Friday, April 28, 2006

T4G "Rap" Up

In the future I will leave blogging conferences to the experts because I neither found the time or the energy to carry-out such a task. Thankfully you can see a wonderful recap of each session here and plenty of photos here. Highlights for me were Lig Duncan's message on "Preaching the Old Testament" which was simply the best I have ever heard on the subject by a mile (he can rap too, see picture). I got to hang-out and worship with Dr. Purgatorio who is such a cool guy and very encouraging to be around. I briefly met Dr. Fide-O Robertson as well and managed to get away before anyone saw me conspiring with him. I caught-up with old friends and some new ones. I will remember this conference for a long time to come. I began the week preaching a very forgettable sermon that left me ministerialy depressed but ended the week greatly encouraged and ready to pursue, renew, and reshape my life as a minister of the wondrous Gospel.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

T4G Day One

The session kicked off tonight in grand fashion and was meaningful, deliberate, convicting, and worshipful (and any other positive adjectives you might think of). Mark Dever preached the opening session on "The Pastor'’s understanding of his own role."” His text was from 1 Corinthians 4 and his points were:

"Three Marks of a Real Minister"
1.Cross-centered message
2.Cross-centered life
3.Cross-centered followers

I needed to hear this sermon in a big way and the Lord has certainly renewed some dormant thoughts, attitudes, and convictions that have gathered dust in my life. All praise to Christ.

The conference is a sea of church leaders from wall to wall. The fellowship is very close...literally. I have enjoyed seeing old friends from seminary and blog celebrities. For a real blog recap see Tim Challies here.

If you see me please introduce yourself, I would love to connect with as many of you as possible. Now here are some candids from the day:
Eric Bancroft who is in competition with C. J. Mahaney for slickest scalp (what's the deal with shaved heads and Sovereign Grace Ministries anyway?).

Marc "Purgatorio" Heinrich

Allen "Country boy will survive" Cagle

Ben Holland chatting with new friend Zach.

Monday, April 24, 2006

"A Mighty Fortress is Our Tavern"?????

My wife will tell you that I have a special skill that is totally useless. I can take almost any popular tune and rewrite the lyrics in almost a split second. I especially love to take cherished love ballads and recast them into the farcical drivel that they truly deserve. Somewhat related is the common misnomer that many of the great hymns were actually pub songs from the old country rewritten with a more biblical lyric. Someone even told me once (with a straight face) that “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” was originally a bar tune. The wife and I once saw the lapsed Lutheran, Garrison Keilor, at the Hollywood Bowl where we sang the old song in German right after he repeated the same historical faux paux. Thankfully Gene Edward Veith sets the historical record straight,
“For the record, Luther did not take "bar tunes" and put biblical words to them. That legend comes from a comical misunderstanding. Someone apparently heard a music historian referring to Luther's use of the "bar form," which refers to a stanza structure, not to what drunks sing in a tavern. Luther did borrow and adapt tunes from earlier hymns, medieval chants, and contemporary composers, but a good number of his melodies were his own original compositions.”
See the full article here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

On the road with T4G

Some of us will be here all week soaking up sermons, ministry insight and fellowship at the T4G Conference. I will be blogging the conference at Expository Thoughts. Be sure to check out Challies who will also be blogging the conference. You can also find the official blog of the conference here. If you're going drop us a line.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

An elder's children: believing or faithful?

Dr. Andreas Kostenberger has posted an article on the thorny issue of Titus 1:6 "children who believe" (NASB, ESV, NIV, NLT) or "faithful children" (NKJV). His article is from his forthcoming commentary on 1-2 Timothy, Titus in the new revised edition of The Expositor's Bible Commentary. For a similar take see Dr. Bill Barrick's helpful insight on Titus 1:6 here.

For a differnet take on this issue see the note on Titus 1:6 in The MacArthur Study Bible or his commentary on the same.

Shepherd's Conf. Resources

Notes from the recent Shepherd's Conference are now on the web here. Notes from earlier years can be found here.

