Sunday, December 16, 2007
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Blessed Lord, you have caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning, grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, so that, encouraged and supported by your holy Word, we may embrace and always hold fast the joyful hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.(BCP, Advent 2)
We'll be praying that prayer tomorrow at Church. But, secretly, I'm hoping, as a prayer, that it carries through for a lifetime.
Do you have any set prayers that you hold close to your heart? Perhaps from the Bible, or from a book of common prayer.
PS I asked The Little Man tonight: "Why did Jesus die?" And he answered: "Um. Because the leaders didn't want Lazarus to be King."
Close, Boy, but no donut.
Pic on Flickr by YanivG
Friday, December 07, 2007
I have taken down this post. People keep doing Google and other searches for 'Bruce and Ida Albert' and keep finding this Blog. I don't want this to be of concern to anyone.
Please email me and let me know if there is any problem here. jmoff/hotmail/com
Pic on Flickr by Rob Mutch
I encourage you to click HERE to his latest post about Careerism. The post is called: "Career is overrated", in which I quote:
Career is not so important as attention to the really human things of life: loving, creating, caring, giving. Attention to the Good, the True, and the Beautiful is infinitely more important than scoring that great job. Jobs are good; but being human is even more important. So here’s a wild idea: perhaps loving your roommate, next-door neighbor, coworker, boss, sibling, parent, friend, spouse is more important than getting a great job.And he concludes:
Career is overrated. Faithfulness is what matters. Love God, love people. In all your typing, reading, writing, teaching, playing, eating, talking, producing, serving--in all these things, pay attention to the important things of life.The writer of Ecclesiastes, should he be alive today, would be making comments on David's Blog about some similar thoughts that he gained in his grand project to find something of substance in a world that feels so transient and unpredictable and uncontrollable. 'Find satisfaction in your job' (if you can), he'd say, and 'enjoy life with your wife' (if you have one). This is good, he'd comment, but when all is said and done, he has got one simple refection: 'Fear God, and keep his commands.' For, he would say, 'this is the whole duty of man'.
Head on over to his Blog and make a comment (he'd like that).
And also - can you pray for our students at Christ Church? There are about 50 students connected or committed to our ministry. And most are doing Finals right now...
Pic on Flickr by prettyscary.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
This is the first time I've seen this. Snopes tells me that this video is true, not fake. It was filmed in 1967. It anticipates shopping from a home computer, online bill paying and e-mail. Snopes points out something else obvious, but worth saying:
The video exemplifies the common flaw of anticipating technological changes but not societal changes -- the daily life it depicts is firmly rooted in the mid-20th century American model of women as stay-at-home child rearers and shoppers, and men as breadwinners and heads of household. Apparently women in 1999 still wouldn't be up to handling tasks such as banking, bill-paying and tax preparation, even with the help of electronic devices.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Here's a thought.
Let me say upfront: I certainly have problems with the Hillsong movement. I always have. This is not new or a surprise to those who have known me. I used to be militant in my critique of them. I have mellowed a little over the years, thinking soberly of Paul's comment in 1 Corinthians 3 that 'God judges each person's work', and 'the day bringing it to light.' I also found helpful Jeremiah 23:28-29:
Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?" declares the LORD. "Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
So what is my problem with Hillsong?
It isn't that they are always doctrinally incorrect (They aren't, and I have heard a sermon from the youth team that was a good and valid exegesis of Romans 7). It isn't just the money and prosperity stuff (although there are major major issues here.) It isn't that they aren't passionate and it isn't that there aren't great people there (there are many many wonderful people serving there). And it certainly isn't that 'they' don't believe in the Gospel (the ones I know who go there do.)
Here is my biggest problem:
Lack of discernment.
I've been a few times. I've got great friends who are or who have been there. I've read lots, and listened to their messages. I may be wrong, and am happy to be corrected, but one week you'll receive something good; the next, something weird. At one conference, you'll get a good speaker; then next up someone odd. One week, you'll get the promises about prosperity, with verses (used spuriously) to introduce a giving time; the next nothing on the topic. One week will be about Jesus' death, then next will be all about You.
I think that this accounts for some of the confusion we have. It is also a reason many are giving them a free pass. You'll hear people say that it was good when they visited Hillsong, and that they heard nothing inappropriate. And then someone else will go another week, and they will recount some theological and pastoral horror story. You'll go to the conference and hear relatively orthodox speakers like Bill Hybels, and then you'll get TD Jakes! You'll get some music that has little substance, and then some that elevates Christ and his blood shed on the Cross. You'll get great work with the poor, and then news of an investment scandal.
