Archive for the ‘Beyond the Workshop’ Category

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The Test of Stress

August 25, 2008

So you know you’re stressed already. Here’s a chance to find out just how badly! You only need to adjust the dials on this 7-pronged stress indicator.

Apparently, I ‘occasionally’ feel the effects of stress…

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Loving Those ‘Old’ Hymns

July 7, 2008

Some were surprised yesterday to hear that I – and not the Senior Pastor – had picked for our closing communion hymn “It may be at morn.” [We always finish our communion service with a song about Christ’s return]. Being sub-thirty, how could I possibly appreciate such “older hymns”? For me, however, some of these ‘antiquated hymns’ are lyrically and musically indispensable, no matter how many contemporary treasures we add. Enjoy this version by the Amsterdam Ghana SDA church choir.

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Book Review – “Preach The Word”

January 21, 2008

Last week I had the priviledge of reviewing Preach the Word: Essays in Expository Preaching In Honor of R Kent Hughes. For all the other reviews, check out the Discerning Reader website.

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In short: A treasure trove of essays on expository preaching that deals with the subject from a variety of angles.

Pastor R. Kent Hughes – recently retired pastor of College Church, Wheaton – is well known for his long standing commitment to expository preaching. So it seemed fitting that to celebrate his legacy a book should be produced in his honour on his favourite subject: preaching!

The wonderful festschrift that has emerged should make a worthy addition to any pastor’s bookshelf: Preach the Word – Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R Kent Hughes. Edited by Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson, the spotlight on the theme of biblical exposition, alongside their obvious affection for Hughes, gives this volume a more unified feel than many other ‘pick and mix’ compilations you come across.

The quality of essays is truly excellent across the board, something which obviously hinges on the quality of contributors. With the likes of David Jackman, Don Carson, J.I. Packer, Wayne Grudem, Peter Jensen and John MacArthur – to name a few – it is no surprise to find that all the essays are thoughtful, biblical, and written with the steady hand of experienced men. Leading the pack, choice essays include Leyland Ryken’s “The Bible as Literature and Expository Preaching”, Don Carson’s study of “The 21st Century Pulpit” and “Few are Not Enough: Training a Generation of Men in Expository Preaching.”
The sheer variety of essays examines preaching from a whole range of perspectives. Preaching is considered in Scripture itself and also in history. Hermeneutical principles and practices which underline preaching are analyzed. Finally, contemporary challenges to preaching – including the enormous challenge of training a new generation of expositors – is approached. Both novice and mature preachers, as well as those who train preachers, will benefit from essays of interest within such a broad scope.

Are there any weaknesses in this compilation? Only the usual problems in a book of this type (no developing argument; changing styles throughout etc), and it should be said that this is no introductory book on preaching. Nevertheless, Preach the Word has come together as a remarkable unity and has the feel of a single volume, which is a great credit to the editors, authors and R. Kent Hughes himself, who ceaseless promotes the preaching of God’s Word.

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Reasons to Get Reading, Reloaded

January 14, 2008

With all respect to blogs, I hope you don’t spend ALL your time reading them. Hopefully we preachers also make time to read some stimulating Christian books every month. Some time ago I posted on 20 Reasons to Read (Good Christian Books) and at the beginning of another year of reading I thought I would offer them again to hopefully encourage you.

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20 Reasons to Read (Good Christian Books)…

1. You will grow in your knowledge of God, yourself and the world around you
2. You will gain a better understanding of the bible, the book of books
3. You will broaden your English vocabluary, helping you to express similar truths to your congregation in fresh ways
4. You will have an improved imagination and actively engage your mind in a way that probably won’t occur when watching TV
5. You will be able to sit at the feet of some of the great Christian teachers and minds over the centuries (even if you have few ‘living’ teachers to assist you)
6. You will be forced to cease from incessant activity and think
7. You will receive a historical perspective on current problems and spot present day blindspots
8. You will have some of your questions answered and confront other questions you hadn’t even thought of
9. You will be able to practically apply Paul’s command to think upon “wholesome” things
10. You will develop a sense of how arguments are constructed and be able to weigh both strong and weak arguments
11. You will enjoy spiritual input during the week, not just on a Sunday (if not a pastor)
12. You will (if a pastor) be able to engage with other issues beyond this week’s text, thus broadening your perspective.
13. You will be able to mull over a subject. You will be able to put the book down to think, chew over a sentance or re-read a paragraph. You will be able to explore an issue at length, rather than brush over a topic too quickly
14. You will be better prepared for the task of evangelism, after reading clear presentations of the gospel by great communicators
15. You will be better prepared for the task of discipleship, having a good way to open up discussion about Christian life issues (what are you reading?)
16. You will be made aware of how Christians interpret and apply Scripture differently in various cultural contexts
17. You will gain information for your ignorance, inspiration for your weariness, and insight for complex problems
18. You will be better equipped to lead in your church, marriage and family
19. You will be stimulated, as in a good conversation, to new lines of thinking
20. You will be drawn to worship God, especially when the book centres on God not man

