Tools of the Trade For the Week of August 10, 2020

I’ve not had much original content in the last few weeks. There are a couple of reasons for that, but the most significant one is that I haven’t had many original thoughts. 😁

Here are a list of links to articles you’ll find helpful for your self and your people.

Lydia Brownback has a podcast on Crossway’s website on how to lead a Bible Study. Leading a Bible Study group is not always that easy. Suggested listening!

Dr. Phil Ryken has a podcast on How to Read (and Not Read) the Bible. Hey – if your people are still in semi-shutdown why not forward helpful articles or podcasts to them? It would be far better for them to read/listen to these kinds of things than spend time on social media.

The problem of pornography is something that Christians have addressed often, and I can’t imagine Christians quibbling over whether porn is appropriate. However, it’s not often that a secular source deals with the subject. This article from The Federalist, a conservative political magazine, is worth reading. I don’t recall any naughty words, so if you find one, I apologize in advance.

Here’s an hour-long podcast by Pastor Won Kwak on writing sermons. We should be regularly looking to improve our preaching and here’s a good resource.

Aaron Earls writes about a study of churches who are gathering again in this period of pandemic.

Burk Parsons encourages behaving ourselves when we talk with each other. Several other writers have addressed this theme, but it is an important reminder. Send this to your people. Or post a link to it on your social media account.

David Murray has written several times lately on the subject of depression and anxiety. Here’s an article on prayer during depression. Keep it and share it. And here’s another keeper on understanding teen anxiety and depression.

Have you ever been discouraged as a pastor? Even during good periods of ministry there are issues that discourage. Jim Eliff shares some counsel for discouraged pastors.

There’s a lot going on that makes people afraid. Jonathan Rourke writes about how we can best care for fearful church members.

Simple title: America Was Never Home. I need this reminder. Do you or your people?

It may be painful to ask ourselves if you are exploiting your church, but it’s important that we do.

Have a great week!

It’s Five From the Files Friday!

I use Evernote as a repository for articles that I want to hold on to. I’ve often searched through the 1000+ blog posts and web articles I’ve saved and found information that I needed. I’d recommend you do the same. Evernote has several tiers of service, but I’ve found that the free version is fine for my needs.

The other week I was looking through the articles I’ve saved and realized that there is a wealth of “old stuff” that people following this blog may not have read. Hence It’s Five From the Files Friday. Like the Tools of the Trade articles that I link to on Mondays, some are for sharing and some are directed at pastors. Enjoy!

There is nothing wrong with larger churches, but there are some real advantages being small(er). Carl Trueman brilliantly reminds us of the realities of “life together.” (August 2010)

Ed Welch helps us help others with this article called “I can help you . . . in six words.” (Sept, 2010)

How do you understand the whole issue of Christians, demons, and exorcism. I’ve known people who have gone off the deep end. Al Mohler brings some sanity to this discussion. (November, 2010)

This is an article I hope you never have to use, but if you have to deal with a victim of sexual assault, this may make the difference between helping and (unwittingly) hurting. (July 2011)

Finally, here is an article on doing youth ministry in such a way that it is a benefit to the entire church. (Aug, 2011)

Have a great weekend!

Tools of the Trade For the Week of August 3, 2020

Each Monday or Tuesday I provide links to some articles that I think will be helpful to pastors. While older pastors don’t have all the answers, these articles are often especially helpful to you younger guys.

Thankfully the majority of preachers I’ve heard treat the text of Scripture fairly and faithfully. But I’ve heard some who, while well meaning, find “truths” that aren’t there. Here’s one reason this happens.

When I first had kids TV was the only “screen” that they had, and it was always possible to let them have too much TV time. Then came video games, followed my computer games, followed by the internet, followed by phones and tablets. While it’s easy to keep kids occupied with these devices, there’s a price to pay if it’s not monitored. Share this with your parents. Well, not your parents, but the parents in your church.

Colin Adams writes about something most of us deal with – the very long time it is taking to get back to “normal church.”

From time to time there are articles that I think pastors should just leave lying around in visible spots for people to take. If you have people who are looking for the perfect church, here’s one to make available.

This article, by H.B. Charles is about preaching the tone of the text. So many times we ignore not only context (see the first article above) but the tone.

Here’s a half-hour podcast from Carl Truman and Todd Pruitt on church leaders and social media. Todd recently jettisoned Twitter and Carl is one of the most astute commentators on “what’s going on” that I’ve read/heard.

Kevin Vanhoozer write about a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot (again) of late. I’m letting some thoughts marinate for a future post that relates to the theme of doctrine in the life of the Christian. The title of this piece is Doctrine for Discipleship.

