This month's free stuff is sponsored by Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, and Moody Publishing. There will be one winner this month of the three books below (scroll down to enter):
I love preaching. I study it, read about it, listen to it, and even do it myself! With all of that said, I am always interested in finding out from great preachers what they believe makes great preaching.
I recently asked this question (and a few others) to my friend Josh Moody. Josh is the Senior Pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL. He is the author of many books such as The God-Centered Life: Insights from Jonathan Edwards for Today, Authentic Spirituality: Finding God Without Losing Your Mind, and his most recent book (which I happen to be giving away to a handful of people this month: Enter by clicking here) How Church Can Change Your Life.
Brad: In your own words, what is preaching?
Josh: A friend, Robin Weekes, and I wrote a book together titled Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections. The definition of preaching that we used in the book was “preaching is the God-ordained means by which he meets with his people through his Word and by his Spirit in such a way that his people’s eyes are opened to see Jesus and be captivated by him.” The goal of preaching then, as Robin described in his chapter, is to captivate people’s hearts with the beauty of Jesus.
Brad: Who influenced your preaching the most over your lifetime?
Josh: Hmm, well. Jesus? Am I allowed to say that? Other than my Lord and Master…my father is a good preacher. I've learnt a lot from him. We were taken to hear Dick Lucas preach in the City of London as teenagers. Unforgettable experience. John Stott. I never heard Lloyd-Jones preach live, but his book on preaching has influenced me. John Piper’s The Supremacy of God in Preaching.
Brad: What is great preaching?
Josh: I think expository preaching is saying what the Bible says. I don’t much like the term ‘great preaching’ because I find it dangerous. I fear the slippery slope to pride or hubris – ‘that was a great sermon,’ and how easy it is to get puffed up, and how quickly can come the fall. I'd rather be faithful. I used to sneer at that: ‘that was a faithful sermon.’ Now I'm not sure there’s anything better.
But I know what you mean. I suspect the best preaching is the one where there is a clear Word from God from His Word direct to you. What you do with it depends on your own heart.
Brad: What encouragement do you have for those who are currently preaching?
Josh: When I was first a Senior Pastor there were so few people in the church that I almost didn’t bother to get into the pulpit. Seemed like there was not much point. A deacon at the church told me that it would encourage the people if I did get into the pulpit and preach. So I did. And I preached like there were a thousand people in the room, even though there were only enough for a couple of Bible studies. I think ultimately you have to preach for the audience of one. That’s so hackneyed I hesitate to say it, but what else is there to say? You preach to the people (not at the people) and you preach for God (not for anyone else, least of all you). I suspect there will be some surprises in heaven as to who preached ‘the best sermon.’
All that, plus if you are married, lean on your wife if you can.
Brad: What encouragement do you have for those who faithfully listen to the preaching of their pastor(s)?
Josh: Ah, here I think I have something to say. I love listening to preaching. My attitude is that as I go to church, I bring up all the things I want to hear from God on, leave them with him, and ask if He'd address what’s most important, or something else if that’s his will. I go, in other words, not to learn more information (though that’s always good, I suppose) but to hear from Him. If I do, I'm as happy as pie.
I’ve seen marriages that reflect Christ and the Church: husbands lovingly leading their homes and wives lovingly submitting to their husbands. How good (and hope-filled!) it is to see real life examples, especially at a time when marriages are being attacked from pornography, homosexuality, and cohabitation. I’ve also seen broken marriages and emotionally abusive relationships, which has taught me a lot about faith.
The women I’ve met believed in submitting to their husbands and tried to do so. At some point, however, they began to change negatively without knowing it. They isolated themselves. They questioned themselves. They started to make excuses for their husbands’ sins.
What do you do when your husband emotionally abuses you? Some might say that you should continue to submit to his leadership, pray for him, and trust God. Is it acceptable to seek help and possibly even separate, if necessary? When I think of marriage, “protection” is one of the concepts that comes to mind. Perhaps that’s why emotional abuse, or any kind of abuse for that matter, in marriage saddens me in a different way.
