Man may have advanced, but he hasn’t changed

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

It is to me almost incredible and incomprehensible that anybody who has ever read the Bible at all, or even indeed human history, could possibly dispute this, even for a second. What superficial thinkers we are. We are assuming that because man can travel in an aeroplane, and split the atom, he is somehow different from his forefathers who could not do these things. But man himself has not changed. Man himself, you discover by looking into how he thinks, what he is really interested in, how he acts. And man today is, primarily and fundamentally, interested in the very things that interested him four thousand years ago, in the time of Abraham. If we just read the newspapers we see that the major interests of Man are still, eating, drinking, making war, sex and pleasures of various kinds. They are all here in the Old Testament, and man is still doing the same things. Look at the major social problems confronting us today, and you will find all of them in the Bible: theft, robbery, violence, jealousy, envy, infidelity, divorce, separation, perversions, all these things, are in the Bible. These are the problems of man today, as they have always been.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival, 25–26.

You need something that can shatter evil’s power

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Everything that can appeal to the modern man, the last word in presentation is used, in the belief that when it is done, and you do it with a modern technique, then you will get hold of the modern man. But I think that the time has now come to ask this simple question: what are the results? Is the modern problem being touched at all? Of course these various methods, the apologetics and the others may indeed lead to individual conversions. We are all aware of that. Almost any method you like to employ will do that. Of course there are individual conversions, but my question is this—what of the situation, what of the bulk of men and women, what of the working classes of this country, are they being touched at all, are they being affected at all? Is anybody being affected, except those who are already in the Church or on the fringe of the Church? What of the spiritual and religious condition of the country? What of the whole state of society? Is this being touched at all by all our activities?

Well, my answer would be that it all seems to put us into the position of the disciples who had tried to cast the devil out of the boy, these men who had been so successful in many another case, but who could not touch this case at all. And our Lord gives them the explanation, ‘this kind’ can come forth by nothing like this. By what, then? ‘This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer, and fasting.’ You failed there, he said in effect to these disciples, because you did not have sufficient power. You were using the power that you have, and you were very confident in it. You did it with great assurance, you were masters of the occasion, you thought you were going to succeed at once, but you did not. It is time you paused for a moment and began to think. It was your ignorance of these gradations in power amongst evil spirits that led to your failure, and to your crestfallen condition at this moment. You have not sufficient power. I did what you could not do because I have power, because I am filled with the power that God gives me by the Holy Spirit, for he gives not the Spirit by measure unto me. You will never be able to deal with ‘this kind’ unless you have applied to God for the power which he alone can give you. You must become aware of your need, of your impotence, of your helplessness. You must realise that you are confronted by something that is too deep for your methods to get rid of, or to deal with, and you need something that can go down beneath that evil power, and shatter it, and there is only one thing that can do that, and that is the power of God.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival, 18-19

What might Jesus say if He visited your small group?

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I wonder what would happen if Jesus stepped into your small group this week.

  • Would he cry? Laugh? Yell? Flip over tables?
  • Would he sit down and eat some nachos with you?
  • Would he grab a cup of coffee and stay late?

If Jesus came to your small group, I think there are a few things he’d say:

You’re too easy on church people.

Jesus was never easy on people that claimed a relationship with God. He was much tougher on them than he was people outside of the Church. He held them to a much higher standard, and called them to be living, breathing examples of the Gospel. And when they weren’t, he let em have it.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”- Matthew 23:27-28

You’re too tough on lost people.

Groups should be the place where “outsiders”feel comfortable exploring, disagreeing, and bringing the full weight of themselves into the conversation. And when they sin, we should expect it. Don’t be surprised when lost people act lost.

Speaking to a woman caught in adultery, Jesus said:

“Woman, where are they (your accusers)? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.”And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more. – John 8:10-11

You’re too stingy.

Groups should be the place where our combined resources make a dent in the Kingdom. Our generosity should shape neighborhoods, shake families, and leave people shaking their heads at our love.

Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. – Luke 6:30

Generosity is costly and formative. The strongest small groups are marked by lavish generosity in various forms. All too often, we in small groups just think, “What’s in this for me? How am I going to grow? How should I change?”It’s not all about us.

