How do your favorite preachers do sermon prep?

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Kevin Halloran is a blogger at KevinHalloran.net and for Unlocking the Bible and loves baseball, coffee, and Spanish. You can follow Kevin on Twitter@KP_Halloran.


One practical way to improve a skill is to study the methods and practices of the skillful and see what they did to become great.
Although preaching is so much more than knowing technique, learning about the sermon writing process from today’s great preachers can be a great help and example for preachers.

Below are videos of some of today’s great preachers explaining their process in writing a sermon:

Tim Keller:

John Piper:

Mark Driscoll:

Alistair Begg:

Bonus: Josh Harris shares how John Stott prepared his sermons.

Live As You Are Called

photo by Piotr Bizior

photo by Piotr Bizior

Joe Henegan is a Christian writer based in South London, UK, and blogs regularly at Be Rooted.


How do you make the big decisions about your life?

There are things that the Bible gives us explicit instructions on – do not get drunk, do not commit adultery, give generously, meet with other believers etc., but the majority of the decisions we make in our lives are not guided by a step-by-step manual. For the last few years now I have found myself in what I believed to be in a state of limbo, waiting for God to give me distinct and unmistakable guidance on what to commit my life to.

When it comes to figuring out our calling in the Kingdom, the temptation is to look at the ministries that God has given other believers and emulate their exploits.

It’s easy to look at the way that John Piper preach and assume that is God’s best for everyone or see how Heidi Baker or Shane Claiborne live out their mandate and assume that our lives must look like theirs for it to be considered a success.

It’s very easy to get drawn into thinking that God is not using you unless you are preaching like Keller or influencing young men like Driscoll. It’s easy to miss the fact that there is no other Joe Henegan in the world; no one else can reach the people around me in the way that I can.

I went through a period where I was really envying what God was doing in the lives of my friends around me. Some were planting churches, some were being sent on missions and others were being asked to pastor existing churches. What about me? When am I going to do what they are doing?

God knew my thoughts and spoke to me during a morning devotion. I had been reading through 1 Corinthians and one day I came to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:17:

Only let each person lead the lifethat the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.

The context here is that Paul had been dealing with some of the big decisions about relationships that may face a Christian after conversion: Is it better to get married, should I stay with my unbelieving spouse? Is it okay to remarry after getting divorced?

When we find ourselves facing incredibly complicated and emotionally draining decisions it can be very easy to look around us and envy other people’s lives. In commanding us not to covert our neighbour’s house, God was really using shorthand to tell us not to covet other people’s lifestyles, opportunities or circumstances.

When we covet anything that someone else has we are really telling God that has made a mistake. That we should have everything we want because we know best.

Look around you. How has God uniquely placed you to speak into the lives of people in your life? No one else lives where you live at this moment in time.

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. (Acts 17:26)

The Christian art of Floccinaucinihilipilification

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Jason Tucker is a pastor in southwestern Ontario and blogs at tippingsacredcow.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JasonTTucker.


I am about to disclose something that might out me as a closet nerd. A risky proposition to be sure, but I am willing to take this bullet for the common good. Having been adequately warned, allow me to share my dirty little secret with you. I secretly enjoy exploring the etymology of words, specifically the etymology of obscure and peculiar words. This little quirk of mine manifests itself in the strangest of ways, not the least of which is my tendency to ask, “Do you happen to know the second longest word in the English language?”

I know it’s an odd question. Convention would be to ask about the longest word. However, who really cares about a fabricated 45 letter monstrosity1 describing an occupational lung disease? No one, that’s who. But when it comes to the second longest word, well that is an entirely different story.  Not only does the 29 letter 18th century word have an amusing origin, but it holds relevance for our daily life.

Floccinaucinihilipilification (click HERE for pronunciation) was coined by the pupils at Eton College. As they poured over their Eton Latin Grammar text they came across a list of words which in order were: flocci, nauci, nihili, and pili. All of these Latin words had similar meanings in that they described something of little or no value. As academics with too much time on their hands tend to do they thought it would be fun to slap all four words together and stick –fication on the end to produce a new noun. Presto change-o four small words used to describe tiny insignificant things were recycled to form one mega word. By definition Floccinaucinihilipilification describes the act or habit of regarding something as unimportant, having no value, being totally and utterly worthless.

Now some might argue that floccinaucinihilipilification describes its own usefulness as a word – utterly worthless. However, I disagree with that assessment. Although you will not find it in the Bible, I believe floccinaucinihilipilification is very much a Biblical term. How, you might ask, could I say that? Well, the Pauline equivalent can be found in Phil 3:8.

