Category Archives: Preaching

Jayber Crow on “Weathering” Sermons

Can God bring good out of bad preaching? Here’s Jayber:

“In general, I weathered even the worst sermons pretty well. They had the great virtue of causing my mind to wander. Some of the best things I have ever thought of I have thought of during bad sermons. Or I would look out the windows. In winter, when the windows were closed, the church seemed to admit the light strictly on its own terms, as if uneasy about the frank sunshine of this benighted world. In summer, when the sashes were raised, I watched with a great, eager pleasure the town and the fields beyond, the clouds, the trees, the movements of the air—but then the sermons would seem more improbable. I have always loved a window, especially an open one.”

Notice how he speaks of “weathering” sermons, then talks a lot about the weather. Are there symbolic connections in this paragraph between bad preaching and winter and darkness? Are there connections between the word of God going forth to give life and summer? Is Jayber seeing a connection between better sermons being harder to believe? Is this a symbolic reference to a window at the end? Is good preaching a window on the world? What do you think?

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Jayber Crow on Preachers

Are you a minister who wonders what people really think? I suspect that the words people say to me probably tend to be a lot nicer than the thoughts they keep in their heads. At Andrew Peterson’s recommendation, I read (listened to the audio book) Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow. Wendell Berry gives us Jayber’s honest thoughts on church: preachers, preaching, prayers, hymns, and silence in worship services. These will be posted one by one so they can be savored. Here’s what Jayber had to say about preachers:

“And a few of those young preachers were bright and could speak—I mean they could sound as if they were awake, and make you listen—and they were troubled enough in their own hearts to have something to say. A few had wakefully read some books. Maybe one or two of these might even have stayed on in Port William, if they could have lived poor enough. But they would have a wife and little children, and the economic winds would blow them past and beyond. And what, maybe, would Port William have done with them if they had stayed? Port William tends to prefer to hear what it has heard before.”

 

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Sermons on Nehemiah

In God’s kindness we made our way through both Ezra and Nehemiah at Kenwood Baptist Church. The sermons on Ezra can be found here.

May the Lord bless his word.

September 12, 2010, Nehemiah 1–2, “Pray and Act”

September 19, 2010, Nehemiah 3–4, “Building While the Nations Rage”

October 3, 2010, Nehemiah 5, “A Wartime Lifestyle on a Millionaire’s Budget”

October 10, 2010, Nehemiah 6–7, “Press On”

October 24, 2010, Technical difficulty – Nehemiah 8, “God’s Word Forms God’s People” was not recorded

October 31, 2010, Nehemiah 9, “Repentance”

November 14, 2010, Nehemiah 10, “Making a Covenant to Keep the Covenant”

November 28, 2010, Nehemiah 11–12, “Repopulating the City and Dedicating the Wall”

December 5, 2010, Nehemiah 13, “The Ongoing Need for Correction and Repentance”

December 26, 2010, “The Messianic Hope in Ezra–Nehemiah”

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Filed under Bible and Theology, Biblical Theology, Messiah in the OT, Preaching, Sermon Audio

1 Peter 5:1-11, Shepherd, Submit, Stand

It was my privilege to preach at the installation of Ryan Bishop as the Pastor of Graham Bible Church in Graham, TX this past Sunday.

The apostle Peter, the rock, follows Christ by humbling himself to serve others, identifying himself as a fellow-elder as he exhorts elders to model Christ-like self-sacrificing shepherding (1 Pet 5:1-4).

Then he calls the congregations to Christ-like humble submission to authority (“I came not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me”) as he calls them to be subject to the elders in humility (1 Pet 5:5-7).

Peter then explains that Christ-like shepherding and Christ-like submission are enacted in Christ-like standing against Satan (1 Pet 5:8-9).

He concludes with a promise and a doxology (1 Pet 5:10-11).

Spurgeon, being dead, yet speaketh, and here are some of his eloquent statements that appeared in this sermon:

“It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” (Lectures to My Students, 2).

