Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Adrian Warnock interviews Josh on being discipled by CJ

Today, Adrian posted an interview with Josh in response to the interest raised in part by Tim Challies' post about his desire for mentorship, which cited Josh and CJ's relationship as an example. The interview covers such topics as how Josh came to be leading Covenant Life Church, how CJ became his mentor, and how this "Paul-Timothy" mentorship worked out in practice. Check it out!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Wrong Decision

I shared the following comments with my church this morning. Sometimes you learn the hard way, but I'm grateful for a patient congregation and the faithful wounds of friends.

"This year because Christmas morning falls on a Sunday I made the decision to replace our normal Sunday meeting with two Christmas Eve services. Since then I’ve come to believe that this was the wrong decision, informed by the wrong priorities.

I made my decision primarily out of a desire to release the staff and volunteers from their normal service on teams like the parking crew and children’s ministry. What I failed to see is that next Sunday morning is an opportunity for us as a church to reaffirm the priority of gathering to worship as the people of God on the Lord’s day. It’s chance to state to ourselves and our families and our community that the worthiness of our God, not the convenience of the calendar dictates our worship.

All that to say, that we’ve decided to hold a Christmas morning meeting next Sunday. We’re going to have one meeting at 11am that will be an hour long. This is going to be a very simple morning. We’re doing Sunday differently so that we can release our army of volunteers. There won’t be any children’s ministry, but feel free to come worship as a family.

I apologize for my misjudgment and any inconvenience it causes you. And I thank you for your patience."

Friday, December 16, 2005

A Great Resource for Couples

The team of pastors at my church who are responsible for married couples have created a blog called MarriedLife for husbands and wives. Each week Brian, Joe, John and Robin share insight on romance, parenting and other helpful topics. The primary purpose of the blog is to serve couples in Covenant Life Church, but already many people outside our church are discovering that it's a treasure trove of inspiration and wisdom.

Let me know what you think!

Monday, December 12, 2005

"Stop Dating the Church" Study Guide

If you're interested in using Stop Dating the Church in a small group or Sunday school class, a free study guide is available.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Boyfriend and Porn

Question: I'm from Asia and I have read ikdg.I think it's an amzing book and it puts everything into perspective. But I can't seem to get a hold of your other books.

On a sad note,I found out that my boyfriend is addicted to hard core porn. I asked God to change him. I've talked to him and lent him your book but he says you are impossible. Should I stay on and continue praying for him or should I cut all ties?—D.

Josh Answers:
I'm so glad you enjoyed ikdg. Please email your address to my assistant Katherine. Her address is under the contact link of my homepage. We'll mail you my other books.

I'm sorry to hear about your boyfriend. Lust can be so controlling and so destructive. It's something that we all battle with in different ways. If your boyfriend is seeking to grow in holiness, turn away from this sin and seek the help of other Christians, I'm certain God will help him. But if he doesn't demonstrate a real desire to change I don't think this is the kind of man you want to be with. I would encourage you to get out of the relationship. But please don't stop praying for him. I hope that my book Sex is Not the Problem (Lust is) will encourage you and help you see the issues involved more clearly. And possibly your boyfriend will be open to reading it, too.

God bless you!

For Pastors: Preparing a Sermon (with John Stott)

The following is something I put together for myself after reading John Stott's book Between Two Worlds on preaching. This is basically an outline of his chapter on preparing a message with slight additions for my own personal use. I hope it encourages fellow pastors. (The picture is from this spring when I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Stott when he visited the states.)

Preparing a Sermon

1. Choose your text and meditate on it.
• Read the text, re-read it, re-read it and read it again.
• Probe it, chew on it, bore into it, soak in it.
• You are not called to preach yourself or your ideas, but charged to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Clarence Edward McCartney: “Put all the Bible you can into it."

2. Ask questions of the text.
• What does it mean? Or better yet, what did it mean when first spoken or written?
• What did the author intend to affirm or condemn or promise or command?
• What does it say? What is its contemporary message? How does it speak to us today?
• Remember: Keep these questions distinct but together—the text’s meaning is of purely academic interest unless you go on to discern its message for today, it’s significance. But you cannot discover it’s contemporary message without first wrestling with its original meaning.

3.Combine diligent study with fervent prayer.
• All the time you study cry humbly to God for illumination by the Spirit of truth. Like Moses, “I pray you, show me your glory” (Exod 33:18), and Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:9).
• Stott: “I have always found it helpful to do as much of my sermon preparation as possible on my knees, with the Bible open before me, in prayerful study.
• R.W. Dale: “Work without prayer is atheism; and prayer without work is presumption.”

4. Isolate the Dominant Thought of the Text.
• Every text has a main theme, an overriding thrust.
• A sermon is not a lecture, it aims to convey only one major message
• The congregation will forget details of the message, but they should remember the dominant thought, because all the sermon’s details should be marshaled to help them grasp its message and feel its power.
• Once the text’s principle meaning has been determined, express it in a ‘categorical proposition.’
• J.H. Jowett: “I have a conviction that no sermon is ready for preaching…until we can express its theme in a short, pregnant sentence as clear as a crystal. I find the getting of that sentence is the hardest, the most exacting and the most fruitful labor in my study…I do not think any sermon ought to be preached, or even written, until that sentence has emerged, clear and lucid as a cloudless moon.”
• Ian Pitt-Watson: “Every sermon should be ruthlessly unitary in its theme.”
• Don’t by-pass the discipline of waiting patiently for the dominant thought to disclose itself. You have to be ready to pray and think yourself deep into the text, even under it, until we give up all pretensions of being its master or manipulator, and become instead its humble and obedient servant.

