Thursday, December 29, 2005


If you are a blogger, we'd love for you to be a part of our "blogs-for-books" effort.

Dad and I have recently written a book on Sin and Temptation, entitled "A Fight to the Death" which is being published by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishers and is coming out in February.

To obtain a PDF file of this book to review, please email us at

When you've reviewed the book and posted it on your blog, send a link with your mailing address back to us to receive a free copy of the book when it is published. This is open to the first 30 bloggers who respond.


I just dropped Mom and Dad off.

Actually, I dropped them off about 6 hours ago - at 4:30 a.m. but I spent the first couple hours after that in a daze, so it kind of feels like I just dropped them off.

The girls wanted to get in their suitcases to go with them, but the suitcases were way too full.

I've been thinking about what I've learned the past several years working alongside Dad and Mom. Yesterday I mentioned I've been encouraged that it possible to be older, to have been in the ministry a long time and to still be humble.

I think I've also learned the value and blessing of true biblical loyalty in the ministry.

There are some people who are loyal in the sense that they just tell you what they want you to hear, which of course isn't biblical loyalty. And there are other people who are not loyal at all. (Solomon certainly was right when he said many people profess their loyalty, but a faithful friend who can find?)

I guess I understand that. After all, it's tough to be loyal. It would be easy to be loyal to someone if it only meant you needed to be committed to that person when they were doing the things you liked or when they don't make things difficult for you. But that's not loyalty.

Anybody can be loyal like that. And you know, a lot of people think they are loyal because they stick with people when the going is easy. But they are not loyal because they don't stick with people when things get hard.

It's tough to be loyal because loyalty requires dying to self. It means I'm going to do the hard thing and get in your face and tell you that you are wrong even though I would rather just let you go off and do your own thing and not have to get involved. On the other hand it means when you are doing wrong and it is making life difficult for me I am going to stick with you and I am going to be for you and I am not going to take the opportunity just to jump all over you with glee and joy because you are messing up when I perhaps am not.

I want to be a person like that for other Christians. I want to be a person that people know is one hundred percent for them. I want to be like that because I believe the gospel. I want to be like that because I believe God is for me even though I messed up so badly.

And you know I want to be like that because I've experienced the blessing of that kind of loyalty in my own life. I sometimes think you could get through almost anything in life, anything in the ministry, if you just have a friend who is biblically loyal. Now, obviously - no matter how alone we are, we always have one friend who is biblically loyal and that is Jesus Christ.

At the same time, it is good when God's people follow in his footsteps.

My wife has sought and is seeking to do that for me, and so have my parents. And you know what, though we've been through some difficult times they haven't been nearly as hard because God has graced me with people who like Jesus, are for me. There's hardly anything that brings greater joy than loyal friends.

Christ and Him Crucified...

What does Paul mean when he says, "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified?"

I'm reading Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy where he endeavors to help us as preachers understand how Paul did that and to show us how we can too. (I have to review this book for a D.Min class at S.B.T.S. so I figured I could start by thinking through what Goldsworthy says in this blog and in blogs to come. )

We know for sure what preaching Christ alone doesn't mean. It doesn't mean that Paul didn't write about anything except Jesus. He talks about his life, he talks about the lives of others, he talks about practical matters. At the same time however, while Paul talked about his life, the life of others, and practical matters, there is no mistaking the fact that he is radically Christ-centered. To quote Goldsworthy, "The main subject of all his writings is the person and work of Jesus Christ."

The same should be true for us. We need to be radically Christ-centered preachers. Like Wesley we should say,

"Happy, if with my latest breath I might but gasp his name; Preach him to all, and cry in death: Behold, behold the Lamb!"

But here's the real question:

How do we do that?

We all know we are supposed to focus on Christ, but how do we do that for example, with the Old Testament? Graeme frames the question like this, "If a passage is not directly about the gospel events of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, to what extent are we obliged to make the connection?"

One option would be to always tack a little gospel message on, almost as something additional to the message, on top of it - rather than as an essential part of it. Another option would be not even to try. Quoting Goldsworthy once again, "There is no doubt that many Christian preachers, in effect, do preach from the Old Testament about God in the Psalms, or the life of faith exhibited by one or other of the heroes of Israel, without connecting it specifically to the person and work of Christ."

According to Goldsworthy, there are a number of problems with not even trying to make the connection between the gospel and the text under consideration, one being that we moralize the Old Testament people and events, and further that we take the focus off of God and His glory and onto ourselves.

To hammer this point home, Goldsworthy quotes Clowney to say that when we primarily preach the Old Testament events as examples without connecting them to the gospel itself, when we "again and again equate Abraham and us, Moses' struggle and ours, Peter's denial and our unfaithfulness;[when we preach the Old Testament] only illustratively, [such preaching] does not bring the Word of God and does not permit the church to see the glory of the work of God; it only preaches man, the sinful, the sought, the redeemed, the pious man, but not Jesus Christ."

While I think I understand the objection Goldsworthy is making at this point, I do wonder if preaching the Old Testament saints as examples automatically equals focusing solely on man and missing the glory of God. Perhaps he is stating things a little stronger than is required to help people at least hear what he is saying. Because while the Old Testament is more than examples to imitate, doesn't Hebrews 11 give a number of Old Testament stories as examples for us to imitate? Isn't one of the purposes of Scripture to show us how to live lives that bring glory and honor to God? Doesn't Paul point to Old Testament history as an example for us not to imitate, in 1 Corinthians 10?

What do you think?

It's One or the Other

"No man can show at one and the same time that he himself is wise and that Christ is mighty to save..."

James Denney

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


I'm driving my parents to the airport tomorrow.

They are 70 years old, but that's not stopping them. They are flying to South Africa to serve as missionaries.

I'm used to dropping Mom and Dad off at the airport, so I'm not too emotional right now; but I am sure it's going to hit me sooner or later. After all, I've spent the last five years, almost six now, pastoring alongside of Dad here at Grace Fellowship in Coopersburg and it's been good, real good.

I was thinking this morning a little bit about what I've learned from watching Dad and Mom these past several years. I'll emphasize little because this is just a start. (I think I'll just give one today, and jot thoughts down the next couple days as I think on this.)

1.) It's possible to be old, to have been in the ministry a long time, and be humble.

It sounds funny to say that, but if you've got a guy who is used to leading, it can be hard for him to follow. And what's more, if you've got a guy who is used to preaching, it can be hard for him to listen.

It seems like it should be the opposite.

I mean, if you've preached long enough you should know how hard it is and want to encourage the one who is preaching by listening. Besides, if you've studied long enough you should know how important and blessed you are to sit and listen to someone who has studied long and hard that week.

It seems like it should be the opposite...but it often isn't.

I know, I want to be the kind of guy who is 90 years old and who listens to a 25 year old preacher and still learns and loves it. I want to be the kind of guy who listens to someone preaching on a text I've preached on before, and doesn't go away just critiquing his style but being blessed and transformed by his content.

I also know that's rare.

I think one of the reasons it is hard to be that kind of guy at 90 is because for that to happen, we need to be that kind of guy now. We need to be the kind of people who can listen to others and learn from them.

That sounds like it should be so easy, but for many, it isn't.

I mean, for one thing that's the way God designed it. Plus, we don't know it all. Besides that, a whole lot of what we do know we forget, so it's helpful to be told again. On top of that, it's not a matter of that other person being smarter or more studied than you, it's a matter of God speaking to you through the text of Scripture.


Watching my Dad, I know it's possible. Over the past five years, my mom and dad consistently have been among the most eager to listen and learn from the preaching and teaching of God's Word here at Grace. I have a completely different style of preaching than Dad, there are many things he could critique me on, but that hasn't stopped him or mom from being eager to learn.

I want to be like that.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

To Deduct or Induct...That is the Question

Don't worry, I have no idea what the title means either.

I do know I want to talk about deductive versus inductive preaching. Actually, I just want to share an opinion. (And we both know how much those are worth.)

For the sake of argument, and since I'm the one doing the writing I get to make the rules, deductive preaching is where you tell people what you are going to tell them, then you tell them. In honor of those visual learners out there:


Inductive preaching on the other hand, is where you design the sermon to lead the people to the point you want to make. It might look like this...


Now anybody who knows me, knows I care basically diddly squat about outlines. I think outlines are so overblown...(since I'm spouting off opinions, I might as well keep going)outlines should serve the sermon, not the other way around. An outline should function like a slingshot - I put the point of the sermon in there, and the outline swings it home.

So I'm not talking about a particular style of outline here, I'm talking about a particular approach to a passage.

I don't want anyone to misunderstand, I think deductive preaching has its place.

There are times when you definitely need to say this is what the passage says, this is what the passage means, and this is what you need to do.

I do have a problem though with an entirely deductive approach to preaching for a couple of reasons.

