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Archive | Preaching

To Listen or Not To Listen: Audio Sermons

We live in a day of instant access. Digital media has made most things available to us with a single click. This, of course, has brought untold benefits. We have more opportunities and resources at the tips of our fingers than any other generation in the history of humanity. But it also comes with its cost. I suspect one area where this is true is the modern phenomena of audio sermons.

Now, to be fair, the mass production and distribution of sermons isn’t new. For instance, when Joseph Passmore and James Alabaster began printing and distributing Charles Spurgeon’s sermons in The Penny Pulpit they could hardly keep up with the worldwide demand—though, I should note Spurgeon’s own hesitancy in this endeavor. But the instant access has become even more instant and we have available to us—literally, millions of sermons from tens of thousands of preachers. This has many of its own benefits. I, for one, am grateful for every contact the people in my church can have throughout the week with the Word of God. I’m also glad for the chance they have to benefit from particularly gifted preachers in a way that perhaps they cannot benefit from me. As Richard […]

Though Dead He Still Speaks–C.H.S

Hanging on my wall just to the left of my desk is a small framed sheet of paper. The fragile paper is the palette upon which in faded purple ink are scribbled the almost unintelligible handwritten notes of a sermon entitled, “The Joyous Return.” Everything about it bears the marks of age. And rightly so! For the sermon was preached on March 1, 1891 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London by the Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon. The name and influence of Spurgeon has attained near ubiquity among contemporary preachers and students of preaching—and that’s to say nothing of the impact he has had on thousands who have read his sermons. It’s probably not advisable to try and quantify who is or is not the greatest preacher, but I don’t think it’s overly ambitious to agree with the consensus of many that he remains the Prince of Preachers.

It was a little over ten years ago that I was first introduced to Charles Spurgeon. At a very pivotal and difficult time in my life my brother recommended that I try reading some of his sermons. I quickly began to devour them as I read under the conviction of sin, the joy of […]

A Word in Season

Many Christians believe that God still gives words of knowledge and prophecies just as he did in the days of the apostles. They are excited to think that God would speak directly to their circumstances. Compared to the immediacy of such revelations, the weekly consecutive exposition of God’s word can seem something of a straitjacket.
But how many times have you found in your daily Bible reading that the passage assigned for the day is exactly the word from the Lord that you need? How often has the next passage to be preached by your pastor spoken right into your situation in a way that could only be because of the supernatural ordering of things by the Holy Spirit. Is this not an even more miraculous evidence of the Lord’s power than a prophecy – that the Lord can arrange a series of sermons or readings months in advance so that exactly the right passage comes before exactly the right person at exactly the right moment?
We’ve seen this many times in our congregation, but most recently just last Lord’s Day. A week ago a three-year old boy in our congregation was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukaemia. What was the passage ordained […]

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 […]