Monday, January 31, 2005

Transforming Sermons wins a Warnie

TS is honored (and surprised) to be the latest recipient of the Warnie award for Christian bloggers. It's particularly exciting, in light of the relatively short time I've been posting this blog, to find myself in the company of fellow Warnie-winners John Mark Reynolds, 21st Century Reformation, and Challies (hope I didn't miss anyone).

Adrian Warnock does so much to publicize and bring together Christian bloggers. He is one of the most generous blogrollers and is doing a good (and no doubt time-consuming) work in bringing Christian bloggers together in the Blogdom of God. No wonder he's among the top 100 blogs at The Truth Laid Bear. I appreciate his bringing attention to this blog.

I also appreciate you for reading this blog. That's not just because of my ego, but because I'm really trying to help preachers, or any Christian, to seriously answer the call to discipleship, to be transformed daily by the Word of God into the image of Christ Jesus.

Sorry, Adrian, that this acceptance post isn't as funny as the one from John Mark Reynolds, who showed why he deserved the first Warnie.

I will, however, "Amen" the words of Brad Hightower's acceptance post for 21st Century Reformation: May we all remember, “pray first, blog second”. Amen.

Disclaimer: In accepting an award from an "Evangelical" blog, I want to say that TS is indeed evangelical (little "e") in the sense of fostering evangelism, the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ. My effort here, however, is to transcend sectarian labels---Mainstream or Evangelical, Reformed or Arminian, liberal or conservative, etc. TS is committed to the authority of the Word of God in its raw, undoctored power.

Thinning out the crowds

I enjoy reminders that our Savior is not simply "Jesus meek and mild." He surprised and offended while he walked in the flesh; if we really pay attention, he'll surprise and offend us today. Michael Spencer at the Boar's Head has a solid take on John 6:41ff, where the rabbi makes the somewhat unconventional assertion that, "Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." It's one of those scenes where Jesus thins out the crowds by telling them the hard truth of the Kingdom. Here's Michael's take:

It really helps me to remember that Jesus is all about "offending" us out of any mindset that he is here to do miracles for us, and is always driving us toward a point that Christ is all and Christ is everything. Where everything is dung and Christ is the only food that satisfies. This is a God who doesn't need to be liked. When you are asking for more bread he is thinking up ways to drive you to the wall. It is no wonder the disciples were offended. It is offensive, and it is the only hope for the world. To feed and drink from Christ is the great picture of saving faith that is enacted in communion. The drama comes to the point of "Will I eat the body and blood, given for me? Will I triust? Will I surrender to what God is for me in Christ instead of insist what he must be?"


Life outside the pulpit again

Our ministry, both within and outside the pulpit, is only as strong as our relationships with God and each other. Jason Retherford, a youth minister in Oklahoma, has some encouraging thoughts on the value of loving relationships:

All the worries that swim around my head disappear for a time when I am with the ones I love. It's in this lesson I've learned over and over again, that I am continually reminded of God's desire to have a presence in our lives. For our light and momentary troubles melt away when we spend time in God's presence. He longs for us to spend time with Him, and I can not stress enough the importance of our relationship with Him. For what can we truly give to others if we are not first given to our Lord? In other words, what impact on those we minister to, or come into contact with are we going to have if we aren't spending regular time in prayer and in the Word?


The power of forgiveness

One of the hardest manifestations of discipleship, I think, is facing our deepest hurts and truly forgiving those who inflicted them. There's a sermon on forgivenss this week at Warriors in Christ. In forgiving, 1warrior points out, Christians are finding freedom in their relationships with one another and with God:

People are choosing to release their captive and painful past -- and it's making all the difference in their lives. . . .They are disarming one of Satan's most deadly and deceptive weapons -- the trap of offense.

The sermon is practical, readable, and biblical. Good stuff.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Watering down the Word?

Through the years I've struggled with how best to "package" the gospel to make it attractive to the lost. When I began seminary, "needs-based" ministry was in fashion. Meet the felt needs of the lost--for happy families, good friends, steady financial management--and we'll win them to Christ. By the time I finished school, the trend was less toward giving people want they want and more toward giving them what they need--the Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As I See It Now deals with this topic today. Some folks, Debra says, urge Christians not to broadcast their faith:

They tell me to just be nice. Loving. Blend in so that I don't appear different. Talk like everyone else--even swear--that's fine. Don't quote from the Bible. Be a carbon copy buddy and act like the world in order to win them.

Win them to what? A secret club whose goal is to look like everyone else?

