Links I like

If They Were Killing [Liberals]

Matt Svoboda:

“45 liberals- including women and children- were killed, several tortured to death.” Can you imagine the outcry? It would be the only thing passed around on Facebook as every media outlet would be all over it. Of course you haven’t heard this story because it didn’t happen… to liberals. It did happen to Christians. In late October one of the worst massacres of Christians in a long time happened in Syria. 45 Christians- including women and children- were killed, several tortured to death. We don’t need to ask the question why are Muslim extremists killing Christians. We know that answer. We need to ask the question, why isn’t it being reported?

Am I Faking It or Trying?

Barnabas Piper:

Faking and trying often look quite similar. Both require going through the motions of something we either don’t know how to do, or have no intention of doing, well. When I’ve gotten dragged into soccer games on various youth group or missions trips I look like I’m playing because I’m running around and kicking the ball when I have to, but I’m faking it because I really don’t like soccer. When I’m stuck in a meeting I don’t want to be in I look like I’m making the effort and engaging because I’m writing stuff down (usually emails or iMessages) and occasionally nodding at a point someone makes, but I’m pretending.

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Christian Focus has a number of titles by John Owen on sale by $3.99:

Dads, Write in Your Bible

Jonathan Parnell:

It’s no secret that the word of God and prayer are a personal means of grace that spill over for the good of those around us. And how much more for a patriarch? We read the Bible not just for ourselves, but for our families, for our friends, for our community. We know that God doesn’t transform his people into dead-ends, but into rivers of living water, and therefore, deciding on a route and digging in on that resolve has more in view than our own souls. And this year, as you settle your plans, here’s another aspect to consider. Dads, write in your Bible.

5 ways you can bomb a sermon

Adam Ramsey:

Preaching is a high calling and hard work. I started preaching weekly to a group of high-school students when I was just 20 years old. Like me, a huge percentage of preachers learn the ropes and discover their voice while teaching young people in some form of student ministry. And unless you’re some sort of prodigy (you’re probably not), the brutal truth is you will likely look back on your first couple hundred sermons as something comparable to the earnest delusion of most American Idol auditions.

My favorite articles to write in 2013

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Yes gang, one more list! This week I’ve shared my top reads of 2013, as well as my favorite books to review. This list is a little different, and is likely the last one I’ll be sharing about the year that is nearly done.

Any good writer will tell you that it takes a lot of effort to write—not to simply to write well, but to write at all. It’s actually a lot easier to not. And very often, we writer types tend to be our own worst critics (y’know, when we’re not inflating our own egos by watching how many Facebook likes we’ve received.). But no matter how much we tell ourselves we should quit, there’s always something we’ve written we genuinely like.

Which brings us to the topic of today’s post—my favorite articles of 2013.

These are articles representing some of the work I’m most happy with from the past year, although not necessarily the most read (though some of them are). I hope you’ll give them a read if you haven’t already:

Hope for timid evangelists

You wouldn’t think this is a terribly hard thing to do, but it seems to be. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt a sense of hesitation set in before doing something even as simple as sending an email asking a pretty open-ended question. When I see that people are ready and willing to answer these questions (some as pointed as “where do you believe you’ll spend eternity and why?”), I feel a little silly.

But here’s the good news—God’s Word offers much hope for timid evangelists like me, especially in the gospel of Luke. Here are five truths we can embrace.

Why I won’t read your book on visiting Heaven

Not too long ago, I received a copy of one of the many books on someone’s alleged trip to heaven and back. I couldn’t bring myself to read more than a few pages before putting it down.… I chose to not read the book about visiting heaven I received—and will continue to do the same for one reason: They’re almost certainly not true.

Does the Bible permit polygamy?

One doesn’t have to look hard to see that many of the “heroes” of the faith were polygamists—Abraham had multiple wives and concubines; Jacob had multiple wives and concubines as well. Even the greatest kings of Israel, David and Solomon, had multiple wives.

