• My need for humble orthodoxy

    One of the things I lack is humility. But before you close this window because you are thinking “Hans is just blogging about the obvious!” hear me out.

    The contradiction in my life is this:

    I know the truth and yet I am not humble.

    I know the truth about me being a despicable hell bound sinner, who was rightly and justly under God’s wrath. I know the truth about me being saved by God’s glorious grace, for his glory, And I know the truth about the only thing I bring to God is my own sinful life and yet I am not humble.

    I am proud.

    This comes to bear especially when I am talking about the truth.

    I want to know the gospel deeply, preach the gospel powerfully and defend the gospel winsomely. But I find, in my own heart at least, a lot of pride when I do these things.

    But when my pride rears its ugly head the most is when I am talking with someone else with whom I disagree about some theological issue. My pride says to me:

    “They don’t know what they are talking about!”

    “They haven’t got a bachelor of divinity but you have!”

    “They haven’t read all the books that you have!”

    “They haven’t read the right books but you have!”

    “They don’t know the gospel/bible/the text like you do!”

    “They say that because they are New Perspective, Barthian, Liberal, Catholic, Arminian, Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, Uniting church, etc.”

    These things that pop into my head bring me great pride in what I know and what I can articulate. How quickly do I forget that the only reason that I believe these things is by God’s grace? How quickly do I forget that is it God who gives me the gifts I have? How quickly do I forget that am saved only by God’s grace? How quickly do I forget about the fact that God loves the person I am speaking to?”

    I need a huge dose of humble orthodoxy.

    It is my prayer that I will stand for the truth of the gospel with a humility that is shaped by the gospel.

    God, may you give me the grace to do just this.

     

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  • Why the reaction to Pipers talks in Australia has frustrated me.

    Let me be very clear about a few things before I start.

    1. I think we need to discern and sift teaching to see if it is legit. I think to do so would be absolutely irresponsible for Christians especially Pastors. So I don’t have any issue with anyone lovingly critiquing Piper’s talks in fact I will be doing just that this morning with my staff team. As Piper said we should be good Bereans!
    2. I love my heritage, I am grateful for growing up in an Anglican church and so thankful that I went to Moore college even though I am not an Anglican now by choice. The tweet I put up about Sydney Anglicans was rash and from the gut and sinful and I ask if you have been offended that you would forgive me as I am very sorry for that asinine tweet.

    Here is my issue with the response to Piper’s talks. Piper made it abundantly clear that he was not equating his joy or love for God as a work. He even said that if people took him that way they were ‘wilfully sinning” therefore I was surprised, shocked and annoyed when I saw a post claiming Piper’s soteriology might be Catholic. This frustrated me because the writer obviously didn’t listen to the many times Piper qualified what he was saying but also that he used the one of the most derogatory things a Sydney Evangelical can say about another Evangelical brother. He said the Piper might be Catholic!! Using this word denies what Piper has written and denies his theology it also makes us who don’t want to be Catholic weary of Piper instead of engaging with him. Painting him with the Catholic brush and makes us think that he is a bit off and we should keep him at arms length.

    We need to critique but let’s do it hearing a brother out properly and not misrepresenting him. Also lets not label him /catholic or charismatic or whatever just to be controversial and get people to read our blogs. Aren’t we too old for that?

    The other thing I am frustrated by is our negativity towards teaching from outside. I have been in many conversations about Piper and his preaching and most of the feedback is negatively geared. This is human nature on one level but verbalizing all the things we didn’t like about something will automatically skew our perception of the thing we are critiquing. Piper said a bunch of brilliant things. I think we should be emphasizing what God spoke to us through Piper and once we have thanked God for this great man and his talks then we can move onto lovingly discussing those areas we need clarification or modification. This is how we should talk about a brother in Christ.

    P.S. I lumped Michael Kellahan’s critique of Piper in with my criticism on Friday. This was wrong, his blog was done generously and lovingly. It had all the hallmarks of a good, fair and loving critique. I apologize to Michael for sinning against him and I ask for his forgiveness.

