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Showing posts from November, 2015

What Preaching Is

One of the things I love about my current job is training younger preachers. By the grace of God I've probably preached around 500 times over the past 15 years and hopefully I've learned some things along the way but I've still got plenty more to learn. And however many times you've done it, every sermon starts as a blank page...

I've particularly been helped by Marcus Honeysett, Dick Lucas and Tim Keller's approaches to preaching - to hol out Christ to people where they are. Andy Stanley's'Communicating for a change' was a gamechanger in terms of getting away from complexity to simpler sermons and better connection with people.

For all the skill and good grammar, I wonder whether preaching is more a matter of conviction than it is technicality.  There is craft to learn in good communication, in filtering how much to say, how to articulate it clearly, convincingly. And the preparation process varies. This is an art more than a science.

I'm pers…

The Life You Never Expected

Andrew and Rachel Wilson share their story in the middle of raising children with special needs.

Our own parenting journey hasn't been without its challenges over the past six years - some of which I've shared, some I've not. None of our situations are as severe as the Wilson's. In the pain and the frustration and the disappointment we've found grace we never knew we needed or could receive.

There's something amazingly reassurring and compassionate and real in the tone of Andrew and Rachel's voices and I commend this podcast to you. It's cliche to say light shines out of broken pots, but that's what I hear in their voices. I respect and have learned much from Andrew-the-theologian, Andrew-the-apologist, Andrew-the-thinker, but I'd take Andrew-the-parent any day. I'm glad Andrew is doing a PhD, that will serve people well, but so too does this story, forged in the pain of life.

The Wilson's are living 'the life [they] never expecte…

An extraordinary gift for ordinary people

[8] And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. [9] And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. [10] And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. [12] And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12 ESV)

I'm preaching in a couple of weeks time... here's a few scribbles, your interactions welcome.

Glen Scrivener notes (in a sermon on this passage which I think is excellent) that the film Prometheus is a photo-negative of the Christmas story. I'm no great fan of the Alien films (unlike my wife who loves them) but I found Ridley Scott's 2012 film to be an intriguing exploration of what it means to inter…

At the Table with Sibbes

One of my heroes of faith is Richard Sibbes. Mark Dever summarises that for Sibbes the Supper was not a means of conversion - that only by the gospel word - but rather strengthened, confirmed and assured of faith already present.
Sibbes speaks of The Lord's Supper, in Bowel's Opened: The Saint's Comfort:
God gave his Son to death, to shed his blood for my sins. What would become of the hunger-bitten, thirsty soul, that is stung by Satan and his temptations, were it not for the blood of Christ to quench our thirst, and the body of Christ given by the Father to death for sin? Were it not that the soul could think upon this, where were the comfort of the soul? All this is represented to us here in the sacrament.
 We feed on the body and blood of Christ spiritually, and are refreshed by it as our bodies are refreshed with the bread and wine. God does not feed us with empty symbols and representations, but with things themselves, that the soul which comes in faith to partake o…

Come to the Table

Part 1 – Liturgy 

Here is the traditional shape of a church service for most of church history, across the traditions... a pattern of Word and Sacraments... whereas today many evangelicals would emphasise either Word and Spirit or simply the Word.

1. The Liturgy of the Catechumens / Word 
Bible ReadingPreachingCreeds2. The Liturgy of the Sacraments / Eucharist
ConfessionEucharistSending out into God’s world Only the baptised could participate fully in the second part of this service. Catechumen’s gain access after a period of Catechesis designed to educate desire for Christ, building up to Baptism and a first Eucharist.

What would the experience of this kind of service be like? What does this include that we miss - what are we missing out on? What's missing that's normal for us?What does the two-stage service communicate about the value of Baptism and The Supper, and the church? Jonathan Edwards was fired (in part) for wanting to keep this ‘barrier’ at the Table... why …

You're invited - Jesus calls and Jesus cares (Luke 13:1-9)

You grind to a halt. Car after a car ahead of you. And you’re stuck. You were already running late. Then your phone battery dies too so you can’t call ahead. You will miss your appointment. 
What happens next? How do you feel? Do you respond it by pounding on the steering wheel?Do you rage outwardly, against yourself, other drivers, the council for the roadworker… Do you rage inwardly – especially common when you have a passenger… How did this happen? Why didn’t you charge your phone? Why me? And when you finally arrive will you ‘fess up? Will you cover up? The way we react to what happens to us shows what’s in our hearts.  Knock into me and coffee might spill from my cup. Why? On the one hand because you knocked me. But on the other hand because there was coffee in my cup. Circumstances reveal what’s in our hearts. Good days, bad days, all circumstances reveal what we’re like. [Thanks to the brilliant people at CCEF & BCUK for these senarios and observations...]

As we share experien…

Today I visited a Mosque: A faith community observed

This afternoon I volunteered as a parent on my son's trip to the local Mosque. My work flexes enough to make this possible and I was interested to encounter a different faith community in our city.

Six reflections.

1. 42 six year olds.
Respect to the teachers, teaching assistants for all they ever do. And also to the Imam and his assistant for handling that many kids and patiently fielding their questions.

2. Community.
There's a strong sense of community at the Mosque. They consider it better to pray together than alone. While the physicality of praying together seems strange to those who've never seen it before there's something beautiful in the unity.

3. Faith and cultural differences.
Kids are curious about the rituals, beliefs and languages people have. They have questions. My son found talk of God without Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be strange which was encouraging, and an opportunity to help him understand more of our faith and that which was being presented to u…

I believe in the prosperity gospel, don't you?

I don't. I mean not really. I know better but in practice... all too often I think I'm entitled to health and wealth and choice and fulfillment. And if I don't get that just watch me prickle.

When the heat of life (diagram thanks to Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp) burns down on me it's the illnes and the financial insecurity and the limitations and the boring jobs that draw from my heart frustration and annoyance and other unpleasantries.

As Lane and Tripp (and others) note - when a drink is spilled from a glass, there's water on the floor on the one hand because something knocked it, but on the other hand because it was in the glass in the first place. Nothing comes out in my words and actions that doesn't originate in my heart.

When ease drives my decisions, when safety sets the agenda, when satisfaction is required I might well be in the territory of good things but I'm off the grid when it comes to the promises of God in Christ.

He never said every little…