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From the Editor:

Storm Provides a ‘Place to Pray’

Recovering a Vision of God’s Supremacy

Pastors Needs Friends

Love, Sacrifice
Love, Helping Out

Link of the Week

Preacher’s Bookshelf


And Finally…

“It’s easy to find fault but hard to know what to do with it.”


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    Vol. 7, No. 7 February 12, 2008    

Michael Duduit

I enjoyed five years of ministry on the campus of Union University and still have many friends there, so our family has watched with intense interest as news reports told of the terrible devastation caused by a tornado that ripped through the Jackson, TN, school last week. (In fact, Tuesday night as the tornado was hitting the campus, I was teaching a Master of Christian Studies class for Union at their Nashville location. Midway through the class, a student received a call with a report of what had happened and the storms that were on their way toward us. We prayed for those in Jackson and ended class early that evening.)

Even in the midst of tragedy, God still works to accomplish a purpose, as national and regional media have reported student stories of divine protection while showing students pitching in to help one another. On the Today show, for example, junior Danny Song told of God’s provision in a situation that easily could have left him dead. Song said his life was saved when he fell to the ground and a couch blew up against him, protecting him from a concrete slab that fell on top of the couch. He was left pinned in a fetal position for two hours.

“I was joking with my friend that God put me in a place to pray,” said Song.

The school has experienced massive destruction, with 40 percent of dorms destroyed and 40 percent damaged, along with damage to several academic buildings. Union has established a relief fund for people wanting to help with the recovery. Donations may be sent to “Union University Disaster Relief Fund” at 1050 Union University Drive, Jackson, TN 38305.

Jerry and Becky Drace have been on campus as part of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. In his own newsletter Jerry shares: “I have heard the word, ‘Lucky’ used by the media hundreds of times the past two days. Luck had nothing to do with it. As this monster twister touched down on the campus of Union University the Master of the Heavens held his children in the hollow of His hand. (More than) 3,000 students and faculty members will live to celebrate the rebuilding of a great University because of the greatness of the God we serve. Isaiah 61:3, tell us God will bring, ‘Beauty out of the ashes.’ In the case of Union University, He will bring commitment out of the chaos, devotion out of the debris, and strength out of the storm.”

Keep Union’s students and leaders in your prayers in the days ahead. And remember that, storms or not, you’re always in “a place to pray.”

Michael Duduit, Editor

Don’t wait! Register now for the National Conference on Preaching, April 7-9 in suburban Washington, DC. Register by March 1 and save $55! Learn more and register at


In his excellent book The Expository Genius of John Calvin (Reformation Trust), Steven Lawson observes: “As a man, preacher, writer and theologian, Calvin was unflinching in his pursuit of God. He was an ardent Bible student and an impassioned servant of the Lord. Week after week, month after month, year after year, and decade after decade, he anchored himself to the biblical text, then made it known to his people.

“This tenacious study, personal piety, and relentless ministering were maintained by a passionate desire to see God glorified. For Calvin, ‘Teachers cannot firmly execute their office except they have the majesty of God before their eyes.’ This focus on upholding the glory of God gave meaning to his life, his ministry, and especially his preaching.

“It is desperately essential in this hour that preachers recover a soaring vision of the supremacy of God. Life-changing, history-altering preaching will come only when pastors reclaim a high view of God’s blazing holiness and are overshadowed by His absolute sovereignty. Towering thoughts of God’s transcendent glory must captivate preachers’ souls.” (Click here to learn more about The Expository Genius of John Calvin.)


In an article for, Tobin Perry observes: It’s been said that pastors are the loneliest people in America. While that might be a bit of an exaggeration, one thing’s for certain – meaningful relationships are few and far between for most in ministry.

In the book Pastors in Transition, Dean Hoge and Jacqueline Wenger’s research says 75 percent of pastors are lonely and isolated. A report by Pulpit & Pew Research on pastoral leadership says loneliness and isolation are two of the most important blocks to good ministry. While God can still use lonely pastors, isolation can lead to a lack of spiritual growth and other issues.

Lack of meaningful relationships has led to pastors losing their ministries all together. In the research for the book they co-wrote, Preventing Ministry Failure, Michael Todd Wilson and Brad Hoffmann discovered there is a direct connection between pastors who lost their ministries because of moral failure and a lack of close same-sex relationships.
“We’ve worked with several hundred pastors and their families who have been through forced termination,” Hoffmann said. “Every one of the men who had been let go because of some kind of moral failure had no significant relationship with another man.”

Scared that getting too close to a person might open them up to their congregation’s criticism, most pastors don’t turn to people in their own churches to develop these kinds of relationships.

“It was never said out loud, but I think the unspoken assumption in seminary was that as a pastor you had to be careful about getting close to anybody,” said veteran pastor Lance Witt. “You particularly didn’t want to get close to people in your church. You’d be accused of partiality, and you didn’t want to possibly let others see your flaws.”

The alternative? Build relationships with other pastors.

“Building relationships with other pastors gave me some people I can turn to who understand my world,” Witt said. “Even though I could go deep in some of my relationships at church, there was a lot about my world they couldn’t fully understand.” (Click here to read the full article.)


