Monthly Archives: July 2014

“The Bible Says…” Are You Sure? (part 4)

In part 3 of this 5-part series, we succinctly tackled a common misquotation of Scripture.  Today, we will examine another saying that is fairly popular in preludes, interludes, and songs on contemporary Christian albums, with choirs and praise & worship leaders and teams, and has even made its way into some sermons.

It is often said,

“If you want to see God give you victory in your [fill in the blank],”

“If you want to put Satan and demons to flight,”

“If you want to see your enemies stumble and fall,”

“If you want God to deliver you from XYZ,”

then you need to understand that:

“Praise is Your Weapon”

I am sure many of you have heard this statement used in connection with any or all of the above mentioned exhortations. But – by now, if you have been keeping up with this blog series, you know the question that follows – does the Bible say or teach that praise is our weapon? Obviously, some would say yes. Those who answer in the affirmative normally land on one or more of the following passages of Scripture to make their case: Joshua 6:1-20; 2 Chronicles 20:1-23; and Acts 16:25-26. Let’s briefly examine each text and see if indeed these passages substantiate this view.

 1. Jericho’s Wall (Joshua 6:1-20)

Moses is dead. Joshua has been commissioned by God to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. The Jordan has been crossed, those born during the wilderness wandering were circumcised, and the Passover has been observed for the first time in the land of Canaan. The people of Israel are now encamped at Gilgal. And the city of Jericho stands before them.

The Lord speaks to Joshua, ensuring him of their victory against the king and mighty men of valor of Jericho. He then instructs him, the men of war, and priests bearing (and blowing) trumpets and the ark to march around the city once for six days with the silenced people of Israel in tow. Then on the seventh day, “you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat…” (Joshua 6:4-5). The biblical record reveals that on the seventh day at the seventh time around the city when the trumpets were blown, “as soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.” (Joshua 6:20)

In an effort to apply this verse to contemporary times, some would say, “Just like the people of Israel experienced victory over Jericho through a shout, you and I can experience victory in our lives today by praising God as well.” They continue, “So if you want to see the wall of debt, disease, and destitution fall in your life, all you’ve got to do is shout and give God some praise.”

The problem with this type of understanding and application of the passage is simple and obvious: the “shout’ in Joshua 6 had nothing to do with praise, worship, or verbal acclamation of God; it was simply an unintelligible yell or scream – something like a war cry.

2. Jehoshaphat’s Victory (2 Chronicles 20:1-23)

With the ominous threat of invasion by a coalition of enemy forces, King Jehoshaphat proclaimed a nationwide fast and called upon the people of Judah to join him in prayerfully seeking God for help. God answered by speaking through a Levite of the sons of Asaph named, Jahaziel, saying, “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.” (vs. 15b, 17)

In light of this prophesy, the Bible reports that Jehoshaphat “appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.’ And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.” (vs. 21-22)

So then, preachers – many with sincere intentions – seek to deduce from this a point of application for their audiences and say things like, “The key to victory over your haters, the key to acquiring the wealth of the wicked is your praise! Your prosperity is in your praise. Your breakthrough is in your praise. Your healing, deliverance, etc. is in your praise.”

There is only one problem: God never commanded the people to praise him in order for their victory to be realized. King Jehoshaphat placing the singers in front of the army and the appointed singers praising God was a demonstration of their trust in God to fulfill his promise to them. Their praise was not the reason for their triumph over the enemy, but rather a response to the Lord God who guaranteed and achieved victory on their behalf.

3. Paul and Silas’ Imprisonment (Acts 16:25-26)

After receiving a vision of a man beckoning him to come to Macedonia to help them, Paul, along with Silas, step foot into Philippi, a Roman colony and leading city of Macedonia. During their time there, Paul and Silas encountered a slave girl “who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling.” (Acts 16:16) After some days of her being a nuisance, following Paul and Silas and crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation” (vs. 17), Paul finally gets fed up and commands the demonic spirit to come out of her. Her owners were not too pleased with this because Paul, in essence, just put them out of business (you know how we as humans can get when you start messing with our cash flow). So to make a long story short, they convinced the magistrates that Paul and Silas were rabble-rousers and consequently ordered them to be beaten and placed in prison. Let’s pick up the story from here, shall we?

