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Archive | Preaching

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. […]

What Does Good Preaching Look Like?

I heard a while back of a course on preaching at Greenville Seminary in South Carolina where the students spend a semester working through some sermons of men generally regarded as the best living models of preaching in the world today. The class analyzes the sermons – they put them into test tubes, so to speak, and distill the essence of what makes their preaching so profitable and edifying (there’s a useful idea for a book!). I haven’t taken the class, but I want to suggest three aspects of great preaching. I realise there are many more, and these may not be the top three. In fact, they may not actually be three separate things at all, but rather three different ways of looking at the same thing.

Christ-exalting

Great preaching must exalt Jesus Christ and have him as its centre, since he is the centre of Scripture. In all things he must have pre-eminence – and this surely applies to preaching no less than anything else! Since the Spirit’s great ministry is to glorify and illuminate Christ, it follows that preaching especially blessed by the Spirit will be preaching that exalts Christ.

We have been blessed in recent years by a […]

A Congregant’s Guide to Preaching

As I was browsing my book shelves the other day I discovered that I have just over thirty books whose primary subject is the study of preaching. Aside, perhaps, from Charles Spurgeon, that is more books than I have on any other single subject. Of course, that’s probably to be expected. You wouldn’t be surprised to find a lawyer’s shelves full of law books, or a doctor’s with medical books, or even an auto mechanic with mechanical books. Preaching isn’t something I dabble in or fill my spare time with as some hobby. As a pastor, preaching is what I have been primarily called to. John Jennings once wrote: “To preach Christ, therefore, is our charge, our business, and our glory.” That’s why I study preaching and will continue to do so throughout the whole course of my ministry.

But, of course, you don’t have to be a lawyer to study law, a doctor to study medicine, or a mechanic to study mechanics. Neither do you have to be a preacher to study preaching. In fact, as a pastor I don’t simply want my congregation to hear preaching, I want them to know something of what preaching is. I want them […]

The Dodecahedron of Deception

In about 12 hours times I’ll be back in the pulpit! Tomorrow, God willing, I’ll preach two Lord’s Day sermons, to the hearers in the congregation over which I have charge as a pastor.

How healthy, once again, to reflect on the timely warning James gives to would-be hearers lest they become ‘sermon-tasters’. It is also a forceful reminder to pray for the sort of Word-doing that is part & parcel of proper Word-hearing.

James puts this matter of sermon application so unforgettably in 1.22 of his epistle:

“Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Having taken a few moments to identify some traps that ensnare sermon hearers each week, I have begun to realise how multifaceted this sermon-tasting deception can be. This explains in part the slightly weird title ‘Dodecahedron of Deception.’ Here, then, are twelve traps & pitfalls, that hearers may fall into & must prayerfully seek help to avoid or escape, when they attend their meeting-house tomorrow!

We deceive ourselves when….

1. We apply the message to others for whom we feel the sermon is most fitting, whilst failing to apply it to our own case & heart, for which God intended it.

2. We take great delight in the subject, style, sound or structure […]

The Relationship of Preaching to Pastoral Counseling

In Colossians 1:28, the Apostle Paul states, “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” The goal of Biblical preaching is to bring every man to bear fully the image of God in Christ. Thus, we should preach in such a way that every sinner is called to the justifying work of Christ, every saint is urged onward in their sanctification in Christ, and every person desires and is being prepared to meet Christ in glory. The Spirit-filled preaching of God’s Word from the pulpit is the primary means the Lord has for accomplishing this lofty task.  As the Westminster Larger Catechism asks and answers:

Q. 155. How is the Word made effectual to salvation?

A. The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.

With this understanding of preaching, we […]