Bible Reading for the Disciple

In my previous essay, The Decline of Bible Reading, I commented on polling in Canada that revealed a serious decline in Bible reading amongst Christians. In that essay, I noted two key ways the church could address the problem. In this essay I discuss how a disciple of Christ can make reading the Bible an indispensable part of his spiritual development and life.

Be Committed

The first key step involves creating a hungry heart. A committed disciple must be committed to the Word of God and must possess a strongly held belief that the Bible is critical in one’s relationship with Christ. All disciples know that in their heads and give intellectual assent to the concept but does that belief go further to penetrate their hearts and permeate their lives?

The cultivation of that attitude towards the Bible is dependent on the disciple leaning on the power of the Holy Spirit to create a hunger for God’s word and undertaking a few basic spiritual exercises to create the environment for that hunger to thrive. There needs to be a commitment to walk in the Spirit, to be filled with the Spirit and a commitment to practice spiritual disciplines that together move a disciple to always be seeking to feed upon the Word.

So how does one get that hunger? One way is to look at your life and see if there are other things your heart and soul are feeding on for fulfillment and meaning, besides the Word of God. Do you hunger more for that promotion, that hobby, those clothes, that status, that political activism, that desire to change the world rather than change yourself? The list could go on but the principle is one of self examination. Are there things that you hunger more for in your heart than the Bible? If you find your heart has a larger feeding tube to something other than the Bible, it may be time to either cut off that tube or start putting some clamps on it and start enlarging the pathway to the Scriptures.

Be Consistent

Routine may be seen as dull and boring and generally looked down upon by those advocating a more exciting lifestyle. But routine is a key success factor for consistency and consistency is necessary in getting into the Bible on a regular basis.

Ideally, the disciple should be reading the Scriptures at least once a day, every day. For most people, this can only happen if Bible reading is incorporated into a regular routine, so regular that it becomes a life long habit.

There will be times when routine is upended due to special circumstances such as travel, but even then, a disciple must be diligent in carving out time for Bible reading. Travel can even be a better time to read the Bible, such as while waiting for a flight in the departure lounge or taking extra time to read an entire NT book instead of watching an in-flight movie.

Whether you read in the morning, in the afternoon or at night, really doesn’t matter. What counts is finding a sufficient length of time to read the Bible on a regular basis so that you are reading it daily. Try to find a time when you are not rushed and when you can read it thoughtfully.

Be Creative

Normally, disciples will read a chapter a day or follow a reading plan of some type but, over time, this can become too repetitive and even dull. It is easy to get stuck in a reading rut where the Scriptures seem uninteresting and one winds up reading the Bible more out of a sense of duty rather than a means of communion with God.

That is when it is time to get creative with Bible reading. Break up the reading routine with some simple things to change the pace or set some new reading goals. A common one is to read the Bible in an entire year. One can use a reading plan but once I read the Bible in a year, backwards. Instead of the standard starting in Genesis, I started in Revelation and read each book in reverse order.

Another idea is to read the Bible in a different translation rather than your favourite one. This has the dimension of providing a different perspective on your reading of the Scriptures. My go to translation is the New International Version (NIV) but lately I have been reading in the New English Translation (NET) and enjoying its study notes as I read.

Read the seemingly difficult books, such as Leviticus or Ezekiel, by first reading an introduction to these books from an associated commentary. That way you can gain some background information that can help you understand the text better.

Another way to shake up your reading is to use an audio version of the Bible. Instead of visual reading, try hearing a book of the Bible. This may not become part of your regular practice but it will definitely act as an interesting change of pace.

Daily Bible reading is important and sounds simple but it is harder than it appears. That is where the application of the three principles of being committed, consistent and creative can help a disciple on the pathway to solid Bible reading.

2017 © Ed LeBlanc

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The Disappearance of Bible Study

20160319-Bible-3The Importance of Study

Education is considered the ticket to success. If a young person finishes high school but doesn’t go on to post secondary education of some kind, most people will consider their chances of achieving career and financial success very slim. Thus, high school students are being strongly encouraged to do post secondary education and many of them do, otherwise the message is clear: if you don’t have a university degree or a college diploma you will never get a good paying job.

