A Distinctively Christian Appreciation of the Arts

CW

My latest article at Tabletalk:

Andrew Wyeth, one of America’s most renowned realist painters of the twentieth century, had an uncanny ability to capture the solemn nature of the rural American life with painstakingly controlled brushstrokes and a muted color palette. One of Wyeth’s most intriguing and iconic paintings is titled Christina’s World (1948). The central focus of the work is a brunette female lying in a field with her left hand struggling toward her far-off farmhouse. The figure in the painting is modeled after Wyeth’s neighbor, Anna Olson. Olson suffered from a degenerative muscular disorder that limited her to crawling around her house and family land.

There is nothing loud or wildly fantastic about the subject matter of Christina’s World. The power of the painting is held in what might be called the familiar whisper of beauty, a sense of the deep struggle in longing for home. It is a whisper that we cannot ignore. Like Christina’s World, beautiful art is never viewed with indifference. As philosopher Roger Scruton has noted, “Beauty demands to be noticed; it speaks directly to us like the voice of an intimate friend.” There is a sense in which all good art gives a certain voice to beauty. As C.S. Lewis reminds us in The Weight of Glory, beauty and art point beyond themselves. Beauty comes through as “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

Read the rest of the article here.

October 18, 2018 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Beauty Demands To Be Noticed

beauty-in-nature.jpg

My latest post at The Gospel Coalition is titled “In Christian Theology, Beauty Demands to Be Noticed“.

In a world without beauty, Balthasar declares, “What remains is . . . a mere lump of existence.” God did not have to create so many things in our world to be beautiful, but he did.

If beauty demands to be noticed, let us take note. If there’s something intrinsic in humanity that’s drawn to beauty, let it draw us in. Both the world and the Word call us to behold the sovereign Creator God.

As we see in the Word, all the beauty of this world points beyond itself to the breathtaking beauty of God himself. Beauty is a powerful signpost that calls out to all: “Look and see. The one true God is good.”

To read the entire article, click here.

July 24, 2018 at 10:20 pm Leave a comment

My Sermon Preparation Process

Books

Preparing a sermon week after week is a lot of work. Preaching a sermon week after week is also a pure joy. This past week I posted pictures of my sermon preparation process on Twitter, and several pastors and church leaders commented that it was helpful for them. I figured I would publish this blog post with a little explanation for each step.

Step 1: Examine The Text Itself

Initial

I typically plan my sermon text weeks or months ahead of time. This not only helps me plan and prepare adequately, it also allows our pastor for worship plan the entire service in light of the text.

Very early in the week I will prayerfully and attentively read the text several times, and ask questions of the text. I look for repeated words. I look for phrases or statements that need clarification or seemed to be emphasized by the writer. During this step, I typically use resources in the original languages in a very specific way, namely, to dig deeper on certain words or illuminate my understanding of certain phrases in the passage. My main goal is to understand what the text says as best I can.

Step 2: Divide The Text Into Units And Dig Deeper 

Divide

Usually, the English translations of the Bible have helpful paragraph divisions that allow us to understand units of thoughts or movement in the narrative. Are there specific scenes or rational arguments that move the reader from point A to point B? If so, that is an indication of how one might break the sermon up into points? Commentaries are helpful at this step. The biblical scholars who write commentaries typically show how the text unit is divided in a literary sense.

At this step, I also read certain portions or commentaries in order to shape the language I use to explain the text. As for the use of commentaries, I try and read several scholarly hermeneutical commentaries, application-focused homiletical commentaries, and books related to the text or topic.

Step 3: Articulate The Main Point And The Subpoints Of The Sermon

Outline

I like to have the sermon outlined by Wednesday if possible. Not only does this lock me into a sermon structure, it also allows me to send the outline to the AV Team in order to produce the sermon points for Sunday as well as the Kids Director to produce the Kids Listening Guides.

The main point of the sermon is a sentence that I repeat several times throughout the sermon. In other words, when someone leaves after hearing the sermon – my goal is to have this point seared into their minds and hearts. The subpoints either serve as support of the main point or simply indicate movement in the narrative or argument of the text.

Step 4: Develop The Applications and Illustrations Of Each Subpoint

Application

This past week, I used the application grid that has been produced by Mark Dever of 9 Marks Ministries. What I like about this application grid is that it forces me, as the preacher, to apply the text to the different groups of people that may be in the room.

