The Friday Briefing 18 (4 January 2019)

The priority that isn’t Tony Payne wrote “Over the past couple of months, pastors and church leadership teams in many parts of the world have been reviewing the year just past, and dreaming and scheming about the year to come. . . . . Perhaps you and your team have been be considering some of the following plans . . . .” He then lists 8 areas of church life and ministry. He comments, “The problem, of course, is that you simply can’t do all this. . . . . So which items are you going to prioritize?”

If you preach like Whitefield, think like Wesley Eric Geiger writes, “In his highly popular book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell contrasted the ministry of George Whitefield and John Wesley. . . . . . . . Wesley’s impact was more far-reaching . . . . ” Geiger explains why, and how we can, in his words, “think like Wesley”.

‘Broken,’ ‘authentic,’ ‘surrender’: the problem of Christian jargon Dan Doriani throws a spotlight on a number of terms often used in Christian circles. He comments, ”The need to get our language right applies to all sorts of theological and ethical discussions. Approaching them, we remember Paul forbids quarrels about words and encourages a peaceable approach (2 Timothy 2.14, 24–26). Yet we also know that precise language is a servant of good theology. . . . . So let us strive to use the right words in the right way, for the sake of Christ and his church.”

Say it in a sentence Justin Buzzard writes, “When I was 21, I started preaching once a month at The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. . . . . One Thursday afternoon I went for a walk with my pastor. He asked me what my sermon was about for later that night. Four minutes into trying to explain what my sermon was about, my pastor interrupted me and said: “SAY IT IN A SENTENCE!” . . . . That piece of advice transformed my preaching . . . .”

Four lessons I’ve learned from the Puritans Dave Arnold writes, “Although I was exposed to a few of the Puritans when I was in college – namely, in my preaching classes – it wasn’t until 2014 that God, by His grace, opened my eyes to these spiritual giants of the seventeenth century and forever changed my life.”

He will hold me fast Ada R. Habershon wrote the hymn When I fear my faith will fail in 1906; the chorus begins He will hold me fast. Matt Merker adapted the words and wrote a new tune for it. This is a wonderful hymn; in Keith and Kristyn Getty’s words, “a unique jewel that would be a comfort and encouragement to God’s people as we live out faith in these difficult times, whether in suffering, persecution or death.”

The priority that isn’t

Tony Payne, of Matthias Media, wrote (in January 2014): “Over the past couple of months, pastors and church leadership teams in many parts of the world have been reviewing the year just past, and dreaming and scheming about the year to come. . . . . Perhaps you and your team have been be considering some of the following plans . . . .” He then lists 8 areas of church life and ministry. He comments, “The problem, of course, is that you simply can’t do all this. You have limited time and resources. So which items are you going to prioritize? . . . . . . . I continue to be surprised at how widely one of the most important of these bullet points is neglected. It just gets overlooked, or put in the too-hard basket, or falls off the end of the priority list in the face of all the other competing pressures and possibilities. It is one of the most important because it is the bullet-point that in many respects drives and enables all the others.” What is that priority? Find out HERE.

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If you preach like Whitefield, think like Wesley.

Eric Geiger writes, “In his highly popular book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell contrasted the ministry of George Whitefield and John Wesley. Gladwell articulated that Whitefield was the better communicator, a more powerful preacher than Wesley. Whitefield was also known as a more capable theologian than Wesley, more likely to be compared to Luther or Calvin than Wesley would have been. Yet Wesley’s impact was more far-reaching . . . .” Geiger explains why. He then briefly considers what it means, in his words, “to think like Wesley”. Read the whole article HERE.

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‘Broken,’ ‘authentic,’ ‘surrender’: the problem of Christian jargon.

Dan Doriani writes, “It’s easy, perhaps even necessary, to mock Christian jargon from time to time. . . . . . . . however, we must make distinctions. Some jargon comes directly from Scripture. For example, “saved” appears many times in God’s Word, and it generally has the sense we give it in church circles. “Saved” is an important biblical term, and the danger is not that it’s misleading, but that we use it thoughtlessly, so the term loses its heft. But more often, our jargon has a light connection to Scripture. One thinks of prayer language like “hedge of protection” and “open door.” . . . . “Broken” is an interesting case. In my circles (perhaps not yours), certain pastors and teachers often tell their people they are broken or need to face their brokenness. . . . . There are three difficulties with the jargonish use of “broken.” . . . . There is a third category of jargon—terms that have no biblical basis whatsoever and come from secular culture. “Surrender,” “transparency,” and “authenticity” all belong in this category.”

