Best article on the Theology of Acts

This was one of the best articles I read while studying at Ridley. In it God confirmed a bunch of important theological realities and took them even further. Peterson’s commentary on Acts is excellent, but this article will give you a great overview connecting ascension, promise-fulfillment, Christology and the Kingdom of God:

David Peterson, “Resurrection Apologetics and the Theology of Luke-Acts“, in “Proclaiming the Resurrection – Oakhill School of Theology”, Edited by Peter Head, Paternoster Press, 2008.

Best Books of 2009

Some of the more enjoyable recent books I have read or used this year:

(some wordpress bug is causing the images to cascade unless I put full stops in to space them out – bleh)

actsThe Acts of the Apostles,  David Peterson, Pillar New Testament Commentaries, IVP.

Preaching through the final third of Acts this year, this new commentary has been invaluable.

Peterson has an excellent grasp of the use of the OT in Acts, and of the Lordship of Jesus as the pivotal theme.

Excellent and insightful.

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greenactsThe Word of His Grace, A Guide to Teaching and Preaching from Acts

This is a really enjoyable summary of the theology and structure of Acts.

Exemplifies the very best of the Proc Trust tradition, really giving you a good sense of the ‘melodic line’ of different parts of Acts – to use the David Jackman phrase.

A great big picture look at Acts.

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tpg Keller – The Prodigal God

Excellent confrontation with ‘elder brother’ legalism that pervades today.

Many wonderful exegetical insights that could only be discovered by a pastor-evangelist.

Destined to be a Christian classic.

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notes-from-the-tilt-a-whirlNotes from the Tilt a Whirl – ND Wilson

If you like philosophy then this is a fun ‘ride’.

Solved one theological puzzle I’ve been wrestling with for many years. That alone was worth the price of the book for me.

(I’ll have to blog the ‘puzzle’ another time)

Could be a good book to give away to well-read unbelievers. It gets under your guard.

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calvinCalvin Sermons on Genesis 1-11

This new translation from Banner is wonderful.

So often people miss out on the best of Calvin because most retailers hock a crappy 19th C public domain facsimile translation.

This translation is readable and quotable.

His sermons have alot more applications than his commentaries, great for preachers.

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making-it-all-workMaking It All Work, David Allen

Not a Christian book but I did really enjoy the follow up to his productivity classic “Getting Things Done”.

Unfortunately Penguin Australia has a grammar nazi in management. They renamed the books as “How to Get Things Done” and “How to Make it All Work“. Lessons from rulebook of “How to Make Books Sound Dumber as if People Don’t Know the Real Title from the Net”.

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Scripture Alone: what it is and what it ain’t | Culture analysis | Sydneyanglicans.net

Scripture alone doesn’t deny the limited value of tradition as an authority. Very helpful article.

What does this mean for evangelical Anglicans (and other inheritors of the Reformation) today? Scripture is the final authority to which all Christian thinking must be subject. However, it’s either arrogant or simply naive to imagine we are the first readers of Scripture, or that we can or should read it without reference to that tradition. And if a reading of Scripture is proposed that breaks with the witness of the tradition of faithful Christian readers down the two millennia of its being read, we do well to hear alarm bells ringing.

via Scripture Alone: what it is and what it ain’t | Culture analysis | Sydneyanglicans.net.

“Reflections on Twenty Years of Ministry”

Robert Rayburn reflects on 20 years of pastoral ministry in the same local church. Glorious and beautiful words!

And, in some ways, a long ministry is especially so. In a two or three or four year ministry one can live off first impressions. No one gets to know you all that well and then off you go to make first impressions on another congregation. But after ten years and fifteen and twenty the warts begin to show, the shortcomings are spotted, reservations that were kept at bay by good will are confirmed against hope by repeated observation. The stages of life come and go and the fruit of one’s walk with God through many years appears or fails to appear. I know it has been so for you in regard to me. But, that is not bad — that is good. No one said we were not and would not remain sinners while in this world. And I am forced by that fact, that you see and know me, to care about my life before God and before all of you and to care that I do not allow myself to stop in mid-stream but that for my ministry’s sake and your sake and God’s name’s sake I continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of God, lest, to my judgment and loss, all of you be put to sleep by my example and by my tiresome preaching of old and tired thoughts unrenewed by new and vital experiences of the grace of God and the presence of Christ.

via “Reflections on Twenty Years of Ministry”.

