Thursday, January 31, 2008

You really think?

Christ is principal

Vicki Gaines has noticed the problem with the idea of so-called "biblical principles":
Living by biblical principles is not what defines the Christian life. That recipe makes for a rather behavior-focused life. You might even call it empty, pharisaical, performance-based living.

Christ is our LIFE. We aren't supposed to imitate Him. Neither can we draw life from principles, as good as they might be. Instead, we rely on Him to express His life through us. That, my friend, is what real Christianity is all about.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Oxymorons of the Faith"

Finding Grace has posted a fine little article on Isaiah 30:15 and its two "oxymorons of faith." It's a keeper.

"The stupidity of vision"

There does seem to be a lot of talk in recent years about churches and individual Christians needing to find a "vision." Jeff Weddle has a different take:
The other night I heard a sermon on the radio about how we need to find our vision. It stirred up all manner of pet peevish thoughts in me. I hate it when Christians talk about needing "a vision."

He stressed that we are not to tell God what to do but God tells us what to do. Which is fine, but then he proceeded to tell four things you can do to get a vision for your life.

Here’s my main peeve with this: Scripture nowhere tells us to seek a vision. Native American religion teaches people to seek visions as well as modern pop-psychology/business gurus. But the Bible? Nope.

Any Bible character receiving a vision was generally asleep or doing something completely unrelated. None of them sought it. All the visions they were given were odd, they didn’t make any sense and few of the people were thrilled to carry it out (think Moses or Jonah).
That's a long quote, but there's plenty more of value in Jeff's whole article. His follow-up post is also worth reading.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Gospel is not a formula

Jeff Weddle: "It would be nice if we could formulize the Gospel but one thing you’ll find in the Bible is that there is no formula." I recommend reading Jeff's whole article.

Update: John Schroeder shares further thoughts here.

Identity and action

Thank you, Andy Mason, for saying clearly what I've been stumbling to express for some time:
I always act on the basis of who I am. Who I perceive myself to be has massive repercussions upon how I behave and what my attitudes/motivations are. This seems to be the basis of Paul's exhortations towards holiness. As scholars have noted, the imperative in Paul's letters is always based on the indicative. He always exhorts us on the basis of who we are and what we have become in Christ. Our actions naturally flow out of our core identity and how we view ourselves. Change and sanctification are therefore strongly connected with a transformation in our identity. As our identity changes so we change. It is vital that I get to see who I am in Christ and what I have in Christ, for this is the basis of me being transformed.
This is why it's eminently "practical" to preach new life in Christ.

Monday, January 28, 2008

On greed and grace

At Milton's (not so) Daily Dose I offer a few thoughts on greed, grace, and the Word of God.

The "hidden sermon"

Is your preaching encouraging self-centeredness?

Well said

Peter Mead recently shared some very worthwhile thoughts on relevance and application in expository preaching:
When the text sets up practical applicational action steps, then by all means communicate those clearly. However, simply giving people a list of application steps may be counterproductive. Too many lists, too little time - the reality felt by some listeners. Perhaps sometimes we should suggest possible areas or directions of application, but primarily encourage further prayerful study of the passage as the next step. Our task as preachers is not to be the only source of spiritual prompting, but to stimulate our listeners in their personal walk with the Lord.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Groups status report

Here's news from Blogdigger on why groups haven't been updating for the past few weeks. The Preaching blogs and Church of Christ blogs group pages should both been up and running again in the next few days.

Christ and him crucified

"One does not preach the cross to win the admiration of the audience. The goal is to have them look up in awe at the cross, which implants new ideas and uproots the old ways of interpreting divine and earthly reality."

Don't worry. Really.

Bill Roberts looks at anxiety and Mt. 6:25-24:
For many of us, worry is something that we wrongly think comes at us from the outside. And yet in the Bible anxiety is rightly shown to be something we do, and that we should not do. "Do not be anxious" is a command, much like "rejoice!" is a command. It is in our power to refuse anxiety, and Christ tells us to do so.
Amen. I recommend Bill's whole article.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I usually stay away from tear-jerkers, but this adoption story knocked me flat.

Ministry as technology

Jared Wilson, with a little help from David Hansen, observes that "Our churches are suffering under the leadership of those who treat ministry like a technology and church like a business."

