• The Cross Both Humbles Us and Fills Us With Thanksgiving

    “In daring to write (and read) a book about the cross, there is of course a great danger of presumption. This is partly because what actually happened when “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ” is a mystery whose depths we shall spend eternity plumbing; and partly because it would be most unseemly to feign a cool detachment as we contemplate Christ’s cross. For, whether we like it or not, we are involved. Our sins put him there. So, far from offering us flattery, the cross undermines our self-righteousness. We can stand before it only with a bowed head and a broken spirit. And there we remain until the Lord Jesus speaks to our hearts his word of pardon and acceptance, and we, gripped by his love and full of thanksgiving, go out into the world to live our lives in his service.”

    John Stott, The Cross of Christ. pg 12

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  • Why Failing to Hold Someone Accountable is Ultimately an Act of Selfishness

    Leaders in all walks of life need to hold the people they lead accountable. But holding people accountable is hard because there is usually an emotional and sometimes a relational cost involved in the act of holding people accountable. But to not hold people accountable is ultimately an act of selfishness as Patrick Lencioni shows in his awesome book that you should buy and read The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business:

    At its core, accountability is about having the courage to confront someone about their deficiencies and then to stand in the moment and deal with their reaction, which may not be pleasant. It is a selfless act, one rooted in a word that I don’t use lightly in a business book: Love. To hold someone accountable is to care about them enough to risk having them blame you for pointing out their deficiencies.

    Unfortunately, it is far more natural, and common, for leaders to avoid holding people accountable. It is one of the biggest obstacles I find in preventing teams, and the companies they lead, from reaching their full potential….

    Many leaders whop struggle with that (again, I’m one of them) will try to convince themselves that their reluctance is a product of their kindness; they just don’t want to make their employees feel bad. But an honest reassessment of their motivation will allow them to admit that they are the ones who don;t want to feel bad and that failing to hold someone accountable is ultimately an act of selfishness.

    After all, there is nothing noble about withholding information that can help an employee improve. eventually that employee’s lack of improvement is going to come back to haunt him in a performance review or when he is let go. And i’m pretty sure there is nothing kind about firing someone who has not been confronted about his performance.

     

    Patrick LencioniThe Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business, 57-59

     

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  • Check Out These Theological Titles Coming Soon

    One of my disciplines that I try to keep is reading. I try to read every day for at least an hour a day. Sometimes I make the quota sometimes I fall far short. For me as an avid reader in theology it seems like the end of 2013 is going to be a great year for new theology books. Here are some of the books I am looking forward to reading:

    The book I am most looking forward to is edited by my friend Jonathan Gibson and his brother David. It is called From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective and with contributors like  Henri A. Blocher, Sinclair B. Ferguson, Paul Helm, Robert Letham, John Piper, Thomas R. Schreiner,Carl R. Trueman , Lee Gatiss, Donald Macleod, J. Alec Motyer,  Garry J. Williams it will be the book on definite (or limited) atonement

    N.T Wright has three books coming out. If you know anything about theology you will know that his books always cause debate! His latest book in His Christian Origins and the Question of God series is Paul and the Faithfulness of God which will be a demanding and yet important read. His other books are Paul and His Recent Interpreters and Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978-2013 which also will be required reading for anyone wanting to keep abreast of new studies in Pauline theology.

    The New Studies in Biblical Theology series has two books coming out to go along with it’s vast array of great books it has released. The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation  Is written by Aussie Graham Cole and another Aussie, Brian Rosner, has written Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God. I have heard first hand some of Brian’s material in this book and it was amazing and this boo looks like it will be a cracker of a book!

    Anthony Thistleton has a book on the Holy Spirit entitled The Holy Spirit: In Biblical Teaching, through the Centuries, and Today coming out in June. If you have read any of Thistleton’s other work I am sure you will concur with me saying this will be an exhaustive and illuminating book.

    On a more popular Level but still good for pastors to read a three books one by Jared Wilson entitled The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry which seems to join the growing ranks of books addressing the spiritual needs of pastors. Matt Chandler has book coming out called To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain which is based on the book of Phillipians. And finally, Tullian Tchividjian’s latest book lands early October and it is called One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World.

