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Wednesday, October 25

Archive for the Sermon Preview Category


Sep 13

New Sermon Series, and Tips for Listening to Sermons

2013 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Preview

This Sunday will begin a new sermon series through 1-2 Samuel, “In Search of the King.” Here’s Ryan’s description:

The book of Judges ends with these ominous words: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The books of 1-2 Samuel pick up the story through the lives of Samuel, Saul, and David. Israel’s search for a king reaches some of the highest highs and lowest lows of the Old Testament. We’ll explore why that’s so in this new sermon series beginning next Sunday.

With a new series is an opportunity think about what we’re actually doing on Sundays. Ryan is preaching, but what are we doing? What does it mean to listen to a sermon? How should we listen? President of Wheaton College, Phil Ryken answers the question in his article, “How to Listen to a Sermon.”

So what is the right way to listen to a sermon?  With a soul that is prepared, a mind that is alert, a Bible that is open, a heart that is receptive, and a life that is ready to spring into action.

The first thing is for the soul to be prepared. Most churchgoers assume that the sermon starts when the pastor opens his mouth on Sunday.  However, listening to a sermon actually starts the week before. It starts when we pray for the minister, asking God to bless the time he spends studying the Bible as he prepares to preach. In addition to helping the preacher, our prayers help create in us a sense of expectancy for the ministry of God’s Word. This is one of the reasons that when it comes to preaching, congregations generally get what they pray for.

The soul needs special preparation the night before worship. By Saturday evening our thoughts should begin turning towards the Lord’s Day. If possible, we should read through the Bible passage that is scheduled for preaching. We should also be sure to get enough sleep. Then in the morning our first prayers should be directed to public worship, and especially to the preaching of God’s Word.

If the body is well rested and the soul is well prepared, then the mind will be alert. Good preaching appeals first to the mind. After all, it is by the renewing of our minds that God does his transforming work in our lives (see Rom. 12:2). So when we listen to a sermon, our minds need to be fully engaged. Being attentive requires self-discipline. Our minds tend to wander when we worship; sometimes we daydream. But listening to sermons is part of the worship that we offer to God. It is also a prime opportunity for us to hear his voice. We should not insult his majesty by looking at the people around us, thinking about the coming week, or entertaining any of the thousands of other thoughts that crowd our minds. God is speaking, and we should listen.

To that end, many Christians find it helpful to listen to sermons with a pencil in hand. Although note taking is not required, it is an excellent way to stay focused during a sermon. It is also a valuable aid to memory. The physical act of writing something down helps to fix it in our minds. Then there is the added advantage of having the notes for future reference. We get extra benefit from a sermon when we read over, pray through, and talk about our sermon notes with someone else afterwards.

The most convenient place to take notes is in or on our Bibles, which should always be open during a sermon. Churchgoers sometimes pretend that they know the Bible so well that they do not need to look at the passage being preached. But this is folly. Even if we have the passage memorized, there are always new things we can learn by seeing the biblical text on the page. It only stands to reason that we profit most from sermons when our Bibles are open, not closed. This is why it is so encouraging for an expository preacher to hear the rustling of pages as his congregation turns to a passage in unison.

There is another reason to keep our Bibles open: we need to make sure that what the minister says is in keeping with Scripture. The Bible says, concerning the Bereans whom Paul met on his second missionary journey, “that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11; NKJV). One might have expected the Bereans to be criticized for daring to scrutinize the teaching of the apostle Paul. On the contrary, they were commended for their commitment to testing every doctrine according to Scripture.

Listening to a sermon–really listening–takes more than our minds. It also requires hearts that are receptive to the influence of God’s Spirit.  Something important happens when we hear a good sermon: God speaks to us. Through the inward ministry of his Holy Spirit, he uses his Word to calm our fear, comfort our sorrow, disturb our conscience, expose our sin, proclaim God’s grace, and reassure us in the faith. But these are all affairs of the heart, not just matters of the mind, so listening to a sermon can never be merely an intellectual exercise.  We need to receive biblical truth in our hearts, allowing what God says to influence what we love, what we desire, and what we praise.