Why so serious?

People take spiritual growth too seriously. Too heavily. Too ominously. Spiritual growth happens in the serious moments, but it also happens in the laughter and the fun.

Jesus didn’t say this, but I can only imagine he obeyed it:

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. –Psalm 126:2-3

When they heard the people’s mouths filled with laughter and their tongues singing songs of joy, they said, “They must serve a great God!”Laughter and joy became attractional for the church. Outsiders began to notice the community of God-followers because they were laughing.

Just 1.5 hours?

Spiritual growth is much more all-encompassing than 1.5 hours. In no way can you expect to grow if you just spend 1.5 hours together in a week. Small groups build relationships with one another. Phone calls, cups of coffee, texts, lunches, and other relationship-building times are a must.

Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus not just teaching, but spending time with, his disciples.

What are you producing?

So many small groups have no idea where they’re headed. They think that small group is about the curriculum. Or about the meeting. Or about the project. The reality is that all of those are just the backdrop for the real mission: creating disciples.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”- Matthew 28:18-19

Let’s eat!

Eating together is such a vital part of the success of a small group. It gives depth to relationship as you meet one another’s physical needs, it gives a natural reason to congregate together (everyone’s got to eat), and through providing food for one another you inadvertently put a bit of yourself into your meal.

We see multiple examples of Jesus eating with his disciples, both before and after the resurrection.

What do you think Jesus would say to your small group?


Ben Reed is the author of Starting Small: The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint. He is the small groups pastor at Long Hollow Baptist Church in Nashville, TN. Ben is also an avid Cross-Fitter and coffee drinker. But not at the same time.

Photo credit: Sathish J (CC)

Links I like

The Righteousness of Faith According to Luther—free for Logos users

The Righteousness of Faith According to Luther by Hans J. Iwand is the free book of the month from Logos Bible Software. You can also pair this with Brett Muhlhan’s Being Shaped by Freedom: An Examination of Luther’s Development of Christian Liberty for 99 cents.

For the sake of the children, must we abandon Genesis?

Martin Olasky:

If for the sake of the children we can’t give up Darwin, and if by doing so the kids don’t turn their backs on the Bible, they have a Bible with lots of pages torn out and its overarching theme—creation, fall, and redemption—slashed. If we jettison Genesis, Jesus who made miracles will eventually go too. Jimmy, Kathy, and sweet Lorelei may go to church a bit longer, but they’ll eventually find a more amusing club.

What’s the alternative? Theistic evolutionists say we must bend or die, but when we bend on something so basic, where do we stop? Is our chief task to glorify our Creator or to be glorified by other creatures? When Darwin trumps the Bible, what are we worshipping?

 Kindle deals for Christian readers

Finally, several volumes in Zondervan’s How to Read series are $3.79 each:

What Does “First Among Equals” Mean on an Elder Board

Jonathan Leeman:

A non-staff elder friend from another church recently emailed me this question:

I need an education on the topic of “first among equals” as it relates to elders. I am struggling at times to find my way. I know that God has me here for a reason, and I know that it will take work to go from years of one man leading, to two men, to three, and so on. I know the challenges of working to change culture. I really want to make sure my understanding and heart are in the right place as I talk with the others…Any tips?

Evangelicals and Cities: A Discussion in Need of Clarity

Kevin DeYoung:

…I am thankful for people who feel called to an urban context. Whether it’s to alleviate poverty or embrace diversity or influence cultural elites or simply to be where lost people are, I have no problem with evangelical appeals to be involved in cities. In fact, I am entirely for it! But if this ongoing discussion about evangelicals and cities is to be profitable, we have to figure out what we actually mean by cities.

Do Prodigals Feel Welcome At Our Churches?

Stephen Altrogge:

In his kindness, God often brings a prodigal to the end of his rope. No money. Living on the street. Kicked out of college. A string of broken relationships. Tempted to eat food that is intended for pigs. You get the point. And when prodigals bottom out, they often return home and to the church.

When a prodigal returns to your church, what sort of welcome will he receive?

