Bell Creek Community Church

A non-denominational church in Livonia, Michigan with Biblical teaching, worship, and kid's ministries.

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David Murray blogs on ministry, leadership, preaching, counseling, technology, and theology.
Updated: 1 hour 42 min ago

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Wed, 10/04/2017 - 1:00am

God Is with You in Your Panic Attack
“Panic attacks have been a source of both grief and grace. Grief, because they are terrifying and painful and disorienting and exhausting. Grace, because through them, God has humbled my proud heart and taught me to trust less in myself and more in Him. When Asaph says, “My flesh and my heart may fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” boy, do I get it.”

In the U.S., 110 Million S.T.D. Infections
This is almost beyond belief:

The incidence of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis is increasing, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At any given time, there are an estimated 110 million sexually transmitted infections in the United States.

Given these stats, America’s STD Epidemic Should Be Much Bigger News

During the same week Hugh Hefner died, the Centers for Disease Control revealed that the number of new sexually transmitted disease cases in America had hit a record high. This unfurls a strange symmetry to the way history unfolds: a founding father of the sexual revolution dies at the same time that his legacy fully blossoms.

Bringing Our Children to the Table
Nick Batzig argues against paedo-communion and for the role of elders and parents in determining whether a child has the credible faith required to sit at the Lord’s table:

In recent years, some have suggested that the Covenant Lord wants us to bring our infants to the table, since they are members of the covenant family of God. The problem with paedocommunion is that, de facto, it changes the nature of the sacrament and lays aside the clear teaching of 1 Corinthians 11:27-32.

Today’s Teens Are Always in the Hallway
“Whether you’re a parent of a teen, a boss of a teen, or a pastor of a teen, please be aware of the sad fact that teens today feel as though they are always performing—perhaps they’re even performing for you. Be a person in the lives of the teens you know who doesn’t require them to perform. Be a person teens can approach with their real selves.”

Obeying the Great Commission Just Shrunk Our Church
“This past Sunday our church membership dropped significantly as we had a Launch Sunday service commissioning our members in Madison County, KY as an autonomous church, to be known now as Ashland Church. Some of our best and most passionate Christ-followers are now members of Ashland Church and no longer members of our congregation. Losing them was a triumph of the Great Commission that we enthusiastically celebrated. Yes, the Great Commission is causing our church to shrink and maybe it should yours as well.”

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, and Redemption by Matt Chandler $2.99.

James For You: Showing you how real faith looks in real life by Sam Alberry $2.99.

The Most Important Advice TED gives to Speakers

Tue, 10/03/2017 - 2:00am

The key to connecting with an audience is early and frequent eye-contact (plus a warm smile from time to time).

According to TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking there are five core tools that speakers use:

  • Connection
  • Narration
  • Explanation
  • Persuasion
  • Revelation

Regarding connection, TED Head Chris Anderson insists that the most effective way to connect is to make eye-contact right from the start. That’s because humans have developed a sophisticated ability to read other people by looking at their eyes. “We can subconsciously detect the tiniest movement of eye muscles in someone’s face and use it to judge not just how they are feeling, but whether we can trust them.” Many of these judgments are made in the first few seconds of meeting or hearing someone.

Scientists have also found that due to mirror neuron activity, we tend to copy what expressions and feelings we see in other people. When we look at each other—especially at our eyes and our mouths—our minds and emotions sync. Anderson says:

Eye contact, backed by an occasional warm smile, is an amazing technology that can transform how a talk is received. At TED, our number-one advice to speakers on the day of their talk is to make regular eye contact with members of the audience. Be warm. Be real. Be you. It opens the door to them trusting you, liking you, and beginning to share your passion.

Now, we’re not wanting to create a bunch of Joel Osteen clones. But, if there’s one area that most preachers could improve upon, it’s increasing the amount of eye-contact they make throughout their sermons, and especially in the first few minutes of introduction. Maybe the reason we’re not connecting with our hearers is because they’re only seeing our hair (or lack thereof).

The key to connecting with an audience is early and frequent eye-contact (plus a warm smile from time to time).

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Tue, 10/03/2017 - 1:00am

Some articles on the Las Vegas massacre:

Hatred in Las Vegas by Kyle Borg

3 Ways to Pray for Las Vegas: It’s a Powerful (Not Political) Act for Christians by Ed Stetzer

An Act of Pure Evil: Searching for Meaning in Las Vegas by Al Mohler

May Heaven Fall on Las Vegas by Marshall Segal

Where is God in a mass shooing? by Russell Moore

In other news…

Flee from the Darkness
“Many women think that adultery happens when the passion for their husband is at war with their passion for someone else. But adultery really happens when your passion for the power and presence of God in your life is at war with the passions of lust and self-indulgence.”

