Category Archives: preaching
The Prodigal God, Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, by Timothy Keller. Dutton, 2008.
This book is an expansion of his best and most popular sermon. It contains more explanation, more illustrations and more applications, but not much new. It is all his best illustrations, quite valuable for a preacher and learner alike (I am both). It is 140 small pages with (fairly) large print and lots of white space on each page. Easy to read, even for non-readers, I would think . . . though Keller’s style will appeal more to people well-read.
What can I say? I’m a huge fan of Keller, and this is one of the best books available in print right now. I might buy a pile of them to give away at Christmas.
The structure was (and still is) hard for me to understand, but this is the best I’ve ever read on the practical working of the gospel to change people’s lives . . . with so many examples of real stories to illustrate the points already well-made, and clearly demonstrated from the Bible. Great work, brothers.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It will be the one I talk about for a while, and maybe I’ll make my staff read it. It will certainly fuel my teaching and preaching for a long time to come.
From page 99,
I had an epiphany one Wednesday evening in the middle of our small group meeting. People were sharing prayer requests, but it was the same old grocery list of situational, self-protective prayer requests masquerading as openness and self-disclosure. I found myself thinking, Why did we all feel the need to clean up our prayer requests before giving them? Why were we all so skilled at editing ourselves out of our prayer requests? Why were we so good at sharing the difficult circumstances we faced, yet so afraid of talking about our struggles in the middle of them? Did we really care more abou what people thought than we did about getting help? Did we really think that God would be repulsed by our sins and weakness? I wondered who we thought we were fooling. It was as if we had all agreed upon an unspoken set of rules, a conspiracy of silence. I looked around the room. These were people I thought I knew well. I did know what many of them were facing, yet I knew little of the wars going on inside them.
A non-traditional Bible Study of the book of Ecclesiastes. The OT Duo team up again for this non-traditional Bible Study of the book of Ecclesiastes. About a third of each chapter is a story which illustrates the idol featured in that chapter. The stories from each chapter read well together . . . it is one long story, actually. Then, each chapter provides traditional exposition of a portion of Ecclesiastes, with a very little gospel application near the end of each chapter. This should better be titled, “Seeing the Idols of Your Heart.” Helpful questions at the end of each chapter. With my new title, this is a much better book, but it wouldn’t sell. If you (or someone you know) is struggling to see the concept of idolatry as metaphor for sin, this is a great book. A great balance between real-world application and the good grounding of biblical exegesis.
For those interested, the authors take the view that the book is a dialogue between the Teacher and a younger more godly man, who mostly agrees with the Teacher, but would like to supplement his view on life.
John Perkins is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. He’s a pastor from Mississippi who has inspired millions, I among them.
He is a dynamic speaker, but most of the places he speaks are run by people who are not so literate technologically, but here are a few good resources for lessons from this great teacher.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the wonderful gifts that God has given us out of his immeasurable supply of grace.
Thanksgiving began in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday. Of course, he was remembering, and we remember the first Thanksgiving, in the fall of 1621, more than 200 years earlier.
We remember the pilgrims who came to this land on a boat called the Mayflower. They landed the Mayflower at Plymouth Rock about this time of year, just before the winter. There were no cities, no houses, no grocery stores, no shops that sold blankets or clothes or even wood to make a house or a bed. God helped them to survive through the cold cold winter of what later became Massachusetts. They met some Indian friends who were tremendously helpful. When springtime came, their new friends helped them plant corn and cranberries and other vegetables. God helped them all along the way and when November came around again, they were so thankful to their Indian friends and especially to God that they had a special celebration. The pilgrims invited their friends and had a party that lasted for 3 days. They ate fish, chicken, turkey, corn, strawberries, grapes, beans, walnuts and a variety of other foods. This was the first Thanksgiving, 386 years ago.
On this special holiday we remember all the things we are thankful for. What were the pilgrims thankful for? Why did President Lincoln start the tradition of Thanksgiving, re-enacting this particular celebration? Well, to answer this question, we need to remember their story.
Before the pilgrims lived in America, they lived in England. Now in the early 1600s England was a very different place than it is now. This is shortly after the Reformation and religious tension was high. There was no such thing as religious freedom – the state dictated how and when and who you would worship. Our future pilgrims were caught between their conscience and the King, which meant that many of them were killed for their faith.
The pilgrims were desperate. They dreamed of a country where they could worship freely, but they needed a lot of money to sail all the way across the ocean to America. God performed a miracle to provide a boat called the Mayflower. It was a risky venture to travel on the open sea, especially for amateurs. The trip from the Old World to the New World took about 2 months. The Mayflower was not a big boat; really, it was pretty small by today’s standards, easily tossed about on the open waters. The pilgrims could not cross the Atlantic Ocean by themselves. They needed to find professional sailors to go with them. But who would dare such a dangerous mission, for little or no money? Only people who had nothing to lose in life. Riffraff who could operate a boat but couldn’t hold a job, and so they wanted to leave the Old World and find adventure.
On the trip, many of the pilgrims got seasick and disoriented and these sailors mocked and ridiculed them endlessly for sport. They prayed to God, and they knew that he was in control. In the end, none of the pilgrims died on the journey, which was a small miracle in itself.
So what were the pilgrims thankful for when they had the first thanksgiving meal in 1621? Certainly they were thankful for the good food, and their friends the Indians, and for the safe trip on the Mayflower, and for their families. But most of all, they were thankful that God saved them from a country where they could not worship him. Looking back, they had an overwhelming sense that God had carried them to the new world.
Today we are also thankful for good food we will enjoy next week. Perhaps you’re already making plans for your great feast. We’re thankful for the company of family and friends, for safe journeys of those who will travel far. But more than all of this, we are thankful that Christ saved us from a place where we could not worship him. Christ, by his life and death and resurrection, has brought us into a relationship with himself. We have been brought from death to life, from darkness to light, from oppression, to liberty, from the Old Word to the New World.
In one sense, our journey is complete, but in another sense, we are still on the way. This journey of life to the heavenly city is perilous indeed. At times we are seasick, disoriented, mocked and ridiculed. Yet, Christ is with us and we need not fear, for he is in control. And he when I say he is with us, I mean that in the end the sea will not destroy us, because, having already been destroyed by it, Christ assures us with confidence that he will give us safe passage to home and freedom.
Former slave-trader and hymn-writer John Newton was no stranger to sea travel. He said once, “The love I bear Christ is but a faint and feeble spark. But because he ignited it, and he maintains it, I trust many waters cannot overtake it.”
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. And this is love, not that we loved him, but that he loved us and sent his son to be the substitute for our sin so that those of us to believe in Christ and call on his name, should not perish, but should be adopted as sons and daughters of the living God. This is what we are thankful for today, above all.
I love to give charity, but I don’t want to be charity. This is why I have so much trouble with grace.
A few years ago I was listing prayer requests to a friend. As I listed my requests, I mentioned many of my friends and family but never spoke about my personal problems. My friend candidly asked me to reveal my own struggles, but I told him no, that my problems weren’t that bad. My friend answered quickly, in the voice of a confident teacher, “Don, you are not above the charity of God.” In that instant he revealed my motives were not noble, they were prideful. It wasn’t that I cared about my friends more than myself, it was that I believed I was above the grace of God.
…It isn’t that I want to earn my own way to to give something to God, it’s that I want to earn my own way so I won’t be charity.
Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz