Desiring to Know the Real Reason

English: Saint paul arrested

English: Saint paul arrested (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love this simple statement Luke includes when he recounts the trial of Paul in Acts 22.  Paul had been preaching the gospel, sharing his story of encountering Jesus, and it caused a stir.  People were upset.  They couldn’t handle what he was talking about.  And their reaction was to hand Paul over to the authorities.


The Romans did what they were trained to do – get the truth out of Paul any way that they could.  Their interrogation methods included flogging.  Nothing like a few lashings to get to the truth.  But before they made it that far down the particular path, Paul explains that what they are about to do us unlawful, for although Paul is a Jew, he was also a Roman citizen by birth, and thus he had some legal protection from being bound and interrogated without cause.
What strikes me about this story though is not Paul’s social and political savvy, or even his practice of what some have labeled “riot evangelism.” (Not arguing against this either.  The demonstration and proclamation of the Gospel should cause a stir!).
No, what I find fascinating is that the Roman tribune came to back to Paul, “desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews.” (v. 30).
Do our lives and our words have that kind of effect?
Not just the effect of causing a stir or a controversy.
Not just the kind that instigates a riot.
Not just the kind that shakes the comfortable and complacent out of their apathy.

But the kind that draws others closer, “desiring to know the real reason.”  

The real reason for the hope that we profess.
The real reason for our experience of God.
The real reason why some would struggle to the point of wanting to condemn, ostracize and even punish  us for what we believe, what we proclaim and what we demonstrate with out lives.
That’s the kind of impact I want to have.  To see men and women and children be so moved with desire to want to know the real reason why I believe the gospel.  This is why I’m excited to see more interest being taken up in the realm of “gospel neighboring” and if you haven’t yet stumbled upon Andy Stager’s  blog and podcast on this subject, you really should go check it out here.
It’s when we live with such radical hospitality, in close proximity to others in our communities, that the distinctiveness of our lives shaped by the Gospel will begin to have the effect of disrupting the perceptions and preconceived notions of Christianity and Christians themselves, and that space for desiring to know the real reason is created – in relationship.
Can you imagine what would happen if our words and lives had this as their aim and intention?
Can you see your family members, neighbors, and coworkers being so drawn to ask you that kind of question – “Tell me the real reason why……
….so-and-so seems out to get you?
….you’re not holding that grudge against that guy who threw you under the bus?
….you’re not falling apart when your husband lost his job?
….you’re neither a fundamentalist, prude, nor are you a anything-goes kind of person?
….you love your kids and yet your world doesn’t simply orbit around them and their schedules?
….you’re life has changed so dramatically?
….you go to that church?
….you are a Christian?
Can you imagine the folks in your particular sphere of influence asking you these kinds of questions? That’s the kind of person I want to be, and the kind of people God wants us to be as we seek to live a distinctively Christian life in the world He has placed us.

Mishandling Scripture in Pulpit = Misguiding People in Pews

A great quote by Sinclar Ferguson on preaching and teaching (check out full quote here):

“If people sit regularly under a ministry where the Scriptures are mishandled, they will have great obstacles to overcome in order rightly to handle it themselves.” 

-Sinclair Ferguson from, Richard Allen Bodey, Inside the Sermon: Thirteen Preachers Discuss Their Methods of Preparing Messages

Tim Keller and Sermon Outlines

As usual, there are some really great posts and links over at Unashamed Workman regarding the privilege and responsibility of preaching. If you guys haven’t checked out Colin’s blog yet, you really need to. He just put up a post about Tim Keller and some thoughts of his on outlines for preachingtimkeller.jpg Redemptive, Gospel/Christ-centered Sermons from the text (click here). Here’s a quote to wet your appetite:

“Our failure to do it [Imperative – what to do] is due to our functional rejection of what he did [Indicative – what is true]. Remembering him frees our heart so we can change like this.”