Canonical science

Here's something for preachers and all Christians to keep in mind: the increasing tendency to science to be used as the foundation of moral authority:
Today, religion and political ideologies no longer inspire significant sections of the public. Politicians find it difficult to justify their work and outlook in the vocabulary of morality. In the Anglo-American world, officials now promote policies on the grounds that they are ‘evidence based’ rather than because they are ‘right’ or ‘good’. In policymaking circles, the language of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ has been displaced by the phrase: ‘The research shows…’

Moral judgments are often edged out even from the most sensitive areas of life. For example, experts use the language of medicine rather than morality to tell young teenagers that having sex is not so much ‘bad’ as bad for their emotional health. So pervasive is the crisis of belief and morality that even religious institutions are affected by it. Fundamentalists no longer simply rely on Biblical texts to affirm their belief in the Creation; today, the invention of ‘creation science’ by Christian fundamentalists in the US is symptomatic of the trend to supplement traditional belief with scientific authority.
Author Frank Furedi, goes on:
The slippage between a scientific fact and moral exhortation is accomplished with remarkable ease in a world where people lack the confidence to speak in the language of right and wrong. But turning science into an arbiter of policy and behaviour only serves to confuse matters. Science can provide facts about the way the world works, but it cannot say very much about what it all means and what we should do about it. Yes, the search for truth requires scientific experimentation and the discovery of new facts; but it also demands answers about the meaning of those facts, and those answers can only be clarified through moral, philosophical investigation and debate.
Or, we might say, by the Word of God (HT: Arts & Letters Daily).

On illustrations

"Abstract truth served up without some form of illustration is like a rich steak without accompanying vegetables - after a while it is just “too much.”" - Peter Mead

Situational enlightenment

Jeff Weddle recalls a seminary project on postmodernism:
One of the largest most horriblest threats of postmodernity is Situational Ethics. Horrible stuff. Truth is truth no matter what situation you’re in. Truth is black and white, no questions and truth does not change based on the situation.

I thought this was fine. I bought into it. I have truth. You don’t. No situation can change that.

But then there’s the Bible.
Jeff's follow-up posts are also worth reading here and especially here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I hope not

Expository Thoughts, quoting John MacArthur, asks, "Is your church stylish?"

Satisfied with Christ?

Dallas Willard reminds preachers that what really matters is what God does "between your lips and their hearts."

Update: John Schroeder has related thoughts here.

The way of death

Jared Wilson reminds us that, despite the church's many efforts to the contrary, the Kingdom message is really very simple:
When Jesus' cousin grew up into this tumultuous landscape and answered YHWH's call upon his life, he went out to the Jordan River, the historic borderline of deliverance for Israel, the line Joshua had led them across from desert wandering into the Promised Land. And when he got to the Jordan, John didn't begin conspiring. He didn't amass arms, begin a grassroots political campaign, urge rigorous law-keeping, or preach any of the other myriad ways his countrymen were seeking to establish the kingdom. He simply said the kingdom was at hand and if anybody wanted in he would be more than happy to dunk them in the river.

"Repent!" he called. And "Repent!" his cousin, our Lord Jesus, called after taking the reigns of John's burgeoning kingdom community.

The way into the kingdom life is the same way out of worldly life -- death. As baptism illustrates, the way into the kingdom is the way of death, burial, and resurrection.

Go to a new place, this action commands us. Leave the old one. Abandon it and its ways, its self-idolatry in the guise of spirituality.
Amen. That's a long quote, but I still recommend reading the whole article.

Monday, January 21, 2008


J.D Hatfield: "We praise, not to get something, but because He is something."

The means of continuing in it

In the Clearing, quoting Graeme Goldworthy, reminds us that the gospel is more than directions on becoming a Christian. The gospel "is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which constitute the meaning, motive and power for Christian life."