Mental Illness, Prayer, and Extravagant Grace
“Here are some prayer principles I now hold onto firmly as I pray through the challenges of our loved one’s battle with mental illness. First, because mental illnesses are brain disorders, I pray as I would for any other physical sickness.

  • Because God can and does heal bodies, I always pray for healing.
  • Because that healing often comes through medical and therapeutic means, I pray for doctors, counselors, and chemists.
  • Because healing is enhanced by intentional body-care, I pray for good rest, nutrition, and exercise.
  • Because in His providence, God doesn’t always cure everyone, I pray for patience, wisdom, and enduring faith.

Prayer, I have learned, is an act of open-handed expectation.”

On Daughters and Dating: How to Intimidate Suitors
“Instead of intimidating all your daughter’s potential suitors, raise a daughter who intimidates them just fine on her own. Because you know what’s intimidating? Strength and dignity. Deep faith. Self-assuredness. Wisdom. Kindness. Humility. Industriousness. Those are the bricks that build the wall that withstands the advances of Slouchy-Pants, whether you ever show up with your Winchester locked and loaded or not. The unsuitable suitor finds nothing more terrifying than a woman who knows her worth to God and to her family.”

Tinder’s Problems Go Far Beyond Recording Your Deepest Secrets
Am I glad I’m 51 and happily married!

“Tinder has hundreds of pages of data on its users because they gave it away in the first place. The customized experience exists because the users keep coming back to tell Tinder what they want. In 2014, The New York Times reported that Tinder users were logging on an average of 11 times a day. Men were spending about 7.2 minutes per login swiping; women were swiping about 8.5 minutes each time. That’s about 90 minutes a day spent on Tinder trying to find a match. Just think about how desperate that sounds.”

New Books

Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community by Brett McCracken.

Preparing Children for Marriage: How to Teach God’s Good Design for Marriage, Sex, Purity, and Dating by Josh Mulvihill.

The One Habit We Want All Our Kids to Have

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 2:00am

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids has just been official released. Apart from Amazon, you can also buy it at Reformation Heritage Books or Westminster Books. Access sample pages here. It can be used with any version of the Bible. Here’s the introduction that explains a bit more of the thinking behind the book and it’s aim of getting our kids into the happy habit of daily Bible reading.

We were totally lost with no idea which way to turn. A few hours earlier forty of us boys and six adult leaders had set out to climb a mountain near our church’s summer camp.

We started out with great excitement as we looked forward to the challenges on the way to the summit: a mysterious forest, swampy fields, fast-flowing streams, sharp rocks, slippery paths, and steep climbs. But it would all be worth it for the view at the top.

But now we were wet, tired, hungry, cold, scared, and very, very lost.


What went wrong?

Our leaders had forgotten to check the weather forecast, which would have warned them about the fog and rain that met us halfway up the mountain. They had also failed to provide us with maps, compasses, and whistles, in case we got separated from the main group.

And now, four of my friends and I were on the side of a cold and dangerous mountain, with no leader, no compass, no map, no food, no raincoats, and no idea where to go. We longed for someone to appear out of the mist to show us where to go next and lead us home. We’d long given up hope of reaching the summit. Obviously, I’m here to tell the tale, so I must have survived! If you hang around, I’ll tell you how.


Perhaps sometimes you feel lost and confused when reading the Bible. You start to read it as an excited explorer, looking forward to discovering amazing truths about God and the gospel. But after a few chapters you feel lost in a fog, not knowing where you are or where to go. You keep trying to push forward but you lack a leader, a map, and a compass. You wish someone would not only help you take the next step but also lead you to the summit so that you might see the Christian faith in a new and wonderful way.

That’s where this book, Exploring the Bible, comes to your rescue. It will act as your leader, map, and compass to the Bible. It won’t take you to every part of the Bible, but it will take you to the main peaks and give you an all-round view of its beautiful landscape. At times we’ll slow down and look at some parts more closely. Other times, we’ll speed up in order to get to the next major mountain peak in the Bible’s story. By the end of a year, you’ll have learned skills to help you explore the Bible on your own with safety and success.


We’ll go on one expedition a week. Unlike my disastrous camp, we’ll begin each expedition with a plan to map out the chapters of the Bible we’re about to explore.


We’ll then pray for God’s blessing on our travels and write down a couple of extra prayer points for the week. For example, we might pray for help with schoolwork. Or we could pray for our parents, our friends, our church, or for different nations and the missionaries that work there.


I still have a couple of photos from my doomed climbing trip. Every time I look at us, soaked by the rain and surrounded by fog, the bad memories come flooding back.

But I want us to take snapshots of our expeditions that will bring back good memories. That’s why I’ve selected a memory verse from each week’s trip. Write it out from your Bible, and then try to memorize a bit of it each day so that you will build up a bank of wonderful memories from your travels.


The daily log has a title that sums up that day’s trip and a note of what verses to read. It has space to write out a verse or answer a question. That’s to help us keep thinking about what we have been reading and to remind us of what we have learned along the way.