Ministry Longevity

This is a major issue for evangelical ministry, longevity in one place. Great article below:

The structure of our training effectively forces ministers into at least a decade of moving and moving again. This is wrong for people so committed to the importance of good relationships. There is a real danger that ministers disconnect from the very people they should be connecting with – in the church and the parish. Like military families, it ends up being easier to just have deep relationships with other military families that understand the strange lifestyle.

via Putting down ministry roots | Mission-minded church | Sydneyanglicans.net.

The Sola Panel | Sticking it to the man, or The case for church history, Part 2

Great great great article on Sola Panel.

Thus, stuffy and archaic as some would see it, the recitation of the Apostles’ Creed is potentially the most dangerously subversive act of cultural terrorism one might engage in on a Sunday. Far from being a hidebound exercise in dusty conservatism, it is potentially an act of absolute rebellion and revolution against the system, the man, the company, the establishment, the corporation or simply ‘them’—however one wishes to characterize those who hold the levers of cultural power.

via The Sola Panel | Sticking it to the man, or The case for church history, Part 2.

you need 4 conversions « Shane’s Blog

Shane hits the nail on the head here. I remember hearing Peter Adam talk about these four conversions also:

we want to see

1. conversion to Jesus as the Son of God (God’s grace)

2. conversion to the bible as the word of God (God’s government)

3. conversion to the church as the community of God (God’s gathering)

4. conversion to the world as the mission of God (God’s scattering)

via you need 4 conversions « Shane’s Blog.

Between Two Worlds: Luther on the Connection between Good Literature and Good Theology

What a great insight from Luther:

I am persuaded that without knowledge of literature pure theology cannot at all endure, just as heretofore, when letters [literature] have declined and lain prostrate, theology too, has wretchedly fallen and lain prostrate; nay, I see that there has never been a great revelation of the Word of God unless he has first prepared the way by the rise and prosperity of languages and letters, as though they were John the Baptists. . . . Certainly it is my desire that there shall be as many poets and rhetoricians as possible, because I see that by these studies, as by no other means, people are wonderfully fitted for the grasping of sacred truth and for handling it skillfully and happily.

via Between Two Worlds: Luther on the Connection between Good Literature and Good Theology.

Oden on Pastoral Care and Modern Problems in Theological Education

Reading Thomas Oden, Theology Today – Vol 42, No. 1 – April 1985 – ARTICLE – Pastoral Care and the Unity of Theological Education.

“There is a sense in which all theological disciplines-biblical, historical, theological, church and society, and practical-lack a fully adequate integration. Given the sociology of specialization and the momentum of professionalization in university disciplines, all theological disciplines have been for fifty or more years, tending centrifugally toward disintegration, but none more so than pastoral care.”

“Admittedly all the major families of disciplines of theological education have at times attempted to accommodate reductionistic historical, scientific, and empirical methods that have in turn tended to estrange each discrete discipline from the central, integrating spirit of holistic, orthodox Christian theology. All have borrowed methodologies so extensively from the cultural context that they have lost their centers. But no discpline illustrates this more powerfully, dramatically, tragically, and influentially than does pastoral care.”

“Often these [modern] methods, if taken consistently, would rule out the fundament of Christian pastoral care: that God cares for humanity in Jesus Christ

“It is part of the illusion of modernity, the pride and arrogance and pretense of modern consciousness, that, after all these centuries of social wisdom and soul-care experimentation, it has been abruptly assumed that we must now wipe the slate clean and deliberately learn nothing from this experience. Modernity teaches us that we must on our own discover autonomously and de novo, through our own individual experimentation and without benefit of historical memory, the rudiments of pastoral-theological integration.”

