Category Archives: To Preach

In the list below, you will find sermons recorded at the Beacon Communities, the church I now serve, as well as sermons by other men that I thought were worth sharing.

Cattle Point, Victoria

“Keruxai” = “to preach”

A word about this blog’s categories

What does “keruxai” mean anyway? “Keruxai” is the Greek word meaning literally, “to preach” (an infinitive). The original and main focus of most of my earlier posts on Keruxai.com were to help pastors to do just that–”to preach” and preach well. Over time, as I began posting on other topics, additional categories were added to contain the posts and make it easier for visitors to navigate the content of the blog. Site categories now include “to preach” (described above), “to pore” (meaning, “to study”; related to the study of the text of the Bible), “to ponder” (meaning “to think”; related to theological issues and questions), “to persevere” (meaning “to endure”; related to the need for faithful endurance in the Christian life and in pastoral ministry), and “to pastor” (meaning, “to shepherd”; related to practical matters of leading, serving and caring for a congregation).

 

Preaching Under a Burden

There are times when a preacher is called up on to preach the truth of the Gospel while also desperately needing to hear that Good News himself. Brian Croft guest-posted the blog article (below) on the 9 Marks Blog today, sharing about a particularly difficult funeral he recently had to do. In the article, he shared about how he felt a uniquely heavy burden for that funeral, due to a number of factors (read the article to find out more). His story brought to mind the most difficult funeral I have had to preach–for a good friend, a former drug-dealer and addict, whom I had the distinct honour of discipling, marrying, and then, tragically, burying.

What made that a difficult funeral for me was not merely that I loved my friend dearly, but that he was so young in his faith in Christ and so much that had been wrong in his life was in the process of being healed. He was only just married the previous year. His step-son really needed the father influence my friend was providing. His new wife was also making new, great strides in her faith. A vast amount of pain and dysfunction was experiencing touches and beginnings of fresh healing and redemption as Jesus exerted His transforming power in their lives. And then all that seemed to be cut short–too short, too suddenly in a car accident.

I wrestled also with this because his funeral meant I had to return to the church and town I had only just left a few months earlier, under great conflict. I felt deeply inadequate, and intimidated stepping into that situation again. So with all this in my mind and weighing down my heart, I preached a Gospel message at my friend’s funeral. The Word of God had the effect that day of not only penetrating the hearts of some of my hearers with the news of hope in Jesus Christ, but also of comforting and restoring my own soul with the same Good News. If you can relate to the call to preach in turbulent waters, read Brian’s post below and take heart:

“So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (Acts 27:25 ESV).

I have easily done over 100 funerals in the last 10 years, but none quite as burdening and difficult as the funeral I preached on Tuesday.  It was the funeral of a dear friend and faithful deacon in our congregation that had been killed in the head on collision on the 2nd St. Bridge last Friday.  The funeral was in this man’s hometown about 3 hours from home.

As the funeral approached, nothing I tried lifted the burden.  No matter how much I prayed or meditated on Scripture, the weight remained and it was to an intensity I cannot recall ever feeling.  As I reflected afterwards, here are the factors that seemed to create this “perfect storm” of struggle that peaked at an unbearable level just a few minutes before the funeral began…

[Read the rest of this post at the 9 Marks Blog]

Preaching and Prayer

Mike McKinley just posted this fine quote (below) regarding the importance of prayer in faithful preaching. Obviously the pastor who prays is not a wimp!

To preach the word, therefore, and not to follow it with constant and fervent prayer for its success, is to disbelieve its use, neglect its end, and to cast away the seed of the gospel at random.
                                                 — John Owen, Works, Vol 16, page 78
 
[Source:
http://feeds.9marks.org/~r/9marks/blog/~3/ix57PVj97Ow/preaching-and-prayer ]

Preach Like Calvin

In April of 2010 I was scheduled to attend the ReFocus Canada conference at Willingdon Church in Burnaby, BC, but then, when my relationship with the church board (at that time) began to deteriorate, I had to cancel. Afterward, a friend shared with me one of the more memorable events at the conference. I’m not sure I have the details correct, but as I recall the story, Pastor John Neufeld was quoted as saying, “Pray like a Calvinist, but preach like an Arminian.” To which, if I’m not mistaken, Dr. Bruce Ware (of Southern Baptist Seminary) replied with a gentle rebuke that one should never preach like an Arminian.

