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Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Us

Today is Rhonda's and my fourth anniversary...think about it....think about it...there! Yes, you are correct. It is leap day and that means we have been married 16 years. And it has been a fantastic 16 least for me. I thought I would include a picture of us (click the image for a larger picture).

I love you, Rhonda. I can not imagine who I would be without you. Happy 4th Anniversary.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fifth: Refining

Continuing in our study of preparing a sermon, we are at the place were we want to refine our outline to something preachable and memorable. This is something that comes with practice. And even with practice, some preaching outlines are just better than others. When you are preparing two or three sermons per week, sometimes you have to go forward with something good when, if you could spend some more time on it, it could be great. This does not negate the sermon. After all, it is God who speaks to the person's heart and it is God who promises His words will not return void. The purpose of intense preparation is not to do God's work; it is so that there will not be any hurdles in the way of the person who needs to hear the message. If we ramble, if we have disjointed thoughts, if we are unprepared, it can be a hindrance to hearing the message. Yes...God can and does work through those sermons that are confusing and are hard to follow. But how much more could He work through us if we have spend the time preparing.

But I digress...the point of this post is discuss refining our outline to make it a bit more teachable than its current condition.

First, when I begin refining I have been reading the passage and looking over all my previous notes. I have spent a lot of time with the text and beginning to formulate what needs to be taught through the passage. So, to refine the outline, I begin to look at different outlines other preachers have used.

One source that is easy to use is Here is what I looked at when considering the 1 Timothy 1:3-11 passages.

SermonCentral outline 1

SermonCentral outline 2

These were OK but they were not what I was looking for. It should also be noted that I do not use these outlines. I use them as sermon seeds. Which brings to mind another resource I look to for refining outlines: This site usually has some good helps, but not for our passage in 1 Timothy.

Here is a list of outlines from the commentaries, from the Internet, and anywhere else I can pick someone's brain for some sermon seeds.

The issue with most of these are that they are exegetical outlines or theological outlines and not homiletical outlines. That is fine because the commentaries are not about having homiletical outlines, but they are an outline of the passage. This is why preaching from a commentary doesn't work. It was not made for that purpose. The idea of a sermon is to move from the exegetical (a statement of what the text says), through the theological (the truth pulled from that passage), to the homiletical (a statement which teaches that idea). Let me give an example of an entire passage.

A commentary would have more an exegetical outline. It is just an outline of how the passage flows. Here is an exegetical outline for Hosea 14:
I. Exhortation for Future Grace
          A. The Prophet’s Call to Repent (14:1-3)
          B. Yahweh’s Promise (14:4-8)
Garrett, NAC

A theological outline states theological truths but not in teachable principles. They just state the truth. This could be used as a sermon but may provide dry content and your audience may not leave remembering what your preached. Here is a possible theological outline for Hosea 14.
I. The Effect of Genuine Repentance 14:1-9
          A. The need for repentance (1)
          B. The attitude for genuine repentance (2-4)
          C. The results of genuine repentance (5-9)
Hunt, Old Testament Outline

This is more of a teachable outline. The words "We" or "you" appear more frequently, there is an attempt to make the main points memorable (notice the repetition of "repent"), and the flow of the passage is still faithful to the text (refer to the outlines above). Here is homiletical outline for Hosea 14.
I. We have a need to repent. (1-3)
          A. Accept responsibility for your sin. (1)
          B. Make an honest confession of your sin. (2)
          C. Let go of false gods. (3)
II. God is faithful when we repent. (4-8)
          A. God Will Revive Us. (4)
          B. God Will Restore Us. (5-7)
          C. God Will Remind Us that He Sustains Us. (8)
III. We must make the choice to repent. (9)
          A. There are Two Ways in life.
          B. It is a matter of the will.

Again, this is not essential to make sermon. And, again, I do not want to convey the idea sermon creation is solely an intellectual exercise. This entire process is to be bathed in prayer. However, there are little things we can do to help our audience catch the idea of the text and have it keep with them.

