The Use of Psalm 68 in Ephesians 4:A Typological Approach Toward a Solution


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Southeastern Theological Review 13.2 has published my essay, “The Use of Psalm 68 in Ephesians 4: A Typological Approach Toward a Solution.” Many thanks go to the journal’s editor, Dr. Ben Merkle, and his team, for making my work available. I hope you will enjoy the article and subscribe to digital alerts for the journal.

Showing Genuine Love after the Overturning of Roe v. Wade: Sermon Quote


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Photo credit to Reuters— No photographer name listed.

While preaching a few Sundays ago from Rom. 12:9, 13, and 16, shortly after the draft of SCOTUS Roe v. Wade decision had been leaked, I said this:

 [G. L. Hiestand, our pastor] said to us last week… “The Christian life begins with the accepting love of Jesus and then continues with the perfecting love of Jesus,” like a parent moves toward perfecting a child only once the child shows agency. Initially, the parent shows accepting love, and that should continue forever just as Jesus’s accepting love for us is forever. Only once the child shows agency do the parents move toward perfecting the child. 

 Our shepherd went on to say, “If we only have an experience of his [God’s] perfecting love but do not have a robust experience of his accepting love… we will experience robust failure. If we impose perfecting love on our kids to a degree of experience that outstrips their accepting love, the children will experience rebellion….”

 It is common to put accepting and perfecting love in the wrong order. We want people to be perfect before we accept them—before we fully embrace their authentic selves the way we want people to accept our authentic selves with our warts, scars, failures, weaknesses, fears, and all. But Jesus accepts before he perfects, and he calls us to love as he has loved us. As he said in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Again, in John 15:12 he said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

 The ten or eleven additional “love one another” passages in the NT flow from this command, as do all of the other “one another” directives throughout the letters of the NT. It would be great if we read them each as “Accept one another first, and concern yourselves with perfecting others later, and even when you do start to perfect, don’t reject, but continue to accept.” Just comfort one another; perfect later. Just encourage one another, perfect later. Just serve one another, pray for one another, confess your sins to one another, and forgive one another; perfecting is riding in the slow lane and will catch up much later.

 It is important to get accepting right, for only then can we rightly love as verse 13 says: Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

 To open our homes for hospitality makes us vulnerable to judgment of our status, material wealth, home decorating and upkeep abilities, culinary skills, curb appeal, and parenting skills. Who wants those to be judged? But boasting is the way of the world. Jesus owns one hundred percent of our homes and allows us to put our names on the deeds and leases. When we gave our minds and bodies to him, we gave our houses…. We gave away criticism of others’ homes, parenting and culinary skills, broken concrete in driveways, and need for exterior and interior paint jobs. We go to others’ homes for the people—for one another. 

 The term for “hospitality” also is one you would recognize: Philoxenion (like philia + xena, or xenophilia—love of the stranger). It simply indicates “brotherly-love the stranger” (or welcome the stranger – which I also think is the polar opposite of xenophobia). As Sara Kyoungah White recognized in last week’s Christianity Today article on hospitality for introverts, welcoming the strangerdoes not require a domicile or the opening of one’s home. It simply requires us to be accepting of people who we do not know at all, know well, or know deeply. 

 Xenophobia is what we are facing in our country as refugees come to our shores and hate rhetoric against Asians, Jews, Latinos, and African Americans rises. We need to be people who welcome strangers

 Welcoming does not make or require a political position. If the borders remain closed, we welcome people who are here who are strangers in many forms. If the borders open, we welcome the strangers in our midst. Obeying the exhortation to welcome people unknown, little known, or not deeply known to you would cut through many of the ills we see today. 

 Again, if I thought for one second that I would walk into a body of believers, be completely welcomed into the family as if I was one of the initiated, knowing I would not receive judgment of my lack of moral or religious perfection, and that if I had a need, asking me to justify it would not be in the first series of thoughts of those helping me, [the local church] would be a place crucial to my happiness and wellbeing. You might as well carve my imprint in the pew because I will be here every week….

 We have a unique opportunity to get pursuing strangers right before the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. While we will rightly applaud the rescuing of the lives of the unborn, we need to be prepared to offer brotherly, affectionate, stranger-welcoming, lowering of ourselves, genuine love to many families who will be burdened with the various costs of unwanted pregnancies. 