So… does that mean it gets a green light—or at the very least, a proceed with caution? Nope.

What does the Bible say about worship?

This is the important thing to understand, then, about worship. It’s not merely about singing, it’s about reverence—it’s about having a biblical fear of the Lord. At its most basic level, then, you could define worship as the humbling of yourself before the One who is your better. This, naturally, has serious implications.

3 reasons why some churches don’t grow (that you don’t usually hear)

There seems to be a lot of pressure for pastors to have “successful” ministries—and by successful, what’s really meant is to have big numbers. While numbers are not wrong (they can be very good, in fact), we’ve got to be careful about how we think about church growth, and what it means to be successful as a church.

Consider preschool before the pulpit

Practice makes perfect, so the saying goes—and often one of the hardest things for a novice preacher to do is find opportunities to practice their skills. One place they may want to consider: Children’s ministry.

God’s gag reflex

God—the One who made the world and everything in it, the One who holds all things together with but a word—has declared what is right and what is wrong. Our opinions on the issue don’t matter one bit. Jesus hates sin. He hates it so much that He became it so those who would believe should not have to suffer its consequences.

“Is he humble?”

A few years ago, a friend gave me an unexpected, but much needed corrective. He told me that, despite my many good qualities, I tended to have the appearance of arrogance about me. It hurt to hear that, but in a good way. It made me realize how much my character makes a difference in how people perceive what I do and say. I’m certainly not perfect (as my wife and my coworkers would attest), but Lord willing, I think I’ve made some progress as a man pursuing humility.

The real secret of keeping millennials in the church

But the real reason millennials are abandoning the church isn’t because they’re dissatisfied with the answers to any of these questions. And it’s not because they can’t find Jesus in the typical evangelical church. The reason many leave is they don’t know Jesus. 

Sin makes smart people stupid

Honestly, it’s easy to mock something like this, and sorely tempting. But for Christians, who have, by God’s grace, been given the Holy Spirit, who have the written Word of God at our fingertips, this is a reminder—and maybe a warning for us.

 

Links I like

10 Steps to Preach From Your iPad

Tim Challies:

About a year ago, or maybe a little more, Paul Martin (the Senior Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church) went away for a couple of weeks and left me to preach. Because I prepare my sermons digitally, I was finding it increasingly silly to convert them into the older medium of paper. They say that “while the cat’s away the mice will play,” so I took this as an opportunity to begin preaching from an iPad instead of a paper manuscript. I have been preaching from that iPad ever since.

There are many ways to go about it, but I will tell you about the system I have been using for the past year or so. I have found that it works very well. You need only two programs to do this: Pages and GoodReader (or Word and GoodReader if you use a PC). While I continue to use a full-size iPad, this system will work just as well with the Mini.

Note: this is more or less what I do, except I convert my notes to an ePub file and have my manuscript open in iBooks.

Zondervan’s perspective series on sale for the Kindle

Zondervan has put a number of their multi-view books on sale for $2.99:

Also on sale:

Is It Actually Hard to Be a Pastor?

Mike Niebauer:

As a pastor who often hears other ministers teach and preach, I am disturbed by the number of times pastors allude to their jobs as being particularly difficult. Yes, we face many challenges—ministry may involve times of high emotional and spiritual duress—but I don’t think these difficulties merit special recognition with regard to other vocations. After all, being a pastor involves almost no manual labor, which makes it physically easier than most other occupations in history. It doesn’t require a 60- to 80-hour work week, unless you somehow equate longer working hours with more of the Holy Spirit’s presence. And although the emotional and spiritual challenges faced are difficult, teachers and social workers—to take just two examples—face similar or greater obstacles.

New Research: Discipleship in Canada

Ed Stetzer:

Two-thirds (66 percent) of churchgoers surveyed agree with the statement, “I desire to please and honour Jesus in all I do.”