Here is progress on our 1 Timothy 1:3-11 passage. I have attempted to show the progress of thought in the order in which I thought through the outline. These are in red. The underlined points are the statements which I settled on for the time being. Refining the outline takes time, which means it is harder to do the night before the sermon is to be preached.

It hard to describe how ideas come. All I can say is that I have a small book I essentially take everywhere with me. In this notebook, I had the outline written down and prayed over it, scratched out, rewrote, thought out, etc. for at least a week. I thought about the audience of this sermon and what they may need to gain from this passage. I thought about what would help me remember the outline best. I thought, worked, and wrestled. The document link above shows that progress. To see the outline in its present form without the extra commentary and word studies, click Here.

This is still not ready to preach but it is getting closer. And it will not be THE perfect sermon nor the IDEAL sermon, but it is shaping up to be something that will preach.

Diagram -> Outlining -> Excursus -> Word Studies -> Commentaries -> Excursus -> Refining -> Illustrations -> Practice -> Preaching

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 2.26.08

"You do and it will be the biggest mistake you ever made, you Texas brush popper."

Marshall Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn, played by John Wayne, in the movie True Grit. It is better when you hear Rooster saying it. Click Here to hear the clip. By the way,
A “brush popper” (also known as a brush buster, brush hand, brush rider, brush thumper and brush whacker) is a cowboy who works in brush country. (Quote from

Monday, February 25, 2008

Excursus: The Value of Commentaries

In my series on sermon preparation, I indicated that a valuable resource in creating a sermon is commentaries. I have heard many people condemn the use of commentaries, stating things like, "I do not use commentaries. I only use the Word of God" or "I do not care what the scholars say, I only care about what Jesus says" or "Using a commentary is essentially saying some man's views are as inspired as the Bible." I assume statements like these are meant to sound spiritual but in reality they sound arrogant and uninformed. Commentaries are a useful and crucial part of studying Scripture. Here is why.

To begin with, it should be noted that no one believes commentaries to be as inspired as Scripture is. This is a straw-man argument. It is easy to for someone to critique another for using a commentary in their study by accusing them of something that is not true and then knocking down that argument. I know of no bible student, NO bible student, who views commentaries with the same value as they view the Bible.

Instead, bible students see commentaries as a personal consultant, so to speak. Which one of us would NOT ask a knowledgeable, mature, strong Christian their opinion on passages we may be struggling with if that Christian was sitting next to us in the pew. That is what we are doing when we consult a commentary. The scholars who write commentaries may have devoted their entire Christian life studying one book or a section of books (this does not mean they do not read the whole Bible, they just spend their professional career in a few books). They have devoted themselves to understand the times which the book was written. They have spent hours pouring over the text in the original language. They have had a lifetime of allow the text transform them through the principles gathered from their studies. They have taught others the nuances of the text. In short, they are experts regarding the text, usually.

If there is some student out there that says, "I do not need the insights of mature Christians who have studied the text in depth and could add to my understanding" then that student should stop their study, get on their knees, and begin to ask God to work on their pride issues. Yes, we each have the Holy Spirit. But why do the critics assume the Holy Spirit does not work in those who spend their life studying a particular text. Additionally, why do the critics fear thinking about the text instead of just "feeling" it. God has given us mind which can comprehend truth. We should use it.

Secondly, there are times we are wrong about our own interpretations about a text, as much as we do not want to admit it. I had friend tell me once that the passage in Isaiah that says "Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength" was not about "waiting" as in patiently waiting for the Lord, but it was instead about "waiting" like what waiters do. Therefore, his "new" interpretation of the text was that those who are busily serving the Lord will renew their strength. This may preach in some congregations and there may be pastors who want this to be the interpretation but the fact is, it is a wrong interpretation. A quick study of the words show that "wait" strangely enough means "wait, to patiently wait on the Lord" much like Jesus told his disciples, "wait in Jerusalem until the Promised one comes." (Can you imagine Jesus telling the 11 disciples who were holed up in their room after his death, "go about busily serving me until the Holy Spirit comes.") Working with commentaries would help us see when we are misunderstanding a text.

