Thursday, July 28, 2016

Not So Fast (Before You Become an Amillennialist)!

Sometimes the value of a good book is found in one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter, or in the case of Dr. Barry Horner’s Future Israel, in a nine page personal introduction.  The testimony of Dr. Horner will no doubt resonate with many Text-driven Christians.  It will also challenge some of you as you desire to understand what the sacred Scriptures teach concerning the "end times."  But before I share Horner’s eschatological journey allow me to quickly highlight mine.

I was a student at The Master’s College when I came to fully embrace and to appreciate the "doctrines of grace" for myself.  Through the expository preaching ministry of John MacArthur and other gifted teachers at my home church (Grace Community) I began to appreciate more deeply the ministry of the Reformers and the Puritans.  During this same time I began to question if my convictions concerning eschatology needed to be refined.  After all, so many of my favorite theologians were Presbyterian and Reformed.  I remember reading Gerstner’s, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth as well as Mathison’s Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?  From a theological perspective the argumentation in these books was convincing.  At the same time however many of the Text-driven (exegetical) conclusions were lacking. 

Preaching Revelation: "Folks, Don't Ignore the End of the Story!" (John MacArthur)

John MacArthur on the how and why of preaching the end of the story (Revelation).
 (D. Min lecture delivered on 7/19/16 at TMS):  

"My Premillennialist convictions can be summarized in one sentence.  Their will be future salvation of national Israel after the unrepentant rebels are purged (Zech. 12-14) and their will be a future reign of Christ upon the earth (Psalm 2; Rom. 9-11; Rev. 20)."

If you reject the literal grammatico-historical method of interpretation the book of Revelation is going to take on a thousand different interpretations.  This partially explains why commentaries written by non-Premillennialists interpret Revelation so many different ways.

If you think Christ is glorified in the Old Testament, the gospels, and the epistles you would be absolutely correct.,,But the place Christ's glory shines brightest and fullest is in the book of Revelation.

To ignore this book is unacceptable.  It's to have a story without an ending.

MacArthur is convinced the book of Revelation is one of the easiest book to interpret if you maintain a consistent hermeneutic.  Dr. Floyd Hamilton himself admitted that if you employ a (consistent) hermeneutic to Revelation that you will be a premillennialist.

A question was posed to John MacArthur, "Why is their such hostility against premillennialism?"  Pastor John believes Antisemitism has been the driving factor towards rejecting premillennialism (see Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged).  He also admitted that some of the unnecessary baggage has come from the old Scofield study bible.  In light of some unnecessary interpretations many people threw the baby out with the bathwater.  Wacky Dispensationalism needs to rejected; (such as the errant view that Matthew 5-7 is all about future kingdom living); or  "My hope is built on nothing less than Scofield's notes and Moody Press."

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

10 Marks of the Distinguished Pulpit Ministry of Calvin

Calvin's pulpit ministry:  During his remaining years Calvin would preach up to 10 sermons a week.  Calvin's sermons lasted between 50-60 minutes (apparently he did not read Saving Eutychus).  During Calvin's first sermon back he picked up on the last verse he preached before he was exiled 3 years prior- "as I was saying."  No ancient preacher was more committed to verse-by-verse, Text-driven exposition than John Calvin.  One does need to agree with every detail of Calvin's theology to learn from him.

Characteristics of Calvin's preaching and teaching ministry

1) Calvin's preaching ministry was grounded in his bedrock convictions concerning the Bible.  

Calvin deep seated conviction that God's Word is inerrant, inspired, infallible, and sufficient impacted every facet of his pastoral ministry, including preaching.  The way a pastor handles the Word of truth will tell you everything you need to know about his personal doctrinal convictions. 

As such, 2) Calvin was committed to verse-by-verse exposition (Lectio Continiua).

