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reports, reviews, thoughts, news (and fun) posted by Gary Ware

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Preparing For Sunday (via Murray Campbell)

Murray Campbell from Menton Baptist offers his personal preparations for Sunday worship in the hope they’ll be helpful.

Here’s the key points:

1. Read through the Bible passage that will be preached on that coming Sunday.
2. Look to encourage someone to make the effort to be at Church that week through email, phone call, facebook, etc
3. Pray (during the week & on the Sunday morning) that God would encourage the hearts & minds of believers, and open the eyes of unbelievers
4. Susan and I rarely go out and stay up late on Saturday nights, not because we don’t enjoy a night on the town or spending time with friends but because we believe that Church is of such importance that we want to have the energy to give of ourselves on Sundays. If we want to arrange a party or late night movie we prefer to choose another time; as it happens there are other nights in the week!
5. Aim to arrive early (ok, I’m a Pastor of a church and so I have things to do, however don’t we all have an opportunity to love others? The Pastor’s role is in some ways no different to everyone else’s in the Church. For example, visitors often arrive early and the only people there to greet them is the music team who are practicing. There is also the opportunity to pray with others, and things to be set up, etc). As a parent with 3 young children I appreciate how difficult it can be to get the family prepared on time, but I also know that I need to have the same 3 children ready one hour earlier for school Monday-Friday! Having said that, we want to avoid judgementalism, for we don’t know people’s hearts and struggles and the reasons why they find it difficult to arrive on time.
6. Go to Church with the expectation that there will be someone for you to love and encourage.
7. Aim to meet someone new or talk to someone whom you have spoken for sometime.
8. Avoid the temptation of assessing the value of Church by how we might evaluate a movie or concert, i.e. was the service slick, professional, and entertaining? We should even refrain from asking the question, ‘how much am I getting out of Church’? Change our expectations and ask ourselves more helpful questions such as was Christ honour? Was the Gospel preached? Were people loving one another? Am I loving and serving others?

Read the whole post here.

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Moralism Is Not The Gospel, But Many Christians Think It Is (via Albert Mohler)

Albert Mohler on the danger of Bible loving churches giving the impression that all we’re about is people becoming better rule keepers.
It is a distressing experience for preachers to continuously preach salvation through Jesus Christ alone to what seem to be supportive congregations, but when asked for their testimony to have the same folk reply basically that they hope they’ve lived good enough lives to get into heaven.
Is it any wonder that people outside the church think that our mission is to make bad people good instead of our true mission, the proclamation of God’s saving power to make dead people alive.
This is also a problem when preachers and churches assume the Gospel and preach application and obedience without specifically referencing how it’s the saving work of Jesus that is primary to our lives, and our obedience and growth to become more like Jesus are the result of his work in us.


…one of the most seductive false gospels is moralism. This false gospel can take many forms and can emerge from any number of political and cultural impulses. Nevertheless, the basic structure of moralism comes down to this — the belief that the Gospel can be reduced to improvements in behavior.
The seduction of moralism is the essence of its power. We are so easily seduced into believing that we actually can gain all the approval we need by our behavior. Of course, in order to participate in this seduction, we must negotiate a moral code that defines acceptable behavior with innumerable loopholes. Most moralists would not claim to be without sin, but merely beyond scandal. That is considered sufficient.
Moralists can be categorized as both liberal and conservative. In each case, a specific set of moral concerns frames the moral expectation. As a generalization, it is often true that liberals focus on a set of moral expectations related to social ethics while conservatives tend to focus on personal ethics. The essence of moralism is apparent in both — the belief that we can achieve righteousness by means of proper behavior.
The theological temptation of moralism is one many Christians and churches find it difficult to resist. The danger is that the church will communicate by both direct and indirect means that what God expects of fallen humanity is moral improvement. In so doing, the church subverts the Gospel and communicates a false gospel to a fallen world.
The deadly danger of moralism has been a constant temptation to the church and an ever-convenient substitute for the Gospel. Clearly, millions of our neighbors believe that moralism is our message. Nothing less than the boldest preaching of the Gospel will suffice to correct this impression and to lead sinners to salvation in Christ.

Read the whole post here.

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My Favourite Shorter Catechism Story

Ray Ortlund has posted the often shared story of two men who meet in mayhem and recognise they have something in common.
It’s always someone’s first time reading this, so here it is again.

“What is the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism? We have the following bit of personal experience from a general officer of the United States army. He was in a great western city at a time of intense excitement and violent rioting. The streets were overrun daily by a dangerous crowd. One day he observed approaching him a man of singularly combined calmness and firmness of mien, whose very demeanor inspired confidence. So impressed was he with his bearing amid the surrounding uproar that, when he had passed, he turned to look back at him, only to find that the stranger had done the same. On observing his turning, the stranger at once came back to him and, touching his chest with his forefinger, demanded without preface, ‘What is the chief end of man?’ On receiving the countersign, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever’ — ‘Ah!’ said he, ‘I knew you were a Shorter Catechism boy by your looks!’ ‘Why, that was just what I was thinking of you’ was the rejoinder.

