I’m naturally very excited about the publication of this book. Let me share the reasoning behind why I wrote this book. Naturally, I wrote this book for the laity seeking to iron out exact meanings of Scriptures. My esteemed colleague Prof. David deSilva sees this book as an invitation to everyone who wants to get the text right. I also wrote it with an eye for my preaching colleagues. Preaching is about two simple elements: rhetoric and content. Prof. Tom Long of Emory university also got excited because he knows that content matters as much as delivery if the preacher wants his integrity to be blameless. Many favor rhetoric over the content. I’m concerned about content on which the sermon is built. Prof. David Pao got it exactly right when he wrote my blurb about every preaching student needing to read this book because this book is about the exactness of meanings. I think both Dr. Michael Bird and Dr. Joseph Fantin also see the challenge of precise meaning as being important. Precision in preaching is of the utmost importance.
Originally, there was a slightly different version of this book in Chinese. I recall one day one of my students giddily told me, “My pastor has your book sitting on his desk.” I think most pastors bought the book for self-defense so that they don’t get caught out. The larger problem however is that evangelical Christianity, as it were, is largely a cut and paste of cliche interpretations. We simply can’t live our faith by cliche. Every Sunday, people expect us to deliver some insight that they cannot see. The fact is, careful reading will allow them to see. Sometimes, they can see better than the preacher.
I think writing this book has been a long time coming, not starting from my PhD studies, but from the first day I entered the pastoral office. I recall those dark days, after I just received my Mdiv and started working on my MA in exegetical theology. In those days, I had to preach almost every week, on top of teaching Sunday School and lead Bible studies. It was a small church. As I took my tasks seriously, I began to see that a lot of my previous beliefs about certain biblical passages were just plain wrong. Even with my two-year Mdiv education (yes, I’m one of the rare students who could condense a three-year masters program into two), a lot of my cliche ideas from my evangelical upbringing just would not go away. The pressure to preach weekly and deliver “the word of God” to the people of God pushed me to reexamine my every belief and every familiar passage. By God’s grace, my hard work began to pay off. My encouragement to my colleagues on the pulpit is not to let the learning stop with the degree. Take it for granted that our previous faith might have created some great spiritual paths for us, but it also paved plenty of rabbit trails along the way. Take nothing for granted!
One reader of my Chinese book suggested the best way to read this book, and I want to share this with my fellow preachers.
Look first at the passage and imagine in your mind what it means before reading the chapter. No cheating! Then, read the chapter not for its conclusion but for the thought process. At times, there can be several quite possible solutions. Don’t just look for another neatly packaged answer, but enjoy the journey. My purpose is only to use the passages as demonstration for other passages of the Bible so that people can enjoy the process and get the glean the “message of God” out of them.
Inevitably a book like mine will make plenty of traditional preachers and Bible study leaders mad. Most likely, many would sniff at it and sell it straight back on used books in Amazon. If I can get a few of my fellow pilgrims to sit down, pause and think, I think the book has done its job.
I hope this book will get us all on a new journey. I welcome feedback and questions as well. Sometimes, people have new insights and new way of reading that I can also learn from. After all, I don’t have all the answers. Let us read the Bible in community. Feel free to interact with me on my public Facebook. I’ll try my best to interact with you especially when I’m not fighting an article deadline, book deadline or traveling across the globe (jet lag is a killer). If you want to see how this book will actually help your preaching with long-term improvement, you can contact me here for affordable coaching. For ordering your copy of the book, feel free to look here.