Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Reading Your Own Heart (as a pastor)

I've been blogging through a sermon by Andrew Fuller entitled "Spiritual Knowledge and Love Necessary for the Ministry" from John 5:35 (Post 1, Post 2), and I'll wrap up my thoughts with this post.  I've highlighted in previous posts how much I appreciate this sermon, but there is one part that stuck out to me in the end of this sermon.  In applying what this looks like for his listeners, he encourages them to read the lives of good men, to study and pray over the Word, to life the life of a Christian, and commune with God in private.  These are all excellent counsel, but it was this word that especially penetrating:

Read men, as well as books, and your own heart, in order that you may read others.  Copyists, you know, are generally bunglers.  There is nothing that equals what is immediately from the life.  We need always be making our observations, wherever we are, or wherever we go.  If we get a system of human nature, or experience, or any thing else, from books rather than from our own knowledge, it will be liable to two disadvantages.  First, it is not likely to be so near the truth; for systems which go through several hands are like successive copies of a painting, every copy of the preceding one is more unlike the original--or like the telling of a tale, the circumstances of which you do not know of your own personal knowledge: every time it is repeated there is some variation, and thus it becomes further removed from the truth.  Thus Agrippa showed his wisdom, when, instead of depending on the testimony of others, he determined to hear Paul himself.  Secondly, if it be correct, still it will not be so serviceable to you as if it were a system of your own working.  Saul's armor might be better than David's sling; but not to him, seeing he had not proved it.  

What's Fuller getting at in this quote?  As helpful as books may be, if we spend too much time in them, it might begin to distort reality.  We must live life, attend to our own hearts and work at the application of truth ourselves.  There are so many applications here from not preaching someone else's sermons or relying too heavily on commentaries to failing to apply and have a tender heart.  It's often been my experience that those pastors who lay the heavy load on people aren't too great at applying things in their own heart.  Those sermons with the ripest application for my hearers tend to be when I have worked hard to apply this to my own heart first.

I commend this sermon to you for reading again.  I have a PDF I'd be happy to email you if you click on the link at the top right of my blog.  Thanks.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Weekend Recap - Bare Essentials

My 7/19/15AM Sermon, Bare Essentials from 1 John 2:12-14, is now online.  The sermon examined the foundations of faith that exist in this passage from the wise pastor, John, to his readers.  In it, we find encouragement for all that we've come to expect from John as we journey to know that we have eternal life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Heart Warmed with Divine Things

Building on a post I introduced last week from Andrew Fuller's sermon "Spiritual Knowledge and Love Necessary for the Ministry" (again, available as a free PDF if you email me), I wanted to show you how Fuller compels ministers to act by wrapping up this first section.  A quick reminder: under the first heading Fuller is helping us see that in the great work of preaching the Gospel, we need to understand the character of God, Christ, as Mediator, human nature as God intended, human nature depraved and finally how human nature is sanctified by the Spirit.  It's so easy for many pastors to say "Yes" to this.  Fuller feels this and right at this moment, says:

"You will need also, my brother, a heart warmed with Divine things, or you will never be 'a burning and a shining light.'  When we are thinking or preaching, we need to burn, as well as shine. When we study, we may rack our brains, and form plans; but unless 'our hearts burn within us,' all will be a mere skeleton--our thoughts mere bones; whatever be their number, they will be all dry--very dry; and if we do not feel what we say, our preaching will be poor dead work.  Affected zeal will not do.  A gilded fire may shine, but it will not warm.  We may smite with the hand, and stamp with the foot, and throw ourselves into violent agitations; but if we feel not, it is not likely the people will--unless, indeed, it be a feeling of disgust.  But suppose there be no affectation, nor any deficiency of good and sound doctrine; yet if in our work we feel no inward satisfaction, we shall resemble a millstone--preparing food for others, the value of which we are unable to appreciate ourselves.  Indeed, without feeling, we shall be incapable of preaching any truth or of inculcating any duty aright.  How can we display the evil of sin, the love of Christ, or any other important truth, unless we feel it?  How can we preach against sin, without feeling a holy indignation against it?  It is this that will cause us, while we denounce sin, to weep over the sinner.  Otherwise, we may deal in flings and personalities; but these will only irritate; they will never reclaim.  O! if ever we do any good in our work, it must be the effect of love to God and love to men--love to the souls of men, while we detest, and expose, and denounce their sins.  How could Paul have pursued his work with the ardour and intenseness which he manifested, if his heart and not burned with holy love" [1]