Walking the talk

Jerry Wragg has written a fine series on the importance of cultivating personal integrity in ministry. Here's a sample from Part 1:
Leaders can become adept at disguising reproachable conduct, hiding behind moral slight-of-hand techniques, intimidation, or important titles. Eventually, dishonest men convince even themselves of their “invincibility” until their hypocrisy is exposed in some scandal. When a spiritual leader’s mask comes off and God’s people are forced to deal with the fallout, there often is the recognition that certain “signs” of diminishing integrity were overlooked. During the months following a character-crisis at the leadership level, it’s been a common tendency to imagine that an otherwise decent leader simply stumbled one day into moral weakness, caught of guard by an overpowering temptation. Such conclusions are naïve.

A close ministry mentor and friend, John MacArthur, has said to me on numerous occasions that “when a man falls, he doesn’t fall far.” In other words, a serious breach of leadership integrity does not occur in a vacuum. Men who have, by the grace of God, forged a pattern of moral veracity are not suddenly seduced by a life of lies and hypocrisy. Betrayal of this sort slowly percolates in the heart over time with a host of smaller, undetected compromises. When an integrity scandal breaks, the fall of that leader is more like a short hop! This is not to suggest that godliness makes us immune to Satan’s schemes or our own fleshly appetites. MacArthur is right, however, implying that where genuine biblical integrity has been refined there is the strong traction of spiritual discernment and fortitude which prevents sudden moral plunges. Before enticing interests gain a foothold, pure men have already unmasked the lie and fled the scene as fast as possible (1 Tim 6:11; 2 Tim 2:22; Heb 5:14).
There's also a Part 2 and Part 3. Both examine the Apostle Paul's non-negotiables of integrity.

Friday, January 18, 2008

On children's sermons

David Heim lists a number of objections but concludes that children's sermons are worth doing. His post's comments section is worth reading, too.

Tired Christians

Are you one of the many North American Christians who find yourself tired? Dan Edelen has noticed just such a trend and asserts, in contrast, that "We are the Church of the Triumphant Lord Jesus."

The A-list: Friends and encouragers

To conclude this week's third-anniversary list of blogs that most influence this one, I want to list a few friends and encouragers. Some of their blogs may focus on issues that don't get linked here very often, but to varying degrees they are all friends and encouragers to me. Several of the bloggers listed here, by the way, even put their money where their keyboards were in the days when a congregation I preached for couldn't afford to pay me themselves. Most of these folks are not only find bloggers; they're kind human beings.

The Bluefish Project
. Dave Bish has been reading my blog for years, and he really seems to be paying attention. In preparing this list, by the way, I was surprised to see that somewhere along the line BF had fallen off my blogroll; it's fixed now.

Blogotional. John Schroeder is not reluctant to express his opinion. And praise God for it.

Danno's Dangerous Mind. It's hard to say what I like most about Dan Horwedel's blog. It may our similar beliefs, temperaments, musical tastes, occupations, hobbies, and life stages. Other than that, we have practically nothing in common.

Eternal Perspectives/The Lord of the Kingdom. Mike Russell has been fairly quiet online lately, but when he has something to say, it's worth reading. Mike's a Christian, a thinker, and he loves Tolkien's work. What more could you ask for?

Floydville. Doug Floyd first introduced me to blogging. He's a gifted writer who's had a lot to write about the past couple of years.

Pastor Jon's Blog/Laboring in the Lord. Jon has been one of my most faithful readers at Milton's (not so) Daily Dose and a frequent commenter both here and there.

The Pastor's Buzz. Journalist and minister Buzz Trexler helped give me the confidence to become a professional writer 20 years ago. It's encouraging to keep in touch with him through blogging.

RazorsKiss. Joshua's was one of the first blogs I discovered, and one of the first to link back to TS.

Scotwise. To quote him as little as I do, I greatly appreciate John's kindness and encouragement. His blog, by the way, is exactly two days younger than mine. Please stop by and wish John a happy blogiversary.

Sublime Transition. Nancy is a faithful reader and commenter.

Swap Blog/Blogwatch. The anonymous SWAP Blog admin is as dear a friend as I can imagine having online. Of course, we've also had the pleasure of breaking bread together face-to-face, and he put his back where his modem was by helping me move furniture from Tennessee to Virginia. He's as kind and encouraging in person as he is on the web.

Sycamore. Brian Colmery hasn't written much lately. I suppose the rigors of real-life ministry are keeping him away. I've always enjoyed his writing.

Timeless Text Messages. Carla is another one of my most faithful readers and commenters, especially at MDD.