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The Campus and a Christian Worldview

December 17, 2007

As one who spends part of his time working with University students here in the UK, I am excited about a new series of papers being made available over at the Gospel Coalition website.

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(Photo by Patrick Q, Creative Commons License)

The Christ on Campus Initiative (with lead editor Don Carson) “commissions top evangelical scholars to oversee the creation and distribution of a variety of resources for university students. The goal of these resources is that they be intellectually rigorous, culturally relevant, persuasive in argument and faithful to historic, evangelical Christianity.”

The first such paper is now available for download:
“Do Christians Have A Worldview?”
by Graham Cole

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Revival in Rose Street

December 17, 2007

(extract from Titus2talk)

Some of you might like to know that one of our former church secretaries, Dr Ian Balfour has just had his book published – ‘Revival in Rose Street’ charts 200 years of Charlotte Chapel history recounting the ministries of some well known preachers – Christopher Anderson (it’s founder), Joseph Kemp, Graham Scroggie, Sidlow Baxter, Gerald Griffiths, Alan Redpath, Derek Prime (& one of his assistants, Alistair Begg) and Peter Grainger, the current senior pastor with 15 years of faithful ministry under his belt, and counting.

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The book is amazingly available for the bargain price of £10 and can be purchased at the church itself or by emailing info@charlottechapel.org.

Standard Parcel postage in the UK is £5.68 for one copy, £8.24 for two, £9.35 for three, £10.97 for four, £11.45 for five and £13.13 for six to ten (same price). Surface mail to anywhere else (European Community, the Americas, India, Australasia, etc) is a standard £10.66 for one copy. Airmail to overseas countries is £20.66. Weight is 1.916 kilo.

You might like to know that our wee blog of only 15 months even gets a mention!

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Jeremiah’s Journey Concludes

December 3, 2007

Following twelve months and thirty one sermons, our preaching team have almost completed the book of Jeremiah. I say almost because I still have to tackle the final chapter this coming Sunday.

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The feeling seems to be mutual – among both preaching team and congregation – that this has been one of the toughest yet most rewarding books we’ve considered in recent years. Interested to hear how we did it? Find the links below. Next week, I hope to reflect on some things we learned by preaching the series.

1. Plans to Prosper Not to Harm You – Jeremiah 29:11 (Grainger)
2. Called and Equipped – Jeremiah 1:4-19 (Adams)
3. In The Divorce Court – Jeremiah 2:1-37 (Grainger)
4. At the point of no return – Jeremiah 3:1 – 4:4 (Grainger)
5. Impending Judgement – Jeremiah 4-6 (Adams)
6. A Shocking Sermon – Jeremiah 7:1 – 8:3 (Grainger)
7. True or False? – Jeremiah 8:4 – 10:25 (Adams)
8. Amen? – Jeremiah 11:1-17 (Grainger)
9. A Frequently Asked Question – Jeremiah 12 (Grainger)
10. The highs and lows of discipline – Jeremiah 13:1-27 (Adams)
11. The Praying Prophet – Jeremiah 14 – 16 (Grainger)
12. The Heart of the Matter – Jeremiah 17:5-26 (Adams)
13. In the potters hand – Jeremiah 18:1 – 19:15 (Grainger)
14. A Prophet Under Pressure – Jeremiah 20:1-18 (Adams)
15. True and False Prophets – Jeremiah 21:1 – 23:40 (Grainger)
16. Fruit Picking and Wine Drinking – Jeremiah 24:1 – 25:38 (Anderson)
17. Don’t shoot the messenger – Jeremiah 26:1-24 (Adams)
18. Sooner – or later? – Jeremiah 27:1 – 28:17 (Grainger)
19. Living in exile – Jeremiah 29:1-32 (Grainger)
20. The Best Is Yet To Be – Jeremiah 30:1 – 31:40 (Grainger)
21. Investing in God’s Future – Jeremiah 32:1 – 33:26 (Grainger)
22. O Jesus, Have I Promised? – Jeremiah 34:1 – 35:19 (Adams)
23. Bible Burner – Jeremiah 36:1-32 (Anderson)
24. The Last Moves of the King – Jeremiah 37:1 – 38:28 (Grainger)
25. A tragedy waiting to happen – Jeremiah 39:1-18 (Grainger)
26. Suffering With The People Of God – Jeremiah 40:1 – 41:15 (Grainger)
27. A fatal mistake – Jeremiah 41:16 – 43:13 (Adams)
28. Our most stubborn sin – Jeremiah 44:1-30 (Adams)
29. Give up your great ambitions – Jeremiah 45:1-5 (Grainger)
30. King of the Nations – Jeremiah 46-49 (Adams)
31. Happily Ever After? – Jeremiah 50:1-13 (Grainger)
32. The Last Chapter – Jeremiah 52:1-34 (Adams)