Yes, it is true that commentators can also be wrong about a text. This happens frequently. That is why one should consult several different sources and not just their favorite author. It not always majority rules but we come up with "waiter" and every other person in the world and throughout history has said "patiently wait," perhaps we may want to rethink our interpretation. Or are we so arrogant to think that God has not revealed this insight to anyone else throughout history and earnest, godly men have missed this meaning simply because they just were not smart/spiritual/ingenious enough?

Thirdly, not all commentaries are equal. There are some that better than others. There are some that are conservative in their approach to Scripture and there are some that liberal in their view of Scripture. A good Bible student researches these, and can avoid the liberal commentaries, unless he needs to see how liberal theologians are misleading the church. There are commentaries which deal more with the technical issues of the text and some that more devotional in content. Some are scholars working with the text and some are just transcriptions of a pastor's sermon. All of them have their place and it up to the Bible student to find the right mix to provide a good overview of the text in question.

Finally, please note that consulting the commentaries came closer to the end of the study process than the beginning. No commentary was written to be the first source. If you ask any commentator about the use of their material, they will affirm that the Bible should be studied independently at first and then after sufficient time with the text should a commentary be consulted. Perhaps, this is where the critics do understand. Maybe when they use commentaries they are tempted to go directly to them and they have not been properly taught about the use of commentaries. Or perhaps they have seen people misuse commentaries. Whatever, the case, consulting commentaries should be closer to the end of the study rather than at the beginning.

As I have said in different posts (here and here) commentaries are the tools through which the Bible student does his job. Imagine taking your car to the mechanic and he says, "Well, I need to replace your transmission and I can do a great job of it." You look on his walls and around his shop and there is not one tool; no wrenches, no screwdrivers, no impact wrenches, nothing with which to accomplish the job he said he could do. Sure, he could do it. It may take him a long time, and it would not be a quality job (do we really think he could tighten all the bolts to safety specifications with his bare hands?). Tools help him do the job well and safe. That is the job of a good commentary: to provide the exegete with a good tool to do his job safely so that he can accurately convey the Word of God.

Diagram -> Outlining -> Excursus -> Word Studies -> Commentaries -> Excursus -> Refining -> Illustrations -> Practice -> Preaching

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Another Cool Craftsman

Craftsman Tools have a cool little clip on their site. Last Halloween, they had a skeleton made entirely out of tools. This is another one of those.

Follow THIS LINK to see the Craftsman crew chief.

I am not sure how much longer they will have it there so click it quick and watch. Pretty cool.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fourth, Commentaries

In the continuation of posts regarding Sermon Preparation, we have diagrammed a passage, outlined it, and completed some word studies. We have spend significant time with the passage so far and have gain quite a bit understanding from our study. We now can begin to consult commentaries about the passage. This will firm up any areas that we still do not understand about the passage or correct any areas we may have gotten off track.

Click here to see the commentary entries (in blue) I found important or at least interesting to 1 Timothy 1:3-11. Here are the sources I used for this study. I used only these because they were in my library:
New American Commentary, 1 Timothy, Thomas Lea
New International Biblcial Commentary, 1 Timothy, Gordon Fee
Expositor's Biblical Commentary, 1 Timothy, Ralph Earle
Garman-Howes Commentary, 1 Timothy, Garman and Howes
The Daily Bible Study Series, 1 Timothy, William Barclay
The Bible Exposition Commentary, 1 Timothy, Warren Wiersbe

If there was a passage which these did not answer to my satisfaction, I would have attempted to find more sources to check out (bible college library, public library, church's library, etc.).

Here is some of the impact these commentaries had on my understanding of this passage (click here to reference the outline with commentary).

1). In verse 4, one of the commentaries indicated that the main concern of Paul was that the church would spend so much time on debating new doctrines that they would forget their objective given by God. Thus, as indicated in the previous post, point B. in the outline could be changed to something like "He is not swayed from God's task" or "not swayed from our responsibility"

2). In verse 5, Paul said the goal of their instruction is love. I thought the commentary entry for this verse was a good contrast between the false teachers and a godly teacher (see link above).