It has been rightly said, "An inerrant Scripture demands expository preaching."  Calvin's commitment to exegetical exposition are without parallel in Reformation history.  Having said that, one needs to note that Calvin did not "invent" the Lectio Continiua method of expository preaching.  Many of the Church Father's were committed to book-by-book preaching; (and Calvin was a faithful student of church history).  Zwingli, for example, also preached through the Bible book by book.  

 For further research about this method of preaching, read Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, Volume 4: The Age of the Reformation.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Learning From John Calvin (Derek Thomas)

Dr. Derek Thomas did his Ph. D on John Calvin's expositions of Job.  This research eventually became a book titled, Calvin's Teaching on Job: Proclaiming the Incomprehensible God.  The following post is a summation of Dr. Thomas' Calvin lectures at the Master's Seminary (D. Min class).  Please note that I have included some theological and pastoral commentary along the way. 

This influential Reformation leader has left us with an extraordinary legacy.  When people remember Calvin they often think first of his Institutes of Christian Religion.  Calvin believed his commentaries and his Institutes should be studied together.  Calvin's commentaries are exegetically grounded and help the contemporary reader to understand the basis of Calvin's systematic theology.  In a later introduction Calvin defended the Protestant Reformation and said the Roman Catholic church was out of step with the Church Fathers and therefore it was the Roman church that was schismatic.  For Calvin the mark of a true church consisted of three defining marks: The faithful preaching of the Word; the two ordinances (baptism and communion), and church discipline. 

Brief biography of Calvin:  The French theologian John Calvin lived from 1509-1564.   In those days towns and cities were often built around Roman Catholic cathedrals.  During his youth Calvin's mother passed away.  His relationship with his father was distant though respectful.  In order to honor his dad's wishes Calvin went to school to become a lawyer.  After Calvin's father died it opened the door for Calvin to give his life to the church in a pastor-theologian capacity.  Remarkably, Calvin never received a formal theological degree; (he did received various academic degrees in law and later in philosophy).  At some point in the 1530's Calvin came to a saving knowledge of the gospel.  According to one historian, "After what he called a 'sudden conversion' at the age of 23, Calvin became a fervent Christian and scholar of the Scripture. Calvin did not immediately break with the Roman Catholic Church, but rather worked toward its reform. His pleas for reform soon brought upon him the hatred of the Catholic Church, and in time he was banished from Paris."  During this time period Calvin moved to Switzerland.  As a Renaissance scholar Calving published a book on "soul sleep" and then in 1536 as a 27 year old he published his first edition of the Institutes.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Preaching Acts (Derek Thomas)

Dr. Derek Thomas recently preached through the book of Acts and was subsequently asked to write an expositional commentary in the Reformed Expository Commentary series.   In view of this he was the right man to come and instruct a group of 60 D. Min students at TMS on preaching the Acts of the apostles.  This edited version of his lecture notes should be helpful to pastors and layman alike.

Historical background: Acts is the second part of a two part history on the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and expansion of the Church of Jesus Christ.   The Holy Spirit is the continued representative agent of the ascended Christ (the Divine Paraclete).

Acts is based in a multi-cultural setting.  This book demonstrates how biblical Christianity came to be with other religions and worldviews (eg. Acts 13:8; 16; 19).  This book highlights church planting in a "multicultural setting."

History is often retold and rewritten in a dishonest and biased manner (holocaust denials, moon landing deniers).  Luke has no interest in this kind of thing.  His account is the exact truth of what took place in the first century.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Expository Preaching: Anything Less is Tyranny (Derek Thomas)

Derek Thomas is "a reformed pastor and theologian known for his teaching, writing and editorial work. He is currently the Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church,and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at RTS."  Dr. Thomas is also one of the visiting teachers at the Master's Seminary D. Min track in expository preaching.  The following article(s) are taken from his July, 2016 D. Min lectures at TMS.

Dr. Thomas' opening address was on why verse-by-verse, expository preaching is the preferred way to shepherd your flock and declare the whole counsel of God.  This approach to preaching  is also referred to as lectio continua.  