Even after students complete university, many of them will continue into graduate and post graduate work before starting their careers. Many who do embark on their respective career paths after their undergrad will get an masters degree in their field part time or enter into an MBA program while they are working. Depending on career aspirations, the drive to acquire more education can be almost never ending.

Getting a formal education involves many things: books to buy and read, labs to do, assignments to complete, lectures to attend and so on. One of the major activities that students will have to do as part of their education is to study. Many students hate studying, mainly because it takes a lot of time to do and requires an enormous amount of concentration that is usually accompanied by outright frustration. Students have to study because students have to write exams. One cannot pass an exam unless one has mastery over the material and that comes primarily from studying.

For Christians, a key component of their spiritual development and training is Bible study. The Bible is so indispensable for Christian growth and development that it is impossible for any disciple of Jesus to walk with Him without a generous and continuous intake from His Word. As Paul wrote to Timothy,

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” – 2 Timothy 3:16

By study, I mean study, not reading. Studying the Bible is very different from reading the Bible. High school and university students know the difference. They know that reading their textbooks and their lecture notes once or twice is insufficient to gain mastery over the material and do well in their exams. Even if they had a photographic memory they would know the data cold but to really know a subject goes beyond committing the simple facts to memory. It means understanding what those facts mean, how they interrelate with other facts and how they can be applied in different situations. Students know that they need to study the material over and over again. Through studying, a student knows the nuances and particulars of the subject. Their exams test them on the understanding not the memorization.

The same applies to the Christian who wants to experience significant growth and communion with God. Simple readings of the Bible, while good and important, cannot take a person into a deeper understanding of the Word and of God. The Bible must be studied.

What is Bible Study?

So what is meant by studying the Bible? It can mean many things but it basically comes down to three actions: observing what the text says, interpreting what the text says and applying what the text says. Into these areas come all the tools and techniques that are used in doing a proper study of the Bible such as the use of concordances, Greek and Hebrew dictionaries, general Bible dictionaries and surveys and even commentaries. It also means taking the time to look at the text, ask questions of it, find answers and writing down your findings. The details on proper Bible study are beyond the scope of this essay but the point is there is more to it than just reading. Once you move beyond mere reading, the great treasures contained in the Scriptures will be found that would be easily missed.

The Bible Study Challenge

Most Christians do not have personal Bible study as part of their spiritual routine. Many struggle with Bible reading and prayer and to add personal study on top of that seems to be even more difficult. Yet, every Christian must ask themselves if they are already devoting time in the study of other things. What about those who are studying for their MBA part time while juggling the demands of a job? What about those taking golf lessons and practicing on the driving range on a regular basis? What about those who are taking guitar lessons and practicing on a daily basis? If Christians are finding time for these kinds of study in order to advance their career or to pursue personal interests, why is time not being taken for the timeless Word of God? If we really have a desire to accomplish something, we will take the time and effort to study in order to achieve it. Do we have the desire to pursue Christ through the Bible that radically?

My challenge to all disciples of Christ is to take up a personal project in doing a study of one book of the Bible, something short and achievable such as the the book of James or 2 Timothy. Spend at least an hour a week studying a book verse by verse, chapter by chapter and seek to find the treasures buried within. Use whatever tools you have on hand and record what the text is saying, the questions you asked, the answers you found and the gems you discovered. I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed and that, over time, your walk with the Lord will deepen.

2016 © Ed LeBlanc

The Bible in the Public Square

Parliament Building Tour106The Bible continues to be a widely influential book all over the world.  It has been translated into hundreds of languages, inspired billions of people for countless centuries and, despite its Middle Eastern origins, continues to cross all kinds of cultural boundaries as it is embraced by countless people groups.  The libretto for Handel’s Messiah, considered by some (including this writer) as one of the great masterpieces of Western civilization,  is completely based on the text of the King James Bible.  Hollywood, for good or for ill, continues to use the Bible as a source of ideas for various movie and television projects.

Despite it’s vast historical and cultural influence and authority, the Bible has fallen on hard times in the modern/postmodern Western world.  In certain parts of the West, Bible verses have been removed from some public buildings due to court orders.   Bibles are not permitted in many public schools with the odd exception, such as for literary purposes.    Many in academia and in places of high culture consider the Bible to be an anachronism, a throwback to an ignorant age and an embarrassment to modern sensibilities.  

