Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Last Few Poems of the Year

The Living Need the Dying
M. Justin Wainscott, 2009

The living need the dying,
Not so much as a reminder of death,
But as a reminder of life.

M. Justin Wainscott, 2009

How wonderfully marvelous
(Yet altogether natural)
Has been the transformation
Of my wife into motherhood.
It’s amazing how quickly
She mastered the mundane
Matters of maternity
And turned them into something
Truly beautiful to behold.
I sometimes pause
(Without her knowledge)
And listen in
As she reads or sings
To our daughter.
I’m tempted to cry,
But I don’t –
Because my smiling
Prevents it.

Dreams in D Minor
M. Justin Wainscott, 2009

In my dreams, I am a musician.
Not a great one, but an able one.
I play with skill and grace,
But I wouldn’t overly impress you.
I’m good enough to accompany
The songs in my head, and I can
Get by with reading simple music,
But that’s about the extent of my ability.
Yet how my feet dance on the pedals
And my fingers float across the keys
When I play the beautiful pipe organ
In the grand cathedral of my mind.
The sounds of Bach which bellow forth
Make sleeping worth the while.
But unfortunately I’m awake now,
And my fingers and feet are as awkward
As they ever were (and always will be).

Strangely Beautiful Grace
M. Justin Wainscott, 2009

Most of the time,
A meal is just a meal.
It satisfies the appetite.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But on rare occasions,
It is so much more.
Not because of the food,
But because of something else –
Because of the person
Sitting across from you,
And the conversation that ensues.
I had such a meal today.
The food – cheap.
The atmosphere – lacking.
But the company, the conversation –
Like fine wine that
Is sipped and savored;
To waste or rush
A single word
Would have been shameful,
Would have been inconsiderate.
It’s not that we solved
The problems of the world;
We didn’t even solve our own
Plethora of problems.
But we shared life –
Pains, struggles, joys –
And there was something
Strangely beautiful about it.
Grace seems to work that way.
It’s beautiful but strangely so,
Like a messy masterpiece.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top Ten SBC Stories and Events of 2009

Baptist21 offers their top ten list of stories and events from 2009 in the Southern Baptist Convention.
  1. Missionary Work Overseas
  2. Changing Presidential Leadership
  3. Dr. Danny Akin's GCR Sermon
  4. Increased SBC Unity
  5. Union University's "Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism"
  6. Higher Attendance at SBC Louisville
  7. Cancer Classroom
  8. Christmas in August
  9. SBTS's Sesquiencentennial
  10. GCR Task Force
Click here for the full story.

The Silkworm as a Type of Christ

Over the holidays, I have been enjoying Douglas Sweeney's biography of Jonathan Edwards (and quoted from it earlier this week). One of the things I have found interesting (and helpful) about Edwards was his refusal to limit typology to the text of sacred Scripture; he saw divine images and patterns imprinted in all things God had created and formed. He even saw a glimpse of the gospel in such things as silkworms:
The silkworm is a remarkable type of Christ, which, when it dies, yields us that of which we make such glorious clothing. Christ became a worm for our sakes and by his death finished that righteousness with which believers are clothed, and thereby procured that we should be clothed with robes of glory.

--Jonathan Edwards, "Images of Divine Things," in Typological Writings

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Precious Treasure of the Bible

"What a precious treasure God has committed into our hands in that he has given us the Bible. How little do most persons consider how much they enjoy in that they have the possession of that holy book....What an excellent book is this, and how far exceeding all human writings....He that has a Bible, and doesn't observe what is contained [in] it, is like a man that has a box full of silver and gold, and doesn't know it."

--Jonathan Edwards, quoted in Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word, Douglas Sweeney

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wesley's Original Hymn

Most of us are quite familiar with the carol, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." However, the words we have grown accustomed to are not the original words that Charles Wesley wrote (at least, not all of them). The arrangement we traditionally sing is due to the work of the First Great Awakening preacher (and friend to the Wesleys), George Whitefield. Below is Wesley's original hymn.

Hark, How All the Welkin Rings
Charles Wesley, 1739

Hark, how all the welkin rings!
Glory to the King of Kings!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
Universal nature say,
Christ the Lord is born today!

Christ, by highest Heaven adored;
Christ, the Everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of a Virgin's womb:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the Incarnate Deity;
Pleased as man with men to appear,
Jesus, our Immanuel here!

Hail, the heavenly Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Risen with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home!
Rise, the Woman's conquering Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent's head!
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine!

Adam's likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thine image in its place;
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love!
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the Heavenly Man;
Oh, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas History Quiz

What is the history behind some of the popular Christmas rituals, carols, treats, and traditions? has an interesting little quiz you can take related to that question.

Click here to test your knowledge.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Synoptic Gospels and Christ's Threefold Office

While all four of the Gospel writers seem to highlight the threefold office of Christ (Prophet, Priest, and King), it has struck me this Advent season how the synoptic Gospels each appear to emphasize one specific office in the way each introduces Jesus.

Matthew - Priest

Although it could be argued that Matthew emphasizes Jesus' kingly office by beginning with a genealogy that places him in the royal line of David, it is here (and here only) that we learn why this holy Child is to be named Jesus. "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). His name is tied to the priestly sacrifice he will offer for his people's sins - for that is how he will save them.

Mark - Prophet

The Gospel of Mark does not include a birth narrative of the Christ Child. Instead, Jesus comes onto the scene at the beginning of his public ministry. And the first time we hear him speak, he is fulfilling his prophetic office (preaching about the kingdom). "Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15).

Luke - King

When Luke tells about the angel Gabriel visiting Mary, he emphasizes what Gabriel says regarding the kingly office of Mary's Child. "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:32-33).

As stated earlier, no one Gospel is limited to one of Christ's offices. And just because the Synoptics begin the way they do does not mean they only emphasize that particular office. For instance, Matthew goes on to emphasize the prophetic office of Christ with the Sermon on the Mount and with the five major sections of teaching included in his Gospel (reflecting the five books of Moses and showing that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of Moses' prophetic office). In addition, his Gospel has more parables about the kingdom than any other - and there is little doubt who the King is!

But it is interesting to see how Jesus is introduced in these three Gospels, and it seems that each emphasizes one of Christ's three offices - Prophet (Mark), Priest (Matthew), and King (Luke).

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 Advent Poem

This poem is written from the perspective of the saints who lived during the inter-testamental period - that long period of silence and waiting.

Lord, Break the Silence Long Endured
M. Justin Wainscott © 2009 (Advent)

Lord, break the silence long endured,
And end the darkened night;
Let anxious fears all rest assured,
With news of coming light.

O how we need to hear your voice,
The good news that you bring;
Good news in which we can rejoice,
The coming of our King.

Let prophets’ words be now fulfilled
In all their grand design;
And mysteries be now revealed,
Through grace and pow’r divine.

The second Adam, send to us,
Redeem our fallen race;
Immanuel, great God with us,
Come quickly with your grace.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Lyrical Exposition of "Sing Highest Praises to Our King"

I normally don't comment on the hymns and poems I write. In fact, it is probably a good rule of thumb to suggest that if you have to explain every line or every image, it isn't good poetry in the first place. To seek to interpret every word or metaphor usually harms more than it helps (which is why dynamic equivalent or "thought-for-thought" translations of the Bible often miss the beauty and imagery of Hebrew poetry).