Christians are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. We've been saved from destruction and brought into the very presence of Almighty God as adopted sons and daughters through the blood of Jesus Christ. We've been given a Spirit of peace and joy and power. No matter what we do to get people's attention, Jesus Christ has to be at the center of what we proclaim, and of who we are.

Speaking of Barth. . .

For the first time today I found a whole book online by Barth--and a preaching one at that. While I haven't read it yet, I plan to, and thought you might be interested, too. It's Prayer and Preaching, available at World Invisible, which also has some other good books.

The power of preaching

While preaching, I've always tried to stay very close to the Word of God. That's where the real power of preaching comes from--not from the intelligence, charisma, or personality of the preacher, but from the Word. Danny Fast, writing on this topic at Boar's Head Tavern, said it pretty well:

Personal agendas are to be left behind when approaching the pulpit. I have often asked, internally, "What does this have to do with the Gospel?" when a preacher begins with his stories or comments. We have seen those "preachers" on TV spouting political and personal ideologies that, good or bad, have a place but it isn't from the pulpit.

I think Karl Barth would agree:

Preaching is the Word of God which he himself has spoken; but God makes use, according to his good pleasure, of the ministry of a man who speaks to his fellow men, in God's name, by means of a passage from Scripture. Such a man fulfils the vocation to which the Church has called him and, through his ministry, the Church is obedient to the mission entrusted to her.

Amen. The power is in the Word. Maybe that's why I identify so strongly about the homiletical theories of Barth and Hans Frei.

Culture and the Word of God

Over at Wittenberg Gate, Dory has some trenchant thoughts on culture and the Word of God. An excerpt:

Revelation 19 gives us an image of a conquering Christ. The weapon He wields is a sword, but He does not carry that sword in His hand, He holds it in His mouth. It is the sword of His Word. The Great Commission (Matthew 28) gives the soldiers of the cross our marching orders. We are not told to wrestle power from the godless nations by physical strength, we are told to make disciples. In other words, we are told to teach. Says Paul, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God..." (2 Corinthians 10: 4,5) We are not called upon to impose by force, we are called upon to convince.

Clear thinking, worth reading.

I found this link, by the way, through RazorsKiss, which, I'm happy to say, has included TF on its blogroll. Thanks, Joshua.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Life outside the pulpit

Brad Hightower sheds light over at 21st Century Reformation on how discipleship in the footsteps of Jesus might look today. While his lessons should resonate with any Christian, I couldn't help thinking as I read about how, for preachers, the way we live out of the pulpit is at least as important as what we say in it.

If anything comes from this series of posts may it be that you and others come to understand that if we desire to make disciples in the footsteps of Jesus, we must begin by allowing people to see our lives. We must first model the desired behavior. Let me say it again. The proper answer to almost all our disciple-making needs is to say “come follow me”. That is the call to discipleship. “Come and learn from me”. This phrase means learn from my example. Certainly there is a place for communication and the use of the abstract but the priority is Observe, Imitate and then Discussion.

Have a look at Brad's whole post.

Evangelical Blog Awards

Transforming Sermons has been nominated in the Best Evangelical Blog-Pastor category for Evangelical Underground's First Annual Evangelical Blog Awards. It's great to be in the competition (even if I am up against folks like Mark D. Roberts and Jollyblogger).

By way of disclaimer, I want to say that TS is intended to be evangelical only in the generic sense (little "e")---in fostering evangelism, the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ. To that end, what you'll find posted here is meant to transcend sectarian labels. The goal is to encourage all Christians of whatever bent to proclaim the Good News with the power of the Holy Spirit. It's kind of like what Buzz Trexler describes at The Pastor's Buzz:

In short, I embrace the mysticism of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox, the freedom of the Spirit with Pentecostalism, the balance of United Methodism, the evangelism of Conservative Protestants, and the feet-on-the-ground discipleship of Liberal Protestants.

With that in mind, there are several of you whose blogs I would love to nominate---but only if you're willing to have your work considered an "Evangelical" blog. Let me know.

Our dreams and God's dreams

Debra at As I See It Now has some encouraging meditations on dreams.

From experience, I've noticed that my own self-made-up dreams are always too safe. Too quiet. My own dreams require little risk--practically none, in fact. I can carry them out whether God shows up or not.

But God's dreams for me... Oh my. They have always required that I step out of the boat in deep seas and then, yes, walk on water.