“Many theological students today, and regrettably most of their professors, do not even know the name of Nemesius of Emesa; much less have they read his brilliant classic statement of Christian psychology and therapy. Nor have they read Chrysostom on the priesthood or Gregory of Nazianzus on the principle of seasonable counsel. It is unlikely that most persons teaching today in pastoral care even have a copy in their libraries of the great single treatisu in the history of pastoral care, namely, Gregory’s Liber regular pastoralis

“Biblical study is in an identity crisis today in part because it has become so stickily entangled in an endless syndrome of the objectivizing treatment of Scripture as merely historical report. This often assumes that the modern exegete has the competence to dissect and judge Scripture, as if it were dead and he or she were performing an autopsy, that is, as if the text had no living power of its own to address and reformulate the contemporary human struggle

One finds that these primary sources [of church history], such as the council canons, deal with pastoral issues quite often. Yet all that is remembered are the trinitarian and Christological formulations. Chalcedon, for example, dealt with many issues of pastoral authority, secession, territoriality, administration, liturgy, and pastoral care, but it is remembered almost exclusively for its Christological formulations. This promising re-appropriation of classical pastoral care may have an invigorating impact upon the study of church history.”


“Pastoral Care and the Unity of Theological Education”, Theology Today, Vol 42, No 1, April 1985

John Calvin on Psalm 62

The Great Commentator on Psalm 62:

It is essentially necessary, if we would fortify our minds against temptation, to have suitably exalted views of the power and mercy of God, since nothing will more effectually preserve us in a straight and undeviating course, than a firm persuasion that all events are in the hand of God, and that he is as merciful as he is mighty.

via Commentary on Psalms – Volume 2 | Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Andy Naselli » Blog Archive » Training Pastors to Think

I really enjoyed this article from Kevin Bauder on “Liberal Education“.  Some people call it a “liberal arts” education, others call it a ‘classical’ or even ‘classical Christian’ education. If you read the biographies of the magisterial Reformers, right up unto recent great ones such as C. S. Lewis or John Stott, this is the education they had.

Kevin Bauder argues in “Liberal Education” that colleges and seminaries should train pastors to think precisely, namely, to deploy “the skills of grammar, logic, and rhetoric.” Why?

A pastor’s main task is to do the work of the mind. His calling requires him to interpret texts and bring them to bear upon the issues of life. In other words, a pastor is constantly confronting ideas. He stands as a bridge between the ideas in the world of the Bible and the ideas with which his congregation is, or ought to be, wrestling. In short, a pastor’s main work is to think.

via Andy Naselli » Blog Archive » Training Pastors to Think.

MTS Victoria Training Day – July 24 – Preaching Old Testament Prophets (Zechariah)

MTS (Ministry Training Strategy) is a great movement equipping and recruiting evangelical pastors and leaders.

They have Barry Webb from Moore Theological College coming on July 24th to lead this training day. It is aimed at Evangelicals in full time ministry (+ ministry interns/apprentices) but theological students are also welcome/invited.

mts-training-day-24jul09

Later in the year is the MTS Challenge Conference – August 21-23. This is a fantastic weekend of thinking about the possibilities and practicalities of full time gospel ministry. There is nothing else like it. I’ll post more about this later.

http://www.mts.com.au

Canon Press Sale

Canon Press have a $1, $2, $3 sale on right now. Now you can get all your Reformed heresy in one place and at cheap prices.

Let me share what I see as particularly noteworthy, with my comments in italics:

To a Thousand Generations To a Thousand Generations Positive biblical argumentation for infant baptism – some quirky features but well worth a spin.

To You and Your Children To You and Your Children Great anthology on the lost Reformation doctrine of covenant succession

Primer on Worship and Reformation Primer on Worship and Reformation Good little Wilson manifesto on Reformation challenges to current day evangelicals.