Here’s another article for preaching. Bryan Chapell discusses the importance of balance when dealing with imperatives and indicatives in the Biblical text. This article, and the other two above, are probably the kinds of preaching helps we should read every few months.

I’ll close this week’s list with another by H.B. Charles on sermon introductions. I wrote about this months ago. It’s an important topic.

I hope you have a good week!

Five From the Files

I have an extensive collection of articles that I have saved in Evernote for the last decade or so. I was going through them the other day and saw so many that were worth bringing to light again. Like the Tools of the Trade articles that I link to on Mondays, some are for sharing and some are directed at pastors.

Have you ever been taught how to listen to a sermon? With the enormous amount of info that our people take in each week, it would seem that maximizing their ability to listen to, and process, a sermon would be a great idea. Here are some articles to share with them. Not only that, perhaps these articles will help you with how you preach.

Dave Jenkins: 3 Keys to Listening During Sermons.

Crosway Publishers: 8 Tips for Taking Good Sermon Notes.

Here are a couple of articles for younger preachers. And older preachers too.

Michael Kruger: Note to Aspiring Preachers: Here are Seven Key Pitfalls to Avoid.

Scott Slayton: How Sporadic Church Attendance Affects Preaching.

Thabite Anyawile: Bits and Pieces for Young Ministers: Discipleship, Rest, and Reading.

Tools of the Trade For the Week of July 27, 2020

Each Monday or Tuesday I provide links to some articles that I think will be helpful to pastors. While older pastors don’t have all the answers, these articles are often especially helpful to you younger guys.

Before I give this week’s links, I want to point you to an article my friend Cynthia Epply wrote last week. Cynthia served as a counselor for many years. Many, many, many years, right Cynthia? 😇 She encountered a situation by chance, and if you love baseball, whiffle ball, family, or just want to read about something good coming out of the pandemic, take a look at this article.

Now here are some helpful links for this week.

“Future Pastors Need Mentors” is a challenge not only to experienced pastors, but to you guys who might be starting out or still in seminary.

We evangelical Christians have often been guilty of using some really questionable means of finding God’s will. One of the best books on the subject is Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something. But here is an article about the dubious practice of “putting out a fleece.”

One of the ways you can be a better preacher is by planning in advance. The folks at 9Marks talk about planning a preaching calendar.

John Piper writes about the solemn charge to every pastor.

With some presidential candidates past and present identifying themselves as Christians, the late RC Sproul and some other well-known pastors talk about the theology of candidates and how it should/shouldn’t affect how we vote.

David Murray has written some helpful material for those who suffer from anxiety or depression. I believe it’s vital that pastors read up on these issues and grasp the various dimensions of both. If we don’t, we’re likely not only to be unhelpful, we may be hurtful. Anyway, here’s an article on prayer to share with those who struggle.

Jeff Robinson, on the Crossway Podcast, talks about the Blessings and Burdens of Pastoral Ministry.

Back in the day I used to thumb through the hymnal our church used and wince at some of the awful theology some songs contained. The church used to have a staple of 500-600 hymns. Today we have a plethora (note – side humor) of songs: some good, some not-so-good, some really bad. How do we choose what to sing? This article talks about how the Psalms can teach us what to sing.

That’s all for today. Have a great week. Let me modify what one network anchor says: “We’re one week closer to the New Heavens and New Earth.”

Remember, It’s A Privilege!

From time to time I mention that I’ve been retired from pastoral ministry for the last three years. My final sermon at the church I served was in June, 2017. Then in early August of that year I had the privilege of preaching at the First Baptist Church of Crestmont, in Abington, PA. First Baptist is a growing African-American congregation, and their pastor, Jerome Coleman, was kind enough to invite me to preach there before we moved to where we live now. It was a wonderful time, and I will never forget the kindness Jerome and his people showed to me. But since then these vocal chords have been stilled. Well, at least in terms of preaching.

We visited a number of churches, but in January we began attending a church plant in the Lehigh Valley. Several months ago our pastor, Ben Triestman, asked if I would be able to preach for him. Then the pandemic hit and everything shut down. Like many churches, Orchard Hills Church is streaming its services. Initially I was going to preach live on July 19 with no congregation, but that was changed to recording a sermon this past Tuesday to be used this coming Sunday, July 26. In contrast to the last time I had preached, with a church filled with enthusiastic worshippers, on Tuesday there were two guys in the room with me. And they were wearing masks, so I have no idea if I put them to sleep!

Preaching after a long layoff was a great experience, even in Tuesday’s unusual setting. As I prepared and preached, and then thought about how it felt to preach again, a number of thoughts came to mind. But the one thought that has been most dominant is this: preaching is an incredible privilege.

