“My Cry I Raise” – An Easter Poem

empty tomb image

For Easter 2019, I wrote the following poem reflecting on Christ’s resurrection.

“My Cry I Raise”
Written 4/19/19

Hear my voice as I recount
the things I felt and heard.
You need to know what I will share,
so capture every word.

Friday neared the Sabbath when
they laid him down inside,
the one they called the Nazarene,
the one they crucified.

Wrapped and still his body lay,
hour by hour that passed.
The tomb was carved for those like this,
who finally breathed their last.

Outside the Roman soldiers watched
and guarded all around.
The Sabbath came and went without
a robber to be found.

But before the sun rose on
the quiet place of death,
I felt the ground begin to quake
and heard him take a breath.

I felt the royal cords give way
and heard the soldiers cry,
as some fell faint and others fled
in fear that they would die.

Angel hands pushed me aside
and there I sat again,
beside the tomb so I could let
the women enter in.

The Nazarene said stones would cry
if people did not praise.
I am the stone that rolled away,
and this my cry I raise.

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20 Years of Preaching the Bible

Open Bible picToday is April 18, 2019, which is twenty years since my first sermon on April 18, 1999. I have a deep love for opening God’s Word with God’s people, and I hope this joy never fades. Throughout these twenty years, I have learned and heard many important truths about preaching Scripture, and it seems fitting to share twenty thoughts.

  1. The whole Bible is important for the whole Christian, so preach the Old and New Testaments.
  2. The Bible is not boring, so neither should the preacher be.
  3. You can’t preach everything you’ve studied about a text, so a vital part of sermon preparation is determining what to exclude.
  4. Your personal sorrows are part of your sermon preparation.
  5. Some days you may not feel like preaching, but you preach anyway because the power of God works through his Word.
  6. Preaching must not be a regurgitation of commentaries.
  7. Don’t clog up your sermon with lengthy illustrations; simple and concise illustrations are helpful and sufficient.
  8. Growing in the craft of preaching is important, so read resources and learn from listeners (especially from other preachers) about ways you can improve your own presentation and method.
  9. Write a lot, either in a journal or in a document or for your congregation, because writing will fine-tune your thinking and your use of words.
  10. Make appeals and applications at points during your sermon, not only at the end.
  11. Don’t assume a faithful sermon equals a long sermon; instead, seek to treat the text faithfully and helpfully for your people, and that goal probably means the length will vary.
  12. Experiment whether notes-free, some notes, bare outline, detailed outline, or a manuscript works for you, but don’t think you have to adopt the method that works for others.
  13. Engage the imagination of the listeners, for that will help them stay engaged with you.
  14. First and last words matter, so spend time thinking about your sermon’s introduction and conclusion.
  15. Preach your own sermons, not somebody’s sermon that you’ve found online or in a book somewhere.
  16. Preach through difficult passages and through difficult books of the Bible.
  17. Whenever you think, “That sermon didn’t go the way I’d hoped,” thank God for the power of his Word, acknowledge that he uses his Word in ways we’ll never know, and then take a nap.
  18. Pray that God will help you exult in his Word as you are preaching it.
  19. With the authoritative and inspired Word of God that is sharper than a two-edged sword, you don’t need gimmicks.
  20. Be doers of the Word and not just preachers of it only, for you need the sermon that you are preparing for others.

My 10 Favorite Reads in 2018

I love reading top-10 lists, and I write up my own near the end of each year. This list focuses on works of theology or discipleship that I highly commend to you. In no particular order, they are:

  1. Echoes of Exodus: Tracing a Biblical Motif, by Brian Estelle
  2. Can We Trust the Gospels? by Peter J. Williams
  3. All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism, by James E. Dolezal
  4. Loosing the Lion: Proclaiming the Gospel of Mark, by Leroy A. Huizenga
  5. The Heart of Christ, by Thomas Goodwin
  6. Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope, by Matthew McCullough
  7. Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering the Genius of Premodern Exegesis, by Craig A. Carter
  8. Lewis on the Christian Life: Becoming Truly Human in the Presence of God, by Joe Rigney
  9. The Ten Commandments, by Thomas Watson
  10. The Letter and Spirit of Biblical Interpretation: From the Early Church to Modern Practice, by Keith D. Stanglin

“There Is a Manger” – A Song for Advent

For Advent this year, I wrote these lyrics to “There Is a Manger,” which should be sung to the tune of “There Is a Fountain.” The five verses of “There Is a Manger” take you from the manger to the empty tomb, stopping at a hillside and a mother and a dragon along the way.

