Monday, May 31, 2010


Friday, May 28, 2010

Preparing for the invitation

For the invitation after a sermon, Cal Habig doesn't like using "techniques" for encouraging people to come forward. Still, his advice on the subject looks very good.

Come, Lord Jesus

Dan Edelen: "At the most granular level, the way we live is broken, yet we keep trying desperately to not only prop it up but also fool ourselves into thinking this is the way it has to be."

On bogus 'encouragement'

Jeff Weddle exposes the falseness of what sometimes passes as "encouragement" to preachers:
I have often heard people tell pastors, “If you preach the Word, people will come.” To which I say, “No they won’t.”

I have often heard people tell pastors, “People want to hear the Word, they’re just waiting for a guy to come along and teach it.” To which I say, “No they aren’t.”

There’s this whole side of the Bible we ignore. A whole side that says the gate is strait, few enter. Men love darkness and hate the light and God’s Word is light. If you follow Christ (the Word made flesh) the world will hate you because it hated Him. All the prophets were ignored and killed. The Word became flesh and was rejected and killed. . . .

This does not mean we should not preach the Word, we should. But it builds false hopes in many young men to tell them that if they simply teach the Word they will succeed in the Church.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Godliness and goofing off

Ray Ortlund: "One evidence of a humble trust in God is the capacity, within the rhythm of life, to play as well as to work." Amen.

Social media, narcissism, and gospel

Jared Wilson shares some spot-on insights about social media and today's "'look at me' culture." Here's a sample:
. . . there's almost nothing we do today that isn't blogged, Facebooked, or tweeted. When someone in our culture is having a rough time, they tell us online. When they are serving others, they tell us online. And when they are serving others despite having a rough time, they tell us online. There is almost no thought, feeling, inclination, impulse, or attitude we don't share with everyone who will listen.

On the one hand, such transparency can be very valuable. It certainly is more honest than holding everything in or acting like we're fine when we're not. On the other hand, though, there is a fine line between transparency and vanity. Authenticity is great. Except when it's not.

I think my generation has spun the older Me Generation into a sort of "Look at Me" Generation, and now of course the generations after Gen-X are progressively perfecting "Look at me!" into a science. Or an art. I'm not sure why we seem constantly puzzled that someone like Paris Hilton or Spencer and Heidi can be famous for doing nothing when nearly everyone these days thinks everything they do is something, something worthy of comment or props or Likes.
I leave you to read Jared's whole article to see that he does more than simply observe or complain; he offers the solution to self-fixation.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Godly tension

These are thoughtful ideas on discipleship and giving.

Remembering persecuted brethren

Though I seldom link here to individual posts at the site, I'm a regular visitor to The Voice of the Martyrs' Christian Persecution Blog. I recommend visiting the site from time to time; it's a good reminder to those in nations like mine that many Christians around the world face life-or-death persecution every day. Let's be praying for them.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sound warnings

Burning the plastic Jesus

"Everyone has their own ideas. And everyone thinks they’re in with Jesus. We all seem to have our own plastic Jesus. A Jesus who looks a bit like what I wish I saw when I look in the mirror. A Jesus who is on my team and fits nicely in my pocket. The problem is that whenever we say 'I like to think of Jesus as…' we’re just creating an imaginary Jesus. . . .

"If we burn our plastic Jesus and look at the real one, what do we find?"

Monday, May 24, 2010

The way it's supposed to be

Darryl Dash: "...we should never forget that Christian leadership is tough."

Overcoming American-dream idolatry

"Most people can’t follow Jesus because they are held captive by the American dream, and can’t free themselves of it until they disabuse themselves of the lies and idolatry it is built upon. When Jesus, not money, becomes your God, you will follow Jesus with abandon."

Attendance counts

Hats off to J.D. Hatfield for going head-on against a highly popular misconception in Christian circles. His topic? J.D. is doing a series on why Christians must attend a local worship assembly. Here's a sample:
Hiding away in an electronic church world, where the entire ministry you receive is by radio, television, and the Internet will simply not do. You need more;, you need the local body, and without that, those other things can be a curse instead of a blessing. These things can become a form of rejection, not release. Apart from a local assembly, there is no scriptural justification for them. I'm not saying these very things are damning you to hell, but I am saying for those that will not attend a local church, they are manifesting a rejection of discipleship, of personal responsibility before the Lord, of an internal witness on the soul and of scriptural warning.
Amen. I recommend J.D.'s whole article.

Update: Bob Spencer shares somewhat related thoughts here and here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Before prom night

Parents, if you still haven't read Tony Myles's brief essay on prom night, you can find it here.