That embarrassment extends to the reading and use of the Bible in the public square.  When issues of faith and morality are discussed in public forums such as radio talk shows, those who start quoting a text from scripture are typically cut off by moderators or shouted down by others.  The rest simply roll their eyes and tune out.  The Bible may be nice for art, literature, music and the odd movie but it is considered bad form to take it seriously when it comes to issues of public import.  To modern minds, the Bible simply has no place in the public square.

What is a Church to Do?

In generations gone by, quoting the Bible in public and quietly listening to it with a respectful attitude was the cultural norm.  Even people who were not regular church goers always held the Bible in high regard, even in the public square.  Hence, it was easy to discuss what the Bible had to say about issues related to morality and faith.  

How has the church in the West adapted to this relatively new cultural environment?  It usually has taken the form of two polar opposites.  At one end of the pole are those who unabashedly and sometime forcefully, speak the word of God in all kinds of public forums and they are not ashamed to do so.  If they are engaged in public or private conversation about a moral issue, they will not hesitate to read or quote a passage from the Bible that addresses it.  

At the other end are those in the church who do not bring up the Bible in any debate regarding faith or morality.  They appeal to logic, to history, to science, to psychology, to anything except the Bible.  In other words, they attempt to defend a Christian world view of things without mentioning the origin of that world view, namely the Bible.  The belief is that any attempt to quote or speak from the Bible will result in the automatic loss of credibility and authority in speaking a Christian world view in public forums.  In order to keep the conservation going and to preserve a place at the table, best not to say “Thus saith the Lord” on the evening newscast.  

Which of these two approaches is the correct one for the church to pursue?  Are they both ineffective?  If so, is there a third way?  This essay will attempt to demonstrate the shortcomings of these two approaches and propose a third way that can be both effective and faithful to the Bible in the public square.  

Old Fashion Bible Thumping

Evangelists of long ago would stand atop a podium in the local marketplace and gather a crowd around themselves while they preached from the Bible on the good news of Jesus.  In many ways, it was a kind of outdoor church service that was open and very public.  Evangelists and preachers were not afraid to read from the Bible and passersby often stopped to give a listen to what was going on.  Today, most people are not interested in listening to someone shouting out John 3:16 while they are on their way to work or running errands.  The typical person would usually keep their head down, avoid eye contact and quickly walk past.  Feelings of embarrassment and resentment usually set in.  

Is it wise to keep on quoting the Bible when it seems to turn off your audience and no one is listening?  In many parts of North America, quoting the Bible in serious public forums is a sure means of being ignored or laughed at.  Reading what the Bible has to say about sexual morality, the nature of God, etc., is a quick way of being labelled the pejorative Bible thumper.  

So why do some people continue to practice this approach of unabashed public Bible quoting?  One reason is that some do so out of an incorrect attitude that the Bible possesses a certain kind of magic.  If you speak verses into the air, they will somehow cast a spell on the unbelievers and they will be struck down with conviction.  However, the Bible is not a magic potion where Christians can unleash its power at their command.   For others, they believe that what is important is the act of quoting verses verbatim into the air regardless of how people react.  Such an attitude misunderstands what really is important.  Is it to speak the Bible into the air or to communicate the word into the hearts of people in a manner where those hearts can understand it?  To do the former with out the latter is equivalent to a missionary reading or teaching the word on a street corner in Ulan Bator in Spanish to a Mongolian audience.  It may make the missionary feeling good of what he has done however, it would leave the  Mongolians confused.  

Avoiding the Bible

The other end of the pole is the philosophy that the Bible should not be used at all in the public square when debating moral, ethical or faith related issues.  In this view, biblical morality and the Christian worldview can be defended in the public square without even mentioning or quoting the Bible as a source of authority.  Logic, science, reason and other tools can be used instead to buttress the biblical cause.  For example, the immorality of sexual practice outside the bounds of marriage can be defend by the medical, social, mental, relational and emotional consequences that such practices have historically produced.  The attending harm sexually immoral practices produce is sufficient warrant to justify and convince secular opponents of the folly and immorality of such practices.  Thus, using the Bible to demonstrate that sexual immorality is wrong, is unnecessary since it can be shown through other means.  

