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The Pastor's Life Newsletter

This e-newsletter arrives every two weeks as our gift to help your ministry. Each issue contains a brief reading, along with links to a helpful resource or video. Readings include book reviews, theological reflections, quotes from popular novels (think sermon illustrations), and wisdom for preaching and teaching. The Pastor’s Life is compiled by Dr. Joe Small and occasional guests.

Faith and faithfulness in First John

The first letter of John is a well-loved New Testament book. Whether read devotionally, analyzed in a Bible study, or proclaimed from the pulpit, 1 John builds faith and faithfulness. It sets out the shape of Christian life in a bold, down-to-earth, hope-filled way that remains forever fresh. Read more.

Wisdom from Novels for Sermons and Adult Education

Theological wisdom (and theological foolishness) is not the private preserve of professional theologians. Many contemporary novelists deal sensitively with religious themes, often offering provocative insights that pastors can use to good effect in preaching and teaching. Brief quotes do not do justice to the novels from which they are taken, but they can provide wise, often startling, sometimes humorous, but always thought-provoking resources within sermons and adult education. From time to time, the Presbyterian Foundation shares some wisdom from novels as a small contribution to pastors who seek to proclaim the gospel faithfully week in and week out. Read more.

   
Grace and Gratitude

"Grace" is more than a theological platitude, and "gratitude" is more than a casual "thank you." Both "grace" and "gratitude" are verbal entrances to a mansion of meaning that can be explored, but never owned. British philosopher Roger Scruton’s 2010 Gifford Lectures, published as The Face of God (Bloomsbury, 2012) includes a perspective on grace and gratitude that may display a room previously unexplored. Read more.


The First 50 Psalms

Ellen Charry, professor of systematic theology at Princeton Seminary, has provided the church with a marvelous theological commentary on the first 50 psalms, part of the Brazos Theological Commentary series. William Brown of Columbia Seminary writes in his Forward that, "Ellen Charry’s commentary on Psalms is like no other ... Her keen interest in ethics and historical theology, matched by her command of the Hebrew language and Jewish tradition, have equipped her well for engaging these highly charged texts ... Charry has produced a theologically robust, morally nuanced honest-to-God kind of commentary." Read more

Lenten Reflections, February 21, 2017

Two-year-old Ruthie and her father were enjoying a morning outing at the local donut shop. At the adjacent table, kids were being unruly and their mother’s voice was tense. “She’s frustrated,” Ruthie told her father, referring to the frazzled mom. Finally, the situation at the next table reached critical mass and the mom lost it – loudly.
Ruthie turned in her chair and declared, “No shouting! That’s a sad choice!” And with that, she turned back to her dad who was frozen in awkward silence – as was the rest of the donut shop crowd. Read more. 

Looking Ahead to Lent, February 7, 2017

I keep hoping to persuade folks that difference does not have to equal division and unity does not have to equal uniformity. I have frequently appealed to our “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” I have preached that we have been made the one body of Christ, and God did not ask our opinion before God did it. Therefore, it really does not matter if we like one another or not (though we usually do!).

For Teaching, Reproof, Correction and Training in Righteousness, January 19, 2017

Ezekiel was surrounded by the ‘likeness’ of the glory of the LORD, and he heard ‘someone’ speaking: “eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 1:28, 3:1). Each week, pastors continue to eat what is offered to them, and continue to speak to the community of faith. From time to time, the Presbyterian Foundation offers brief studies of Scripture that may be useful to pastors in teaching and preaching God’s word. Read more.


Theological Wisdom for Preaching and Teaching, January 6, 2017

On God:


Instead, one found natural catastrophes. Children mistreated. Kidnappings. Loneliness. Separation of people who love each other. His anger increased. The problem with anger against God is that it’s impossible to go higher in the system to complain. - Peter H√łeg, The Quiet Girl
Read more.




Grace and Gratitude, December 15, 2016

The Christian life is shaped by gratitude – gratitude for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. It is by God’s grace that we receive the gift of our own lives, and so we are called to shape the whole of our lives by our grateful response. “The stewardship of all of life” is a common phrase, yet too often stewardship is reduced to an annual program, the annual program is reduced to the means to achieve an end, and the end is reduced to the church budget. “Gratitude for all of life” may be a way to broaden and deepen our understanding and our use of the gifts God has given us. Read more.


"Take and Read" Good Books to Strengthen Pastorial Ministry, December 1, 2016

Suggestion for December reading:

  • Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, 6th, trans. Edwyn C. Hoskyns. Oxford UK: Oxford University Press, 1968.
“Theological interpretation of Scripture” is now featured in theological commentary series from Westminster John Knox, Brazos, SCM, and other publishers. Theological commentaries are a response to limitations of the “historical-critical” method of interpretation that dominated commentaries for over a century. Historical-critical interpretation remains necessary and valuable for understanding Scripture, but it provides an incomplete perspective. While it is important to understand what biblical “authors” intended and what biblical “books” meant to ancient Israel and the first century church, it is even more important to understand what they mean in our time and place, and what they intend for us here and now.  Read more. 


For Teaching, Reproof, Correction and Training in Righteouness, November 17, 2016

Ezekiel was surrounded by the ‘likeness’ of the glory of the LORD, and he heard ‘someone’ speaking: “eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 1:28, 3:1). Each week, pastors continue to eat what is offered to them, and continue to speak to the community of faith. From time to time, the Presbyterian Foundation will offer brief studies of Scripture that may be useful to pastors in teaching and preaching God’s word. Read more. 



Theological Wisdom for Preaching and Teaching, November 3, 2016

Theological wisdom (and theological foolishness) is not the private preserve of professional theologians. Many contemporary novelists deal sensitively with religious themes, often offering provocative insights that pastors can use to good effect in preaching and teaching. Brief quotes do not do justice to the novels from which they are taken, but they can provide wise, often startling, sometimes humorous, but always thought-provoking resources within sermons and adult education.

From time to time, the Presbyterian Foundation shares some wisdom from novels as a small contribution to pastors who seek to proclaim the gospel faithfully week in and week out. Read more. 


For Teaching, Reproof, Correction and Training in Righteousness, October 7, 2016

Augustine heard the voice of a child saying, "Take and read, take and read." He opened a Bible, began to read, and was set on the path of committed discipleship and faithful pastoral ministry as the Bishop of Hippo and a theologian for the ages. Let’s assume that pastors do not need to be encouraged to read the Bible. But what else can we read that will enhance our preaching, teaching, and pastoral care?

Suggestion for October reading:
  • David W. Johnson, Trust in God: The Christian Life and The Book of Confessions. Louisville: Geneva Press, 2013. 
Presbyterians have never quite figured out what to do with The Book of Confessions. We take vows to be instructed, led and guided by it, and to receive and adopt its essential tenets, but we are never sure how to do that. We add confessions to it, but are uncertain what effect that will have. The Book of Orderreminds us that in our confessions we declare to ourselves and to the world who and what we are, what we believe, and what we resolve to do, but if we are honest we know that our confessions are only minor influences on our beliefs, actions, and witness. Read more. 


 
 

 
 
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