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In in my book on homiletics, Preaching with Purpose, I have pointed out in some detail that most supposed preaching outlines, like the conception and stance of the sermon itself, are actually lecture and not preaching outlines. We have been taught wrongly.
A lecture outline is the division of a subject, topic, idea, or theme that is discussed during the lecture. It is usually abstract, third person, and concerns facts and persons long ago and far away. Because of the use of this format, the Bible has become a book that seems irrelevant to the average churchgoer. A preaching outline is the divisions of a biblically based address to and about a congregation in relationship to God and to their neighbors. It is second person, here and now and concrete. The lecture form sounds like this: “God told the Amalekites that they …,” while the preaching form sounds like this: “God says that you …” In the lecture outline the speaker talks about the...
As a pastor you struggle with important decisions in choosing the preaching portions for your weekly sermons, or in determining the books of the Bible from which those sermons will be preached for some days to come. It is not a matter to be handled lightly because in those choices the welfare of God’s congregation is very much at stake. How can you reach the best decisions?
There are a number of factors that might be considered, but the one that I shall address in this article is the welfare of the congregation itself. In making such decisions any pastor who truly cares about the flock will seek to divest himself of his own interests and hobbies, will refuse to allow his fears and apprehensions about consequences to dictate the choices, and will think only of his obligations toward God and the welfare of His people.
But how does he know what is best for his flock? Often, the pastor is stymied right here. It is not always easy to arrive at an answer to that question. That is why I should like to look at some of the determining factors that may help you to arrive at good decisions.
Gaps, Imbalances, etc., in the Past
One of the...
Always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:7).
That’s what Paul said was the problem with some women who were “burdened down with sins, led along by a variety of passions” (HCSB).
Two things about those women stand out:
The writer of Hebrews exhorts you to do so. Listen to his words:
Therefore, leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity, not laying gain the foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God . . . (HCSB Hebrews 6:1)
In making his “Inspired Translation” of the Scriptures (never completed), Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, got to this verse and, misunderstanding it, inserted the word “not”: [“not leaving . . .” etc]. He, of course, was woefully wrong. The people to whom Hebrews was written were long-time Christians who had become dull, and could not appreciate strong teaching (see Ch. 5). Therefore, the import of this verse is that they needed to go beyond the first teachings of the faith to more meaty material, so that they could grow in the truth. They were still sucking on a bottle of milk (see 5:12-14)! He wanted them to mature.
Today, to the contrary, we are told that to mature in the faith, we must go back to the first principles (elements) of Christianity (“Preach the gospel to yourselves”) and concentrate on them. This strange idea—so contrary to...
You know, of course, how a boomerang works—you throw it out, it does its work, and then comes back to you. It was originally used as a weapon; now (in our society) has become a toy.
Listen to what else becomes a boomerang:
A merciful person benefits himself; but the cruel person hurts himself. Proverbs 11: 17 (CCNT/Proverbs)
What you throw at another returns! Of course, you shouldn’t show mercy in order to receive it. And, you certainly won’t be cruel in order to receive cruel treatment in return! But in God’s order of things, you can look for boomeranging events to happen!
“Why don’t people treat me better?”(you may wonder). How do you treat others? It’s an interesting concept—isn’t it? Think about it and start interpreting your life experiences in relationship to their boomeranging effects.
I am writing a series on implications of the idea that culture is essentially the behavior of a people. Last time I asserted that New Testament authors explain cultural differences between various people groups as differences of belief and value.
The second implication is that New Testament authors identify people groups (ethnicities, tribes, nations, etc.) as those of common ancestral heritage who share common culture flowing from common values. They do not think about “culture” as such; rather, they think about behavior, and they believe that the gospel changes behavior—it changes a person’s culture. Since culture is a component of religion, where religion changes, so changes culture. This creates a reorientation of race for Christians; since a race is a group that shares common values and practices, Christians will find themselves increasingly alienated from the race into which they were born and drawn into a new race united around biblical values....
Three weeks ago, I gave an introduction to a series on character of the Christian leader. Today the series finally continues. After a read through today’s text, we’ll see that what was written for Israel’s kings then has principles for Christian leaders today.
Deuteronomy 17:14–20 (ESV)
14 “When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to...
A few years ago a tallish South African pastor and all-round capital chap wrote a book. It’s free on Kindle, and would be worth every penny if it cost a hundred times as much. [note to self: insert clever comment about "product placement" here]
In all seriousness, I read it right away when it came out, but am now re-reading it for a series I am planning to teach in the church I pastor. On this second read, I found a large swath of highlighting where I evidently struck a vein of gold:
So here is the irony and the misunderstanding. I hold that this conservative take on Christianity is not baroque and ornate; it is simply what is required to sustain healthy Christianity. As I look at those who disagree with me, I see a reduced, skeletal Christianity that can barely keep its own head above water, let alone seriously defend or propagate the faith in the challenging years ahead. I think it is abbreviated, inconsistent, and intentionally agnostic where it needn’t be. I see the current state of...