3). The word pictures given in one of the commentaries of what a pure heart means was helpful to me. Corn free of chaff, an army free of cowards and the undisciplined. A pure heart is one that is not mixed with anything from the world.

4). One of the more difficult passages in this text is verse 9, which says the law is not for righteous but it IS for the unrighteous. As New Testament believers, this may be hard to get. The commentaries helped me greatly in this area. See the outline for the comments there.

5). Another interesting aspect I gathered from the commentaries is found in verse 9, as well. In the pairs of labels Paul gives the unrighteous, he mentions "ungodly and sinners," to which one of the commentaries said "Ungodly is inwardly irreverent and sinners is outwardly irreverent." This made me think of the next pair, "Unholy and profane", which perhaps may be an issue concerning inward impurity (unholy) and outward impurity (profane). This made me look at the first pair, "Lawless and rebellious" to see if this is an "inward-outward" issue. I am not sure about this but I will do some more search on it. This could be three pairings Paul used to describe the inward and outward approach the ungodly have for the law, reverence, and purity.

6). Finally, in verse 11, a commentary suggested that perhaps instead of outlining the last verse into two sections "1. the glorious gospel and 2. entrusted to Pau" I may want to think about outlining it in three sections: "1. glorious gospel, 2. comes from God, and 3. comes through men." This is a possibility that I will pray and think about.

Note that nothing radically changed in the meaning of the sermon nor did the commentaries add much to my understanding except in a couple of areas which will help me communicate that particular section better.

Our sermon is shaping up but now we need a lot of refinement. We want to be able to present this information in a way that will not be just information but will be principles by which people can live. This will be address in an upcoming post.

Diagram -> Outlining -> Excursus -> Word Studies -> Commentaries -> Excursus -> Refining -> Illustrations -> Practice -> Preaching

Monday, February 18, 2008


I went to the eye doctor yesterday. I need a new pair of glasses terribly. My most recent pair of glasses broke literally in half. So I had to use my glasses from my previous prescription. Then one of the lens popped out of that pair and I could not find it. So I had to go back to the prescription before that. In short, I am having a hard time seeing. So, I went and did all the tests at the eye doctor's. I had a hard time not laughing because all I could think of was this:

Anyway, I now have a prescription and now I have to find a cheap place for glasses. And try not to get coke bottle glasses or hubble, coming atraction glasses, like Brian Regan was talking about.

Third, Word Studies

In my series of sermon preparation, I have been working with 1 Timothy 1:3-11. I have diagrammed the text and from that diagram, I have developed a working outline. From this point, I begin to do word studies.

It should be noted at this point that sermon preparation, or any exegesis for that matter, is an art and a science. It is a science in that there are rules which must be followed and if those rules are thrown out the window, the results will be inaccurate. However, it is also an art in that it takes practice. The more one does it, the better one becomes at practicing it. Also, like learning a new instrument, one should start with easier material and work up to the more difficult material. I say this here because developing outlines and working on word studies all develop with practice.

People do word studies a variety of different ways. I tend to spend a lot of time on word studies because the words of the text provide the foundation of the author's meaning. Regardless of what the Post-modern leaders of the church try to tell us, words do have meaning and the author was trying to convey a particular message to his readers and as thinking beings made in the image of God, we have the capacity to understand that meaning. It just takes a little work.

When working with a text, I have already read through it several times and probably have an idea of the words which I would like to know more about. However, there are always words that surprise me in my study. I think the word is somewhat insignificant and it ends up being pivotal in the study. Therefore, I tend to look up A LOT of the words in the passage. For our passage, 1 Timothy 1:3-11, here is the list of words and phrases I looked up:

Teach false doctrines
Pay attention
Endless genealogies
Mere speculation
Which is by faith
Pure heart
Good conscience
Sincere faith
Turned aside
Fruitless discussion
Law teachers
Do not understand
Confident assertions

I know this is a long list and perhaps many would not want to look at this many words. However, I have found that each one contributes to my understand of the text. I may not bring each meaning out in the sermon but a minister's understanding of a passage preached should be like an iceberg: You may not share every bit of information you learn about a text but every bit of information helps you teach the text.