This approach does have strong appeal.  Since it does not directly involve the Bible, a potential stumbling block is removed in the public debate. It  also gives the church new opportunities of defending the Christian world view to an audience that will now listen as long as the Bible is not involved.  It also has a strong logical and pragmatic element that immediately appeals to western sensibilities.  

Despite its attractiveness, a main drawback to this approach is that it attempts to carve out a Christian worldview in the world without referencing its source, the Bible.  The danger lies in producing Christian views on a secular foundation of logic, reason and pragmatism, something that can change over time and that offers no firm basis upon which to be justifiable over the long term.  This approach may be sufficient to direct people in the right direction but suffers from an inability to lead them to the final destination: Jesus Christ.  

A Balanced Approach

The Word of God is the church’s main tool in proclaiming the good news and presenting the Christian worldview.  However, it is not the only  tool that God has given us in relating to the world.  The church would be remiss to neglect the general revelation of God that is available to all.  Even the Bible makes mention of God’s general revelation in Psalm 19.  General revelation would include areas such as the sciences, logic, etc that God uses to declare about Himself (Psalm 19:1).   

This points to another problem in the argument: it has become binary.  Christians frame the issue in a strict word versus logic argument or a battle between special revelation and general revelation.  The thinking goes that the church must use one but not the other but the church does better by employing both special and general revelation, in its relationship to the outside world, to glorify God.  What is important for the church to keep in mind is the relationship between special and general revelation and the characteristics of each.  

The keys to a balanced approach are contained in the Apostle Paul’s speech in the Areopagus of Athens to Greek philosophers as recorded in Acts 17.  Paul’s speech demonstrates that you can lead people to the truth by using general and special revelation at the same time.  In this situation, Paul was dealing with a nonJewish audience who knew nothing of the Torah, the prophets of Israel or even the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  To quote the Old Testament to them would have left them totally confused.  Instead, Paul uses logical observation, their own idol entitled “To An Unknown God” and the writings of two of their own poets in an attempt to direct them to the true God of the Universe.   

But in quoting Greek poets, is Paul is showing us that avoiding the Bible in dialoguing with secular minds is the best practice?  Not quite.  Look at Acts 17: 31.  “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice the man he has appointed.  He has given proof of this to all men by raising him for the dead.”  Paul concludes his secular apologetic defence by referring to the resurrection of Jesus from the grave.  The resurrection is definitely not a secular, scientific or logic argument.  It is unabashedly supernatural and biblical.  Paul did not directly quote a verse but he did address a biblical concept head on.  

And what was the reaction of his pagan audience?  Verse 32 reads, “When they heard about that resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered.”  When they heard the Bible, some of them immediately reacted like many 21st century western secularists would, with derision.  However, the verse also reads, “but others said, ‘We want to hear you again on this subject.’” Others in his audience had a different reaction and wanted to learn more.  

It would appear that Paul did use that end of the pole that doesn’t use the Bible in defending the Christian world view in the public square.  However, he does not do so exclusively.  Rather, he used secular approaches as a pathway to the special revelation of God.   Paul did use the Bible towards the end of his speech however, he did this without quoting it, showing us that the proclamation of biblical principles is a sound and proper way of communicating the Word in another form.    

It is important to note that before Paul spoke at the Areopagus, he was preaching in the marketplace to Jews and God-fearing Greeks about Jesus and the resurrection. As was Paul’s custom with Jews, he quoted Hebrew scripture.  But some pagans where there and their reaction was “what is this babbler trying to say”?  In other words, they did not understand the Hebrew scriptures or a Messiah.  But when he got to the Areopagus, he changed tactics and started from basic concepts, making way for a more detailed biblical analysis in the future.  Paul started with generalities to whet appetites.

The church must not be embarrassed by the Word of God or hide the Christian faith in the public square.   The church cannot ignore the current environment in the same way that Paul did not ignore the environment of his pagan audience.   The direct quoting of the scriptures many not be the first step in the relationship with the outside world.  The church must exercise wisdom in communicating biblical truth beyond that of picking out a set of proof texts however, she still must communicate biblical truth.  

The church must also move beyond sound arguments of logic and principle.  Such things lay the beginnings of understanding for unbelievers but  the church must then speak more directly about God’s revelation in His word and in His Son.  After Paul’s initial speech at the Areopagus, Acts 17:34 says “Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed.”  To Paul it was not a binary approach but a holistic one of reaching his pagan audience with the aim of leading hearts to understanding and then to repentance and faith.  The church universal would do well to emulate Paul’s example.  

