Epistles of Thomas

May 17, 2011

Quote of the Day

Filed under: Pastoral,Preaching — Thomas @ 1:37

Today’s reading in DA Carson’s For the Love of God vol. 2 caught my attention because I have seen many entertaining the goats recently, not realising that the sheep are hungry. It can be discouraging to see others acclaimed by the goats but we are called to provide solid food.

(d) We must use whatever gifts we have received to serve others (4:10–11). Peter gives some examples, but his list is not exhaustive. If one is called to speak in the church (for example), it is not a time for showing off or for amusing the goats, but for feeding the sheep, and that means speaking “as one speaking the very words of God” (4:11).

D. A. Carson, For the Love of God : A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word. Volume 2 (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998), May 17.

January 9, 2010

Vancouver Missions Fest 2010

Filed under: Preaching — Thomas @ 0:58
Tags: , ,

I attended the first session of Missions Fest 2010 tonight at Broadway Church. Will Graham was the plenary speaker and he brought a message on “Lessons I Learned from My Grandfather.” His text was 1 Timothy 4:12 and he explained that the five things Paul advises in that verse: “set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” are the things that Billy Graham committed to in Modesto, California back in 1949. His message was quite simple and focused on Billy’s life and how he lived out these points and we should too.

It was interesting that Will said that during his lengthy ministry Billy Graham personally converted about 3.5 million people in his crusades. In the last seven years the dubbing of his sermon videos into dozens of languages has resulted in the conversion of ten million people!! The power of technology has greatly increased his ministry even as he is no longer able to personally host crusades. I wonder what the stats would say about Nicky Gumbel and the Alpha video series.

May 29, 2009

Yes, Lord, I Have Sinned, But I Have Several Excellent Excuses review

Filed under: Preaching,Review — Thomas @ 15:14

sinned I previously related an illustration from this book but today I finished reading all the sermons and need to post a criticism.

James W. Moore, Yes, Lord, I Have Sinned, But I Have Several Excellent Excuses. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991. 068746661X.

Moore is a good user of illustrations but he fails to use the biblical texts as the linch pin of his sermons. This is well illustrated in his sermon on Mark 5:1-20 which is the story of the demoniac possessed by “legion” which subsequently drowned  a herd of pigs. Moore dismisses Mark’s account of the events because he evidently does not believe in demon possession. This is how he describes the demoniac: “He is so unbalanced that he believes he is held captive by a whole legion of demons. He causes such a ruckus that a herd of pigs is thrown into a panic and stampedes into the sea” (88).

Moore seems to accept that Jesus healed that man but conceives of the problem according to modern sensibilities. His solution to these problems is to 1) Keep our sense of priorities; 2) Keep our sense of humour; 3) Keep our sense of the Holy Habits; 4) Keep our sense of partnership with God. Point three comes closest to the truth: “regular church attendance, regular prayer, regular study of the Scriptures, regularly helping other people, striving daily to live the faith–all these are great spiritual vitamins that can keep our souls healthy and our personalities balanced” (91). The demoniac could have attempted to follow these points but he was powerless in the face of demonic enslavement. It is clear that no one could bind this man because he was bound by demons.

Mark’s point is that Jesus had the power to cleanse this man who is under Satan and make him new. Jesus unbound him so that no one need try and bind him again. We can’t ignore Mark’s presentation in an effort to “tell the truth” and relate what “really happened” to our own context. Mark presents a powerful Jesus who acted. We can’t emasculate his actions and still have a powerful Jesus who is able to save people from spiritual bondage today.

April 17, 2009

First, Second, or Third Class Ticket?

Filed under: Preaching,Review — Thomas @ 14:08

sinnedJames W. Moore, Yes, Lord, I Have Sinned but I Have Several Excellent Excuses. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991. 068746661X. The ISBN on the book does not seem to be correct but that’s all I have.  For an edition with study guide see 0687053838. It is available in the BAC library under 241.3 JAM.

This book consists of a collection of sermons on various sins and people’s reaction. I really like the following illustration he takes via his friend Bill Hinson from the western author and historian Louis L’Amour:

In the golden days of the settling of the West, one of the major means of transportation was the stagecoach. But did you know that stagecoaches had three different kinds of tickets — First class, second class and third class? A first class ticket meant you could sit down. No matter what happened, you could remain seated. If the stagecoach got stuck in the mud or had trouble making it up a steep hill, or even if a wheel fell off, you remained seated because you had a first class ticket.
A second class ticket meant that you got to sit down until there was a problem, and then you had to get off until the problem was solved. You got off, stood to the side, and watched somebody else fix the problem. When the situation was corrected, you could get back on the stagecoach and take your seat again because you had a second class ticket.
A third class ticket meant that you got to sit down until there was a problem, and then you had to get off and push! You had to put your shoulder to it and help solve the problem, because you had a third class ticket (46-47).

When I was living in China I saw the principle of the third class ticket in action. I was riding on the bus one day on a six lane road when we passed another public bus at an intersection. That bus had broken down and so everyone had gotten off and the passengers were pushing their bus through the intersection! It is assumed that because you are riding on the public bus you have a “third class” ticket. Second class ticket holders take a taxi and first class ticket holders have their own car or a car and driver.

Here in North America we lead a first class ticket lifestyle where no one would think passengers should push a public transit bus down the road. This causes trouble when it comes to volunteering at church. Some approach church work with great enthusiasm, whereas others’ idea of serving is similar to putting their tray on the garbage can at McDonald’s; it is a small thing that can be done quickly and with little hassle. Others walk away leaving their tray of leftovers on the table expecting someone else to clean it up. What kind of ticket do you have at your church? Do you see a problem and immediately put your shoulder to it? Do you see problem and immediately tell a pastor or deacon about it so it can be fixed by someone else? Do you church hop looking for a church that is already perfect and doesn’t need any attention?

