King David Comes to Canada

One of my great joys at Heritage is teaching preaching.  Right now our homiletics course is focused on how to preach and teach the narrative passages in the Bible.  Narratives are the “stories” in the Bible that easily capture our attention. However, they can be challenging to preach or teach.

Last summer I wrote a magazine article dealing with how to preach from narrative passages.  The article focused on three challenges that come with preaching narratives:

  1. How do I discover the main message in the story?
  2. How do I apply the story to a contemporary audience?
  3. How do I point people to Christ from the story?

In the next three posts, I’ll present the sections of the article that seek to help answer these three important questions.


David 2The stories of David, recorded in 1 and 2 Samuel are some of the most riveting in the entire Bible. David and Goliath. David and Saul. David and Jonathan. David and Bathsheba. God’s Word shows us the good, the bad and the ugly in David’s life. Triumph is mingled with tragedy and presented in vivid, colourful detail.

David’s life, like much of Scripture, comes to us as a story. In more technical terms, David’s story is presented in a genre of writing called narrative literature. The Bible contains a variety of literary genres: epistle, poetry and wisdom—to name a few. However, the largest genre category is narrative. Roughly 40% of the Bible can be classified as narrative.

Preaching or teaching on the life of David involves knowing how to accurately and effectively handle narrative literature in the Bible. For many of us—especially those more comfortable with New Testament epistles—teaching narrative literature presents some unique challenges. Here are three that I’ve faced while preaching narrative passages, including stories from David’s life.

  1. How do I discover the main message in the story?
  2. How do I apply the story to a contemporary audience?
  3. How do I point people to Christ from the story?

Let’s consider these one at a time.

Discovering the Main Message of the Story

The stories in 1 and 2 Samuel faithfully record events from David’s life. We see inspiring examples of David’s trust in God as he faces Goliath, refuses to attack Saul and looks after Mephibosheth. We also see David making a mess of things as he sins with Bathsheba, overlooks Joab’s violent behaviour and orders a national census.

All these episodes in David’s life are recorded in Scripture not just to capture our attention (which they do!) but to change our lives. As the apostle Paul indicates,      “. . . everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

So as we prepare to teach a portion of David’s story, we must discern the message God wants us to learn from what was “written in the past.”   Here’s where we hit the first challenge: how do we discover the main message in a narrative passage? After all, rarely does the biblical author finish a narrative section with the words: “and the point of is story is . . . .”

When seeking to discover the main message of a narrative, I’ve found it helpful to remember that David’s story, like all narratives in Scripture, contains both common ground and holy ground.

common groundBy common ground I mean aspects of the story that are common to all people. Human nature has remained basically the same over the centuries. As a result, we have a lot in common with David and the other men and women in Scripture. The needs, desires, frailties and failings we see in David and other biblical characters are often the same ones we see in ourselves. The temptations and struggles they faced are “common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:31). This common ground is what Bryan Chapell calls the “Fallen Condition Focus” of the passage: “The Fallen Condition Focus (FCF) is the mutual human condition that contemporary believers share with those for or by whom the text was written that requires the grace of the passage to manifest God’s glory in his people.”[1]

To discover the common ground in the passage, I ask this question: “What human needs or problems are surfaced in the passage?

Holy groundIn addition to having common ground, biblical narratives also contain what we can call holy ground. Here I am talking about ways God reveals Himself in the midst of our fallen human condition. Wherever God reveals Himself, we find holy ground—think of the burning bush in Exodus 3.

To find the holy ground in a narrative I ask, “What do I learn about God in this story? How does God show His truth and grace in a way that addresses our fallen condition?”

The main message of the passage is often found where common ground meets holy ground. Where God’s grace intersects our fallen condition.