However, when asked how often they read the Bible outside of church, a third (34 percent) say rarely or never. Only 11 percent read the Bible daily. Just over a quarter (27 percent) read it at least a few times a week or once a month.

Only 3 percent say they do in-depth Bible study on a daily basis. More than half (53 percent) rarely or never study the Bible.

Most didn’t seem to feel bad about skipping the Bible reading.

Sixty-two percent disagree with the statement, “If I go several days without reading the Bible, I find myself unfulfilled.”

Get Blood Work in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Blood Work by Anthony Carter (ePub and MOBI) for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Contentment, Prosperity, and God’s Glory by Jeremiah Borroughs (paperback)
  • The God in Our Midst by Daniel Hyde (hardcover)
  • Sola Scriptura (paperback)

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

Choosing a New Preaching Bible

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Almost ten years ago, I purchased my first ESV Bible. It was one of the snazzy Thinline editions, with a black spine and brown front face. I read from that Bible on a daily basis, taught through Mark’s gospel with it in our home group, took it on vacations and preached my first sermon with it.

After four years, my Bible had started to look pretty beat up, the way God intended—lots of underlining, crinkled pages and what may or may not have been some minor water damage. It was well read and well loved, to be sure (even if some pages were hard to make out because of all the underlining).

Then, a few years, ago, I realized that my preaching Bible had disappeared. Somewhere between church, work and home I managed to lose it… which means that it’ll turn up as soon as I buy a new one. It’s funny, though, I didn’t expect that I’d miss that Bible, the way that I do. Not in a creepy, idolatrous way, mind you—there are just a lot of fond memories associated with it.

Anyway, after several days of hunting through the house, I’ve finally given up and resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to purchase a new preaching Bible. I looked at a number of different editions before settling on the ESV Value Thinline Bible… mostly because it was cheap.

And then, I found it. The Bible I thought was gone forever came back, and I resumed using it as my preaching and reading Bible, and my Value Thinline collected dust (until I finally gave it to a small church as part of a collection of Bibles to use in outreach).

But now, after nearly 10 years, this Bible’s days are coming to an end. The text itself is out of date (I think it’s still the 2001 edition, rather than the most recent). The cover and pages are in pretty rough shape, worse than it was when I first wrote this post. It’s well-worn, and hopefully I’m the better for it.

So what did I wind up choosing?

This time, I splurged. Although, there’s a bit of a story behind this.

I actually now have two preaching Bibles, both of which are quite lovely, because I have two primary translations I’ll use, depending on the wishes of the church I’m visiting.

Translation choices

When it comes to translation, nine times out of ten, I’ll stick with the ESV, in part because I’m very familiar with it. But I’ve also grown quite fond of the HCSB, a translation that’s fairly popular among Southern Baptists (and is growing in popularity beyond their ranks). I really enjoy using it in my personal reading, and the translation team did a really great job of bridging the gap between the ESV and similar translations and the NIV.

Edition choices

Which brings us back to the editions I’m using:

While neither sit perfectly flat (and really, that’s not the end of the world as far as I’m concerned), one of the things I love about both of these is the cover. The feel of calfskin leather is amazing! That might be a silly thing to enjoy, but there you go. Those tactile elements really do change how we feel about our books and Bibles, regardless of whether we’re aware of it or not.

From a text size perspective, both are plenty easy to read, which is super-helpful. The new ESV is a single-column edition as well, so that changes the feel a little bit. It’s a little more like reading a standard book. It doesn’t change the way you understand or read from the Bible, but it is a little change that requires getting used to if you’re used to a two-column one.

Will I stick with these forever? While I can’t say they’ll be my “forever” Bibles (since one never knows what will happen in the next five to ten years), these are definitely the ones I’m enjoying right now.

Your turn, preachers: What are you using in the pulpit? What do you like about your preaching Bible and what kind would you recommend to another preacher?