I had some correspondence recently with a friend who is very sympathetic to Hillsong who said that they have heard 4 Hillsong sermons, of which 3 were good, and one dismal. (And by dismal, I don't mean boring).
Now, I don't think that our meetings are always theological and pastorally good. Not at all. I know profoundly how much we get it wrong, and it pains me when we do. But if discernment goes out the door -- in favor of passion and music and the elation -- then the game is over.
Here is the thing: To me, lack of discernment in a church is like bribery in the police force. If you tolerate it at any level, the whole organization becomes tainted. Even the good parts. And that makes me more sad than it does mad.
Hopefully every movement's excesses will be curbed by increasing accountability.
Happy to be challenged on this. (But no anonymous comments allowed on this one)
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Hmmm. There is an election on today in Australia. Personally, I like how the Prime Minister has to get in line to vote like everyone else (He's the dude the the tie on, with the Liberal Party How-to-Vote Card in his hand).
My wife and I voted on Monday on 42nd St in Manhattan with our friend Rhys Bezzant. This was Laurel's first vote as a dual citizen of the USA and Australia. We had a meal afterwards at Pershing Square at Grand Central. Seriously good burgers.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Quote The Little Man:
“I don’t know how to be angry (Shrugs Shoulders, arms out). Daddy could you teach me how to be angry?"
Thursday, November 15, 2007
However, there are only three movies that I can recall where the dominant motif is 'Grace':
1. Babette's Feast. (A Danish film)
2. The Widow of Saint Pierre. (A French Canadian Film)
3. The Lives of Others. (A German Film)
The Lives of Others is a subtitled film set in East Germany in 1984. I just finished it now, and I am in tears. Maybe it's the Jet-Lag. Maybe it's because Grace is life to the body and soul.
The Apostle John says: (John 1)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.
Incidentally, on Rotten Tomatoes, these three films are reviewed as 100%, 90% and 93% repectively. I wonder if Grace is what our universe needs most. And in particular, the Grace of God.
Have I missed another 'Grace' film?
Is my observation correct?
Friday, November 09, 2007
We've had a great time in Sydney. I came out for the Engage conference, and then had a great time with family and friends. We are flying out and, God willing, will be in NYC on Saturday. We are itching to see everyone at church on Sunday.
But, how to get over Jet-Lag?
I have the ONLY cure.
See the comments.
In the meantime, a pictorial memoir...
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Who made you?
Jesus made me. Yes. Jesus made me into a puzzle and broke me into pieces and then put me back together in pieces that belong to Jesus.
People say that kids only parrot what their parents say. But I can tell you right now, we have never said that to him. But the Bible says something like it:
Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17I'm glad he was baptized.
Monday, October 15, 2007
What happens if the government puts a curfew on flight paths? Let's say... nothing before 6AM and nothing after 11PM? The answer is that all the world's airlines travelling to that city have to time their flights to land on or after 6AM.
In a few hours, we'll be sitting on that Qantas flight coming from LA.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
I'vejust realized that I'm speaking on 'How to destroy a church' from 1 Corinthians 3.
I've don't think that I've ever done that before.
I hope no one takes my advice.
Friday, October 12, 2007
When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.Chinua Achebe -- Nigerian poet.
Pic by Sizima.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Would you like a set of Bible Studies for your Home Group? Four Studies on Deuteronomy 5-8? They are not the 'ask 10 questions' kind of Bible Studies. And some of it may need explaining. So feel free to contact me if you have any questions...
(Let me know if it doesn't open, I can email it to you.)
There is one sermon that goes with it on Deuteronomy 6 that you can download HERE.
Pic by maruchan313
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
I'm preaching on Sunday at Church on 1 Corinthians 3. In that Chapter, Paul warns those who like to pursue preachers for their sophistry and wise-sounding words:
V18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a "fool" so that he may become wise.I wonder whether our 'age' is not about sounding 'wise' but it is about being entertaining and 'holding attention' (maybe we aren't into sophistry) . If that were the case -- and I don't yet assume it is -- could we rephrase V18 thus? --
V18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is entertaining by the standards of this age, he should become "un-entertaining" so that he may become compelling.I wonder if this is a possible application. And I wonder how we would actually do it (some of us wouldn't have to try too hard). I wonder how Paul expected leaders in Corinth to become a 'fool' (which is as odd as my rephrasing, let's face it).
