Monday, October 30, 2006

No more scripture-less worship

Paul Lamey makes a strong argument that in our worship services, Christians need to hear the Scripture both preached and read.

Becoming relevant to God's purposes

Conrad Gempf reminds readers that our approach to the Word of God needs to be more than me-centered. In other words, we should not look at the Bible for what we can get out of it that is relevant to our lives:
I don't want to approach God and the Bible as a client, with my categories as fundamental, looking for relevance, as if with an ultimatum: The solid thing is my job, my relationships, my life, God. Me me me. What can you give me that will work in it? What can God and church do to enhance me? And if he shows me that he can improve my quality of living, then I'll let him stay.

I want to approach God and the Bible in an attitude of love. I want to be willing to lose my life, to give him permission to mess up my neat priorities. To seek him. You you you. What will you give me that I can work toward? It's not what can I find in the Bible that's relevant to me me me? It's how can I change "me" to be relevant to God's purposes?

Yeah, we want our own stories to merge with the biblical story. We need to do that without rigging it so our story and categories will win.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

How to write better titles than this one

The need for better Bible doing

Is better Bible teaching the key to better discipleship? Andrew Hamilton wonders:
Knowing the Bible inside out, upside down and back to front is on a par with the bloke who built his house on sand. Jesus declared the difference between him and the other guy was simply that the ‘wise man’ was the one who ‘hears my words and puts them into practice’.
HT: Kouya Chronicle.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Resources for preaching and exposition

Prof. Roy E. Ciampa of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has published a links page of Resources for New Testament Exegesis (HT: Between Two Worlds). The resources page looks very helpful. I've added a link here on the sidebar under Scripture Resources, along with another, under Preaching Links, to Dr. Ciampa's page of Resources for Biblical Preaching.

The problem with relevance in Bible study

Conrad Gempf offers a spot-on analogy on what's wrong with approaching Bible study by trying to make it "relevant" to the lives of readers:
We've talked a little bit about the 20th century idea that you have to make the Bible relevant to today in order for people to be interested. It's still such a prevalent myth that I dealt with this. . . using examples drawn from relationships. My wife works in the Health, Safety and Environment group of an oil company. When she talks to me about her day, I have a choice. I could try to filter what she says in terms of what's relevant to my life and interests. I could insist that she work harder at thinking through how she talks to me in terms of how it will impact me. If I love her, though, something strange happens. Things that affect her -- even statistics about non-fatal accidents in Siberia -- become relevant to me because they affect the person I love. It's not her job to make her life into something that suits my tastes. If anything, it's my job to change my ideas about what's interesting and relevant so that I can listen empathetically and stand alongside her.
Amen, brother.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Latest 1 Corinthians text

My latest sermon text, from 1 Cor. 10:14-11:1, is now posted at To the Word.

More on illustrations in preaching

Craig Brian Larson has added a couple of more installments to his series on illustrating like Max and John. Here's a sample from Part 2:
As a boy, I received a clear-plastic coin-sorter one Christmas—the kind meant for kids, not bank clerks. You could watch the coins roll down a winding path and then drop through slots of varying sizes that sorted them into piles of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. The sequence of these variable-sized slots mattered, proceeding from smallest to largest. If the largest slot, intended for quarters, had been first, all the coins would have fallen in the quarters pile. But with the smallest slot, intended for dimes, being first, the larger coins would roll over it and proceed down the steep path until they came to a slot large enough for them to drop. When the slots discriminate in this manner between various coins, gravity does the rest.

In the world of illustrations, the discriminating slots are concepts, which all have words. Redemption, mercy, generosity, law, prayer, adultery. You can illustrate only what you understand—what you have a concept, a category, a word for. This is why good illustrators are people who know the concepts of the Bible, of theology, of life and literature.

And so the better we understand theology, the more readily we will recognize that an experience fits the category of atonement or holiness. The better we know the Bible, the more readily an experience will call to mind a Bible verse or story such as the greed of Achan. The more we read life and literature, the more readily an experience will trigger concepts like loss or longing or frustration. If your knowledge is limited to quarter-sized concepts like love, God, or faith, then you will miss the chance to find that perfect illustration for a more specific, dime-sized concept like brotherly love, God's grace, or childlike faith.
Good point. Part one and part three are worth reading, too.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Preaching at Jackhammer

The theme this month at Jackhammer blog is preaching. Keep scrolling; there's lots of good stuff.

