Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition

One of my most vivid memories growing up in church was the annual summer Sunday our congregation would gather with a local African American church for a joint worship service, followed by a potluck lunch (“dinner on the grounds,” we called it). We handled it like a home-and-home football series—each church played host in alternating years. The visiting preacher delivered the sermon; the visiting choir handled the music. I certainly remember the incredible food and the robust singing. But what stands out in my mind was the preaching. When the black church’s pastor preached, I would sit with my family on the second row (Baptists typically eschew the front row), mesmerized by his handling of God’s Word and the passionate pathos that was part and parcel of his delivery. He and our pastor were close friends, and I remember our pastor saying many times, “I’m glad I don’t have to follow my dear brother into the pulpit.” Indeed, there was a unique power in his style. It was clear to me that this church’s pastor knew God, and he knew his people. Thus it’s with great interest that we should welcome the appearance of a new book, Say It! Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition (Moody), a multi-author work edited by Eric C. Redmond, associate professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. In this interview, we discuss the book as well as the unique style that marks expository preaching in the African American tradition. Tell us about the new book and what inspired it. Say It! intends to both explain and also exalt the relationship between the African American preaching tradition and biblical exposition. For some readers, the book’s significance will be that several African American preachers promote exposition as a powerful means of communicating the… Read More

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Kids Without Car Seats: How My Newborn Exposes Our Nation

Mariella Elizabeth Morse — her name will forever be engraved upon my heart. Waiting anxiously for her arrival welded my heart to hers. First holding her nine-pound frame was indescribable as it was unforgettable. Life as it was before is no more. Now I am a father. She has been born. Sleepless months (that feel like years) have passed. Lessons of my heavenly Father to his son are still being learned. The petals of a new mother’s love toward her daughter are still blooming before my eyes. God has given my wife and me a baby girl. Different Side of an Anniversary The new addition to my family makes this year’s anniversary of Roe v. Wade feel different. Now I am visited with even deeper sadness, even greater anger, even deeper desperation for the church to stand fast and for Christ to return soon. I used to contemplate abortion as a man holding his Bible. Now I do so as a man who’s also holding his daughter. The connection between the high court’s ruling and my newborn first crawled into my mind from the strangest of all places: the strict regulations for newborns in car seats. If we didn’t have a car seat, and that properly installed, the powers that be would not let us drive from the hospital with our baby girl. We had ours installed by certified personnel. “We know babies are going to the slaughter for our sexual freedom.” Tweet Share on Facebook We’ve come a long way, as the older generation reminds me, from dad driving off with mom holding the newborn in one hand and a cigarette in the other. A change for the better, to be sure. We have certainly progressed in securing our children’s safety in their earliest stages of life — at… Read More

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1 Corinthians 13 – The More Excellent Way

Reid A Ferguson 1 Corinthians / 1 Corinthians 13; Romans 8:28–30; Ephesians 4:10–16 It was a great joy for me while away, to be able to tune in to the continuing study in 1 Corinthians on the web. It was fun to hear the different speakers, each with their own gifts opening Chapter 12 with so much continuity. It’s not like we all get together and compare notes ahead. We really trust that as each studies the Word and works through the text, we’ll end up with a shared core of doctrinal truth. That has proved to be the case. In addition, each brings their own flavor or nuance, and that proves to be a practical demonstration of the very passages before us. This is the nature of how spiritual gifts work in the Body of Christ as a whole. It is not an issue of everyone being in lockstep. It is unity without uniformity. This is a precious thing. This is the way of God in all creation. I’m not a scientist nor do I play one on TV, but I’ve been told the entire universe is comprised of the very same atomic and sub-atomic particles each with their properties, but arranged in endless combinations. This was the model when I was in school, before the discovery of even smaller particles like photons, bosons, neutrinos, gluons, and up, down, top, bottom, strange and charm quarks. In studying God’s Word in a team effort like we’ve been doing here, we are all working with and keeping to the same essentials, but arranging them with varying emphases and shades as the truth is refracted through each one. So I want to thank Ed, Daniel and Jim especially for managing Chapter 12 as they did together. They set the stage for this… Read More

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Be Faithful to Christ at the Funeral of a Lost Person

As ambassadors of Christ, we need to be balanced; we must not dare compromise the message, but we must also be respectful and compassionate to those we are sent to. In this excerpt, Mark shares how he sought to be faithful to Christ while sharing at the funeral of a lost person. This excerpt was taken from the full sermon, “Transformation For Proclamation (Part 4)“.