HT: Nathan Busenitz

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Pastor As Theologian

Al Mohler has written, "Every pastor is called to be a theologian. This may come as a surprise to some pastors, who see theology as an academic discipline taken during seminary rather than as an ongoing and central part of the pastoral calling. Nevertheless, the health of the church depends upon its pastors functioning as faithful theologians--teaching, preaching, defending, and applying the great doctrines of the faith."

See the full article here.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Does God need a PR man?

I found this article from the New York Times Magazine interesting for the fact that it sees something unusal about God needing a public relations person. The article is about PR agent Larry Ross but the author notices something about Rick Warren (one of Ross's clients) that many evangelicals fail to grasp:
"Warren's book "The Purpose-Driven Life" has sold more than 25 million copies, making it the best-selling hardcover book of nonfiction ever published in the United States, and some say Saddleback has more in common with Google or Starbucks, at least in scope, than the typical church. Warren has a public and a brand to manage."
As for Ross the article asks the obvious question:
"The Kingdom of God itself is a client of sorts. Publicity, marketing and branding are his ministry. So the real question becomes, Why does God need someone to sell him?"

New preaching articles from IX Marks

Friday, April 14, 2006

Dever, McKnight, the Atonement and a question few are asking

Long story short: Mark Dever has posted an excellent article on the atonement which has Scot McKight in a huff. Others like Phil Johnson have caught-on to McKnight's obvious hypocrisy but the whole thing presents a question that few are asking: Would McKnight have these problems with Dever's explanation and defense of penal substitution if he (McKnight) did not hold to his various source critical views of the Gospels? I do think it matters and the two are related. Dever notes this in his article and Denny Burk asks a similar question in the comment thread of McKnight's post. Burk questions, "I would be interested to hear you respond to Dever’s suggestion that you have rejected “Mark’s theologizing” of Jesus’s words in Mark 10:45." So would I Denny because there is a source critical approach to the text of the Gospels that appears to be driving McKnight's theology. Until such an issue is dealt with this argument will continue to be played by different sets of rules and on different playing fields.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Interview with Bryan Chapell

Bryan Chapell, President of Covenant Seminary, delivers some practical wisdom for expositors in this interview entitled "The Truth About Expository Preaching."
If your spouse or roommate were to roll you out of bed at 3 A.M. and ask, "What is the sermon about this Sunday morning?" if you cannot answer in one crisp sentence, the sermon's not ready to preach. You need an idea people can grasp. If the sermon’s idea is, "In the Babylonian incarceration of God's people, they suffered for seventy years to determine what God's plan was and never could determine it..." and you keep talking, that idea is not going to pass the 3 A.M. test. We need something like "God remains faithful to faithless people," something that's crisp.
See the complete interview here.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Preaching OT Narrative

A young seminary student I know (younger than me anyway) recently finished his M.Div course work from the seminary he was attending and lamented the fact that he was graduating with plenty of helpful information and valuable experience but a few areas were never sufficiently covered in class lectures. The most glaring example he said, was instruction on how to preach from the narrative portions of Scripture and primarily those from the OT. Since I didn’t attend the same seminary as this fellow I can’t vouch for the accuracy of his complaint. Nevertheless, as I reflect on my own experience in seminary and that of fellow ministers with whom I have discussed this issue, there is a general consensus that preaching OT narrative is a weak point among expositors today. Another side to this dilemma is that many who do preach narrative resort to allegorizing and “character studies” rather than getting at the original meaning and then its implications for the modern hearer. Also, much of the OT narrative preaching that I have heard has lacked a God-centered focus. Now all of this is simply one person’s observation but I suspect that it might be a larger problem beyond my own perception.

One of the ways I have tried to overcome my own weaknesses in this area is to simply jump off the cliff of fear and just do it. So currently, I have put a much longer series of the Gospel of Matthew on hold and I’m preaching through the book of Ruth. At the same time I have tried to read anything and everything on the subject of narrative preaching. I came across the following simple but helpful reminder from Daniel Block in his commentary on Judges-Ruth”. Block says we have to ask
“the right questions of the text: (1) What does this account tell us about God? (2) What does it tell us about the human condition? (3) What does it tell us about the world? (4) What does it tell us about the people of God—their collective relationship with Him? (5) What does it tell us of the individual believer’s life of faith?” (604).
For a more detailed treatment of preaching narrative I would recommend “Guidelines for Understanding and Proclaiming Old Testament Narratives” by Steven D. Mathewson as a starting point. There is still much work that needs to be done in this area in the way of helpful materials and resources. If you know of any please let us know by way of comment.

