Recommended Books for Preaching Jonah

slide-wide-jonah-1I finished preaching through the book of Jonah several months ago and was tremendously blessed by the message of that book. You can watch a video of my overview of the book here. You can also listen to the whole series by going to our church’s sermon player here.

The book of Jonah is about far more than a giant fish swallowing a man and spitting him back up again. It’s a book that’s all about “God’s Great Heart for the Lost”. To my dismay, I found very few good commentaries on the book of Jonah. After a lot of searching and trial and error here are some of the best resources that I found for preaching expositionaly through this remarkable book.

1) ESV Study Bible – The ESV Study Bible didn’t have any more information than these other commentaries, but it did bring it all together to one place where I could get a good overview of each passage that I was preaching.

2) Liberty Bible Commentary – I don’t even know how I got a copy of the Liberty Bible Commentary set. It’s a two volume set put out by Jerry Falwell, who isn’t exactly in my normal circle of “go to” commentators. Oddly enough, I actually found the comments on Jonah to be very helpful. I think the main benefit was listening to someone that I don’t usually spend time with and letting his thoughts stimulate my own.

3) Expositors Bible Commentary – This is an old stalwart commentary that does a great job of giving you as much relevant information as possible in a short amount of space. I have to admit that I was often times disappointed in Expositors, but it was still one of those that I felt like I had to read.

4) The Minor Prophets by Charles Feinberg – This was by far one of the best commentaries that I read on the book of Jonah. Feinberg does an outstanding job of explaining the text in a powerful, compelling manner. If I could only buy two commentaries on Jonah, I’d buy this one and Boice’s.

5) The Minor Prophets (Volume 1) by James Montgomery Boice – This was the best commentary that I read on Jonah. It’s obviously based on a sermon series that Boice preached, but it was extremely helpful. I couldn’t have made it through the series without Boice walking beside me and pointing out things that I had passed by

6) Surprise by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels by Tulian Tchividjian – This is a relatively recent book on Jonah by Tulian Tchividjian. It isn’t really a commentary as much as a detailed overview of the book, but it was extremely helpful to me as I wrestled through the message of Jonah and needed to step back and take in the big picture.

Preaching through Jonah was a great privilege and a particular joy for me and for the church here. It has had a significant impact on our understanding of the character of God and His great heart for the lost.

Jonah artwork from Mark Retzloff. You can purchase the set here.

July 11 2012 | Blog | 2 Comments »

“Let Me Sum Up”

mark_tI’ve been on vacation for a week now, but I was privileged to preached on Mark 3:7-12 just before we left. Mark 3:7-12 is a summary of everything that Mark has said up to this point. It serves as a bridge between Act 1 and Act 2 of the unfolding drama of the story of Jesus.

You can listen in iTunes here.

You can listen online here.

If you’re interested in more information about the “7 Minutes of Terror” that I mention in the introduction, you can watch a great video on it here.

July 08 2012 | Blog | Comments Off on “Let Me Sum Up”

What makes a great preacher?

Throughout the history of the church the greatest preachers have been those who have recognized that they have no authority in themselves and have seen their task as being to explain the words of Scripture and apply them clearly to the lives of their hearers. Their preaching has drawn its power not from the proclamation of their own Christian experiences or the experiences of others, nor from their own opinions, creative ideas, or rhetorical skills, but from God’s powerful words. Essentially they stood in the pulpit, pointed to the biblical text, and said in effect to the congregation, “This is what this verse means. Do you see that meaning here as well? Then you must believe it and obey it with all your heart, for God himself, your Creator and your Lord, is saying this to you today!” Only the written words of Scripture can give this kind of authority to preaching. – Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

October 25 2011 | Blog | Comments Off on What makes a great preacher?

Extemporaneous Preaching

A few months ago I made a major shift in my preaching style from using notes to preaching extemporaneously with a couple of sticky notes in my Bible. This has been a pretty big change for me, as it’s something that I’ve aspired to for a while but have never quite had the guts to try for myself. Now that I’m a few months into it, these are a few thoughts on my experience. None of these thoughts are meant to downgrade the value of preaching with notes in front of you, these are really just some thoughts on my experience.