However, there are times when a little background information and explanation can prove beneficial. And sometimes doing a little lyrical exposition can put the theology of a hymn into sharper focus. I hope that will be the case in this instance, as I attempt to give you an idea of what motivated and inspired me to write this most recent hymn.

Let's look at it one verse at a time (each verse will be listed with a brief explanation underneath).

1. Sing highest praises to our King,
Who left His throne above;
And clothed Himself in flesh to bring
The blessings of His love.

There were several truths I wanted to communicate here in this opening verse: (1) that Christ is the King who is worthy of our highest praise (2) that the pre-existence and eternal nature of Christ are significant aspects of the gospel story (3) that the incarnation meant Christ had to leave heaven and take on human flesh and (4) that in doing so, Christ brought countless blessings and benefits to the redeemed.

2. The glory He had long enjoyed,
He humbly set aside;
How great the means which Christ employed
To save a sinful Bride!

One main truth dominates this verse - the depths to which Christ went to redeem us. Specifically, I wanted us to ponder the glorious truth that Christ would leave the glories of heaven, only to come and suffer and die on behalf of sinners.

3. In Bethlehem by virgin birth,
As prophets did foretell;
Our God descended to the earth,
And didst among us dwell.

This verse incorporates some of the more familiar themes of Advent and Christmas: (1) the virgin birth (2) Bethlehem and (3) the Old Testament prophecies that found their ultimate fulfillment in the birth of our Savior. But I also wanted to emphasize the condescension of God (implied in John 1:1-18), where the fullness of deity dwelt in bodily form amongst sinful human beings. This is an amazing truth that we speed by all too often.

4. Yes, see Him in the manger lay,
But let us ne’er forget;
This precious Child was born to pay
Our cursed, sinful debt.

I had a seminary professor that enjoyed reminding us that everybody loves baby Jesus, but they forget that he grew up to be a man - a man who taught hard truths and died a cruel, bloody death. It is all too easy in our sentimental culture to divorce Christmas from Calvary. But the Jesus in the manger and the Jesus on the cross are the same person. I wanted us to make that connection.

5. This perfect Lamb for sinners slain,
Who died and rose again,
Now sits on David’s throne and reigns
In vict’ry over sin.

Here, several theological themes come out: (1) the sinlessness of Christ - "This perfect Lamb" (2) substitutionary atonement - "This perfect Lamb for sinners slain" (3) Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension (4) Jesus' fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant and (5) the inaugurated reign of Christ. I think it is important that we celebrate the entirety of Christ's ministry at Christmas, not just one aspect of it. The incarnation finds meaning in Jesus' death and resurrection. His death and resurrection find meaning in the ascension and second coming. And all of these fit together.

6. So let our longing hearts all burn
With zeal for Christ our King,
And for the day of His return,
When He shall reign supreme!

Like much of evangelical hymnody, I like to end with an eschatological note. This final verse highlights the theme of "longing," which is so characteristic of the Advent season. It also reminds us of Christ's second advent, which will result in the full and final consummation of his kingdom. Oh glorious day!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This Year's Advent/Christmas Hymn

Sing Highest Praises to Our King
M. Justin Wainscott © 2009

Sing highest praises to our King,
Who left His throne above;
And clothed Himself in flesh to bring
The blessings of His love.

The glory He had long enjoyed,
He humbly set aside;
How great the means which Christ employed
To save a sinful Bride!

In Bethlehem by virgin birth,
As prophets did foretell;
Our God descended to the earth,
And didst among us dwell.

Yes, see Him in the manger lay,
But let us ne’er forget;
This precious Child was born to pay
Our cursed, sinful debt.

This perfect Lamb for sinners slain,
Who died and rose again,
Now sits on David’s throne and reigns
In vict’ry over sin.

So let our longing hearts all burn
With zeal for Christ our King,
And for the day of His return,
When He shall reign supreme!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sinclair Ferguson on "Santa Christ"

"How sadly common it is for the church to manufacture a Jesus who is a mirror reflection of Santa Claus. He becomes Santa Christ.

Santa Christ is sometimes a Pelagian Jesus. Like Santa, he simply asks us whether we have been good. More exactly, since the assumption is that we are all naturally good, Santa Christ asks us whether we have been "good enough." So Just as as Christmas dinner is simply the better dinner we really deserve, Jesus becomes a kind of added bonus who makes a good life even better. He is not seen as the Savior of helpless sinners.

Or Santa Christ may be a Semi-Pelagian Jesus - a slightly more sophisticated Jesus who, Santa-like, gives gifts to those who have already done the best they could! Thus, Jesus' hand, like Santa's sack, opens only when we can give an upper-percentile answer to the none-too-weighty probe, "Have you done your best this year?" The only difference from medieval theology here is that we do not use its Latin phraseology: facere quod in se est (to do what one is capable of doing on one's own, or, in common parlance, "Heaven helps those who help themselves").

Then again, Santa Christ may be a mystical Jesus, who, like Santa Claus, is important because of the good experiences we have when we think about him, irrespective of his historical reality. It doesn't really matter whether the story is true or not; the important thing is the spirit of Santa Christ. For that matter, while it would spoil things to tell the children this, everyone can make up his or her own Santa Christ. As long as we have the right spirit of Santa Christ, all is well.

But Jesus is not to be identified with Santa Claus; worldly thinking - however much it employs Jesus-language - is not to be confused with biblical truth.

The Scriptures systematically strip away the veneer that covers the real truth of the Christmas story. Jesus did not come to add to our comforts. He did not come to help those who help themselves or to fill life with more pleasant experiences. He came on a deliverance mission, to save sinners, and to do so He had to destroy the works of the Devil (Matt. 1:21; 1 John 3:8b)."

--Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life

Monday, December 14, 2009

Peter Leithart on the Nativity Completed

Matthew's Gospel begins and ends with scenes of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. In chapters 1-2, the Mary and Joseph are his parents; in chapter 27, there's Joseph of Arimathea and Mary has "doubled" into Mary Magdalene and the "other Mary."

The first story is a story of life, the second a story of death. The first tells about the miracle of the virgin conception, while the second tells of a burial. The first focuses on the child in the womb, the second on the crucified man in the tomb.

Overriding the contrasts, though, is a basic similarity: The first scene is about the coming of the Son of God, the second about his coming again from the tomb; the first presents him as the firstborn of Mary and Joseph, the second as the firstborn of the dead; the first is Jesus' birth story, the second a story of his rebirth, and the rebirth of creation.

As Matthew tells the gospel story, the incarnation at Christmas is wonderful but it is not completed until the resurrection story of Easter. The story of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Bethlehem is good news, but it's not yet the whole good news without the story of Jesus, two Marys, and the other Joseph in a garden near Jerusalem.

--Peter Leithart, from the "Quodlibet" section of Touchstone (Nov/Dec 2009)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Immortal God in Mortal Flesh

Immortal God in Mortal Flesh
M. Justin Wainscott © 2008

Immortal God in mortal flesh,
Our Lord has come to earth.
Incarnate God, he came to bring
The gift of second birth.

