Archives for posts with tag: preaching

After this month, we’ve experienced in the flesh why Chicago is considered the 6th major city with the worst weather in the US. It has been VERY cold and we are officially sick of the snow. Come Spring, come…


Besides the cold we’ve actually had an enjoyable month. In particular, we were delighted to have a close friend from Spain, Dan, over for a week. It is so relaxing to speak in Spanish and, for a moment, no longer feel like aliens in a strange land. We’ve also been able to spend time with friends from Chicagoland, which becomes more significant as we realize that soon we’ll be far away from here.

Looking forward, this semester will have a high concentration of preaching. Because I want to grow in preaching God’s word faithfully, I’ve seized a number of opportunities to get better at it. I’m taking specialized preaching classes (in difficult biblical texts like poetic and prophetic books) and will be preaching in a number local churches. Two weeks ago I was also able to attend a Simeon Trust workshop that provides ongoing training for people in ministry to preach better. Finally, Dan, our friend from Spain, encouraged me to write guidelines for preparing a sermon. You can see it here.

I still have a lot to learn about preaching, but a few things have become evident. First, if the Bible is God’s word, it is essential that preachers learn how to read the text carefully to understand not only what it is saying, but also what it is claiming on the reader – what we are called to do in response. Second, the preacher is to clearly communicate that to the church, calling them also to respond to God’s word. This is a sobering thought, actually communicating God’s word to people. That’s one of the reasons I need a lot more training.

Please, keep praying with us:

  • to enjoy this last semester, especially to spend time with friends that we might never see again
  • to keep strong in studies, work and church
  • for my preaching times, that God would keep me faithful to his word and that I speak through him while I continue learning

We love you,



A few people have asked me recently how to prepare a text to preach or teach in a Bible study. In the next few posts, I will share some tools that I have learned to help to read the biblical text better, understand its meaning and purpose, and share that with others.

This first post gets to the most important part: the need to understand our text well and identify its main claim. The idea is to find out the central motivation in the text. What is it trying to get done? This will be what we want to communicate in a sermon, not our own ideas. Doing this part well will give power and authority to the message, because you won’t just share your words, but you will open the Word of God for your hearers.

The tool I propose below consists in six questions to ask your text to get to its main claim. These are taken from Greg Sharf’s book, Prepared to Preach, (Christian Focus, 2005).

Once you have your text (a basic logical unit), read it a few times, in different translations, and try to answer the following questions. While you study the text, jot down notes in another notebook or text file: things that are strange, that surprise you, that you don’t get, that could be a good illustration, etc. These notes will be useful later for preparing the presentation.

This phase can take from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the text.

1. What is the text I am reading functionally?

E.g.: a poem, a letter, a historical narration…then go more specific: an exhortation, a command, a story, an illustration, a hymn, etc.

2. What is the main subject?

E.g.: faith, perseverance, the magnificence of God, etc.

Note: identify only one main subject. There will be more things, but there is one that will be prominent amongst all the rest. This one controls the text. If there really are a few different ones, you might need to cut down the chunk of text you are going to share from.

3. What is the author saying about the subject?

E.g.: Faith is a gift from God, perseverance marks the Christian life, etc.

Note: many times the sub-themes that you found earlier enter into this category. They help explain the main subject.

4. What response is the Holy Spirit requiring from believing readers?

E.g.: Increase their faith, encouragement by remembering God’s work, to abandon an idol that has substituted Christ in their life, etc.

Note: It is helpful here to think of the historical context to find out what response was sought in the original listeners.

5. How is the Holy Spirit eliciting the intended response?

E.g.: With a story of someone who didn’t have faith but God gave her faith anyway, with a logical argument, etc.

Note: Often in this phase you finally get the grammatical structure of the text: how the pieces are fitting together to prop up the main point (e.g.: the three arguments Paul uses to convince his reader to believe the gospel). Try to write this structure down, or draw it out. This will be very useful for the sermon or presentation later.

6. How does this particular passage contribute to the large picture, that is, to the story of redemption?

Ask yourself, What would be missing in this book if this passage wasn’t here? What would be missing in the canon (the whole Bible) if this passage wasn’t here? Considering the period when it was written ask, How does this contribute to point towards the cross and the gospel of Christ (is it before his death, resurrection or ascension or after it, how does that influence our understanding of it)?

Note: this is a step that we often forget, but it is absolutely crucial for a Christocentric sermon (i.e. a Christian sermon). We must see how Christ is seen in this passage. Remember that he is the fulfillment of all the law, the prophecies, and the stories. If it is a command, how is Christ reflected and how has God’s grace in him affected it?

After answering these questions, What should I have?

  • The text’s “proposition” or main claim: This is the central purpose of the text, what it is trying to get done. Write it out in a sentence with only one verb. This is the focus that is going to control your presentation of the text.
  • A basic grammatical structure: Here is where you put together the pieces, answering the question, How does the author present his proposal?
  • A bunch of notes of stuff that can be included in your presentation, such as application ideas, insights, even illustrations that may have come to mind.

With what you have now, we’ll go on to the “bridge” phase, which will take you from the biblical message to a message to share with people here and now. I’ll talk about that in the next post.


A few weeks ago I had the opportunity of preaching at the First Evangelical Free Church of Racine, Wisconsin, with marquee and all. They asked me to preach on Psalm 40. I’m really fond of all the psalms, but this one I had memorized some months ago, so it has been a privilege to be able to go over it again and again to take out what it has to offer.

You can listen to it below or download it here (right click, “save link as”).

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.

4 Blessed is the one
who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.

5 Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.

6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened[c]—
burnt offerings and sin offerings[d] you did not require.

7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.

8 I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.”

9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, Lord,
as you know.

10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.

12 For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.

13 Be pleased to save me, Lord;
come quickly, Lord, to help me.

14 May all who want to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.

15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
be appalled at their own shame.

16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The Lord is great!”

17 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
you are my God, do not delay.