I have to say that as I read Keller’s outline I found myself being drawn to this approach when developing a sermon outline. To those out there who are willing to entertain this next question I have, does this run counter to what we are being taught here at seminary? (This will probably matter mostly to the guys currently in seminary taking the homiletics classes – but all are welcome to comment). It seems that what Keller would drive at in this outline – and it is a small sampling of his thoughts on preaching as a whole (Amen Collin to the thought about Keller and a book on preaching!) – is that Jesus is the Hero of every story of the Bible – which I am inclined to agree with. But it seems that at seminary we are being told to be cautious and not 1) leapfrog to Jesus (instead see God, not just the second person of the Trinity, as the Hero of the story), and 2) not equate every other “hero” as deficient, and thus showing by negative example our need for another Hero.I have no stated opinion yet, but found myself wrestling with the tension between what I think I’m hearing in class and what I find myself gravitating to regarding preaching (and it’s not just because Tim Keller said it). What do you all think – is there a tension, or am I just missing something?

It’s Been a While

I have to say that I have been a bad blogger lately – and justifiably so.  School has ramped up, and I have been unusually stressed out.  So this past week was a great opportunity to practice an area of much needed sanctification in my life, something I like to call rest!  It was absolutely fabulous Us as a Family at Halloweento take several days “off” – no school work, no running out to study, or meet with anybody, or be anxious about how much I have to do in the next two weeks (which is alot). Instead, I got to roll around on the floor with my two children – Maya and Alex, re-arrange our living room to decorate for Christmas, lay on the couch without a Systematic Theology book resting on my belly, and spend some time on the couch with my wife.  I also spent very little time on the internet, and think that I might need to make that a recurring practice every so often.I do have some things in the works though for the blog that I wanted to preview for you all.Pierced for Our Transgressions  Sometime in the next few weeks I am going to posting several reviews of books.  One of my joys is sharing resources, and as I come across good books from class, or from generous folks (thank you Michele!), I’d like to tell you all about them, and recommend to you the ones that are worthwhile.  So, be on the look out for a post or two on Pierced for Our Transgressions (a great book on Penal Substitution), as well as something on Piper’s (and others) recent works, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World and The Future of Justification.Early on next year,  a friend here at seminary and I will be trying to read Communion with the Triune Godthrough some good stuff by some older generation, godly men.  We’ve talked about starting off with Communion with The Triune God – the recent adaptation(?) of John Owens’ classic.  I hope to make that a regular posting.  In addition, I’ll keep posting thoughts on faith, life, culture and preaching, because it seems those are the things that occupy the free space of my mind these days.

Francis Schaeffer Lecture Series – Emerging Church

Darrin PatrickHere is the content for the Covenant Seminary’s Francis Schaeffer Institute Lecture Series (that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?) on the Emerging Church. This was a series of talks given by Darrin Patrick, lead pastor of The Journey and V.President of the Acts 29 Network. Darrin is a guy who neither absolutely praises or bashes the Emerging Church movement. Instead, he gives a really good inside picture of it, while also standing somewhat outside of it and gives it a good critical assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. If you’re out there and you’re the least bit curious, or cautious, of anything that bears the label “emerging”, then listen to these lectures.

Audio Content (page – you can download the lectures individually)

Written Content (abridged notes from the talks)

Mark Driscoll on Humility

Man, I really liked Mark Driscoll before. I loved his ability to communicate truth clearly and fiercly. I can’t wait to see how God continues to use him as a man pursuing not only orthodoxy with strength and conviction, but also growing in humility. Not only is this video just a great 5 minute gut-level reality check for myself, it is also probably one of the most powerful forms of public repentance I’ve seen or experienced. Enjoy!

Tim Keller – Contextualization

timkeller.jpgThis is the best quote I have come across on contextualization, and it happens to come from…you guessed it…Tim Keller. Much thanks to Darrin Patrick for talking through this and pointing to this definition about contextualization at the FSI Lecture Series this weekend on the Emerging Church (check out in a couple of days/weeks for the audio – if they post it.)

Quote on Contextualization:

Contextualization is not giving people what they want. It is giving God’s answers (which they probably do not want) to the questions they are asking and in forms they can comprehend.

Preaching – Is it a pointless task?

Disclaimer – I am a big fan of expository preaching, and do not believe it is a pointless task.  I ask this only because I’m wrestling with how to construct and deliver sermons.  I’m used to the style that packages a Biblical text into a nice and neat 25 minute speech, complete with nice picturesque illustration (or, human interest accounts, for the homiletically well-versed), but find myself drawn to preachers like Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll (who quite affectionately referred to a 25-minute sermon as an “introduction”) who sometimes seem to just open up the Bible and “talk it out”.