1) I can sense a much greater level of freedom and engagement with my congregation when I preach extemporaneously. There’s something intangible about this, but for some reason extemporaneous preaching comes off as more authentic than using a manuscript (at least in my case). The feedback for this shift has been overwhelmingly positive so far.

2) I have never been more dependent on God in my whole life than I am in the  moments leading up to preaching. I used to be able to rely on my manuscript to help carry me through the sermon, but now I’ve got a couple of sticky notes in my Bible and that’s it! I think this is one of the best examples of what John Piper calls the “desperation and deliverance syndrome” that I’ve found in pastoral ministry.

3) It does make me a little bit nervous not to have a manuscript to file away for future reference or use. I think that keeping my own copies of the MP3’s of my sermons and filing all of my exegetical notes away will help with this.

4) Extemporaneous preaching does not mean preaching without a plan. While I don’t have a manuscript with me going into the pulpit, I do carry a very well thought out outline (on a sticky note in my Bible) with cues for sermon illustrations, important facts, etc.

5) Extemporaneous preaching takes more preparation, not less. I’ve found that my study time has become even more intense, than it was in the past primarily because of the desperation that I feel for the message. It’s not just that I need to read through and learn everything I can about the passage, it’s that I actually need to remember it and keep it all in my head.

6) Extemporaneous preaching gives a laser like focus to the sermon. It’s easy for me to range all over the place with a manuscripted sermon, because I can always just read the next paragraph and get back to where I was. Extemporaneous preaching, tends to keep me very focused on what’s in front of me.

Well, that’s been my experience so far with extemporaneous preaching. I may go back and forth to some degree, depending on the book that I’m preaching out of and how technical it becomes, but this experienced has absolutely convinced me of the value of this type of preaching and I’m sure that it will become the dominant style that I will use.

October 03 2011 | Blog | 2 Comments »

Recommended Books for Preaching Philippians

Philippians - Unexpected JoyI just finished preaching through the book of Philippians two Sundays ago, which was the first time that I’ve ever really been able to work my way through an entire book of the Bible. In the end, it took 28 messages delivered over the course of about a year to finish the whole thing up. You can listen to all of the messages on iTunes or through our church’s media player. They start in July 2010 and run through July 2011.

Through my study on Philippians I was able to read through some great commentaries that offered a lot of insight. Here are some of the top commentaries that I used, along with a brief description of each.


MacArthur’s Commentary on Philippians

As with all of MacArthur’s commentaries, this one is based on his preaching and as such it reflects a pastor’s heart. What’s unique about this sermon based commentary is it’s simultaneous exegetical value. It isn’t a replacement for a solid exegetical commentary like the NIGTC, but it does give you a great jumpstart on your exegesis.

"The Message of Philippians" by J.A. Motyer in The Bible Speaks Today series.

This is an excellent commentary on Philippians. It seems to be based on a sermon series, which is really one of it’s strengths because the author provides a tremendous amount of fodder for applications and illustrations. I wasn’t as impressed with the last couple of chapters as I was with the first, but even so I still found enough material in those last chapters to make them worth reading.

Expositors Bible Commentary Series

This is an old stalwart commentary that does a great job of giving you as much relevant information as possible in a short amount of space. It’s one of those commentaries that I simply had to refer to in order to be sure that I wasn’t missing anything.

HD Philippians Commentary in Logos

I pre-ordered this commentary as soon as I heard about it, but sadly it wasn’t ready until I was well over half way done with the series. Nonetheless, I still found a tremendous amount of help here. Much like Motyer’s work, the help wasn’t as much in the exegetical arena as the practical application and the author’s own unique take on the book. The commentary comes with a number of different PowerPoint files that can be used in sermons as well.

Calvin’s Commentary

I didn’t read all the way through Calvin’s Commentary on Philippians, but I did reference it enough to find a lot of value there. The value is found more in some of the random comments that Calvin makes about life and ministry than anything else, although his handling of the text is superb.

The Epistle to the Philippians – NIGTC

While the NIGTC is very lengthy, it also served as one of the strongest authorities for me when it comes to Exegesis. You definitely have to have a working knowledge of the original language in order to benefit from this commentary, but if you do have that training you will ifnd a goldmine of insights there. The work is exhaustive, to say the least, and well reasoned in it’s conclusions.