Sorry about the long quote there, but it is so needed even in our day and age.  The reason we don't preach with power is due, in part, to not having our own hearts affected by spiritual life.  So, what Fuller is calling us to here isn't just some fakity emotional thing.  He's calling us to have our hearts so burn as we consider the realities we preach that we do, indeed, burn AND shine.  I can tell the difference in my own preaching when my heart is affected by what I'm preaching and when it's not (and, obviously, Fuller's point is the people I serve can tell this too).  There are many applications but here's a couple of summaries:

For Pastors: wrestle with truth until you burn and have something to preach, then, unleash.

For Church People: pray that your pastor's heart would be affected by his study.

I have one more insight from this sermon that really affected me, coming soon...


[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, "Knowledge and Love Essential To Ministry" in The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 1 (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 480-481.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Weekend Recap - The Law of Love

My 7/12/15AM sermon, Law of Love from 1 John 2:7-11 is now online.  The key to our being the loving people we've been commanded to be isn't from digging deep, getting a positive vibe going or dialing in to the right mojo.  The key is abiding in Jesus.  This passage helps connect those who love with why they love: they know Jesus.  I hope it helps you.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Pastors Need Spiritual Knowledge and Love

I'm slowly plodding through Andrew Fuller's sermons and came across one that really resonated with a lot of what I think about the work that pastors are called to do.  This sermon was an ordination sermon that Fuller preached for a young minister's ordination on John 5:35 -- "He was a burning and a shining light."  It's entitled "Knowledge and Love Essential to the Ministry." [1]  I'd be happy to send a PDF of this short 5 page sermon to anyone who emails me (upper right corner of my site).  The call that Fuller gives is to live out the qualities of spiritual light and holy love in the work pastors do.

The simple outline:
Spiritual light and holy love are the qualities which Christ here commends...
I. In the great work of preaching the Gospel.

A) How necessary is it to understand in some good degree the holy character of God!
B) A knowledge of Christ, as the Mediator between God and man, is necessary.
C) A knowledge of human nature as created is necessary.
D) A knowledge of human nature as depraved is necessary.
E) A knowledge of human nature as sanctified by the Spirit is necessary.

II. In presiding in the church of God.

III. In the more private duty of visiting the people.

IV. In your whole demeanor through life.

a few things which Fuller found of use to conduce to these ends:
1) Read the lives of good men
2) Study the Word of God, above all other books, and pray over it.
3) Read men, as well as books, and your own heart, in order that you may read others.
4) Live the life of a Christian as well as a minister.
5) Commune with God in private.
6) Holy forth the word of life, not only by precept, but by a holy practice.

More to come on this sermon later...


[1] Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher, vol. 1 (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 478-482.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Keeping His Commandments

My 7/5/15AM sermon, Keeping His Commandments from 1 John 2:3-6, is now online.  Whether it's thinking that our good deeds can get us heaven or thinking that if we obey God will love us more, we're in desperate need of what God thinks about obedience and a relationship with Him.  I tease out these things in this sermon and hope it proves helpful to you.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Submitting to God's Word and Your Relationship With God

An importantly relevant word from Tim Keller on 1 John 2:3-6, which we'll look at this coming Lord's day:

"Unless you see the Bible as God’s Word … That’s certainly how Jesus saw it. That’s certainly how John saw it. Unless you see the Bible as the place where you can find God’s will, you can’t actually have a personal relationship with God. “What do you mean?” you say. Well, let me put it to you this way.

"Plenty of people say, “I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I do! I believe in much of what the Bible says, but there are many things in the Bible you just can’t believe anymore. There are things in the Bible we just can’t follow anymore. We realize there are contradictions, and there are some things that are primitive. So I believe in most of the Bible and in the general principles of the Bible, and I believe in Jesus, and I have a personal relationship in Jesus, but I can’t believe everything in the Bible.”

"Now let me show you what you’ve just done. First of all, there is nothing between the two positions I’m about to outline. When you say, “Some things in the Bible are right and some things are wrong,” the only way you can say that is if you have faith at the moment you’re saying that in some other source of authority by which you can sift through the Bible. In other words, as soon as you say the Bible is only partially right and partially wrong, the only way you can say that is on the basis of faith in some authority which is completely and always right.

