Try to Change

I heard a song on CBC Radio 2 today that I knew I'd have to buy when I got home. It's by Mother Mother, and it's called Try to Change.

Try to change..
I try to change..
I make a list of all the ways to change my ways.
But I stay the same,
I stay the same...

I will try and try to change
but the list I made of changes to make,
it blew away.

The lyrics work really well when you hear them, and it's kind of a fun song. It's on iTunes, at least in Canada, if you want to check it out. I may have to play this song once in a while when I'm tempted to preach a moralistic sermon.

Preaching out of season


When I told my friend that I was going to take a D.Min. in preaching, he responded via chat with a symbol I've never forgotten. "Isn't preaching sort of emotion-52.gif?" He believed, as many do, that preaching has seen better days, and is like flowers in a vase that should have been thrown out last week.

I get why. There really isn't as much good preaching out there as one would like. A lot of it is therapeutic and moralistic, like a Christian version of Anthony Robbins. It's even easy to doubt the usefulness of good preaching, preaching that is rooted in Scripture and is gospel-centered. There's not much of that preaching out there, and can we really expect this type of preaching to make a difference? I hear people talk about preachers in less than flattering terms, and they're not atheists. They are good churchgoing people.

I thought of this as I studied Ephesians last week as I prepared to (gulp) preach: "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers..." (Ephesians 4:11). Paul has been talking in Ephesians 4 about Jesus as a victorious king who has taken the place of victory, and has given gifts to his people from the plunder. What does the risen Christ give the church after plundering Satan? Christian leaders. Not just Christian leaders, but leaders who have one thing in common: they are teachers. They all have some role in unpacking what God has done through Christ, of teaching and communicating the good news.

If we are honest, I think a lot of us would say we had hoped for something else from the plunder. If Christ is going to go to all the trouble of defeating Satan, and if he wants to give gifts from that plunder to the church, couldn't he have chosen something else?

But that's what Jesus has chosen to give. Leaders who teach God's Words are gifts from Jesus to his people, won at great cost at the cross.

If that doesn't elevate the importance of teaching and preaching in the church, I don't know what does. And that doesn't make me proud either. I read that and realize my inadequacy to be a teacher of God's Word. Who is worthy to take this on?

Ed Stetzer wrote today that he is hearing "more and more about the importance of the local church (thank God)." I hope we'll soon hear more and more about the importance of solid teaching and preaching too. But even if we don't, it's still important to value preaching, and if you're a preacher/teacher, to preach even when it's out of season.

I have this quote from John Stott hanging above my desk:

I pray earnestly that God will raise up today a new generation of Christian apologists or Christian communicators, who will combine an absolute loyalty to the biblical gospel and an unwavering confidence in the power of the Spirit with a deep and sensitive understanding of the contemporary alternatives to the gospel; who will relate the one to the other with freshness, authority, and relevance; and who will use their minds to reach other minds for Christ.

Not a bad prayer to pray, even if preaching is still out of season.

Drew Marshall audio

The audio from our time on the Drew Marshall show last week is now online. Check it out if you're interested.

I was impressed by Drew, and fellow guests Bill Kinnon and Michael Spencer. All good (and smart) guys.

The only question I've been asked this week is why I gave the thumbs down to Focus on the Family. I should have said that I used to like when they focused on the family. Probably a little harsh, but that's live radio I guess.

Crazy busy, broken clutches, and denting new cars

You can always tell how busy I am by the growing stack of unread newspapers in my living room, and by the scarcity of posts on my blog. By both measures, it's been a busy week.

Somehow I've picked up three fairly major organizational roles, a little extra writing and teaching. At the same time, regular life and ministry has also cranked up. Plus my car decided to die, which meant looking for a new one. I'm not complaining. Life has been good. But the pace has been a bit crazy, and I sense the need to pull back a little bit and gain some sanity so I'm not just skimming through life.

About that new car. A couple of weeks ago, the clutch on my 1995 Honda Civic with 355,000 km on it began to go. It really got bad fast, and I didn't know how long it would last. I finally committed to buying a new car, but then a couple of nights ago the clutch seemed to work just fine. I started to feel really guilty about splurging on a new car when the old one worked just fine.

Yesterday was pickup day for the new car. The deal is that my Civic had to arrive at the dealership in working condition of some sort. On the way to the office yesterday, the clutch stopped working. I almost called a tow truck, but eventually I found a way to get it going. Every time I couldn't shift, I'd have to come to a complete stop, turn off the car, force the gear into second, restart the car, and get going again. That's a bit of a challenge on the highway, but it worked, and I somehow pulled into the dealership with a working car. I no longer felt guilty for giving up the old one either.

The new car is all shiny and it looks pretty good. I got thinking of something I read in A Severe Mercy. The characters in that book brought home their new car, and the first thing they did was grab a hammer and put a dent in it. It was the only way they knew how to keep that new car from becoming an idol in their life.

I've decided not to take a hammer to my new car just yet, but you never know. For now I'm just grateful for a small enough pause to blog, for time with my wife at a concert last night, and for small mercies of a car dying within an hour of picking up a new one - talking about sucking every bit of life from an old clunker.

And while I'm thankful, I'm going to do some thinking about how to get my schedule back to sanity. You'll know that has happened when you see a few more posts around here, or when you see me racing around town in the new Vibe, or maybe even reading a newspaper.