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Archive for June, 2011

A repost.  Some random thoughts on what I’d like to see more of in my own preaching and the preaching of others…

  1. Thou shalt worship Christ from the pulpit.  The priestly task of declaring the gospel of God (Rom 15:16) entaileth a twofold direction to the sermon.  The preacher not only standeth before a congregation to declare truth, but before the Lord to worship Him.  Of course ‘worship’ does not mean putting on airs – feigning the manner of a Spurgeon or a Piper.  It does mean happy and humble gratitude in the presence of Jesus.  And of course this twofoldness is accomplished in one and the same task – proclaiming ‘Worthy is the Lamb.’
  2. Thou shalt communicate, through both content and style, a tangible sense of the newness of God’s revelation.  May such phrases as these perish from thy lips: ‘Of course we all knoweth do we not…’  We really do not knoweth.  We need to be toldeth.  Hence preaching.  Therefore preach with eager and childlike enthusiasm for the surprising and always disruptive grace of God.
  3. Thy tone shalt be declarative and devotional.
  4. Thy method shalt be expositional and christocentric.  (Of course expositional does not necessitate ‘verse by verse’)
  5. Thy fevered entreaty shalt not be ‘DO’ so much as ‘LOOK’.
  6. Thou shalt not apologize for the word, whether for its supposed harshness or obscurity or backwardness or unbelievability.  In truth the word is capable of defending itself on all these counts.
  7. Thou shalt not go searching for illustrations.  Thy passage no doubt has plenty of good ones of its own.  Whosoever shalt spend time looking for stories to ‘lighten up their talk’ must be cut off from the assembly.
  8. Thou shalt not go searching for jokes.  There is no doubt plenty of humour in the Scriptures themselves without you searching lamepreachergags.com.  Anyone found guilty of the needless and clumsy insertion of ‘a joke’ shall be stoned to death.  Show no mercy.
  9. Thou shalt not preach that ‘Christ is God’.  Thou shalt preach that God is only and always the God revealed in Christ.
  10. Thou shalt not lift up the Lamb because thou art supposed to but because thou canst do no other.

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A very sermonic week!  Here’s Paul Blackham on Psalm 1.

Check out Paul’s other Jesus talks also.  He’s speaking on the Trinity at the moment.

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Sermon: Genesis 2:18-25

Sermon Audio
Powerpoint Slides

Recently the Guardian ran a feature on three great fairytales.   Cinderella, the Tinderbox and Mossycoat.  Let me read you the endings of each of them:

CINDERELLA

Then her sisters knew she had been the beautiful lady they had seen at the ball. They threw themselves at her feet to beg her to forgive them for all the bad treatment she had received from them. Cinderella raised them up and kissed them and said she forgave them with all her heart and wanted them only always to love her. Then, dressed in splendour, she was taken to the prince. He thought she was more beautiful than ever and married her a few days later. Cinderella, who was as good as she was beautiful, took her sisters to live in the palace and arranged for both of them to be married, on the same day, to great lords.

TINDERBOX

They all cried out: “Good soldier, you shall be our king, and you shall marry the beautiful princess.”

So they placed the soldier in the king’s carriage, and the three dogs ran on in front and cried “Hurrah!” and the little boys whistled through their fingers, and the soldiers presented arms. The princess came out of the copper castle, and became queen.  The wedding festivities lasted a whole week, and the wide-eyed dogs sat at the table.

MOSSYCOAT

And so they were married. There were celebrations and feasting and fireworks and fancy dress and they had a basket of children, and they’re living there now in the house on the hill, as far as I know.

What’s the link between all three?  The happy ending is a wedding day and the wedding day is a day of restoration, where wrongs are righted, where justice is dispensed.  There is healing, forgiveness, joy and feasting.  And of course on that wedding day the very heart of what happens is a girl in rags becomes the princess in riches.  All because of the wedding.  That’s a happy ending.

But it’s not just fairytales.  Virtually every film, every TV show, every novel, every pop song is obsessed with the guy and the girl getting together.  This kind of committed, loving relationship consumes our culture and consumes our hearts.

