Friday, November 28, 2008

Beyond hot air

Are we practicing hot-air religion?

Letting them loose

Peter Mead on preaching biblical narratives: " . . . when you are preaching a Bible story, tell the story! Don’t just dissect it, label it, apply it, etc., but fail to tell it. Stories are powerful, so let them loose on your listeners."

Today's commentaries link

One of the most pleasant surprises in the search for good, free, online commentaries has been the works of John Schultz, an Alliance missionary to Indonesia. Mr. Schultz's commentaries are available for more than 40 books of the Bible. The ones I've looked at have been exceptionally rich with insights. The files themselves are in .pdf format, and each file's size is listed on the index and download page.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thoughts on USA Thanksgiving

Glenn Reynolds describes my own feelings about today's celebration of Thanksgiving:
I like Thanksgiving; when I was a kid it seemed like a pale imitation of Christmas, without all the presents. Now it seems like a purer version of Christmas, where the focus is on family instead of . . . all the presents.
Indeed. We thank you, Oh God.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Commentary link of the day

Here's another gem from my continuing search for free online Bible commentaries. I don't know anything about the ministry itself, but PRECEPT AUSTIN has links to an oodle of free online Bible commentaries. Of course, if you want a winnowed list, please remember Links for Expository Preaching.

Don't settle for "Christianity lite"

My friend Bob, along with his son Nate, wonders about the sin of editing Jesus:
Why do we never hear the word "repent" in our churches? Why is sin not spoken of as the fundamental dilemma in all our lives, the dilemma from which the cross alone saves? Thus, lacking a robust understanding of the sin-problem, the cross itself only merits an occasional mention. I know scads of Christians who will go on ad nauseum (every single Easter) about Mel Gibson's whipping post scene, but who shy from all discussion of the cross as their fundamental need now. This moment. Every moment.

For these folks, the church experience is simply a happy get together of wonderfully nice people, where they remind themselves that God is very very pleased with them. In their small groups they talk about how to be a success, or how to be a leader, or how to romance their spouses. They quote their favorite "encouraging" Scriptures back and forth to each other and tell themselves they're doing ministry if they wear a Christian t-shirt or something.
As Bob reminds us, Jesus' message was often "Repent!"

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Killing off idols

Matt Dirks makes a very simple connection between suffering and worship of the one true God.

More free online commentaries

In the process of scouring the Net for good free online Bible commentaries, I've come across these: EasyEnglish Bible Commentary. These commentaries are published online by Wycliffe Associates UK and are written with non-native English readers in mind. Most Bible books, including all the NT, are available for download in dialup-friendly .rtf format.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A world of maps

Among the many good links at BibleX is this one to a rather comprehensive online map resource.

You're not the one

J.D. Hatfield reminds Christians that, even though we may try to fool ourselves into believing we can be Christians without the church, there's really no such thing as a one man army:
The only one-man army that will ever have victory is Jesus Christ. Are you behind Him in the barracks with the rest of us, or are you out cavorting with the Enemy? It is one or the other.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Groundless euphoric faith"

This is probably the best one-paragraph description I've seen about Christians, idolatry, and the recent U.S. presidential election.

Honoring the bridegroom

Do you grumble against Christ's bride? If so, then consider these words from Justin Childers:
It really is the height of idiocy to think that church is about me and my needs and my family and my satisfaction. It completely overturns the teaching of the Bible—that church is about God and Christ and loving other people. In fact, if we wanted to summarize Paul's rebuke to the dysfunctional Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 11-14, a pretty reasonable slogan would be “It's not about you, stupid!”

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Downloadable library

If you get half as excited as I do about good, free, downloadable commentaries, then this site is like the end of the rainbow: David Cox's Online Religious Library.

And, of course, if you like doing expositional studies online, please remember Links for Expository Preaching.

Living & worshipping in tune

As a guitar player, I like this analogy (and thanks, Nancy, for the link).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When the Holy Spirit just isn't enough

Christian, are you guilty of chasing the "x factor" of church success?

Interpreting tricky verses

Glen Scrivener offers three helpful reminders for interpreting tricky verses. Here's the ost important:
The Bible is about Jesus

The Bible is not about morality or religion or politics or psychology or history or philosophy. And if you see the bible as primarily a source book for these things you will twist it from its true intention. Jesus says the Bible is about Him.
The other two reminders are well worth remembering, too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


"Here is one question to help you identify idols in your heart today."

Living the good news

Jared Wilson has posted a Manifesto for Kingdom Militancy. Here's a sample:
We are legalists (for that is what you call someone who does not preach the gospel but insists on Christian behaviorism, even if it's framed as applying the Bible to six steps toward happiness at work), and we are self-idolaters (for that is what you call someone who cares more about having their own needs met than about meeting the needs of others). . . .

Crucify the idols of self and comfort and convenience and relevance, and give yourself away.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obsessive-compulsive for Christ?

This is encouraging: How Christ can heal OCD.

Least important

"When you enter a room with others (i.e. church on Sundays), who is the least important person in the room? The answer should always be the same no matter who else is present in that room."

Friday, November 14, 2008

A question for Christians


Cal Habig: “The will to preach well is not most important; it is the will to prepare to preach.

Too cool

"Because these three remain in contemporary evangelicalism: aloofness, selfishness, and coolness, but the greatest of these is coolness."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Preachers, not ramp builders

Water from the well

Jesus as a fundamentalist: John Frye makes an excellent point, although I like the other John's version much better.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Worth answering

"If a sermon can be stated in one sentence, why do we need half-an-hour?"


