Everything old is new again… including bowl cuts:
I have new respect for Chris Tomlin.
Everything old is new again… including bowl cuts:
I have new respect for Chris Tomlin.
Back in September, Alistair Begg joined us at the Toronto Pastors’ Fellowship and shared the message, Preaching Between Two Worlds, from Ecclesiastes 12:
Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.
Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.
The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Begg also engaged in an enlightening Q&A with Pastor Paul Martin.
Powerful messages for preachers and wannabe preachers in these videos.
Take some time to chew on them today as you go about your day.
Over the last few months, after every preaching engagement there’s been a mix of emotions. Pleasure that no one walked out. Relaxation because it’s all over for the day… and a strange sense of sadness.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on why for that last one until this weekend. See the thing is in all of these engagements where I’ve had the opportunity to minister with the Word, I’m in for the day—and then I’m gone again (until the next time, which might be months down the road).
What I realized this week is that I feel kind of sad that I don’t get to see what happens after I leave.
I don’t get to see people wrestling with applying the message to their lives. To see people grow and change and become more like Christ as a result (hopefully).
I want to be able to see the fruit
I was sharing this with a good friend of mine on Tuesday afternoon and he said, “It doesn’t take long to start to care about a congregation, does it?”
It really doesn’t. And this really surprised me because I didn’t expect it, I suppose. I didn’t anticipate feeling so deeply for people I don’t really know. And it kind of scares me, too, because it might mean something significant.
And it’s making me realize something else:
Parachutes are fun, but it might be nice to have some pineapples.
On October 10, 2010, I had the opportunity to preach at Gladstone Baptist Church in Gladstone, Ontario. Sunday’s message was preached from Genesis 18:16-33:
Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
The original sermon notes follow: Continue Reading…
What do you think of when you think about the rural church (if anything)?
Outdated methodology? Gradually decaying buildings? Rapidly aging congregations? Ineffective in reaching people for Christ?
This list might seem harsh, but more often than not, this is what many of us think of when we consider the rural church. And the reality is that it’s sadly true. Without a powerful revitalization of rural congregations, thousands of churches won’t make it through the next decade.
Shannon O’Dell, pastor of Brand New Church, believes that revitalization is possible—that the rural church can actually be an incredibly effective instrument for advancing the Kingdom of God. And in Transforming Church in Rural America, O’Dell shares this vision as he recounts how God did it in his own church.
O’Dell never wanted to be a rural pastor. His dreams were to pastor a big urban church, with a big urban congregation, budget and building. He didn’t want to be stuck in the sticks. But God called him there, to a small church of 31 people. In the years since he arrived, he’s seen people at their worst as he tipped a few sacred cows and at their best as God matured the men and women of this church for His glory.
When I read the first few pages, I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to get. So I was quite pleased to find that the principles that O’Dell shares ultimately all center around the same thing: Making disciples.
“[The church grows] congregants rather than a congregation,” O’Dell writes (p. 105). “We build people, not organizations. If we build organizations, we will end up with buildings and programs that serve only themselves.” Continue Reading…
Last week, JD Greear preached a message from Romans 10:14-17; as he anticipated, he’s been getting some pushback, specifically about whether or not people can come to faith apart from hearing about Jesus. Here’s an excerpt:
I have read just about all of the major dissenting views to the one I shared on Sunday. I just found them unconvincing, and their ideas more based on human reasoning (i.e. “this is what I think God should be like…” “this idea about God offends me,” etc) than deductive conclusions from Scriptural affirmations. I wanted(oh, how I wanted!) to believe in the escape-hatches and plan-B’s, but just could not find allowance for it in Scripture. What I preached this morning was my conscience, and the most faithful interpretation, in my judgment, of Paul’s thought in Romans. I think he builds up to a very weighty conclusion… namely, that they simply cannot believe unless they hear, and they cannot hear without a preacher, and there can be no preachers if we are not sent. Ultimately, this is what the whole argument is about. Can they believe apart from our being sent? I think Paul’s answer is unequivocally “no.”
Church: Tony Payne on how to think about about multi-site churches
Controversy: Albert Mohler—Yahoo, Yoga and Yours Truly
Spiritual Growth: Jared Wilson on discipleship on Christ’s terms
Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:
A review of John MacArthur’s The Jesus You Can’t Ignore
John Newton’s hymn based on the parable of the wheat and the tares
Sermon audio from the message I preached at Gladstone Baptist Church on October 3, 2010.
Think Hard, Stay Humble—Francis Chan’s message from the 2010 Desiring God National Conference
Though in the outward church below
The wheat and tares together grow;
Jesus ere long will weed the crop,
And pluck the tares, in anger, up.