Two BILLION people watched William and Kate get married.  Two BILLION.  Our household was very unlikely to celebrate the royal wedding – I’m Australian, my wife is Irish, and we’re at least united in rejoicing over English sporting defeats.  There’s nothing very royalist at all about Emma and I, but we were glued.

A wedding.  A ROYAL wedding – the world was captivated.

WHY?

Because the world is made for marriage.  This universe, human history and each one of us are made for marriage.

I’m not talking about our relationship status.  I don’t mean that we’ll all have our own little wedding day.  But the world is heading towards THE wedding day.  I don’t mean that each of us will or should get married in this life.  I do mean that marriage – in its true sense – is the reason for our existence, it’s woven into the fabric of reality and it’s our future destiny.

You see the bible is a love story. (more…)

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A Sermon by Gerhard Forde
from the blog “Cross Alone”
(ht OldAdam)

On Death to Self
Matt. 17=22-27 and 26:47-56

We speak a good deal during Lent about that supreme mystery of our faith, the death to self. For, as we have heard, he who would save his life shall lose it, and he who loses his life for Jesus’ sake shall find it. But what does that really mean -to die to self? Does it mean, perhaps. selling my car and going on foot or by bus? It might. We can’t rule out the possibility. Does it mean, perhaps, selling my good clothes and furniture so that my wife and I should sit around in rags on orange crates? It might. Certainly we can’t dismiss that possibility either. For the problem is that t!nless words like “dying to self” are translated into some kind of action, or something that actually happens -that is, some real change -they don’t have any real meaning. So we certainly must try, eventually, to translate them into the language of action.

But before we get too hasty and impatient there are some things at which we should take a hard look. The first is that we have a rather incurable tendency always to refuse to really listen to the words of God and instead to translate them immediately into something we are going to do, indeed, can do. This is what we always do with the law. We take it and translate it into a do-it-yourself kit for salvation. It is as though we think we are going to do God a big favor by living up to what is demanded of us and even, possibly, put him out of the salvation business byaccomplishing all or at least some ofitourselves-evenifthatturns out to be just a teeny-weeny little bit. But when we do that we really come a-cropper when we come to this word about dying to self. For what can that possibly mean in a do-it-yourself religion? Here God has set a snare for us in our easy confidence that we are big enough to handle the job. For this is a word that we find difficult to handle. We find ourselves forced either to ignore it -which we mostly do -or to try to cut it down to size so we can handle it -maybe by selling our car or our furniture or our clothes. But even then we can’t rest too easily with it, for we are never quite sure that that is enough. For however much discomfort such actions may cause us, is that really dying to self? They may be just another means of keeping myself in the business of doing God big -or little -favors, and thus ofprotecting myself from really hearing the words. The trouble is that the self keeps getting in the way.

But what then does it really mean? When considering this question, I was struck by some of the incidents recorded in our texts for today. For here we have the picture of Jesus on the way to his death. His disciples are with him, and are apparently figuring that they are going to have a hand in what is about to happen. They want to go along. They want to help out, to do their bit in the business of bringing in God’s kingdom, even, as Peter says in Mark’s account, if that means sacrificing their lives. But the really difficult thing for them to take, as I suspect it also is for us as “religious” people, is that in the final analysis there is absolutely and utterly nothing they can do. When Jesus sets his face to go to Jerusalem, Peter wants to do something about it. He sets himself in the way and says, “God forbid, Lord! Don’t do it! Don’t go!” Peter wants to do God a favor – to protect and preserve the Messiah and his kingdom. But Jesus looks at him and says, “Get thee behind me Satan! For you are hindrance to me, you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Mark 8:33)’ This, Jesus says, is something that must happen; it is going to happen because God wants it, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

