Tag Archives: preaching

The “Stuff-Your-Shelves” NIV Application Commentary Sale

When I was in seminary just a few years ago I was a bit of a commentary snob. I thought that the only pastor worth his salt was the one who owned ”quote-unquote” academic commentaries—like Anchor or Hermeneia. So I filled with my shelves with these lengthy, heavy tomes, thinking they would help me craft the perfect punchy, provocative, academically informed, theologically tight sermons West Michigan had ever seen!

Then I got into ministry. And things changed.

Yes, those lengthy, heave tomes still inform my sermons and have tremendous value. But I’ve found I have less time for sloshing through 20+ pages on the nuanced exegetical views of a given passage. I still want to understand the original meaning of God’s Word, but I need more. I need resources that will pluck my sermons from the clouds and help my people apply it to my people’s lives on the ground.

That’s where the NIVAC series comes in.

Not that these commentaries aren’t academic. Each NIVAC volume certainly holds their own against others in their field. The blissful twist with these resources, though, is that they are made for you and me to quickly access, digest, and use the information to craft application-centric sermons.

Case in point: the newest NIVAC edition on the Book of Deuteronomy. Maybe it’s because I’m a green preacher and haven’t taught on the Old Testament often, but applying Deuteronomy to 21st century living is a head scratcher. Yet Daniel Block’s 870+ pager manages to do just that, apply it to everyday life.

Like every NIVAC volume, Block opens with a healthy intro, complete with a handy outline of Deuteronomy. He then exegetes each passage using the three-fold “Original Meaning,” “Bridging the Context,” and “Contemporary Significance” structure. The latter is the commentary’s real bread-and-butter. For instance of the Shema, the famous 6:4-9 passage, Block writes:

Moses taught his people and he teaches us and Christians everywhere that true spirituality arises from the heart and extends to all of life…This passage suggests that that the very decorations of our homes should bear testimony to our faith, declaring to all guests and passers-by the fundamental theological outlook of those who live within… (189)

This Fall my church journeyed through The Story, a thirty-one week teaching series through Scripture’s big narrative. I had few OT commentaries to start and  9 times out of 10 I gravitated toward these handy commentaries to help me craft biblically informed, academically sound, yet applicational sermons. They were still punchy and provocative, but they also had boots; they reached the ground so my people could understand how they could find their story in God’s Story.

If you haven’t already I’d urge you to stock your shelves with these pivotal pastoral resources—whether you’re a preaching pastor, youth pastor, or small group leader. And this week is no better week to start stocking those shelves because the ebook version of every volume in the series has been discounted to $4.99! So do yourself a favor and stock up, because this super sale will end next Monday, May 13.

Has an NIV Application Commentary helped you in your preaching or teaching?


Jeremy Bouma is a pastor with the Evangelical Covenant Church in West Michigan. He is the founder of THEOKLESIA—a content curator dedicated to helping the 21st century church rediscover the historic Christian faith—holds the Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and writes at www.novuslumen.net.

Preaching With Non-Believers In Mind…By Using Greek? Subverting Hermeneutics of Suspicion By Recovering The Original Languages

A few weeks ago I read an article on The Gospel Coalition’s site titled “How Andy Stanley and Tim Keller Preach with Non-Believers in Mind.” The article explored some thoughtful strategies that Keller and Stanley use when they preach to ensure believers and non-believers alike are taught the Bible engagingly.

Some of their thoughtful strategies include: acknowledge and welcome non-believers in one way or another; assume non-believers are present and need help in approaching the Bible; challenge non-believers to engage the Bible by acknowledging the oddity of Christian belief and practice.

I loved these strategies, all from Keller’s and Stanley’s new books on church ministry. I’d like to add one more, though: subverting their “hermeneutics of suspicion” by recovering the original languages of the Biblical text. And one of the best ways to do this is preparing and preaching sermons using side-by-side Bibles like the fabulous new NIV Greek and English New Testament.

You might find this an odd, ivory-tower suggestion, but stay with me, because I think there is something to regularly incorporating the Bible’s original languages into your preaching in order to remind people your words, authority, and interpretation are not merely your own.

Why Preach Expository First-Person Sermons?

J. Kent EdwardsI attended the Sticky Teams conference in October of 2011. It was held at Northcoast Church, outside of San Diego, where Larry Osborne and Chris Brown are teaching pastors. During the conference I heard a gripping sermon from Chris Brown that began as a first-person account of the story when Jesus cast a demon out of a child (Matt. 15:21-29; Mark 7:24-30). I was so moved by Chris’ speaking. I was completely engaged in the biblical text in a new way.  I was on the edge of my seat (literally). Ever since I heard that sermon I’ve had a new respect for Bible teachers and preachers that can employ “acting” talents, or storytelling talents, to teach the Bible.

But this style of preaching is not without its opponents. You can probably imagine some of the responses you might get if you try to use “acting” while you’re preaching.

Thankfully, a few years ago J. Kent Edwards published Effective First-Person Biblical Preaching: The Step from Text to Narrative Sermon. In it he answers the question that titles this post: Why preach expository first-person sermons?

In light of this widespread resistance to homiletical change, why would any preacher with a mortgage want to introduce first-person sermons? If new sermon forms have the potential to cause pastoral unrest, why bother? … Because this homiletical form will enable your ministry in the pulpit to reach new levels of effectiveness. I am convinced that for cultural, educational, theological, and emotional reasons it is in your best interest to invest the time to…discover how to preach effective first-person sermons.

Have you ever seen a first-person sermon? What were your impressions? Do you have strong feelings either way?