Links I like

Hobby Lobby Hysteria

Gene Veith:

Critics of the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Obamacare contraceptive mandate must include exemptions for business owners whose religion does not permit them to purchase birth control pills and possible abortifacients are howling with indignation. Women are going to be prevented from having access to birth control! The ruling will result in more unwanted pregnancies and thus more abortions!

10 Reasons God Stops Us In Our Tracks

David Murray:

I’m beginning to ease myself back into a few hours of work a day after my second experience of pulmonary emboli in three years.… It’s been a sobering and solemnizing time in which I’ve been prayerfully trying to interpret this providence and hear God’s “voice” to me in it.

Basically God has stopped my in my tracks once again and I’ve been asking myself Why? Not at all in a rebellious way, but in a humble and teachable way. Did I miss or forget the lessons of three years ago? I’ve already had two strikes; I desperately don’t want a third.

2 Types of Critics Who Can Teach You

Ed Stetzer:

It’s a hard balance—you want to receive criticism, but not from every single person. The fact is, being a leader attracts criticism—if you want everyone to like you, go sell ice cream.

However, I’d encourage you to consider receiving criticism not just from people who like you, but also from those who don’t. In other words, you can receive criticism from unfriendly and friendly critics.

Since it’s harder, I’ll start with learning from those who are not friendly. In many cases, they don’t talk to you, just about you. Either way, God can use criticisms from unfriendly people for you.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Evangelical Ethos of Parachurch Entitlement

JD Payne:

I have always been supportive of parachurch organizations.

However, my concern is that many parachurch organizations have not worked toward the completion of the parachurch purpose, but have created an evangelical ethos of parachurch entitlement.  Rather than empowering local churches, many have become an end unto themselves.

Christ Is Deeper Still

Tullian Tchividjian:

True growth as a Christian involves recognizing that there is always another cavern to explore. There’s always another crevasse of self-centeredness, or stalactite of jealousy. The light of Jesus shines into deeper and darker corners and proclaims, “Yes, I can save this too.” True growth as a Christian means realizing that all the climbing we need to do is down into the depths.

The Pastor’s Kid

The Pastor's Kid by Barnabas Piper

I’m not a pastor’s kid, but if I were, there are two things I know to be true: First, I’d want everyone in our church to stop using the term “PK,” and second, I wouldn’t want to be the kid of a famous pastor.

Barnabas Piper didn’t have much of a choice on either count. Born three years into his father’s call to pastoral ministry, he’d known nothing but the PK life, and as the son of John Piper… Well, let’s be honest: the fact that Barnabas hasn’t dyed his hair purple and started running marathons in leather chaps may well be the surest evidence of God’s grace.

Okay, I’m probably exaggerating.

A bit.

Maybe.

But one thing he makes clear in The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity is the PK life is anything but simple:

The life of a PK is complex, occasionally messy, often frustrating, and sometimes downright maddening. It can be a curse and a bane. But being a PK can also be a profound blessing and provide wonderful grounding for a godly life. Often the greatest challenges are the greatest grounding and the biggest falls are the best blessings. This polarity exemplifies the challenge it is to be a PK. (Kindle location 71)

This polarity Piper describes—that being a PK can be simultaneously a blessing and a burden—is a theme that runs throughout this book. The insane expectations of simultaneously being perfect and the perfect rebel, as as though the PK will be the MVP in a game of Bible All-Star while at the same time wearing a beer helmet to church. Living in the fishbowl, where all eyes are on you (and often knowing private things they have no business knowing) because of Pastor Dad. The confusion of knowing a lot of Bible stories, but not knowing Jesus because Jesus has become boring:

Being around Jesus-related teaching, literature, and events all the time makes Jesus rote in the minds and hearts of PKs. Rote is mundane. When Jesus becomes mundane, He ceases being life-changing and life-giving. In the case of many PKs, He never was either of these; by their estimation, He was just a character in an overtold story. Instead of Savior and Lord, He becomes any number of other things, most of which take on the character of those who represent Him in the church. (Kindle location 634)

As a parent, that is probably the most terrifying thing for me when I think about my own children’s spiritual health. They’re not PKs, but they are in the bubble because of my job and my extra-curricular activities. They’re exposed to a lot of Bible, a lot of books, a lot of discussion… and honestly, the last thing I want for them is to find Jesus boring.

