Archive for December, 2009


Bible Reading Plans

December 31, 2009

Calibrating your bible-reading schedule for 2010?

Justin Taylor directs us to 10 bible reading plans.


The History Defining Question

December 24, 2009

Larry King, the CNN talk show host, was once asked who he would most want to interview if he could choose anyone from all of history.

He said, “Jesus Christ.”

 The questioner said, “And what would you like to ask Him?”

King replied, “I would like to ask Him if He was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.”

—from Just Thinking, RZIM, Winter 1998


Don’t Preach Santa At Home

December 22, 2009

Noel Piper gives us three reasons why:

First, fairy tales are fun and we enjoy them, but we don’t ask our children to believe them.

Second, we want our children to understand God as fully as they’re able at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would delay or distort that understanding. It seems to us that celebrating with a mixture of Santa and manger will postpone a child’s clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part-truth and part-imagination to find the crumbs of reality.

Third, we think about how confusing it must be to a straight-thinking, uncritically-minded preschooler because Santa is so much like what we’re trying all year to teach our children about God. Look, for example, at the “attributes” of Santa.

  • He’s omniscient—he sees everything you do.
  • He rewards you if you’re good.
  • He’s omnipresent—at least, he can be everywhere in one night.
  • He gives you good gifts.
  • He’s the most famous “old man in the sky” figure.

Read her whole argument.


Jesus: A Better Joshua

December 21, 2009

I mentioned in this morning’s sermon that there are some connectons between Joshua and Jesus – not least their names! While it didn’t make it into the final cut of the sermon, I was enriched by Charles Spurgeon’s reflections on how Joshua – Jesus’ namesake – foreshadows our Lord:

“There was one, then, of old, who bore this famous name of Jesus, or Joshua, and was a type of our Jesus.  What did Joshua do?

  • When Moses could not lead the people into Canaan, Joshua did it; and so our Jesus accomplishes what the law never could have done.
  • Joshua overcame the enemies of God’s people: though they were very many and very strong, and bad cities walled to heaven and chariots of iron, yet in the name of Jehovah, as captain of the Lord.s host, Joshua smote them. Even so doth our glorious Joshua smite our sins and all the powers of darkness, and utterly destroy our spiritual enemies. Before him Amalek is smitten, Jericho falls, and Canaanites are put to rout, while he giveth us to triumph in every place.
  • Moreover Joshua conquered an inheritance for Israel, took them across the Jordan, settled them in a land that flowed with milk and honey, and gave to each tribe and to each man to stand in his lot which God had ordained for him. Precisely this is what our Jesus does, only our inheritance is more divine, and on each one of us it is more surely entailed.
  • Though Joshua could not give to the people the heavenly Sabbatismos, or rest of the highest kind, yet he gave them rest most pleasant to them, so that every man sat under his own vine and fig tree, none making him afraid; but our glorious Joshua has given us infinite, eternal rest, for he is our peace, and they that know him have entered into rest.
  • Joshua, the son of Nun, caused the people to serve the Lord all his days, but he could not save the nation from their sins, for after his death they grievously went astray: our Joshua reserves to himself a people zealous for good works, for he ever liveth an is able to keep them from falling.
  • No more doth Joshua lift sword or spear on behalf of Israel, but Jesus still rideth forth, conquering and to conquer, and all his people have victory through his blood.

Well is his name called Jesus.”

(Charles Spurgeon: “Jesus” – Matthew 1:21)



Are Your Illustrations Fact or Folklore?

December 15, 2009

Paul Grimmond (Sola Panel) has written a searching article for preachers, in which he challenges us to take care in checking the validity of our sermon illustrations (Do we Pass on more error than we realise?). Grimmond uses two common examples which aren’t true to the facts, including the theory that Jesus died by asphyxiation. He concludes:

Whether we like it or not, the parts of our sermons that get passed on most often are the illustrations. They rapidly become part of our folklore because the illustrations are the part of the preaching that captures our imaginations. This tells us something significant about communication. But if this is true, it also leads to a sobering conclusion: perhaps the facts of the text—the things that God most wants us to hear—are not always the things that are most easily passed on. All the more reason for preachers to work hard on communicating what the text puts in front of us, and all the more reason for congregations to keep reading the text.

A couple of searching questions he asks include:

What drives human beings to approximate the data to suit their own conclusions? 


…how often and how much do I gild the lily in my apologetics and preaching for the sake of bolstering my point?

Ok, I’m off to re-check a few of my prospective illustrations for Sunday.

(HT: David Armstrong)



December 14, 2009

A table to stimulate our thinking about keeping variety in our preaching. Here is the wider article it comes from by Peter Adam.


Reading and Preaching

December 12, 2009

Cornelius Platinga Jr on a preacher’s reading:

Good preaching needs good reading to nourish it, and the best preachers read a great deal more than Scripture and commentaries. They also read fiction, for instance, and biography, and essays. They read great children’s literature for its “noble simplicity.” A few even tune their ear on the poetry of such masters as Jane Kenyon.


9 Marks Conference – Northern Ireland

December 3, 2009

Exciting news! There are two 9 Marks conferences scheduled for the UK this February. One in Edinburgh Scotland, the other in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. Here are the Northern Ireland details.


9 Marks Conference – Scotland

December 3, 2009

Exciting news! There are two 9 Marks conferences scheduled for the UK this February. One in Edinburgh Scotland, the other in Ballymena, Northern Ireland. Here are the Scotland details:


  • Friday 12th February 2010 (registration 6.30pm, 7pm start)
  • Saturday 13th February 2010 (8am-4pm)


Who is speaking?

