Friday, July 31, 2009


In a time when "Don't judge" seems to be the best-known Bible passage, J.D. Hatfield offers some helpful thoughts on judgment and discernment.

Preaching and attention to detail

Peter Mead writes on the value of paying attention to biblical detail here and here.

Age of indifference?

Jeff Weddle writes on those who call the present day the "age of grace" and seem to think God no longer punishes sin as in OT times:
We take this to mean that God isn’t bugged by sin as much anymore. Things changed after the cross. “Before the cross sin was punished; after the cross God doesn’t punish sin because Christ took the punishment,” so goes the argument. So we have the notion that we’re “getting away with sin” due to Christ’s intercession. Thus, we are in “the age of grace.”

Allow me to present an argument against this label.

God’s opinion of sin has not changed since the cross. God does not abhor sin less because of the cross. Nor has His mind changed on whether sin needs judging. Rather than showing grace by “letting us get away with sin,” God is showing that He is fed up with humanity.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

For the big picture

Here are some helpful suggestions on macro-framing in preaching.

Hermeneutical clue

Matthew Malcolm writes on one way cultural linguistics can help shed light on portions of the NT:
The recent development of “cultural linguistics” includes the idea that our communication draws on cultural “schemas” (mental imagery) by which we make sense of the world. Could it be that one cultural schema of early Judaism was the pattern of “reversal” by which God vindicates the persecuted and punishes the boastful? And if we were better attuned to this underlying schema, might we hear parts of the New Testament more attentively?
Could be. I recommend reading the whole article.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lessons from death

David Wayne, who is himself dealing with a severe form of cancer, writes on the practical advantage of having your life threatened.

Preacher, are you guilty of 'pulpit bombardment'?

Perhaps one of the most consistently discouraging aspects of working with a congregation is the seemingly universal disregard for the NT method of dealing with discipline in a local body. In this post Kent Brandenburg explains Jesus words on that very issue and also describes one of the most common of "shameful alternatives" to true discipline. In part 2 of his treatment on the topic, Kent explains the equally disobedient approach of "pulpit bombardment," in which a preacher brings what should initially be a private conversation before the whole church in a sermon:
Ironically, a pastor may feel courageous when he practices pulpit bombardment, viewing what he is doing as some kind of public boldness. Maybe he thinks he is filling some kind of prophetic role, like an Elijah or a John the Baptist. It isn’t bold; it’s cowardice. We pastors need to get that in our heads and hearts. Courage would confront the sin privately to attempt reconciliation. Courage would trust God with the care of the church. Courage would only judge what it sees, not what it imagines is happening. Courage accomplishes discipline face to face first. Courage wouldn’t use the ministry of preaching as a cover for disobeying what scripture tells it to do.
Too true.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Thriving in the troughs

This looks helpful: advice for dealing with post-preaching depression.

No mouth trivia

Monday, July 27, 2009

"You are mine"

These are helpful thoughts on the love of God for his people.

Not faithful

Dan Edelen writes incisively on the growing number of those who exult in being Christians "unchained" by constrictures of actually being part of a local congregation. Here's Dan:
When one of us decides that we don’t want to be a part of the traditional local church, we lose something exceptionally valuable: the test of dealing with people we may not especially like.

We see a bit of this in the consumeristic action of church shopping. We hop and shop from church to church looking for one that best fits our desires, the one filled with people most like us. (Oddly enough, people who eschew the institutional Church are often the most vocal against church shopping. )

At a time in American history when it seems as if everyone considers himself or herself a victim, when we walk around as open wounds expecting some jerk to pour salt on us, when intelligent debate is no longer possible between people without the wailing and gnashing of teeth, and other people just plain suck, people who drop out of church only add fuel to that fire of misanthropy.

So while some may think they are truly spiritual by saying goodbye to what most of us recognize as church, I wonder if those dropouts are missing out on vital, God-ordained character building.
Amen. That's a rather lengthly excerpt, but Dan's whole article is even better.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Not satisfied

Corrosive individualism

"I’m convinced that individualism is one of the most corrosive and destructive forces of modernity. The Christian answer to individualism is recovering the centrality of the life of the body of Christ. Our salvation involves us in a covenantal community. Paul says we’re given gifts for building up the body; that seems to me to counter modern individualism. But churches now tend to be configured as providers of religious goods and services, and are often told to think of themselves that way. That’s a commercial model, rather than a communal model."