One being, I think what it can do - over a period of time - is train people not to think. I get up behind the pulpit, I tell you what I learned, I tell you what you need to do, and what happens? If I do this over and over, you can develop a habit of not wrestling with the text yourself.

It's like with my kids.

If I always teach them by saying this is what is true, this is what you need to believe, this is what you need to do and don't engage them, don't force them to struggle, don't help them learn the process of coming to a conclusion for themselves, then I'm doing them a disservice.

I need to do that sometimes, but probably not all the time.

To me, that's what is beautiful about a more inductive approach. I want active listeners - I want people to have to think and wrestle with the text to get the point. When I preach an inductive message, my goal is to take you on a short tour through my study process, so that by the end of the message, you and I, we can arrive at the point of the passage together.

I read a book on preaching a year or so ago, called As One Without Authority. Obviously, the title is a problem.

His point though was interesting, at least to think about. It was that our methodology of preaching should match our theology of preaching.

If I believe God's Word is the final authority in people's lives - then the method through which I deliver that message - should reflect that. In other words, I might say I believe the Bible is the final authority in people's lives and then preach a message in a way that seems to say something different.

What I think an inductive approach does is shine the spotlight on the passage. What I'm wondering, and I'm just wondering here, is if what a deductive approach can do, if we're not careful, is shine the spotlight on the preacher.

It can easily become me telling you what to do, rather than me telling you what God through the text is telling you to do.

Anyway, just thinking...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Exegeting people...

One of the things I love about reading the Puritans is that I often get the sense they didn't just know Scripture, they knew me.

I wonder why it seems like today that's so often not the case...

We've definitely got preachers who at least try to understand the people they are talking to, but it seems like much of the time their perspectives are superficial, glib, or just borrowed from some psychologist.

And we've definitely got preachers who know the Scriptures, but sometimes it seems, honestly like they don't know many people. I wonder, in fact, if one reason so many professing Christians run to psychologists is because the psychologists actually seem to describe the way they work, while their pastor, though he is preaching Scripture, seems like he's living in a different world.

To really be an effective, God-honoring preacher it seems to me we have to exegete Scripture and we have to let Scripture exegete people.

If you try to preach to people without exegeting Scripture, you are going to end up superficial. If you try to preach the Scripture without exegeting people, you are going to end up missing the point.

As we study a passage, here are a couple questions I've found helpful for exegeting people. Perhaps you have others?

1.) What does this passage teach me about what people think, feel or do?
2.) About what people need?
3.) What problem does it address? How does that problem express itself in our lives today?
4.) What comfort is found in this passage? What does that comfort tell us about our real needs as people?
5.) What might be common objections to this text? How does my own heart object to the truth of this text?
6.) What are some specific ways people live contrary to what this passage teaches? Are there biblical examples?
7.) What are some specific ways people have applied this passage successfully?

A Hundred Lives Is Not Enough...

"Today, all sorts of subjects are eagerly pursued; but the knowledge of God is neglected...Yet to know God is man's chief end and justifies his existence. Even if a hundred lives were ours, this one aim would be sufficient for them all."

John Calvin

Monday, December 19, 2005

How to Be an Ineffective Preacher part Three

5. Don't Think About The Audience You Are Speaking To

I may be slow. It took me a couple years to realize that I'm not just preaching about the Bible, I'm preaching about the Bible to people. I came out of seminary with the attitude (almost) that the way I would preach to a wall would be the same way I would preach to a group of people, and though I don't have chapter and verse on this one, six years later I think that's pretty dumb.
For one thing, it's not the way I work outside the pulpit. When I try to explain something to my five year old daughter, I do it a little differently than if I were trying to explain it to a sixteen year old. Essentially, what I'm saying might be the same - but how I go about saying it probably will be a little bit different. If I'm really going to expect my five year old daughter to understand me, I can't just think about what I'm going to tell her, I have to work on the way I'm going to tell her.
That's part of being unselfish. I'm concerned about the other person and because I'm concerned about the other person, I think about how I can help them understand what I'm saying - realizing there is a good likelihood that they are different than me.
Bruce Wilhite describes what I'm talking about here as thinking about your sermon from the pew's perspective. Look at what you are saying and think about it from the perspective of different people within the congregation. The point is not to change the content, but to think about the best way to communicate it.

Friday, December 16, 2005

How to Be an Ineffective Preacher part two

3. Fear Man

It is so subtle, yet so dangerous. Vain-glory, as an old Puritan put it, is one of Satan's most effective traps. Instead of doing what you do to glorify God, you start doing what you do to impress people, and you end up completely missing the point.

I think personally, one of the things I loved most about Dr. MacArthur when I was at The Master's Seminary, was that he would have been the same person if he were speaking to ten people as if he were speaking to ten thousand. It wasn't about what people thought of him, it was about honoring God.

4. Be Fake

I like habits. I'm glad I don't have to think every time I tie my shoe. But I don't want that to be true when I preach. We can't let preaching become just another habit. We get up on Sundays, we deliver a message, we sit down, we do the routine.

No, no, no.

We've got to think about who we are speaking to, who we are speaking about, why we are speaking. If we really want to be effective preachers, we've got to get beat up by the text. We've got to be comforted by the text. We've got to be challenged by the text. It's got to go through us if it is ever going to get to the people.

If you want to fool people into thinking you are someone you are not, I've got a piece of advice for you, be an actor. You get up there Sunday after Sunday and try to fake it, you end up hurting everbody - including yourself.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

How to be an Ineffective Preacher...

8 Steps to Being An Ineffective Preacher...

1. Be Ungodly.

There's a reason Paul didn't write a homiletics manual when he wrote to Timothy and Titus. There's a reason Paul focused his attention on character qualities when he talked to Timothy and Titus about what to look for in church leaders. The character of the messenger is more important than the style of the message.

2. Depend on Yourself.

If you want to do something God hates, go into the pulpit trusting in your own ability. God says, "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Stott on Preaching...One More Time

Expository preaching is God-centered preaching.

It is preaching that is uninterested, modest and even tentative when it comes to the preacher's own opinions and status while being passionate, courageous and authoritative when it comes to God's Word.

In order to preach expository messages the preacher must have a humble attitude towards himself. For the purpose of expository preaching is "to facilitate an encounter. 'The great encounter, however is not between the preacher and people. It is between God and the people.'" (p.325)

The preacher must have a humble attitude towards the text. "The Christian preacher is to be neither a speculator who invents new doctrines which please him, nor an editor who excises old doctrines which displease him, but a steward, God's steward, dispensing faithfully to God's household the truths committed to him in Scripture, nothing less and nothing else." (p.324)

This humble attitude towards the text will result in authoritative, courageous preaching. "The expositor is only to provide the mouth and lips for the passage itself, so that the Word may advance...The really great preachers...are in fact, only servants of the Scriptures." (p.132) "Our task as Christian preachers is not subserviently to answer all the questions which men put to us, nor to attempt to meet all the demands which are made on us; nor hesitantly to make tentative suggestions to the philosophically minded; but rather to proclaim a message which is dogmatic because it is divine. The preacher's responsibility is proclamation, not discussion." (p.110, The Preacher's Portrait)

Expository preaching begins with a mindset towards preaching that views the preacher as a servant to the text whose job it is to accurately explain the meaning of the text and passionately communicate its significance for contemporary listeners so that they might develop a biblical way of viewing the world and might be able to apply the truths they have heard to their lives, thus exalting Christ and building up His Church.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Stott on expository preaching? Part Deux...

Expository Preaching is relevant preaching.

It is preaching that clearly communicates the message the text has for the contemporary audience.

"Our task is to enable God's revealed truth to flow out of the Scriptures into the lives of men and women today." (p.138)

"To discover the text's meaning is of purely academic interest unless we go on to discern its message for today..." (p.221)

"...We preachers are supposed to be in the business of communication. A lecture has been wittily defined as the transfer of information from the lecturer's notes to the students without it passing through the mind of either; but sermons should not be equally dismal examples of non-communication. We should be praying that God will raise up a new generation of Christian communicators who are determined to bridge the chasm; who struggle to relate God's unchanging Word to our ever-changing world; who refuse to sacrifice truth to relevance or relevance to truth, but who resolve instead in equal measure to be faithful to to Scripture and pertinent to today." (p.144)

The question of course is how do we do that?

Take the term relevance. What does it mean to be relevant? It's not as easy a question as it might seem at first.

Listen to Os Guinness on relevance,

"Relevance is a prerequisite for communication. Without it there is no communication, only a one-sided sending of messages addressed to no one, nowhere. But having said that, it must also be said that relevance is a more complex, troublesome, and seductive matter than its advocates acknowledge. For a start, relevance is a question begging concept when invoked by itself. And when absolutized it becomes lethal to truth. Properly speaking, relevance assumes and requires the answer to such questions as: relevance for what? relevance to whom? If these questions are left unasked, a constant appeal to relevance becomes a way of running roughshod over the truth and corralling opinion coercively. People are thinking or doing something because it is relevant without knowing why. But it is in fact truth that gives relevance to relevance just as relevance becomes irrelevance if it is not related to truth. Without truth, relevance is meaningless and dangerous." (No God but God, p.169)

Monday, December 12, 2005

What is expository preaching?

