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Category: The Church

Missing Church

I’ve missed church two weeks in a row. I missed our ninth birthday celebration due to what was likely COVID. I missed this past week due to a non-Grace Life work event in Atlanta. Needless to say, it’s strange to go a few weeks without being with my Grace Life family. 

As a young child, my parents instilled in me the importance of attending church. We went Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. My parents weren’t just attendees either. They served. So we would show up early and stay late. It wasn’t even a question when baseball practice landed on a church night where we were going to be. Church was a priority for our family. 

Now, my family has the same priority. We’re going to do everything we can to be with the people who belong to our local church. Yes, there are days when we are sick or out of town, but a late night on Saturday or a sporting event on Sunday won’t be the reason for us to miss. The church must be a priority because Jesus has made the church a priority.

 

Jesus Loves the Church.

In Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul is speaking to Christian husbands and how they are to love their wives with Christlike love. Here’s what he says.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25–27)

The husband’s love for his wife is to be equivalent to the love Jesus has for us. Jesus gave his life for the church. He purifies the church. He does everything He can for the church. Jesus has an unconditional, eternal love for His church! And we know his love was demonstrated through His death and resurrection for sinners. (Romans 5:8)

Years ago, I heard a statement that changed my perspective as a pastor. It went something like this: “Pastor, Jesus loves your church more than you do”.

I’ve poured a lot of energy and spent a lot of hours doing what is necessary and required to faithfully pastor/shepherd the wonderful people of Grace Life Church. I love what I get to do day in and day out. 

I get to wake up every day and point people to Jesus. Sometimes it’s in hospitals. Sometimes it’s over text messages and phone calls. Sometimes it’s through encouragement and sometimes it’s through correction. I get to study God’s Word and then preach it to God’s people. I get to be one of the celebrate with people when they find out they’re pregnant after years of infertility and I sit with people and mourn with them as they share devastating news with me. 

Yet, Jesus loves the people of Grace Life far more than I ever will! He gave his life so we can live! He died so our sins would be put to death. He conquered our sins so we can live with him for eternity. We were his enemies and through his death, He has made us His friends!

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”. (John 15:13)

 

We Should Love the Church Too.

I believe Jesus’ love for the church is a model for us. Right before he makes the statement about laying His life down for His friends, He says this:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”. (John 15:12)

The love shown to us by Jesus is to be shown to one another. This context speaks specifically to our faith community. Yes, we are to love our neighbor and love our enemies, but we should love the church too. We should love the people in our church whom we gather with weekly. We should love them, serve them, care for them, encourage them, and be present with them.

It’s quite difficult to love or to know how to love someone when you’re never present with them.  

Throughout the New Testament, we see the familial theme given to those who belong to the church. We are brothers and sisters together in Christ Jesus. There is an understanding that the Christian life is not intended to be lived alone (Acts 2:42-47). It’s through the mutual edification of one another that we are loved and encouraged and our burdens are carried as well (Galatians 6:1-5). 

In Hebrews 10:24-25, the author of Hebrews gives this encouragement to us on being with the church.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25)

I truly believe that if we say we love the church, we will be present when the church meets together. We will be with the saints singing songs of our Savior, reading Scripture together, encouraging each other, and praying with one another. Is the local church perfect? By no means. But it’s a beautiful place to belong. 

Grace Life, I’m looking forward to being with you on Sunday. I’m looking forward to the hugs, laughter, and encouragement. I’m looking forward to pointing you to Jesus and you doing the same for me. Two weeks is too long not to be with my brothers and sisters.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Five Intentional Ways to Promote Unity and Community at Grace Life Church

***This blog post is part two of our current focus on church health. Listen to the sermons here and read part one of the blog here.

 

As we continue looking at the Biblical description of a healthy church, there’s no better example to turn to than the early church. The premier passage to life in the early church is seen in Acts 2:42-47, the text of Scripture we looked at this last Sunday. 

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42–47)

How the early church lived in Christian unity within Christian community should be important to us. While the modern culture we live in is vastly different than the ancient culture they lived in, the importance of Christian unity within Christian community remains the same. 

I want to give you five intentional ways you can promote unity and Christian community within our church. (Note: there are obviously more than five ways, these five are more applicable to our context.)

 

Agree to disagree on matters of second and third-order theological differences.

The early church devoted themselves to the Apostles’ Teaching or the teaching of the character and work of a Triune God. 

We all have differing opinions and beliefs and those differing opinions and beliefs are often the source of conflict in our relationships. Within a church family, it is important to understand what is my opinion or personal belief and what is a matter of Theological importance. There are theological matters that we believe must be held for someone to be a Christian. As Dr. Al Mohler states,

“First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith. Included among these most crucial doctrines would be doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith alone, and the authority of Scripture. These first-order doctrines represent the most fundamental truths of the Christian faith, and a denial of these doctrines represents nothing less than an eventual denial of Christianity itself. First-order issues determine Christian identity and integrity. Second-order issues determine ecclesiology. Third-order issues are doctrines over which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations.”