Debra's writing is a beautiful exploration of the heart --- darkness, redemption, and the quiet confidence of a long-in-coming miracle of peace. Her blog is worth a visit.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Another reminder of why we preach

Good thoughts today on becoming and being a Christian from Bill Wallo at Wallo World.

Many people are quite comfortable just existing, going to work each day, coming home, eating their McMeal, and watching the intellectual baby food on TV while relaxing with a couple of beers. A steady diet of that won’t just affect your waistline, it’ll affect your brain as well. Christians fall into the same trap of living an “unexamined” life. But we should all remember that there’s a distinction between “becoming” a Christian and “being” one; the first happens in a moment of redemptive grace, the latter requires a lifetime pursuing God’s righteousness.

Although Bill is writing about a general anti-intellectualism in Christian circles, I think his words apply particularly well to the need for intellectually and spiritually challenging preaching. Bill's post, by the way, is in response to this post by Randy McRoberts on spiritual starvation.

Outstanding description of law and grace

Rusty Peterman at Believer Blog has posted a fine little treatment of law and grace, based on Rom. 7:1-6. It's a fine piece because he cuts right to the heart of the matter.

There are only two choices for human beings. Either stand in judgment on the basis of how one compares to God's moral law. Or stand in judgment on the basis of being united with Christ by faith. The former calls for flawless obedience. The latter depends of the righteousness of Christ.

Amen. I've been trying to say the same thing in my sermon series on Romans, but I don't know if I could have said it any better than Rusty has. Good job, bro.

Creative narrative on Cain and Abel

If you like imaginative depictions of biblical stories, you might enjoy taking a look at Doug Floyd's imaginative account of Cain and Abel. Doug is an excellent thinker and writer. He's also the man who got me started blogging.

The limitations of money

Illustration fodder: Rubel Shelly has a contemporary illustration of the limitations of money, even in copious quantities. He tells the story of Jack Whittaker, who won $314.9 million a couple of years ago playing Powerball and has been struggling with a variety of difficulties ever since. To his credit, Dr. Shelly doesn't just hold the poor guy up for scorn--he prays that God will help Mr. Whittaker get himself back together.

Jack Arnold -- the rest of the rest of the story

Jack Arnold was the preacher who died earlier this month in the middle of preaching about going to heaven. You've no doubt come across some of the media coverage. Now Dean W. Arnold makes some candid observations about his father in a Chattanooga Times column.

Even Paul Harvey reported the remarkable event. But perhaps he will let me go ahead and tell the rest of the story, which is far more poignant when you learn that my father was weak, flawed, and glaringly human. You don't have to be perfect to finish strong.

Maybe there's hope for the rest of us, too. Dean Arnold is a professional writer, and his talent comes through strongly in this piece. It's an article well worth reading.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Thoughts on Genesis 43, 44

Conrad Gempf has some thoughts on Genesis 43, 44 that are new to me. I think Conrad's post is intended specificially for students in one of his courses, but he's got some helpful thoughts for the rest of us in interpreting the text. Bear in mind that Conrad is rhetorically addressing a particular author here, and isn't really insulting his readers:

Look, pal, this thing isn't about Joseph anymore. You are totally missing the way that Judah steps up outta nowhere here. Maybe, like me, you were expecting Social-Conscience Reuben (Uh, hey guys, I'm not really sure we should be doing this...) to take the lead. But no -- it's Judah, although the story not really about Judah as Judah anymore either.

This is about a network of relationships, about love and reconciliation. This is about what CS Lewis calls the deeper magic from before the dawn of time -- a pattern of atonement that God is hard-wiring into the Jewish psyche as a ripple spreading backward and forward from the event that stands at the centre of time.

I do
n't know about you, but that second paragraph in particular gives me something to think about.

On being good little boys and girls

At outWORD, Matte shares her thoughts on faith and obedience. Good Christian behavior, she points out, is a whole lot more than being nice boys and girls who please the folks around them.

Jesus spent his entire life butting up against an established church community that had good behaviour down to a fine art; he called their leaders snakes and their venom poisonous! While all this good behaviour dazzles us on the outside, it squeezes the life out of us on the inside. If you read a little more closely, you will begin to see that good behaviour mentioned in the Bible is always as a by-product, a result, an outcome of something infinitely greater than regular church attendance.

Content note: Matte tells it like it is. Don’t read her post if you’re easily offended by dirty words. Then again if you are, you might be the very one she’s talking to.