All this comes because I read both Chapter 3 at the same time as THIS helpful article from CT. The writer assumes that Narrative (the narrative of the Gospel) is the antidote to preaching in an age of entertainment. Here is a quote:
To be sure, the church ministers in the entertainment culture, so it must find ways of arresting attention, engaging, inspiring, and motivating audiences immersed in this culture. It must also resist the insidious nature of entertainment discourse, which demands fragmentation, while having confidence that it offers something more engaging than entertainment: narrative. (...)Do you wish to join the resistance?
Let's not fill the church with collaborators. Let's join the resistance, a resistance that, if successful, will allow people to cohere and flourish in ways our culture can hardly imagine.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
In the meantime, I leave you with the movie quote that inspired the name of this Blog:
"I guess that's the way the whole durned human comedy keeps perpetuatin' it-self, down through the generations, westward the wagons, across the sands a time until-- aw, look at me, I'm ramblin' again. Wel, uh hope you folks enjoyed yourselves."Don't forget me, when I come back postin'.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
I've really enjoyed meeting some of the people at Christ Church, and I look forward to continuing to do so. There seems to be a strong sense of community, which I really appreciate. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to actually recognize people, and for them to remember my name!That may be all you have to do, friends. Remember someone. If you are going to church this weekend, look around you and remember the name of someone who is new.
It ain't Rocket Science.
(I posted about a quote about welcoming ... HERE.)
Monday, September 24, 2007
"Eric, I want you to throw me like a rugby ball.
"Umm, I don't think your parents would like me to throw you like a rugby ball."
"No, they WOULD like you to throw me like a rugby ball.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
But I want to let you know that he has a new album coming out this month called "Prone To Wander". This is from the website:
The album is a contemporary take on some great old hymns, including: 'It Is Well'; 'Come Thou Fount'; 'Just As I Am'; & two acoustic bonus tracks.I have heard an early recording of 'Come Thou Fount', and it is uplifting, devotional and Christ honoring. If the rest are like it, you'll want to buy it.
Pre-order it on his online store.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The catalyst for placing this sermon online is a powerful recitation of the Shema and the V'ahavta. It was sung by a Messianic Jew at our church. The other 23 minutes is my sermon on Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (read first). My translation is NRSV. This was a week where students from NYU and other colleges around NYC were invited to Christ Church NYC. Hence a few Student references. It was recorded on an iPod.______________________
What interested me is that it (kind of) mirrors the Christian doctrine of Creation, and it even has the gentle echo of the promise of Eternal Life. It looks back (to creation) and forward (in hope).
But in the end, it's only about New Zealand.
Sorry, Gordo, to quote C.S. Lewis:
If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.So I've got a choice: Either I spent my time, my money and my yearnings going to NZ and taking lots of pictures that never satisfy, or I take my joy trusting in a good God who will renew the whole of creation at the restoration of all things.
On Sunday, we had a Jewish believer in Jesus who is in our church sing the Shema and the V'ahavta. That's Deuteronomy 6:4-9 for all us non-Hebrew speakers. She was once a cantor in a synagogue. It was stunning. I have it recorded on my iPod (and therefore in iTunes) at the beginning of a sermon on Deuteronomy 6:1-9.
How do I get a 25 minutes sermon onto the net? (We do not yet have the capability at my church.)
Friday, September 14, 2007
View Larger Map
A student at our church said recently:
"The world has too few picnics"Here is a map of where the Picnic is! You can see and manipulate it to get a feel for where we are going. (Or Click HERE – Click then on Number 32 – Turtle Pond). This is for the students who are being welcomed at Christ Church NYC, and for those who wish to welcome them.
For more information, email me, or make a comment.
Where does the story end up?
It ends in Wollongong, south of Sydney, later in 2001.
Selwyn Sexton and his wife Christine, met with Laurel and me. They had come back from Zambia for a season and he wanted to meet with us. Or rather, I wanted to meet with him. After all, I was the fan. Not the other way around. And that's what you do if you are a fan, right?
We drove the 2 hours south to visit with them.
Now, I am not the crying sort. But I came close to tears as I opened the door to the little cottage they'd been given for a vacation. Here was a man who 21 years ago, had shared the gospel to a group of fidgety kids. And he spoke Jesus without eloquence or sophistry, without dynamism or reputation. There was no marketing, and no hype. He wasn't bombastic or shocking. There was no warm up, and no music. I don't remember any particular wit or humor, or new insights.