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Books, books, books…

November 26, 2007

Its that time of year again when I’m starting to think about Christmas presents for my wife. Given that my wife loves to read, books are invariably involved! But where to begin?

Whether you are a pastor buying for your wife, or a wife buying for your pastor husband, you’re bound to find some of links of recommendations below helpful. I have. In addition, a good place to evaluate books before you read them is The Discerning Reader.

Alistair Begg’s book recommendations
Al Mohler: Bible Story Books for Children and 10 Christian Biographies
Karalee Reinke recommends some “Books for Your Bride”
Tullian Tchividjian suggests 20 Books on Christ and Culture
Ligon Duncan, on his top 10 books
Desiring God’s biblical commentaries recommendations
RTS reading list
Nine Marks recommended books for pastors
Master’s Seminary: 850 books for Preachers
Westminster Seminary Faculty Recommendations
Steve Weaver book recommendations

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Driscoll Delight

November 19, 2007

I was there on Friday night when Mark Driscoll preached on eleven aspects of the atonement in Edinburgh. Others have more fully recounted what was said (I didn’t realise Adrian Warnock was even there!). I simply want to say that I was greatly encouraged, and perhaps even a little surprised, at Mark’s whole approach. I say respectfully that there seems to be something of a maturing going on that may be quickly producing one of the most powerful preachers of our day.

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Another blogger sums up better than I can why it was so good.

1) He preached on 1 Corinthians 2.2 for about an hour and a half. I’m not sure exactly how long it was, but the time really flew by. I was stunned when I looked at my watch and realised how long he had spoken for.

2) His sermon had eleven points. (Jesus is our: substitutionary atonement, victor, redemption, new covenant sacrifice, justification, propitiation, expiation, ransom, example, reconciliation, revelation of God).

3) He was not in any sense embarassed or ashamed to preach theology. He always explained what the theological terms used were, and used that to magnify Jesus greatly.

4) He demonstrated very well just how much right doctrine (i.e. the gospel) is the only thing that can lead to right living.

5) He quoted extensively from various excellent theologians (Martin Luther, Don Carson, J.I. Packer…) and showed that he is clearly in touch with historical theology. He even referenced the Council of Chalcedon and the issue of the hypostatic union.

6) He openly stood for the truth with regards to penal substitutionary atonement. He was honest and open about how guys like Steve Chalke and Brian McClaren have strayed into heresy on this key doctrine. If only more Christians would follow Mark’s lead and actually stand for the gospel on this issue.

7) He was serious, engaging, provocative, interested and interesting, passionate and (at times) absolutely hilarious. He has a great gift as a communicator.

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A Global Community

November 12, 2007

Just the other week, I added one of those cluster maps to my blog. Very interesting. It not only gives me some indication of where people read this blog from, but in a strange way, its been a reminder of the global nature of Christ’s church. I work on just a tiny patch on God’s great and needy earth.

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This reminded me of a John Piper quote regarding our remarkable inclusion in what God is doing throughout the world:

Picture in your mind a great, wise painter, painting on a huge canvas with many brushes, most of them very ordinary and messy. The painter is God, so you can’t picture him. He’s invisible. But he intends for his painting to be the visible display of his wisdom. He knows people can’t see him, but he wants his wisdom to be seen and admired. His canvas is huge. It’s the size of the created universe. I know you can’t really imagine looking at that canvas because you are in it.

