My Romans Commentaries

I recently finished preaching through the book of Romans. My usual method of preaching in our church is verse by verse exposition. I usually am working on one or more books of the Bible in our regular preaching sessions. I call my method “the glacial approach to exposition,” which is to say, “I go slow.”

I began my Romans series on September 23, 2007. We finished 318 messages later on November 15, 2015. Of course there were interruptions for special speakers, mini-series, special occasions and Christmas (I usually take a month or more off for Christmas, preaching on a special Christmas theme each year). [Read more…]

preaching Christmas

The holidays are now behind us. We had a seven part series this year, “The Son of David”. I love to preach Christmas series. We have had a different series almost every year of my ministry.

Other preachers have spoken to me of being challenged by preaching at seasons like Christmas. I suspect that perhaps the reason is a too narrow view of what is acceptable for a Christmas series. If we simply return to the Christmas passages in Matthew and Luke again and again, it can get difficult. One can only exegete so much out of these very familiar passages, especially when our people have heard it all before.

I don’t wish to make a big point on this post, but simply to ask a few questions of any preachers who read it. First, do you find Christmas to be a “homiletical challenge”? Do you dread Christmas for that reason? If not, why not? And what do you do to preach Christmas? What are your goals in preaching for the Christmas season?

I am thinking of writing up some of my approach, but I’d like to hear from others first. Is it a topic of interest?

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the kindle changes many things

I haven’t posted for a while. I think the reason is my new Kindle. I have entered the e-book era with a vengeance, a little late, I suppose, but  I entered it nonetheless.

A whole world of e-books is available, much of it for no charge. Check out Project Gutenberg for many titles, already formatted for the Kindle.

In addition, I have saved many pdf books, booklets, and articles on my hard-drive over the years, meaning to read them later. My Kindle makes this much easier to accomplish. You can copy your pdf files right over to the Kindle, although you may want to edit the font size for best viewing … or convert that pdf to a Kindle format book. I have discovered several free software packages for performing this task and for managing Kindle content.

  • Calibre is a library and conversion program. I think you can convert books from B & N’s Nook format and other e-publishing formats into the Kindle format. (You can also convert from Kindle format to other formats if you use a different sort of reader.) Really an excellent program.
  • MobiPocket Creator is a program that converts pdfs into e-publishing format. I have discovered that it may require some formatting and html coding in some books, but it does get you started on the project. This site also offers books for sale, but I would recommend staying away from that portion of the site.
  • Sigil is a program that edits html and saves it in epub format. This allows you to customize your file to display how you would like it. Some knowledge of html is required.

There are other programs out there, perhaps some better than these. I’ve found these helpful, but my projects take on a life of their own and often consume a good deal of time.

As for reading, I find the Kindle to be quite handy – I seem to read a little faster with it as well. You do need good lighting, the e-ink technology can be read in sunlight, but no backlighting makes my living room somewhat problematic in the evenings.

I also am using the Kindle for preaching. I write my sermons in my ‘normal’ 8.5 by 5.5 templates and then copy and paste into a special template for the Kindle. I have to boost the font to 25 or 30 points, then print to a pdf, then copy over to the Kindle. But from there, the file reads very well in the pulpit and it means I can get away from my compulsive saving of paper notes.

One of these days,  I’d like to get an iPad for the preaching – it wouldn’t require “pumping up the fonts”, at least from having a look at a friend’s iPad. And it might be way more cool. However, for now, the Kindle is an affordable and very adequate solution.

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a plea for real exposition

I ran across a sermon the other day. The preacher bills himself as an expository preacher. He was dealing with a very important text, full of material for application to our present scene. His approach to the text was to read a verse, and then talk about his view of what he thought of that theme in relation to our modern situation. After awhile, he would read another verse and carry on with the development of his own opinions.

I think he might have defined a few of the words from the original language. At one point, he began mis-pronouncing one of the Greek words underlying the point he was making. He kind of lost me there, and I imagine he lost his congregation too. Most of them probably don’t know Greek.

Other than defining a few of the words, there was no interaction with the text. There was no explanation of the thoughts of the text, how they related to one another, what the apostle was teaching through the argumentation of the text, and what that argumentation meant for our situation here and now.

There was a bit of historical context offered. It was… ah… how shall we say it? Not germane to the text. It actually fit more with another text in another epistle. In short, it didn’t expose anything about the text so the hearer could read, hear, and see, “Ahah! that’s it, that’s right, that’s what the text means, and this is what God is saying to me here and now through this ancient text.”

In short, if this was exposition, there wasn’t a whole lot of exposing going on.

Oh, brothers! Please! Be an expositor! Let the text speak! Get yourself and your opinions out of the way! Speak as of the oracles of God!