     

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  • What I loved about Engage 11

    For the first three years of the Engage conference I was on the Engage organizing committee and Luke Woodhouse and I led the conference band. Needless to say I had a blast in those years but I loved just kicking back and not doing all that much except listen to the talks last weekend!

    Here are some of the things I loved about the weekend:

    • I loved Rory Shiner’s talks. I have known Rory for years and he is a blast to be around and a great preacher too! He helped me see once again how the physical, bodily resurrection changes my life. His line “Sin is bad eschatology” has been ringing in my ears all week!
    • I love Piper, he was his usual self. I have heard the talks he gave on the weekend in some form or another over the web. But being there, I could really get his passion and his vibe on a whole different level. I loved how he made me think hard, especially about the text and how he made me look at my life and ask “Do I find joy in glorifying Jesus?”
    • As usual the Engage team put thought into the little things. The food, drink, music, coffee and vibe all added to the feel of the weekend and this feel keeps Engage as one of the best Christian conferences around.

    I just want to say how much I and the people from my church love Engage. I can’t wait for next year and I hope that Engage keeps going from strength to strength under the great leadership and organizational skill of Steve Morrison and the team!

     

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  • What I learn from Christians with mental illness/anxiety issues

    My church has recently started up a ministry to people with mental illness/anxiety called Eternal Hope. It is a simple ministry where we read from the bible, share how we are doing and then pray for each other.  But here is the thing.

    I feel like a fake when I am there.

    If we have never met, I am stupidly optimistic and positive and so when I go to Eternal Hope and I hear their pain and struggle I feel like a fake.

    I feel like a fake most when my brothers and sisters at this group talk about heaven. They talk about longing for heaven and how this life is a struggle. Then I think about my life, beautiful wife, child on the way, awesome church and I think “Man I don’t want to be in heaven yet!!!”

    But that is the point my brothers and sisters at Eternal Hope see reality more than I do. They see that their home is heaven and I see what is in front of me. What I learn from my brothers and sisters at Eternal Hope is that I need to be more in love with where I will be spending my eternity.

     

    What about you do you long for heaven or are you content with earth?

     

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  • An open letter to Al Stewart, KCC and the Oxygen team

    Dear Al, KCC and team,

    Brothers and sisters thank you so much for putting on Oxygen. I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose. There was so much that God challenged me about.

    I loved how John Lennox kept emphasizing that we will not get the church growing unless we get the word growing. In a world where technique is held as the thing we have to nail to get our churches to grow I was very encouraged by this! He also encouraged me in my evangelism by being so enthusiastic to tell his friends and colleagues about Jesus! I now have a greater love for the book of Acts and I cant wait till i preach through it!

    I love John Piper’s passion(who doesn’t?), but I also loved how he showed me his arguments from the grammar and the syntax of the passages he was exegeting. I came away thinking “It is all so clear!!” But also thinking that I need to show more of my work in my sermons! I loved his passion for Joy in his life and my life and how that cant be divorced from hard and right thinking!

    I loved the music!!! Trevor, Greg, Owen, Rowan, Faith and the other singer and the keys player did an amazing job! The songs lead me to consider the deep truths of the gospel and the music was brilliantly executed. The room was big and had so much natural reverb and yet the mix was always done very well! Great job guys!

    I loved my two electives. I went to one lead by Phillip Jensen who challenged pastors to guard the gospel and protect our flock. Which I, as a natural evangelist, can neglect! I also went Andrew Heard’s great seminar on gospel dreams and realising them. In both there was much food for thought about leadership, vision and motivating my people at Resolved.

    I loved the book pack! I love how generous your sponsors were in giving the conference delegates a bunch of new books! I also loved your generosity in giving away all the talks for free. KCC could have made a mint form the talks and yet you guys are more into blessing the world than making money! I love that about KCC!

    Should Oxygen be a movement? Yes it should. I hope that Oxygen becomes a conference that comes up every year or two. It was amazing. Thanks to all who worked so hard to put it on!

    Your brother in Christ,

    Hans

     

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  • As a pastor you need to encourage and inspire your people!