But do your best. And God is painting with thousands and thousands of colors and shades and textures—a picture as big as the universe and as old as creation and as lasting as eternity—a picture we call history, with the central drama being the preparation, salvation, and formation of the church of Jesus Christ. And he is using thousands of different brushes, most of them very ordinary and very small because every minute detail is crucial in this painting, to display the wisdom of the Painter. These brushes are God’s missionaries.

(From Piper’s sermon The Unfathomable Riches of Christ for all Peoples, above all Powers, through the Church)

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The Idol Factory

November 5, 2007

Today I preached on Jeremiah chapter 44 under the title “Our Most Stubborn Sin.” The passage was a painful but pertinent expose on the sin of idolatry, and together we considered that:

i) idolatry has a past history (v 1-6)
ii) idolatry is a present problem (v 7-14)
iii) idolatry is a cunning competitor (v 15-23), and
iv) idolatry has a deadly conclusion (v24-30).

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An exceptional piece of extra reading I appreciated on the theme was CJ Mahaney’s article: The Idol Factory. This talk is insightful, well researched, and provides some excellent quotes to chew over as well.

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Managing Preaching’s Physical Demands

October 29, 2007

On Sunday evenings I feel near death. On Monday morning, just tired. On Tuesday, I’m gritting my teeth to climb the mountain again.

Preaching is exhausting work isn’t it? Not only the preaching act itself – which can leave you feeling as out of breath as a sprinter – but the preparation beforehand: rather like running a marathon prior to the main event!

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(photo courtesy of Jesus-is-Saviour.com)

This is not something we should moan about, fellow preachers, since the call to word-ministry is a call to hard work (see 2 Tim 2). However the exertions of preaching are something we must manage, not least to sustain a long-term ministry.

So how do we manage preaching’s physical demands? Let me suggest, by managing several related areas:

1. Managing the diary

Its a common joke among our staff team that we’re hoping to switch to an eight day week. Every pastor knows that there are always more demands on his time than he can possibly meet. Yet how often do we attempt to fulfill impossible expectations? Our diaries are over full, and the next week ‘when things will be less busy’ never materializes.

The result is not only the neglect of our own family (who don’t see us except on holidays) but the neglect of our congregation. For unless we have exceptionally high energy levels, we will be walking into the pulpit tired. My own conviction is that the pastor shouldn’t climb the pulpit exhausted. How then can he preach God’s Word with accuracy, fervour and force, when his overworked body is running on half-power?

Resources:
Going the Distance (How to Stay Fit for a Lifetime of Ministry) by Peter Brain
A Busy Christians Guide to Busyness by Tim Chester
Time Management for Pastors

2. Managing sleep

Though the God of Israel will neither slumber or sleep, the same should not be said of the pastor of the church! But why is it important? Well, firstly because sleep is an admission of our submission to God and trust in His sovereignty (see Psalm 127). Reason enough! Significantly as well, though, sleep is also essential for the physical demands of preaching. According to one expert, lack of good sleep can contribute to problems with poor memory, erratic moods, nervous system difficulties and even a diminished immune system. Its not hard to see why such problems would have a negative affect on our preaching.

Resources
I recommend David Gunderson’s article “A Theology of Sleep” for more practical thoughts on this area. Some of his main recommendations are:
1. Fight to have pure motives when you think about how much or how little sleep to get.
2. Monitor your body and how much sleep you need.
3. Brace yourself for the rest of life by reminding yourself that the tension in this issue will remain.
4. Try and plan to get good, consistent sleep (e.g., ear plugs, consistent bedtime and wake-up time, quiet room, bedtime patterns, etc.).
5. Don’t feel guilty about sleeping!
6. It is not inherently selfish to ask someone to be quiet so that you can sleep (see Prov 27:14).
7. Beware of loveless sacrifices (1 Cor 13:3).

Also, The Theology of Sleep by Fred Sanders

3. Managing food

Though we should expect the spiritual resources God may offer us in preaching, we should not neglect his physical assistance. I, for one, can be negligent in this area. Not once or twice, I have left the house on a Sunday morning, remembering to grab a piece of fruit as I run out the door (and this is my breakfast!). We can be so consumed with feeding the sheep their spiritual food, we can forget the physical food God has given to sustain us.

This is not to say, though, that preachers should eat lots of food before preaching. Overeating can be as disastrous as undereating, leading to that heavy feeling which slows the body down when it needs to be firing up.

Resources
For more thoughts on this, listen to A Biblical Understanding of Eating by Robin Boisvert (Sovereign Grace conference)