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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of TGC’s New President

For someone who never really fit in, Julius Kim is remarkably confident. Born in Los Angeles to Korean parents, Julius was 2 when his father moved the family back to Korea to restart a defunct electronics manufacturing company. Julius spent elementary school balancing between Korean culture and his English-speaking, private school on a U.S. Army base. When he was 12, the Kims moved back to California, where he continued to tip between a Korean home and an American school. “The not-belonging feeling started then,” Julius said of middle school. “In Korea, switching between my English-speaking friends at school and Korean friends at home, I learned how to code-switch [behave differently in various settings to meet cultural expectations].” Julius Kim will become TGC’s new president February 1. He was code-switching, but his was the dominant culture. Once he moved back to the United States, however, he began to experience racial discrimination. Worse yet, when he went back to visit Korea, he no longer fit. Both his language and cultural skills were off. “I’m in this liminal experience of being in-between,” Julius said. “I’m in both cultures, but I don’t belong to either.” That’s never changed, though the feeling was worse when he was younger. “A lot of people in their teen years try to find their identity,” he said. “I struggled tremendously, wanting to have blond hair and blue eyes. I went through self-hatred, not seeing the wonderful gifts and strengths and opportunities I had.” It felt like being an exile—infuriating and depressing and scary. But Julius had two enormous advantages. The first was a passel of Korean American friends living the same strange homeless experience. When they encountered one another, at church, summer retreats, or schools, they connected quickly and deeply. The second was his father, who had wrestled with… Read More

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What Is the State of Race Relations in the Church?

Audio Transcript It’s the third Monday of January, and that means in the States we are celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day — a fitting day to step back and assess the current state of race relations in our country. The timely question comes to us from a listener named Mark. “Hello, Pastor John, and thank you for taking my question. What is your sense for where race relations stand, especially in the church, right now? Are we making progress? Are we at a standstill? Since 2016 things have been tumultuous, to say the least, and I find myself bracing for another hit to these relations in this presidential election year. Where are you at, as you look around today?” Standing with Every Tribe Well, let’s start with the easy question, the glorious one: Where am I as I look around today? Where am I standing? I’m standing joyfully and expectantly, with King David, as he says, All the ends of the earth shall remember    and turn to the Lord,and all the families of the nations    shall worship before you.For kingship belongs to the Lord,    and he rules over the nations. (Psalm 22:27–28) Kingship belongs to the Lord Jesus, and he is gathering his people from all the families of the nations. I’m standing with King David. Where am I? I’m standing in heaven, exulting with the 24 elders as they sing and praise Christ: Worthy are you to take the scroll    and to open its seals,for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God    from every tribe and language and people and nation,and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,    and they shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9–10) Every tribe, every language, every people, every nation into one kingdom — one priesthood. I’m standing with the… Read More

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Serious Joy, Cultural Conflict, and Christian Humility: Thoughts on Christian Education

Given my title and subtitle, let’s begin with a definition of education, and then turn to what makes education Christian, and then to the question of why that leads to the prominence of serious joy, which in turn leads to conflict with the culture, which calls for a peculiarly Christian humility. What Is Education? First, what is education? And here I don’t mean, “What is schooling?” Most education does not happen in school, as I am defining it. I’m asking about education in general, much of which does happen in schools, but not all of it. So, here’s my definition — and it is the one we build on at Bethlehem College & Seminary. Education is the instilling of habits of mind and habits of heart that incline and enable students for the rest of their lives to: Observe the world (in books or in life, with all your senses) carefully. Understand what they observe clearly. (You might observe words and have not understanding.) Evaluate what you have thus understood fairly. (Understanding should precede affirmation and criticism, but learning to take your stand is important.) Feel that evaluated reality proportionately. (Don’t have explosive feelings about insignificant things, or insignificant feelings about massively important things. Experience proportion.) Apply these discoveries to all of life wisely. (Draw out the implications of what you have seen for the people and the circumstances around you.) Express what you’ve seen clearly and accurately and creatively and winsomely in words and deeds for the good of the world. “Serious joy sets the soul free from dependence on cultural kudos and cultural conformity.” Tweet Share on Facebook Education is the instilling of habits of mind and habits of heart that incline and enable students for the rest of their lives to thus observe and understand and evaluate… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 19

Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 8:1-13; Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 18:25-50, Genesis 41. This, from Matthew 8:1-3 When Jesus says “I will” No pow’r can intervene Even hopeless lepers Are instantly made clean The blind, the deaf, the lame In body, soul and mind In Christ the Son of God The fullest cure do find No remnants of The Fall Abide outside His pow’r Though poisoned by our sin He’ll cure us in His hour When Jesus says “I will” The heart may hope and rest That when we’ve sought Him out He’ll grant us Heaven’s best So seek in Him dear soul The cure for sin’s disease He loves to say “I will” To humble sinner’s pleas When Jesus says “I will” Because His blood was shed The Father joys to raise Foul sinners from the dead Don’t wait a moment more With all your guilty stain Cry out to Christ the Lord He’ll say “I will”, again. — Reid Ferguson / Kuyperian Abnormalist. Dulcius ex Asperis Share this: Like this: Like Loading… Visit ResponsiveReiding

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How Can I Know If I’m Working Too Much?

My husband works a demanding sales job in which he is compensated only with commission, and I stay at home with three small children. He misses dinner most weeknights, and if he isn’t gone on appointments on Saturday, he’s sometimes working from home “finishing up” for the week. Once or twice a week, he stays up until 3 a.m. to get everything done. While we practice a Sunday sabbath, it involves my husband collapsing on the couch after church. We’d both love to hit the brakes and have him be home and more present, but it has proven challenging. We also want to glorify God and thrive in the circumstances he’s given us. How do we know, then, how much work is too much? Work is a gift, but the toil of the stressful demands and long hours of post-fall work is a curse. When God placed Adam in the garden so that he might work and keep it (Gen. 2:15), there were no thorns or thistles. Work was a joy and a blessing. Yet the ground Adam was called to cultivate revolted against him as a result of the curse given in Genesis 3:17–19. He would work by the sweat of his brow; it would be difficult and exhausting. Though agriculture may not be our trade, frustrated sweat is the norm this side of eternity. So how can we find our way forward? Placing Fences Where God Has Placed Freedom Although Scripture doesn’t set a hard-and-fast rule of mandated work hours, or specify which particular vocations Christians should have, it is sufficient to guide us. The Holy Spirit works to illumine his Word and moves us to walk in a manner worthy of Christ’s calling. What we do—and how much we do of it—must account for the attitudes, motives,… Read More

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An Annotated Guide to Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail

On April 12, 1963—Good Friday—a 428-word open letter appeared in the Birmingham, Alabama, newspaper calling for unity and protesting the recent Civil Rights demonstrations in Birmingham. We the undersigned clergymen are among those who, in January, issued “an appeal for law and order and common sense,” in dealing with racial problems in Alabama. We expressed understanding that honest convictions in racial matters could properly be pursued in the courts, but urged that decisions of those courts should in the meantime be peacefully obeyed. Since that time there had been some evidence of increased forbearance and a willingness to face facts. Responsible citizens have undertaken to work on various problems which cause racial friction and unrest. In Birmingham, recent public events have given indication that we all have opportunity for a new constructive and realistic approach to racial problems. However, we are now confronted by a series of demonstrations by some of our Negro citizens, directed and led in part by outsiders. We recognize the natural impatience of people who feel that their hopes are slow in being realized. But we are convinced that these demonstrations are unwise and untimely. We agree rather with certain local Negro leadership which has called for honest and open negotiation of racial issues in our area. And we believe this kind of facing of issues can best be accomplished by citizens of our own metropolitan area, white and Negro, meeting with their knowledge and experience of the local situation. All of us need to face that responsibility and find proper channels for its accomplishment. Just as we formerly pointed out that “hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions,” we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 18

Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 7:15-29; Acts 10:24-48; Psalm 18:1-24, Genesis 39-40. Choosing which passage to dwell on today is a challenge. Every portion is so very rich. But we must choose, and I would call your attention to some familiar observations out of Acts 10. I find Peter’s discourse at Cornelius’ house so wonderfully organized, complete, clear and accessible, I pray it might be a great reminder to us of both the simplicity of the Gospel, and how wonderfully great swaths of Biblical truth can be condensed into such a brief space. Not my git for sure. Be assuredly Peter’s.  Note then these 10 things out of our text: 1. vss. 34 & 35 / The Gospel is of equal applicability to all. There are no special groups from whom the Gospel is to be withheld. ​Peter ​assures them they have an interest in ​it​.​ Some may think themselves too good to need the Gospel, too wicked to be beneficiaries of it, too religious to be drawn to the simplicity of trust Christ alone etc. But no matter who you are, where you are from or what your circumstances, if you are seeking God (and even if you are not!) the Gospel is for you. ​ 2. vs. 35 / God receives all who set themselves to seek Him. In this, we are brought to be reminded that the Spirit of God is at work in the world. It is true that no one seeks God AS God on their​​ own. Yet all sorts are aware that something is terribly wrong and are seeking for an answer on the level they understand it, and, the Spirit of God is creating in some a true hunger for God and salvation. It is not a product of their own making, but… Read More

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The Countries Where It’s Most Dangerous to Be a Christian in 2020

Around the world, more than 260 million Christians—one of every eight believers—experience high levels of persecution, just for following Jesus. For the past 28 years, the Open Doors World Watch List has offered a global indicator of countries where human and religious rights are being violated, and those countries most vulnerable to societal unrest and destabilization. During the 2020 World Watch List reporting period, in the top 50 countries, a total of 9,488 churches or Christian buildings were attacked; 3,711 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned; and 2,983 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons. On average, that’s eight Christians killed every day for their faith. 1. North Korea Persecution type: Communist and post-communist oppression Estimated number of Christians: 300,000 How Christians are suffering: “If North Korean Christians are discovered, they are deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot. Driven by the state, Christian persecution in North Korea is extreme and meeting other Christians to worship is nearly impossible unless it’s done in complete secrecy.” Prayer point: “Pray for endurance and courage for Christians who are suffering right now in labor camps across North Korea.” 2. Afghanistan Persecution type: Clan and ethnic antagonism Estimated number of Christians: Thousands How Christians are suffering: “Afghanistan is a tribal society, and loyalty to one’s family, clan and tribe are extremely important. In an Islamic society, it is illegal for an Afghan person to leave Islam. The country is increasingly challenged by Islamic militants, the Taliban controls or contests more and more areas, and an ISIS-affiliated group also targets minorities. Those who decide to follow Jesus do so in secret.” Prayer Point: “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan does not allow conversion from Islam. Please pray for a softening of the country’s leadership and local rulers.” 3. Somalia Persecution type: Islamic… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Jan. 17

We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/ Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 7:1-14; Acts 10:1-23; Psalm 17, Genesis 37-38. There is a very timely lesson about Bible reading that emerges out of the reading in Acts today. It pops up in Acts 10:17 (ESV) — 17 Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate. Note first that even the great Apostle Peter, when confronted with this staggering vision – was perplexed about what it might mean. When we are handling the Word of God, we are being met by revelation that God has given to us, and sometimes, we don’t get what it means right off the bat. Don’t feel bad. Don’t be intimidated. It may take some thought, meditation, further study, prayer and consultation with other sources to get to the heart of a passage. You’re in good company. While the main message of the Bible is clear, and the chief facts accessible to most, there are parts and themes and connections that do not lie right on the surface and will require some significant digging to get to. Patient labor will yield rich rewards – but don’t think something is wrong if you have to work for it – we’re dealing with eternal and cosmic truths. In any other field of study, say engineering, mechanics, electronics, sales & marketing, history, mathematics, etc., each has its own unique vocabulary and structure. So does Bible study. Hand in there. You’ll get it. Note secondly how un-modern Peter is. And by his example exposes one… Read More

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