Sunday is rest-and-recharge day. Instead of continuing our march through the Bible, we’ll pause and think about what we’ve learned from the past week. We’ll look ahead to what God will show us later in the Bible. And we’ll think about how to live out the Christian life. This is where it’s good to involve Dad or Mom. Perhaps ask them to look at your daily log and chat with them about anything you found difficult.

They can also help you with the discussion questions, which are designed to connect our week’s reading with the rest of the Bible and with our lives.

Another fellow-explorer we can learn from is our pastor. He’s an experienced traveler in the Bible and can teach us how to explore it better. That’s why there’s space in the log for you to write down your pastor’s sermon text and his main sermon points, and what you will do in response to his message.

I’m looking forward to exploring the Bible with you and enjoying the beautiful views of God and of salvation that we will discover.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot to tell you how my friends and I were rescued. A strong wind blew away the fog so that we saw a road in a distant valley. When we got to the road, we flagged down a driver who then took us all the way back to our camp. I hope this book will blow away the fog from the Bible and lead you along a road that takes you all the way home to Jesus Christ.

Your Fellow Explorer,

David Murray

How to Shorten and Sharpen Your Sermons

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 1:30am

Ruthless and rigorous preparation will result in shorter and sharper sermons.

“Leave space and say less.” That’s the advice TED talks specialist Nicholas Negroponte gives to new TED speakers. It tracks with what President Woodrow Wilson said when he was asked how long it took him to prepare a speech:

“That depends on the length of the speech. If it is a 10-minute speech it takes me all of two weeks to prepare it; if it is a half-hour speech it takes me a week; if I can talk as long as I want to it requires no preparation at all. I am ready now.”

That’s why, whenever you hear a sermon that goes on too long, the reason is not that the preacher prepared too much. It’s that he prepared too little. It takes much more time to prepare a 40-minute sermon than a 60-minute sermon.

I usually have to spend about 2-3 hours cutting material out of most of my sermons. It’s the most demanding and painful part of the preparation, yet it’s these extra few hours that make the difference between an average sermon and a good sermon.

TED speakers are allowed a maximum of 18 minutes. The organizers have found it’s “short enough to hold people’s attention, including on the Internet, and precise enough to be taken seriously. But it’s also long enough to say something that matters.”

Now, I’m not advocating for 18 minute sermons (most congregations have been trained well enough to listen for longer), but most preachers would benefit from being forced to preach an 18-minute sermon from time to time.

According to Chris Anderson (author of  TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking) some TED speakers make the mistake of just speaking twice as fast, as they try to cram a 40-minute speech into 18 minutes. The result is usually a dry, conceptual, and superficial speech that falls flat. As Anderson puts it:

Overstuffed equals underexplained. To say something interesting you have to take the time to do at least two things: (1) Show why it matters . .  . what’s the question you’re trying to answer, the problem you’re trying to solve, the experience you’re trying to share? (2) Flesh out each point you make with real examples, stories, facts.

But this all takes time, which means the only option is to slash the number of topics covered to a single connected thread — your throughline. The result is “you cover less, but the impact will actually be significantly greater.”

Anderson tells the story of one of the most popular TED speakers, Brené Brown, who also struggled to meet TED’s tight time demands. She recommends this simple formula:

“Plan your talk. Then cut it by half. Once you’ve grieved the loss of half of your talk, cut it another 50 percent. It’s seductive to think about how much you can fit into 18 minutes. The better question for me is, ‘What can you unpack in a meaningful way in 18 minutes?’”

I’ve often dreamed of a “TED talks for preachers,” where we would be forced to “leave space and say less.” The long-term effect would not be more 18-minute sermons, but more 40-minute sermons that feel like 18 minutes rather than 80.

Ruthless and rigorous preparation will result in shorter and sharper sermons.

Check out

Mon, 10/02/2017 - 1:00am

What Is The Pastor To Be?
I think this is a parody:

After hundreds of fruitless years, a model minister has finally been found to suit everyone. It is completely guaranteed that he will please any church…”

An Open Letter to the Weary Pastor
Now back to reality:

In his wisdom and providence, God often calls his best servants to trust him by working without the immediate reassurance that comes when we see spiritual fruit. God will use your labors, perhaps not in your timing and perhaps not in the ways you had envisioned. But you can be sure that nothing done in the service of Christ is ever a waste of time.

6 Truths about Parenting Tweens in the Digital Age
By the author of  Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital WorldI’ll be speaking at First Presbyterian, South Carolina, on this topic in a couple of weeks. More details here.

Matt Walsh: I’m not ‘forcing my morality on you’ — you’re forcing your immorality on me
I’m not a big Matt Wash fan but he hits the target with this one — with minimal collateral damage.