Just think: we have the inspired, inerrant Word of God, transmitted through the centuries through great sacrifice, telling us everything that God wants us to know so that we might be his children and honor him in the way we live. Then we have churches composed of sinful people, many of whom are are now counted righteous before God because of Jesus. And between the Word and the Church are frail people like you and me who are entrusted with the task of teaching God’s Word to God’s People and inviting those who are not part of God’s family to repent and believe the Words about the Word (Jesus).

There is nothing routine about that, no matter how many times you’ve preached. I was reminded of that again, as I often was when I was serving as a pastor. And this weekend as you stand before your church and open the Bible with them, I hope you will be reminded of the awe-inspiring opportunity that God has given you.

Knowing the greatness of our privilege as preachers prevents hubris, keeps us from being casual in our study and our delivery, and reminds us that we are dealing with the stuff of eternity.

I was sharing some of these thoughts with a friend who is also a retired pastor and he said this: “Preaching is a privilege…a wonderful and great adventure. I loved every minute of that. It carries a burden however. The thought that your words given by God Almighty can change a life for eternity–WOW!”

“Wow” is right. If you’ve lost that sense of how privileged we are, may God rekindle that in your heart. God bless you!

Tools of the Trade For the Week of July 20, 2020

Here are some links you will find helpful. Some to file, some to read and share. Enjoy!

Important! Important! David Murray had several posts recently on the subject of teen anxiety and depression. This is stuff to read, save, share. There are a lot of hurting kids out there.

Did you ever feel that your small group is not what you expected or what you’d like it to be? Brad House has a helpful post right here. And then head over to this article on small groups.

We have lots of questions about life after death. What was life after death like during the OT period. Matthew Emerson writes about Sheol: Exploring the Afterlife in the OT.

Vaneetha Rendall Risner, writing at Desiring God, shares some thoughts for people who have lost a child. You’ll encounter this very painful situation. This article will help you navigate it and say the right things.

Was Jesus without sin? CNN host Don Lemon recently commented that he was “not perfect.” While this response is from a conservative publication, it is an excellent theological defense of the sinlessness of Christ.

Jenny Whitaker speaks to an issue that all pastors can relate to – being concerned about pleasing people.

My friend Cynthia Epply has some thoughts on the cancel culture that is growing in our society. And they are worth reading.

Quina Aragon and Eugene Park speak to how to minister to “wounded and straying sheep in a pandemic.”

This article is one to read, reflect on how it relates to the climate you’re creating in your church, and then send to your congregation with a note that says, “I found this interesting. What do you think?”

John Folmar writes about “The Danger of Sending Unqualified Missionaries.”

I’ve written a couple of times about finding companions in ministry. This article, titled “Uncommon Brothers” reminds us why this is so important.

And that’ll do it for this week. Have a good one!

Younger Pastor – Your Trials Will Help You Minister to Others

Here is one of my favorite passages:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-7, ESV).

Through the years I’ve made note of the fact that many pastors go through some kind of difficulty while in school or early on in their ministry. It doesn’t happen in every case, but from my casual observation is happens more often than not.

Maybe it’s a broken relationship. Or perhaps it’s a financial difficulty, or a setback in your education. It could be unrealized plans or dreams, family issues, or any of a number of other problems, including health issues. Of course these are not unique to pastors, but – again from my casual observation – younger pastors often seem to have some trial or struggle that ends up being somewhat life-altering.

Some men start out in ministry only to find that their first church experience is the pastoral equivalent of the Titanic. It sinks. I know guys who have struggled with unreasonable Senior Pastors, inter-staff conflict, congregations that are hypercritical, or controlling power mongers.

As you read this, one (or more) situations that you either have faced or are currently facing may come to mind. They are painful. Going through those deeper waters may have left you feeling isolated, disillusioned, hurt, or a combination of the above. So what do you do with your troubles? From what Paul says in the passage I quoted above, you use them to help others.

Here is how our trials can help us be better pastors.

  1. They can grow us up faster than “normal” and enable us to develop wisdom.
  2. They can enable us to relate to the struggles people share with us. Granted, our struggles may not be theirs struggles. But as people share, we can respond with greater empathy. (Caveat: be careful using “I understand.”)
  3. Sometimes our experiences will parallel the experiences of others so that we can tell how God helped us in a particular situation.

It is easy to write the words, “Don’t despair over your past or present problems.” It’s not that easy to go through them. I’ve had my share of disappointments and struggles and I won’t deny that some of them have rocked me a bit. But my troubles became opportunities for God to use others in my life, and opportunities for me to be a more compassionate pastor. Both are good consequences.

God comforts us in our affliction so that we can comfort others in their affliction. I pray that will be true for you.

Tools of the Trade for the Week of July 13, 2020


Another week is ahead of us, filled with opportunities and challenges. Here’s a group of links to helpful resources.