Like any catch-phrase, expository preaching has become quite elastic, used to describe almost any kind of preaching. Over the next couple of days, I thought I might just jot down a few helpful qualifying thoughts from Between Two Worlds by John Stott on the nature of true expository preaching.

*It is Christian preaching.

It is not a style of preaching but a philosophy of preaching.

"...if by an expository sermon is meant a verse by verse explanation of a lengthy passage of Scripture, then indeed it is only one possible way of preaching, but this would be a misuse of the word. Properly speaking, exposition has a much broader meaning. It refers to the content of the sermon (biblical truth) rather than its style (a running commentary). To expound Scripture is to bring out of the text what is there and expose it to view." (p.125,126)

* It is Scripture-dominated preaching.

It is preaching that begins and ends and is centered in the text of God's Word.

"The Christian preacher has a boundary set for him. When he enters the pulpit, he is not entirely a free man. There is a very real sense in which it may be said of him that the Almighty has set him his bounds that he shall not pass. He is not at liberty to invent or choose his message; it has been committed to him, and it is for him to declare, expound and to commend to his hearers..." (p.126)

* It is faithful preaching.

It is preaching that accurately explains the original meaning of the text being considered.

"What did the original author intend his words to mean? That was the question. Moreover it is a question which can with patience be answered, and answered confidently...the biblical authors were honest men, not deceivers, and their writings intended to be understood."

" search for its contemporary message without first wrestling with its original meaning is to attempt a forbidden short cut. It dishonours God (disregarding his chosen way of revealing himself in particular historical and cultural contexts), it misuses his Word (treating it like an almanac or book of magic spells) and it misleads his people (confusing them about how to interpret Scripture.)" (p.221)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I'm no hero...

I'm convinced one of the hardest things for people to get when it comes to the gospel, one of the things that is hardest for me to remember is that...we're not the hero.

Jesus is.

I've found it's kind of funny, most people don't mind you telling them they have problems. In fact, in a strange way some people seem to like it. They don't even really mind you being blunt...just check out the popularity of people like Dr. Laura or Dr. Phil.

What people mind and where they start having problems is when you begin pointing to a solution outside of them.

That's why what many people want a pastor to do is tell them they have problems and then spend the rest of the sermon encouraging them about how they can overcome their problems. You want to be a popular preacher, find an interesting way to do that...just check out the popularity of motivational speakers like Joel Osteen.

Our job though as preachers is different.

It's not to encourage blind men to wear glasses, it's to take them to the only one who can heal their sight.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Beaten but Stronger

"George Whitefield was the most famous man of his day...and among the most hated. In a crude and spiteful age, the barrage against him was particularly venomous He was accused of all the usual misdeeds with money, women and fame. But there was so much more. The strange squinting of the eyes that childhood measles left him caused the hostile press to call him, 'Dr. Squintum.' There was even a play by that name, written to expose him to a jeering public. If he gained weight he was a glutton. If he bought property for an orphanage, he was selfishly building an estate for himself. It was open season on Whitefield and all England seemed to take aim...
Then of course, there was the uniquely 'Christian' kind of attack. For some believers, a man cannot simply be wrong about a few things; he must be evil, possibly even controlled by a spirit. Certainly, he is part of a broader conspiracy of darkness, perhaps in league with the anti-Christ. He then becomes an enemy to drive out rather than a brother to restore. So it was with Whitefield, who surely heard the words, 'You have a devil' as often as he heard the word, 'Hello.'
None of this surprised Whitefield...yet had he been a lesser man, he might have been crushed and embittered by the barrage against him. The pain might have driven him from the ministry early, leaving him a broken, angry man. But Whitefield had acquired that condition of soul for which criticism becomes an enobling force. He had learned that criticism is like pain in the human body, giving needed information for healthy change. One can receive it as a blow and angrily nurse the wound. Or, one can regard the words as an eagle does a gust of wind -as a force upon which to fly still higher."
Stephen Mansfield, Forgotten Founding Father, the heroic legacy of George Whitefield, p.143-145...get the book!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Miscellaneous thoughts on teaching...

I'm not a good enough teacher to come up with any laws of teaching, but I've been thinking lately that if I were, I'd have to say that one of the essentials to being an effective teacher is having students who know they need to learn. To put it another way, one of the greatest hindrances to effective teaching is when students don't think they need to learn.

I know, I know, it's not like I'm going out on a limb saying something like that.

It's obvious, from experience and from Scripture. (Just check out Proverbs...) But I guess what's new for me lately, is thinking about how I as a teacher can help students come to this point. I, clearly can't get into their hearts and humble them. The students themselves have a major responsibility in all of this. Yet, it seems to me that if I'm going to be an effective teacher, I need to think of ways I can reveal to my students their need to learn.

There's a sense in which I have to humble them. (Maybe a better way of putting it would be, I have to encourage, exhort them to be humble.)

Now the thing is, as a Christian, as one who believes in the gospel when it comes to humbling others there are a whole lot of things I can't do. I can't humble others by acting as if I'm superior to them, because I'm not. I can't humble others by anti-gospel methods, like mocking them or sarcasm. I can't humble others for the purpose of exalting myself. Those are all non-Christian methods. (Sometimes effective when it comes to teaching, but not effective when it comes to the big picture - glorifying God.)

How do Christian teachers inspire humility in students? I don't have all the answers, that is for sure...Here are a couple ideas though.

1.) Example.
2.) With affection. think the best teachers are able to humble their students while at the same time never leaving any doubt as to their love and affection for their students. Kind of like Jesus does with us. The Bible is one big long humbling book, while at the same time, it never leaves any doubt as to God's attitude towards us.
3.) Exalting God. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge..." See MLJ quote in comments section of previous post.
4.) The Gospel. Helping the students have a right view of themselves, of Jesus Christ, and of the Cross.
5.) Prayer.

Responding to those who differ...

A helpful article on polemic theology, how to respond to those who differ.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Note-taking and the Purpose of Preaching

I've never heard anyone I really respected spiritually discourage note-taking during sermons before so when I heard Tim Keller in the Wilson Preaching Lectures at Covenant Seminary (thought-provoking lecture, by the way) mention that Martyn Lloyd Jones did, I had to check it out.

The main point isn't not taking notes - (really, who is going to argue with a person who takes note because he wants to learn?) his main point, the important point, has to do with the nature of preaching.

Without getting lost in the details, what do you think?

"Let us now turn to Edwards' method of preaching. We note at once that he preached sermons, and that he did not deliver lectures. Edwards did not lecture about Christian truths. I am told frequently these days that many preachers seem to be lecturers rather than preachers.
Preaching is not lecturing. Neither did Edwards just give a running commentary on a passage. That is not preaching either; though many today seem to think that it is. That was not Edwards' idea of preaching; and it has never been the classical idea of preaching. He started with a text. He was always Scriptural. He did not merely take a theme and speak on it, except when he was expounding some doctrine, but even then he chose a text. He was always expository. He was also invariably analytical. He had an analytical mind. He divides up his text, his statement; he wants to get at the essence of the message; so the critical, analytical element in his wonderful mind comes into play. He does this in order that he may arrive at the doctrine taught in the verse or section; and then he reasons about this doctrine, shows how it is to be found elsewhere in Scripture, and its relationship to other doctrines, and then establishes its truth. But he never stops at that.
There is always the application. He was preaching to people and not giving a dissertation, not giving expression in public to his private thoughts in the study. He was always concerned to bring home the truth to the listeners, to show the relevance of it. But, above all, and I quote him, he believed that preaching should always be 'warm and earnest'. I remind you again that we are dealing here with a giant intellect and brilliant philosopher; and yet this is the man who places all this emphasis upon warmth and upon feeling. This is how he states this principle:

'The frequent preaching that has lately obtained, has in a particular manner been objected against as being unprofitable and prejudicial. It is objected that, when sermons are heard so very often, one sermon tends to thrust out another; so that persons lose the benefit of all. They say, two or three sermons in a week is as much as they can remember and digest. Such objections against frequent preaching, if they be not from an enmity against~-re1igion, are for want of duly considering the way that sermons usually profit an auditory. The main benefit obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind at the time, and not by an effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered. And though an after-remembrance of what was heard in a sermon is oftentimes very profitable; yet, for the most part, that remembrance is from an impression the words made on the heart at the time; and the memory profits, as it renews and increases that impression' (Vol. I, 394).