Is Christianity Good for the World? Is Christianity Good for the World? Amusing game of cat and mouse

Heaven Misplaced Heaven Misplaced A winsome primer on preterist post-millennialism. No diagrams or charts – only a Christ exalting tour through the NT.


Future Men (Damaged) Future Men (Damaged) One of the few Douglas Wilson marriage/parenting/family books in the sale. All of these are gold, even if the books are damaged.


Bishop JC Ryle on the benefits of infant baptism and Lord’s Supper

Bp JC Ryle’s “Knots Untied” is a great little book of essays for anyone inquiring about the evangelical protestant basis of the Anglican Church. They also reflect a healthy Reformed view of the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism as instrumental means.

Ryle rightly rejects importing unbiblical elements of Roman Catholicism into Anglican ritual:

I ask whether there is not something unscriptural about the enormous amount of pomp and bodily reverence with which the Lord’s Supper is now administered in many of our churches? The ostentatious treatment of the Communion table as an alter,- the lights, ornaments, millinery, gestures, postures, bowings, crossings, incensing, processions, which are connected with the so-called altar… What does it all mean? Where is there in all this the simplicity of the first institution, as we find recorded in the Bible? Where is the simplicity which any plain reader of the English Prayer-book might justly expect? The true Lord’s Supper is no longer there. The whole thing savours of Romanism.

People nearly always quote JC Ryle speaking as above, and rightly so. But with the those caveats in mind, Ryle still has a positive view of the benefits of sacraments and other helpful affirming things to say about them.

On the Lord’s Supper:

Rejecting as I do, with all my heart, the baseless notion of any bodily presence of Christ on the Lord’s Table, I can never doubt that the great ordinance appointed by Christ has a special and peculiar blessing attached to it. That blessing, I believe, consists in a special and peculiar presence of Christ, vouchsafed to the heart of every believing communicant, p146

You will rarely find a true believer who will not say that he reckons this ordinance one of his greatest helps and highest privileges, p146.

On baptism:

When faith and prayer accompany baptism, and a diligent use of Scriptural means follows it, we are justified in looking for much spiritual blessing. Without faith and prayer baptism becomes a mere form. p65.

To say, as some do, in the face of these [biblical texts on baptism], that baptism is an institution of no importance, is to pour contempt on the Bible. To say, as others do, that baptism is only a thing of the heart, and not an outward ordinance at all, is to say that which seems flatly contradictory to the Bible. p65.

We must beware of despising baptism. Many in the present day seem to regard it with perfect indifference. They pass it by, and give it no place or position in their religion. Because, in many cases, it seems to confer no benefit, they appear to jump to the conclusion that it can confer none. p76

[The reader of the New Testament] will find that baptism is spoken of with deep reverence, and in close connection with the highest privileges and blessings. p78.

If children were considered to be capable of admission into the Church by an ordinance in the Old Testament, it is difficult to see why they cannot be admitted in the New. The general tendency of the Gospel is to increase men’s spiritual privileges and not diminish them. Nothing, I believe, would astonish a Jewish convert so much as to tell him his children could not be baptized! p73.

The right of Christian infants to baptism is only through their parents. p96.

The question to be settled is not whether a child may be born again and receive grace in baptism, but whether all children are born again, and receive grace when they are baptised. p77.

[The Book of Common Prayer] supposes those who bring their children to be baptised, to bring them as believers. As the seed of godly parents and children of believers, their infants are baptized. As believers, the sponsors and parents are exhorted to pray that the child may be born again, and encouraged to lay hold on the promises. And as the child of believers the infant when baptized is pronounced ‘regenerate,’ and thanks are given for it. p99

The principle, which the Church [of England] lays down as an abstract principle is this, – that baptism when rightly and worthily received, is a means whereby we may receive inward and spiritual grace, even a death until sin and a new birth into righteousness.

