A copy of Say It! would make a great stocking-stuffer for someone you know! Yes, it is a book about preaching the Scriptures. But it also is a book about learning to read the Scriptures well — even the difficult, unfamiliar, and seemingly boring passages of Scripture. Help someone become the best reader of Scripture she/he can be. Give her/him a copy of Say It!
Congratulations to Drs. Eric Mason and Charlie Dates as they join the faculty for the Preaching Masterclass and are recognized by In Club Magazine as faith leaders to follow. Both contributed to Say It! Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition (Moody Publishers). They are faithful preachers and pastors with significant words of truth and righteousness for our times.
The revelation of POTUS having COVID-19 sends me deeper into my reading of Proverbs.
Preaching Source blog graciously published a small piece I wrote on the application of biblical narrative. The word count limitation does not allow for other items I include in my classroom lectures on application. However, I hope this small piece gets us thinking about individual narratives within the larger canonical narrative.
I am looking forward to being on the air this afternoon, 5.30 EST/4.30 CST, with Mark Eckel of The Cornelius Institute to discuss Say It! and expository preaching. I suspect we will get into a little bit about the current expression of the pandemic of racial injustice.
I also am excited about speaking tomorrow morning, June 9, across multiple Moody Radio stations on real solutions to the racial injustice pandemic that does not seem to end:
All Times Central
5:30am WCRF Brian and Jannelle Mornings
6:00am WMBI Karl and Crew Mornings
6:30am WFCM Dawn and Steve Mornings
7:00am WMBW Mornings with Tabi
7:30am WRMB Mornings with Eric and Brigitte
Join me and invite others to listen!
I am grateful for several kind texts, emails, and messages from white, evangelical friends who have expressed empathy, concern for me and my family, and outrage over racial injustice in the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and in the wake of the Central Park bird-watching act of racial hatred toward Christian Cooper. Empathy from non-African Americans plays an important role in progressing toward the dismantling of racial injustice in America.
Among the many communications I have received, in addition to the one in the picture above, here is an innocent one from a young adult friend that I have permission to share:
“Hey…. I don’t post or share much on social media about these dreadful injustices and I think it’s because my head and heart have a hard time processing the emotions that take over when I hear about them. But I want you to know that I think of you and Pam every time an article or a picture comes across my screen – whether it’s of [an] Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd. It frustrates me [when I see] the reality that [you] live in because some racist, ignorant, and/or plain stupid [expletive deleted] believes in their mind that they are superior to Black people. I don’t understand how that policeman could just sit there like he did in the video. The look on his face the whole time truly disturbed me; it was the look of indifference. Unfortunately, many people show that same face when something like this happens. I am so sorry that you have to live with your head on a swivel. I am sorry that people show total indifference. I pray that the Lord would break the staunch hearts of those who are indifferent to acts of injustice, that they would mourn with those who mourn, that they would see God’s image in the person next to them—Black, Asian, Latino/a, or whoever, that pastors would step up and train their flocks to see injustice, and that the body of Christ would come around our [African American] brothers and sisters and ask them what can we do. I love you guys so much and I am weeping with you and praying with you.”
Thank you to every friend who has taken time to express empathy, and to show love toward me and my family after racial injustice tragedies. May your evangelical tribe increase, speak where other evangelical leaders should be speaking, and join the fight for racial justice in America in all other holy and righteous forms possible.
This is good to repeat at this time:
In chapter 25 of Christian Apologetics, Douglas Groothuis discusses the problem of evil from a Christian perspective. In this chapter he gives five unsatisfactory answers to evil. The first one is atheism. I thought this was quite helpful:
Given the surfeit of evil, atheism advances itself as intellectually and morally superior to Christianity (and any religion). Atheism is not burdened with attempts to explain evil in relation to God. Evil just exists in a godless world. The problem vanishes.
But it does not so vanish, for two main reasons. First, in order to speak of the problem of evil, a person must believe that objective evil exists. To justify this claim, the person needs to adequately explain the existence and nature of evil. In order for objective evil to exist, objective goodness must exist as well, and good must exist in a more fundamental way. This is because evil is a corruption or twisting of the good. Evil does not exist in and of itself…. Evil is the rust on the iron or the hole in the roof. While a person or an event may be truly evil (the evil is not illusory), that evil could not have existed without an antecedent and original good.
This discussion harks back to our argument for God from the existence of morality, where we argued for the existence of objective moral goods. These goods eliminate both relativism/nihilism and pantheistic monism, since neither can rationally support the existence of objective moral goodness. Neither is objective moral goodness a brute fact in a godless world. Objective moral goodness, therefore, is best explained by the character of a Creator God who made the universe good and gave us the capacity to recognize the good as such, even now in our fallen state. (…)
Hammond, WI, 54002
So I can recommend three new and really good books on preaching for you to read while you are sheltering in place. I suspect your pastor will be very glad if you who are laypeople would read these books and draw closer into the daily and weekly aspects of the stewardship of the call to preach. Good, Christ-honoring, people-loving, exegetically and doctrinally sound, culturally sensitive, intellectually challenging, emotionally uplifting, Spirit-empowered preaching takes a wealth of prayer, loads of study, and great humility before Christ and his people. It is a community project too, for those in the pew have a responsibility to pray for the preacher to hear from God and to communicate accurately what God has said, to affirm the preaching, to be a faithful steward of the obedient responses to the sermon, to communicate the proclaimed word to the baptized and the unconverted, and to share all good things with the one who teaches. This participatory event is at the center of the life of any local congregation and any maturing believer. Therefore it would be good and wise to know of what this task consists.
