homiletica et cetera

thoughts on preaching and other things

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Last week I had the privilege of offering this prayer at Scranton’s Care Net crisis pregnancy center’s banquet:

Almighty God, you have breathed into us the breath of life. You have made men and women, boys and girls, even unborn infants, in your image, and given us greater value than the fish of the sea, greater value than the birds of the air, and greater value than any other creature that walks the earth (Gen. 1:28). You have sanctified human life by your desire to see this race–and particularly a godly seed–multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. In your good creation, and your continued care over your people you have taught us to, likewise, respect and promote a culture of life. 
 In this light, we are grieved over how carelessly we have tended the lives entrusted to us. We have honored ourselves and our freedom over the lives of millions of precious ones. We have rejected your providence when it seemed inconvenient to us. For this great sin that blots our land and our race we are heartily sorry.
 We pray, Lord that our repentance would be, not only in word but also in deed. Give us courage to speak for the silent, and to oppose those who would do them violence. 
 We pray that this evening would do much good toward the awareness and support of the cause for life in our community. Please provide the means to fund the fight for life. Please encourage those who volunteer for Carenet, and raise up new volunteers. May we all experience such emboldening solidarity tonight, that we would stand together with renewed zeal, and wisdom, and skill, to promote life in our midst. And please turn the hearts of fathers and mothers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers and mothers, lest you come and strike the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:6).
 Please cause the gospel of Christ to permeate this world as far as the curse of death is found. And may we find joy, and energy, and eternal hope in the life, death, resurrection, intercession, and second coming of Christ the Lord, who–above all–is honored and glorified. Amen. 

Last week I had the privilege of offering this prayer at Scranton’s Care Net crisis pregnancy center’s banquet:

Almighty God, you have breathed into us the breath of life. You have made men and women, boys and girls, even unborn infants, in your image, and given us greater value than the fish of the sea, greater value than the birds of the air, and greater value than any other creature that walks the earth (Gen. 1:28). You have sanctified human life by your desire to see this race–and particularly a godly seed–multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. In your good creation, and your continued care over your people you have taught us to, likewise, respect and promote a culture of life.

 In this light, we are grieved over how carelessly we have tended the lives entrusted to us. We have honored ourselves and our freedom over the lives of millions of precious ones. We have rejected your providence when it seemed inconvenient to us. For this great sin that blots our land and our race we are heartily sorry.

 We pray, Lord that our repentance would be, not only in word but also in deed. Give us courage to speak for the silent, and to oppose those who would do them violence. 

 We pray that this evening would do much good toward the awareness and support of the cause for life in our community. Please provide the means to fund the fight for life. Please encourage those who volunteer for Carenet, and raise up new volunteers. May we all experience such emboldening solidarity tonight, that we would stand together with renewed zeal, and wisdom, and skill, to promote life in our midst. And please turn the hearts of fathers and mothers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers and mothers, lest you come and strike the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:6).

 Please cause the gospel of Christ to permeate this world as far as the curse of death is found. And may we find joy, and energy, and eternal hope in the life, death, resurrection, intercession, and second coming of Christ the Lord, who–above all–is honored and glorified. Amen. 

Filed under abortion pregnancy adoption pregnancy resource centers life image of god

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"John Knox" by Simonetta Carr (RHB, 2014)

I was not obligated to write a positive review in exchange for the complimentary copy provided by Reformation Heritage Books–ALTHOUGH BEFORE I READ IT I KNEW I WOULD. I’ve come to trust Simonetta Carr’s books the way you trust Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies.

 As expected, this is a great, and highly recommended book for at least three reasons.

 1. A Great Character. The life of John Knox has all the ingredients to make for some great reading: Courage, conviction, love, loss, intrigue, blunder, and triumph. Knox was right at the center of tremendous upheaval of church and state during a critical juncture in the history of Western Europe. As a major player in the Protestant Reformation, he was also passionate and active, imitable yet flawed. Of all the noteworthy traits that made John Knox, one that speaks resoundingly to our apathetic generation is his keen sense that every part of life is profoundly important. The gospel of free grace in Christ animated his spirit and left no place for lethargic indifference.