Spread gospel tidings all around.
Let sinners celebrate!
For, Christ was born to save us all
From sin’s condemning fate.

In mercy God has sent his Son
To bear the curse of sin;
To hang condemned on Calv’ry’s cross,
And pardon sinful men.

This precious babe of Bethlehem
Will be forever blessed;
He ransomed us from hell’s domain,
To enter heaven’s rest.

So to our great Immanuel,
Glad songs of praise we’ll sing.
From now and through eternity,
He’ll reign, our saving King.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chapter by Kauflin

This week, I am posting quotes from different chapters in John Piper's and Justin Taylor's The Power of Words and the Wonder of God.

From Bob Kauflin's chapter, "Words of Wonder: What Happens When We Sing?"
...God didn't intend that music supersede the Word or that music undermine the Word. He gave us music to serve the Word. When that relationship is understood and appreciated, music becomes a powerful gift from God that complements, supports, and depeens the impact of the words we sing....

...Words should be the first thing we consider when we think about what songs to sing when we gather as the body of Christ....

...We should make it our aim not only to preach the whole counsel of God but to sing it, as well....

...The question isn't, Do you have a voice? The question is, Do you have a song? If you've turned from your sins and trusted in the finished work of Christ, if you're forgiven and reconciled to God, then you have a song. It's a song of the redeemed, of those who have been rescued from the righteous wrath of God through the cross of Jesus Christ and are now called his friends. Once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God, and our singing together, every voice contributing, is one way we express that truth....

...The sound that unites the church should be the sound of voices, not a particular music style. When people are focused on that sound and the fact that Jesus has made it possible, style becomes secondary....In the book of Revelation, the host of heaven aren't in unity because of the style of music they are using but because of the focus of their song....

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Chapters by Piper and Driscoll

This week, I am posting quotes from different chapters of John Piper's and Justin Taylor's The Power of Words and the Wonder of God.

From John Piper's chapter, "Is There Christian Eloquence? Clear Words and the Wonder of the Cross"
There is a statement that James Denney made over a hundred years ago that haunts me. Whether we are talking about the more high-brow eloquence of oratory or the more low-brow, laid-back, cool eloquence of anti-oratory, Denney's statement cuts through to the ultimate issue. He said, "No man can give the impression that he is clever and that Christ is mighty to save."

...The cross is the place where our sin is seen as most horrible and God's free grace shines most brightly. Both of these mean we deserve nothing. Therefore, the cross undercuts pride and exalts Christ....

...Self-exaltation and Christ-exaltation can't go together.

From Mark Driscoll's chapter, "How Sharp the Edge? Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words"
For you who are faithful to pray for your shepherd or who in reading this aspire to join the faithful, I encourage you to pray for your shepherd in seven ways.

1) Please pray that God would give your shepherd a discerning mind.
2) Please pray that God would give your shepherd thick skin.
3) Please pray that your shepherd would have a good sense of humor.
4) Please pray that your shepherd would have a tender heart.
5) Please pray that your shepherd would have a humble disposition.
6) Please pray that your shepherd would have a supportive family (and please pray for his wife and children).
7) Please pray that your shepherd would have an evangelistic devotion.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chapters by Ferguson and Taylor

Yesterday, I posted two excerpts from Paul David Tripp's chapter in The Power of Words and the Wonder of God. I have decided to provide a few quotes from each chapter of the book for the rest of the week (except for Friday, which of course will be a hymn or poem).

From Sinclair Ferguson's chapter, "The Bit, the Bridle, and the Blessing"
We foolishly assume that our real struggles with sin are in the areas where we are "weak." We do not well understand the depth of sin until we realize that it has made its home far more subtly where we are "strong" and in our gifts rather than in our weaknesses and inadequacies. It is in the very giftedness God has given that sin has been at its most perverse and subtle!

From Daniel Taylor's chapter, "Story-shaped Faith"

When Israel remembered the stories that told them who they were, where they had come from, and who their God was, they prospered. When they quit telling the stories, they no longer understood who they were, and they invited disaster. And the same is true with us....

Propositions are important....But propositions depend on the stories out of which they arise for their power and meaning and practical application....

Imagine having all the propositions of the Bible but none of the stories. No Genesis or Exodus, none of the historical books of the Old Testament, no Gospels, no Acts - only Romans, parts of the Epistles, and scattered assertions and commands from here and there. Those assertions and commands would still be true, but we would have very little idea of what to do with them.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Funeral We All Want to Attend

"Some day we'll be invited to the one funeral that we all will want to attend: the funeral of sin. The promise of the gospel is that sin will die and we will be with Christ and will be like him in holiness forever and ever and ever."

--From Paul David Tripp's chapter in The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor

The Antisocial Nature of Sin

"Sin is fundamentally antisocial, because sin causes me to love me more than anything else and to care for me more than anything else."
"If sin turns me in on myself so that all I live for is me, then sin in its essence is antisocial. Living for myself and the satisfaction of my selfish desires dehumanizes the people in my life. No longer are they people to me. No longer are they objects of my affection and service. No, my loved ones and friends are reduced either to vehicles to help me get what I want or to obstacles in the way of what I want. "
--From Paul David Tripp's chapter in The Power of Words and the Wonder of God, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor

Friday, December 4, 2009

Advent Poem

A Symphony of Sweet Delight
M. Justin Wainscott © Advent, 2008

Sound the notes that heaven hears,
And let them ring in sinners’ ears.
Sing the chorus sung above,
That echoes forth redeeming love.

Angels, join in harmony,
To make a joyous melody.
Silence all the noise of sin,
And let God’s symphony begin.

Strike the prophets’ hopeful chord,
And listen for the coming Lord.
Run the bow across their strings,
And hear their songs to Christ the King.

Ring the bells of virgin-birth!
Glory to God and peace on earth!
Like the shepherds, spread the word,
And let the angels’ news be heard.

Christ has come in grace divine,
A son in David’s royal line.
Born in David’s Bethlehem,
And born to free us from our sin.

Christ has come! Rejoice, rejoice!
Now’s the time to lift your voice,
And join with ev’ry tribe and race
In songs of God’s redeeming grace.

Ev’ry bar and ev’ry measure
Speaks of our abiding treasure:
Jesus, our Immanuel,
Who saves us from despair and hell.

Blow the horn of hope and peace!
The gospel sings of our release
From Satan’s damning, sinful ploys,
And all his wicked, evil noise.

Hear the gospel music play,
And let the Spirit have his way.
Let symphonic sounds impart,
To quicken ev’ry lifeless heart.

Feel the rhythm; hear the sounds,
When mercy sings and grace abounds.
Oh! the joyous orchestration,
Freeing us from condemnation.

Christ has come, and this we know,
A gracious gift he did bestow:
A symphony of sweet delight,
Where ev’ry note is played just right.