Updated December 2014

Photo credit: __o__ via photopin cc

Following God May End Badly

(Can’t see the video? Click through to the site.)

Around the Interweb

Urban Legends: Preacher’s Edition

Trevin Wax:

Those of us who are entrusted with the task of expositing the Scriptures in a local church must take care to verify our sources, illustrations, and stories. No matter how helpful an illustration may be, it is dishonoring to God if it is untrue.

Here are a number of urban legends that get repeated in sermons. Some are more pervasive than others, even appearing in commentaries and scholarly works.

Here’s one example he shares:

The high priest tied a rope around his ankle so that others could drag him out of the Holy of Holies in case God struck him dead.

Various versions of this claim have been repeated by pastors, but it is a legend. It started in the Middle Ages and keeps getting repeated. There is no evidence for the claim in the Bible, the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, the Pseudepigrapha, the Talmud, Mishna or any other source. Furthermore, the thickness of the veil (three feet) would have precluded the possibility of a priest being dragged out anyway.

Read the rest.

Also Worth Reading:

Preaching: Practical Tips for Expository Preachers

Faith, Life & Ministry: Some Potential Solutions to the Celebrity Pastor Critique

Blogging: Do You Have to Respond to Every Blog Comment?

John Piper: What Happens When You Turn 65

In Case You Missed It

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Luther on the children of the Law vs the children of the Gospel

The Books I’m Not Proposing

J.C. Ryle: What Was Once Narrow and Deep Has Become Wide and Shallow

Gun Collectors, Not Soldiers

Book Reviews:

Worldliness by C.J. Mahaney

The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge

 

How To Kill Sin

 

From John Piper’s recent sermon, I Act the Miracle:

. . . The ground for my trembing here is not threat, but gift. Tremble! God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, your Father, your Redeemer, your Sustainer is in you willing and working. Tremble! Your acting is his acting. That’s what I meant by “I don’t wait for a miracle, I act the miracle.”

My attack on my sin in reliance upon the Holy Spirit rooted in the gospel is God’s act, not mine.

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure”—Phil. 2:12-13

Seven Miles

From Matt Chandler’s sermon, “The Call to Mission:”

Download to the full message or listen here (if the audio’s working):

An excerpt from the transcript:

“That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.” Jesus kept up with them for seven miles. Let me tell you why this is important. The resurrection of Christ historically causes a lot of trouble for the secular mind. So there’s all these theories about how do deal with it. One of the theories is that when they arrested Him, beat Him a dozen times, yanked the beard out of His face, drove nails through His hands and feet, after they yanked the skin off His back and left Him hanging there for six hours and then took a spear and drove it under His ribcage through His lungs and back out, spilling and water all over the cross, maybe they didn’t kill Him.The theory is that they put Him into the ground, and two days later He’s jogging to Emmaus with two guys seven miles after being crucified and beaten for close to 20 hours. That’s ridiculous. You’d have to be an idiot to believe that theory. I’m not trying to offend you. Have you ever broken a toe and tried to walk without looking like your hips have exploded inside of your pelvis? And the historical Discovery Channel theory is that, two days after this unbelievable beating, Jesus is walking to Emmaus for seven miles. That’s just silly. So for all the goofiness that is Christianity, that’s right up there with the dumbest things you could say we believe. It’s silly to believe that, two days after having your full body weight bear down on a nail driven through the center of both of your feet, you’re jogging a seven mile jaunt to Emmaus.

Al Mohler: Studying the Scriptures and Finding Jesus #TGC11

R. Albert Mohler is the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His session centers around John 5:31-47, the only New Testament passage to be expounded today.The following are a few of my notes.

Update: The audio is available for download here. Video footage can be viewed below:

 


It’s interesting in this day that a frighteningly large number of young people are leaving. And we have to ask ourselves why?

