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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Workman’s Toolbox

April 21, 2007

Welcome to another Saturday’s Workman’s Toolbox. Enjoy browsing….

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Preaching
* Steve Mathewson has some thoughts on sermon length
* Anthony Carter gives reasons why preachers should be good readers (HT: Challies)
* Andreas Kostenberger has suggestions for what we should put in our reference library
* Preaching Hell in an Intolerant Age: Brimstone for the Broadminded by Tim Keller. Well worth reading.
* Pyromaniacs reviews Tremper Longman III’s Proverbs commentary
* See if you agree with JD Greer: that its possible to preach an expository sermon without preaching the gospel.

Miscellaneous
* Josh Harris with Seven P’s for planning services
* Spring Harvest and Word Alive are to split.
* John MacArthur addresses the Virginia Shootings (HT: Desiring God blog)
*This looks like a really cool edition of the ESV bible.
* Al Mohler offers his ten favourite biographies
* Ligonier has put its Table Talk magazine online this month: the theme is grief. (HT: JT)
* Rowan Williams wrong reading of Romans? (HT: JT)
* Find summaries of the chapters in a new book: The Emergent Manifesto. An eye opener to the range of Emergent perspectives.

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A Systematic Approach to Sermon Listening

April 20, 2007

Like many people, I listen to a lot of sermons as I travel to work, do some exercise, or even whilst putting my back into the hoovering! But some time ago the realisation came to me that my listening habits are completely hotch-potch. Too often I download sermons on the basis of who preaches, with no concern for what they will address.

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This might be more unhelpful than I realise. If Paul’s concern was to preach “the whole counsel of God”, then the evident requirement for preachers is to grow in understanding that comprehensive counsel. Why then, did I not reflecting this through a more systematic approach to sermon listening?

So…..I started to compile a list of sermons that would take me systematically through a book. Find below what I’ve been listening to with regards Genesis (you’ll notice there’s some variety in the preachers) approximately at the rate of one sermon a day. If you can suggest any other good online sermons on Genesis – preferably in reasonable sized chunks – do let me know. From time to time, I’ll hope to publish my listening lists for your interest.

1. “Our Creator God” - Donald Whitney
2. “The Beginning of the human race” – Richard Trist (registration)
3. “Tragedy in the Garden” - David Turner (registration)
4. “The conflict” – John Stott (registration)
5. “The Reign of the Grim Reaper and the Rapture of Enoch” – Hugenberger
6. “The beginning of judgment” – Paul Williams (registration)
7. “The Great Flood and the Saving Ark” - Simon Lewis Johnson (hereafter, SLJ)
8. “Noah’s House Saved, the World Condemned” - SLJ
9. “Genesis 9″ - Thabiti Anyabwile
10. “The Table of Nations; or the History of the Sons of Noah ” – SLJ
11. “All man’s Babylon” - R Kent Hughes
12. The Patriarch (Abraham and Christ) – John Stott (registration)
13. “The Land is before you” - R Kent Hughes
14. “The Faith of the Father of the Faithful: Uncompromising” - SLJ
15. “Follow the Rock” – Alex Motyer (registration)
16. “Ishmael – the Product of Doing God’s Will in the Power of the Flesh” -SLJ
17. “The seed of Abraham” – Hugenberger.
18. “Abraham Visited by His Friend; or the Intimacies of the Divine Fellowship” -SLJ
19. “Sodom, Lot and the Harvest of Sowing to the Flesh” – SLJ
20. “Old Sins” - R Kent Hughes
21. “The Promise Fulfilled in the Weaning of Abraham” - SLJ
22. “The Lord will Provide” – Steve Lawson
23. “Sarah’s Death and the Power of the Resurrection” – SLJ
24. “A Bride for Isaac” - SLJ
25. “The begining of election” – Richard Trist (registration)
26. “Isaac – the Passive and Patient Patriarch” - SLJ
27. “Pilfered Blessing” - R Kent Hughes
28. “Jacob’s Ladder: Grace Unsought, Unstinted and Unforgettable” – SLJ
29. “Deceiver Deceived” – R Kent Hughes
30. “Jacob in the Crucible of Divine Discipline” - SLJ
31. “The Stirring Up of Jacob’s Nest” - SLJ
32. “Jacob – Wrestling with God” – Peter Grainger
33. “After Peniel, God’s Fighter Retreating” – SLJ
34. “Jacob at Shechem; or Worldliness, Its Character and Cure” – SLJ
35. “Residuals” - R Kent Hughes
36. “Lessons from the Generations of Esau” -SLJ
37. “Joseph – Beloved, Hated and Sold” - SLJ
38. “Indecent Exposure” -Liam Golligher
39. “Joseph – Tested and Triumphant” – SLJ
40. “Jail House Rock” – Liam Goligher
41. “Joseph’s Exaltation; or from Prison to Prime Minister” – SLJ
42. “The Persistent Power of a Guilty Conscience” – SLJ
43. “Mercy in Egypt” - R Kent Hughes
44-45. “Consternation, Mediation, Reconciliation” - SLJ
45-46 – “Jacob – Surprised, Sustained and Satisfied by the God of Jacob” – SLJ
47. “Prospering in Egypt” - R Kent Hughes
48. “Blessing Joseph’s Sons” – SLJ
49-50. “The end of the beginning” -Paul Blackman (registration)