And oh! the joy to be displayed,
When this, the final note, is played:
Sound the trumpet; let it blast,
For, Christ’s return has come at last!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Glorious Truths

As I came to the end of Micah this morning, I was overwhelmed by the glorious truths that end this prophetic book. These reminders of God's covenant love and faithfulness were the perfect balm for my sinful soul. They were the means I used to preach the gospel to myself this day. May they be of comfort to you as well:
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old. --Micah 7:18-20

More Samwise Gamgee than Gandalf

Though others may see him as Gandalf, J.I. Packer sees himself as much more akin to Samwise Gamgee. Check out the recent WORLD Magazine article about Packer's life and legacy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Drinking from the Same Fountain

"Perhaps all that is necessary to expose the shallowness of our songs and to cause us to praise God as we ought is for pastors and poets and musicians to drink from the same fountain. Then biblical exposition will issue in song and our hymns will be full of the gospel."

--Alistair Begg

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cyber-Week at Monergism Books

Free Shipping Coupon for orders in the United States until December 4th for registered customers.


  1. Place at least $30 in your cart
  2. At checkout enter the code - monergism1517 - in the coupon box
  3. Click apply
  4. Shipping will automatically be removed form your order - economy shipping only

Free economy shipping to anywhere in the continental USA. Coupon valid until Friday December 4th at Midnight. Not valid for any previous orders.

Click here for more details.

Dever on The Trellis and the Vine

Above is a video of Mark Dever promoting Colin Marshal and Tony Payne's new book, The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything.

And here's what folks are saying about it:

"This is the best book I've read on the nature of church ministry" - Mark Dever

"...a simple, beautiful book that I plan to have every pastor and elder at The Village Church read ... a book desperately needed among large churches in the West" - Matt Chandler

"...takes us right to the heart of authentic Christian ministry" - William Taylor

"My advice: Keep a good stack on hand at all times, and put this book to good use" - R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sermons on Ruth

I just completed an exposition of the book of Ruth on Sunday evenings at our church. Here is the audio (MP3) of those messages:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving Hymn

Great Sovereign Lord, What Human Eye
Samuel Boyce, 1812

Great sovereign Lord, what human eye
Amidst Thy works can rove,
And not Thy liberal hand espy,
Nor trace Thy bounteous love?

Each star that gilds the heavenly frame,
On earth each verdant clod,
In language loud to men proclaim
The great and bounteous God.

The lesson each revolving year
Repeats in various ways;
Rich Thy provisions, Lord, appear;
The poor shall shout Thy praise.

Our fruitful fields and pastures tell,
Of man and beast Thy care;
The thriving corn Thy breezes fill,
Thy breath perfumes the air.

But oh, what human eye can trace,
Or human heart conceive,
The greater riches of Thy grace
Impoverished souls receive?

Love everlasting has not spared
Its best beloved Son;
And in him endless life prepared,
For souls by sin undone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are You More Like Augustine or Jerome?

Here is an excerpt from Kim Riddlebarger's insightful article on what American Christians can learn from the different responses of Augustine and Jerome to the fall of Rome:
The reactions of Jerome and Augustine to the Fall of Rome reveal two distinct views of the relationship between things earthly and things heavenly. Augustine's response is particularly helpful in this regard. His response should remind American Christians that the progress of God's kingdom does not in any sense depend upon the wealth, technology, or military power of the United States. Like the Fall of Rome, a fall of the United States would be a horrible event. Much as it did for the citizens of Rome, our illustrious national history and our apparent military invincibility actually sets up American Christians to unwittingly confuse things earthly and things heavenly. If the first step down the slippery slope toward confusing the City of Man with the City of God is to equate the worldly successes of the American Republic with the blessing of God, then the second step comes easily - to equate the political, military, moral, and economic health of our nation in some sense with the kingdom of God. There are many who would weep at the fall of America, not only because of the nature of such a tragedy, but because they have confused the success of their nation with the progress of the kingdom of God. In this, they follow Jerome - the fall of America must mean defeat for the kingdom of God. Not true.

--Kim Riddlebarger, "Jerome, Augustine, and the Fall of Rome: An Object Lesson for American Christians," Modern Reformation (Nov/Dec 2009)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ken Myers on "Our Accelerated Culture"

"We were created as beings intended to inhabit time well. We are so eager to defend the fact of Creation to skeptics and atheists that we often forget the instructive quality of the rhythm of Creation. God who is beyond time somehow takes time to create all things. And then a day of rest is established. Christian faith is thus not simply historical; it is also concerned with honoring the meaning of our temporality. Impatience is a deeply disordering vice, displaying at root a frustration with a God who uses time to accomplish his purposes, who has chosen not to do everything right away.

While there is nothing new about impatience, I think it's fair to say that no human culture has so institutionalized restlessness and a quest for immediacy as has our own. We expect that people will respond to our demands without delay and that circumstances will be altered (whether a website loading or traffic abating or a meal being prepared) in the blink of an eye.

More significantly, we expect to be able to adjust our own feelings quickly, to move emotionally from "zero to 60" in three seconds. The idea that any joys - whether sublime or mundane - might require disciplines of cultivation is increasingly foreign to our accelerated culture."

--Ken Myers, "Emotion Sickness," Touchstone (Nov/Dec 2009)

Personality and the Pulpit

Kevin DeYoung, who is now blogging for 9Marks, has a great post at the "Church Matters" blog on "Learning to Be Yourself as a Preacher: From One Still Learning to Do Just That." Here is an excerpt:
When Phillips Brooks famously defined preaching as “the communication of truth through personality” I do believe he was talking about your own personality and not someone else's. It has taken me awhile, but I finally feel like I have learned to be myself in the pulpit. Now whether this means my sermons are better or worse I can’t say. But being myself means my preaching is more genuine, more comfortable, and more sustainable. I know I have a lot to learn as a preacher, and I hope that ten years from now I’ll still get those awkward but true compliments–“your preaching has really improved over the years.” But at 32 I feel like I’m finally preaching the truth through my own personality....

I’m sure that for the first years of my ministry I sounded at times like a (very) poor man’s version of John Piper. I was listening to so much Piper that I’m sure my prayers, my themes, and even the way I said “Joy!” was Piperesque. Don’t get me wrong, I make no bones about learning from Piper and being influence by him. I’d trade my sermons for his any day. But he’d probably be the first to say, “Preach the same gospel I preach. But you don’t have preach just like me.” It’s taken me several years, but I think I’m finally ok with not being John Piper. I just don’t think I have the same personality, let alone the same gifts.

Along the way there have been other famous preachers I’ve wanted to emulate. I wish I could walk through a text and use humor like Alistair Begg (with the accent too, of course). I wish I were as creative in my thinking and as culturally attuned as Tim Keller. I’d love to be as funny and humble as C.J. Mahaney. I’ve wondered at times what it would be like to do in-your-face as well as Driscoll, or be as smart as Carson (I tried saying "Eye-Ziah," but no one was fooled). Hey, I’ve even thought how cool it would be to communicate as cooly as Rob Bell.
I would encourage you to read the whole thing (especially if you are still a relatively inexperienced preacher). Click here to do so.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Send "Happy Birthday" Wishes to Jerry Bridges

Tim Challies provides a wonderful opportunity for you to say "Happy Birthday" to Jerry Bridges in celebration of his 80th birthday (or encourage him and thank him for his ministry). Click here to do so.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chief of Sinners

Chief of Sinners Though I Be
William McComb, 1864

Chief of sinners though I be,
Jesus shed His blood for me;
Died that I might live on high,
Died that I might never die;
As the branch is to the vine,
I am His, and He is mine.