    There is something about the Sydney evangelical culture that makes it very hard for us to give specific encouragement that actually encourages. The word we throw around in Christian circles is helpful.

    “That was a helpful sermon.”

    What the hell does that mean?

    We need to get over our britishness, get some emotional intelligence about us and learn to encourage and compliment well. I have devised four steps to direct, specific encouragement

    1. Choose your adjective

    Step one is choosing your adjective. Make your adjective count, go over the top because that will communicate better. If you go with words like helpful, good, faithful they will encourage somewhat. But if you use words and phrases like amazing, biblically inspired, gripping it communicates more directly.

    2. Be specific

      What was it about what they did that was encouraging? Tell them. You may say “I loved the way you led us in singing in church especially the way after the second song you read that passage from scripture and helped us reflect on the cross and then you led brilliantly into that new song from there.” Once again far better than how you led the singing was good or helpful

      3. What did it do to you?

      Tell them what affect what they did had on you. For example, you may say I loved your sermon or you could say “I loved your sermon because it made me consider Jesus in a new and it encouraged me greatly in overcoming a specific sin in my life.” The specificity is the thing that will make the compliment mean something because it shows how they have impacted you.

      4. Inspire them

      The final thing you want to say is something inspirational like “Man I am so looking forward to the next time you pray in church because I was so encouraged. Thanks for doing amazing job.” This rounds out the encouragement and it also is inspirational.

      As Christians we need to be encouraging and so working on this is something we should be doing. Especially if we are in leadership

      Who should you encourage at church this week?

       

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    1. Rappers acceptance speeches and living out the gospel

      I love hearing Rappers acceptance speeches at awards shows. They always go something like this:

      “I’d like to thank my Lord Jesus Christ, Jehovah God almighty, for my number one hit single. It is called “I’m gonna kill your Mamma!”

      There is a bit of a disconnect there isn’t there?

      But I was wondering what about my life?

      Is there a disconnect there too?

      Do people see me living one way and yet talking another. I mean I confess Jesus with my lips but does my life measure up? Am I legit or am I another fake Christian?

      When I read the letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation I am ashamed to see myself in each one of them. I see myself not as I should be, imperfect, confessing Jesus with my lips and yet denying him in my life.

      For the glory of Jesus, we mustn’t be like rappers at awards shows we must legit.

      That means taking sin and nailing to the cross.

      And living in response to the cross.

      Knowing that Jesus has paid it all…

       

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    2. How I use my time

      The last two days I have written two blogs entitled “Preparing for a Preaching Series” and “How I Prepare my Sermons”. For those who haven’t read them I put a lot of time into preparing for preaching series and preparing for individual sermons. In response to these blogs I have been asked questions like:

      • How do I find the time?
      • How long does it take to prepare a sermon?
      • What time do I start and finish work each day?
      • How many hours do I work?
      • Etc….

      As you can see there were questions about time. The following are just some principles of how I use my time. But firstly a word of caution……

      What I don’t intend to do

      I don’t want to tell anyone about my working hours or how many hours I work for a few reasons. Firstly, I will be damned by two groups. One group will read my working hours and call me a workaholic and the other will see the hours I work and call me lazy. Also, God has given me a particular brain and body coupled with a particular drive that allows me to work the hours I do. God has given some people the ability to work longer hours and sleep less and he has given other people a body that needs more sleep. This is all from the hand of God and so we must praise God when brothers and sisters of ours are able to get three hours sleep and work flat out for the other twenty one hours of the day and conversely we must not look down on those men and women who need more sleep and rest time then us and yet are able to work with all their might in the time God has given them.

