Tuesday, June 30, 2009
As a preacher, I think a lot about relevance. Why should anyone listen to what I have to say? Why should anybody care? Relevance is an ambiguous word. It might mean that a sermon is relevant if it feels to the listeners that it will make a significant difference in their lives. Or it might mean that a sermon is relevant if it will make a significant difference in their lives whether they feel it or not.
That second kind of relevance is what guides my sermons and my writing. In other words, I want to say things that are really significant for your life whether you know they are or not. My way of doing that is to stay as close as I can to what God says is important in his word, not what we think is important apart from God's word.
--Taken from Finally Alive by John Piper
Monday, June 29, 2009
The Heart of Christianity (June 28, 2009 broadcast)
Justin Taylor just posted news about the Obama's new pastor, Lieut. Carey Cash, a Southern Baptist who leads the services at Camp David.
Friday, June 26, 2009
M. Justin Wainscott © 2008
Naked in our sin and shame,
Like Adam, let us hide;
How we fear
Oh! will it e’er subside?
Frightful, guilty, here we stand,
The dread too much to bear;
The holy law’s strict demands
Have caused us this despair.
Does any hope now remain,
And where can it be found?
Is there not some sweet refrain,
In which God’s grace abounds?
There is! There is! Mercy sings,
And oh! its joyous song.
Hear the gracious news it brings;
Its voice is loud and strong.
It speaks about the sinless One,
Who came and took our place;
God the Father’s only Son,
Who purchased saving grace.
Jesus Christ, his precious name,
Oh! let it now resound;
He, our Savior, bore our shame,
And wore our guilty crown.
This is why the Son was sent,
And followed Calv’ry’s path;
To receive our punishment,
And bear the Father’s wrath.
Christ has quenched
Its dreaded curse he bore.
He’s removed our guilt and shame,
They’re gone forevermore!
We’ve been pardoned by his blood,
In Christ we’re justified;
Mercy flowing like a flood,
Hath justice satisfied.
Let us no more naked hide,
Or fear the law’s demands;
Jesus suffered, bled, and died,
That we might righteous stand.
Clothed with Jesus’ righteousness,
Adorned in him alone;
All his merits we possess,
As if they were our own.
God condemned his only Son
That we’d be counted free;
‘Tis love to ne’er be outdone
And grace beyond degree!
From John Piper's new book, Finally Alive.
The aim in this list is to give us an accurate diagnosis of our disease so that when God applies the remedy at great cost to himself, we will leap for joy and give him some measure of the glory he deserves. We will not sing with authentic amazement the words "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me," unless we know the nature of our "wretchedness."
1) Apart from the new birth, we are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-2).
2) Apart from the new birth, we are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3).
3) Apart from the new birth, we love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19-20).
4) Apart from the new birth, our hearts are hard like stone (Ezek. 36:26; Eph. 4:18).
5) Apart from the new birth, we are unable to submit to God or please God (Rom. 8:7-8).
6) Apart from the new birth, we are unable to accept the gospel (Eph. 4:18; 1 Cor. 2:14).
7) Apart from the new birth, we are unable to come to Christ or embrace him as Lord (John 6:44, 65; 1 Cor. 12:3).
8) Apart from the new birth, we are slaves to sin (Rom. 6:17).
9) Apart from the new birth, we are slaves of Satan (Eph. 2:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).
10) Apart from the new birth, no good thing dwells in us (Rom. 7:18).
11) Without the new birth, we won't have saving faith, but only unbelief (John 1:11-13; 1 John 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:29; 1 Tim. 1:14; 2 Tim. 1:3).
12) Without the new birth, we won't have justification, but only condemnation (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 2:17; Phil. 3:9).
13) Without the new birth, we won't be the children of God, but the children of the devil (1 John 3:9-10).
14) Without the new birth, we won't bear the fruit of love by the Holy Spirit but only the fruit of death (Rom. 6:20-21; 7:4-6; 15:16; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10; Gal. 5:6; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 John 3:14).
15) Without the new birth, we won't have eternal joy in fellowship with God, but only eternal misery with the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41; John 3:3; Rom. 6:23; Rev. 2:11; 20:15).
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Augustus Toplady, 1837
I groan from sin to be set free,
From self to be released;
Oh, take me, take me unto Thee,
My everlasting rest!
