Archive for April, 2007

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Stressing about Stress

April 30, 2007

Today I’m stressing about stress. I don’t mean to complain but my wife and I are a little tense. Did I say a little? We’re currently buying and selling houses (interested?) and expecting a baby in a matter of weeks. I won’t be filling in my Holmes/Rahe form in case I further increase my score!

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Anyway, since its my day off, I’m thinking about how to destress. Practically. The following short article is not specifically written from a Christian perspective but gives some practical suggestions about chilling out when the pressure’s on. It comes from the People’s Media Company, and I plan to read it today for a little stimulus on the subject.

1. Leave the phone at home. Cell phones have become indispensable but they also tie us all to work, to home, and to responsibility. Enjoy an evening without the cell phone, go out to eat without the phone, or turn off the ringer.

2. Let the answering machine field calls. At home, let the answering machine pick up calls so that you can have more me-time or family time. If someone important calls, you have the option to pick up the call but otherwise, let the messages record and deal with it all later.

3. Eat dinner as a family. That’s right, have an Ozzie and Harriett moment and eat with the family gathered around the table when it’s not a holiday. Whether it’s a real sit down dinner or just sandwiches (or even take out), gathering together to enjoy a meal in leisure is relaxing. It offers a chance to unwind, to discuss the day’s events and eat without being in a rush.

4. Forget about network television; plug a favorite movie into the machine and enjoy watching something you truly enjoy commercial free. You’ll be amazed at how much more relaxing it is to enjoy a movie without commercial interruption.

5. Make a date with your spouse. Send the kids to the grandparents or to a sleep over or hire a babysitter but make regular dates with your spouse a priority for a chance to unwind and to spend carefree quality time with each other.

6. Make family time too. Have a family game night or night out or hike or walk in the park that isn’t limited to time constraints. Visit the library as a family, go to a local play or just take an old-fashioned Sunday afternoon drive.

7. Laugh. Whether it’s laughing at a comedy movie, listening to a favorite comic, reading funny books (comics) or telling jokes with friends, laughter can lighten the stress load and make you feel both younger and better.

8. Pack a bag and go away even if it’s just for a night or weekend or not all that far from home a getaway trip can help lessen stress. Opt for a hotel with an indoor pool or other amenities you crave then enjoy.

9. Reconnect with old friends and family. Remember that cousin who was your best friend growing up? Get together or at least make regular phone calls to a favorite relative or friend. Reconnecting can lessen stress and help us to unwind as we touch base with our past.

10. Find a new hobby or activity. Become a golf addict, play pool, take horse back riding lessons, a creative writing course, or volunteer to work with youth. Find something away from work, away from the normal stress to focus on and enjoy.

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Workman’s Toolbox

April 28, 2007

It’s another Workman’s Toolbox, and some links around the blogs with a special eye for things preachers might appreciate.

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Preaching
* John MacArthur sermons at Omaha Bible Church (HT: Faith by Hearing)
* Andrew Fuller’s Advice to a Younger Minister
* Brian is discussing depression in ministry
* Steve Weaver is preaching on Jesus, Marriage and Divorce.
* Alright, I want to play basketball with John MacArthur, CJ Mahaney, and Thabiti Anyabwile
* I’m looking forward to preaching at this conference in October

Miscelaneous
* Thabiti Anyabwile is interviewed over at Nine Marks about Life and Ministry
* Nathan Busenitz has started a series of articles called “the blog in our eyes.” Its about principles to govern Christian blogging.
* One of the best articles I’ve read this week: Tell Stories Like Life Depends On It by Abraham Piper.
* OK, so I’m starting to pray that someone will provide for me the ministry opportunity to attend this conference!
* Do you struggle to get things done? This may help. (HT: Buzzard Blog)
* A review of Liam Goligher’s The Jesus gospel
* Read this short article from John Piper: the Missionary Heart.

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Ten Steps for Fledgling Preachers

April 27, 2007

What are some helpful steps younger preachers should take in order to grow and develop? I’ve been asked this question recently, so on the bus the other day I jotted down some suggestions. I do this, strictly speaking, as one who is himself a ‘beginner.’

1. Preach, preach, preach
2. Take on a variety of texts (psalms, prophecy, narrative, epistles), but don’t be too brave too early (eg. consecutive studies through Revelation!)
3. Continue to read formal instruction on expository preaching
4. Listen to a variety of good preachers, and learn things from each of them
5. Get feedback
6. Learn something every time, and work on that area next time
7. Pray for conversions
8. Read theology, especially biblical theology
9. Begin with the tried and tested styles of preaching, then begin to adapt to your own style
10. Guard yourself against pride and despondency, the two most common pitfalls

Perhaps you have some other suggestions to add?