I would add that I have often discouraged the taking of notes while I am preaching. It is becoming a custom among evangelical people; but it is not, as many seem to think, the hallmark of spirituality!
The first and primary object of preaching is not only to give information. It is, as Edwards says, to produce an impression. It is the impression at the time that matters, even more than what you can remember subsequently. In this respect Edwards is, in a sense, critical of what was a prominent Puritan custom and practice. The Puritan father would catechize and question the children as to what the preacher had said. Edwards, in my opinion, has the true notion of preaching. It is not primarily to impart information; and while you are writing your notes you may be missing something of the impact of the Spirit. As preachers we must not forget this. We are not merely imparters of information.
We should tell our people to read certain books themselves and get the information there. The business of preaching is to make such knowledge live. The same applies to lecturers in Colleges. The tragedy is that many lecturers simply dictate notes and the wretched students take them down. That is not the business of a lecturer or a professor. The students can read the books for themselves; the business of the professor is to put that on fire, to enthuse, to stimulate, to enliven. And that is the primary business of preaching. Let us take this to heart. Edwards laid great emphasis upon this; and what we need above everything else today is moving, passionate, powerful preaching."

Friday, December 02, 2005

Up for discussion...

Who was the best teacher you ever had?

I don't mean, who was the teacher you liked the most. I mean who was the most effective teacher you ever sat under?

I think for the sake of this discussion we should rule out parents or friends, I'm talking about in-class teachers.

What teacher effected you the most?

I'd love to hear some responses and I'd love to hear a reason or two why you think they were so effective. What was it about the way they taught that made their teaching so helpful?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Thoughts from Spurgeon on the Atonement

"I am going to be as plain as I can, while I preach over again the precious doctrine of the atonement of Christ Jesus our Lord. Christ was an offering for sin, in the sense of a substitute. God longed to save; but, if such a word may be allowed, Justice tied his hands. "I must be just," said God; "that is a necessity of my nature. Stern as fate, and fast as immutability, is the truth that I must be just. But then my heart desires to forgive—to pass by man's transgressions and pardon them. How can it be done? Wisdom stepped in, and said, "It shall be done thus;" and Love agreed with Wisdom. "Christ Jesus, the Son of God, shall stand in man's place, and he shall be offered upon Mount Calvary instead of man. Now, mark: when you see Christ going up the Mount of Doom, you see man going there: when you see Christ hurled upon his back, upon the wooden cross, you see the whole company of his elect there; and when you see the nails driven through his blessed hands and feet, it is the whole body of his Church who there, in their substitute, are nailed to the tree. And now the soldiers lift the cross, and dash it into the socket prepared for it. His bones are every one of them dislocated, and his body is thus torn with agonies which can not be described. 'Tis manhood suffering there; 'tis the Church suffering there, in the substitute. And when Christ dies, you are to look upon the death of Christ, not as his own dying merely, but as the dying of all those for whom he stood as the scape-goat and the substitute. It is true, Christ died really himself; it is equally true that he did not die for himself, but died as the substitute, in the room, place, and stead of all believers. When you die you will die for yourselves; when Christ died, he died for you, if you be a believer in him. When you pass through the gates of the grave, you go there solitary and alone; you are not the representative of a body of men, but you pass through the gates of death as an individual; but, remember, when Christ went through the sufferings of death, he was the representative Head of all his people.
Understand, then, the sense in which Christ was made a sacrifice for sin. But here lies the glory of this matter. It was as a substitute for sin that he did actually and literally suffer punishment for the sin of all his elect. When I say this, I am not to be understood as using any figure whatever, but as saying actually what I mean. Man for his sin was condemned to eternal fire; when God took Christ to be the substitute, it is true, he did not send Christ into eternal fire, but he poured upon him grief so desperate, that it was a valid payment for even an eternity of fire. Man was condemned to live forever in hell. God did not send Christ forever into hell; but he put on Christ, punishment that was equivalent for that. Although he did not give Christ to drink the actual hells of believers, yet he gave him a quid pro quo—something that was equivalent thereunto. He took the cup of Christ's agony, and he put in there, suffering, misery, and anguish such as only God can imagine or dream of, that was the exact equivalent for all the suffering, all the woe, and all the eternal tortures of every one that shall at last stand in heaven, bought with the blood of Christ. And you say, "Did Christ drink it all to its dregs?" Did he suffer it all? Yes, my brethren, he took the cup, and

"At one triumphant draught of love,
He drank damnation dry."

He suffered all the horror of hell: in one pelting shower of iron wrath it fell upon him, with hail-stones bigger than a talent; and he stood until the black cloud had emptied itself completely. There was our debt; huge and immense; he paid the utmost farthing of whatever his people owed; and now there is not so much as a doit or a farthing due to the justice of God in the way of punishment from any believer; and though we owe God gratitude, though we owe much to his love, we owe nothing to his justice; for Christ in that hour took all our sins, past, present, and to come, and was punished for them all there and then, that we might never be punished, because he suffered in our stead. Do you see, then, how it was that God the Father bruised him? Unless he had so done the agonies of Christ could not have been an equivalent for our sufferings; for hell consists in the hiding of God's face from sinners, and if God had not hidden his face from Christ, Christ could not—I see not how he could—have endured any suffering that could have been accepted as an equivalent for the woes and agonies of his people.
Methinks I heard some one say, "Do you mean us to understand this atonement that you have now preached as being a literal fact?" I say, most solemnly, I do. There are in the world many theories of atonement; but I can not see any atonement in any one, except in this doctrine of substitution. Many divines say that Christ did something when he died that enabled God to be just, and yet the Justifier of the ungodly. What that something is they do not tell us. They believe in an atonement made for every body; but then, their atonement is just this. They believe that Judas was atoned for just as much as Peter; they believe that the damned in hell were as much an object of Jesus Christ's satisfaction as the saved in heaven; and though they do not say it in proper words, yet they must mean it, for it is a fair inference, that in the case of multitudes, Christ died in vain, for he died for them all, they say; and yet so ineffectual was his dying for them, that though he died for them they are damned afterward. Now, such an atonement I despise—I reject it. I may be called Antinomian or Calvinist for preaching a limited atonement; but I had rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than an universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of man be joined with it. Why, my brethren, if we were only so far atoned for by the death of Christ that any one of us might afterward save himself, Christ's atonement were not worth a farthing, for there is no man of us can save himself—no, not under the gospel; for if I am to be saved by faith, if that faith is to be my own act, unassisted by the Holy Spirit, I am as unable to save myself by faith as to save myself by good works. And after all, though men call this a limited atonement, it is as effectual as their own fallacious and rotten redemptions can pretend to be. But do you know the limit of it? Christ hath bought a "multitude that no man can number." The limit of it is just this: He hath died for sinners; whoever in this congregation inwardly and sorrowfully knows himself to be a sinner, Christ died for him; whoever seeks Christ, shall know Christ died for him; for our sense of need of Christ, and our seeking after Christ, are infallible proofs that Christ died for us. And, mark, here is something substantial. The Arminian says Christ died for him; and then, poor man, he has but small consolation therefrom, for he says, "Ah! Christ died for me; that does not prove much. It only proves I may be saved if I mind what I am after. I may perhaps forget myself; I may run into sin and I may perish. Christ has done a good deal for me, but not quite enough, unless I do something." But the man who receives the Bible as it is, he says, "Christ died for me, then my eternal life is sure. I know," says he, "that Christ can not be punished in a man's stead, and the man be punished afterwards. No," says he, "I believe in a just God, and if God be just, he will not punish Christ first, and then punish men afterwards. No; my Saviour died, and now I am free from every demand of God's vengeance, and I can walk through this world secure; no thunderbolt can smite me, and I can die absolutely certain that for me there is no flame of hell, and no pit digged; for Christ, my ransom, suffered in my stead, and, therefore, am I clean delivered. Oh! glorious doctrine! I would wish to die preaching it! What better testimony can we bear to the love and faithfulness of God than the testimony of a substitution eminently satisfactory for all them that believe on Christ?
I will here quote the testimony of that pre-eminently profound divine, Dr. John Owen:—"Redemption is the freeing of a man from misery by the intervention of a ransom. Now, when a ransom is paid for the liberty of a prisoner, does not justice demand that he should have and enjoy the liberty so purchased for him by a valuable consideration? If I should pay a thousand pounds for a man's deliverance from bondage to him that retains him, who hath power to set him free, and is contented with the price I give, were it not injurious to me and the poor prisoner that his deliverance be not accomplished? Can it possibly be conceived that there should be a redemption of men, and those men not redeemed? That a price should be paid and the ransom not consummated? Yet all this must be made true, and innumerable other absurdities, if universal redemption be asserted. A price is paid for all, yet few delivered; the redemption of all consummated, yet, few of them redeemed; the judge satisfied, the jailer conquered, and yet the prisoners inthralled! Doubtless 'universal,' and 'redemption,' where the greatest part of men perish, are as irreconcilable as 'Roman, and 'Catholic.' If there be a universal redemption of all, then all men are redeemed. If they are redeemed, then are they delivered from all misery, virtually or actually, whereunto they were inthralled, and that by the intervention of a ransom. Why, then, are not all saved? In a word, the redemption wrought by Christ being the full deliverance of the persons redeemed from all misery, wherein they were inwrapped, by the price of his blood, it can not possibly be conceived to be universal unless all be saved: so that the opinion of the Universalists is unsuitable to redemption."
I pause once more; for I hear some timid soul say—"But, sir, I am afraid I am not elect, and if so, Christ did not die for me." Stop sir! Are you a sinner? Do you feel it? Has God, the Holy Spirit, made you feel that you are a lost sinner? Do you want salvation? If you do not want it it is no hardship that it is not provided for you; but if you really feel that you want it, you are God's elect. If you have a desire to be saved, a desire given you by the Holy Spirit, that desire is a token for good. If you have begun believingly to pray for salvation, you have therein a sure evidence that you are saved. Christ was punished for you. And if now you can say,

"Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling."

you may be as sure you are God's elect as you are sure of your own existence; for this is the infallible proof of election—a sense of need and a thirst after Christ."