But he spoke of Jesus and his atoning death, and the power of his Resurrection.
When we met him, he had a quiet strength about him. One that is carrying a cross without letting you know that this is what he is doing. He asked us questions, and showed us joy. We walked the beach and he spent several hours telling us how much he loved to teach people who to share Jesus. And then it hit me:
- His gift was not his gift.
- His gift was Jesus.
I thought of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.What's the 'upshot' of this?
Well, first, I shall not be joining your Facebook fan group. But that's a relatively trivial 'upshot'.
Here is my thought: Craigs commented on a previous post: 'It's OK to have heroes'. He's is utterly right. We do. We really do. All kinds of heroes. But, with some cheek, and somewhat counter intuitively, I'm choosing Selwyn.
The Apostle Paul:
So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.It's the way of the Cross.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Two days later, I received an email back. Mr. Sexton (in 2001) was living in ... get this...
You heard it, Northern Zambia. He and his wife had up stakes and moved to Africa with Sowers International to train local pastors how to preach. He had a home there, but was allowing a local pastor and his family live there because they had the need. So they lived basically out of a suitcase. He didn't live to preach himself, but he lived for the joy of hearing an African preach to Africans.
What does Jesus say?
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
It was so good to receive your e-mail yesterday.
I was so very thrilled and humbled to hear of your progress in the Christian life. You brought back memories of that Mission at Eastwood Baptist and I remember, though rather vaguely, you and your friend coming to see me. I also remember sending you the follow up material and writing your name many times.
Thank you so much for thinking to write to me to share how the Lord has led you and blessed you over the years since that decisive day. Your letter has encouraged me greatly.
We are writing this from Northern Zambia and when we received the e-mail we were with our Senior Sowers worker and Christine read it out in his presence. He was also very encouraged.
We will be in Australia soon and we would like to meet you again some time during this period. We will e-mail when we get back to Australia to set a convenient time.
We trust you will have a wonderful time at the camp next week. We will be praying that the Lord will speak to many of the young people.
Thank you so much for sharing this great news. Looking forward to seeing you.
God bless, Selwyn Sexton
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.So (while being incredibly thankful to God for the ministry and courage of Dr John Piper and Don Carson, Mark Driscoll, C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Philip Jensen, Peter Jensen, Ravi Zacharias, Kent Hughes, etc), I would now like to declare that I am, in fact, a fan of one Selwyn Sexton.
I've repeated his name so that you all will remember it!
It is not likely a name you've heard of. I just now googled "Selwyn Sexton", and there were 7 listings. No podcasts, no webpages, no 'www.selwynsextonministries.com', no books, no facebook group, no fan-club. So chances are you haven't heard of him.
In 1979, Selwyn was perhaps a 40+ year old missioner and evangelist. He came to my school in Sydney and preached the Gospel. I sat there and understood the Grace of God: I was a sinner, and Christ had died in my place. I was 9. I could tell you were I was sitting when I heard about the Grace of God. So I 'signed up'.
In 2001, I was a Youth Pastor at Christ Church St Ives. And I was about to go away and model what Selwyn had modeled to me: Preach the Grace of God in the face of Christ. So I Googled his name back then and found an email address. So I emailed him. I've cut and pasted it here. This letter is dated July 2001:
Dear Mr Sexton,
You will have no idea who I am, but I wanted to write to you and thank you for your important part in my coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
Sometime around 1979 you came to my primary school in Eastwood [Northern Sydney, Australia] and explained to the entire school the truth of substitutionary atonement. You made it very simple - you used a simple illustration - and yet God used you very powerfully that afternoon. I understood for the first time that Jesus had died for me. I can remember where I was sitting and how I felt about it. I was then 9 years old.
You must have been involved in some outreach event with Eastwood Baptist church, because you invited any who were interested to know more to go to the Tuesday afternoon club. I decided to go, and you called for those who wanted to give their lives to Christ. My next door neighbour and I came to see you, and you prayed with us. I remember at the time thinking that I was bothering you. However, I prayed with you to become a Christian that day.
I was a child in the Sunday School at a good evangelical Anglican church in Sydney at the time that all this happened. I went to the Baptist Tuesday group for about a year and a half, and eventually was grounded in the Youth Group at the Eastwood Anglican.