It is worthwhile to be a Shorter Catechism boy. They grow up to be men. And better than that, they are exceedingly apt to grow to be men of God.”

John E. Meeter, editor, Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield (Phillipsburg, 1970), I:383-384.

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Thoughts On Day Three: Tim Keller Planters & Pastor’s Conference

The third and final day of Planters & Pastors consisted of two sessions, so we were done by 1.00pm
The first session was Keller’s concluding address, this time on Grace Renewal Dynamics, and the second contained a Q & A, some thankyous and a final ‘charge’ by Keller.

I’m very conscious of preached messages that fail to root applications and imperatives in what Jesus has done for us.
This was helpful in encouraging me to think more clearly about how what Jesus has done for us specifically meets various reasons or impulses for not doing what he would have us do.
It’s goes beyond, ‘instead of running on the you fuel, now you can run on the Jesus fuel’, and brings out the theme of seeing people ‘changed in their seats’ as you demonstrate how what Jesus has done overwhelms and frees us from what inhibits and bring us into particular freedom.
Very helpful, I don’t know these notes demonstrate that well.
Some more general thoughts next week.

On Grace Renewal Dynamics
Keller opened with characterisations from Augustine, Luther and Calvin.
Augustine: anything you love more than God you will crush it with your expectations and it will break your heart. Eg marriage. If wife more important than God, anger and guilt will mount from expectations that will damage the relationship.
Martin Luther: When God says you shall have no other gods before me, he means you must believe in justification by faith alone.
Calvin: you can’t turn faith into a defacto work.

Look at Romans 1-3. Romans 1 paganism/relativistic way; Romans 2 obedience/legalistic way.
Contrast Gospel with both moralism and relativism.
Moralism and legalism are not poles with Gospel in the middle, Gospel is polar with the other two.
Dick Lucas – sermon on the mount. Jesus contrasts two ways to live, both are doing the same actions, the motives and expectations are different. It’s not about doing, it’s about why.
In gospels two groups, one gets the Gospel. The ones who know it’s about repentance for why they were doing what they were doing.
Both sons love the father’s things. They are both alienated from the father. One claims before death, the other waiting.
The older brother is angry. An ongoing condition. Failed elder brother syndrome: trying to same themselves by works but can’t live up to their own standards.

Applications need to grounded in what Jesus has done for you.

Go into the heart. Why do we fail to share gospel? What people think about us is too important. Who cares what the peasants think about you when you have the love of the King?
Does our preaching feed/nurture elder brothers and failed elder brothers or bring change to them?
You have to become a model yourself.
You’re not angry, chief repenter in the congregation, open to different people,
Nurture – don’t create a two tiered church, those you think are Christian enough and those who you think are not, wait for them to tell you.

Three basic ideas in preaching
1. Preach Christ as the way to obey every command.
‘if you understand the Gospel you will be generous – fear and pride inhibit.’ Only safe in God, only status in God. Never just hit will, always go to heart and show how deeper grasp on Jesus brings freedom and change.
2. Preach Christ as the resolution of every cultural narrative.
In Christ you get a meaning suffering can’t take away. Christianity gives an identity that can’t crush you. Christianity gives you an identity not based on performance so diversity flourishes. Christianity through contemplation gives love, not tranquillity. Christianity gives a view of sex that doesn’t lead to loneliness. Christianity acknowledges how discontented you are. Take a place where the culture is weak, and where culture can’t fill, and shows how Christ does. Christians have a sense of justice that is consistent and doesn’t turn them into oppressors.
3. Preach Christ as the climax of every biblical theme.
(How many biblical themes are there really? Don Carson knows.) Covenant, king, marriage, promise, etc.

Here’s his final devotion. Given to a room full of people desiring great things for the Gospel in Australia.

Luke 10:17-20
Martin Lloyd-Jones – quotes Luke 10:20 at the end of life, when asked about being ‘on the shelf’.
The universal call to mission.
Who are the 72 who returned with joy? 12 sent out, then 72 sent out same charge.
Why 72 (or 70)? Equals the table of nations. Sending out the whole church.
We’re all in mission.
God never calls people in to bless them without sending them out to be a blessing.
Abram. Isaiah 6. Peter fishers of men.
They come back, demons submit to Jesus’ name. It works.
Satan falls, power given, don’t rejoice in this.
What’s wrong with being excited? Nothing especially. Rather Jesus is talking about the boast. The ritual boast. (Keller hasn’t seen a haka, I think) The foundation for your confidence.
Where is the confidence? That our name is in the Lamb’s book of life.
That never wasn’t. Here’s what I rejoice in, my name is already there.
Your name is written over the heart of Jesus. Like the high priest’s ephod.
You can be on the shelf.
You can have a bad year.
Or so much more.
Moses sought forgiveness for the people on the basis of his own name being blotted out.
Jesus is the ultimate Moses. He was blotted out so that our names are written in heaven.
That brings security circumstance can’t erase.