We agree that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (first-order example) and we believe that baptism is the immersion of a new believer (second-order example), but the enemy will use the difference in those third-order matters (end times timeline, what day Jesus died, etc) to divide even the most doctrinally sound of churches. In those times of good nature discussion on third-order matters where a conclusion is not reached, agree to disagree with your brother or sister. 

It should also be stated that beliefs on matters outside of the teachings of the Bible should not be the cause of disunity within the church. 

 

Join a LifeGroup

We see the early church gathering together in homes to enjoy one another’s company and to grow in their faith. This is the goal of our LifeGroups. We want to gather throughout the week in homes (and the church building) for mutual encouragement and to study Scripture together. 

Our Sunday morning gatherings serve an important purpose in our lives, but there is not enough time to build meaningful relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ. LifeGroups provide this opportunity. 

This semester of LifeGroups begins the week of September 11th. To join a group, click here.

 

Invite someone to do something with you.

As you go about life throughout the week, ask yourself this question: “Is what I plan to do something I can do with someone in the church”?

Are you planning on going to the beach? Invite someone from church. Going to a movie? Invite someone from church. Taking your kids – or dog –  to the park? You got it. Invite someone from church to go with you.

 

Get together for a meal.

The early church appeared to enjoy food in the presence of good company. Despite the change in cultures, we still do the same. We have to eat, so be intentional about inviting someone over for dinner or going out for a meal. You don’t have to pay for their meal, though you could. Just a simple invite to go eat some Chick-fil-a or enjoy a cup of coffee fosters Christian community.

 

Watch out for brothers and sisters by themselves.

I want to encourage us as we approach our Sunday morning gatherings. I want us to look for other people. Look for someone you don’t know and sit with them. Look for someone by themselves and sit with them.

Let’s be more about the people of the church than the preferences we love. This is what fosters unity in the local church and by God’s grace, we will continue to gather and connect with one another, knowing it is Jesus alone who brings us together.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

The People of Jesus

***This post is a part of our current Sunday morning sermon series called “The People of Jesus”. Each week during the series, we’ll look at what it means to be a healthy church according to Scripture. You can listen to the sermon series here.

 

One of my favorite places to be is Truist Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves. I know this doesn’t surprise you. I wear my Braves fandom proudly. 

Most people have some sort of hobby or interest that is similar to my love for the Braves. You may enjoy going to Bike shows, proudly wearing your favorite Biker gear. Perhaps it’s going to see the latest superhero movie while dressed as said favorite superhero. Perhaps it’s the entirety of the Christmas season. Maybe it’s a favorite band or author or tv show. 

And what happens when we coincidentally meet someone who loves the same thing as much as we do? It brings joy! “This guy gets my love for fishing!” “She understands my passion for painting!” It brings at times an instant friendship over a common love.

And yet, we as Christians, and in this case the people of Grace Life Church, have been graciously given something far greater than any hobby or interest. We have been given the local church. 

The gathering of the local church is far greater than any sporting event, concert, book club, or any other interest group. We gather together around the One who bought us and brought us together: Jesus Christ. There is nothing more joyful than that!

We have more in common with our brother or sister in Christ than we do with anyone else who shares an interest with us. The fans in Truist Park are not my brothers and sisters. The people dressed like the Justice League are not my brothers and sisters. The people I work with are not my brothers and sisters. No, my brothers and sisters are the ones who belong to Jesus!

Jesus in fact said something similar in reference to his own family!

 

“While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46–50)

 

We have more in common with our brothers and sisters in Christ than we do with our own flesh and blood.

This is why unity within a local church is vital to church health. Gospel unity means we understand we are different by God’s design (Psalm 139). Gospel unity means we understand who we are in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10). Gospel unity means we understand who brings us together (Ephesians 4:14-16). Gospel unity means we understand that first and foremost, we are people of the cross. No other group of people has what we have. They do not have the unity we have, the joy we have, the family we have. Sports will die. Superheros will die. Hobbies will die. 

But because of Jesus, the Church will never die. While many local churches will close their doors for various reasons, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church as a whole (Matthew 16:17-18). The local church gives us just a small glimpse of heaven when all the people of God from all ages and places will gather around the throne of God to worship Him (Revelation 5). 

The difference between the worship gathering in heaven and the worship gatherings we have here on earth comes down to the sin that so often entangles us in our walk with the Lord. 

The story is told that The Times of London at one point early in the 1900s posed this question to several prominent authors: “What’s wrong with the world today?” The well-known author G.K. Chesterton is said to have responded with a one-sentence essay:

Dear Sir,

I am.

Yours, G.K. Chesterton

 

The problem within the local church is often us! We allow our preferences to become more important than people. We allow our beliefs on secondary and tertiary theological matters to anger us and become more important than the unity of believers. We allow our own sins of selfishness, jealousy, pride, bitterness, and laziness to disrupt the people of God. And because of this, we fight all the more for unity. 