How to make a man of God

Thanks to Sean at tohu va bohu for reminding us of this classic statement from MacArthur.

“How to Make a Man of God”

Fling him into his office. Tear the “Office” sign from the door and nail on the sign, “Study.” Take him off the mailing list. Lock him up with his books and his typewriter and his Bible. Slam him down on his knees before texts and broken hearts and the flock of lives of a superficial flock and a holy God. Force him to be the one man in our surfeited communities who knows about God.
Throw him into the ring to box with God until he learns how short his arms are. Engage him to wrestle with God all the night through. And let him come out only when he’s bruised and beaten into being a blessing.

Shut his mouth forever spouting remarks, and stop his tongue forever tripping lightly over every nonessential. Require him to have something to say before he dares break the silence.
Bend his knees in the lonesome valley. Burn his eyes with weary study. Wreck his emotional poise with worry for God. And make him exchange his pious stance for a humble walk with God and man. Make him spend and be spent for the glory of God.

Rip out his telephone. Burn up his ecclesiastical success sheets. Put water in his gas tank. Give him a Bible and tie him to the pulpit. And make him preach the Word of the living God!
Test him. Quiz him. Examine him. Humiliate him for his ignorance of things divine. Shame him for his good comprehension of finances, batting averages, and political in-fighting. Laugh at his frustrated effort to play psychiatrist. Form a choir and raise a chant and haunt him with it night and day-”Sir, we would see Jesus.”

When at long last he dares assay the pulpit, ask him if he has a word from God. If he does not, then dismiss him. Tell him you can read the morning paper and digest the television commentaries, and think through the day’s superficial problems, and manage the community’s weary drives, and bless the sordid baked potatoes and green beans, ad infinitum, better than he can. Command him not to come back until he’s read and reread, written and rewritten, until he can stand up, worn and forlorn, and say, “Thus saith the Lord.”

Break him across the board of his ill-gotten popularity. Smack him hard with his own prestige. Corner him with questions about God. Cover him with demands for celestial wisdom. And give him no escape until he’s back against the wall of the Word. And sit down before him and listen to the only word he has left-God’s Word. Let him be totally ignorant of the down-street gossip, but give him a chapter and order him to walk around it, camp on it, sup with it, and come at last to speak it backward and forward, until all he says about it rings with the truth of eternity.

And when he’s burned out by the flaming Word, when he’s consumed at last by the fiery grace blazing through him, and when he’s privileged to translate the truth of God to man, finally transferred from earth to heaven, then bear him away gently and blow a muted trumpet and lay him down softly. Place a two-edged sword in his coffin, and raise the tomb triumphant. For he was a brave soldier of the Word. And ere he died, he had become a man of God.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Rhetorical Device in Expository Ministry: similes and paraphrases

This is an ongoing series on the use of rhetorical device in preaching with a side focus on the preaching of Calvin. These are simply informal observations and various stray thoughts that I have brought together on this broad subject. Comments and ideas are welcome.

2. Similes and synonyms

John Stott has written, “Preaching is an activity of bridge-building between the revealed Word and the contemporary world.” This bridge is made with words that are preached. Those words will either be like a bridge that has been left in disrepair or one that is well-built with clear markings. Synonyms and similes are rhetorical devices that will help the expositor build the bridge more effectively. To use a synonym in preaching is to use a different word to provide more “color” and “flesh” to the point being made. A simile will accomplish the same thing yet with a larger comparative phrase.

