And here’s an explanation of the plan.
And here’s an explanation of the plan.
Seven reasons I’ve started a new Tumblr micro-blog:
You can find A Disciple’s Diary here.
It takes courage and raw physicality to keep the lights on for the rest of us
Wish lots of young people would read this: “In a world that seems increasingly dominated by politicians, pundits, community organizers, professors, lawyers, marketing managers and others who mostly specialize in the production of words, there is often little understanding of what it takes to produce an essential product or service that we frequently take for granted.”
Giving Thanks for C S Lewis
Yesterday was not only Thanksgiving Day, it was also the 49th anniversary of C. S. Lewis’ death. Joel Miller’s piece relates some touching dIetails of the last days of Lewis’ life.
The unbearable lightness of being Shannon
RC Sproul Jr. continues to edify through his rare God-glorifying transparency.
Leaders tell the truth
An extract from Al Mohler’s new book on Leadership, together with two short videos which pack a lot in to a few minutes.
A lot of pastors love crowds and hate people
Didn’t think I’d be linking to Rick Warren, but this is really too good and too sadly true to bypass.
One of the churches I regularly preach in has been doing a series on The Doctrines of Grace, otherwise known as the Five Points of Calvinism. On Sunday evening I preached on the fourth point, Irresistable Grace. As beginning preachers have told me how helpful it is to see how other preachers write out sermon notes, I’ve made the fuller notes available here, and you can find the one page summary notes here.
I used to go straight to a one page summary when preparing, but more recently I’ve found it helpful to write out in full and then summarize. The fuller notes make me think things out more clearly in advance, and they also help my old memory when I maybe have to preach that sermon again at a later date and the summary notes are indecipherable even to me!
In one part of the sermon we considered the differences and the similarities in the way the Father draws sinners to Christ by the Holy Spirit.
Differences in the Father’s Drawing
1. Different ages: The Holy Spirit works on young hearts and old hearts. However, the majority are younger as their hearts and wills have not grown so hard and so skillful in resisting the Spirit.
2. Different time periods: Sometimes the drawing can take place in a few minutes; sometimes it can be over many years.
3. Different forces: The Holy Spirit is sometimes “violent” (e.g. Saul of Tarsus), but often gentle (e.g. Lydia).
4. Different expectations: Sometimes we are not surprised by who the Spirit draws to Christ. They have looked promising for many years and we have been almost waiting for them. At other times, the Holy Spirit picks out the least predictable and most unexpected.
5. Different means: The Holy Spirit may use a sermon, a Scripture reading, a tract, a book, a witness, even an argument to draw sinners to Christ.
Similarities in the Father’s Drawing
1. The Holy Spirit uses the Word: This is not some kind of mystical mid-air experience. There’s a mystery to it all right, but it’s always rooted in the Scriptures. It’s not just some fizz of feelings or emotional manipulation.
2. The Holy Spirit works through the mind: This is a rational experience. The Holy Spirit persuades and reasons with the sinner using the Scriptures. He explains his situation, exposes his need, exhibits him the solution, outlines what he has to do, encourages him with promises, beats excuses, and overcomes obstacles. “And they shall all be taught by God. Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” (John 6:45)
3. The Holy Spirit changes the will’s direction by changing its passions: As the reasons and arguments pile up, the will begins to change from South to North; it is turned 180 degrees and re-directed. It was going against God by going away from God. But now it is going towards God with love and happy expectation.
You cannot experience the Holy Spirit without emotion. Although He works through the mind upon the will, it is not an emotionless experience. There can often be deep and powerful emotions as the sinner’s mind, will, and heart are changed. There is usually a painful sorrow as the sinner looks back at his past resistance. There is joy over the grace extended and the forgiveness enjoyed.
4. The Holy Spirit draws to Jesus: The Holy Spirit directs the sinner’s attention to Jesus Christ in particular. It is not a general theism that is spoken of here. The Father draws to Jesus. We come to Christ. We see a beauty in Him we never saw before. We develop a fascination, even an obsession, with Him. We are more than attracted to Christ: we are impelled. And when we come, he receives. He has never cast our or driven away any sinner drawn to Him by the Holy Spirit (John 6:37).
5. The Holy Spirit always wins: Although there is a general, or common, work of the Holy Spirit that is successfully resisted, when the Holy Spirit sets out to save, He saves. He has never been defeated. A big fat zero is in His losses column. “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37). We’re not talking possibility or probability but certainty. And we are not talking just of coming but of staying…forever.
As the Shorter Catechism (31) put it: “Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.”
