“Man-Church: Preachers”

 

Over the last few weeks a couple of people have asked me what preachers I listen to.  Therefore, because of this and because of the fact that I met with the leader of our men’s ministry yesterday to speak about resources I decided to write a short blog listing some of the preachers I listen to and whose ministries have been particularly popular among young men.  Whilst they are all very different what seems to link their styles is their passionate delivery, their understanding of contemporary culture and their unswerving belief in the authority of scripture.

  1. Eric Mason http://www.epiphanyfellowship.org/resources/sermon
  2. J D Greear http://www.summitrdu.com/messages/
  3. Dr Tony Evans http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/the-alternative/listen/
  4. Craig Groschel http://www.lifechurch.tv/watch/archive/
  5. Matt Chandler http://www.thevillagechurch.net/resources/sermons/
  6. Tim Chaddick http://realityla.com/category/teachings/
  7. Matt Carter http://austinstone.org/resources/sermons
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“He Breaks the Power of Cancelled Sin & Sets the Prisoner Free” – Wesleyan Self-Examination

Although, we will never be entirely free from sin until Christ returns that does not mean that we should not seek after a growth in Gospel holiness and ruthlessly put to death the old nature.  For this reason I have uploaded the following devotion and whilst you might not agree with everything it is a useful tool in Christian discipleship.

“The questions have their origin in the spiritual accountability group started by Wesley when he was a student at Oxford — a group that detractors called “The Holy Club.” The first list appeared about 1729 or 1730 in the preface to Wesley’s second Oxford Diary. Similar questions appeared in his 1733 A Collection of Forms of Prayer for Every Day in the Week. As late as 1781, Wesley published a list of questions like this in the Arminian Magazine.” [1]

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Do I pass on to others what has been said to me in confidence?
  3. Can I be trusted?
  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  6. Did the Bible live in me today?
  7. Do I give the Bible time to speak to me every day?
  8. Am I enjoying prayer?
  9. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
  10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  12. Do I disobey God in anything?
  13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  16. How do I spend my spare time?
  17. Am I proud?
  18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisees who despised the tax collectors?
  19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  20. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  21. Is Christ real to me?

[1] http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/selfexam.htm

“Reading the Bible for Preachers and Home Group Leaders”

 

Preamble

As a pastor/teacher one of the sad things for me is the sheer lack of biblical literacy in today’s Church.  In fact, it would be true to say that this even persists among those that have grown up in Christian homes, become Christians at a young age, have attended services for a number of years, have been educated in Bible Colleges, who preach and even carry senior leadership positions in congregations of vast influence.  This is made worse by the fact that the Word of God, particularly in its preached form, is the primary means by which a person is saved and sanctified.[1]  Therefore, this short help is not given as a way to discourage the use of books and video curriculum in our home groups, or to produce preachers and teachers that sound like me, but that the Word of God may prevail; for, as the Pentecostal pioneer Smith Wigglesworth prophesied,: “when the Word of God was wedded to the Spirit of God we would see the greatest revival that the world has ever known”.[2]

 

Coupled with prayer, when approaching the Bible, these 6 questions must be asked:

 

Q1. What does it say? Here you are looking at taking a text and placing it into your own words.  You must stay as close as you can to the original meaning.  Please remember the text can be as long or as short as you want.  Normally though, the longer the text the more difficult it can become.

 

Q2. What does it mean? Since there is no truth outside of context, here you are required to look at the immediate and general context.  If this is unfruitful, or if it is a particularly difficult or controversial text, you must go further afield, beginning nearest the text and working outward (ie. immediate context, general context, book, all books by this author, all books of this genre, the testament and the whole Bible).  Please remember that the Bible often presents truth in tension and therefore we are not permitted to hold firm to the texts that validate our opinion and ignore the ones that don’t.  We hold these together in paradoxical tension.

 

For Further Study: Here you might want to consult concordances or notes (found in Study Bibles), Commentaries, Topical Bibles, Bible Dictionaries, systematic theology, looking at words in the original language or sermons from reputable sources.

 

Q3. What might be the objections?  Since Christianity is a reasonable faith it is able to stand up against doubts and objections.  Identify some of these and then try and answer them; this is invaluable for preaching and teaching but particularly for mission.

