New Preaching Resources for Books of the Bible

There is a new resource for preaching that I am excited to share with you.

This past week Preaching Today released a new treasure trove of resources for preaching through Scripture. Their new ‘Exegesis’ resource page has articles to help preachers explore specific topics on preaching Scripture faithfully and accurately, but also a guide for each book of the Bible.

I have enjoyed the rich privilege of writing for Preaching Today over the years, and it was my joy to contribute guides for preaching Habakkkuk, Galatians, and Ephesians. As with all the contributors for this series, real preachers who have worked their way through these books in the midst of a congregation developed these preaching guides. My own work on each book was drawn from series I preached on each of these books—”Turning to God in Troubling Times” (Habakkuk), “Free” (Galatians), and “Ephesians: A Crash Course in Basic Christianity“—as well as other topical series and preaching.

If you’re a preacher, I hope you enjoy and benefit from exploring these new resources from Preaching Today.

Lamenting Our Losses: three vital parts of lament in the pandemic

lament.001

I was talking with a friend the other day about some of the changes we have experienced during the pandemic. Some of them were simple—activities we could no longer enjoy or places we could no longer visit—and others were more complex—missed milestones in our lives, friends and family members suffering with sickness, and concerns about the future.  Maybe you have had conversations like that recently as well. I certainly hope so because one of the most important things we can do in this time of the pandemic is to lament our losses. 

lamet 003Lament is commonly defined as “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.” Within Scripture lament has the added significance of mingling our grief and sorrow with prayer as we bring it into the presence of God. Lament takes up a considerable amount of space in the Bible, from the psalms of lament to the Hebrew prophets to the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane and more. I often distinguish between complaint and lament by saying that with complaint we practice the presence of our problems, but with lament we practice the presence of God while simultaneously bringing our problems to Him. Complaint lives in agony with the self. Lament lives in agony with God. Each and every one of us needs lament these days. Let me suggest three parts of lament that are vital during this time of the pandemic.

The first is to name our losses. At a spiritual retreat I attended not too long ago, participants were asked to write a list of losses we had experienced in the past year. It was illuminating for me to write down things, whether small or large, I perceived as losses. When I read the list later, I realized some things that seemed small initially had become larger over time, occupying a lot of my background attention in life. Until I named those losses it was difficult for me to deal with them or let them go. Consider the words of the psalmist in Psalm 73 where inner troubles stewed until a name was given to the real source of trouble, both internally and externally.

But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. (Psalm 73:2-3)

So, let me ask us: have we named our losses? Have we written them down, given a name to  them, or voiced them aloud as a loss to ourselves or others? We cannot lament without naming our losses.

The second vital aspect of lament is to grieve our losses. For some of us, this can be particularly difficult. My Scandinavian upbringing has taught me how to work hard and persevere in trials, but it has not always helped me to grieve things appropriately. Grieving was something that I had to learn how to do. Grieving is an essential part of lament. As mentioned above, lament gives space for passionate expression of grief or sorrow. Think about David grieving the disastrous death of Saul and Jonathan at the hands of the Philistines.

A gazelle lies slain on your heights, Israel.
How the mighty have fallen! (2 Samuel 1:19)

Here is the anointed of God, a mighty warrior, a man after God’s own heart, lifting up loud cries of grief over the loss of a dear friend and the untimely ruin of a ruler. What about us? What are our losses? Have we given expression through grief about these things? If not, our souls become a cesspool of hidden pain and difficulty often leading to bitterness and anger.

lament.002The third vital aspect of lament is to bring our losses to God. You may think this last point is obvious, but I have found over the years that this more difficult than we might expect. One the one hand, we find it easy to linger in our troubles. We readily practice the presence of our problems to the point that they become a sort of sick companion. But lament is not about lingering alone in our griefs. Psychology without acknowledgment of God often becomes narcissistic. On the other hand, those of us familiar with the church seem to find it easiest to be happy or joyful in the presence of God instead of giving voice to our griefs and angst. A quick search through the most popular worship songs today reveals very few songs of authentic angst and pain brought into God’s presence. Spirituality without space for lament quickly becomes superficial. Consider with me the book of Habakkuk, where the prophet meets with God again and again in his pain and complaint.

