Friday, August 31, 2007

Preaching the whole gospel

Footholds for the Devil

J.D. Hatfied reminds Christians that not all sins are created equal:
Some sins are worse than others. Yes they are. They are worse in what they do. They wreck you faster and more completely. They damage others more severely. They reach out further and make it harder for you to come back to God. Oh, His hand isn’t so short it cannot save you, but the further you are away, the more it is going to hurt you to get back, that is for sure.
Amen. And J.D., by the way, gives examples worth considering.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Willimon and Piper on Luke 14:1-14

For this week's lectionary Gospel reading, there's good stuff available online from William Willimon and John Piper. And don't forget the always useful resources at The Text This Week.

Prime advice

Unashamed Workman recently interviewed preaching veteran Derek Prime. I found this advice particularly helpful:
7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?
Failure to relate every Scripture to the centrality of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Cross in God’s revelation

Pride – unconsciously perhaps seeing preaching as a means of gaining praise for oneself rather than seeking the praise and honour of God and His Son

Failing to feed the flock – forgetting the Lord Jesus’ words, ‘Feed my lambs…Feed my sheep.’

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Force multiplier

This post by Peter Mead reminds me why Biblical Preaching is such a helpful site for preachers: “Multiply the Fruit of Your Study.”

Pledging allegiance

Isn't it even odd that we would have an American flag in a place of worship? If we went to China and found the Chinese flag prominently displayed in a place of worship what would we think? Would we think that such a church was obviously registered with the state and therefore probably compromised in their commitments? What if we went into a German church in the 1930s and found a Nazi flag draped over the communion table (it actually wasn't unusual, by the way)? Would we have been repulsed? Didn't the Nazis have the support of the German church? Is it somehow different in America simply because we say, "one nation under God?"

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Preaching the Psalms

At Expository Thoughts Randy McKinion shares his homiletical musings on the Psalms (here and here).

Renewal of our minds

Paul Middleton writes on the role of study in spiritual transformation:
In Romans 12 the apostle Paul tells us that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Spiritual transformation does not come about primarily by going on retreats, singing worshipful songs, inner excitement about God or profound religious experience. Spiritual transformation primarily comes about when we "think God's thoughts after Him."

Spiritual transformation is not a microwave process. It is more like a crock pot. In our day and age we want the quick and easy fix. But God will not do the work of transformation on our terms. He has already set the terms. It is our task to place ourselves under his care and in obedience to follow the path he has given us. Otherwise, we are doomed to failure. And study, which is the ongoing process of renewing our minds, is one of the primary means God has given us.
Amen. Along similar lines, David Phillips offers helpful insights on study as a spiritual discipline.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Living the life

Jim Martin has completed his blog series, "Passing On Things That Matter." His final installment is especially helpful in reminding preachers how to live lives consonant with our proclamation.

Recommended for preachers

Peter Mead has been hitting so many long balls lately that it's hard to recommend all the good essays. Preachers, if you haven't visited Biblical Preaching lately, I suggest you do.

The men at PreachingToday Blog have been posting some good stuff too, but the flashing advertisements can be annoying.

Power of the Word

There is a special blessing attached to the proclamation of the Word of God. The Word is powerful and is able to bring about profound and pervasive change as it is used by God in the lives of his people. I have never been able to understand preachers and teachers who abandon the proclamation of the Scriptures for the proclamation of anything else, like the latest findings of the social sciences, or clips from the latest Hollywood movies. While all of life needs to be discussed in light of what the Scriptures teach, there is no power like the power of God's Word brought home to the human heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. No amount of cleverness or contemporary relevance will make up for the absence of the faithful proclamation of the Word.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Eric Jones warns about the dangers of giving in to half-cross theology.

Reviving exegisis skills

Steve Mathewson offers preachers five ideas for rebuilding skill in biblical languages. I found number 4 especially encouraging.

In control?

This is about as well as I've heard it expressed:
"Proof texting is just another example of placing ourselves in front of God. We use His words to justify our thoughts rather than try to make His thoughts our own."
Thanks, John.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Worth considering

Darryl Dash has posted a thought-provoking meditation on "rescuing souls vs. loving neighbors."

Too offensive?

David Wilkerson asks, "whatever happened to repentance preaching?"
Of course, there are churches today that do not compromise on this important biblical doctrine. But a vast number of churches have decided that repentance is too offensive a message. In fact, entire denominations have de-emphasized it.

In such churches, you can hear all about God’s love, his blessings, his precepts for coping with life, but not a word about godly sorrow for sin. You can hear messages on loving others and being a good, kind person. All of that is indeed scriptural. But you won’t hear a repentance message like the one Peter preached at Pentecost. His sermon led thousands to freedom in Christ.
Thanks to Sista Cala for the link.