For example, in the account of David’s anointing by Samuel in 1 Samuel 16, we find common ground in the natural tendency of Jesse and Samuel to evaluate by external standards. When Samuel sees Eliab, Jesse’s oldest son, he thinks to himself, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord” (16:6). Eliab was the eldest son, a tall and impressive young man. Samuel was sure Eliab would make a great replacement for King Saul. Had we been there, we probably would have made a similar judgment. That’s the common ground.

The holy ground in the story is seen as God corrects Samuel’s thinking: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (16:7). God is revealing important truth about Himself and about us. This truth points to the main message of the passage: When choosing people for ministry, God sees past the externals and goes for the heart.

[1] Bryan Chapell, The Fallen Condition Focus and the Purpose of the Passage, on Accessed June 13, 2015.

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Wedding Day Glory

The past week and half have been an epic time for our family. Our oldest son, Ryan, was wedding
married to Jenny Florio on October 24th in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

As parents, we’ve prayed for years for the mates our kids would marry. Jenny is a beautiful answer to our prayers. On top of that, friends and family came to help serve and celebrate. The wedding weekend was one of the most joyful times in our lives.

It’s fascinating how God uses wedding imagery to convey the heights of human joy. When the Lord promises a restoration to Israel after the devastation of exile, He says, “there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord” (Jeremiah 33:11). The voices of the bride and groom are the sounds of unbridled happiness.

The Lord also uses wedding imagery to capture the wonder of His relationship to the believers who make up the Church—His bride. In the final chapters of Revelation we are given a glimpse of the ultimate wedding celebration that awaits in heaven: “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and the like loud peals of thunder, shouting: Hallelujah, For our Lord God almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:6-7).

Our youngest son, Michael, made a comment about the wedding imagery in the Bible that helped heighten my enjoyment of Ryan and Jenny’s wedding. Michael suggested that one of the reasons we should fully enter into the joy of a God-honouring earthly wedding is because it mirrors the joy we feel about the heavenly “wedding of the Lamb.” Our joy on earth is a preview and a pointer to the joy we will have in heaven with Christ.

Wedding day glory on earth gets us ready for the glory of the ultimate Wedding Day in IMG_2668heaven.

I preached a message about this them the Sunday after Ryan and Jenny’s wedding. The sermon, an exposition of John 2:1-11 was entitled, “Wedding Day Glory.” You can listen to the sermon here.

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A Bumper Crop of Blessings

IMG_0879 “You crown the year with your bounty and your carts overflow with abundance” (Psalm 65:11).

The previous owners of our home in Cambridge had the foresight to plant an apple tree in the backyard. Last year, the tree produced a total of two apples. This year it gave us hundreds of beautiful, tart apples (we think they’re Macintosh apples).

What to do with such bounty? After thanking God for causing our apple carts to “overflow with abundance,” we picked, peeled and put up apples.

IMG_0880Now our pantry is filled with a bounty of applesauce in mason jars. Our freezer brims with bags of sliced apples ready to become the sweet filling of apple pies.

Harvest season is meant to be a time of Thanksgiving. We give thanks to God for the bounty of blessings He has given us. We echo the words of the Psalm 103:

            Praise the Lord O my soul
            and forget not all his benefits.
            Who forgives all your sins,
            and heals all your diseases.
            Who redeems your life from the pit
            and crowns you with love and compassion.
            Who satisfies your desires with good things
            so your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

This Thanksgiving season we want to voice our thanks to God for the bounty of His blessings. I enjoyed writing down some of the specifics in my journal this evening: the upcoming weddings for our sons, the privilege of training men and women for ministry at Heritage, physical and spiritual strength, and a sense of fruitfulness in God’s service.  It’s good for our souls to remember the goodness of the Lord.

Whether this year’s blessings have seemed lean (only two apples) or lavish (a bumper crop), God is worthy of our heartfelt thanksgiving.

“Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1)

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Heritage Preaching Lectures and Ministry Wives Day

Where can preachers go to get refueled and refocused? Where can Bible teachers go to be taught about teaching?   Where can ministry wives go to be encouraged and equipped by other women in ministry?