Yet, despite this, there is nothing on earth like the local church. Charles Spurgeon notoriously stated,

If I had never joined a Church till I had found one that was perfect, I would never have joined one at all! And the moment I did join it if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect Church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, the church is the dearest place on earth to us.”

 

As we remind ourselves from Scripture of what it means to be a healthy church, let’s not forget that all of it begins with Jesus. We bear his cross. We bear his name. We are his redeemed people. Programs, personality, property, and preaching may only bring people together for a time, but it is Jesus who will hold us together.

We are people of Jesus and we are united together in Him.

 

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

What is Pentecost? (Part 2)

(This is a continuation of a study about Pentecost. You can find the first part here.)

Peter makes an argument that would be specifically aimed now at the Jewish population, which would likely be the majority of the listeners. He is pointing to the history of Israel’s kings and the promise God made to David that one of his descendants would be forever on the throne.

Acts 2:22-28-  “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,

 

“‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

 

Notice the confidence of his words. This was God’s definite plan and foreknown! This was not random, not the act of man against God outside of God’s will. This was a necessary thing so that God could offer salvation and righteousness to our broken world. 

Acts 2:29-36- “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and whose tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

 

“‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

Let us not forget that the 11 apostles had spent three years with Jesus and were direct witnesses not only to the miraculous resurrection but also to all the acts of Jesus done within the community, whether healings, teachings, or other miracles.  And so once again Peter says with complete confidence:

 

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

In the same way, we can have confidence of God’s saving work in our lives as we consider the things God has done for us. Although we have not seen Jesus directly as the apostles did, our personal testimony is a powerful tool given to us in order that the gospel message will continue to spread. Peter’s words are pointed, especially calling out the Jews desire to crucify Jesus. And we see a beautiful repentant response from the crowd.

Acts 2:37-41- Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.


All people will respond to the gospel message. This is why we share the gospel with others, because we know the power it holds and the need everyone has (the promise is for you, your children, all who are far off, EVERYONE!) But we are not responsible for how people respond. As we see in this moment, though, we know what is required for those who will accept the Spirit’s conviction, the same thing that Jesus told before He ascended- make disciples and baptize them in my name.

And we finally get to the description of the church and the wonderful plan and blessing it is for believers to gather-

Acts 2:42-37- And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number m day by day those who were being saved.


We do our best to follow this model of gathering at Grace Life, recognizing that our modern context means some logistical aspects of this list look different today than in Jesus’ time. But we see important threads for the church here.

We devote ourselves to teaching. God’s word is at the center of all we do, as we know it is our authority on life. We also know that it’s not just a sterile pursuit of knowledge that we are called to, but recognizing that God’s word applies to every situation we will face.

We devote ourselves to each other. The awesome part of the local church is that it is a unique and diverse gathering, all centered around the commonality that only the Gospel can provide. We look different, we have different likes and dislikes, but we put aside those differences in order to glorify God together and encourage one another.

We devote ourselves to frequent gathering. Although we may not all be able to gather daily as the early church, we set aside Sunday mornings and an evening each week for LifeGroups because we know that we need to be around other believers. Some of us work at the same place or live in the same neighborhood and can spend more time together. It’s because we know the value of staying connected to the family of God.

We devote ourselves to prayer. We pray together whenever we gather. We pray for each other as we get into the messy details of life, knowing that we all have struggles. In todays’ world, we have phones that we use to text and call one another in order that we can lift one another’s names before the Lord and know that others are doing the same for us.

So as we consider Pentecost, let it be a reminder of both how powerful the Holy Spirit is and what our calling is as a church.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Ben

What is Pentecost? (Part 1)

This Sunday, May 28th, is when we recognize a special day known as Pentecost. This celebration lands seven Sundays after Easter, and Acts 2 provides the story of how this Jewish festival moved into the Christian tradition. Over the next couple weeks, we will walk through the account of Acts 2 and see what happened and what it means for us today. But before we get there, what is Pentecost?

The word “Pentecost” comes from a Greek word meaning “fifty days.” This was counted out from Passover as a set of seven weeks containing seven days, with the 50th day being the day of the celebration. We see the Old Testament tradition of the Feast of Harvest (or sometimes the Feast of Weeks) explained in detail in Leviticus 23, along with other celebratory days. 

Leviticus 23:15-21- You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.

In the New Testament, we know that Jesus and His disciples celebrated Passover the evening before Jesus was crucified. And in Acts 2 we read what happened that first Pentecost after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection:

Acts 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

We see in verse one that the believers are gathering. This tracks with the observance of the Feast of Weeks. But this celebration would be quite different than anything these Jewish believers had experienced before. Imagine the scene as described!  Growing up in the Midwest, the sound of a mighty rushing wind means there’s a tornado and it’s time to hunker down. I doubt this would be the thought of the early church, though, as the most recent tornado in Israel was in 2006. But if that’s not surprising enough, there was also a light show! The entrance of the Holy Spirit is a wild and powerful display of God’s power. Did they know this was the Holy Spirit in the moment? Possibly. We know that Luke is writing this letter with the intent of seeing the Spirit entering the scene:

Acts 1:1-8- In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,  until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Following the timeline, Pentecost comes within a few days after Jesus ascends. So likely the anticipation of the coming Spirit would be on their hearts and minds. And we also know Jesus had mentioned the Spirit to come before his crucifixion:

John 16:7-15- Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.


