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Mar 8

Young preachers who try to preach redemptive-historical sermons often spend so much time preparing the theology of their messages that they completely neglect rhetorical considerations- that is, communication. So their sermons come across as a lot of gobbledygook.

So all I ask of a young preacher is that he preach clearly the gospel of grace, a proper relationship between grace and works, and no major errors stemming from redemptive-historical ignorance.

- John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life

The Art Speaks

A practical application of the last post (Overwhelmed) would be to spend less time honing ‘mechanics of conversion’ arguments and more time describing the irresistible object of conversion. It’s the picture that moves us. People need to see the art more than they need you to articulate precisely how a person is ‘taken’ by it. Frame it. Aim the fancy spotlights.  Dare to offer only a few gushing, breathless words yourself. 

The way in which you were ushered to the gallery is a wonder in and of itself (and people will get to that question eventually), but it designed to serve. It is a truth revealed to accent and support, never to distract. The Apostle Paul knew systematics pretty well but it was simplicity that made him persuasive. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2)

Turn down the commentary and let the art speak. 

Overwhelmed

This comment from Calvin is key concerning the interplay of freedom of will (and true devotion) and His grace. 


"…for in distinguishing believers by this title, that they love God, he (King David) intimates it to be the root of true godliness, that they submit themselves to him voluntarily, which again is the effect of faith. Till God draw us by the attractions of his grace, this placid submission will never follow.” Calvin’s Commentaries. Vol. 6. Pg. 283. 

  I started thinking about the way we describe things that are awesomely attractive. “I went to Niagra Falls and the view was breathtaking. After just a few moments, I was overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of these powerful falls.” Isn’t this how we often speak? In a very real sense the beauty, power, vastness and wonder of the place or circumstance OVERWHELMS us. 

  Well, the proponent of free choice must hate this. He could not stand that these falls treated us like a robot. His version would read. “I went to Niagra Falls and when I saw them I willfully and of my own accord began to take shortened breathes. After a few moments I made to choice to allow myself to be overwhelmed by their power.” 

The whole point is, I love that Calvin says willful submission to God occurs in response to the ‘attractions of His grace.’ God’s grace is so beautiful, so big, so astounding, so utterly refreshing, all it takes is a glimpse (which God initiates when he plants faith in the hearts of the elect) and we are overwhelmed. Forever. 

Dec 4

It might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life… A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

- GK Chesterton in Orthodoxy

Sep 4

I am bold in saying this, but I believe that no one is ever changed, either by doctrine, by hearing the Word, or by preaching or teaching of another, unless the affections are moved by these things. No one ever seeks salvation, no one ever cries for wisdom, no one ever wrestles with God, no one ever kneels in prayer or flees from sin, with a heart that remains unaffected. In a word, there is never any great achievement by the things of religion without a heart deeply affected by those things.

- Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards

In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.

- CS Lewis

I pray that these words, “all the families of the earth,” may
be written on our hearts. It is this expression more than any
other which reveals the living God of the Bible to be a
missionary God. It is this expression too which condemns all
our petty parochialism and narrow nationalism, our racial
pride (whether white or black), our condescending
paternalism and arrogant imperialism. How dare we adopt a
hostile or scornful or even indifferent attitude to any person
of another color or culture if our God is the God of “all the
families of the earth?” We need to become global Christians
with a global vision, for we have a global God.

- The Living God is a Missionary God- John Stott

Good, Best, Vital

The good is the enemy of the best. That’s what they say. And ‘they’ are tragically right. 

Tragic because it is so simple, so normal and so justifiable to immerse oneself in things that are ‘valuable’ and ‘urgent’ while neglecting things that would be best for an organization, family or church. 

More destructive yet, we substitute the good not only for the best but also for the vital. As in, if/when we fail to do these particular things the entire enterprise ceases to exist or to have meaning. It is, quite bluntly, a well-intentioned suicide. 

In this instance, the vital is discipleship. More directly, the lack of clear, intentional discipling of leaders in a church. We often let people serve and serve and serve with almost zero investment in their vision, character, emotions or skills. We do this by substituting other ‘good’ things for those vital things that are the only hope for maintaining a robust vision and life in the church.

Study. Prayer. Meetings. Events. Good things certainly. But good things that often usher in a busyness which masks a failure to disciple those most vital to your organization. Insane isn’t it? The very thing we are called to do… the very thing which embodies the discipling mission of the church… the very people carrying out the vision of our ministry…neglected. 

The solution is not to cast off the ‘good’ but to reorder things with a proper perspective. A perspective that recognizes if we neglect the vital, we will, sooner or later, have no platform for the good. 

Leap Year

Each hour is somewhere around 2.4 seconds longer than it should be. In this very hour, we’ll get by just fine but if left unchecked that simple inaccuracy would cause summer and winter to flipflop in just a few hundred years. Nothing says ‘Happy Birthday America’ like a crispy ice fishing tournament.

Thus, February 29th. We are living out a diachronic correction. Calendar makers keep a close watch on these things because they understand one of the great principles of life…

A small mistake now is a large mistake later.

Church history agrees and so does the Apostle Paul. 

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:16 (ESV)

Be it mine to look up to Thy light, even from afar, even from the depths. Teach me to seek Thee, and reveal Thyself to me, when I seek Thee, for I cannot seek Thee, except Thou teach me, nor find Thee, except Thou reveal Thyself. Let me seek Thee in longing, let me long for Thee in seeking; let me find Thee in love, and love Thee in finding.

- St. Anselm, Proslogium Chapter 1