How to Be Teachable According to the Proverbs of the Bible
“If you’re wondering how to grow in teachability, perhaps there’s no better place to turn than the Bible’s wisdom book.”

Jesus Is the Multiplier
This is an excellent chapel address on the feeding of the 5000. His points are: (1) Start where you are, (2) Use what you have, (3) Do what you can, (4) Trust Jesus as the multiplier. Young people everywhere would benefit from this passionate and practical message.

Kindle Books

Fool’s Gold?: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error by John MacArthur $2.99.

The Story of Christianity: Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation $1.99.

Christian Leadership Essentials: A Handbook for Managing Christian Organizations by David Dockery $2.99.

7 Things the Bible Teaches about your Body

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 7:52am

The church has often emphasized the soul to the exclusion of, or the minimizing of, the body. As a result, neglecting the body is sometimes seen as a virtue or a mark of super-spirituality. One pastor explained his struggle with this to me:

Somewhere along the way I equated recreation with worldliness. If it wasn’t directly advancing the Kingdom I didn’t need to be doing it. I secretly thought that God would look down and see that I was taking ministry so seriously that he would bless me. But I wasn’t living like a human being. I didn’t realize how much I needed these things. I needed to experience beauty and creativity. I needed to enjoy God’s gifts without guilt. It was a matter of survival.

He’s right. And such errors can be defeated only with truth, with the Bible’s theology of the body. Yes, the Bible does have a theology of the body, much of it is contained in 1 Corinthians 6:9-20. Read the rest of this post here where I explore the Paul’s teaching in this passage:

1. Your body is damaged by sin (vv. 9-11).

2. Your body is saved by God (v. 11).

3. Your body remains vulnerable (v. 12).

4. Your body is for the Lord (vv. 13-14).

5. Your body is a member of Christ (vv. 15-17).

6. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (vv. 18-19).

7. Your body was bought with a price (v. 20).

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Fri, 09/29/2017 - 7:48am

How to Be Teachable According to the Proverbs of the Bible
“If you’re wondering how to grow in teachability, perhaps there’s no better place to turn than the Bible’s wisdom book.”

How Hugh Hefner Hijacked Men’s Brains
The key paragraph:

The unfortunate reality is that when he acts out (often by masturbating), this leads to hormonal and neurological consequences, which are designed to bind him to the object he is focusing on,” Struthers wrote. “In God’s plan, this would be his wife, but for many men it is an image on a screen. Pornography thus enslaves the viewer to an image, hijacking the biological response intended to bond a man to his wife and therefore inevitably loosening that bond.

5 Common Mistakes When Helping Wives of Porn Addicts
Picking up after Hefner:

I have heard stories of the amazing support and care that sexually betrayed women have received in churches around the world. However, sadly more common are the horror stories–the stories of an already traumatized wife suffering a secondary trauma due to poor advice and invalidation, experienced at the hands of (mostly) well-meaning yet misinformed ministry teams and church leaders.

Do You Wish You Could Read Faster?
David Mathis wants to start a slow-reading revolution.

10 Things You Should Know about Dementia
So glad to see this subject getting more attention these days.

12 Reasons to Have Monthly Lunch with a Senior Adult…or a Bunch of Them
What a great idea:

If you’re a church leader, you need to spend intentional time with a senior adult – or with a lot of them. Even a monthly lunch and conversation will pay dividends in your ministry. Here’s why you need to prioritize this time.]

Is Your 50-50 Relationship Ruining Your Marriage?
Time to duck:

Researchers Karen Kramer and Sunjin Pak at the University of Illinois examined data on nearly 1,500 men and 1,800 women between the ages of 52 and 60 and found that the more women’s paychecks increased, the more women reported symptoms of depression. But the opposite effect was found in men: their psychological well-being was highest when they were the primary wage-earners. “The results supported the overarching hypothesis: well-being was lower for mothers and fathers who violated gendered expectations about the division of paid labor, and higher for parents who conformed to these expectations,” said Kramer.

Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving
“Resilient Ministry is a summary and analysis of American pastors’ reflections considering long-term fruitful ministry and the effects of stress. It considers an extensive array of subjects to include spiritual formation, burn out, strategies to improve longevity, emotional intelligence, marriage and family etc. It reaches a number of conclusions that are presented in a clear and helpful way. It is sprinkled with pithy and often wise observations that should benefit pastors living with the burden of their calling.”

New issue is here: The Reformation of the Family
The latest issue of Credo magazine is out and it focuses on how the Reformation impacted the family.

Kindle Books

From Topic to Thesis: A Guide to Theological Research by Michael Kibbe $2.99. Every single seminary student needs to buy and read this. It will save you so much time and your teachers so much grief.

God and Government Kindle Edition by Charles Colson $3.99.

So Pastor, What’s Your Point?

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 8:00am

Just because a sermon has points, doesn’t mean it’s got a point.

