Saturday, November 27, 2010

Let the earth be filled with His Praises

This is great...

HT: James Torrens

Friday, November 26, 2010

ebbs out life's little day

The fiercely atheistic writer Christopher Hitches has been given a 1 in 20 chance of still being alive in 5 years time. Suffering from cancer and at the age of 61 he reflects on facing the end in an interview with Jeremy Paxman. His comments while not changing his atheism do seem to me to be a little softer in tone and little less confident. At any rate they make sober reading - bringing home again the awfulness of death if there is really no hope and no God.

The author said his disease did not make him angry, but sober and objective. 'To borrow slightly from Dr Johnston it does concentrate the mind to realise that your time is even more rationed than you thought it was. Everyone has to go sometime. I've always thought that will be a bad day, at least for me. I now have a more pressing idea of what that might be like.'...

He said he feared not death but dying. 'I feel a sense of waste about it because I'm not ready. I feel a sense of betrayal to my family and even to some of my friends who would miss me. Undone things, unattained objectives...'

The realisation of his impending death does not make him regret things he has said or written. 'I mean, I've sometimes had cause to regert saying things or wish I'd said them in a different way but that's part of the ongoing revision of being a writer. I hope. This hasn't prompted me to that, no. Perhaps it should.'

'I'm not afraid of being dead - that's to say there's nothing to be afraid of. I won't know I'm dead, would be my strong conviction. And if I find that I'm alive in any way, well that'll be a pleasant surprise. I quite like surprises.'
From the The Times, 26/11/10, p29

Hebrews 9:27 John 11:25-26 John 3:16-21 1 Corinthians 15:51-57

Pray for Christopher Hitchens.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Preaching to the Heart 2

More from the Kellernator...
Preaching to the Heart – Tim Keller, Oak Hill College, 19/11/08


Theology is the answers to the questions we have asked of the text
 So the meaning you attribute to a text – is the answers to the questions you have asked of it
 Not Realtivism – rather Biblical texts contain a surplus of meaning

1. Who do you converse with?
 We are always shaped by our contexts – and thus are our sermons
 The questions we ask of the text are moulded in large part by our situations
 So if you live in a world of theological controversy your sermons will heavily reference those issues – i.e. those were the questions in your mind as you studied the text
 Conversely if you spend time with non-Christians or are involved in pastoral situations – you sermons will reflect that (e.g. they will become more relevant & meaningful to non-Christians)

So beware becoming unbalanced in your focus – read & spend time with a diversity of people.

2. Who do you picture?
 Imagine yourself counselling a particular person with the text you’re studying (imagine the conversation)
 Anticipate the questions a range of people might have about what you’re saying – answer them!

Types of listeners: sensitive non-Christians, immoral pagans, intellectual pagans, non-church nominal Christians, church-going nominal Christians, new Christians, mature Christians, the sick & suffering, the persecuted, the dying, the spiritually dry, the tempted, the backslider….etc etc

3. Do you have 3 perspectives on situational?

Three ways to apply a text
 Doctrinalist: focused on objective truth
 Pietist: focused on inner life
 Cultural Transformationalist: focused on community impact

e.g. Exorcism stories in NT
 Doctrinalist: focuses on: Jesus as God, divine power, no dualism
 Pietist: focuses on: Jesus can free you from the things that enslave you today
 Transformationalist focuses on: Jesus overcomes the evil in the world – how do we challenge evil in society today.

Preachers will tend to be disposed to focus on one aspect –
 need to see all three and apply in all aspects over time (may privilege one at any given time).

Apologetics in your sermon = application for non-Christians

Preaching to the Heart 1

Some notes I took at a Preaching Seminar a while back...
Preaching to the Heart – Tim Keller, Oak Hill College, 19/11/08

Tolkien noted that a good sermon involves:

Col 1:28-29
 Admonishing – preaching into lives & situations (SITUATIONAL)
 Labouring – aspect of personal experience and involvement (VIRTUE)
 Teaching – need knowledge / information / objective truth (NORMATIVE)

When you preach – people are assessing you personally
 Evangelicals don’t like that – tend to belittle the Situational & Virtue aspects
 i.e. it should just be about the truth I speak – but the reality is you can’t separate the message from yourself or your listeners

