Good vs. Bad Preaching: Meaning vs. Significance

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(Above: Pastor Terry D. Streeter, Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, Washington, DC, captured while proclaiming the meaning of the text with clarity, cultural sensitivity, redemptive-historical theology, and relevancy to the present and future Christian walk.)

 

A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance. The meaningof the text in view is most important in preaching. We will not be rewarded in glory for style apart from faithfulness to say what Godis saying in the passage (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-4).

When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am affirming that style is important, but it is not everything, and it is not the priority of preaching. What Godis saying in/from a passage throughus should not bore, yet neither should it be hidden behind our own “truths” or eloquence (cf. 1 Cor. 2:1-5).

When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am saying that we need to prioritize understanding of the text over keeping up with contemporary events and news stories. If we prioritize understanding the text, we will prepare our people to be ahead of the news and contemporary events, for they will be grounded in the voice of God—the decree of God (cf. Acts 20:32).

When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am saying that application is most “relevant” when it flows from the subject of the text—God’svoice in the text (aka “the central idea of the text;” see the examples of preaching application from the meaning of the word by John the Baptist [Luke 3:3-14], and Peter [Acts 1:15-26, 2:14-41]). When Jesus served in his earthly ministry, he preached the “good newsof the kingdom of God,” and afterward he comforted, rebuked, further instructed, received, or healed people who were listening to him. The acts of compassion and truth did not contradict the gospel; they displayed the power of the gospel of the kingdom.

When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am saying, too, that if, long ago, gospel preachers had provided sustained expositions of the meaning of the passages of the entirety of books within the Major and Minor Prophets, we would have given churches in America much of the knowledge of God needed to address American social injustices as part of the meaningof scripture – as the voice of God– without seeing any conflict with Redemptive History’s presentation of the gospel. But in trying to be both “relevant” and “Gospel-centered” apart from the meaning of the text, all parties – both anti-Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) and those described by the anti-SJWs as so-called “SJWs” – have lost much of the power of God’svoice to combat the unrighteousness that leaves racism, sexism, and bigotry in its wake.

I find the words of Phyllis Wheatley upon the death of George Whitefield to have significance towhat I am saying about, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” when she writes of him that he preached,

Ye preachers, take him for your joyful theme;

“Take him my dear Americans, he said,

“Be your complaints on his kind bosom laid:

“Take him, ye Africans, he longs for you,

“Impartial Saviour is his title due:

“Wash’d in the fountain of redeeming blood,

“You shall be sons, and kings, and priests to God”

– “On the Death of George Whitefield,” by Phillis Wheatley

On the distinction between “meaning” and “significance,” see E. D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967). When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am encouraging preachers to find that the meaningof Hirsch’s work still has significanceto faithful proclamation of the word of God, despite decades of movement of many away from Hirsch’s original thesis – that many including Hirsch himself.

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Steady On: Hebrews Preaching Series Sermons

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Sermon Photo 2019

I am grateful for the opportunities to preach various messages from Hebrews in our church’s current sermon series, “Steady On:”

A Great Priest for Weak People — Hebrews 4:14-16

The Superior Priesthood for Times of Distress — Hebrews 5:1-10

Maturing Past Apostasy to Assurance — Hebrews 5:11-6:12

Prepare Me A Body — Hebrews 10:1-18

Prepare Me a Body,” Bob Hurd

Getting to the Present of God Together — Hebrews 10:19-25

Steady On

 

Is God Ever Ashamed of My Depression?

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Is God ever ashamed of my depression?

To speak of the Lord Jesus being “ashamed” of you is to suggest that there might be something you are doing that is displeasing or embarrassing to God, or that you are not living up to God’s standard by intentional choice. Clinically speaking, depression comes about not so much by our choices, but by factors such as our genetics. Depression sometimes runs in families. Biochemistry, personality, and environmental factors also may contribute to depression. These are all things we do not choose.

The Bible gives us an example of a depressed individual. The writer of Psalm 88 begins the psalm confessing, “Day and night I cry out to you” (v. 1), and he ends the psalm saying, “Darkness is my closest friend” (v. 18). Throughout the psalm, he declares that he is “overwhelmed with troubles” (v. 3), “without strength” (v. 4), his “eyes are dim with grief” (v. 9), and he has “terrors” and “despair” (v. 15). Yet we can’t say that God disapproves of the state of the psalmist. Instead, the Lord had the words composed into a song and placed into the book of Psalms by the collaborative efforts of the Sons of Korah and Heman the Ezrahite, songwriters and leaders of music in ancient Israel (1 Chron. 25:1–6; Pss. 42, 44–49, 84–85).