 

For Further Study: Whilst all that is needed can be found within the Scriptures, added to the above resources a beginners guide to apologetics might be useful.  These books basically answer difficult questions on topics and texts.  I would also add, for the more seasoned theologians, a perusal of atheistic literature and the rebuttal from Christian apologists.[3]  I normally ask myself how would this sound to Joe average in the pub, a theologically astute convert of the contrary opinion and the highly educated and biblically literate sceptic.  Note to reader: these are not real people but personifying them can be extremely helpful.

 

Q4. What does it teach about God?  Scripture is the self-revelation of God and therefore teaches explicitly and implicitly about Him.  This does not mean that we see what is not there, like reading New Testament theology into Old Testament texts, but it means that even though it might not teach about God per se, the text might illustrate Him.  So, David’s victory over Goliath is not about Christ but could serve as an illustration, in the same way that Samson’s sacrifice helps illustrate Christ’s.  Also the “us” used in Genesis 1:26 cannot be the Trinity (in its original use) because the author and his audience knew nothing of the Trinity nor is this mentioned by any of the New Testament authors.  Nonetheless, in light of the whole counsel of God it serves as a good illustration even though it is not straight from the text and therefore would not be neither authoritative nor convincing to an informed non-Trinitarian.[4]

 

If this is done within preaching, the audience must be made aware of this fact or they will either see your preaching as non-biblical, as it places your imagination over the text, or identify you as someone of great mystical power who is able to see what nobody else (including any of the biblical authors) can see.  The early Church had a name for this, Gnosticism; which was a great heresy.  We, however, can only reinterpret texts or add additional meaning if another biblical author does so.  For an example compare Genesis 19:1-29 and Ezekiel 16:49-50.

 

Q5. What does it teach about man?  Since the Bible has been given to man by God we can find within its pages man’s origin, man’s destiny and what God requires of man.

 

Q6. What are the implications?  We are called to be doers of the Word and not just hearers and therefore, in light of your findings, what are the implications or practical applications in your personal life, family, work or Church?  What might help here is what preachers in the Black Preaching tradition call “experiential exegesis.”  The process in which we find out the meaning of the text is called exegesis.  However, if we place ourselves in the text and look through the eyes of the characters and record how they might feel, or if we take a concrete situation like a person suffering from terminal cancer or a Church suffering from the loss of a key leader, how would they experience the text and how can the Good News of text address their situation.  This is “experiential exegesis” and is a useful process in allowing God to speak from the text.

 

[One paradigm that you might find helpful is the one found in 2 Timothy 3:16 – seeing what truth the passage might “teach,”  or how it might “rebuke,” “correct,” and/or “train in righteousness.”  It would also be helpful here to pray through the text.  The reason this is not included in my exsample is because this was added at a later date.]

 

Here is an example:

 

Q.1 What does it say?  the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  1 John 1:7c NKJV

It says that sin can be washed away by Jesus who is God’s Son.

 

Q2. What does it mean?  Well, it appears to mean that the Christian can be free of all sin, and so I have heard it preached, but when we begin to look at the immediate context we find that in the next verse it says “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”.  So I begin to look at the general context and I read everything before or after it that seems to relate.  Here is an outline I got online.[5]

  1. Introduction: The Reality of the Incarnation (1:1-4)
  2. The Christian Life as Fellowship with the Father and the Son (1:5;2:28)
    1. Ethical Tests of Fellowship (1:5;2:11)
      1. Moral likeness (1:5-7)
      2. Confession of sin (1:8;2:2)
      3. Obedience (2:3-6)
      4. Love for fellow believers (2:7-11)
    2. Two Digressions (2:12-17)
    3. Christological Test of Fellowship (2:18-28)
      1. Contrast: apostates versus believers (2:18-21)
      2. Person of Christ: the crux of the test (2:22-23)
      3. Persistent belief: key to continuing fellowship (2:24-28)
  1. Christological Tests of Sonship (4:1-6)
  1. The Christian Life as an Integration of the Ethical and the Christological (4:7;5:12)
    • . The Ethical Test: Love (4:7;5:5)
      1. The source of love (4:7-16)
      2. The fruit of love (4:17-19)
      3. The relationship of love for God and love for one’s fellow Christian (4:20;5:1)
      4. Obedience: the evidence of love for God’s children (5:2-5)
  1. The Christological Test (5:6-12)
  1. Conclusion: Great Christian Certainties (5:13-21)