My desire is that God might use this blog post to encourage those who are weary, to challenge those who are not trusting God or seeking counsel, and to provide some help to those who are not sure how to help women in emotionally abusive relationships. I’ve also met men who have been abused by their wives, so I certainly do not believe that only women are abused.
The Bible doesn’t use the label “emotional abuse,” but it does prohibit it. First, we are not to curse people who have been created in the image of God (James 3:9). Second, emotional abuse violates the two greatest commandments: love God and love others as yourself (Matthew 22:35-40). Third, emotional abuse violates God’s design for marriage where the husband lovingly leads and the wife lovingly submits (Ephesians 5:21-33). Fourth, it violates Christian living by denying yourself (Mark 8:34) and speaking wholesome words (Ephesians 4:29). Fifth, it displays pride and a lack of fear of God, which leads to destruction (Proverbs 16:18). A husband who commits emotional abuse deceives himself to be a king who deserves glory, honor, and praise. Sixth, emotional abuse is betrayal to God and people by trying to be like God and deceiving others.
The Nature of Emotional Abuse
A common term found in the definition of emotional abuse is control. Emotional abuse occurs when someone tries to control you through actions or words. They might not physically hurt you, but they know how to instill fear through intimidation and manipulation. If emotions are produced by your evaluations or perceptions, then emotional abuse involves hurting how you view yourself and others. Over time, you negatively view yourself. You might question yourself, blame yourself, or not see the severity of the situation. You become a weary person, trying to please your husband’s unreasonable demands but rarely is he pleased.
Emotional abuse is more deceitful than physical abuse. The women I’ve met endured emotional abuse for years and no one knew about it. They didn’t even know until they finally talked to someone. (Of course, the same could happen with physical abuse.) Emotional abuse is unacceptable and sinful. It is slowly killing a person. It is also not the same as occasional arguments in marriage; it occurs frequently.
Common Themes in Emotional Abuse Anger.
Emotionally abusive anger is a sin (Colossians 3:8). In this case, it reveals a desire for control. For example, a husband sends texts or calls throughout the day from work and gets angry if the wife responds too slowly. Or, he gets angry if she disagrees with him.
This sin is revealed in different ways:
Blame Shifting/Denial. “If you did what I told you to do, then I wouldn’t have been angry.” “When did I say that to you?”
Isolation. The wife spends less time with family and friends because her husband does not want to see them or another argument happened.
Minimizing the problem. The husband says that the wife is exaggerating. Sometimes, the wife minimizes the problem. Another instance is when the person trying to help is deceived or doesn’t know how to help. “Every marriage has problems.” “Both the husband and wife have issues.”
In-laws. Leaving and cleaving never happened in the marriage. The in-laws are the leaders in the marriage, not the husband. The in-laws believe that their son is perfect or they see their son’s faults but place the blame on his wife.
What to Do For the WifeIt is not uncommon for emotional abuse to lead to physical abuse, so seek counseling as soon as possible. We might think that emotional abuse would not happen in Christian marriages. I’ve seen cases where the husband was a church leader.
Don’t keep it private. You think that your spouse will change or won’t get angry again if you’re more obedient. Be careful of such thinking. In a way, it deceives you to think that you’re in control of the situation.
Find someone who will believe you. Sometimes, church leaders are deceived or don’t want to get involved in messy problems. Don’t give up until you find a godly person who knows how to help.
Biblical submission. This is not obedience at all costs. Yes, wives are to submit to their husbands, but not to sin or sinful treatment.
Prayer. Pray for the spouse’s repentance. If the spouse is not saved, pray for his salvation. Pray that God would protect your heart from anger and bitterness.
Trust God. It is so hurtful when family or friends don’t believe you or desert you, but God knows the truth. You can rest in His care and know that vengeance belongs to Him.