If you’re interested in this book, you can download a sample chapter here.


Preacher: You Are Necessary! Thoughts on the Preacher as a Living Voice for the Living Word

“…the task of preaching assumes that the preacher is necessary to the task. The preacher provides a living voice for the living Word. When we preach, we inflect the Word of God for those who hear.” —John Koessler, “Folly, Grace, and Power: The Mysterious Act of Preaching,” 18.

From one preacher to another I bring a message of encouragement for you this Monday: brother, sister, you are necessary!

This is John Koessler’s own message in his delightful, encouraging, exhorting book Folly, Grace, and Power—a powerful read for any preacher concerned with the theology behind the thing they do each week. It is a message for people who have heard and answered the call to act as a living vessel for the Living Word through the mysterious act of preaching.

Again, you are necessary because you provide a living voice for the Living Word.

Preacher, have you ever thought of yourself in this way before? That you are necessary? That the God who spoke the world into being uses your words “to bend the world to His will,” (31) as Koessler writes? That you are God’s voice?

Preaching to Everyone – A few thoughts from Haddon Robinson

Haddon Robinson, Craid Brian LarsonJust before the Thanksgiving break I was blessed to attend the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Society for Biblical Languages. In case you’re unfamiliar with these meetings, they are large conferences for the academic world. Professors, scholars, and graduate students gather by the thousands every year to deliver papers on their research, reconnect with old friends, and shop huge exhibit halls of books. Many of these attendees are Christians, some are not.

Many Zondervan authors attend these meetings. It’s a great time for all of us at Z to reconnect with them in person.

While perusing the exhibit hall I saw some pretty incredible new textbooks and was also reminded of some of Zondervan’s classic texts that I don’t necessarily see on my desk every day. One such text is The Art and Craft of Biblical Preachingedited by Haddon Robinson and Craig Brian Larson. If you’re a preacher and you’ve not read this book then I highly encourage you to get a copy. The collection of essays from skilled teachers of God’s Word is too valuable to miss.

Here’s some quick quotes I pulled out of a chapter written by a true sage of homiletics, Haddon Robinson. The chapter is entitled, “Preaching to Everyone in Particular: How to Scratch Where People Niche.” (I love that title.)

 When we fail to speak to the entire cross section in our churches, we resemble the doctor who knows only how to set a broken arm; if a patient complains of a bellyache, the doctor breaks his arm so she can set it.

Reaching broader audiences demands that we sacrifice what comes naturally to us. When Paul said, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22), he wasn’t talking about just evangelism. He was talking also about helping converts grow. “To the weak” – believers who had weak consciences – he became weak; he restricted his freedom for their sake.

Speaking to a broader audience requires a sacrifice from us. We give up our freedom to use certain kinds of humor, to call minority groups by names that make sense to us, to illustrate only from books and movies we find interesting, to speak only to people with our education and level of Christian commitment. Sometimes such sacrifice feels constricting to us. … But sacrificing what comes most naturally to us is what gives us a platform to speak.


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“Folly, Grace, and Power” named “Best Book” according to Preaching Magazine

"Folly, Grace, and Power" " John Koessler"Congratulations to Dr. John Koessler! His newest book, Folly, Grace, and Power: The Mysterious Act of Preaching has just been named one of “The Year’s Best Books in Preaching” by Preaching Magazine. An excerpt from the Preaching Magazine article is included below, or you can read the whole article here.

John Koessler’s book Folly, Grace and Power: The Mysterious Act of Preaching (Zondervan) is a rare volume that deals seriously with the issue of the theology of preaching.

Too much contemporary preaching is trivial, Koessler believes, as it attempts to “smooth out the rough edges of the Christian life and offer pat answers to the audience’s problems.” We follow in Fosdick’s steps, attempting to use preaching to “solve the audience’s problems,” when that is not the primary purpose of preaching. In fact, “it is entirely possible that some preaching, if it is true to Scripture, may actually create problems.”

He explores the divine and human dimensions of preaching and discusses the nature of the authority of biblical preaching. He emphasizes the necessity of preachers as those who speak for God, trumpeting “God’s final word by preaching Christ crucified.” Along the way, Koessler offers counsel to preachers in today’s church. He concludes with a reaffirmation of the essential partnership of preaching and theology and reminds us that preaching is an eschatological act—we proclaim the Christ who came and is coming again.

I’ve mentioned before the Folly, Grace, and Power has also won a Preaching Today Book Award and was a finalist for a Christianity Today Book of Year Award. So, the reviews are in, the critics have spoken: preachers – you really should read Folly, Grace, and Power. 

Dr. John Koessler on “How Do You Preach Easter?”

The following is a guest post from Dr. John Koessler, the chair of the pastoral studies department at Moody Bible Institute. He is also author to the a new book on preaching, Folly, Grace, and Power: The Mysterious Act of Preaching.

John KoesslerThe other day as I began class, I noticed a black smudge on several of my students. It was Ash Wednesday. I knew some of the Bible and Theology professors at the school where I teach had organized a special service to mark the occasion. But it still startled me to see the sign of the cross emblazoned on their foreheads. Ash Wednesday is not a part of my worship tradition. I suspect it was new to most of my students as well.

More Christians from “low” church traditions like mine than ever before are observing Lent. Still the Easter season still does not enjoy the same degree of emphasis as Christmas does in most churches.The irony, of course, is that for the early church Easter was the most important day in the church calendar not Christmas. The observance of Easter pre-dated the church’s observance of Advent, perhaps even originating in the time of the apostles. The observance of Advent, the most important season in the liturgical calendar for the modern church, did not develop until several centuries later.

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