Preaching

Affirming stuff, part one...

Christian faith has always unapologetically been affirming of “stuff” - physical stuff. So affirming of stuff, in fact, that the entire world is scandalized by it. Some might say that one problem with our godless generation is its denigration of stuff; like a child in formation within his mother’s womb. The reason such a child may be incautiously discarded (killed) is that it is said to be nothing more than a mess of tissue - you know, it’s “just” stuff.

The word 'gnostic' is so abused of late that it can refer to nearly anything—so nebulous, it defies concreteness. This is a sad irony. But the fact remains, Christians have always scandalized the world by our unapologetic affirmation of stuff—insofar as our spirituality is divorced from stuff, some form of dualistic juju is wreaking havoc on our very humanity. It is a violent form of dualism which rages against our identity—an identity created by God which is identifiable through our bodies... 


Superstitious sacramentalism is a danger within the Reformed church...

Under this post, a dear brother writes to say he believes my concern about superstitious sacramentalism within parts of the conservative Reformed church is unwarranted. He writes, "I haven't seen anything resembling contending for superstitious sacrementalism..."

To which I respond...


J. Gresham Machen and Reformed ministry today...

After posting on Tim Keller and Redeemer, it seemed good also to post this excerpt from J. Gresham Machen's classic critique of early twentieth century liberalism, Christianity and Liberalism. If you have not read it, you simply must. This past Tuesday in our noon meeting with our church pastors and the students in our Clearnote Pastors College, I read the following excerpt out loud, making the point that this description of the liberalism of the early twentieth century is a very good placeholder for the culture of liberalism within PCA and other Reformed churches today. I say "culture" because the vocabulary of presentation has changed, but the substance is the same. There is no preaching of repentance in the PCA. Only grace everywhere and always. But grace without repentance is no grace at all. Instead, we preach to good people who just need to be a little less...


Tim Keller: hundreds of sermons, but no repentance...

A longtime pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) sent me an e-mail with an excerpt from a Yelp review of Tim Keller and Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Going over there, I read all the reviews and here are some interesting excerpts...


Here am I, send me...

An hour and a half west of Bloomington is the city of Terre Haute which is home to the small and reputable school, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. Tomorrow night, this little conservative engineering school in the middle of a city notorious for its lowlife druggies (crystal meth) will host a forum on so-called "marriage equality," which is to say homosexual marriage. The questions to be addressed are:

(1) What is marriage from a legal standpoint? What distinguishes it from other legal relationships?
(2) Does marriage benefit the state?
(3) Why does the government recognize marriage?
(4) How does the Fourteenth Amendment apply to the legality of same-sex marriage? How are civil rights involved?
(5) How does marriage law interact with state and national law? How is marriage a judicial issue?
(6) Also, what are the legal ramifications of the HJR-3? [House Joint Resolution 3 prohibiting homosexual marriage]

Across America, the chattering class has found its latest heartthrob, and it's nothing as pretty as Taylor Swift. Desperately trying to clean it up, they refer to this lie and the dirty acts it exists to legitimize and institutionalize as "marriage equality." Their icy hearts go pitter-patter with deviancy's every advance, and they give themselves to exquisite shivers when these advances occur out there in the hinterlands. Already banned from New York by Governor Cuomo's henchmen, Christians are silent as the marriage equality movement inexorably expands out there in the Midwest. Cuomo rejoices that the hated "Bible thumpers" are one step closer to Siberia.

But what have we done to merit such hatred?


Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson: a postmodern morality play...

Well, they'll stone ya when you're trying to be so good
They'll stone ya just a-like they said they would
They'll stone ya when you're tryin' to go home
Then they'll stone ya when you're there all alone

But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned.

-Bob Dylan, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35

Although a number of men I'm close to have loved the show for quite some time, yesterday in our pastors meeting I was told Duck Dynasty is one of the most popular TV shows of all time, and I was floored. I've never really gotten reality shows. More recently I haven't gotten FB, either. Everybody shouting at their friends that they just went gluten-free. Scintillating ain't it?

So yeah, the Robertsons are fun and I'd like to blow their duck call once or twice to hear why it made them rich. Is it "Queeeeaaaaaaaaauuuck" or just "Quack Quack?"

In fact, Duck Dynasty's success is mostly about money... {C}


Men only...

A brother just forwarded this link. Note that it's in the entertainment section.


The NSA is taking liberties from us...

(NOTE: After posting, this news just in.)

Since some readers were scandalized by Nelson Mandela's 1964 self-defense appearing here, maybe the anvil is hot and it's time to strike again giving readers another reason to believe David and I have turned into Commie-lovers.

Last night I read a long piece on the ten to fifteen year backstory to Edward Snowden's warnings that American citizens are routinely spied on by their government. The article titled, "State of Deception: Why won’t the President rein in the intelligence community?" by Ryan Lizza is a complicated story of Oregon Senator Ron Wyden's long and hard work defending American's civil liberties against the feds' fear-mongering espionage agencies that routinely dismiss the rulings of our Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) created to govern them. Lizza gives the history of the creation...