Remember God’s character.
He is faithful. He is all-knowing. He will never desert you.
If someone shares about any kind of abuse with you, know that a lot of courage and trust were involved. Be careful of shattering it! Most likely, this person is vulnerable and fearful. As I often tell people, good intentions are not enough. I’ve seen friends get involved by meeting with the husband and then they are left more confused.
Watch out for complaining and gossip. Use wisdom in determining how much the person should share with you. In the end, our effort to minister shouldn’t have enabled a venting session, but a return to God’s perspective session, which gives hope and honors God.
One woman said to me: “If God allowed this pain to happen so that my husband might know Christ, then it was worth it.” She also recognized that God used the trial to draw her closer to Him. At that moment, this person who never completed college taught me about faith in a way that I didn’t learn from books and lectures. It’s easier to submit to a loving leader in the home, but to love a husband who constantly questions you, belittles you, and lies to you is a powerful display of faith in God.
This post was written by Lilly Park of Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis, IN
In the first post of this series, I talked about how everyone today throws around the world revival. Pastors and speakers preach on it, churches talk about it, and Christians pray for it. But do we really know what revival is? Lets start by looking at what revival is not.
Revival is not the following:
1. A planned meeting.
While there is good in revival meetings, we must never be deceived into thinking that we can produce revival as if it is something that we push this button and that button and then 'woolah!' you have revival.
2. An evangelistic campaign.
Revival is not a campaign. We do not aim to get a group of Christians together, go preach on soapboxes for 8 hours, and the come back and label that revival.
3. An emotional frenzy.
Sadly, when many think of revival today they think of emotional mayhem. People falling down on their knees, weeping, and jumping around. While some of these things may be associated with what happens when revival occurs, they in and of themselves do not define revival whatsoever.
4. Something to be afraid of.
I think many Christians, if they're honest, are truly scared of revival. They are scared at what could happen if they experienced revival partly because they have no idea what it is.
There are so many views on what revival is in the evangelical world today. Therefore we must look to the Scripture to determine what exactly revival is if we are in hopes of experiencing it in our churches, homes, and lives. Be sure to check out the next post in this series I Need Revival to learn about what God's Word teaches about revival.
You've probably heard the expression before, 'Don't put God in a box.' Typically this phrase is used when addressing someone who is trying to give God an absolute description. Meaning that someone is trying to say essentially, "God is this, that, and this." The reality is we cannot grasp God. Many of us will spend the rest of our lives learning about who God is without ever grasping who He is and what He can do totally.
You may be thinking, 'I never do that'. And you may be right. However, that isn't the only way to put God in a box. In fact, there is one way that many Christians today are putting God in a box without even realizing it. I'm guilty of it and you're probably guilty of it to.
So, want to know the fastest way to put God in a box?
Refuse to pray and believe that God can do the impossible.
Its that simple. Refuse to pray and believe that God is able to do a miracle.
Sadly, there are many Christians who are in a situation that seems impossible without a miracle so they slip into a life of despair. Why? Because they put God in a box. They refuse to believe that God can (and will, if prayed according to His will and purpose) perform a miracle today in their circumstance faster than they can read this post. Friends, our God is able to do "Immeasurably more than we can ask or think" (Eph. 3:20-21). However, when we refuse to pray for miracles and refuse to have the faith that they can actually happen, they don't (see James 4:3).
Have you been putting God in a box recently? I challenge you to right now, pray for God to do the impossible in whatever circumstance you find yourself in and believe that He can not only do it, but can do so much more.
I have been heartbroken over the confessions of sin from Josh Duggar over the course of the past year. First with his confession of child molestation as a young man and now with his confession of adultery and pornography use. It is at a time like this that we should pray for the Josh Duggar family and walk with him on the road of repentance. However this is also a time where we should "Take heed lest we fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). I recently ran across an article my friend Tim Challies wrote on his blog and wanted to share it with you.
