Monthly Archives: December 2007
As you know, I have begun a preaching blog called Expositionalogistix. Until that blog gets its own niche on the web, I will be posting links to the posts I’ve made during the week. So, without any further delay …
Powered by ScribeFire.
With Christmas over and the New Year approaching, many pastors and ministers begin to both examine the year almost done as well as the year that is to come! I find myself doing just that — going over the past year’s bulletins, Scripture readings, sermons, and the various ministry activities to see what we did well in representing the Kingdom and on what areas need great improvement.
My goal for 2008, preaching-wise, is to continue through Luke. I started Luke at the beginning of November 2007 to try and time hitting Luke 2:1-20 during the Christmas service on December 23. I have actually schemed out the 52 weeks of the year to see where we would end up landing by the end of November (yes, November— for I customarily preach a four-part sermon series on the Incarnation of Christ to help prepare hearts for Christmas). While I fully expect to deviate from this series, such planning does help me in knowing what to study for in my reading time, as well as what to look for in life to help strengthen the sermon with relevant illustrations.
Plus, I look forward to hitting more than ‘just’ Luke (although Luke would be plenty sufficient). As I go through Luke, I notice that Luke includes a small portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Here, I could detour from Luke and do a short sermon series on the Matthew account of the Sermon on the Mount. This serves two purposes: one, to flesh out more of what Jesus said, and two, to give the people a bit of a respite from Luke in hopes that Luke will remain fresh to them and not tedious.
In examining Luke, I see that there are times when Jesus addresses Abraham, Jonah, and other prophets. I could use this time to then delve into another side series on these men or, as the case may be, on the book of Jonah. If Jesus begins to address an doctrinal area, such as the Holy Spirit in Luke 11, or the cause of suffering as in Luke 13, etc., this would afford another break, but also giving substance and teeth to Luke as well.
What plans do you have for the coming year, if any? Do you see value in planning out sermons for the entire year? Is this too long? Does planning at all quench the Holy Spirit in your eyes? I’d be very interested in your thoughts.
Given the time of year, we are inundated with lists. Men of the Year, Women of the Year, Comebacks of the Year, etc. One of the most intriguing lists to come out is the quotes of the year. With issue with Don Imus and his racial slur, the proliferation of quotes from the presidential debates, and really just the din of commentary from 24-hour news networks — there was a lot to choose from. The winner? The University of Florida student named Andrew Meyer who tried to speak up during an address of a U.S. Senator. The security guards then tazed him. His quote, “Don’t taze me, bro!” That small quote shot all over the place like crazy. Fred Shapiro noted, “Meyer’s quote was a symbol of pop culture success. Within two days it was one of the most popular phrases on Google and one of the most viewed videos. It also showed up on ringtones and T-shirts.”
We tend to take for granted how fast information is spread. And we take for granted the ones who spread it. With the Internet, with CNN and FoxNews, with even the antiquated inventions such as the radio and telephone, information passes quickly and in many different ways. And even with the information that passes, before we look to see whether we believe the information, we look to the credibility of the ones passing the information along right?
So when we read through this and see exactly who these first ‘good news tellers’ (also known as missionaries) were, we would be skeptical if we lived during that time, not knowing how the story would end. Yet, when Christ makes himself known, he does so in ways that no one else can conceive of, and in ways that no one else could get the glory. By coming in such humble means through a poor humble young virgin and by using such outcasts on the outskirts of the city — and even so we’re still celebrating this holiday (holy day) 2,000 years later. Why? It is because of one of two reasons: either we are a group of unintellectual rubes who hang on to fairy tales as a crutch, or there is enough substance and significance that we can hang on to this great story and event with every confidence in the world.
1. When Christ makes Himself known, we must go and see (Luke 2:15-16)!
When the shepherds heard the Word of the Lord through the angels, how did they respond? Did they go and pray about what they had heard to see what they should do next? Did they go and talk to the scholars and the priests to make sure they had it right?
They could well have reacted like Scrooge did in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol when the ghost of Jacob Marley visited Scrooge in his home. Scrooge, a very cynical and practical man, found himself (as one would imagine) very surprised. After Scrooge asked Marley to sit in a chair (which he did), Marley replied, “You don’t believe in me.” “I don’t,” said Scrooge.