Sermon notes: Galatians Series, Number 8...

So, ask yourself—or rather, ask the Holy Spirit—what possible benefit you might receive from His use of the family relationship of "brothers" as His form of address of groups of Christians, many of whom not only did not share the same blood relationship, but also did not share the same ethnic or racial background? What might this teach you?

Well, for both men and women, it teaches us that we are a part of a new family—and one, not of our own choosing, but of the Holy Spirit’s election. No longer is our identity to be taken from our own cultural heritage, but rather from the call of God to the Church of Jesus Christ, within which we are all fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters of one another. What a tender designation to comfort the hearts of those who have grown up in homes permeated by strife, families abandoned by mothers and fathers who cared more about their own pleasure than the wellbeing of their offspring.

God has called us to Himself and, by that call, made us members of His Own Household, the Church. And within the Church, we are not Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but we are all one in Christ—brothers of God’s household.

NOTE: This is number 8 in a series on Galatians. If this is your first time reading sermon notes here, please take time to read a helpful explanation at the bottom of this post.

From the Pulpit of Church of the Good Shepherd

December 28, 2003; AM
Galatians Series No. 8
For I Would Have You Know, Brethren
Sermon Text: Galatians 1:11-24

This Lord’s Day, we turn to our eighth in a series of sermons on the New Testament book of Galatians...


Grace that is greater than all my sin...

...the common assertion, "You just need to believe the gospel more," essentially undermines the position of the antinomian... - Antinomianism, Mark Jones

Yesterday, I was speaking with a young student about his faith and he was describing a church he'd attended when he was in high school. He said that, while wrong on a number of Biblical truths, the church "got grace."

A few minutes later, he spoke of the first Sunday he attended another church. He'd been displeased by the preaching because it focussed on specific Biblical truths. As he saw it, specific truths weren't needed as much as simple faith in Jesus, so he left the worship service angry. Another student met with him during the following week, and as he described it, "(John) did an excellent job helping me to see my pride. It was the first time I saw my sin. Grace."

Yes, that's precisely how he said it. "Grace" came out sort of under his breath, as an afterthought. He didn't say, "It was the first time I saw my sin and God's grace." He didn't say, "It was the first time I saw my sin and understood grace." He said, "It was the first time I saw my sin." Full stop. Then a soft and almost imperceptible...


What do the preacher's hands say?

hand with crossed fingersI've never seen a video of myself preaching. I hope I never do. It's painful enough to hear a recording, and I can only imagine that a video would be excruciating. Regardless, if you've ever worked with video, you know that you can make anybody look ridiculous if you freeze the video at the right moment. Still, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, actions speak louder than words, and body language speaks volumes. 

A pastor asks, "Can anyone point me to a esteemed book on the exegesis and theology of hand gestures within sermon delivery?  I would like to learn more about this topic."

Whether or not they are esteemed, I don't know, but there are several recent books that go on at great length about this topic. For example, in Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon Bryan Chapell says, "Our eyes, faces, hands, and movements participate in what we say or may carry a message all their own that we never intended to communicate. Some communication studies have actually concluded that we communicate more by what we gesture than by what we vocalize." He also goes on at length on hand gestures, posture, facial animation, eye contact, voice, etc. 

Tags: 

Tullian's therapeutic grace...

Saw this piece from Tullian Tchividjian applauded by another R2K advocate. In the article, Tullian sets out to rescue the world from the church. You see, the church has broken the spirit of wordlings and that's why people are abandoning churches and faith in God, altogether.

On the surface, he says some things that are true. In the end, however, the Gospel is, ironically, reduced to little more than a coping mechanism for an overarching sense of failure. This is Tullian's approach to the law: he does not preach it. He assumes...


They assert their firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself...

An Escondido seminary teacher who works alongside Michael Horton starts a 6,200 word blog post with this question: 

There is concern by some in the Reformed community that there is too much emphasis on grace, in the doctrine of sanctification, and not enough emphasis on obedience and even godly fear. The question has arisen how this matter should be addressed.

"The question has arisen how this matter should be addressed" might lead the reader to conclude the author of the post believes these concerns are valid and he shares them. But sadly not. Plowing through the Escondido man's endless words, the readers is led to see the fear of God as a very dangerous thing promoted by those who deny the Reformed doctrine of sola fide—that man is justified by faith alone. In other words, if a Christian starts talking about the fear of God or Christian obedience, watch out! "Holiness" people and Tridentine Roman Catholics are lurking just around the corner.

Now truthfully, in the Reformed church today it should be universally acknowledged that the grace mantra never stops suppressing obedience and the fear of God...


Faithful preaching...

Balak, the King of Moab, looked out over the hordes of God's people spread out across the land adjoining his nation, and he sent off for the prophet Balaam to come and curse the people of God:

Now, therefore, please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed. (Numbers 22:6)

And:

Behold, there is a people who came out of Egypt and they cover the surface of the land; now come, curse them for me; perhaps I may be able to fight against them and drive them out. (Numbers 22:11, 12)

Again and again, Balak demanded Balaam curse the sons of Israel, and again and again Balaam blessed them. What strength every pastor should take from the repeated statements of Balaam in the face of his king's wrath...