I usually inject the word study into the outline so that I have all the information where it needs to be. Click Here to see an example of my word studies.

I used several different sources to accomplish this. I am careful not to use a commentary in this process so I am not exposed to differing ideas but simply definitions of words. I realize that word studies are a kind of commentary but they are not as vunerable to personal opinion since the rules of grammar and lexigraphy tend to guide the discussion. Here are my sources used in the example:
The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Kittel
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology by Brown
The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament by Rogers and Rogers
Word Studies in the Greek New Testament by Wuest
The Hebrew and Greek Key Study Bible

These were used because they were in my library. If I could not find a sufficient definition of a word, I would have perhaps looked online at, or made a trip to my church's library, or asked my pastor if he had a resource I could use, or made a trip local bible college's library, or various other avenues.

All the information so far has given us a lot of information but it is pretty dry so far. Next, we will be begin to consult commentaries to see if we are on track theologically.

Diagram -> Outlining -> Excursus -> Word Studies -> Commentaries -> Excursus -> Refining -> Illustrations -> Practice -> Preaching

Thursday, February 14, 2008

GoodSearch is a Good Search

The youth of my church, Heritage Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, are working several fundraisers to go on an educational trip in 2009. They have taken trips like this in the past and they are great tool in discipleship and the growth of the youth.

One of the new ways we are trying to raise money for them is asking people to use as a search engine instead of Google or another search engine. When you use and choose "Heritage Baptist Church (Colorado Spring, CO) as the charity, we will earn about 1 cent per search. The site says that if 100 people use GoodSearch as their search engine twice a day, we will earn $730.00.

Will you help us? If so, use this link: or click the box in the right-hand column and then make that your home page or your main search engine. You will be helping out some great youth. Please do not abuse the system by making unnecessary repeated searches (they will block our charity if that happens). But a normal use of a search engine will help us greatly.

Click HERE to see the youth you would be helping.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Excursus: Outlining Principles

I have begun a series of posts concerning the sermon preparation. In the previous posts, I gave an example of diagramming the text. I moved forward with the 1 Timothy 1:3-11 text and I am in the process of working with the diagram to develop a working outline.

But how do you outline? Here are some outlining principles:

1). The passage you are outlining should have one main thought which is conveyed through the text. Some call this "the big idea," some call it "the thesis," but it is one idea that is something of an umbrella statement which everything that is said in the passage is related to it or goes to prove the point.

2). As stated earlier, if one is outlining, that outline should be drawn from the text and not imposed on the text. This is why it is important to spend time on diagramming the passage. The diagram will show the exegete the flow of thought of the passage. Again, didactic passages tend to be a little easier to outline than say a narrative passage or a poetic passage. However, every text does have a flow of thought that can be identified and then conveyed.

3). If you have one main point, you should have at least another main point. Same with sub-points, and sub-sub-points. Or, in other words, if you have a main point I. you should at least have a main point II. If you have a sub-point A. you should at least have a sub-point B. AND, if you have a sub-sub-point 1. you should at least have a sub-sub-point 2.

Here is why: In my 1 Timothy 1:3-11 example, you will see I have a section that looks like this:
C. Goal of our instruction
       1. Love
              a. From a pure heart
              b. From a good conscience
              c. From a sincere faith

It is unnecessary to point out we have a goal to our instruction. Then move from that thought to discuss that this goal is love. Then move to where this love comes from. Instead, it should look like this:
C. Our goal is love
       1. From a pure heart
       2. From a good conscience
       3. From a sincere faith

This will provide the same information and can be delivered quicker in a sermon.