2. Great Writing. My hunch is that far less research goes into many historical biographies of greater length, and for older audiences. Good biographies are true–not only true in general–but true in the details. And Simonetta’s biographies get the stories right! At the same time, her clear and crisp writing tell the story well without becoming pedantic. John Knox, like the previous books in Christian Biographies for Young Readers is appropriate for children but not cuddly. By dealing with difficult issues with care and courage, the author prods kids to ask hard questions about difficult subjects: “Was it right for the Protestants to kill Cardinal Beaton for his treacherous leadership? If I were in Knox’ position would I have spent my free time revising a religious book instead of earning money to feed myself? Does God sanction female leadership in the civic sphere?” When is the last time children–or their parents–were prompted to ask these kinds of questions?

 3. Great Visual Appeal. Like all the books in this series, the images in John Knox are both informative, and evocative. There is a good blend of contemporary photographs and paintings, as well as period art. I take it as a compliment to artist Matt Abraxas that one of my kids thought his painting of Knox seated pensively in a rowboat crossing the English Channel looked “scary.” It should look scary. It depicts a man with a price on his head reluctantly leaving the people he loved, for an uncertain future. Some books are strong on style but weak on substance, or vice versa. This book excels in both.

 The author’s careful attention to detail and the artist’s passion-infused windows into Knox’s world are packaged in a stunning layout that gives the book a timeless feel. It is hard to imagine seeing a new illustrated juvenile biography of John Knox on the market again for a long time. It’s even harder to imagine a better one.

Filed under Christian Biographies for Young Readers young adult lit john knox Simonetta Carr scotland reformation

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The Five Points of Calvinism (6): Perseverance of the Saints

A number of years ago my wife and I woke up to our radio alarm, which was set to a local Christian station. As we began to revive from the night’s rest, the radio DJ read the station’s verse of the day, Philippians 1:6. Here Paul writes that he is “confident…that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” The DJ then offered a brief commentary that was so theologically shocking, I’ll never forget it (even though I heard it through an early morning fog a decade ago). He said, “This verse describes a little doctrine we like to call the perseverance of the saints. It basically means finish what you started.”

The DJ failed to see in this verse the powerful persevering work of God and the confidence such work evokes in his saints. Instead, he focused only on the need for human endurance. Sadly, this is often the focus of those who believe Christ died for everyone according to a conditional election to supply a resistible grace for men and women who are still capable of choosing grace. In the Arminian system, whether or not believers per-severe to the end depends on their zeal to finish well. According to the Arminians’ fifth article of remonstrance, God is ready to help, and will keep Christians from falling “if only they are ready for the conflict, and desire his help, and are not inactive…”

Of course, the relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in salvation, and in perseverance, can be a difficult issue. But the difficulties are not resolved by prioritizing the command to persevere over God’s provision of perseverance.

Read more …

Filed under falling from grace once saved gospel God's Preservation

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The following is adapted by William Boekestein from Elizabeth Prentiss’ Six Little Princesses: And What They Turned Into.

There was once a young queen named Anitta. She had almost everything you could imagine, everything except children. “You do not know what it is to have so empty a heart as mine,” she told her wise advisor, the countess Reynosa. “I will fill your heart,” replied Reynosa, “With a vengeance.” Within an hour Reynosa returned with a charming little baby, willingly given up by its dying mother. “The Princess Novella” she announced.

The Queen so loved Novella that she surprised herself one day by saying, “One princess is next to no princess at all. One more at least will be necessary to complete my happiness.” Before long, twelve little feet pattered around the palace; six princesses: Novella, Mosella, Reima, Papeta, Moina and Delicieuse.