Tags: 

Smokey Bear gets a makeover...

Jake passes on a news piece announcing that Smokey Bear is being updated to make him more appealing to this generation. The article is helpful because it leads us to understand why pastors now preach and write haltingly, suggestively, and wonderingly rather than authoritatively and soberly, proclaiming the Gospel of God's Law, Judgment, and the penal substitutionary Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.

(The new ads) give Smokey’s role and persona a makeover. ...Smokey is changing from a teacher or authority figure into a paragon of positive reinforcement...


Theological critique of Escondido Two Kingdoms Theology (VII): Civil magistrates are elders and they need a pastor, too...

(NOTE: This post is part of a series showing the errors of so-called Two-Kingdom Theology. We refer to it as "so-called" Two-Kingdom Theology because what the church historically has meant by "Two-Kingdoms" bears little resemblance to what Escondido Theology men mean when they write it today. Thus sometimes we write "Two-Kingdom Theology," but more often we write "Radical Two Kingdom," "Rigid Two Kingdom," or "R2K.")

So with many other exhortations (John the Baptist) preached the gospel to the people. But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done... - Luke 3:18, 19

Engineers rock when it comes to bridges, elevators, and making sure the van is ready for the family vacation. But pastoral care and the application of God's Word to the messies of life? Not so much; the boy needs help. They can be so fixated on specifics that there's no broader picture. Once I served a church with a session of engineers. One of them wasn't just an engineer, but his company had him engineering halfway between quality control and customer service. We loved one another but sometimes he drove us crazy.

With engineers, the work is always definition, demarcation, and proper process towards the single goal of perfection. There's nothing in between right and wrong, risk is always to be avoided, and that's that. So a helpful way to understand the error of R2K is to think of it as an engineer's hat chart for Christian witness. There's this but absolutely not that for now (but not then) when A and B have both occurred within three days of C and Person Number One is wearing his tall hat. If it's a short squat hat, though, that changes everything.

So, for instance, here's how a Radical Two Kingdom church officer (pastor) tries to explain to the public why he went ahead and accepted an invitation to open the U.S. House of Representatives in prayer...


You are what you eat: the weight of preaching (I)...

For all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. And this is the word which was preached to you. Therefore... like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. - 1Peter 1:24-2:3.

Last night Mary Lee was reading me excerpts from a book called All Natural: A Skeptic's Quest to Discover If the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier. Nathanael Johnson grew up in Berkley and the Sierra foothills parented by hippie-freaks who were going to raise the perfect child by not going to the hospital for his birth, not using diapers (they make babies bow-legged), and never allowing their son any food that smelled or tasted good. Said Johnson, in such a home every bite of food is a confession of faith:

I knew, from the moment I was old enough to begin exercising some judgment over what I put in my mouth, that we took food more seriously than most families take religion. We believed wholeheartedly in the old aphorism "you are what you eat, which—if you think about it—puts an awful lot of pressure on the eater. (p. 101)

Food is their religion and the central tenet of their faith is "you are what you eat."

The book is quite funny, especially if your own first child was also born at home, also with Lewis Mehl of Santa Cruz fame our OB. But Mary Lee and I had no issue with diapers, we've always thought "family beds" cloying, and we love Oreos, fudge, and ice cream. It's true when we lived in Wisconsin's dairy land we tried getting our milk raw from the bulk tank of a dairyman in our church...

Tags: 

The heart of our opposition to R2K...

Here on Baylyblog, David and I are pastors first, second, and last. Thus it is our purpose to call men and women who are former gays or lesbians, fornicators and adulterers, those unbiblically divorced alongside gossips and materialists growing old with their first wife to be witnesses to their neighbors and thus to fulfill the law of love.

Sincere Christians willing to obey their Lord in this matter of loving their neighbor by being salt and light ought not to be ridiculed and shamed into silence by professional intellectuals claiming the Name of Christ. We aim to protect them from this abuse. By exposing the Biblical and spiritual—not to mention theological, legal, and historical—errors of R2K, it's our purpose to create a safe space for faithful men and women of God to witness to their Lord without fear of...


Presbyterian preachers with Scottish accents...

Scotland is seeing a radical loss of religious commitment and faith, particularly among her young adults. Why the decline?

Members of the Church of Scotland were polled and only 37% said they believe Jesus was God's son and came back to life after being crucified. Are the pastors who have been presiding over this apostasy still getting paid? If so, does it please them?

I ask because I'm remembering Kierkegaard's comment that, for many pastors, a church without people is their ideal. They want a sinecure—not a messy, smelly flock.

As goes the preaching, so goes the church; and as goes the church, so goes the nation. After years sitting in presbytery meetings listening to sermons by recent grads of my denomination's seminary...


2013 Clearnote Pastors Conference audio...

If you missed the 2013 Clearnote Fellowship Pastors Conference, you missed a great time. If you're an officer in Christ's church, we hope you'll join us at next year's conference. To whet your appetite, here are the audio recordings of this year's conference from the Clearnote Fellowship website.