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Contend (3)

To continue the discussion of Jude 3, I’d like to discuss the ultimate objective of Christian contention. (See these links for Part One and Part Two of this discussion.)

Various objectives have been suggested for Christian contention, and especially the Fundamentalist version of it. Ernest Pickering subtitled his book Biblical Separation with the line, ‘the struggle for a pure church.’ Certainly a pure church has to be an objective, but is it the one Jude has in mind ultimately?

Others suggest that Fundamentalist contention is simply lust for battle, ego and megalomania. Fundamentalists are the berserkers of Christianity, or the Idi Amin’s. Such suggestions aren’t very charitable, to say the least.

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Contend (2)

I wrote about Jude 3 a few days ago. That post motivated me to study the passage in more detail. The verse is really a profound statement, vv. 3-4 serving as Jude’s thesis statement for the epistle.

I preached on the passage this past Sunday. The message really centered around the dominant word of the passage and was entitled simply, “Contend”. This post reflects some of my observations from that sermon.

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new methods in a spiritual wilderness

A few weeks ago I posted an article highlighting something I found in the book The Scotch-Irish: A Social History by James G. Leyburn. Today I want to post an extended quotation from the book and make a few observations.

I am in the section of the book that deals with Scotch-Irish immigration to America. The chapter is “The Presbyterian Church”. The first point made is about the lack of churches among many (most) of these immigrants. Two reasons are cited: First, the lack of trained ministers. The Presbyterians insisted on a classical education for their clergy, something in short supply on the frontier. Trained ministers from the Old Country were rarely found among the immigrants.

But an even greater problem afflicted the re-establishment of the church among these immigrants, all of them Presbyterian in their native country. That problem was a general spiritual malaise that affected all the major denominations at the time, according to Leyburn. My lengthy quotation follows (including the quote in our little ‘identify’ the person and time game a few days ago). The quotation comes from pp. 277-279.

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the power of preaching

Some good thoughts on preaching by Dave over here. It reminds me of a book I am reading.

It is called The Scotch-Irish: A Social History, by James G. Leyburn. I picked up during a recent vacation in Tennessee at one of the state’s excellent historical sites. (To my chagrin, I see I could have gotten it on Amazon for $6 less.)

I am a sucker for historical sites and for historical books that you find there. My kids make fun of me… (this time, one of my sons said, “Oh boy, get ready for more Civil War illustrations!”)

This particular book traces the American immigrants who became known in America as the Scotch-Irish from their time in Scotland to their first emigration to Ireland (Ulster) and from there to America. I am just finishing the description of life in Scotland prior to the great exodus.

The story is fascinating (OK, so I’m a nerd). Leyburn was a prominent sociology professor at Washington & Lee University. Their library is named after him. I don’t know if he professed to be a Christian or not, but the book seems to be written from a secular perspective. That’s what makes it’s comments on preaching and the Scottish Reformation so interesting.

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on the quality of expository preaching

Expository preaching is all the rage. I remember reading one blogger in ancient internet history proclaiming that his generation would be kept from the errors of the current and preceding generations of fundamentalists by expository preaching.

Well, that remains to be seen.

In the meantime, certain figures are seen by many to be the paragons of expository preaching. After them, as one commenter said, all you hear is “crickets”.

In other words, the world of preaching is dominated by these notable expositors and no one else rates.

Well… I recently had the opportunity of listening to a series by one of these princely preachers. The series was on the preaching of John the Baptist from Luke 3.1-17. The theme of the series was Repentance.

I was surprised at the repeated expositional errors this preacher made.

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peddling the word

In a message Wednesday night, the preacher referred to this passage:

NAU  2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.

“Peddling the word” – the KJV puts it ‘corrupt the word’, but the idea is more that of dishonest peddlers who try to swindle their customers.

The NET Bible notes explain the word this way:

The participle … refers to those engaged in retail business, but with the negative connotations of deceptiveness and greed – "to peddle for profit," "to huckster"

We’ve all met with fellows like this before, haven’t we? (If you haven’t yet, you will.)

Our preacher last night illustrated this kind of peddler this way: He’s like a man selling apples. He has some good ones, some so-so ones, and some ‘past due’. How does he display his wares? Does he put the best ones on the bottom of his basket, the so-so ones next and the ‘past due’ ones on the top?

No! Of course not. The best are put on top and the ‘past due’ ones are hidden on the inside.

Then came this application, not quoted exactly verbatim, but close:

“The worst thing about attracting people to church with rock music and then preaching Christ is the place it puts Christ in the basket.”

Think about it.

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HT: Jeff Musgrave, our preacher of the evening.