In his conclusion, Dr. Doriani comments, “The need to get our language right applies to all sorts of theological and ethical discussions. Approaching them, we remember Paul forbids quarrels about words and encourages a peaceable approach (2 Timothy 2.14, 24–26). Yet we also know that precise language is a servant of good theology. . . . . So let us strive to use the right words in the right way, for the sake of Christ and his church.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Say it in a sentence.

Justin Buzzard writes, “When I was 21, I started preaching once a month at The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. I didn’t know how to preach and I wanted to learn . . . . . . . . I used spare time to work on my sermons for the Rescue Mission. I didn’t have a method. I generally picked a text or two, studied the text, then wrote down a bunch of stuff to say. One Thursday afternoon I went for a walk with my pastor. He asked me what my sermon was about for later that night. Four minutes into trying to explain what my sermon was about, my pastor interrupted me and said: “SAY IT IN A SENTENCE!” He said I wasn’t ready to preach until I could state what my sermon was about in one, clear sentence. That piece of advice transformed my preaching . . . .” [Please note: a link to an interview follows, but this link is broken.] Read the whole article HERE.

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Four lessons I’ve learned from the Puritans.

Dave Arnold writes, “Although I was exposed to a few of the Puritans when I was in college – namely, in my preaching classes – it wasn’t until 2014 that God, by His grace, opened my eyes to these spiritual giants of the seventeenth century and forever changed my life. I remember the morning clearly. It was early and my daughter (who was only a few months old), was sitting on my lap contently. I reached over to grab my Kindle and scrolled through the ‘free books’ section. It was then my eyes fell upon a title Samuel Rutherford and Some of His Correspondents by Alexander Whyte. I knew of Whyte and had read some of his sermons, so I thought I’d download it. And I’m so glad I did! Whyte had me at the introduction, as he beautifully portrayed the life of Rutherford, the great Scottish divine of Anwoth, his exile in Aberdeen, his involvement in the Westminster Assembly, and most importantly, his ardent love for Christ. Not only did I read Whyte’s classic work on Rutherford’s letters, but then went on to read the Letters myself, which drastically impacted the trajectory of my life. Moreover, through Whyte, and then incidentally, Rutherford, their writing opened my eyes to other Puritans; and thus, my journey to understand the Puritans began. With that said, I’d like to share with you four lessons on how the Puritans have impacted me personally.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Ada R. Habershon (1861–1918) wrote the hymn When I fear my faith will fail in 1906. Matt Merker has adapted the words and written a new tune for it, which was introduced to Merker’s church, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC, in 2013. Keith and Kristyn Getty write, “From the first time we heard this song written by Matt Merker, we felt it was a unique jewel that would be a comfort and encouragement to God’s people as we live out faith in these difficult times, whether in suffering, persecution or death.” Kristyn Getty sings it as a solo in the YouTube video above. Below you can hear it sung by the congregation of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

You can find more information, including the lyrics and Matt Merker’s story of how he came to write this new version of Ada Habershon’s hymn, HERE.

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‘Biblical theology in discipleship’ by Nancy Guthrie’

Image from Lightstock

In her article, Biblical theology in discipleship, Nancy Guthrie writes, “A number of years ago I was teaching a study of Genesis in my church when one of the discussion group leaders, an older godly woman, came and sat down by me. “How come I’ve never been taught this before?” she said with tears in her eyes. She was beginning to recognize that, as many years as she had spent studying the Bible, she had never seen how the story of the Bible fit together in a way that is centered on the person and work of Christ from Genesis to Revelation.”