O the height of Jesus’ love!
Higher than the Heaven above;
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lasting as eternity;
Love that found me—wondrous thought!
Found me when I sought Him not!

Jesus only can impart
Balm to heal the smitten heart;
Peace that flows from sin forgiven,
Joy that lifts the soul to Heaven;
Faith and hope to walk with God
In the way that Enoch trod.

Chief of sinners though I be,
Christ is all in all to me;
All my wants to Him are known,
All my sorrows are His own;
Safe with Him from earthly strife,
He sustains the hidden life.

O my Savior, help afford
By Thy Spirit and Thy Word!
When my wayward heart would stray,
Keep me in the narrow way;
Grace in time of need supply
While I live and when I die.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Prayer and Preaching

From Gardiner Spring's excellent little essay, "Prayer for Ministers" (first published in 1848):
O it is at a fearful expense that ministers are ever allowed to enter the pulpit without being preceded, accompanied, and followed by the earnest prayers of the churches. It is no marvel that the pulpit is so powerless, and ministers so often disheartened when there are so few to hold up their hands. The consequence of neglecting this duty is seen and felt in the spiritual declension of the churches, and it will be seen and felt in the everlasting perdition of men; while the consequence of regarding it would be the ingathering of multitudes into the kingdom of God, and new glories to the Lamb that was slain.

--Gardiner Spring, The Power of the Pulpit

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Speaking of Good Instructors

In the previous post, I mentioned the importance of good instructors for any theological institution. In addition, I spoke of how thankful I was for my own good instructors during college and seminary.

Well, I just happened to see where one of those instructors (Gerald Bray, one of my primary professors from seminary) was featured on Justin Taylor's blog today (I assure you J.T. and I are not in cahoots). He discusses three questions to ask of biblical texts, and then he answers those questions in regards to a difficult text like the genealogies of 1 Chronicles.

See the post (and Dr. Bray's questions) here.

HT: Justin Taylor

The Importance of Good Instructors

Lately, I have been doing quite a bit of reading on the history of Princeton Theological Seminary and about the men who made "Old Princeton" such a bastion for historic Christian orthodoxy. I came across the following quote in my reading this week that reminded me of the significance of a strong faculty at any theological institution:
The strength of an educational institution is not merely in its name, but in the character and gifts of those who serve as its instructors.

Let those of us who received so much from our instructors be grateful for them and be mindful to pray for them in their labors. I know I am certainly thankful for the excellent instructors I had at both Union University and Beeson Divinity School.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

God's Means of Preventing Amnesia

The Gospel Coalition just released the new issue of Themelios. I particularly appreciated Carl Trueman's article, "Lest We Forget." Here is a brief excerpt from his conclusion:
I have yet to come across a student who struggled with, or even abandoned, the faith, who did not, at some early point in their struggle, abandon the mundane routines of the Christian life: regular attendance at the preaching of the word, prayer, etc. etc. Boring they may be, but they are God’s means of preventing amnesia; and we forget them at our peril.
Click here to read the whole thing.

HT: Tim Challies

Christ-Centered Cautions

How do we preach Christ and Christian morality without being guilty of moralism? Collin Hansen seeks to answer that question in a recent Christianity Today article. Here is his answer in a nutshell:
Moral exhortation reminds believers of their obligations. But only the gospel empowers them to be good, be disciplined, and be like Christ.
I encourage you to read the whole thing here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our "Cocoonish" Condition

Here is an excerpt from Jason Stellman's recent article in Modern Reformation, which is an excellent reminder of our pilgrim status in this world:
Yes, the cosmos may groan, Paul argues, but "we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit" ache with an even greater frustration than both the non-believing human and sub-human created order. Or at least we should. The irony, however, is that the unbelieving world often displays, through its art and other media, an even greater frustration with earth than many believers exhibit. We of all people should recognize our provisional "cocoonish" condition; and yet the more we talk about redeeming culture and reclaiming America for Christ, the more one gets the impression that if we were actually given wings and bidden to fly, we would be disappointed to leave our cocoon behind untransformed. What does that say about where our true devotion lies?

As hesitant as we may be to admit it, when we compare contemporary evangelicalism's fixation with earth with contemporary paganism's frustration with it, the conclusion seems inescapable that - sometimes at least - the latter does a much better job of imaging the God they deny than the former does of imaging the One they confess.
--Jason Stellman, "The Destiny of the Species," Modern Reformation (Nov/Dec 2009). Stellman is also the author of Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and the Not Yet

Friday, November 13, 2009

Beautiful 8th Century Latin Hymn

O Christ, Our Hope, Our Heart's Desire
Latin Hymn, c. 8th Century; translated by John Chandler, 1806-1876

O Christ, our hope, our heart's desire,
Redemption's only spring;
Creator of the world art Thou,
Its Savior and its King.

How vast the mercy and the love
Which laid our sins on Thee,
And led Thee to a cruel death
To set Thy people free.

But now the bonds of death are burst,
The ransom has been paid;
And Thou art on Thy Father's throne,
In glorious robes arrayed.

O may Thy mighty love prevail,
Our sinful souls to spare;
O may we come before Thy throne,
And find acceptance there!

O Christ, be Thou our lasting joy,
Our ever great reward;
Our only glory may it be
To glory in the Lord!

All praise to Thee, ascended Lord;
All glory ever be,
To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
Through all eternity.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bunyan on Acts 2:38

Here is a wonderful example of why John Bunyan was such a powerful preacher (expounding Peter's call for repentance from Acts 2:38):
"Repent," says he, "and be baptized every one of you." I shut out not even one of you; for I am commanded by my Lord to deal with you, as it were, one by one, by the word of his salvation. But why speaks he so particularly? Oh! there were reasons for it. The people with whom the apostles were now to deal, as they were murderers of our Lord, and to be charged in general with his blood, so they had their various and particular acts of villainy in the guilt thereof now lying upon their consciences. And the guilt of these, their various and particular acts of wickedness, could not, perhaps, be reached to a removal thereof but by this particular application. Repent, every one of you; be baptized, every one of you, in his name, for the remission of sins, and you shall, every one of you, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Objector: But I was one of them that plotted to take away his life. May I be saved by him?

Peter: Every one of you.

Objector: But I was one of them that bare false witness against him. Is there grace for me?

Peter: For every one of you.

Objector: But I was one of them that cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him; and desired that Barabbas, the murderer, might live, rather than him. What will become of me, think you?

Peter: I am to preach repentance and remission of sins to every one of you.

Objector: But I was one of them that did spit in his face when he stood before his accusers. I also was one that mocked him, when in anguish he hung bleeding on the tree. Is there room for me?

Peter: For every one of you.

Objector: But I was one of them that, in his extremity, said, "Give him gall and vinegar to drink." Why may not I expect the same when anguish and guilt is upon me?

Peter: Repent of these your wickednessses, and here is remission of sins for every one of you.

Objector: But I railed on him, I reviled him, I hated him, I rejoiced to see him mocked at by others. Can there be hopes for me?

Peter: There is, for every one of you. Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Oh! what a blessed "Every one of you" is here! How willing was Peter, and the Lord Jesus, by his ministry, to catch these murderers with the word of the gospel, that they might be made monuments of the grace of God! How unwilling, I say, was he, that any of these should escape the hand of mercy! Yea, what an amazing wonder is it to think that, above all the world, and above everybody in it, these should have the first offer of mercy!