Plan now to join us for the 19th annual National Conference on Preaching, which will be held April 7-9 in suburban Washington, DC. “Preaching and the Public Square: Where Do Pulpit and Culture Meet?” is the provocative theme of the three-day event. You’ll enjoy insights and inspiration from some of America’s finest preachers and teachers, including:

Chuck Colson

Rick Warren James MacDonald

Barry Black

William Willimon A.R. Bernard

Mark Batterson

James Emery White Robert Smith Jr.

J. Alfred Smith

Timothy Warren Greg Thornbury

and many more. To learn more or to register, visit the NCP website at or call (toll free) 1-866-460-0950. Register before March 1 to save $55 off the regular registration fee!


In his January pastors’ letter, Ron Walters (VP of Church Relations for Salem Communications) wrote: “Buried deep in the apocryphal book of I Esdras is the story of three men, handpicked by the king, to compete in a National Riddle Contest. The riddle was: What is the strongest thing in the world?

“A date was chosen and the town square reserved for the well publicized mental showdown. Each contestant prepped diligently, hoping to outwit his competitors. Each licked his chops at the thought of the great riches promised to the winner.

“Finally the day of competition arrived. The first contestant smiled as he stood before the king and the overflow gathering. He spoke loudly and confidently. ‘Strong wine,’ he argued, ‘ is the strongest force known to man. Its powers can control and confuse the best of men.’

“The audience politely applauded.

“The second contestant waved off his competitor and proudly contended that he had found an even stronger force. ‘The king,’ he said, ‘is far greater than wine. He alone wields power among the nations. Kingdoms far and wide bow to his authority.’

“The crowd nodded their approval as they applauded, not wanting to insult the king.

“Then a hush fell on the assembly as every eye locked onto the final contestant. They wondered, ‘How can he surpass the wisdom of the first two? What could be stronger than wine’s influence or the king’s great power?’

“Walking slowly to the platform, the third contestant was fully aware of the enormous challenge. He bowed to the king, acknowledged his opponents, and then addressed the crowd: ‘There is one thing that surpasses the influence of wine and the power of our king,’ he said.’It is Truth. Truth is stronger than anything. Truth endures and lasts forever, long after the wine dissipates, and long after a king’s rule ends. Truth lives on and prevails forever and ever.’

“The crowd stood and cheered.

“Truth does, indeed, prevail. It has no expiration date, no time limit, no end at all. Truth is the only commodity in the universe that’s as fresh today as it was in the beginning. And nothing in the future will change it.” (©Copyright 2008 by Ron Walters; Used by permission)


After the U.S.S. Pueblo was captured in 1968 by the North Koreans, the 82 surviving crew members were thrown into brutal captivity. In one particular instance 13 of the men were required to sit in a rigid manner around a table for hours at a time.

After several hours, the door violently was flung open and a North Korean guard brutally beat the man in the first chair with the butt of his rifle. The next day, as each man sat at his assigned place, again the door was thrown open and the man in the first chair was brutally beaten again. On the third day the same thing happened again to the same man.

Knowing the man could not survive another beating, a young sailor took his place. When the door was flung open the guard automatically beat the new man senseless. For weeks, each day a new man stepped forward to sit in that horrible chair, knowing full well what would happen. At last, the guards gave up in exasperation. They were unable to beat that kind of sacrificial love.  (Andy Grossman, via

From the March-April issue of Preaching …

In an article on “Biblical Preaching in a Pluralistic Culture,” Michael Milton wrote: “It might be helpful to differentiate between pluralistic and pluralism as I use the terms. One is a matter of numbers, and the other is a matter of ideology. Pluralistic refers to an undeniable plurality of beliefs and ideas and even the customs and cultures that are derived from those ideas. Even here, Lesslie Newbigin sees inconsistency: ‘We are pluralist in respect to what we call beliefs, but we are not pluralistic in respect of what we call fact. The former are a matter of personal decision; the latter are a matter of public knowledge.’

“Nevertheless, pluralists we are and pluralists we are becoming. Arguments not withstanding, for instance, even among conservatives like Pat Buchanan and Dinesh D’Souza on how immigrants truly become American (American by creed/Constitution, according to D’Souza, and through ‘bonds of history and memory, tradition and custom, language and literature, birth and faith, blood and soil,’ according to Buchanan), we are becoming more pluralistic every day. Within this global soup, full of every religious morsel imaginable, there is the presence of the ideology of pluralism. It may be that, as I have seen suggested, pluralism is a faith that exists as a people are on their way from one orthodoxy to another. We are moving from a Christian West to something else, and pluralism serves as the necessary faith bridge, if you will, to get us there.”

Every issue of Preaching contains insightful articles on preaching, plus great model sermons and practical resources. If you’re not a current subscriber to Preaching magazine, click here (or call, toll free, 1-800-527-5226) to go begin your subscription!

Also in the March-April issue of Preaching: Insightful articles on preaching and culture, plus our annual survey of the past year’s best books for preachers (including our Preaching Book of the Year and our Top Ten list), sermons by Chuck Swindoll and Stuart Briscoe, and much more. Order your subscription today!

