Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Quite a job

Monday, August 30, 2010

City (and country) of God

Here's a new, thoughtful take on the question: "Is God's purpose for humanity urban?"

Preachers: avoiding the illustrations trap

Peter Mead writes about the challenges of using sermon illustrations.
In some preaching you do get the sense that the text serves as an introduction to the next illustration. Personally, I don’t believe the text itself is boring and in need of our help to make it interesting. I do believe that a lot of preaching somehow seeks to explain texts without really entering into them. The text is offered at arms length as exhibit A, but is not a living and active revelation in which the preaching thereof engages the whole listener in an encounter with God. (I’m not really arguing for some kind of neo-orthodox “text becoming word” concept here, but I am suggesting that the Bible is written with affective and emotive function in the different biblical genre that requires it to be somehow experienced and well-understood – as opposed to “mentally understood” from a safe distance leaving the heart largely untouched.)
Exactly. Peter's article is a reminder of why I enjoy his blog so very much.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The place of blessing...

Ray Ortlund has written a fine little essay on tradition versus Christ.

Friday Bible study links (8/27/10)

I may have blogged about these before, but the message is worth repeating, because they're hugely helpful: interlinear Hebrew Old Testament and interlinear Greek New Testament. Each page contains links to a .pdf file for each chapter of the OT and NT, respectively. Chapter files not only include interlinears, but every Greek and Hebrew word is parsed. If you know only a little or even no biblical languages, these resources can help you make sense of the original biblical languages, especially with the aid of a NT Greek lexicon or OT Hebrew lexicon.

These links, of course, have long been on the right sidebar of this page under the SCRIPTURE RESOURCES section. They're the best links I know of. If you have others, I'm interested in hearing about them.

Caveat: These interlinear links are a very good example of this site's disclaimer, also found in the right sidebar of this page. Although I heartily recommend the interlinear resources linked above, I by no means endorse all the theology of those publishing them. As with everything found online, use with caution and discernment.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Given to God

Royce Ogle's recent thoughts on worship are worth considering. Here's a sample:
In today’s Christian world, worship has been defined as some particular activity that takes place primarily on Sunday morning before the preacher delivers his message. That activity is singing. And, worship has been more narrowly defined as not only just singing, but singing only a certain kind of music, “worship music”, or “praise and worship” music. So the implication is that if you are singing “worship” music you are worshipping. That is foreign to the Bible. Am I to believe that none of Charles Wesley’s songs, Fanny Crosby’s songs, or any of the old hymns were ever used in worship? Christians were worshiping God many hundreds of years before “praise and worship” music and Powerpoint presentations were invented.

The dead give away that this so-called worship might be bogus, is the way most of the so-called worshippers critique the so-called worship. Comments usually follow along this line of thought. “We had a great worship service this morning. The music was so beautiful!” Or, some of our more uninhibited friends might say, “Worship was great today, you could really feel the Spirit in the service”. When worship is measured by the experience or the skill of the human participants, I promise you it is not Biblical worship.

Worship is not something to be experienced, but something given to God. Worship is not about me and you, but rather about God. Jesus said to the woman of Samaria that worship is to be done “in Spirit and in truth”. I fear that we as believers in modern times have not fared well in the “truth” department of worship.
Well said.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Discipleship in action

Danger of 'spiritual greed'

At the Gospel-Driven Church, Jared Wilson warns about the dangers of the stealth prosperity gospel hiding in the whole "victorious Christian living" schtick:
The problem over time is that, going from victory to victory, expecting victory after victory, cultivates a contagious form of spiritual greed. (Is it any wonder that this sort of teaching often goes hand and hand with talk of financial riches and prosperity?) The real stuff of discipleship -- what Eugene Peterson calls "a long obedience in the same direction" -- involves hard stuff like discipline and the fruit of the Spirit. In pop discipleship discipline is replaced by steps, tips, and amazingsupercolossal breakthroughs.
True. Jared goes on to make another telling point:
Prosperity gospel then, ironically, breeds discontentment. We are never abiding with God where we are, because we always consider what we have less than what's available (or at least less than what our neighbor has). We always think of today as less than tomorrow. But you cannot get to resurrection day without going through the cross.
Exactly. And Jared doesn't simply criticize; he goes on to describe true conmtentment and how to attain it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another keeper

Justin Taylor has posted an interview with the Apostle Paul on the meaning of Romans 7:1-13.