Will it relieve their horrors there,
To recollect their stations here?
How much they heard, how much they knew,
How long amongst the wheat they grew!
O! this will aggravate their case!
They perished under means of grace;
To them the word of life and faith,
Became an instrument of death.
We seem alike when thus we meet,
Strangers might think we all are wheat;
But to the Lord’s all–searching eyes,
Each heart appears without disguise.
The tares are spared for various ends,
Some, for the sake of praying friends;
Others, the LORD, against their will,
Employs his counsels to fulfill.
But though they grow so tall and strong,
His plan will not require them long;
In harvest, when he saves his own,
The tares shall into hell be thrown.
John Newton, Though in the Outward Church Below, Hymn 86 in Olney Hymns
As I’ve been continuing to accept new preaching opportunities, I’ve been following Don Carson’s advice to young preachers which is listen to other men.
Lots of them.
Thanks to podcasts and the internet, this is easier than it’s ever been.
I’ve got an interesting mix of guys I’m listening to right now. Driscoll, MacArthur, Chandler, my own pastor Norm Millar, Joshua Harris, Josh Howerton, and a few other preachers. And it’s been really interesting to discover the things I’m learning from listening to other preachers. Here are a few:
A man’s arrogance comes through in his tone and grates against the spirit of his hearers. I was listening to one man recently (who is not on the above list) who—I don’t know what it is, but his tone just grated on me. I felt like I was being berated just listening—and I wasn’t even in the room. It truly grieved me. He came across as a man puffed up without reason.
What I am learning from this man is that my words must be heartfelt and honest and my spirit must be broken by the Holy Spirit before I get in the pulpit.
When Scripture is used only to prove a point, it cripples the power of the truth we speak. Listening to the same man, I noticed that he rarely ever used Scripture outside of an allusion or just to back up something that he was saying. It wasn’t that much of what he was saying was bad—in fact, some was quite good and true—but it lacked power because it wasn’t rooted clearly in the Scriptures.
What I am learning is that my ideas and opinions—even if they are true and align with Scripture—do not carry the weight and power of Scripture. Therefore, I must rely on the words that God inspired, rather than my ideas that may have been shaped by them.
A man’s love for his congregation is most apparent when he is speaking hard truth. The last thing I noticed listening to this same man was an appeal to have a personal relationship with Christ… without an explanation of why we need to have a relationship with Christ. The gospel was not present; our hopeless state as sinners, the Father’s appointing of the Son to accomplish our redemption and sending the Holy Spirit to apply it… none of it was there.
What I am learning is that if I love the people to whom I am preaching, I need to speak this hard truth—that we are far worse than we ever feared, but God is far more amazing and gracious than we could ever imagine.
These are some of the lessons I’ve been learning from listening to other preachers.
What lessons are you learning?
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
1 Corinthians 8:1-3
Francis Chan’s message at Desiring God’s 2010 National Conference, Think Hard, Stay Humble, is incredibly challenging and more than a little convicting for me as one who is very much a “love the Lord with all your mind” kind of guy.
A few standout remarks from the notes:
Some of you in this room think really hard through the Scriptures. My challenge to you is, How hard do you think about people? About the lost? When was the last time you wept for the lost?
It’s so easy to seclude ourselves from the world of lost people. We step out of it for a season to think hard about the Scriptures and keep going on in school to learn more, and we eventually get to the point where we realize that we don’t love the lost like we should. The point isn’t that we shouldn’t pursue learning, but we ought to be able to do both, to love people and know the Bible better.
John MacArthur wrote years ago, “Knowledge is essential, but it’s not sufficient.” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:2, “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
Some of you could be brilliant and worthless. You could be like a great basketball player that never misses a shot but always shoots at the other team’s basket. He’s a great shooter, but he’s killing the team.
Why did God gift you the way that he did? It’s for us, not for you. We should constantly be thinking, How can I build up other people?
Now here’s the big question that Chan’s talk has left me with:
Does my knowledge of God my study of theology lead to an increased love for God and for His people?
Am I “puffed up” by my knowledge of God—or does it break me?
Watch the message and leave your thoughts in the comments.
Mark Driscoll and Dustin Neeley sat down at the recent Acts 29 Boot Camp and discussed the need for humility as a church planter and pastor—and how difficult it is to cultivate when you’re considered a rock star.