Windows to My Soul. Vicki Gaines and her husband have faced severe medical issues lately, but Vicki's writing is full of love and grace.

I've left off several, like Peter Bogert, who haven't posted in a while, and I fear that here and on earlier lists I've overlooked others whose work I've long enjoyed, like Chris Meirose, Terry Pruitt, and Keith Plummer. And I haven't re-mentioned those blogging friends and supporters who already appeared on earlier lists.

I appreciate all of you for the work you do on your own sites and the encouragement you've given me here over the past three years.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

But it's not a formula

There's more today at Milton's (not so) Daily Dose on knowing God's will.

The A-list: Fresh eyes

Reading hundreds of blog posts each week, two situations stand out: the high quality of insight and expression in much of those posts, and the sectarian assumptions that nevertheless underlie much of it. As one who tries to proclaim and practice what C.S. Lewis called "mere Christianity," I'm troubled to see the church divided along party lines of pet doctrines. At the same time, it's encouraging to find Christians struggling to rise above those petty divisions. Here are three brothers who refuse to blindly accept the prejudices of their own clans:

Blog in My Own Eye. Keith Brenton examines the assumptions our native tribe has taken for granted and strives to evaluate them in light of the Word.

Caught in the Middle. Paul Littleton has a deep respect for Scripture and Christian tradition (all of it, going back 2000 years), and most importantly to the Savior they proclaim.

Grace Digest
. Royce Ogle goes to the Word for answers on what it really takes to be become a Christian and live in the fullness of God's grace.

Many of the bloggers I admire strive to live Christ-centered, Word-guided lives, but these three men stand out for their efforts to view the Word with fresh eyes.

The A-list: Specialists

Continuing this week's anniversary lists of blogs that most influence this one, here are some of the specialty sites I frequent:

Biblical Studies

Better Bibles Blog. It's a group effort that goes deep into issues of Bible translation. Rob Bradshaw devotes hours to acquiring permissions and formatting high-quality biblical studies articles to post, free, online. The site is especially rich in articles by F.F. Bruce.

Kouya Chronicle. This blog by Eddie Arthur includes lots of good writing and linking on Bible translation, especially from a cross-cultural perspective.

Dr. Claude Mariottini. Claude is an OT professor who works in academia but blogs for the general reader. He's also a kind human being.

Other Specialists

Christian Persecution Blog. It's a topic most of us would like to ignore. Stacy L. Harp and company work hard to make sure we don't.

ekklesia. Book reviews, commentary recommendations, link collections, and more; Wayne Shih's blog is one of the most helpful, under-appreciated resources on the web.

A Place for the God Hungry. Although preachers don't call ourselves pastors in Churches of Christ, Jim Martin is a master of pastoral ministry, and he's generous in sharing his insights.

Out of Ur. This is another commercial sight with annoying ads, but it's full of helpful content for church leaders.

Sudan Watch. Genocide is another topic we'd rather forget, but Ingrid Jones keeps shining the light.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The A-list: Christ-centered living

In this week's third anniversary series of sites that most influence this blog, here's the A-list of blogs that help readers keep the main thing the main thing:

. Mark Lauterbach sometimes goes a while between posts, but it's usually worth the wait.

The Gospel-Driven Church
. Jared Wilson writes with insight and keeps the focus where it belongs.

In the Clearing. He may not know it, but Bob has probably done more than any other blogger in teaching me to keep our focus on the cross of Jesus Christ.

Transformed Daily. Eric Jones's blog, like TS, keeps Rom. 12:2 always in mind.

Voice of Vision. J.D. Hatfield knows and shows where the church's hope, power, and righteousness come from.

There are others.

The A-list: Insight into North American culture

Here's the TS third-anniversary list of blogs that help Christians keep North American culture in perspective.

anti-itch meditation. If you have trouble with sharp insights and even sharper tongues, don't read Jeff Weddle's blog. You've been warned.

Cerulean Sanctum. Probably more than any other blogger I read regularly, Dan Edelen reminds me of a "a voice crying in the wilderness." He has a way of seeing what's going on and writing lucidly about it.