Tuesday commentaries link (8/24/10)

Here's a choice find for free, online Bible commentaries: Litteral's Christian Library, a project by Roman Catholic layman John Litteral. Mr. Litteral has a commentaries page with links to commentaries from writers in the early church. To my knowledge, Mr. Litteral's site offers the only free English translations of Theodoret's commentary on Jonah (5th century) or John of Damascus's commentaries (8th century) on 2 Timothy and Philemon. The site also offers a catena of comments on Jonah by Theodoret, Jerome, Cyril, and other early expositors.

Pre-Modern and non-Western commentaries can offer valuable perspectives to interpretation in the present-day West. The commentaries at Litteral's Christian Library are a good contribution to the growing collection of what's now available free, online in English translation.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Vital question

Royce Ogle asks (and answers) the question, "How can we know we are Christians?"

Avoiding 'expository, but only just'

Peter Mead: "The best expositions are where the listeners haven’t just been informed about the text, but where they have entered into the text, the text has entered into them, and where the text has been set free to do what the text was intended to do."

Friday, August 20, 2010

This one's a keeper

Ray Ortlund: "Every time we hear the Word of God, we come away from it either a little closer to God or a little further away, either more softened or more hardened. But we are never just the same. And if the gospel isn’t saving us, what will?"

Friday commentaries link

J. Burton Coffman's commentaries have long been popular in Churches of Christ. Lately Coffman's New Testament commentaries, originally published by Abilene Christian University Press, have been available at the Heartlight website. Each chapter of the NT is a separate .html page, so they're not easy to download, but they're very easy to access and cover every verse of every NT book.

Coolness and Christ

Dan Edelen shares his wisdom on coolness and the church in a couple of related posts: The Youth Ministry Problem, Part 1, and Hipster Churches & Indifferent Teens. As always with Dan's writing, these essays are informative and challenging.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I think he's on to something

Glen Scrivener writes on the relationship of saving faith and union with Christ.

Chosen to suffer

Royce Ogle: "It seems clear that Jesus commissioned Saul of Tarsus (Paul) to make Him known and to suffer. This two-fold ministry is outlined in Acts 9."

Jeff Weddle shares related thoughts at The Gospel-Filled Wallet blog.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Perseverance in preaching

"Believe deeply that each sermon can truly lead to heart change among the hearers."

Ministry basic training

Thanks to John Brand for linking to Richard Pratt's ideas on changing seminary education to help better prepare men for ministry:
Can you imagine what kind of soldiers our nation would have if basic training amounted to reading books, listening to lectures, writing papers, and taking exams? We’d have dead soldiers. The first time a bullet wizzed past their heads on the battlefield, they’d panic. The first explosion they saw would send them running. So, what is basic training for the military? Recruits learn the information they need to know, but this is a relatively small part of their preparation. Most of basic training is devoted to supervised battle simulation. Recruits are put through harrowing emotional and physical stress. They crawl under live bullet fire. They practice hand to hand combat.

If I could wave a magic scepter and change seminary today, I’d turn it into a grueling physical and spiritual experience. I’d find ways to reach academic goals more quickly and effectively and then devote most of the curriculum to supervised battle simulation. I’d put students through endless hours of hands-on service to the sick and dying, physically dangerous evangelism, frequent preaching and teaching the Scriptures, and days on end of fasting and prayer. Seminary would either make them or break them.
I agree, although one could make a pretty good case that ministry internships can provide exactly the kinds of experiences Dr. Pratt describes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tuesday commentaries recommendation

On this blog I've begun trying to provide links a couple of times each week to good online Bible commentary and study resources. This one's a repeat, but it's where I've gathered links to most of the best New Testament commentary resources available online: Links for Expository Preaching. And please note, the site (like this one) isn't only for preachers. If you're teaching a Bible study or simply want to go deeper into the Word, Expository Links is a great portal for studying the New Testament.

