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Are you serious, or are you presenting me with a conundrum?
“No. I’m dead serious. I have a decision to make as to whether or not to do something. I’d like to do it but I don’t know whether its something that the Lord would approve of.””
Ah. I see.
“And it’s been bugging me for days. I can’t tell you what it is, either. I have to keep the matter quiet until I decide. Without any data, do you think you can help?”
Possibly. Let’s consider the matter abstractly—strictly from the side of the principle involved.
“You mean, in something like whether or not I feel a prompting in my spirit or not. Or whether I feel peace about the matter? Both of those ideas have been suggested. But the problem is, I don’t feel anything but confused,”
“Good? What do you mean good? Do you approve of me being confused?”
Certainly—I’m glad you haven’t had any feelings that you interpreted as God’s direction. Those ideas are never taught in the Bible, and have led many people into serious trouble. To try to...
Illustrations are the life blood of a sermon. They create and hold interest, make a point clearer than the mere statement of it ever could, concretize abstract fact, show how to implement biblical requirements, and help make truth practical and memorable. What remarkable service illustrations can render; no wonder Christ used so many of them!
And you will do well to learn how to freely use them too.
“But I have always been weak in illustration; I really don’t know how to go about learning how to illustrate well. Can anyone with the basic gifts for the ministry learn to illustrate sermons effectively?” Yes. “Can you tell me how to do so?” Again yes. But, first, let me clarify one thing.
I want to say that, in speaking so positively about illustrations, I am not advocating the string-of-pearls sermon. According to those who use the s-o-p method of preparation, all one needs to do to produce a sermon is to get the basic theme of a passage and a dozen or more extended illustrations that fit it; those are his basic materials for sermon construction. The message thus becomes little more than a number of illustrations draped along the theme like pearls...
Have you ever thought much about the way in which God works to bring about His purposes? Take the story of Joseph—what a chain of events to finally land him in the position by which he could influence all of Egypt and save his people!
Because he was unable to fathom where each event was heading, he might have become discouraged, turned his back on God, or complained bitterly as seeming misfortune after misfortune occurred. But, no. He handled each one with faithful integrity—much like Job did.
There is a lot to be learned from his story. I wish, however, to observe but one thing: today’s seeming tragedy may be only one stop on the route that leads to tomorrow’s glorious outcome.
Since God sometimes brings us to long term outcomes by means of short term stepping stones that lead there, we ought not complain if we get our feet wet in the meantime as we cross the streams that lie between!
Certainly, Joseph’s prison experience wasn’t pleasant, but it was the way God planned for him to make the important contact that moved him forward toward His goal for his life.
How do you not know that an unlikely event like...
I have had the opportunity to hear much preaching over the last few years, some very good, some mediocre, most very bad. What is the problem with preaching? There is no one problem, of course; there are a number of problems to which I have been addressing myself in our Friday preaching blogs. But if there is one thing that stands out most, perhaps it is the problem I mention today.
What I am about to say may not strike you as being as specific as other things I have written, yet I believe it is at the bottom of a number of other difficulties. My point is that good preaching demands hard work. From listening to sermons and from talking to hundreds of preachers about preaching, I am convinced that the basic reason for poor preaching is the failure to spend adequate time and energy in preparation. Many preachers—perhaps most—simply don’t work long enough on their sermons.
You may question my charge, and (of course) you may be one of the notable exceptions to what, regrettably, has become the rule. Good! But if so, remember, you are an exception. For the rest of you, note well, I did not say that preachers don’t work hard; for the most part I believe that Bible-...
God bless you Jay! May this day be full of joy as you celebrate with your family.
The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Planted in the house of the Lord,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green.
The web site for Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary has been given a refresh. We hope you like it. Just click the Seminary tab at the top of this page to check it out.
The Seminary publishes an annual scholarly journal, Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal. If you click on the Journal tab at the top of this page, you will be taken to the Journal page, which lists contents for all the past issues, as well as pdfs for issues more than three years old. But an article from the current issue (2013) is also available—”Why a Commitment to Inerrancy Does Not Demand a Strictly 6000-Year-Old Earth: One Young Earther’s Plea for Realism” by Dr. Mark A. Snoeberger. If you listened to the recent debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, you probably noticed that Ham often referred to the earth as being 6000 years old. But, as Dr. Snoeberger points out, not all young-...