What did Jesus mean when he said we need to serve one another?

April 12, 2009

Resurrection Sunday

Filed under: New Testament,Preaching — Thomas @ 14:30
Tags: , ,

Resurrection Sunday

He is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed!!

What does the resurrection mean for you, the universal church, and the world?

Something amazing happened on Resurrection Sunday. Let’s read Luke 24:1-12 and experience the events as they first happened; beginning with some ladies that morning.

Luke 24:1-12 (TNIV)
Jesus Has Risen

24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8Then they remembered his words.

9When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was not just another resuscitation. Jesus had raised several people from the dead during his ministry, including a little girl and his good friend Lazarus. This event was something of another magnitude. It was not resuscitation Sunday, but Resurrection Sunday! God confirmed Jesus’ life, his ministry and teaching, by raising him from the dead. This event had long been anticipated. Paul refers to Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14 in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 when he speaks of the defeat of death:

1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (TNIV)

54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

Let’s read further what Paul said in reflection on the importance of this event:

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (TNIV)
The Resurrection of Christ

15 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

What does this mean for you? You will never die. I will never die. If I choose life, I will never die; you will never die. If I could bottle eternal life and sell it on the street how much would it sell for? I’m sure I could get a billion dollars for it if I could prove it worked. Jesus did just that – he proved it worked by rising from the grave. Many people scoffed at his claims during his ministry. The religious leaders claimed he was demon possessed; even his own family thought he was insane. His disciples fled in panic at his arrest. That’s why no one waited in anticipation outside his tomb. They did not understand that he was about to conquer our most ardent enemy—death. No one had ever escaped death for more than a few extra years. Jesus said “It is finished,” but no one understood why until they encountered the empty tomb. Without that empty hole in the wall Christianity would have died a stillbirth. Some didn’t believe then and some still do not believe today. Eternal life has been offered to them but it is as if Jesus had offered a pearl necklace to a pig. They have no idea what they are looking at. Paul also spoke of this in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 15:12-26 (TNIV)
The Resurrection of the Dead

12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others.

20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But in this order: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

What does this all mean? It means that today is Resurrection Sunday. It means that 102,960 Resurrection Sundays have followed that first one. Every Sunday is resurrection Sunday. There have been just as many Resurrection Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays; you get the idea. The world needs to know that something supernatural didn’t just happen 2000 years ago but happens every time Christians gather together and declare, “He is Risen.” As they live according to Christ and not according to the pattern of this world. It is an amazing thing—it is Resurrection Sunday.

Will you join with me? In living an eternal life? In declaring that he is risen?

He is Risen!

He is Risen Indeed!!

February 5, 2009

Bill Gates uses mosquitos for serman illustration

Filed under: Preaching — Thomas @ 11:03
Tags: , ,

So OK, it wasn’t exactly a sermon but it was a great illustration. Bill Gates was promoting the efforts of his foundation to eliminate Malaria in the world at the TED conference. Malaria is primarily spread by mosquito bites in 2/3 world countries. Gates said, “Not only poor people should experience this” as he released a “swarm” of mosquitoes into the unsuspecting audience! He waited a minute before assuring them the bugs were disease free. I wonder if this guarantee is as iron clad as that purporting Windows Vista to be bug free :P. On the whole this is a great example of a secular sermon with a gripping illustration. Good job Bill!

Check out a short story at CNET.

October 17, 2007

Billy Sunday on cards

Filed under: Preaching — Thomas @ 21:07

“If you’ve got any cards in your home you’d better throw them in the furnace when you get back there or else throw your Bibles in the furnace. The two won’t mix. Oh, you needn’t gasp! I am handing it to you straight!”… “You listen to me! I defy anybody to contradict what I have to say about the matter.”… “When I talk to you about card playing in your home, I am trying to pound through your head that every pack of cards is but another stepping stone to hell. I think the old painted hag or the broken-down roue, hanging around the tables at Monte Carlo, or a down-and-out card sharp bucking a crooked game in a gambling joint at 3 o’clock in the morning a blamed sight more respectable than the church people or the professed Christian who permits card playing in his home.”… “If you can’t see any harm in this kind of thing, why I guess the Lord will let you out as an idiot.”

Billy Sunday, “Dancing, Drinking, Card-Playing” In A Treasury of Great Preaching, Vol. 7 Dallas: Word Books, 1995. 282ff.

Back when preachers were preachers and card playing was damnable. How things have changed. I wonder what tone Billy Sunday would take in preaching to a contemporary church…

September 25, 2007


Filed under: Preaching — Thomas @ 19:50

On a personal note my comments made the front page of Preaching.org yesterday. I said:

It as been suggested that preaching is not at heart arrogant because we are not proclaiming our own message but God’s. If people have a problem with what we are saying then they should take it up with God and not blame us for being arrogant. The difficulty with this is that it requires a recognition of God’s right to dictate conditions. This objection can be overcome but only if one presupposes the existence of God. Those who call Christians arrogant no doubt disclaim this. Therefore they can either judge us as arrogant or misguided but they cannot expect their objection to be taken seriously inside a church. Its very existence reflects attendees’ belief in God and their desire to know his will for their lives. Let us therefore preach to his heart’s content!

I think that everyone can agree that within the medium of a church service it is more than appropriate to preach the full Word of God. Preaching.org is run by Dr. Kent Anderson and is worth checking out although to comment you will either need to buy his book Choosing to Preach, which includes an introductory membership, or pay $20 per year.

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