“What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses? … Why do you doubt your senses?”
Scrooge replied, “Because a little thing affects them. A slight order of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” If you know this story, you realize that Marley was real — but Scrooge needed double-convincing that this supernatural event actually took place!
In our culture, we are very much in danger of these things. Some of the issues that come up are very spiritual (we must pray about this! We must go and confirm this with the pastors and scholars) or very secular (Bah! Humbug on anything supernatural — there must be some other explanation!). Each of us has different lenses through which we look at the world — and that tends to color our reactions.
Yet these shepherds — these outcasts of society; these smelly, dirty, unkempt, earthy shepherds — were told from the angelic choir itself about an event which happened over on the outskirts of Bethlehem. What was their reaction?
Luke 2:15-16 again says,
“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”
Their reaction may seem very unspiritual to us — they didn’t think, they didn’t pray, they didn’t ponder — they just reacted with excitement. Much like we would react when a child is born into our family, or when someone is engaged, or … as is the case with some folks at school … when they find out they passed a test and are graduating.
Only more so. These shepherds likely did not receive a kind word from anyone. And yet, they received a good word — Good News — not just from anyone on earth, but from God Himself who made the greatest event ever known first to them. They couldn’t wait.
2. When Christ makes Himself known, we must go and tell (Luke 2:17-18)!
In Luke 2:17-18, says, “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.”
We tend to focus a lot on how surprised the shepherds were, and for good reasons. When the angels arrived on the scene, the shepherds were “very afraid.” Yet, do you think that Mary and Joseph were afraid when the shepherds showed up hastily on the scene. Mothers are very protective of their newborns. I’m sure they had already been through quite a bit just to get to this particular point. This company showing up unexpectedly, I’m sure, was met with some bit of concern.
So naturally, the shepherds felt a duel need to explain themselves. First, to possibly disarm (emotionally, that is) a protective father from harming his son. Yet, they had to speak these things not simply for their protection but also because of their desire to see what the angels were speaking of!
Over the next few weeks, there were be football a-plenty. As you watch the games, you will notice certain groups of people in the game. You will see the players, you will see the spectators, and you will see the commentators. There is a game taking place on the field. Tackles are made, blocks are executed, passes are thrown, and touchdowns and field goals are scored. The crowd in the stadium and at home are there watching what is going on — either cheering or booing what happened. Yet the commentators are there explaining each play, each block, each move executed. Their job is not simply to watch, but to tell what is going on!
What about us? Are we spectators or commentators? And if we comment, is it only when the company is safe, or are we like the disciples when they went before the judge, accused of stirring up the crowd with the message of Jesus. When they were ordered to speak no longer about him, Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20, ESV). Have you asked God to give you the courage to go and tell? You’ve seen in part what he’s accomplished. Don’t be a spectator simply watching the action, tell us all about it!
3. When Christ makes Himself known, we must go and ponder (Luke 2:18-19)!
In Luke 2:18-19, we read, “And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
When we look at Mary, we see what a discerning and meditative heart she had in soaking in all that transpired in her and before her. When the angel first approached her with a greeting, her first reaction was that “she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:29). Later, when the 12-year-old Jesus stayed behind at the Temple to talk to the religious leaders, and his inquiring parents asked him what he was doing, with him responding how he must be about his father’s business — Luke tells us that “his mother treasure up all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).
Mary takes time for this as well when the shepherds arrive. While everyone else was wondering, Mary was treasuring these things and pondering them in her heart. Is there a difference between wondering and pondering? To wonder about something means “a cause of astonishment or admiration”. To ponder means to weigh in the mind, to think about and reflect on a matter. While the differences may seem slight, they are there nonetheless.
We tend to like admiring things based on simple external things. Many may attend church based on external things — great music, pleasing aesthetics in the architecture, a warm and welcoming atmosphere, even to the point of a pleasant temperature. Even with preaching, many times it doesn’t matter what’s said, just so long as what is said is brief, the speaker is well-dressed and in the ballpark of articulate.