2014 © Ed LeBlanc

Contemporary Challenges in Preaching

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The Importance of Preaching

In the life of the church, preaching plays an important role.  This is especially so in the Protestant tradition where the key component of corporate worship has been the preaching of the scriptures to the body of believers.  On a typical Sunday, preaching takes up close to half of the worship time.  For many Christians  the preaching of the Bible from the pulpit is their primary, if not only, form of teaching that they receive.  Preaching informs, encourages, inspires, rebukes and convicts.  Some may believe that the traditional practice of one individual standing up to give a unidirectional message to a group of people is an outdated church tradition.  Despite this and all the changes the church has experienced over the years, preaching remains a key part of the life of the church.  

Much has been written and discussed  about the art and science of preaching that one would think nothing more needs to be said however, there have been a few trends that raises concerns about this ancient means of teaching the Word of God.  These trends are producing sermons that are bland, unfocused and distracting from the scriptures.  Oddly, many Christians think such sermons are wonderful and believe they represent good preaching.   Are they right?   

The Failures of Preaching

Preaching is suffering in many churches across North America.   The quality of sermons has been on the decline, characterized by banal preaching, poor subject matter and lots of fluff with little in the way of solid food.  The scope of preaching has become fragmented with many preachers having little in the way of coherent messages that tie into larger themes.   Here are some of the causes that are leading to the poor state of preaching.  

Too Much Topical, Not Enough Expositional

One major cause is the almost exclusive use of topical preaching by the majority of preachers.  On a typical Sunday in a typical church, one will be listening to a sermon that is based on a particular subject.  The next Sunday, one will hear a message that is based on another subject.  In all cases the sermon will contain a passage or two from the Bible that the preacher will expound from.  However, it is the subject at hand that determines the biblical text and the scope of the text; from a single verse, to set of scattered verses to an entire chapter.  Subjects range from love, to suffering, to kindness, to evangelism, etc.  It could even be a subject about something in the Bible such as the sufferings of the apostle Paul, or the kind of relationship Jesus had with his disciples.  But in all cases, it is the subject that determines the sermon and the scriptures.  This stands in contrast to expository preaching where a specific biblical text is examined and expounded upon from the pulpit with a view to discovering what the text is saying.  

There is absolutely nothing wrong with topical preaching.  It is a very important form of preaching that addresses the needs of the church.  The problem with topical preaching is that it is overused to the point where few sermons are preached anymore on just the Bible.  Few preachers are taking their flock through a verse by verse study of a particular book or set of major chapters to discover what the scriptures are saying.  Instead, topical sermons are given where the Bible is used to support the topic at hand with less examination on what these Bible texts may be saying outside of the topic of that Sunday.  

The lack of expository preaching has led to some unintended consequences in the life of the church.  The first is that it contributes to the problem of biblical illiteracy.  Recent surveys claim that many evangelical Christians, whose faith is supposedly based on what the Bible says, know little of what the Bible says.  Many Christians have not read their Bibles from cover to cover.  Even more have a poor grasp of the content and structure of the Bible.  Most would probably fail a basic Bible quiz.  Given this back drop, the continuous use of topical sermons does little to reverse this situation.  Preachers need to start going through books of the Bible with their congregations in order to improve their basic knowledge of the scriptures.  

A second unintended consequence is that it reinforces the idea that the Bible is boring, so boring that preachers dare not preach from the same book week after week for fear it will bore their listeners.  The feeling is that one needs to have fresh, new and exciting topics week after week.  Doing a series of messages on the book of Leviticus spells the kiss of death.  But this is false premise.  It is not the book that makes for the boredom but rather the lack of skill or interest of the preacher to bring the freshness and excitement in the text to the listeners.  Topical sermons are “easy” in that the preacher controls the subject matter.  Expository preaching requires more skill as the preacher has to address the text at hand whether its content is easy, hard or seemingly boring.    