Come, O my Savior, come away,
Into my soul descend;
No longer from Thy creature stay,
My author, and my end!
The bliss Thou hast for me prepared,
No longer be delayed;
Come, my exceeding great reward,
For whom I first was made.
Thou all our works in us hast wrought,
Our good is all divine;
The praise of every virtuous thought,
And righteous work is Thine.
'Tis not of him that wills or runs,
That labors or desires;
In answer to my Savior's groans,
Thy love my breast inspires.
The meritorious cause I see,
That precious blood divine;
And I, since Jesus died for me,
Shall live forever Thine.
Mark Noll said of this work, "Baptists should read this book to gain a better sense of who they are, others to discover an underappreciated contribution to Christianity's theological heritage."
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Seven suggestions for how we should read the Bible:
1) Reverently. Remembering the Bible is the word of God, the revelation of the Creator and Redeemer, means above all reading the Bible reverently.
2) Prayerfully. We have the Spirit to guide us into truth.
3) Collectively. Reading the Bible solely or merely as an individual plays into the notions of modernism. Reading the Bible collectively is a good antidote to such privatized, individual reading....Reading the Bible collectively also puts us in the historical and global community, which means that the Bible is not our individual possession.
4) Humbly. It's helpful to read the Bible humbly, to be careful not to equate our interpretations of the text with the text itself. The Bible is innerant, in other words, but our interpretations are not.
5) Carefully. We also need to read the Bible carefully, which is to say there is a place for hermeneutics and rules of interpretation....Reading the Bible carefully also entails reading the Bible canonically. In previous ages of the church, this was referred to as the "analogy of faith," which amounted to reaidng particular texts of the Bible in light of the whole Bible.
6) Christologically. The Bible is ultimately the story of Christ. All of it points to or away from him, like spokes from the hub of the wheel. All of the Bible eventually finds its end, its design, its purpose in Christ....It's not too much of a stretch to say that we understand a text fully when we connect it to Christ and his mission.
7) Obediently. Reading and interpreting are first-order activities that lead to the second-order activity of obedience and practice (James 2:22-27). Reading and interpreting the Bible is actually the easy part, compared to taking the Bible seriously enough to act upon it.
I, for one, am thankful for the strong convictions that burned in the hearts of men and women who stood for truth (sometimes having to stand alone). We are all the better for it, and we should be grateful for the fierce controversy that they endured. Though they did not desire it or choose it (or even enjoy it), they were willing to face the difficulty of those days because their convictions about the truthfulness and accuracy of God's Word were strong and courageous.
Let us pray that God would raise up a new generation of courageous leaders - men and women not eager or desirous of controversy but men and women whose convictions burn strongly enough to endure it if the appropriate need arises.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The following is a quote from the book, which is itself an excerpt from E.J. Young, who taught Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, in his 1957 work, Thy Word is Truth. It is a reminder to us that we should approach the Scriptures with both reverence and humility:
When therefore we meet difficulties in the Bible let us reserve judgment. If any explanation is not at hand, let us freely acknowledge that we do not know all things, that we do not know the solution. Rather than hastily proclaim the presence of error is it not the part of wisdom to acknowledge our ignorance?
Young is not calling for an anti-intellectual and blind acceptance of the Bible; nor does he mean we should refrain from engaging in serious biblical scholarship. But he does mean that we should be humble enough to recognize that we may not know all the answers (which, of course, is not to say that there isn't an answer...just that we do not know what it is). To do otherwise would seem to be both irreverent and arrogant. Seems like wise counsel to me!
- The first is a history of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary by Greg Wills that tells the story of the seminary's 150 year history, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1859-2009).
- The second is a book edited by David Dockery (with contributions from Al Mohler, Timothy George, Russell Moore, Ed Stetzer, and other leaders within the SBC) and is titled Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future. Justin Taylor recently interviewed Dockery regarding this new work, which can be read here.
- The third is a new biography of James Boyce by Tom Nettles (the most recent in P&R's American Reformed Biographies series), James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesmen.
- And then there are the collections of writings from both James Petigru Boyce and Basil Manley, Sr. & Basil Manley, Jr.
Monday, June 22, 2009
All that to say, there is a young lady who I went to college with and whose parents are members of our church that works for The Trinity Forum, and thus I receive email updates from them. In the most recent email update, there was a fascinating little blurb from the President, Cherie Harder, on the power of conversation.