We see a clear description of the Spirit’s effective work in the life of the believer in this description. The Spirit convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. This is why we share the gospel, because the calling out of sin shows our desperate need for salvation. Accepting Christ as Savior brings us to righteousness, because no one will avoid the judgment of the Father.

We also see the Spirit guides us into truth. He is the direct line of communication from the authority of Jesus and the Father. We don’t have to guess or figure out on our own what it is God wants for us, because His Spirit dwells in us and helps us to interpret His Word and produce fruit that glorifies Him. Continuing on, we see the inception of an incredible work of the Spirit:

 

Acts 2:5-13 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all those who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

 

Two important things to note here: First, the speaking of tongues here is used for the telling of the mighty works of God. This miracle is outward minded and tied directly to Jesus’ call to action of sharing the gospel to all nations. Second, some of the hearers rejected the message.  Although we will see Peter address this in the next verses, it should not surprise us that the Gospel message has a negative reaction from the world. It is easy to look at the natural world and try to find a simple explanation. But the work of the Spirit is a spiritual work, not a natural work.  And so Peter delivers a message in order to clarify exactly what is going on.

Acts 2:14-21- But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.

Notice that he is addressing everyone, not just Jewish people. He continues:

For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Peter is using Old Testament prophecy to point out what is happening is not a random act but instead is exactly what God had planned! And if this is true, then the events that had happened in the past couple of months are also vitally important to understand. So, only 50 days since Jesus died, Peter explains clearly the action of the Gospel story.

In the next installment, we will look at the rest of his sermon and see what response came out of this allocation of the Spirit into the lives of believers.

Pastor Ben

Joyous Persecution

This past Sunday, we looked at the last Beatitude from Matthew 5:10-12. Jesus states,

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (ESV)

Blessed are the persecuted is quite literally the opposite of what persecution is. No one considers persecution as something to look forward to. Most people think of being blessed as some sort of monetary gain or materialistic prosperity, but not Jesus. Jesus considers persecution as a pathway to the blessed life.

That’s because Jesus understands that the life that awaits us in heaven is greater than the life we have here now. Because of Jesus, our lives are truly blessed. Nothing will compare to Him and living for Him is in contrast to what the world around us promotes.

When we live for the glory of God alone, how can we expect to be treated? Well, we can expect persecution. If they did it to Jesus, then we surely can expect it to happen to us. Remember the words of Jesus in John 15:20, 

“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”

Jesus teaches us how to respond to the persecution: rejoice and be glad! Why is rejoicing the response? Because if we are standing for the righteousness of Jesus and it’s causing people to lash out towards us, then we can confidently know that what they see is Jesus. Rejoice, because the world views you like they do Jesus!

While we rejoice, we also know that facing persecution, mocking, and ridicule does bring heartache. It hurts to see friends walk away from you because of your faith in Jesus. It stings knowing you didn’t get hired because of your faith in Jesus. So how do we respond in those situations? We go to the Lord in prayer.

Let me leave you with a prayer from The Valley of Vision, a collection of prayers from the Puritans.

​​

​​Help my infirmities;​​Help my infirmities;
When I am pressed down with a load of sorrow,
perplexed and knowing not what to do,
slandered and persecuted,
made to feel the weight of the cross,
help me, I pray thee.

If thou seest in me any wrong thing encouraged,
any evil desire cherished,
any delight that is not thy delight,
any habit that grieves thee,
any nest of sin in my heart,
then grant me the kiss of thy forgiveness,
and teach my feet to walk the way of
thy commandments.

Deliver me from carking care,
and make me a happy, holy person;
Help me to walk the separated life with
firm and brave step,
and to wrestle successfully against weakness;

Teach me to laud, adore, and magnify thee,
with the music of heaven,
And make me a perfume of praiseful gratitude to thee.
I do not crouch at thy feet as a slave before a tyrant,
but exult before thee as a son with a father.

Give me power to live as thy child in all my actions,
and to exercise sonship by conquering self.
Preserve me from the intoxication that comes of prosperity;
Sober me when I am glad with a joy that comes not from thee.
Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom,
not asking whether the road be rough or smooth.

I request only to see the face of him I love,
to be content with bread to eat,
with raiment to put on, if I can be brought to thy house in peace.

 

Brothers and sisters, count it all joy when you fall into various trials and do not be afraid, for the cost of following Jesus is worth it.

 

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

Acts 5:41–42

Update Letter from the Lynn Family, Missionaries to Ethiopia

In the book of Acts, we see the church sending out missionaries to take the gospel to the world. This was to obey Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:9. Paul was one of those missionaries. In fact, he took three missionary journeys during the course of his ministry, planting churches along the way. As he wrote letters to the churches, some of which are recorded in the New Testament, he would often include updates on his journeys or send someone to give an update. Paul never left his supporting churches in the dark.