"You can’t doubt everything at once. You can only doubt something from a platform of faith in something else. Here’s what’s going on. If you say even one verse in the Bible is not true but the rest are, what you’re actually doing is you’re saying, “My discernment, my experience, my reason, my feelings are a more sure authority for deciding what God’s will is than the Bible.”

"So either (and there is nothing in between) … Even if you say there’s one verse that’s wrong, either your experience and your judgment can sit in evaluation of the Bible, or the Bible sits in evaluation of your judgment. Either your feelings are judged by the Bible, or the Bible is judged by your feelings.

"I’ll put it another way. Either your understanding is judged by the Bible, or the Bible is judged by your understanding. There’s nothing in the middle. Now I’m not going to try to prove which one is right to you right now, and you certainly have the right to believe your judgment is valid, more valid than the Bible. You know, be careful. In the 1890s, there were people who were saying these are things modern people can’t believe anymore in the Bible. They’re very different than in the 1990s. They’ll be very different than in the 2090s. I’m not going to try to prove which is right and which is wrong.

"Let me just show you the implications and ramifications of what you’ve just done. There is never a place now where you can see a standard that can cross your moral will. Do you know what’s happened to you? Now that you say, “This doesn’t seem right to me. Yes, the Bible says it’s wrong, but I can’t believe that. Yes, the Bible says this is wrong, but I can’t believe that.”

"In other words, if something doesn’t feel right to you and the Bible says it is right, or if something feels right and the Bible says it’s wrong, now there is no possibility of moral discipline. There is no possibility of a higher standard than your own feelings and your own experience and your own judgment. What that means is you can’t have a personal relationship with God. You’re treating God like a microphone now. If it feels right to you, that must be God’s will. How will you ever know a God who can say even though it feels right, it’s wrong? Because now what feels right is right.

Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).  This particular citation is from a 1994 sermon entitled "The Freedom of Obedience"

Monday, June 29, 2015

An Advocate

My 6/28/15AM sermon, An Advocate from 1 John 2:1-2, is now online.  I can't think of better news in a day when sin doesn't seem to be that big of a deal and then people in the church think the world's sin is a bigger deal than their own than to point to our one and only Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, The Righteous.  I hope this sermon encourages you as you walk in this world.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Weekend Recap - Admitting Sin

My 6/21/15AM sermon, Careful Confession from 1 John 1:8-10, is now online.  This sermon is the third in our series on 1 John, teasing out some implications of what it means to be believers.  I hope it helps you have assurance in your relationship with God.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Cappucino Hour

Here's a post I wrote that was featured on AVANT ministries blog:

Need a coffee break? I’m guessing that if you have a heartbeat, you can appreciate taking a break to stop and refresh. At the Avant Ministries headquarters in Kansas City, there’s a regular rhythm that speaks well beyond a simple break. This break, which I’ve dubbed “Cappuccino Hour,” involves many staff members from Avant and Crossworld (remember they share an office space) spilling out of their offices and down the stairs for a 10AM gathering. Think high quality coffee prepared by staff with a background serving in Italy coupled with the collaborative genius that happens when we come together around a common purpose. It doesn’t last an hour, but occurs at the top of the hour. This is what comes to mind as I’ve seen (and partaken) in “Cappuccino Hour.”
Cappuccino Hour is really what strategic partnership around God’s global work demands. Imagine the energy you’d experience if you could connect with a like-minded believer after serving in a country “closed” to the Gospel. You would not only need these kind of relationships, but you would also want them. As the Apostle John said, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
The great moves of God come when we collaborate, rope people into a common purpose and foster fellowship worthy of the Gospel we herald.   Cappuccino is simply one way we can get at this destination.
Another practical benefit of Cappuccino Hour is that it is simply encouraging. Much of the work that Avant is involved in around the world takes place in contexts that are somewhat difficult. There are workers on the frontlines who believe that the Savior will have the reward of His suffering and is worthy of receiving worship from every tribe, tongue, language and nation. Sometimes this work is difficult and often it is slow. But, whenever I’ve shown up at Cappuccino Hour, tales of the Gospel flourishing from one end of the earth to the other are readily available. Encouragement abounds when staff members who have connections to our friends in distant lands are able to come together and tell tales of the Gospel’s prevailing.
Therefore, next time you take a sip of your coffee in the morning or even rest at the water cooler, would you be mindful of the fellowship you have with others in the Gospel? Would you find encouragement in the Gospel’s advance? And, would you give yourself to pray that our Savior’s great cause would prevail, for the glory of His name and the good of all people?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer Reading Docket (Update)

You might remember a few weeks ago, I wrote about my Summer Reading Docket:

I've made some great progress on this:  For instance, I read...

