Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"Awesome Lawson"

This year our church congregation is celebrating 165 years of God's faithfulness. One of the things we wanted to do to highlight this anniversary celebration was to have a bible conference or two. I am a bit of a dreamer so i decided to create my Fab 5 list of faithful expositors. Included on my list were John MacArthur, Steve Lawson, R.C. Sproul, Al Mohler, and John Piper. I have heard all these men preach in person many times before and have met all of them personally with the exception of Pastor Piper. Each one of these men has helped me grow in Christ and has modeled what a faithful pulpit looks like. I had the special privilege of being apart of Pastor MacArthur's church for 13 years. During that time I was able to enjoy some fellowship with Pastor Lawson on the Master's College campus.

Well to make a long story short i decided to ask Pastor Steve Lawson to be our key note preacher at our 165th Anniversary celebration not thinking we had much of a chance in getting him; as i told our leadership team, "Not because he would not love to serve us in this way but simply b/c national conference speakers are in very high demand and thus they have to say 'no' all the time." Well i was wrong! On May 21-22nd Pastor Steve Lawson will be coming to Freeport, Il and we could not be more excited!

When i heard Dr. Lawson preach in Orlando at a Ligonier Pastor's Conference i remember an African American preacher from Indiana say 'that Steve Lawson is awesome!' My dad and I decided to coin the expression used in the title above.

For those of you who wonder what it might have been like to hear George Whitefield preach....check out these sermons http://www.cfbcmobile.org

Steve Lawson is awesome because he gets himself out of the way every time he preaches and thus magnifies the glory of Christ in the Word of God!

Monday, August 07, 2006

A new home

We have moved!! Please bookmark our new page which you can find here.

The Fellows of Expository Thoughts

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Should people take notes during the sermon?

Questioning tradition a bit at this point, I would like to pose a question which I am certainly not the first to ask. Other men from history are looking over my shoulder asking the same question and they have far more credibility and longevity than I do (e.g., Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd-Jones). Should we encourage our people to take notes during the sermon? Let me state at the outset that I do not think it a major issue either way. I would say that most expository preaching lends itself toward people taking notes as it is informational as well as exhortive preaching (as it should be). In our church, our men meet in weekly groups where they discuss last week’s sermon and seek to plunge the depths of application. The basis for their meetings is their notes from the last sermon. So personally speaking, I have seen the tremendous advantages of individuals taking notes while I preach.

However, in our media-driven age there is still an uncomfortable disconnect with modern forms of communication and the very old biblical task of public preaching. Ours is a generation driven by gobs of information and statistics which we have at a ready click (e.g., Google, Wikipedia) even if we’re not sure how such information should be processed. In fact, we have more bits of information at our disposal than ever before and yet we have few thinkers who are able to process this mass of media without the aid of a computerized algorithms. I believe such information age characteristics of knowledge accumulation have made their way into the congregations of churches that regularly dish out expository sermons. One response to such excess would be to scrap the expository sermon all together in favor of something lighter and more user-friendly but we can’t do this since 1) expository preaching is a biblical mandate 2) you would be wasting years of Greek and Hebrew study if you do something else and 3) you would reduce your ministry to scratching itching ears…just to name a few. Ridding ourselves of the method (i.e., expository) is not an option. So let’s hear some dissenting voices on taking notes before we decide what to do.

The first to truly emphasize such a point was Jonathan Edwards. George Marsden recounts Edwards saying, “The main benefit that is obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind in the time of it, and not by the effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered” (quoted in The Salvation of Souls, eds. Richard Bailey and Gregory Wills, 11). In a similar manner Martyn Lloyd-Jones followed Edwards noting, “The first and primary object of preaching is not only to give information. It is, as Edwards says, to produce an impression. It is the impression at the time that matters, even more than what you can remember subsequently….It is not primarily to impart information; and while you are writing your notes you may be missing something of the impact of the Spirit.”

So there are valid points to be made all around. Do you think Edwards and Jones made valid observations or do you think this is where they might have strayed in regards to application? What do we learn from both sides of the spectrum? Let us know what you think.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Shoo fly. . .shoo!