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Ten Questions for Expositors – Baucham

April 18, 2007

Today its my pleasure to interview Voddie Baucham. I first heard Voddie last year through a Desiring God Conference, and since then I’ve come to appreciate his preaching. Enjoy his responses below! (Just so that you know: over the next two weeks, we’ll be putting questions to some respected expositors in the UK – Liam Golligher and Vaughan Roberts.)

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

I believe preaching is central to the grand scheme of church life (see Acts 2:42ff). Preaching/teaching sets the tone and the parameters for all other functions of the church. Our understanding of fellowship, evangelism, discipline, worship, etc., all arise out of our understanding of God’s word. Without sound preaching and teaching, all else will falter. Hence, preaching is of seminal importance in the grand scheme of church life.

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

As a young college student, I went on a preaching mission with several teammates of mine. I was a relatively new believer and had no experience sharing God’s word. Two of my mentors guided me through the week and helped me discover my gifts in preaching for the first time. I felt as though something in me was awakened for the first time. I’ve been preaching ever since.

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

When we start a series (preaching through a book or section), it can 15-20 hours or more. However, once we are in the midst of the text much of the background work builds upon previous studies and cuts the time dramatically. Nevertheless, crafting the message, adding illustrative material and mining the text for that last nuance, is a process that never really ends until the preaching moment. That’s the only time I can truly say I am finished preparing the sermon.

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

Absolutely! I am always looking for the central theme in a passage. There may be more than one, but I have come to realize that I am most effective when I limit myself to the main idea. I find that idea by analyzing the paragraph, then the broader context of the section, then the book as a whole, then its place in the broader revelation. Then I go through the process in reverse back down to the passage in question.

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

The most important aspect of a preacher’s style is authenticity. When I started preaching, I thought my ‘style’ had to fit a certain category. As a result I mimicked some of my favorite preachers. I was constantly reinventing myself. Ultimately, I had to find my own ‘style’ and stick with it. That meant there was one less thing I had to manufacture. I had to realize that God gave me a unique personality and he intended to use it in unique ways. God gave us four gospels written by four unique men, from four different perspectives. I had to remind myself that it is as much of a travesty for me to try to be Tony Evans as it would have been for John to try to be Matthew.

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

The only notes I use are extended quotes. If there is a direct quote that I have not memorized, I will bring it to the pulpit with me. Other than that, the text is my only outline. I write everything out on a template and do an extended outline (Statement, explanation, illustration, argumentation, transition, etc.), but I leave it behind when I preach.

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

Laziness, pride and the fear of men. Laziness will keep us from plumbing the depths of the Word. Pride will keep us from prayer, and the fear of men will keep us from preaching the hard things.

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

Through ministering as a team. I am one of three elders at our church. All of us preach and all of us shepherd. We are also raising up young men to carry the load. We do not see ourselves as part of a clergy/laity divide. We are merely gifted men equipping other for the work (Ephesians 4:11). We do not believe God has called us to do the work ourselves. This is incredibly freeing.

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

12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching, by Wayne McDill, Spirit Empowered Preaching, by Arturo Azurdia, and Preaching and Preachers, by D. Martin Lloyd Jones. As for exemplars, I am fond of men like Tony Evans, Alistair Begg and John Piper.