So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts. – Ephesians 6:21–22

Every so often, we receive an update from our ministry partners. We read them in our Sunday gatherings as a reminder to pray for those who have been called by God to gov over seas to share the gospel and as a reminder that we too are missionaries exactly where we are here in the United States.

To read the most recent update letter from the Lynn Family in Ethiopia, click here.

Commit to praying for them frequently and be intentional in sharing the gospel with someone today.

A Recap of the Book of Revelation

Studying prophecy is not the easiest task. There are strange images, flowery language, and sometimes difficult truths to decipher.  The book of Revelation gives us a picture of the end results of God’s ultimate redemption of all creation.  Specifically, it points us to the second coming of Christ and the events leading up to that point.  As we study through this letter, we see important truths echoed throughout the book, including God’s eternal nature, Jesus’ rule as King over the earth, the glory that will be given Him, and His glorious return to Earth.  We see in Revelation 1-3 that Jesus has a blessed plan to prepare His church for His return. Jesus provides the blessing of true security, freedom from sin and acceptance into God’s family, and the future hope of His return. In light of this, the church must set aside earthly distractions and look to Jesus alone for provision, carefully resist any message that gets in the way of preaching the Gospel, and point her gaze on the coming Kingdom.

Breaking down the main points that are echoed through the book will give us tentpoles to associate the reading of the text.

First, we see the idea of “He who is and who was and who is to come.” This is found in places such as 1:8, 1:17-18, 4:8, 10, 21:6, and 22:13. God is timeless! He has always been and will always be.  It is hard for us as temporal beings to try and understand God’s eternal nature, but it’s also a comfort to know that the God we worship is not a created being and has no beginning and no end.

Second, the establishment of God’s Kingdom wherein Jesus will reign as King of Kings on earth can be found  very specifically in chapter 13, but also in other places like 6:15.  The true Kingdom of God is coming, which helps us understand the conflict we currently experience and also the conflict to come is over who truly rules the world. Satan may have power now, but we know that Jesus will ultimately reign!

Third, we see the importance of Him who loves us and that He has freed us from our sins by his blood. This pointing of the blood of Jesus can be found in Revelation 5:9, 7:14, 12:11, and 22:14.  We must not forget that freedom from sin requires a blood sacrifice, and this awesome truth of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice orients the readers of Revelation back to the source of salvation.

Next, we see the giving of glory to God through worship of different groups of entities in Revelation 4:11, 5:12-13, 7:10, 12, 15:2-3, 19:1-7. So many of these doxologies will go on for eternity, with the true believers, angels, and even creation crying out the praise due to God for who He is and what He has done.

Finally, we see the assurance of Jesus’ second coming. This point bookends the letter- (1:3, 8  and 22:20) but is also mentioned in places like 2:25, 3:3, 3:11, 16:15, 22:7, 22:12. There is no doubt that Jesus is coming, and the events leading up to this and the immediate aftermath make up the majority of this letter. However, the letter opens with something special.

Revelation 1:4-7 sets up what’s to come in the messages to the seven churches found in the next couple chapters, which we will be studying intermittently throughout this year.  We can see the purpose of these messages as we break down this text.

Revelation 1:4-5a- John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne,  and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. 

This text teaches us that Jesus provides the blessing of true security. Therefore, we must set aside earthly distractions and look to Jesus alone for provision. After all, He is Creator of the universe, a faithful witness who can only be truthful, Lord over life and death; why do we seek out from anywhere else? Yet money, family, status, knowledge, all these things can get in the way. Even though they may be good things (it is good to work in order to have money to feed your family), we have to see that Jesus gave us the skills, orchestrated the opportunity, and created the very things we consume! And we know that Jesus wants to provide for us, as we see in the next portion of the text.

Revelation 1:5b-6- To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 

Here we see that Jesus provides the blessing of freedom from sin and acceptance into God’s family. If you’ve ever done a year-long read through the Bible, you have been through the genealogies contained in the Old Testament. While it’s easy to gloss over them, for the initial audience of Jews, these were of utmost importance. It was a way of saying, “Yes, I am a part of God’s chosen people. I’m a part of the lineage that gets God’s promised blessings.” For us, we get to say that too. Not because we are Jewish, as we have been studying out in Galatians, but because we are adopted into God’s family! And it’s important to recognize that the church, true believers, have that status. Because of this, we must set aside any message that gets in the way of preaching the Gospel. We are called to action because of the status gained through Jesus’ sacrifice. And we know that the Gospel is life-changing. So we must be careful not to preach a Gospel of change yourself/clean yourself up and then come to Jesus. We must not preach a Gospel of knowing a lot about God, knowing about the Bible, going to church, as though any of this will save us. We must preach the message of admitting sin guilt, believing Jesus died, was buried, and rose again in order to pay the debt for our sin, confessing our need for His salvation and repenting of that old life in pursuit of becoming more like our Savior.

And as Phil 1:6 says-

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Which this day of Christ is exactly what this text is pointing to!

