, I believe that our imaginations are captive to secular stories/worldviews that do not nourish our souls. Eugene Peterson says something similar about the function of the 10 plagues of Egypt: they were intended to free the imagination of the Israelites from thinking that the power of Egypt was sovereign. The plagues systematically deconstruct Pharaoh's power. It takes imagination to see that what God is doing with a small tribe of slaves is greater than the might of Egypt or the grandeur that was Rome. Similarly, it takes imagination to see that North Americans are not in bondage to similar powers and principalities: consumerism and therapism, to name but two. I wonder whether in our haste to preserve doctrinal truth, we have not done our evangelical churches a disservice in surrendering our imaginations to stories (and advertisements) that serve the interest of some worldly empire (or multinational corporation) rather than the kingdom of God.

Pastors need to make it a priority to teach their congregations how read Scripture theologically, and this requires the imagination, the ability to make sense of thing by fitting the little bits into larger patterns – the big canonical picture. It takes imagination to see the Bible as a unified whole, and then it takes even more imagination to fit one's own time and place into this biblical drama of redemption.
Amen. Thanks to Theocentric Preaching for pointing me to the Vanhoozer interview.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Verse-by-verse commentary

This looks interesting: a verse-by-verse Bible commentary built by users (Thanks to SmartChristian for the link).

"Calm down"

Focus of the gospel

The problem is that people aren’t looking for salvation as being reconciled to God. The old (real) gospel starts with an offended God. The new (false) gospel starts with a wounded “us”. The truth is not that we are wounded but that we are dead!

The gospel is not a commodity, and unlike what we hear preached as the gospel these days, Jesus isn’t very passionate about some of your greatest felt needs.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Hermeneutical June

This month's topic at ekklesia is hermeneutics.

Remembering hell

I prefer to preach grace and heaven, but let's not forget that a belief in hell is part of the apostolic faith (HT: A Steward of the Secret Things).

Remembering how to sing the blues

Stephen J. Nichols looks at "theology in a minor key" and asks, "Can you get religion without the blues?"
In broad strokes, a theology in a minor key embraces what we so often go to extremes to try to avoid in the contemporary world, the harshness and frailty of life, the presence of sin and evil, the shortcomings and limitations of humanity. In short, all of the realities of life under the curse. Blues invites us to embrace the curse through its articulation of restlessness and despair, longing and disappointment, exile and estrangement—what theologians call alienation. But, a theology in a minor key also sounds a note of hope, as it leads us to the Man of Sorrows and the cross.
Thanks to Between Two Worlds for the link.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Developing the mind of Christ

Larry Chouinard has completed his online study of 1 Corinthians. If only he could think of a book on love, his task would be complete.

Church as MAO inhibitor

Dan Edelen writes on Protestants converting to Roman Catholicism and how the evangelical church in North America acts as an MAO inhibitor:
The MAO I speak of is Mystery, Awe, and Otherness. You know, the stuff modern Evangelicals jettisoned on their way to a bookshelf full of systematic theologies, dusty pages of do’s and dont’s, and three-points-and-a-conclusion sermons. In their rush to be real and down to earth, Evangelicals found a way to make God dull. In short, modern Evangelicalism has become a theological MAO inhibitor.

I can’t help but think that most of these “un-converts” who fled to Rome did so in part because of the radical vivisection Evangelicalism got away with concerning the Body of Christ. I happen to believe that God placed in each one of us a yearning for mystery, awe, and otherness. That desire drives us to God as the source for all meaning, even if that meaning can never be fully grasped. This isn’t postmodernism’s vacuous “There can be no absolute truth” stupidity, but a genuine recognition that God is wholly other and therefore contains an element of mystery that generates awe in those who encounter Him.
Dan's whole essay is worth reading.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Drooling for Jesus