There is great value however in looking deeper, pondering, treasuring up all the things we see. You see, Mary didn’t simply admire what was happening. The danger would be for her to simply admire what was happening then forget when the shepherds left. Mary treasured these things up on the shelves of her heart for her to pull down and recall and remember when necessary. And would they ever be necessary as she would watch her Son die. She would have never been able to process such a despicable acts (at least as far as the world was concerned) unless she took time to ponder the lessons God taught her in life.
When we think of meditating, it is not like that of the monks centuries ago who sought to remove themselves from life — but is rooted in life. Paul notes in Philippians 4:8-9:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Christmas is an exciting and special time, regardless of your background. The truth is, many people are more apt to include certain religious celebrations in their Christmas plans.
4. When Christ makes Himself known, we must go and glory (Luke 2:20)!
While Mary was pondering and treasuring all that God was accomplishing before her, what did the shepherds do? Luke 2:20 says, “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
We will not stay in this place for very much longer today. In fact, we live in a culture where the average church service lasts about an hour. Whereas the last point dealt with much on how we deal with what’s going on here, this last issue deals with what we will do when we leave.
The shepherds returned back to where they were, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. To glorify means to see and know the attributes of God and to speak about them.
But the shepherds “returned back.” Where did they return? They went back home. Home. Home is a place where many love, but it’s also a place where many struggle. You see, I have been a youth pastor long enough, and was a youth long enough, and have been on enough missions trips to realize the euphoria and the spiritual-centeredness on these trips, and conferences, and events. The hardest part of the trip was not going — it would be coming back home. Back to the trappings of the culture, back to the temptations and distractions that would take me away from God, back to the people who cannot relate to what God may have done — and even feel the need to bring us “back down to reality.”
The shepherds had to return home. While we do not know what happened to them after they returned home — but we know they returned the right way. They had seen it, they remembered what was told to them.
M.R. DeHaan, founder and longtime host of the Radio Bible Class wrote a poem which touches at the heart of this time of year:
What’s all this hectic rush and worry?
Where go these crowds who run and curry?
Why all the lights — the Christmas trees?
The jolly “fat man,” tell me please!
Why, don’t you know? This is the day
For parties and for fun and play;
Why this is Christmas!
So this is Christmas, do you say?
But where is Christ this Christmas day?
Has He been lost among the throng?
His voice drowned out by empty song?
No. He’s not here — you’ll find Him where
Some humble soul now kneels in prayer,
Who knows the Christ of Christmas.
But see the many aimless thousands
Who gather on this Christmas Day,
Whose hearts have never yet been opened,
Or said to Him, “Come in to stay.”
In countless homes the candles burning,
In countless hearts expectant yearning
For gifts and presents, food and fun,
And laughter till the day is done.
But not a tear of grief or sorrow
For Him so poor He had to borrow
A crib, a colt, a boat, a bed
Where He could lay His weary head.
I’m tired of all this empty celebration,
Of feasting, drinking, recreation;
I’ll go instead to Calvary.
And there I’ll kneel with those who know
The meaning of that manger low,
And find the Christ — this Christmas.
I leap by faith across the years
To that great day when He appears
The second time, to rule and reign,
To end all sorrow, death, and pain.
In endless bliss we then shall dwell
With Him who saved our souls from hell,
And worship Christ — not Christmas!
Powered by ScribeFire.
Nativity scenes pepper the landscape of our country. For many, this is the only time any of us focus on the Christ — and because we are so visually stimulated, Christ remains a weak infant. But this is an excellent time to look and see who Jesus is from eternity’s perspective.
- God speaks through ultimately and fully through Christ (Micah 5:1-4; John 4:25).
- Christ is the heir of all things (Psalm 2:7-8; Hebrews 2:5-9).
- Christ is an agent of creation (Genesis 1:27-28; Colossians 1:15-17).
- Christ is the radiance of God’s glory (John 1:18; John 8:12; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
- Christ is the exact imprint of his nature (Colossians 1:15; Colossians 2:9).
- Christ upholds all by His Word (Jude 24-25).
- Christ makes purification for sins (Hebrews 9:12-14; 1 Peter 1:18-19).
- Christ completed everything necessary (Hebrews 10:12; Ephesians 2:4-6).
Powered by ScribeFire.