Considering seminary education

Commenting on a related article by D.A. Carson on what needs to be changed about seminary education, Ben Witherington offers some valuable thoughts and concludes with these ideas on tailoring seminary curricula to the evolving desires of the church:
The problem with setting sail, following a prevailing wind, is that you may find yourself sailing entirely in the wrong direction and ending up at the wrong destination. The Bible frankly doesn't need to be 'made' relevant. It is inherently relevant to the practice of ministry in any age. It is more a matter of showing that relevance and applying it rightly so that it is a word on target. Somewhere between a seminary becoming a glorious anachronism and becoming captive to the latest cultural trends is the right place for the seminary to be, with the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other--- relating the one to the other, as Billy Graham long ago said
That sounds right. Thoughts?

Monday, August 16, 2010

'We must choose'

"The gospel of Jesus is more than a few handy tips for improving our lives this week. It is a new outlook on everything, with a glorious future renewing the creation through his death and resurrection. But he is not the only one making us promises. The world has its own version of events, its own eschatology, its own promises of reward. We must choose. And either way, we will be living by faith."

On a water-walking God

J.D. Hatfield looks at Matthew 14:22-33 and reminds Christians to focus on Jesus, not on Peter:
I’m not saying don’t attempt great things, I’m saying DO attempt great things, but even if we fail to walk on water, Jesus won’t. Yes, use what God has given you, yes, develop whatever skills you can and use them for the glory of God. Enjoy the good graces that have been bestowed upon you, but the bottom line is you must trust Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, and trust your life and death and eternity to Him. Walking on water is not our role, it is not some matter of stirring up our faith so that we can, it is about calling on Jesus who did and who can.
Amen. I recommend J.D.'s whole essay.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A very good question

On pulpit plagiarism

As both a preacher and college English teacher, I appreciate this blog post on why plagiarism is wrong.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Christian confession

Decrying dirt-bike delivery

Responding to criticism on his post against the awesomeness-driven church, Jared Wilson explains what's wrong with the "dirt bike on the stage" approach of dressing-up the gospel message in theatrics:
Do we take the thing people need and treat it like medicine that must be administered with a spoonful of sugar? 'Cause that's what the "dirtbike on the stage" approach essentially means: we take something lost people find cool or appealing or attractive and use that to lure them in for the thing we know they don't find cool or appealing or attractive, thereby communicating that "Yes, we know this is the not so cool part" and then try to convince them it's really the important thing. But we've already demonstrated even we don't believe that. Or else we wouldn't feel compelled to dress it up with a dirtbike.
As someone once said, what we attract people with, we attract them to. The church's message is and always has been the gospel of Jesus Christ--nothing more, nothing less.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New online commentaries find

This blog began to share the wealth of good online resources for preaching and Bible study. Here's the latest: Bible commentaries at CyberChapel. Van Parunak has posted his commentaries on nine books of the Bible, along with articles on Bible interpretation. Dr. Parunak teaches at a small house church but has a big and impressive vita. I've spot-reviewed portions of his commentaries and found them to be unusually strong, especially for free downloadable works. If you're interested in good, free, online Bible commentaries, I strongly recommend giving them a look.

Not 'jerks or weirdos'

"I sometimes talk to my church about the "ministry of being normal". As believers, we are necessarily going to have a lot of distance between us and those who don't follow Christ. We live differently, love differently, hope differently. We're citizens of a different country.