U.S. preaching – often excessively situational
 Big emphasis on performance / moving people emotionally / being anecdotal
 Big weakness is that it lacks knowledge
 Our weakness, on the other hand, is often we lack situational invlovement

 Main complaint – good exegesis but lacking in application
 The sermons are boney & lack flesh – their word hasn’t become flesh
 Can be due to lack of personal / pastoral experience

Jonathan Edwards: purpose of sermon not just to make truth clear but to make it real
 Purpose in preaching is to change people even as they listen

 Shouldn’t be tacked on the end of our preparation
 But should be in our minds at the beginning of our preparation

Dt 29:29 - Revealed things are there to be obeyed / put into practise / followed
Therefore – there is no part of God’s revelation that is not practical
 Everything in the Bible is application
 Thus: if you don’t know how a text is to be applied then you haven’t understood it!
 Application & Meaning are not different.

Word / Act theory
 i.e. Knowing the definition of a word is not the same as understanding the intention behind its use
 e.g. Can study a Psalm and breakdown language / understand context – but then need to ask what is the Psalm designed to do?

First part of sermon – says what you need to do
 Second part – says this is how to do it (i.e. go to Jesus)

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Holiness Elephant in the Room

Over on Cave Adullam John Thomson has a link to a clip of John Piper. In it Piper expresses his fears about the disconnect between the seemingly great appreciation of God’s majesty many younger evangelicals have and their lifestyles. That is, while in many places there has been a great awakening to the greatness of God (something expressed in great worship songs and a revival of Biblical orthodoxy) – it has not been matched by the same zeal and rigour for practical holiness (e.g. what we watch or how we dress). A discrepancy that Piper fears might be the undoing of this new movement.

It may be that Piper’s comments will open a fresh debate on what holiness actually looks like on a day to day level. If so, we should welcome it because there is a real danger of a conspiracy of silence among us about 'this elephant in the room'.

In the flight (rightly so) from legalism many evangelicals have felt it necessary to adopt a very privatized concept of holiness. That is, we have created a disconnect between our habits and our hearts. So just like the Corinthians of old – we can protest that our Monday to Saturday practices have little bearing on our Sunday spiritual health. The result is that while few today could seriously accuse mainline evangelical churches of excessive legalism – neither could they accuse us of great distinctiveness in lifestyles. Our habits and aspirations too often neatly camouflage the inner beliefs we profess.

Already I sense unease, in myself and in those likely to read this, we are all vulnerable here – even to raise questions is tantamount to throwing the first stone, better to say nothing and at least you won’t be accused of hypocrisy or worse ‘being judgmental. ‘For in the same way as you judge others you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will measured against you’ (Mt 7:2). So it's with acute sensitivity to my own shortcomings that I write this – but the alternative is a paralyzing collusion in which no-one speaks. All the while we keep on following the fashions, watching the programmes and films, consuming the same luxuries, and speaking in the same categories as our non-Christian neighbours and colleagues.

I watch the X-Factor and enjoy much of it – but some of it troubles me. It is so of the world with its glamour, power worship, pursuit of fame, money and success. I wince at the some of the fashions of the female participants – so clearly wearing ‘a man’s idea’ of what looks good on a woman. We sit pretending to be highbrow philosophers, as if the fact that we are observing deliberately sexualized (often teenage) women, is no more than a cultural curiosity to us.

This assumed-naivety extends into our own wardrobes. A generation ago many of today's mainline High Street fashions would only have been seen in the sex industry. Fashions, clothes specifically designed to reveal rather than conceal, used in that industry precisely because they were intended to lure & titillate. Fast forward twenty years and they are not unknown in churches. Of course, we are far too enlightened and liberated to suggest they might jar with verses such as 1 Tim 2:9.

Is this a call to return to a cultural ghetto, to become Amish-like, cut-off from the world around us, a curious and obsolete bunch wishing back the days of Queen Victoria? No, we should be modern people, we should be informed people, we should be people who enjoy all the good things of creation (1 Tim 4:5). But we should be different. A people whose mental energies and time are invested in true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy things (Php 4:8). Those who give no quarter to sinful cravings, the lust of the eyes, or self-promotion (1 Jn 2:15-17). Such things necessitate making lifestyle choices – and it is those choices that Piper rightly senses need to be spoken about rather than ignored.