Just Ride: A Practical Guide To Riding Your Bike by Grant Peterson
Just as I hoped, it provided some good, practical tips for riding.  

Side By Side: Walking With Others in Wisdom and Love by Ed Welch
About halfway done with this and reading this as a devotional each morning.  Soul penetrating with good questions towards application. 

The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny
I wish I could give a copy to EVERY PERSON involved in youth sports.  So good.  It's even affected how I support my kids in summer baseball.  

God Dwells Among Us by Greg Beale
Good, easy to read Biblical Theology.  There are some interesting ideas set forth here, but, when you consider these in light of the Biblical storyline, many resonate with truth.  

The Pastor and Counseling by Jeremy Pierre
Very practical help for allowing to Bible to be wielded in the lives of busy pastors.  

India After Gandhi by Ramachandra Guha
It's 800 pages long, roughly, but getting a lot of practical information on the backstory of India.  

What Does The Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality? by Kevin DeYoung
This is a great, clear, relevant unpacking of the Biblical view of marriage as well as some of the pushback against that vision.  Many will be helped by this.  

Testimony of the Beloved Disciple by Richard Bauckham
Bauckham sees things differently that I do in many areas, but he is a great scholar on John and has given me some good things to think about.  

I'm also (continuing to) work my way through Andrew Fuller's sermons (I'm using the Logos edition)...

Tony Reinke's book Newton on the Christian Life emerged, spoke and conquered me.  What a book.  It's excellent.  I have some copies if you'd like to read this.  I'd be happy to give you one.  I agree with Ray Ortlund, Jr. who said that for some, this may be one of the most important books they ever read.  This is like sitting across for coffee with someone who's thought about a lot of life and application.  Newton speaks clear through Reinke's pen.  You'll love this, I promise.  

I still anticipate Don Whitney's Praying the Bible for the summer.

I grabbed Keller's book on Preaching and am working through it.  Vintage Keller.  

Also, I grabbed the NSBT on Trinity in John's Gospel.  That's going to be fun. 

I would reiterate, though, I am not allowing this reading to crowd out reading the Bible.  I'm spending a lot of time in 1 John these days.  So if you dig these recommendations, why not dig into 1 John with me this summer.  Just read a chapter each weekday and you'll be steeping long and with much fruit.  Tolle Lege!  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Some Videos from Sunday School

I was privileged to teach the Fundamentals of the Faith summer Sunday School class today and showed a couple of videos.  Here they are:

Jason DeRouchie (OT in 10 Minutes):

The Old Testament in Ten Minutes from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Andy Naselli (NT in 10 Minutes):

The New Testament in Ten Minutes from Desiring God on Vimeo.

John Piper (a video I call God Wrote a Book):

I also recommended the class take in Devin Brown's (10 Minute History of the English Bible):

I hope these are helpful in introducing you to the message and thrust of the Bible.

Walking In The Light

My 6/14/15 sermon, Walking in the Light from 1 John 1:5-7, is now online.  The sermon helped show what it means that God is Light and from there, pointed to how we respond, either with saying something more than is true or actually living accordingly.  I'm hoping it serves you well.  If you'd like Small Group Questions to go along with it, they are available too.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Meet Jesus

My 6/7/15AM Sermon, Meet Jesus from 1 John 1:1-4, is now online.  On top of serving as an introduction to the series as a whole, this sermon helped move us to know that we have eternal life by showing how the message about Jesus leads to fellowship and joy.  I hope you'll listen and I hope it's helpful.

Friday, June 05, 2015

New Sermon Series Begins This Sunday

This Sunday, Lord willing, I hope to start a week by week journey through John's Letters.

To help prepare for this, I've been taking time to steep in these letters for the past few months.  Here's a reading plan you might consider as we walk through this together:

Sunday - 1 John 1

Monday - 1 John 2

Tuesday - 1 John 3

Wednesday - 1 John 4

Thursday - 1 John 5

Friday - 2 John

Saturday - 3 John

Enjoy and I look forward to starting this on Sunday, 6/7/15.