 

From this I notice that everything seems to relate to the topic.  Gladly this is not always the case (for example, if you were looking at creation you would only need to look at Genesis 1-3), so I read the book and I see that it is written so that people might test their faith and be sure that it is genuine – this seems to concur with the introduction in my study bible.  I can therefore conclude that Christ frees us from the penalty of sin but the power of sin will not be fully broken until we die or He returns.[6]

 

Further Study:  I identify the topics within my text.  This relates to sin, salvation, the Gospel, the cross and sanctification.  I then read the other passages in my topical Bible and confirm my findings through a systematic theology, sermons from reputable preachers and my commentaries.

 

Q3. What might be the objections?

  1. As a Free Methodist you may have been taught doctrines like sinlessness, entire sanctification and Christian perfection. So, how do you reconcile them here?

 

  • Biblically speaking, we must wed together the Christian perfection teaching with the fallenness of man. This means we arrive at a position that shows Christ has purchased entire sanctification and we must strive for Christian perfection, but in a fallen world, and wrestling with a fallen nature, this will not be a reality.

 

  1. Does this kind of teaching not produce legalism?

 

  • In some groups guilt and condemnation are the order of the day but the Gospel is based upon a new heart and a new Spirit in a new community saturated with God’s grace. Gospel holiness, therefore, moves from “have to” to “want to.”

 

  1. How can Christ be a real man with real blood if it has the power to do this?

 

  • Christ was like us in every way, yet without sin. His blood was human but was taken by God as the payment for our sin and the absorption of His wrath.

 

*Of course we could look at countless questions here, like how can someone know if they’re cleansed from all sin, is it not proud to be assured etc, but these are just examples.

 

Q4. What does it teach about God? It teaches that God has the power to forgive all sins.

 

Q5. What does it teach about man?  Well, since the verse is followed by a verse that says iif we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”, it shows us that man has a problem with sin and that the blood of Jesus is the answer.  This problem not only separates us from God but from one another so the text is preceded by a verse that says “if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.”  This shows that Christ’s sacrifice helps overcome not only the sins we have committed, or the sins that we are capable of, but also the sins that have been committed against us.  In short, man is riddled with sin and the potentiality of sin, which ruptures His relationship with God, with others and, if we read it in light of the whole Bible, with creation and with ourselves (Genesis 3).

 

Q6. What are the implications?  There are many so I will just give a few:

  1. Man is sinful and prone to sinfulness and, therefore, we must be wise when dealing with others and with ourselves. Do not be fooled into thinking that you are not capable of great evil; ALWAYS put safeguards in place.

 

  1. Since Christ dealt with “all sin,” which includes the sins that have been committed against you, this means that you can move on from bad experiences and not let them dictate who you are or how you feel. The universality of sin helps show that, in some ways, you have to bear some responsibility too.  I was always told that, when conducting marriage counselling, to remember that regardless of the issue and whilst it may be disproportionate in its effect, both parties contribute to a breakdown in marriage even if one person is guiltier than another.

 

  1. As an agent for Christ I am compelled to raise my concerns against injustice within the workplace. I know that this might require me to be covert and blow the whistle on illegal and immoral practices, but if Christ cleanses from sin am I not to do my part in eradicating it in my life, family, workplace and world?

 

Conclusion

While so much more could be said, these 6 questions should be able to help guide your sermon preparation, your home groups or your personal devotions.  I have found they have been able to transform my life and I pray that they would do the same for you.[7]

 

[postscript] I would like to add that one resource I have found helpful is www.freebiblecommentary.org – it’s a little dated but it contains PDF, audio and 30 minute video commentaries through much of the bible and has been personally invaluable for me.