Too Many Stories, Too Little Bible

This may seem crazy to say but stories and illustrations are killing good preaching.  But wait, didn’t Jesus use parables in much of His preaching? Yes He did and to great effect, leading Him to become history’s greatest storyteller.  But Jesus did not use His stories to entertain His audiences.  He often used them to shock and shame them into repentance and to warn them of God’s coming wrath.  He often used stories to show people that they were not as good before God as they thought themselves to be.  Jesus used stories in a careful manner to cause people to pause, think and be convicted about the deep truths of the kingdom.

One of the major failures of contemporary preaching is the overuse of stories in sermons.  This trend can be found in many sermons where stories are taking up more preaching time than the actual message or scripture being preached.  It is not unusual to find a preacher spending 50 percent of his time telling all kinds of stories and not having enough time to finish the main body of the sermon!  Stories and illustrations are good and even critical in successful preaching.  Any sermon that doesn’t have them suffers.  But like any good thing, the overuse of storytelling ruins the sermon.  

Preachers who like to tell stories often spend too much time talking about their Aunt Bessie’s car breaking down in order to illustrate their point about trusting in God’s provision.  Then they go back to their text but in a short time they launch into another story about their Uncle Bob’s life as a tradesman in Chibougamau, Quebec.  Many stories from the pulpit may sound good but they are often too long, irrelevant, distracting and are often poor illustrations of the point the preacher is trying to get across.  Preachers need to make sure their stories do not displace the scriptures, that they are short, to the point and that they actually add value to the message.  The temptation is to use stories to entertain the audience in order to keep their attention and less on challenging them with the biblical text.  Stories are good but they must not override the main task at hand: the exposition of the Bible.  Too much story telling is feeding junk food to the flock.  

Too Much Dumbing Down, Too Little Biblical Challenge

The dumbing down of the western mind is all around us.  The culture of the short attention span, the Reader’s Digest version of almost anything, the lack of the ability to think critically and the lack of thoughtful reflection are hallmarks of contemporary society.  Unfortunately the art of dumbing things down is present in the church where the push to oversimplify and be content with spiritual baby food has become de rigueur in what passes for discipleship.  This is something the writer of Hebrews told his readers about in Hebrews 5:12-13:  

In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.  You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.    

The readers of Hebrews should have been feeding themselves on solid food but instead they were content to live on baby food.  Unfortunately, this is what many preachers are content to do with their listeners, keep feeding them dumbed down spiritual baby food and never leading them into the deeper and harder truths of the scriptures.  It seems many preachers are afraid to speak of difficult biblical issues or are dismissive of them.  Preachers should not think that they have to dumb things down or talk down to their audience when it comes to preaching on deep theological matters.  Christians need to be on a solid path towards maturity.  Sermons filled with fluffy baby food does not help matters.  

The Reformation of Preaching

  Most preachers in evangelical churches today are godly servants of God who want nothing more than to lift up and encourage the saints.  Many of them spend hours in the Word preparing their messages.  Many have taken courses on preaching, theology and ministry and have learned the craft from seasoned veterans.  For this, they are to be commended.  Unfortunately, many have gone the way of topical overuse, story overuse and the dumbing down of their sermons. So what can preachers do to reverse these failures? 

The first step to avoid these failures is to get back to true expository preaching.  As they say, it is time to preach the whole counsel of God and this means going through the Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter with the saints, Sunday after Sunday.  Preachers need to bring topical preaching down a few notches in use and focus more on those obscure books of the Bible that few preach on.    

The next step is to make sure one is feeding the saints real solid food.  Part of this means tackling the very difficult and controversial sections of the Bible that many  Christians have questions about but few preachers are willing to address in their sermons.  This is never easy but it is necessary if Christians are to emerge out of their spiritual infancy into maturity.  

The third step is to do the hard work of finding those hidden gems in the scriptures, especially within the familiar passages, and hauling them out for the congregation to feast and wonder over.  Preachers will need to hone their biblical skills and depend on the Holy Spirit to extract the gems in those obscure or difficult books for their listeners to receive.  The Bible is a vast treasure trove of spiritual jewels.  It is the preacher’s job to mine and refine those jewels for all to see.  

Preaching needs improvement.  It is not yet in a crisis situation within the church but it is coming close.  Getting back to biblical basics and cutting out unnecessary and unhelpful fluff are the key principles that preachers need to follow in order to stay the course.  These will help keep their sermons fruitful for the saints, for the edification of the church and for the glory of God.