So what does it mean for me as a parent? I need to give them grace and space to figure stuff out as they grow. To wrestle, to ask questions. To meet the real Jesus at the end of it all because, “only when Jesus becomes real to a PK can she begin to figure out what she is, who she is” (Kindle location 648).

This is where, from a  practical standpoint, the sixth chapter, “Pastor and Child,” is so helpful to me (even as a layperson). It’s a simple reminder to be dad before being a pastor or ministry leader or anything else. To talk with instead of at. To have fun, have friends, to play and be silly. “The greatest grace a pastor can show his children is not being a great pastor; it is being a parent who is fully invested, cares deeply, and shows it as well as he can” (Kindle location 1110).

Writing on a subject so closely tied to the author’s life and experience can be touchy, especially one as complex as being a pastor’s kid. It’s easy to veer into bitterness, grumbling and complaining about how awful being a PK was. While that might even be true for some, this is not where Piper leaves readers. He’s not bitter or jaded. He hasn’t abandoned Christianity. He’s not angry with his parents for giving their lives to church ministry. Instead, he is grateful:

…PKs are blessed to have parents who devote their lives to serving Jesus. It is a challenging calling, and not one person in the world’s history has figured out how to do it perfectly. It is a daunting life. But it is necessary and good and rewarding. So thank you, pastors (and spouses). You have given your lives to serving Jesus and His church, and that is a blessing. (Kindle location 1343)

If there’s one key takeaway from the book, this is it. Despite its complexity, being a PK ultimately is a blessing, rather than a burden. Although some stumble and fall, and some try to run as far away as possible from the faith of their parents, they don’t have to. They don’t have to live up to false expectations, or let unkind and uncharitable comments become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Instead, they can run full tilt toward Jesus, owning their responsibilities to “honor Jesus, to honor our fathers and mothers, to love and support the church, and to go about our lives not as victims but as the redeemed” (Kindle location 1394). This is what I see Barnabas Piper doing, both in The Pastor’s Kid and when I interact with him online or when we happen to be in the same city (when we’re not making smart-alecky comments, that is). And this is what I’d love to see for my kids who aren’t PKs, as well as for all the PKs at our church and in all the faithful churches in our community. While none of us can make it happen for any one person, this book is sure to offer a great deal of healing for wounded pastor’s kids and challenging encouragement along the way for their parents.


Title: The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity
Author: Barnabas Piper
Publisher: David C. Cook (2014)

Buy it at: Amazon

Links I like

Potshots Are Not a Spiritual Gift

Dan Darling:

It’s a bit morose and probably an exercise in ego-massaging to consider what one would wanted inscribed on his tombstone (if indeed one has left his family enough money to buy a tombstone). But indulge me for a moment. This can be a good exercise for us in that it requires us to think through just what our lives are made of–what will the one or two sentences in the first lines of our obituaries say when we pass? I’m not sure what that would be for me, but I can tell you what I wouldn’t want it to be.

I don’t want to be known as the guy who takes potshots at other people.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

So much good stuff on sale right now:

And a couple more I became aware of after hitting publish:

Autopsy of a Burned Out Pastor

Thom Rainer:

Perhaps the autopsy metaphor is not the best choice. After all, the person is not deceased. But the pastor who is burned out feels like life is draining out. Unfortunately, I have spoken with too many pastors for whom burnout is a reality or a near reality.

What lessons can we learn from those pastors who burned out? Allow me to share 13 lessons I have learned from those who have met this fate. They are in no particular order.

Lessons I’ve Learned From False Teachers

Tim Challies shares several excellent takeaways from looking at false teachers for the last few weeks:

The first and most fundamental thing I learned about false teachers is that we ought to expect them and be on the lookout for them. They are common in every era of church history. This should not surprise us, since the Bible warns that we are on war footing in this world, and that Satan is on full-out offensive against God and his people. And sure enough, history shows that whenever the gospel advances, error follows in its wake. When and where there are teachers of truth, there will necessarily be teachers of error. Perhaps the most surprising thing about false teachers is that we continue to be surprised by them.