And at the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane when the crowd comes out against Jesus with swords and clubs, they still want to do something. They still want to do their bit for God. They want to take up the sword and risk their lives, perhaps, and fight. One of them grasps a sword and cuts off the ear of one of the assailants. But Jesus will have none ofit: “Put up your sword,” he says, “for there is absolutely nothing you can do!” In Luke’s account, Jesus even stretches out his hand to undo what the disciples had tried to do -he heals the wounded man. At that point, no doubt, everything within us cries out in protest along with the disciples. Is there nothing we can do? Could we not at least perhaps stage a protest march on God’s behalf? Could we not seek, perhaps, an interview with Pilate? Could we not try to influence the “power structures”? Something -however small? But the unrelenting answer comes back, “No, there is nothing you can do, absolutely nothing. If there were something to be done, my Father would send legions of angels to fight!” But there is nothing to be done. “For how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” And when it finally came to that last and bitter moment, when these good religious men finally realized that there was nothing they could do, they forsook him and fled.

Can you see it? Can you see that hidden in these very words, these very events, is that death itself which you fear so much coming to meet you? For there is nothing that the old man -the self which must die fears so much as having everythinB taken out ofhis hands. When they finally saw there was nothing they could do they forsook him and fled before the awesome truth. You, who presume to do business with God, canyou see it? Canyou see that this death of self is not, in the final analysis, something you can do? For the point is that God has once and for all reserved for himself the business ofyour salvation. There is nothing you can do now but, as the words of the old hymn have it, “climb Calvary’s mournful mountain” and stand with your helpless arms at your side and tremble before “that miracle oftime, God’s own sacrifice complete! It is finished; hear him cry; learn ofJesus Christ to die!”

Can you see it? Can you see that really the last, bitter death is there? That in that cross God has stormed the last bastion of the self, the last presumption that you really were going to do something for him? Can you see that the death of Jesus Christ is your death? He has died inyour place! He has done it. He made it. He created a salvation in the midst of time and his enemies. He is God happening to you. It is all over, finished, between you and God! He died in your place that death which you must die; he has done it insuchaway as to save you. He has borne the whole thing! The fact that there is nothing left for you to do is the death of self and new birth of the new creature. He died to make a new creature of you, and as he arose, to raise you up to trust God alone.

If you can see it, perhaps then you can see, or perhaps at least begin to see, what is the power of God’s grace and rejoice. For that is the other side of the coin once you have gotten out of your self-enclosed system. Then perhaps you can turn away from yourself, maybe really for the first time, and look upon your neighbors. Maybe for the first time you can begin to receive creation as a gift, a sheer gift from God’s hands. And who knows what might happen in the power ofthis grace? All possibilities are open. You might sell your car, or even give it away -for someone else. You might find even that you could swallow your pride and stage a protest march -for your neighbor -or begin to seek to influence the power structures! For in the power of his cross the way is open! The way is open to begin, at least, perhaps in faltering ways, in ~ountless little ways, to realize what it means to die to self. For that, in the final analysis, is his gift to you, the free gift ofthe new man, the new woman, the one who can live in faith and hope, for whom all possibilities are open!

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Sermon Audio

Powerpoint Slides

Today is Ascension Sunday.  It’s the Sunday after Ascension Day which is always a Thursday.

It’s the day Jesus made the ultimate journey – He journeyed from earth to heaven in order to sit down on the throne of the universe and rule the world as our Brother, our Priest, our King.  On Ascension Day Christians remember we have a Friend in very high places.

On Good Friday we remember His death on the cross.  On Easter Sunday we remember His rising from the dead.  For 40 days afterwards He appeared to His followers, He gave “convincing proofs” of His resurrection (as we learnt this morning).  He ate and drank and walked and talked with His friends and He gave us a little snapshot of what resurrection life looks like.  It’s country walks, fishing with friends, barbecues on the beach, it’s feasting and friendship and glorious joy.  But then after 40 days, Jesus ascended to heaven.  And so there’s a sense of Christ’s absence in the world now.  Jesus is not here, He is not among us, and we miss Him.  But He also promised to send us His Spirit, which is the day we celebrate next Sunday.