--John Bunyan, The Jerusalem Sinner Saved (Puritan Paperbacks)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Prayer and the Gospel

This brief paragraph by Paul Miller is powerful:
Prayer mirrors the gospel. In the gospel, the Father takes us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of salvation. In prayer, the Father receives us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of help. We look at the inadequacy of our praying and give up, thinking something is wrong with us. God looks at the adequacy of his Son and delights in our sloppy, meandering prayers.

--Paul Miller, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Our Only Glory and Our Only Hope

This is well worth reflecting on:
There is little that we can point to in our lives as deserving anything but God's wrath. Our best moments have been mostly grotesque parodies. Our best loves have been almost always blurred with selfishness and deceit. But there is something to which we can point. Not anything that we ever did or were, but something that was done for us by another. Not our own lives, but the life of one who died in our behalf and yet is still alive. This is our only glory and our only hope. And the sound that it makes is the sound of excitement and gladness and laughter that floats through the night air from a great banquet.

Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

Monday, November 9, 2009

Remembering B.B. Warfield - The Lion of Princeton

Last week marked the 158th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Breckinridge (B.B.) Warfield. Justin Taylor had a great post reminding us of this anniversary as well as informing us of a forthcoming (September 2010) Crossway publication about Warfield's theology by Fred Zaspel. Zaspel also provided a brief summary about the significance of Warfield's life and thought in the post. It is well worth the read.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

O Sing of Christ, My Savior, Sing

O Sing of Christ, My Savior, Sing
M. Justin Wainscott, © 2009

How foul and full of sin am I,
And wedded to my lusts;
That when the devil tells me lies,
His words I’m prone to trust.
His ev’ry damning, wicked word,
I’m tempted to believe;
Until by grace the gospel’s heard,
And then my soul’s relieved.

O sing of Christ, my Savior, sing,
And let the gospel loudly ring!
O sing of Christ, my Savior, sing,
My gracious God, my Priest and King.

So let the devil roar with lies,
Condemn me to my face;
‘Cause there’s a truth he can’t deny,
A great exchange by grace –
Where Christ has taken all my sin,
And bore it on the tree;
And all his righteousness has been
Imputed free to me.


And when before that great white throne,
In judgment I shall stand;
I’ll trust in Christ and him alone,
Who met the Law’s demands.
And though the devil may accuse,
His ploys will be denied;
For I shall plead the blood-bought news
Of Christ the crucified!


Horton on the Importance of Passing on the Faith

The following excerpt from Michael Horton's The Gospel-Driven Life ought to be pondered by every parent, pastor, children's pastor, youth pastor, and church:
Christian homes and churches are the only institutions in which our children will learn to find themselves in God's story. When they are united more by the trends of pop culture than by the faith and practice of the whole church in all times and places, our youth become victims of our sloth. We should not be surprised that over half of those reared in evangelical homes and churches today do not join or even attend a church regularly when they go off to college. If we are going to see our children grow up into Christ instead of abandoning the church, our spiritual life at home and in the church must incorporate them into the teaching and fellowship of the apostolic faith. They can find "ministry opportunities" through United Way, the Peace Corps, or Habitat for Humanity. They can find friends at the fraternity or sorority. They can find intellectual stimulation in class. And they can find a sense of meaning and purpose in their vocations. If their home churches exchanged the ministry of preaching and teaching the apostles' doctrine for a variety of ministries and activities that they could find legitimate versions of in the world, then it is difficult to come up with a reasonable answer when they ask, "Why do I need the church?"

--Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mourning Most Over Secret Sins

He that conflicts most with heart sins, and is most affected with spiritual sins, and that laments and mourns most over secret sins, invisible sins, sins that be hid and remote from the eyes of the world, he certainly is a gracious soul.

--Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks

To learn more about Thomas Brooks, click here.

Packer on the Puritans as Ministerial Midwives

"God breaketh not all men's hearts alike" (Richard Baxter). Some conversions, as [Thomas] Goodwin said, are sudden; the preparation is done in a moment. Some are long-drawn-out affairs; years may pass before the seeker finds Christ and peace, as in Bunyan's case....No rule can be given as to how long, or how intensely, God will flay each sinner with the lash of conviction. Thus the work of effectual calling proceeds as fast, or as slow, as God wills.

The Puritan minister viewed his part in the process of conversion as that of a midwife, whose task was to see what was happening and give appropriate help at each stage. They also realized they could not foretell, let alone fix, how rapid the process of birth would be. Since God convinced, convicted, and converted a sinner through His Word, the Puritan preacher saw as his task in evangelism the declaration of God's mind as revealed in the passage they expounded, the showing of the lost the way to salvation, and the exhortation of the unbelievers to learn the law, to meditate on God's Word, and to humble themselves before God by praying that God would show them their sins and give them the grace necessary to enable them to come to Christ.

--J.I. Packer, "Puritan Evangelism"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sister Graces

"...[F]aith and repentance - these two sister graces, the one respects God and the other the Mediator Jesus Christ: 'Repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,' Acts 20:21. The offense is done to God, and he is the party to whom we return by Christ. These two graces go hand in hand, and we must not put asunder what God hath joined together."

--Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton

9Marks eJournal (Nov/Dec 2009)

The most recent 9Marks eJournal is now available. The issue of church discipline is addressed again. Every pastor ought to read the articles by Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert (especially those of us who are young and sometimes impatiently zealous).

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Primeval Problem, Not a Medieval One

Russell Moore has a sobering post about Reformation Day on Touchstone's Mere Comments blog. Here is an excerpt:
What I do know is that, whatever your view of the Reformation, it's obvious to see that some of the things that drove Luther to anger (and to despair) are everywhere present, to this day, often even in the most "Reformation-centric" evangelical churches....

The combination of the damning power of cheap grace with the accusing agony of performance-based righteousness before God exists in every wing of the church. That's because it's not a medieval problem, but a primeval one.
Click here to read the whole thing.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Reformation Hymn

All posts this week will have to do with Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Martin Luther, 1483-1546
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; 
Our helper he amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side, the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name, from age to age the same,
And he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours, through him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill; God's truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Max McLean Narrating Luther's "Here I Stand" Speech

All posts this week will have to do with Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.

The Listener's Bible is offering a free download of Max McLean narrating Luther's "Here I Stand" speech delivered at the Diet of Worms (until November 1).

Click here for details.

Luther at the Diet of Worms

All posts this week will have to do with Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Doing Ministry Under Difficult Circumstances

All posts this week will have to do with Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.

After Luther's refusal to recant at the Diet of Worms in 1521 (and after already being condemned as a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church), Emperor Charles V placed him under a ban, known as the Edict of Worms. In that edict, the emperor decreed the following:
We enjoin you all not to take the aforementioned Martin Luther into your houses, not to receive him at court, to give him neither food nor drink, not to hide him, to afford him no help, following, support, encouragement, either clandestinely or publicly, through words or works. Where you can get him, seize him and overpower him, you should capture him and send him to us under tightest security.
How would you like to do ministry under those circumstances?