5. Arrange Your Material to Serve the Dominant Thought
• The goal is not a literary masterpiece, but organization that enables the text’s main thrust to make its maximum impact.
- Ruthlessly discard irrelevant material
- Subordinate material to theme so that it illumines and supports it.
• Golden Rule for Sermon Outlines: Let each text supply its own structure. Let it open itself up like a rose to the morning sun.
• Be precise with your words. It is impossible to convey a precise message without choosing precise words.
• Words to use:
- Simple and Clear words. Ryle: “Preach as if you had asthma.”
- Vivid words. They should conjur up images in the mind.
- Honest words. Beware of exaggerations and be sparing in use of superlatives.
- C.S. Lewis: don’t just tell people how to feel, describe in such a way that people feel it themselves.
- Don’t use words too big for the subject.

6. Remember the Power of Imagination—Illustrate!

• Imagination: the power of the mind by which it conceives of invisible things, and is able to present them as though they were visible to others. (Beecher)
• Remember that humans have trouble grasping abstract concepts—we need them converted into pictures and examples.
• Exert your greatest effort for illustrations that reinforce and serve the dominant thought.
• Think of illustrations as windows that let in light on our subject and help people to more clearly see and appreciate it.
• Beware of illustrations that draw too much attention (to themselves instead of the subject) or which actually take people away from the main point.

7. Add Your Introduction

• It’s better to start with the body so that we don’t twist our text to fit our introduction.
• Stott: A good introduction serves two purposes. First, it arouses interest, stimulates curiosity, and whets the appetite for more. Secondly, it genuinely introduces the theme by leading the hearers into it.
• Don’t make the intro too long or too short. “Men have a natural aversion to abruptness, and delight in a somewhat gradual approach. A building is rarely pleasing in appearance without a porch or some sort of inviting entrance.”

8. Add Your Conclusion
• Conclusions are more difficult. Avoid endlessly circling and never landing. Avoid ending too abruptly.
• A true conclusion goes beyond recapitulation to personal application. (Not that all application should wait till the end—the text needs to be applied as we go along.)
• Nevertheless, it is a mistake to disclose too soon the conclusion to which we are going to come. If we do, we lose people’s sense of expectation. It is better to keep something up our sleeve. Then we can leave to the end that persuading which, by the Holy Spirit’s power, will prevail on people to take action.
• Call the congregation to act! Our expectation as the sermon comes to an end, is not merely that people will understand or remember or enjoy our teaching, but that they will do something about it. If there is no summons, there is no sermon!
• The precise application of your sermon depends on the character of the text. The dominant thought points us to how people should act in response. Does the text call to repentance or stimulate faith? Does it evoke worship, demand obedience, summon to witness, or challenge to service? The text itself determines the particular response we desire.
• Consider the composition of your congregation. It is good to let your mind wander over the church family and ask prayerfully what message God might have for each from your text. Consider their unique circumstances, weaknesses, strengths and temptations.

9. Write Down Your Sermon
• Don’t take too long to get to this stage! Get something on paper, don’t endlessly noodle on vague notes (this is my temptation).
• Writing obliges you to think straight.

10. Edit it Again

• View hitting your time goal (40-45 minutes) as just as essential to its overall effectiveness as anything else you do. People will take more away if you say less.
• Ruthlessly cut the unneeded and extra. Look for places where you can be more concise.
• Err on the side of cutting things—especially long quotes.

11. Pray over Your Message
• Use the 30 minutes before you leave for church to pray over your message.
• Stott: “We need to pray until our text comes freshly alive to us, the glory shines forth from it, the fire burns in our heart, and we begin to experience the explosive power of God’s Word within us.”

The Wheel...Unveiled

After weeks of anticipation...the "the wheel" has finally been revealed.

Visit Save The Wheel to see the hilarious Drowning Melville movies and to clear up the mystery behind this nationwide movement. (By the way the Melville flicks are now available as an iTunes video podcast. Just search for "Drowning Melville" in the iTunes store and you'll find them.)

Yesterday Eric Simmons and I recorded an interview with Curtis Allen for the New Attitude podcast. We're all getting really excited about the conference.

Yes, boys and girls New Attitude is back.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Biblical Advice for the Blogosphere

Today in my quiet time I read Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 which seems to me to have specific application to the blogosphere:
"Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you have yourself cursed others."

This is not to excuse "cursing others" which certainly isn't a godly practice. But the counsel here seems to be not to overly react when others say negative things about us. The web, and particularly blogs have given millions the ability to broadcast (often unwisely) their every thought and musing. Couple that ability with indwelling sin, bitterness and selfish ambition and you've got the recipe for a whole lot of "cursing." And that's where the wisdom of Ecclesiastes is helpful. Don't take it all to heart. Don't "flame" back or react with vengeance.

And that reminds me of another sound piece of advice. Someone once wisely noted:
"We'd worry less of what people thought of us if we realized how seldom they do."

It's so true. The other day I was made aware of a rather heated online forum that was discussing and bashing me and some friends because of our opinions about courtship. Reading the comments wasn't very pleasant. There was scorn, derision and what you might call "sanitized Christian cursing." I don't know any of these people, these fellow Christians, yet they were laying into me. It helped me to remember that while these people had typed these things about me, it wasn't as if they walked around thinking of me. If they do, I feel sorry for them. I'm not that important!

The only person who always has us in mind is our Sovereign God. It's His good opinion we should seek more than anything else.

And what should guide what we write about others in our blogs? How do we handle legitimate disagreements on various topics? Last week I was meditating on James 3:13-18:
"Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

For Christians, I think this passage should be our guide for what we do and don't blog. Sadly, too much of the communication online is characterized by "disorder and every vile practice" and fueled by jealousy and selfish ambition. And I'm just as susceptible to this as anyone else. This passage is a reminder of the kind of words and communication that will be present when we're guided by the wisdom from heaven.

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