    Which one of these book are you hoping to buy and read?

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  • Pastors You Must Fight For Your Time to Read

    Reading is essential for pastoral ministry. It is where we are refreshed, it is where our ideas and theology are honed. It helps us think more deeply about scripture, theology and our work.

    My great hero Charles Spurgeon was a great reader and a great preacher. When he preached on  2 Timothy 4:13  (“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments”) Spurgeon said this:

    We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them.

    Even an apostle must read.

     

    Some of our very ultra-Calvinistic brethren think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermon must be a very deplorable specimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot and talks any quantity of nonsense is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains—oh, that is the preacher!

     

    How rebuked they are by the apostle!

    He is inspired, and yet he wants books!

    He has been preaching for at least thirty years, and yet he wants books!

    He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!

    He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet wants books!

    He had been caught up into the Third Heaven and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books!

    He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

     

    The apostle says to Timothy, and so he says to every preacher, “Give attendance to reading” (1 Tim. 4:13).

    The man who never reads will never be read.

    He who never quotes will never be quoted.

    He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves that he has no brains of his own.

    Brothers and sisters, if great men like Paul and Spurgeon took time to read ordinary men like the rest of us must make time for it too.

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  • Where Should Christian Generosity Come From?

    I have just finished Jamie Munson’s free E-Book called Money. You can get it for free here. Matt Chandler calls it “The best book on money. Period.” Matt’s assessment is pretty close. It is a gospel centered book which goes through everything from giving money to budgeting. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. 

    Here is a section of the book which hit me. It deals with where my motivation for generosity comes from. It also encourages me as a pastor to remember what will change people is not may telling them to be more generous but the gospel:

    “Often books and speakers tell Christians that they should help the needy because they have so much . . . Ultimately it produces guilt. It says, “How selfish you are to eat steak and drive two cars when the rest of the world is starving!” This creates great emotional conflicts in the hearts of Christians who hear such arguing. We feel guilty, but all sorts of defense mechanisms are engaged. “Can I help it I was born in this country? How will it really help anyone if I stop driving two cars? Don’t I have the right to enjoy the fruits of my labor?” Soon, with an anxious weariness, we turn away from books or speakers who simply make us feel guilty about the needy. The Bible does not use guilt-producing motivation. . . . The deeper the experience of the free grace of God, the more generous we must become. This is why Robert Murray M’Cheyne could say: “There are many hearing me who now know well that they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart.”

    If I want to be generous and I want those who I lead to be generous I will preach the gospel and let the gospel affect our wallets.

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  • Rob Bell’s New Book

    The great communicator and heretic Rob Bell has got a new book coming out. It is called What We Talk About When We Talk About GodThe trailer for the book is below

    Comparing this video to his the infamous “Love Wins” video this one is kind of boring.

    Will I read the book? Probably.

    Will it be entertaining? Probably.

    Will it be seriously misleading? Probably.

    There are my thoughts, what do you think?

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  • Has the Holy Spirit Made a Difference in Your Life?

    I have been reading Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan. If you have never read any of Chan’s books they are always very easy to read as well as being very hard hitting.

    In the book Chan is getting us to reconsider how much of a force the Holy Spirit is in our lives. Here is the section that has challenged me the most:

    “You are most likely familiar with the “fruit passage” in Galatians 5, which says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (vv. 22–23 NIV). You may even have the list memorized. But look over those traits right now and ask yourself if you possess each to a supernatural degree. Do you exhibit more kindness and faithfulness than the Mormons you know? Do you have more self-control than your Muslim friends? More peace than Buddhists? More joy than atheists? If GOD truly lives in you, shouldn’t you expect to be different from everyone else?”

    They are great questions aren’t they? If God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, resides in us shouldn’t we be more like God? Shouldn’t we exhibit the Fruits of the Spirit more?

    What Fruits of the Spirit do you want to see made more manifest in your life?

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  • Is trying to be cool making us unholy?

