Some ‘Amens’ on preaching

I want to add my ‘Amen’ to these points taken from a Jared Wilson post outlining 21 thoughts on preaching

11. A steady diet of “how-to” sermons doesn’t make Christianity more accessible or relevant to people; it actually, over time, burdens them and makes them feel constantly on spiritual probation.

12. It takes some people all the faith they’ve got that week to get through the church doors on Sunday morning. Why would we want to offer them anything but good news and the comfort of Christ?

19. Personal illustrations should mainly serve in the area of confession or self-deprecation. Always holding up yourself as a good example is a fantastic way to preach yourself instead of Christ crucified.

21. Passion, brother, passion. Give us your theology, yes. Don’t short-shrift us on the text. Don’t confuse yelling for preaching. That’s not what I’m saying. Give us your rhetoric and your logic sure, but give it to us affectionately.

You can read the other 17 points here.

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The Glory of the Story Sample: Day 116 – Joseph’s final days

Reading: Genesis 50:15-26

Here is another extracts from The Glory of the Story, my father’s devotional introduction to biblical theology in the form of 366 daily readings which show how the Old Testament story is fulfilled in Christ. The Glory of the Story is available as a Kindle book for $2.99 from amazon.com and £1.99 from amazon.co.uk. I’m posting extracts from the chaper on the story of Jacob, usually on the first Monday of the month.

1. Joseph comes to terms with the past (15-21)
When their father dies, Joseph’s brothers fear Joseph might unleash his resentment upon them. It is a further testimony to the fear resulting from their guilty consciences (42:21-22, 28). They decide to make a candid plea for forgiveness and fall down before Joseph. So his earlier dream is unwittingly fulfilled and a dramatic arc cast over the whole story from chapters 37 to 50. Each part of Joseph’s reply provides a model for similar situations.

Verse 19 – He leaves the righting of wrongs to God (cf. Rom. 12:19; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Pet. 2:23). The brothers, of course, must look to God as well as to Joseph for forgiveness.

Verse 20 – He sees God’s providence in his brothers’ malice. When God works out his purposes using other people, often their intentions are the opposite of his. But God’s purposes prevail (cf. Is. 10:5-7; 45:1-6; Acts 2:23).

Verse 21 – He repays evil with good. Joseph both acts and speaks kindly. Broken spirits need to be treated gently and fearful souls assured (cf. Luke 6: 27-28; Rom. 12:21; Gal. 6:1; 1 Pet. 3:9).

2. Joseph comes to terms with the future (22-26)
Joseph has already made it clear that his future was with Israel not Egypt by having his two sons formally adopted by Jacob (48:1-6). Ephraim and Manasseh become two of the largest tribes of Israel. Joseph lives to see his great-grand-children by both sons (22-23). He directs his family concerning his death (cf. Jacob’s instructions 49:29-32), with a strong anticipation of a future exodus from Egypt: ‘God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ (24) The instruction about his bones is a gesture of faith (Heb. 11:22) which would not be frustrated (Exod. 13:19; Josh. 24:32). So the prime minister does not die reminiscing on past glory, but looking forward to a new beginning. Genesis ends by pointing beyond its own story.

It will be 400 years before Joseph’s coffin is carried towards the land of promise, a stark reminder of how short-range our view of life and events often are. God’s purposes ripen as generations pass. We also are to live in hope, but our hope, like Joseph’s, is a long-term investment. The certain outcome, however, determines the way we conduct our lives now.

Closing thought
Don’t ask, ‘When am I going to get out of these troubles?’ Ask, ‘What am I going to get out of these troubles?’

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A new song based on the Nicene Creed: We Believe

Here’s a setting of the Nicene Creed from the new TCH Sheffield album, Dust to Life. It’s really important for churches to confess together the truths of the faith and to do so in ways that express our continuity with saints across the ages. I wrote those lyrics based on the Nicene Creed in the hope it could prove a great alternative for those churches who say the Creed on a regular basis and those who should (i.e. the rest).

 

Here are the lyrics:

1. We believe in God the Father,
Lord almighty over all:
seen and unseen worlds created
by his will and at his call.
We believe in our Lord Jesus,
God from God and Light from Light.
Through him all things were created,
held together through his might.

We will worship God the Father, 
we will worship God the Son, 
we will worship God the Spirit, 
triune God, the Three-in-One. 

2. We believe in Christ our Saviour,
born of Mary, God made man.
On the cross he died to save us,
to complete the Father’s plan.
We believe he rose as promised,
conquered death, reversed the Fall.
Now he reigns and reigns forever;
soon he’ll come to judge us all.

3. We believe in God the Spirit,
who through prophets breathed God’s word:
through that word new life is given;
through that word God’s voice is heard.
We believe in baptised people,
sharing life with God above.
We await the resurrection;
we await eternal love.

You can listen to, and purchase, Dust to Life on Bandcamp.

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Growing churches are conservative churches

The results of this survey are not a surprise, but they are interesting. “If we are talking solely about what belief system is more likely to lead to numerical growth among Protestant churches, the evidence suggests conservative Protestant theology is the clear winner.”

  • 71% of clergy from growing churches read the Bible daily compared with 19% from declining churches.
  • 46% of people attending growing churches read the Bible once a week compared with 26% from declining churches.
  • 93% of clergy and 83% of worshippers from growing churches agreed with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb”. This compared with 67% of worshippers and 56% of clergy from declining churches.
  • About two-thirds of congregations at growing churches were under the age of 60, whereas two-thirds of congregations at declining churches were over 60.

The ‘funny’ moment is the ‘finding’ that only 50% of clergy from declining churches agreed it was “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians”, compared to 100% of clergy from growing churches. Who would have guessed that churches not committed to growth don’t tend to grow!

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