Post Election Rant
A friend sent me to this blog, The Minority Republican, which seems to be a blog written by African American conservatives. It gives some fascinating insights that you will rarely find in the media. In this article Providence Crowder explains why she left the Democratic Party. She has two other articles on The Gospel Killers, including this one on The Prosperity Gospel.
Four reasons men don’t read books (with a practical suggestion)
Tony Reinke on reading is always worth a read.
God in our Midst
Danny Hyde’s excellent book on the Old Testament Tabernacle is only 99c!
One of the most important things we do as a church
From what I can gather, this is an increasing problem and maybe this is one part of the solution.
A group of Scottish Presbyterians are working towards greater unity among their sadly splintered churches. They have provided a number of thought-provoking articles on church unity here.
Staying with Scotland, my friend Andrew Murray has started a new blog that he describes as follows:
Living as a Christian husband, father, son and leader in 21st Century Scotland is tough going but I have found tremendous help in the lives of other great leaders particularly my great hero Thomas Guthrie (1803 – 1873). His statue stands resplendently in Princess Street Gardens, Edinburgh as a memory to one of the greatest preachers and social reformers Scotland has ever seen. It is sad that such little is known about Thomas Guthrie today even in Edinburgh where so much of his influence was felt in the 19th Century. Hopefully this blog will do a little to change that!
Why Ragged Theology? Thomas Guthrie was the ‘Apostle’ of the the Ragged School movement (as Mr Smiles in ‘Self Help’ called him) which opened its first school in 1847 in Edinburgh. Inspired by the Industrial Feeding School of Sheriff Watson in Aberdeen which had been operating from 1841 Guthrie used all his skills as an orator, writer and organiser to turn the idea in to a national movement. Called from a rural parish in Fife, Guthrie came to Old Greyfriars in Edinburgh as an assistant from 1837-1840 when he established a new church called St John’s in Victoria Street. Guthrie was appalled by what he saw around him an pioneered what would now be called ‘early intervention.’ His vibrant theology was no ivory tower teaching but Biblical truth set on fire with activism and engagement. Social intervention and sound doctrine were not enemies to Guthrie but the very essence of Biblical theology.
The last in the series looks at the place of commentaries and prayer.
Faithful sermon preparation in busy ministry…
7. PAUSES before using commentaries
When ministry gets busier and busier, it is very tempting to stop thinking and start collating. Instead of meditating on the text to understand it for ourselves, we simply start cutting and pasting others’ thoughts and ideas together from commentaries, etc.
That’s certainly one way to prepare sermons in a busy ministry, but it sacrifices “faithful.” Faithfulness must involve some measure of personally wrestling with the text, wrestling with God, and wrestling with congregational application.
Personal meditation on the text lends freshness, relevance, and depth to our sermons. That’s why we should wait until we’ve milked the text dry before opening a commentary. We ask it lots of questions from lots of angles. We use the mind that God has given us for our time, place, and people and work hard to understand the text in our context before resorting to what God has taught others.
Meditation might seem as if it’s a waste of precious time – it might only yield one or two insights or profound thoughts, whereas you could be cut and pasting paragraphs from the latest expository commentary. But two thoughts that God gives you is worth more than 100 from someone else. We must not measure our sermons by length or density. A little blessed by God is worth more than anything else.
8. PRAYS without ceasing.
Most books and lectures on preaching will emphasize the necessity of a long period of time in prayer before preparing to preach. When I first started preaching, I would not put pen to paper or finger to keyboard without praying for at least an hour. However, this self-made rule became increasingly legalistic and almost superstitious. I increasingly found little or no pleasure or profit in the practice and it became an immense burden and even an obstacle to sermon preparation.
One day I asked a godly old minister about his own practice. He said that he too used to feel that he could not prepare a sermon until he had prayed for hours. However, God had taught him two things over the years.
One was the importance of a prayerful life and spirit throughout the whole week. Secondly, instead of praying for one long period, he began sermon preparation with brief prayer, and frequently called on God throughout the preparation process.
“Often and short” rather than “once and long” was his theme. He said that this helped to keep him in a devotional spirit throughout the preparation day. I also have found this to be a most helpful practice. I try to ensure that I stop frequently to thank God for His help, to seek his help with difficulties, and to give me efficiency, concentration, perseverance, understanding, etc.
Prayer is not an excuse for laziness, but it is a tremendous comfort when we regularly have to preach sermons that are not what we would like them to be. If we have been busy yet faithful, we can pray the Lord to bless our loaves and fishes and multiply their effect far beyond what logic expects.
Faithful Sermon Preparation in Busy Ministry…