Words of Grace came together a little bit differently than most books. Can you talk about how the writing process went?
Each week I write a brief teaser to the Sunday sermon for the congregation I serve. We call them Words of Grace and they read like short devotionals. After a few years of this practice, there were enough of these devotionals to make a book. We edited them so people who are not familiar with our congregation could still benefit from them. You could say that I wrote a book without intending to.
When and why did you start the practice of writing these devotionals?
Several years ago I began thinking about ways to extend the life of the sermons I preach, and get people thinking about the sermon passage beyond Sunday. I decided to introduce the sermon passage to our congregation before preaching it by writing and posting online what we call Words of Grace. These devotionals are used to introduce the main point of the upcoming sermon, or to address a point in the Bible passage that I don’t intend to cover in the sermon. Either way, I am trying to help people read the Bible passage before they hear the sermon.
After Sunday, I follow up the next week with a podcast to highlight some aspect of the sermon I just preached. Our church often discusses the sermon text in small groups the week after I preach. The Words of Grace devotional, sermon, podcast, and small group discussion means our congregation can think on the Bible passage up to four times a week. We find this to be very helpful.
In the introduction to the book, you say, “Who cares what I think. God’s Word matters.” That’s a pretty stark statement. Can you expound on it?
I guess it is pretty stark, and probably not a good way to promote a book. But, my basic point is that my opinions don’t compare with the glorious truth God has given us in His Word. As a pastor, my purpose in preaching is to lead people to God’s Word. I hope to explain God’s Word and help people see how it can be applied in our lives and churches. The purpose of the Words of Grace devotionals is to get people reading and thinking about the Bible, because it is God’s Word.
Why is the Bible so important in the life of the Christian, and in the life of the church?
Becoming a Christian is being born again, made clean and made new, by the Spirit of God. Growing as a Christian is being reshaped in the way we think, refocused in what we love, and renewed in how we live. This requires truth. The Bible is that truth. In the Bible we have God’s thoughts, we discover what God loves, and we are led to walk in God’s ways. Congregations are also renewed and formed by the Bible. The Bible tells us how we are to live together in love and what our message is to the world. Without the Word of God and the Spirit of God, we can’t comprehend what a Christian or a church is.
These devotions were written for the church you pastor in Nashville, Tennessee. Do you think the book will be helpful to other Christians in other contexts?
I think so. We edited the devotionals to remove remarks that required some familiarity with our congregation to understand. God’s Word is truth for everyone. Applications can vary according to contexts and situation. Words of Grace keeps the applications general enough for people in other contexts to benefit.
How do you hope readers grow as a result of going through the devotionals in Words of Grace?
I hope people will start reading the Bible. I hope they will think about the Bible deeply and personally. I hope some will come to see God’s grace and hear His call to repent and believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. I hope others will deepen their love for God as followers of Christ. In some of the devotionals in Words of Grace, I encourage people to read the Bible together or talk to others about what they have read. I hope to encourage mutual discipleship through the Words of Grace.