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Archive | Preaching

Love and Hell

Hell is not mentioned much these days, except when used as a curse word. It is a topic that many consider outdated and a place that few believe actually exists. And in these days of hyper-tolerance, which quickly becomes intolerance when anyone sounds the least bit doctrinaire, speaking of hell is seen as a strange, brutish thing to do.

So why do it?

In a word, it’s all about love.

For you see, hell does exist. Mocking it, ignoring it, forgetting it – none of that changes its reality. Jesus Christ preached about it repeatedly, warning his listeners of its danger. He taught that it is a real location where those who do not live as the Bible commands will be punished consciously forever. Not to believe in hell is to distrust the very words of Christ. The Westminster Confession of Faith, speaking about the final judgment, uses Biblical language as it describes hell in this manner: “The wicked, who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.”

So what does speaking of hell have to do with love?

If someone is about to […]

A Banner Day or Two

From Tuesday afternoon until later today I am at the Banner of Truth’s 2017 US Minister’s Conference. This conference is a refreshing time for pastors, elders, and ministerial students in so many ways. Here are a few highlights to share with you.

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The Banner offered scholarships to seminary students, so I had the joy of traveling out with three men training with us at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Having extended time like that with the guys outside the classroom is a blessing. On the way, we stopped for lunch at a rest area. The other American and I quickly ordered our burgers and sat down, only to find our two Asian friends had brought their own zongzi for lunch. They shared with us the zongzi, a leaf-wrapped meal containing a special, sweetish rice with peanuts, beans, and a date, and told us it was in honor of “Dragon Boat Day” in Asia, an annual holiday with a fascinating story behind it. The learning started before I even arrived at the conference.

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Over 300 are in attendance at the Banner conference this year, held on the beautiful, accommodating campus of Elizabethtown College. The theme is “The […]

The Gospel According to David

I’ve just finished preaching on Psalm 19.12. I was attempting to preach the text taking careful note of context. Having now descended the pulpit my thoughts crystallised as I drove home. I have come to think of this Psalm as ‘The Gospel According to David’. I have a sneaking suspicion Paul had its structure in mind when he wrote the Gospel to the Romans.

The Glory of God in Creation – Supressed v1-6

It is this universal knowledge of God the Gentiles have spurned. Like the gushing of a fountain silent speech pours forth on earth. The sun’s relentless rays leave a magnificent message. It’s heat melts Arctic ice because no land escapes God’s light. This rejected knowledge of God leaves all men without excuse. Indeed they heard, say Paul, for:

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth and their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10.18) “…For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are […]

African American Preaching at RPTS

The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary where I teach is blessed to have local African Americans from the Pittsburgh area studying here. Serving in a denomination that is historically a predominantly Anglo-Saxon one, the presence of these students has been a rich blessing to our community as the Lord helps us see the greatness of his kingdom in its diversity and power. We rejoice that the dividing walls are broken down in Christ where “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female,” for we are all one in Christ (Gal 3:28). Yet we can also discuss, appreciate, and laugh good-naturedly over our different backgrounds, traditions, and races as we learn from one another.

I love having these men in my preaching classes. Many of them have been preaching a long time before they arrive here, and they often do more teaching with their own preaching than I can hope to impart to them. More than once a brother a few shades darker than me has asked after witnessing a typical Presbyterian-style sermon, “Do I have to preach like that?” I usually like to respond, “Please don’t!”

For one of the lessons we do learn […]

A Minister of Mercy

An Offer Too Good To Refuse

What a wonderful surprise! That’s was my reaction to the very kind and generous offer made by one of the older members of my congregation. He is a retired missionary who possesses a deep theological knowledge. I couldn’t believe my ears: ‘Take any books you like – you can have first pick from my library!” So on the appointed day, and at a pre-arranged time, I went round to my friend, with some sturdy cardboard boxes, and filled my car boot [trunk] with dozens of weighty tomes.

The Secret Workings of Providence

This all happened around the time when we recently moved house, so half of my library is still in boxes. This explains why I haven’t had much time to survey the contents properly or the leisure to digest their accumulated wisdom. Yet, as providence would have it, I recently read a quotation from Thomas Goodwin in a Banner of Truth magazine (it was either imbedded in a magazine article or just the bare quote and nothing else). The quotation was something along the lines of (my heavy paraphrase) “Salvation will not be withheld from any penitent sinner who comes to God truly believing that the Lord is full of mercy.”