Phil 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Here we have Paul comparing all of the advantages of his heritage, citizenship and education to rubbish—literally dung—when viewed in the light of the magnificence of knowing Christ. Paul does not claim the rewards of this world to be of second importance to the knowledge of Christ. On the contrary, he is practiced at regarding all things—the world’s goods, substance, riches, fame, pleasures and pomp—as valueless in light of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.

Lest we think Paul is alone in his floccinaucinihilipilification of worldly benefits, let us look to Solomon. Here was a man who knew the best the world had to offer, and his ultimate verdict was, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” With all of the world’s imagined worth, imagined pleasure and imagined gain, Solomon could, to quote the Rolling Stones, “get no satisfaction.” In all of his testing and indulging Solomon discovered something vitally important; the world without Christ is a very unsatisfying place. Fellow Christian, it would pay for us to remember this lesson well.

Although I have been “nerding out” in this post, I do hope you look beyond that to see the ultimate point of my ramblings. The Christian life is one marked by judging many things as worthless, not inherently, but comparatively when weighed against all we have in Christ. Whether it’s the pleasures or the pains (Rom 8:18) of life, both are eclipsed by the glory to be found in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. This truth should be both treasured and paraded through our hearts as often as possible, lest we forget, and allow the cares of this world to choke out the truths we once held dear (Matt 13:22). Imagine the freedom to be experienced when you place all things in their proper perspective in Christ. Armed with your newfound knowledge, you too should go out and ask someone if they know the second longest word in the English language. It is a powerful concept, and it just might lead to a wonderful witnessing opportunity.

How to be a Quiet Radical

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Daniel Darling is a pastor, author, and blogger. His latest book is Activist Faith: From Him, For Him. You can follow him on Twitter at @dandarling.


Christians are notorious “pendulum” people. We don’t like living in the tension between two seemingly competing ideas. But obedience to Christ demands that we live in the tension.

One of these is the seeming war between a life of long and quiet obedience (1 Thessalonians 4:11) and a life of impact as a Christian living on mission (John 17, Matthew 28:18-20; James 1:22, Matthew 16:24). It doesn’t seem like you can do both, especially among our generation, my generation, of world-changing evangelicals. Hence the continuing radical versus non-radical, city versus suburb conversation we’re having in the Church.

But I think Christians can say a hearty “yes” to the radical life of service and to the quiet life of long obedience. This was the purpose for my new book, coauthored with Dillon Burroughs and Dan King.

We realize that God will call many to pack up everything and move to a foreign country to live among an impoverished people group, bringing the gospel and relief. But we also realize not everyone can or should do this. Many are called to live seemingly nondescript, ordinary jobs in their local communities. And yet, they can be a sort of radical right where they live. Not only can they contribute to human flourishing by producing Christ-honoring work in their chosen vocation, but they can also roll up their sleeves and get involved in pressing issues, helping people one life at a time.

Take, for instance, the issue of abortion. Most evangelical Christians would love to see it outlawed right now. And while we should work for that through the means of politics, there are limits. So after the elections are over, what can we do next? Well, we can support a local crisis pregnancy center, both financially and with our time. We can help young mothers raise their children, right now, in the context of our daily lives.

And abortion is just one of twelve issues we tackle. And there are many more. In fact, most of the best work done on behalf of the “least of these” is done by faithful, ordinary, unknown followers of Jesus who are motivated not by fame, but by the healing power of grace they’ve experienced in their own lives.

This is why the Church is the most effective institution in the world. For all of our problems and for all of the things we have gotten wrong, we are still the body of Christ, empowered by His Spirit. This life-changing message of the gospel calls some to abandon their ordinary life and do something many call radical. And it calls many others to stay where they are, bloom where they are planted, and make an eternal difference in the communities God has sovereignly called them to love.

It works both ways. You can be radical and local, a world-changer that nobody knows, quiet and effective, humble and yet robustly confident in the Spirit’s work.

After all, it was that curiously subversive Apostle who wrote a church striving for recognition and renown, “Not many wise, mighty, or noble” are called (1 Corinthians 1:26).

Reunited with . . . Jesus?

Photo by Matthias Wuertemberger

Photo by Matthias Wuertemberger

Thad Bergmeier is the senior pastor of Cornerstone Bible Church in Middlefield, Ohio, and blogs regularly at Changed by the Gospel. Follow him on Twitter at @thadbergmeier.


