But be active hearers of the Word…

I’ve recently been reading through J.I. Packer’s excellent book, A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan vision of the Christian life. In it, Packer weaves his way through the many facets of life as a disciple of Christ, pulling together the threads of Puritan thought to create a masterpiece of reflection.

In his chapter, The Puritan Approach to Worship, the significance of ‘preaching’ as worship stood out as a beacon of light. Of course this stands apart from our modern tendency to separate aspects of the gathered church into praise & worship times, and the sermon.

Allow me to draw your attention to a quote from this challenging chapter:

“For congregations, therefore, the hearing of sermons is the most momentous event of their lives, and the Puritans pleaded with worshippers to appreciate this fact, and listen to the word preached with awe, attention, and expectancy. Baxter put the point thus, in the course of his ‘Direction for Profitably Hearing the Word Preached’ in his Christian Directory:

Come not to hear with a careless heart, as if you were to hear a matter that little concerned you, but come with a sense of the unspeakable weight, necessity, and consequence of the holy word which you are to hear; and when you understand how much you are concerned in it, it will greatly help your understanding of every particular truth…
Make it your work with diligence to 
apply the word as you are hearing it… Cast not all upon the minister, as those that will go no further than they are carried as by force… You have to work to do as well as the preacher, and should all the time be as busy as he… you must open your mouths and digest it, for another cannot digest it for you… therefore be all the while at work, and abhor an idle heart in hearing, as well as an idle minister.
Chew the cud, and call up all when you come home in secret, and by meditation preach it over to yourselves. If it were coldly delivered by the preacher,… preach it more earnestly overt your own hearts…”

I loved the energy of this Baxter quote! A busy, energetic preacher, worshiping over the word with a busy, energetically listening congregation.

So I place aside my usual office of ‘worshiping preacher’ and take up my call now to be a ‘worshiping listener’. Will you join me?

Bring ears to hear. Eyes to see. Hearts to receive.

…and bring a pen and some paper!

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God-centered Preaching

I was reading through an extended interview between Trevin Wax and David Platt over at The Gospel Coalition website this afternoon. Among the many great insights, the following caught my attention.

Trevin Wax: How does God-centered preaching lead to passion for evangelism?

David Platt: The gospel begins and ends with God. He is the holy, just, and gracious Creator of the universe who has sent His Son, God in the flesh, to bear His wrath against sin on the cross and to show His power over sin in the resurrection so that everyone who believes in Christ will be reconciled to God forever. And this is the gospel that we proclaim in evangelism.

So how do we best lead and shepherd God’s people to evangelize? By giving them a grand understanding of God. In preaching, we unfold the character of God: His holiness, His justice, His grace, and all of His other breath-taking attributes. As we magnify His Word, people behold His glory. And they believe, deep within their minds and their hearts, that God is great and greatly to be praised. In the process, this becomes the ultimate motivation for evangelism. The more the people I pastor see God’s worth, the more they want to make His worth known in the world.

So week after week after week, as I stand before them with God’s Word, I want to show them God’s worth. As they hear His Word and they see His worth, they will lay down their lives to make the good news of God’s grace and glory known to the people around them and people groups around the world. God-centered, gospel-saturated preaching is great fuel for Christ-honoring, world-embracing evangelism.

“Lord, raise up God-centered, gospel-saturated preachers like this, so that we may have a renewed wave of Christ-honouring, world-embracing evangelism.”

BibleArc – Connecting The Dots

Let me begin with a statement of transparency – this post has been in no way endorsed or requested by the folk from Biblearc.com – it is an unsolicited piece of praise.

For years I’ve read the text of my english Bible translation and seen links between phrases and key words, intuitively, I knew they were there. As I grew in my love for the Scripture, a deepening fascination for these links grew with it. Yet these links were almost intangible, wisps of insight, fleeting observations that escaped my ability to articulate to others what I was seeing.

I longed for a tool that could take what was happening in my head and somehow lay it open on paper, some tangible demonstration showing the pathways of logical connection the Holy Spirit had woven into the fabric of Holy Scripture.

Then along came Biblearc.com.

I don’t remember how I first stumbled across this hidden gem, but I do remember excitedly showing my wife the site, demonstrating what little skill I had in using it, and declaring, “This is it! This is what happens in my head every time I sit down to the Scriptures.” I’m not sure she was as excited as I was, but she smiled and nodded to show her support. She was probably thinking any number of sentences that included the phrase ‘theology geek’ in them.

So after 12 months of picking up, and then letting go of this site, numerous dabbles with the helpful tutorial videos, and quite a number of simple projects, I finally took the plunge.

I splurged on the unbelievable monthly subscription $3.95 and then promptly enrolled in their ‘Introduction to Arcing’ course.

It has proven to be, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I’ve made in life – and I don’t believe I’m employing hyperbole in saying so.

Nine projects over four weeks, arcing our way through James chapter one.

Incredible!

Do yourself a favour. If you love the Word of God. If you long to know it more deeply. If you are convinced that as you know the Word more deeply you encounter the God of the Word more intimately, then don’t wait another minute.

Check them out. Sign up. Learn how to use this powerful tool. Reap the rewards.

To the praise of His glory!

Say Something

For many years I’ve been dismayed at the slow drift of the English language in its common use. I can usually push that dismay aside, only to be rudely awakened to it when reading a classic piece of literature from a long gone era.

I long for richness and depth in a single sentence. I crave clarity and specific intent in speech.

So I appreciated this.

Preachers with Presence

Let me be completely transperant.

I listen to a lot of good preachers.

