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What to Preach at Christmas

Preaching fresh, inspiring messages at Christmas can be a real challenge. As I thought about this, I determined that one of the main problems we face is what I call the Christmas mythology. 

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The Cost of Leadership

I just read When God Shows Up: A Pastor’s Journey. The bulk of the book is about the author's ministry, and in particular, a church conflict during the turbulent 70s and 80s, when the charismatic movement affected many established churches. It's a story of excited believers and disappointed ones, of emotional agony and painful misunderstanding, of people...

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Why a Drive-in Church?

I preach regularly at the Woodland Drive-In Church in Grand Rapids. The question inevitably arises: Why would people want to worship at a drive-in church instead of sitting inside a traditional church? There are two main categories of people who attend our services and a number of reasons they do so...

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To Judge or Not to Judge: That Is the Question

One of my readers asked me to reflect on the whole issue of judgment in the church. His starting point was Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” How can we make sense out of this whole business about judging—a word used often in the New Testament and sometimes in opposite ways?...

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Playing with Hebrew Word Usage

Perhaps in some of your studies you have found, probably through the help of commentaries, how a Hebrew prophet plays with words in order to communicate his message. The way in which the narrator of the Jonah story has crafted this book is indeed exciting. A variety of words are sprinkled throughout the book to give it a hidden and enriching unity. I can only...

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To Glorify God

What do the Scriptures mean when they refer to glorifying God? This teaching is, of course, a common one in Reformed circles. From childhood I have heard the exhortation, “Glorify God in all of life.” What this meant was that in everything that we do, we should reflect the glory of God—that we are children of God. People should be able to see from the way...

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Hallowed Be Your Name

I received a comment asking if I could verify “the apparent imperative in the Lord’s Prayer for the statements which are called the first, second, and third requests.” They stated, “It would almost seem possible that these three requests are praises to God as well, i.e., ‘hallowed be Your Name’ or ‘hallowed is Your Name.’” Great question, and I will address it on several different levels...

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You – and You – and You

We have a problem in the English language when reading the Bible—a problem that most other languages do not have. When we read the word “you” and “your” in a passage, there is no way to tell whether the message is being directed to a single person or to a group of people. Such is not the case with the biblical languages...

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Which "If" Is It?

One of the more important things a preacher should do when working with a passage of Scripture is to examine every conditional sentence that you encounter, especially in the New Testament. In the English language, we have only one word to express a conditional clause: the word “if.” Greek, however, has two different Greek words to introduce conditional clauses and how each conditional sentence is structured grammatically goes a long way to...

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The Transformation of “Hope”

In my work as an editor, I often come upon some interesting scholarly discoveries. A revision of The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, is being worked on by New Testament scholar Moises Silva. His comments on the transformation that took place in the meaning of the Greek words ἐλπίζω and ἐλπίς (the verb “to hope” and the noun “hope”) is truly amazing...

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Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem

Births in the ancient world normally took place at home, and one might have expected Mary to remain in Nazareth. But let’s remember also that the ancient world was an honor-shame society, and for an unmarried woman to be pregnant could lead to dire personal consequences...

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Hebrew Word Play

Have you ever been in a group where most of the people spoke fluently in a language you barely understood? You could sort of follow the conversation until someone says something and everyone but you bursts out laughing. Why? Because someone told a joke that involved some wordplay or the double meaning of a particular phrase—and you didn’t get it. 

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Examining the First Letter of John

I have found 1 John to be one of the most difficult to figure out thematically. It is certainly not linear like Romans, or problem-oriented like 1 Corinthians, or rhetorically focused like Galatians. I have come to the conclusion that it is best to view the letter as a sphere, and John is taking snapshots of this ball. 

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Using Your Hebrew and Greek - Part 2

One of the most profitable things a preacher can do in studying God’s Word is to engage in word studies of key words in a passage of Scripture. And I am talking about word studies not based on English words but on the Hebrew and Greek words. We can often gain surprising insights from such studies.

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Using Your Hebrew and Greek

Those who have spent hours learning biblical languages all too often let them fall by the wayside in the midst of busy church activities. But paying attention to some of the smallest words in the orginal language can reap rich exegetical insights.

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