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The Ultimate Proof That There Is No Eloquent, Rhetorically Savvy Pathway To God.

If you’re listening to a preacher tomorrow, hopefully they’re not trying to lift you up to heaven with their words.
(Or worse by the music)
Their language should point you instead to the fact that God comes down to us.

From William Willimon.

The cross is a reminder that there is no eloquent, rhetorically savvy way by which we can ascend to God. All of our attempts to climb up to God are our pitiful efforts at self-salvation. God descends to our level by climbing on a cross, opening up his arms, and dying for us, because of us, with us. Paul’s thoughts on the foolishness of preaching that avoids “lofty words of wisdom” suggests that Christian rhetoric tends to be simple, restrained, and direct – much like the parables of Jesus. The Puritans developed what they called the “plain style” of preaching out of a conviction that Christian speech ought not to embellish, ought not to mislead hearers into thinking they there was some way for a sermon to work in the hearts and minds of the hearers apart from the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes sermons work.
Proclamation and Theology By William H. Willimon, pg 70.

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In Jesus’ Name For Jesus’ Fame (preparing for MGPC 1/3/2015)

Songs of preparation: Now Thank We All Our God, Sing Unto The Lord A New Song / Psalm 96.
Responsive call to worship from Psalm 90 and Romans 10.
Praise: At The Name Of Jesus.
Corporate prayer of confession.
Song of assurance, confession of faith, doxology: Before The Throne Of God Above; Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 1; Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.
Consecutive reading: Revelation 18:1-24 – the fall of Babylon is announced and celebrated.
Bible memorisation: Psalm 118:22-24.
Praise: This Is My Father’s World.
Reading and sermon: Acts 3:1-26 – In Jesus’ Name For Jesus’ Fame. The signs associated with the Pentecostal Church give witness to the saving work and resurrection power of Jesus.
Pastoral prayer, tithes and offerings.
Departing praise: I Praise You, Lord / Psalm 138.

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There Is Such A Thing As A Free Lunch

Another article for our local paper, The Border Watch.
I’m working on tone and form in these pieces.
The ending is still looser than I want, but sooner or later you have to finish it and send them in.
It’s been a while since I’ve done this sort of writing on a regular basis.
Next week I’ve been thinking about lessons based on a building that has a fifty meter laneway of prime inner city land just so it can have a better address.

There Is Such A Thing As A Free Lunch

The old saying goes ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’.
An unnamed man bought a fully refundable first-class ticket with Eastern China Airlines that came with access to a VIP lounge at Xi’an International Airport, where flyers can enjoy a free meal. For over 300 days the man went to the airport lounge, ate his fill, and rescheduled his flight for the next day when he would return and repeat the process again. When staff noticed what was happening the man simply surrendered the ticket and received a full refund of his purchase price.
So, for that one man, there was such a thing as a free lunch.
As Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness he was tempted to create his own meal, turning stones into bread. He was hungry, he had the power, and yet he refused, memorably quoting from the Old Testament ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
He refused because he recognised that it would have been anything but a free meal. Turning stones into bread would have been very costly to him indeed.
It had been the Spirit of God who had led him into the wilderness, and Jesus trusted God to provide for his physical needs. Generations before, the people of God had been in the wilderness and they had not shown faith in God for their food. Jesus was faithful where the people had failed.
There are times where gratification of our desires overcomes care for our spiritual wellbeing. We sacrifice or endanger relationships, reputations and long-term security for short-term satisfaction. A short season of getting what you think you want can leave you with long seasons without what you really need.
Jesus expressed trust in God; while Christians confess that our trust fails us on a fairly constant basis. We depend on the trust that Jesus showed in God, not our own trust.
People go through their lives looking for their own version of the proverbial ‘free lunch’. The ‘no strings attached’ means of attaining satisfaction for their desires. We’d like to think that something like that existed. Nothing in creation fills the bill. Whatever we find is never completely free.
That’s why Christians look to Jesus. As the faithful one who completely trusted God, he’s the basis by which we’re made part of God’s family. He’s the Christian’s ‘free lunch’. There are no strings attached and anyone can experience the provision of God through him.

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Catching Up

In Melbourne for the day.
The pedestrian traffic is sparse and their malls have trams.
The sun is sort of out, though.
Finding a coffee shouldn’t be a problem.