The last thing to say about listening to sermons is that we should be itching to put what we learn into practice. Good preaching always applies the Bible to daily life. It tells us what promises to believe, what sins to avoid, what divine attributes to praise, what virtues to cultivate, what goals to pursue, and what good works to perform. There is always something God wants us to do in response to the preaching of his Word. We are called to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22; NKJV). And if we are not doers, then we were not hearers, and the sermon was wasted on us.

Do you know how to listen to a sermon?  Listening–really listening–takes a prepared soul, an alert mind, an open Bible, and a receptive heart. But the best way to tell if we are listening is by the way that we live. Our lives should repeat the sermons that we have heard. As the apostle Paul wrote to some of the people who listened to his sermons, “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:2-3; NKJV).

Jan 9

“Between Two Worlds”: New Sermon Series Begins Sunday

2013 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Preview

On Sunday Ryan encouraged us to read through 1 Peter some time this week as we look forward to the start of our new sermon series, “Between Two Worlds,” this Sunday.

When we announced the series a few weeks ago we drew your attention to the theme of suffering in the book of 1 Peter. Another prominent theme is the nature of the church as a people belonging to God. Belonging to God means we don’t ultimately belong to this world.

In 1 Peter 2:9–12, Peter shows us the connection between our heavenly citizenship and our earthly life:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

This is another great passage on which to read and meditate as we begin our series.

Dec 13

“Between Two Worlds” – New Sermon Series Begins in January

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Gospel,Sermon Preview

We are now just one month away from the start of Ryan’s new sermon series through 1 Peter, “Between Two Worlds.” We announce a new series ahead of time for several reasons, but perhaps especially so that you can orient yourself with the book before the series starts.

As you read through 1 Peter, keep in mind the title of our series, “Between Two Worlds.” No, this is not a way of saying that Earth is between Venus and Mars. I’m sure that was obvious to you. It’s a way of capturing what Paul has said so famously in Philippians 3:20, “our citizenship is in heaven.”

In his letter, Peter encourages Christians in their life here in preparation for life in the new heavens and the new earth. In doing so, Peter will address a number of issues, including how women can please the Lord in a world addicted to fashion, how Christians should relate to this world’s institutions and to governments, how the church’s leaders should lead as they look forward to meeting the Chief Shepherd.

One recurring theme, however, is that of suffering – a theme common in life and common to every Christian person in this age. Suffering truly is where the rubber of our other-worldly theology meets the road of this world; where what we believe about who God is and what is eternal meets the cold but temporary realities of loss, pain, and persecution in this life.

Want an idea for how to prepare yourself for this upcoming series? Consider memorizing 1 Peter 1:3-9. If you do, you will spend this life and eternity glad you did:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Sep 7

Creation in the Psalms

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Preview

This Sunday Ryan will return to his series through the Psalms, Pour Out Your Heart to Him, with the first of three sermons from what are sometimes called, “Creation Psalms.” This kind of psalm draws on the colors, sounds, things, and realities of creation to show us the beauty, majesty, sovereignty, and saving power of the Creator.

For example, consider how Psalm 96 calls on all of creation to praise God, showing the breadth of God’s sovereign and gracious rule:

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord,
for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

To help you prepare ahead of each Sunday, here are the texts for the next three weeks:

Everyone lives in God’s world, and everything God made points to him. But we need divine revelation to overcome the hardness of our heart toward the Creator revealed in creation. With that in mind, this would be a great time to invite a friend to join you at church. May God do a great work to glorify him in our church and in the lives of those we bring, to show himself great as Creator, and as Redeemer!

For a refresher on the nature and purpose of the Book of Psalms, here’s an excerpt from the “Introduction to the Psalms” by Jack Collins from the ESV Study Bible.

The Psalter is the songbook of the people of God in their gathered worship.