 

[1] Romans 10:14-17, 2 Timothy 3:16 (most people were illiterate so Paul’s charge to Timothy and this verse come before a passage on preaching 2 Timothy 4:1-2).

[2] Prophesied in 1947.

[3] Here are 20 of the best known apologists http://crossexamined.org/top-20-apologists/

[4] Therefore, if you are speaking to an atheist or non-Trinitarian who has been trained in reading the bible look at other texts but use this as an illustration or they could easily pick your argument apart.

[5] http://www.biblestudytools.com/1-john/

[6] The text also deals with Christ’s Sonship but I do not have the time to deal with this.

[7] For sermon preparation I would add illustrations or examples to each of these questions.

Day 91: Results Day

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So it’s finally results day and in spite of yesterday’s kebab and chips and breaking my 7 day cut after 5.5 days here are my results:

Day 1
Weight: 11.96st
Body Fat : 24.6%

Day 91
Weight: 10.8st
Body Fat: 14%

I even double checked it at home – a great result.

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Here are my some phots of what that looks like, for the record, I trained at 6am and pictures were taken around 6pm after dinner, so I’m not as cut as I could be… Just saying.

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So after 90 days I was able to get myself in good shape. I will continue my training, will aim at competing in a charity boxing match in Dec and will aim to cut my body fat down more and put on some more muscle…though I won’t be able to lift for a couple of days because I cut my finger quite badly so it’s legs and cardio for the next few days.

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As for the blog I hope it has helped the few thousand people that viewed it. It definitely forced me to learn loads about exercise and training and helped me develop a new lifestyle.

Day 90 of 90: What I Learned (nutrition)

Today was a nutritional disaster, on top of the daily food intake I ended up having 3 jam tarts and kebab, chips and some cola not to mention a protein shake and a few tablespoons of peanut butter (I guess when I started eating I couldn’t stop – on top of that I cut my finger making a fruit salad, what a day). Needless to say I think the cutting phase can come to an end and I will share with you what I learned about nutrition over these 90 days and post my final results tomorrow evening:

1. Forget Cheat Days: Although, there maybe times when you slip or times when a social occasion might mean that you will end up having fried food or a few beers do not make a whole day of it…err like I almost did. Hey if you train hard it is no big deal but what you don’t want to do is go nuts.

2. Keep Protein Levels High: Before I began I did not have a clue about macro-nutrients. Keeping your protein levels high is essential to keeping you full, building muscle and losing weight.

3. Protein Shakes Are Great: Your post-workout nutrition is often considered one of the most, if not the most, important meal/shake of the day. This is because your body is at its most absorbent after intense activity (or first thing in the morning). Shakes then allow you to receive an instant hit of protein (please remember that different varieties are needed for different goals so do a little research i.e. for lean muscle and weight loss go for something low in carbs, low in fat and high in protein).

4. Control the Carbs: Starchy carbs like porridge oats, brown rice and plain popcorn are great and are needed to help provide energy and build muscle but I wouldn’t  eat too much of them and would limit there intake after 6pm. White bread, potatoes and white pasta I would try to eliminate altogether.

5. Have Unlimited Salad/Veg: This will provide you with numerous health benefits, will keep you full and provide you with much needed fibre.

6. Lots of Fruit: Now I know fruit is filled with carbs and natural sugar but again it is filled with fibre. If your wanting to lose weight again restrict your fruit after 6pm but before this have a anywhere between 2 to 4 portions a day.

7. Eating Fat Does Not Make You Fat: The fat found in nuts, oily fish, lean meat and avocado is essential for a healthy lifestyle and should be limited but should not be completely removed from any healthy diet.  I try and have by diet mainly consist of healthy fats, protein, green carbs (fruit and veg) and a little starchy carbs (porridge for breakfast and maybe a small portion of brown rice for lunch and/or dinner).

8. The Water of Life: The water of life is water. It is calorie free, helps you avoid over eating (try a glass next time your hungry) and, in my humble opinion, tastes great. I try always to have a glass/bottle with me,_p particularly at night…I will warn you though, that these water-only crash diets are extremely unhealthy and an over-consumption of water is detrimental not only to your bladder but to your health.