The title of Derek's opening address is Expository Preaching: Anything Less is Tyranny.  If you are not expounding the text you are likely talking about yourself; (Be like me, listen to my opinions, be wowed by my charisma, etc).  The root authoritative principle is the Word of God otherwise you are a tyrant lording your own will over the flock; (what right do we have to share our thoughts for 2 hours every single week?).  Our goal is to bring God's people a Word from the Lord (1 Pet. 4:10-11; 1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).  We do not begin with ourselves or our people, not that those things are unimportant, but the starting place is Divine Revelation (2 Tim. 3:16-4:5).  

What right do we have to stand up, week after week, and deliver a "monological address?"  An address with no questions or interruptions.   Our answer is directly connected to what the Word of God is (an inerrant, infallible, sufficient, authoritative word).  In and of ourselves we possess no right to do this.  In view of this we must be extraordinarily committed to the text.  Thomas says Martyn Lloyd-Jones is exemplary here.  The sheer reverence MLJ has for Scripture is palpable.   On this point Thomas reminded us that MLJ's commentaries on Romans were Friday night lectures; not Sunday morning sermons; (i.e. this is not the model for morning expositions).

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Presuppositions of Expository Preaching (Derek Thomas)

Basic presuppositions of expository preaching:

A) All Scripture is God's Word and is exactly as God intended it to be.

We must be convinced that the Bible is the inerrant and all sufficient Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 4:12).  

Exalting the Bible is not bibliolatry (Psalm 138:2)!  On the Emmaus Road, Jesus wanted his disciples to be confident in the integrity of the Bible (note Luke 24:36-49).

Do you ever secretly think, "I need to add a little in order to help this message/Bible study come alive?" Perhaps when you find yourself in Leviticus 11.  We should never tamper with or try and improve the inspired text.  It is pure and perfect in all of it's mysteries.

B) Our own spiritual condition impacts the man of God's handling of Scripture; (1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 2:15).  

Let us remind ourselves of at least these three things:

20+ Practical Helps For Preachers and Teachers (Derek Thomas)

Derek Thomas at TMS July 2016
During his lecture at TMS Derek Thomas offered 20+ practical helps related to preaching in no matter order:

A) Be a shepherd expositor.  Preaching to the same people in the context of the local church is much different than being a circuit (conference) teacher.  In some ways, shepherd-leaders will shape their expositions to the needs of their people; (see notes above with regards to Text-driven sermons).

B) Know your strengths and weaknesses and play to your strengths and work on improving your weaknesses.  Preachers do not have the exact same strengths and weaknesses.  For example, not every pastor can preach fresh sermons if they only exposit a few verses week after week.  Honestly access your own gifts and your limitations.  You are likely not Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 

C) Preach sequentially.  Over 40 years the primary diet Dr. Thomas has served his flock is verse-by-verse, book-by-book expository preaching.  He has preached through approximately 40 books.

D) Preach different genres.  Variety will grow you as a preacher and will likely help the congregation track with you over a lengthy ministry in the same place.  On occasion it is helpful to break from your verse-by-verse series in order to preach a series on the vanishing conscience, or prayer, or Christian liberty, etc.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

STYLE In Expository Preaching (pt. 2)

Good preaching is built upon accurate exposition but it also involves homiletical "style."  Many seminary graduates know how to do faithful exegesis but do not understand how to write and preach memorable sermons.  Dr. Steve Lawson addressed this dilemma during his July lectures at the Master's Seminary.

Last article highlighted the following headings I) What is Style and Why is it Important?  II) The Advantages of Style.  III) The Category of Style  IV) The Legitimacy of Style

Which brings us to, V)  The Influences of Style.