Death is certain. It is all around us. Whether we find ourselves reading the obituaries or watching the evening news, there always seems to be something to remind us about death. We are all born with a terminal disease that eventually finds us. Some people die early in life; some later. Some die quick and painless; others of long, painful diseases. No matter how it comes our way, it will come our way.

As a pastor, I often get the opportunity to come alongside those that are going through the pain of losing a loved one to death. Most of the time, the people I am shepherding through this time overwhelmingly profess their loved one who died was a Christian. They almost always believe they are now in the better place of heaven.

Now, it is true that Christianity is not only about what happens after you die. Jesus did come to give us joy and life more abundantly. But at the root of our Christian faith is the belief that when the life of the one who has come to Jesus with a penitent faith comes to an end here on earth, they pass on to live with Jesus forever in eternity. We speak in terms of “going home” or “passing on to the next life.” But whenever I hear these cliché’s, I become more and more concerned that what is meant has less and less to do with being reunited with Jesus Christ.

I have a growing uneasiness at what I hear at many “Christian” funerals these days. With increasing frequency, I hear people saying how glad they are their loved one is reunited with their spouse. I hear people talk about how they cannot wait to see their friends again in heaven. I overwhelmingly hear of people’s love for other people. But what I hardly ever hear is how great it is that their loved one is reunited with Jesus. I almost never hear a person on their deathbed confess their excitement to depart to be with Christ.

It is almost as if Jesus has become an afterthought. 

This is not the attitude of the Christian as I read the New Testament. The death for the Christian is about being reunited with their Savior. I do not doubt there will be a reunion with loved ones, but it is a secondary reunion. The first desire for the person who has come to know Jesus is about being reunited with Jesus.

The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that when the Christian is separated from their body at death, they are then at home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6–8). The Christians in Thessalonica were distraught because their friends had died before Jesus returned for them. Paul’s word of encouragement was that they did not miss being reunited with Christ. In fact, their bodies would be resurrected when Jesus returned and they would “always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:13–18). Even Paul’s testimony was that he could not wait to depart from this earth in order to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23).

So then why is there a disparity between what the first generation Christians looked forward to in death and what is commonly thought of by today’s Christians? The only explanation I can think of is that Jesus is a secondary thought in death because He has been a secondary thought in life. That which we love and pursue in this life is what we will look forward to in our death. If you find yourself not looking forward to being with Jesus in death, it might be a glaring indicator that Jesus is not that important in your life today.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37).

The Value of Reading Our Church Fathers

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Joey Cochran served as the High School Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church Tulsa for four years before transitioning to serve as the Resource Pastor at Cross Community Chicago, a plant of The Village Church. He is a graduate of Dallas Seminary. Joey blogs regularly at jtcochran.com. Follow @joeycochran on Twitter.


History has always fascinated me. In studying history we discover where we come from and how we got here. We observe progress. We also observe errors repeated. Most often, when errors of the past repeat it is because we forgot the past.

In RetroChristianity: Reclaiming the Forgotten Faith, Dr. Michael Svigel, Associate Professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, warns, “It only takes one negligent generation to forget the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of the entire history of the church” (Svigel, 50).

Do we run the risk of being that generation? To protect from this error, it is wise to read those who came before us, especially the Church Fathers.

Most scholars agree that the Church Fathers are the men who wrote during the beginnings of the Church up to medieval times. These are our earliest leaders. They lived closer to Christ’s time and offer solidarity to scripture’s message. The earliest of these men sat at the feet of our New Testament writers.

There is wealth in reading these writings. Here are three values of reading the Church Fathers:

Value 1: We learn from the Church Fathers’ challenges

In reading the Church Fathers, we read of the battles they fought. The creeds and the council’s primary purpose were to eradicate erred doctrine. Much of these writings were apologetic. The writer’s responded to those who perpetuated false-doctrine.

Justin, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Tertullian wrote against Gnoticism and Marcionism. Athanasius championed Trinitarianism against Arianism. The Cappadocian Fathers (Basil the Great, Greggory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus) wrote against Arianism and Apollinarianism. Augustine wrote against Pelagianism.

Yes, a lot of big words and no time to explain. It seems overwhelming, doesn’t it? Likely, you have heard these terms but may not know the meaning. Does knowing about these controversies matter today?

[Read more...]