We live in times of great uncertainty when men of faith must stand up for our values and our traditions lest they be washed away in a sea of fear and relativism. As you likely know, I am running for President of the United States, and I am asking for your support.
I have never been one who is comfortable talking about my faith in the political arena. In fact, the pandering that typically occurs in the election season I find to be distasteful. But for those who have asked, I freely confess that Jesus Christ is my personal Savior, and that I seek His guidance in all that I do. I know, as you do, that our freedoms come not from man, but from God. My record of public service reflects my reverence for the Natural Rights with which we have been endowed by a loving Creator.
I have worked tirelessly to defend and restore those rights for all Americans, born and unborn alike. The right of an innocent, unborn child to life is at the heart of the American ideal of liberty. My professional and legislative record demonstrates my strong commitment to this pro-life principle.
In 40 years of medical practice, I never once considered performing an abortion, nor did I ever find abortion necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman. In Congress, I have authored legislation that seeks to define life as beginning at conception, H.R. 1094. I am also the prime sponsor of H.R. 300, which would negate the effect of Roe v Wade by removing the ability of federal courts to interfere with state legislation to protect life. This is a practical, direct approach to ending federal court tyranny which threatens our constitutional republic and has caused the deaths of 45 million of the unborn. I have also authored H.R. 1095, which prevents federal funds to be used for so-called “population control.” Many talk about being pro-life. I have taken and will continue to advocate direct action to restore protection for the unborn.
I have also acted to protect the lives of Americans by my adherence to the doctrine of “just war.” This doctrine, as articulated by Augustine, suggested that war must only be waged as a last resort— for a discernible moral and public good, with the right intentions, vetted through established legal authorities (a constitutionally required declaration of the Congress), and with a likely probability of success.
It has been and remains my firm belief that the current United Nations-mandated, no-win police action in Iraq fails to meet the high moral threshold required to wage just war. That is why I have offered moral and practical opposition to the invasion, occupation and social engineering police exercise now underway in Iraq. It is my belief, borne out by five years of abject failure and tens of thousands of lost lives, that the Iraq operation has been a dangerous diversion from the rightful and appropriate focus of our efforts to bring to justice to the jihadists that have attacked us and seek still to undermine our nation, our values, and our way of life.
I opposed giving the president power to wage unlimited and unchecked aggression, However, I did vote to support the use of force in Afghanistan. I also authored H.R. 3076, the September 11 Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001. A letter of marque and reprisal is a constitutional tool specifically designed to give the president the authority to respond with appropriate force to those non-state actors who wage aggression against the United States while limiting his authority to only those responsible for the atrocities of that day. Such a limited authorization is consistent with the doctrine of just war and the practical aim of keeping Americans safe while minimizing the costs in blood and treasure of waging such an operation.
On September 17, 2001, I stated on the house floor that “…striking out at six or eight or even ten different countries could well expand this war of which we wanted no part. Without defining the enemy there is no way to know our precise goal or to know when the war is over. Inadvertently more casual acceptance of civilian deaths as part of this war I’m certain will prolong the agony and increase the chances of even more American casualties. We must guard against this if at all possible.” I’m sorry to say that history has proven this to be true.
I am running for president to restore the rule of law and to stand up for our divinely inspired Constitution. I have never voted for legislation that is not specifically authorized by the Constitution. As president, I will never sign a piece of legislation, nor use the power of the executive, in a manner inconsistent with the limitations that the founders envisioned.
Many have given up on America as an exemplar for the world, as a model of freedom, self-government, and self-control. I have not. There is hope for America. I ask you to join me, and to be a part of it.
Powered by ScribeFire.
(I posted this article at Bro. Matt’s Blog, but wanted to reproduce it here.)
Heisler, Greg. Spirit-Led Preaching: The Holy Spirit’s Role in Sermon Preparation and Delivery. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishing Group, 2007. 156 pp. $17.99.
Dr. Greg Heisler (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY) serves as assistant professor of preaching at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. His passion for the nature of preaching is quite clear:
Our students need to see the complementary relationship between the Word and the Spirit and to understand the proper function of sermon mechanics and sermon dynamics for preaching. They need to have as much zeal for the theological realities as they do for the dependence on the Holy Spirit (15).