A) Where you went to seminary (chapel speakers, preaching philosophy, alumni influences, etc).  B) Who you listen to. (good preaching is as much caught as taught).  C) Who you read.  D) What you read.  E) What your affiliations are.  F) What genre of Scripture your preaching. G) What your temperament is (personality not spirituality).  H) Your sense of humor.  I) Are you a natural story teller. J) What is your intellect? K) Your life experiences.  L) Where you serve and who you serve. M)Where the pulpit is located in the sanctuary. N) What the pulpit is (how it's constructed). O)Who your predecessor was. P) What happens before you get up to preach (music style, mood in the room). Q) The size of your "sanctuary" and how it is laid out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

STYLE In Expository Preaching (Dr. Steve Lawson)

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In a recent lecture at TMS Dr. Steve Lawson made a compelling case of how both substance and style are critical components of effective expository preaching.

I) Introduction: What is Sermon Style?  Why is it important? "Though substance is of greater importance than style, style should not be an afterthought."  Preachers should try and be a scientist with regards to hermeneutics and exegesis and an artist with regards to homiletics.

When it comes to good preaching it is not only what we say but how we say it.  This is especially true in the day and age in which we live.

Faithful pastors typically exegete the text the same way; the difference between a good preacher and a great preacher often comes back to homiletics.  Many popular preachers sacrifice content and depth in effort to be viewed as relevant and often in hopes of drawing larger crowds.  We should strive to excel at both (exposition and application/implication; substance and style).

II) The Advantages of Style- A) It draws and repels people for good and bad.  B) It can help people to listen; (do not be the bland leading the bland).  C) It can help people receive the truth; (like salt on a steak).  D) It can help people digest the truth; (like digestive enzymes).  E) It can help people remember the timeless truths in your sermon. F) It helps people share the principles they learned as they communicate this message with others.  G) It can help people apply the text with greater ease (James 1:22-25); application on Monday-Saturday is the crucial.  Liberty in Christ is freedom to do the right thing.

Monday, July 18, 2016

3 Practical Tips re:Sermon Preparation & Application

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1) Study like a Scholar.

Do the hard book work (2 Tim. 2:15).  Including exegesis, hermeneutics, word studies, commentary helps, prayer for illumination (Psalm 119:18) and for wisdom to be kept from error.  See Walt Kaiser's Toward an Exegetical Theology, Roy Zuck's, Basic Bible Interpretation, and Don Carson's, Exegetical Fallacies.

2) Plan like a Shepherd (put your pastor hat on).

After the careful exegesis of the Text (scholar work) evaluate your congregants in light of it's truth (pastor work).  Think specifically about the types of people to whom you will be preaching (eg: the cynics, the moralist. the rebel, the immature babe in Christ, the new believer, the seasoned saint, the overwhelmed, the grieving, the retired, the eager, the singles, the gullible, the apathetic, the know it alls, the non-Christians, and the transgressors).  Pull out your church directory when reviewing a rough draft of your sermon.  Think about Joel Beeke's lectures on well-placed arrows.

The better you know your flock the more intentional you can be in the pulpit as you "reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Tim. 4:1-5; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).  You should not start with the needs of the people when writing a sermon but you also must not ignore them in the process of sermon writing and preaching.  We must do more than lecture about the Bible.  We are pastor-teachers not seminary professors.  We must holy jealousy (2 Cor. 11:2) for our people's spiritual well being.  We should pray Colossians 1:9-10 for our congregation.  Spurgeon noted that too many preachers ignore, "the sins of the businessmen, the temptations of the times,and the needs of the age he scarcely ever touches upon.  Such preaching reminds me of a lion engaged in mouse-hunting." We are striving for preaching that changes lives.

We should ask the following questions when preparing your sermons: A) What would happen if they never apply this? B) What makes it difficult to believe? C) What makes this truth a challenge to live out? D) Why is this truth so important for this generation of Christians?  E) How will doers of this truth improve our church? (this can be a great appeal during your message if the flock buys into this or that).  F) How will doers of this truth impact our world?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Ministering the Word with Proper Expectations

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On July 14th Pastor Mike Fabarez delivered the afternoon session for the D. Min track in expository preaching.  His subject was ministering the Word with godly expectations.  J. I. Packer once wrote, "Low expectations become self-fulfilling.  Where little is expected from sermons, little is received."