Revelation 1:7- Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

Here we learn that Jesus provides the blessing of the future hope of His return. Because of this, the church must point her gaze on the coming Kingdom. If you feel like your life is meaningless- recognize the work that you are doing is not in vain as long as it is for the Lord. If you feel like you’re set and good to go- check that your priorities align with the coming King, and don’t be caught in the wrong. If you feel like you’re drowning and there’s no way to keep treading water- reach out to the hand Jesus offers. He’s already won. If you can’t seem to let go of worry- cast your cares upon the Creator, and take up his yoke. It’s work, but it’s much easier work than trying to plow through alone. And he’s going to restore us, this world, and the beauty of eternal life with God. (Rev 21-22)

As we look at these seven churches through this year, we will see points of praise and points of warning, all of it to show that Jesus has a blessed plan to prepare the church for His return.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Ben

The Process, Audience, and Goal of Preaching within the Local Church

* This post is part 4 of a series on Expository Preaching in the Local Church, where we are taking a look at the meaning of “Expository Preaching”, its Biblical precedence, and the importance of Expository Preaching in the life of our church.  Read part one here. Read part two here. Read part three here.

Scottish Pastor John Knox (1514-1572) once said, “I have never once feared the devil, but I tremble every time I enter the pulpit.”

There is no greater joy than to stand before the gathered church and proclaim God’s Word. I look forward to it every week, and the weeks I’m not preaching, I miss it. I love preaching God’s Word to God’s people! But every week I’m reminded of the weighty task of preaching. 

As we close out this four-part series on Expository Preaching in the Local Church, I want to end by taking a look at preaching at our local church, Grace Life Church. While the typical Sunday sermon at Grace Life is roughly 45 minutes, there is a lot that goes into the Preaching Ministry of our church. Below, we will look at 1) the sermon writing process, 2) the sermon audience, and 3) the sermon goal.

The Sermon Writing Process

It’s Sunday afternoon. The sermon has been delivered. I’ve eaten lunch and I’m likely on the couch preparing for a nap. The Sunday afternoon nap resets the week for me. Before I fall asleep, I walk through the sermon. I note the portions that appeared to be helpful, I think through the illustrations to see if they were clear, and I pray the Lord’s words read that morning will have a lasting impact on those who hear it. When I wake up from my nap. It will be time to prepare for the next sermon.

It’s Sunday Evening. I already know what I’m preaching in less than a week and the internal countdown timer is rapidly dwindling in the back of my mind. I’ve looked at my schedule for the week and I block out time to work on my sermon. At some point before I head to bed, I will read the next portion of Scripture that I will preach. 

It’s Monday. After I complete my typical Monday administrative responsibilities, I spend time praying and reading through the text several times. I underline key words, circle words that I need to know more about, draw lines to connect the text to what was said before and after; all of which is to determine the one true intended meaning of the text. By the end of the day on Monday, I know I can summarize the text.

It’s Tuesday. Today, I’ll spend time in commentaries and other research materials, seeking to know more about the text. I’ll dig deeper into phrases and words that aren’t necessarily easy to understand. I’ll cross reference other portions of Scripture. I’ll spend time reading on the main topic of the text. By the end of the day on Tuesday, I’ll have completed the bulk of the study and will prepare to write the outline of the sermon on Wednesday.

It’s Wednesday. Today, I’m taking everything I know about the text and will begin preparing to preach it on Sunday. I want to avoid sermons that are just running commentaries of the text. I want to bridge the text of Scripture to everyday life. Today, I prayerfully work through my introductions, illustrations, sermon points, and main applications. By the end of the day, I will be ready to write my sermon manuscript. 

It’s Thursday. Today I rest from working on the sermon.

It’s Friday. Today, I will take my sermon outline notes and begin turning them into my sermon manuscript. I prayerfully write my sermon manuscripts word for word as if I were preaching them in front of an audience. This helps me work on transitions, illustrations, and the flow of the entire sermon. My goal today is to make the sermon as clear as possible. I want new believers to understand the text. I want children to understand the text. I want mature believers to love the text more. Writing the sermon manuscript helps me bring clarity to the sermon. By the end of the day, I will have completed the writing of the sermon. I know I can stand and preach what is written.

It’s Saturday. Today will be spent with my family doing the things we love. We catch up on necessary responsibilities and we rest. But the sermon timer is still running in the back of my head. I’m thinking through illustrations that may be clunky or going over portions of the text that are difficult to grasp. 

It’s Saturday Evening. The kids are in bed and I’m on the couch. I get my laptop out and I take my sermon manuscript and I turn it into my sermon notes: a page of paper that will fit right inside my Bible. I trim out material that is unnecessary to the content of the sermon. This may mean removing illustrations or extra passages of Scripture. I check once again that everything appears to be clear. I pray as I lay my head down on my pillow, already feeling the weight of preaching.

It’s Sunday Morning. I wake up and begin preaching the sermon. I want to go through the entire sermon, aloud in the car or quietly in my head, before I actually preach it. I don’t want to be tied to my notes the whole time, but rather I want to know the text. I want to be able to preach the sermon even if my notes are lost. 