. Following Bill Gnade's rhetoric is like looking into a lake so clear you can see the bottom 20 feet down. With all the muddy talk in the political, commercial, and media realms, Bill's writing literally gives me hope that all is not lost for the nation of my birth.

Jesus the Radical Pastor. John Frye sometimes takes heat for his writing, but he's usually on-target.

A Peculiar Prophet. UMC bishop William Willimon, homileticist extraordinaire, reminds Christians where our true citizenship lies

Spiritual Conversations. Like Willimon, Larry Chouinard writes insightfully on Christians' real citizenship.

If you're striving break loose from cultural assumptions that run counter to Kingdom thinking, these men can help you make the break.

The A-list: Preaching

Here's the first of this week's anniversary lists of blogs that most influence this one. Today's list is blogs more or less exclusively devoted to preaching.

Biblical Preaching. Peter Mead may be the most prolific web writer on preaching right now. The blog he writes with Mike Roth covers all aspects of preaching with an emphasis on nuts-and-bolts issues.

Encouraging Expository Excellence. John Brand's new site replaces A Steward of the Secret Things. The new site is pretty much doing what the title says.

Expository Thoughts. This is very much a group effort with several talented writers. The emphasis of the blog should be plain enough, and their thoughts are often quite helpful.

PreachingTodayblog. This is a commercial site, and if you don't have an ad-blocking plugin, the flashing advertisements can be annoying. But Steve Mathewson seems like a nice guy, and the site's content is often helpful.

Soul Preaching. I'll admit it: as eclectic as I may be, I'm reluctant to link to a blog by a Seventh-Day Adventist. But in all fairness, Sherman Cox maintains an outstanding preaching blog.

Talking the Walk. Cal Habig has been blogging about preaching for less than a year, but he's covering some useful ground.

Theocentric Preaching
. Darryl Dash keeps reminding us who the subject of all preaching ought to be (hint: not us).

Unashamed Workman. Colin Adams maintains one of the most disciplined preaching blogs on the net.

That's the A-list of blogs dedicated to preaching. Tomorrow: A-lists for gospel-centered living and insights into North American culture.

Fourth year

Transforming Sermons began three years ago today. I began this blog "for preachers who want to preach transforming sermons and other Christians who want to experience them." We'll be celebrating three years of blogging by looking at weblogs that consistently provide resources for furthering the mission of this blog: hearts transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

The lists will not be exhaustive. Other blog writers, for example, put forth brilliant ideas well stated on those rare occasions when they manage to post. But I've limited these lists to those currently posting consistently. Some of my best friends and personally favorite blogs are also not on these lists. Maybe I compartmentalize too much. At times I think I stick so ruthlessly to the fairly narrow mission of TS that I'm disloyal to blog friends. To those of you whose blogs may not be on one of these lists (and you'll know who you are), please know that I love you and appreciate your work, too.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Signs of God's will?

Is an "open door" a sign of God's will? That's today's question at Milton's (not so) Daily Dose.

Heart food

Here's another keeper quote for 2008:

"My greatest need is to be renewed daily by His Spirit, and even the best wisdom of man cannot do that for me."

Living like it

Eric Jones has been asking some tough questions about discipleship:
If you look like the world, act like the world, and are embraced by the world, then more than likely you belong to the world and not to Christ. You can only serve one master, not two. There is no such thing as a carnal Christian – one who is surrendered to Christ yet lives like the world. If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The way you used to think and act is history; it’s dead and gone.

Are you wrapped up in the trappings of worldly culture? Do you watch what the world watches on TV and at the movies - the things that glorify sin, selfishness, materialism, and chaos? Do you spend your time pursuing wealth in order to gain the riches of this world and enjoy the comforts and pleasures that this world has to offer? Do you talk like the world and engage in coarse joking and gossip? Or, is your mind set on the things of God? . . . . Have you been transformed or are you still conformed to this world?

There is a significant and noticeable difference between those who live for Christ instead of for themselves and for the world. They produce good fruit. They obey God and say no to the lusts of the flesh. They truly have become a new creation and it shows in what they do, what they say, and how they live.
Yes. And of course, none of this is to say that Christians' lives are flawless or that our obedience has already been perfected. Obedience grows in the life of a disciple of Christ. It's a process of transformation that continues throughout our earthly existence as we grow more and more to resemble Christ. So let's not become too carried away with precisely how perfect our obedience, or how thoroughly we live differently from the world. But different we should be.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Enjoying a sermon?