Philippians – NAC #32

This was a good supplementary work, it wasn’t a primary source for me but I did reference it frequently.

Hendriksen on Philippians

Hendriksen was excellent from an exegetical and expositional standpoint. I found Hendriksen referenced frequently in the other commentaries I read and that was for good reason; he’s pretty much a must read.


As usual, Barclay was a mixed bag. At points he is nothing short of outstanding and at other times you wonder if he had any kind of editorial staff working for him at all. Fortunately, his work was very short so it was easy to discern if he was going to be helpful or not based on the section I was preaching.

July 20 2011 | Blog | 1 Comment »

A Sermon in Hell

"Oh, what would the damned in hell give for a sermon, could they but listen once more! They would consent, if it were possible, to bear ten thousand years of hell’s torments, if they might but once more have the Word presented to them! If I had a congregation such as that would be, of men who have tasted the wrath of God, of men who know what an awful thing it is to fall into the hands of an angry God, how they would lean forward to catch every word."
C.H. Spurgeon

HT: Truth Matters

April 27 2011 | Blog | Comments Off on A Sermon in Hell

“He is Not Silent” Book Review


I first heard of Al Mohler when I found out that he was delivering the commencement address at my college graduation, since that time I have grown to love his preaching, his writing, and most recently his two new podcasts (“Thinking in Public” and “The Briefing”).

Mohler’s recent book “He is Not Silent” is yet another example of his readable style, thoughtful commentary and commitment to biblical orthodoxy.  He is Not Silent is a book about preaching, specifically it’s a book about expository preaching.  Mohler writes, “I believe that the only form of authentic Christian preaching is expository preaching.”  The book weighs in at 169 pages with a pretty large print, so it is by no means an exhaustive treatment of the topic of expository preaching but it is nonetheless thoughtful and very helpful.  I found myself greatly encouraged as a preacher reading this book.

In spite of the brief nature of the book, Mohler covers a lot of ground in its 10 chapters, tackling issues such as a definition of expository preaching, preaching to postmodern ears, the nature of theology in preaching, the issue of authority in preaching and several others. 

The main point that Mohler is making throughout He is Not Silent is that God continues to actively speak today and the means which He uses to carry His voice is preaching.  Mohler writes:

You see, that’s the grand distinction made in the Old Testament over and over again between the true God and the false idols.  The pagan peoples see their gods and speak to their gods, but the one true and living God is never seen, and yet He speaks to His people…

It all finally comes down to the question of who has the right to speak.  Does the preacher have the right to speak, or does that right belong to God?  That is the difference between life and death for our people.  Do we think that God’s elect will be called out by our own stories, gimmicks, and eloquence?  Such thinking is arrogance.  Can God’s redeemed people live on our words alone?  Will they be just fine if we don’t read and explain God’s Word to them?  Obviously not.  For life is found only in the Word of God.

In the end, our calling as preachers is really very simple.  We study, we stand before our people, we read the text, and we explain it.  We reprove, rebuke, exhort, encourage, and teach – and then we do it all again and again and again.

He is Not Silent is an excellent book about preaching and a powerful reminder that God really does speak to us today and that He does so through the agency of preaching.

October 04 2010 | Blog | Comments Off on “He is Not Silent” Book Review

Say Something…you know?

HT: @tohuvabohu

February 26 2010 | Blog | Comments Off on Say Something…you know?

The Right to Speak

I’m preparing to preach on Mark 1:1-8 this week and in my studies I came across the following quote from William Barclay about John the Baptist and what made his ministry so powerful. I can only pray that God would bless me with even a small portion of this man’s spirit.

No message is so effective as that which speaks to a man’s own conscience, and that message becomes well-nigh irresistible when it is spoken by a man who obviously has the right to speak…John’s one aim was not to occupy the centre of the stage himself, but to try to connect men with the one who was greater and stronger than he; and men listened to him because he pointed, not to himself; but to the one whom all men need.


October 14 2008 | Blog | Comments Off on The Right to Speak

Don’t Waste Your Pulpit

This is a great video from John Piper on what is most important in the pulpit.

May 06 2008 | Blog | 2 Comments »

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