As the timer gets closer to 10:20 am, I remind myself that this is God’s Word and the people in front of me desperately need the Jesus of the Bible. I remind myself that the Holy Spirit is working in me and these words are to be honoring to the Lord. I remind myself that my identity is not in how great a preacher I am, but rather my identity is in Jesus Christ. I remind myself that the sermon is never finished, even after I close my Bible. I know God’s Word never returns void and that the Lord may use the sermon for years to come. 

And I hold to those reminders until my nap comes and it’s time to begin another week of sermon writing in the midst of other pastoral responsibilities.

The Sermon Audience

The main Sunday morning audience at Grace Life Church is made up of the people of Grace Life Church. These are the people I know I will be preaching to week in and week out. I’m not preaching to another church or an audience made up of a certain political party or an audience mainly of lost people. I’m preaching to the redeemed people of God who make up Grace Life Church. However, I know that not everyone in the chairs in front of me belongs to our church, and therefore, I know I must point sinners to the Savior.

The central theme of the Scripture is to bring sinful mankind to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Everything in the Old Testament pointed to the Messiah. The New Testament is written to point sinners, Gentiles and Jews, to this same Messiah. So if the purpose of the Bible is to bring sinners to repentance, should that not be the preacher’s main purpose as well? Paul discusses this very topic in Romans 10:13-15. Paul states that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved from their sins. This of course is the message that God wants all humans to hear. Romans 10:15:  “How are they to call on one they have not believed in? And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of? And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them?” 

In order for someone to hear the gospel of Christ, it must first be proclaimed to them. Unbelievers will never hear about the one who loves them and died for their sins until someone tells them about this Divine love. The central theme of the Bible is the redemptive story of Christ and His forgiveness of sins and in order for this theme to reach the hearts of the lost, it must be preached. Therefore, at some point in the sermon, I am going to call sinners to repentance, just as Jesus did (Matthew 4:17).

Once the message of forgiveness through Christ has found its way into the heart of the sinner, this transformed individual begins a long journey in an ever growing relationship with Jesus. This is sanctification. Along the way, there will be setbacks, victories, joy, and sadness. How can these new believers and every one of their brothers and sisters in Christ overcome the struggles they will face in their walk with God? It comes back to the preaching of God’s Word. 

In Paul’s second epistle to Timothy, he tells Timothy how to help these believers. Simply, give them the Word.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 states, “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.”  A few verses later, in chapter 4:2, Paul instructs Timothy to preach the Word. This preaching should consist of reproving, rebuking, and exhorting. These three things are what make the Bible useful according to Paul’s precious statement in 3:16-17. 

The preacher’s message should consist of reaching the lost for Christ as well as helping and encouraging believers. God’s word convicts (reproof), it corrects the sinner, and it instructs the reader on how to live a righteous life. This must be done through the preaching of the Word of God. 

The Sermon Goal

Every passage was written to bring glory to God by addressing some aspect(s) of our fallen condition. By correction, warning, diagnosis, and/or healing of this fallenness, a text reveals God’s means for enabling his people to glorify him and to know his grace both in the passage’s original context and in the present situation.

There is nothing more powerful than God’s Word and it is powerful and effective in the life of every soul because it is inspired by a Holy and Mighty God. A powerful, life changing Word must be preached because man’s fallen sinful nature must be addressed. The goal of every sermon is to draw the hearts of the people to God. 

One of the greatest responsibilities in the world is the one that the preacher holds. He is responsible for relaying what God has intended for believers to hear. Every message is unique in the way the preacher delivers it, but each message should draw the listener to God the Father. The Bible clearly states that preaching is extremely important for the lost to be found and for the sheep to be shepherd.  Jay Adam’s states in his book Preaching with Purpose

“The purpose of preaching , then, is to effect changes among the members of God’s church that build them up individually and that build up the body as a whole. Individually, good pastoral preaching helps each person in the congregation to grow in his faith, conforming his life more and more to Biblical standards. Corporately, such preaching builds up the church as a body in the relationship of the parts as a whole, and the whole to God and to the world.”

Because of the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word, I know that everytime the Word is rightly proclaimed, then I know that I have done my job. The Holy Spirit will do the rest of the work. He will be the one to take those words and pierce the heart of the listener. He will be the one to strengthen their faith. He will be the one to transform their hearts.

And that is my prayer behind every sermon I preach. I pray that the Holy Spirit will use the inspired Words of Scripture to change your heart and to make you more like Jesus.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Preaching in the New Testament

* This post is Part 3 of a series on Expository Preaching in the Local Church, where we are taking a look at the meaning of “Expository Preaching”, its Biblical precedence, and the importance of Expository Preaching in the life of our church. Read part one here. Read part two here.

This past Sunday, we began a new sermon series through the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. Let me be honest for a moment; it is quite intimidating to be preaching sermons on the greatest sermon ever preached. I read and listen to sermons frequently, but there has never been a sermon like the one Jesus preached from this mountain.

