Archive for June, 2008


The Luscious Carrot of God’s Promises

June 30, 2008

It really was a thrill to preach on 2 Peter 1:3-11 last night at a baptismal service (“Pilgrim’s Progress”). At one point I quoted John Piper on fighting promises with promises. Typically vivid, Piper compares the promises of sin’s pleasure to the “luscious carrot” of God’s promise.

(Photo by 1773*, Creative Commons License)

Here’s the quote:

“Sin makes its attack by holding out promises to us for our happiness: if you lie on your income tax return, you will have more money and be happier; if you divorce your spouse, you will be happier… if you don’t upset your relationship with your neighbor by sharing Christ, you will be happier; etc… And sin will always win the battle unless we have the luscious carrot of God’s promises hanging clearly in front of our noses. Unless we enter our day armed with one or two precious and very great promises, we will be utterly vulnerable to temptation.” (John Piper, from his sermon “Liberating Promises”)


A Noble Wife, One Has Found

June 27, 2008

I am functionally orientated. In simple terms, that means I am usually so busy ‘doing the next task’ I forget to pause and appreciate precious relationships. Earlier today I was reading the latest raft of 9marks articles on the subject of marriage. It was a sobering reminder (not least the 30 ways for pastor’s to love their families article!) of my inept failures in ministering to my family.

I’m grateful to God that the same isn’t true of my wife. Nicki, your ministry to me is abundant and rich, consistent and caring. From my observations, here are thirty ways you love your family.

1. You always put your family first: before your needs, wants and concerns.
2. You love simply spending time with your family. You hate the notion of not being together when you could be.
3. You somehow keep a house immaculately clean despite three messy children and an only marginally cleaner husband.
4. You patiently take care of all the needs of our children 9 to 5 (feeding, washing, changing, disciplining, teaching, travelling etc). I struggle to do a good job from 5 till 7.
5. You spend countless evenings in alone, when I’m out at yet another meeting.
6. You then put up with it, when returning late ‘I’m too tired to talk about it.’
7. You regularly tell all of us you love us.
8. You are the most organised person I know when it comes to planning for birthday’s, anniversaries and other celebrations. Months ahead! You never miss a special ocassion.
9. You’re never beyond a bit of humour. A practical joke, a silly game, or a friendly poke of fun at children or daddy.
10. You buy me favourite foods, even though you don’t like them.
11. You listen to biblical, passionate and profound messages from John Piper (just now from Romans) and each day when I get home, tell me about them!
12. You’re always more interested in talking about my day than yours.
13. You practice hospitality several times a week, and in welcoming other people into your home, bless the children by the exposure.
14. You are firm and consistent with your discipline of the children: they know where they stand with you and love you for it.
15. You care about the children’s education – not least spiritually – and buy great books that we use at the t-table.
16. You forgive your children even on ‘one of those days’ when they seem chronically naughty, and forgive me when I’m not as a good a husband as you are a wife.
17. You put yourself out, often when you don’t have to and it completely inconveniences you (picking me up from town – daily?; running me to meetings early Sunday mornings…)
18. You follow my lead and prefer it that way.
19. You go into the children’s bedrooms last thing at night, tucking the three children into bed – and never go to sleep comfortably until they are.
20. You read books on biblical womanhood, motherhood and marriage, and seek to apply their principles. With evident effect.
21. You miss us – and tell us so – if you’re absence from us is ever enforced.
22. You have not been unknown to inform me in the morning that you had been up half the night with one of the sick children. You didn’t want my sleep disturbed too.
23. You love meeting with God’s church on Sunday’s and by this show us all the value of church. You’re desperately upset when you can’t get an ‘evening babysitter’, especially when I’m preaching.
24. You watch football (soccer!) with your husband, instead of something preferable, because you know I like it.
25. You sometimes arrange datenights for us, including the babysitters, when if I were being diligent it would always be my job.
26. You buy your husband surprise gifts to encourage me (though I think, perhaps, “Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor” was also designed to bring me down a peg or two!)
27. You leave me little ‘love’ notes in packed lunch boxes, clothes items, and on my computer screen at the office.
28. You happily listen to me preach sermons: several times at home, and then in the pulpit.
29. You are my best sermon critic. On the one hand, you are sensitive enough not to ‘kick me when I’m down’. On the other, you are loving enough to ‘keep my feet on the ground.’
30. You ‘make out’ that everyone else is ‘the best bit’ about the family, when you are.