Here is what it said (chew on her second paragraph for a while):
If, as Richard Weaver famously stated, ideas have consequences, it is because conversations have power. Ideas do not exist in isolation; their consequences flow from their transmission and integration.
Thus it is not enough just to study a good book. The best books and ideas need to be shared—not only because doing so benefits others, but because the discussion enriches us. In conversation, our assumptions, motivations, and character can be challenged in ways that deepen our understanding, integrity, and imagination. Moreover, in conversation with others, we can find perspectives to question and clarify the ideas of a text, to see how it relates to the wider world, and to help us see its implications for the way we live and lead.
This is why the Trinity Forum takes a conversational approach with our programs, and why we include discussion guides in our materials. We take conversation seriously in the conviction that, at its core, reality is relational.
Today, we begin with an article from a 1985 issue of Christian History by Roger Hayden on the history of Baptists. It is a great sketch of the first century of Baptist life (which occurred primarily in England). You can read it here.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
I commend this article to you for your own reflection and consideration.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
A Gift of God's Paternal Love
M. Justin Wainscott, 2009
Ev'ry good and perfect gift
Comes down from God above;
They're each an illustration
Of His paternal love.
My daughter's a reminder,
His gifts are all by grace;
For I know I don't deserve
This precious, little face.
Monday, June 15, 2009
The Way of Access
by John Newton
One glance of Thine, eternal Lord,
Pierces all nature through;
Nor heaven, nor earth, nor hell afford
A shelter from Thy view.
The mighty whole, each smaller part,
At once before Thee lies;
And every thought of every heart
Is open to Thine eyes.
Though greatly from myself concealed,
Thou seest my inward frame;
To Thee I always stand revealed,
Exactly as I am.
Since, therefore, I can hardly bear
What in myself I see;
How vile and black must I appear,
Most holy God, to Thee?
But since my Savior stands between,
In garments dyed in blood,
'Tis He, instead of me, is seen,
When I approach to God.
Thus, though a sinner, I am safe;
He pleads before the throne,
His life and death in my behalf,
And calls my sins His own.
What wondrous love, what mysteries,
In this appointment shine!
My breaches of the law are His,
And His obedience mine.
Below are a number of quotes about the value of poetry taken from David Gordon's book, Why Johnny Can't Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers. The last one, which you should definitely take to heart, is actually a quote that Gordon includes from Sven Birkerts in his The Electric Life: Essays on Modern Poetry. Hopefully, the following will encourage you to become a regular reader of verse.
Reading verse rescues us from the mundaneness of life; it permits us to observe again with wonder, and shocks us out of our cynicism and joylessness.
The poet stops and stares at that which most of us merely glance at; he pauses to notice what is humane, significant, and important.
Verse is a common-grace gift that enables us, through the fog of images and sounds, to again see ourselves and others as bearers of the image of God.
When the poet stares at that which the rest of us merely glance at, he invites us to take a longer look with him. It is precisely this longer look that is necessary to cultivate a sensibility for the significant.
Reading texts (and especially verse) cultivates the sensibility of significance. Verse is comparatively dense; line for line, more is in it than prose, and much of what is there is an eye for what is significant about life.
The harder it is for you to slow down, the more you need to be rescued from the twentieth century; the more you need poetry.
We love a saint, though he has many personal failings. There is no perfection here. In some, rash anger prevails; in some, inconstancy; in some, too much love of the world. A saint in this life is like gold in the ore, much dross of infirmity cleaves to him, yet we love him for the grace that is in him. A saint is like a fair face with a scar: we love the beautiful face of holiness, though there be a scar in it. The best emerald has its blemishes, the brightest star their twinklings, and the best of the saints have their failings. You that cannot love another because of his infirmities, how would you have God love you?
--Taken from All Things for Good (Puritan Paperbacks), Thomas Watson
Saturday, June 13, 2009
- What was the point or thrust of the sermon?
- Was this point adequately established in the text that was read?
- Were the applications legitimate applications of the point, from which we can have further fruitful conversation about other possible applications?
Here is the context in which Gordon discusses these questions in the book:
I've really desired something fairly simple for my family: to be able to talk intelligently about the sermon on Sunday afternoon or throughout the week. And to do this, all I really desire is the ability to answer three questions: What was the point or thrust of the sermon? Was this point adequately established in the text that was read? Were the applications legitimate applications of the point, from which we can have further fruitful conversation about other possible applications? Frequently, indeed more commonly that not, I have heard sermons about which my family cannot even answer the first question. And even when we can, it is very rare to find the point adequately established from the passage. Further, the applications suggested almost never have anything to do with the text.
