Headphones And Homiletics
Get To Know Motyer
If J. Alec Motyer is not on your list of authors to read, it’s probably about time to get to know him. Though he recently entered his heavenly abode (August 2016), Motyer’s voice is still very present through his numerous commentaries, devotional books, and other writings. For me, reading Motyer was like unearthing a gold mine of Old Testament theology. I haven’t yet seen writings on the Old Testament that contain more sound scholarship and devotional warmth than Motyer. He takes a largely neglected and misunderstood section of scripture and reminds readers that the Old Testament is flavorful and vital food for our souls.
How Do You Feel About The Old Testament?
Motyer opens this book with a much-needed question: “Do you find the Old Testament more than a little bit daunting?” This is a question many people will answer with, “yes, of course!”. This book is written to help those who not only feel it is daunting, but also carry a misguided view that keeps us from actually reading the Old Testament much. Notice that I said “us”. I, too, do not read much of the Old Testament and feel lost in a foreign world that I have been told doesn’t correlate with the New Testament Christian experience.
A Devotional Work
Motyer traces 6 Old Testament themes throughout this devotional book. Why do I consider it devotional? Frankly, because Motyer clearly states in the introduction that “the readings are more important than the introductions, so if you find any chapter best left for later, why not get on with the readings and then come back to it?” He desires communion with God in His inspired Word rather than merely reading his words and missing out on the treasures of the scriptures themselves. For each major theme, he offers 6 days of readings with some brief commentary to supplement the readings.
The 6 themes he shares will help readers enjoy the Old Testament in a more organized and accessible way than they may have tried before. Rather than aimlessly picking up in a random place or dreadfully trudging through the law with no concept of what’s going on, Motyer gives brief overviews of the themes of history, religion, worship, prophecy, wisdom, and God as they present themselves in the Old Testament. In the appendix, he also provides 24 weeks worth of short daily readings with more brief commentary to help readers explore the riches of the Old Testament for themselves.
A Swiss Army Knife
Swiss army knives are known for their numerous practical uses. Motyer has presented the Church with a swiss army knife on the Old Testament. This book could be used for personal devotion, discipleship, small group classes, or even a sermon series. The six themes are easily identifiable, and the readings are brief enough to illustrate the theme while not forcing the theme onto the biblical text. The commentary is brief enough to illuminate some truths in the passages while also giving readers the hunger to do more digging for themselves.
Get your copy of “6 Ways The Old Testament Speaks Today” here!
Note: I received a free copy of this book from Crossway. I was not required to write a positive review.
Length: 6 Hours
Preaching For The Rest Of Us is a tool for every preacher’s toolbox! It is a small book that packs a lot of punch. It’s biblical, practical, and focused on preaching the biblical text well. This is a book for pastors and preachers. It is especially useful for pastors who desire to preach well but may not have time to mine the depths of all the wonderful literature on expository preaching. Even the seasoned pastor could use this book as a resource to grow in their preaching and make sure they are preaching text-driven sermons.
Immensely Practical and Pastoral
Preaching For The Rest Of Us is written with a practical emphasis. From the introduction, it is clear that Gallaty and Smith want you to use this book, not just read it and have it in your collection of preaching books. Instead, they urge readers to “prepare a sermon as you read this book” (p.xvii). In two main sections, Interpretation and Communication, Gallaty and Smith lay out how to understand the meaning of a text and how to take that text and its meaning to hearers today.
The chief desire of the authors is for pastors to preach Christ well. For pastors, this is our calling and our work. If done well, God will be glorified. If done poorly, we will preach man-centered sermons loosely based on a passage of scripture. This is a failure to fulfill our calling to build up and equip the saints for the work of ministry. For church members, biblical preaching is vital for our spiritual growth.
Driven By Biblical Desires
“Let the text breathe. You are free from having to cram it into a structure you build or fear your sermon will sound too much like someone else” (p. 31). The bible is preached best when the bible itself is preached. The Bible, in its original context, should be the focal point of our sermons. Gallaty and Smith spend time showing various genres of scripture and giving examples of how to interpret those genres properly. They emphasize that much effort must be given to the process of reading and interpretation. And lest we get too academic in focus, Gallaty and Smith remind readers to be “praying and meditating on what (we) are reading” (p.39).
Devoted To Effective Communication
Since preaching is such an intricate and challenging task, “we must constantly evaluate our preaching” (p.99). Examination of how we communicate truth will lead to better preaching. Preachers must be able translate (craft what we will preach), explain, and give exhortation from the biblical text. We need to use introductions and conclusions to aid our hearers in receiving the word. We need to preach the spirit and emotion of passages. And finally, we need to call people to respond to God’s word—both for initial faith and continuing obedience.
Try It Yourself
I’ll be honest. I hate when authors tell me what to do! If I’m reading a good book, I don’t like to put it down to do something else— I’m reading! But I actually used this book to prepare for a recent sermon. It was remarkably simple to follow their guidance in studying and understanding the passage. I used their chapters on communication to deliver the text with adequate bridges to my context as well effective illustrations.
I’ll be honest again. It didn’t feel like a great sermon. But it was a text-driven sermon that spurred my listeners to respond to God’s Word. I didn’t miraculously become a better preacher in just one attempt at following the principles of this book! You won’t either!
No Showboating Allowed
There is no showboating in this book. The authors are honest that they didn’t learn to preach until after seminary. This is both humbling and encouraging. They admitted that it is rare to feel like you nailed it this week. I am thankful for that. There is not a feeling of inferiority that comes from reading this book. The feelings of inferiority and failure in our preaching should come from a failure to rely on God in study, preparation and preaching of the biblical text, not from the delivery style or audience response. As we grow in our preaching, we will likely have a few of those better sermons.
As a bi-vocational preaching elder, time is of the essence for me. I have to devote time to preparing sermons, and I have to get the main point of a biblical text right. As one who seeks to “rightly divide” God’s word, I strive to do that well (2 Tim 2:15). Preaching For The Rest Of Us has helped me do just that. I highly recommend this book. But don’t just read it—that’ll be a waste of your time. Use it, and use it often. And don’t forget to check out the appendix! There’s some great stuff back there!
Chrys Jones is a Christian, husband, father of three, pastor, and teacher. He is also a recording artist and producer for Christcentric Records and a book briefer for Accelerate Books. In his free time, Chrys loves to spend time with his family, roast coffee, read good books, and listen to beat tapes and jazz.