More than faithful

One of my favorite preachers has now started blogging, and he reminds Christians that we are called to be more than faithful:
I don’t know whether or not Mother Theresa actually said, “We are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful.” If she said it, it was said by her in a weak moment. I’m sure that of all people Mother Theresa knew that Christians have a strange definition of “success” that includes service to those in need and reaching the lost. There is no “faithful” that is unconcerned about the numbers (i.e. human beings who are reached in the name of Christ). Because we are called to be faithful, we are called to be fruitful.
Good point.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Flee from idolatry

The text of my sermon on 1 Cor. 10:14-11:1 is now posted at To the Word.

Invisibly working

Ray Van Neste encourages preachers to remember that even when our own efforts are inadequate, God's power is sufficient:
Anyone who has preached much knows the agony of it. . . . You have just laid out your heart with all the earnestness you have, and as you sit down you are painfully aware of the inadequacy of your efforts. And this feeling is augmented because the inadequacies which are so evident to you have just been publicly displayed before the people of God!
What does God require of us to provide his power? Preach the Word of God.

Other preaching blogs

The next few days are unusually full, so I won't have as much time as usual for blogging. While posting here will be light, you might want to have a look at what's being posted each day on the Blogdigger Preaching Group.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Catching up on 1 Corinthians

I've finally caught up with posting texts of my 1 Corinthians sermon series at To the Word. The latest are on 1 Cor. 7:25-40, 1 Cor. 8, 1 Cor. 9, and 1 Cor. 10:1-13.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Television and shrinking the soul

John Piper: "If all other variables are equal, your capacity to know God deeply will probably diminish in direct proportion to how much television you watch."

Maturity in a culture of toddlers

Bill at Out of the Bloo has been thinking lately about maturity:
From my perspective, maturity is not much valued in our culture. It is synonymous with "no fun", and when one thinks of maturity, the vision that presents itself is of a buttoned-down and proper dullness. We live in a culture that celebrates youth, celebrates success (however gained), and celebrates excess. Our televisions are rife with images of men behaving like boys and women fulfilling those boy's every fantasy. There are a lot fewer images of people who demonstrate maturity. You see, maturity lacks "spice".

But the image of maturity found in the Bible is anything but dull.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Making the effort to overcome anger & resentment

Brad Hightower looks at Mt. 5:22 and offers practical steps for overcoming anger and resentment.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The glory of expounding the Word

Here are a couple of little gems from the recent Christianity Today interview with John Stott:
It's the same issue across the globe. Churches live, grow, and flourish by the Word of God. And they languish and even perish without it. . . .

When I enter the pulpit with the Bible in my hands and in my heart, my blood begins to flow and my eyes to sparkle for the sheer glory of having God's Word to expound. We need to emphasize the glory, the privilege, of sharing God's truth with people.
Amen (HT: I Was Just Thinking and Expository Thoughts).

Not just conversion, but transformation

Dan Edelen has written an outstanding post on the need for churches to emphasize not only conversion, but transformation:
I didn't know my wife the first time I met her. In many ways, I still didn't know her even on our honeymoon. Learning who she is will take me the rest of my life because the depth of her personhood will only be revealed in time.

The same goes for Jesus Christ. Most of us have barely scratched the surface of what it means to know Him. Yet the Bible says that knowing Him IS eternal life! It's not escaping hell, it's knowing the person of Jesus Christ. Deep calls to deep. If Jesus Christ and a hundred Jesus impersonators were put into a lineup, would we be able to pick the real Jesus out of the crowd of imposters? Think hard about that question.

Likewise, our conversion to Christ does not end our growth as Christians. Too often, though, our churches act like they have no more to tell us once we say yes to the Lord. "Just don't do bad things now" is the extent of the post-conversion advice.

