Archive for March, 2010

Thanks and a brief update

My heart is overflowing with gratitude and thanksgiving for the outpourings of prayer and kind thoughts. Each of you are a treasure to us and have kept us from feeling isolated in our trial. Last night  I read comments here and on Facebook and literally hundreds of emails until I could not keep my eyes open. I have heard from friends all over Europe, Australia, Africa, New Zealand and just about every U.S. state. We have read each one and have rejoiced in them all.

I have created a web page at Caring Bridge which is where all future updates on Julie’s journey through cancer will be posted. I will still be writing here and reflecting on what we’re learning, and yes, I will still be writing about ministry and all it’s wonderful nuances. You might say my perspective on ministry, preaching, and the church has been updated, not changed, just retrofitted to hopefully a more God-exalting vision.

Blessings and love to you,


Update on my wife

Dear Precious Friends,

We are reminded by James that “you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow, you are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 5:14–15). On Thursday, March 25th this truth was brought home to our family in a significant way. Julie had a colonoscopy that resulted in the doctor finding a mass. Today, March 30th, we were given the definitive news that Julie has colon cancer. Those words are shocking to write and no one ever expects to hear them. Like you, we have many questions but today we are resting in the sovereign care of our great God. With the weight of this news, we have shed many tears and our hearts have been drawn together in love and prayer like never before. We know that the Lord sympathizes with us in our weakness (Heb 4:15) and that He gives us rest from our burdens (Matt 11:28). In the days ahead I will keep everyone informed as soon as information becomes available. I know that you may want to call or come by but please know that your prayers or notes are just as precious to us. Today, I simply ask that join me in prayer for the following:

  • Praise the Lord that He has shown His saving grace in our lives and has not left us without hope. Our hearts are incredibly heavy yet we are not grieving as those without hope. We are resting in the grace of Jesus Christ who is our life.
  • Wonder and worship, because the Lord causes all things to work together for good, even cancer. He knows the end from the beginning and calls us to abide in Him. In moments of weakness we will undoubtedly need to be reminded of this.
  • Pray for wisdom for our team of doctors as they seek the best treatments for Julie. Radiation and chemotherapy will begin immediately and last for six weeks. This will be followed by surgery in about twelve weeks.
  • It our desire that Julie be healed and make a full recovery from cancer yet we know that God’s perfect will is where we desire to rest.
  • Pray that we will use wisdom and discernment in our parenting of four of the most precious children in the world (Johnny-7, Will-5, Maggie-3, Emma-11 months).
  • Thank the Lord with me that He has given me the last twelve years to be with Julie. Should He extend our journey, our aim is to be pleasing to Him in all things. Our marriage has been filled to the brim with joys unspeakable. It is hard for me to imagine having a happier marriage yet I know the Lord will use this to extend our joy in one another. The Lord has been gracious to give us twelve years to prepare for this trial.
  • Pray that our faith will not waiver and that we can encourage you to cast your cares on the Lord for He cares for you.

Thank you for being near to us in this trial though some of you may be separated by miles and even oceans. It is comforting to know that so many of you will be with us to shoulder our burdens.

Yours in the love of Christ,

Paul Lamey

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Afflictions help to convince us of our preaching

“Come to a man that hath the world at will, and tell him, This is not your happiness; you have higher things to look after; and how little will he regard you! But when affliction comes, it speaks convincingly, and will be heard when preachers cannot.”

Richard Baxter, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (chap 12, sec. 3), 208.

The importance of heaven

This Sunday morning  I’ll preach sermon #61 through the book of Revelation.  I can’t wait to dive head first into Revelation 22:1-5 (this Sunday’s text).  I love the way in which the old Baptist preacher, B.H. Carroll, began his message covering this very text.

Carroll said, “I want to say, as impressively as I know how to say it, that the reason Christian people are no happier than they are, the reason they have so little power, is that they have such a misty conception of heaven, of the world to come.  And whatever is misty, is painful.  It is only those who, with a clear understanding of God’s Word as to the outcome of human life, those who by faith see eternal things, and feel the powers of the world to come, who can make any lasting impression for good in this world.  I do not care how much learning a preacher may have, if he has not a clear conception of heaven and its eternity, of hell and its eternity, he cannot be a man of spiritual power!”

Are you “burned-out” from ministry?

People-trouble is wearying indeed. It’s easy to grow cold and sarcastic about those particularly difficult people whose afflictions are largely self-induced. When a man takes the role of spiritual leader and comes in with selfish expectations, swift discouragement results when those expectations aren’t met. The church today calls it “burnout,” but in many cases it’s a simple matter of wanting ministry to function a certain way and resenting it when it doesn’t. Habitual cynics don’t make good shepherds. I pray for individuals who look at the church and see, not whiners and complainers to be avoided, but broken lives and needy souls who’ve been purchased by the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:19). Hopeful optimism in ministry is like fresh water in the desert: People’s thirst for the tender care of a shepherd is fully satisfied.[1]

[1] Jerry Wragg, Exemplary Spiritual Leadership,130.

Is it enough to claim “Christ-centered” in our preaching?

“It is not enough to focus on the great, central, epochal, events in the history of redemption. It is not enough to operate almost exclusively in the indicative mood. It is not enough to reduce the imperatives of the New Testament to the vague generality so often heard, namely, ‘Look to Christ!’ and to leave the application of the preached word to the Spirit of God.”[1]

[1] John Carrick, The Imperative of Preaching: A Theology of Sacred Rhetoric (Carlisle, Penn: Banner of Truth, 2002), 144.

