Friday, 29 April 2011

Practical Tips for Expository Preachers

Here are five tips that Alistair Begg learned about preparing to preach from an older minister when he was a theological student:

1. Think yourself empty. Survey a passage of Scripture in the proper spirit of unlearnedness. Avoid the proud assumption that you initially know what everything means.
2. Read yourself full. Read widely and regularly.
3. Write yourself clear. Aside from the essential empowering of the Spirit, freedom of delivery in the pulpit depends on careful organization in the study.

4. Pray yourself hot. Without personal prayer and communion with God during the preparation stages, the pulpit will be cold.

5. Be yourself, but don’t preach yourself. There is nothing quite so ridiculous as the affected tone and adopted posture of the preacher who wishes he were someone else. Also – a good teacher clears the way, declares the way, and then gets out of the way.
This comes from Beggs book Preaching for God’s Glory.

One Great Lesson

When asked in an interview recently as to what was one of the greatest lessons that he has learned, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said these words:
I think the one great lesson the Lord has taught me over these years is that the importance of the family and the local congregation supersedes every other [human] relationship to which the Christian is called. Christians demonstrate the glory of God and the power of the gospel by the way we marry and stay married, by the way we raise our children, by the way we love each other, and by the way we live faithfully in the congregation of believers. In the end, I fear that far too much energy is devoted to and far too many hopes are invested in institutions, programs, and projects that will not last. The centrality of Christ’s purpose to glorify himself in His church and the blessings of God that are directed to the precious gift of the family — these far exceed our other allegiances.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Very Essence of All Delights and Pleasures

Where is it that we will find the fullness of pleasure and delight? This is what John Flavel had to say about Jesus:
Christ [is] the very essence of all delights and pleasures, the very soul and substance of them. As all the rivers are gathered into the ocean, which is congregation or meeting-place of all waters in the world: so Christ is that ocean in which all true delights and pleasures meet. . . .

His excellencies are pure and unmixed; he is a sea of sweetness without one drop of gall.
If this is who Christ is, why would we not desire Him above all things; why would we not be constantly seeking to know Him more and more? If "all true delights and pleasures meet" in Him, then why do we run after other things to give us happiness instead of Him?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Good Health Is Not What's Best For Us

Our prayer life reveals our priorities, what we think as most important. Therefore, what we ask for prayer for ourselves and others shows what we think we need the most. What we pray for others tells us about what we think is best for them.

Recently I've noticed something quite revealing about how we pray for those who are sick or suffering. When the cancer strikes what is it that we primarily pray for those in its grip? Or when that devastating virus knock us out what is it that we ask for prayer for from others? Well, more often than not (in my experience) the answer is that we pray that others will get well soon. We pray that God might grant the doctors skill in operating, that the individual would have time to rest and make a speedy recovery.

Now, please don't misunderstand me. I am not suggesting for a moment that we should not be praying for these things. There is nothing wrong with prayers such as these. I wholeheartedly believe that God is sovereign over all sickness and is concerned for the good of the afflicted. However, if good health is the only thing that we are praying for those who are sick, then something is wrong. Indeed,even more than this, I want to suggest that if good health is the primary thing we are praying for those who are unwell then something is wrong.

Let me explain. If we are praying only, or primarily for the sick person to get well then this implies that we think that good health is what's best for us. What we pray for ourselves and others reveals what we think we need the most. If a return to health is top of the prayer list, then that is what we think is most important.

However, good health is not what's best for us. In Romans 8:28 Paul says: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." In all things God is working for the good of His people in Christ. Now, all things includes all things! It includes both sickness and health. For the believer, all things have been ordained by God to work for our good.

But what is that good that all things are working for? What is what's best for us? The context shows us. In verse 29 Paul goes on to explain when he says: "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."

What is God's ultimate goal for the Christian? It is "to be conformed to the image of his Son". In other words, it is to be made like Jesus. This is what is ultimately what's best for us: to be christlike. This is God's sovereign, unshakeable purpose that he is working for the man or woman who has trusted in Jesus, which He will surely bring this to fulfillment on that day when we shall be like Him when we see Him as He is (1 John3:2). And He is using all things to bring about this purpose (Romans 8:28). Sickness and health, the troubles and the good times are all His servants to bring about this purpose for His people.

This means that when sickness comes, it comes ultimately from God's sovereign hand, and it serves to chisel and to shape the believer to become more and more like the Lord Jesus. So, good health is not necessarily going to be what's best for us. If, in God's infinite wisdom, He sees fit to afflict the believer with sickness, it is because He sees it as what is best to mould the believer into the image of His Son.

Now, this does not mean that we should never pray for those who are unwell, or that we never pray that they return to good health.The rest of the Bible shows that we should be praying for these things (See James 5:13-15). However, what it does do is to transform the way we think about and pray about sickness. It helps us to see that our priority in praying for those who our sick ought not to be: "help them get well quickly". Rather, it ought to be "Father, please, in your sovereign purposes, use this sickness to transform your child more and more into the likeness of your dear Son."