For the rest of this sermon, The Death of Christ...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Making it easier to hear...

I can't make someone respond to rebuke correctly, but I sure can make it easier for them to do that...or more difficult.

It's not enough for merely to say the right thing, I need to think about the right way to say it. To quote Solomon, "The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable..." (Proverbs 15:2)

What is involved exactly in doing that? In other words, what does the wise person do in order to make knowledge acceptable?

I know I don't have all the answers, perhaps you have some ideas. I'll just jot down a couple ideas that come to mind.

1.) He doesn't just think about what he's going to say, he thinks about who he is saying it to.

Paul talks about admonishing the unruly, helping the fainthearted, encouraging the weak. There are different ways we speak to different people. You get those categories mixed up and there's going to be alot of damage.

2.) He doesn't just say things the way he would like them to be said, he thinks about what is best for the other person.

I happen to be a very sensitive person. I know what you are thinking, that's another word for a wimp. Maybe, maybe point is I like it when people rebuke me gently. I mean I'm usually pretty quick so you can kind of just put it out there and most of the time I'll get it.

Others though aren't so sensitive. They want you to give it to them straight. They actually like that.

I've found that sometimes I'll try to rebuke someone who isn't so sensitive the way I would like to be rebuked, and they just don't get it. They are kind of like, Josh can you please just get to the point? If I'm going to communicate well with them, I need to think about ways I can serve them by the way I speak. To totally twist the words of Paul, to the blunt I need to become blunt. (Astericks, long as it doesn't violate clear biblical principles about say, being gentle.)

Taking Hits the Gospel Way

It is funny how some of the most obviously important things in life to do are also some of the most difficult things in the world to do.

Like responding to criticism well.

I think most every single one of us knows that we need to respond to criticism well if we're going to grow in our relationship with God, and even more fundamentally, if we are going to grow at all.

But how many of us actually do?

I've found the following article on the difference the gospel should make on the way we respond to criticism to be very helpful, though to be sure, if you have any problems with it you can lodge them elsewhere!

Active Unbelief

"Unbelief is not a negative but an active thing...It is not just a refusal to believe. This is how the devil foils us, of course - he persuades modern unbelievers into thinking that they are unbelievers because of their great intelligence, their wonderful intellect and understanding. They think that people who are Christians are fools, who have either not read or have not understood what they read. The unbeliever thinks he is in that state because of his marvellous brain and mind, and especially bcause of his scientific knowledge, and that it is in light of these things that he refuses to believe...according to the Bible that is an utter fallacy. Unbelief is terribly positive and active, a state and condition of the soul, with a very definite mentality and the Bible indeed does not hesitate to put it like this: Unbelief is one of the manifestations of sin; it is one of the symptoms of that fell and foul disease...Unbelievers of course do not agree with that, but that is what the Bible tells them. It tells them that they are unbelievers because they are the dupes of Satan, the slaves of sin and of evil. They rejoice in their great emancipation, that they have been delivered from the shackles of the Bible, and that they have been emancipated from this drug, this dope of the people which we call the gospel. Poor things! They are unconscious slaves and, like the victim of many another vice, they do not know that they are victims. It is like a person suffering from a disease without realising it...The trouble with all of us in such a state or condition is that we are not prepared to listen and we do not want any information and instruction. We start with the postulate that we have a theory of life, we know exactly what is needed and therefore we demand it and come to the gospel with our demands...The unbeliever does not come with an open mind, but with preconceived ideas and prejudices, waiting to criticise."

Martyn Lloyd Jones

Monday, November 28, 2005

Giving Thanks in All Things Begins with the Gospel

I haven't met too many Christians who would admit they want to be remembered as complainers.

For one thing, we've got the commands.

"Rejoice always..." "In everything give thanks..."

There's just way too much clear teaching on this subject for a professing Christian to say he wants to be a complainer and get away with it.

But besides all the commands, most of us don't want to be complainers because we're well aware of all its negative effects.

It destroys friendships.

It makes getting things done difficult.

It steals the joy out of life.

And on and on we could go.

Believer, unbeliever, most of the people I've met would say they don't want their lives to be characterized by complaining.

Thing is, I've met alot of complainers.

Most people would say they don't want their lives to be characterized by complaining and yet many, if not most people's lives are characterized by just that.

Oh, I know we've all got our excuses.


Family Background.


But I'm convinced the real reason our lives are characterized by complaining rather than thanksgiving is more fundamental, more basic than all that. Our complaining reveals we don't appreciate the gospel the way we should.

You show me a person whose life isn't characterized by thanksgiving and I'll show you a person who isn't really gripped by the truths of the gospel.

Think about some of the reasons a right understanding of the gospel should cause us to give thanks in all things.

I'll give you one.

We complain because we think we aren't getting what we deserve.

The gospel knocks us to our knees and causes us to give thanks because we know for sure we aren't getting what we deserve.

You have more?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Biblical Name Calling

I'm not the kind of guy who likes to call others names.

I'd like to think it was because of my spirituality, but probably a big part is personality. Strong language just isn't my thing. I know what people say about satire, but a whole lot of the time it just doesn't seem nice.

The problem of course is that I sometimes substitute my definition of what's nice with the Bible's definition of what's loving.

I'm not advocating going out of our way to call other people names, but I do think we have to be careful not to automatically equate using strong language with being unloving.

It certainly can be unloving and a whole lot of the time it is, but it isn't always. It can't be.

Because Jesus did.

How's "Get behind me, Satan."

I don't know about you but if someone called me Satan, I'd be a little bit offended.

It was Jesus, sure.

It was a pretty serious moment, I've got that.

There was a whole lot on the line, yes.

I've never found myself in a situation like that, I know.

But, listen using strong language can't automatically be unloving because here we see Jesus used it.

So did Paul.

"Look out for the dogs, the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh..."

Or how about my personal favorite, Galatians 5:12, "I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves."


And don't forget, that sentence was inspired by God.

Being the sinners we are, we often use the Bible to rationalize away our being just plain mean. On the other hand, being the sinners we are, we need to be careful that we don't use the Bible to rationalize away a warped understanding of what it means to be nice.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Stupid, Delicious Lies

I sometimes wonder if part of Satan's goal isn't to see how stupid of an idea he can get people to fall for. One of my personal favorites: He gets people to spend their entire lives trying to prove that we really are related to monkeys. You've got men and women with their PH.d's who will get infuriated with you for telling them they are not an animal.

I think Doug Bookman makes an important point when he writes:

"...the power of a lie is not intrinsic in its inherent credibility but in its attractiveness...the father of lies learned in the Garden that a lie of almost infinite implausibility will seduce if it is sufficiently tantalizing. In short, a lie is powerful not because it is deceptive but because it is delicious."

That seems important to remember in all the talk about Intelligent Design. I would guess there's something to be said for showing the reasonableness of believing in a Creator, but in the end, we need to remember when we are talking with people that the real problem is not reasonableness,or anything like that. It goes deeper (it's about authority) and if we're going to help people we've got to get to that.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Faith not fear...

Faith not fear because...

1.) God is bigger than my circumstances.

2.) God is for me even in the middle of difficult circumstances.

3.) God is so for me He crucified His Son that I might belong to Him.

4.) If I die, it gets better.

5.) God uses what looks like failure all the time to accomplish His goals, just think about the cross.

6.) It's not about what people think of me.

7.) God proved He was sovereign over every threat to my life when he walked the earth.

8.) It's not about my abilities. God has demonstrated a million times over that it's about Him working through us, not us working for Him.

9.) When I stand before God it's not going to be about how good I was, it's going to be about me trusting Jesus and how good He was.

10.) I'm never alone. God promises to hear and answer my prayers.

Can you think of any others?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Things that make you go hmmmm...

I don't know if it's because I'm teaching at my old high school or what, but I've been thinking lately about pop songs that were popular when I was a student. Actually, about one song in particular.