Preaching NT Narrative (Narration)

The narrator is the voice of the writer. He informs the reader of specific motives, hidden thoughts, undisclosed actions, private conversations, and God’s perspective. The narrator reveals what we would otherwise never see or hear. Narration is like stitching on a quilt; it binds together the various scenes, plot structure, and characters. Noting the importance of the narrator’s role, Davis exhorts, “We want, when reading narrative, to get into the narrator’s own head, to know how he looks upon the matters he describes, or – what is the same for me, how God looks upon those matters.”[1]

The narrator is key because he assists the reader in rightly interpreting the meaning of the events in the story. In one sense, the narrator is omniscient because he knows what is happening behind the scenes.[2] Like the director of a movie scene, he is in charge of providing the right angle for the audience to understand the message. If we conclude something that was never intended by the author-narrator, we run the risk of missing the point of the passage. Block makes a similar yet applicable point in regards to OT narrative. He writes, “Biblical narrators were concerned not only to describe historical events, but also to interpret them. Indeed, it is in the author’s interpretation that we find the permanent message.”[3]

Recognizing various uses of narration in NT narrative can be a great help to the preacher. Although there may be a sense of reticence on the part of the narrator, it is still possible for the preacher to understand the narrator’s perspective.[4] There are four commonly recognized forms of narration within a story.[5] Noting the forms of narration will move the interpreter ever closer to the authorial intent of the story.

The first form of narration is reporting narration.[6] The narrator simply states or reports what happened either in the scene or in the events leading up to the scene. This form of narration is useful in understanding scene changes or bridging gaps in time. Reporting narration will typically be signified by words and phrases which indicate changes of time or place or introduce a didactic portion of Scripture. For example, Matthew uses narration to set the scene for the sermonic portions of his gospel account (Matt 5:1–2; 10:1–5; 13:1–3; 18:1–2; 24:1–3). The following are a few other examples of reporting narration:

Þ   “At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus” (Matt 14:1).

Þ   “When the messengers of John had left” (Luke 7:24)

Þ   “Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another” (Luke 8:1).

Þ   “After these things he left Athens and went to Corinth” (Acts 18:1).

A second form of narration is dramatic narration. Ryken notes that “writers dramatize a scene as though it were in a play, quoting the speeches or dialogue of characters and noting the surrounding context.”[7] Whereas reporting narration is observed in short phrases and words, dramatic narration is played out over a larger scene. One of the clearest examples of dramatic narration is the account of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:1–35). In this example, Luke is the narrator-author. The episode is an amazing debate over a crucial theological issue that risked dividing the early church and confusing the gospel. Luke uses various speeches, a letter, and individual conversations to dramatically recount this important scene. This form of narration will typically be more oriented toward characters and their speeches rather than elements of time.

[NOTE: We’ll discuss two more forms of narration in the next post]

[1] Dale Ralph Davis, The Word Became Fresh, 12.

[2] Sidney Greidanus, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text, 206.

[3] Daniel I. Block, “Tell Me the Old, Old Story,” 413.

[4] This “reticence” on the part of the narrator is not a misguided caginess but a literary technique used to highlight various characters or points in a story. “The practical aspect of all this to be kept in mind as one reads is that the reticence of the biblical narrator, his general refusal to comment on or explain what he reports, is purposefully selective,” [Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic Books, 1981), 184].

[5] See Leland Ryken, Words of Delight, 43-45; John Licht, Storytelling in the Bible (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1978), 24-50; Shimon Bar-Efrat, “Literary Modes and Methods in the Biblical Narrative in View of 2 Samuel 10-20 and 1 Kings 1-2,” Immanuel 8 (1978), 19-31; Shimon Bar-Efrat, “Some Observations on the Analysis of Structure in Biblical Narrative,” VT 30 (1980), 154-73. There are also more elaborate discussions of narration such as a listing of fourteen “varieties of the narrator’s own discourse” in Meir Sternberg, The Poetics of Biblical Narrative (Bloomington: Indiana University, 1985), 120-21.

[6] “direct narrative” in Ryken, 43.

[7] Ibid.

Starbucks Community Church

If you are retooling your church to fit the Starbucks model, try reading Ephesians instead. Surely we can do better than faux community and the illusion of social superiority.

See “On Loving Your Coffee and Your Neighbor” here.

Jerry Wragg on Humility:

Humility is forged in the fires of an unmistakably clear vision of God, a biblically rich and abiding perspective of the cross, and a robust sense of man’s desperate sin-condition! When confronted with these realities, our deficiencies are properly magnified and successes are never allowed to take on a life of their own.

 Jerry Wragg, Exemplary Spiritual Leadership: Facing the Challenges, Escaping the Dangers, p. 33.

A mere repeater of scriptural teaching

Thanks to my “across the pond” friend Doug McMasters who passed on the following quote from Charles Spurgeon:

I am content to live and die as the mere repeater of scriptural teaching, as a person who has thought out nothing and invented nothing, as one who never thought invention to be any part of his calling, but who concluded that he was simply to be a mouth for God to the people, mourning that anything of his own should come between.

(MTP vol. 51. sermon 2916 A Memorable Milestone. The sermon is a later publishing of a message he preached on Thursday evening, March 25, 1886 as a part of the 25th anniversary of his first sermon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle)

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