New Europe, New Atheism Debate

June 26, 2008

Some of you in the UK might be interested in a debate that will take place during the Edinburgh International Festival at 11am on Saturday the 9th of August.

(Christopher Hitchens. Photo by ensceptico; Creative Commons License)

The debate, to be held at the Usher Hall, will be between Dr John Lennox (Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy and Chaplain at Green College Oxford) and Christopher Hitchens (journalist, author and one of the ‘New Atheists’). The debate will be moderated by James Naughtie (presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme).

The blurb:

Would the new Europe be better off jettisoning its religious past and welcoming the new atheism? A discussion between a scientist who thinks God is great and a cultural commentator who doesn’t. In association with The Trinity Forum and the Fixed Point Foundation.

There is seating for 1,800 and it is expected to sell out.
You can book online here.


Sermon Feedback Form

June 25, 2008

10 men from our recent Preaching Course will be delivering sermons this July in churches around Edinburgh. This week I put together a feedback form for those who will go with them and provide constructive comment. Its pretty basic but tries to cover all the main bases.

Sermon Feedback Form

Name of Preacher: ___________________________________
Feedback given by: ___________________________________

Content of Sermon

1. What was the main idea of the sermon? How well was it communicated?

2. Was the sermon easy to follow? Any comments about text referencing, transitions between points, gaps in logic?

3. Any comments or concerns regarding the preacher’s handling of Scripture?

4. Were any illustrations particularly memorable? Were they appropriate (right kind of humour/ references)?

5. Was the text applied pastorally and directly to the congregation?

6. To what extent were both Christians and non-Christians addressed by the sermon?

7. How well did the sermon begin and end?

Presentation of Sermon

1. Any comments about the preacher’s speaking (voice articulation and projection)?

2. Any comments about the preacher’s body language/ mannerisms? (eg. eye contact, posture, anything distracting)

Final Thoughts

1. What did you appreciate most about this sermon?

2. What one thing should the preacher strive to improve next time round?

Any other comments


This Just Came To Me…

June 24, 2008

Preachers, we must never attempt a “heart bypass” in our preaching preparation.


Romans 8 For A Monday Morning

June 23, 2008

Take five minutes. Hit the play button. Soak in Romans 8.

(HT: Warnock)


Authentic Healings or Biblically Bogus?

June 19, 2008

Like many of you, I have been reading with interest the reports coming out of Lakeland, Florida. Amongst other things, reports of various healings have been rife. Whatever the validity of these claims – I don’t know enough about the detailed facts to make any judgements- what is certain is that they must be assessed by certain objective, biblical criteria.

I was interested in this regard to read yesterday some thoughts by Richard Mayhue on the matter (The Healing Promise, p 193):

“James Randi has listed the criteria which his rational mind demands in order to validate a genuine healing miracle of God. They include:

1. The disease must not be normally self-terminating.

2. The recovery must be complete.

3. The recovery must take place in the absence of any medical treatment that might normally be expected to affect the disease.

4. There must be adequate medical opinion that the disease was present before the application of whatever means were used to bring about the miracle.

5. There must be adequate medical opinion that the disease is not present after the application of whatever means were used to bring about the miracle.

Randi might be surprised, but the Bible sets an even higher standard for miraculous healing.

1. The healing must be instantaneous.

2. The healing must be of a disease that neither the medical community nor the human body can heal, such as AIDS – either instantly or absolutely.

