Archive for May, 2008


Murray’s Wise Thoughts For Young Ministers

May 30, 2008

Here are six points from Iain Murray directed especially at young(ish!) ministers:

1. It has been the practice for many ministers to be away from the routine and to look closely at our lives in the light of eternity. This is a valuable practice—taking a day per month or a few days per year.
2. Watch your own temperament. If you love being out and about you probably need to be in your study more; if you love to be in your study you may need to be out and about more.
3. Read the best books and only the best and read them with a pencil in your hand or with some other system so you can recall even years later what you’ve learned.
4. Be sure you do not let emails and web sites control your priorities.
5. We need very carefully to avoid losing time on controversies. Sometimes it is necessary but most often it is not.
6. Do not “see” in your churches what you cannot change. In most churches there are things we’d like to see changed but that we can’t change. Sometimes it is good not to see such things—to just ignore them. It is better not to see a disputable matter that can disrupt the whole church.

(HT: Tim Challies)

Other Toolbox This Week
Carson: How to Read 500 Books in a Year
Preachers, Sweat Out the Text
Kellar: One Gospel, Several Forms
The Importance of Preaching
Video Promo: What is 9 Marks?
Audio: From New Attitude
Challies: Six Ways To Ruin Your Prayers
Video: Dever Interviewed


The Prayers that Sandwich Preaching

May 29, 2008

Some thoughts on public prayers before and after preaching:

1) I don’t always pray publicly at the beginning of a sermon.

On reflection, my final decision is influenced by several factors:
a) Has the preaching only just been prayed for? If so, I probably don’t need to repeat it.
b) Is there a particular need for focus? With a lot of commotion – musicians still leaving the stage, congregational chatting(!) or a boisterous song beforehand – it can be good to pray to settle things down and lay down a ‘marker’ introducing a new phase of the service.
c) How much time do I have?

2) The opening prayer, if any, should be brief and probably well prepared.

Obviously, not the place to ramble! Beware: don’t introduce your sermon in the prayer!

3) I tend to always close with a prayer, precisely because I want the congregation to finish by connecting with God, not with me.

Since it is God that they (and I) now have to contend with because of the message, leading in a follow up prayer helps everyone get started. Sometimes I pre-prepare this final prayer. More often, I go extemporaneous. I find that I’m so ‘in the flow’ after preaching that prayer comes easily.

4) Typically, most congregations will close the service with a benediction after the final song.

Always check this beforehand if you are a visiting preaching. Ask: how does your service normally conclude? Its worth deciding on your benediction beforehand, putting a marker in your bible etc, rather than scuffling around during the final song.


When Sermons Weigh Heavy

May 28, 2008

Some sermons are a particularly heavy load to carry. Take the sermon I’m preaching this week on Stephen’s martyrdom (Acts 6:8 – 8:1). Already I’m feeling the weight of carrying a passage like this to God’s people. I’m not sure what it is about some week’s sermons that make them feel especially ‘burdensome’ (in the right sense of that word). I know some reasons though:

A passage may be dealing with a particular sin that I myself struggle with. That makes its content weigh heavy. Its called conviction.

A passage may similarly present a challenge in an area where I feel very inadequate. For example, the pastor who struggles greatly in personal evangelism will likely find a sermon on that theme very demanding!

A passage may contain some particularly sobering content. Preached on Ananias and Sapphira recently? How about the 10 judgment oracles near the end of Jeremiah?!

A passage may reveal the majesty of God in particularly obvious and overwhelming ways. Gazing constantly into the vision of Isaiah 6:1-10 can feel like a strange mixture of pleasure and pain. Pleasure at beholding God in his majestic holiness; pain in the deepening knowledge of my sin and inadequacy.


How To Preach ‘First Hand Truths’

May 27, 2008

If patiently applied, the following quote from John Piper could probably revitalise many a pastor’s preaching.

We make a great mistake when we think that study consists mainly in reading (as commonly understood)—even reading the Bible. Many think they have studied well when they have spent the morning reading through some worthy book of divinity. And thus the measure of our study becomes the number of books that we have read.

But my own conviction is that fruitful study is primarily thinking not reading. My guess is that reading, which was meant to become a stimulus and guide to independent thinking, usually becomes a substitute for it. The evidence for this is how many books we read and how little we write down. Fresh thinking must always be put down on paper to get it clear and preserve it for use. Much reading and little thinking makes for a second-hand pastor. And it is not easy to preach and teach second-hand truths with power.

(extract taken from The Ministry of the Word, Ordination of Steve Roy, Acts 6:1-6,
November 25, 1984)


Spiritual Check Up

May 26, 2008

Its good, especially for pastors, to take a spiritual health check once in a while. The Tenth Presbyterian “Spiritual Health Survey” is something I’m planning to adapt for my own reflections periodically. One question goes like this:

Select the top three aspects of your spiritual life you would most like to improve:

* increasing my commitment to Christ
* increasing my Bible knowledge
* improving my prayer life
* becoming a better servant to others
* building relationships for spiritual accountability
* making a stronger commitment to a small group
* understanding the Christian worldview better
* doing a better job of sharing my faith with others
* growing in personal holiness
* learning to forgive others
* participating in Christian ministries regularly
* OTHER: __________________________________

Perhaps you’ll take time today – like me – to try to answer the question.