On the night of their christening the Queen’s subjects came from far and near bearing lavish gifts, everyone except countess Reynosa. Reynosa’s gifts, wisely chosen, came later. For Novella a pen, for Mosella an old piano for Reima a box of paint, for Papeta a stack of old sheet music, for Moina a seamstress kit. For Delicieuse she gave only a kiss to compliment her grace. Each of the girls soon began to excel in the use of their gifts. Geniuses they were called.

One evening, several years later, as Moina began to work on a beautiful robe she was startled as a tiny little green fairy popped out of her thimble. “What a shame you have to work so hard with needle and thread while your sisters enjoy the best of everything,” she said. Moina had never thought like this before. She loved her talent and she loved her sisters. But envy now began to grow in her heart. In the same way ENVY, for that was that ugly fairy’s ugly name, spoke to each of the girls. So powerful was her work that the royal family would have been forever splintered if the wise Reynosa had not intervened: “Use your gift, humble though it be,” she said, “One day you will need it, and so will others.”

That day came soon enough. Though each warned by premonition not to leave, the king and queen departed without the children for a hunt. They never returned. Thinking they would live forever the king and queen had made no provision for their adopted children. The poor girls had no palace, no inheritance and no titles. But they did have each other and they did have their gifts. And with these they made a simple home “glad with perpetual sunshine.”

Filed under Elizabeth Prentiss Children's Literature Princess Fairytale

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Win a copy of “Faithfulness under Fire: The Story of Guide de Bres!” 

(The contest is for children, but parents may need to help at a few points.)

Here’s what you do:

  1. Draw your best “Wanted Poster” of Guido de Bres (See Evan Hughes’ drawing below for an idea).
  2. Have a parent “like” the Facebook page, “Faithfulness under Fire: The Story of Guido de Bres.”
  3. Have a parent upload a picture of your drawing to the page with a caption including your first name and age.
  4. I’ll choose my favorite on February 1 and message the parent of the winner to send the prizes (one for older children and one for younger)!

Have fun drawing!

Filed under Art contest church history childrens book reformation heritage books evan hughes art freee book

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Can you preach the Westminster Shorter Catechism in a year? After dividing the 107 questions into 52 “Lord’s Days” we are on the home stretch (LD 46)! Listen to the series here. The divisions I used are below. I would heartily commend the practice.
1.      Historical Intro
2.      Man’s Chief End (Q/A 1)
3.      Scripture (Q/A 2-3)
4.      God’s Being (Q/A 4)
5.      The Trinity (Q/A 5-6)
6.      God’s Decrees and Creation (Q/A 7-9)
7.      Creation of Man (Q/A 10)
8.      Providence (Q/A 11)
9.      The Covenant of Works (Q/A 12)
10.  Adam’s Fall (Q/A 13-15)
11.  Original Sin (Q/A 16-19)
12.  The Covenant of Grace (Q/A 20)
13.  The Incarnation (Q/A 21-22)
14.  Christ the Mediator (Q/A 23-26)
15.  Christ’s Humiliation (Q/A 27)
16.  Christ’s Exaltation (Q/A 28)
17.  Redemption through the Spirit (Q/A 29)
18.  The Order of Salvation (Q/A30-32)
19.  Justification (Q/A 33)
20.  Adoption (Q/A 34)
21.  Sanctification (Q/A 35)
22.  “Earthly” Salvation (Q/A 36)
23.  “Heavenly” Salvation (Q/A 37-38)
24.  God’s Moral Law (Q/A 39-40)
25.  Introduction to the Ten Commandments (Q/A 41-44)
26.  The First Commandment (Q/A 45-48)
27.  The Second Commandment (Q/A 49-52)
28.  The Third Commandment (Q/A 53-56)
29.  The Fourth Commandment (Q/A 57-62)
30.  The Fifth Commandment (Q/A 63-66)
31.  The Sixth Commandment (Q/A 67-69)
32.  The Seventh Commandment (Q/A 70-72)
33.  The Eighth Commandment (Q/A 73-75)
34.  The Ninth Commandment (Q/A 76-78)
35.  The Tenth Commandment (Q/A 79-81)
36.  The Sinfulness of Sin (Q/A 82-84)
37.  Faith (Q/A 85-86)
38.  Repentance (Q/A 87)
39.  The Means of Grace (Q/A 88)
40.  Preaching (Q/A 89-90)
41.  The Sacraments (Q/A 91-93)
42.  Baptism (Q/A 94-95)
43.   The Lord’s Supper (Q/A 96-97)
44.  Introduction to Prayer (Q/A 98-99)
45.  Praying to Our Father (Q/A 100)
46.  Praying  for God’s Holiness (Q/A 101)
47.  Praying for God’s Kingdom (Q/A 102)
48.  Praying for God’s Will (Q/A 103)
49.  Praying for Our Needs (Q/A 104)
50.  Praying for Forgiveness (Q/A 105)
51.  Praying for Holiness (Q/A 106)
52.  Amen! (Q/A 107)