Is anyone else sick of therapeutic preaching?
Me, I'm not sick of preaching, not exactly, but my tolerance for certain kinds of preaching has reached its nadir. That means, I'm intolerant of it. The kind of preaching I'm talking about here is the kind that presupposes that the listeners are all a simpering bunch of weak-kneed ninnies who have just been up all night crying. They've got all kinds of problems and burdens in their lives, and all they really need is a good spiritual bucking-up.
That's from In the Clearing. Bob's follow-up post further explains the problems of therapeutic preaching:
. . .when therapy is the dominant use to which we put the Scriptures, then we will pick and choose the passages that seem the most helpful, and stay away from those that may seem disturbing. In fact, we will not be allowing the Bible to interpret itself, but will be sifting it through a therapeutic sieve. This use of Scripture is in fact a serious misuse.
It certainly is. As the apostle Paul suggests (1 Cor. 14:3-4), preaching should not only encourage and console, but build up the church. Building up or growing in Christ, as in all areas of life, is not always a pleasant experience. It may require strain, sweat, and pain.

Update: Bob suggests a faithful alternative to therapeutic preaching.

More, not less

"If your Bible application results in you doing less, keep reading!"

Advice for ministers

I think that we have to resist every attempt to turn our studies into offices. An open-door policy is not necessarily virtuous. It is often more helpful to the body if the minister closes the door, with an eagerness to mine the treasures of God’s Word. The diaconate was established in the first place so that the apostles and pastors could devote themselves to the Word and to prayer.

I believe that one of the primary responsibilities of the elders is to ensure that the minister is free to meditate prayerfully on God’s Word, read great books, and take part in conferences or other forms of continuing education—and to ensure that this is in fact happening.

Green intersection

Environmentalism and Christian piety intersect when Christians begin to resist a culture of consumerism and actually live more simply and faithfully. Although Elizabeth Royte's article is not explicitly written from a perspective of faith, Christians would do well to think comprehensively about stewardship:
Green purchasing tells us to vote with our wallets, but it ignores a third choice: not buying at all. I try to resist these green come-ons because I hate to think our strength is based on consumption, instead of more substantive action. I'm appalled by the amount of junk mail I (used to) get from environmental groups, much of it offering to reward donors with cheaply made premiums (how many tote bags and baseball caps can one person use?). Some even have the nerve to offer "affinity" credit cards, which only make it easier to buy more stuff, to consume without a thought for the natural resources that went into making these goods, and for the toll they will take on human health and the environment once we've consigned them to the dump.

It's this culture of convenience -- how about a TerraPass, so you can keep driving your SUV? -- that makes it easy to feel better without actually changing how we live. Sure, buy some Toepeekas if you really need another pair of sandals -- anytime you buy something recycled you're preventing the extraction, transportation, and transformation of raw materials. But if you don't really need another pair of shoes, skip it.
Amen. Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Power and weakness

I wish I'd seen this while I was preaching a series on 1 Corinthians: Sista Cala has put together a brief overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the church in 1 Corinthians.

When you put it that way. . .

All who believe in Jesus Christ are children of God (John 1:12).
All who are children of God love Jesus Christ (John 8:42).
All who love Jesus Christ obey Jesus Christ (John 14:15).
Therefore, all who believe in Jesus Christ also obey Jesus Christ.

Silenced before God

J.D. Hatfield warns against trying to justify ourselves and that there are no excuses for disobeying God:
Still we hear the excuses being made. “This preacher one time did this and that or that church did so and so”. Well that just means they are like everyone else on the planet, a flawed sinful human being. They aren’t good enough. Besides we aren’t asking you to trust religious people or a religious system we are asking you to trust the one priest on this earth who never strayed and the only one who can say anything to God on your behalf (1 Timothy 2:5). There is no hope in anyone or anything else. Why would you stand before God and claim your own righteousness?
I think it's safe to say that one day no one will.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Preaching Jude

Caleb Kolstad offers several points on preaching one of the most neglected books of the NT. I would offer one more: Jude is writing against two primary heresies, both mentioned in v. 4: turning grace into license to sin, and denying the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