So, spend some time working through these questions with your own family on Sunday afternoons. If you can answer them, give thanks to God that you have a pastor who faithfully preaches the Scriptures. If you can't answer them, pray for your pastor to be more faithful to God's Word.
-- Taken from Michael Horton's article, "Is Calvin Still Relevant after 500 Years?", in the June/July 2009 issue of Modern Reformation
Friday, June 12, 2009
Here are a few words of praise about this important work:
"Christianity and Liberalism is a masterpiece and without doubt the single most important book ever written by a Westminster professor." - Carl R. Trueman
"This is an admirable book . . . a cool and stringent defense of orthodox Protestantism."
- Walter Lippmann
World Magazine: One of the Centuries Top 100 Books (1999)
Christianity Today: Top 100 Books of the 20th Century (2000)
And if you're looking for a helpful introduction to Machen's life and work, I would highly recommend Stephen Nichol's excellent little book, J. Gresham Machen: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought.
The Church's One Foundation
Samuel John Stone, 1866
The church's one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is his new creation
By water and the Word:
From heav'n he came and sought her
To be his holy bride;
With his own blood he bought her,
And for her life he died.
Elect from ev'ry nation,
Yet one o'er all the earth.
Her charter of salvation
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food.
And to one hope she presses,
With ev'ry grace endued.
The church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain and cherish
Is with her to the end;
Though there be those who hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against both foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.
Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, "How long?"
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song.
'Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace for evermore;
Till with the vision glorious
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great church victorious
Shall be the church at rest.
Yet she on earth hath union
With God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won,
With all her sons and daughters
Who, by the Master's hand
Led through the deathly waters,
Repose in Eden land.
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with Thee:
There, past the border mountains,
Where in sweet vales the Bride
With Thee by living fountains
Forever shall abide!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
What Gordon says below is something that we all must lament and, more, something that we must strive to correct. Preachers must become more faithful to their God-ordained task, and churches must demand more faithfulness from their preachers. Otherwise, these same sentences are going to be written again by the next generation.
Sadly, I think most of us would have to agree with and could even confirm what he says here:
Part of me wishes to avoid proving the sordid truth: that preaching today is ordinarily poor. But I have come to recognize that many, many individuals today have never been under a steady diet of competent preaching. As a consequence, they are satisfied with what they hear because they have nothing better with which to compare it. Therefore, for many individuals, the kettle in which they live has always been at the boiling point, and they've simply adjusted to it. As starving children in Manila sift through the landfill for food, Christians in many churches today have never experienced genuinely soul-nourishing preaching, and so they just pick away at what is available to them, trying to find a morsel of spiritual sustenance or helpful counsel here or there.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
For good books on the Puritans, I would recommend the following:
Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were, Leland Ryken
A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, J.I. Packer
Meet the Puritans, Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson
The Westminster Directory of Public Worship: Discussed by Mark Dever and Sinclair Ferguson, Mark Dever and Sinclair Ferguson
Of course, Banner of Truth's Puritan Paperbacks are excellent primary sources.
Here is one such hymn that is rarely sung but should be added to all our churches' song libraries. It can be sung to the tune of "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" or "O, For a Thousand Tongues to Sing" or even "Amazing Grace." It is a wonderfully reassuring hymn that should provide God's people with gospel comfort.
How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds
John Newton, 1725-1807
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.
It makes the wounded spirit whole
And calms the troubled breast;
'Tis manna to the hungry soul,
And to the weary rest.
Dear name! the rock on which I build,
My shield and hiding place;
My never-failing treasury filled
With boundless stores of grace.
By Thee my prayers acceptance gain,
Altho' with sin defiled;
Satan accuses me in vain,
And I am owned a child.
Jesus! my Shepherd, Husband, Friend,
My Prophet, Priest, and King;
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.
Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I'll praise Thee as I ought.
'Till then I would Thy love proclaim,
With ev'ry fleeting breath;
And may the music of Thy name
Refresh my soul in death.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
If you haven't read Gilead, it is a must-read. Move it to the top of your summer reading list!