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?

I will stand at my watch
and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me,
and what answer I am to give to this complaint. (Habakkuk 1:2; 2:1)

Habakkuk shows us what true lament looks like, when trouble and pain is named, grieved, and expressed in the presence of God.

Friends, I find it hard to express how important it is that we recover lament today. I am sure each that every one of us could fairly quickly make a long list if we tried to name our losses. However, I am less confident we are truly making space in life to grieve our losses and to do so in the presence of God. I worry for all of us that without lament the deep places of our souls will fill with bitterness and anger, and that such foul waters, undrained, will spring out into our lives and those around us when we least expect it causing great ruin. May God help us to lament!

Bibliography for God in the Ruins: The Message of the Minor Prophets

When I conclude a sermon series, I usually share the resources I used to help me study and prepare my sermons. Here is that bibliography for our recently completed series, “God in the Ruins: The Message of the Minor Prophets.”

Bibliography for “God in the Ruins: The Message of the Minor Prophets”

Elizabeth Achtemeier. Minor Prophets I. NIBC. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996.

________. Preaching from the Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998.

Robert Alter. The Hebrew Bible, Volume 2: Prophets. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2019.

Joyce G. Baldwin. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. TOTC. Downers Grove, IL: 1972.

Stuart Briscoe. Taking God Seriously: Major Lessons from the Minor Prophets. For Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 1986.

Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton. “Introduction to Prophetic Literature.” In A Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.

Paul R. House. Old Testament Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2018.

Walter C. Kaiser. Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament: A Guide for the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003.

James Luther Mays. Hosea. OTL. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969.

A. Schart. “Twelve, Book of the: History of Interpretation.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets. Eds. Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2012.

Douglas Stuart. Hosea-Jonah. WBC. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1987.

M. A. Sweeney. “Twelve, Book of the.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets. Eds. Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2012.

Bruce K. Waltke. A Commentary on Micah. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

Nicholas Wolterstorff. Justice: Rights and Wrongs. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U. P., 2008.

Habakkuk [God in the Ruins]

God in the Ruins Series GFX_App SquareLike many other churches, this past weekend at Eastbrook we had to make a major shift in our gathering due to the concerns related to COVID-19 and coronavirus. This was accentuated by the declaration of a public health emergency in our state, and the recommendation that groups over 250 no longer meet. We switched to online service for this past weekend, but still continued our series on the message of the minor prophets, “God in the Ruins,” by looking at the prophet Habakkuk.

Habakkuk is one of the 7th century BC prophets in the Hebrew Bible, ministering near the time of Nahum, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah. Habakkuk’s prophetic message is gathered into book form in the following structure:

  • Habakkuk’s first complaint and God’s answer (1:1-11)
  • Habakkuk’s second complaint and God’s answer (1:12-2:20)
  • a final prayer of trust and worship (3:1-19)

You can view the message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series on the minor prophets here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

Read More »

Turning to God in Troubling Times: a five-week study on Habakkuk

TTGITT-Series-Gfx_16x9-Title

This past weekend, I continued our series “God in the Ruins: The Message of the Minor Prophets” at Eastbrook Church by looking at the prophet Habakkuk. You can watch the message here.

I also wanted to share a five-week series I did on the book of Habakkuk in 2015 entitled “Turning to God in Troubling Times.” Each of these messages dives into topics of fear, faith, trouble, worship, and what it looks like to be a person of God in the midst of distress. I am loading the video links for each message of this series below.

Part 1 – Crying Out When God Seems Absent


Part 2 – Suffering and the Surprising Plans of God


Part 3 – Talking with God When Pain Looms Large


Part 4 – Faithfulness in a Confusing World


Part 5 – Singing the Songs of God’s Salvation