Thursday, 14 April 2011

That's Easter!

We're both away on a mission trip in Dublin over the next week. So no posts until after Easter Sunday. We'd greatly value your prayers that Christ would be exalted in His gospel being faithfully proclaimed and knees bowing to Him, the risen and reigning King.

We'll leave you with a short video for Easter, one worth sharing with non-Christian friends and family members. Have a Christ exalting Easter, rejoicing in the death and resurrection of our glorious saviour, "who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Romans 4:25).

The Miracle of Easter Week 1779

In Easter week 1779 Charles Simeon, who was the minister of Holy Trinity Church Cambridge for fifty-four years, was converted. He went on to have a huge influence on the Church of England, through faithful Bible teaching, and his raising up of workers for the harvest field (both in England and overseas).

Whilst studying at Cambridge, he was told that he must attend the Lord's Supper in the Chapel on Easter Sunday. Little did he know that, in God's providence, this was to lead to his conversion. As he prepared for the Lord's Supper he recognised most clearly that he was utterly unfit to attend. He knew his sinfulness. The therefore started to try prepare himself by reading various Christian books. The more he thought and read the more convinced he became of his own sinfulness and his helplessnes to do anything about it. He describes his experience in a private memoir, written in 1813:
My distress of mind continued for about three months, and well might it have continued for years, since my sins were more in number than the hairs of my head; but God in infinite condescension began at last to smile upon me, and to give a hope of acceptance with Him.

But in Passion Week, as I was reading Bishop Wilson on the Lord's Supper, I met with an expression to this effect - 'That the Jews knew what they did, when they transferred their sin to the head of their offering.' The thought came into my mind, What, may I transfer all my guilt to another? Has God provided an Offering for me, that I may lay my sins on His head? Then, God, willing, I will not bear them on my own soul one moment longer. Accordingly, I sought to lay my sins upon the sacred head of Jesus;and on the Wednesday began to have a hope of mercy; on the Thursday that hope increased; on the Friday and the Saturday it became more strong; and on the Sunday morning, Easter-day, April 14, I awoke early with those words upon my heart and lips, 'Jesus Christ is risen today! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!' From that hour peace flowed in rich abundance into my soul.

How Do You Frighten Someone Raised From The Dead?

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Recognising the Reality About Ourselves

It is important that we recognise some difficult truths about ourselves. Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon The Spirit of Love the Opposite of a Selfish Spirit (from 1 Corinthians 13:5), gives a vivid description about what happened to mankind at the fall (Genesis 3): 
The ruin that the fall brought upon the soul of man consists very much in his losing the nobler and more benevolent principles of his nature, and falling wholly under the power and government of self-love. Before, and as God created him, he was exalted, and noble, and generous; but now he is debased, and ignoble, and selfish.

Immediately upon the fall, the mind of man shrank from its primitive greateness and expandedness, to an exceeding smallness and contractedness; and as in other respects, so especially in this. Before, his soul was under the government of that noble principle of divine love, whereby it was enlarged to the comprehension of all his fellow creatures and their welfare. And not only so, but it was not confined within such narrow limits as the bounds of the creation, but went forth in the exercise of holy love to the Creator, and abroad upon the infinite ocean of good, and was, as it were, swallowed up by it, and became one with it. But so soon as he had transgressed against God, these noble principles were immediately lost, and all this excellent enlargedness of man's soul was gone; and thenceforward he himself shrank, as it were, into a little space, circumscribed and closely shut up within itself to the exclusion of all things else.

Sin, like some powerful astringent, contracted his soul to the very small dimensions of selfishness; and God was forsaken, and fellow creatures forsaken, and man retired within himself, and became totally governed by narrow and selfish principles and feelings. Self-love became absolute master of his soul, and the more noble and spiritual principles of his being took wings and flew away.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Quote: Upon A Life I Did Not Live

‎Upon a life I did not live,
Upon a death I did not die;
Another's life, another's death,
I stake my whole eternity.
Horatius Bonar

Tuesday Teaching: The Final Act in the Theatre of God

This week we have a one-off Tuesday Teaching slot, following the end of our epically long 14 part series! This week we're going to look at a talk from Sam Storms who takes us through Calvin's teaching on the Christian hope of the Final Resurrection and how he applied the Bible's teaching on this to those he ministered to. This talk is taken from a Desiring God conference entitled "With Calvin in the Theatre of God."

Monday, 11 April 2011

On Reading

Have you ever thought about how important reading is in the Christian life? A former minister of mine used to comstantly remind us that we should "always have a Christian book on the go." Reading is one of the ways in which we keep ourselves fresh and growing as Christians. Recently I was reminded of the importance of reading when I came across the following two quotes. Have a read and be challenged to be a reader!

