Are you preaching the right Jesus on Sunday?

From my recent article at Lifeway Pastors:  A few years ago I began a preaching series through the book of James. To be honest, I decided to preach through James because I felt it addressed some issues I wanted to address, from Scripture in our congregation. James is a book that doesn’t mess around. It addresses weak and shallow faith, joy in suffering, and pride and elitism in the body of Christ. What surprised me, however, was how much James spoke to me, as a pastor. I was especially convicted by the way James 3 challenges the way pastors approach the text when they stand in the pulpit on Sundays. Most of us are aware of James 3:1’s shot across the bow. “Not many of you,” James writes, “should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who are teachers will be judged with greater strictness.” I’d always read this verse as...

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Finding God in the Darkness

Praising God when everything is going well--that's one thing. But what about praising God, or even finding God, when life gets dark. Let's face it, if you've lived long enough you'll experience seasons of crushing, hopeless despair and wonder where God is in the midst of it. That's why I'm glad to see AJ. Swoboda's new book Glorious Dark, address this issue. I had the chance to interview him this week: So most people picking up this book would find the two words of the title: Glorious and Dark to be incongruent. And yet you seem to make that case that there can be glory in the darkness of life. How so? In the Bible “darkness” is an important image a serious reader can’t overlook. We find that the Hebrew term for darkness, arafel, is mentioned 15 times throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Oddly enough, over half of such references are directly connected to...

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Addressing Cultural Issues in the Pulpit

How do pastors preach on contemporary cultural issues? Or should they? This is a question every pastor faces as he contemplates both the spiritual needs of his congregation, the questions swirling in society, and the weighty commission to preach the Word of God. When I pastored, I constantly wrestled with when to address certain topics, how to address them, and in what format. I've also observed and watched pastors of large and small churches organize their preaching. Here are a few ways I've seen pastors address contemporary cultural issues: 1) Textual: Personally I feel the most healthy way for pastors to structure their sermons is through the systematic preaching of Bible books. Expository preaching guides a pastor along, presenting to him every Sunday the text he is to preach, not the text he wants to preach. It helps avoid the kind of cut and paste approach we often take to favorite verses and help the...

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Preparing Our Hearts for Easter

How should Christians prepare their hearts this Easter? I asked this of Andreas Kostenberger, research professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest and author of the new book, The Final Days of Jesus coauthored with Justin Taylor. It's a terrific resource, harmonizing the gospel accounts of Jesus' arrest, trial, death, and resurrection. What advice would you give Christians in preparing their hearts this Holy Week? Take Easter week as an opportunity to reflect on the essence of your faith, on what the gospel is all about. Make sure you understand the key elements of the biblical story of Jesus' final days on earth so you can pass it on to others, especially to the next generation. That's why I'm particularly excited to use The Final Days of Jesus as a tool with my own children as we read through what happened each day of Easter week –...

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