    I have been reading Kevin DeYoung’s new book The Hole in our Holiness and so far it has been a great read. In  the first few pages Kevin talks about why we either don’t want to be holy or ignore holiness. Here is what he had to say about being a cool christian and the pursuit of holiness:

    “Our culture of cool is partly to blame. To be cool means you differentiate yourself from others. That often means pushing the boundaries with language,  with entertainment, with alcohol, and with fashion. Of course, holiness is much more than these things, but in an effort to be hip, many Christians have figured holiness has nothing to do with these things. They’ve willingly embraced Christian freedom without an equal pursuit of Christian virtue.” (The Hole in Our Holiness pg. 18)

    This hit me hard, have I in my attempt to fit in with the world ditched or pushed to one side my pursuit of holiness? I am ashamed to say that sometimes I have. I have said many times that you cant be a cool christian because you will either have to choose one or the other. And I need to hear that God wants me to be holy more than I should want to be hip with the world.

    Have you let worldliness creep into your life so much so that holiness is not something you think about let alone strive for?

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  • How to talk with a Christian who wants a divorce

    This Sunday at Resolved I am preaching on Matthew 5:27-32  where Jesus talks about lust and divorce. I am nervous to be speaking on such important and potentially painful topics. I have never preached on divorce before and have been reading widely on it this week. In my reading I found this brilliant piece of pastoral wisdom from John Stott about speaking with someone who wants to get divorced:

    “So, speaking personally as a Christian pastor, whenever somebody asks to speak to me about divorce, I have now for some years steadfastly refused to do so. I have made the rule never to speak with anybody about divorce, until I ahve first spoken to them with him (or her) about two other subjects, namely marriage and reconciliation. Sometimes a discussion on these topics makes a discussion on the other unnecessary. At the very least, it is only when a person has understood and accepted God’s view of marriage and God’s call to reconciliation that a possible context has been created within which one may regretfully go on to talk about divorce. This principle of pastoral priorities is, I believe, consistent with the teaching of Jesus.” 

    John R.W. Stott, The Message of The Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5-7 pgs.98-99

    What do you think? Is he right? Would you follow his advice?

  • How to make your sermons stickier

    I have been listening to Chip and Dan Heath’s audio book Made to Stick: why some Ideas Survive and Others Die. It has been a fantastic experience. The Heath brothers say that most ideas don’t hang around or stick because the person delivering the ideas hasn’t thought about how to make them stick. As someone who wants his own preaching to improve all the time this got me thinking about how I can make my sermons “stickier”

    According to the Heath brothers sticky ideas have 6 attributes:

    1. Sticky ideas are simple. This doesn’t mean that you can’t go deep. A good idea may be profound but it is simply communicated so that everyone can understand it. To make our ideas or sermons sticky the question we have to ask is “What is the core of the message that I am trying to deliver?” Once we have that we ruthlessly cut out the chaff so that people get the idea and only the idea.

    2. Sticky ideas have an unexpected twist to them. We are wired to pay more attention to things that are out of the ordinary and so sticky ideas will make us do a mental double take. How can I make this Sunday’s sermon have an unexpected twist in it? Can I say old truths in a new which will make people sit up and take notice?

    3. Sticky ideas are concrete. Something becomes concrete when it can be described or detected by the human senses. A V-8 engine is concrete; “high-performance” is abstract. Concrete ideas are easy to remember. Experiments have shown that people remember concrete over abstract nouns: “bicycle” over “justice” or “personality.”

    4. Sticky ideas are credible. They are not easily dismissed as being stupid. This is hard for preachers because our message is foolishness to a perishing world (1 Corinthians 1:18). But is there a way we can preach that shows how relevant and true the gospel is?

    5. Sticky ideas are emotional. That means that sticky ideas convey or cause an emotion to be felt. How do we do this with our preaching?

    6. Sticky ideas have a story component to them. That is there is within a sticky idea a mini narrative or the idea is wrapped in a story. Stories communicate more than hard facts or intellectual ideas in most cases.

    How can we use these six principles to make your sermons “stickier”?