But the Bible says that we're supposed to be changing from one degree of glory into another, a process that will take our entire lives. That is if we surrender to that process of Christ making Himself in us.
Dan, of course, is referring to 2 Cor. 3:12-18. You can find a similar theme in Romans 12:1-2.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Not to us, but for us

Who was the Bible written to, and who was it written for? Eddie Arthur has begun a blog series on these questions, and his answers are right on the mark:
[Through r]epeated exposure to the Bible, we can develop a world view which is shaped by God’s thoughts - not our own. This allows us to see things the way that God would see them, and so we can answer the questions ourselves. The Bible doesn’t simply give us the answers - the Bible gives us the tools to know the answers for ourselves - this is much more powerful.
Amen, and amen.

Closer to Seinfeld

Married couples are now a minority in the United States, and Ray Pritchard shares ten insights into what the shifting composition of North American families means for Christian ministry:
Mostly we must face the fact that we no longer live in an Ozzie and Harriet world. American culture is closer to Seinfeld than to Leave It to Beaver. As I visit different churches, it seems to me that we're still catering to the minority two-parent family, which makes sense because that's what we understand, but it's not the world we live in. If the church intends to speak to this generation, we might as well fact the fact that we're speaking more to singles than to married couples.
HT: SmartChristian.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Citizens of heaven

Bill at Out of the Blue has written short and sweet post on Phil. 3:20-21 and our true citizenship.

Trends in the church

John Schroeder, reacting to a recent post at Out of Ur, offers this insight on trends and the church:
Somehow, I cannot help but be struck by the fact that if the church spent less time worrying about trends and more time dealing with God, we'd all be much better off.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Today we finished moving my dad's furniture from Tennessee to Virginia. He has Alzheimer's disease and will be living with us, starting the day after tomorrow. My dad has lived in the same house since 1949. It's where he and my mother brought up both their boys and where I developed such a strong sense of belonging to a place on the earth. Seeing his furniture--some of it in the family for five generations--in another state, and knowing that for the first time in my life my dad will be living somewhere besides 619 Pennyslvania Avenue, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is like waking up to find the sun's turned blue. I'm too weary to write or even read much of anything right now. Let's try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Staying out of the devil's playground

John Schroeder offers advice on not leaving holes in a sermon.

Invitation to join the preaching blogs group

I've just put together a new Blogdigger preaching blogs aggregator. It's a handy way of accessing blog posts on the topic of preaching the gospel. Each day Blogdigger creates a group page in which the latest posts from each member blog are linked. Right now the members are Expository Thoughts, Soul Preaching, Theocentric Preaching, and Transforming Sermons.

The group is open to all blogs with a strong emphasis on preaching. If your blog is one of them, you're welcome to be a part of the group. If you would like to add your blog, or know of another blog that ought to be in the preaching group, please let me know. You can leave a comment on this post or e-mail me at the address in my Blogger profile.

Update: If you've checked lately, you've no doubt discovered that the Blogdigger groups have been gone for quite some time. It was great while it lasted, and Greg Gershman at Blogdigger was great to work with. Does anyone know of a similar service operating now? I don't know if I have the time or motivation to administer it, but I'd like to be part of one that already exists.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"A network, a community, a kingdom"

Conrad Gempf is lectionary blogging on Mark 10:2-16.

Preachers need to be quiet

At this week's Preaching Now, Michael Duduit reflects on silence and preaching:
One of the biggest problems we preachers have is the ability to be quiet. We are so used to activity and to speech (usually our own) that it can be a real challenge to sit still and hush.

Earlier this year I taught a D.Min. class (on creativity in preaching) at Northwest Baptist Seminary. One morning I came in and wrote on the board for them to sit without speaking and just listen, then I sat down. It took quite awhile for these preachers to understand that this wasn't an assignment to discuss! We struggle with silence.
Michael's article gives practical advice on practicing and making the most of quiet.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The art and science of illustration

If you're looking for something practical, here's an article from Preaching Today on illustrating like Max Lucado or John Ortberg.