When Words Mean What They Don’t Mean

Bill Mounce:

Every once in a while I come across a verse that is simply impossible to translate. No matter what you do, you over- or under-translate, or worst mistranslate. 2 John 1:12 is one of those verses.

3 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Church

Steve Timmis:

Joining a church is a big deal. By joining, I don’t mean just going to a regular meeting once or twice a week. I don’t even mean simply getting your name on the membership roll. I mean committing yourself to a covenantal relationship with a group of Christians who are your family and with whom you share life-in-Christ together. That’s how big a deal it is. So if you’ve relocated and need to find a church, then make sure you ask the right questions before joining.
Though these questions aren’t the only ones to ask, they are important. None of them stands alone, but together they create a crucial decision-making framework.

Links I like

Time heals all wounds?

Jeremy Walker:

The simple passage of time does not heal such wounds. Even in the relationship of God with men, God’s forgetting of our sins is a deliberate putting away – under specific circumstances and with good grounds – of that which has caused offence. It is not a gradual fog that gathers due to unavoidable gaps in the divine mind. The matter is there until repentance and forgiveness deals with it, and then it is cast into the depths of the sea. On a human level, the passage of time may dull the immediate pain of the splinter, only for it to flare up when pressure is re-applied. And yet how many of us seem to think or hope that if we just leave our sin or the sins of others alone, maybe the wound will heal? To be sure, it may temporarily scab over, but the slightest movement at that particular point will re-open the injury, and perhaps reveal not just the original cut but a developed infection.

Theses on the Revelation of the Trinity

Fred Sanders:

As I’ve been working on a large writing project on the doctrine of the Trinity (The Triune God in Zondervan’s New Studies in Dogmatics series), one of the things that has increasingly called for attention is the peculiarity of the way this doctrine was revealed. It’s simply not like other doctrines. I think the doctrine ought to be handled in a way that takes account of the way it was made known. More strongly: the mode of the revelation of the Trinity has structural implications for the right presentation of the doctrine. Here, in compressed form (propounded but not defended), are guidelines I’ve been working with for handling the doctrine.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Get Foundations of Grace in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the ePub edition of Foundations of Grace by Steven Lawson for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • 1-2 Peter by R.C. Sproul (ePub)
  •  A Survey of Church History, Part 2 teaching series by W. Robert Godfrey (DVD)
  • Feed My Sheep by various authors (hardcover)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

Liberty Village 365

Would you consider helping my friend Darryl Dash out with this project?

The Problem with Seeking Converts by Saying As Little As Possible

Thabiti shares a great quote by Walter Chantry.

The enduring relevance of Charles Spurgeon

Relevant Magazine shares 20 quote from Charles Spurgeon that remind us why he still matters today.

Pornolescence

Tim Challies:

It is going to take time—decades at least—before we are able to accurately tally the cost of our cultural addiction to pornography. But as Christians we know what it means to tamper with God’s clear and unambiguous design for sexuality: The cost will be high. It must be high.

Do we make leadership more lonely than it needs to be?

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“It’s lonely at the top”—but does it have to be?

On the one hand, I get it: yes, there are issues that only the guy on the highest point on the org chart has to deal with. Yes, there are appropriate boundaries leaders need to put in place in order to function… I get that because I’m a leader (although admittedly a mid-level one). Even at my level in terms of leadership hierarchies, there are limits to what I can do in order to balance my responsibilities effectively.

But when I hear this common bit of leadership “wisdom,” I just don’t resonate with it. Maybe it is simply because I’m in that middle area where I’m being lead even as I lead others, but the more I read about this, the more times I hear someone say “leadership is lonely,” the more I come to realize it’s not true. And the more I want to say one thing:

Leadership is lonely only because you’re making it more lonely than you need to.

This is the thing: when we’re lonely in this sense, it’s because, more often than not, we choose to be. But it doesn’t have to be so. Leadership doesn’t have to be lonely, no matter what the experts tell you. Here’s what I see as the primary cause of the “leadership is lonely” problem:

We think too highly of ourselves.”No one can understand what I have to deal with,” we might think. But you know what that is? Pride. I don’t know how else to put it. People might not be able to relate to the details of our circumstances, sure, but everyone’s pulling a Radio Flyer full of their own issues, the particulars of which we can’t necessarily relate to either. But if we let our “no one understands me” silliness isolate us, what we’re really saying is there’s no one as important as we are.