“There Is a Manger”
October 11, 2018

Verse 1
There is a manger
Filled with hope:
The promised Savior came,
The Holy One, God’s only Son,
And Jesus is His Name.
And Jesus is His Name,
And Jesus is His Name,
The Holy One, God’s only Son,
And Jesus is His Name!

Verse 2
There is a hillside
Filled with song,
As shepherds watched their sheep,
For angels sang, “Glory to God,
And on the earth be peace!”
“And on the earth be peace!”
“And on the earth be peace!
For angels sang, “Glory to God,
And on the earth be peace!”

Verse 3
There is a mother
Filled with love,
Her baby wrapped and warm.
His tiny feet would tread the waves,
His hands would still the storm.
His hands would still the storm,
His hands would still the storm,
His tiny feet would tread the waves,
His hands would still the storm!

Verse 4
There is a dragon
Filled with rage,
Who knew that God had said,
“One day a son of Eve would come
To crush the serpent’s head.”
“To crush the serpent’s head,”
“To crush the serpent’s head,”
“One day a son of Eve would come
To crush the serpent’s head!”

Verse 5
There is a promise
Filled with blood,
His life for us he gave.
He drank the cup and bore the curse,
Then rose up from the grave!
Then rose up from the grave,
Then rose up from the grave,
He drank the cup and bore the curse,
Then rose up from the grave!

I Wrote a Commentary on the Book of Daniel

During the fall of 2018, Crossway began the release of a new commentary series. The ESV Expository Commentary series will be a 12-volume set on the whole Bible, and I was honored to write the commentary on the Book of Daniel. This volume–number 7–contains Daniel and the Minor Prophets.

A Timeline of the Project

I was approached about this project in 2014. An email dated March 18, 2014 got the ball rolling, and on May 27, 2014 I signed a contract. But my personal relationship with the Book of Daniel began much earlier. From April 15, 2012 to August 26, 2012, I preached through Daniel at Kosmosdale Baptist Church, where I serve as the Preaching Pastor. I was also pursuing a PhD in Biblical Studies at Southern Seminary, zeroing in (slowly) on a topic. In 2013, I completed a dissertation entitled “Resurrection Hope in Daniel 12:2: An Exercise in Biblical Theology.” After graduating in December 2013, I hoped my work in the Book of Daniel could continue, somehow.

Then in March 2014, the opportunity arose to write a commentary on the book. The writing commenced! My friend Andrew Lindsey offered valuable feedback along the way as he carefully read through the manuscript. I completed the first draft in December 2014 and emailed it to the editors of the series. At 80,000 words, the commentary now needed the editing phase, revisions which happened at different junctures in 2015. In October 2015, I emailed my last revisions on the manuscript, which now stood at a trimmer 74,000 words. Hopefully all heresy and nonsense hit the cutting room floor.

My Hope for the Commentary

The pastoral aim and design of the ESV Expository Commentary series will be a great blessing to preachers, teachers, and students of Scripture. And I hope you will want to study and preach the Book of Daniel!

Writing on the Book of Daniel was both exciting and daunting. The book contains some beloved stories in the Old Testament, it is quoted or alluded to in the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation, and it contains complex visions and tremendous hopes which find fulfillment and significance in the Messiah Jesus. Exciting!

But there are visions and prophecies in the book which are disputed and debated among scholars–matters like possible christophanies, the identification of the four kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the descriptions about a fourth beast and a little horn in one of Daniel’s visions, the angelic announcement about seventy sevens, the anointed one who is cut off and makes a covenant, and the historical correspondences to the warring rulers in the book’s final vision. I waded into these waters anyway–and why not!

Maybe you–the Bible reader–find the Book of Daniel both exciting and daunting too. Would you join me on the journey as I explore twelve God-breathed chapters of God’s Word? The Book of Daniel has everything–captivity, warfare, intrigue, conspiracy, deliverance, visions, insanity, faithfulness, judgment, prayers, prophecies, and hope. With genres that span narrative and apocalyptic, the book invites the reader into an ancient world of harrowing history.