Because 10 days after Jesus ascended is the day of Pentecost.  On that day He sent the gift of His Spirit in a special way upon the church so that the church can be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth.  That’s what we learnt this morning.

So let me tell you that story again and let me use some language that might be familiar to you from our reading.

Today we celebrate ASCENSION – the ASCENT of Jesus.  On Good Friday, He had gone down into death and curse and hell.  On that cross He was EXILED from God’s presence – He was shut out, EXILED, from the presence and blessings of His Father and He endured the curses that we deserve for our disobedience.

In other words you might say He was like the temple torn down on the cross.  He is GOD’S HOUSE – the meeting place of God and man, and as He said in John chapter 2, He would be torn down on the cross only to be raised again in three days.  So He’s like God’s house torn down and raised up.

Or you could say He’s like a Seed that goes down into the ground.  That’s what He said in John 12.  He’s the Seed who gets planted into the ground.  But on Easter Sunday He sprang up from the ground into resurrection life.  He came through the exile and curses and was RESTORED.  And there was an incredible joy at His restoration.  It’s a joy that’s meant to be carried to the whole world.  The nations are meant to look on at this restoration and praise God for it.

And then Jesus tells His disciples to stay IN Jerusalem .  Another name for Jerusalem is ZION.  But in Zion, Jesus is going to give a blessing – His Holy Spirit.  And 10 days later the promised blessing from Jesus comes on His people:  The Spirit is given to equip Christ’s disciples to witness to the nations.  In ZION, the PEACE AND BLESSINGS of the LORD come upon His people.

So that’s the Gospel story.  It’s a story of Ascension, a story of Exile, a story of about God’s House torn down and raised up, of the Seed planted and then blossoming, it’s about a joyful restoration and it’s about peace and blessings that fall down upon Zion.  Are any of those words familiar?

Well our Psalms for this evening are called “Songs of Ascent.”  That’s interesting.  On Ascension Sunday.  There are 15 “songs of ascent” in the book of Psalms and we’re covering them at Souls at Seven, three at a time.

The Psalms are SINGING ABOUT GOING UP.

People has speculated that these Psalms were sung by Old Testament believers on their way up to Jerusalem for the festivals.  They went up to Zion and they sang about GOING UP on their way.

But we too are on our way up.  We’re on our way up to the Heavenly Jerusalem, the true Zion.  As we make our journey through life, these songs will help us too.

But ultimately Jesus is the One who made the true Ascent from earth to heaven.  He made the ultimate journey through the sins and sufferings of this world and into God’s presence.  And the Jews of the Old Testament and we today look to Jesus to make sense of our experiences of going up.

So let’s dip into our three songs for tonight.  We’ll give a very quick overview and we’ll try to unpack a couple of things.

(more…)

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I’ve been chatting to three different mates about their sermons this week.  In each case the commentaries they have read and the sermons they have listened to have, in the end, put us in the driver’s seat.  Ironically, those commentators and preachers who make the most noise about being “God-centred” have seemed to be the most keen to put us at the centre.

And it doesn’t seem to matter which testament they’re preaching from.  Two friends are preaching from Psalms.  And even though the Psalmist is described in impossibly lofty terms – an Ideal King and Sufferer and Worshipper – yet the applications from the great and good leave us aspiring to approximate the Psalmist’s experience.  (And Jesus is brought in at the end as someone who really approximated the Psalmist’s experience rather well!).

My other friend is preaching on the parable of the man who finds the treasure and buys the field.  He is surrounded by evangelical interpretations which make us the protagonists in the whole kingdom drama.  (Suffice to say, that is not the way I take it!)

It’s reminded me yet again that “Christ in the Old Testament” is just the tip of the iceberg.  We need to fight a much more basic battle – Christ in all Scripture.  Is it really all about Him?

It’s also reminded me: You gotta watch those “God-centred” preachers!

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Of course you do.

Check out the in-creh-di-bull Steeeve Leeevy at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.

Perhaps begin with Revelation 5.

Glory!

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