Over the last 5 years or so, it was not uncommon for me to travel over an hour each way for work purposes. On those journeys, I was regularly accompanied by John Piper or David Platt.  Sometimes Tim Keller or Don Carson were available to make the trip with me and keep me company in those dark hours of the day. No matter who it was that rode shotgun with me on each trip, I was able to have them open up the eternal word and preach powerfully to my soul. All I had to do was keep the car pointed in the right direction.

The problem arose however, the day I was left with questions. I turned to John Piper and asked him to explain further. Once when Tim Keller was with me, I poured out my heart over some great sorrow I was walking through and asked for his wisdom and counsel. Neither men helped me. They didn’t even seem to listen. They just went on preaching.

I guess that’s the problem with Podcast Preachers.

So this morning, when I read Andy Schmitz’ post entitled, ‘Platt wasn’t enough for my church‘, I said, “Yes, and Amen”.

I hope you’ll read the whole thing, but here is a great excerpt:

These days, Christians can slip into treating preaching like a consumer commodity and preachers like buffet selections. With the internet, a believer can choose a different style and a different preacher for every mood and preference.  

However, my church realized they needed a pastor. A flesh and blood pastor is crucial for the local church because preaching is an act of spiritual warfare. A pastor is a shepherd who fights in the trenches next to his sheep, defending them from the wolves. You can’t simply phone that in! Only an in-person preacher can bear the burdens of the congregation, weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.

God has powerfully used the ministry of men like Piper and Platt, Keller and Carson, to enrich my soul and challange my mind. To some degree, these men have been used by God to help shape aspects of my own ministry; they are powerful preachers. But they are not preachers with presence. At least, not the presence that I need.

So I am grateful for men like Matt Blanch, Luke Kirkegard, Aaron Daniell, Steve Allen and Tim Blatch. I doubt you’ve heard of these faithful preachers of the Word. But known or not, they are real preachers with real presence. They are men who regularly declare the wisdom of God, applying the Gospel into my life whenever they stand before me as our church gathers each week. These are the men in my town, in my church, and in my life, appointed to speak the very oracles of God.

So Dr Piper, I appreciate your ministry, in fact, I thank God for it. I feel fortunate to have met you briefly and enjoyed the humble words you shared with me. But I doubt you remember me, and I know for sure you don’t know me.

But I don’t need you to know me.

I have other men who know me. Men who love the Word of God, men who live the Word of God, and men who share their lives with me; preachers with presence.

Feel The Truth

A gospel-centered teacher isn’t satisfied to see his people learn truths about God. A gospel-centered leader wants them to feel those truths. To feel the full weight of God’s provision for us in Christ. To have the heart’s affections stirred to worship the loving God who has saved us by his grace and incorporated us into his family. ~ Trevin Wax from ‘Failure to live on mission is a worship problem’.

Preaching Types

Preaching holds a deep fascination for me.

I grew up as an atypical preachers kid, in the fact that I was proud of what my father did, I thought he was the greatest preacher I had ever heard. I still hold him in high regard as a preacher of God’s Word and he remains one of the most significant influences in my life as a preacher now, yet as I wandered through the years, I met and heard other great preachers – preachers that sounded nothing like my Dad.

Though preachers are plentiful, even without rehashing the subject of ‘good’ preaching vs ‘bad’ preaching, one preacher is inevitably so different from the next.

I think that’s good. Continue reading

There’s No Plan B

You’ve probably heard it said.

Maybe you’ve said it yourself.

I know I have.

When it comes to evangelism and the church – there’s no plan B!

Here’s why I’m rethinking this statement… Continue reading

Are You Frustrated?

Frustration is a curious experience.

I can either feel frustration as I see my own shortcomings, or I can experience it (often more intensely) due to other’s shortcomings.

Either way, Hans Kristensen from ‘Learning in the Grip of Grace’ has some sound advice.

Are You a Frustrated Church Leader? | Learning in the grip of grace.

Sound Advice For Young Preachers… (and older ones too)

I’ve been drawn to the sermons and writing of Spurgeon for many years, there’s something about the way he says things that seems to turn written words into an audible barrage that strikes against my soul.

So when I read recently Matthew Molesky’s article, I’d like to help you criticize your Pastor, I thoroughly enjoyed Spurgeon’s advice; it seemed that he and I were sitting together beside a fire sharing life’s lessons.

A sensible friend who will unsparingly criticize you from week to week will be a far greater blessing to you than a thousand undiscriminating admirers if you have sense enough to bear his treatment, and grace enough to be thankful for it.

When I was preaching at the Surrey Gardens, an unknown censor of great ability used to send me a weekly list of my mispronunciations and other slips of speech. He never signed his name, and that was my only cause of complaint against him, for he left me in a debt which I could not acknowledge. I take this opportunity of confessing my obligations to him, for with genial temper, and an evident desire to benefit me, he marked down most relentlessly everything which he supposed me to have said incorrectly. Concerning some of these corrections he was in error himself, but for the most part he was right, and his remarks enabled me to perceive and avoid many mistakes. I looked for his weekly memoranda with much interest, and I trust I am all the better for them.

If I had repeated a sentence two or three Sundays before, he would say, “See same expression in such a sermon,” mentioning number and page. He remarked on one occasion that I too often quoted the line, “Nothing in my hands I bring,” and then he added, “We are sufficiently informed of the vacuity of your hands.” He demanded my authority for calling a man covetous; and so on.

Possibly some young men might have been discouraged, if not irritated, by such severe criticisms, but they would have been very foolish, for in resenting such correction they would have been throwing away a valuable aid to progress. No money can purchase outspoken, honest judgment, and when we can get it for nothing let us utilize it to the fullest extent. The worst of it is that of those who offer their judgement few are qualified to form them, and we shall be pestered with foolish, impertinent remarks, unless we turn to them all the blind eye and the deaf ear.

Now that’s sound advice. Thank you Mr Spurgeon.