Blomberg on sovereignty and choice

Craig Blomberg hits the ball out of the park in his essay, "Why I'm a 'Calminian.'" Here's the opening:
If either pure five-point Calvinism or its consistent repudiation in pure Arminianism were completely faithful to Scripture, it is doubtful that so many Bible-believing, godly evangelical Christians would have wound up on each side. The former wants to preserve the Scriptural emphasis on divine sovereignty; the latter, on human freedom and responsibility. Both are right in what they want and correct to observe in Scripture the theme that they stress. Both also regularly create caricatures of what the other side believes. Straw men are always the easiest to knock down.
Amen. You can also read my own, brief stab at the issue here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

No filler required

Hurt mail as hate mail

Carl Trueman writes well on dangers of the rising culture of victimhood--a position that degrades conversations about truth and obscures the very concept of truth itself. Here's sample:
That therapy, conversation, and a general prioritizing of aesthetic categories now grips the church and its own moral and theological discourse should be a cause for real concern. In a world devoid of truth content, claims to truth are oppressive and thus personal, hurtful, and distasteful; and the church seems, by and large, to be buying into just this kind of namby-pamby nonsense.

But I think there is more to this phenomenon of hurt and pain than a mere aping of the culture. It is more cunning and dishonest than that, Over the last couple of years, I have noticed that the hate mail in my inbox has been replaced by what I now call hurt mail. Now, the agenda of your typical hate mailers is pretty straightforward: they are simply attempting to intimidate or humiliate the recipient into silence. What you see is what you get. Hurt mailers, by comparison, are rather more subtle and duplicitous: by claiming pain, they immediately do two things. First, they make themselves the poor victims; and second, they imply that the targets of this hurt mailing are intentionally malicious perpetrators. The game is precisely the same as with hate mail -- to make someone whom they dislike or whose opinions they discount shut up -- but the tactic is different: to win by seizing the moral high ground that belongs to the professional victim.

This new tactic also involves a fundamental change in the whole moral landscape....
Thanks to Mike Leake for the link. And I recommend reading Dr. Trueman's whole article; it's one of the best I've read in a long time.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What really matters

Philip Schroeder offers some good reminders on bad words.

The acid test

Hunter Baker has posted the text of "a simple sermon on abortion." Here's the opening:
The sanctity of life is an acid test for the Christian church. What is an acid test? One way the acid test was used was to distinguish real precious metals from fake ones. Take something that looks like gold and drip nitric acid on it. If it holds up and is not degraded by the acid, the gold is real. Our approach to the sanctity of life determines how we hold up to the acid test. We will find out whether our faith is real as we deal with a culture that denigrates unborn life, especially imperfect life.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Choosing wisely

Here's an excellent reminder from Ray Van Neste and Paul of Tarsus: not all conflict is worthwhile.

Challenge for parents

This is an issue that every parent with children at home probably ought to be giving some thought to: How I provoke my kids to anger.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Magnification of self

Tell it!

Peter Mead offers some excellent advice on preaching familiar narratives. Here's a sample: "When your preaching text is a familiar narrative, it may be tempting to just talk about it rather than to tell the story again . . . don’t. Tell the story!" I recommend reading Peter's whole article.

Friday, July 17, 2009

On fellowship with God

Limping in ministry

Darryl Dash shares some of his own mistakes in ministry and comes to this conclusion: "The good news is that God doesn’t use people who have it all together. He uses weak and sinful people by his grace, and somehow redeems even our mistakes." Amen.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mahaney on Proverbs

This is helpful: Tools for Preaching Proverbs (via).

The value of history

Update: For some reason I was able to access the Kairos Journal article yesterday, but today they're making people register to read it. Sorry about that.

Kairos Journal has posted a good little article on the value of teaching history in the church:
As a whole—and to its detriment—the contemporary Church is more interested in the present than in the past. At this point, the Church is reflecting the culture rather than transforming it. According to historian Steven Ozment, the study of history has been all but lost: “The longest shelves in local bookstores and libraries are filled with fiction, self-help, and current events (mostly the lives and politics of American leaders)—immediate, self-referential information serving personal amusement and struggle . . .

Pastors who weave history into their teaching—keeping history and theology together—offer depth and perspective too often missing in a fast-paced, pleasure-seeking, future-oriented culture. Shepherds who instruct their congregations to value history help them see the horror of their own sin and the glory of God who, through the historic work of Christ, took that sin away.
Amen. And thanks to Ray Van Neste for the link.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Prayer is work

It's time to grow up and pray.