Those moments were very significant for me. And I thank God for them. You are part of my testimony to this day. I went on to finish a BA at Sydney University. I was heavily involved in Youth Ministry at St Barnabas Church Broadway, and eventually studied the Scriptures full time at Moore Theological College. I now serve at the Youth Minister at Christ Church St Ives - a large and vibrant church on the North Shore of Sydney.
I am writing to you for two reasons: First, to thank you for your part. [I got your email address from a search engine]. Second is that next week, we are taking 100 or so 12-15 year olds away for a camp where we will be looking at the death of Jesus. I will be thinking specifically of that time when I first understood the cross 21 years ago - and my prayer for these kids is that they will experience what I experienced all those years ago.
I write this as an encouragement to you.
In Christ, Justin Moffatt.
So I am a fan to a part of the body that has 'lesser honor', so that the Body of Christ may be unified.
Tomorrow -- Part 2: From Sydney to Africa and back to Sydney.
In the meantime, is there anyone for whom you'd like to give honor (that may have lacked it in this world of celebrities)?
Or better still, find them, and write to them.
Monday, September 10, 2007
I was asked the other month if I was a 'John Piper fan'.
I said -- "Oh, no -- of course not." And then kept going: "I'm not, insofar that I don't want to be a fan of anyone but Jesus. Like many people, Desiring God really gave me a vision for joy and delight in the glory of God. That book alone shaped much of who I am, and still does. But, put bluntly, I'm not, and will never be, a Piper 'fan'.
I don't think that John Piper wants me to be a John Piper fan".
Then a few days later, I posted this link to a Piper sermon. And my correspondent read my Blog, and then emailed me:
I will enjoy reading your blog. Amazing clip from Piper. I inferred from our conversation that you were not a Piper fan. It appears to be the opposite (at least on this point).And my response was this:
And so in the same vein, I am also *not* a fan of Don Carson, Mark Driscoll, C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Philip Jensen, Peter Jensen, Ravi Zacharias, Kent Hughes, etc. (As godly and as gifted as these men are.)
Re Piper: I think Piper is great and gifted by God. Desiring God really helped. I listen to and read Piper when I get a chance.
But, still, I’m not a fan. ☺
My point is nuanced (but not merely semantic): If someone asks me 'Am I a fan of Piper?' my answer is "No, of course not. I’m a 'fan' of Jesus". (I’m not really a 'fan' of him either. Jesus needs followers, not fans.)
And it's even further nuanced by this: that when we always link to our favorite preacher, and then download, talk about, love, follow, go to conferences to fawn over, get a photo with, compare to, rate, hire because of fame, join a mega-church on the gifts of a single personality, make a Facebook group to express your appreciation for your favorite pastor-teacher, then… it may just be possible, without even realizing it, to 'empty the cross of it power'!
It’s all in 1 Corinthians 1-2. 1:17 in particular. What does it, in this text, mean to 'empty the cross of its power?'
I’m very nervous about the fact that even the good guys are going down the same route, in principle, as the followers of bad televangelists of the ‘80s: running after their favorite preachers. We just do it in style, and with good theology.
In fact, 1 Corinthians 12 asks us to make much of the one who is given less honor, so that the Body of Christ will be united.
Are we not simply being worldly?
I'll listen to them and read, I'll learn from them and respect them, and I'll even obey when it is appropriate.
But I'm not, and will never be, a fan.
And I'm willing to wager that each of these men (since they all honorable men) would wholeheartedly agree. They would, I suspect, be uncomfortable with celebrity status, a 'fan-base' and a Facebook group.
Tell me if that's true.
Pic of John Piper from Sola Lumina Captura.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Mike and I first really spoke one evening in 1986 about God, the gospel, the mysteries of women, the struggle for purity, and the meaning of life. (When we were16, nothing much else seemed worth talking about.)
Have any readers kept good friends since your days at high school?
Pay your tribute here...
So with the joy and anticipation of their imminent return from The Carolinas, I offer you this classic:
Lastly, there are some questions that are good to ask:For anyone out there: Thoughts? Criticisms? Tips for other preachers?
That's about it, Scott.
- Is it what the text actually says?
- Am I being less insightful than the text itself? (Don't settle for that)
- Am I being more insightful than the text itself? (Resist doing that)
- Am I encouraging 'preacher dependence' by speaking this way?
- Is it geared to the outsider?
- Does it lead to and testify to the face of God in Jesus?
- Am I loving my people?
- Is the tone of the sermon...the tone of the text?