So let me be clear...though I value my friends, family, and leaders and respect their beliefs, I will not be made in their image - it smacks of idolatry. Though a good reputation in the religious community is nice to have, I want to value it about as much as Jesus did. I am not out to offend anyone, but due to the nature of humanity, that will invariably happen, and for that I apologize. My goal is no longer to be a good person, but to live. Check out John 17:3.

Tell it, Matte!

Not by might, but by weakness

Gregory Jensen reminds us at The Ooze that preaching should never be about trying to force someone to accept Christ.

Christians must proclaim the Gospel; evangelism is essential to our commitment to Jesus Christ. But if we wish to be faithful to Christ's command to us, if we wish to proclaim the Gospel with power and authority, it might be better if we do so softly, gently and with regard for human freedom and dignity.

At the center of God’s relationship with humanity is a respect for human beings and their freedom.

Sometimes we forget, or maybe we've never really heard or understood, that God redeems us not by being God Almighty in Heaven, but becoming a man in Galilee.


Textweek blog

The Textweek blog has some interesting posts and links, particularly for those doing lectionary preaching. There's good stuff there for those who aren't, too. I've just begun to dig into the good stuff there.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Preaching and imagination

One of the best articles I've seen lately on preaching is in the current edition of Leaven. In "Preaching: The Big Imagination," Dave Fleer gets it right about why we preach:

Preaching's goal is not to create from within the congregation and interested seekers better fathers, mothers, employees and citizens. Preaching's goal is not to improve the Christian's current existence in Egypt. Preaching's goal is to facilitate the radical shift to being Christian. We came to preaching because we sensed its import and the meanings it created; we came to preaching believing that somehow a total immersion in the biblical text could evoke new possibilities of an alternate world, one envisioned in scripture.

Amen. The current issue of Leaven (Volume 12, Issue 4) is not yet on line. When it is, you'll be able to find it here.

Shaking the dust off

"And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them." - Mark 6:11

As a young Christian that verse used to trouble me; how can we simply give up on those who need the gospel? Today I find the verse liberating. There is no end to the number of opportunities for proclaiming the gospel. Why should we waste what little time and energy we have on those who do not want to hear it when others are hungry for it?

The current issue Journal for the Study of the New Testament has an article by T. J. Rogers on Mark 6:7ff: "Shaking the Dust off the Markan Mission Discourse." In short, Rogers concludes "that the pericope is best understood when read in the context of ancient hospitality norms, implied in v. 10."

What would you do?

If you've been in congregational ministry any time at all, you've been accosted by men or women with hard-luck stories and requests for assistance---usually money. What would you do if someone interrupted the worship service to make such a request? It happened to Mike Murdock, and he shares his experiences here.

Diarists at Mr. Standfast

Mr. Standfast has posted a guide to his favorite "diarist" blogs.

These people do something far more valuable than simply list the quotidian details of their days. They humbly seek to relate their daily experience to the "big picture" of the Scriptures.

Bob has a good eye for good blogs (he did, after all, include Transforming Sermons among his favorite apologists). Definitely worth a browse.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Technique and relationship

Craig S. Williams (with help from Diogenes Allen) has some heart-of-the-matter thoughts on evangelism and discipleship as relationship. An excerpt:

I believe that one of the thing we need to start leaving behind are systems that would replace relationships. By systems I mean five steps for this, six guages of that, thirty purposes, or x number of habits for happiness. By systems I mean all the promises that we can solve the problem of our lives by attending to whatever list is offered. You see, once we buy into any of these schemes, we buy into a technique, that even though it may name God and Jesus as the goal, ultimately is unable to deliver on its promise. Because God and our life is not a problem to be solved. God is not a goal. God is a person we know in Jesus Christ.

Relationships are not governed by rules but by presence.

As one trying to move, both as a Christian and a preacher, from technique to relationship, I really appreciate Craig's post.

For those who like narrative patterns

I delight in studying, teaching, and preaching narrative patterns in the Bible. Richard J. Leithart has a short post about OT narrative parallels between the lives of Saul and Jeroboam. I for one had never noticed them before.

Not depending on time

John Telfer Brown at Scotwise offers some helpful thoughts on discipleship and the development of craft. These ideas, it seems to me, apply very well to the art of preaching. John reminds us that time isn't what makes us better, and he offers us four ways to devleop a lifestyle of discipleship. The post is brief and worth reading.