Elihu's testimony in Job 32:18-21 is a good example of what we long to say and see week after week.  We need to long for the conversion and edification of our hearers.  In courageous faith we should "expect great things from God, attempt great things for God (William Carey)."  1 Cor. 3:5-9 is one of the most important passages in relation to  biblical ministry.  God calls us to serve him faithfully but the results are in His hands.

So how do we cultivate the right expectations?

1) Beg God to Utilize Your Preaching (though prayer)

"To pray well is half the study.  Putting aside the foolish confidence as though we had some ability to help the Word along in the hearer, let us rather engage in the hearer, let us rather engage in prayer..." Martin Luther.   We need to pray more and study less.  We should pray as a way of life throughout each day (1 Thess. 5:17-19).

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ten Steps Towards Preaching With PASSION

Earnestness, sincerity, and passion are essential parts of the 2 Tim. 4:1-5 mandate.  On the other hand, lifeless teaching is against the spirit of New Testament preaching.  A dull preacher is an oxymoron.  If you are not excited about what you are teaching or no one else will.

Dr. Montoya has written a helpful book on this very topic (preaching and passion).   In a recent lecture at TMS during a D. Min class Pastor Alex added the following insights:

A) 2 Timothy 4:1-5 exhorts the man of God to PREACH the Word. Pastor's must be herald's of heavenly truths and preach for a verdict.

B) Pastors who are more quiet by nature can (by God's grace) still roar in the pulpit.  

C) Biblical passion manifests itself in different ways.  You do not have to shout all sermon long or imitate Paul Washer in order to demonstrate true passion.  Note the differences that exist between John MacArthur, Sinclair Ferguson, Steve Lawson, and Alistair Begg.

How to grow in our biblical passion as we herald the word of the cross.

1) Learn to Preach with Spiritual Power.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

10 Reasons Sermons Fail (pt 2)

When it comes to the ministry "failure is not an option." We cannot afford to fail in this sacred task.  If you do not live to preach the glory of Christ find something else to do (Col. 1:28-29).  This is part two of a lesson delivered by Professor Alex Montoya at the Master's Seminary to sixty D. Min students.

6) Sermons fail when the preacher gets without giving.

In some ways an expository sermon is a dialogue as we invite the crowd to listen intently.  Rhetorical questions are often quite helpful.  You might say, "Now you're not listening to me now, are you listening?"  Ethos is the audience's perception of the preacher.  If the flock loves and respects the preacher and if the speaker cares about his flock good things happen.  If you show interested in your people and get to know them it will greatly help the impact of your pulpit ministry.

7) Sermons fail when the preacher does not understand the congregation's limited ability to listen.

You may need to start where they are and help them grow and mature.  Teach your flock how to listen to expository preaching (note this, this, and this).

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

10 Reasons Sermons Fail (pt. 1)

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Pastor Alex Montoya delivered a lecture this week to the D. Min students at the Master's Seminary on the 10 Reasons Why Sermons Fail.

1) Sermon fail when we deliver an academic lecture (for the eye) instead of a sermon (for the ear).

Writing makes you an exact man, reading makes you a learned man, just don't read your sermon manuscript verbatim.  You are not simply reading an essay.  We prepare a sermon to be heard not read.  As preachers we are called to herald the truth.

Sermons need to be clear, direct, accurate, and passionate.  Our sermons are never linear and will often use restatement to drive home your thesis.

2) Sermons fail when we do not tell the congregation anything new (which can bore the audience), or fresh; (we need restate well known truths in a fresh way).

Surfacy preaching does not engage a mixed congregation of mature Christians, new believers, and unsaved attendees.  Preaching should be deep enough so as to say something new in your messages; (just don't find something in the text that is not there),

3) Sermons fail when we insult the dignity of the audience.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Two Things That Make a Sermon Genuinely "Bad."

