Friday, December 14, 2007

Preacher – Do You Become Like Your Text?

I was pondering some changes in my life since starting to preach the Gospel of John. After spending nearly three years in Romans and the linear thought of Paul, I found the first few months in John very labour-intensive. Now, the start of a new book is always more work as you begin to grow deeper in the author’s intentions, flow of thought, word usage, etc – but this was different. The abrupt change in style was forcing an abrupt change in study habits!

I had always loved John but been scared to preach it. I am by nature more comfortable with a book like Romans (in style, not content – the depth in this letter scared me off preaching it for 7 years!), but John has all this godly “double-entendre,” parallelism (not parallelomania, Tom!), OT connectivity, and depths and depths of meaning buried in each text. It is a selah book – you have to stop and ponder over and over again.

(For example, how does one really preach John 1:1-18 with any adequacy? I took Carson’s advice and polished it off in one sermon! To do otherwise would have meant we would still be there!)

But, here is the observation I have made. The more I study John, the more slowly, meditatively, and thoughtfully I seem to live. What I am suggesting is that immersing myself in that book is changing me to take on some of the characteristics of the literature... or one might say, of the author.

Now, it is odd to speak so bluntly about myself in this public forum, and I am sure that coupled with any good that is taking place in my life through this process there are truckloads of my sin. But I post this to ask of other preachers: Do you find that you “become like your text?” Maybe everybody else has already thought about this and I am must cluing in now!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Book Review - Jesus the Evangelist by Rick Phillips

Jesus the Evangelist is the first book I have read by Rick Phillips; I hope it is not the last! The book’s subtitle, “Learning to share the gospel from the book of John” neatly summarizes this just under 200 page manuscript.

Phillips begins by examining what is true about Jesus from John 1, proceeds to consider the content of the Gospel (what it really is) from John 3, then looks at the practice of evangelism as modeled by Jesus in John 4. The Word, the Nicodemus exchange and the Woman at the Well frame the book.

What I most appreciate about Phillips content is his winsome application – it is good, old Word-based application that helps the reader see how the text ought to shape the way we live. He has some great illustration as well.

I would recommend the book for three kinds of people: 1. Those expositing John’s gospel – there is much here for preachers. 2. Those wanting to be motivated in their personal evangelism – Phillips primary target audience. 3. Those who are unsure of the Gospel – even self-admitting non-believers.

Come to think of it, I would also commend this book to all my emergent friends. Here is a fine example of Biblical evangelism that works within a certain culture – without embracing everything in that culture! Phillips’ chapters on John 4 will be extremely helpful to those who want to “be real” with culture. There is a way to do this without selling out the Gospel.

This book would make a great Christmas gift to anyone on your list... especially if they attend Grace Fellowship Church and are sitting under the weekly exposition of the Gospel of John!

CD Review - Indelible Grace V

We have much to learn in our singing from those saints who walked before us and it would be a shame if the church forgot her rich ancestry just because of a distaste for common meter in excruciatingly high keys. Thankfully, Indelible Grace has released their new album of re-worked or modernized hymns... and it is great.

Artists like Sandra McCracken, Matthew Smith, Derek Webb and others have contributed to this, in my opinion, the most diverse compilation so far. The hymns they have re-tooled are all excellent choices and the musical style is very nice. (I have always loved the IG albums, but I sometimes found them a little too “Nashville” for extended listening - a man can only take so much country music. This album has a much broader range.)

As a fan of setting great old hymns to new tunes, I cannot commend this effort and this album enough! Check out the website for how to order and to listen to some extended samples.

(Or you can order from Westminster Books here...)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Favourite Ornament

Last night we pulled the Christmas boxes out of storage so the young ‘uns could decorate the little trees in their rooms. As my boy carefully unwrapped his decorations, he came across one rather plain and homey ball, not the nicest of ornaments by far... yet the most meaningful to me.

Six years ago Will was in an intensive care room at the Hospital for Sick Children in downtown Toronto. He had contracted RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and this would be one of his worst days. Unable to breathe on his own for nearly a week now, his condition was worsening with only a small area of one lung able to process a portion of the oxygen being forced into him through a ventilator. We spent the better part of the day wondering if every Christmas to follow would be a memory of losing our son.

That was a long and sad day. But a lovely nurse at the hospital had brought in a few little ornaments and hung them on his hospital bed. And they stayed up there, dangling on the side bars, getting banged and dropped until Will left that bed and that hospital – a healthy little boy.

n the kindness of His providence God spared the boy and yesterday we went man-shopping at Princess Auto! What a blast to have him running down the aisles, grabbing some big tool, and saying in his loud voice, “Whoa! Dad! Look at this!!! WHAT IS IT?!?!”

That little red ornament represents 6 years of grace!