These songs cover a wide range of experiences and emotions, and give God’s people the words to express these emotions and to bring these experiences before God.

At the same time, the psalms do not simply express emotions: when sung in faith, they actually shape the emotions of the godly. The emotions are therefore not a problem to be solved but are part of the raw material of now-fallen humanity that can be shaped to good and noble ends. The psalms, as songs, act deeply on the emotions, for the good of God’s people. It is not “natural” to trust God in hardship, and yet the Psalms provide a way of doing just that, and enable the singers to trust better as a result of singing them. A person staring at the night sky might not know quite what to do with the mixed fear and wonder he finds in himself, and singing Psalm 8 will enrich his ability to respond.

The Psalms also provide guidance in the approach to worship: at times they offer content that is difficult to digest, calling on God’s people to use their minds as well as their hearts and voices.

They show profound respect for God as well as uninhibited delight in him.

They enable the whole congregation to take upon themselves, to own, the troubles and victories of the individual members, so that everyone can “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).

They enable God’s people more fully to enjoy being under his care, and to want more keenly to be pure and holy, seeing purity and holiness as part of God’s fatherly gift rather than as a burden.

You can purchase a copy of the ESV Study Bible online or at our newly refreshed Resource Center which will reopen on Sunday, September 16.

Jul 20

Piper: Ten Preparations for Sunday Morning

After a short bout with shingles last weekend (many thanks to Trent for pinch-hitting!), I’m eager to get back to and wrap up our mini-series of praise in the Psalms. This coming Sunday, Lord willing, we’ll look at “The Aims” of praise, according to the Psalms.

Here are a few things you could do between now and Sunday AM to make the most of your time with others and the Lord.

You could read through and seek to apply these 10 suggested preparations for Sunday AM from John Piper:

1. Pray that God Would Give You a Good and Honest Heart

The heart we need is a work of God. That’s why we pray for it. “I will give you a new heart” (Ezekiel 36:26). “I will give them a heart to know Me” (Jeremiah 24:7). Let’s pray, “O Lord, give me a heart for you. Give me a good and honest heart. Give me a soft and receptive heart. Give me a humble and meek heart. Give me an fruitful heart.”

2. Meditate on the Word of God

“O taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8). On Saturday night, read some delicious portion of your Bible with a view to stirring up hunger for God. This is the appetizer for Sunday morning’s meal.

3. Purify Your Mind by Turning Away from Worldly Entertainment

“Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). It astonishes me how many Christians watch the same banal, empty, silly, trivial, titillating, suggestive, immodest TV shows that most unbelievers watch. This makes us small and weak and worldly and inauthentic in worship. Instead, turn off the television on Saturday night and read something true and great and beautiful and pure and honorable and excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Your heart will unshrivel and be able to feel greatness again.

4. Trust in the Truth That You Already Have

The hearing of the Word of God that fails during trial has no root (Luke 8:13). What is the root we need? It is trust. Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream.” Trusting in the truth is the best way to prepare yourself to receive more.

5. Rest Long Enough Saturday Night to be Alert and Hopeful Sunday Morning

“All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). I am not laying down any law here. I am saying: there are Saturday night ways that ruin Sunday morning worship. Don’t be enslaved by them. Without sufficient sleep, our minds are dull, our emotions are flat, our proneness to depression is higher, and our fuses are short. My counsel: decide when you must get up on Sunday in order to have time to eat, get dressed, pray and meditate on the Word, prepare the family, and travel to church; and then compute backward eight hours and be sure that you are in bed 15 minutes before that. Read your Bible in bed and fall asleep with the Word of God in your mind. I especially exhort parents to teach teenagers that Saturday is not the night to stay out late with friends. If there is a special late night, make if Friday. It is a terrible thing to teach children that worship is so optional that it doesn’t matter if you are exhausted when you come.