 

Can you preach the Westminster Shorter Catechism in a year? After dividing the 107 questions into 52 “Lord’s Days” we are on the home stretch (LD 46)! Listen to the series here. The divisions I used are below. I would heartily commend the practice.

1.      Historical Intro

2.      Man’s Chief End (Q/A 1)

3.      Scripture (Q/A 2-3)

4.      God’s Being (Q/A 4)

5.      The Trinity (Q/A 5-6)

6.      God’s Decrees and Creation (Q/A 7-9)

7.      Creation of Man (Q/A 10)

8.      Providence (Q/A 11)

9.      The Covenant of Works (Q/A 12)

10.  Adam’s Fall (Q/A 13-15)

11.  Original Sin (Q/A 16-19)

12.  The Covenant of Grace (Q/A 20)

13.  The Incarnation (Q/A 21-22)

14.  Christ the Mediator (Q/A 23-26)

15.  Christ’s Humiliation (Q/A 27)

16.  Christ’s Exaltation (Q/A 28)

17.  Redemption through the Spirit (Q/A 29)

18.  The Order of Salvation (Q/A30-32)

19.  Justification (Q/A 33)

20.  Adoption (Q/A 34)

21.  Sanctification (Q/A 35)

22.  “Earthly” Salvation (Q/A 36)

23.  “Heavenly” Salvation (Q/A 37-38)

24.  God’s Moral Law (Q/A 39-40)

25.  Introduction to the Ten Commandments (Q/A 41-44)

26.  The First Commandment (Q/A 45-48)

27.  The Second Commandment (Q/A 49-52)

28.  The Third Commandment (Q/A 53-56)

29.  The Fourth Commandment (Q/A 57-62)

30.  The Fifth Commandment (Q/A 63-66)

31.  The Sixth Commandment (Q/A 67-69)

32.  The Seventh Commandment (Q/A 70-72)

33.  The Eighth Commandment (Q/A 73-75)

34.  The Ninth Commandment (Q/A 76-78)

35.  The Tenth Commandment (Q/A 79-81)

36.  The Sinfulness of Sin (Q/A 82-84)

37.  Faith (Q/A 85-86)

38.  Repentance (Q/A 87)

39.  The Means of Grace (Q/A 88)

40.  Preaching (Q/A 89-90)

41.  The Sacraments (Q/A 91-93)

42.  Baptism (Q/A 94-95)

43.   The Lord’s Supper (Q/A 96-97)

44.  Introduction to Prayer (Q/A 98-99)

45.  Praying to Our Father (Q/A 100)

46.  Praying  for God’s Holiness (Q/A 101)

47.  Praying for God’s Kingdom (Q/A 102)

48.  Praying for God’s Will (Q/A 103)

49.  Praying for Our Needs (Q/A 104)

50.  Praying for Forgiveness (Q/A 105)

51.  Praying for Holiness (Q/A 106)

52.  Amen! (Q/A 107)

 

Filed under Catechism preaching Westminster Standards Doctrine