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.” (vs. 25-26)

I don’t really have to tell you where we go with this as preachers, do I? Well, let’s indulge each other.

“Your earthquake [of deliverance] is awaiting your exultation.”

“Your breakout of prison is contingent upon you breaking forth in praise.”

And on and on it goes; and in some cases, ad nauseam.

Will you notice that Paul and Silas were not just singing, they were also praying. But more importantly and clearly more plausible is the fact that the cause and reasons for the earthquake was due solely to the sovereign grace and plan of God to free Paul and Silas so that they could continue on their missionary journey throughout the region, and also to create an opportunity and provide a hearing for the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus among the prisoners and the jailer and his entire household.

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My intent in this post was not to be nitpicky or contentious. I have a deep concern for the spiritual health of those who have been taught this supposedly biblical aphorism. Many people have been praising God for years related to problems they are experiencing in their lives, all with the hope that their praise is the key to unlock the door of their long-awaited deliverance. And for some it hasn’t happened yet and they have consequently and unfortunately become disillusioned with God, even to the point where their devotion and obedience to him has waned. On the other hand, you have those who have experienced victory, healing, deliverance, etc., but have and continue to erroneously attribute it to their praise of God rather than to God alone. This tends to turn Christianity into an impersonal religion of formulaic, fail-proof rituals and routines (to get the life you want), rather than being that which the Bible describes, namely, that Christianity is a religion based on a relationship with God in Christ Jesus.

So, in conclusion, when it comes to our enemies, how about we aspire to do what the Bible teaches and that is to pray for and love them (Matthew 5:43-48). And as far as Satan and his demonic forces are concerned, our weaponry to fight against them is not praise, but “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). So be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might, and wield the truth and promises of his gospel/word.

And let’s leave praise for what it is: a thankful and grateful response to our God for who he is and what he has done, is doing, and will do for us in Christ Jesus and according to his good and wise plans and purposes for our lives.

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2014 Conference Season at Antioch

Beginning in August, we commence our two-month celebration of the 28th church anniversary of Antioch Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church (Dallas, TX). We are grateful for what Jesus has done and continues to do in and through us as a local community of faith. Among the fun events we have scheduled (Greek Step Show and Church Carnival/Picnic), we have also planned for a concentrated time to dig deeper into God’s word through three conferences. Check each of them out below and feel free to register and join us.

CRAVE Student Conference – A FREE 3-day youth conference for teens, youth leaders, and youth pastors

MANHOOD Conference – A one-day conference to inspire and instruct Christian men to embrace and exemplify biblical manhood in every area of life

Sisters Summit – A one-day conference designed to encourage Christian woman to find “Strength for the Journey” in Jesus Christ.

For conference details and to register, log on to http://www.afmbc.org. Register today, and we will see you in August or September!

E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference – Day 2

19th Annual E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference – Day 2

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Downtown Dallas traffic…

Anyway, after finally reaching the parking lot directly behind the Fairmont Hotel, I quickly grabbed my things and headed to the Regency Ballroom where the day’s activities would commence. And boy were we in for a treat!

For starters, we were led in a time of praise and worship by the incomparable Gaye Arbuckle, who serves as the Minister of Music at the Concord Church of Dallas, TX.

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After that, my friend and brother in The Lord, Pastor Gaylon Clark (Lead Pastor of Greater Mt. Zion Baptist Church – http://www.gmzaustin.org – in Austin, TX) took to the microphone as conference emcee to welcome us and open our morning session in prayer. By the way, if you don’t know, Gaylon is a great person, preacher, and pastor. It would be worth your time to get to know him, or at the very least become acquainted with his ministry work there in the Greater Austin area.

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Afterwards, Dr. Chuck Fuller, whom I introduced you to in yesterday’s recap, gave a lecture on “Preaching the Prophets”. It was as if we were sitting in a classroom on the campus of Anderson University. Here is a summary of what he shared:

“Preaching the Prophets”
Dr. Chuck Fuller, Lecturer

Fuller began with defining the role of prophets. Prophets were not lone eccentrics. They were theologians. The prophets were preachers. Our task as preachers of the prophets is to re-preach the prophets’ sermons to a new audience.