Along with several million others, I watched the widely publicized debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham this past Tuesday evening. Since that time, many people on both sides of the origins issue have produced videos, articles, and blog posts discussing the debate. Here are a few of the posts that I found most helpful:
Within hours of the end of the debate, Al Mohler had posted some insightful analysis of the debate on his blog. Mohler, who literally had a front row seat at the debate, rightly points out that the discussion was less about fossils, geology, and astronomy than it was a debate between two diametrically opposed worldviews.
Over on the Reformation 21 blog, Rick Phillips suggested three key lessons to be drawn from the debate. In short, like Mohler, he points out that the debate was mainly about competing worldviews, not science....
American culture is fascinated with celebrities. American evangelicalism, as a subset of American culture, is too. For some reason, there remains a persistent belief that the public testimony of a well known athlete or entertainer will be more effective than that of a regular Joe.
I’ll concede that for the value of gaining attention, a high profile name works better than an unknown. People will watch, for example, Mark Driscoll interview Russell Wilson because he is a pro quarterback who won a Super Bowl. I get that. And whenever a clear word of testimony about Jesus Christ is given, I rejoice.
What concerns me is the tendency to think that having someone like Russell Wilson give his testimony is more powerful than a regular Joe. The thought seems to be that since Russell Wilson, or some other big name personality, has more influence, his testimony will be more likely to convert people. Without even recognizing it, we shift the power away from the message (the gospel) to the messenger, from what is being said to who is saying it.
This is the Corinthian problem repackaged for the 21st century. They were about big names and making the good news look more...
This morning I scanned through an interesting book put out by Georgetown University that analyzes the value of 171 common college majors available today. By “value” the authors mean almost entirely fiscal value, or how much money a graduate can expect to make after finishing his or her degree. Of course we all know that fiscal value isn’t the only kind of value by which to assess a degree, but the book is what it is, and it’s an interesting read, especially if you’re a statistics nerd.
Among the statistics that jumped out to me was that the “Theology and Religious Vocations” major ranked 169th (of 171) on the “most remunerative” list, and dead last among the most remunerative majors for vocations sporting a male majority.
There are a lot of things that one can potentially take away from this, but here are some of my thoughts.
(1) If you (or your spouse) have an insatiable appetite for having nice stuff, don’t go into the ministry. You can’t afford the ministry, and the church can’t afford you. You can grouse all you want that...
If you think Paul wrote Hebrews, you’re in good company (see, e.g., here). One problem with this conclusion, however, is that what Paul says in Gal 1:11–12 seems to contradict what Paul says in Heb 2:3, presuming Paul wrote Heb 2:3. That is, in Gal 1:11–12 Paul emphatically states that he received his gospel directly from Jesus, whereas Heb 2:3 seems to imply that its author could not say the same thing. “This salvation [i.e., gospel] . . . was first announced by the Lord [and] was confirmed to us by those who heard him.”
It’s possible that the two texts are compatible, of course, since Heb 2:3 doesn’t clearly deny that its author received his gospel—“this salvation”—from Jesus himself. Perhaps it only suggests that an initial reception was later confirmed by eyewitness testimony (“those who heard [Jesus]”).
This sort of reading, however, is unlikely. The author talks about the gospel being “confirmed” in Heb 2:3 not to distinguish between its initial reception and its...
The authors are good men, and they write well.
Last week Desiring God’s blog published a little piece I wrote called “Three Tips for Better Bible Reading.” They’re not the sort of tips you’d expect.
Here are some supplementary thoughts:
Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor. The Final Days of Jesus: The Most Important Week of the Most Important Person Who Ever Lived. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. 42-page PDF sample.
You may especially enjoy working through this book day by day during the Passion week (this year = April 13–20):
When I started reading this book last week, I thought that I would size it up and move on to another book within 10–20 minutes. Didn’t happen. It drew me in, and I ended up reading almost the whole thing:
Craig Detweiler. iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2013. 52-page PDF sample.
This book explains the history of the technology that so many of us use regularly:
Detweiler writes well and obviously knows a lot about...
Howard, Jeremy Royal, ed. The Gospels and Acts. The Holman Apologetics Commentary on the Bible. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2013.
This is the most comprehensive 1-volume defense of the Gospels and Acts.
It has four contributors:
You can’t “look inside” the book at Amazon yet, so I asked B&H for permission to share this 29-page PDF that includes most of the front matter, the introduction to Matthew, and the notes on Matt 1.
For more about the...