4). The main points should be a summary of all that is "under" it, the sub-point should summarize all that is "under" it, and so on. Again, using the 1 Timothy 1:3-11 example and using the information above, we can see this. Here is what a section from the working outline looks like:
I. Proper Teaching (3-5)
      A. Against strange doctrine
      B. Not to pay attention to...
           1. Myths
           2. Endless genealogies
                a. they give rise to mere speculation
                b. Instead of furthering our responsibility
      C. Our goal is love
           1. From a pure heart
           2. From a good conscience
           3. From a sincere faith

Note that "Proper Teaching" sums up "Against strange doctrine, not paying attention, and, goal of love." Each of these points can be massaged to better phrases and clearer teaching points, but that comes later in the process. However, if something comes to mind now, you can incorporate it. "Not paying attention to..." is something of a summary of "myths and geneaologies". Again, this probably needs work to something more like "Things that waste time" or something like that. Also, the sub-sub-points under "geneologies" is really a summary of the whole point and thus maybe need to be worked into B. This would perhaps look like:
I. A godly minister faithfully teaches biblically sound teaching (3-5)
      A. Preaches against strange doctrines
      B. Not swayed from God's task by...
          1. Myths
          2. Geneaologies
      C. Goal is love
          1. From a pure heart
          2. From a good conscience
          3. From a sincere faith

This includes both some massaging of the points to teachable principles and rephrasing to capture the "summarizing" principle. Of MOST IMPORTANT NOTE is that we have not changed the original meaning from Scripture. The author's intent is kept and we are stepping closer to moving the teaching material into the 21st century. There is still some work to be done (I don't like the repeat of "teaching" in the main point) but we are making some good progress.

5). It is at this point that some work can be done to make the outline a little more memorable. Some alliterate everything (problems, people, patience). Some rhyme everything (declaration, recreation, obliteration). Some use acronyms (FIST = powerful, Faithful, Increasing, Strengthened, Thankful - mine from a sermon on Col. 1:10-14). Some use repetition (We must love God, we must love the lost, we must love believers). Some use a mix of all of these. None of these are needed but they can help your sermon stick in the mind of your listeners. For example, when the listeners look at their fist, they can be reminded of what "a walk worthy of the Lord" is like: Fruitful, Increasing (spiritually), Strengthening, and Thankful. It also helps the speaker remember their outline a little easier.

There are some who take this step to the extreme (for example, John Philips Exploring series of commentaries - however, his outlines can provide great sermon seed material). Nevertheless, these things can be a mnemonic device for both audience and speaker.

This is by no means an exhaustive study on outlining. There have been books written about the subject. However, it may help you get started. Remember, the more you do it, the better you will get at it. We are all still learning and all still trying to get better at sharing God's word faithfully, coherently, and transformationally.

Diagram -> Outlining -> Excursus -> Word Studies -> Commentaries -> Excursus -> Refining -> Illustrations -> Practice -> Preaching

Monday, February 11, 2008

Second, Outline

I have begun a series of posts concerning the sermon preparation. In the previous post, I gave an example of diagramming the text. I will be moving forward with the 1 Timothy 1:3-11 text. The next step in my process is to work with the diagram to develop a working outline. (click here to see the outline example - you also may want to pull up the diagram do you can see the diagram and outline side by side)

There are several things to note about this outline:

First, the ouline was easily created by using the diagram. Again, this is a bit easier with didatic passages like the Pauline Epistles than it is with narrative passages but the principles are essentially the same.

Second, this will not be a teaching outline as it will have more statements than teaching principles as the major points. I know this outline will change and possibly radically change. That is OK as long as the meaning is not distorted or changed. This is just a working outline.

Third, the example does not follow the best outlining rules. For example, a basic outlining rule says, "If you have a 1. then you need at least a 2." This is a good rule because it helps develope a better sermon and helps create a good flow of thought. However, in the example below, I have broken that rule. That tells me that I need to look at that a little close and maybe need to rework that part of the outline.

Fouth, I will compare this to other outlines to see if my general flow of thought is on track. Most commentaries will provide some sort of outline so this is an easy job. Please note: the outlines in most commentaries are not teaching outlines and if used as such provide a dry, usually boring sermon.