 Every post-Roe statistic points to Brown, Black, Indigenous, and poor people with unwanted pregnancies – people who will be strangers to most of us – being those who will be furthest from necessary health care helps needed for mom, child, and families the rest of their lives. If we can be creative and sincere in our welcoming—in giving our very selves to make others part of our lives, contributing to their needs, and doing so before the Court makes judgment—our actions will not be perceived as political maneuvering, but could be accepted as the real care and concern that it will be. Welcoming strangers is part of what can help we who are pro-life be pro-living; it allows us to trade in a political position for a moral disposition.

Reference is to Sara Kyoungah White,” The Gospel Doesn’t Always Have to Come with a House Key,” CT, May 18, 2022,

Hiding Behind Good Causes

It is very easy to hide behind a good cause in order to avoid dealing with issues that would require one to be loving in one’s actions. For example, fighting for Second Amendment rights is good. But it does not have to be at the expense of leaving assault rifles in the hands of civilians.

As evangelicals, it is easy to do something analogous. It is easy to hide behind our love for God in order to avoid loving our neighbor. For example, we do this so well by holding up “the gospel” as a doctrinal position or statement that boils down to the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Christ apart from any implications that must come with the gospel.  Again, this is evident in how many hide behind being “pro-life” (which is really pro-the-unborn-life-only) as an issue that pleases the Lord without giving practical care and concern for the many children living in poverty, food deserts, zones of gun violence, and very low-performing school districts. (Yes; we must seek to save the lives of the unborn as those made in the image of God.)

It is easy to be theoretical about helping unborn people we never see while ignoring needy people we can see, talk to, give to sacrificially, embrace physically, allow to play with and marry our children, enjoy, hear of their likes and dislikes, and lower ourselves before them, and with whom we can share our power and be patient. You do not have to do this with the unborn; you only have to use words to fight for rights.

Yes, we need to protect the truth of the gospel. But largely, in the West and in this contemporary era, to protect the gospel only involves words. Striving for the righteous actions that should flow from the gospel requires a lowering of self and interaction with people unlike us. You

Lament for Mass Shootings and Ethnic-Related Hate from Sunday Worship: Lament Prayer, Part 2



As shared in my previous post, this past Sunday I experienced my first Sunday morning, corporate lament service as the corporate worship service. I am thankful that there is a place for this in our congregation.

A second prayer of lament that was very meaningful was spoken by Rae Paul, our Ministry Associate for Adult Education. Humbly, compassionately, lovingly, courageously, and intentionally she spoke George Floyd’s name within her cry for justice and lament over the crushing weight of sin in forms of ethnic hate. The full text of her prayer is below, used by permission. May we always remember George Floyd by name.


An untitled lament by Rae Paul:

Father, we enter this moment of grief, and cry to you: come. We cry in all our voices and seasons of longing and lament: come. We believe you to be our rock and refuge, our shield and salvation, our comforter and guide, you who not only hear our call and bend to meet us in this moment, but weep with us, too.

Today, we are weary in grief, for the blood of violence inflicted has never ceased to cry out from the ground. There are new anniversaries to mark, names yet unspoken, tears unbroken. Today we mark the fresh graves in Buffalo, the remembrance of George Floyd’s murder, the untold deaths of those we cannot name even in the cities we call home. In the numberless sorrows of our ordinary days, these great tragedies feel too heavy to bear, too large to forget, too fraught to articulate. We struggle to know the place of tears, to know how to weep over sorrows long-held, to know how to lament when what we are grieving is the breaking of shalom, the stain of sin upon a world that cries out for you, that has cried, that does cry, that will cry, until you yet come again. These are fresh wounds on old scars, Father, and we are weary of the bleeding.

Today, we weep with those who have been hated in their own existence—for the very fabric of their being. We grieve with one another, with those seen as things to be managed, dismissed, belittled, and discarded; those seen as worth less, without value and beauty; those whose blood has been demanded and bought and stolen; your image-bearers yet seen as the powerless, the outsider, and the stranger in the neighborhood. We grieve for those with unseen worth in the very bones that have been broken, those with dignity in the blood that has soaked our streets and monuments.

Today, we grieve that while we feel the weight of injustice and the wound of prejudice, underneath we yet still fear what you might ask of each of us here: we fear the cost of this love, this forgiveness, this restoration, this willingness to weep with one another.

Today, we are re-learning to grieve the longest sorrows of the world: that in our anger, we killed a son, and in our fear, we hid from your face. For this, we weep.
In this world, we see fear before love, disgust before celebration, distance and rejection before welcome and restoration. For this, we weep.