Guthrie comments: “I’ve been on a mission not only to understand the Bible this way myself but also to introduce and infiltrate Bible studies —especially women’s Bible studies in the local church—with biblical theology. I often look at church websites to see what studies are being offered to the women of the church or in adult Sunday School classes. And I am often disheartened to discover studies that are felt-needs driven, studies with little biblical or theological rigor, and studies oriented around self-improvement. I am thrilled when I see studies of particular books of the Bible, as that indicates an expectation that what we need most is God’s Word and that we can expect it will speak to us. But sometimes even these studies can be oriented to jumping too quickly from what the text says to personal application, untethered to the larger story the Bible is telling that is centered on Christ.”

In her article, which you can read HERE, Guthrie gives five reasons why she believes that biblical theology should be woven into the fabric of discipleship in the local church.

In her new book, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story, Guthrie traces nine themes as they develop through the Bible. The next post will give more information about this new book (you can read the publisher’s description HERE).

The Friday Briefing 12 (6 July 2018)

What I’ve learned from preaching through the Book of Revelation Sam Storms writes, “This past Sunday, June 24, 2018, I concluded a series of sermons in the book of Revelation. There were 38 of them! As I reflected on my time in this remarkable book, ten truths stood out to me above all else.”

The violent showdown: the Exodus in Isaiah Andrew Wilson gives us a dramatic, insightful overview of the Exodus theme in Isaiah. He writes, “Isaiah is a prophet of the Exodus. His rich and beautiful prophecy contains a dramatic exodus triple-whammy, as he promises first rescue from Assyria, then redemption from Babylon, and finally redemption from sin itself, in a fashion that echoes the exodus but turns it completely on its head.”

5 reasons why visitation is vital for your pastor Andrew Roycroft shares 15 incentives to keep going at pastoral visitation.

Five simple steps to mentor new believers (without overworking the pastor) Karl Vaters writes, “If you’re not happy with your small church’s discipleship program (or it may not even exist), I have some good news. . . . . After a few hit-and-miss attempts, our church has discovered a simple five-step process that can work for any small church. And it looks suspiciously similar to what Jesus, Paul and many other early church leaders did.”

The essence of femininity – a personal perspective Elizabeth Elliot, pioneer missionary and author, wrote “Feminists are dedicated to the proposition that the difference between men and women is a matter of mere biology. The rest of us recognize a far deeper reality, one that meets us on an altogether different plane from mere anatomical distinctions.”

It’s time to teach the Bible in public schools [i.e. state schools] David Marcus writes, “The Bible as comprised of the Old and New Testaments is, simply put, the most important and seminal work of literature in Western Civilization. While for millions of people it is also the revealed word of God, for everyone it is an indispensable font from which springs the art, history, philosophy and governmental structures of our society. Biblical literacy, which is to say a basic, functioning knowledge of the stories of the Bible, is essential to have a full understanding of how our society works and why it differs so dramatically from others. This is why it must be thoroughly taught in the public schools.”

What I’ve learned from preaching through the Book of Revelation.

Sam Storms writes, “This past Sunday, June 24, 2018, I concluded a series of sermons in the book of Revelation. There were 38 of them! As I reflected on my time in this remarkable book, ten truths stood out to me above all else. Unlike some, the things in Revelation that had the greatest impact on me had nothing to do with numerical symbolism or 666 or the Beast or the Great Prostitute or the millennium. Here are the primary lessons I learned.” Storms concludes, “So remember: although some will tell you that you are wasting your time reading and meditating on Revelation because it is too difficult and obscure, Jesus tells us otherwise: “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3). . . . . This book is not beyond your ability to understand it and believe it and obey it. Don’t miss out on the blessing that is promised for those who keep what is written in it!”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The violent showdown: the Exodus in Isaiah.

Andrew Wilson gives us a dramatic, insightful overview of the Exodus theme in Isaiah. He writes, “Isaiah is a prophet of the Exodus. His rich and beautiful prophecy contains a dramatic exodus triple-whammy, as he promises first rescue from Assyria, then redemption from Babylon, and finally redemption from sin itself, in a fashion that echoes the exodus but turns it completely on its head. Those who know the story of Moses and Pharaoh, plagues and Passover, will recognize the shape of what Isaiah prophesies—but they will also be astonished by the way he presents the denouement. . . . . The arm of Yahweh, as we know, is about strength, power, even violence: the mighty hand and the outstretched arm that rain hailstones like fists and split the ocean. So as Isaiah begins to celebrate Judah’s redemption, we are not surprised to hear that it comes about because “Yahweh has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all nations,” and that his servant will be “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 52:10, 13).”