Fuller’s approach to preaching the prophets:

Interrogative: You have to ask the right questions
Integrative: You have to have a full, broad picture of the prophets. Ask: how do they fit into the grand narrative of Scripture?

I. Who were the prophets?

They were much like us:

  • Mostly bi-vocational ministers with a message to preach
  • Real men with an urgent message to their friends – even their enemies
  • They were change-seekers
  • They took the covenant that God gave his people and applied it to current crises.

II. What did the prophets do?

Preached in the midst of cultural and religious diversity.

Approached culture head on, demonstrating the weaknesses of competing world views (1 Kings 18).

The prophets cut through cultural confusion, striking it with biblical truth. With clarity and stark contrast, the prophets ripped through cultural confusion to reveal ultimate truth.

III. How do we do what they did?

Homiletics means to “say the same.” Preaching is saying what the Scripture says.

Two common errors in handling the prophets:

1. Avoid inverting the hermeneutical process.

Before jumping to grammatical interpretation, survey the historical situation. Exegesis is incomplete without context.

From Gary Smith – Questions to ask of the prophetic material:

When did this prophet speak?
What was the issue or crisis at hand? What was the political, social, spiritual context?
Who was in the prophet’s audience?
Why did the audience need this message?

Knowing why a prophet spoke is the key to understanding what he said.

2. Avoid reversing the application

Reversal occurs when we begin with our current issues, press them into the text, and make the text support our agenda.

Three helpful principles for preaching the prophets:

1. Remember the structure of prophetic preaching (Indictment, Judgment, and Hope)
2. Connect the Redemptive Promise

“The hopeful groanings of the prophets find their fulfillment in Jesus.”

3. Return to the enduring theme of the prophets: repentance.

Never think that the redemptive work of Jesus represses repentance; it fuels it.

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Rich stuff!

Gaye Arbuckle led us again in worship with a soul-stirring rendition of “Healer,” and then Pastor Bryan Carter, Senior Pastor of the Concord Church – http://www.concorddallas.org – in Dallas, TX, preached the conference opening message. There is no way I could give you all of it. You just had to have been there. But here is the gist of it.

“Finish Well”

A Sermon from Jeremiah

by Pastor Bryan Carter

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Text: Jeremiah 38:1-13

If we are going to finish well:

1. We must embrace our assignment (vs. 2-3)

Speaking of Jeremiah, Pastor Carter pointed out two characteristics of Jeremiah and his ministry.

  • He has character that won’t quit.

Jeremiah didn’t abandon or withdraw from his God-given assignment. Jeremiah stood strong even in the face of opposition. Preaching is not just done in good times. Preaching is done in both good and bad times. True preaching is not dictated by people’s response. True preaching is dictated by a divine call.

  • He has content that won’t fail.

His message was not popular. Everybody may not be excited about what you are preaching. Don’t let society dictate what comes from your pulpit.

Don’t be concerned with having a big church, but be concerned with big preaching.

2. We must expect some low places (vs. 4-6)

When we preach God’s word, there will always be people who will be offended with our message. Every preacher has to become familiar with pit ministry. If you want to be a true preacher of God, you are going to have to deal with some pit moments.

A hard thing about pits is that you don’t always see them coming.

Have you ever been stuck in the mud? Ministry stuck in the mud. Preaching stuck in the mud. Family life stuck in the mud.

At this point, Pastor Carter did this run on being stuck in the mud. My recap won’t even do it justice. This just goes to show that preaching is an event. There is a unique dynamic in the preaching moment that the pen (or keyboard in this case) can in no way describe.

3. We must know that encouragement is on the way (vs. 7-13)

At some point, there is going to be “but” in your story. God can use a complete stranger to get you out of your pit. God will pull you out of your pit. While Jeremiah was in the pit, God was in the palace working on his behalf.