Cross carrying and cost counting

Rick Davis at aintsobad has some worthwhile thoughts on the importance of asking the right questions when it comes to evangelism. He contrasts the modern marketing approach to Jesus' own:

He pushes cost counting on His folks, even those who have followed Him for awhile. He talks about deciding if one has enough to finish a tower before you start to build or about determining if you can beat an army that outnumbers you two to one. He starkly insists on cross carrying and self denial.

"Tepid Christianity" in the West comes from asking the wrong questions in our contacts with those outside Christ. We need to be asking, Davis says, if they're willing to make an eternal commitment.

Jesus teaches cross carrying. We can teach the same. In fact, we ought to teach the same, from the start.

That's something to remember if we're ever tempted in our preaching to softpedal the hard truth of discipleship.

New blogroll post at Mr. Standfast

I was honored to see Transforming Sermons included on Mr. Standfast's new blogroll post. Bob's writing is beautiful, thoughtful, and faithful. Based on the links I've followed from his blogroll, he's got a good eye for others' blogs, too. It's great to be counted among them.

New Testament exegesis bibliography

The 2005 NT exegesis bibliography from Drs. Craig Blomberg and William W. Klein is available online at Denver Journal. It's thorough and long. The link came to my attention from Dr. Mark Goodacres's NT Gateway Weblog.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Prayer, preparation, and preaching

Today I experienced God's empowering grace in preaching. Shortly before services I found myself (for reasons I won't go into this post) terribly agitated and upset--so much so that I wondered if I would be able to preach effectively.

So I went into my office and prayed---long, hard, desperately. I confessed my sin and prayed for peace and submission to God's will. I confessed my confusion to God and asked for courage to accept his will if and when he revealed it to me. I prayed for blessings on a few people I felt had wronged me and prayed to change my ways if it turned out they were the ones in God's will. I told God that if he would use my lips, my heart, my mouth to proclaim his Word, I would give him all the glory. I read 1 John out loud, and then went out to preach.

Although I had come there angry, hurt, and raw, I preached with power and confidence. A couple of people told me it was one of the best sermons I had ever preached. I think so, too. And it wasn't because of my strength or brains or charisma. It was because of my weakness before God, who gave me the power to proclaim his Word. To him be all glory.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

New "Art of Preaching" link

I've added a link to Religion-online's "Art of Preaching" in the "Other Links" section of this page. There's lots of good stuff there, including the full text of As One Without Authority and five other entire books.

Jesus and obedience

Mark Loughridge has some thoughts on Jesus and obedience at 3:17. He takes as his starting point Mt. 3:17, where the voice of the Father proclaimed, "This is my beloved son; with him I am well pleased."

Have you ever wondered that? It's Matthew 3:17. It's only the start of Jesus' ministry. The hard work of calling and teaching the disciples hasn't begun yet. His atoning death is 3 years away.

What was there to be pleased about?

It is all too easy to skim over the whole of 33 years of Jesus' life and to see his saving work focused on just a few hours on the cross. Often we tend to think of his life in this way: for 30 years we are told nothing, so we learn nothing; for 3 years we try to learn from his example and teaching; and from 6 hours we learn about his redemptive work.

This is to slice and dice an event that God intended to be a lifelong event into a little cube of meat that doesn't fill and satisfy the way God intended.

For God designed the whole of Christ's life to be a unit. It is redemptive from beginning to end. To slice and dice is to rob Jesus of the glory due to him for a much greater work, and it is to rob ourselves of much comfort and blessing.


New ministry resources link

I've added a ministry resources link to this page under "Other Links." The link is actually to the PASTORS & CHRISTIAN LEADERS page from Smart Christian. I changed "pastors" to "ministry," I suppose, because I'm a Church of Christ man. Whatever you call it, it's full of useful links.

List of blogging pastors

Mark Roberts is assembling a list of blogging ministers . He's doing this with four goals in mind:

1. To encourage pastors to blog.
2. To encourage people to read pastoral blogs.
3. To help pastors get in touch with other blogging pastors.
4. To help blogging pastors get out the word about their websites.

I've added my site. Here's praying it will bring a few readers.

I found out about the list, by the way, at SmartChristian Blog.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Shepherd evangelism

Vas Avramidis's sermon on Shepherd Evangelism is quiet dynamite. He addresses the issue of why most Christians don't seem to evangelize. He hits the nail on the head, I'm afraid, when he says that

. . . sadly these days Christians are no longer lighthouses, nor beacons. No, we are no different than the world. We have buried our light deep, not just covered it up. Nothing distinguishes us from the world around us.

