A Sermon I Got to Preach on Isaiah 61 [VIDEO]


Believe it or not, I don’t really have much experience at all in preaching. Yeah, I’ve spoken and “preached” at some things, but I’ve still never offered the preached proclamation at a Sunday worship service. It’s an area I’ve wanted to grow in for a while.

To that end, I took a preaching class last semester for my seminary program. It was a powerful course that changed my whole relationship to both the Bible and the act of preaching. Each of us wrote and presented a sermon on an assigned text. The sermons were recorded, and I’m offering mine here today. It opens with some brief words on the context I had in mind when preparing this.

I hope it meets you and speaks to you, wherever you are. The video is above, the text and my manuscript are below. You can also download files for both the audio or the manuscript.

Special thanks also to an old friend, J. Chord Barnes of ASERWorks Media, for fixing some audio issues in the original recording and remastering it for me. Check him out at the link above. Continue reading

#Marginalia Weekly Round-Up #6 [Catch-Up]


After a long break, we’re back with this part of the site. Here’s a little catch up list of where we’ve been since we last posted about this.

Marginalia is a section of this blog dedicated to (mostly) short reflections, meditations, questions, and difficulties I have while going through my Bible reading plan. I’m still trying to figure out the best pace at which to post these, so be patient with me. To aid in helping people engage with these posts, every weekend I post a round-up of all of Marginalia posts that appeared during that week. This list is in biblical canonical order.

Job

Job, God, & Satan (Can I get some help from the scholar’s out there?)| Job 1.6-7
God, Social Justice, & Social Welfare | Job 5.15-16
Fragments from a speech by Job| Selections of Job 6 & 7
Job’s Friends are Right! Job’s Friends are Wrong.| Job 8.5-7,20-22
In a sense, God CAN’T favor the righteous| Job 9.1-4

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The Sermon’s Essence & Power | 1 Corinthians 2.1-5

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When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2.1-5

This encourages me so much in preaching. No matter the exegesis, eloquence, or whatever, we preach Christ and him crucified, and that makes a good sermon. We also live a life in accordance with that outside of the sermon and it supports our preaching as well. Just as in the nature of God Himself, our words and our deeds cannot be separated from one another.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Righteous Works; Wicked People | Romans 6.20

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When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
Romans 6.20

those that are not Christians can still do righteousness. But when they do it, it is from a place that is not there essence. I can’t think of an analogy right now. But, they are free to do righteous sings even though they are not considered righteous people. Is that a good way to put it?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Is There No Rest for God’s Weary Ministers? | Mark 6


Lucien Simon-Christ Performing MiraclesReading through the sixth chapter of Mark, I recently noticed a way that Jesus relates to his disciples which is, at first, incredibly encouraging, but then gets exceedingly hard.

This is right after he had sent his disciples out, two by two, to try out this whole “ministry thing” by themselves. According to Mark, it was an incredibly powerful and effective time of ministry for them. They saw powerful things done, and they were able to play a part in them. They return from their first “ministry internship”, and this is where we pick up the story.

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Mark 6.30-31

Jesus’ pastoral concern extends not only to his flock but also to the shepherds. They have done so much ministry and now he insists that they withdraw and rest and eat. Also, they shouldn’t simply do this by themselves as individuals, but with those who are also doing ministry. The leaders of the church should rest together as fellow weary workers.
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Does Paul Not Believe in Original Sin? | Romans 7.9-11

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I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Romans 7.9-11

Hmm…is it just me, or does this does seem to go against the idea of Original Sin? It sounds like Paul is saying that he was born in purity and “alive-ness”, and it was only later that the law killed him. He does not seem to be saying here that he thinks he was born in death (yes, yes, I know Ephesians says otherwise, but I’m trying to stick to the text in question!)

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Does St. Paul Believe in a Hell that Saves? | 1 Corinthians 3.10-17

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According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 3.10-17

Part of the problem with how we talk about Hell is the confusing diversity of images and language used to talk about it in the Bible. This is true here.

I don’t want to read too much into this few words, but at least in the first part, Paul seems to be saying that what gets burned in the fires of judgment are more the works of someone than the person themselves. In fact, it seems that the wicked come out the other side of the fire “saved”, with all their useless works and such having been burned away.

But then, the next section clearly says that God destroys “that person” (not just their works). But because it comes right after the statement of the person being saved by their wicked works being burned away, I wonder if this isn’t Paul saying, “yeah, that refining, restorative, salvific fire I just talked about? God will take each person through that destruction–the one that saves.”

Man, the more I’m on the lookout to see any universalistic statements by Paul, the more I’m starting to see things that could definitely be taken that way.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

When your church’s “cultural relevance” fails | Acts 14.11-18

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When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifice.

 

When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, “Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; yet he has not left himself without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.”

 

Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

Acts 14.11-18

This is in contrast to Paul’s later methods at Mars Hill in Chapter 17. Here we see that not every “contextualization” is created equal. Sometimes, your “relevance” could be dragging people to worship yourself or false idols. As preachers, we should always be on the lookout for this, and to constantly speak against it.

On another note, that bold part (v.15) should be the model for every single sermon.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Name the Darkness: Jesus & Our Persistent Demons | Mark 5:6-9

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When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”

Mark 5:6-9

Well this is interesting. It seems like Jesus had said words of exorcism earlier and it, in a sense, hadn’t “worked”. I wonder if the tradition behind this story was of a man so demon possessed that Jesus’ first try at getting rid of them failed. That certainly seems to be the case here. Jesus had commanded the demon to leave the man, and it didn’t.