Jesus, according to the timeline in Matthew, has just begun his earthly ministry. He has called his disciples (Matthew 4:17-22) and He has traveled throughout the region healing people (Matthew 4:23-25). All along the way, he was preaching the same message: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). As the crowds begin to close in on him, Jesus finds a mountain with a great view of the Sea of Galilee. 

Scripture does not call this sermon “The Sermon on the Mount”. It was likely Augustine in the 4th century who first gave the term. This sermon is actually the first of five sermons in Matthew’s gospel record, all of which pertain to the same theme and the same message that Jesus preached: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).

Though we are unsure, these are likely summary points of Jesus’ sermon. If Matthew 5-7 is actually the entirety of the sermon, then it would have been a 10 minute sermon. Which makes some sense, since it’s going to take a mere man like me 45 minutes to just get through a few verses at a time. The sermon on the Mount is also recorded in Mark and Luke, though not nearly as extensive as Matthew’s record.

English Theologian John Stott said, 

The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly it is the least obeyed. It is the nearest thing to a manifesto that Jesus ever uttered, for it is His own description of what He wanted his followers to be and to do”. (1)

With every sermon, there are usually three main components: the preacher, the audience, and the message. Knowing who Jesus is, knowing who His intended audience is, and knowing the main point of His sermon will help us understand the content of the Sermon on the Mount. 

It also helps us understand the role of preaching in the New Testament.

When Jesus spoke, people listened. He spoke with authority, His message was clear, and it pricked the hearts of those who listened. Though He was the Son of God, Jesus used God’s Word to reach out to those who would listen. When Jesus spent time in the synagogue, He took the Word of God and read it to them (Lk 4:16-21). The content of the Sermon on the Mount is grounded in the words God had already given to the people of Israel in Exodus 20. 

Jesus understood that in order to bring people to His Father, He had to open His mouth. Pater Adam states,

“In public, formal teaching in synagogues or on the mountain, in private instruction to his disciples, in answer to questions raised by others, and in private conversations, he spoke the Word. By his preaching and teaching he both announced and extended the kingdom, called people to faith, refuted error, rebuked those who taught error, encouraged the weak, trained his disciples, explained the Scripture, rebuked sinners and summoned all to faith and obedience.” (2)

Jesus once told a parable in Matthew 13:3-23 of a sower who went about his daily business tossing seeds onto the ground. Some fell in rocky areas, others in thorny areas, and some landed in the perfect spot. The comparison Jesus uses is that the seed represents the Word of God. Just as the sower did with that seed, preachers must sow or toss the Word of God onto the hearts of people. How it affects the listener varies, but the sower of God’s Word never knows when it is going to fall into the perfect position. Through this parable, we see that Christ saw the Word of God as the gateway to reaching souls.

As the Sermon on the Mount unfolds, it is clear Jesus is after the hearts of the men and women who are listening to Him in awe. He spoke with authority the words of God and when men stand to preach to the church today, by God’s grace, they must speak from the authority of God’s written Word.

Another example of preaching in the New Testament comes from the man who wrote the majority of the New Testament. The Apostle Paul understood the importance of preaching. He spent his entire ministry training young men like Timothy, on how to be effective preachers. 

Acts 9:19-20 states, “For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘This man is the Son of God’.” Paul preached the Word.  He wasted no time either. Paul’s ministry was focused on proclaiming the same message as Jesus, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. Paul was committed to preaching the message of the Gospel. 

In his letter to the Romans, Paul tells them that those who preach the Gospel have beautiful feet (Rom 10:14-15). Preachers have “beautiful feet” not because they preach what is on their mind; they preach what God has commanded them to preach and they are carrying the daunting title of preacher!. This command is to preach the Gospel. 

Paul’s most popular student was Timothy. In his last letter to his beloved protégé, Paul urges Timothy to preach the Word. 2 Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the message (or word), be ready  whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort  with complete patience and instruction”. Paul urges Timothy to always be ready to preach from God’s Word. This demonstrates Paul’s drive to see the preaching of the Scriptures. 

The next verse summarizes Paul’s position on the importance of preaching. “For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things.” Paul knew that soon a time would come when people no longer wanted to hear the truth of God’s Holy Word. Unfortunately, that day may have already passed.

Whether it is from the Old Testament prophets or from the New Testament apostles, the Bible clearly represents the intention of preaching. After understanding what God’s Word says about preaching, it is vital to understand that there is no preaching without the Word of God. No matter how creative the message, how beautifully arranged the outline, or how much concern comes from the speaker, effective preaching is effectively using the Scriptures.

If one is to develop a Biblical theology of preaching based solely on what God’s Word says about the matter, they must preach the Word the way It was intended to be preached. 

And through the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of the Lord in me, I pray I will always stay true to the preaching of God’s Word.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

 

(1) Stott, John. 2020. The Message of the Sermon on the Mount the Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1

(2) Adam, Peter. 2004. Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching. Regent College Publishing, 45