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We broke for lunch and came back in the afternoon to attend two of the four-part workshop sessions on some aspect of preaching the Old Testament. The workshop offerings are comprehensive with subjects ranging from preaching law to preaching Christ in the Old Testament. I chose to take preaching historical narratives with a focus on the book of Nehemiah, led by none other than H.B. Charles, Jr., Pastor-Teacher of the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church – http://www.smbcjax.com – in Jacksonville, Florida.

There is a lot I could say about H.B. (check out his blog at www.hbcharlesjr.com, and purchase his newest release: On Preaching: Personal and Pastoral Insights for the Preparation and Practice of Preaching) and the first two sessions he led us through. Suffice it to say, you will just have to order the CDs. Until then, here are a few of what I will just call HBC2 one-liners and “tweetable” statements. If I had to sum up and give a subtitle of what he spoke to us about today, it would be: “The Case for Consecutive Expository Preaching of a Book.”

  • If you are doing your job right, some weeks your members will leave celebrating, and some weeks they will leave convicted.
  • If we handle the text right, every week can’t end with a shout.
  • We ought not to offend people with our sermon presentation. But there is, as Paul says, an offense of the Gospel. Something is wrong with you if you preach about hell with a smile on your face. You should preach about heaven with a smile on your face and preach about hell with a tear in your eye.
  • You need to do more than preach the facts about the cross at the end of your sermon. You need to preach the implications of the cross throughout.
  • On writing and sermon planning – A bad page is better than a blank page.
  • Have a sermon plan, but don’t be a slave to it.
  • The key to exposition is authorial intent.
  • In our study we are trying to build a bridge from the world of the text to the world we live in. And the bridge needs to land on both sides. If it doesn’t, it’s not a bridge.
  • Exposition is not about style [of preaching], it is about how you handle the text.

Bonus: Pastor Charles will also be hosting the inaugural “Cutting It Straight” Expository Preaching Conference in Jacksonville, Florida in September of this year – September 24-26 to be exact. H.B. is a prolific Bible expositor himself. That alone should encourage you to attend. But the lineup of men he has invited to teach and preach alongside of him is outstanding! For more information and to register, log on to http://www.cutstraight.org.
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As I said, there was way more that he downloaded on us in class; it was a mixture of informative content and pastoral/preaching/preacher exhortations.

I pray you find these recaps helpful. Tomorrow, I attend another mini-conference; and if The Lord says the same, I hope to share with you a synopsis of what I learned. So, stay tuned.

E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference – Day 1

The first time I heard about the E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference was when I was matriculating at Dallas Baptist University for my bacherlor’s degree in Biblical Studies. I wasn’t much into conferences then, so I never attended. Not that I had anything against them. I just hadn’t been exposed to them at that time. If I recall correctly, it wasn’t until I was hired on in my current position as Associate Pastor of Christian Education in 2003 did I actually attend. And I was hooked!

“This is what I have been missing?! Why didn’t I come to this earlier on?!” is what I was thinking to myself as I walked the Fairmont Hotel halls and sat in the various classes for the first time. High caliber teaching on preaching by seasoned professors and pastors/preachers, stellar examples of biblical expository preaching by preachers from various backgrounds and across the nation, a treasure trove of quality Christian books and other resources on subjects ranging from Christian living to theology to, of course, preaching, and the camraderie of like-minded Christian brothers – a kind of preacher’s fraternity, if you will – are some of the defining characteristics of this internationally renown conference.

Having a B.A. in Biblical Studies, an M.Div. in Theology from George W. Truett Theological Seminary, a shelf full of books on preaching, and now pursuing a DMin at Dallas Theological Seminary, I still attend to this day because it is that exceptional and it inspires me to continue to grow as a preacher of God’s word. I would highly recommend it.

This year is the 19th annual meeting of the E.K. Bailey Preaching Conference. The focus is “Preaching 360: Old Testament Edition.” In addition to the plethora of workshops offered, attendees have the option of registering for mini-conferences – 4-hour seminars on topics regarding preaching or some aspect of pastoral leadership in the local church. Yesterday, I sat in on “Preparing Effective Expository Sermons,” taught by Dr. Chuck Fuller (PhD in preaching from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville), Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at Anderson University in Anderson, SC.