"But it might be helpful if we limit the distance between us and the world in a lot of other ways. We don't have to flaunt our lack of a TV and be weird and preachy about grinding your own grain. That only serves to put unnecessary distance between us and the people we're trying to reach. Instead, we should try to engage the world around us, know what our neighbors care about, and try to inhabit the same universe they do."

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's war

Ray Ortlund offers some helpful perspective on gospel militancy.

Too cool

Mike Leake looks at ways Christians today neuter the gospel. Here's one way:
Whenever we try really hard to show unbelievers that Christians can be cool. The entire reason why we hang out with unbelievers, watch certain television programs, and listen to certain music is to prove to a watching world that Christians aren’t boring. We can be fun too. That’s all well and good until our “coolness” morphs into worldliness. You do not win people to the gospel by being worldly. You might convince them that you are cool, but I am not certain you will convince them that Christ is mighty to save.
Amen. The conclusion of that paragraph, of course, is reminiscent of a well-know saying attributed to James Denney.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Plus, it will ruin your life

Telling and terminality

Royce Ogle shines light on a hundred-year old cliche:
What would Jesus do? Well, he would be honest with people. He would tell people there is a cure for their sickness but he would also tell them they are terminally ill. A driver who doesn’t know the bridge is out up ahead is not likely to slow down. If you care about people you put up a warning sign, “Stop! Bridge out Ahead!”

Christianity is not an alternative lifestyle, it is not a religious experience to make your life happy. The gospel of Jesus is the announcement that you can escape certain death, you don’t have to perish, you don’t have to suffer the wrath of an angry God against sin. The gospel is not good news to anyone who is not aware of the bad news.

What would Jesus do? He would love people enough to tell them the truth. He would warn them to repent from the sham of better morality, church membership, and religious ritual, and trust his saving atonement to make them new, to free them from the bondage of Satan, and to live in freedom as children of the God of heaven, safe and secure in His marvelous grace.
Amen. That story is even older than WWJD.

A neglected blogroll

This morning I was looking over my blogroll and realized I hadn't even linked to my own blogfather's site. I've also started using Google's Webmaster Tools and have discovered numerous links to this blog I was not formerly aware of. As time allows I'll be adding reciprocal links, with gratitude. Thanks for linking, and for reading.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Prayer and hardship

Dan Edelen: "I’m to the point in my life where I honestly believe that almost all of the hardship we see in life is due to a lack of prayer."

Of golems and the gospel

"Yesterday I watched a video of a motocross bike jumping over a pastor on stage. Now, I'm not saying that church or its pastor don't have the Holy Spirit, but I am saying that setting up a dirtbike track in your sanctuary is profoundly stupid.

"What is profoundly stupid is the sheer amount of innovation, creativity, energy, ambition, and astounding levels of human wherewithal that go into crafting the most amazing worship experiences Americans have ever seen inside churches where the gospel isn't preached. I can say this because there's only one thing we hold that the New Testament calls "power," and that's the gospel."

Far above all we ask or think

Dave Bish writes about preaching that gives the listener more than he wanted or expected:
When the preacher begins to speak I know what I want; I want instruction, I want inspiration, I want to have the passage taught, I want to be reminded of Christ....

What I should find is that I'm shown the beauty of Christ in a way that my heart never imagined was possible.

And that's what the Holy Spirit delights to do through a preacher, to cast new light upon Christ from his word. To enable me to see with eyes of faith that Christ is more beautiful than I could have imagined.... such preaching would be jaw-dropping, would be eye-widening, would be heart-enflaming. Such preaching does the important task of persuasively showing what the text says and then continue to doing what the text does.
Preachers, is that the kind of proclamation you aspire to?

Monday, August 02, 2010

Wisdom and joy

Ray Ortlund: "Wisdom is not a nag. "

The meek are blessed

"Meek people are free. Not just growing free from the evils we see in substance abuse, but growing free from the addictions of bitterness, anger, lust and envy – and growing hopefully addicted to God. It is this meekness, this being tamed by the Spirit of God, that reflects a soul that is truly healed because it is a soul that has truly been born again into faith."