Yet, I can see and understand the opposite spectrum that says that passive listening is the least effective form of delivery for transformation – which is after all the aim of Biblical, Expository Preaching.

So what is the best way to communicate God’s Word from the pulpit (or music stand, coffee table, whatever you use)? I found this post a bit interesting in teasing out some of these thoughts.  Here’s something that stood out to me as interesting, and you tell me if it has any merit.

What I have since discovered is that lecturing a passive audience for 20 to 40 minutes, what Doug Pagitt calls “speeching,” has been repeatedly proven to result in a very low retention of content. Likewise, adult education experts testify, along with a multitude of unregenerate pew sitters, that passive learning rarely transforms values. Does this mean we should abandon instruction in the church? Of course not. After all, we are commissioned to teach people to obey everything Christ commanded. It simply means traditional preaching is not the best medium for skill training and instruction.

But preaching is wonderfully designed for the prerequisite component of Willard’s spiritual formation model—vision. Preaching this way will not always have the end goal of application, but rather inspiration. As Willard says, “It’s the beauty of the kingdom that Jesus said was causing people to climb over each other just to get in.” Only after people have a vision of God (the love, beauty, justice, and power of his kingdom) will they be ready to intentionally seek and employ the means to experience him through obedience—an aspect of spiritual formation that occurs most effectively in smaller settings through the medium of relationship.

Thoughts on Preaching (pt. 2)

Found an interesting little post by Steve Mathewson over at Preaching Today’s blog about preaching and application (Guys who have been part of the Moralistic vs. Christ/Gospel-Centered Preaching discussion and conundrum, this is an interesting take, I think). Steve spells out what I have had a hard time putting my own finger on – how do you “do” application without creating “to do” lists for people in our churches and ministries that become over-burdensome, yet at the same time, preaching the Word so that it connects and calls people to action (or maybe, a better word, respond).

Steve names the “life application points” that we usually tack on to the end of a sermon as “reductionism” – boiling everything down to a few specific things we should do. To correct this, he offers an approach of giving people “leads” – sharing a few illustrations of how other people applied/lived out the passage, or something like, “Image what our church/city/world would look like if we…[fill in the blank].”  The basic idea is that we preach the content of Scripture, and give “lead ins” for people to pick up and act on the application, without spelling it out for them with “situational specificity” (Bryan Chapel term).

Guys, what do you think about this approach? Does it avoid the trappings of “reductionism” in application? If so, does it fail to “call people to action/response” based on God’s Word? Could you see this improving or impeding your own preaching?

Thoughts, comments, push-backs…bring them on!

Redemptive Historical Sermon Preparation

This is an outline I created to help me with studying the Bible for preparing sermons. Just thought I would share it with any of you who would be interested.

Steps for Redemptive-Historical Exegesis and Contemporary Relevance (from Sidney Greidanus, Redemptive History and Preaching, pp. 9-18; Pre Rege reprint, in CCP Articles):

1. Select text with an eye to the needs of your congregation being addressed.
        • Ensures the goal of the sermon harmonizes with the goal of the text.
2. Discern the original goal of the biblical author
        • Why did the author write this passage to these people?
        • What needs did he address?
        • What responses did he seek?
3. Formulate the theme of the passage
        • What is the specific theme of the text?
        • what is the author’s message to his original audience? —> How are these different than #2
4. Formulate the theme of the sermon
        • Shift focus from the past
        • Trace the textual theme through the OT and NT
        • Continue tracing on into your present position in redemptive history (contemporary setting)
5. Formulate specific goal of the sermon (adapted)
        • Broad goal: the faith of the hearers and their salvation
        • Specific goals:
                • Do I seek to:
                        • call to faith?
                        • strengthen faith?
                        • encourage the weak?
                        • comfort the bereaved?
                        • correct the wayward/misguided
                        • give up to the despondent
                        • broaden the horizons of the narrow-minded?
                        • lift the burden of the legalist?
6. Start writing the sermon