More often than not, when I see a lonely leader, it’s because he has chosen to be one. He isolates himself from others and has no discernible accountability structure. And what happens?

He self-destructs. His career ends. His ministry is discredited… and worse, some people cheer when it happens.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to be all alone out there. We can choose to see ourselves as normal people—to engage with others, even if the particulars of their situations don’t match our own. We can seek out others who are in similar situations. As much as we believe it to be so, leadership doesn’t have to be lonely.

Links I like

Should we pray for revival?

Alvin Reid:

Ours is not the first generation to recognize the spiritual declension among us, or to see the need for God to awaken his church and touch our land. From the saints of the Old Testament to leaders in our time, prayer for revival has marked believers who understand the need for the Spirit surpasses our ability and intelligence.

I’m Southern Baptist, and I Love a Man

Chad Ashby:

It feels good to finally make it public—I love a man. I’m a Southern Baptist pastor, and it’s true. Allow me to tell you about this relationship.

What Parts of the Bible are You Ignoring?

Barnabas Piper:

It’s not easy to make sense of scripture. Parts of it are downright weird or even horrific. The story of Judah and Tamar, God’s interaction with Hosea and Gomer, and any story using the phrase “devoted to destruction” come to mind. They are the stories you don’t see in children’s Bible story books, or if they are included it is with some serious sanitation and airbrushing (a Thomas Kinkade version of reality, so to speak).

Those passages get ignored because they gross us out or break our fragile understanding of God. But there are other portions of scripture we ignore in an entirely different way – commands that are uncomfortable or nigh impossible to follow. It is so easy to willfully overlook them, much easier than learning how to reconcile them to my life and God’s reality.

Faithful Theological Education

W. Robert Godfrey:

One of the greatest problems in many churches and schools today is that they have drifted or run away from the authority of the Bible. Rather than the Bible standing as standard and judge of what they do, they stand as judge of the Bible. Human minds, judgments, and values decide what parts of the Bible are true and useful today. This unfaithful approach to the Bible has led to the serious decline of churches in numbers and influence and has turned formerly Christian schools into secular institutions.

The Power of Asking the Right Question

Michael Kelley:

Sometimes there is a question behind the question. The initial question might be something theoretical like this: “Daddy, what dessert is the healthiest?” Now that sounds suspicious to me. It’s crafty, especially when coming from a particularly wily 8-year-old. But that’s not the real question. You only get to the real question a bit later after you go through a series of others. The REAL question is this:
“Can we have ice cream tonight?”

That’s what he really wants an answer to, and I think we do the same thing when we ask bigger, more substantial questions about the nature of life, God, and humanity. Most of the time these initial questions come in the same hypothetical form. You know: “Could God make a rock too big for Him to move?” kind of stuff.

Is There “A Way Forward” for the United Methodist Church?

Trevin Wax:

As evangelicals, we should grieve whenever churches and denominations are divided. Jesus claimed that one of the ways the world will know the Father’s glory is through His people’s unity. Too often, we give lip service to unity while justifying schism.

At the same time, true and lasting unity must be based in the truth of God’s Word. Unity is impossible when the clarity and sufficiency of Scripture is denied.

3 passages I want to preach (but have been afraid to)

raffaello-sanzio-cartoon-for-st-paul-preaching-in-athens

I’m going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret: preaching is really hard. It’s a task that can (or should) make even the most confident man a little weak in the knees. One of the things that’s always freaked me out has been trying to choose the right passage to preach… What if it’s the “wrong” message for the church, or what if I do injustice to the text? And let’s face it, some texts are significantly harder to teach than others.

Here’s a look at three books I want to preach, but have been afraid to:

Obadiah. How many sermons on this book have you heard? Thanks to The Gospel Project, I think my kids have now heard more messages on it than I have (that being, one). But this book, despite being the shortest book of the Old Testament, is rich with gospel goodness, with its powerful reminder that the Lord is sovereign over all nations and that He judges all and He has made a way to escape His wrath.