Who is it for?

Any active member of a local church who wants to see their church more closely follow the Biblical example. Particularly for leaders and elders (or those aspiring to be) but suitable for anyone who cares passionately about the health of their local church. If you love the local church, any church, this conference is for you.

What is the course about?

“9Marks” stand for the 9 Biblical marks of a healthy church. If you want to find out what they are you need to come to the conference or get a preview on the 9Marks website. At the conference the 9 Marks will be explained and we will discuss how they can be implemented practically so that we can all help our churches display God’s glory more clearly.

Mark Dever is an international author and speaker with a special interest in the subject of the local church. His ministry through 9Marks has had enormous influence in shaping the ministry methods of many biblically thinking local churches. Do not miss out on your chance to hear from Mark on his favourite subject.

What is the cost?

  • £20, includes breakfast, lunch and refreshments.

How can I book?

For more information contact

A poster is available if you would like to publicise this event in your church.


More Christmas Ideas

December 2, 2009

Here are some sample talks from Peter on a Christmas theme. These are not to be used verbatim. But perhaps they will give some ideas about approaching a brief Christmas preach, as we are often asked to do.


Challenges In Christmas Preaching

December 2, 2009

(Written by Peter Grainger: 2 Timothy 4 Trust)

1. Putting the Christ back into “Xmas”

by focusing on the real events and significance of Christmas. We don’t want to appear killjoys by criticising all the trappings of Christmas, but we do want to emphasise that they are the trimmings – and not the reality.

However, even when we focus on the events of the first Christmas we face a further challenge:

2. Separating fact from tradition

Christmas carols reveal the confusion about Christmas:

  • was Jesus born “In the bleak midwinter” where “snow had fallen snow on snow”?
  • was he born on “a silent night” where “all is calm, all is bright., sleeping in heavenly rest” or should we “See him a-lying on a bed of straw, a draughty stable with an open door”?
  • more seriously, was it “certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay a-keeping their sheep” who “looked up and saw a star as it shone in the east beyond them far”?
  • And “by the light of that same star” did “three wise men come from country far”, following hard of the heels of the shepherds? (so that not only was there no room in the inn but little room in the crowded stable with Mary, Joseph and baby, shepherds, wise men, and assorted animals.

If we are going to preach Christ at Christmas faithfully and accurately, we need to get the facts straight with some careful examination of the texts. And when we do we may be able to convey a fresh appreciation of Christmas.

But there is a third challenge of preaching Christ at Christmas:

3. Utilising the Biblical materials on Christmas

As you will know, only two of the gospels (Matthew and Luke) give any details about the birth of Jesus (at a rough count around 7% of the material in the four gospels) – and this presents a real challenge to the busy pastor who may be expected not only to preach two or three times at Christmas Sunday services, but is also called on to give a talk (usually very brief) at several other Christmas events.

I saw another cartoon recently, in which two church members were discussing their pastor: “Oh, he a very green pastor, he recycles his sermons!”

Well, even the greenest pastor struggles to recycle the stories of the shepherds and the wise men, year after year! But not only a fresh look at these birth narratives, but also exploring other parts of Scripture, may reveal new treasures to be mined in preaching Christ at Christmas.

Some years ago (in Glasgow I think) I heard the American pastor Dale Ralph Davis preach on 2 Kings 11:1-3 – the account of how Athaliah, the Queen Mother, wiped out all the royal seed after the death of her son Ahaziah – well, almost all, for Aunt Jehosheba took and hid Joash the king’s young son – and so preserved the promised line. Davis entitled the sermon, “The woman who saved Christmas”.

I’ve just been reading (and would highly recommend) his book “The Word became fresh – how to preach from Old Testament narrative texts”.

In it, he tells how, on the Sunday before one Christmas, he preached on the long lists of genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1-9 under the title, “A Whole Bunch of Dead Folks for Christmas”! He comments, “We were, I am confident, the only church in the whole USA that carried 1 Chronicles  9 on its bulletin cover.”

Let me mention one final challenge (and I am sure there are more) in preaching Christ at Christmas – the challenge of what we might summarise as

4. Connecting the crib to the cross

Of course, we know that the baby born in Bethlehem is the man born to die outside Jerusalem. But most people don’t connect the blissful image of a baby in a manager with the bloody image of a crucified man – and they don’t want to.

The song “Do they know it’s Christmas?” went to number 1 (twice, in 1984 and again in 2004) but you can hardly imagine a few dozen pop-stars singing (or selling) a song entitled, “Do they know it’s Easter?” But it’s essential that we explain the connection between the crib and the cross.

So, in summary, these are

Four challenges in preaching Christ at Christmas

1. Putting the Christ back into “Xmas”

2. Separating fact from tradition

3. Utilising the Biblical materials on Christmas

4. Connecting the crib to the cross


How To Avoid 1000 Errors

December 1, 2009

Spurgeon on us not cloning our most admired preacher’s:

Let every man, called of God to preach the Word, be as his Maker has fashioned him….The good and the evil in men of eminence are both of them mischievous when they become objects of servile imitation;  the good when slavishly copied is exaggerated into formality, and the evil becomes wholly intolerable. If each teacher of others went himself to the school of our one only Master, a thousand errors might be avoided.  (Charles H Spurgeon, Autobiography – the Early Years, 234)