Grace at work in dementia

sanctuary

Dave Jenkins is a Christian, husband to Sarah, freelance writer, avid golfer, and the Director of Servants of Grace Ministries. You can follow him on twitter @DaveJJenkins or read more of his work at servantsofgrace.org.


It’s been almost a year now since I got a phone call from my older brother telling me that my dad was now back in my life. In that year, my dad and I regularly chat on the phone, and I’ve gone to see him a few times in Seattle. The past year has been a world-wind of catching up with him on what’s been going on in his life.

For six years my dad wasn’t in my life. He moved to Eastern Washington and no one knew where he was. When I got that phone call last July that he was in Harborview Hospital in Seattle, Washington, my wife and I jumped in our car and drove nine hours to Seattle from Boise, Idaho to see him. Since that time I’ve gone to Seattle two other times. Both times I spent significant time with my dad and greatly enjoyed seeing and visiting with him.

Recently I was reflecting on the past year with my dad and while doing that I asked some friends what they thought I should write about. One of my friends said I should write on “how I’m seeing God at work in my life through my dad’s dementia.” Since I was already reflecting on the events of the past year, I thought this would be a good time to sit down and write some thoughts on the issue of dementia, its impact on the individual, the immediate family, as well as what I have learned over the past year as one who has had to deal with this devastating disease.

First, to be frank, dementia is hard for me to deal with. I have a hard time reading about it or even thinking about what it will do to my dad. When I do think about it or read about it I have a hard time keeping myself composed, and I often break out in tears. While I don’t suppress how I feel, recently I’ve noticed that I’ve been handling my dad’s dementia in a much healthier way. As I’ve been able to do this, I’ve also noticed I’ve been able to have more regular phone calls with my dad and to be more of a support and encouragement to him. In turn I’ve become more aware of how dementia affects him. [Read more...]

Why you should sweat the small stuff

Kevin Halloran is a blogger at KevinHalloran.net and for Unlocking the Bible and loves baseball, coffee, and Spanish. You can follow Kevin on Twitter @KP_Halloran.


The book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff has been popular since its 1996 release because it teaches not to let the small things in life bog you down. For the most part, I think that the book’s message is a noble one, and something Christ followers can benefit from. I do think there are some small stuff you should sweat. Let me explain.

small-stuff-eye-chart

When I say we “should sweat the small stuff,” I don’t mean we should worry about mundane things.

As Christians, we know that we are to be anxious about nothing (Philippians 4:6-7). I do mean that we should seek to glorify God by putting forth effort (sweat) to make the “small stuff” in our lives bear the most fruit for Christ. We should recognize that a lot of “small stuff” often makes up the greater whole of our lives.

The daughter of a friend of mine was born without much hair. Throughout the first 12 months of her life, she did not have much hair to speak of, and it did not appear to be growing quickly. I would see her about every weekend and at a certain point I began to see a noticeable difference in her hair that her parents and aunts didn’t always notice. Something that I noticed each week was not very visible day-to-day.

Growth is not usually noticeable day-to-day like it is over the long haul. But it is day-to-day growth that makes long term growth what it is. That growth is made up of “small stuff.”

Scripture mentions this idea at least a couple of times: we are called to redeem the time (Colossians 4:5) and make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16).

There is an unlimited number of examples to illustrate this point: grass grows a little each day before it needs cutting, going to school each day over time produces an education, practicing the spiritual disciplines each day builds a stronger Christian.

This means realizing that our small decisions and small pockets of time we make are part of a bigger work that God is doing in us.

During my college days, I had the great opportunity to study abroad in Ecuador and improve my Spanish quite a bit. Since that time, I have desired to grow my Spanish abilities for ministry– but I have not been able to learn and practice as much as I would like. In spite of that, I have seen that sowing little seeds like reading the Bible in Spanish daily, listening to music in Spanish, and making Spanish speaking friends has reaped a big harvest in my language skills.

The small choices I made had a compounding effect. Those small choices helped me improve a skill that otherwise I would have not had time for. Praying about this idea and meditating on the sovereignty of God gives me hope for two reasons:

  1. During the daily grind, I can remember that God will use what I am able to give him
  2. I can remember that God has control of everything and will accomplish his purposes in me

What small stuff can you do each day to better serve the Lord? How can you apply this principle to your study of Scripture or prayer life? Your professional life? Your family life? Your ministry?

My prayer is that God in his grace would continually to use the small stuff in our lives for his glory and purposes.

Delight and Grow!