One of the best preaching books I’ve read in the last decade is Denis Prutow’s So Pastor, What’s Your Point? If someone like Tim Keller or Don Carson had written it, it would be a bestseller. Prutow’s basic point is that most sermons don’t have a point. They may have points, but they don’t have a point. They have hundreds of sentences, but they can’t be summed up in one sentence.

The world of drama and storytelling calls this a “throughline,” the connecting theme that ties together each part of a narrative or speech. TED Head Chris Anderson says “Every talk should have one.” In TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, he says:

Since your goal is to construct something wondrous inside your listeners’ minds, you can think of the throughline as a strong cord or rope, onto which you will attach all the elements that are part of the idea you’re building.

A talk can cover more than one topic and have more than one point, but all the topics and all the points must connect. If you think of your talk as a journey, the throughline is what connects all the major stopping points. Here’s how Anderson puts it:

A good exercise is to try to encapsulate your throughline in no more than fifteen words. And those fifteen words need to provide robust content. It’s not enough to think of your goal as, “I want to inspire the audience” or “I want to win support for my work.” It has to be more focused than that. What is the precise idea you want to build inside your listeners? What is their takeaway?

Most preachers (and I include myself in his) hate being asked for a throughline (or “sermon proposition”). That’s partly because it’s hard work to produce one. But it’s mainly because it usually exposes the lack of one, forcing more work on the sermon in order to create a credible and compelling throughline. But it always results in a better sermon.

A “throughline” should be as comprehensive as possible (incorporating each point of the sermon), as clear as possible (a simple rather than a complex sentence), as brief as possible (max of 15 words is about right), as memorable as possible (so that someone can take it away with them), as interesting as possible (intriguing rather than boring), and as unique as possible (so that it could only fit that text and no other).

If you can’t produce a throughline for your sermon. You don’t have a sermon.

Just because a sermon has points, doesn’t mean it’s got a point.

Check out

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 7:24am

Free Study Guide for 12 Ways
Here’s a free study guide for 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. Great resource for youth (and not-so-youth) groups.

Top Reasons Why a Long Commute May Be Worth It
Three reasons to look forward to work even when you have a grueling commute.

A New Kind of Youth Ministry (to save the local church)
Not sure where this series is going but this initial article on he historical background to youth ministry is fascinating.

The Most Important Ingredient for Rebuke
“Be ready to say the hard thing, Timothy, and then do the harder thing and practice complete patience with fellow sinners.”

6 Surprises Every Premarital Counselor Should Cover
“Many young couples head into marriage with blinders—believing their marriage will be the fairy tale they dreamed of as they planned a Pinterest ceremony and momentous honeymoon. But the truth is marriage reveals our sin, exposes our desires, challenges our relational network, and requires us to regularly practice costly forgiveness. Engaged folk need to know that marriage is a call to ministry where two sinners learn—till death parts them—how to apply the gospel of grace.”

Leaders and Loneliness
I agree with this assessment. I’d only add that in the falls I’ve witnessed, the pastors and leaders chose isolation, resisting fellowship and accountability. It wasn’t people who pulled away from them; they pushed people away.

“In the past two years, five of my friends who are pastors lost their ministries because of moral failure. Five. Most of these pastors were also well known and celebrated beyond their local contexts. From the outside, it seemed they were at their peak pastorally and relationally. How could it be otherwise? Their books sold like hotcakes, they had speaking engagements galore, and their adoring congregations devoured their words like honey. Surrounded by such acclaim, the one thing they couldn’t possibly be… …is lonely. “

Mexico City Burnout
If American pastors think they’ve got it bad….

5 Tough Lessons from the Death of Nabeel
Why would God take away such a beloved and useful servant of Christ?

6 Actions to Take when Grieving the Death of a Loved One
Six things that, if done in faith, can be the way to resurrection.

Kindle Books

10 Things Every Minister’s Wife Needs To Know by Jeana Floyd $2.99.

Wait and See: Finding Peace in God’s Pauses and Plans by Wendy Pope $2.99.

The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage with Purpose by Lisa Anderson $1.59.

6 Tips for Reading the Bible with Your Kids

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 2:00am

When we look back on our childhoods, among many other happy memories, we may recall our parents reading with us. “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Three Little Pigs,” and multiple other children’s classics cast a warm hue upon our earliest recollections.

So why don’t we do the same with the Bible? Why don’t we read the Bible one-on-one with our children? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to give our children that best of memories? If you haven’t started such a practice, let me give you some guidance to start the ball rolling.

You can read the rest of this article at Crossway’s blog where I expand upon the following points

1. Give them a good reason to read the Bible.

2. Establish a routine.

3. Be realistic.

4. Be systematic

5. Ask good questions.

6. Ask God for help.

Four Preaching and Writing Styles to Avoid

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 1:30am

Speakers (and preachers) succeed if they are givers not takers, rapiers not ramblers, interesting not boring, and leave he inspiring to God.

