You gotta love APIs

Today I created another video introducing the upcoming version of Logos Bible software 4.1. Having created the video and uploaded it to Vimeo, I then needed to update this site with the necessary embed code, etc. Having already keyed in the description once (into Vimeo), I didn’t feel like typing it all again – or even copying and pasting. And when I change theme, I’m going to have to change all those pages to fit new video sizes.

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iPhone app review: Logos vs OliveTree BibleReader

The iPhone Bible app market is really hotting up since Logos entered the market back in November. Since then I’ve been using both Logos and OliveTree’s BibleReader on a daily basis, so you can think of this as a long-term test. It’s worth saying at the outset that both apps are can be downloaded with a small number of bibles and books for free, so you can try them out for yourself. But although you can do a huge amount for free, you’ll need to pay to get the most benefit, and some of the features I refer to below are not available with the free packages – you’ll need paid upgrades.  I’m reviewing the top-end packages: Logos Portfolio (version 1.3.0) and BibleReader Scholar’s Collection (version 4.11).

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The case for expository preaching

The February 2010 edition of The Banner of Truth contains an article by Iain Murray warning of the disadvantages of ‘expository’ preaching (by which he mean “preaching which consecutively takes a congregation through a passage, or book of Scripture, week by week). Unfortunately the article is not online, but you can read a summary here. Iain is right to warn of the dangers, but as the letter below (which I’ve just sent to Banner HQ) says, I think he goes too far:

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Moving from Logos 3 to Logos 4

With the release of Logos version 4, a number of users are complaining about features that are missing in the new version. They’re right – but only partially so. There are some important features missing, but Logos has promised to add these back in fairly soon. But more often, the missing features are not missing at all. Logos hasn’t removed things you can do, so much as changed them. As a consequence users need to change their habits in order to make best use of the new features. The video below shows some of the ways I’ve tried to do that. The main point really is that we should not be asking “Why is this feature missing in Logos 4?”, but rather “How best do I accomplish this task in Logos 4?”

Two new WordPress plugins

quick-admin-links-frontendForgive the off-topic post, but those of you using WordPress might be interested in two new plugins I’ve written.

Quick Admin Links

Quite possibly the most simple and useful WordPress plug-in you never knew you needed! Quick Admin Links is a small widget. Put it at the top of your sidebar, and it adds some useful admin links on every page, allowing you to add new posts/pages, edit existing posts/pages, go to the admin, or log out. If your theme doesn’t already include edit buttons, and you notice a typo in your post, you have to click on “Site Admin”, then “Manage”, then “Posts”, then type in some search terms, and click “Search”, then click on the post you’re looking for. With Quick Admin Links, you can go straight from your post to the edit screen in just one click.

Style Tweaker

If you’re anything like me, you’re never quite satisfied with WordPress themes, and like to tweak the CSS. Style Tweaker allows you easily edit CSS without uploading files. You can also use it to test CSS before launching it to the world. You can add CSS to the entire website, regardless of what theme is being used, or add it to just the current theme. You can even add CSS that displays only when you are logged on – very useful when you’re playing with a new look, and it’s not quite ready for public viewing.

Reforming the church of England

All Souls, Langham PlaceI’m currently on holiday in London, and one of the great things about holidays is that it gives you an opportunity to worship with Christians that ordinarily you wouldn’t meet. On this holiday, we worshipped at All Souls Langham Place, and Grace Church, Hackney (a plant from St Helen’s, Bishopsgate).

It was particularly good to be able to worship with evangelical anglicans. Both of the churches we visited are firmly at the centre of true evangelicalism, and are fully committed to the authority of Scripture, and a biblical understanding of justification by faith alone. In both, the sermons were helpful, and (as you’d expect) expounded the Scriptures clearly. Rico Tice’s powerful preaching on the plagues in Egypt was a particular highlight – I could happily have listened for several minutes longer.

Unfortunately, however, the most significant impression left on me from the two services was the contradictions that seem inevitable within evangelical anglicanism. Welsh evangelicalism and evangelical anglicanism have not exactly seen eye to eye, particular since John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones very publically disagreed on how evangelicals should respond to the liberal denominations they find themselves in (oversimplifying, Lloyd-Jones said they should get out, Stott said they should stay in). It is only recently that those barriers are beginning to come down, so I welcomed the opportunity to express that unity, albeit in a very small way.

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How I prepare a sermon

Several people have recently asked me what process I go through in sermon preparation, so I thought I’d share it here. This is a far longer post than normal, but perhaps other preachers (particularly younger men) might find it useful.

There are five steps that are important to me:

  1. Divide: Firstly, I decide how many verses should I preach on by looking for divisions at the beginning and end of the passage. I’m looking for a natural unit in the passage that has plenty to say. With compact historical literature (like 2 Kings or Chronicles) it’s usually a story. With other narrative literature (e.g. the Pentateuch, or the Gospels) it’s usually a scene. With epistles its usually a large paragraph. With prophetic books its usually a complete oracle or sermon.
  2. Dissect: Then I split up, or dissect the passage by determine the main point of the passage, and the sub-points which serve it. This is strongly related to the first step. If the ‘division’ I’ve chosen has more than one main point, it’s too long. But it must have a few sub-points that feed the main point. If it hasn’t, it’s too short.
  3. Discover: Next I try to carefully exegete each point to discover the original meaning and principles. It means understanding both the meaning to the original hearers/readers, and the timeless principles that flow from it. When dealing with the Old Testament I look at the first step (the original meaning) purely from an Old Testament perspective, but the second step (the timeless principles) through a New Testament lens. There must be an inarguable link between these two steps. Every member of the congregation must be able to see how I got from (a) What the Bible said, to (b) What the Bible means. If they can’t, there’s no power in the message – it’s man’s words, not God’s Word.
  4. Digest: Fourth, I think and pray through each principle to determine the application, to me, and try to digest the truth. If I haven’t taken this truth on board myself, I can’t preach it. This is where a lot of the prayer comes.
  5. Disseminate: Finally, all of this needs to go in a form which can be passed on. In other words, the sermon can now be written. I pass this teaching on to my congregation, they need to apply it to themselves and be able to pass it on to others. This means short points made easy to understand and apply. To maximise the impact, the application needs to be focussed, not vague, but it also must apply to the whole congregation, not just one or two. I’ll want my sermon to have an introduction, a few points, and a conclusion. Within each point I’ll want teaching, illustration and application. The whole thing must be very tightly linked to the text of the Bible – if it’s not, it’s my words not God’s Word.

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