Update: Eric Jones shares related thoughts here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Willimon on Luke 13:10-17

Lectionary preachers: It's another guy's picture on the web page, but it's William Willimon's sermon on this coming Sunday's Gospel reading.

Like ones with hope

Ray Van Neste, with a little help from C.S. Lewis, reflects on the virtue of grieving.

Transformation over information

Looks like Peter Mead is tired of information-oriented preaching:
It seems obvious that we preach with a goal of transforming lives with God’s Word. Yet I see so much focus given to the very different issue of ensuring recollection. This is why people take notes or preachers produce fill-in-the-blank handouts (so listeners will have a record of the points); this is why some preachers would rather die than not alliterate or perfectly parallel or absolutely assonate the main points of a message; this is why outlines are publicly projected by powerpoint. All to achieve the goal of recollection. The logic is clear – if people don’t remember the points, then they will not be able to carefully apply what they have heard in the realities of life.
Peter's three comments on this mindset are very much worth reading.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Praying together

Take heart, preacher

The congregation wants the sermon to entertain more than edify, they're more concerned with judging the sermon's rhetorical quality than with taking in its spiritual instruction, and they love visiting evangelists more than their own preacher. That was the experience, at least, of one of the most revered preachers in the history of the church.

The church in proclamation

Dave Bish asks what quality characterizes Christian communities who actually love the church:
One thing seems to be that they include church in the gospel. There's none of the it's just about me and Jesus stuff that thrives in an individualistic culture. The future has a church - God's plan is to gather a people. It always has been that way since he gave Adam & Eve the cultural mandate on page 1 of the Bible.
That sounds right.

Monday, August 20, 2007

"Thee, thou, and thine"

Do you know what they really mean? Find out here.

Placarding the cross

This is interesting: Paul’s theology of preaching.

Update: Jeff Weddle has more thoughts at Anti-Itch Meditation.

Measure of success

J.D. Hatfield may be stepping on more than a few toes with his post on coveting ministry success:
Most people understand how material stuff has a way of keeping you from God. Well it is the same with ministry stuff. We go from one bad thing to another, we trade one love of stuff for another, we feel like we have licked the covetousness bug concerning material things, just to turn around and find that bug right back on us regarding ministry things. Instead of acquiring material we acquire ministry, and we are blind to the fact that God still doesn’t have our heart, not in that area, at least.

If this is you, you need to realize that this isn’t the way to please God, by doing more stuff for God. Just as your money doesn’t buy influence with God, neither will that big plan you have. What God wants, and requires, of you is that you stay humble, and worshipful, repentant, and submissive, and in order with your family life, loving your wife or husband and respecting them, giving to your children’s lives before you give to your church life, building your personal and family spiritual life before you build your ministry life, and so forth. That is Christian success. No amount of ministry success will change that.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Mind & heart


Thanks to Jollyblogger for pointing to these words from Bob Roberts:
Years ago, I was at a point of growing our church big. I was concerned about how fast we could get there. We relocated, and the church started going to pot; it was doing badly. I was embarrassed; I was humiliated. But I'd made a public commitment that I would stay at the church forever, because I heard Rick Warren say that! That's a fun thing to say when things are going good. But when the church is going in the crapper, when you've got First Baptist of Israel in the middle of the desert, you want out of there. And I wanted out bad.

I was walking in a pasture behind my house one day. A pastor not far from me had had affairs with five women; he crashed and burned. Another guy north of me had a megachurch, but he was going to the pen for embezzlement. I told God, "God, I've got my pants on. I've got my hands out of the offering plate. You've got these guys over here doing all this stuff. Why aren't you blessing me?"

All of a sudden this little question came to my mind: When will Jesus be enough for you? Sometimes, I think that's when I became a Christian. I just began to weep, because I realized he wasn't.
Am I the alone in this sensation, or did that one sting?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"Introspective Conscience" now online

Every preacher in the Western Hemisphere ought to read Krister Stendahl's "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West." It's now it's available online at The Paul Page. Thanks to NT Gateway weblog (which calls Stendahl's essay "one of the most important articles on Paul written in the twentieth century. Perhaps the most important") for pointing out the link.

Who persecutes whom?

Anti-Itch meditation offers some thought-provoking ideas on persecution:
Persecution is largely done by religious people to spiritual people. It was the religious leaders who crucified Christ. It was the religious Jews who chased Paul all over the place.

If you were to get persecution for being a follower of Christ today it would be by all those who think they are persecuted by the ACLU, the Pledge, and bad documentaries.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Law and grace

Kent Brandenburg has posted some meaty essays on law and grace here, here, and here.