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

Spending time with them, pointing them toward great resources and encouraging them to develop skills beyond the pulpit. So many young preachers pursue the pulpit because they have discovered unusual communication skills in themselves. However, preaching is about so much more. We must be theologians, historians, apologists, churchmen and above all exemplary men, husbands and fathers (see 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). We must also love and serve the Church. So many young preachers long for conference ministries that reach millions. However, without a love for the local church that goal rings hollow. I want to see a young preacher sweep floors, pick up trash, lead small groups, share the gospel in the secret places, pray for the sick and the afflicted, and manage his home in such a way as to make it a beacon of hope for others. That’s the foundation upon which great preaching is built.


Unashamed Homepage

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Pointed Application

April 17, 2007

Probably more exacting than us modern preachers, Puritan divines were careful in ‘applying’ the biblical text. Though it was a familiar pattern, there was a refreshing directness as the Puritan preacher typically laid out the passage’s “doctrine” before expounding its “uses.”

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One aspect of this second step was the practice of targetting specific groups within the congregation. By doing this, the preacher can then make pointed application to their ‘cases.’ If this sounds new to you, William Perkins (in “The Art of Prophesying”) can help get you started. Below I’ve summarised the seven main targets he suggests for application, with a paragraph of his further explanation.

1. Those who are unbelievers and are both ignorant and unteachable
These must first of all be prepared to hear the doctrine of the word. This preparation should be partly by discussing or reasoning with them, in order to become aware of their attitude and disposition, and partly by reproving any obvious sin, so that their consciences may be aroused and touched by fear and they may become teachable (Acts 9:3-5; 16:27-41; 17:17; 17:22-24). When there is some hope that they have become teachable and prepared, the message of God’s Word is to be given to them, usually in basic terms concentrating on general points.

2. Those who are teachable, but ignorant
Milk must be set before babes, that is those who are immature or weak in knowledge…Milk is a brief, plain and general explanation of the principles of the faith: that we must believe in one God, and in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; that we must rely only upon the grace of God in Christ; that we ought to believe in the forgiveness of sins; and when we are taught that we ought to repent, to abstain from evil and do good.

3. Those who have knowledge, but have never been humbled.
Here we need to see the foundation of repentance stirred up in what Paul calls godly sorrow (1 Cor 7:8-10). Godly sorrow is grief for sin simply because it is sin. To stir up this affection, the ministry of the law is necessary.

4. Those who have already been humbled
Here we must carefully consider whether the humbling that has already taken place is complete and sound or only just begun and still light and superficial…..Faith and repentance and the comforts of the gospel ought to be taught and offered to those who have been fully humbled (Mat 9:13; Luke 4:18; Acts 2:37)

5. Those who already believe
We must teach them i) the gospel; ii) the law: but as it applies to those who are no longer under a curse; iii) the opposition of the law to their remaining sin

6. Those who have fallen back
A fall from apprehending Christ leads to despair. In order to restore such we need to diagnose their condition and then prescribe the remedy. We must analyse either the cause of their temptation or of thier condition.

7. Churches with both believers and unbelievers.
This may be the typical situation in our congregations. Any doctrine may be expounded to them, either from the law or the gospels….This was what the prophets did in their sermons, when they announced judgement and destruction on the wicked and promised deliverance in the Messiah to those who repented.

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Clearing the Log Jam

April 16, 2007

Thomas Watson once wrote: “O that I might prevail with Christians to take pains with themselves in this great work of examination. …. It is the note of an [false] professor, to be always abroad, spying the faults of others; but never at home with his own heart…”

That quote that seemed especially relevant last night as I preached through Luke 6:39-49 (under the heading: “Dangers Disciples Face.”) In this passage, Jesus is speaking about the hypocritical attempt to sort out others problems without first examining ourselves.

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I explained to the congregation: “We need to clean up our act, and clear out our own dirty laundry first. Why? Because we are hardly in a position to help others with small problems, when we have larger issues to contend with. What’s worse, we’re hypocrites.”

But whilst such hypocrisy is certainly a danger to all Christians, it struck me that it is a peculiar danger to pastors. After all, we spend most of our waking hours attending to everything from ‘specs’ to ‘logs’ in the ‘eyes’ of our congregation. Yet the danger remains that we will seek to heal the wounded, whilst we ourselves are covered in sores.