Quarreling with "the real world"

Will Willimon tells the story of a man who accused him of not keeping his sermons "close to the real world":
Where did he get the idea that a preacher ought to defer to "my world"? Most good sermons have a quarrel with popular definitions of "the real world." I ought not simply to address the world where people currently reside. Rather, I ought to move their citizenship to a new world.
Amen. Preaching not only conveys ideas and emotions; the Word of God shapes us and prepares us to think and act with the mind of Christ.

Friday, October 06, 2006

"Like an introductory language course"

Mobilizing Christians

Brad Hightower argues that a common method of doing church in the USA, one focused on bringing people to slick worship services, produces little fruit other than bringing more and more people to these slick events:
We try to draw people to church by having a well crafted church service. It is the craft of the service that is to create an inspirational moment for the observer and bring them back next week. There are endless reasons why this approach to church is just plain wrong. I simply ask pastors to consider, if we are nervous about whether we will preach a good sermon on Sunday morning, then we got it all wrong. If we focus on improving the “flow” of the service, then we are dead wrong. This approach produces all the wrong results no matter how big our churches are. Such practices produce many shallow results. . . . this method produces spectator Christian.
So how should we doing church? Brad argues for small groups and a missionary outlook for all Christians.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

"Oh, if we could just get them here"

Brad Huston offers some insightful analyses on evangelism and the Great Commission.

The odor of personal ambition

Kent Carlson reflects on the brutality of pastoral ambition:
Something has happened in the past thirty or so years that has shifted our pastoral ethic from one of faithfulness to one of productivity and success. I believe this has stirred the fires of ambition. Given the nature of our American culture, this doesn't surprise me. It also doesn't surprise me that the battle with ambition will be a ferocious one, for the tendency toward self-absorption plagues every one of us. I just wonder why this is not a front burner item that is being addressed with greater passion in the popular Christian media. It would be so refreshing to hear Christian leaders in some panel discussion copping to the fact that they struggle with it and it often drives their ministry. We all know it's there. If only we could start being honest about it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sick of labels

It's good to see Dan Edelen back from his blogging break, and even better to see his sights drawn on the church's obsession with labels. Today Christians put a great deal of value on labels, but Jesus and the early church seemed to get along fine withouth them:
You see, the early Church had a job to do. They didn't have time to waste labeling themselves or others. As far as they were concerned, the labels Jesus used met their needs. Stick to the basics.

So why is it that Christians today feel compelled to resort to so many labels—and so obsessively?

I believe part of the problem lies in our modernistic tendency to condense everything we encounter into easily knowable parameters. We take comfort in thinking we comprehend what an item is by its labels. Unfortunately, we can attach all the labels in the world to someone or something and still miss the whole picture. For instance, we can label each part of a peacock—forehead, lore, beak, wings, primaries, secondaries, tertiaries, scapulars, coverlets, feet, etc.—but utterly miss the beauty and majesty of it.
Dan is sick of labels: Reformed Calvinist Cessationist Credobaptist Dispensationalist Supralapsarian Teetotaler. He wants to be known simply as a Christian. So do I.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The value of preaching other men's sermons

Paul Lamey makes a case for delivering other preachers' sermons---word for word.

The virtue of stability

Transformation and change are a big part of discipleship. But in some cases, as Terry Pruitt notes, it's better to maintain what you have.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Not relevant to that

Mike Murdock writes about the two basic lies that dominate our culture. He also offers this little bit of iconoclasm:

Let me say this as straightforward and concisely as I can – the gospel of Jesus Christ is not relevant to the living of our lives in this world.

Mike's right.

Eating off another preacher's plate

At Preaching Today, Lee Eclov considers the difference between pure and impure sermon preparation:
I've been troubled to read how often preachers are preaching someone else's sermons. I'm not sure it is a sin, but I believe it is spiritually uncouth, like eating off someone else's plate.

The main problem isn't using truth that another preacher has mined. The Hope Diamond is beautiful and priceless no matter who owns it or looks at it. The problem is using truth that has passed through someone else's personality. Instead of being preachers, we become actors. We are taking another person's voice, and putting on another preacher's heart. Preachers impersonating other preachers.

How do we keep from preaching impure sermons? "Continue to pursue holiness and purity in every area of your life."

Update: For an exceptionally well crafted rebuttal, please see Jericho's response in the comments section of this post.