For the those with broken families, torn by death and by difference, we weep.
For the justice perverted, the cries unheard, the cruelty unending, we weep.
For the times the path towards loving one another well seems as littered with blood and hate as the path that led us to this place, we weep.
For the times our world plays victim, plays victor, all the times we see another turning away and washing their hands – and for all the times that has been us, we weep.
For the times we have been glad that we are not like those others, we weep.
For the stories we are yet learning to tell rightly, we weep.
For the unwillingness to repent, for the withholding of forgiveness, for the choice to love only those we deem worthy of it, we weep.

Even in this, O Father, will you meet us? Even in the most sunlit days, there are shadows, and even in hands full of blessings, we find we are holding sorrow yet, too—sorrow and fear and shame—and to you, to you who sees and hears and remembers, we cry the distress of our sin-sick world and our sin-sick souls. To you, we cry, the unspoken weeping of our hearts in this moment.

In all our voices and seasons of longing and lament, in all the uncounted sorrows: hear us, You who have come. Though we see only darkness, we believe you to be our rock and refuge, our shield and salvation, our comforter and guide, you who not only hear our cry and bend to meet us in this moment, but weep with us, too. O Father, show us yourself, and teach us how to weep.

In the name of Your Son, and by the power of Your Spirit, Amen.

Lament for Ukraine from Sunday Worship: Lament Prayer, Part 1

This Sunday at Calvary Memorial, we did a full lament service as the corporate worship service. It was my first time attending a Sunday morning worship gathering given entirely to lament. It was well done, directing our hearts toward the God who laments and who has entered into our pains through Christ, and directing our hearts toward our neighbors who are suffering acutely. The sermon came from Psalm 22. I am grateful.

Below is the full text of one of the lament prayers offered during the service by our sister in Christ, Deborah Birkey, posted by permission. Later this week, I hope to post the text of another lament prayer offered during the service.


Lament for Ukraine

God and loving, intentional creator of all who live and breath

Jesus, Savior, Redeemer . . . 

Spirit of comfort and hope who searches men’s hearts and knows all – from whom nothing is hidden

We cry out to you as a local body here in Oak Park over the war in Ukraine

Entering its 4th month of fighting

Every day we see and hear the devastating consequences of the violence between brothers that is as old as Cain and Abel

We see intense fighting in the east and all along the southern border and we cry out for bombs to stop dropping and tanks to stop rolling

We grieve and lament what is now the center of one of the largest human displacements in the world.  

7 million internally displaced within the country and 

6.6 million people who have fled Ukraine as refugees

We lament the terror and fear this wreaks upon people – especially children

We grieve the disruption and impact on neighboring countries Romania, Moldova, Poland, Hungary

We are heartbroken for families ripped apart and separated

Loss off loved ones who have died or been captured

Homes and villages and whole cities that have been flattened and destroyed . . . places of beauty and shared culture and history – and each home a sacred place where a family once lived

Sons and husbands who have been drafted – and the women and children left behind

Livelihoods disrupted . . . wheat that has not been planted – wheat that has been confiscated – wheat that cannot be shipped – the worldwide hunger that will be the consequence

The most vulnerable who are suffering – elderly, children, infirmed 

Innocent Russians who find themselves hemmed in and in an impossible place – and subject to propaganda and deceit

The power of one man to perpetrate such evil and destruction – seemingly unchecked

There are no words

We long for the day when Isaiah 2 will be fully realized – when “God will judge between the nations … and they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and nation will not lift up sword against nation nor learn war anymore”

How long, oh Lord?!

Come Lord Jesus – sooner rather than later we cry to you. 

We grieve for the impact on churches – and yet are deeply grateful and marvel at the strength of your church in Ukraine and the neighboring countries to stand as cities on a hill and beacons of light as places of refuge – where food and cots are provided as well as the Word of God and the comfort of community and fellowship.

The Church is truly living out “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and providing garments – literal and figurative – for those who are feel deeply the spirit of heaviness

Yet – how long can they stand?  How much must they endure?

We see them trusting in your steadfast love.  Allow their hearts to rejoice in your salvation and to still have songs on their lips and to see ways that you are dealing bountifully with them . . . we are counting on you to do this for them, Lord Jesus!

Alongside Ukraine we are dumbfounded and cannot comprehend the millions upon millions who have been forced to flee their homes around the world and the nearly 26.4 million refugees – half of whom are under the age of 18.  Can it really be true that 1 in every 95 persons on earth have fled their homes as a result of conflict or persecution – forcibly displaced?




South Sudan

Myanmar  (mee)

Democratic Republic of Congo




Spirit – we pray for those who in their weakness and stricken state cannot even pray.  We trust you to do as you promised – to intercede on their behalf with groanings more than equal to theirs – and to do the absolutely impossible – to work all things together for good.

