Posts Tagged ‘bible’

Reading the Word Effectively

This was originally published as a guest post on the preaching blog propreacher
Reading the Word

Photo credit: George Redgrave cc

One of the most important parts of the sermon is what happens before you preach: reading the text to the congregation. If you don’t do this, than you are robbing your congregation.  And by all means do not close your Bible after you finish reading. In doing so you subtly or not so subtly communicate that what comes after the reading is all about you and your message. Again, you are robbing your congregation.

So, how can we read God’s Word before the sermon effectively?

Here are some ways to do so:

1. Read with Authority:

Do you have something to say or not? The authority to proclaim God’s Word does not reside in the frail vessel, but in the Spirit who illumines hearts and opens eyes. If you do not believe in what you are reading, please exit stage left.

When you are confident in the Word and it’s transformative power, your congregation will experience real change.  God promises that His Word is powerful (Hebrews 4:12) and will not return empty (Isaiah 55:11-12).  Therefore, read with authority.

2. Read with Eye Contact:

Obviously, you lose eye contact when you read, but your goal should be to maintain some eye contact with your readers.  Hopefully, they have heads down following along, but you still should strive for connection.  In doing so, you help bridge the gap between pulpit and pew.

The way to accomplish this is twofold.  First, know thy text.  Hopefully by the time you are stepping into the pulpit you have spent ample time with your passage.

Secondly, “scoop the text”.  That is, read a little bit ahead and place in your mind.  You can do this with whole sentences and phrases.  Maintaining eye contact will assure the congregation that you are engaged with them.

3. Read with Intonation & Variation:

One of the cardinal sins of preaching is to bore your congregation. It can be deadly – ask Eutychus.  If you read the Word of God like you read the phone book, then you are doing it all wrong.

Different genres of Scripture require variation in speech. The Gospels read differently than Psalms, which read differently than Hosea. Even the same passage can do with some variation. For instance in Psalm 34, David opens with a call to worship that sores to the heavens and invites the listener to join in. But later, when you might lower your voice and speak more softly, David reminds us that the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and afflicted.

Sometimes God speaks with power and other times He whispers tenderly.  Let your reading reflect this awesome reality.

4. Read with Confidence:

Let’s be honest, there are some difficult passages full of strange names and places.  Even with knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, those passages can be intimidating.

I have heard a couple of unique approaches. You can read a few names and then skip to the end of your passage. Or you can just use initials to identify the people or places.

I would rather have you practice. The best way to do this is to listen to someone read the passage ahead of time. Max McClean is a wonderful reader of the Word. Also some websites have audio versions, like the online ESV Bible.  This will give you confidence when reading the Scriptures.

Remember, reading your passage is an important part of preaching.  When you read with authority, while maintaining eye contact, reading with intonation, and with confidence you invite your congregation into a sacred dance with the Lord of  the Word.  Don’t neglect this vital starting point of preaching.

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Preaching the Whole Counsel

This post was originally written and published as a guest post on the Preaching blog propreacher

When I was 16 years old and still a babe in Christ, I once remarked that I didn’t need to read the Old Testament. I didn’t think you could find Christ in the Old Testament. How wrong I was!

I can blame my ignorance, in part, on not being raised in the Church and never hearing the Bible stories. I couldn’t distinguish Noah from Jonah. I was a functional Marcionite, long before I knew Marcion’s name.

Bible and shadow of Cross

Photo Credit: damianeva cc

A little history lesson: Marcion was an early church father, who served as the Bishop of Sinope and lived in the late first century until the middle second century.  He would be condemned by the other early Church Fathers. Why? He viewed the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament as competing deities. There was no grace to be found in the Old Testament.  He called the OT God by the name demiurge, a mere tribal deity of the Hebrews. This led to his rejection of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Unfortunately, our pews are full of many functional Marcionites. They just don’t see any use for the Old Testament. They don’t see Jesus.

We must lay the blame for that at the feet of pastors who consistently avoid preaching the Old Testament. I get it. It’s hard and there are many passages that create difficulties. How do we handle the annihilation of the Caananites, for example. But Jesus, on the Road to Emmaus gave us the big picture. He told us all of the Scriptures speak and lead to Him.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Luke 24:45-48, ESV

Keep in mind that the New Testament had not been written yet!