My friend and I had a good conversation about the exchange between those two respected men. He wanted to understand what exactly was being said by both. I know John Neufeld well enough to know what he likely intended to communicate by saying, “Preach like an Arminian”; I have read enough of Dr. Ware’s writings to know pretty much where he stands on Calvinism / Arminianism. Here’s what I think in a nutshell:

Both men would likely agree that one should pray like a Calvinist. This is to have a high confidence in the sovereign power of God–that He is not only able to do whatever He decides to do in answer to our prayers, but that He is unswervingly committed to His own glory and as Romans 8 assures us, has decreed that “all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose”. When “our good” is to see God glorified, since that is also God’s ultimate purpose, we can be certain of success. A true Calvinist believes this wholeheartedly because he knows that God created the world, decreed human history exactly as it has unfolded (even before Adam’s “fall”), and from eternity planned out the perfect redemption of all things through His Son, Jesus Christ, for the glory of the Triune God. So to pray like a Calvinist not only calls for confidence in God’s plan, purpose and power, but also for humility to conform our own thinking, hopes and desires to love God’s glory more than anything else. When we pray then for the salvation of a loved-one, or for anyone at all, we really praying for at least two things: 1) that God would save that person in spite of himself or herself, since everything about salvation depends on God and not on our loved-one; 2) that the salvation of our loved-one is part of God’s greater plan to glorify His name.

What about preaching like an Arminian? I think what John meant to say is not that one should abandon the truth of the above concerning a Calvinistic confidence in God’s plan, power and purpose, but that good preaching should call for a heart response in the hearer. This seems at first like an Arminian thing to do because one might (wrongly) assume that a Calvinist would take a sort of fatalistic approach to the salvation of individuals: “If God has chosen whom to save, and if He is sovereign, there’s nothing any of us can do about that except wait and see.” If this were an example of Calvinistic thinking, it would be inconsistent for such a preacher to invite a response to the preaching of the Gospel. Because in that case a human response would be futile since (again, in that case,) it would be entirely up to God to save people: why ask for unsaved people to respond to the Gospel if the responsibility is all up to God anyway?

Two of the five points of classical Arminianism include “Free will & human ability” and “Conditional election”. A classical Arminian therefore believes that unsaved people have the ability to choose to love God and believe the Gospel and that God’s election of whom to save is based upon His looking into the future and observing who will choose to love and believe. A classical Calvinist, on the other hand, believes that since the Fall there is no ability on the part of the unsaved person to love God or to believe the Gospel (in the sense of relying on Jesus, not merely agreeing to the facts), and that God’s election is based solely on His sovereign will and plan. (The two corresponding points of Calvinism are “Total depravity” and “Unconditional election”.)

Now both Bruce Ware and John Neufeld are Calvinists. Both, I think, would agree that every aspect of salvation depends ultimately on God alone. But both would also want every calvinistic preacher of the Gospel to call for a response of faith–of trust in Jesus, His righteousness, sacrifice and resurrection–in every hearer who longs to be saved. That’s probably, in my humble opinion, all that Pastor Neufeld was trying to say. And this is in no way inconsistent with being a Calvinist. Though this seems to me to be often ignored about Calvin’s teaching, true Calvinism holds that though salvation ultimately, in every part of the process, depends on God alone, the effect of God’s saving work in individuals is new-found love for Jesus as He is revealed in the Gospel, and trust in His work on the cross for forgiveness of sins. And true Calvinists also believe that the Gospel, proclaimed in good preaching, has the power, through the Holy Spirit, to make hearers fall in love with Jesus and trust Him. It’s like Jesus calling Lazarus to come out of his tomb. No one would give Lazarus any credit for obediently meeting Jesus halfway. The dead can’t hear, much less obey. But there is power in the Word of Christ to impart life, turn hearts, and raise the dead.

This topic has been on my mind since, when in Quebec last week, I read a blog post at the Gospel Coalition site, entitled “How to Call for a Gospel Response Like a Calvinist” by Eric McKiddie. Eric does a good job of showing that it is biblical for a Calvinist to preach this way. But as I read his fine article I could almost hear my Arminian friends arguing that though it might be biblical it is certainly not what most people mean by “Calvinism“. And though it’s true that many would not likely associate winsome, Gospel-invitation with Calvinism, it is also true that this is because those same people misunderstand classical Calvinism. John Calvin himself should be allowed to settle what true Calvinism is.

Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion wrote:

The true knowledge of Christ consists in receving him as he is offered by the Father, namely, as invested with his Gospel. For, as he is appointed as the end of our faith, so we cannot directly tend toward him except under the guidance of the Gospel. Therein are certainly unfolded to us treasures of grace…
There is an inseparable relation between faith and the word, and that these can no more be disconnected from each other than rays of light from the sun. Hence in Isaiah the Lord explains, “Hear, and your soul shall live” (Isa 55:3). And John points to this same fountain of faith in the following words, “These are written that ye might believe” (john 20:31)…
…The word itself, whatever be the way in which it is conveyed to us, is a kind of mirror in which faith beholds God. In this, therefore, whether God uses the agency of man (e.g., a preacher), or works immediately by his own power, it is always by his word that he manifests himself to those whom he designs to draw to himself. Hence Paul designates faith as the obedience which is given to the Gospel (Rom 1:5)… (Institutes 3.2.6)

To those who are set as watchmen in the Church the Lord declares, “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand” (Ezek. 3:18). What Paul says of himself is applicable to all pastors: “For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel” (1 Cor. 4:16). In short, what the apostles did to the whole world, every pastor should do to the flock over which he is appointed. (Institutes 4.3.6)

…The grace of Jesus Christ… [is that] which the Lord is pleased to dispense by the word of the Gospel… That Christ is offered to us in the Gospel with all the abundance of heavenly blessings, with all his merits, all his righteousness, wisdom, and grace, without exception, Paul bears witness when he says, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” (2 Cor. 5:20, 21). (Institutes 3.5.5)

In the last two paragraphs quoted above, Calvin is clear in his understanding that a) preachers must preach the Gospel as a “warning…to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life” and b) they must do so as ambassadors called to “beseech” and beg unbelievers “be ye reconciled to God”. So you could say, according to what many people seem to mean when they talk about “Calvinism”, that John Calvin himself believed pastors should preach like Arminians: calling for repentance, calling for people to choose to be reconciled to God and believe the Gospel. But of course that is absurd. I think the misunderstanding rises from the fact that there are a lot of people who get hung up on the Calvin / Arminius debate who really don’t know what true Calvinism is–as defined by what Calvin himself actually taught. If Calvinists are to preach like Calvin, we must preach the Gospel aiming for a response of love for God, trust in Jesus, and faith in His promise to save.

Odds and Ends

I had a good long sleep on Sunday night. After 10 days co-hosting a youth street missions team called Street Invaders (from the Apostolic Church of Pentecost denomination), and after preaching all three services at Gateway on Sunday, I could barely hold two thoughts together in my head. I honestly cannot remember the last time I was so tired. But it was a good tired. Over the 10 days I was with the Street Invaders team, I was involved to one degree or another in…

  • hanging out with some youth at the Tsawout First Nations Reserve near Sydney for an Island youth rally;
  • cleaning up the little Reserve church the next morning;
  • praying as a team for the city of Victoria from on top of Mt. Tolmie one day and Mt. Douglas another;
  • prayer walking and support while the girls on the team gave carnations to prostitutes on the street and offered prayer;
  • helping out at the Mustard Seed street church and food bank, providing meals for needy and homeless folks;
  • offering “Free Prayer” to tourists and other pedestrians in the downtown inner harbour.

It was a satisfying and enriching week and a half, spent with 9 remarkable young people from age 14-25. I was honoured to be able to join with them in their ministry.

Preaching all three services on Sunday on Acts 20, “Love in the Balance” taught me a couple things: preaching multiple services is incredibly exhausting; I seem to be more effective preaching for some congregations than for others. In one service, I could almost palpably feel the annointing of the Spirit as I preached. In another service I felt no annointing at all and finished that extremely discouraged. I’m not sure what makes the difference, but it reminds me that the proclamation of the Word of God absolutely depends on the sovereign will of the Holy Spirit for effectiveness. He cannot be commanded nor does He perform on command.

John Stott to Pastors: We Cannot Hide What We Are – Desiring God

I love the simple truth of this Desiring God blog quoting from John Stott:

The late John Stott writes,

The sincerity of a preacher has two aspects: he means what he says when in the pulpit and he practises what he preaches when out of it. In fact, these things belong inevitably together since, as Richard Baxter put it, “he that means as he speaks will surely do as he speaks.” . . .

Read the rest of the quote at the original blog:

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/john-stott-to-pastors-we-cannot-hide-what-we-are?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DGBlog+%28DG+Blog%29

"God, make them not throw tomatoes this time, for your glory…"

Okay, maybe that’s not what preachers should pray as we step into the pulpit, but most of us do pray something as we walk to the front of the room. I read this blog this morning and was reminded in a new way how important prayer is not just for the sermon delivery, but for the whole work of preparation.

I know you pray for your sermon at least once a week. As you’re walking toward the front on Sunday morning, prayers are flying thick and fast: Help! You know people need to hear something more than an inspiring thought or tip. They need to hear from God. And if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen through you. So you pray!

Read more…