Though Luther was whisked away and placed in hiding after the Diet of Worms (translating the New Testament into German during that time), he eventually returned to Wittenberg in 1522 to continue teaching, preaching, and pastoring - living every day under that ban. Few, if any of us, have to labor under such difficult circumstances. Still, let us be challenged by Luther's perseverance, and let us strive to be faithful amidst our own hardships.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Luther and the Languages

All the posts this week will have to do with Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.
"Luther...was unquestionably one of the theologians who could appreciate what humanist scholarship had achieved: without knowledge of ancient languages there could be no reliable exegesis of the Scriptures! When Erasmus published his edition of the Greek New Testament in December 1516, Wittenberg hailed the work as revolutionary. The first copy available there was received with great ceremony. In contrast to Erasmus, Luther even numbered among the first - of the humanists of his time, among the few - who used Reuchlin's works to study Hebrew. Thus Luther recognized that the mastery of ancient languages was a necessary tool in accomplishing a clear textual interpretation of the Bible."
Heiko Oberman, Luther: Man between God and the Devil

Monday, October 26, 2009

Reticent Reformers

All the posts this week will have to do with Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.

While recently reading Heiko Oberman's biography, Luther: Man between God and the Devil, I was struck by how reticent Luther was to fulfill the important role he played in the Reformation. It reminded me of the same reticence that would be seen a few years later by another reformer - John Calvin. Neither of these men sought to be the "heroes" that they became, but both of them understood the roles they were to play as part of God's wise providence. There are lessons of humility and of responsibility/duty for us to learn from these two men!
"[S]ervice to the Word - Luther had not sought it; the post of a professor - he had not desired it; the misson of an evangelist - he would have liked to avoid it. As he saw it, he entered the monastery under compulsion, blinded by fear; his doctoral studies had been imposed on him against his will by his Augustinian superiors. Instead of fighting and becoming entangled in feuds, he would have liked to devote himself to study and meditation. Time and again, Luther offered to cease his activities if only the Gospel became public property. But again and again he was overwhelmed, led where he did not wish to go, by a God who, irrespective of obedience or disobedience, steers the course of history." -- Heiko Oberman

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Deeply Embedded Pelagianism

"World and reason have no idea how difficult it is to grasp that Christ is our justification, so deeply embedded in us - like a second nature - is the trust in works."

--Martin Luther

Friday, October 23, 2009

Singing the Gospel Every Sunday

C.J. Mahaney answers the question, "Why sing so many cross-centered songs in corporate worship?" This is well worth the 8:35!

The Return of Joy to a Troubled Soul

When Darkness Long Has Veiled My Mind
William Cowper, 1731-1800

When darkness long has veiled my mind,
And smiling day once more appears,
Then, my Redeemer, then I find
The folly of my doubts and fears.

I chide my unbelieving heart,
And blush that I should ever be
Thus prone to act so base a part,
Or harbor one hard thought of Thee.

O let me then at length be taught
What I am still so slow to learn,
That God is love and changes not,
Nor knows the shadow of a turn.

Sweet truth, and easy to repeat!
But when my faith is sharply tried,
I find myself a learner yet,
Unskillful, weak, and apt to slide.

But, O my Lord, one look from Thee
Subdues the disobedient will;
Drives doubt and discontent away,
And Thy rebellious worm is still.

Thou art as ready to forgive
As I am ready to repine;
Thou, therefore, all the praise receive;
Be shame and self-abhorrence mine.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Together for the Gospel 2010

Just a reminder that the early bird registration discount for Together for the Gospel 2010 ends October 31, 2009. To register (and see hotel options, schedule, speakers, etc.), click here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reformation Heritage Lectures

Due to health reasons, Dr. James Packer will not be able to deliver the Reformation Heritage Lectures this year at Beeson Divinity School (as previously planned). Instead, Dean Timothy George will be stepping in for this lectureship.

The lectures will be held each day at 11:00am in the Hodges Chapel and are free and open to the public. Dr. George will be lecturing on the following topics:

Tuesday, Oct. 27: "Suddenly Calvin: What the Reformer of Geneva Can Teach Us Today"
Wednesday, Oct. 28: "William Tyndale and the Making of the English Bible"
Thursday, Oct. 29: "1609-2009: The Baptist Story"

For more information, click here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reflections from the Renewing the Evangelical Mission Conference

You may remember a recent post where I mentioned the "Renewing the Evangelical Mission Conference" at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Jonathan Leeman provided a sobering reflection from that conference on the 9Marks blog. Here is an excerpt:
I praise God for the faithful academics who trained me in seminary. Yet the best ones were good because they were churchmen first and academics second. Any academic who takes offence at my remarks, I dare say, just might take offense because he or she finds more identity in being an academic than in being a churchman.

Click here to read the whole thing.

The First Two Questions of the Heidelberg Catechism

As I visited with a dear saint on her deathbed this week and then prepared for her funeral over the weekend, I could not help but be reminded of the first two questions of the Heidelberg Catechism. This catechism (first published in 1536) is probably the most influential and widely accepted of the catechisms published during the Reformation time period.
1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

2. Q. What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

A. First, how great my sins and misery are; second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance.

Oh, that more Christians would learn these great truths!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Horton on Semper Reformanda

Michael Horton explains the origin (and confusion) of the much used Latin phrase, semper reformanda, in this month's "Pro Ecclesia" section of Tabletalk. Read it here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Depending on Christ Alone

If Ever It Could Come to Pass
Joseph Hart, 1712-1768

If ever it could come to pass,
That sheep of Christ might fall away,
My fickle, feeble soul, alas!
Would fall a thousand times a day;
Were not Thy love as firm as free,
Thou soon wouldst take it, Lord, from me.

I on Thy promises depend;
At least I to depend desire;
That Thou wilt love me to the end,
Be with me in temptation's fire;
Wilt for me work, and in me too,
And guide me right and bring me through.

No other stay have I beside;
If these can alter, I must fall;
I look to Thee to be supplied
With life, with will, with power, with all.
Rich souls may glory in their store,
But Jesus will relieve the poor.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Pleasures of Patient Plodding

One of the reasons using the original languages is so helpful in sermon preparation is that it forces the preacher to slow down and read the text carefully. It requires patient plodding, which is far from glamorous but it is rewarding.

I found this to be true yet again this week as I was studying to preach John 14:27-31. As I was working my way through the Greek text, I suddenly realized something that I hadn't realized while reading the English. It's not that what I found wasn't also evident in the English translation (though that is often the case); it was the fact that I had read through the English too quickly and with too much familiarity. Patiently laboring with the Greek text forced my mind to be more alert and more watchful. As a result, I picked up on a significant statement Jesus made at the end of the passage - the meaning of which I may have missed had I not taken the time to do some plodding through the Greek text.

Several different times in the previous passage, Jesus called his disciples to demonstrate their love for him by obedience to his commands: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15), "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me..." (John 14:21), "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word..." (John 14:23), and "Whoever does not love me does not keep my words" (John 14:24). The connection between love and obedience is crystal clear.