Things that make you go hmmmm. (Comment noted: I guess there are four m's in hmmmm, not two.)

I can't even really remember the words, but I do remember the idea. It's about things that don't seem to make sense, like seeing someone with a wool jacket, gloves and a hat walking around in the middle of a hundred degree weather.

Sometimes people do things that don't seem to connect with the way things are.

I think that's definitely true spiritually.

I'm sure God's not up in heaven looking at me and saying hmm. But if I were God and I was looking at my life and what I say I believe and how I sometimes live, I think I probably would.

Here we've got what we say at church we believe about the gospel and here we've got how we go out and actually act and you know what, a lot of times they don't really match.

It's funny, if you look at what Paul's letters his whole approach is basically connecting the gospel to life. It's like he begins, here is what we believe and ends, this is the difference it makes.

One of the areas I think we most need to do that is with the way we talk.

I mean, think about some of the things we say we believe.

God is creator - do I talk like He owns my words?

I'm a big old sinner and man, my sin goes deep - am I careful about the way I talk or do I just blurt things out trusting that hey, I'm a pretty good person?

Jesus died on a cross to save me - do I demonstrate his sacrificial love for others in the way I communicate with them.

I'm saved by grace not by works - is my conversation with others based on what I think they deserve or do my words demonstrate the grace of Christ?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

How am I talking?

The way we speak is important. So important that James says if we don't control the way we speak our religion is worthless. Here are a couple questions I thought we might use to evaluate our speech, especially in the midst of conflict. Do you have any others?

1. Am I using my words to hurt others?

2. Am I speaking out of a desire to lift myself up?

3. Am I telling the truth out of love?

4. Am I exaggerating the other person's faults to make a point?

5. Am I dealing with the problem or attacking the person?

6. Am I talking to the person with whom I am upset or am I talking to someone else
about the person with whom I am upset?

7. Am I using appropriate words? Is my language respectful or disrespectful?

8. Am I talking to understand or talking to make my point?

9. Would a godly Christian looking on say that my speech is helpful and gracious?

10. Am I being wise about the time in which I am talking to this other person? Is
this the best possible time to talk about this issue?

11. Am I talking like I am better than the other person?

12. Am I trying to get the attention on to me or on to Jesus?

13. Am I thinking about how I can help the other person grow? Is that reflected in
the way I am speaking to them?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I think this article by Tim Keller is powerful and important. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

We've got it good...

I'm afraid many Christians have come to a point spiritually where they are somewhat bored by salvation.

Don’t get me wrong.

It’s not that they don’t feel privileged. They are grateful for the Bible, for the church, they are glad that their sins are forgiven, that they are saved from hell and all that. But deep down in the part of their heart that nobody else sees, there is this feeling that while all that stuff is good and nice, it isn’t very exciting and that others throughout history have had it better.

Have you ever felt like that?

Like you missed out on all the good spiritual action?

That if only you had been there at the parting of the Red Sea, or if only you had been there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, or if only God would talk to you directly like he did the prophets, then you would be excited about coming to worship, then you would be thrilled to be here, but as it is, where you are at, well, your salvation, what God has done for you, has lost some of its initial freshness.

I would be very surprised if there weren’t some of you, who would have to say, if you were going to be brutally honest with yourself, that although you are thankful you are saved, you aren’t all that incredibly excited about it.

I’ve been there...way too often.

The problem though is not with the salvation God has provided, it is with our appreciation of it.

Like a person who has lived in a Caribbean paradise all his life and takes his surroundings for granted, we are so spiritually privileged that we often take for granted how spiritually privileged we are.

That’s why I hope you’ll look very carefully to what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:3-12 because what we find here is a man who is overwhelmed with the wonder of our salvation; and who wants us to know why.

We may take our salvation for granted, but he doesn’t.

After pointing us to the certainty of our future salvation in verses 3-5, and then describing how we are presently experiencing that salvation in verses 6-9, he concludes by showing us how privileged we are to know what we know about this salvation and to have experienced what we have experienced.

He achieves that in a stunning way; by taking us to the persons we would consider the most privileged spiritually and revealing their attitude towards our spiritual privileges.

He writes,

“Concerning this salvation…” he writes, “the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”

I think most of us, regardless of what we might think about the spiritual privileges we experience would have to admit that the prophets experienced some amazing spiritual privileges. Certainly, the readers of 1 Peter would have thought so. The prophets held a high place in their thinking, and rightly so.

I mean, when we talk about the prophets we are talking about men who were called to a special work by God Himself, and not just called in the sense of hey this is what I think God wants me to do, but called in the sense of God coming to them and saying this is what I want you to do, I want you to be my messenger, to speak for me. Which means when we talk about the prophets, we’re talking about guys who when they talked to God, God talked back. It’s hard to imagine a greater privilege than being able to speak with God. Besides that, they got to see things that none of us have ever seen. Just take Isaiah, here’s a person who actually was given a vision of God sitting on His throne. In addition to speaking with God and seeing God, I for one am always pretty impressed by the miracles God enabled these men to perform. I love that time when Elijah was standing in front of all the prophets of Baal, and God sends down fire from heaven to prove that He is who He says He is, and that Elijah’s speaking the truth. We see here in 1 Peter that these men even had a special relationship with Christ. Peter tells us the Spirit of Christ was in them, and he was revealing certain things to them about the sufferings of Christ and the glories which would follow.

All that’s pretty awesome, and I think when hear about the prophets and their privileges, some of us are tempted to say to ourselves, if I experienced the spiritual privileges they experienced, I’d be excited about God too. These men were privileged.

But while we are talking about great spiritual privileges, how about the holy angels? That’s the second group Peter mentions. He doesn’t spend as much time talking about them, but again, regardless of what you think about your spiritual privileges, we’d all have to say the holy angels experience some great spiritual privileges.

In fact, I’d have to say if I didn’t know what I knew about the Scripture, but if I didn’t know what the Scripture actually said, and had to choose between being a holy angel and being a prophet, I’d be tempted to choose to be a holy angel. After all, they’ve got all kinds of privileges and they don’t even have to get thrown in prison or spit upon or hurt physically like the prophets.

They are these incredibly amazing beings who get to serve God and do His will, they worship God all the time, they appear before the presence of God, they apparently communicate directly with God, they celebrate the praises of God. They are privileged.

In fact, if I were to ask you who do you think are the most spiritually privileged people ever, I’m guessing many of you would answer the prophets or the angels; but if I asked that question of the prophets and the angels, do you know how they would answer?

They would point to you.

Isn’t that the point of the text?

What’s Peter doing here but showing us the attitude the prophets and angels have towards our salvation? Why’s Peter showing us their attitude but to magnify our great spiritual privileges?

Peter writes, “Concerning this salvation…”

The salvation that is the outcome of your faith, verse 9; the salvation, verse 5, that you know is going to be revealed in the last time; and the salvation, verse 3, that is yours through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the new birth to a living hope; the salvation you experienced, you are experiencing and you will experience, concerning this salvation, your spiritual privileges, Peter writes, “the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully…”

This is how the prophets felt about your salvation. They searched and inquired into it.

Those two terms indicate an intense, almost all consuming interest. When we use terms like search and inquire, we certainly aren’t talking about someone who has a passing interest in something, but rather when we talk about someone searching and inquiring into something we are talking about someone who takes an active interest in something, someone who we might say is consumed with finding something out.

The fact that Peter uses two words, search and inquire, which are basically synonymous only goes to show just how great an emphasis he wants to place on how earnestly these prophets sought to understand the salvation that they were prophesying about.

To get a mental picture of what Peter’s getting at with these terms, you might think about the way most single people would respond after receiving an anonymous love letter.

They open it up, they read the words of deep and lasting affection, roses are red, violets are blue, boy I love you, they look to see who wrote it, to find it signed “A secret admirer.”

What happens next? You know the story as well as I do. That letter, and discovering who wrote it suddenly becomes that person’s primary object of interest. It would be a rare person indeed who would be willing to rest until they discovered who wrote it. Few would sit back passively, most would actively search and inquire carefully to discover its author; they would be consumed with finding an answer, perhaps a bit like these prophets, who Peter says searched and inquired carefully concerning your salvation.

It may be that they went to God and asked him what He meant by what He told them to say; or it may be that they went to Scripture and searched in Scripture and even in their own earlier prophecies to discover more about the salvation and grace they were telling others about.

Either way, the salvation you are experiencing was the chief object of their interest. It was what kept them up at night. They had much to do. They weren’t just predicting the future; they also had a big responsibility to show God’s people what he wanted from them in the present. But, in spite of all the pressure on their shoulders, and even in spite of all the privileges they experienced, there was one issue that they were interested in above all others, how God was going to accomplish what He has accomplished for us through Christ.

Now who’s privileged?

We have something in the gospel that the greatest men in the Old Testament longed to have, to understand.