Deal with the evil

Strengthen the good

Defeat the enemy

Bring rescue and remedy

Embolden those who stand for the right and are dispensing the good in Jesus’ name

Oh God who “so loved the world” – every corner of the globe – we cry out to you to display your love in Ukraine and around the world

Oh God who conquered Satan and sin and death on the cross – defeat the evil being perpetrated around the world

Oh God who sees the sparrow fall – minister tenderly

Oh Christ who is acquainted with grief – be a balm to those who carry sorry

Oh fortress and stronghold – protect those who look to you – especially to children and vulnerable

Our eyes are on you.  We look to you, Jesus.  We must not look away yet we cannot carry this level of grief and loss.  We cannot even begin to comprehend that you actually bore all of the sins of the world on your body on the cross – the violence and full magnitude of sins consequences, past present and future – ripping through your body.

You cried out, “why have you forsaken me?!” and “forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”  Incomprehensible.  

With all creation we groan and grieve – knowing that our groaning is not incompatible with faith . . .  We can almost hear the din of every creature on the face of the earth groaning and grieving in unison.  

We cannot wait – we longingly ache for the day when that din of groaning and grieving gives way to a chorus of “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns”.  May this hope bolster our faith and the faith and service of our brothers and sisters around the world – even as we groan while we wait.

In the name of Jesus, my Savior – Calvary’s Savior – the Savior of the World. 


On So-Called “Just Preach the Gospel”


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Credit: ITV Channel TV

When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books,

and above all the parchments. 

(2 Tim 4:13)

But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 

(2 Tim. 4:17)

The sentiment of “just preach the gospel” sounds holy, pious, faithful, and true. For who wants to appear to be against the preaching of the gospel? Only the impious or those seemingly wishing to add to or take away from the gospel would be against the preaching of the gospel. The humility and exaltation of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King should be sufficient for everything, yes?

I suspect that even some advocates of “just preach the gospel” call for medical assistance when they are ill and are encouraged by the visits and other expressions of care from the saints of God. But if “just preach the gospel” is enough, shouldn’t such advocates discourage medical care and visitation when they are ill, for to them these things should be additions to the preaching of the gospel? In that same vein, when Paul asks Timothy to come before winter with the books and the parchments, it seems that Paul would be violating “just preach the gospel” as he faces martyrdom alone—the very gospel in which he encourages Timothy to continue after his death—according to “just preach the gospel” advocates. Paul relates that the Lord stood with him at his first defense; why would he need a cloak or Timothy?

It would seem that “just preach the gospel” is not preaching the gospel Paul portrayed or that its advocates model when ill. Why then, when the church and society have illnesses or other challenges to our faith, would we proclaim “just preach the gospel” as the answer?

The gospel of both Paul and the “just preach the gospel” advocates includes practical, direct, appropriate, proportional service to the deficiency or brokenness before us. “Just preach the gospel” has the right sentiment, but only has the right practice when that preaching brings responsible, Christ-empowered, righteous, practical, appropriate-for-the-need-help with it. To proclaim otherwise violates the preaching of the gospel in this age and would have left Paul in his prison cell facing freezing temperatures and death alone—without cloak, Timothy’s presence and friendship, books, or parchments.

Moody Bible Institute DC Alumni Chapter Weekend

I am grateful to participate in the Moody Bible Institute DC Alumni Chapter Gathering today at Calvary Baptist Church in Woodbridge, VA, with Pastor Victor Stanley. I also am looking forward to preaching tomorrow, April 3, at the kind invitation of Pastor Dave Huffman of South Potomac Church in White Plains, MD.

The MBI DC Alumni weekend caps off for me with the Homiletical Lecture at Capital Seminary and Graduate School in Greenbelt, MD, my alma mater and previous place of service. The lecture is, We Are More than Our Minds: Conforming Heart, Soul, Body, and Will to Love God and Neighbor through Specific Statements of Application. I hope to see many friends there.



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“Yet despite being violently denied the freedom and justice promised to all, Black Americans believed fervently in the American creed. Through centuries of Black resistance and protest, we have helped the country live up to its founding ideals. And not only for ourselves—Black rights struggles paved the way for every other rights struggle, including women’s and gay rights, immigrant and disability rights. Without the idealistic, strenuous, and patriotic efforts of Black Americans, our democracy today would look very different; in fact, our country might not be a democracy at all.”

— Nikole Hannah-Jones, “Democracy,” in The 1619 Project; (Kindle version, Audible version).