First, my wife and I watched Alistair Begg yesterday morning and his message was spot on for the times. I appreciate how he can speak to current events while letting the text dominate the message. It’s worth watching this both for its content and as an example of good preaching.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the Psalms over the last few years and I notice that as the age we live in becomes more troubled there are more and more articles being written about the value of this OT book. Here are 4 Reasons to Preach the Psalms to Ourselves.

Another topic getting a good deal of attention is the way Christians behave on social media. Sharp Tongues and Angry Tweets is worth reading and passing on.

This article points to a podcast that provides the opportunity to listen to recordings of history’s greatest sermons. Not the originals of course, but worth checking out.

Crossway has a podcast that is worth checking. This particlar podcast is on Learning from the Church Fathers by Michael Haykin.

For churcn planters: The Secret to Church Planting (From a Former Muslim).

Some of you have been there, others are there right now. It’s going to happen to all pastors sooner or later. Read and file: How to Pray When You Want to Give up in Ministry.

All pastors and church leaders want to see their churches grow. Aaron Menikoff shares 5 Reasons to Pray Your Church Would Grow Slowly.

It’s so much easier to talk than to listen. But if we want to help people – really help people – we need to be better at the latter than the former. Here’s some help.

Again, you may have been there, others are there right now. Some of your people may feel that No One Understands.

That’s all for this week! I have an article rolling around my mind for probably Thursday. Have a great one!!

Have We Prepared Our People for Antichrist?

The Apostle John wrote this: “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 3:18, ESV).

Depending on your eschatological views, antichrist may be a spirit of evil throughout the entirety of Christian history, a growing opposition to Christianity as the return of Christ draws near, a specific person – the Antichrist – who figures prominently in end-times events, or a combination of the three. I lean toward the latter. I believe there will be a person, but I also believe there has been and will continue to be a growing opposition to the Gospel and those who believe it – an opposition that is deeply rooted in the spiritual forces of evil.

So I ask this question: Have we prepared our people for antichrist? Here’s the answer: No.

In the latter part of the 20th century, cultural opposition to Christian beliefs and morality was on the rise. The growth of social media and the ease of making comments online led to people expressing opposition to Christianity. But as I recall, that opposition showed itself primarily through intellectual/philosophical objections to the Bible and the Christian message. But that has changed. Presently, reactions to Christians and Christianity are more emotional, more venomous, more hate-filled, and more intolerant.

Over a decade ago, during a sermon, I read some rather hateful comments someone had made online about God, Christianity, the church, and Christians. The response in my congregation was a a gasp of surprise. For those who were older and had grown up in “friendlier” times, to think that someone could and would say such horrible things about Christians and the Gospel message was stunning, and I saw many folks shaking their heads in disapproval. A common response was a puzzled “How could they say that?” But “they” were saying that.

Fast forward to July, 2020.

Over the last 5 months we’ve watched the world change. Life is going to be different as we go forward, and I’m not talking about how many people can fit into a dining room or whether we will be able to find toilet paper. We are seeing radicalism that goes much deeper than a response to social injustice. And while a radicalized young adult population, products of universities that are themselves hostile to Christianity, seems to garner the headlines, there are well known public figures are also openly hostile to evangelical Christianity.

So how do we respond?

It is interesting that the New Testament letters speak often about persecution and suffering. But do we? And when we do preach and teach those passages, do we deal with the reality of what Christians around the world are facing and what we might soon face, or are we still fussing about Christmas being turned into “Happy Holidays,” or whether the Ten Commandments should be on the walls of government buildings? Is it possible that we’ve not seen the gathering storm, and that we’ve failed to prepare our people for real opposition?

The solution is not to run and hide. Nor is it time to hoist the American flag and think that our claims to freedom of speech and freedom to worship as we choose is going to matter to people who hate us. No, it’s time to teach our people that the spirit of antichrist is here, that it has been here for a long time, and that it’s going to be here in growing intensity until Jesus returns. In other words, get ready for some turbulence.

This is not a time for light “inspirational” preaching. Nor is it time to be thinking about how our churches can market themselves to be more attractive. It’s time for pastors to teach their people who God is, about how we are to live in hostile culture, and about how our beliefs (which so few Christians can articulate beyond a elementary summary) will help us stand firm if times get tougher in our lifetime.

Young pastor, this blog is directed at you. Please teach your people the Bible! Please go deep! Please bring them face to face with God! I’m not suggesting that every sermon has to deal with suffering. But I do want to ask: are you teaching your people what the New Testament writers taught? Are the themes they emphasize the ones you emphasize in your preaching?

If so, you can’t miss the subject of hostility toward God’s people. So guard your flock. Tend to your sheep. And teach them how to hold on to God in the face of antichrist.