A Tree Between Two Mountains

Only a week ago I was siting with Bible in hand, tears on my cheeks, and the Word of God ringing in my ears, as I sat under the powerful preaching of Francis Chan during the Oxygen Conference held in Sydney. Over the course of four days, I had the immense privilege of experiencing first hand the ministry of men I had only admired and respected from afar. Hour after hour, the Word of God went out, resounding songs of deep heart worship filled the space shared with thousands of other ministers of the Gospel. By my side, sat two people of whom I count among my dearest friends on earth, two people who heard what I heard, saw what I saw, and with whom I could eat and laugh.

God was at work. The Holy Spirit powerfully wielded the Word in that place. I have no doubt that hundreds, if not thousands, of lives and ministries were altered in profound ways over those four days.

Then I came home.

Within the space of 24 hours, I found myself sharing the shade with Elijah under a Broom tree.

My wife had been sick with the flu before I left to attend Oxygen14, but had been feeling better in the few days prior to me leaving. However, while I was away, a secondary lung infection set in and had begun it destructive work. I came home to a very sick wife. The last week has been a flurry of Doctor’s visits and a trip to the hospital for X-Rays, an ECG, various blood tests, etc. Meanwhile, my four children needed to be fed, cleaned, dressed, packed for school, fed again, cleaned again, packed for school again… and so it goes on.

I’m thankful that God graciously spared me from growing resentful toward my wife and children, but in the private recesses of my mind, and when all was finally quiet at night, I slumped down into the shade of the Broom tree beside Elijah.

1 Kings 18 and 19, is a sweeping narrative that moves between two mountains, via a Broom tree.

At Mt Carmel, Elijah saw God in the thunderous fire from heaven that consumed the alter. At Mt Carmel, God showed up in unmistakable ways.

Later, at Horeb, the mountain of God, the LORD revealed himself not through fire, but instead a gentle whisper. Hiding in a cave, Elijah saw all the usual metaphors of God’s power and might sweep past, yet finally found his God in the gentle whisperings of the Almighty.

But between these two mountains lay a desert and a tree. Under this Broom tree Elijah would lie down in despair and seek to escape life itself.

And I’ve been keeping him company.

What did Elijah have to learn? And what have I learnt? And maybe, what must you learn, in the shadow of the Broom tree?

We must all learn of the sustaining goodness of our God for the journey.

We must not fall into the trap of only seeing God on the mountain tops of life; falsely believing that if we soak enough of Him in in those moments it will sustain us until the next peak. God is in the valley also. God is in the dry and barren places. God meets us in the shadow of the Broom tree. And in all those places, God sustains us with what is needed for the journey ahead.

God moved powerfully in my life during Oxygen14. I am grateful for His grace shown to me over those four days. But it’s been here, in the kindness of my church family, in the countless meals dropped over, the thoughtful messages left, the prayers of the saints, the generosity of extended family. God has been here also.

So savour Him on the mountain tops when He shows up with burning fire, and hear Him in the cleft of the rock when He gently whispers your name, and learn to see Him in the shadow of the Broom tree, as He lays out a feast of His sustaining goodness and bids you eat.

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What Does It Look Like to Open Your Own Bible for the First Time? – Justin Taylor

What Does It Look Like to Open Your Own Bible for the First Time? – Justin Taylor.

I could not watch these short clips without tears in my eyes, firstly at joy, then in shame.

Lord, teach me to love your words, make them as sweet as honeycomb, like words of life.

To the praise of His glory.

Notes to growing Christians from David Jackman: Working at the Bible

In either the year 2000 or 2001 (I can’t quite place it), I spent a significant and formative week with David Jackman. His teaching and instruction have dramatically shaped my development as a preacher of God’s Word. I hope this short article by David may help shape the trajectory of your life as well, as you commit to becoming Word Focused.

Evangelicals Now

Last time we looked at starting a regular pattern of Bible study.

It’s a great discipline to cultivate, so that we constantly have input from the Lord into our thinking. Paul talked about the value of Scripture in terms of teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness in 2 Timothy 3.16 and we all need all these ministries as we seek to grow in our knowledge and love of God. But no Scripture exists independently of the whole.

Context is important

So, whether we are dealing with one verse or a whole book, we do have to set each text in its context if we are going to understand it properly.

I remember a missionary to the Arab world telling me that before he began that work he had several times been arrested by the command, ‘You shall not go down into the land of Egypt’. Was this a word…

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What preachers can learn from waiters

Fourteen years ago, I heard John MacArthur use an illustration that I have repeated innumerable times in discussions on Preaching. His words struck a chord that day, and continue to resonate and throb in my ministry today.

The preacher’s job is to get the food from the kitchen to the table without messing it up!

Simple, but profound.

Direct and forceful.

Everything that John MacArthur is renowned for.

I loved it!

Until this day, I  had never heard anyone capture, or expand on, that same principle the way Guy Mason (Pastor at City on a Hill in Melbourne) has in his recent article posted on the Resurgence site.

Enjoy.

What preachers can learn from waiters | The Resurgence.

For the praise of His glory!

But He Hasn’t Got Anything On!

But He Hasn’t Got Anything On! | Challies Dot Com.

From the masterful pen of Tim Challies comes a superb reflection on one of my childhood favourites. It has left me wondering, ‘What delusions am I currently parading around town in?’

What about you?

Maybe we both need to hear the child-like voice of the Word of God speak the plain truth.

Something to think about.

Something to act on.

For the praise of His glory.

My Battle With Porn

It was my 13th birthday.

I was on a bus trip with a group of guys. I was sitting on the right-hand side, one row from the back.

I was the youngest.

There was a magazine.

I can still see that image.  In a split second it was seared into my conscience. Continue reading

Bibles Open

Biblical Preaching

ReadingBible2When you preach, how long do Bibles stay open?

1. Open until right after the reading.  Perhaps your listeners know from experience that once the reading is over, the message will fly every which way and the text that was read will become a distant memory.  They may open their Bibles for the reading, but once that is done, the Bibles are shut.  So what are you preaching?

2. Open until disconnect is evident.  Perhaps they will be looking at the passage and listening for a while.  But after a while it will become evident that your message has no real connection to the passage.  At some point some will close their Bibles in an act of quiet pew-level frustration and sit listening in anticipation of the closing hymn.  Or . . .

3. Open as alternative to listening.  Perhaps some will stay open so that the listener can…

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What Makes A Preacher Great? Part 1

His Subject Matter

Psalm 138:1-2 (ESV)

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing of your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.

Subject matter is of first importance.

Even when ‘subject matter’ is thought of in its broadest sense, it still remains of first importance. For the preacher, as opposed to a presenter at the most recent TED Talks, not only takes up a subject to talk about, he must always proclaim the God who he speaks for. He speaks with the Word of God – for the name of God.

But let’s take these in turn. Continue reading

In God We Joy

In God We Joy – Desiring God.

Tony is a great author.

I suspect Tony is a phenomenal reader!

He is also one of the few people I know whose laugh fills a room in a split second. In the few moments I spent with him on a recent trip to the home of Desiring God, he rapidly altered between insightful reflection and booming expressions of joy. It was a real pleasure to meet him.

His closing comment in this brief article resounded as forcefully as I recall his laughter did.

 …very often the pathway to renewed joy in God begins when we evaluate the false securities of our lives and honestly assess whether we are trusting in our all-sufficient and all-trustworthy Christ for our eternal security and all our daily needs.

I suspect that Tony speaks here from personal experience.

Ask yourself this question. Does the object of your trust bring you deep and lasting joy?

It’s worth thinking about…