Christian Smith and his team have named the belief system of emerging adults today Moralistic Therapeutic Deism—that God wants His creations to behave, to be happy and He doesn’t want to be involved.  And one author suggests that these young people aren’t really Christian at all, but they’re Christian-ish. And we quickly realize that they’re not the only ones.

The absence of biblical preaching, of gospel preaching has led the way to preaching that encourages moralistic therapeutic, practical deism.

We meet with the context of very real challenges. Protestant liberalism, something that is 2 centuries old is back. The denial of essential doctrines, the denial of the Christian meta-narrative and the call for a new kind of Christianity altogether. [Read more…]

He Delights in the Asking

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On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:6-7)

The Call Is Not To Be Taken Lightly

The call is not to be taken lightly. For a person to possess knowledge is not enough. He must be sure that he is properly called. Those who operate without a proper call seek no good purpose. God does not bless their labors. They may be good preachers, but they do [not] edify. Many of the fanatics of our day pronounce words of faith, but they bear no good fruit, because their purpose is to turn men to their perverse opinions. On the other hand, those who have a divine call must suffer a good deal of opposition in order that they may become fortified against the running attacks of the devil and the world.

This is our comfort in the ministry, that ours is a divine office to which we have been divinely called. Reversely, what an awful thing it must be for the conscience if one is not properly called. It spoils one’s best work. When I was a young man I thought Paul was making too much of his call. I did not understand his purpose. I did not then realize the importance of the ministry. I knew nothing of the doctrine of faith because we were taught sophistry instead of certainty, and nobody understood spiritual boasting. We exalt our calling, not to gain glory among men, or money, or satisfaction, or favor, but because people need to be assured that the words we speak are the words of God. This is no sinful pride. It is holy pride.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Kindle Edition, location 87)

Sermon Audio: When God Delivers His People

On Sunday, March 6, 2011, I had the privilege of preaching at Sovereign Grace Community Church in Sarnia, Ontario. The message, “When God Delivers His People,” was preached from Psalm 14:1-7:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

 

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD? There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would shame the plans of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge.

 

Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

The complete audio is available here: :

You can also download to listen later.

My original sermon notes are available for download here.

I hope you find the message edifying. Please feel free to provide some feedback in the comments. Thanks!

Sermon Audio: Delighting in Devotion

On Sunday, February 20, 2011, I had the privilege of preaching at Gladstone Baptist Church in Gladstone, Ontario. The message, “Delighting in Devotion,” was preached from Psalm 1:1-6:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seats of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

The complete audio is available here:

:

You can also download to listen later.

My original sermon notes are available for download here.

I’d love to get your thoughts on how this message has impacted you (if at all). Looking forward to hearing from you!

My Memory Moleskine: God’s Timing for Certain Texts

Memory Moleskine - Image by Tim Brister

This week I’ve been working through Philippians 2:19-30 while at the same time preparing to preach on Psalm 1:1-6.

What’s been interesting is how God’s been using Psalm 1 to apply the principles I’m learning through memorizing Philippians. Here’s what I mean:

In Psalm 1, the Psalmist writes that the man who delights in the law of the Lord, who meditates on it day and night is blessed. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is working on him and in him, conforming him more and more to the image of Christ, giving him a heart for the things that He cares about. The man who delights in the Word of God bears much fruit.

In memorizing Philippians this week, that’s what I’ve noticed in Timothy and Epaphroditus. There is no one like Timothy, Paul says, “who will be genuinely concerned for your [the Philippians] welfare.” Likewise, Epaphroditus longs to see the Philippians again and is “distressed because [they] have heard he was ill.”

These two model the command Paul gives in Phil 2:3-4. In humility, they count others more significant than themselves, and look not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others.

They are, as the psalmist wrote, “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” (Psalm 1:3) The Spirit’s work is evident in them and they are bearing fruit.

Anyway, that’s pretty much been my week in the text. Like I said, I’m preaching this weekend, so if you could keep me in your prayers, I’d greatly appreciate it.

What’s God been teaching you through your memorization this week?