Calming the Storm: Something Greater Than Jonah Is Here

In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus calms a storm. And when you read the story, there are multiple correspondences to the story of Jonah. In fact, the way Mark narrates the story seems to have been influenced by the events in Jonah 1. There are at least eight points of correspondence:

  1. The key character gets into a boat (Jonah 1:3; Mark 4:36)
  2. A storm arises on the sea that threatens everyone on board (Jonah 1:4; Mark 4:37)
  3. Everyone on the boat panics (Jonah 1:5; Mark 4:38)
  4. The key character is found sleeping in the boat (Jonah 1:5; Mark 4:38)
  5. Those on board wake up the key character (Jonah 1:6; Mark 4:38)
  6. Those on board question the key character and bring up the notion of perishing (Jonah 1:6; Mark 4:38)
  7. The sea becomes calm (Jonah 1:15; Mark 4:39)
  8. The men on board the boat respond with fear (Jonah 1:16; Mark 4:41)

The sheer number of correspondences, as well as the parallel order of events in Jonah 1 and Mark 4, indicate the influence of Jonah 1 on Mark’s account of Jesus’ miracle. But there are also important differences between Jonah 1 and Mark 4. Here are five:

  1. Jonah was on a boat because he was fleeing the will of God; Jesus was on a boat as he continued to fulfill the will of God.
  2. Jonah’s presence on the boat was the reason the storm arose; Jesus’ presence on the boat was the reason the storm became calm.
  3. Jonah was woken up but did not call upon the Lord; Jesus woke up, and he was the Lord whom the disciples called upon for help.
  4. Jonah was on a boat in order to not go to the Gentiles in Nineveh; Jesus was on a boat in order to go to the Gentile territory that we see in Mark 5 (the very next chapter).
  5. Jonah had to be delivered from death; Jesus delivered everyone else from death.

Jesus surpassed Jonah. He was a true and greater messenger of God who came to be the Light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus himself insisted, “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” (Matt. 12:41).

18 Observations about Nine Plagues

God brought ten judgments (known as the “plagues”) upon Egypt in Exodus 7-12. The first nine plagues are set apart from the tenth by multiple literary features. While considering the tenth judgment–the death of the firstborn–is a worthy focus, the following comments are limited to Plagues 1-9. Some of these observations can be noted in studies addressing the subject of the Egyptian plagues.

  1. Plagues 1-9 unfold in three series of three plagues each.
    • Plagues 1-3 (7:14–8:19)
    • Plagues 4-6 (8:20–9:12)
    • Plagues 7-9 (9:13–10:29)
  2. Each new judgment section begins with “the LORD said to Moses” (7:14; 8:1, 16, 20; 9:1, 8, 13; 10:1, 21).
  3. Each new judgment section ends with a report about Pharaoh’s heart (7:22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 35; 10:20, 27).
  4. The first set of three plagues (1-3) are performed with Aaron holding the staff (7:19-20; 8:5-6; 8:16-17).
  5. The second set of three plagues (4-6) are performed with no staff involved (8:24; 9:6, 10).
  6. The third set of three plagues (7-9) are performed with Moses holding the staff (9:22-23; 10:12-13, 21-22).
  7. The first plague in each series (1, 4, 7) takes place with Moses going to Pharaoh outside in the morning (7:15; 8:20; 9:13).
  8. The second plague in each series (2, 5, 8) takes place with Moses going into Pharaoh’s palace (8:1; 9:1; 10:1).
  9. The third plague in each series (3, 6, 9) takes place without a warning to Pharaoh at all (8:17; 9:10; 10:22).
  10. Israel is spared from the second series of plagues (4-6).
  11. Israel is spared from the third series of plagues (7-9).
  12. The shortest plague of each series comes third (3, 6, 9).
  13. The third plague of each series (3, 6, 9) doesn’t have the statement “Let my people go, that they may serve me,” which appears in the other plagues.
  14. The plagues serve a polemical purpose by humiliating an Egyptian god (or gods) that is in some way associated with the nature of the judgment.
  15. When each series of three plagues is considered (1-3, 4-6, 7-9), the plagues increase in severity, for judgments 7-9 are the most devastating of the nine plagues.
  16. In the first series of plagues (1-3), the Egyptian magicians attempt to imitate the work of Yahweh. The other series of plagues (4-6 and 7-9) do not report any attempt by the magicians to imitate what they saw.
  17. In the each threefold series of three plagues, Pharaoh tells Moses the Israelites can go.
    • Once in Plagues 1-3 (8:8)
    • Once in Plagues 4-6 (8:28)
    • Three times in Plagues 7-9 (9:28; 10:11, 24)
  18. Pharaoh tries to negotiate with Moses about the Israelites’ departure.
    • None in Plagues 1-3
    • Once in Plagues 4-6 (8:28)
    • Twice in Plagues 7-9 (10:11, 24)

I recently preached through the ten plagues at Kosmosdale Baptist Church, where I serve as the Preaching Pastor. Those sermons can be found here.