Genesis. Specifically, Genesis 1. It’s not because I’m afraid to wade into the origins debate, but because I don’t want that to be a distraction from a larger point in the text: this passage is primarily about Jesus—His power, His wisdom, His character and His redemptive work. And too often the origins debate overlooks this important truth. (This, incidentally, I’ve been thinking about coupling with Romans 1.)

2 John. This one is challenging in some ways simply because it’s so short (13 verses!). But again, it’s packed with richness that we can overlook due to the letter’s length. But just think about 2 John 9-11:

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

This is such a strong warning from the apostle John—if you don’t believe what He said and do what He commands, you’re not Christian. Worse, if you allow false teachers to be among you, you’re indicted along with them. That’s heavy stuff, isn’t it?

So, those are a few of the passages I’ve wanted to preach, but have been afraid to—at least up until now. I’m working on my summer preaching itinerary now (and if you’re interested in having me come to your church, drop me a line!), and now I’m praying about the texts to preach—and specifically whether or not to teach some of these. It’ll be interesting to see where He leads.

What are some books you’ve never heard preached? Pastors, what are some books you’ve wanted to preach but have shied away from?

Links I like

What Did Jesus Mean When He Told Us Not to Judge?

Mike Leake:

I’m convinced that Matthew 7:1 has replaced John 3:16 as the most quoted Bible verse. I could have shared any number of scenarios in which this verse is given as a response to rebuke and admonishments. In our culture anytime someone states that a certain behavior is wrong or sinful it is nearly inevitable that someone will pipe in with not judging.

But is it judging to point out the sin of another person? What does Jesus mean in Matthew 7:1 when he tells Christians to not judge?

Stretching the Pastor’s Imagination

Bobby Jamieson:

In a recent piece I made a case that imagination is an important and perhaps neglected tool in the church reform toolkit. On one level, imagination is simply applying faith to thinking. You may not see how your church could ever embody anything like biblical health, but God is the God of the impossible.

Which means that pastoral ministry is the art of the impossible. Which means that many pastors could afford to stretch and strengthen their imaginations. But how?

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Zondervan has put the four volume John Wesley’s Teachings series by Thomas C. Oden on sale for $3.99 each until June 22nd:

Also on sale:

“Daddy, You Should Tell Her About Jesus”

Erik Raymond:

We all know that kids, particularly little kids say surprising and funny things, but sometimes they are refreshingly precise. They can cut through the boundaries erected by the mature.

This was the case last night as I was putting my daughter (4) to bed. We were talking about how I was going to visit a family member. She asked me if this person loved Jesus. I told her that I do not think that she is a Christian. Then I invited her to pray with me for her salvation. She complied. Then she sat up, pushed her curly hair back and said, “You know what, you should also go and tell her about Jesus right away. Prayers are good but you need to tell her about Jesus Daddy.” I told her that she was exactly right and that I would.

Five Questions for Christians Who Believe the Bible Supports Gay Marriage

Kevin DeYoung:

So you’ve become convinced that the Bible supports gay marriage. You’ve studied the issue, read some books, looked at the relevant Bible passages and concluded that Scripture does not prohibit same-sex intercourse so long as it takes place in the context of a loving, monogamous, lifelong covenanted relationship. You still love Jesus. You still believe the Bible. In fact, you would argue that it’s because you love Jesus and because you believe the Bible that you now embrace gay marriage as a God-sanctioned good.

As far as you are concerned, you haven’t rejected your evangelical faith. You haven’t turned your back on God. You haven’t become a moral relativist. You’ve never suggested anything goes when it comes to sexual behavior. In most things, you tend to be quite conservative. You affirm the family, and you believe in the permanence of marriage. But now you’ve simply come to the conclusion that two men or two women should be able to enter into the institution of marriage–both as a legal right and as a biblically faithful expression of one’s sexuality.

Setting aside the issue of biblical interpretation for the moment, let me ask five questions.