In the introduction to today’s newsletter I wrote about the situation at Union University. I just read an article that appeared in the LA Times this weekend in which the theological issues surrounding such a tragedy are discussed. You can read it by clicking here.

By the way, Greg Thornbury, dean of Christian Studies at Union, who is quoted at length in the article, is one of our featured speakers at the National Conference on Preaching in Washington in April. To learn more visit

“You do not test the resources of God until you try the impossible.” (F.B. Meyer)


Biblical principles of persuasion are the focus of Influencing Like Jesus (B&H Publishing), a new book by Michael Zigarelli. Using lots of biblical examples, Zigarelli talks about key components of persuasion, as well as the traits of a godly influencer. This will be an interesting book for church leaders, and could also be the basis for a great study for key leaders in your church.


Questions about the Bible are common in our day. A helpful resource in studying about God’s Word and responding to such concerns is Did God Write the Bible? (Crossway) by Dan Hayden. He deals with questions about creation, inspiration, transmission and accuracy of Scripture in an interesting and readable way.



Where Is God When We Suffer?

One of my favorite commentary series is the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, which draws on the insights of early church leaders to better understand biblical texts. Now, a related resource is available, the Ancient Christian Devotional (InterVarsity Press), edited by Cindy Crosby. Using those same writings by early church fathers, the volume offers a year of weekly devotional readings. I plan to incorporate this into my own regular devotional readings in the coming year.

(Click on the title to learn more or order from Amazon.)



“Do you love me with all your heart and soul?” asked Becky on Valentines Day.
“Mmm hmm,” replied Dave.
“Do you think I’m the most beautiful girl in the world?”
“Mmm hmm.”
“Do you think my lips are like rose petals?”
“Mmm hmm.”
“Oh, Dave,” gushed Becky, “you say the most beautiful things!” (from Mikey’s Funnies)


Dispatcher: 9-1-1 What is your emergency?
Caller: I heard what sounded like gunshots coming from the brown house on the corner.
Dispatcher: Do you have an address?
Caller: No, I’m wearing a blouse and slacks, why?

Dispatcher: 9-1-1 What is your emergency?
Caller: Someone broke into my house and took a bite out of my ham and cheese sandwich.
Dispatcher: Excuse me?
Caller: I made a ham and cheese sandwich and left it on the kitchen table, and when I came back from the bathroom, someone had taken a bite out of it.
Dispatcher: Was anything else taken?
Caller: No, but this has happened to me before, and I’m sick and tired of it.

Dispatcher: 9-1-1 What is your emergency?
Caller: Hi, is this the Police?
Dispatcher: This is 9-1-1. Do you need police assistance?
Caller: Well, I don’t know who to call. Can you tell me how to cook a turkey? I’ve never cooked one before.

Dispatcher: 9-1-1 Fire or emergency?
Caller: Fire, I guess.
Dispatcher: How can I help you sir?
Caller: I was wondering … does the fire department put snow chains on their trucks?
Dispatcher: Yes sir, do you have an emergency?
Caller: Well, I’ve spent the last four hours trying to put these chains on my tires and, well, do you think the fire department could come over and help me?
Dispatcher: Help you what?
Caller: Help me get these chains on my car!

Dispatcher: 9-1-1 What is the nature of your emergency?
Caller: I’m trying to reach nine eleven but my phone doesn’t have an eleven on it.
Dispatcher: This is nine eleven.
Caller: I thought you just said it was nine-one-one
Dispatcher: Yes, ma’am, nine-one-one and nine-eleven are the same thing.
Caller: Honey, I may be old, but I’m not stupid.

Dispatcher: 9-1-1 What’s the nature of your emergency?
Caller: My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart.
Dispatcher: Is this her first child?
Caller: No, you idiot! This is her husband!

And the winner is …

Dispatcher: 9-1-1
Caller: Yeah, I’m having trouble breathing. I’m all out of breath. I think I’m going to pass out.
Dispatcher: Sir, where are you calling from?
Caller: I’m at a pay phone. North and Foster.
Dispatcher: Sir, an ambulance is on the way. Are you an asthmatic?
Caller: No.
Dispatcher: What were you doing before you started having trouble breathing?
Caller: Running from the police.

Still more proof that alcohol does not make you smarter …

A British student swallowed his door key to prevent friends from forcing him to go home because he was drunk. Chris had drunk six beers as well as vodka and whisky when his friends decided he should go home and sleep it off.

But the 18-year-old wanted to keep partying. “My friends said I’d had too much to drink and should go to my room. But I didn’t want to so I swallowed my door key,” he said. He slept on a friend’s sofa, and the next morning couldn’t remember a thing. When told what he had done, he thought they were joking.

“I thought it was a wind-up when my friend said I had swallowed it. But my throat and stomach didn’t feel quite right.”

A nurse friend advised him to go to hospital just in case — and he was finally convinced when the 2-inch house-key showed up clearly on an X-ray.

“I was stunned when I saw the key, but couldn’t stop laughing — even the doctors were sniggering. They said, ‘Let nature take its course,’ and it appeared next day,” he said.  (AFP, 2-6-08)

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