Isn’t is […]

A rose or a collection of petals?

I learned something amazing about flowers the other day—that the angle between successive leaves on a stem is approximately 137 degrees. Now that particular angle is known as the golden angle. It is to circles what the golden ratio is to squares and rectangles. The golden ratio is seen as the epitome of spatial perfection and proportion—and occurs frequently in nature as well as in human design. And for leaves on a stem this interesting angle is the arrangement that gives the best access to sunlight.

I love design and mathematics, so this was right up my street and I’m sure botanists could give me a thousand more fascinating facts.

They could take a rose and dissect it and show the wonder of the stem, the bud, the way the petals interweave.

And all of that may combine to make one rose more noteworthy than another.

But when I give a rose to my wife it’s saying something far more than the sum of the botanical mathematics and geometry. It’s saying, “I love you.”

I see a parallel with preaching:

Some preachers are great at dissecting a text, analysing it from every angle and setting out every truth in it.
Some preachers are great at bringing new […]

More on Our Maker

Surprises Galore!

This week was full of surprises, as I continued my exploration and exposition of Genesis chapter one. These are kind of things we might expect as we teach more on our Maker.

Minor Infirmities

After almost a year free from ‘man-flu’ the dreaded virus struck again. By the time I got to the pulpit to deliver the sermon, my voice was two octaves lower, and I had to cut the morning service short. My sinuses were blocked, my head was aching, and for two or three days it was very hard to think.

Tough Weeks

Nor, I must admit, was it the easiest week I’ve had. A number of things cropped up which meant some sleep was lost. Difficulties which were hard to handle, conversations which could have gone better, humanly speaking, and a number of vexing problems to which resolution at present is lacking. Heart-searching questions which demand a long, reflective, prayerful, weighed-against-scripture, look at self. It is only by the grace of God most weeks are not so draining and demanding.

Time Constraints

It was also a little bit hectic (I know that some brethren have far-more-pressing weekly schedules to ‘cry for’). There was an additional meeting to take with the youth of […]

The Antidote To Evolution

Over recent weeks I’ve been preaching, for the second time, through the opening verses of the Book of Genesis. Last Lord’s Day I delivered my first sermon on the first day. In my second point, I was defending the Mosaic account from the error of the ‘Framework Hypothesis.’ In doing so, for the very first time, I felt with intense force, both the folly and falsehood of adopting such an erroneous position (attractive though it may seem for those who want to dodge the bullet of the creation-science debate).

There surely is little doubt, like most dangerous half-truths, that Moses presents the material of the original Creation in a highly structured, schematized way. Yet, on his part, that neither implies the unhistorical nature of the account, or that the details of each day, or the times the bible allots to them, do not correspond precisely to the truth or order of the facts. In reality, quite the opposite is the case: the Holy Spirit, through Moses, has important lessons to teach us, in the material contained in Genesis 1, about the nature and character of God, and the methods by which He has worked and still works.

Planned Order

Chief among these is […]

What a Word, What a Savior!

Geneva College was privileged to host on February 8th Dr. D.A. Carson, who spent the day on campus in various venues enriching our understanding of God’s Holy Word and by God’s grace helping us to grow in our love for the one true and living God.  Carson is easily and without hyperbole described as one of the most significant Evangelical scholars of the past century.  What I love most about his work is that when I’m done reading his publications or hearing him lecture or preach, I’m certainly impressed by his learning; but I’m more impressed by the Savior about whom he’s teaching us, and the Scriptures he’s expounding to tell us of that Savior.  Here’s some of what happened during his visit – 

Preaching Versus Teaching

As I instruct students in homiletics, one of the distinctions I try to help them see is that of preaching versus teaching. Clearly, pastors must do both, and there is a great deal of overlap. After the apostles were beaten by the Jewish authorities, they were released and we are told that they “did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:42). So they both taught and preached, yet the use of both of these words does denote a difference.

In his book Why Johnny Can’t Preach, David Gordon points out this distinction in his critique of modern, Western preaching. He notes that many ministers in this generation talk about subjects, but do not bring out from the text what amounts to a “convincing, compelling weight on the soul of the hearer.” Men lecture behind pulpits instead of proclaim, sounding more like they are reading a commentary than urging their listeners with heart-felt truth.

So how do you distinguish between the two? First, let’s be clear on what are not true differences. The difference between teaching and preaching is not that one appeals to the head versus the other is for the heart. Nor is it simply a matter of talking versus shouting. […]