- Am I lifting the vision of the congregation to a higher place?
- Is there an individual, local, global and universal application?
- What is the application to a community of people (not just an individual)?
- Am I being clear or clever (always choose clear)?
- Are there breaks for my listeners (like humor or good stories?)
- Is there a joke... Like "Did you hear the story about..."? (cull it Now. Before its too late.)
- Will it be moving (where it needs to be moving)?
- Does it have a momentum?
Pic is of Pulpit Rock by Mimi K
Thursday, September 06, 2007
#4 The Writing, Practicing and Culling.PS -- Cafedave asked about timing. For a regular 25 minute Sunday sermon, I'm going to say 12 hours is average for me. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It's hard to say, because you live with it all week. I reckon something like 2/3 hours reading (more or less depending on what/where the sermon is, and whether you've done reading on it before, or if it's a text or topic), 2 hours on structure, 5 hours on writing, 2 hours culling and practicing. It's slippery.
I write my sermons out in such a way that I won't ever read it out. (You have to see how I order it to know what I mean. Happy to send a formated copy of this sermon to anyone who emails me). That means that I do not write it out in prose. But in ideas and subset ideas. I learnt that doing MTS.
I know I do not stay to a text, so a 25 minute sermon cannot be any longer than 1900 words.
I practice as I go. And if I'm bored by what I prepare, I go back and start again.
Culling is the most important part. If you don't cull, you'll lose the game. (I'm not so good at culling, and so I know and feel the weight of this.)
It used to take me longer.
ONE MORE TO COME... (Just added an extra).
Pic is of Pulpit Rock by Mimi K
My friend, Scott, asked me a while back: What is your Modus Operandi (MO) for preparing a sermon? Here is what I wrote to him in Five Parts:
#3 Preparing a Structure
Then I sit with a "blank sheet of paper" (or blank computer screen) and I create a structure for the sermon out of what I’ve been reading. What's the one question to answer, or one issue to explore?
That takes AGES.
It takes me close to as long as the preparation, and sometimes (not all the time) as long as the writing of the sermon. I go through maybe 20 versions of how to structure it, changing the wording and ideas etc. And I’m only dealing in a few words, usually. I swap the words around. I scribble them out. I start again. I sleep on it etc. This is the most frustrating part for me. Because I know if I get this, everything else will fall into place. I aid this process by asking:
- What’s unique about this text that I’ll find nowhere else in the Scriptures? (To stop me saying the same thing every week)
- What is the main image here? (The mind is not a debating Hall, it is a picture gallery)
- What is the emotional content here? (To keep me thinking about real lives and hearts)
- Why is this text life or death for us? (To stop me from getting trivial)
- And of course, how does this text alter how I live my life? (To keep it from being un-devotional).
Most of my sermons are exploring one issue, or answering one question.
In the case of the sermon last Sunday (Click HERE), it was simple: "What value is there in this very surprising 'Parable of the Dishonest Manager'?"
The structure of the sermon is will mostly fall out of the text. It writes itself. So instead of the normal 3 points, I wrote 4 surprises (16:1-7) and 2 things to learn (16:8,9). The text lends itself that way.
That’s what I write on the one Blank Sheet of paper.
I live with the structure and think about it lots (I learnt that from a young Andrew Rees 10 years ago), and I scribble thoughts wherever I can.
Last one to come.
I try to listen to some examples of sermons on the same text. So I download and listen to a few MP3s on the text for homiletic help. My advice is - don’t just listen to the gurus. It’s often the young guys who are been more rigorous with the text. And when you listen to them, you are more likely to think about the text, than about celebrity skills. (You will never learn baseball from Babe Ruth, but from someone who is like you, stands near you and can guide you).
That having been said – If going for a name, then generally, I listen to someone who helps me with great exegesis (Like John Stott or John Woodhouse); someone to help me put some humble 'steel' into the sermon (Like Rico Tice or John Piper), and I might buy Tim Keller to explore (in my case) a kind of exegesis of the soul of a New Yorker, and also how to present a theological case winsomely.
These will not 'write your sermon' for you (and they shouldn't). But they may yield some homiletic insights, where the commentaries may yield theological insights.
More to come.
More to come.
I punched out an email for him. What I say below is not the ‘correct answer’, nor does it cover some very important ideas. So this is not Preaching 101. It's simply me answering a dear friend.
Here is what I wrote to him in Five Parts:
: #1 Reading
Read text over and over and over: All week, at your desk, in the subway, on the bus, with your wife etc.
