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Archive | Preaching

Browse Worthy: Heaven and Hell

In April of 2008, the congregation where I served as pastor in Indiana had Pastor Edward “Ted” Donnelly of the Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church of Belfast preach five times for outreach services. He addressed the topics of heaven and hell.

Though you can read his book on this subject, there is such power in hearing them preached.  Though the videos below are not the best quality, the messages certainly are. Why not encourage someone you care about to listen?

Qualities of Urgency in Preaching Seen in Peter’s Pentecost Sermon

Martyn Lloyd-Jones once stated to preachers, “You are not simply imparting information, you are dealing with souls, you are dealing with pilgrims on the way to eternity, you are dealing with matters not only of life and death in this world, but eternal destiny. Nothing can be so terribly urgent.”

With that quote in mind, what does urgent preaching look like? With over half of its content sermonic, the Biblical record contained in the Acts of the Apostles would support the thesis that true preaching is urgent preaching.  Using Peter’s message at Pentecost as a paradigm, we can see urgent preaching would appear to possess at least these seven qualities.

1) A yearning to glorify God for his salvation (Acts 2:17, 22, 36). Peter makes it clear throughout his message that salvation is the work of God from beginning to end.

2) An aim in the message to touch hearts as well as minds (Acts 2:14, 22-23, 29, 36-37). When those gathered at Pentecost heard this message, they were “cut to the heart,” which is clearly Peter’s aim.

3) An eschatological sense that the gospel is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Eleven of the twenty-three verses of Peter’s sermon are Old Testament quotations, which add […]

Augustine on Using Another Preacher’s Material

In the Digital Age, with so many other men’s work available at SermonAudio, blogs, ministry websites, etc., every preacher wrestles with using another man’s material. Augustine, in his fourth book on On Christian Doctrine, has some wisdom to offer us regarding this matter.

In his frankly titled Chapter 29, “It is permissible for a preacher to deliver to the people what has been written by a more eloquent man than himself,” we find the following words of wisdom.  I have broken this chapter up into sections and added above them my own summary statements of the principles.

1) If your conscience will not allow you to use another man’s work, then do not do it.

If, however, he cannot do even this, let his life be such as shall not only secure a reward for himself, but afford an example to others; and let his manner of living be an eloquent sermon in itself.

2) If you do not know how to compose a text for a sermon, but have found someone who has done it well, then use it.  Just be sure to give credit to the one you quote so as not to plagiarize.

There are, indeed, some men who have a good delivery, but cannot compose […]

Where Faith Goes to Die

It’s an old joke among Christian leaders to “accidentally” refer to seminary as cemetery.  “Back when I was in cemetery…er, seminary…” Or to a young prospect for the pastorate:  “So, you’re heading to cemetery…er, seminary, eh?  Well, hang in there.  You’ll be involved in real ministry eventually.”  The joker’s purposeful subliminal slip assumes that theological education and vital, faith-filled ministry are in tension with one another, if they’re not outright enemies.  Well, if seminary is where an aspiring minister’s faith goes to die, then Presbytery meetings must be purgatory.

For Presbyterian denominations within Christ’s church, Presbytery is the deliberative assembly of elders from a particular geographical region that gathers to make decisions which will guide the local congregations within that region.  The Synod (or General Assembly) is the Presbytery meeting of all Presbyteries in the denomination.  All the stereotypes, the alleged faith-killing aspects of seminary – dry discussions of dust-accumulating documents written by dead theologians who were barely interesting in their own day – are made to live again in debates among seminary graduates and other church leaders.  Any vitality from fresh ideas in these debates is short-lived; soon those sparks of life are laid to rest in the coffins of […]

Sacrifices by Fire

I knew the day would come.

My life like yours is becoming increasingly a digital one.  I am moving more and more away from filing papers to storing items electronically.  I knew one day those three big, rusting, steel filing cabinets in our basement, sitting there like artifacts in a museum in that they remind you of the past but are rarely visited, would be emptied and removed. Sure, important documents would still be kept in a small filing cabinet or security box. But why keep paper files of items already stored on multiple devices and backed up in the cloud?

The past few days it finally happened.  A desire to declutter our basement drove me to do it.  What satisfaction it was to haul those cabinets out to the curb and, literally within minutes and without any summons, have a guy named Dan stop by in a pickup truck and haul them away to be scrapped.