One good answer to these questions is the Heritage Preaching Lectures.

rameshEach year, Heritage hosts a one-day conference designed to encourage and equip those who preach or teach God’s Word. Over the years, we’ve had the joy of learning from outstanding preachers. This year is no exception as we welcome Dr. Ramesh Richard as our guest presenter.

bookDr. Richard has trained preachers literally around the world. Linda and I have traveled with him to Tanzania and watched him masterfully instruct an auditorium full of African pastoral leaders.   His book, Preparing Expository Sermons, was selected by the editors of Preaching Magazine as one of the 25 best books on preaching in the last 25 years.

This year’s Heritage Preaching Lectures is offered in two cities on two different days: Thursday, October 1st on the Heritage campus in Cambridge and Friday, October 2nd at the Metropolitan Bible Church in Ottawa.

On both days, there will be a special track available for ministry wives. In addition to hearing a message from Dr. Richard, women can choose to gather with Linda Reed for instruction and fellowship.

We’ve already had many sign up, but it’s not too late to register (click here for more information and registration).

As a preacher, I’m looking forward to being with ministry friends and being instructed and inspired by Dr. Richard. Hope to see you there.

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Love Hespeler

IMG_0897Last Sunday night, under threatening skies, several hundred believers (including about 70 Heritage students) met for an outdoor praise and prayer service at Forbes Park in the little village of Hespeler.

Hespeler is one of three towns and a hamlet that were amalgamated to form the city of Cambridge in 1973.

HespelerFounded in the early 1800’s and originally known as New Hope, Hespeler was a thriving town in the mid-20th century. It had a textile mill that produced uniforms for the Canadian military during WWII.  The Hespeler Wood Specialities company made hockey sticks used by Bobby Hull, Wayne Gretzky and other NHL stars.

In more recent times, the village has fallen on harder times.

So several local churches and Heritage College and Seminary have joined together to launch an initiative called “Love Hespeler.”   Our desire is to bring the love and light of Jesus to our village. We are seeking to do this through loving our neighbours, taking part in service projects, and telling people the gospel message of Christ.

IMG_0901The gathering on Sunday night brought us together to praise and pray. It was a joy to see Heritage students and believers from Hespeler Baptist and Temple Baptist church huddle up to pray for God’s love to come to the people of Hespeler through us.

God graciously held back the rain while we were singing and praying. But I’m praying that He will send many showers of blessing on the village of Hespeler in the days ahead.

Please pray that Heritage students will be a vital part of loving Hespeler with the gospel of Christ.


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Back to School Supplies

“And my God will supply all your needs
according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”
(Philippians 4:19).

We have been rejoicing all summer in good and hard times. In early July, the doctor noted a suspicious growth on one of my (Rick) kidneys. This week I received the doctor’s report from the CT scan. By God’s grace, everything is good. We count it a privilege to have life and have no greater honour than to be part of the mission God has given Heritage: “equipping men and women for life and ministry.”

IMG_0878 (1)Our student leadership team returned on Sunday for a week of training. On Labour Day, our new students move into the dorms. God “supplied all our needs” this summer with new mattresses for all our dorm rooms and some new treadmills for the fitness centre. A summer flood due to heavy rains required significant repairs which are nearly complete. A garden area and a new gazebo have been supplied for our students to have a quiet space outside their busy dorm rooms.

As we move into the new school year, we still have need of a few “back to school supplies”:

Prayer: Would you pray for our students as they come to campus? Boldly ask the Lord for revival and renewal in all our faculty, staff, and students. We were encouraged to hear of a Christian university where this renewal is taking place; would you pray God will work powerfully at Heritage as well? Pray for me (Rick) as I speak in chapel and teach preaching courses. Pray for Linda as she teaches a course on Women That Impact the World through Evangelism.