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Ten Questions for Expositors – Goligher

April 25, 2007

I’m hoping that those of you from the ‘other side’ of the pond might appreciate hearing from UK expositors too. One of the best-known on British shores is Dr Liam Goligher, pastor of Duke Street Church Richmond upon Thames. Liam not only preaches consecutively in his own church but is a regular conference speaker at the likes of the Keswick Convention and The London Men’s Convention . He is also author of The Jesus Gospel – Recovering the Lost Message. With great pleasure, I give you Liam’s thought provoking responses to our ten questions.

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1. Where do you place the importance of preaching in the grand scheme of church life?

I think it would impossible for me to exaggerate the importance of preaching to the life and health of a church. It lies at the heart of corporate worship where the united life of a congregation finds it expression. There, in symbol and in fact, the people of God are gathered, guided and governed by the Word of God. the word preached is the public statement of the truth by which the church lives and through which it aims to reach the world for Christ. The Word preached should begin to ‘spawn’ the varied ministries of the church, and is therefore the source of its vitality. It should enlarge people’s hearts for the lost and for one another. The preaching ministry is primary in a church that takes everyone’s ministry seriously.

2. In a paragraph, how did you discover your gifts in preaching?

About the age of 12 I felt a great desire to preach the gospel. I started to read theology and to prepare short talks which I practiced aloud in the fields behind our house. I made a real impression on the cows I remember! Well from the age of 15 I started preaching to real people. I took on every kind of speaking engagement that came my way. I went into the weirdest contexts and spoke for anything from 5 minutes to 50 minutes. I mostly preached badly but I told myself, ‘there’s always next time!’ and I kept at it. I still preach badly but believe that I’ll do better next time. I believe you learn to preach by preaching. I’m still learning. The lesson I’ve learned is that call to preach stems from inward constraint and the confirmation of the church.

3. How long (on average) does it take you to prepare a sermon?

I take more time now than I ever did. In my first church (when I was 22) I had four sermons a week to prepare plus do all the visiting. So I spent 12 hours each on the Sunday one’s and ‘got by’ on the mid-week ones. As we have built up a staff and developed a radio and conference ministry it has become more important to spend more time in the word. I am privileged to belong to a church that sees this as the Minister’s priority calling. So I give about 20 hours to each sermon. I try to take Saturday mostly off (though some of Saturday evening is spent making a final revision of the sermon and preparing myself for Sunday).

4. Is it important to you that a sermon contain one major theme or idea? If so, how do you crystallise it?

The think the ‘Big Idea’ idea is a good idea so long as it doesn’t become the touchstone of orthodoxy. It is important to remember that as we approach a text we are approaching it with a pedagogical intent, that is, we want to teach people from it. So we should let the text dictate how many ideas are in it. Our job is to extract them and order them in such a way that people can look at it when we are finished and say, ‘yes that definitely came out of the text!’ there may be a number of ideas in a given text and our job is to see what holds them or links them together then express that in a sentence.

5. What is the most important aspect of a preacher’s style and what should he avoid?

It takes us years usually but in the end we need to find ourselves! Early on my style tended to be driven by the person who had impressed me last! So I had a Lloyd-Jones phase, a Eric Alexander phase and so on. Somewhere in my 30’s I found myself and I believe my preaching started improving from that point on. My worry is that as some people are being taught preaching today they are adopting a ‘house style,’ usually indicating who their major influences were. This is good so long as they get over it and are not crippled by expectations to conform to a style that isn’t them. My personal heroes of today have vastly different styles and I love them all.

6. What notes, if any, do you use?

I started with the back of a borrowed cigarette box! I graduated to two sides of A5, then developed in the middle part of my ministry to 8 small hand written pages. I now type 13 pages of printed A5. My manuscript is now fuller than ever, highly colored (though I lost what the codes were meant to mean long ago I’m afraid).

7. What are the greatest perils that preacher must avoid?

Perhaps the greatest dangers are professionalism and laziness. By professionalism I mean that we prepare sermons for other people without ever preaching them to ourselves first. I think that must be the reason some of us slip into sin. I think the other danger is ministerial laziness. I get lazy about reading – when I just do my sermon prep and no longer push myself to read the new books of theology or church history that have appeared, when I don’t keep up my languages. I get lazy in my preparation when I rush to the best websites to read what this or that one has written or better, preached on this passage. We must continue to do the spade work on the text throughout all of our ministries, it is this that builds up our own faith in the bible and which yields the best fruit for ourselves and the people of God.

