Archive for December, 2008
Confused about where you stand on this difficult issue? Take this seven-question quiz and find out.
Listening to this debate on infant baptism reminded me how often paedobaptists appeal to Romans 4:11 to support their position. For an excellent baptist response to this argument, check out “From Circumcision to Baptism” by Dr. Greg Welty, professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I think you will find his insights to be incredibly helpful.
Good sermon illustrations do at least two things: they make key concepts in the sermon easier to understand and easier to remember. The primary way they do this is by turning that which is abstract into something concrete. As someone once said, they turn your listeners’ ears into eyes and help them see what you’re saying.
For example, I’ll never forget how Rick Holland compared the fleeting nature of human existence to the steam coming off the top of a cup of coffee (in Ecclesiastes), or how he described temptation as sugar-coated poison (in Proverbs 5). First I heard, and then I saw. And even now, more than ten years later, I still understand and remember.
I am currently preaching John on Sunday mornings, which marks the first time I’ve ever preached through an entire Gospel. One thing I’ve learned is that a significant part of preaching narrative simply involves telling the story and telling it well. This came to mind the other night when I was reading an interview with one of my favorite authors, historian David McCullough. In the interview, McCullough was asked about his responsibilities as a writer of history, and at one point he said this:
If I can convey how interesting the past really was, how full of life those people really were, what they were up against and how it turned out for them, then my feeling is others will want to read what I’ve written. And there’s no need ever to trick things up, to sugar this or that, or use dramatic devices to make it interesting. You just try as best you can to make it as interesting as it actually was.
This, I realized, is one of my primary goals on Sunday mornings—to tell the story and tell it well, and to do so not by spicing it up with my own cleverness or rhetorical devices, but simply by trying to make it as interesting as it actually was. Not an easy task, but certainly a worthy one, especially when the story is Jesus.
Every pastor is also a theologian so let me suggest a wonderful series of books that have blessed my teaching ministry over the past 2 years.
NAC Studies in Bible & Theology
Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (a great book)
Future Israel Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged (another wonderful book)
God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old And New Testaments (from what i’ve read so far, great!)
That You May Know : Assurance of Salvation in 1 John (I have not purchased this book yet)
Enthroned on Our Praise: An Old Testament Theology of Worship (I have not purchased this book yet)
Application via exhortation is an important aspect of expository preaching. One of the great challenges in preaching is trying to manage your time. I rarely have enough time to say all that I want to say on a given passage. One of the things i try and do from time to time is provide “application handouts” for my congregation. These handouts typically go along with the morning message but sometimes highlight areas that i don’t have time to go into in great depth.
Here is one such example.
The Discerning Church: Ephesus
There are two levels of biblical discernment needed to maintain a vibrant Christian walk and a healthy Christian church.
One is the ability to discern error or half truth, especially when it is being presented as truth. First level discernment is needed to protect and preserve the purity of the Christian gospel (note Galatians 1, Jude 3, 2 John 7-11, Matthew 7:15-16, Acts 20:27-32, Romans 12:9, 1 Tim 6:20). “Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth.” “Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.” Study the example of the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:2-3, 6.
The following list includes some recommended books that deal with this 1st level area of biblical discernment. Books that defend the gospel against various heresies and cults:
The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin
Spirit Wars by Peter Jones
Is the Mormon My Brother? by James R. White
The Roman Catholic Controversy by James R. White.
The Future of Justification: by John Piper
The second level of biblical discernment is the ability to distinguish between ok, better, and best. In other words, just because something isn’t rank heresy doesn’t mean that it should be accepted hook, line, and sinker. With that said, the Bible forbids hypocritical judging (Matt 7) or judging another person’s thoughts and motives (Prov. 16:2, 1 Cor 4:5). But God does want us to examine everythingcarefully (note 1 Thess. 5:21-22) and to test everything against the Divine standard, God’s Word. Study the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11.
The following list includes some recommended books that deal with this 2nd level area of biblical discernment.
The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies
Fool’s Gold? Discerning Truth in an Age of Error by multiple authors
Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur
Church on the Rise: Why I Am Not a “Purpose Driven” Pastorby Larry DeBruyn
Jesus Christ: Self Denial or Self Esteem? By David Tyler
Will Medicine Stop the Pain?By Elyse Fitzpatrick & Laura Hendrickson
The following list includes some recommended websitesthat often include discerning articles and blog posts.
In 1985 Sting’s Cold War protest song “Russians” asked the question, “do Russians love their children too?” The implication is that cultural-political distinctions are meaningless when we ask searching questions about issues such as caring for our loved ones. How does such logic hold-up when applied to comparisons between atheists and Christians?
A question I have heard in many conversations goes something like this: “How can a Christian worldview claim ethical/moral exclusivity when non-Christians do ‘good’ works all the time?” Simply stated, “why do unbelievers do good things?” Michael Wittmer’s brief discussion of this is helpful:
I believe that, thanks to common grace, non-Christians throughout the world love their children, care for ailing parents and spouses, and sometimes even sacrifice their lives for strangers (e.g., the New York firefighters who on 9/11 ran up the stairs of the World Trade Center while everyone else was fleeing down).
But non-Christians perform these acts of love despite rather than because of their worldview. I propose that the Christian faith alone supplies the rationale for altruistic love. When Christians love others they are acting in sync with their ultimate beliefs. When non-Christians love others they are behaving better than their beliefs allow. They are borrowing from the Christian worldview, acting as if the Christian faith is true.