Speaking of Preaching…

john-knox-pulpit
John Knox’s pulpit**

I discussed preaching in my last post. But what is preaching? Luther is supposed to have said:

“When the preacher speaks, God speaks. And whoever cannot say that about his preaching should leave preaching alone.”*

If he’s right, that God speaks when the preacher speaks, then it would make sense that preaching is an important element of worship. From an historical point of view, preaching is also a way the Christian church expresses continuity with the first century synagogue (where teaching and preaching were prominent) as well as with the Old Testament Church (where prophets spoke for God to the people).

Preaching is essentially proclamation–that’s partly why there are at least two overlapping words for preaching in the Bible, one of which focuses on “teaching” and the other on the work of a “herald.” Therefore,  while I believe that preaching with powerpoints, videos, and charts/graphs/diagrams is not forbidden, it can tend to draw some of the power away from the proclamation of the Good News of the Gospel.

But this takes work; especially in a media-saturated society, it is hard work preparing a proclamation from the Bible every week. Because of this, here are five guidelines which I’ve given in different forms to the people of this congregation about what I expect from them in terms of engagement with my preaching. Continue reading

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Calvin’s Prayer following His Lecture on Ezekiel 3

After lecturing on the third chapter of Ezekiel, Calvin composed this prayer, which both summarizes what he said in his lecture regarding the importance and calling of pastors to the Church, and adds to it a note of personal pleading with the Lord.

In his prayer, Calvin says, in effect, that if pastors are so important, make us, therefore, the kind of people who want godly ministers to lead, guide, and teach us.

Here’s his prayer: Continue reading

Beautiful Music & Ugly Album Art

I’m a fan of Thomas Tallis, and have listened to his music for years. Some time ago, I went to purchase an album of Tallis music by the Tallis Scholars called Spem in Alium, which is a beautiful song that reads in English as follows:

I have never put my hope in any other

but in You, O God of Israel

who can show both anger and graciousness,

and who absolves all the sins

of suffering man

Lord God, Creator of Heaven and Earth

be mindful of our lowliness

At some point after I purchased the song from iTunes, the album artwork in my computer browser started showing up with an ad promoting a wicked movie called Fifty Shades of Gray. Continue reading

“Lead Parent” and other Social Experiments

These days, the watchword seems to be “try it, you might like it.” Sort of a new sixties, in which conventions, once which seemed inviolable or unimpeachable, are on trial, “in the dock” to use Lewis’s famous essay title (“God in the Dock”).

Stay at home dads, and their cousins, “lead parents” (the gender-neutral version of that somewhat more embarrassing title, and one which allows two parents to work and day-care raise the kids), is the latest “convention on trial.”

Much could be written about this so-called courtroom trial, but most of the issues, and “practice titles” (including the blissfully androgynous and marriage-ambiguous “Stay at home Partner”) ultimately wind up denying that biology is, in fact, by God’s design, deeply connected to our destiny.
Continue reading

In the News Today…

Matthew Henry, famous for his Bible Commentary, and significant for his Guide for Prayer (a lesser known, but more significant achievement in my opinion) is no relative of mine, but an inspiration to my faith nonetheless.

He wrote once that in reading the local news, we are to avoid reading with a heart that craves gossip, or relishes in the misfortune of others. Rather, we should read about the news with a heart and mind to discern what God is doing in our world.

Sometimes this is called employing a “Christian world view.” Harry Blamires called it discovering, and using, a Christian mind.

Here are two stories from today’s newspaper–yes, the paper and ink variety which I think is still a useful and important part of being an educated and informed human being, and Christian–with some observations, brief, and ad hoc, about what these stories suggest God is doing in our world today.

Cleveland Faulted on Force (A1): “The Obama administration issued a report on Thursday accusing the Cleveland Police Dept. of using excessive and deadly force against citizens in violation of their constitutional rights.” Three observations. Continue reading

Being Protected from Temptation

Several years ago, I was helped by a friend when I asked him for something to read that would assist me in my fight against temptations in my life. He commended John Owen’s work, “Watching against temptation,” which I purchased as vol. 6 in his Collected Works, published by the Banner of Truth.

I came across it in my preparations for a sermon I preached on Sunday, the topic was “repentance.” And if there’s any remedy against temptation, it is repentance, which when done appropriately, has a fine dispelling power against all the wiles of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

For your encouragement, I’m posting a short excerpt from Owen’s essay here. I hope it helps you as it did me: as a reminder that we’re not in this business of following Christ for fun; it is a war, and it calls forth our whole beings and our best efforts. Continue reading

Post Script: “Guidelines for a Dude…”

This was brought to my attention by Lesly Carter. I think many of us need to divorce our “smart-thing” of choice; or at least go on a temporary separation. As a matter of fact, I downgraded from a smart-phone to a “dumb-phone” a couple months ago: more time, and more money for date nights. Makes sense, eh?

Great post script, Lesly, thanks!

Inside the colosseum

Shown below are the complex systems of weights and balances that were used to raise up animals onto the colosseum floor.

The third photo is a painting of the city of Jerusalem and of Solomon’s temple on a colosseum archway.

Visiting the Colosseum

The colosseum was actually built over Nero’s famous golden house and takes its name from the Colossus statue he erected of himself, as tall as the colosseum, shown in the first photo below.

The statistics for the colosseum are amazing to consider:

Pictured in the fourth and fifth photos is the under structure of the colosseum showing how animals were brought up from beneath. This the floor of the colosseum was composed of boards supported by cement pillars covered with sand to absorb the blood.

The morning events of the colosseum centered around hunting animals. Then at lunch criminals were brought into the arena for punishment.

Mamertinum, or St. Peter’s Prison

On our way to St. Peter’s prison we walked along this ancient road, from the 4th century BC.

The prison is called the Mamertinum. Shown below are:

1. A mural of St. Peter
2. St. Peter’s cell
3. The ancient foundations of this building going back to earlier than 900 BC.