Faced with numerous denials of inerrancy from professing evangelicals, theologians and church leaders gathered in 1978 to form the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. Meeting at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Chicago, the new organization adopted a statement that attempted to explain the historic evangelical understanding of Scripture. This document, called the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy,” would become a landmark by which evangelicals, including fundamentalists, would orient themselves when discussing issues related to biblical inerrancy.
Among the signers of the Chicago Statement was Francis Schaeffer. When commenting on the Lausanne Covenant of 1974, Schaeffer had expressed some unhappiness. The Lausanne Covenant’s statement of Scripture read, “We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written Word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” Schaeffer was not fully satisfied with the expression “in all that it affirms,” fearing that some...
If you homeschool like we do, then this is something you need to keep an eye on:
For my whole life I’ve been broadly a part of an ecclesiastical culture/movement that has been disinclined to commit either to Calvinism or Arminianism. A steady stream of articles, essays, and blog posts have kept this delicate balancing act alive for decades (for a recent and more-than-usually scholarly example, see the ongoing series here—I was going to wait for the conclusion, but I ran out of patience). I don’t believe, however, that this position is ultimately sustainable. And so my thesis in this post is simply this: the principal question in the Calvinism/Arminianism debate is a fundamentally binary one: you have to choose one or the other.
Of course, I am not so naïve as to imagine that variations and nuances of the two basic positions do not exist. I am, after all, editor of a soon-to-be-released book detailing THREE perspectives on the extent of the atonement (and in my...
One of the issues that still needs clarification in Christianity is how to weigh doctrines. Christians have historically recognized that certain truths are fundamental or essential to Christianity, while others have less importance. But how do we know which doctrines are which?
In the last issue of Themelios, D. A. Carson writes an editorial offering some thoughts on what we mean when we talk about “gospel issues,” concluding that the category of “gospel issues” is helpful if it refers to “biblical and theological topics the denial of which clearly affect our understanding of the gospel adversely.” The point is that you cannot deny a certain truth or else you’ve seriously undermined the gospel. Other truths may be important, but they do not rise to the level of upmost importance like gospel issues.
I’ve heard a professor put it this way before: if you put a gun to my head and said “Deny the deity of Jesus or you’re dead,” by God’s grace I would hope to respond by saying “pull the trigger.” If you put a gun to my head and said “Deny the pre-...
Dear Fellow Servant of Jesus Christ:
It seems like every day brings more bad news in this crazy, sin-cursed world. And it seems, at least sometimes, like God’s people are dropping into defense-mode as the world becomes increasingly hostile toward Christianity. While all of this may be new to us, it is not different from the landscape that the churches in the New Testament faced. The Philippians, for example, were “granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29).
The darkness of our day should make us more urgent about obedience to Christ’s commission, not less so. To that end, the theme for our fall conference this year, based on Philippians 1:27, is “Striving Together for the Faith of the Gospel.” By God’s grace, we’ll gather for two days, October 16-17, to focus our attention on biblical truth about building greater unity within and between our assemblies for the sake of the gospel. Incredible gospel opportunities are all around us. We need to sharpen our focus on biblical truths that...
Michigan Cherry Coffee
Sure, you can order it online. But only Michigan coffeehouses serve freshly brewed coffee made from cherries grown just a few hours to our north. If you like coffee but haven’t tried Michigan Cherry coffee, you need to. And if you don’t like coffee, you should probably see a doctor.
While visiting a church a few weeks back I heard something I’ve not heard in many years: a sermon on predictive prophecy. Not a general sermon on the Second Coming, the final judgment, or the joys of heaven, but a sermon on the grind-it-out details of eschatology from the book of Zechariah.
I grew up with a steady diet of biblical prophecy. The books of Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation were perennial favorites. The late 1970s and early 1980s, as I remember them, were troubled times, and as Stan Gundry aptly pointed out back then, this kind of climate had a tendency to make believers long for a day when God will bring this troubled world to its conclusion and flex the muscles of his sovereignty to set things straight. So we got a lot of preaching on prophecy when I was a youth.
Now, it seems, we are paying penance for the excesses of previous generations, with the result that preaching on prophecy has all but disappeared. Part of this neglect is due to our aversion to controversy and speculation, both of which featured fairly prominently in the glory days of the...