Grounds: We have a beautiful simple campus. The rain and sun were perfect for growing this summer. If you live locally, we have a need for a volunteer campus “refresh” team (weeding or painting touch ups). This would be a great way to help supply our needs.

studentsScholarships: We have students who would take courses for ministry if God supplied their needs. Would you consider partnering with us in the training of students for ministry? If you would like to donate towards our scholarship funds you can get more information here.

If you have further questions about how you could help with our “Back to School Supplies,” feel free to call us (519.651.2869) or e-mail.

Our goal: To see God supply, and to see a “profit increase to your account” (Phil 4:17). After all, we serve the God who supplies all our needs.

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A Lincoln-like Response to Rebels

These are trying times for those of us who hold to biblical values and believe God’s truth is needed for human flourishing. We are increasingly reminded that we live in a culture that is in rebellion against God and His ways.

So how should we respond to those who oppose what Scripture presents as God’s will? How should we react to the video of Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services, talking nonchalantly over lunch about harvesting and selling organs from aborted babies? How should we respond to advocates of gay marriage celebrating the recent US Supreme court decision to redefine marriage? Or when Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner receives the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage and a standing ovation at the ESPYs?

Here’s a biblical exhortation and a historical example that can help us.

Biblical Exhortation: Titus 3:1-6.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Historical example: Abraham Lincoln

This summer Linda and I have both read Team of Rivals,
Doris Goodwin’s fascinatingTReam of Rivals book on Abraham Lincoln. It’s not only one of the most riveting biographies we’ve ever read, it’s a gives a powerful example of how to respond with wisdom and grace towards those who oppose you.

As Lincoln began his presidency, Northern and Southern states were deeply divided over the issue of slavery. Abolitionists spoke fiery denunciations of slaveholders. Many Southern leaders were equally strident in their defense of slavery.

Shortly after Lincoln was elected, several Southern states seceded.  Lincoln was regularly pilloried as a tyrant for his views on slavery and his insistence on keeping the Union intact.

Lincoln head shotBut throughout the turbulent years of his presidency, Lincoln never wavered in his beliefs. He held firm to his resolve to preserve the Union. He continued to see slavery as evil. “If slavery is not wrong,” Lincoln said, “nothing is wrong.” He issued the Emancipation Proclamation and lobbied hard to pass 13th amendment that abolished slavery throughout the United States.

While he was steadfast and immovable in his convictions, Lincoln’s response to those in rebellion was magnanimous and gracious. He rejected the rhetoric of Northerners who branded Southerners as enemies. Goodwin writes, “Unlike the majority of antislavery orators, who denounced the South and castigated slave owners as corrupt and un-Christian, Lincoln pointed denied fundamental differences between Northerners and Southerners. He argued that ‘they are just what we would be in their situation’” (167).

Lincoln embodied a biblical blend of conviction and compassion. He would not change his objectives but was kind to his opponents. Even when others were vicious towards him, he was gracious towards them.

What about us?

So how do we respond to those who are in rebellion against God’s Word and ways? Both the truth of Titus 3 and the example of Abraham Lincoln would call us to be unapologetically firm in our stand for truth and unexpectedly kind in our response to people.

We must speak up for the rights of the unborn and the Creator’s definition of marriage. We should seek to stir up the remnants of conscience in the hearts of those who are created in God’s image but resistant to His will. We should exercise our rights as citizens and use the democratic process to elect leaders who share our convictions.

At the same time, we must be gracious and kind in what we say to and about those who oppose us. We must not resort to slander when we receive slander. We must not hate on those who are haters.

How will we be able to respond like this? Titus 3:5 gives the answer: the gospel.   The gospel message reminds us we were once rebels towards God, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. The gospel teaches us that our salvation is based solely on God’s mercy, not our merit. The gospel promises the gift of the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all who trust in Christ. Through the empowering of God’s Spirit, we can find strength to take the high road (or walk the narrow way) as we engage a rebellious culture.malice

Through the empowering work of the Spirit, we can live out the words Abraham Lincoln said in his Second Inaugural address: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

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