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Today’s post is by Andrew Hall. Andrew is the Lead Pastor of Community Bible Church in Ilderton, Ontario (a small community just outside of London). He and his wife, Melanie, have been married for over 13 years and have four kids. Andrew studied at Providence College University in Otterburne, MB and received my M.Div from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, and blogs at cruciformity.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewWHall.


One of my favourite past times has been taking seeds and growing little plants. Throughout the years, I’ve enjoyed growing little orange trees from my breakfast fruit; coffee trees from some beans that never got roasted; maple trees from the keys that fell from a neighbour’s glorious tree. There is something so incredible about planting, watering, and watching growth.

In gardening, there is something that feels like we are pushing against the curse that came when Adam disobeyed. There is the expectation of growth, of new life, of a future. There is the anticipation of fruitfulness, a harvest, and reward.

So it is no surprise that the Christian is expected to grow. The imperishable seed is planted within (1 Peter 1:23), germinates and creates new life, all with the expectation that there will be fruitfulness in our lives (Gal 5:22-23). The power of Christ’s death and resurrection applied by faith to the soul is the guarantee of a harvest to come in the lives of God’s people (Rom 8:23).

But what is striking is that we are commanded to grow. I cannot command a plant or seed to grow. But 2 Peter 3:18 tells us that we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. How shall we do that?

Growing in knowledge seems fairly straightforward: to grow in knowledge requires the intake of information. Reading, watching, listening all give us opportunity to grow in knowledge. But what about growing in grace? How can Peter command that we grow in grace?

The best fertilizer for life and godliness is the knowledge of God’s grace to us now and forever. Grace is multiplied in the knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:2). In other words, grace is multiplied when we come to know who God is and what he is like.

What if you knew a fraction of the future that God has prepared for you? What if you could feel your deepest longings being satisfied? What if every sight, smell, sound, taste and touch will only be magnified? What if every good and right relationship will be restored forever? What if we could believe that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind comprehended what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9), wouldn’t we rejoice? Fight temptation? Be freed from fear, greed, envy, and pride? We would escape the corruption in this world and become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)!!!

That’s what knowing God does. Our need to grow in the knowledge of his grace will never cease. We will forever see the nail-scarred hands of our Saviour and grow in wonder and amazement from age to age to age (Eph 2:7). Our growth in grace is God’s declaration that the curse is not the final word…Grace is!

So grow! Know God! Delight in Him! Make it your aim to never be satisfied with your knowledge of God. Be a beggar for knowing Him. And His grace to you will multiply, and that fertilizer will cause you to grow!

Rejoice! The Lord is More Patient Than Us

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Today’s post is by Andrew Hall. Andrew is the Lead Pastor of Community Bible Church in Ilderton, Ontario (a small community just outside of London). He and his wife, Melanie, have been married for over 13 years and have four kids. Andrew studied at Providence College University in Otterburne, MB and received my M.Div from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, and blogs at cruciformity.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewWHall.


Have a headache? Pop a liquid gel caplet and within 30 minutes it’s working. Hungry? Place your dish in the microwave and enjoy a hot dish in 30 seconds. Want to find and read a book? Go online and download it within 15 seconds and start reading. Want to contact someone? Text them to get an immediate response.

The blessings of living in an instantaneous society mean that we become accustomed to the immediacy and availability of everything. But the moment you are on hold on the phone for 15 minutes or wait for paperwork to come in the mail, we can become antsy. “Where is it?” “Why is it taking so long?” Impatience flares up and agitation grows.

“Behold, I am coming soon,” says the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev 22:12), and nearly two thousand years has passed. We can begin to doubt the imminent return of Christ, living like everything is continuing on as it was from the beginning of creation until now. While we don’t say it out loud, we can live in a way that says, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:4).

Waiting feels very passive: standing in line, being on hold, waiting for the microwave to beep all feel like we do nothing until something happens. Is it possible that our perception of Christ’s delay in returning causes some lethargy in us as well? An impatience with God? A sense of frustration that things aren’t getting “fixed” in our lives as quickly as we would like?

It is a good thing that God is not like us and is incredibly patient. The fact that Christ has not returned is evidence of God’s great kindness toward us. We may think, “If I were God, I would eradicate all evil NOW!” Our outrage at injustice and evil in the world can cause us to accuse God of inactivity. But if we were to get rid of all the evil in the world, we would have to rid the universe of all potential evil. But what about our capacity for being mean-spirited, accusatory, assuming the worst of another? Are we ready to give an account for all of our actions?