JC Ryle simply reflects the Reformed theology of Thomas Cranmer (who got it from Calvin?):

The men who drew up our Baptismal Service held that there was a connection between baptism and spiritual Regeneration, and they were right. They knew that there was nothing too high in the way of blessing to expect for the child of a believer. They knew that God might of his sovereign mercy give grace to any child before, or in, or at, or by the act of baptism. At all events they dared not undertake the responsibility of denying it in the case of any particular infant, and they therefore took the safer course, to express a charitable hope of all. p100.

My page numbers above are from a very old edition (don’t have it with me right now to check which).

The Nolan edition of Knots Untied linked to above has a foreword by Douglas Wilson – does anyone have this? I’d love to read a scan or photocopy. It also claims to be unabridged.

“The Big Blue Book” Turned Brown :: Desiring God

Helen and I have always called it “the Blue Book”. Still a must read on biblical male headship in the home and church, even though it’s now brown.

Mark Driscoll recently recommended Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood—or “The Big Blue Book” as some call it—edited by Wayne Grudem and John Piper.

via “The Big Blue Book” Turned Brown :: Desiring God.

The Sola Panel | Time out to learn and grow, undistracted and exposed to the Word of God

Good article from Peter Bolt singing the praises of full-time theological study with many sound pragmatic arguments.

You cannot easily proof-text a reason for this (beware those whose only diet is proof-texts).

The theological reason for full time theological study is NOT found in the Bible. It is a wisdom issue.

My 2c: you need 3-4 years full time study to catch up on what the ascended Lord Jesus Christ has been doing for 2000 years, in light of the Old Testament unfolding vision culminating in His New Testament death and resurrection – in the original languages. It’s as much in the integration as it is in the individual subjects.

Why would you want to change that wonderful inheritance from the Lord that has worked well in the past and is still working well and will certainly keep on working well into the future? You would have to be brain-dead, perhaps? But that is probably a rude thing to say, so I withdraw the remark. Certainly better reasons than I have heard will need to be advanced before I am convinced that full-time theological education needs to be ditched from ministerial training.

via The Sola Panel | Time out to learn and grow, undistracted and exposed to the Word of God.

Best sermon preparation resources…

Since leaving theological college, the number one sermon preparation resource I have most benefitted from is the BDAG lexicon.

It is well worth the expensive price to get the book version.

For Old Testament sermons I use the five volume NIDOTTE, it has proven quite useful also.

Don’t spend any more money on commentaries or theological books until you have these two resources.

Collision Movie: Christopher Hitchens vs. Doug Wilson

I’m really looking forward to this documentary of the book tour and debates between Hitchens and Wilson.

I loved the written debate they had in CT, now available in book form. I have a huge amount of respect and praise to God for Douglas Wilson, his thinking and ministry across a wide range of fields.

This looks like it will be a kind of neutral documentary (I hope) that you could watch with anyone and discuss the issues with.

Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Doug Wilson.

Models of using Full-Text Notes for Sermons

I was going to try and write some thing on different manuscript models, but I realised I only really know about full text manuscripts. Many people love to bag the full-text sermon notes. There are actually a few ways they can be used:

  • Recitation. The classic model where the sermon you write is the exact sermon you deliver. If you know how to write for speech and can develop your skill in delivery-from-text, this can work. You need to learn the skills involved and give yourself 30-40 sermons to get it right.
  • Fall back insurance. The writing of the full text manuscript has allowed you to in effect absorb and memorise it, you don’t really need the notes but they are there just in case you get lost.
  • Key execution points. In preparation you have meditated deeply over specific phrases or paragraphs of exhortation. You may not follow your notes much at all except for when you come to these critical junctures. My impression is that Piper does this well.
  • Faithfulness check. It is hard to know when you have done “enough” preparation. Getting to a point where you have a pretty solid manuscript is a milestone that allows you to relax, pray and jump on the trampoline with your kids. Upon delivery you may end up giving a live 2nd draft of the message.