Most of us aren't saved by a good argument, Avramidis says, but by meeting God. Do non-Christians see God in the church? Oftentimes, not. Popular media's views of Christians "as liars, hypcrites, and phonies" may not be that far from the truth. Christians will fight for the most trivial reason.

And believe me, you do not show love by picking on others, or deriding their ideas. You don't show love by trying to get your way and bullying others into submission. You don't show love by arguing over preferences or tastes. You show love by serving. By humbling yourself and being merciful to others. Even when it means that you have to sacrifice your own desires. If you really care for this church and want to see it grow, then make it your mission to start loving and serving, and put aside your own desires.

Avramidis's post is long, but it's challenging and worth reading.

Thoughts on winter

Windblown has a brief meditation on winter over at The Ooze:

We have used technology not just to insulate ourselves from the physical extremes of winter, but to erase the idea from our culture. The meaning of winter, a season in which life is sustained by the stored harvest of the past, of an uncertain future, of waiting unproductively for a new season, no longer resonates in our lives. Instead we have ever briefer production cycles, narrowing margins, increased competition, and the constant need to get more out of less.

As preachers, do we give in to the temptation to follow the rhythms of commerce, or do we open ourselves to the flow of seasons as God made them? Please read the article.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

A universe in three words

Here's something for those who make their living with words to remember :

Sometimes all I really want to say is, "Jesus is Lord."

There's a universe in those three words.

What does that universe look like? Read Mr. Standfast's whole post.

A better approach to Paul's Areopagus speech

I'll admit I've taught Paul's Athenian speech in Acts 17:16-21 as a model of adjusting one's approach to accommodate the hearers. Conrad Gempf set me straight in a (serious) article at Ship of Fools. Paul's approach, Gempf points out, was far from soft and accommodating.

You wouldn't make that mistake if you knew his audience or could see their faces as he spoke. They felt about the same way as you would if some stranger came to you and said, "You're very religious, aren't you?"

And they are Athenians. Philosophers. Lovers of wisdom. But what does Paul say he likes about these planet-brained boffins? That they admit to being ignorant. Addressing the ancient equivalent of the dons of Oxford or Cambridge, Paul lectures them on the subject of their ignorance.


Considering the TNIV?

Zondervan is about to release Today's New International Version of the whole Bible. The TNIV New Testament was issued in 2002. If you're thinking of using it in your preaching, you might want to check out Zondervan's TNIV page, along with a scholarly review of the TNIV NT by Jack P. Lewis, Ph.D., Ph.D.

Jailed for preaching

I don't want to address politics in this blog, but it strikes me as big news when a preacher within the confines of "Christendom" is jailed for the content of his preaching. Last summer Ake Green was jailed in Sweden for preaching deemed to be an assault on homosexuals. This month he's appealing. Of the merits of this case I don't know enough to comment. In a more general sense, however, if preachers are doing our jobs, shouldn't we expect the ire of the world?

Preaching and Postmoderns

Christianity Today has posted an excellent article by Daniel Hill, "Reaching the Post-Christian." Hill does a particularly good job of portraying the attitudes Christians are up against in reaching out to those Hill calls Post-Christian.

Another good, if somewhat academic, resource is Lynn Jost's "Preaching the Old Testament in the Post Modern World," from the Fall 1996 issue of Direction. The article includes a bibliography that has weathered the past nine years quite well.

An interpretation of John 20:1-18

I feel sorry for the Archbishop of Canterbury right now---trying to hold together the entire Anglican Communion as the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. goes its own way. This sermon text, however, shows at least part of the reason he got into the position to be facing the mess he's in. The man writes an awesome sermon.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Wild abandonment to the kingdom

Backyard Missionary has some thought-provoking ideas on our duty to live in "wild abandonment to the values of the kingdom and to reproduce that in others. " Christians in Australia, it seems, have the same challenges we do in America: to encourage members of the middle class to accept the challenges of real discipleship.

When you think about it what we are really asking people to do is to lay down all of their hopes and dreams, all of their ambitions (not just to sing about doing it) and to live a life of humility, sacrifice and 'downward mobility' to quote Bill Hybels. I know it doesn't mean all pain, suffering etc, but the call to discipleship is a brutal one - a disturbing one.

One of our biggest jobs as preachers is to help our brothers and sisters (and ourselves) to trust God in answering this call. What it really comes down to: do we really believe Jesus?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Thickburger sermons?