Wilson continues, “Here it comes: the violent showdown we have all been waiting for. We can hear Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries beginning in the background. But the orchestra goes silent. Suddenly, the concert hall is deathly quiet. . . . . The only sound we can hear is a plaintive cry, and as we peer at the stage in astonishment, we notice that it is coming from a manger, or the graveside of a friend, or a hillside garden, or even a cross. . . . . Here, we learn, is what the arm of Yahweh actually looks like in person: one who bears our griefs, carries our sorrows, is pierced for our transgressions, and is crushed for our iniquities (53:5). That is how Israel will be accounted righteous. . . . . We didn’t think the new exodus would look like that at all. We were so busy looking for God in the plagues or chariots hurled into the sea that we missed him in the fragile baby drifting downstream in a basket, and in the lamb’s blood smeared across the doorpost, and in the two goats who face death and exile to take away the sins of the people.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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5 reasons why visitation is vital for your pastor.

Andrew Roycroft comments,”Recently Thom Rainer posted some reflections on church member visitation, providing 15 reasons why those in pastoral ministry ‘shouldn’t visit much’. While the risk of being viewed by one’s congregation as a sanctified social worker or life coach is ever present, and while some local churches impose utterly unreasonable visitation demands on their Pastor, there are also significant dangers in neglecting this vital work. Here, rather than critiquing Dr Rainer’s reasoning, I share 15 of my own incentives to keep going at pastoral visitation. I read Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor once every year, and am forcibly reminded from its pages just how far short I fall in this area of ministry. The following are, however, offered as aspirational statements.” Not all churches, of course, have pastors in the sense Andrew Roycroft uses that term. But these 15 reasons apply to all those who exercise spiritual oversight of a local church.

Read the whole article HERE.

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Five simple steps to mentor new believers (without overworking the pastor).

Karl Vaters writes, “If you’re not happy with your small church’s discipleship program (or it may not even exist), I have some good news. You don’t need an expensive, staff-heavy curriculum to do great follow-up with new believers. And it doesn’t need to kill your already-over-busy schedule either. After a few hit-and-miss attempts, our church has discovered a simple five-step process that can work for any small church. And it looks suspiciously similar to what Jesus, Paul and many other early church leaders did.”

For example, the third step is this: “Connect them with a mature believer and the right resources.” Vaters explains: “Right now there are a handful of new believers in our church who meet regularly with mature believers to learn, grow and be discipled. Each one of them does it differently, depending on their circumstance.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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The essence of femininity – a personal perspective.

Years ago, Elizabeth Elliot wrote these words – words that are not only as relevant now, but doubtless need to be heard and heeded even more urgently. She wrote, “Feminists are dedicated to the proposition that the difference between men and women is a matter of mere biology. The rest of us recognize a far deeper reality, one that meets us on an altogether different plane from mere anatomical distinctions. It is unfathomable and indefinable, yet men and women have tried ceaselessly to fathom and define it. It is unavoidable and undeniable, yet in the past couple of decades earnest and high-sounding efforts have been made in the name of decency, equality, and fairness, at least to avoid it and, whenever possible, to deny it. I refer, of course, to femininity-a reality of God’s design and God’s making, His gift to me and to every woman-and, in a very different way, His gift to men as well. If we really understood what femininity is all about, perhaps the question of roles would take care of itself.” She concludes, “To gloss over these profundities is to deprive women of the central answer to the cry of their hearts, “Who am I?” No one but the Author of the Story can answer that cry.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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It’s time to teach the Bible in public schools.

David Marcus writes, “The Bible as comprised of the Old and New Testaments is, simply put, the most important and seminal work of literature in Western Civilization. While for millions of people it is also the revealed word of God, for everyone it is an indispensable font from which springs the art, history, philosophy and governmental structures of our society. Biblical literacy, which is to say a basic, functioning knowledge of the stories of the Bible, is essential to have a full understanding of how our society works and why it differs so dramatically from others. This is why it must be thoroughly taught in the public schools. Sadly, almost two decades into the 21st Century, biblical literacy is slipping away from us.”