Here's your answer, right here

Call for reviewers

Now is your chance to get a free hardcopy of Jeff Weddle's new book, The Gospel-Filled Wallet: What the Bible Really Says About Money, in exchange for an online book review. Yesterday I sent out invitations to selected bloggers I thought would be interested in the book, but I don't want to leave anyone out. Jeff's book is short (78 pages) and very, very readable. I had planned to arrange a highly organized blog tour by asking certain bloggers to do reviews on certain days, but that's just not my style. I am asking bloggers to review Jeff's book the week of June 20-26, but even that is flexible. So if you're interested, please leave a comment here (including your email address in the comment form), and, while my very limited supply lasts, I'll send you a book and more information.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Arrested in UK for NT truth

I probably wouldn't have believed this if the story didn't include a video: a street preacher in the UK is arrested for stating that homosexual behavior is a sin.

On the move

Will Willimon: "All of the gospels depict Jesus and his disciples as people on the move. They never stay anywhere long. Jesus teaches or performs some wonder, then immediately moves on. A dead god is a god who locates, settles in, never surprises. A living God is a God on the move."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

There just ain't. . .

'Parenting through it'

Tony Myles offers some excellent advice to parents whose children will be attending a prom this year. Here's Tony:
Hey parents! It's prom night for many teens... and while it's common to let them do their thing, I want to encourage you to still parent them through it.

In other words, don't let it become a "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" night.

You're still their mom and dad, and your kids may need some extra space tonight... or they may need some extra accountability.

You'll know which one it is. But either way, don't sever the link. If they're under your household, then they're "under your household."
That's the biggest portion of Tony's article, but I still urge you to read the whole thing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Better than angels

Barry Maxwell: "The Sadducees made great 1st-century conservatives but even better 21st-century liberals." In addition to this catchy opening, Barry offers a very thorough theological look at Mark 12:25. And his post title is pretty catchy, too.

Saying no to short-term missions

Sri Lankan Vinoth Ramachandra has written an incisive post on problems with short-term missions:
Here is a staggering statistic that I came across recently. Robert Wuthnow, the eminent sociologist of religion at Princeton University has estimated that up to 1.6 million American Christians take part in overseas “mission trips” each year, with churches spending at least $2.4 billion per year on such trips. What is unsurprising is that many of these 1-3 week “mission trips” are to the Caribbean and Central America, with luxury resorts such as the Bahamas reporting one “short-term missionary” for every 15 residents. One would expect Mexico, which receives the most American “mission teams” every year, to be the most Christian nation on earth. . . .

. . .whenever my wife and I receive a request from some Western (or rich Asian) church to find someone in Sri Lanka or India willing to host a team of young people who want to undertake a “mission trip”. We don’t doubt the sincerity of those who want to practise neighbour love or share the gospel with people in other lands. But good intentions, history reminds us, often do not translate into good outcomes. But those who are enthusiastic about such “mission trips” usually don’t have the patience to study history.

It is customary for the leaders of such teams to inform us that such an “exposure” is absolutely vital for these (relatively affluent) kids to discover the world and become (it is hoped) missionaries in the long term. “Mission”, in this way of thinking, is what one does elsewhere, not in one’s own neighbourhood or nation. It baffles us why such Christian kids cannot learn about the world by doing what I, and several millions of their non-Christian peers, have done over decades: simply travelling as tourists and exploring the countries we visit, learning about the history and culture as we do so. Moreover, in America, Europe and Australia, there are millions of people today from every religion, culture and nation to be found in almost every major city: why not stay and learn about “mission” from the local churches that are working among such people?
On the other hand, Eddie Arthur, who shared the link to Mr. Ramachandra's article, shares thoughts in support of short-term missions. As a Christian in a wealthy country who have myself engaged in a short-term mission, I've always had a nagging feeling that short-term missions often seem too much about taking a foreign trip and feeling good about one's spirituality and too little about spreading the good news effectively.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Good question

Another good question

Faith or control?

Dan Edelen has written powerfully about the illusion of control, especially in North America:
Fact is, you and I don’t have any. Control is an illusion created by our culture. We in America idolize the self-made bootstrapper, yet if we can’t control whether or not we take our next breath, then ultimately, we are not in control of our lives.

Most people in America, most Christians even, have their minds fogged by the illusion of control. And the illusion is easy to believe because we surround ourselves with gadgets and services that perpetuate it. We read books, especially self-help tomes, that reinforce that we can be masters of our personal kingdoms. We are told that getting ahead is all about our own efforts. Our society holds out a roadmap that shows that if we just work hard enough, we can walk from the mall entrance to Neiman Marcus.