You can find some valuable thoughts this week at Preaching Now on the nutritional value of our sermons. Do we offer something spiritually nutritious, or do we give in to the temptation "to sweeten the ingredients of [our] sermons with stuff that sizzled like Hardees' Thickburger -- clever stories, humor, tales about things that interested me. . . . James Denny once said, 'No (preacher) can both convince a crowd that he is clever and that Jesus is mighty to save.'" Woh.

A God willing to be known

As a preacher, I need to remember that my most important task is proclaiming the Word of God. That means preachers must know God and make him known. Mr. Standfast has a beautiful post today about knowing God.

Indeed, the Lord is so willing to be known, He would have us call Him Papa. Let no one deceive you with false humility. The curtain on the Holy of Holies was rent in two when Christ died on the tree. Jehovah became accessible. This is no boast of men, for it was all His doing. Knock, and the door shall be opened.

The article had me hooked from the beginning, where Mr. Standfast talks about The Gospel of John: The Film. I agree that Jesus in this film shows a "beautiful hardiness" unlike the soporific Jesuses in the films I grew up watching.

Does God want us to be happy?

Mark Roberts makes a good case for use of the word "happy" instead of "blessed" in the beautitudes of Matthew's Gospel.

As long as we keep in mind the deeper sense of happiness implied in Scripture, it seems quite clear to me that God does want us to be happy. But, having said this, I fear I might have opened Pandora’s box. I’ll explain why in my next post.

The articles are well worth looking at. I find Dr. Roberts's latest post particularly interesting, as I ran across his article about fifteen seconds after posting a comment at Pruitt Communications saying, "God does not necessarily want us to be happy."

On quantum servanthood

John O'Keefe has some excellent, readable observations on postmodernism and church leadership at The Ooze. His beginning is strong: Whether we like it or not we have moved from “Ozzie to Ozzy;” we have moved from the Nelsons to the Osbournes; from Harriet to Sharon, from Ricky to Kelly. His bottom line is stronger: I work under the belief that Jesus never called anyone to “leadership.” Jesus called us to servanthood. In-between is worth reading, too.

Information and the spirit of the World

Moby writes that the world has already become an Orwellian place. The mainstream media ignore events of major importance while fixating on meaningless stories. And the public goes along.

i know, i'm not the first person to write about this. but it is generally disheartening to realize that we live in an age where people have access to so much information but yet choose willful ignorance.
or willfully choose ignorance.

See any relationship between this situation and the Word of God?

I found this link at cre8d design, where Rachel Cunliffe has some valuable observations and links on the way blogs are impacting our culture.

Don't do as we say . . .

Nathan Colquhoun has a short article at The Ooze about churches where grace was preached and a home where it was practiced.

A lot of pastors preach until they're blue in the face that we need to live by grace, yet at the same time they try to persuade and convince you to follow hundreds of man-made rules and traditions. . . . If you live by grace, you desire to live so far beyond the rules that even the 10 commandments seem like the lowliest of living to you, and even if you slip, you still haven’t broken the rules that other people have set for you.


"An overdeveloped sense of duty"

Good advice, from the Center for Cultural Leadership, that preachers facing burnout would do well to remember:

Some of us have an overdeveloped sense of duty. Like Benjamin of old, we have five times more on our plate than our brethren. This exaggerated duty is not a compliment if it crushes you. . . . I think many of us will find that our self-imposed activities are not divinely ordered. The way to tell the difference is, "If ... God command thee so, then thou shalt be able." You do only what God has enabled you to do, and leave the rest.

I agree.

Monday, January 17, 2005

New bibliography on the New Perspective on Paul

Michael F. Byrd has posted a bibliographic essay on the New Perspective on Paul at The Paul Page.

What is this new perspective? At its core is the recognition that Judaism is not a religion of self-righteousness whereby humankind seeks to merit salvation before God. Paul's argument with the Judaizers was not about Christian grace versus Jewish legalism. His argument was rather about the status of Gentiles in the church. Paul's doctrine of justification, therefore, had far more to do with Jewish-Gentile issues than with questions of the individual's status before God.

Although the New Perspective has been around for a couple of decades, I didn't run across it till a couple of years ago when I read the groundbreaking article in the field: Krister Stendahl's "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West." I haven't found the article itself online, but The Paul Page has an excellent review by Bill DeJong.

What Jesus learned

I must say I'd never given much thought to what Jesus learned, but we know that while on the earth he did not know everything (Mk. 13:32), and that he did in fact grow in knowledge (Lk. 2:52). John C. Haughey explores the idea in the latest issue of The Living Pulpit: "What Jesus learned was that the outsiders he encountered were not outside the activity of God, the heart of God, the care of God. What he taught was very much connected to this lesson as he had learned it."