I have deleted a few comments here because an individual by the name of "Antonio" is a peddler of false doctrine. Secondly, and I know this goes against the tone of most blogs, but this is not a “debate” blog. We might discuss items at times and kick thoughts around but we are not interested in being a billboard for false teachers to link to (besides Antonio has his own blog). I would ask that Antonio and any other’s of like ilk abstain from commenting here since such persons are always learning and never come to a knowledge of the truth. We are a group of friends who are all preachers and this blog is dedicated to such fellowship and conversation. In my year and a half of blogging I have learned that some people should be banned from owning computers and that the world has enough opinion to sustain a plethora of arguments for many more millennia (BTW: I also think turbans are out of style). Antonio, we will let you know if your services are needed here but by the looks of things, I think we will be okay without them until the Lord returns. Please show integrity and honor our requests not to comment here (consider yourself banned).

Oh and by the way….Jesus is Lord!

Applicational Hermeneutics (pt 4)

*** V. The Biblical Solution ***

Here are "8 simple principles to help you accurately interpret (or apply) the Biblical text."

1. Pray that God through the Holy Spirit would grant you wisdom and understanding when studying or applying any passage of holy Scripture.

We can't do this in the flesh. We need to humble ourselves before God and ask for the Spirit's aid in understanding the Scriptures.

2. Utilize proper hermeneutics when studying or applying any passage of holy Scripture.

Pastor Flatt and I are both committed to the grammatico-historical method of interpretation (as are the writers of this blog). This method is designed “to discover the meaning of a text that is dictated by the principles of grammar and the facts of history.” The famous pre-reformation Reformer John Wycliffe wrote, “All things necessary in Scripture are contained in its proper literal and historical senses.” While the famous Bible translator William Tyndale said, “Scripture has but ones sense, which is the literal sense.” John Calvin rightly believed that, “The Holy Scripture is not a ball that we can bounce around at will. Rather it is the Word of God whose teaching must be learned by the most impartial and objective study of the text.” **When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense.** Much more could be said under this heading but for time sake I must move on.

3. Try and leave behind any unnecessary presuppositions or preunderstandings when approaching the Text.

John Calvin wrote, “It is the first business of an interpreter to let his author say what he does say, instead of attributing to him what we think he ought to say.” St. Augustine adds, “The task of the interpreter is to determine the meaning of the Scriptures, not to bring a meaning to it.” Perhaps this is summarized most effectively in a quote by Bernard Ramm, “The danger of having a set theological system is that in the interpretation of Scripture the system tends to govern the interpretation rather than the interpretation correcting the system.”

4. Always remember, CONTEXT is KING!

Taking note of the context is essential for accurate bible study. KEY --►A proof text that ignores the context is a pretext! The Swiss reformer Zwingli wrote, “Pulling a passage of Scripture away from its context is like breaking a flower from its roots.” Context, context, context. In short, context is king!! Make sure you read a verse in its context (whether that means 1 paragraph or
6 chapters). This is one of the things that’s potentially dangerous during a discussion based setting (not having adequate time to study the contexts of the verses that are being referenced).

5. “Observe” what the Scriptural passage says.

Ask lots of questions of the text: Who was the writer? TO whom was he writing? Where does this passage fit in with the rest of the chapter? What genre of Scripture does this fit into? Are any words repeated? Are their any linking words? What grammatical devices does the author use? What are verb tenses in the original language? What are the key theological words? What’s the historical background of this passage? I remember one of my first seminary assignments was to take a short passage of Scripture and to come up with 20 questions to help implement this step.

6. Accurately “interpret” the biblical text.

This step asks the question, “What does it mean?” “How is it to be explained?” One seminary Professor notes, “Interpretation is perhaps the most difficult and time-consuming step.” Many preachers today don’t do in-depth Biblical exposition (expository preaching) because it is so laborious...

To help interpret the Text:
a) Find Solutions to all of your questions (the ones you came up with during the “observation” step)
b) Try to “Paraphrase” each verse or section of the passage… In my own words this means….
c) When interpreting the bible: Utilize the “analogy of the faith” rule- No passage of Scripture, when accurately understood will contradict any other passage.
d) When necessary, use clear passages of Scripture to help interpret more difficult (obscure) ones.
e) Use good exegetical commentaries only after you’ve done all these steps on your own.

(optional step) 7. Determine how this particular passage of Scripture harmonizes with other biblical texts/doctrines.
(Develop a biblical and systematic theology). Systematic and biblical theology is appropriate only after exegesis has taken place (of each passage)…

8. “Apply” the Biblical text to your own life.