Get to know what the text says in its original language. Translate it yourself if you feel competent. I’m pretty average at language skills. So if you don’t feel competent, make sure you get a friend who is skilled in Hebrew or Greek to translate it, and talk you through it.
Get your commentaries. Get good commentaries, but I’d dare say – get any commentaries. They stimulate, as much as educate. (But commentaries rarely dictate what I say. I get exegetical and theological help from them, but I usually get zero homiletic or rhetorical help from commentaries, save maybe one or two dodgy illustrations).
Are there other things that you can you read to aid your preparation?
Speak to as many people (believers and not-yet-ones as well) about the text and the issues that it raises for you and for them.
More to come...
THE SPOILED UNDER-30 CROWD!When I was a kid, adults used to bore me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were when they were growing up; what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning ... uphill BOTH ways .. yadda, yadda, yadda….and I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in hell I was going to lay a bunch of rubbish like that on kids about how hard I had it and how easy they've got it!
But now that I'm over the ripe old age of thirty, I can't help but look around and notice the youth of today. You've got it so easy! I mean, compared to my childhood, you live in a damn Utopia!
And I hate to say it, but you kids today don't know how good you've got it! I mean, when I was a kid, we didn't have The Internet. If we wanted to know something, we had to go to the damn library and look it up ourselves, in the card catalog!
There was no email! We had to actually write somebody a letter ... with a pen! Then you had to walk all the way across the street and put it in the mailbox, and it would take like a week to get there!
There were no MP3's or Napsters! You wanted to steal music, you had to hitchhike to the damn record store and shoplift it yourself! Or you had to wait around all day to tape it off the radio and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and @#*% it all up!
We didn't have fancy crap like Call Waiting! If you were on the phone and somebody else called they got a busy signal, that's it! And we didn't have fancy Caller ID Boxes either! When the phone rang, you had no idea who it was! It could be your school, your mom, your boss, your bookie, your drug dealer, a collections agent, you just didn't know! You had to pick it up and take your chances, mister!
We didn't have any fancy Sony Playstation video games with high-resolution 3-D graphics! We had the Atari 2600! With games like "Space Invaders" and "Asteroids", and the graphics sucked! Your guy was a little square! You actually had to use your imagination! And there were no multiple levels or screens, it was just one screen forever! And you could never win. The game just kept getting harder and harder and faster and faster until you died! Just like LIFE!
When you went to the movie theater there was no such thing as stadium seating! All the seats were the same height! If a tall guy or some old broad with a hat sat in front of you and you couldn't see, you were just screwed! Sure, we had cable television, but back then that was only like 15 channels, and there was no onscreen menu and no remote control! You had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on! You were screwed when it came to channel surfing! You had to get off your backside and walk over to the TV to change the channel, and there was no Cartoon Network either! You could only get cartoons on Saturday morning. Do you hear what I'm saying? We had to wait ALL WEEK for cartoons, you spoiled little brats!
And we didn't have microwaves; if we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove or go build a frigging fire ... imagine that! If we wanted popcorn, we had to use that stupid Jiffy Pop thing and shake it over the stove forever like an idiot.
That's exactly what I'm talking about! You kids today have got it too easy.
You're spoiled! You guys wouldn't have lasted five minutes back in 1980!
The over 30 Crowd.
- Are you over thirty? Which parts are true? What resonates?
- Are you under thirty? Did you ever own your own Record Player?
(Pic is me before we owned a color TV).
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Has anyone every noticed that the word 'idol' never appears in the Gospels?
The word is never on Jesus' lips. Nor on anyone else's. Not even the narrator. No one accuses' Jesus explicitly of idolatry. And Jesus never condemns anyone for idol worship.
And yet the idea of 'idol worship' is right near the heart of the concept of sin in the Bible. It is the deep tragedy of the whole human story: That we find ourselves unfaithful to our maker, rather than love and serve God only. And to be rescued by Jesus from those idols to serve God is at the heart of the Gospel.
So Paul says to the Thessalonians:
They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.Three questions then:
- Has anyone else noted this?
- Is the idea implicitly there in the gospels, and where?
- Are there any implications?
Pic by nschaden.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
So we have taken on two 'service project' or what they call here 'mercy ministries' here in NYC that we believe honors Christ, and serves the lost.