When Israel sang this psalm in worship, they expressed the feelings of depression. The Lord brought these words for us as part of the inspired Word of God—as part of His speaking to us.

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Also: MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and MA in Counseling Psychology @ MTS-Chicago.

Anticipating Avengers: Endgame with an Analysis of Avengers: Infinity War

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0002b Endgame Poster

I am looking forward to Avengers: Endgame with excitement. I am eager to see how the decade-long Avengers’ series comes to a close, including how the Avengers will defeat Thanos, return those killed by him, and exalt the heroics of Captain Marvel. I want to see how the Hulk redeems himself, if James Rhodes (War Machine) will regain the use of his legs, and how Wakanda will factor into the victory of the Avengers.

However, I am not looking forward to what I anticipate to be another movie explicitly directed against Christian belief and practice. That is, if the previous movie scoffs at Thanos’ election doctrine and practice, and the defeat of Thanos is the key to avenging the earth and the entire universe, then the Avengers will have to dispose of Thanos and his form of “mercy.” In short, the Avengers will have to dispose of “god.” In fact, I anticipate they will have to kill him.

It is sad that the writers of the Avengers’ series misunderstand the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the love communicated by his salvation, and the richness of his mercy. God the Son partakes in human flesh because we lack innate righteousness and need his righteousness in order to enjoy God, not because we enjoy starving on an overpopulated planet.

I have attached my brief analysis of Avengers: Infinity War, offering my thoughts about the movie’s critique of the doctrine of election. The analysis helps explain why I anticipate further denigration of the Christian faith in this movie — a denigration far worse than the belittling of elect pilots and drivers being raptured out of cars and helicopters.

0002 Avengers Infinity War Analysis

#endgame

 

Election and Grace All Over Scripture

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After preaching through Heb. 2:10-18 this past Sunday, a friend from our congregation said encouragingly, “You manage to see election in every passage.” In the message, I mentioned that “the offspring of Abraham” did not refer to ethnic Jewish believers only, but to those who are Abraham’s offspring by faith. The blessings in this passage come to the offspring of Abraham uniquely.

I replied to my friend by saying, “That’s because election is everywhere in Scripture. It is important to see election because election is about the grace of God. If we do not embrace election, we embrace doing salvation by our own work.” My friend agreed enthusiastically. 

I am grateful to Pastor Gerald Hiestand for providing me opportunities to stand in his stead at Calvary Memorial Church. I am grateful for a people who respond to the word in meekness.

2 Chronicles in March Edition of Today in the Word

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3jMb0K3BQDuTfYT+2QMDMAExperiencing teaching and preaching through 2 Chronicles as a series is not common for many believers. I polled one of my classes of 240 students from all over the US and the world and not one of them had sat under a sermon series through 2 Chronicles. Yet some of the richest stories breathed out by God’s mouth are found therein–stories equally as important as the rest of Scripture for us to live out the whole counsel of God.

Kindly, Today in the Word invited me to contribute to their May 2019 devotional readings for 2 Chronicles. I tried to center the readings around the unifying subject for each passage. I am grateful for opportunities like this that come by being part of the team and family at Moody Bible Institute.

You can read a digital copy of the issue at the link above.

Standing Firm: The Doctrinal Commitment of the Moody Bible Institute

9780802419101I am excited to see my colleagues’ publication of, Standing Firm: The Doctrinal Commitment of the Moody Bible Institute (Moody Publishers, 2019). I hope that readers will find that at Moody we still align ourselves with orthodox truth. Contrary to rumors published this past spring, we have not made any sort of doctrinal slide. All of our professors fully embrace the inerrancy of the Scriptures of the OT and NT and live out the truth of the gospel contained therein.

Standing Firm also is a good text for personal or group study of the truths Christians believe from Scripture. It is a good, easy-to-read work for firming or reaffirming your understanding of Christian doctrine.

Pre-order your copy today from Moody Publishers or Amazon (Kindle).