Steve Mathewson asks a valid question: "Is it all right to enjoy a sermon?"

Deeper than Dilbert

Scott Adams (yes, that Scott Adams) has written an insightful little essay on how religion ought to influence our political decisions. In blogging even more than in cartooning, Mr. Adams goes for something deeper than the easy laugh; he has a gift for asking heart-of-the-matter questions that everyone else seems to be avoiding. Christians, I suggest we pay attention.

Gospel-driven living

John Fonville writes about the differences between resolution-driven and gospel-driven living:
One of the problems with resolution-driven living is that resolutions can and most often do become idols in our lives. They become our gods and take authority over our lives and begin to exert their stifling influence over us and rule us in a merciless manner. . . .

John, in 1 John 5:21, ends his letter with a short command which has profound implications for our lives. He exhorts, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” We must constantly be on guard against yielding our hearts to any influence other than Christ and His Gospel.
I'd never given thought to the idea of resolutions as idols. But in as much as living by one's own strength takes our eyes off the source of our true strength and puts it on ourselves, there may be something to the idea.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New dose: "It's hell"

There's a new post up at Milton's Daily Dose. I won't be posting every day but have accumulated enough material over the past four months to add something once or twice a week. Today's post is on hell. I hope you'll come and visit (the blog that is, not hell).

Kingdom language

Larry Chouinard has written an enlightening essay on language and discipleship. His basic idea is simple but important: While the early church effectively appropriated the language of Greco-Roman culture to describe God's Kingdom, today's church risks compromising the message by how we adjust, linguistically and functionally, to the surrounding culture:
The modern effort to communicate in culturally relevant terms has often failed to realize that the grid through which we sift the message might actually distort or blur the Kingdom vision. When our language reeks of the corporate world it often produces a cost-effective model that loses sight of Kingdom virtue and the value of the one. When our language is permeated by the categories of the psychotherapist, our focus often becomes individual well-being and happiness at the expense of selfless service and an other-directedness. When the language of the Kingdom is hi-jacked to support a political agenda, the Kingdom's message of peace and justice is often distorted by national interest. In fact, the language of the Kingdom reflects a way of life and priorities that may seem foreign, strange, and even foolish to the conventions of old world thinking.
So what must the church do? "Learn the language and grammar of a Kingdom not of this world." Larry's article is insightful and challenging; I strongly recommend reading the whole thing.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Learning to interpret Scripture

This makes good sense: "most people can understand most everything they need to understand from most of the Bible most of the time." David Wayne's whole article on interpreting the Bible is worth reading. The beauty of David's approach is that it both affirms the benefits of professional biblical scholarship and cautions against the notion that Christians need years of academic training to understand the truth.

Cults and culture

Dan Edelen thinks ambition and the culture of the self-made-man hurt church leadership in the United States:
It seems to me that a good many churches out there are cults. Not like Jehovah’s Witnesses, but cults of personality. They revolve around a few dynamic individuals. Should something happen to those dynamic individuals…well, you can see the handwriting forming on the wall.

It should never be that way.
Amen. Dan, by the way, goes on to say how it should be (Here's a clue: it has something to do with crosses).

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Dave Bish: "That Christ went to the cross doesn't primarily show how valuable we are; it most supremely shows how evil we are to make such a remedy necessary." Amen.


Buzz Trexler has written a fine article on stamp collecting and the authentic marks of a life like Christ. Buzz is a fine writer, by the way, and one of the most influential men in helping me become a professional writer nearly twenty years ago. He's another blogger I've been blessed to know in person.

Update: John Schroeder continues the discussion at Blogotional.

Face-to-face blessings

I was blessed to eat lunch today with blogger Peter Bogert of Stronger Church (and even more blessed that Peter paid). He hasn't posted at SC in a while, but when he does have something to say, it's always worth reading.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Ministry gems

David Fitch shares ten lessons he's learned from years of church planting. They're pretty much all keepers.