1 — The Whole Counsel of God: Why and How to Preach the Entire Bible (Crossway). “Written to make a case for the necessity of a long-term plan for preaching through the entire Bible instead of just through individual books, this is not just a book on how to preach, but also how to plan and prepare long-range preaching programs through the whole counsel of God.” https://www.crossway.org/books/the-whole-counsel-of-god-tpb/
2 — A Little Book for New Preachers: Why and How to Study Homiletics (IVP). “In this brief introduction to preaching, Matthew Kim helps to prepare those called to preach the Word. A seasoned preacher himself, Kim provides proven insight and guidance about the importance and history of preaching, the characteristics of faithful preaching, and the personal habits of a faithful preacher. With his help, both those training for ministry and those new to the pastoral task will be encouraged as they undertake their calling.” https://www.ivpress.com/a-little-book-for-new-preachers
3 — Say It! A Celebration of Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition (Moody). “The contributors in this volume give examples of African American Biblical exposition in every section of the Old Testament and New Testament. They also explain how to preach from narrative, poetical, prophetic, epistolary, and apocalyptic genres throughout the Scriptures.” (Even though you know the editor, get this book because of the giftedness of the contributors.) https://www.moodypublishers.com/books/current-issues/say-it/
Yesterday, in my sermon on the sanctity of life from Genesis 9:1-17, I said these words:
Sometimes it can be difficult to see that treating all people with dignity matters. But remembering what it is like to feel undignified helps. Think of how undignified you felt under the care of an overbearing parent or coach, or in comparison to your prettier or smarter sibling or cousin or child of your parents’ best friends. Think of how humiliating living in the broken middle-class home felt, then take away the middle-class part.
Think of the uncertainty you felt in an alcoholic or abusive home and how you wished for someone to see your family’s need for help. That wish was a silent cry to be treated with dignity. Or maybe think of how coming from a Christian home didn’t shield you from mistreatment as you tried to live as your parents prescribed while your friends from Christian homes were not doing the same. Just take away the “Christian” part of feeling mistreatment; it is mistreatment because your dignity as a person was being trumped by your friends’ despising of the Christian faith. You wanted them to see you as a person who should not be the object of ridicule. Everyone else wants that too.
“Dignity” extends beyond the womb. It extends to the impetus behind the #MeToo movement and #BlackLivesMatter. Dignity is a key issue with every unprocessed rape kit, every child in a foster care system in need of a home, every person over fifty who should still be considered a valued member of a company even though a senior-citizen in the eyes of society, and every Middle-Easterner wrongly ethnically profiled. Dignity – the image of God in humans – is at stake in our treatment of every student who under-performs academically in school, every person standing in court who cannot afford legal counsel but needs just legal representation and due process as much as those with lawyers on retainers, every person trying to cross our border illegally, every refugee risking life in a raft to get to a country that is safe, every person holding a sign that says, “I’m hungry.”
 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The Meaning of Matthew 5:43-48:
Jesus’ authoritative teaching on love for one’s enemies corrects the disciples’ practice from reciprocation of sinners to imitation of the Father.
Why do I say this is the author’s intended meaning of this passage?
First, “Jesus’ authoritative teaching” reflects “But I say to you” (44). The content of what he says takes up the most space and unifies the passage, so it is the Subject of the passage. That content concerns “love for one’s enemies.” Jesus gives an imperative on loving enemies (44b), with a reasoning related to sonship before the Father (45), and two examples of wrongly reciprocating love and greetings (46-47).
Second, “corrects” reflects the contrast between what the disciples have been taught and believe to be right and what Jesus now teaches. “Corrects” is what Jesus is doing within the entire passage. His “authoritative teaching” is correcting.
Third, “the disciples’ practice from reciprocation of sinners to imitation of the Father” concerns the remainder of the passage. There were some in the listening crowd who were returning love only to those who demonstrated love toward them, and not toward those who did not. Similarly, there were those in the crowd of listeners who greeted only their fellow Jewish brethren and ignored the Gentiles with their greetings. Those are practices of reciprocation: I will give to you only if and what you give to me. Reciprocation concerns justice, i.e., “I will give you what is fair, what is equal, what you are deserving based on your treatment of me or status in life, and no more.” Any “tax collector” and any “Gentile” – both for whom the first century Jewish people had great disdain – could reciprocate, and did so. So any Jewish listener in the crowd was not being righteous by reciprocating, but was acting no better than any thieving tax-collector or any other non-Jew.
However, Jesus intends for citizens of the kingdom of God to be like our heavenly Father—to imitate his works and not the practices of sinners. Unlike the listeners, tax collectors, and Gentiles, the Father does something vastly different than reciprocating. He gives the sun (and all of its benefits) to people who are evil before him. If he gave the sun as reciprocation, no one would get sunlight, heat, or all of the other benefits of the sun! In the same way, the Lord gives rain to people unrighteous in his sight in the same measure that he gives it to people who stand righteous before him. When it comes to sun and rain, the Lord does not give better treatment to his followers than he does to his haters.
What do such actions by the Father show? They show love toward the sinful; his love toward the good and just is assumed.
So then what is “perfect?” To be perfect is to show love – the Father’s love – to those underserving of your love rather than responding to people on the basis of what a just treatment of their behavior or status toward you would deserve. To do so is to be a son of the Heavenly Father (and to do otherwise is to be like a first century Jewish tax collector and Gentile). To be perfect, is to prioritize love over justice in your personal treatment of people.
So this is a passage that calls us to act with mercy and grace toward all. Go pour out sun and rain on those you deem undeserving of such love, even as the Father is doing for each of us this very moment. The cross of Christ and his resurrection from the dead provide the Son and the reign of God for us, in mercy, at the cost of justice poured out on Christ instead of us.
I talk more on the above theory and method of interpretation employed above in Say It! Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition (Moody 2020).