Not all TED talks go viral. Some fall flat and into oblivion. In TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public SpeakingChris Anderson highlights four speaking styles that are guaranteed fails. Same warnings apply to preaching, writing, and blogging.

The Sales Pitch: There’s a big difference between sharing an idea and pitching a sale. The key principle is to remember that the speaker’s job is to give to the audience, not take from them.

The Ramble: If people have given up some of their precious time and attention to listen to you, you’d better use that time and attention as well as possible.

The Org Bore: An organization is fascinating to those who work for it— and deeply boring to almost everyone else.

The Inspiration Performance: Inspiration is like love. You don’t get it by pursuing it directly through using every trick in the book of intellectual and emotional manipulation. “Inspiration is an audience response to authenticity, courage, selfless work, and genuine wisdom.”

Speakers (and preachers) succeed if they are givers not takers, rapiers not ramblers, interesting not boring, and leave the inspiring to God.

Check out

Wed, 09/27/2017 - 1:00am
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Dying Well
This is really what it’s all about, getting ready to die.

Pastors are called to equip the saints to walk in those good works that God has prepared beforehand for them to walk in. Every saint (except those alive when Jesus returns) will have to walk through the good work of dying well. May the Lord enable us to prepare Jesus’ sheep to live by faith and to die by faith.

A Letter to My Former Pastor, on the Occasion of His Retirement

Bro. Ken, When I opened the email that said you planned to step down as senior pastor this year, I cried. The tears flowed both from sadness at the passing of time and from gratitude for you and your ministry. For more than a decade of my life, you were the primary chef who served up and seasoned the meat of God’s Word for my spiritual sustenance. During my most formative years, you nourished me through your preaching more than one thousand times.

The Real Story of Christianity and Abortion
Never give up. Never give in.

To the utter consternation of the abortion rights movement, the issue of abortion simply will not go away. Decades after abortion rights activists thought they had put the matter to rest with the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, America’s conscience is more troubled than ever, and near-panic appears to break out regularly among abortion activists. Such a panic is now under way, and the defenders of abortion are trotting out some of their most dishonest arguments. One of the worst is the claim that Christians have only recently become concerned about the sanctity of human life and the evil of abortion.

Seven Characteristics of Liberal Theology
Watch for even the smallest beginnings of these.

Setting the Tone in Your Home
Dadas too.

Mamas, you have been granted a special gift in the life of your family: you are the tone setter. It doesn’t matter if you have fancy decor or an immaculately clean house. It doesn’t matter if you work long hours or stay home all day long. When you are with your family, you guide the atmosphere.”

Parenting and Emotional Intelligence
“As you look back on your childhood, how did your family of origin approach feelings? How has that shaped you and the way you interact with others? If you are a parent, how does that play itself out in the way you interact with your children?”

Kindle Books

“Free Grace” Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel by Wayne Grudem $3.99. This is an important book on a vital subject.

Ready for Reformation? by Tom Nettles $0.99. If you’re not already over-Reformationed.

How to Be a Christian in a Brave New World by Joni Eareckson Tada $1.99.

How to Help Your Kids Get Excited about Reading the Bible

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 2:00am

Parents face huge obstacles in trying to get their kids excited about reading the Bible. For starters, very few kids are reading anything at all. There are so many distracting (and seemingly more exciting) alternatives to sitting quietly with a book. The pressure of school activities, sports, and the social whirl are not conducive to finding a quiet time to read.

On top of that, the Bible is not an easy read. Sure, there are some well-known sections that many kids are familiar with through Sunday school and VBS, but the vast majority of it is unchartered territory. It’s not a multimedia fest; it’s black words on white pages. It’s not a world that most kids are familiar with; the culture, history, and geography of the Bible seem a million miles and years away from modern children.

Two Enemies

And worst of all, we have two enemies fighting with all their might against children reading the Bible. There’s the devil, who opens the gates of hell whenever a child opens a Bible. And there are our children’s hearts, which are turned away from the truth from birth (Psalm 51:5; 58:3). No one naturally and normally delights in the Word of God without being given a new heart by regeneration.

Despite these discouraging impediments, I still believe we should and can encourage our children to see Bible reading as a delight rather than a drudge. And the most powerful way of doing that is by conveying our own delight in God’s Word. We have to demonstrate that the Bible lights up our life. If we’re not excited about this book, we can’t expect our children to be.

Read the rest of this article at Crossway’s blog.

The biggest difference between good speakers and great speakers

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 1:30am

Good speakers are focused on their speaking. Great speakers are focused on their audience’s hearing.

What makes the difference between a good speech and a great speech? They share many common qualities: important subject, accurate research, clear writing, organized material, relevant illustrations, passionate communication, and so on.

But they differ in one important area.