Marcus concludes, “But it is no longer enough to rely on social osmosis or home study of the Bible to give our children the framework needed to study our culture and civilization. Our school systems needs to . . . provide students with the Biblical literacy needed to be ‘decently educated’. Our culture has roots that are powerful. They exert influence on almost every aspect of our daily lives; they nourish our social fabric. No root runs deeper than the Bible, our kids to need to know and understand it.”

Read the whole article HERE.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in writings quoted from other authors) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Friday Briefing 6 (13 April 2018)

“On the Third Day”: what Jesus and the apostles saw when they read the Old Testament “. . . Jesus Himself pointed to the experience of the prophet Jonah as a sign that he would die and rise in three days (Matthew 12:40). . . . this prompts the question: Are there other “third day” references in the Old Testament that signified Jesus’s greater resurrection? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’.”

The Genesis of theology The book of Genesis has been called ‘the seed plot of the Bible’. Here are four theological themes that ‘germinate’ in the first two chapters of Genesis.

The hottest thing at church today “is the preaching. Not only is it the preaching, but a very specific form of it—preaching based on the Bible. And just like that, decades of church growth bunkum is thrown under the bus.”

Pastors’ forum: evangelism and discipleship in the local church Nine pastors were asked about practical ways in which they encourage evangelism and discipleship in the life of their particular local church. Here are their responses.

10 most significant discoveries in the field of Biblical archaeology “. . . archaeological findings . . . have the potential to enrich our understanding and draw us into the world of the biblical writers—giving us a glimpse of the ancient world behind the living Word.”

“On the Third Day”: what Jesus and the apostles saw when they read the Old Testament

”Christ . . . was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15.3–4). Bruce Forsee writes, “Jesus knew that he had come to die, and he taught his disciples not only that he would die and rise again, but specifically that he would rise on the third day. “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised“ (Matthew 16:21).

The apostle Paul indicates that the third-day resurrection was even indicated in the Old Testament. In 1 Corinthians 15:4 he claims Jesus “was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” . . . Jesus Himself pointed to the experience of the prophet Jonah as a sign that he would die and rise in three days (Matthew 12:40). If Jonah’s “resurrection” on the third day pointed to Christ’s resurrection, this prompts the question: Are there other “third day” references in the Old Testament that signified Jesus’s greater resurrection? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes’.” Read the whole article HERE

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The Genesis of theology

Nick Batzig introduces four key theological themes that we find in the very first two chapters of the Bible – a theology of creation and new creation, of time and space, of separation, and of sanctification. Read the whole article HERE.

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The hottest thing at church today

Tim Challies writes, “According to a new study by Gallup, the hottest thing at church today is not the worship and not the pastor. It’s not the smoke and lights and it’s not the hip and relevant youth programs. It’s not even the organic, fair trade coffee at the cafe. The hottest thing at church today is the preaching. Not only is it the preaching, but a very specific form of it—preaching based on the Bible. And just like that, decades of church growth bunkum is thrown under the bus.” Read the whole article HERE.

Read the report of the Gallup poll HERE.

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Pastors’ forum: evangelism and discipleship in the local church

Nine pastors were asked about practical ways in which they encourage evangelism and discipleship in the life of their particular local church. These pastors’ answers are worth reading. This is ‘where the rubber hits the road’ for us and our local church for fulfilling Jesus’s ‘great commission’ of Matthew 28.18-20.

Read the whole article HERE

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Image from Wikimedia. Image from the website of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; original photograph by Ardon Bar Hama.

Photographic reproduction of the Great Isaiah Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The central column contains the text of Isaiah 53.13 to part of 54.4. This portion contains the wonderful prophecy of our Lord Jesus Christ’s sufferings for us on the Cross. This scroll is dated from around 125 BC, and was therefore written before Christ fulfilled this prophecy. The Dead Sea Scrolls are one of the 10 most significant discoveries in the field of Biblical archaeology that are described in the following article.

10 most significant discoveries in the field of Biblical archaeology

Tim Challies writes: “Biblical archaeology is a wide field offering modern readers fascinating insights into the everyday lives of people mentioned in the Bible. . . . . Here are the ten most significant discoveries in the field of biblical archaeology.” Read the whole article HERE.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations (apart from those in direct quotations) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.