But if you’ve lived long enough, you begin to see what we have been fed about controlling our lives is a lie. Sometimes, no matter how hard we work toward a goal, it never arrives. Sickness intrudes. Randomness strikes. A butterfly in China flaps its wings and a tornado destroys a palatial estate accrued through decades of sweat. In the great mall of life, we end up in Spencer Gifts staring at black light posters instead of negotiating down the price of a Botero at Neiman.
Too true. And whether or not Dan's predictions about the current economic downturn ever come to pass, his observations that faith is the opposite of control is dead-on.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Opening question

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bad day bounty

Dave Bish suggests seven things to do with a bad day.

'The power to speak'

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Media matter

When it comes to the gospel, the medium matters.

Of songs of life and praise

Doug Floyd: "We live in a world with many images but little vision, many sounds but few true words, many jokes but little deep joy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I never thought of it that way before...

Excellence again

John Brand has restarted his preaching blog, Encouraging Expository Excellence (HT).

Fully delivered

J.D. Hatfield reflects on what it means to be "delivered from the domain of darkness and the kingdom of his beloved Son" (Col. 1:13). Here's J.D.:
He has delivered us as to eternal status, but also as to temporal character, from the dark power having its claim on us, and also from the darkness having power over us now (Romans 6:14-23 / Ephesians 2:1-6, 10, 6:12). Being delivered from sin’s penalty also carries with it being delivered from its power (1 John 1:6). We are transferred but we must act in accordance with that truth to realize we are transformed (Romans 12:1-2 / Ephesians 4:22-24 / Colossians 3). You focus on the indicative of who you are in Christ, and the imperative of acting like it follows.

There is no middle ground; there are only two kingdoms (if you think you can ride the fence realize the devil owns that). You cannot be delivered from one without being transferred to the other, when you are rescued from something you are rescued to something. You cannot be transferred without being transformed. We are not talking about a degree we are talking about whose domain are we in and whose dominion are we under. Who is your king; if it is still yourself, you are still in the kingdom of darkness (Philippians 3:18-21).

Friday, May 07, 2010

On being the 'majority preacher'

This is good advice for any man who does most or all the preaching for a congregation.

Do rules rule?

Keith Brenton shares what you might call his personal testimony on rules and temptation. In looking at his own experiences, Keith has come to some insightful conclusions:
I’ve come to terms with the conflict of law versus grace in scripture on the theory that some folks just need rules. Some of them just like rules. They’re comfortable with rules. Rules let them know where the boundaries are. Some folks need rules to help them control themselves. Some folks need rules to help them control others. For them, rules rule.

So, of course, when they read scripture, they see what they like … and they see rules.
Keith's whole article is probably worth your time.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Preaching and preparation

Peter Mead: "Preaching is a spoken event. Perhaps we need to prepare appropriately."

Passion and discipleship

J.D. Hatfield looks at Philippians 3:16 & 19 and considers joy, passion and pride in Christian discipleship. His observations are worth considering:
The opposite of joy in a sense is lust. If I have joy in God I can wait on His plan and timing, even considering my sanctification. Joy is patient, and impatience is pride. Pride leads to lust, which says I deserve it now, or why do I have to wait, or why do I have to deal with this situation, or why am I here? Lust is “I want it my way and in my time, and that time is now”. It wants to go outside God's guidelines to find satisfaction.
Excellent point. I recommend J.D.'s whole article.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Borrowed soul

Preacher, are you guilty of spiritual plagiarism?

There's your options

Jeff Weddle writes about the bane of too-many options in North American Christianity:
You can find a church that fits your exact desires. You can surround yourself with the exact kind of people you want to be surrounded with and these people are usually just like you. They dress the same, talk the same, do the same things on Monday and bring the same dishes to potluck.

If you sense that you “don’t fit in” with your church anymore you leave and join another one that is more like you. You can jump ship whenever it seems right and find a more comfortable place to be.

The problem is that you will develop the thinking that “believers are people who are just like me.” No one calls you to anything higher, if they do you’ll just leave and go somewhere else.
And if you like Jeff's blogging, make sure to check out his new book.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Equipping and encouraging

Plans or people?

Dan Edelen: "If you look closely, I believe you can find numerous examples in the American Church of the love for a vision overwhelming the love for people."

Monday, May 03, 2010

Ruth and the 'Hallmark hermeneutic'

The book of Ruth is not a romance novel.

The value of under-programming