If the prophet’s attitude towards your salvation is not amazing enough for you, just read further in our text, the prophets aren’t the only ones who think your salvation is amazing, the holy angels do as well.

We live in a culture where many people are fascinated by angels. There’s a sense in which I can understand why. They are fascinating creatures. But do you know what Peter tells us angels are fascinated by?

Peter tells us in verse 12 that the prophets were serving us, “in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”

Angels long – that’s the strongest Greek word for desire – to look – at the things God has done for you.

You might imagine turning a corner and seeing a group of glorious, shining, angels all crowded around something, kind of leaping up over each other to look at it. Wouldn’t you want to know what they were so interested in seeing? Peter tells us. They are longing to look at your salvation; specifically the things the preachers of the good news announced by the Holy Spirit. Angels delight in the glories of Christ’s kingdom.

Isn’t that awesome?

These mighty servants of God, have much to do, they are busy serving the saints, busy doing what God wants, all kinds of responsibilities, but there’s one thing they continually delight in, one thing long to reflect on and look at, and that’s the way God has accomplished your salvation.

I’m really not sure that Peter could make his point much clearer.

This is why I say, if you asked the prophets and the angels who they thought were the most spiritually privileged people, they would point to you.

We understand something that the greatest men in the Old Testament desperately desired to understand. We are experiencing something that the most amazing creatures in the heavens are continually amazed about.

There’s no question about the fact that spiritually we have it good!

The question though is, do we appreciate how good we have it spiritually?

Monday, November 14, 2005

What you say? Why you say it?

"Do not speak evil against one another brothers." James 4:11

I remember watching a story on Dateline about an EMT up in Boston who had only one arm.

It was amazing watching her go about her business, picking up stretchers, getting people into wheelchairs, she did it all; but you know, what was even more amazing was that to her, it wasn't even a big deal. She was so used to only having one arm that she didn't even really think about it; she just went about doing her job.

I think that's the way some of us are with the way we speak. We've got a major might say we are "missing an arm", but we don't even notice. We've been talking a certain way for years. We're so used to it, we're not even aware of we have a problem.

It's just who we are.

Take this command here in James. This is one of those sins that is such a common sin many of us do it without even realizing we are doing it. We speak against others all the time, but we don't even think of it as speaking against others because it's just the way we normally speak.

I thought we might take the next couple blogs to think about exactly how we fail to obey James' command in the way we speak.

We speak evil against others when we speak words that are intended to hurt, not help.

When you speak against someone your words are like soldiers that you send out to war. The term James uses literally means to speak down on. When you speak down on someone what are you doing? You are speaking to crush them, to hurt them, to punish them, to pummel them, to put them in their place.

When our words are motivated by hatred rather than love, when are words are motivated by a desire to tear others down instead of a desire to build them up, when our words are motivated by a desire to hurt others and nto to help them, we can know for sure, we are doing just what James warns against. We're speaking against each other.

We speak evil against others when we speak words that are produced by pride not humility.

You'll notice in the second part of verse 11, James expands his thought..."He who speaks against his brother, or judges his brother..." When we speak against others we are setting ourselves up as judge.

Some people get a little confused here, they use these verses as an excuse. Somebody confronts them in their sin and they say, "who are you to judge me?" But that's not what James is talking about. It's not wrong to confront in their sin. We're commanded to do so. Check out Galatians 6. God doesn't call us to be spiritual Barneys going around with plastic smiles ignoring reality. It's not wrong to confront. It's not even wrong to be passionate about the way we confront. Just listen to John the Baptist speaking to the Pharisees, "You brood of vipers..." Or perhaps Paul, "You foolish Galatians..." Or how about Philippians 3:2, "Beware of the dogs..." Or take Jesus, speaking to Peter, "Get behind me Satan..."

When James talks about not speaking against others or judging others he's not talking about lovingly dealing with someone's sin; he's not talking about closing your eyes to reality; he's not talking about humbly going to someone and dealing with a sin issue.

Really at a fundamental level, he's talking about selfish speech, speech that has one purpose, to make you look good and others look bad. He's talking about speech that flows out of heart filled with pride, speech that comes from a person who is looking down on others, and thinks he has the right to make disparaging comments about them because he is so much better than they are.

I want to get more specific in the next couple days about exactly how we go about doing that, but first we've got to start in a more general way and look at what motivates our words. Why am I saying what I am saying? Are my words motivated by pride or humility?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Patience is a Virtue...

I would be very surprised if there hasn’t been a point where those of you who have done much witnessing have become discouraged.

I know when I was in college, sometimes I’d go out to witness and it felt like, what am I doing? I’d go up to say hi and people would be like, no I don’t want to be a Christian.

You’ve probably all had the experience of praying for some one for a long time, looking for an opportunity to talk to them about the Lord, finally having the chance, sharing with them as best as you can, and having them look at you and you can just see in their eyes, they are like, what are you talking about?

It can be discouraging. I think some of us have become so discouraged about sharing the gospel with unbelievers in fact, that we quite honestly don’t do it very often anymore.

We just don’t see the point.

We’ve tried, we’ve gone out there, we’ve put ourselves on the line, we’ve stretched ourselves way past our comfort zone, we’ve shared some of what we know about Jesus Christ, only to be rejected time and time again.

We want to see results, and when we don’t…at least not the way we like, it can get pretty discouraging.

We might even start to ask ourselves, what in the world is God doing?

I mean, if this is His gospel and He’s got all this power, why when we share the gospel, does we sometimes feel so weak? Shouldn’t we be seeing more? More power? More something?

That’s a problem.

And it’s not like we’re the first ones to struggle with it.

Take the people in Jesus’ day for example.

Oh they wouldn’t have put it in quite the same terms we would have, but their problem with Jesus would have been pretty much just the same.

You see they were reading their Old Testaments and they were looking forward to this thing called the kingdom. Now, I don’t know what you know about the kingdom, but you start studying the Old Testament and you discover it's kind of a central theme. It's like foundational to the people of God's hope.

The prophets are case in point.

You know you couldn’t really emphasize the sovereignty of God more than the Old Testament prophets did, but that didn’t make them apathetic to the evil they saw going on all around them. You can’t find me a single Old Testament prophet, at least not one who was godly, who looked at what was going on in his world, threw up his hands and said, oh well, I guess that’s the way things are, after all God is king.

Nope, just the opposite.

They went around pointing out people’s sins, calling on people to repent, and what’s more they started talking about this day in the future where God was going to break through and establish His rule in a way that was evident to absolutely everyone.

They didn’t ignore the fact that there was a whole lot of injustice going on, no they wept about that, but they didn’t give up hope because they knew there was this day coming when God was going to set up His own righteous king.

They didn’t pretend like it wasn’t a sad, confusing thing for all these people who claimed to know God to be like living in absolute disobedience to His revealed will, no they mourned over that, but they pressed on because they knew the day was coming where people were going to experience a new relationship with Him, where His law would be written on their hearts and they would walk in obedience to Him.

They were all about the sovereignty of God don’t get me wrong, we might say they understood and believed and taught the invisible sovereignty of God, they knew very well as they looked at their crazy world, God was working His plan behind the scenes; but at the same time there was this other big old truth that was really important to them, and that was the fact that the day was coming when they would see God’s invisible sovereignty, in a clear, tangible hands on kind of way.

That’s what the Bible is talking about when it talks about the kingdom, the kingdom of God. And that’s why the Jewish people were so excited when Jesus came and announced the kingdom had arrived.

They had been reading prophets like Isaiah and they had been looking forward to the day when the Messiah would come and “…the haughtiness of man shall be humbled and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted…”

They had been reading prophets like Ezekiel and they had been looking forward to the day when the Messiah would come and God would “give them a new heart, and a new spirit He would put within them. And when God would remove the heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”

But perhaps most of all they had been reading prophets like Jeremiah and they had been looking forward to the day when the Messiah would come and God would raise up a “righteous Branch, who would reign as king and deal wisely and execute justice and righteousness in the land.” A king who would “save Judah and cause Israel to dwell securely.”

They had been reading their Bibles and they had been looking forward to this day, which we’ll call the coming of the kingdom, which is why they were like really excited when Jesus came and announced the kingdom had arrived…they had all kinds of expectations as to what that meant and which is why they were like really confused when Jesus was immediately rejected.

That's the point of Mark 4. Jesus is explaining if you are going to understand the way God is working in this world, you’ve got to come to Him and like, really listen. There’s something you need to understand about the kingdom… about the way God is bringing all this about.

The Kingdom is coming in power, you just need to be patient.

Check out parables four and five.

God is accomplishing His work in this world even if we as people don’t fully understand how.

That’s what Jesus is getting in verses 26-28,

The farmer sows a seed, just because he doesn’t see results right away doesn’t mean he’s not going to have a harvest. And you know what just because he doesn’t know how it all works, doesn’t mean he isn’t going to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He just needs to sow, trust, and wait.