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance,” says Peter (2 Peter 3:9). Christ has not yet come because God is kind and holds out the offer of salvation. His patience is our opportunity to be active.

Maybe God’s patience is for you. Have you turned from trusting yourself and relied upon Christ? Or maybe an opportunity to turn from sin and repent afresh (1 John 3:2-3).

Or maybe God’s patience is for someone you know and love. Have you shared with them the good news of life in Christ through repentance and faith?

Today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2)! Believe! Obey! Share! And thank God that his patience is for our mercy!

The Power of Words

microphone

Today’s post is by Andrew Hall. Andrew is the Lead Pastor of Community Bible Church in Ilderton, Ontario (a small community just outside of London). He and his wife, Melanie, have been married for over 13 years and have four kids. Andrew studied at Providence College University in Otterburne, MB and received my M.Div from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, and blogs at cruciformity.com.


Therefore, brothers,be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in uthe truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention has to a lamp shining in a dark place, until ithe day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet. 1:10-21)

His children were being threatened, and he held nothing back. He told his children to watch out for these accursed children, creatures of instinct, blights, having eyes full of adultery, ravenous for sin, hearts trained for greed. These enslaved people would have been better off if they had never known the truth because they are like dogs returning to their vomit.

These are not the words of some angry lowbrow peasant. These are the inspired words of Scripture. So why does Peter speak this way (2 Peter 2:10b-21)? To our modern Western ears, this sounds offensive. But what do you do when someone is preying on the weak, enticing the immature by sensuality, enslaving unsteady souls? If someone is going after your child with perversion, wouldn’t you be justifiably angry?

In order to protect the flock from wolves, there are times where a severe mercy is necessary. Sometimes shocking language and vivid imagery get the point across in ways that gentle answers can’t. [Read more...]

The Miracle of Salvation

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The grotto of Gethsemane, where it is believed that Jesus was arrested following Judas’ betrayal. Photo by Gary Hardman

Today’s post is by Brandon Smith. Brandon has been a pastor for many years and is currently a church planting resident at CityView Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He holds a B.A. in Bible from Dallas Baptist University and is a Systematic Theology student at Criswell College. Brandon edits Project TGM, a new blog bringing perspective to theology, gospel, and mission and their impact on culture. Connect with him on Twitter at @BrandonSmith85.


Growing up in a non-Christian home, I didn’t know what conversion to Christianity looked like. As far as I was concerned, my friends were Christians because their parents were, and their parents were Christians because of their parents. I mean, who would decide on their own to refrain from watching certain movies or go gather with a bunch of people on Sunday morning and listen to someone preach at them for an hour?

Christianity sounded like a lame hobby and was definitely not something that interested me.

The hobby God

I live and work in the Dallas-Fort worth area, and here in the Bible Belt, Christianity is often assumed. We often assume that people are going to understand and accept our Christian standards. I’m guilty of this. There are times that I’m actually surprised to meet a non-Christian, even though I grew up in a non-Christian home.

What I’ve come to realize and have to remind myself constantly is that salvation is not an inherited hobby, but a supernatural transformation.

No one wakes up godly. No one is born a Christian. Jesus says in John 3 that a person must be born again to be saved. Sin is not a weak enemy, it’s a supernatural force that must be dealt with by an omnipotent, all-powerful God. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 that no one can say that Jesus is Lord without the Holy Spirit. Belief in Christ takes an absolute act of God.

The miracle of salvation

For some reason, God chooses to use us in His grand plan for redeeming the world. Acts 16:25-34 paints a great picture of God’s sovereignty and our involvement in bringing redemption to the lost. We are going to see two followers of Christ used by God to bring about incredible change in a lost man and his family.

Let’s take notice of the events of this story:

I. Paul and Silas praise God despite their situation (v.25)

In the passages right before this, Paul and Silas had just driven an evil spirit out of a slave girl. This was a great thing for the girl, but a major inconvenience for her owners. This demon gave this girl the power to be a fortune-teller, and this was profitable for them. Without the demon, she was useless. So, they report Paul and Silas to the civil authorities for practicing a Jewish religion that wasn’t Roman.

Fast forward to their imprisonment, Paul and Silas – still bloody from the beating – are praying and singing hymns to God.

It is important to remember that God is still God, regardless of your situation. Suffering well is one of the most beautiful testimonies.