Good speakers are focused on their speaking. Great speakers are focused on their audience’s hearing.

If you were able to measure where a speaker’s primary concern lay, good speakers would have a big arrow pointing to their mouth. Great speakers would have a big arrow pointing at their hearers’ ears.

The good speaker’s primary question is “How can I get this out?” The great speaker’s main question is “How do I get this in?”

The good speaker is concerned with “How can I teach this?” The great speaker gravitates towards, “How can they learn this?”

The good speaker asks, “Is this the best structure and outline to help me deliver this message?” The great speaker asks, “Is this the best structure and outline to help my hearers embrace this message?”

The good speaker concentrates on delivering his manuscript. The great speaker concentrates on his hearers receiving his words

The difference is sometimes subtle and difficult to detect in the moment of speaking, but always vast in the long-term impact of the words.

In TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public SpeakingChris Anderson explains that the most successful TED talks not only have a compelling idea at their core, but the speakers have spent time thinking about the best way to get that idea out of their head and into the heads of others.

Most good speakers think it’s enough to have a good idea and to express it clearly. The best speakers go the extra mile; they put in the extra time and tears to figure out the best way to transfer the idea from their mind into others’ minds.  As Anderson puts it:

Language works its magic only to the extent that it is shared by speaker and listener. And there’s the key clue to how to achieve the miracle of re-creating your idea in someone else’s brain. You can only use the tools that your audience has access to. If you start only with your language, your concepts, your assumptions, your values, you will fail. So instead, start with theirs. It’s only from that common ground that they can begin to build your idea inside their minds.

I love that metaphor of re-creating our idea in our listeners’ minds. The good speaker uses the materials of his own mind to do this. The great speaker reaches into the minds of his hearers and uses the materials he finds there. Without this, idea-transference will never happen. With it, the possibilities are endless.

Is God not the best example of this? He didn’t communicate with his own concepts and words. That would have not only baffled our minds but exploded them. Instead he used the concepts and materials he found in our own minds. Indeed, in his ultimate communication, he used the materials of our own human flesh, our own human souls, and our own human minds. “The Word became flesh.” And all because he was focused on our hearing not his speaking.

Good speakers are focused on their speaking. Great speakers are focused on their audience’s hearing.

Burnout Begins with Bad Theology

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:00am

Innumerable books and articles have been published over the last several years on the subject of burnout. But for all the millions of words that have been spent, the statistics continue to rise at an alarming pace. And behind the cold statistics is a conflagration of relationships, families, careers, lives, and souls.

The reason the vast majority of cures and solutions for burnout don’t work is that they merely focus on various techniques to manage stress or reduce anxiety. Some of these practical remedies can be helpful, but they don’t address the heart of the issue. They may put out the fire around the edges, but, because they don’t extinguish the central blaze, the fire within keeps erupting and charred remains keep piling up.

So, what leads us to burnout? Ultimately, it’s false theology. Behind every exhausted person are bogus beliefs that must be identified and doused by replacing them with true theology. Let’s start by pointing our fire extinguisher at our (false) theology of sleep.

Read the rest of his article at desiringGod.

Check out

Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:00am

Why Gospel Diversity Means More—Though Not Less!—Than Ethnic Diversity
“They go on to define “diversity” as “any multiplicity of backgrounds where unity is possible only through the gospel.” I found their reminders helpful—not as a way of downplaying or distracting from an emphasis on ethnic diversity, but as a way to build upon it. In other words, we should pray for more diversity, not less.”

Shatter Your Kid-Centered Kingdom
“When we forego what our culture deems best and instead chase God’s best, it is in fact our kids’ best. When we serve God and not our children, our children actually benefit.”

“Should I Force My Teen to Go to Church?”
R C Sproul answers: “I would encourage you to make it a special point of concern to do everything in your power to get your kids to church and to make it an attractive time for them rather than a bad experience.”

5 Pastoral Emergencies That Aren’t Emergencies
What’s a pastor to do with the seemingly endless emergencies? “One step you can take is to decide whether something is actually an emergency. Just because it’s an emergency to them doesn’t mean it has to be an emergency for you.”

10 Indicators You’ve Stopped Growing as a Leader
“Leaders who stop growing lose their edge as a leader. They become stale, even if others may not readily recognize it. See if your life reflects any of these indications that you’ve stopped growing as a leader:”

The End of the World As We Know It: An Infographic – Tim Challies
Clear and simple presentation of the main millennial views.

The Cheap Way to Bless Your Pastor | TGC
“So as budget time rolls around, consider the cheapest way to bless your pastor and your congregation: make sure the minister has enough time to rest, read, and recharge.”

Remembering the Attributes of God in Counseling
“How do the attributes of God shape your counseling? Are there certain attributes that have been particularly helpful? How can we show our counselees more of the character of God as we meet together? How can spending time meditating on the attributes of God benefit our own souls as we seek to care for others?”