So, we have our marching orders. We cannot ignore the Old Testament. How then do we find balance in our preaching, so that we preach the whole counsel of God’s Word? Commit to preaching both Testaments.

I do this by alternating my preaching series between the two. I learned this from the pastor I worked under out of seminary and I am grateful for that leading. I preach expository series, but this can work with topical series too. Just make sure you draw on the full teaching of Scripture.

Even with special series, I try to alternate my preaching. So, at Advent I will preach the promise of the Coming of Christ one year and then the Reality the next. In so doing, I point my congregation to the full teaching of Scripture. I am committed to drilling Marcionism from their hearts.

Additionally, books by Biblical Theologians, like Graham Goldsworthy and Sidney Greidanus may help the preacher connect the redemptive story of Christ together.

Preacher, commit to preaching the whole counsel!

Letters to My Sheep: Early thoughts on reading the Bible in 90 Days

I told you on Sunday, well some of you, that I started a new Bible reading plan – reading the Bible in 90 Days.  I’m only 6 days in, but I am finding this both challenging and a blessing.  I had to read the Bible in that amount of time for a class while in Seminary and it was one of the best things I did in Seminary.  I have long desired to do it again.  I wanted to share with you some of the things that are helping me in this venture, with the desire to encourage you in your own Bible reading.  Here is what is helping me currently:

  • First, I was encouraged to see a friend from high school post about his own use of this Bible Reading Plan.  Too often we approach spiritual disciplines as solitary activities.  And while we are not reading together (he’s a day or so ahead of me), knowing that he is doing this plan is a tremendous encouragement.  That’s really what got me started again.  And another friend saw a post from me yesterday and is thinking about doing this plan, as well.   I plan on asking him if he has gotten started.  Who encourages you?  Who can you encourage?
  • Another big help to me is leveraging the use of technology.  I have been reading using the YouVersion Bible App on my iPad (a Christmas gift).  Using this app, I can choose between multiple translations, set reminders, and easily keep track of where I am and what I have read.  Through this service or others you can have daily readings emailed to you.  And on and on.  We have the unprecedented access to God’s Word and yet we may be the most undernourished generation of Christians.    How are you using technology to help you?  
  •  Speaking of translations, because I am reading large chunks of Scripture each day, I have decided to read The Message.  The Message is Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase and after I switched over from the ESV (an essentially literal translation), I am finding this helps the flow of reading greatly.  Part of that has to do with the occupational hazard of trying to parse every verse.  I don’t recommend paraphrases for close study, but for big picture reading, I think it fits the bill.   The point being, find what works for you and be willing to try new translations depending on your purpose for reading.
  • I am reading for the “big picture”.  I am trying to get a feel for themes, rather than trying to remember every detail.  For example, after reading Genesis over the course of five days, I was struck by the magnitude of God’s electing grace – his choice of Abraham & the patriarchs.  Genesis is full of sordid tales and lots of foolishness, and yet this is how God choose to start the nation of Israel and bless the world.  It certainly wasn’t because they were good or deserved anything.  And the same is true of me.  
  • I am not trying to read all at once (each day is the range of 10-15 chapters), but I am trying to read in several big chunks. 
  • Plans really help.  Without a plan, I am prone to entropy.  
  • Finally, I am not beating myself up if I don’t get everything done in one day.  The first several days I was actually behind, but then caught back up over the weekend.  I expect that will happen many more times.  

That leads me to some reminders for you, whatever your Bible reading plan or lack thereof:

  • My doing this doesn’t make God love me more.  I might love him more, but He won’t love me more – how could He when He has already given us His Son?
  • My doing this doesn’t make me more spiritual or a better Christian than you.  It might make me a better pastor, but it won’t advance me to a higher rank of saint. 
  • My doing this shouldn’t become a task for merely checking off boxes (something I get to on the app and that appeals to the “doer” in me) or slavishly holding myself to this schedule.  I hope I will complete it, but even if I were to stop tomorrow, I have already benefitted from getting into God’s Word. 

What are you doing to get into God’s Word?  Did you start a new reading plan?  Are you continuing one you started sometime in the past?   How can I help encourage you?

September Texts & Topics for North Hills

Here are the text and topics for our worship services in September at North Hills Church.