Application takes place only after steps 1-6 are completed. If we immediately jump to application we are prone to misinterpret and misapply the Words of God. Remember there is but one true interpretation, but applications are many! The Spirit often applies the Word differently to individual believers. One scholar wrote, “Heart appropriation, not merely head apprehension, is the true goal of Bible study.” Study the Bible to know your God! Can you think of anything more glorious then growing closer with the God of the universe? This should be all the motivation we need to discipline ourselves in personal Bible study. We can grow in our relationship with Jesus through intense study and application of the Word!

I would encourage you to briefly review every sermon that you listen to and ask God to specifically apply the text to your life. Ask God to conform you into Christ’s image through your personal study and application of the Word (1 Peter 2:2). Always ask yourself the “so what?” questions. Knowledge alone merely puffs up.

Martin Luther wrote that the Bible, “is not merely to be repeated or known, but to be lived and felt.” In 1742, Johann Bengel wrote something that summarizes this lecture very well, “Apply yourself wholly to the text and apply the text wholly to yourself.”

Friday, July 28, 2006

Basic Bible Interpretation (pt 3)

IV. The Need for this Particular Study

The Bible truly is God’s Word. As such, it is authoritative and binding for all peoples in all times (that’s why Satan hates it). He loves to undermine and minimize God's book. Throughout history, The Bible has been misinterpreted, thousands of times. Some people have done this intentionally while many more have done so unintentionally.

A) Some Atheists claim the Bible supports their position, after all Psalm 14:1 does say, “there is NO God.”

Of course the first part of the verse says, “The fool has said in his heart, there is NO God.”

B) Jehovah Witnesses and other cult groups say they believe in the Bible.

They quickly point out Colossians 1:15 which says, “Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.” J.W.’s teach that Jesus is not eternal (He has an origin), thus He can’t be God. Of course a basic understanding of the original languages and the context of this particular passage clearly reveals what Paul was trying to say; Jesus is the “first-born” in this sense: He is preeminent in rank and supremacy over all His brethren. In addition, verse 16 claims Jesus was present when the universe was created (His eternality). This passage of Scripture does not destroy the Deity of Jesus Christ. On the contrary, it emphatically upholds it!

C) Roman Catholics often point out James 2:24 to show the apparent inconsistencies of Sola Fide (Justification by faith alone);

James 2:24 says, “You see that a man is justified by works, and NOT by faith alone.” Yet when this Epistle is understand in its historical setting, one realizes that James was attacking the errors of the Antinomians (cheap grace); Which is why he repeatedly emphasizes this concept: True saving faith works itself out in sanctification. A person is justified by faith alone BUT NOT by a faith that is alone (the evidence of our justification)!

D) Christians sometimes point out Matthew 7, which says “Judge not, least you be judged.”

This verse is used by some professing Believers to excuse sinful behavior. Others use it as an excuse not to faithfully confront people (after all who I am to judge?). But when understood in its entire context, Jesus is getting at a much different point. Jesus isn’t saying, “Don’t confront a sinning brother” what he is saying is “1st examine your own life(and make it right) BEFORE judging another person. The key word is found in verse 5, (circle the word), “THEN”………..

E) I’ve heard many Christians misapply Matthew 18:20, which says, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst."

During scarcely attended prayer meetings someone will inevitably quote this verse in a earnest attempt to bring comfort to all that God is still in their midst (which of course He is). Unfortunately in context this verse is talking about the Lord’s presence (His confirmation) during the church discipline process NOT….

F) One person recorded this somewhat humorous example of how a pastor totally misapplied the Word of God during a Bible conference.

The speaker was preaching from John 11, the story of the resurrection of Lazarus. This was his interpretation, “Lazarus is a symbol of the church, and what we have here is a vivid picture of the rapture of the believers. The resurrection of Lazarus is the church going through the rapture.”

G) Some people try and handle poisonous snakes based on their reading of Mark 16:18 while others speak in tongues because the apostles did so in Acts 2.

-->One thing that’s essential is to recognize the difference between prescriptive and descriptive passages of Scripture.

H) A more common error today is perfectly described for us in a blog posting from a member of our church.