But when you come to the end of John 14, you hear Jesus making this same connection between love and obedience, but in a different context. He makes the connection in the context of his relationship to the Father. He says that he will endure the cross out of loving obedience to the Father: "but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father" (John 14:31). In other words, Jesus is not asking us to do something that he himself will not do. What he has just called his disciples to do in verses 15, 21, 23, and 24, he himself offers an example of in verse 31. He models loving obedience for us in going to the cross.

Admittedly, that's not all that verse 31 means. There is much truth to be communicated in what Jesus says there. But it is something worth noticing...and pointing out. And had I not taken the time to patiently plod through the Greek text of John 14, I might have missed that connection. And worse, my people might have missed it come Sunday.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace

My friend, Paul Clark, has recently started a blog where he posts the excellent articles he sends out to pastors, worship pastors, music ministers, etc., in conjunction with his work as Worship Specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Convention. Paul thinks biblically, congregationally, and carefully about corporate worship. These articles are the expression of his own heart, which is certainly tuned to God's redeeming grace. I encourage you to read his most recent post, Disconnected Prayers in Public Worship, and to check back regularly for future articles.

And if you are a pastor, I also encourage you to consider bringing Paul to your church to lead in a Worship Renewal Through Congregational Singing Weekend, a recent project that Paul has been working on and just begun offering to local churches.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Christian Gimmicks

With the popularity of games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band over the last few years, it should come as no surprise that we now have a Christian copycat version known as Guitar Praise.

Once again, we have proved to the world that "anything you can do, we can do later!"

Faith in Christ, Not Faith in Faith

From Michael Horton's new book, The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World:
[T]he weakest faith faith clings to a sufficient Savior. Faith itself does not save us from judgment any more than the quality of one's confidence in the lifeguard is responsible for being rescued from drowning. It is the rescuer, not the one rescued, who saves. In fact, it is in the very act of rescuing that a victim finds himself or herself clinging to the rescuer in confidence. I have yet to see a headline like, "Drowning Victim Rescued by Superior Clinging." It is always the lifeguard who is credited with the rescue. It is on account of Christ that we are justified, through faith, and not on account of our faith itself.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism

Trevin Wax did a little live-blogging during the conference last week at Union University. Below are the links to his posts, which give a summary, a brief outline, and some memorable quotes from each address. For those of you wanting a helpful wrap-up and overview of the conference, this would be the place to begin.

For audio of all the addresses, click here.
  1. Ed Stetzer: “Denominationalism – Is There a Future?”
  2. Jim Patterson: “Reflections on 400 Years of Baptist Movement”
  3. Hal Poe: “The Gospel and Its Meaning”
  4. Timothy George: “The Faith, My Faith, The Church’s Faith”
  5. Duane Litfin: “The Future of American Evangelicalism”
  6. Ray Van Neste: “Pastoral Ministry in SBC Life”
  7. Robert Smith: “The Church’s One Foundation”
  8. Mark DeVine: “Emergent or Emerging”
  9. Danny Akin: “The Future of the SBC”
  10. Michael Lindsay: “Denominationalism in a Changing America”
  11. Jerry Tidwell: “Missions and Evangelism”
  12. David Dockery: “So Many Denominations…”
  13. Panel Discussion
  14. Nathan Finn: “Passing On the Faith”
  15. Albert Mohler: “Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism”

Name That Hymn Writer

Have you been paying attention to your hymnal all these years? Do you even use a hymnal anymore? has a fun little quiz on familiar hymns and who wrote them. See how you score here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Away for a Few Days

I will be away at a conference the rest of this week, but I will resume blogging on Monday. Please check back then.

Audio from the "God Exposed" Conference

Justin Taylor has posted the audio of all the talks from the God Exposed conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Speakers include Mark Dever, Daniel Akin, Michael McKinley, C.J. Mahaney, and Thabiti Anyabwile.

Click here to listen.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Gerald Bray on Piper, Wright, and Justification

The audio of Dr. Bray's lecture on the debate between John Piper and N.T. Wright on justification is now available. Click here to listen.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Firm Foundation of God's Word

How Firm a Foundation
John Rippon, 1787

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you, who to Jesus for refuge have fled?

In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Renewing the Evangelical Mission Conference

Although it is quickly approaching (October 13-15), the upcoming conference at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary looks to be very interesting. This year's conference is in honor of David Wells and each presenter (it is a who's who of evangelical theologians) will address the topic: "What is the evangelical mission in the public square?" Click here for more information.

Why Essentially Literal Bible Translations Are So Helpful

In this week's edition of Mondays with Mounce, the issue of translating poetic language arises. In particular, he addresses the metaphors found in Proverbs 30:24-28. The conclusion that he draws provides yet another reason why essentially literal translations are superior to dynamic equivalent translations.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Great Quotes

I read two quotes this morning that are just too good not to share. One was posted by Ray Ortlund and the other by Derek Thomas.

"You haven't begun to think seriously unless you have thought profoundly on Genesis 3." --Addison H. Leitch

"It really is a mercy to mankind that God in Scripture is so explicit about hell." --J.I. Packer

Why Church Membership Matters

Why bother with church membership? Kevin DeYoung answered that question in a great post yesterday on "Why Membership Matters."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Priority of Preaching

You may remember my post a while back on Christopher Ash's little booklet, Listen Up: A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons. This past week, one of my undergraduate professors, Greg Thornbury, gave me a copy of Ash's book on preaching - The Priority of Preaching. It is a quick but worthwhile read, one which I would certainly encourage preachers to consider. I thoroughly enjoyed it (reading most of it in one sitting).

Here are just a few of the things I appreciated about the book:
1) It is a book on preaching that is based on texts from Deuteronomy (which is both rare and refreshing)

2) It begins with a word "for discouraged preachers" (which always seems an appropriate way to begin a book on preaching, considering that preachers are often discouraged)

3) It clearly (and rightly, in my opinion) fleshes out the authority of the preached Word (oh, that more preachers and more churches believed this!)

4) It encourages gospel-centered and grace-filled preaching

5) It articulates the significance of our gathering to hear the Word preached (this was one of my favorite parts of the book and a concept that seems underdeveloped in the minds of too many pastors)
Pastors - get this book and read it. Both you and your church will benefit from it!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Reminder: Gerald Bray at Union University

Just a reminder to those of you in and around Jackson, TN:

Gerald Bray, who is serving as the Scholar in Residence at Union University this Fall, will begin his series of four lectures on the love of God this week.

See my post from a few weeks ago for the details and for more information about Dr. Bray.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Late Great Rich Mullins

Creed (from A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band)
Rich Mullins, 1955-1997

To listen to this song, click here. To watch the video, click here.

I believe in God the Father
Almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son our Lord
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
He was crucified and dead and buried

And I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am
I did not make it no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man

I believe that He who suffered was crucified buried and dead
He descended into hell and on the third day rose again
He ascended into Heaven where He sits at God's mighty right hand
I believe that He's returning
To judge the quick and the dead of the sons of men

And I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am
I did not make it no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man

I believe it I believe it
I believe it
I believe it I believe it

I believe in God the Father
Almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son our Lord
I believe in the Holy Spirit
One Holy Church
The communion of Saints
The forgiveness of sin
I believe in the resurrection
I believe in a life that never ends

And I believe what I believe is what makes me what I am
I did not make it no it is making me
I did not make it no it is making me
I said I did not make it no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man