Finally, note that all I have done is worked with the text in a prayerful attitude. I have not yet consulted a lexicon, a commentary, or book of sermon outlines. These are valuable tools, and I will use them very soon in this process, but what I have created so far is based in the text itself, and developed with the help of the Holy Spirit alone.

My next post will be something of a rabbit trail to go a little deeper into outlining principles.

Diagram -> Outlining -> Excursus -> Word Studies -> Commentaries -> Excursus -> Refining -> Illustrations -> Practice -> Preaching

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Funniest Thing I Heard Today - 2.9.2008

I can't believe it is already the year of the rat and I am still writing monkey on all my checks.

Paul Provenza, one of the panelists on the NPR gameshow, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me.

Friday, February 08, 2008

First, Diagram

My friend Mark's blog (Converging Heritage) has had several posts about preparing for sermons. I got to thinking about my preparation for sermons. So I will post a series of my development of a sermon or two.

To begin with, I think the goal of any sermon is to faithfully convey what the author intended. This goes for any bible study, sermon, or any other time we engage the text. As Fee and Stuart say,
...the aim of good interpretation is not uniqueness; one is not trying to discover what no one else has ever seen before.

Interpretation that aims at , or thrives on, uniqueness can usually be attributed to pride (an attempt to 'outclever' the rest of the world), a false understanding of spirituality (wherein the Bible is full of deeply buried truths waiting to be mined by the spiritually sensitive person with special insight), or vested interests (the need to support a theological bias, especially in dealing with texts that seem to go against that bias). Unique interpretations are usually wrong. This is not to say that the correct understanding of a text may not often seem unique to someone who hears it for the first time. But it is to say that uniqueness is not the aim of our task.

The aim of good interpretation is simple: to get at the 'plain meaning of the text.'
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, p. 17-18.

To get to the "plain meaning of the text" means that the text, the Scripture itself, must be the center of the study. This does not mean that we cannot use other sources like commentaries, dictionaries, and the like. But it does mean that the text drives and shapes the sermon. To make sure of this, I attempt the following to begin my study for a sermon:

1. I read the text in its context several times. This may mean reading an entire book several times. It may mean reading some background information. But one should understand the basic questions of the text: when was it written, why was it written, to whom was it written, etc.

2. I usually try to diagram the text is some manner to gain an understanding of the author's flow of thought. This is usually basic diagramming and not very sophisticated but enough to allow me to see the basic themes of the paragraph(s).

To show what this would look like, I have some examples below. These are not very detailed diagrams (there are some who diagram every word). I do try to find the main phrase of the sentence, the supporting phrases, and any contrasting themes found in the text.

Here is a diagram of a New Testament passage:

1 Timothy 1:3-11

(You may not be able to see if you are using a Vista machine - don't ask me why but Comcast is having trouble with that).

Note several things about the diagram:

First, my diagrams are usually not done in electronic format. However, I usually do some sort of diagram even if it is scratched out with paper and pen.

Second, it flows in the order of the text. I believe it is important to keep the text in the order in which it was written. Others seem to think they can take liberty in rearranging the text but I think it should stay in the order the author wrote it.

Third, I include the verses on the left side just to keep track of where I am in the text.

Forth, the farther to the left of the paper, the more major the topic. Thus, you can see the Roman numerals which will indicate the probable "points" of my sermon, even though I will not use the exact words under each Roman numeral (this will become clearer as I continue to develop the sermon).

Fifth, this diagram is a diagram of the English language. It would always be better, if possible, to go to the original languange and diagram that. However, if that is not possible at the present time, then diagramming from a reliable translation will usually provide you with a good diagram. Any issues within the text which would impact diagramming will be identified later in the process.