When Callings Clash

Melissa Kruger:

How are we as believers to navigate the waters of submission when we find ourselves in a clash of callings? What are we to do when our obedience to God or the betterment of his people collides with the call to submit to our husbands, churches, or governments? Two biblical principles can guide us as we seek to honor God in our submission.

If the gospel isn’t in it, should we be singing it?

keyboard

So there’s a completely accurate report rumor going around that I’m pretty persnickety about music. Like, to the point that I have trouble singing most Sundays. This isn’t because there’s anything terrible with the music at our church—far from it, our church has a pretty robust music ministry (but thankfully no lasers or smoke machines)—it’s just I find myself thinking about the words we’re singing more often than not.

The reasons for this vary: sometimes it’s considering how those words line up with my own life at that moment. Other times, it’s contemplating whether or not the words are actually undeniably Christian, or if they’re just kind of feel-good gobbledygook.

Thankfully I am not alone in this.

A while back while reading Mack Stiles’ great book, Evangelism (reviewed here), I came upon this helpful bit of commentary:

My daughter-in-law, Stephanie, told me that she sang a song at her graduation that’s often sung in church services—”God of This City.” Half of her classmates were Muslims, and they had no trouble singing the song with gusto. If people from other faith backgrounds can sing a song with gusto at a secular high school graduation, we can be pretty sure there’s no gospel in the song. (85)

This is worth considering. But first, notice what Stiles doesn’t say:

  • He doesn’t equate a song’s simplicity with a lack of depth. Simple is good, provided what it communicates is faithful and true.
  • He doesn’t say “songs with first person pronouns are bad.” We should be able to sing in the first person as appropriate, certainly.
  • He doesn’t treat the song as if it’s evil in and of itself—he actually says later it’s a better song than most of the stuff on the top 40 (which is true).

But what he does say—and I emphatically agree with—is it is devoid of the gospel.

And again, this should make us think: what do the songs we sing on Sundays communicate about Jesus? Some communicate wonderful truths about God and the gospel, but far too many focus on us in the negative sense—what I’m doing, what I’m feeling, what I want, and, at best, treat God as a cosmic problem solver.

“Greater things are still to be done,” and all that.

While it may be unpopular to say, if a non-Christian isn’t deeply uncomfortable with the songs we sing because of their emphasis on Jesus, we might be doing it wrong. And if the gospel isn’t in it—should we really be singing it?

Links I like

Success Is Dangerous

Jared Wilson:

There is something biblically beautiful, actually, about such littleness. It appears to be the primary mode of thinking of the apostles about themselves. Paul boasts, but he boasts in his weakness. He considers his successes garbage compared to Christ’s glory. It is God’s bigness he is concerned ultimately with, not his own or that of the churches.

Get The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get the hardcover edition of The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts by Douglas Bond for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • The Masculine Mandate: God’s Calling to Men by Richard Phillips (ePub)
  • Light and Heat 2011 conference messages (DVD)
  • God in Our Midst by Daniel Hyde (ePub)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

“Has my view on homosexuality changed?”

Good article from Preston Sprinkle:

I often get asked, have you changed your views after studying the topic and teaching the class? Sometimes the question is genuine; other times the questioner has a sharpened pitch-fork ready to address the wrong answer. In any case, my answer is always the same: “yes and no.”

All The Things God Is Doing When It Looks Like He Is Doing Nothing

Stephen Altrogge:

I have been trained, for good or for bad, to expect immediate results.

The only problem is that God doesn’t usually do immediate. He doesn’t usually do fast. He doesn’t do overnight shipping. He works according to his timeline, not mine. And the wonderful reality, is that God is usually doing a thousand things when it looks like he’s doing absolutely nothing.

Holding the Mystery

Lore Ferguson:

I live in a neighborhood where all the houses look the same. Our floorplans are swapped or switched a bit, but generally, we are like a row of Japanese diplomats, all bowing our heads to the Suburban Man.

The names of the roads are Springaire and Winter Park and Summerwind and Autumn Breeze—a nod, perhaps, to what the city planners wish would be instead of what is. People keep warning me about the Long Winter (they say, with capitalized letters) up north. I keep reminding them of their long summer, but neither of us can agree which is better. We always want what we can’t have, right?