Tuesday, September 16, 2014

All Around the Web - September 16, 2014

Trevin Wax - Why We Need Both Clarity and Courage in Preaching
Clarity and courage remain two of the most crucial characteristics of authentic Christian preaching. For they relate to the content of the message preached and to the style of its presentation.

Some preachers have the gift of lucid teaching, but their sermons lack solid content; their substance has become diluted by fear.

Others are bold as lions. They fear nobody, and omit nothing. But what they say is confused and confusing.

Thom Rainer - Update on the Ministers’ Housing Allowance
Here are some key points to remember for background information:
  • The ruling at district court last year made housing allowances unconstitutional. Last year, U. S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin ruled unconstitutional a provision in the U. S. tax code that allows ministers to declare some or all of their ministerial income as a housing allowance. That allowance is not subject to federal income tax.
  • The housing allowance law was passed by Congress in 1954. Subject to certain guidelines, ministers are able to declare a portion of their ministry income as a housing allowance that is not subject to federal income tax.
  • There is no doubt that ministers have benefited from this law. Many churches have as well, particularly smaller churches. The smaller churches are able to pay a minister a salary that has greater take home pay than a non-ministry counterpart. They are thus able to afford to pay pastors that they could not have afforded otherwise.
  • This ruling was not a complete surprise. Judge Crabb does not have a friendly track record on ruling on issues dealing with religious matters.
  • Judge Crabb stayed the ruling until the appeals process is exhausted. That means there was no immediate impact on ministers’ housing allowances.
  • I advise ministers to be very conservative as they deal with this issue in the future. If at all possible, do not be dependent on the tax benefits gained from having a housing allowance. Look carefully at the tax benefits you gain with the housing allowance. Be prepared to know what to do if the benefit goes away.
  • The amount a minister can take as a housing allowance has clear guidelines. Make certain you stay within those guidelines and do not abuse the tax privilege.
  • Watch for insights and updates from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and GuideStone. Both organizations have top-flight leaders who are staying on top of these matters.

Tim Challlies - Faith Hacking: Preaching the Gospel To Yourself
I love to find and share practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life—ways other Christians live out their Christian faith day-by-day. As I speak with people, as I read books, as I listen to sermons, I am always looking for these tips which I call “faith hacks.” I am going to share another one with you today. It comes from Jerry Bridges and deals with the important disciplines of preaching the gospel to yourself.

Bridges has written in several of his books about the importance of the daily practice of preaching the gospel to yourself. In The Discipline of Grace he writes, “When you set yourself to seriously pursue holiness, you will begin to realize what an awful sinner you are. And if you are not firmly rooted in the gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon become discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness.” He also gives an overview of the practice: “To preach the gospel to yourself, then, means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate, again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God’s holy wrath is no longer directed toward you.”

Ligonier - Is It Appropriate to Serve Communion to Shut-ins?
It is most certainly appropriate for the elders of the church to serve communion to members who are, for health or other reasons, unable to attend the gathering of God’s people on the Lord’s Day. Before we get to how and why, however, let me list a few caveats. First, the sacraments are given to the church, and are under the authority of the local church. We ought not, if we are shut in, arrange a private communion ceremony on our own. Neither should a non-elder, except perhaps in the most dire circumstances, serve communion to a shut in.

Some object to communion for shut-ins, usually for two reasons. First, they rightly affirm that we should never separate the sacraments from the Word. We don’t want either to treat the sacrament as a hollow sign, nor as spiritual magic. We don’t do this for fear the shut-in will be beyond the reach of God’s grace without the sacrament. Neither, however, do we shrug our shoulders, believing it is no big deal for the shut-in to go without. It has always been my practice with shut-ins to include an exposition of the Word, before serving the bread and the wine. It need not be a full forty minute sermon, but of course I want to bring the Word of God to bear in the life of the suffering saint. Word and sacrament belong together.

The Blaze - When It Comes to Marriage, a New Study Shows One Partner’s Feelings Matter a Lot More Than the Other’s — Guess Which One It Is
What’s good for the goose…

A new study from Rutgers University confirmed what married men have known to be true for eons: If a wife is happy with her marriage, her husband will feel better about life.

The reverse relationship — a satisfied husband making his wife happy — didn’t seem to be true.
“I think it comes down to the fact that when a wife is satisfied with the marriage she tends to do a lot more for her husband, which has a positive effect on his life,” said Deborah Carr, a Rutgers sociology professor. ”Men tend to be less vocal about their relationships and their level of marital unhappiness might not be translated to their wives.”

Denny Burk - Forget Bibliotheca. You need “Biblica Hipsteria.”

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