Yet the joy of being free of the cabinets’ bulkiness turned into a bit of unexpected melancholy as I pulled the wagon filled with their contents over to the fire pit.  Now it was time to burn these papers, which mostly meant for me watching over two decades of […]

Missing Jesus With Thomas

On the evening of the first Lord’s Day, the day of Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas was absent. The other disciples were gathered together when Jesus came and stood among them displaying his nail pierced hands and feet and speaking “Peace” to them, but Thomas “was not with them when Jesus came” (John 20:24). It wasn’t until the following first day of the week that Thomas would have the benefit of seeing Jesus. Now, we don’t know why he was absent. Matthew Henry suggests, “Perhaps it was Thomas’s unhappiness that he was absent–either he was not well, or had not notice; or perhaps it was his sin and folly–either he was diverted by business or company, which he preferred before this opportunity, or he didn’t come for fear of the Jews; and he called that his prudence and caution which was his cowardice.” Whatever his reason was–and we don’t know–we do know that because he was not gathered with the disciples he neither shared in their joy or the blessing of meeting with the resurrected Jesus Christ.

Sadly, Thomas’s experience is all too often the experience of many Christians who, for whatever reasons, absent themselves from the gathering of saints on the Lord’s […]

The Perfect(ionism) Excuse, part 3 in a series on sanctification …

Do you believe that it is possible to overcome a besetting sin in your life?  And do you believe that this conquering is possible in this life?  If your answer is no, or a highly qualified “yes”, what is it that keeps you from answering instead with a resolute, unqualified “yes”?  And is that hesitation truly consistent with what Scripture says is possible for the sons and daughters of the living God?

If you are Reformed in your theology, or are familiar with different denominational takes on this topic, the term “perfectionism” may have come to mind in light of these questions.  Suffice it to say, I am not advocating the idea that Christians can attain a state of sinless perfection in this life, even with regard to willful sins.  The closer we draw to Christ, the more aware we become of sins which had been lurking undetected in our hearts, the kind which eventually give rise to overt and obvious sin (Matthew 5:21-22).  These words from Psalm 139 are appropriate to pray until our dying day: “Search me, O God, and know my heart.  Try me and know my anxious thoughts!  And see if there is any offensive way in […]

Our Father’s Likeness

What is your gut reaction, honestly, when you hear the phrase: “Obedience to God’s law”?  Do you smile, or do you cringe?  And why?

In the previous entry on this subject, we considered our tendency to think of the Lord Jesus in terms more appropriate to Superman than to the Savior.  We appreciate that he’s saved us from God’s wrath against us as sinners, but we struggle to surrender the autonomy which is the essence of our sinfulness.  We want rescue more than we want redemption.  Yet Scripture teaches us that salvation in Christ is about far more than being rescued from the consequences of our sin.  Salvation has to do not only with what we’re saved from, but what we’re saved for: a life lived more and more in keeping with God’s moral law.

Sadly, however, when so many Christians hear the word “law” in a discussion about God, they bristle.  In our contemporary Christian culture, the word has become synonymous with legalism.  Legalism, however, is an abuse of God’s law resulting from its being redacted or reduced (Deuteronomy 4:1-2; Matthew 5:19.)  Abusing God’s word is inevitably abusive to God’s people.

Relationally cold, unnecessarily strict homes and churches are spiritual dungeons in […]

Let Pulpit Freedom Ring!

In the 1920s a group of young people in the RPCNA asked their ministers why they chose to pastor in their particular denomination. As I reviewed the answers of these long dead ministers, I realized that common themes were found within each of their answers. One of the most common themes was that these ministers appreciated the freedom in the pulpit that they enjoyed in their denominational home. The whole counsel of God was preached and no topic was too base or taboo for the pulpit. Here are a few samples:

“Accepting the whole Bible as inspired and authoritative, this church believes that it should all be preached. This means that we have a freedom bounded only by the revealed will of God to preach truth and to condemn error…”
-RC Wylie

“The Covenanter pulpit is a free pulpit. The breadth of the Church’s confession makes it a forum for the fearless discussion of sin regardless of the form it may assume. The Covenanter minister may preach against the prevalent sins of the age and still feel that he stands on a pulpit which supports him; he may proclaim all the fundamentals of the Gospel, untrammeled by the conventions […]