Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hooray for the Presbyterians!

The Presbyterian Church of Australia has been derided at times for its handling of heretics. Some will claim it was too harsh. Others will think it has at times allowed heresy to fester. The Age reports on a recent heresy finding that I thoroughly support. To quote the article:

The six teachings the commission rejected are accepting "feelings" as revelation from God equal to the Bible, that contact with non-Fellowship members leads to defilement, that the Fellowship claims higher loyalty than members' families, that Christians can be controlled by "generational curses" or evil spirits, and that God's forgiveness depends on confessing to other people or on personal holiness.

They sound like teachings worth condemning to me because they are miles from the confidence that we know God as he reveals himself in Scripture, that his salvation is secured by his grace in the Christ's death and resurrection (and not by our obedience) and that he establishes a community aligned with Christ that continues to live in this world as witnesses.

The word heresy sounds harsh. But leading people away from Christ deserves harsh words.

Carson on the Church's trends

Carson is a man always worth listening to given his extensive knowledge, broad contact with the Christian church and devotion to Christ and the gospel. This post at Acts 29 summarises some of his reflections that are no exception.

Back to OpenOffice

Have just returned to OpenOffice having used NeoOffice because support for mac had been attrocious. The new version doesn't require X11 and all the other junk, so I'm enjoying it. It's not quite as well integrated into the mac environment and the release candidate still has a couple of bugs. But it's going pretty well so far.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How long to prepare a sermon?

It seems a perennial question for ministers. How long to spend in preparation? The more time spent with God's word, the more piercing our presentation of the text is likely to be ... unless we're so disconnected from the congregation it becomes irrelevant.

I just finished preparation that took about 12 hours though it needs another couple of hours editing before it's a really effective sermon. But I remember one lecturer telling a class, "If it takes more than 12 hours to prepare your sermon, you're not worth feeding." And this I read Mark Dever saying he spends 30 to 35 hours! All well and good in a mega-church situation...maybe. But where does wisdom lie.

The other problem is that the previous generation of preachers (ie. now retiring) had a different philosophy again. One told me that if it took more than 4 hours to prepare sermon, I was wasting time. I needed to be out with my congregation. (I asked a few questions and it seems he was mainly describing the time taken to prepare notes for preaching. He actually did his exegesis the year before and would spend 1.5 hours every morning during his quiet time first on personal reflection but then on developing exegetical notes. By my calculation, he may have spent more like 14 hours.) And then another minister told me he spent 1-2 hours! I'm not seeing them as models. But they are some of the modern generation's strongest critics. And they have a genuine concern. When do we spend time with people. When does the pastoring happen if we're cloistered in our study?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Breaking blog silence for breaking news

Only a brief raising of the head between chapters of my project and an essay on social ethics. Just wanted to observe how current world events will be even more pertinent to my essay on the governance of the free market. It will give me good reason to stop and think how reliable the free market really is, while it would be naive (and theologically incorrect) to say that the subprime mortgage disaster should never have happened.

Further, as I sit wondering what will happen with my savings, it will be very helpful to be preparing a sermon on Ecclesiastes 3, with its reminder that we can never know the big picture, and there will be times for bad as well as good in this peculiar concoction that is "life under the sun." They're not comforting words, but they're probably just the words we all need to hear right now.

At some later time I'm also preparing a post looking at allusions in Zechariah 9–14 to Micah and their significance to the post-exilic Judeans and their significance to us. But all that will need to wait until post-essay (and possibly post-project). For now, it might be time for a quotation from Ecclesiastes 3:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

[...]

a time to weep, and a time to laught

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

[...]

What gain has the worker from all his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; [...]

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Do we need more capitalism in church?

I'm in the midst of working on a social ethics essay asking, "Can the 'free market' be governed ethically?" And then in the same moment I see Gordon Cheng's notes on Mark Driscoll's talk on what Sydney Evangelicals are to do. And one of his comments is that we lack entrepeneurialism in our churches!

This was exactly my thought as I've been reading Ian Hore-Lacy's Creating Common Wealth. Yet I'm so uncomfortable with it, it's scary. I'm going to benefit from this essay, me thinks...