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.