Beholding the glory of Christ

As usual, John Piper says it much better than I do: Why I don't have a television and rarely go to movies (via). Not trying to sound manipulative or anything, but most Christians in the United States seem to be ignoring Dr. Piper's advice at their own peril.

Most ignored Scripture?

Ray Ortlund considers Rom. 12:10 and what it ought to mean for the church:
Every church should be a culture of honor. The gospel is all about honor replacing shame. Every Christian will be forever glorious with the glory of the risen Jesus: "To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 2:14). Let's see one another not as we are now but as we will be then. Our future glory makes Romans 12:10 an obvious thing to do.

It is also rare. Romans 12:10 might be the most ignored Scripture in our churches today, which are too often cultures of shaming rather than cultures of honoring.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tough in any case

Jeff Weddle shares some helpful thoughts on doing and enjoying God's will.

Aligning with Christ

J.D. Hatfield, along with the Apostle Paul, reminds Christians of the afflictions of the gospel:
Many preachers are only telling fleshly people what they want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3), presenting a victorious life by applying so-called Christian principles rather than presenting Jesus Christ, life through death, and the way of repentance and faith, which Paul calls the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20,27). Preachers who preach nothing but “all things are always going to be well”, saying peace, peace, where there is no peace, are giving false hopes to lost people, and leading saved people in the wrong direction. Yes, God desires to prosper us, to have us well and whole, but part of the process will involve pain, so that we may be conformed, before we are comforted, and so we may be able to comfort others who are also being conformed (2 Corinthians 1:3-9).

Monday, July 13, 2009

A prayer

"One of the greatest errors"

Christian, are you holding back because of real prudence or simple fear?


J.D. Hatfield: "We so often hear, 'church isn’t about a building.' Well let this old preacher man tell you something. They are all wrong. Yes it is about a building . . ."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Flesh fruit?

Exhortation for preachers and teachers

When the Bible teacher stands up we should be speaking the Word of God. We should be speaking what we have heard from God in His Word. The people of God don't need to hear the latest fad sermons or the latest book you have read but they need to hear from God through His Word. You and I must have heard from God in order to give His word for the hour. We must have been in the secret place alone with Him hearing His heart (Matthew 6:6). Quotes are fine. Illustrations are fine. But hear from God first and foremost before filling your teachings with the words of men.

Not ashamed

J.D. Hatfield examines Paul's words in Rom. 1:16 and considers ways that preachers today may in fact be ashamed of the gospel:
It is when we don’t preach it – sugar coating the offense of the gospel – take off the hard edges and it won’t penetrate the heart. When we don’t believe it, we present the good news as self-improvement rather than self-denying. We change things or add a thing because we don’t believe what God did is enough for today. When we don’t live it – when we aren’t lights in the world, having the dimmer switch on.
Too true. I recommend J.D.'s whole article.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Protecting our hearts

These thoughts are worth considering the next time we're tempted to look down on public officials who fall into sin.

Power over sin

As he is prone to do, Jeff Weddle hits hard in this assessment of salvation and sin:
The Old Testament account of Israel’s redemption out of Egyptian bondage is a great allegory for salvation. Romans 6 says we were bought out of slavery to sin so that we may now bind ourselves to God as servants of righteousness.

What a great example and illustration to understand our freedom in Christ!

Unfortunately, the modern gospel has changed the facts. The modern gospel tells us that Christ merely changed our judicial standing; He didn’t really give us power over sin.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

On honoring the United States

This is a little late for U.S. Independence Day, but it's worth reading any time: Ray Ortlund on "I honor my country." Although regular readers of this weblog may be familiar with my objections to the idolatry of nationalism, Mr. Ortlund gives no indication that his sentiments fall into that category.

Being like Christ, not the world

The Seeking Disciple has posted some powerful thoughts about relevance and reaching the world for Christ. Here's a sample (with a few commas added for clarity):
What we don't need is to try to win the world using the world, but we need to be Christ to the world and allow His glory to shine through us (Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Peter 2:11-12). When I come to hear the man of God, I don't need to hear about what the latest television program has to do with life, but I need to hear a word from God! Only the Bible being preached in truth through the power of the Spirit will bring true change (John 17:17; 1 Peter 2:1-3). Let me listen to a man or a woman of God who has been shut in with God, seeking His face, and has heard from heaven through the Scriptures (Acts 13:1-4 for a case in point of where the disciples sought God and He revealed His will to them). I don't need to hear the latest numbers from the watch group of culture, but let me hear from Jesus (John 10:27). Let me know that the man of God stands upon the final authority of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and they are not going to bow to this world but to Christ alone (2 Timothy 4:1-6).