On the pastor’s job description:

“To face the enemies of truth, to defend the bulwarks of the faith, to rule well in the house of God, to comfort all that mourn, to edify the saints, to guide the perplexed, to bear with the froward, to win and nurse souls—all these and a thousand other works beside are not for a Feeble-mind or a Ready-to-halt, but are reserved for Great-heart whom the Lord has made strong for himself. Seek then strength from the Strong One, wisdom from the Wise One, in fact, all from the God of all” (Lectures to My Students, 12).

On seeing the saints safely home:

“I am occupied in my small way, as Mr. Great-heart was employed in Bunyan’s day.  I do not compare myself with that champion, but I am in the same line of business.  I am engaged in personally-conducted tours to Heaven; and I have with me, at the present time, dear Old Father Honest:  I am glad he is still alive and active.  And there is Christiana, and there are her children.  It is my business, as best I can, to kill dragons, and cut off giants’ heads, and lead on the timid and trembling.  I am often afraid of losing some of the weaklings.  I have the heart-ache for them; but, by God’s grace, and your kind and generous help in looking after one another, I hope we shall all travel safely to the river’s edge.  Oh, how many have I had to part with there!  I have stood on the brink, and I have heard them singing in the midst of the stream, and I have almost seen the shining ones lead them up the hill, and through the gates, into the Celestial City” (source).

Have a listen here: 1 Peter 5:1-11, Shepherd, Submit, Stand

What is the greatest honor you can imagine? Perhaps the medal of honor given to an American soldier? The honor that Christ the King will bestow on those who served him faithfully so far surpasses that as to make the comparison of the two seem inappropriate. The church is God’s cause in the world. She is Christ’s own bride. The work done in the church has eternal ramifications and it pertains to all nations.

There is no other gospel that saves, no institution more significant, no agenda more important, no task more urgent, no cause more noble, no message more true, no office more dependant on the character of those who discharge it, and no reward greater than what Peter describes here.

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Filed under Bible and Theology, Current Events, Discipleship, Ecclesiology, Evangelism and Apologetics, Great Quotes, Preaching, Sermon Audio

Ezra 7, Change the World: Study the Bible

James Davison Hunter recently published To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, which Justin Taylor and Douglas Wilson both blogged through, and Greg Gilbert reviewed.

Ezra set out to advance the kingdom of God, and seeking that agenda entailed nothing less than changing the world.

Ezra 7:10 tells us how Ezra went about seeking to change the world:

“For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”

Here’s my attempt to exposit Ezra 7, “Change the World: Study the Bible.”

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Ezra 6:22, Darius King of Assyria? Error or Typological Biblical Theology?

Time was slipping away from me yesterday, so some parts of the sermon manuscript got passed over. For instance, in Ezra 6:22, the king of Persia, Darius, is referred to as “the king of Assyria.” Here’s how the part of the manuscript that got skipped read:

Ezra isn’t confused here about the identity of the king (cf., e.g., 1:2 “of Persia,” 3:7 “of Persia,” 4:3 “of Persia,” 5:13 “of Babylon,” 6:14 “of Persia,” 7:1 “of Persia”). The point of the reference to Assyria is the linkage of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia, all of which represent the evil empire over against the kingdom of God. Those who oppose Israel are identified with one another, just as Ezra identifies his own generation with the generation who returned to the land and successfully rebuilt the temple.

Ezra knows that Darius is king of Persia and calls him that in Ezra 4:24, “until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” It’s possible that calling Darius the king of Assyria in 6:22 is merely an incidental way of referring to the territory or realm that was first ruled by Assyria, then Babylon, then Persia. But even that incidental conflagration has significance for our understanding of what Ezra took for granted.

I’m inclined to think that Ezra intentionally refers to Darius as king of Persia in 4:24 then as king of Assyria in 6:22 to make a point. Similarly, he has referred to Cyrus as king of Persia in 4:5 only to call him king of Babylon in 5:13.

The point Ezra is making by referring to King Darius of Persia as the king of Assyria in Ezra 6:22 represents a profound, yet subtle, biblical theological move that reflects the typological identification of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia. The enemies of God and his people are distinguished from one another, but at the same time they are identified with one another because they are, in a sense, all the same.

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Filed under Biblical Theology, Preaching, Typology