Willimon on Heb. 11:29-12:2

He doesn't have a post this week at Theolog, but lectionary preachers might be interested in William Willimon's sermon on Heb. 11:29-12:2:
To be a teacher of any kind is to allow the past to have its way with us. And that’s powerful stuff. One reason I think our culture tends to be a-historical, tends toward a kind of studied amnesia, is that the past is our greatest accuser. Not only our greatest teacher, but also a revolutionary force. As G.K. Chesterton said, one of the difficulties of modernity is that we keep talking about how free we are. We’ve freed ourselves from our past. All that does, said Chesterton, is that we’ve become slaves to that arrogant oligarchy of those who just happen to be walking about at this moment. Chesterton also said that being a “traditionalist” means a determination not to automatically dismiss any man’s opinion outright just because he happens to be your father. I worry about the church. So much of our worship today, so much of current church life, about the worst thing you could say about it is…it’s contemporary. It is no more than with the times.


Dan Cruver of eucatastrophe has asked me to mention his new job as ministry outreach coordinator with Carolina Hope Christian Adoption Agency. You can read about his work in the press release and the Carolina Hope blog. My family has been blessed by adoption--both in the sense of God adopting us and of our family members adopting children. I pray Dan will help bless many more lives through his work with Carolina Hope.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

No fair

"God is not fair. God is gracious."

Update: In addition to the discussion in the comments section, John Schroeder has further thoughts here.

Victory or defeat?

Tom Rush asks whether we preach the gospel as news or advice:
Are our sermons filled mostly with advice — strategies for spiritual growth, helps on dealing with this issue and that, ethical exhortations, etc. — or do they begin with the Great News of what Jesus has accomplished? The gospel enters our life with the good news that, although we cannot live out the life we know we should, Christ has accomplished victory on our behalf, and now we can respond with life by grace.
That approach sounds like the one the Apostles Paul and Peter used in their letters: reminders of the wonderful love God has shown for his people, followed by exhortations to live the new life. Mr. Rush's whole article is well worth reading. Thanks to Eucatastrophe for directing me to the link and to Stammered Life in general.

Update: Tom stopped by to point out that he's now blogging at Promises Kept. I've updated the links.

Monday, August 13, 2007

More than a linker

For the dozen or so of you who sometimes visit, I've started posting again at Milton's Daily Dose.

Lessons learned

Cindy Bryan shares what she's learned as a Christian:
Some things i learned from church that didn't prove true:

1. at church (and with church members) I can be myself because those folks love Christ and will exemplify that love in relation to me
2. i can trust the church with my heart
3. the church will be honest with me
4. i become who i was meant to be when i'm with the church and involved in church activities
5. the more i surround myself with church people, the better

What I have learned since:

1. It isn't safe to be myself with the church
2. Church folks can be some of the most viscious, unforgiving people around.
3. never, ever expect to be given the benefit of the doubt by the church
4. the church will not be honest with me
5. i can't fully be who i was meant to be within the church walls, because fear changes me
6. it is quite detrimetal to surround ones' self only with church people. when they abandon you, they do it in mass

What i'm currently learning:

1. i can be guardedly myself, on rare occasions, with carefully chosen church folks
2. not all church folks are viscious and unforgiving
3. sometimes some church folks are sincere in their dealings with me
4. as long as i guard my heart, i don't have to always be afraid at church
5. when i tell my non-church friends how involved i am with church, they immediately become guarded and a little suspicious of me.
6. in spite of all this, God seems to still want me to be part of church.
(now I'm crying and it's time to stop.)
Amen, especially to Cindy's conclusion. And thanks to Dan Horwedel for the link.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Something to do!

If people leave my preaching confident in the rules and principles I have given them, I have preached a false Gospel. If they leave the room confident in the faithful grace and power of the Savior to work in them as they seek to obey -- I have preached the Gospel.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Finding coherence

If you're reading this post online, odds are you ought to consider a couple of recent essays: Keith Plummer's post on moderating information intake and Dan Edelen's essay on overcoming the culture of busyness.

Willimon on Luke 12:32-40

At Theolog William Willimon has another insightful post, this time on the upcoming Gospel reading from Luke 12:32-40:

Jesus’ injunction not to be afraid when linked to our money is curious. In last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus warned us against “greed.” Yet I daresay that most of us do not accumulate wealth due to our greed, or even for the fun of it. Our main motivation for our acquisitiveness is fear. It is as if today, in his teachings on wealth, Jesus has at last gotten to the heart of the matter.

The whole essay is worth reading, especially when Dr. Willimon reflects on the image Jesus gave us of God as a thief.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

On prejudice

"In these politically correct days we are, quite rightly, not allowed to make generalisations about any particular race or ethnic group

unless they are Americans, of course."