Questions to consider:
Title: The Jesus You Can’t Ignore: What You Must Learn from the Bold Confrontations of Christ
Author: John MacArthur
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2009)
Who is Jesus Christ? Just about everyone has a different answer to this question. Some see Him as a great moral teacher and ultimately a really nice guy. “Gentle Jesus, meek & mild.” A Jesus who is, ultimately, easy to ignore.
But is that the Jesus of the Bible? According to pastor and author John MacArthur, the answer is an emphatic “no.”
And in The Jesus You Can’t Ignore: What You Must Learn from the Bold Confrontations of Christ, MacArthur carefully examines the Scriptures to show readers the powerful and provocative character of Jesus of Nazareth.
As MacArthur leads his audience through a study of Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees and Sadducees, he reveals that every encounter was antagonistic—and instigated by Jesus Himself. So opposed was He to false religion, that, writes MacArthur, “[b]y today’s standards, Jesus’ words about the Pharisees and His treatment of them are breathtakingly severe.” (p. 21)
MacArthur’s examination of Jesus’ encounters with the religious leaders of His day bring to light the author’s concern about the state of modern evangelicalism—that we’ve confused niceness for godliness, which has resulted in an anemic faith that has sacrificed a willingness to earnestly contend for the Truth for a willingness to accommodate virtually any and all viewpoints or perspectives, no matter how contrary they might be to biblical Christianity. Continue Reading…
On October 3, 2010, I had the opportunity to preach the above message from Genesis 18:1-15 at Gladstone Baptist Church in Gladstone, Ontario.
My original notes follow:
In March of 2009, I was rushing to the hospital, chasing an ambulance that was carrying my wife. She’d lost a lot of blood due to complications related to a miscarriage. So I’m driving and I’m kind of freaking out and praying, “God, please let my wife be okay.”
So I got to the hospital and I wasn’t allowed to see my wife for about 20 minutes. They were trying to stabilize her, I learned later. But those 20 minutes may as well have been an eternity. For a while a number of things were running through my head—Am I going to go home as a single dad? How would I explain something like that to a two-year-old? Will work give me the time off that I need to take care of everything that needs to be taken care of?
And as I prayed and pleaded with God, I had got this distinct impression that God was asking me a question, “Do you trust me?”
That’s the big question, isn’t it? Continue Reading…
Kevin DeYoung offers some extremely helpful insights into the question. Here’s an excerpt:
Consider what it may communicate when you replace services with serving. It sounds like a good idea: let’s do something for the community instead of going to church for ourselves. But ultimately we worship because God summons us to worship. It is for ourselves (see below), but it is also for God. He commands it. So why cancel it instead of something else? But why not do the soup kitchen on Saturday or pump people’s gas on Friday night? I suppose it’s possible you can have some meaningful conversations explaining why you are a Christian and not in church. But it also seems quite likely that churches replace Sunday services with Sunday serving because that’s the time they are already meeting. It’s the best time to get most of your people doing something and it doesn’t require any more time out of their week. Except for doctors, police officers and the like serving in their professions, are there really service projects the church has to do on Sunday morning?
Read the whole article on Kevin’s blog.
HT: Trevin Wax
Leadership: Four Ways to Kill Your Church
Marriage: Elyse Fitzpatrick explains why submission is harder than you think
Evangelism: Trevin Wax interviews J.D. Greear about his new book, Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim
Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:
A review of Peter Jones’ One or Two: Seeing a World of Difference
James MacDonald & C.J. Mahaney discuss genuine humility
Martin Luther’s sermon on the Wheat and the Tares
He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV)
The Savior himself explained this parable in the same chapter upon the request of his disciples and says: He that sows the good seed is the Son of man; and the field is the world; and the good seed, these are the children of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy that sowed them is the devil; and the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
These seven points of explanation comprehend and clearly set forth what Christ meant by this parable. But who could have discovered such an interpretation, seeing that in this parable he calls people the seed and the world the field; although in the parable preceding this one he defines the seed to be the Word of God and the field the people or the hearts of the people.
If Christ himself had not here interpreted this parable every one would have imitated his explanation of the preceding parable and considered the seed to be the Word of God, and thus the Savior’s object and understanding of it would have been lost.
Permit me to make an observation here for the benefit of the wise and learned who study the Scriptures. Imitating or guessing is not to be allowed in the explanation of Scripture; but one should and must be sure and firm.
Just like Joseph in Gen. 40:12f. interpreted the two dreams of the butler and baker so differently, although they resembled each other, and he did not make the one a copy of the other. True, the danger would not have been great if the seed had been interpreted to be the Word of God; still had this been the case the parable would not have been thus understood correctly. Continue Reading…