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Preaching the gospel from John's Gospel

  A few tips on preaching the Gospel According to John: Preach in line with the purpose of the book You wouldn’t take a utilities bill to a song contest and sing it or take a maths textbook to bed with you for a bit of escapist light reading before you fall asleep – that’s not their purpose. The purpose of John is in John 20:30-31 – an electric moment where the narrator gets in front of the camera and looks straight into the lens at you sitting there and tells you exactly why he’s written these things: LOOK –> LIFE. Look at Christ crucified , come to Him, eat and drink Him –> have eternal life, know  the true God, starting now.  Go back to John 20:30-31 every time you preach on John.  Not so that every sermon sounds the same, but so that you are preaching in line with John’s purpose, according to God's purpose. If we use John’s book for some other purpose – studying different characters for motivational encouragements or looking at Jesus’ miracles for promises of healings and
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Who were the OT authors writing about?

Sometimes it was revealed to the OT authors, at least in outline, who they were writing about and who they were writing for (1 Peter 1:10-12). But other times (e.g. Nehemiah's journal) they almost certainly weren't aware that all they were writing was intended to point to Jesus (John 5:39-40), that it was all for teaching an audience in the distant future (Rom. 15:4), all for making us wise for salvation in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:15). They had their own intention in writing but, when we look at the whole of Scripture, the beautiful tapestry of the canon and the explicit statements about Scripture, we find that there is also a divine intention and a divine referent - Christ.  A friend has drawn my attention to a helpful quote from Kevin Vanhoozer: The prophets did not fully understand what they were talking about, but God did. It is not the sense, then, that is “fuller” but the “referent” ( referens plenior ) and the intended audience (1 Cor 10v11). The sense of Scripture is

They preached the gospel to the poor

In December 1860, in a long magazine article which is essentially a scathing attack on evangelicals in the Church of England, the anonymous critic makes one notable concession: "But the Evangelical party is redeemed by the working of its parishes. It is to its credit that it is foremost in united schemes of charity. It is to its credit, to some extent, that foreign missions have so increased and spread. But that which saves it from wreck,which atones for its arbitrary social maxims, which partly conceals its obnoxious polemic organisation, is the fact that the Evangelical clergy as a body, are indefatigable in ministerial duties, and devoted, heart and soul, to the manifold labours of Christian love. The school, the savings bank, the refuge, all the engines of parochial usefulness, find in them, for the most part, hearty supporters and friends... "It is not necessary to dwell long on the subject; it is patent and easily appreciated. But when the history of the Evangelical par

4 combinations of workplace relations

Ephesians 6:5-9 gives a beautiful picture of healthy workplace relationships: servants who serve and leaders who serve . But that mutuality is not the only combination.  Here are 4 different models of interaction between leader/boss and servant/employee: OPPRESSIVE LEADER AND SUBMISSIVE SERVANT This tends to be the pattern in settled traditional societies and modern totalitarian societies. Here hierarchy is strong – the pyramid model. Those at ‘the top’ very much see themselves as ‘above’ others and those at the bottom know their place and submit. Leaders are dictators who cannot be questioned, ‘strong leaders’ who make harsh demands and place heavy burdens on the people ‘under’ them, accumulating resources, power, control and status for themselves (1 Sam. 8:11-14; Neh. 5:15; Eccl. 5:8-9). In this model, leadership is the privilege and ability to make things better for yourself or to push your own agenda. It is certainly not servant leadership. This pattern ‘works’ in a sense in that

Perfect mental health: a historical perspective

I'm no expert on mental health. All I offer here is an observation about a use of the phrase in the Victorian period that I find very interesting.  Sir James Stephen (civil servant, historian, son of member of the Clapham Sect) uses the phrase 'mental health' twice in a volume of essays on 17th and 18th century English reformers and revivalists. One reference is to Henry Venn: "He was one of the most eminent examples of one of the most uncommon of human excellencies — the possession of perfect and uninterrupted mental health." ( Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography , p. 107)  In the following long paragraph Stephen explains what he means largely in relation to the 'harmony' of Venn's mind, affections and life; how all his thinking, feeling and actions were balanced, co-ordinated and served a single goal as 'tributaries' feeding into a great river. Towards the end of this description of the harmonised, single-minded life Stephen writes: "He w

Something new under the sun: Happy Easter!

Ecclesiastes 1 is a great Easter passage.  4 Generations come and generations go,     but the earth remains forever. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets,     and hurries back to where it rises. 6 The wind blows to the south     and turns to the north; round and round it goes,     ever returning on its course. 7 All streams flow into the sea,     yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from,     there they return again. 8 All things are wearisome,     more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing,     nor the ear its fill of hearing. 9 What has been will be again,     what has been done will be done again;     there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say,     “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago;     it was here before our time. 11 No one remembers the former generations,     and even those yet to come will not be remembered     by those who follow them. Not feeling Eastery?  Notice the weariness and cyni

The sluggard and the gospel ant

Fruitfulness = (A) Knowing the good + (B) Considering how to do it + (C) Doing it + (D) Divine action The actually doing it bit is important.  I always find the description of the sluggard in the book of Proverbs convicting. In particular I'm convicted that his problem is lack of implementation and fruitlessness. "The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns…" [Prov. 15:19] He knows the way but he's not walking in it. His procrastination has allowed the thorns to build up. And the more they build up the more daunting the task of walking down that path is going to be. Sounds a lot like an email inbox.  "I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins." [Prov 24:30-31] Thorns again. The reminder of Genesis 3. Without sweat the weeds grow. The sluggard is not actively seeking to do wrong. He's just not taking care of what