Easy steps to better legalism

Check out these insights from the I-wish-I-could-have-said-it-that-well-myself department:
I have for a while believed that the generic Osteenish faith of popular Christianity is really just legalism warmed over. That seems counterintuitive, because the smiling face that self-help "Christianity" puts on evangelicalism claims to be setting followers free from rules and judgmental religion. But really, by making discipleship about helpful hints and positive power for successful living, it's really just making a works religion in our new image. In an odd twist, the Oprah-ization of the faith is really just optimistic legalism. Because what is Pharisaical legalism, really, but self-help with bad p.r.?

And people love this stuff. They want to be told religion is not about rules and regulations while at the same time being told each week which four steps (with helpful alliteration) they need to do in order to achieve maximum what-have-you. They want to be reassured that works don't merit salvation while at the same time convinced salvation is about trying really hard to do things that unlock the power or secret of God's such-and-such. (And I've never seen what is such Good News about following a list of instructions in order to button-push God into granting me His favor.)
That's Jared Wilson, and he's really hit a long ball with that one. Thanks to Promises Kept for the link.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What's really involved

At Transformed Daily Eric Jones doesn't waste words in telling what it really means to believe.

Stop trying to improve

The Gospel calls us to stop trying to improve ourselves. Americans are secular (we do not think of God that much) and practical (we like things to do). We tend to hide our self-reliance behind well intentioned self-improvement schemes. What can be wrong with self-improvement?

The church, in parts, has adopted itself to this message -- we have cultivated a practical version of Christianity that helps people -- gives them things to do. We think we are being relevant. In reality, the self-help versions of Christianity are denials of the Gospel.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Power of the Word

Not my job

Jesus gets in your business. To welcome him is to invite agonizing and self-demolishing life-change. For the average church-goer, the conviction is almost too much to bear. So we look for someone who might take his place in order to construct an easier form of Christianity.

Enter the pastor.

Monday, August 06, 2007

"It I were the Devil. . ."

Faith or fear?

Mark Lauterbach considers what it means to trust in Christ rather than our own obedience:
To all appearances two people can be doing almost identical things as parents or making identical decisions as leaders -- but their lives can be totally different in heart. The difference is that one person can obey out of fear. The other can obey out of faith. And that is a huge difference. The difference ties to the interceding savior.
Good stuff. I recommend the whole article.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A good reminder

Our congregations need both "prophet" and "priest."

Razzmatazz evangelism

Why does the majority of most churches' resources get funneled back into Sunday morning (facilities, staff, programs)? And, in a culture growing increasingly suspicious of “razzmatazz” is a spectacular worship production still the best way to draw people to God? (Has it ever been the best way?)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Letting them go

Preacher, do you dwell on how your last sermon went, or do you have the faith to let it go? Along similar lines, Steve Matthewson writes on dealing with criticism of our preaching.

New man and new community

This quote from J.D. Hatfield is long, but his whole essay is worth reading:

We all have a part in helping others, like those who rolled away the stone and removed the grave clothes of Lazarus. We must help one another, after we have been born again, to come out of the dark and stop being hindered by the old dead life. We didn’t initiate this process, Jesus did, but we move ahead and live in it. The new man or your new self could have come into being without the need for preaching, teaching, fellowship and the church community, it could have come with a full set of new clothes, but it didn’t. Oh, there is a full set waiting, but it must be put on, and you have to go to the place where you find it, in the new man section, the local church.

It isn’t dressing up the old man for his best life now; it is puting on the new man who lives as Jesus would now. It isn’t trying to find your purpose in life; it is within Christ and the church is where you discover your purpose and you live as a light to the outside world.

When we find ourselves putting on these good qualities and putting off those bad ones, and we are doing this in the context of community, it is then that we can say that the Spirit is leading us. As our local community develops into a fully orbed and fully ordered unit, then we can be said to be full of the Spirit, in a sense. Of course all of this is predicated upon the fact that this unity is formed in and around Truth, specifically the truth of the Word of God.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Stewardship and bottled water

Yes, bottled water really is an issue of environmental stewardship (more numbers here).

Willimon on Luke 12:13-21

Theolog has another strong post from William Willimon on this Sunday's Gospel text from the Revised Common Lectionary:

And isn’t Jesus loving and compassionate? And doesn’t he care?

Well, not always, at least that’s what this Sunday’s exchange suggests. Jesus must be about more important matters even than meeting my needs. He is also judge of my need. The questions that consume me may not consume Jesus. The matters in my life that I consider to be my biggest, most pressing problems may not interest Jesus in the least.

The whole essay is worth reading.