Paul and Silas did not let their imprisonment rob them of worship. Their situation was secondary compared to their relationships with God. Just like the apostles in Acts 5, Paul and Silas rejoiced in their suffering. They could’ve sat in their cell and complained or insulted the Roman jailer at the gate, but instead they gave glory to God. [Read more...]

There’s No Simple Formula for Assurance

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Today’s post is by Andrew Hall. Andrew is the Lead Pastor of Community Bible Church in Ilderton, Ontario (a small community just outside of London). He and his wife, Melanie, have been married for over 13 years and have four kids. Andrew studied at Providence College University in Otterburne, MB and received my M.Div from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, and blogs at cruciformity.com.


For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. . . .Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:5-7, 10 ESV)

Paul had grown up in the church. He had heard all the stories, been at all the meetings, and served on various committees. But lately he was struggling – his church had been teaching that he should be prospering. Now, it didn’t feel like he was, and he was feeling blamed because he must not have enough faith.

When Burt stopped coming to church, everyone was shocked. A committed, solid Christian, he had suddenly disappeared off the church’s radar. He resisted visits from concerned friends, didn’t return calls or reply to emails and texts. Months later, his secret sins were exposed.

Janice had grown up in a pastor’s home. By all outward appearances, she was very Christian. She had grown up in a Christian home, attended a Christian school, learned Christian doctrine, even gone on mission trips. But when she began to be challenged by her atheistic co-workers, she didn’t have answers. She wasn’t certain that she had ever believed.

Geraldine was confident and assured. She had heard it over and over that once you were saved, you were always saved. She attended church, carried a Bible with her, and sang in the church choir. But that’s about where her “faith” ended. Religion and Jesus were a compartment in her life that didn’t seem to affect any other aspect of her life.

The Bible recognizes that we are complex creatures and that we struggle with assurance of salvation (or don’t!) for various reasons. For Paul, assurance lacked because of poor teaching. For Burt, his secret sins needed to be exposed and repented of before assurance would return. For Janice, her faith was now being tested and exposing her need to be diligent. And for Geraldine, her assurance was no evidence of a faith that worked.

Having assurance of salvation is no simple formula. Rather, assurance comes because we have put our faith in Jesus Christ alone and depend upon his perfect righteousness, not our own (2 Peter 1:2), and we depend upon Christ’s power to grow us into his likeness (2 Peter 1:4). Assurance comes by trusting in what Christ has done for us and growing in godliness. The “golden ladder” of 2 Peter 1:5-7 is the production of fruit from a life that abides in Christ. And faith produces the diligence of hard work to confirm that we belong to Him.

Wherever you are at, whatever you struggle with, remember these two truths: Christ died for you, and he has given all those who trust in him the power to grow. So be diligent! Know his great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4)! Don’t rely on spiritual experiences (2 Peter 1:16-18), but rely upon the more certain Word that you have heard (2 Peter 1:19-21). Believe, and know Christ has given you everything you need to live, obey, and grow!

11 Ways to Reignite Your Passion for the Bible

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Today’s post is by Dave Jenkins. Dave is the Director of Servants of Grace Ministries. He and his wife are members at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Nampa, Idaho. You can follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveJJenkins.


I graduated from seminary on May 11, 2012, and, since then, friends have asked me:

“What’s the biggest transition you’ve had since graduating?”

Before I go into my answer to that question, I need to give a little background. I graduated high school in June 2000 (I’m thirty-one years old) and ever since graduating high school I’ve either been a full or part time student. The past two months have been the first time in my life where I wasn’t taking one or more classes at a community college, university or graduate school. So when my friends ask what the greatest transition has been for me, my consistent answer has been I’ve been enjoying my Bible reading a lot more. Depending on your own experiences, my answer may or may not surprise you.

In school, I spent a lot of time reading and re-reading the Bible over and over again. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy reading the Bible during this season of life; I’ve always enjoyed reading it. But after reading it academically for five years, I got to the point where I was reading more out of obligation than delight.

In the months since graduating, my passion for reading the Bible has only increased as I spend quality time every morning read the Word. If you’ve ever lost your passion, I hope the following helps you find it again, too.

First, grow in a love relationship with the Author of Scripture.

If a young woman received a love letter from her fiancée, she would eagerly read it since she is in love with the letter’s author. She would read and re-read those precious words, reading “between the lines” to discover the full richness of her lover’s message. Similarly, if we love God, we will find delight in the inspired words of God. Psalm 119:10-11, “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Love God and love His “love letter” to you—the Bible.