You can find the original post on his site.
You have heard by now that the site AshleyMadison.com was hacked and that millions of users had their information made public. Ashley Madison is a company that exists to facilitate (and even guarantee) adulterous relationships, and now those people who wanted to be quietly unfaithful to their spouses have been suddenly outed. As I read the headlines and heard of some of those caught up in the scandal (including, sadly, Josh Duggar), I thought back to one of the first times in Internet history that we had to grapple with the power of the data we leave behind us every time we use the Web. For that we will need to go back to 2006.
Who you are when you are alone and online, that is who you really are—no more, and no less.
In 2006, America Online made an epic misjudgment which taught us a valuable lesson: Who you are when you are alone and online, that is who you really are—no more, and no less. As part of a research project headed Dr. Abdur Chowdhury, AOL made available to the public a massive amount of data culled from their search engine — the search history of 650,000 users over a three-month period. This totaled some 21 million searches. Before releasing the data, they anonymized it, stripping away user names and replacing names with numbers, so that a user with a name like timc2000 simply became User #75636534. Yet because of the often-personal nature of the data, it did not take long before many of those abstract numbers were linked to real names, an obvious and serious violation of privacy and confidentiality. Within days, AOLrealized its mistake and withdrew the data, but already it had been copied and uploaded elsewhere on the Internet, where today it lives on in infamy.
Some of the search histories were dark and disturbing, others unremarkable in every way. Still others were strangely amusing. It was often possible to reconstruct a person’s life, at least in part, from what they searched for over a period of time. Consider this user:
This glut of user data raised a nearly endless number of questions and concerns. Primarily, it brought awareness to the fact that search engines know you better than you may like. Actually, they probably know you better than you know yourself in some ways. You tend to forget what you have searched for in the past; they don’t. We may like to think that our searches are just quick queries, harmless and pointless inquiries known only to us.
Here is an AOL user whose searches tell a sad story (for sake of space, I have stripped out a large number of searches):
What is so amazing about these searches is the way people transition seamlessly from the normal and mundane to the outrageous and perverse.
What is so amazing about these searches is the way people transition seamlessly from the normal and mundane to the outrageous and perverse. They are, thus, an apt reflection of real life. The user who is in one moment searching for information about a computer game may in the next be looking for the most violent pornography he can imagine. Back and forth it goes, from information about becoming a foster parent to the search for incestual pornography. One user went from searching for preteen pornography to searching for games appropriate for a youth group. Others, spurned lovers, sought out ways of exacting revenge while still others grappled with the moral implications of cheating on their spouses. These searches are a glimpse into the hearts of the people who made them.
And now millions of Ashley Madison users have been outed in much the same way, except this time their actual names and personal information are sitting right there alongside their data. They have been exposed as people who went looking for adultery. And the whole world is sitting by, looking on with an amused eye. Spouses are searching through the data wondering if even their husband, their wife, may have been involved. Gossip blogs are combing the data looking for headlines.
One of the great deceptions of the Internet is that it allows us to think there are two parts to us, the part who exists in real time and space, and the part who exists in cyberspace. But events like this ought to make us realize that when you go online you display and expose who and what you really are. And who you really are will eventually find you out. God will not be mocked.
You've heard it talked about before. Your Pastor has possibly preached about it. You've maybe even prayed for it before.
The mention of the word brings about thoughts of all sorts. Hyper-emotionalism, radical generosity, and hours spent in prayer sum up what most people think about when the word revival comes up. But is this what revival is all about? When we pray for revival do we even know what we are praying for? Have/can we have revival?
I invite you to join me over the course of the next couple of weeks as I aim to answer these questions and more on the topic of revival. As we answer these questions and learn more about what revival truly is, I am asking God to not only give me a hunger for revival, but to have it myself. Therefore, I want to challenge you to join me in praying for revival everyday over the course of the next month. Let's link arms in prayer and ask God the question, "Will you not revive us again that Your people may rejoice in You?" (Psalm 85:6).