"Anointing" in preaching

Aside from reference to OT prophets and priests, the term "anointing" is not one I use very often. But Phil McAlmond has piqued my interest in his writing about the place of anointing in preaching:
When preparing to preach or teach, the question that I ask, isn’t what do I need to preach or what can I preach or what do I want to preach, etc. No, I ask, “Lord Jesus, what is it that you are preaching or that you are teaching, or in other words, what is it that you are saying, to me”? I need to include myself as one of the needy recipients of God’s Now Word. Therefore in order for me to declare prophetically that which He is speaking, I need to hear clearly what it is that He is saying to me/us, now. I dare not presume upon this vital question with some sort of simplistic or presumptuous answer. No, I need to seek Him, wait upon Him, hear Him and then declare what I have seen and heard or even am seeing and hearing, in the nowness of His presence (1 Jn 1:3).
And this:
Preaching isn’t about what we want said or accomplished. Preaching is first, last and always about what the Lord Jesus is saying in, to and through us.
Sounds good to me.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Image power in preaching

PreachingToday blog has a helpful little article on the power of images.

Revelation as a lost book

How could anyone not want to read the rest of John Frye's essay after this introduction:
When a curious form of theology turned the Book of Revelation into a flow chart of "end times" scenarios, a primary source for spiritual formation for the church to survive, even thrive under "empire" was lost. The last book of the Bible has become, for all intents and purposes, a lost book of the Bible.
The essay gets better as it goes along.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Praying for John Schroeder and family

If you read Blogotional, you know that John Schroeder's parents were in a serious car accident last week. John's mother is recovering well, but his father died early this morning. Please offer a word of prayer for the Schroeder family, and you might want to leave a message for John, too. And if you want to be blessed yourself, read what John has been writing the past couple of days about his father.

Bully good advice

It seems ideas of manliness have changed substantially since my grandfather was a boy.

Praying for preaching

Here are some good ideas for enlisting the aid of the congregation in preaching.


Have you given thought to the anonymity of the Holy Spirit?
The anonymous Holy Spirit because, like the saints, indeed the saints’ inspiration, it is the Spirit’s nature to draw attention away from himself and direct it to the Son, who in turn directs it to the Father. As our text tells us, the Spirit does not take what is his own and declare it, rather he takes what is Jesus’ and declares it. He doesn’t teach about himself, nor does he teach on his own authority, anymore than a good school teacher teaches about her own brilliance and presents herself as a fountain of knowledge and wisdom. No, because she stands on the shoulders of her predecesors, she is the servant of a tradition, she is only a catalyst in the learning process from which she is happy to withdraw when her students come to the point of understanding for themselves: it is her subject, not herself, that the good teacher conveys.
That's a keeper, and the whole article is worth reading.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Coming to Christ

Seldom do I write about myself, but if you're interested in how I came to Christ, part of my story is posted today at Milton's Daily Dose.

Preaching with gravity and gladness

Unashamed Workman shares some of John Piper's ideas for preaching with joy and gravity.

Grace as generosity

Mark Lauterbach has written an outstanding little series on the Generosity of Jesus. Here's a sample from Part 2:
No one ever came or was brought to Jesus with a need who left disappointed. There was no checklist to see if they were fully orthodox, or morally pure. If there were conditions in us for the receiving of grace, it would never be given. No, he overflowed with goodness and grace. He healed thousands, if not tens of thousands, of their diverse diseases. He indiscriminately taught truth to all who would listen. The only people he did not heal were those who refused to admit their need.
Amen. Part 1 is also worth reading, and here's a sample from Part 3:
Understanding the generosity of Jesus has practical consequences:

Do I seek and welcome the lost to meet with Jesus? Do I want to introduce my fellow-sinners to the riches of his blood bought grace? Or am I offended by their sin and so careful in my associations with them that the message is clear: grace is available, but you have to meet certain qualifications to get to it?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Playing by the rules

Preacher, do you live according to the book?

Avoiding the detour

"Our work is far too important to allow it to be destroyed by another mortal."

Not so fast

Matt Dirks has done a series on the complexity and ambiguity of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22. Here's a sample from Part 3:
Abraham’s unquestioning submission to God is a surprising and inspiring model for us. But any serious student of God’s word will finish reading Genesis 22 with more questions than answers. For some reason, I think that’s exactly how God wants it.
Part 1, Part 2, and this Postscript are also worth reading.