Not a "Christian nation"

In the Clearing offers some good perspective on the empire and the Kingdom with reflections on what Obama's election reminds us about the two:
The USA is not God's special focus, holding some sort of special status in his redemptive plan for creation. Top dogs always think they're special in God's eyes. Jesus said the first shall be last, overturning these standard worldly expectations, and that should at least cause us to wonder if all our struggling for power and influence is not a devilish cul de sac.

I recommend Bob's whole article, which draws on several other of my favorite bloggers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Beyond buttoned-down

Do you think of gospel as radical freedom?

Calling it by name

If only we called it what it really is: Monday morning quarterbacking Jesus.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Good biblical resources page

Thanks to Jimmy Davis for pointing out the new biblical studies resources page from Bryan College. Of course, if you're interested in links to commentaries by book of the Bible, please remember (and link to) Links for Expository Preaching.

Being translated

Eddie Arthur, who blogs at Kouya Chronicle, recently shared this short essay on Bible translation:
The role of a Bible translator is to adapt Scripture in an appropriate fashion for a given cultural and linguistic setting. The translated text does not cease to be God’s word, though the form may change considerably. But through the process of translation, the Scriptures become more useful as a vehicle for God’s grace in the new situation: they are better fitted to the purpose for which God gave them.

It strikes me, that just as we can translate the Scriptures to make them more useful; so the Scriptures translate us with the same aim in mind. God has taken us from one kingdom to another, but we are constantly in need of transformation so that we reflect the context of the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures, translates us into the language and culture of our new situation so that we are more useful and better fitted for the purpose God has for us. As God works in our lives, we remain ourselves, but we become more and more aligned to the culture of the Kingdom, and less aligned to the culture of the world around us.
Amen. Well said.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Balance in exegetical preaching

Cal Habig shows how preaching involves much more than the popular notion of simply getting out of the way and letting God speak.

Leading and feeding

Jared Wilson has posted 95 theses for the American church. His theses on the pastorate are good adice for preachers and elders.

Obeying and embodying

Doug Floyd shares his thoughts on interpreting the Scriptures in the twenty-first century. Here's a sample:
. . .seeing the Bible through varying perspectives does not mean that I give into a sea of subjective waves. Rather, I can draw from the tools of the ancient church [realizing] that multiple perspectives can operate at the same time without canceling each other out. I can appreciate the narrative tools and rhetorical devices without denying the historical veracity of the stories. Both perspectives can teach me. This can begin helping me develop the Biblical skills I need to distinguish between subjective fluff and subjectively inspired revelation via an objective God who stands outside of my thoughts.
That sounds right.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Great or grace?

Truly nutritious

Peter Mead writes about the need for preaching all the courses:
When preaching we should be preaching a meal, even a feast of Bible that will nourish, strengthen and build up our listeners. The alternative that I come across all too often is preaching that seems to throw granules of sugar at people - very little content, very little value, very little lasting change. Let’s look to preach the Word and not just abuse the Word to preach some nice thoughts of our own.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Staying encouraged

This little article offers a good dose of perspective for preachers: dealing with personal criticism.

Comfortable idolatry

Jared Wilson is on an idol hunt, and he's taking aim at the idol of comfort:
We make anxiety an idol when we are really not as concerned about knowing God's will as we are protecting our own comfort.

We really want to be comfortable. So when we agonize over some decisions, we're not really saying, "God tell me what you want me to do," we are really saying "God show me the route that will be easiest and happiest for me." But many times God's will is for us to be very uncomfortable, afflicted even. It's a mistake to assume that, for instance, if you go into business with your friend and the enterprise goes belly up and doesn't pan out that you obviously stepped out of God's will. It's a mistake to assume that if you go across the country to take that scholarship in order to be close to your boyfriend and then he dumps you that somehow this decision was out of God's will.

It is the mistake of assuming that Christians are not meant for difficulty or trouble, and that if they somehow enter that, they are outside of God's will or have made a mistake. This is based on a Christianity that promises comfort and ease, though, not the real Christianity of the Bible.
Too true, I fear. You can read Jared's whole article here.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Refreshment for Christian leaders

Dan Horwedel offers some links to places for pastoral help.

History of invitations

Preacher, if you offer an invitation or "altar call" at the end of each sermon, you might be interested in this brief history of post-sermon invitations (via).

Monday, November 03, 2008

Of bucks and Baal


Temptation and prayer

Citizens of heaven

Barry Maxwell reflects on nationalism and fallenness:
In no way do I suggest America is the new Israel or the chosen people of God. I do suggest that America is no better than ancient Israel because Americans are no better than Adam. Old covenant, national Israel proved to be Adam’s sons in that, despite having every advantage of grace, they resorted to worshiping stuff rather than God. We learn that nations eventually become what they are because its citizens are idolaters.

Perhaps America has had unique advantages of grace. God has “shed his grace on thee.” But despite every intention otherwise we’ve resorted to worshiping life (as long as its sexy and viable), liberty (as long as there are no strings attached) and the pursuit of happiness (as long it’s makes me feel good) rather than the God of eternal life, eternal liberty and eternal happiness. And we will soon go the way of very other “blessed” nation in history.

What is God’s answer to all the national failures? Will any people he’s blessed rightly remain faithful to and thankful for him? Enter the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is God’s chosen people and favored nation (1 Pt 2.9). We often confuse kingdom language with that of American patriotism so far that it’s hard to see a distinction between the two.

Mighty kingdoms will come and go. They always do. Hell will swallow up every earthly kingdom, but will not leave a scratch on the church (Mt 16.18). Whatever wounds hell inflicts on us here quickly fade forever into the eternal scars on the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.
Amen. That's a long quote, but I strongly recommend reading Barry's whole article.