Fill out your name below and let me know that you are committed to praying for revival in your life and in the lives of those around you. Together, lets ask God to do what only He can do as we learn more about what revival is, how it happens, and what we can do to have it.
I recently came across an article written by Author and Speaker Gary Thomas entitled Your Greatest Need In Marriage Isn't What You Think It Is. The article was so good I wanted to share it with you. You can find the original post here.
One hundred and eighty degrees is how hot I like my chai tea lattes, and it’s also the difference between what I initially thought my greatest need in life is compared to what God thinks it is.
Most of us, I believe, are eager to get married because we think our greatest need is to be loved. We want to find someone who will always have our backs, who will be 100% faithful, who will be there whenever we need them to be, who will never falter in their love, who will forgive us when we falter in ours’, and who will stay with us until the very end.
Pause just for a minute.
Who does that sound like, really?
Is it possible for a human to do that?
But that’s what we want, isn’t it? Infatuation can make us feel like we might even have found it. We think we will be happiest when we find another person who will love us just like that.
From God’s perspective our greatest need isn’t to be loved not because we don’t need to be loved, but in the same way that a person who has just feasted at Thanksgiving doesn’t need to eat. God has loved, is loving, and will love us like we can never be loved by anyone else. We may not experience that love in a personal way if we are not making our relationship with God a priority, but it is there for the taking. God isn’t hiding from us.
Which means my greatest need and your greatest need, isn’t to be loved (because that need has already been met). Our greatest need is to learn how to love.
That’s the key behind Ephesians 5:1. Paul writes to us as “dearly loved children,” confirming that our need to be loved has been met, and now we are to imitate God by “living a life of love” (what a tremendous phrase) just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. God has done (and is doing) His part—He has loved us and keeps loving us. And, as dearly loved children, we can now focus on the all-important task of “living a life of love.”
In Colossians 3:14, Paul writes, “Above all clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul couldn’t be more emphatic: “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (vv. 2-3)
Love, love, love.
That’s what we need.
That’s where God wants us to grow.
Few things will be as revolutionary in your marriage as this, accepting that your greatest need isn’t to be loved, it’s to learn how to love—not love Hollywood style, but love the way Jesus loved, the way the apostle Paul defines and exalts love. No one who has studied the biblical exaltation of love, the sacrificial definition of love, and the imperative to keep loving can cavalierly say, “I’ve got love down pat. I’m ready for the next lesson.”
When you think your greatest need is to be loved but you’re not being loved by your spouse like you think you should be you will become bitter, resentful, and discontent. Pause for just a second here. Does this describe your attitude in marriage: bitterness, resentment, and discontentment? If so, in all likelihood you think your greatest need is to be loved by your spouse.
You can keep depending on a spouse who isn’t capable of loving you like you want to be loved, or turn your focus to a God who has already loved you, continues to love you, and will always love you as you want to be loved.
When you honestly believe that your greatest need is thus to learn how to love, when you aspire to live a life of love above all else every day of marriage provides ample opportunities for you to grow in that need, which means you will appreciate your marriage more and more. How much you accept this—your greatest need—will determine in large part your overall satisfaction in marriage. Show me a person who thinks their greatest need is to be loved, and I’ll show you a person who often wonders if they married the wrong person. Show me a person who truly aspires to live a life of love, and I guarantee they are more contented in their marriage than the average spouse.
The Bible calls us to love extravagantly, enthusiastically, and generously in literally dozens of passages. Does “living a life of love” define you? If not, being married to a sinner is a good place to be. Trying to raise sinful kids and working around sinful people is your spiritual gymnasium. Love isn’t learned by watching movies or reading novels; it’s learned by sweating out the principles of 1 Corinthians 13, just when they hurt the most.