John Wesley had these words to say to when he wrote to a younger pastor. They are something that anyone in Christian ministry would do well to heed, and indeed any Christian. He recognised the huge importance for pastors to be reading, that they might nourish their own souls, and be able to faithfully nourish others:

What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is lack of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher who read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian. Oh begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercise. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterward be pleasant. Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you, and in particular yours.
Recently Tim Challies quoted from Warren Wiersbe’s book 50 People Every Christian Should Know. If the quote from John Wesley challenges us on the importance of reading, the following quote challenges us about what kind of readers we ought to be. That is, how we read. In his chapter devoted to Alexander Whyte he has this to say:
Alexander Whyte loved books, and he read them to his dying day. The Puritans in general and Thomas Goodwin in particular were his main diet...Whyte constantly ordered books for himself and his friends in the ministry. However, he cautioned young pastors against becoming book-buyers instead of book-readers. “Don’t hunger for books,” he wrote a minister friend. “Get a few of the very best, such as you already have, and read them and your own heart continually.” Whyte often contrasted two kinds of reading—“reading on a sofa and reading with a pencil in hand.” He urged students to keep notebooks and to make entries in an interleaved Bible for future reference. “No day without its line” was his motto. He wrote to Hubert Simpson: “for more than forty years, I think I can say, never a week, scarcely a day, has passed, that I have not entered some note or notes into my Bible: and, then, I never read a book without taking notes for preservation one way or another.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the name! I’m fixed upon it
Name of Thy redeeming love

Hitherto Thy love has blessed me
Thou hast brought me to this place
And I know Thy hand will bring me
Safely home by Thy good grace
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood

Oh to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above

Oh that day when freed from sinning
I shall see Thy lovely face
Full arrayed in blood-washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry
Bring Thy promises to pass
For I know Thy pow’r will keep me
Till I’m home with Thee at last

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Contented With Singleness

Contentment in Christ does not come without a battle. This means that, if we are single, we need to fight for contentment in being a single man or woman. One of the greatest helps that I have had in this fight for contentment as a single man has been the encouragement of those who've been fighting this battle for many more years than I have. Older brothers and sisters in Christ, who have been life-long singles, and who have used their singleness to the glory of God in the service of the gospel, have provided invaluable help in this fight.

Recently I came across a seminar given a while ago by two of the people who have personally been a huge encouragement to me in this way. Jonathan Fletcher and Jane Leggett gave a seminar entitled Contented with Singleness at St. Andrew the Great church in Cambridge. Jonathan serves as the vicar of Emmanuel Church, Wimbledon and Jane serves as the women's worker there. Both of them have been lifelong singles, and are a great example of using singleness to serve the work of the gospel. I thank God for their lives and ministries, and for the opportunity to have served with them on the staff team of Emmanuel for two years.

May I commend this seminar to you, especially if you are a single man or woman, and encourage you to take the time to listen to this. It is saturated with the Bible, greatly realistic, and both challenging and encouraging. It will be a great help in the battle for contentment, and a spur to use your singleness to honour Jesus and serve His people. You can listen by clicking here.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The King, The Carrot, and The Horse

Charles Spurgeon once told this story to make a point:
Once upon a time there was a king who ruled over everything in a land. One day there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot. He took it to his king and said, “My lord, this is the greatest carrot I’ve ever grown or ever will grow; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” The king was touched and discerned the man’s heart, so as he turned to go, the king said, “Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I want to give a plot of land to you freely as a gift, so you can garden it all.” The gardener was amazed and delighted and went home rejoicing. But there was a nobleman at the king’s court who overheard all this, and he said, “My! If that is what you get for a carrot, what if you gave the king something better?” The next day the nobleman came before the king, and he was leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed low and said, “My lord, I breed horses, and this is the greatest horse I’ve ever bred or ever will; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” But the king discerned his heart and said, “Thank you,” and took the horse and simply dismissed him. The nobleman was perplexed, so the king said, “Let me explain. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse.”
Why do we serve our king, Jesus? Do we serve Him because we love Him, or because we love ourselves? Do we serve Him because we delight in the Giver, or because we want His gifts? There is a big difference.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Quote: The Honour A Gospel Worker Recieves

Tuesday Teaching: The God Who is There (Part 14)

We come now to the final talk in our longest ever Tuesday Teaching series, The God Who is There. This week Carson brings his series to a conclusion as he takes us through Revelation 21-22, the closing chapters of the Bible. Here we see "The God Who Triumphs."

Monday, 4 April 2011

The Path of the Wrath of God: Mark Driscoll on Hell

Here's an exerpt of a recent sermon from Mark Driscoll on Luke 16:19-31 from a series in Luke's Gospel. He spells out lovingly, clearly and urgently the nature of hell. Driscoll does not shy away from saying the hard things, yet he does so out of love for his congregation. He also includes a very helpful summary on how God's attributes relate to one another, particularly His love and His wrath.

Friday, 1 April 2011