Now, I don’t like pulling what seems like “self-help lessons” from things like this, or appealing to pop psychology, but this could be instructive in a ministry context. Jesus has appealed to his word and his authority to bring healing and to cast out the disorder and evil in this person’s life. It hasn’t worked. It is so big, it goes so far back into the past, and the issues seem so numerous, that it just isn’t going to take a quick shot to the soul.

So in light of this, how does Jesus respond? He asks the person’s name. Yes, the demon responds, but there’s no indication that Jesus is only talking to the unclean spirit here. He asks the man name, and he answers by identifying himself by his evil. But this is still progress. He gives name to what is haunting and hurting him, and this diagnoses his soul and gives Jesus the insight on how to bring healing to this man.

Giving name is powerful for healing and change and even getting rid of demons.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Logos Bible Software & Evangelical Insecurity


devil-jesus-arm-wrestle

I use and love Logos Bible Software for my Bible study and seminary work. It really is an amazing piece of software. You can amass such a huge library of books and resources that all connect and sync up to one another.

The one problem is that they can only put the time and resources into putting out books that people will actually buy. This means that their library selection has long been skewed towards a certain demographic: American Conservative Evangelicals, usually of the “Neo-Reformed” variety.

I don’t tend to like the books that are geared for this market. Their theological assumptions seem to come first, and the text seems to often come second. I love reading robust, scholarly commentaries and books that help grow and stretch me; books that focus on the messiness of Scripture and how it is historically and culturally conditioned. Yes, this means I end up preferring writings from “liberal” (God, I hate that term) perspectives and institutions, even if my actual theological conclusions are fairly conservative.

So it’s been frustrating to me that Logos was lacking in this scholarship and thinking for some time. But in the past year, I’ve noticed this changing. More and more commentary series and scholarship book bundles are coming out by Logos that I am loving (though my bank account hasn’t). Maybe I just never noticed them before, I don’t know. But either way, I’m noticing it now, and I’m really happy.

Or rather, I was.
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The Privilege of Holiness; The Holiness of Privilege


laureti-triumph-christianity-pagan-statue

I was at a coffee shop this past weekend doing some schoolwork when this beautiful lesbian couple came in, got some coffee, and left. I don’t know what it was about them, but they were stuck in my mind for quite a while after this. I wondered how the America church would be relating to gays at this point had sweet, loving relationships like that been the primary display Evangelicals had seen all these years.

I remembered that, as I was growing up, one of the primary Evangelical apologetics against gay rights was the whole litany of emotional, psychological, and societal detriments that come with homosexuality. I can’t tell you how many times I was told about the higher rates of depression, suicide, relationship abuse, physical health problems, STDs, and rampant unsafe sexual practices among the majority of gay population. The implicit (and sometimes explicit) suggestion was that, when someone moves so radically against “the way God designed things”, great problems are sure to follow.

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Seminary & Ministry in the Post-Everything World


Grace-words-mouth-poetry-psalms

All last week I was in Holland, MI attending another one of our in-person sessions for my seminary program. It was another week with amazing people, at an amazing place, learning and discussing amazing things.

One of that classes I had was my preaching class. Over the course of five days, every one of us in the class got up and preached a 15-20 minute sermon. Every person–again, every. single. person.–did amazingly well. There were many surprises. People delivered messages that we could not have anticipated, in both skill and content.

Imagine listening to 14 full-on sermons in the course of a few days. It’s emotionally draining; it’s intense; it’s life-giving. It’s trying to drink from a fire hose of God’s Word and Spirit.

One benefit of this is that I got to get a glimpse into the future of the Church’s preaching ministry, and I am happy to say that I am really encouraged.

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Relentless Mercy (I’m never looking at Jonah the same way again) [QUOTE]

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The forceful rejection of the doctrine of mercy is voiced by a man who was willing to die rather than cause others to die, and who was willing to leave his native land and pay with his life rather than serve the compassionate God. His vigorous and sincere opposition to divine mercy is striking evidence that it is desperately needed. Just as the flight is unqualified, so is the pursuit relentless…

Jonah must bow his head before the absolute sovereignty of the divine will…before he can hear and understand the explanation given by God, who forgives without being lenient. The gates of escape are shut in the prophet’s face; precisely this provides the opening of the gates of repentance to the transgressors with its full significance, since both are direct outcomes of the Lord’s love for His creatures.

The paradoxical tension between the Lord’s inordinate severity with Jonah and His extraordinary leniency with Nineveh teaches us about the absolute sovereignty of the divine will; it is resolved only when Jonah comes to realize that the will of the Lord is not arbitrary, but compassionate, for those who are near and for those who are far from Him. 

–from the JPS Bible Commentary on Jonah, by Dr. Uriel Simon

You don’t own your Baptism. Jesus does. | Romans 6.3-4

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Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6.3-4

Technically, there is only one baptism that has ever taken place. Christ’s. All other baptisms are baptisms in his own. He is the one that walked in newness of life. He is the one who was baptized. He is the forerunner for all of Christian life–even it’s Covenantal participation by baptism. How beautiful is that?

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Sometimes God’s Heart breaks mine | Mark 4:10-12

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When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that

‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,
    and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”

Mark 4.10-12

I simply don’t understand what this says about the heart of God. It seems at odds with everything else Jesus does. Is this just a temporary thing in order for the Gentiles to join in the mystery of redemption? Or is it truly as cold and calloused as this seems? Any help here would be appreciated.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.