6. Forebear One Another Sunday Morning Without Grumbling and Criticism

“They grumbled in their tents; they did not listen to the voice of the LORD” (Psalm 106:25). Sunday morning grumbling and controversy and quarreling can ruin a worship service for a family. When there is something you are angry about or some conflict that you genuinely think needs to be talked about, forebear. Of course if you are clearly the problem and need to apologize, do it as quickly as you can (Matthew 5:23-24). But if you are fuming because of the children’s or spouse’s delinquency, forebear, that is, be slow to anger and quick to listen (James 1:19). In worship, open yourself to God’s exposing the log in your own eye. It may be that all of you will be humbled and chastened so that no serious conflict is necessary.

7. Be Meek and Teachable When You Come

“Receive with meekness the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Meekness and teachability are not gullibility. You have your Bible and you have your brain. Use them. But if we come with a chip on our shoulders and a suspicion of the preaching, week after week, we will not hear the Word of God. Meekness is a humble openness to God’s truth with a longing to be changed by it.

8. Be Still as You Enter the Room and Focus Your Mind’s Attention and Heart’s Affection on God

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). As we enter the sanctuary, let us come on the lookout for God, and leave on the lookout for people. Come with a quiet passion to seek God and his power. We will not be an unfriendly church if we are aggressive in our pursuit of God during the prelude and aggressive in our pursuit of visitors during the postlude.

9. Think Earnestly About What Is Sung and Prayed and Preached

“Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20). So Paul says to Timothy, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). Anything worth hearing is worth thinking about. If you would take heed how you hear, think about what you hear.

10. Desire the Truth of God’s Word More Than You Desire Riches or Food

“Like newborn babies, desire the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). As you sit quietly and pray and meditate on the text and the songs, remind yourself of what Psalm 19:10-11 says about the Words of God: “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”

Of course, if you’ve missed any of the three previous messages on praise on the Psalms, you could also get caught up today or tomorrow. We’ve looked at “The Basics” of praise, “The Ingredients” of praise, and “The Form” of praise.

You could remind yourself a few of John Wesley’s “Directions for Singing:”

Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a single degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.

Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually….

Or you could simply read one of the most exultant Psalms, Psalm 145. This coming Sunday we’ll be all over the Psalms, but we’ll give special attention to this crescendo of the Psalter.

And, of course, pray! Pray that God would help us come eager, expectant, and exultant. Pray, “satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psa. 90:14). I’m praying that for you now.

Apr 20

Sunday Preview: May God Bless Us!

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Preview

This Sunday, we will return to our series, Pour Out Your Heart to Him: A Study Through The Psalms, with a sermon by Ryan from Psalm 67.

In the translation of Hebrew poetry, we do lose some of its original beauty. For example, if we were to translate an English poem with a memorable rhyming scheme, that would be lost in translation, since words that rhyme don’t translate to words that rhyme.

As you look forward to Sunday morning, read and pray this version of Psalm 67, adapted for meter and rhyme:

God be merciful and bless us;
shine upon us with your face,
That the earth may know your actions
and all lands your saving grace.

O God, may the people praise you;
may all the people sing your praise.
For you judge the nations justly,
ruling over every race.

May they sing with joy and gladness;
may they all rejoice as one.
O God, may the peoples praise you
as they all unite in song.

Then the land will yield its harvest;
God will pour his gifts abroad.
God, our God, will surely bless us;
All the earth will fear our God.

– From Sing Psalms: New Metrical Versions of the Book of Psalms (Free Church of Scotland, 2003).

Mar 1

“Why are you cast down, O my soul?” – Psalm 42-43

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Sermon Preview

This Sunday, Ryan will be back in the pulpit preaching from Psalm 42 and 43, two psalms with several familiar lines. For example, 42:1 reads, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”

But if you read these two psalms together you’ll notice a refrain repeated three times, in 42:5, 42:11, and 43:5.

Why are you cast down,
O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

The psalmist asks a good question. And he gives himself a good answer. Of course, we all need to do this kind of thing. Perhaps you would write this down on a note card and keep it near you from now through Sunday.