The most effective evangelist in the world are those who are like Christ. Jesus was counter-culture, and the way that we impact our modern culture is not by running out to see the latest ungodly film or listening to the latest ungodly music but by shutting ourselves in the secret place with Christ (Matthew 6:6) and coming out with the glory of this new covenant shining through us (2 Corinthians 3:10-11). If we truly believe Acts 1:8 then let us stand on God and His Word and go forth making an impact that exalts His honour far above our own. The world needs to see Jesus living inside of me, and that will draw them to the Saviour.

Monday, July 06, 2009

To blog or to do?

Dan Kimball contemplates the tension between blogging and doing in the life of discipleship.

Don't be a deadbeat

This one's a keeper: 'Honor Thy Father' for Grownups. Here's how the article begins:
Why is it that we heap scorn on "deadbeat" parents who fail to take care of underage children, but excuse adult children who don't take care of their feeble parents?

Perhaps it's because caring for children—no matter how many diapers and scrapes must be tended to—is a joyful experience, while aging involves untold sadness and indignity.
True. I recommend reading the whole thing. And thanks to Between Two Worlds for the link.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Link issue

Today while going over some of the sidebar links I found that one of them that has been on the sidebar for years came up as a threat link by my antivirus. I've deleted the link and will check the others to make sure none of them have gone bad. I hope none of you had trouble with the link; if you ever find a threat here, please let me know and I'll remove it immediately. Thanks much.

Update: It looks like Blogdigger groups are no more, so I've removed the links. The preaching and Churches of Christ weblog groups were helpful and informative while they lasted.

Avoiding Jesuslessness

Jared Wilson reminds preachers that "inspiration sells. But only Jesus transforms."

Nostalgia and evangelism

David Fitch pretty well sums up the situation that has severely cut into many tried-and-tested methods of evangelism: The time of Christendom evangelism has largely passed.

Dead or alive?

J.D. Hatfield considers the difference between adrenaline and anointing. Here's how his essay begins:
There has always been a lot of talk by people about leaving, visiting, or experiencing a so-called “dead” church. To most, I suppose what they mean by “dead church” would be that it was cold and formal. When people say it’s a dead church they mean that it feels dead. This could be true, and as the venerable Jonathan Edwards said, you have to have both heat and light.

However, let's consider the other side, because I have seen just as many churches that are just as dead and yet have a whole lot of buzz about them. You know, they even have a buzz conference these days. They may have a lot of hype but no holiness, a lot of passion, but no power. So to me a dead church can look like a really lively one, for sure.
That's the beginning; J.D.'s whole essay is worth reading to the end.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

McKnight on staying married

This is my kind of thing: reasons, from both a biblical and storytelling perspective, for staying married.

Surprise conpsiracy

NT scholar Daniel Wallace believes there is a conspiracy in modern Bible translations, but it's probably not what you're thinking.

Taking, too

At Wilderness Fandango Bob shares some helpful thoughts on God's sovereignty:
"The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away." It was Job who said that, I think. Dude was having a hard go of it, what with all his kids dying and all. And he says, The Lord did this!

No attitude can be farther from modern evangelicalism in America than this. We're all about the Lord giveth, but it is not possible, apparently for the Lord to taketh away, at least he wouldn't do that to good, praying Christians.

We just don't go there. It seems to indicate a lack of faith.
I highly recommend Bob's whole post.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Discipleship and persecution

On pulpitists & removalists

No longer

With full knowledge of adding to the Michael Jackson blogging deluge, I want to share these trenchant thoughts on what the death of Mr. Jackson really tells us about the people of the United States:
The news media, smelling the money in the water, is full guns devoted to telling the public everything it wants to know about Michael Jackson, and even some things I’m sure we’d rather forget (or maybe they’ll overlook those). But he was just a rock star. He was a singer, dancer, entertainer – and quite extraordinary, to be sure. Yes, he made lots of money, and many young people cried to see his flashing feet. But he was just a pop culture icon, the King of Making Us Feel Good.

How can a man who made his living for 45 years singing and dancing on the stage command so many hours of media coverage? Beats me. Except for this: Michael Jackson’s death shows us something about ourselves which, it seems to me, we ought to consider rather carefully. It’s clear that what matters to Americans is being entertained, feelin’ groovy, havin’ fun, and gettin’ it on.

Let’s face it: we have ceased to be a serious people.