Below you will find some of the notes taken from his lecture and powerpoint presentation. It was a great refresher for me on the basics of homiletics. I know there are many who were not able to attend this year. So it is my desire to share with you some of what I learn and experience over the next few days (Note: The conference has a lecture and preaching segment every evening, but I will not be in attendance for those.). I will try to post a recap of each day in the evening. If not, then I will publish it the following morning.

Preparing Effective Expository Sermons
Dr. Chuck Fuller, Teacher
Monday, July 7, 2014

Primary Text: Psalm 90
Book Recommendation: The Heresy of Application by Haddon Robinson

I. What is Expository Preaching?

“The act of preaching brings forth a combination of exposition, testimony, exhortation, and teaching. Still, preaching cannot be reduced to any of these or even to the sum total of its individual parts combined.” (Albert Mohler)

“Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.” (D. Martin-Loyd Jones)

“Oral communication of biblical truth by the Holy Spirit through a human personality to a give audience with the intent of enabling a positive response.” (Jerry Vines)

“A message which focuses on a specific portion of Scripture to determine the precise meaning of the text, so that hearers will adopt the attitudes and actions of the text for transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Dr. E.K. Bailey)

A. Biblical Theology on Preaching

1. Colossians 1:28 – “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (ESV)

Content: “Him we proclaim”

To be a Christian sermon, the preacher must preach the text in view of the gospel…

Means: “warning everyone and teaching everyone”

Warning/admonishing: to correct the mind, to put right what is wrong, to improve the spiritual attitude

Teaching: forceful direction for Christian living

Goal: “present everyone mature in Christ”

Evangelistic and sanctificational

Preaching is God’s way of saving sinners and edifying saints, and a sermon can do both.

Observations:

Preaching is NOT merely presenting information about the text (2 Tim. 4:2)

“Preaching is a person-to-person encounter, through warning and intensive teaching, that God uses to perform his saving work.” (Dr. Chuck Fuller)

We want the Bible to use the preacher to preach the Bible’s message. This is expository preaching.

Expository: exposit – to expose

Expository preaching, fundamentally, means text-driven preaching. It is rooted in and driven by the biblical text.

Expository preaching is not the preacher using the text to say what he wants, but the text using the preacher to say what God wants.

II. Why Expository Preaching?

Protects God’s Word from human distortion

Promises to deliver truth to God’s people

Promotes the gospel of Jesus Christ

III. Preparing Expository Sermons

A. Basic Process

CHOOSE a passage of Scripture (a complete, coherent unit). Read it until your eyes fall out. Pray until it’s in your blood. Study it until you can summarize it in one sentence.

Choose a text that comprises a natural, literary unit (complete thought, story, or argument). The paragraph markings in English translations can be helpful.

A Note on Topical Preaching: If you begin with a topic, identify three or four key passages that address the particular topic, choose one as your primary text. Then, allow the text – and not merely your chosen topic – to drive the sermon. Cross reference to the other texts sparingly and only when necessary.

PONDER the purpose of the passage. Why did God inspire it? In what way does it exhort, rebuke, reprove, encourage, or comfort? What does God intend this passage to do to us? State it in one sentence. This is the thesis, the big idea, the main point of your sermon.

An effective sermon has one main, driving thrust derived from the main idea of the biblical text.

The big idea is not informational, but transformational. Nothing in Scripture is purely academic. The big idea must be directly applied to life.

STRUCTURE the sermon around the big idea.

Introduce it in a way that grabs attention and quickly points to the need.

Flesh it out (in points or moves) according to the way the passage unfolds.

Conclude in a way that recapitulates the whole of the sermon and makes a specific, focused call to respond.

B. Details

Start with the biblical text.

Develop the big idea: I. Main Point – explain, illustrate, apply; II. Main Point – explain, illustrate, and apply; repeat

Craft the Introduction – Usually best to wait to craft this at the end. Intro. should take roughly 3 minutes. That’s how long you have to capture their attention and gain credibility.

Draft the conclusion – summarize, illustrate, apply

“The sermon should be a window to the text, not a portrait.” Dr. Chuck Fuller