He writes, “I believe one of the key issues today regarding poor hermeneutics is our American tendency to 'need' the quick fix. We aren’t interested in hard-work and seeing the bigger picture; rather, we believe it is our right to have the solution presented to us in a clear/concise way. We want to believe the infomercials showing us how to become millionaires by age 30 or get great abs in 5 minutes a day. We want the maximum benefit with the least amount of work. For Christians, this attitude creates the desire for 'THE verse'. You know… the perfect summary in 10 words or less that gives us the answers we so desperately need to all of our current problems. When we approach scripture this way, we frequently impose our presuppositions on the text. We surgically remove a verse that 'speaks' to us, from the surrounding paragraph, letter, and book.”

All of us have probably been guilty of doing this at some point in our Christian life. We’ve played fast and loose with the biblical text…We’ve wanted a quick answer so we’ve imposed our meaning on the Biblical text. We need to be very careful how we interpret and apply the Bible……….

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Hermeneutics (pt 2)

II. The Good News

Hallelujah friends, God has spoken! The infinite God of the Universe has revealed Himself and His glorious character to finite man! This is really great news! We could not know GOD apart from him revealing himself to us. The primary way God speaks today is through His external Word. Thus it is our great privilege to figure out the spiritual significance of God’s Holy Word. To study the Bible to know its meaning. This of course can only be done through the Holy Spirit’s enablement, (see 1 Cor 1-2). Passages like 1 John 2:20 and 1 John 2:27 should provide every believer with hope. All of us can accurately understand the Word of God because of the H.S. The H.S. guides true believers into the Truth! This is very good news.

Of course, this truth does not eliminate the need for diligent study (1 Tim 2:15 makes that clear). This does not eliminate the need for gifted teachers either (Note 1 Cor 12:28 & Eph 4:11); But it does mean you (lay people) are not totally reliant on us. I hope this reminder is received as good news this evening! God has provided us a light onto our feet and a lamp until our path. We can know something of the mind of Christ and the will of God.

III. A Basic Definition

Before I move forward in this lecture let me 1st try and define this seminary word for you: “Hermeneutics” is simply a set of principles. It’s the science and art of interpreting the Bible. Bernard Ramm adds, “It is a science because it is guided by rules within a system; and it is an art because the application of the rules is by skill, and not by mechanical imitation.” More specifically sound hermeneutics “determine the rules which are legitimate in the interpretive process and those which are not.”

Another key concept that must be understood is the word exegesis: This means to lead the meaning out of the text, to show the way, or to interpret the proper meaning. IN other words, the human interpreter must avoid imposing a preconceived notion into any given text (Eisogesis). Our goal as we study the bible is to determine the original meaning of the text! We want to know what God meant when He, by the Holy Spirit, led the prophets and apostles to write the Holy Scriptures! (see Dr. Thomas' exegetical theology chart for more detailed info).

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Starbucks Use and Church loyalty

I admit that I'm not a Starbucks drinker but a Starbucks user. At any rate, this article pointed out an amazing stat that is nonetheless easy to believe. 80% of Starbucks revenue comes from folks who visit the store an average of 18 times a month. Now let me draw out a conclusion that has been forged in real experience and statistical proof. Not even the American evangelical church can claim such loyalty. It has already been pointed out that Southern Baptists (I picked them because they are the largest of this group and I use to be one) can not account for well over 8 million members of their churches (see here). Other mainline denominations are no better. In fact all the mainline groups (Presbyterian, United Methodists, Episcopalians, etc.) are hemorrhaging members at an astounding pace. So what does this mean?

Some church culture hawks will look at this and say, "That's it! If we start giving away espresso at our church services then people will come" (if you don't believe churches do this see here). Others with a more agnostic frame of mind might say, "See Christians are no better than anyone else, in fact they're less loyal." However, I think something else might explain why Starbucks can keep members and many churches cannot. The problem is not one of marketing. I lived in Los Angeles and can tell you that no church can compete with the world's marketing ability. Churches in my own area run TV commercials and news ads that come off looking silly at best and pandering at worst. To be sure, if your church gives away something that the average person likes then they might be lured for a season. However they will eventually figure out that if it’s coffee you want then Starbucks makes it better (which is the same reason you don’t go to McDonalds for the fish). There is an old business axiom that goes something like this: “what you win them with is what you will keep them with.” So what happens if you attract people to your church with promises like, “let us help get your finances in order” or “feeling depressed…come and let us help you”? Do they stay after they get their checkbook balanced or no longer “feel” depressed? Statistics show they clearly do not.