For many pastors, application and illustration are the most difficult parts of sermon preparation. This portion of sermon preparation requires that you try and anticipate, as best you can, the thoughts, questions, struggles, and needs of your listeners. At this point, my goal is to press in and pray that God would provide conviction, comfort, or confidence in the listener.

I have also found it helpful to read or listen to living trusted preachers throughout the week while walking, driving or working in the yard. Often times, God uses other brothers to help clarify the explanation of the text or shape my own applications or illustrations.

Step 5: Write The Sermon In Its Entirety

I preach from a manuscript. This allows me to remain extremely focused as I preach. Therefore, I begin with my outline, and then work to clarify my explanation of the text. After these sections of the sermon are filled in, I then go back in and add the applications and illustrations. I do all of this, making sure that I restate the main point of the sermon in each section.

The last stage of preparation before printing and delivering the sermon is adding the introduction and conclusion. It is only after the completion of the body of the sermon that I am prepared to frame the sermon with initial and concluding thoughts. As an expository and theological preacher, my goal is to walk people through the biblical text in order that God’s word can be clearly understood. Where the Word of God is properly taught; when the Spirit of God opens the heart; the voice of God is properly heard.

I always ask, how many times will people hear the good news of the gospel during the service in its entirety? How many times will I proclaim the gospel and call for a response during my sermon? Could my sermon be preached as is, if Jesus did not rise from the grave? If not, my sermon is not distinctively Christian.

Step 6: Print And Preach

Sermon

Once again, I write all of my sermons in manuscript/bullet point form. I typically shoot for 8-10 pages in size 12 font. When I print the sermon, I print it horizontally with two columns. This allows me to fold each page in half and punch holes for a 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 binder. I own one of these genuine leather sermon notebooks, and I love it.

Finally, before I preach, I humbly realize that all of my efforts are feeble unless God opens the hearts of the hearers under my voice. While I pray for clarity of thought and sensitivity to the Spirit throughout the preparation process, before the moment of preaching I pray that everyone within the sound of my voice will understand the text clearly, and be sensitive to the Spirit as He calls them to respond.

I am certainly no expert in preaching or sermon preparation. However, I have found this process helpful in the weekly ministry of preaching. Hopefully, you have found something here helpful. We all have our patterns and practices. If you are a pastor, how do you prepare? I would love to learn from you as well.

Here is the video of this particular sermon at Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, NC.

April 1, 2018 at 11:10 pm Leave a comment

Parable of the Two Lost Sons (Luke 15:11-32)

This is the latest sermon from a series I am preaching at Fairview Baptist Church.

February 22, 2018 at 8:25 pm Leave a comment

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)

This is the second sermon in a series on the Parables of Luke from Fairview Baptist Church, Apex

February 6, 2018 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

The Parable of the Soils (Luke 8:4-15)

On Sunday we began a new series on the Parables of Luke at Fairview Baptist Church.

January 29, 2018 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

Three Books on Ecclesiastes

Three

I just finished preaching through Ecclesiastes. It was difficult but rewarding. When venturing into a complex and debated book like Ecclesiastes, it is always helpful to be in dialogue with others who have gone before you. Here are three accessible companions I found helpful on my journey.

Living Life Backward by David Gibson

Gibson has provided us with a lively popular exposition on Ecclesiastes. Not only is his exegesis compelling, so is Gibson’s ability to apply the text to our context. This book is a gift to the church and a great resource for teachers and preacher who venture into the wild world of Ecclesiastes.

Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes by Sidney Greidanus

This book is a must-have for any preacher or teacher working through Ecclesiastes. Greidanus walks teachers and preachers step-by-step from “passage to proclamation” for every single passage in Ecclesiastes. Greidanus also explores various ways to move from this often difficult Old Testament book to Jesus Christ and its New Testament application.

Recovering Eden by Zach Eswine

Recovering Eden is a pastorally sensitive and poetic guide written on a popular level. Eswine explores the main themes of Ecclesiastes in a reflective and engaging way. One note, this book does not move through the text chapter by chapter, however, there is a helpful index in the back if you plan to use it as a reference for teaching or preaching.

There are several other helpful works as well, my next choices would Ryken and Akin. 

January 18, 2018 at 2:07 pm Leave a comment

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