Why You Get Distracted at Work
“There are things we can do to buck the trend. We can put our phones away, use apps to shut off social media during work hours, and turn our phones off at dinner time. But a mechanical fix is just a Band-Aid. Most of us have a real problem with concentration. Until we are willing to take a hard look at how and why we are driving ourselves to distraction, it’s going to be hard to find the focus that we so badly need.”

Six Benefits of Ordinary Daily Devotions | Desiring God
“Your devotions may have seemed ordinary today, but God is making something extraordinary through it. Press on. Don’t short-change the process.

Kindle Books

Too Good to Be True by Michael Horton $3.99.

Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae $3.99.

Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry by Barbara Bancroft $1.59.

The New Superpower of Presentation Literacy

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 2:00am

Presentation literacy is a superpower and can be learned.

One of the most inspiring sections in TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speakingis where Chris Anderson expands upon the power of the spoken word over the written word:

Done right, a talk can electrify a room and transform an audience’s worldview. Done right, a talk is more powerful than anything in written form. Writing gives us the words. Speaking brings with it a whole new toolbox. When we peer into a speaker’s eyes; listen to the tone of her voice; sense her vulnerability, her intelligence, her passion, we are tapping into unconscious skills that have been fine-tuned over hundreds of thousands of years. Skills that can galvanize, empower, inspire.

Like me, you’re probably saying, “Yes, that’s true for a few speakers who have exceptional gifts, but that will never be me.” But Chris Anderson insists that public speaking skills are teachable, “that there’s a new superpower that anyone, young or old, can benefit from. It’s called presentation literacy.”

Novel name, but not a novel idea, as the teaching of rhetoric was one of the basics of first century education, leading Anderson to advocate for a “Fourth R” to supplement reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic in our schools. And the curriculum would be this book’s analysis of thousands of TED talks that have succeeded in achieving 1.5 billion annual views. Anderson argues:

Presentation literacy isn’t an optional extra for the few. It’s a core skill for the twenty-first century. It’s the most impactful way to share who you are and what you care about. If you can learn to do it, your self-confidence will flourish, and you may be amazed at the beneficial impact it can have on your success in life, however you might choose to define that.

Anderson tells his own story of how he went from being a terrified geeky bag of nerves about public speaking to getting a standing ovation from Jeff Bezos and other dignitaries. He encourages us:

No matter how little confidence you might have today in your ability to speak in public, there are things you can do to turn that around. Facility with public speaking is not a gift granted at birth to a lucky few. It’s a broad-ranging set of skills. There are hundreds of ways to give a talk, and everyone can find an approach that’s right for them and learn the skills necessary to do it well.

Presentation literacy is a superpower and can be learned.

Can TED talks teach us how to preach?

Thu, 09/21/2017 - 2:00am

Have something valuable to say, and say it authentically in your own way.

Having started listening to the audiobook of TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public SpeakingI not only answer “Yes, we can,” to that question, but “Yes, we must.”

I’ve only listened to the first two hours of the seven-hour book, but I’ve already learned some valuable lessons that I hope to incorporate into future sermons, lectures, and addresses.

Given the unparalleled success of this format for the verbal communication of ideas, it’s not surprising that there’s much to profit from for anyone whose calling is focused on the spoken word.

On every page, Chris Anderson, the author and founder of the modern-day TED Talks, shares what he has learned from watching many epic TED talks; and also some epic fails.

One of the main points he makes in his introduction is: “There is no one way to give a great talk.” That’s so encouraging for preachers and teachers everywhere. Sometimes we think we have to copy a certain successful speaker, or preaching style, but, as Anderson warns, “Any attempt to apply a single set formula is likely to backfire. Audiences see through it in an instant and feel manipulated.” Yep, been there.

As the key part of any great talk is freshness, Anderson encourages readers to see the book as offering a set of tools designed to encourage variety. “Your only real job in giving a talk,” he says, “is to have something valuable to say, and to say it authentically in your own unique way.

As Christian preachers and teachers, we certainly have the former. But, in the Reformed world, we often lack the latter. There’s almost a fear of being oneself, of being authentic, of letting one’s character or personality shine through or shape the message in any way. Such Reformed Robots rust out pretty quickly for the hearers.

I’ve seen men full of lively and lovely personality become bore of the year in the pulpit. A lot of that is fear of man and the desire to conform to a certain “type” or “image” of what a preacher should be. But it’s deadly to effective communication of our message.

I was talking to a student about this recently and he shared that what had helped him in this area was Tim Keller’s little book The Freedom of Self ForgetfulnessThat’s the key to this. It’s not about acting; it’s the very opposite. It’s about stopping acting. It’s about closing the Reformed clone factory. It’s about being yourself, your unique self, which only happens when you forget yourself.

Have something valuable to say, and say it authentically in your own unique way.