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List Of More-Or-Less Redundant Jobs

Mental Floss lists what it calls ten odd jobs of yesteryear.
Included are the Saggar Maker’s Bottom Knocker and the Slubber Doffer.
But the real gem is the link at the bottom of the post to this list of Obscure Old English Census Occupations.
There are scores and scores listed there.
A treasure trove of illustrations.

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Vincent Van Gogh – A Life “In Sorrow, Yet Ever Joyful” (via Mockingbird)

Mockingbird have republished an essay about the life of Vincent van Gogh entitled ‘A Life Of Aching Beauty: Vincent van Gogh as Preacher, Failure, and Painter’.
The essay explores Van Gogh’s art and life, contrasting the bleakness of his experience with the vibrancy of his works, and drawing some thoughts about seeking transcendence amidst the brokenness of life.

A couple of quotes:

Always devoted to the Church, the Bible, and the example of Jesus Christ, Vincent next turned to the ministry. He began theological training, but found it both difficult and irrelevant, so he quit after a few months. He attended a three-month course for lay preachers, but after his final examination the examiners found him unsuitable for the ministry. On his own, he moved to a poor coal-mining region of Belgium to serve the miners and their families. He eventually obtained an official commission from his mission school, but lost this after three months due to his supposedly poor preaching skills, despite his undeniable and even extreme devotion and service to the coal-miners.
Given his sensibilities and his circumstances, we would expect Van Gogh’s art to reflect more and more his ongoing depression and troubled emotions. Yet somewhat the opposite is true. Vincent’s earlier paintings, such as The Potato Eaters (1885), have a limited color range of dark earth tones. The scene itself is somber, reflecting the hard life of Dutch peasants that he wanted to faithfully represent. From 1886 Vincent’s palette became lighter and more vibrant. Many paintings still clearly reflect the agitation of his soul, but we also see the longing to know and express joy. In sorrow, but ever joyful.

Read the whole essay at Mockingbird.

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Getting Care For The Least Pastored People In The Church (via Paul Tripp)

Paul Tripp has composed a bonus chapter to his book on pastoral ministry, Dangerous Calling.
In the chapter he outlines eleven practical steps for pastors to pursue to help them have healthy ministries.
The tone of the book, and this chapter is fairly urgent and directive, but I think that’s because Tripp is very concerned about the effect that poor personal spiritual self-care among pastors have, not only on them personally, but on the churches we lead.
One of the emphases in Dangerous Calling is that pastors have basically adopted a personal spiritual life as part of their calling that we’d see as perilous if any person we were pastoring adopted it.
The whole eleven steps are helpful.
I’ve reproduced number seven here because I believe it’s vitally important and often more or less ignored in practice.
I can’t understand why pastors whose churches don’t have any activity on Sunday night never visit other churches.
You can find a pdf file of the chapter at this page on Tripp’s website.

There is a debilitating myth that is widely accepted across the evangelical church culture. It is that pastors, being knowledgeable and mature, do not need pastoring. The vast majority of church attenders assume that their pastors are spiritually healthy. Committed members may pray for their pastor, and that is good, but they would never presume to speak into his life. Pastor, this assumption places you in spiritual danger. It puts you on a spiritual pedestal that no one between the “already” and the “not yet” should be on. Isolated, separated, individualistic Christianity is as dangerous for you as it is for anyone else in your congregation. You share identity with everyone to whom you minister. You too are a sinner in the middle of your sanctification, and you too need the ongoing ministry of the body of Christ. Since there is no indication in the New Testament that a pastor is safe living outside the body of Christ, you must resist buying into the myth and ask to be pastored.
This means two things. First, you need to seek out a copastor on your staff or a mature elder and ask that person to pastor you. Ask him to intrude on your private world with questions it would be hard for you to ask yourself. Ask him to meet with you regularly for counsel, encouragement, rebuke, and prayer. Next, you must find a way to place yourself under the rich teaching and preaching of God’s Word. Be committed to attend a service in your church at which you do not preach. If you have only a morning service, find another church in your community where there is sound gospel preaching. If you have no other options, watch or listen to at least one good sermon on the Internet each week. Too many pastors attempt to give, give, give without receiving any life-giving, heart-convicting, gospel-infused teaching themselves. No wonder they begin to dry up!
I am gone almost every weekend, but I do my best to get home on Saturday night so I can worship with God’s people and sit under good preaching. Sitting next to my wife while hearing good preaching is not only the highlight of my week; it is essential to what God has called me to do.