3. The healing must be total.

4. The healing must be completely convincing, even to skeptics.

5. The healing must be done in public with no elaborate services involved.

6. The healing must be of an organic disease.

These criteria marked God’s healing power through Christ and the apostles.”

By such standards, are the healings in Lakeland biblically valid? That is the question that must be answered.


Preach… Like Billy Graham!

June 17, 2008

“When the moment came to walk to the pulpit in the tiny Bostwick Baptist Church, my knees shook and perspiration glistened on my hands. I launched into sermon number one. It seemed to be over almost as soon as I got started, so I added number two. And number three. And eventually number four. Then I sat down. Eight minutes – that was all it took to preach all four of my sermons!”

(Billy Graham recalling his first sermon. Quoted from Just as I Am, page 49).

(Photo by Brent and MariLynn, Creative Commons License)


7 Keys to Communion With God

June 16, 2008

In his book “Preach with Passion” Alex Montoya discusses how we can grow in our communion with God. He suggests seven practical means. These apply to all Christians – not least those who seek to lead the church by godly example. Yes, these may be familiar to you, but I’d ask you to seriously consider whether they practically feature in your walk with Jesus.

1. Develop a personal discipline of reading God’s Word, not so much for the formation of a sermon, but for the personal joy of knowing God and His workings in the world.

2. Let the study of the Word be an exercise in feeding the soul, and not in ‘fattening up a sermon’ for others.

3. Allow enough time in your day for the meditation of what you read and studied.

4. Be in constant prayer.

5. Stay in love with your Savior.

6. Make the most of public worship.

7. Take special opportunities to devote yourself to protracted times of prayer, fasting and personal introspection.

For a fuller development of these points I would highly recommend Montoya’s book: Preaching with Passion.



June 13, 2008

For today’s Featured Toobox Stephen Altrogge is celebrating “Official Gratefulness Day.” A good tonic for tired pastors on a Friday! Check out the list of things Stephen is grateful for and consider what would make it onto your list.

Other Toolbox This Week
Preaching Clearly and Accurately
No Need for Pulpit Theatrics
Resolved Like Jonathan Edwards?
How to Pray the Write Way?
At the End – Stop
Unseen Purposes For Disappointment
5 Hinderances to Self Control
Do Numbers Matter?
Movie Clips in Preaching
Preaching For Fidelity
Powerpoint on Purpose


Love The Preaching, or The People?

June 11, 2008

Today, ask yourself this question: Do I love the people to whom I preach? Does my heart yearn for their conversion, their progression, their growth?

“Richard Cecil said, ‘to love to preach is one thing; to love those to whom we preach is quite another.’”

(quoted from Lloyd Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 92)


Preach Doctrine, But Practice Discipline

June 10, 2008

“When I first entered upon the work of the ministry among you, I was exceedingly ignorant of the vast importance of church discipline. I thought that my great and almost only work was to pray and preach. I saw your souls to be so precious, and the time so short, that I devoted all my time, and care, and strength, to labor in word and doctrine. When cases of discipline were brought before me and the elders, I regarded them with something like abhorrence. It was a duty I shrank from; and I may truly say it nearly drove me from the work of the ministry among you altogether. But it pleased God, who teaches His servants in another way than man teaches, to bless some of the cases of discipline to the manifest and undeniable conversion of the souls of those under our care; and from that hour a new light broke in upon my mind, and I saw that if preaching be an ordinance of Christ, so is church discipline. I now feel very deeply persuaded that both are of God – that two keys are committed to us by Christ: the one the key of doctrine, by means of which we unlock the treasures of the Bible; the other the key of discipline, by which we open or shut the way to the sealing ordinances of the faith. Both are Christ’s gift, and neither is to be resigned without sin.”

(Robert Murray M’Cheyne in Andrew Bonar, Memoir & Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Banner of Truth: 1844/2004, p. 73)

(HT: Shepherd’s Scrapbook)