-- John Calvin, Institutes (3.5.6)
Monday, June 8, 2009
-- A.T. Robertson, taken from The Minister and His Greek New Testament
If you don't have a copy of Robertson's little classic, buy one! If you do, get it out and re-read Chapter 9, "John Brown of Haddington, Or Learning Greek without a Teacher." That chapter alone ought to re-kindle the fires of learning and drive you to your Greek New Testament!
And if you are looking for a helpful Greek New Testament, I would recommend the UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader's Edition. It contains the vocabulary for all words occuring 30 times or less in the New Testament at the bottom of each page, a dictionary in the back for all words occuring 30 times or more in the New Testament, grammatical help for difficult verbs, and a much better font and layout than Zondervan's Reader's Greek New Testament. You can purchase the UBS version here.
As always, you can trust The Sacred Sandwich to provide us with a healthy dose of humor.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
- The Legacy of Sovereign Joy (Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin)
- The Hidden Smile of God (John Bunyan, William Cowper, David Brainerd)
- The Roots of Endurance (John Newton, Charles Simeon, William Wilberforce)
- Contending For Our All (Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen)
Friday, June 5, 2009
If you are interested in reading more from Packer's Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs, you can find out more information about the book or purchase it here.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Since this is the current issue of CT, the articles are not yet available online. However, I would encourage you to find a copy and read them. The cover story, about Tim Keller, is interesting as well.
Displaying God's Glorious Gospel, Session 1 (Matt Schmucker)
Preaching and Biblical Theology, Session 2 (Mark Dever)
Encouragement for the Pastor's Soul, (Carl Muller)
Gospel, Conversion, and Evangelism, Session 3 (Mark Dever)
Panel Discussion and Questions (Mark Dever and Matt Schmucker)
Membership, Discipline, and Discipleship, Session 4 (Matt Schmucker)
Do You Like Jesus? (Mark Dever)
Leadership, Session 5 (Mark Dever)
Covenanting Together, Session 6 (Matt Schmucker)
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
George Whitefield (Historymakers), John Pollock (May 2009)
Risking the Truth: Handling Error in the Church, Martin Downes, ed. (May 2009)
Courage to Stand: Jeremiah's Message for Post-Christian Times, Philip Graham Ryken (May 2009)
Broken Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad, Paul David Tripp (May 2009)
Come Ye Children: Practical Help Telling Children about Jesus, Charles Spurgeon (May 2009)
My First Book about Jesus (My 1st Series), Carine Mackenzie (May 2009)
The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts That Shaped Our World, R.C. Sproul (June 2009)
Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, Martyn Lloyd-Jones (June 2009)
Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ, Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson (June 2009)
Does Grace Grow Best in Winter?, Ligon Duncan (June 2009)
Dual Citizens: Worship and Life between the Already and the Not Yet, Jason Stellman (July 2009)
Christianity and Liberalism (Revised Edition), J. Gresham Machen (June 2009)
J.I. Packer and the Evangelical Future: The Impact of His Life and Thought, Timothy George, ed. (August 2009)
Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World, Michael Horton (October 2009)
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
His seminar from the NEXT Conference, which was based on the book, can be heard here.
And here is a brief interview with him about the book.
DeYoung is teaming up with Ted Kluck again for a new book (set to be published in July), Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion.
You may remember that these two also co-wrote Why We're Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be).
William Cowper, 1774
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
Supposedly, this was the last hymn William Cowper ever wrote (what a finale!). It is truly a masterpiece of theology. If the legendary story behind it is true (and we have no real way of knowing whether it is or not), it makes it that much more powerful. Find out more here.
While this is a little creepy, it is also a little funny. Thanks again to The Sacred Sandwich for providing us with a good laugh.
Monday, June 1, 2009
The Evil Heart
Augustus Toplady, 1837
Astonished and distressed,
I turn mine eyes within:
My heart with loads of guilt oppressed,
The seat of every sin.
What crowds of evil thoughts,
What vile affections there!
Distrust, presumption, artful guile,
Pride, envy, slavish fear.
Almighty King of saints,
These tyrant lusts subdue;
Expel the darkness of my mind,
And all my pow'rs renew.
This done, my cheerful voice
Shall loud hosannas raise;
My soul shall glow with gratitude,
My lips proclaim Thy praise.
Reservations will not open until mid-August, but mark your calendars now.