While Paul's epistles are a little easier to diagram than other parts of Scripture, diagramming can be done with any part of Scripture. I have included an Old Testament example to show what that would look like:

Haggai 1:1-11

While the Old Testament is not as clear, when looking at the New Testament diagram above, one can see an outline taking shape. This is a valuable exercise and all I have done is studied the text. I used some commentaries and lexicons, but only to confirm the accuracy of the relation of phrases. For example, in the 1 Timothy passage, it says, "some me, straying from these things, have turned aside..." The question is, "What does 'these' refer to?" It seems obvious that it is referring to "a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith" but I wanted to consult some other opinions to be sure.

So, to start, I would suggest a good diagram of the passage. This provides some great beginning information about the passage which is derived directly from the the passage. This is a great start.

Tomorrow, I will post the next step I take when developing a sermon.

Diagram -> Outlining -> Excursus -> Word Studies -> Commentaries -> Excursus -> Refining -> Illustrations -> Practice -> Preaching

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Glad To Be Home

I have not posted in a few days because I have been in Orlando, Florida Sunday through Tuesday for a Christian School conference. The conference was put on by the Southern Baptist Association of Christian Schools (SBACS) and it was called Christian School 101: How to Start a Christian School. It was a good conference and many thing we have been doing were confirmed. Maybe I should back track a bit.

My pastor has been thinking about starting a Christian school for a while now (my church is Heritage Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, CO. We have been meeting and discussing things for several, several months. We have developed a mission statement, a statement of faith, a statement of philosophy, and other aspects of beginning a Christian school.

The instructors at the conference essentially taught us things that verified we have been on the right track. Based on the first day of their instruction we decided to make some plans for the next few months. The second day of instruction reaffirmed that we were on track with out new direction. We met some great people and visited a couple of schools and it was overall a pretty good trip.

The worst part of the trip was the flying. I do not mind the flying per se. However, I hate waiting in such long lines, I do not like taking off my shoes and sending all my stuff through security, and then beeing crammed in a tube too close for comfort for everybody. I really have a hard time sitting in the middle seat, shoulder to shoulder with people I do not know, in seat WAY to small for any adult.

However, the conference and company was good.

I wasn't able to post while I was going. I plan to begin another series of post here in a day or two.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Discovery Bible Announcement

In a previous post, I discussed a valuable resource that I use in my studies. It was called The Discovery Bible.

I received an email the other day from those who are responsible for the development of The Discovery Bible. The email included an announcement. It says:
Attention all pastors and teachers who desire more depth and variety in their sermons and Bible studies:

We are glad to announce the soon release of the digital Discovery Bible New Testament, now with a greatly expanded Greek dictionary (over 2,000 pages) and prophecy-guide.

This new edition discusses every term in the Greek NT that is difficult to translate with just one English word. Hundreds of reference works have been consulted, culled or quoted – sharing the fuller meaning of the original text in an interactive, “click-and-discover” way. This requires no knowledge of Greek or memorization so anyone can plumb the depths of the sacred text. Messages can come alive with fresh meaning from thousands of beyond-translation insights from the Greek NT in an easy-to-use, practical format.

I emailed them and let them know how excited I was to hear about the release of The Discovery Bible.

Today I received a phone call from Dr. Gary Hill. We discussed the upcoming release of the electronic version and the print of The Discovery Bible. Dr. Hill told me the new version will also include the Old Testament.

Just as a reminder, The Discovery Bible is a resource allows anyone to grasp the connotation of the original languages without having studied the original languages. It has a feature called H.E.L.P.S. in it. H.E.L.P.S. stands for Hill Emphatic Language Pointer System. See the previous post to see some graphics of how this system works. Dr. Hill and I discussed how crucial it is that pastors and Bible students study the original languages in some manner. This resource allows anyone to study the impact of the original language without having memorized the language.

In addition to The Discovery Bible, Dr. Hill is also is working on developing on-line learning curriculum and live conferencing. It is really interesting and would be a great tools for schools and other institutions.

What an honor it was to talk one-on-one with Dr. Gary Hill. I am really looking forward to the release of the updated version. To check out the things Dr. Hill is working on, Aletheia Media's website at

If you have an opportunity to purchase The Discovery Bible, I would encourage you to do it. It will be money well spent.