8. How do you fight to balance preparation for preaching with other important responsibilities (eg. pastoral care, leadership responsibilities)

In my early pastorates I would work in the study in the mornings and on two afternoons a week, and then visit morning and evening. Now my preaching preparation gets the priority in my time and freshness. So I work from early morning till mid afternoon in the study most days. I hold staff meetings and make appointments to see people from 3 or 4pm onwards into the evenings. I try to read the bible with a couple of people on a regular basis

9. What books on preaching, or exemplars of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?

In my teenage years when preaching was becoming a passion for me I lacked guidance in my reading. By the time I was 14 I was a convinced Calvinist and knew no-one in my circle of acquaintance that held that view. So I had to take what was available. At that time Murray’s The Forgotten Spurgeon was of enormous help. There Murray describes the passion and power of Spurgeon’s preaching. Spurgeon’s Lectures to my Students was helpful at one stage, as was W. E. Sangster. I was a student at Seminary when Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers was published. Today I think Sam Logan’s The Preacher and Preaching is very helpful.

10. What steps do you take to nurture or encourage developing or future preachers?

We have developed an intern (Trainee) programme to specifically address this issue. The folks who come have typically finished university or have been in the workplace for a few years and want to ‘test the waters’ as far as Christian service in concerned (they come for one or two years). They are given training in Bible handling skills and theology with some church history as well as ministry experience in the church. My hope is that some will be called to full time word ministry (and this has happened with some proceeding the theological seminary); others I hope will want to be godly elders in local churches, well equipped to support biblical ministries over the long term; while others will develop word ministry to women in the churches at home or overseas.

Previously
* Tim Keller
* Philip Ryken
* Voddie Baucham

ps. Look out next week for Vaughan Roberts on Ten Questions.

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DG Pastors Conference Audio

April 24, 2007

Twenty years of Desiring God pastor’s conference audio online? Must be worth a look…

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Also, check out this excellent new blog: Faith by Hearing.

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The Power of the Bible – Believe it!

April 24, 2007

Over the next three Classic Materials, I’d like to share some excellent quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s “Your Available Power”. The subject in question is our use of Scripture, as Spurgeon provides three exhortations to preachers in the use of their bibles. The first of these (“believe it!”) you’ll find below.

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“By God’s grace, we purpose to believe the Word of God more intensely. There is believing, and believing. You believe in all your fellow Christians; but in some of them you have a conscious, practical confidence, since in your hour of trouble they have come to your rescue and proved themselves brothers “born for adversity” (Prov 17:17). You confide in these with absolute certainty because you have personally tried them. Your faith was faith before, but now it is higher, firmer, and more assured confidence.

Believe in the Sacred Volume up to the hilt. Believe it right through; believe it thoroughly; believe it with the whole strength of your being.

Let the truths of Scripture become the chief factors in your life, the chief operative forces of your action. Let the great transactions of the gospel story be as real and practical to you as any fact that meets you in the domestic circle or in the outside world. Let them be as vividly true to you as your own ever present body with its aches and pains, its appetites and joys.

If we can get out of the realm of fiction and fancy into the world of fact, we will have struck a vein of power that will yield us a countless treasure of strength. Thus to become “mighty in the Scriptures” (Acts 18:24) will be to become “mighty through God” (2 Cor 10:4)”

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Gospel Driven Lives?

April 23, 2007

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You might want to check out two new websites: The Gospel Driven Blog, and In Light of the Gospel (HT: JT). From the former, I came across the following great quote:

The Gospel is not just what we preach to unbelievers in order to get them “saved” from the penalty of sin. The Gospel is much more than that! The Good News is that Christ not only saves us from sin’s guilt but also delivers us from its slavery. The Gospel is the principal energizing and driving force for living the whole Christian life. The Gospel is not just for non-Christians. It is also for Christians (cf., Rom. 1:15).

Believers never grow beyond their need of the Gospel because they never grow beyond their need of Christ. It is not accurate to think of the Gospel as that which saves unbelievers and what matures believers is a life of slavish obedience and law keeping. It is simply wrong to think (and sadly many Christians believe this) that the Gospel is what gets us into the Christian life and then once we are in we grow by trying as hard as we can to live a life of discipleship according to Biblical principles alone.

I believe this is true. In fact, I can testify to this from my preaching yesterday on Jeremiah chapter 17. Though it was evidently applicable to unbelievers, it was undoubtedly relevant to the Christians present. What Christian dare move beyond the consideration of sin, or the remedy of Christ to cover it? It is simply wrong to move beyond the gospel.

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