      Principles of how I use my time:

      1. I work my butt off – I really work hard at using the time I have at my desk well. I do like YouTube and reading blogs but I find once I start down these rabbit holes I can end up wasting hours. So I try to be intentional about how I use these great blessings from God. When I am at my desk I am there to work and I try to push everything else aside to do that.
      2. When I get bored or my mind drifts I take a break – I am sure I have undiagnosed ADHD so I cannot sit down and work solidly for 4 hours. I have about 40 mins to an hour in me before I either need a break or need to talk to someone (I am a massive extrovert!). So I try to work until I need a break or a conversation and then either take a brisk ten minute walk or call someone that I need to call. After this I am usually ready to get back to work.
      3. I use the iPhone app 2Do – This allows me to put all the things I need to do into an app which will then allow me to assign each item to a specific day. This allows me to remember everything I have to do and also gives me a list to work off and gives me satisfaction as I cross off each item on the to do list.
      4. I read for an hour a day Monday through Friday – A friend asked “How do I find the time to read?” I replied I schedule it in my day. On my to do list is a recurring item that says “do one hour of reading”. It is something I do because I make it a priority. I also read widely to vary it up and I try to finish books before I start the next one. For me, finishing a book gives me encouragement to start the next book and a sense of achievement.
      5. I budget in about 15 hours a week for meetings – I try to have a meeting each lunch hour so I can eat and have a meeting at the same time. I also allow 15-30 mins of prep time for each meeting so I prepare what I want to talk about. I want every meeting I go into to have an agenda (not necessarily a written one) and also specific outcomes. If I want to have an agenda and specific outcomes for each meeting I need to prepare.
      6. I get people to do the things I suck at – I suck at grammar (as you can tell from my blogs) so I get others to put together the newsletter.  I suck at power point so I get someone else to do slides and all that. I could tell you all the things I suck at but you get the point. I make sure I delegate where I can so I can do the three things God has called me to do preach, lead people and pastor Resolved

      There are some principles of how I use my time. How do you use yours? What guiding principles do you have as you go about your day?

       

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    3. How I Prepare My Sermons

      A few words of caution

      This way of preparing sermons is something I have worked on for the past 10 years and so it is very comfortable for me. It may not be for you. With this in mind, I suggest you read this blog only as a guide and not as a fixed rule of how you should prepare. I also try to do all my work on the text on Tuesday and then let all the information go around my head for a few days before I write out a final script. Once again, you might be able to do this, but you may not. Find a way of preparing that helps you preach the best sermons!

      Step 1: English

      In this step I am looking at the English text. I preach using the NIV, so when I am preparing I read the NIV. I ask the following questions when looking at the text:

      1. How does it fit into the:
        1. structure of the book in which it is in?
        2. canon in which it is located (ie. New Testament or Old Testament)?
        3. whole Bible?
      2. Are there any allusions to the Old Testament?
      3. What questions do I have of the text?
      4. What pastoral issues are raised by the text?
      5. If I could summarise what the author is saying, how would I say it?

      Step 2: Flowchart

      If I am preaching from a New Testament Epistle I always flowchart the Greek text. If you have not learned how to read Greek yet flowchart in English. For more information on flowcharting or sentence diagramming go here.

      Step 3: Greek

      When I am in the New Testament I do my own translation and try to use Wallace[1] to see what is ‘happening’ in the text. If you do not know how to read Greek yet I would read a few different literal translations (e.g. NASB, ESV etc.)

      Step 4: Application

      When I work on application, I think of hitting a home run in baseball:

      • 1st base is me. How does the text apply to me? I find I preach far better if the text has ‘hit’ me and I have allowed the Holy Spirit to apply the text to my heart. I also want to live out the application – starting as soon as it hits me.
      • 2nd base is the worldview base. I am asking ‘What worldview does this text confront, respond to or justify?’ and ‘How would I preach this text in such a way that people can see how this text relates to their worldview?’
      • 3rd base is my hearers. I am trying to directly apply the text to two different groups of people here, and within those two groups I am thinking of many subgroups. The two main groups and their subgroups are as follows:
      1. Christians
        1. a.      Strong Christians
        2. b.      Weak Christians
        3. c.      Hurting Christians
        4. d.      Sinful Christians
        5. e.      Men
        6. f.      Women
        7. Non- Christians
          1. a.      Near to the gospel
          2. b.      Far away from the gospel
          3. c.      Hate the church/Christianity/religion
          4. d.      Backslidden Christians
          5. e.      Different groups within our community, e.g. environmentalists

      Step 5: Break up and big idea

      By this stage I should have a breakup of the passage, which I try to make memorable. For example, if I was preaching on Mark 8:27-38, I may break it up like this:

      • Jesus – The man (8:27-30)
      • Jesus – The mission (8:31-33)
      • Jesus – The cost (8:34-38)

      I also should have a big idea. The big idea is a one-sentence summary that should encapsulate what the text is about. Using Mark 8:27-38 as an example again, I might say “This passage is teaching us about the identity, mission and call of Jesus.”