Holy Help

May 23, 2008

Why do I keep on sinning as a Christian? How practically can I resist sin and temptation? What should I do when I fail? These – and similar lines of enquiry – are natural for any Christian to pursue. Thankfully there many excellent books available in relation to battling sin and pursuing holiness.

It would be wrong to look past J.C Ryle’s benchmark work “Holiness.” This work is a biblically based and practical applied explanation of what it means to live a holy life. Notwithstanding the fact that Ryle manages to dish up some ‘meaty’ theological content, the book is still eminently readable. For those unfamiliar with Bishop Ryle, JI Packer’s edition “Faithfulness and Holiness” may be helpful. This larger book combines Ryle’s Holiness (the second half) with Packer’s biography of the pastor’s life (the first half).

Two excellent modern books are also worthy of mention. First, Jerry Bridges’ “The Pursuit of Holiness” -already a contemporary classic (over a million copies sold) – is a good place to start for someone wanting to grasp basic bible teaching about sin and sanctification. It is short in length but not shallow in content.

Perhaps my favourite contemporary book on battling sin is Kris Lundgaard’s “The Enemy Within.” Lundgaard draws upon the Puritan John Owen’s masterful (but heavy) volumes “The Mortification of Sin” and “Indwelling Sin.” The content isn’t novel, but rather brings Owen’s thought alive to a new audience. You’ll find this book to be a treasure chest of practical ideas for resisting sin.

More specifically, there are some good books which deal with sexual temptation. On this topic I’d recommend Joshua Harris’ “Not Even a Hint.” For men specifically “Every Man’s Battle – Winning the War Against Sexual Temptation” by Steven Arterburn, Fred Stoeker and Mike Yorkey has helped many people.

Finally, as a general encouragement toward holiness I’d recommend “The Life of Robert Murray McCheyne” by Andrew Bonar. This is a short biographical account of the 19th century Scottish pastor from Dundee who died aged 29. The extracts from McCheyne’s diary reveal his struggles with sin as well as his intense desire for personal holiness. McCheyne famously said that “a holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” Read about this young man who was a case in point.

(I first gave these recommendations were first given in our church magazine, The Record)


Rick Warren on Preaching

May 22, 2008

I don’t usually post this kind of thing, but I found this video a little disturbing….



May 21, 2008

Post content will continue to be miscellaneous for the rest of this week. Next week Unashamed Workman will go back to its normal format.

To remind you of the template:

Mondays: “Beyond the Workshop” – Since Monday is my day off with family, it seems an apt time to reflect on all matters relating to life outside the pulpit and study. Often we touch on issues relating to one’s personal relationships with God, wife and children.

Tuesdays: “Classic Materials” – On this day we’ll enjoy an extended quote from any one of the ancient (mostly) or modern lights in preaching. Expect plenty of Jones, Spurgeon, Whitefield, and Edwards here.

Wednesdays: “Under Construction” – Since like many of you I’m involved in preparing and preaching regular sermons, I’ll be reflecting on things I’m working through with regards my methods and manner of preparation and delivery. Expect here the odd interview, and sermon review too.

Thursdays: “Building Maintenance” – Preaching is not all that we do. If we pastor only in the pulpit, as significant as that is, we truly are ‘part time’ pastors. Thus, on Thursday we will think about pastoral ministry in its wider setting.

Fridays: “Workman’s Toolbox” – On Friday, I link to one particular item I’ve uncovered that week that might be of interest, and recap on the rest of the links for the week.


Gold Dust for Free

May 20, 2008

The following should suffice to fill my i-pod for this week…

Martyn Lloyd Jones’ latest sermon recording is now free to download at Oneplace.

Derek Prime speaks to preachers on “handling the text.” (HT: Encouraging Expository Excellence).

Mark Dever talks to experienced expositor Philip Jensen here.

James Montgomery Boice addresses “Preaching Today – the Almost Forgotten Task” (part one; part two; part three).


Three Final Thoughts Before Preaching

May 20, 2008

“Some little while ago three thoughts came together in my reading of Scripture, and I find that I now recall them every time I stand up to preach. The first is that I must preach as ‘in God’s sight’. My eyes must not be upon men’s approval but God’s. Secondly, that only as a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies can it bring forth fruit. I need to die to myself and to to my pride every time I preach. And then, thirdly, I recall the lovely reassurance Paul gave to Timothy that God hasn’t given us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” (Derek Prime, My Call to Preach, p 201)


Preachers Are Frail Sailing Ships

May 19, 2008

The Preaching Course is now over…all bar the preaching. In the final session, Derek Prime – former pastor of Charlotte Baptist Chapel – spoke to us concerning the final preparations before preaching as well as its aftermath. The talk was saturated with over fifty years of preaching wisdom!

Some of what Mr Prime said was akin to what he wrote in an excellent compilation, My Call To Preach . Here’s one of the choice excerpts:

“I must acknowledge that I now feel more dependent than ever upon the Holy Spirit, both in preparation and delivery. Preachers are like frail sailing craft with their individual and different sails, and without the wind of the Spirit, no matter how well equipped they may be, their words accomplish nothing. We always need the gracious unction which the Lord Jesus, the head of the Church, gives by his Spirit. I often encourage myself as I enter the pulpit by saying, ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit.’


OM Snaps

May 16, 2008

Thanks to the folks at Operation Mobilisation for their wonderful hospitality this week upon our visit to the ‘gargantuan’ Logos Hope. Here are a few pics from the visit.