On Preaching – by H.B. Charles Jr.

Last fall I had the opportunity to attend a Simeon Trust Workshop on Biblical Exposition in Youngstown, Ohio. At the workshop we were all given a copy of a book by H.B. Charles Jr., simply called On Preaching. I heard H.B. speak at the 2017 TGC national conference, and he recently preached at T4G, so I am certain his name will be familiar to many of you. H.B. Charles is an outstanding expositor of God’s word, and this book is a distillation of his pulpit wisdom and skill. It is interesting to note that On Preaching began as a series of blog posts, but I am delighted that H.B. had the vision to turn them into a book. In light of that, you won’t be surprised to hear that this is not an in-depth treatment of preaching, but it is a highly practical sketch.

 

On Preaching is broken down into 3 parts, and 30 short and easy to read chapters. Part 1 deals with Preparation for Preaching and looks at such topics as training, finding time to study, using a sermon calendar, and the all-important aspect of prayer. Part 2 concerns the actual Practice of Preaching. Here, H.B. dives into some of the nuts and bolts aspects of preaching including such topics as outlines, titles, introductions, transitions, illustrations, conclusions, and preaching without notes. Finally, part 3 looks at Points of Wisdom for Preaching. Such things as being yourself, developing your style, being consistent, pulpit plagiarism, and being a guest preacher are covered in this section. As you read through this book, it will become clear that H.B. has thought a lot about preaching and particularly, what makes for good preaching vs. mediocre or even bad preaching.

 

Perhaps the best two chapters in the whole book are the first and the last. In chapter 1, aptly titled Preach the Word, the author powerfully reminds us that we are to preach God’s word and not our own. Much of what accounts for modern preaching is really not preaching at all. Why? Because the preacher has substituted his own word for God’s word. H.B. writes, “Paul’s charge to Timothy is the Lord’s charge to every preacher: Preach the Word! This divine command obligates us to preach; moreover, it specifies what we are to preach: the Word. The importance of preaching rests in its content, not in its function. Our preaching is not the reason the Word works. The Word is the reason our preaching works.” Amen! The book concludes with a chapter titled The Bottom Line in Christian Ministry. The author reminds preachers that we have been charged, by God, with this most important of all tasks. Therefore, “The goal of Christian ministry is that you may be approved by God.” In a similar cord, he writes, “Make it your ultimate goal to hear the Master say, ‘Well done.’”

 

There are no shortage of preaching books today, but for both the seasoned expositor and the beginner, On Preaching is chalked full of wisdom and advice that will aid in your development as a preacher. In both the macro and the micro areas of preaching, I am certain this book will help you think through your craft in order to better communicate the Word of God to your listeners. Reading this book only fueled my desire to become a better preacher and I think it will for you too. In short, I would highly commend On Preaching to you.

Reading less could be reading more

I came across this quote in John Piper’s book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, which I found to be very thought provoking:

“I [do not] want to give the impression that I think there is virtue in reading many books. In fact one of my greatest complaints in seminary was that professors trained students in bad habits of superficial reading because they assigned too many books. I agree with Spurgeon: “A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books which he has merely skimmed, lapping at them.” God save us from the allurement of “keeping up with Pastor Jones” by superficial skimming. Forget about “keeping up.” It only feeds pride and breeds spiritual barrenness. Instead devote yourself to boring in and going deep. There is so much soul-refreshing, heart-deepening, mind-enlarging truth to be had from great books!”

Book Review – “A Praying Life” by Paul Miller

Paul Miller has written a great book on this most important of subjects. There are a lot excellent books on the market that deal with prayer and “A Praying Life” can safely be placed in that category. In 32 short, easy to read chapters, Miller challenges his readers to a deeper, more meaningful prayer life. This book is filled with stories (mostly from Miller’s family) that entertain but also help to illustrate his message. Miller shows us that prayer doesn’t have to be that dreaded exercise which Christian’s feel obligated to do, but never seem to actually follow through on. In a step by step manner, Miller takes us through the different dynamics of communicating with the Creator God. He is not afraid to address the tough questions about prayer, and shows us how certain roadblocks to “a praying life” can be overcome.

The book is comprised of an introduction followed by 5 different parts. Part 1: Learning to Pray Like A Child, Part 2: Learning to Trust Again, Part 3: Learning to Ask Your Father, Part 4: Living in Your Father’s Story, Part 5: Praying in Real Life. Time and time again, Miller offers excellent insights into the world of prayer, and shows how God uses prayer to shape our lives. Given the anemic condition of North American Christianity, we really need to go back to the basics and learn how to pray. The sad reality is that most professing Christians don’t have “a praying life.” While they might send up a prayer every now and then, they don’t have a dynamic relationship with their Heavenly Father which has been cultivated by prayer. This is where Miller’s book is desperately needed and I would highly recommend it.

Book Review – The Masculine Mandate – by Richard Phillips

There is great confusion among Christian men concerning what it means to be a man today. There are a number of different reasons for this, but what it comes down to is that unbiblical models of masculinity have shaped Christian men more than God’s Word. Over the past 2 decades, this “crisis of masculinity” has been well documented and a flood of literature has filled our Christian bookstores, while numerous “men’s ministry” organizations like Promise Keepers were started to help men fulfill their God-given mandate. Some of these books and organizations were helpful while others were not and only served to further the confusion among men. Having just finished Richard Philips “The Masculine Mandate” I am delighted to report that this is the best book I have ever read on masculinity.