9. Crank Up Your Metabolism: Grapefruits, lemons, chilli, celery, green tea, raspberries etc all help boost your metabolism so try and get some metabolism boosting food/drinks in daily.

10. Preparation Helps Maintain Progress: By having a few boiled eggs, cut salad and fresh fruit in the fridge and some cooked meat in the freezer it will help you stay focused. Often nutritional discipline is lost when you are hungry but have nothing prepared.

So that, in no particular order, is some of the most valuable lessons I learned over the 90 days and something I hope to maintain in the future.

Cutting Day 6 – Total Failure

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Day 89 of 90: What I Learned (training)

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As I come closer to finishing my 90 days I thought I’d write a quick blog on some of the most important things I’ve learned about training (I’ll do nutrition tommorow and then do results on day 91)

1. Lifting weights helps you lose weight: Muscle is active tissue which helps speed up your metabolic rate which helps you lose weight and keep it off (it’s unfortunate that most women’s magazine ignore weight training – you’ll only get big if your hitting big weights and consuming a few thousand calories – seriously).

2. Lose fat and not muscle: I wish I would have chucked out the standard scales as all weight loss is not all equal, sometimes your losing muscle and water but you need to be losing fat. So get a scale that tells you or do a health assessment at a gym.

3. It’s better to lift BIG than to lift more: Multiple reps with small weights burn fewer calories and produce fewer muscle gains. So for strength hit 1-5 (reps) heavy, for muscle 8-12 (medium) and for endurance 15-failure (below medium but not light) but make sure you get some burn. DO NOT do a set of a 100 reps on 2kg (your better off hitting 3 sets of 10 with 60kg).

4. Rest is important as training: Now I know I’ve been training every day but Sun is light and I will probably just train 5 to 6 days when I’m finished this challenge. Rest, particularly sleep, helps repair your body, I’ve neglected it sometimes.

5. Slow-state cardio is crap: I love cardio so I still do it on Sundays but if you want the fat loss do it on an empty stomach, do it after other training and/or get some high intensity in. So today I hit chin-ups and tri-dips, 29 mins cardio and then 1min sprinting.

6. You don’t need to do abs to get abs: Now I still do them but the bigger muscle groups are much more important though (back, legs, chest)… Having said that my obliques are just showing and I’ll have to shred more fat to get the abs out but there coming, first time in years.

7. Keep it old school: The classics like the bench press, squat, deadlift and the military press are the bread and butter of training. So although a magazine might say that you can get ripped in 2 days by standing on one leg whilst swinging a cat around you head there probably making it up….Probably.

8. Everyone has to start somewhere: I didn’t have a clue about weights but the truth is the internet is filled with great info and if you speak to enough people you will find that they are helpful and willing to talk. If people keep saying the same things then this might be a clue that it’s a truism, watch out for bro-science though.

9. Everyone makes gains if they work hard: When I started training I could do 2 or 3 chin-ups now I can hit 5 sets of 10 (50) unassisted and 12 sets of 10 (120) assisted (on a machine)… That’s after a training session. Miraculous? Maybe, or just persistence and hard work.

10. It’s worth it: Not only have I enjoyed it but I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, I weigh what I weighed at 18, am sleeping better and eating more.

TODAY’S FOOD LOG

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(Fresh sardines and king prawns with dried chilli, lemon and coriander)

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(I had a good few portions of it with smoked salmon and a avocado salad)

Cutting phase (day 5)

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Day 87/88 of 90: Eat the Rainbow

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During this cutting phase there is plenty of opportunity to eat unlimited amounts of fruit and salad this, though, can become quite repetitive and somewhat soul destroying. For this reason variation not only adds some much needed colour and taste but provides a moral boast not to mention the added nutritional benefit. This why I have added peppers, avocado, celery and coriander to my salads and mango, passion fruit, papaya, kiwi, guava, pineapple, coconut, pomegranate and dates to my fruits.

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CUTTING PHASE – DAY 3/4

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(My wife’s creation – I had this with 2 bananas and a guava for lunch)
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Note: the headaches I had on day 1+2 have begun to disappear; possibly through the increase of my water consumption or the fact that my body is getting used to the caloric deficit.