Prosperity and persecution

J.D. Hatfield considers how prosperity has afflicted the North American church:
Prosperity and popularity are not what produce fruit in the church; they produce make believers who aren’t born again. Persecution does not stunt growth it stokes it. The fires of persecution cause the fire of the Spirit to fan into flame, it causes us to rely on Him more, and look to Christ, and it stirs us up to stand strong in the Lord and the power of His might. No we aren’t supposed to pray for persecution but pray for those who are being persecuted, and pray to stay humble that we might remain useful in the stewardship of all the good graces God has bestowed upon us.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Resources for preachers

Colin Adams has a good eye for good preaching resources, so his recommendations for 2008 may be worth a look.

The violence of God's Kingdom

I've been wanting for some time to share Jared Wilson's thoughts on violence of the Kingdom of God:
So that’s what the kingdom does. Its arrival is violent, cataclysmic, shaking strongholds, putting the fear of God into rulers and religious leaders. It knocks the enemy out and sets the enemy’s prisoners free. It turns the tables over in the worldly culture. It turns almost everything upside down, which is to say, in God’s view, rightside up.
Amen. I recommend Jared's whole essay.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

New site for expositors

A Steward of the Secret Things has moved. John Brand is now helping preachers online at Encouraging Expository Excellence.

Staying focused

I don't know many people who make formal resolutions at the beginning of a new year. But every January 1, faced with the clean slate in front of us, it's hard not to resolve at some level that this one is going to be different. By now, three days in, that slate is already getting a little dusty, and most of us have begun to waver on those resolutions, however formal or informal they may be. But Christians, be of good cheer and keep a faithful perspective on the whole thing. Here, for example, is Vicki Gaines:
Let's keep it simple. And live like we're loved---because we are. Let's rest in the One who came to free us from this continual need to 'fix' our own flesh so we'll feel better about ourselves. We are now crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives through us. Nike's ad would mean more if it said: Just Let Christ Do It Through You! Need to lose weight? Have an emotional wound that needs healing? Need to keep a rein on your tongue and speak more lovingly? Me, too, my friend. I can't even forgive without His Spirit operating in me. No matter how good my particular flesh (or yours) might be, our best efforts are still like filthy rags. . . all we do must be fueled by His Spirit.

Let's not focus so much on personal resolutions. If you've made a list, give the whole thing to Him. Jesus is Life - not the life we naively try to carve out for ourselves every year. We can either wear ourselves out struggling to change, or look to Him, confess our need, and let His Spirit take deep residence within us, to work and will to His good pleasure. Sometimes the biggest bondage is staying captive to our own agendas. 2008 is the year to let them go, admitting we have no power to carry out our own resolutions.

Only Christ brings lasting change.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Delusion: good for the economy

This quote on consumption, happiness, and the economy really hits the nail on the head.

Ready to preach the gospel

I hope all of us preachers are as eager as Steve Mathewson to preach the gospel in 2008:
Earlier in my life and ministry, I’m afraid that when I read Romans 1:16 I only thought of the gospel in terms of conversion. But the more I read Paul, I realize that the gospel is all-encompassing because salvation is all-encompassing. Salvation has past, present, and future aspects. It involves justification, sanctification, and glorification. . . . the gospel is never something we outgrow. It’s at the core of Christian living. It’s at the core of what God is doing to save us – including the past, present, and future aspects of this great salvation. The answer to our struggles with greed, immorality, legalism, jealousy, hatred, and selfish ambition is the gospel.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Preaching and the new year

This is the best new year's post for preachers I've ever seen: Colin Adams's "7 Questions for Preachers at the Crossroads."

On the other hand...

One of the recurring themes on this site is that preaching ought not to elevate secondary matters in a text to the primary point. But Cal Habig, reflecting on the work of Daniel Doriani, says that maybe we should, and he certainly has Scripture to back up his position. It's not an idea I've been pushing here, but I think Mr. Habig may be correct. I recommend his article.

Passion in preaching

Here's Peter Mead:
Genuine passion is contagious; people catch it. It is commanding; people aren’t easily distracted from it. It is convicting; people have hearts changed by it. It is challenging; people see their apathy wilt under it. Genuine passion marks people deeply. (Just in case you’re tempted to fake it, remember that fake passion is off-putting, embarrassing, ineffectual and counter-productive.)