So let me ask you: “Where is your place of confession? Do you have a time and a place and a commitment to get alone with God somewhere, bible in hand, prayers in earnest, to check your eyes for logs? (and your heart for lies and lust).”

Actually its been a few months since I’ve done this myself. So, whilst I was challenging the congregation, I was also chiding myself! My usual practice is to book in a couple of hours one afternoon to go to a secluded place and do some ‘eye tests.’

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Examination has to probe. Therefore I usually find that utilising direct questions helps me to confront sins and areas of lack in my own life. One list I often use was compiled by Gordon MacDonald, in his book “Rebuilding Your Broken World.” Most of these questions (though not all) I’ve found helpful to answer and pray over.

1. How is your relationship with God right now?
2. What have you read in the Bible in the past week?
3. What has God said to you in this reading?
4. Where do you find yourself resisting Him these days?
5. What specific things are you praying for in regard to yourself?
7. What are the specific tasks facing you right now that you consider incomplete?
8. What habits intimidate you?
9. What have you read in the secular press this week?
10. What general reading are you doing?
11. What have you done to play?
12. How are you doing with your spouse? Kids?
13. If I were to ask your spouse about your state of mind, state of spirit, state of energy level, what would the response be?
14. Are you sensing spiritual attacks from the enemy right now?
15. If Satan were to try to invalidate you as a person or as a servant of the Lord, how might he do it?
16. What is the state of your sexual perspective? Tempted? Dealing with fantasies? Entertainment?
17. Where are you financially right now? (things under control? under anxiety? in great debt?)
18. Are there any unresolved conflicts in your circle of relationships right now?
19. When was the last time you spent time with a good friend of your own gender?
20. What kind of time have you spent with anyone who is a non-Christian this month?
21. What challenges do you think you’re going to face in the coming week? Month?
22. What would you say are your fears at this present time?
23. Are you sleeping well?
24. What three things are you most thankful for?
25. Do you like yourself at this point in your pilgrimage?
26. What are your greatest confusions about your relationship with God?

Another list I’ve found useful, especially because it is tied tightly to Scripture, can be found over at Herald Mag. Here are the twenty five questions it poses.

1. Am I seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness? (Matt. 6:33).
2. Am I redeeming the time? (Eph. 5:16).
3. Do I have a conscience void of offence? (Acts 24:16).
4. Do I meet with brethren whenever possible? (Heb. 10:25).
5. Do I deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus? (Mat. 16:24).
6. Am I becoming transformed by the renewing of my mind? (Rom. 12:2).
7. Do I search the scriptures daily and study to show myself approved unto God? (Acts 17:11; John 5:39; 2Tim. 2:15).
8. Am I attempting to please God instead of man? (Gal. 1:10; Col. 3:23).
9. Do both blessing and cursing come out of my mouth? (James 3:10; Col. 4:6).
10. Am I a peacemaker? (Matt. 5:9; James 3:18; Rom. 12:18; Heb. 12:14).
11. Am I ashamed of the gospel of Christ? (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 9:16; Matt. 24:14).
12. Do I render evil for evil? (1 Thess. 5:15).
13. Do I shun profane and vain babblings? (2 Tim. 2:16).
14. Do I behold the mote that is in my brother’s eye but do not consider the beam in my own eye? (Matt. 7:3).
15. Am I laying aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets me? (Heb. 12:1).
16. Am I stumbling my brother? (Rom. 14:21).
17. Am I provoking others? If so, is it to love and good works? (Heb. 10:24).
18. Am I holding fast the profession of my faith without wavering? (Heb. 10:23).
19. Do I love pleasure more than I love God? (2 Tim. 3:4).
20. Am I a respecter of persons? (James 2:1; 3:9; 1 Peter 1:17; Acts 10:34).
21. Am I walking after the spirit instead of after the flesh? (Ga. 5:16-18).
22. Am I putting on the whole armor of God? (Eph. 6:11).
23. Do I follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth? (Rev. 14:4).
24. Am I working out my salvation with fear and trembling? (Phil. 2:12).
25. Am I fighting the goof fight of faith? (2 Tim. 6:12).

Anyway, off to schedule this into my diary for this week. I don’t have the time, but I’ll need to make it.

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