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Suffering Revisited

Suffering is hateful. Bloody. Nasty. Indiscriminate. Horrible. Just ask Job if you don’t believe me. For all the books out there on suffering — and there are many — it is a topic that will not go away because the easy answers do not work. Typical evangelical answers to suffering fall into two categories. First, there is the empathy category. In this approach our goal is not to provide an answer but to provide a shoulder. We ‘come alongside’. We listen. We mourn with those who mourn, etc. The other category, though, is the answer category. Here, perhaps not at the moment of suffering, answers of various kinds are attempted. If you want an insight into just how difficult this topic is compare C.S. Lewis’s brilliant The Problem of Evil with his later (and more personal) A Grief Observed. The storms The reason why I am thinking about suffering, and revisiting its answer, is because of all the...

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Solid Foundation for Dynamic Fruit

I have just returned from the latest “Together for the Gospel” (T4G) conference in Louisville, Kentucky. We took about six or seven of our team down this year and used it as an opportunity to catch up with some ministry partners, listen to teaching, and spend time building connections within the team. The theme for this year’s conference was the “underestimated” gospel. I came away with the perspective that solid foundation leads to dynamic fruit. For those of us who love metaphors, you will know that that is a mixed metaphor: still, the principle that firm commitment to theological (sometimes unfashionable) truth is the way to see fruit was evident and much on display. Lane Dennis, President of Crossway, shared about the impact of their ministry with his remarkable example of winsome, godly, seasoned kindness. Mark Dever warned us compellingly of the dangers of an unregenerate membership. David Platt preached passionately – an overused word but in...

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Five Ways Pastors Can Improve Their Apologetic Preaching

Last week The Gospel Coalition ran a series of five articles on apologetics and included a piece I wrote on “Five Ways Pastors Can Improve Their Apologetic Preaching.” You can view the complete series below: Fides Quaerens Intellectum: What Is Presuppositionalism? by William Edgar Questioning Presuppositionalism by Paul Copan Answering Objections to Presuppositionalism by K. Scott Oliphint How Pastors Can Make Time to Talk with Skeptics by Daniel Strange Five Ways Pastors Can Improve Their Apologetic Preaching by Josh Moody ...

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The Great and the Good

When John Stott’s memorial service in America took place, I was fascinated to hear the influence of British evangelicalism. Person after person who spoke talked about how some of the luminaries known to readers of this paper* — John Stott, Dick Lucas, and others — have had an outsized influence on developing a thinking person’s approach to biblical Christianity. The work of The Simeon Trust generates similar conferences to that of The Proclamation Trust and frequently quotes Dick Lucas aphorisms. Sharpened appreciation I suspect I always knew that being bused from my school to hear preaching of this kind of quality as a teenager was a privilege, but the years (and the distance) have sharpened that sense of appreciation. There are, of course, many great preachers here, and (again) readers of this paper could list their names as well as I can, not forgetting Tim Keller who spoke at the memorial service. And yet I wonder, sometimes, with...

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Tebowing!

One of the strange delights of living in a country where you did not grow up is the joy of exploring a whole different sporting culture. For instance, take basketball. Well, when I went to school, basketball was played as distinctly second-rate also-ran game. For an Englishman I was not that bad. But I remember an American we had with us who was on our team and seemed to spend the whole time running up and down putting the thing in the appropriate basket. I could catch, pass, but throwing the ball through the rim was a whole different ‘ball game’. I find that games which I played growing up can engross me when I watch them, if I have a moment to spare, even on TV. But if I did not play it myself, it’s all I can do to stop myself from yawning. But watching games ‘live’ is a different...

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Preaching Revelation

I recently taught a class at Wheaton College on the subject of preaching apocalyptic literature, and we looked at two particular types, Zechariah and Revelation. As I begin a sermon series Sunday on Revelation 2-3, I thought I would share with you what I discussed with the class. Yesterday I wrote in Part I about preaching apocalyptic literature, and today’s post, Part II, is about preaching specifically on Revelation. PART II: When considering whether to preach Revelation in a congregation, you have to bear in mind the passionate feelings that some have towards certain interpretations of the millennium as well as the overall scheme of the book. There are many aspects of the book of Revelation about which frontline scholars disagree too, “Does Revelation expect the nations to be won from satanic deception and converted to the worship of God, or does it expect them to persist under rebellion until they perish under God’s final judgment?”  “…the...

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Preaching Apocalyptic Literature

I recently taught a class at Wheaton College on the subject of preaching apocalyptic literature, and we looked at two particular types, Zechariah and Revelation. As I begin a sermon series Sunday on Revelation 2-3, I thought I would share with you what I discussed with the class. I will do this in two parts today and tomorrow, first by looking at preaching apocalyptic literature, then by looking specifically at Revelation. PART I: First, what is preaching? JI Packer said that the Bible is God preaching. If that is the case then the task of the preacher is to ‘re-preach it.’ This approach is sometimes called expository preaching, expositional preaching, or explicatory preaching. Expository preaching is understood in terms of content, not method (expository preaching does not = ‘going verse by verse’, or ‘three points and a poem’). The aim of the preacher is to let God speak through His Word and address us today by the...

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Occupied?

Watching St Paul’s, London, from a distance has been an interesting experience recently. I was then intrigued to discover that this Christian street preacher in Calgary was comparing his treatment with that of “Occupy Calgary.” Artur Pawlowski comments that, “I have stood over 70 times in the courts. We have been charged over 100 times. Eight arrests,” he says. “Just because I believe in Jesus Christ, I’m treated differently.” Apparently his treatment is in contrast to the more familiar and understanding attitude that the Occupy protesters receive. There may be many reasons for this beyond the scope of the theological, perhaps, and beyond the scope of this article. But it raises an important question for Mr. Pawlowski and for us: what sort of ‘counter-culture’ campaign is the church allowed to launch these days? What kind of marching would be permissible? When was the last time anyone threw any money lenders out of any temples? If the Guardian’s statistics are correct (‘grauniad’ anyone?),  the true picture...

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Heaven’s Compound Interest

As we come to the end of 2011, I write to tell you a story. It is a story of “Heaven’s Compound Interest.” During World War 2 many little girls and boys became homeless. My great-grandmother and great-grandfather helped one such little child. After the war had finished, a daughter of one refugee in London came to the attention of my great-grandparents. She worked hard and showed unusual intelligence. Unfortunately, her father didn’t have the means to send her to university. My great grandparents decided to do it for her. The text from the Bible that came to their mind was from Ecclesiastes — you may remember we studied it this year at College Church — “Cast your bread upon the waters.” They had no particular hope that their investment in this one little child would make much difference. But they felt it was the right thing to do, so they “cast their bread...

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Time to Play

With economic activity indicators all around us, and earnest disciplined parents driving their children to succeed, it is easier to feel that life is about working hard and forget the adage that ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ I came across this quotation from C.S. Lewis recently: “It is only in our ‘hours-off’, only in our moments of permitted festivity, that we find an analogy. Dance and game are frivolous, unimportant down here; for ‘down here’ is not their natural place. Here, they are a moment’s rest from the life we are placed here to live. But in this world everything is upside down. That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is likest that which in a better country is the End of ends. Joy is the serious business of heaven.”[1] How our earnest world needs to hear that! Perhaps, in addition, not only is ‘play’ the “serious business of...

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