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What makes a sermon genuinely "bad?" (Derek Thomas)

1) When a sermon is muddled with no sense of direction it is a bad message.

When their is no coherent message sermons fail.  When a sermon is not rooted in the text sermons fail short ("where on earth did he get that from?").  Logical thinking is an important component of sermon preparation and in delivery.

2) When a sermon is cerebral it is a bad message.  

You need to engage the mind, the will, and the affections.  Teachers must understand the difference between a lecture and a sermon.

Monday, July 11, 2016

No, No, No---THANK YOU! (Rendering Honor To Whom Honor is Due)

I received a heartfelt "thank you" from the wife of a Christian police officer today for my recent article. Of course it is I who owes this family, and all police families for that matter, a debt of gratitude. Contrary to popular opinion, firefighters and military men and women are not the only Americans who deserve our thanks. Stop and consider this: when is the last time you thanked a law enforcement officer for anything?  I am just as guilty of this as you.

A few of you would do well to go on a "ride along" during third shift in the inner city. If that sounds too dangerous perhaps a few episodes of "Cops Reloaded" on your living room sofa would suffice. Amazingly, these civil servants risk their well-being shift after shift in order to protect and serve our local communities. Forgive me/us for not praying for you more often. I believe these posts represent the heart of many people including my entire family.

As he often does, Pastor John MacArthur led by example when Grace Church hosted a "Law Enforcement Appreciation" event post Ferguson riots. This was not the most politically correct thing to do just as it was not PC when Pastor John broke the color barrier to minister the gospel with black pastors in the deep south during the height of the MLK Jr Civil Rights movement. The point John made in both cases is unmistakable (note the balance of Romans 13; Galatians 3:28; and John 3:16).

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Why Someone Who Despises Racism Cannot Support the (Current) BlackLives Movement.

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I stand against racism of all kinds which is why I cannot support the current BlackLivesMatter movement. My Christian life gives testimony of my love for people of all races and colors. I was taught to live this way from my parent's example; who learned this ethos from their Jewish Savior, Jesus Christ.  

As a Pastor I will not bow to the pressures of the politically correct left nor jettison a truly gospel-centered ministry for so called "social justice" politics.  I would gladly march to Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King but I would not cross the street to stand with current "Civil Rights" leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.  I refuse to embrace a false narrative in order to convince people that I really am not a racist. Minorities who truly know me; (our neighbors who live across the street from us, minority church members, our Awana and youth group kids; former co-workers, athlete-friends, my old roommate Jimmy) all know the "content of my character" and the overall direction of my life; (which I must quickly add is all of grace; 1 Cor. 15:10).

This week a family member who serves in law enforcement asked for prayer as many serious "death threats" have been made against officers in California and throughout the U.S.A. Also this week a church member who serves in our local police force was injured in the line of duty. According to black politician Herman Cain some protesters even danced on the night of the Dallas murder spree.  In addition to this, a black NFL player posted a graphic drawing on Instagram of a man in a black hood slitting the throat of a police officer (see the image above). Can you even imagine if Tom Brady ever posted something as hateful like this? Forget Deflategate.  President Obama would personally suspend Brady for an entire season (and rightfully so). Underneath this hate-inspired picture this NFL player's caption read: “Mood: They give police all types of weapons and they continuously choose to kill us…#Weak.” Sadly, this very narrative was all too common before and after the Dallas massacre. Miss. Alabama initially stated that she could not help but view the sniper who targeted and murdered five Dallas police officer as a "MARTYR;" even though this man admitted that his goal was to murder "white people" and "white police officers" in mass. (See rap lyrics below if you want to know what/who encourages this kind of thinking and behavior-note James 3).  In St. Paul, Minnesota 21 police officers were injured by "peaceful" protesters. One officer received a spinal fracture. Freeways were shut down. Stores were closed. Innocent civilians were hurt.  Need I go on?