He states this because the previous generations of homiletics professors and their works only offer a “passing reference to the Spirit” (11). In this volume, Heisler admirably makes the case in how the Holy Spirit must not be an afterthought in sermon preparation and delivery, but he must stand in the forefront in every step of the process of constructing a sermon as well as a holy life.
The preacher will appreciate Heisler’s chapter on “What is Spirit-Led Preaching?” He illustrates two differing models of expository preaching: “text-driven preaching” (18) in which the focus is on presenting the biblical text correctly, with the Spirit’s role seen as implicit; and “spirit-driven preaching” in which the focus is “on the dynamic of the Spirit and the Spirit’s text” with the result being a “Christological witness and Spirit-filled living” (19). He uses a picturesque illustration to drive home this concept:
I imagine the Holy Spirit’s power touching down on the tracks of the biblical text, and suddenly the combination of Word and Spirit together ignite into sermonic propulsion. The preacher’s
responsibility is not to push the train in his own strength; nor it is the preacher’s responsibility to build new tracks to new places. The preacher’s responsibility is to keep the train on the tracks (19)!
Preachers would do well to internalize this concept and embrace this powerful picture. Heisler rightly reinforces the complementary relationship between the Scriptures and the Spirit in Chapter Five. Given the problematic theology of the charismatic movement who puts the Spirit and the Word against one another, Heisler gives a strong argument demonstrating the harmony between the two.
Together Word and Spirit form the powerful catalyst that serves as the theological foundation for
Spirit-led preaching. The Word activates the Spirit, and the Spirit authenticates the Word. The Word is the instrument of the Spirit, and the Spirit is the implement of the Word. The Word is the written witness, and the Spirit is the inward witness. In terms of preaching, the Word is the source and substance of our preaching, and the Spirit is the supernatural power of our preaching (62).
He rightly notes how the three testimonies of preaching (Scripture, the Spirit, and the Preacher) come together toward a Christological witness. “The Spirit’s ministry is a continuation of Jesus’ ministry, as the Spirit stands in place of Jesus until Christ’s triumphant return” (57). Heisler is correct when he says that preaching which claims to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led but fails to preach Christ-centered sermons are not Spirit-led sermons.
The strongest chapter in this volume is Chapter Seven where Heisler addresses “The Preacher and the Spirit.” Heisler makes a stunning statement that the preacher must absorb:
I believe that the passion and confidence the prophet of God experiences in his preaching ministry are directly proportional to the daily obedience and surrender to the call of God on the preacher’s life. . . . It’s as if God has subpoenaed us to stand before him, not in a courtroom in front of a jury but in a pulpit in from of his people. We are there by divine calling, and we are there by divine authority (72).
Heisler sounds a clarion call for ministers to incorporate the Spirit into their personal lives before they attempt to incorporate him into areas of their professional lives such as preparation, presentation, and delivery. Personal obedience to Christ and preaching the Word of Christ must coincide.
The only weakness found in this work is the lack of conciseness in Heisler’s working definitions. For instance, when he presents his definition of expository preaching, he states:
Expository preaching is the Spirit-empowered proclamation of biblical trust derived from the illuminating guidance of the Holy Spirit by means of a verse-by-verse exposition of the Spirit-inspired text, with a view to applying the text by means of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, first to the preacher’s heart, and then to the hearts of those who hear, culminating in an authentic and powerful witness to the living Word, Jesus Christ, and obedient, Spirit-filled living (21).
While the construct of this definition reminds one of the Greek sentence construct of the Apostle Paul (see Ephesians 1:3-14), this structure does not allow for the reader to absorb the definition easily. Breaking this sentence down into two, three, even four sentences would be helpful. His vision of teaching homiletics commits the same faux pas — to which he readily admits (75).
Even so, this reviewer plans on using this book as a textbook in training expository preachers in his local church setting. The evangelical world in general and preachers specifically should be grateful to Greg Heisler for re-introducing the Spirit to expositorypreaching. Along with this volume, Arturo G. Azurdia’s book on Spirit-Empowered Preaching serves as an excellent compliment. Praise God for raising up Spirit-led preachers in our present age.
Powered by ScribeFire.