      Step 6: Commentaries

      I try to read 6 different commentaries. I try to read different types of commentaries (e.g. technical, narrative, theological, expositional, etc.). I am looking for answers to the questions I have about the text as well as any insights into the original language, theology or historical background of the text.

      Step 7: Canonical Theologies

      I then read an Old/New Testament theology. I look up the Scripture index to find out where my text is referred to, and then I read those pages/sections and note down anything that I can use.

      Step 8: Systematic Theologies

      I do exactly what I did for Canonical Theologies with Systematic Theologies. I always read Calvin’s Institutes & supplement this with one or two others.

      Step 9: Historical Theology

      By this time I may have some idea of where the doctrines in the text have come up in church history and based on time and relevance I may get a feel for how the issue has played out in history (given what I know of church history). Or, I may read a sermon from one of the ‘greats’ (Spurgeon, Edwards, Luther, Calvin etc.) on the text I am looking at. However I never listen to mp3’s of great preachers of today on the text I am preaching on, because I feel it leads me to either despair because my sermon sucks or I find that I just use what they say and don’t do the hard work on the text myself.

      Step 10: Full text

      I then write out a full text of the sermon which helps me get my ideas together and I have found if I do not do this my delivery is not as good as it should be.

      Step 11: Summary

      I write out a summary of my main points and give myself little phrases to jog my memory for illustrations, quotes, etc.

      Preparing sermons or talks is a massive responsibility which should not be taken lightly. I hope this blog helps you to work hard on preparing any talk whether it be a talk for your youth group,your  church a camp or wherever.


      [1] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996).

       

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    4. Preparing for a preaching series

      So you have been asked to give a bunch of talks for a youth group camp or maybe your pastor has asked you to preach a four week series for church. You now have about 3-6 months to prepare for the series, what do you do?

      I have developed a process for preparing for a series based on advice Don Carson gave at a preaching conference. Here is what I do if I am preaching through a book:

      1. I read and read and reread the book. I want to know the argument of the book and its main themes without going to a commentary or some other book. From this reading I usually choose the breakup of the book and the passages in consultation with the Elders at Resolved.
      2. After I have read the book I read two dictionary articles on the book or a two entries about the book in an introduction to the New or Old Testament
      3. I then read the introductions of the commentaries I am going to use.
      4. Then I may read a bunch of books on the topic(s) that the book I am preaching through deals with. For example, before I preached through Galatians earlier this year I read a bunch of stuff on Paul, the Law and justification. This helped me no end with my understanding of Galatians.
      5. While I am doing all this reading I am always on the lookout for illustrative material.

      If I am preaching a topical series like “Sex and Relationships” My process goes like this:

      1. Figure out the broad topics I want to hit. In the “Sex and Relationships series I wanted to preach on marriage, singleness, love for the gay community, struggling with same sex attraction, lust, sex etc. ‘
      2. In consultation with the Elders at Resolved select the passages to preach on.
      3. Read very widely on these topics from both every background I could. For example for the sex series didn’t just read evangelical books on sex and relationships. I read secular books, liberal books, evangelical books. Now if you are starting out preaching or giving talks I would say go to some books that your pastor recommends because reading widely like this can confuse you and shatter your confidence.  But if you are a trained pastor do hard work in this area.
      4. While I am doing all this reading I am always on the lookout for illustrative material.

      In doing this reading I have found that when I come to a text I already have a good idea of what the passage is about and exegesis time is cut down significantly. It also teaches me that preaching is hard work and I need to devote many hours to it!

      So that is what I do. How do you prepare for a series?

       

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