My other advice for full text is, use a 14 point font size and lots of indentation to mark major and minor sections. White space is important in having a manuscript that is easily readable and usable.

There is also a discipline in reviewing the full text against what you actually said. Sometimes I do this against the mp3 after the event. Sometimes I do this immediately  between services, as there was something catchy that just came out that I want to remember to say again in the next service that morning.

Full-texters unite!

Models of Non-Preparation for Weekly Preaching

There are a few methods weekly preachers use to get away with very little or no preparation:

  • Reuse something old. These preachers have a storehouse of decades of sermons, and maybe even systems for how to make sure they don’t repeat them too often.
  • Reuse something recent. Often the preacher has had another significant teaching opportunity during the week which becomes the message. e.g.: youth talk, funeral message, small group bible study.
  • Plagiarize . Grab a bit of Piper, maybe some parts of the John Stott commentary – instant sermon.
  • Extemporize. Some preachers who are generally immersed in the Word and are sharp minded can give great messages with little to no preparation. For example, George Whitefield.
  • Short-term Biographical. Many preachers have mastered the art of building a message around the most significant event or encounter they had that week. “At Bunnings this week I said to the cashier…”
  • Long-term Biographical. “In the good old days of the church, when men were men, we did X, Y, Z.”
  • Hobby horse rotation. These preachers boil every sermon down to one or two doctrines (often denominational distinctives) and two or three applications (“pray”, “evangelise”, “trust God”). Once you have mastered the art of ad-libbing any text to these favourite themes you really don’t need much preparation.

I don’t actually think these are always bad. For example, there is a valid tradition within evangelicalism of reading other peoples sermons in the pulpit, just as there is a strong tradition of extempore preaching (especially on streets). Some people have unique gifts.

But generally speaking I believe if you rely on these methods you will spiritually starve yourself and your hearers, even if you have sound doctrine. It is very risky and poisonous in the long run.

The preachers I know who give outstanding low preparation sermons are those who spend 90% of their time giving extremely well prepared sermons.

Models of Sermon Preparation Organisation

Weekly preachers have different ways of getting a message together each week:

  • Prepare early and relax. Often used by full text preachers who get it done on Tuesday or Wednesday then they can focus fully on other tasks.
  • Chip away day by day. This model is big on “ruminating” on the message wherever you go.
  • Forget about it until Saturday. Focus on other parts of the work completely and leave Saturday completely free for 1 solid block of preparation
  • Two part attack. Break the back of the preparation in one session during the week then use Saturday to complete and polish the result. Often used by people who have a Thursday or Friday day off and want to not be stressed about preaching as they rest.
  • Last minute rush. Harness the pressure and work on it until the late hours of Saturday night, or wake up early Sunday morning to plough through it. I knew one preacher who got up at 3am on Sunday mornings. These preachers come to the pulpit with zeal, their manuscript is hot off the laser printer as they preach.

I was floored reading Spurgeon’s autobiography 2 years ago when he says he prepared his sermon after early dinner on Saturday night, and the Sunday night message on Sunday afternoon.

I think I have used most of these models. I also have my own preparation process broken down into a checklist so when I am weary I can crank through the steps. I much prefer to be organised and well prepared. It is better for my family too.

I find it helpful to at least use Monday to create the electronic file with a full copy of the text and headings, so I have a document ready to type ideas into throughout the week.

Craig’s Blog: Bringing your kids to faith

Craig comments on Christian parenting. I disagree with some of the things he says. But I humbly believe Craig is right and Piper is wrong on the following foundational point:

Firstly, I believe a child born to a Christian parent and raised in the church community is a member of the kingdom. This is the reason I really truly do believe in infant baptism. I know some folk (like John Piper) believe your children are born pagans and you have to convert them. I believe they were (effectively) born Christian, and need to be discipled. I think this can make a pretty big difference to how you raise them.

Craig’s Blog: Bringing your kids to faith.

Craig’s view is basically a Reformation view. I will post some more on this topic.