In this book, Phillips uses the first 5 chapters to build a biblical and theological framework of masculinity (Understanding our Mandate) and then takes the next 8 chapters to practically flesh out what it means to be a Christian man (Living our Mandate). In the first chapter, Phillips explores how a man’s primary calling is connected to Genesis 2:15. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” God intended for Adam to “work” and to “keep” the garden and so bring glory to His Creator. He defines “work” as laboring to make things grow through nurturing, cultivating, tending, building up, guiding, and ruling. And to “keep” is to protect and sustain progress already achieved through guarding, keeping safe, watching over, caring for and maintaining. In the remainder of the book, he shows men how we can “work” and “keep” in our jobs, our marriage, through raising our children, in our friendships, and in our churches.

The greatest strength of this book is the fact that it is rooted and grounded in the scriptures. Too many popular Christian books (ie Wild at Heart) that deal with this subject are good at inspiring men, but lack a biblical foundation. There are few places (if any) where Phillips says anything without first providing a Scriptural basis for it. I would heartily recommend this book to any Christian man seeking to understand his God-giving masculine calling. This is an excellent book that I am certain any Christian man (young or old) will find helpful.

Book Review – The Expository Genius of John Calvin

John Calvin was one of the greatest preachers in history. Although he is often known more for such things as his theological genius, his role in the Protestant Reformation, and as the author of The Institutes of the Christian Religion, he was also a very capable preacher and expositor of God’s Word. In fact, Calvin viewed the pulpit as his most important work and he consistently preached several times each week. All his other activities were considered secondary to his work as a herald of the Word. In this excellent book, Steven Lawson profiles the great reformer and examines his pulpit abilities and method. Having heard Lawson preach on multiple occasions, I know that he is a great preacher himself and understands biblical preaching as well as anyone today and through this lens, he offers an inside look at the preaching abilities of one of the giants of the Christian faith. This is not a biography, although the first chapter does feature a quick look at Calvin’s life and legacy. Rather, this book is primarily concerned with Calvin’s approach to preaching and what made him such a powerful and influential expositor. Lawson looks at 32 different characteristics of Calvin’s preaching and leaves no stone unturned. Throughout the book, Lawson explains that one of the major reasons (if not “the” reason) for the weakness of the contemporary church is a low view of preaching and a deficient understanding of what makes for good preaching. Thus, the message of the book is remarkably clear – we must recover the approach and method of John Calvin. We must have more Calvin’s, Luther’s, Edwards’, Whitefield’s and Spurgeon’s who faithfully proclaim God’s life-giving Word to a generation that is desperate for the truth. I would highly recommend this book to any preacher or Christian leader and even to the layman who wants to learn more about what makes for good preaching.

Book Review: Trusting God by Jerry Bridges

I just finished reading Jerry Bridges book titled “Trusting God” and it occurred to me that we are lacking literature that deals with this most important subject matter. With tens of thousands of books published every year, why are there not more on trusting God? After all, isn’t that what the Christian life is all about? Instead, Christian publishers give us book after book dealing with “self-help” matters which only serve to keep our focus on the “self” and away from God. I guess you might call this a self-help book, but not of the same variety we have come to expect and that fill our bookstores. Bridges gives us self-help by way of self-surrender to God.

For those of you who have read any of Jerry Bridges work in the past, you will not find many surprises. “Trusting God” is easy to read, loaded with scripture, and it will make you think. A huge theme in this book is the sovereignty of God. Bridges reminds us that every Christian must have a robust understanding of the sovereignty of God. He cites numerous Scriptures to show us the sovereignty of God in literally everything. This is helpful because when we finally come to the point where we see that God is in control and that He can manage the affairs of our lives much better than we can, we are on the right path to trusting God. Along with that, Bridges affirms that we must understand that God is good, and is always working for our good and to glorify His name. If only more Christians truly understood this, it would help them through the ups and downs of life that everyone faces.

I would highly recommend this book to you, especially if you struggle to believe in the sovereignty of God.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Book Review – Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God

The holiness of God was the theme for the 2009 Ligonier National conference, of which I was privileged to attend. The conference was truly outstanding and so when I learned that Reformation Trust had put the conference into book form, I was thrilled. What surprised me as I read through this book was my pace. Like many readers, when I feel like I understand the content of the book and grasp what the author is saying, I will simply skim through the book without much concern for reading every word or even every page. With me attending the conference, you might think this might be one of those books. However, as I read through Holy, Holy, Holy, I found myself carefully reading every page and being reminded of all the great truths that were presented at the conference. While this book is very readable, it does deal with one of the most important themes in the whole Bible and will force you to think. To say the least, this book is grounded in the Scriptures and you will come away with some excellent exegetical insights.

This book features the writings of some outstanding Reformed pastor-scholars, including R.C. Spoul (first and last chapter). The other contributing authors include: Sinclair Ferguson, Steven J. Lawson, Alistair Begg, Thabiti Anyabwile, D.A. Carson, W. Robert Godfrey, Derek W.H. Thomas, and R.C. Sproul Jr. The theme of this book is, of course, the same as R.C. Sproul’s classic book, “The Holiness of God.” Written 25 years ago, the book continues to encourage Christian’s to encounter the God of the Bible and not the God of our own imaginations. “Holy, Holy, Holy” only adds to Sproul’s earlier contributions to this most important of subjects. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to you.

I received this book from Reformation Trust and am not obligated to give a positive review.