Series for Morning Worship:  Book of Colossians
Series for Evening Worship:  The Lord’s Prayer

September 6th
AM:  Colossians 2:6-10
PM:  “As We Forgive”

September 13th
AM:  Colossians 2:11-12
PM:  “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

September 20th
AM:  Colossians 2:13-15
PM:  “Deliver Us from Evil”

September 27th
AM: Colossians 2:16-23
PM:  “For Yours Is…”

A Blog to read…Andy Darnell’s Mindmap

This is overdue…

I want to recommend a friend’s blog to you:  Andy Darnell’s Mindmap.  Andy is a friend going back to high school and dedicated lay leader in his church.  One of things that I appreciate the most about Andy is his passion for Scripture.  This comes out again and again in his blog.  Also, as a lay leader in Christ’s Church he provides thoughts and perspectives that are helpful for me, as a pastor, to consider.  Anyone for that matter.

Keep up the great work Andy!

Inspirational Profile: Jesus

Yesterday, I began a mini-sermon series within our series on the Book of Colossians from Colossians 1:15-23.  I am attempting to ask and answer this question:  Who is Jesus? 

Here’s how I introduced this series:

There is no doubt that there still remains uncertainty about who Jesus, whether with regard to his person (that is, who He is) or His work.  Take for instance this book that we received as a parting gift from friends in Norfolk….  The World’s Best Bathroom Book: An Inspirational Collection of Wit, Wisdom, Humor, and Fascinating Facts – a book published by a well-known Christian publisher.    Sounds interesting regardless of where you read it.  I am thankful for the kindness of this gift, but I was discouraged by what I found inside.   The first main section is a collection of about 50 or so alphabetically organized “Inspirational Profiles” starting with Neil Armstrong and ending with the Wright Brothers.   So, where does Jesus of Nazareth fit in?  Well, under J of course.  The first sentence is thus:  “Jesus Christ, to the Christian, is the Hero of all people who make a difference”.  The profile does go on to proclaim the Gospel of Christ clearly, but in my mind the damage is already done.  Jesus is just another Inspirational Profile, in between Galileo and Martin Luther King.

Paul has something radically different to communicate to the church, than that Jesus is just another good ______ (prophets, teachers, heroes, examples), in a long line of other good _______ (prophets, teachers, heroes, examples).  What Paul tells us about Christ, in line with what Christ said about himself during his public ministry, will not allow us to be so casual.”

If a Christian publisher doesn’t distinguish Jesus from other “inspirational” people, how can we expect those who don’t believe in Christ to trust Him with their lives?  Why should they?  If the Church is going to be unclear about the supremacy and all-sufficiency of Christ, how can we fault others for being clear that they don’t need Christ?

Remember Me

A song that I have been listening to on a regular basis is Remember Me by Matthew Smith (of Indelible Grace fame).  This song appears on Smith’s solo recond Love Shall Never Die: The Road Sessions Vol. 2.  I could not find the lyrics to this song, but I did find the hymn on which the lyrics (with a few changes) are based.  The hymn is written by Thomas Haweis and STEM Publishing has a biography on him here and his hymn titled Remember Me on the same page.  Here is the hymn:

Remember Me by Thomas Haweis.

O Thou from whom all goodness flows,
I lift my heart to Thee;
In all my sorrows, conflicts, woes,
Dear Lord remember me.

When groaning on my burdened heart
My sins lie heavily,
My pardon speak, new peace impart,
In love ‘Remember me’.

Temptations sore obstruct my way,
To shake my faith in Thee;
O give me strength, Lord, as my day;
For good ‘Remember me’.

Distrest with pain, disease and grief,
This feeble body see;
Grant patience, rest and kind relief,
Hear! and ‘Remember me’.

If on my face for Thy dear Name,
Shame and reproaches be,
All hail, Reproach! and welcome
Shame! If Thou ‘Remember me’.

The hour is near, consigned to death
I own the just decree;
Saviour, with my last parting breath,
I’ll cry, ‘Remember me’.

This is a simple, but profoundly Biblical cry for the Christian.  I used  the theme of remembering in a funeral meditation for a believer who had suffered from dementia or Alzheimer’s during her remaining years.  Her memory and ability to cry out in these last days was greatly diminished, but I focused on our gracious Lord who remembers us (Psalm 103, Luke 23:42-43).  In fact, our salvation does not lie so much in the strength of our ability to make this confession, but in the Lord who remembers us, even in our weakness and frailty.

The text of the homily based on the above texts is on the next pages.  I have changed the name of the deceased.

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