I think one of the lessons that shrinking church roles teaches us is that churches have been wooing folks with everything under the Sun except the gospel. When the warm fuzzies wear-off they are left holding a cold cup of coffee while listening to a “preacher” give a humanistic motivational speech. The world is very savvy at many things but one thing it is unable to do is be “the pillar and support of the truth” which is the sole role of the church (1 Tim. 3:14). So until some pupliteers wake-up to the reality that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation they will continue to miss the forest for the trees. Now this does not mean that true needs are overlooked in an effort to get someone to pray a prayer (I’m pretty sure that the latter is never mentioned in Scripture). There are extremes on both sides of this needy fence. One says give them a cup of cold water and don’t even dream of mentioning Jesus and the other says give them the coldest water they’ve ever had and make sure the cup has John 3:16 printed in bold on the outside. The first approach leaves Jesus out of the equation altogether and the other makes the cold water look better than having your sins washed away. The call of the gospel means telling others that they have no hope outside of faith in Jesus Christ and that it won’t necessarily make their life “better”. It also means that the church has a responsibility to help those who find it difficult to follow Jesus (i.e. discipleship). Lastly, it should be a reminder that many folks churches consider as “members” are not on the heavenly role that matters. . . they just came to your church for the coffee.

Leon Morris (1914-2006)

Dr. Leon Morris has died in Melbourne Australia at the age of 92. Morris wrote many works of enormous help to Bible expositors everywhere. Most preachers have within their reach one of his numerous commentaries or theological works which will now remain as a testimony to Morris' theological heritage.

Hermeneutics (part 1)

These notes come from a recent lecture i gave at my home church...

Applicational Hermeneutics

I. The Problem
We live in a day and age when people want to express there opinions at almost any cost.

(E.G.) Radio shows: Jim Rome, Sean Hannity, Howard Stern, etc.
TV Shows: Oprah Winifrey, Dr. Phil, Jerry Springer, etc.
Internet: Everybody and their grandma seems to have a blog these days.

Americans like to share their opinion in just about every venue imaginable…This attitude has inevitably permeated herself into the church. I think that this can be both a positive thing and a negative thing.

Dialogue teaching is one, of many different ways, the Bible can be taught during: small group settings, Sunday school classes, or even home bible studies. Dialogue & Interaction can be helpful for both the teacher (clarity) and the students (understanding/attention).

Expository exultation (ie. biblical preaching) should never be replaced by these popular teaching methods; But that doesn’t mean other forms of teaching don’t have a place in the life of the church…. (That’s exactly why our church offers a variety of teaching styles during our sunday school hour and FLOCK groups).

I don’t have time tonight to go into all the different ways Postmodern thought has affected the church…Suffice to say it has; in a variety of ways.

One of the more common errors is a very catchy but potentially unwise small group question: WHAT DOES THIS BIBLE PASSAGE MEAN TO YOU? (Have you heard this one before?) The emphasis is on the TO YOU part.

Some people believe a passage of Scripture can rightly mean multiple things to different people… Certain teachers would have you believe the Bible can be rightly explained with multiple, contradictory interpretations. So they ask: WHAT’S YOUR personal take on THIS VERSE? What does this passage mean to you? Some ask this question AS IF absolute truth was simply a by-product of modernity…As if truth were relative…Professor Roy Zuck wisely asks, “If the Bible can be made to mean anything we want, how can it be a reliable guide?”

When it comes to interpreting the Bible my fallible opinion and your personal impressions don’t matter too much. One Pastor put it this way, “the meaning of Scripture is the Scripture.” In other words, IF you don’t have the correct interpretation, you don’t have the Scriptures! You can not rightly apply a passage if you have the WRONG interpretation of the biblical text.

Friends, this is one of the reasons why sound hermeneutics are so essential! One of the most important disciplines for Christians to grow in, is learning how to apply sound hermeneutical principles to the biblical text. This is a crucial discipline for all of us to grow in.

This needs to happen regardless of the ministry context:
A) In our Children’s ministries…
B) Ladies Bible Study,
C) During Youth Group,
D) Adult Flocks,
E) Sunday School time,
F) at home during family devotions,
G) During biblical counseling sessions,
H) & obviously in the pulpit on Sunday mornings.

If you’d like one key verse that supports my thesis carefully, study 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.”