On Preaching Styles & Cultivating Celebration in the Church


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Moody Publishers created an Author’s Page to go with Say It! On the page, I answer a handful of questions, including, “What are some core values that are embodied in Black churches and preaching?” They also recently changed the page for Say It! to include the recognition of the book’s awards.

Calvary Memorial Church posted my last two sermons online: “Gospel Flexibility for the Weak in Faith” (Acts 14) and “Disagreements of Grace” (Acts 15).

It’s A Sad Moment When an Evangelical Preacher Misses the Point of the Passage


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I listened to a sermon preached this weekend at a large evangelical church in the suburbs of Chicago. It was not my own church, nor was the speaker an elder or member of the pastoral staff of our church. The congregation and their edifice were much larger and much more suburban than my own assembly. I had high expectations based on the size of the church, for I hoped that the word of God was drawing people to the thousands of seats in this sanctuary. However, I could not have been more disappointed in what I heard. I will not mention the passage or church so as to hide the identity of the speaker in my brief review. First, the person preaching totally missed the Big Idea of the passage — the main idea, the central idea —and substituted his own. His own idea was clever and drew from the personal significance of the textual words in English rather than from the meaning of the combined words, structure, theology, and tone of the text. 

That preacher’s struggle to find the central idea in this narrative passage reminded me of the great importance of my task in teaching hermeneutics to my students: We must discern what God has said through the human author and not communicate our own extrinsic idea as the main idea. We are not preaching God’s words if we are not communicating his main idea through the author, no matter how clever, creative, or cool our idea sounds.

Second, for a theological issue in the passage he did not understand, the preacher attempted to explain it by means of an analogy. It was a good attempt, but it showed little concern for his people’s need for a correct theological understanding. It would have been good for him to give more thought and study to the issue and present accurate theology to those he served. Who knows if his listeners ever will have this theological error corrected even as they attempt to build their lives and theological knowledge on the error?

Third, the preacher ignored the issue of nationalism that was part of the meaning of the passage. On a particular point of application, he expressed agreement with striving for “social justice” (even though what he described was not social justice but social service; the wrong identity reinforces false ideas about social justice). He followed his expression by saying that the gospel is a proclamation not simply a demonstration


Was that false distinction even necessary? 

Apparently, it was necessary based on his audience’s response, for he received a hearty “Amen!” from many people. He could not hide that he was playing to the sentiments of the membership rather than applying what the biblical text means.

Again, the preacher skipped the nationalistic thrust of the passage, misspoke about social justice, and then separated the so-called “gospel” from serving people socially. I was witnessing the soft reinforcing of Christian nationalism or at least the ignoring of it. It is no wonder so many evangelicals are not confronted on sins related to their preferred political ideologies if this preaching is representative of the typical evangelical pulpit, which I fear it is. I should not have been surprised, though, since there was an American flag posted in the sanctuary.

I was thankful that the preacher later explained the gospel in a succinct form. He preached the wrath of God as God’s just judgment against sin. He exalted Christ’s death and resurrection as God’s solution for sin and wrath. He challenged the listeners to repent and trust Christ. Christ was preached, and for this I rejoiced!

Still, I am sad for that congregation. I am sad over a preacher who substituted his own idea for God’s idea in the passage, over a congregation that received that message as the word of God, and over the missed opportunity to challenge believers to pursue God-glorifying life-change based on God’s meaning in the passage. There were several other misgivings in the preaching of this passage, including the building of a point of application from an admittedly speculative interpretation by some scholars. However, the three aforementioned concerns stood out as most significant.

Finally, may I encourage believers in the pews to remove any and all expectations for the preacher to make you feel good about your faith, to say what is familiar or agreeable, to affirm your values or political views, or to make sure you leave the worship service without critical spiritual and theological challenge? It is not the preacher’s job to do anything other than preach the word of God in love with a view toward calling all hearers to the obedience of faith. The preacher I heard gave the evangelical form of scratching itchy ears, making people laugh at jokes and nod at error cloaked as Theology Lite. As preachers, our calling is to herald the gospel and all of its implications for living life before our Savior and King. We have one grand opportunity to do so each week. We need to be the best stewards possible over that calling and not send people away in disobedience or ignorance but with smiles on their faces. The gospel also is education, not job-preservation.

Instead, members should expect to leave the preaching event with a robust sense of conviction, correction, instruction, humility, hope, anticipation, and celebration of Christ. We should walk away feeling the gravity, grace, and gladness of having met with God and heard his voice.


Phil Ryken, “How to Listen to a Sermon.”

Christopher Ash, “7 Ways to Become a Better Sermon Listener.