Second, have a personal relationship with God.

Even more basic than this loving God, the author of Scripture, the reader and interpreter of Scripture should strive to truly know God through Jesus Christ the Lord. You should have a deep and intimate relationship with God who inspired Scripture through the Holy Spirit (John 17:3; 2 Timothy 3:16). It is vital to remember that joy comes through the work of the Holy comes in our lives (Galatians 5:22). If you truly know God, in Christ Jesus and through the Spirit, you will be more prepared to rejoice in your Bible study.

Third, approach your Bible reading with worshipful awe.

It is vital that you have a proper attitude and frame of mind and heart as you open the pages of Scripture. For example, God says “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2b). Here we see that the one who comes to the Word should have a humble, contrite, and fearful (or respectful) attitude. You should approach it with a worshipful attitude, a fearful and respectful attitude, a submissive and yielding attitude, and a love for the God of Scripture.

Fourth, consider it an amazing privilege to read and study Scripture.

Until about the year 1500, the common person didn’t have the Scriptures in his or her own language. It took centuries before the Bible was translated and circulated in many of the world languages. Today, you have a priceless gift in your hands! You can read the Word of the living God and understand the Scriptures yourself, apart from false religious leaders censoring what you read! With this privilege comes tremendous responsibility.

Fifth, develop a real interest as you read a portion of Scripture.

Some people complain that their reading is dry and boring. It need not be this way. Develop a captivating interest in what you are reading. Ask yourself: “Why did Peter deny Jesus in this passage?” “Why did the Pharisees react so vehemently against Jesus as He declared His relationship with the Father?” “What was the nature of Judaizers that Paul seems to regularly combat?” Also, notice the choice of vocabulary, the connection between sentences, and the development of the argument in each book. This will arouse your curiosity, awaken your interest, and give you the joy of Bible discovery!

Sixth, ask the Lord to give you true joy as you read the Scriptures.

We know that spiritual joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23; Acts 13:52) that comes through Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:1). Ask God to stimulate this joy in your heart as you open yourself to His divine Word.

Seventh, find a quiet place and time to spend quality time reading the Scriptures.

You should be undisturbed in your reading so that you can think through the text as you read it. Don’t allow background noise, music, TV programs, or conversations to disturb your concentration. Even a crying baby can interfere with your focus on the text. Find a time when you can be alone and also a time when you are most awake and alert in your reading. For some, this may be at 5 AM and for others it may be 10 PM, while for others it may be lunchtime or some other time during the day.

Eighth, begin your time in the Bible with prayer.

Before you begin to read verses or chapters for the day, pause to ask God’s blessing on your reading, the clarity of your thought, and the conviction that the Spirit brings through the Word that He inspired. The psalmist prayed, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18). Don’t just rely on your reading ability; depend on God to enlighten you as you prayerfully read.

Ninth, examine the Bible portion carefully and prayerfully.

Don’t read the Bible as you would cursory read the newspaper. Recognize that the Scriptures are God’s inspired revelation of His will. Every word has been inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and should be scrutinized with intensity. “One who looks intensely at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25). Read to see and understand what the Bible writers wrote.

Tenth, determine to read for spiritual benefit from the Lord.

Paul writes, “Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The Bible gives encouragement, but it also gives us warnings (1 Corinthians 10:11), all of which are profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Scripture gives us wisdom that leads to salvation (v. 15). The Word of God nourishes us (1 Timothy 4:6) and helps us to grow (1 Peter 2:2). If you keep the spiritual benefits of your Bible reading in mind, you can develop an unquenchable appetite for the Word. This will bring true joy!

Finally, always remember that you are seeking to know God’s will and obey it.

You should always bear in mind that you are not reading for mere curiosity, or to “do your duty,” or to compete with others. Instead, you are earnestly seeking to know what pleases God! We will be judged by Christ’s words (John 12:48), thus we should intently study that word to know it thoroughly. The Scriptures will keep us from sin: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). One time, someone wrote inside a Bible: “This Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”

At times, every Christian goes through periods where reading the Bible becomes a duty instead of a delight. But I believe that by applying some of the above suggestions, you’ll find a fresh interest and passion for reading and studying the Word of God.

As you continue to grow in the Scriptures and the grace of God, you will come to have a burning desire to read, study, learn and meditate on His Word. A.W. Tozer said, “The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.” As this happens, you will come to have a real enjoyment of His Word, a genuine delight in searching the Scriptures, and delight to understand and obey the Word of God.