One of them is that the men of Christ Church serve the many homeless in the city. So once a month, we go to the NYC Rescue Mission and run their evening service. The men have nowhere to live, and they are struggling with all sorts of hardships, addictions and pain. They come for a meal, but if they want to stay the night in a clean bed at the Rescue Mission, they have to come to church first.
I think that they like it.
So in just a few hours, a group of us will be sharing the message of Hope to those who feel most hopeless.
Pray for us.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
We teach our two toddlers:
- to walk,
- to eat,
- and to love Jesus.
And as they grow older, they are learning to walk, and to eat and to love Jesus. And we expect that they will both keep walking and eating and loving Jesus.
Of course, like anyone at any age, they could in the future choose to stop walking, to stop eating or to stop loving Jesus. That will be their choice. But it will be opting out, rather than opting in.
At the moment, he's all in! Hence, his Baptism (not pictured here) ---_______________________
Friday, August 17, 2007
Mike is nearing 22, and a servant of Jesus. He has had an extraordinary life, and "thus far the Lord has helped him". He has finished school (University, for my Australian readers), and is convicted that God wants him back at Navigators to learn from Peter Trautmann how to do ministry. (Like MTS, for Antipodeans.)
We talked for maybe two hours, and ended up in Starbucks in 16th St near Union Square. At the end, we prayed. Mid-prayer, I look up, and through the (very thick) window, I see this African-American lady standing right there, no more than 2 feet away. I pause in my prayer, wondering what she wants. The window was sound-proofed, but she motioned to us that we should keep praying. And she stood, outside in the light rain, head bowed, praying with us. Although she heard nothing of what was said, she mouthed 'Amen' at the end of it, and then she smiled and walked away. I love moments like this. I thought of Hebrews 13:1:
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.Here's the deal with Mike: He is raising his own support, and has done a great job so far. For what it's worth, I reckon if the actual Navigator Students at NYU got behind their new staff member, they could raise his last dollars.
Navs people who read this, forward it to your buddies. And contact Mike directly (email me if you need his address) if you want to support him.
- If 30 Navigator students gave $25/month (or more), he would come close to his target.
- Laurel and I are in, so all we need it 29 more people willing to give up one lunch a week for the sake of the gospel at NYU.
29 is all is needed.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
After my post on Do our Churches have a version of Rumspringa a pastor wrote me an email called 'Rumspringa by Another Name'. Here is what he said:
At our church, when the leaders & I were working through young adult lists trying to work out where people were up to, occasionally we would put the letters (LVL) after a person’s name. ‘la vida loca’.
Have you been LVL? What brought you back?
(I've already heard from a few of you on the other post -- Thanks.)
While walking with a friend through New York University yesterday, we came across this timely piece of graffiti. It was near Astor Place. (Click on the picture to see more detail.)
We had to stop and take a pic.
- Is this Christ Vs Hedonism?
- What do you make of it?
- For New York friends, what does it suggest about your mission field?
- Is this what people really think if they are honest?
- How did we get to this point?
Friday, August 10, 2007
Do our Churches have a version of Rumspringa?
I just read this article from LifeWay. It's a survey of young Americans. It refers to the fact the 70% of American church-goers, aged 18-22, simply stop going to church for a year or more. They leave their home town (say, they come to NYC!) and simply don't connect with a new community in which to be accountable. Go ahead and read the article. There are lots of reasons they give as to why they stop contributing. And many apparently come back.
Here in NYC, it rings true. The Christian Groups on campus (while top-notch) are comparatively small. I meet young people all the time who are not really connected into a community that functions in a healthy way with strong accountability. They sometime go to several churches for different personal-preference reasons ("I go here for the 'worship' , there for the 'teaching', and I drop in to another church for the 'community' " etc.) And many don't go anywhere, except sheepishly when they go home for breaks.
In three weeks time (when the new school year begins) my community, Christ Church NYC, will meet many of the students who will be confronted with this choice.
Some questions you could help me with:
1. What do you make of the survey and the thoughts contained within?
2. Can we do anything about it?
3. (For my Australian friends: What are the differences, do you think, between the continents?)
4. What is a compelling vision for this age group?
Here is a quote:
Stetzer noted, "There is no easy way to say it, but it must be said. Parents and churches are not passing on a robust Christian faith and an accompanying commitment to the church. We can take some solace in the fact that many do eventually return. But, Christian parents and churches need to ask the hard question, ‘What is it about our faith commitment that does not find root in the lives of our children?’"h/t Justin.
Pic by niznoz