I don’t love well. Few of us do. It’s not natural to us. It’s a fruit of the Spirit, and it takes time to yield to the Spirit and to die to our narcissism and selfishness. But marriage can help us get there, provided we look at our marriages as schools of love, and provided we value the opportunity to grow in love. We won’t value the opportunity if we don’t see it as a need.
How is your marriage teaching you to live a life of love?
Have you ever felt that God may be calling you into the ministry? If you have, you know it can be frustrating trying to figure out if your 'call' is legitimate or not. I recently read a book entitled Am I Called? by a man named Dave Harvey who helps those who feel called discern if that call is legitimate or not. Dave Harvey is the Pastor of Preaching at Four Oaks Community Church in Tallahassee, and serves as the Executive Director of Sojourn Network. Dave is also the founder of AmICalled.com, a leadership resource site helping pastors, leaders and men who sense a call to ministry and has 29 years of pastoral experience, with 19 years as a lead pastor. Dave chairs the board for the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) and has traveled nationally and internationally doing conferences where he teaches Christians, equips pastors and trains church planters. He is the author of When Sinners Say I Do, Am I Called, and Rescuing Ambition, and is about to publish another book with Zondervan.
I recently was able to ask Dave a couple of questions about his recently revised book, Am I Called?
Brad: Writing a book is hard enough as it is. What prompted you to want to change the contents of a book you had already written?
Dave: Several things really. First, my life circumstances have changed significantly since I wrote the book. When I wrote it, I was part of a movement of churches called Sovereign Grace Churches, as well as an elder on staff at Covenant Fellowship Church. Since then, I have become the Pastor of Preaching at Four Oaks Church, in Tallahassee, Florida, and the Executive Director of the Sojourn Network. My point is that many of the illustrations and references I made in the book were related to my positions within Sovereign Grace and within Covenant Fellowship. Having launched AmICalled.com and assumed new ministry roles, I really needed an updated edition of the book that would reflect my current life circumstances. This is not an attempt to distance myself from a past that I treasure. In fact, the dedication of the book to the pastors of Covenant Fellowship Church remains the same. But that’s not the only reason. I've also focused and clarified my thoughts on some key topics since I wrote the initial version, and I wanted to communicate that in the revised version of the book.
Brad: What sort of clarifications are we talking about?
Dave: I really wanted to focus on the times I used the word “qualification” in conjunction with Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. Specifically, I wanted to change the word “qualification” to the word “requirement”.
Brad: Why did you feel like a seemingly small change like that was necessary?
Dave: My experience in Sovereign Grace and in Covenant Fellowship church helped me to see areas of imbalance in the way these verses were understood and applied. I wanted to make sure that the book reflected what I’ve learned through some of the mistakes we made in evaluating men in ministry. Here are some of my takeaways that found their way into the revision. It’s essential to realize that the primary intent of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 is to identify potential elders, not for evaluating existing elders or creating a catalog of disqualifying sins. This does not imply they have no relevance, but simply acknowledges the original intent of the text. Since the first use of these passages is to evaluate men not yet in ministry, employing the term “qualifications” opens the door to misapplication for men already in ministry and implies that an ordained pastor with a weakness in any area listed may be subject to disqualification. For understanding the discipline and disqualification of elders, a more important passage and practice is found in 1 Timothy 5:19-21, which exists to both protect elders from frivolous charges while also ensuring a congregation has recourse against elders engaged in misconduct. So, it is better, not to mention closer to the original intent of 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1, to use the word “requirements” rather than “qualifications”.
Brad: What is your hope for this updated version of the book?
Dave: I truly believe that this book is the most important thing I've written. First and foremost, I hope it brings clarity to men who are exploring the call to church plant, pastor or elder. I hope to hear even more stories of Am I Called? being used by God to bring men into ministry. I also hope that my clarifications and changes serve men in ministry, as well as men being evaluated for ministry.
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I am a Husband to Clarissa, Pastor at Liberty Baptist Church, reader of many books, and tweeter at @brad_merchant.