And the same is true for us. It’s really important for us to understand that God is not up in heaven, wondering what to do. We may not understand how He is accomplishing His will in this world, but that doesn’t change the fact that He is. We may not see it all clearly now, but the vital thing for us, is to trust God and be patient. There is, Jesus says, going to be a harvest.

What’s more, we have to be very careful not to judge what things are going to be like by the way they are now, the end result is going to be much greater than the beginning.

That’s what Jesus is getting at in verses 30-32.

The kingdom of God, it’s kind of like, a mustard seed.

A mustard seed is really small. You can barely see it. It doesn’t look like much. But you know what happens when a mustard grows? Actually, it becomes kind of a menace. It’s one of those plants that just spreads everywhere. And you know, the way God is working in this world, is kind of like that. It might not look like much right now. It might seem kind of small. But it won’t always be that way. We just have to be patient.

I'm convinced that's the fourth key component to a proper approach to responding to questions about the state of the world.

We need to be careful as we look at the problems going on in this world that we don’t make the mistake of minimizing God’s role. On the other hand, I don’t want us to make the opposite mistake and that is of distorting God’s role.

Instead, like Jesus let’s acknowledge that there are problems, let’s not deny that some things are to understand, let’s challenge people that they need to turn to Jesus if they are going to understand what God’s doing, and help them understand that God is going to work everything that seems like a mess right now out perfectly, our job is to trust Him and be patient.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Feeding Time...

Too close for comfort...


John Piper answers the question, what is humility?

Charles Spurgeon tries to humble us.

Thomas Watson tells us a humble man is a godly man.

Jonathan Edwards instructs us in humility.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Third Approach (Second Edition)

I’m a big fan of God’s sovereignty.

I want you to know that.

I don’t know how you could not be.

Sovereignty, it’s a word to describe what the Bible teaches about God’s power and control, and you know what the Bible says in a big way is that we serve a God whose power knows no limits and whose control extends in some mysterious way, to absolutely all things.

All things, you start thinking about that and it blows your mind, to the point where you are like, can that be true? and you turn to the Bible and you see in like, BOLD PRINT, it most certainly, totally is.

Daniel 4:34,35 “His dominion is an everlasting dominion and his kingdom endures from generation to generation, all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’”

Lamentations 3:38, “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad both come?”

Psalm 135:6, “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”

We would be making a big mistake if we, in thinking about the problems that are going on in this world, ever get, I don’t know, embarrassed and started minimizing that. But at the same time, I think we have to be careful as we talk about God’s sovereignty that we don’t act as if it were always easy. I’m kind of afraid of that.

I mean, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, there are a lot of problems in this world.

Babies dying, people starving, grown men and women living their whole lives on the street. Rape, murder, theft, unjust governments, evil dictators, countries that are so given to false religions that they won’t even let missionaries in.

We know God is sovereign, that He is King, but you know there is a whole lot of stuff going on in this world that could cause a person to question that.

If you don’t, unbelievers do, they ask these kinds of questions all the time:

If God is good and God is all powerful, what in the world is going on?

I think when people ask questions like that, we tend to take one of two approaches.

We sometimes take the approach where we pretend God isn’t sovereign. Or we sometimes take an almost exact opposite approach where we act as if all God was was sovereign.

I want to look at what I believe is a third approach, it's found in Mark 4. I want you to look carefully with me at Mark 4 because there’s a sense in which Jesus here is addressing this very problem, and what I want us to see is that while Jesus doesn’t minimize God’s sovereignty at the same time He doesn’t distort it.

First, Jesus acknowledges there are problems.

That's part of the point of the parable of the sowers.

I’m not going to dive into this whole parable too deeply because we all know it pretty well but you remember he’s talking about the word and he’s talking about why people aren’t always transformed by it, and he brings up Satan, he talks about tribulation, and he talks about stuff and it’s obvious in Jesus’ mind these things are very real threats to the working of the word in people’s hearts.

He doesn’t say Satan swoops down like a bird and snatches away the word, wink, wink, asterisks, asterisks, look at all these other passages, it’s Satan but it’s not really Satan.

I’m not denying God’s sovereign purpose, I’m not denying God’s ultimate authority over things, I’m just saying as we try to understand what’s happening in this world and as we try to help other people understand what’s happening in this world, we have to recognize there are some problems in this world, there are some very real obstacles to the work of God in this world and in people’s hearts.

It's o.k. to say that.

Jesus certainly did.

He acknowledges there problems.

Second, he doesn’t pretend like everything is easy to understand right now.
We’ve got these kids at school who are really eager. You probably remember these kinds of students from your days in the classroom, the kind of kids who raise their hand to answer before the teacher even asks the question.

They are just so confident, so sure they know it.

I think sometimes when we’re talking about God’s sovereignty it’s easy to be like that, we’re so glad and excited about his sovereignty and really I’m talking about his invisible sovereignty, how He’s working behind the scenes that we don’t stop and consider the question.

When somebody comes and has questions about what’s going on in the world, we don’t need to pretend like understanding how God is working right now is always easy. That’s not where we find our strength, our hope. Really, we find our strength, our hope in the fact that it’s not always going to be like that. It may be hidden now, but it won’t always be.

That’s the point of parable number two.

“Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.”

I don’t know about you, but I find great comfort in the fact that Jesus acknowledges it may seem like things are hidden. He doesn’t pretend that everything is really easy to understand. What he does is encourage them that it’s not always going to be that way.

Third, and this is really, really important, while Jesus certainly acknowledges that there are some things about what God’s doing that may seem to hard to understand, he’s not telling us just to throw our hands in the air and say, well, I guess that’s that.

No, there’s more to his response.

I want you to note a third key component: Jesus challenges people to focus on Him.

To put it another way, while there are problems and while not everything is easy to understand, what we need to do right now is pay very careful attention to what Jesus says. If you and I pay very careful attention to what He says we will grow in our understanding of what God is doing, but if we don’t we most definitely won’t.

To quote Jesus once again…parable number three:

“Pay attention to what you hear with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Perfect example: the disciples versus the pharisees.

If you were going to just try to chart where the disciples were at in terms of understanding, knowledge when they first met Jesus you’d have put them way down almost at ground zero.

The Pharisees on the other hand, were way up at the top. After all, they spent their life studying the Scriptures.

But the disciples came to Jesus humbly in faith and what happened?

Slowly but sure they grew in their understanding of what God was doing and how God was accomplishing His great plan for the world.

The Pharisees on the other hand, didn’t. And the results were just the opposite.

I hope you are seeing how all this works out.

When I’m talking to someone who is questioning what God is doing in this world, if I’m going to follow Jesus’ approach: one I’m going to acknowledge that there are some very real problems and two, I’m going to highlight the fact that while God is ultimately sovereign, much of what He is doing remains hidden right now. The key I’m going to tell them third of all is that they need to go to Jesus and let him explain what’s up. I really believe the best approach to understanding what’s going on in this world is to focus your attention on Jesus.

Tomorrow, component number four.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Not Changing is Not Normal...

You go to church, what once or twice a week?

You figure every good sermon you hear has maybe one or two good applications…at the very least. (That's a random number I know, but work with me here.)

2 applications times 52, that's 104 applications a year.

I know this is pretty silly way to go about it, but what I'd like to get you to ask yourself as you look at the way you approach God’s Word, is simply this: is God's Word slowly, progressively, changing you?

104 specific applications a year.

Are you any different?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as we've recently recognized new members in our church.

One of the things that we want new members to understand and what we want old members to understand and what we want all of us to understand and what I want myself to understand is that at church, we should be changing.

I want to highlight that, like really strongly, because out there in the world you’ll find that most people don’t.

At least not truly. There may be some external changes, but the core stuff, basically it doesn’t change all that much. And you know, that makes sense, biblically, knowing what we know about what we were like before God saved us. I mean, we were dead in our sins, we were in bondage.

But you know, that’s not true anymore. It’s not true at all.

If we have been saved, we have been changed. We have been made alive, we have been set free, we have been given the Holy Spirit, we are new people. That means, not changing is not normal.

It may be normal in the world for people to stay the same their entire life, but it is not normal in the church. I’m not talking about your personality, I’m talking about your spirituality. It’s not going to be all at once, it’s not going to be easy, it’s not going to be the exact same in absolutely everyone, but it is normal for people who are Christians and who are sitting under the ministry of the Word to be taking what they are hearing in the Word and applying it to their lives and to be slowly but surely becoming more and more like Jesus Christ as a result.

It’s so normal that Jesus uses it as a way to identify what it looks like to be a Christian in the first place. In the end, the reality of your Christianity is not going to be judged by whether or not you merely heard the word; but whether you heard the Word and stayed the same or heard the Word and acted on it.

Matthew 7: “Everyone who hears these words of mine, and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of min and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell and great was the fall of it.”