Hughes Old tells us that Calvin used “a generous supply of synonyms to convey the fullness” of his teaching. Old assures us that to read Calvin in “sixteenth-century French is a pure delight for a lexicographer.” Nevertheless, and I’m sure Old would agree, the power of preaching does not rest in the choice of words and phrases. To be sure, preaching is more than this in every way but it is not less than this. Therefore, preachers should weigh their words carefully and make full use of the range of their vocabulary to communicate the message of the Word of God. Avoid vagaries and words that lack concrete clarity. Work hard at precision and explanation while avoiding needless redundancies. Examples of similes can be found all over Scripture: “don’t be tossed like the waves of the sea” and “the kingdom of heaven is like…”

3. Paraphrases

In one sense the whole sermon is a paraphrase of the text we are preaching. If it’s not then we might be missing the point of the text completely. By definition, an exposition is an expansion and retelling of a text. We are not inventing new material but we are explaining and applying material that has already been delivered. Our job is to unpack the words, grammar, meaning, and context while repackaging them all in a clear and natural style that exalts the Word through the sermon. To paraphrase means quit literally to rephrase a particular statement in different words and phrases. This can be an effective means of communication and chances are you already do this in your sermon but recognizing where you use it and how to refine it will make your usages all the more clear.

A paraphrased statement in a sermon might begin with, “It’s as if Jesus is saying…” or “Moses is essentially telling the people that…” We may paraphrase a particular statement or even an event. The latter is when we describe the situation in “brighter color” with the help of background material and knowledge we gained in the introductory phase of our study. Certainly, the larger context plays a role here as well. Take for example the shortest verse in the NT which says, “Jesus wept.” A basic paraphrase would simply say something like this:
“Here is Jesus standing outside the tomb of his dear friend Lazarus, weeping."
This paraphrase conveys a little more emotion and color than the original verse but not much. However, if we said:
“Here is the transcendent God of the universe, the one who will be exalted above all things, who will sit at the right hand of the Father, being fully God yet showing the humility of being fully man. The one we see here outside of this tomb is not strong in the eyes of the world but like Isaiah said ‘he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.’ This is the one who is weeping for His dear friend and this is the one who sympathizes with our weaknesses. YET it is this weeping man that will also call his friend from that very tomb. He will command a rotting corpse to get up and make its way out for all to see when He shouts the command, ‘LAZURUS, COME FORTH!’ Here inside of these two words, “Jesus wept” we see a humble man moved by the death of a friend. Yet the text also shows a man who is fully God, who is sovereign Lord, creator and sustainer of all life. We must see Him in all His fullness here. He is not a dispassionate or reclusive god or even a mere man who is a slave to his emotions. Here we have the God-Man. Sad yet sovereign, moved yet the Mover, and compassionate yet infinitely powerful.”
On a practical level, I try not to go overboard editing my manuscript notes. However, I do check them for redundancies which can often be cured with a synonym or a clearer phrase. Make time to give a final edit to your notes, even if it’s a once over just before you preach. Go back to your most recent sermon and notice where these rhetorical devices would have proved more effective. You might take note of patterns or stylistic problems that can translate into hindrances for those who are there to hear your message. However, guard your editing practices from hyper self-criticism. Biblical sermons are not works of art without stylistic problems or imperfections. I have seen some preachers go overboard in editing and get caught up in the “romance” of crafting a sermon. T. H. L. Parker is wise to comment about the expositor that “a proper humility before God and modesty concerning himself and his capabilities are not to hinder the preacher from the bold assertion of the authority of the message he has to deliver. Indeed, it is a dereliction of his duty if he does not claim that authority” (Calvin’s Preaching, 44).

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"a feeling of desperation"

"...all genuine preacing is rooted in a feeling of desperation. The preacher wakes up on the Lord's Day morning and he can smell the smoke of hell on one side and feel the crisp breezes of heaven on the other. he then looks down at his pitiful notes and he says to himself, 'Who do I think I am kidding? Is this all there is? Though oftentimes a source of great anxiety, this is the proper conclusion for the preacher of the cross. He is ever mindful of his inadequacies in relationship to the immensity of the task at hand" (Atruro Azurdia, Spirit Empowered Preaching, p. 92).

HT: Allen