Daily illustration has a free illustration each day on its home page. I find these illustrations to be better than most.

Don't be a religious professional

Some valuable thoughts from Albert Mohler Jr. on John the Baptist and the dangers of viewing preaching as "profession":

“There can be no shared glory in the ministry,” he said. “Whatever glory we have will be the glory we are given on that day when Christ shall claim us as His own. In this world we will not see glory. Whatever glory we see is more dangerous than profitable.”

This link comes by way of Preaching Now.

A what in my head?

Illustration fodder: A man in Littleton, Colorado, went to the dentist for a toothache and discovered he had accidentally embedded a nail in his skull six days earlier. He's doing well following surgery. The strangest part of this story, though, is a quote from a neurosurgeon at the suburban Denver hospital: "This is the second one we've seen in this hospital where the person was injured by the nail gun and didn't actually realize the nail had been imbedded in their skull."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

As One Without Authority

Internet Classic: Speaking of Fred Craddock, the third edition of his groundbreaking book on preaching, As One Without Authority, is available free at religion-online. While AOWO doesn't sound as radical as I'm told it did thirty years ago (probably because his ideas have been so widely adopted), it is still a solid book on preaching. It's definitely worth reading.

Craddock at Rochester College in May

Fred Craddock will be the keynote speaker at this year's Rochester College Sermon Seminar, May 23-25. I'm planning on traveling to Michigan for the seminar. Craddock's sermons, more than any I've heard, really allow the Word of God to transform the heart, not just the mind. The rest of the seminar presenters aren't too shabby, either.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Preaching resources at Churches of Christ Online

Churches of Christ Online has a wide range of links and resources on their Preaching Ministry Home Page.

Judgement on the nations

My first sermon at my current congregation was on the book of Amos. Wayne Jackson has a short, helpful article on Amos 1:1-2:3 at the Christian Courier.

Marriage as martyrdom

The August 5, 2003, edition of The Mennonite magazine had an outstanding editorial by Gordon Houser on "Marriage as Martyrdom" (page 32). Here is something worth thinking about next time you're preaching on marriage:

Marriage is a kind of spiritual discipline that teaches us to surrender ourselves to God, which is at the heart of Jesus' teaching. . . . A good marriage is not only the result of daily surrender and hard work but a witness to the reality and goodness of God.

Houser also has good thoughts on the relationship of marriage to the church.

The best free Bible software

I've tried four or five different e-Bibles, including the rather pricey Logos Library System. My favorite, for ease of use and availability of modules, is The Sword Project. See what you think.

Where to find articles on specific biblical texts

Here are some good places to find articles on Bible texts arranged by book, chapter, and verse. The Text This Week includes articles on texts from a Protestant lectionary; some of the contemporary articles are helpful. has some useful articles, from a Dallas-dispensational view. McGarvey and Pendleton's NT commentaries are a RM classic. The Christian Classics Ethereal Library has some good stuff (with a heavy Reformed slant) in its Study Bible. Religion online has hundreds of articles, primarily from Christian Century; you can find specific passages using a keyword search. There are more, but I'm blogging from home and don't have all the links.


Linking to a given site doesn't mean I necessarily agree with everything at that site. In fact, I disagree substantially with some of the links I've already included here. And since this is a blog, not a sermon, I'm not being fastidious about qualifying every post. If you're a preacher of the Word, you ought to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you want to see what I myself believe and preach, go to my sermons page.

Good sermon collections

Here are some of preachers whose sermons I find helpful in seeing what's already been done on a given topic: David Chadwell, John Piper, Rubel Shelly, Ray Stedman. They're worth checking out.

Good, free commentaries on all OT and NT books

Thomas Constable, a senior professor of Bible exposition at Dallas Theological Seminary, has made his study notes for every book of the Bible (excluding deuterocanonicals) available online in .pdf format. They distill twenty years of Dr. Constable's research and would be worth paying for if they weren't already free.

Sermon texts on Romans

I suppose I should begin at home -- with a link to my sermons page. Right now I'm preaching through Romans.

Welcome to Transforming Sermons

This blog is for preachers who want to preach transforming sermons and other Christians who want to experience them. I plan to review and link both to online sermon texts, articles on preaching, and articles related to preaching (including, I suppose, illustrations). If you know of anything I should link to, please let me know.