Monday, July 30, 2012

The Missionary Heart of God

Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.  --Isaiah 45:22
As beautiful a scene as the parade of nations was Friday evening during the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics, it will not compare with the true parade of nations that will one day take place before the throne of God (see Revelation 7:9-10).   

Friday, July 27, 2012

Thy Mercy Seat Is Open Still

Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul
Anne Steele, 1716-1778

Dear refuge of my weary soul,
On Thee, when sorrows rise,
On Thee, when waves of trouble roll,
My fainting hope relies.

To Thee I tell each rising grief,
For Thou alone canst heal;
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief,
For every pain I feel.

But oh! when gloomy doubts prevail,
I fear to call Thee mine;
The springs of comfort seem to fail,
And all my hopes decline.

Yet gracious God, where shall I flee?
Thou art my only trust;
And still my soul would cleave to Thee,
Though prostrate in the dust.

Hast Thou not bid me seek Thy face,
And shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sovereign grace,
Be deaf when I complain?

No; still the ear of sovereign grace
Attends the mourner's prayer;
Oh may I ever find access,
To breathe my sorrows there!

Thy mercy seat is open still,
Here let my soul retreat;
With humble hope attend Thy will,
And wait beneath Thy feet.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vos's Metaphor for Progressive Revelation

The way Geerhardus Vos metaphorically describes progressive revelation and the relationship between the Testaments:
Old Testament prophecies and texts are like seeds and later Old Testament and New Testament understandings of the same texts are like plants growing from the seeds and flowering; from one angle the full-bloomed plant may not look like the seed (as in botanical comparisons), but careful exegesis of both Old and New contexts can show, at least, some of the organic connections.

--Quoted in G.K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Something about Crushing a Snake's Skull

A vivid reminder from Russell Moore about Jesus' clear understanding of his own identity as the Son of God and as the second Adam, as he moved from his baptism to his temptation in the wilderness:

"If you had stood there by the Jordan River, watching the scene at the baptism of Jesus, you might have braced yourself for a shock wave of glory. After all, the God of Israel had just unveiled - publicly, audibly, visually - his promised Messiah.  The villagers around you might have been chattering about great things - the overthrow of Rome, the throne of David, shock and awe.  You might have waited to watch this new king unleash his Spirit power.  Instead, though, you would see him shake out the water from his hair, pause and look at the mud on the bank, and then walk off toward the desert.  As he passed by you, you might have heard him whisper to himself, something about crushing a snake's skull.  Jesus knows who he is."

--Russell Moore, Tempted and Tried 

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Weakest Saint Has Power Upon His Knees

What Various Hindrances We Meet
William Cowper, 1731-1800

What various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy seat;
Yet who that knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes to be often there.

Prayer makes the darkened cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above.

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight;
Prayer makes the Christian’s armor bright;
And Satan trembles, when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.

While Moses stood with arms spread wide,
Success was found on Israel’s side;
But when through weariness they failed,
That moment Amalek prevailed.

Have you no words? Ah, think again,
Words flow apace when you complain;
And fill your fellow creature’s ear
With the sad tale of all your care.

Were half the breath thus vainly spent,
To Heav’n in supplication sent;
Your cheerful song would oft’ner be,
Hear what the Lord has done for me.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Timothy George on Lessons from the Mainline Decline

Timothy George offers helpful and insightful analysis in his recent article, 3 Lessons from Crisis and Decline in the Mainline.  His three main lessons are:
  1. There is an intrinsic connection between spiritual vitality and theological integrity.
  2. The continuing saga and approaching collapse of mainline denominations should prompt us to pray.
  3. Evangelicals have no room to boast or gloat over the "sickness unto death" in the mainlines.
Here is an excerpt:
The debate over homosexual practices within the mainline denominations is not the root cause but only the presenting issue....At the heart of this issue is a broken doctrine of biblical authority, a loss of confidence in the primary documents of the Christian faith....The church and the Bible are coinherent realities in the economy of grace. One will not long survive intact without the other.
Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Word to Fellow Preachers on Using Hymns as Illustrations

If you are a preacher and you do not use the texts of hymns (ancient or modern) to illustrate the truths you preach, you are failing to take advantage of an incredibly helpful and powerful means of illustration.  I say this for at least five reasons.
  1. Hymn texts, and especially familiar hymn texts, often have deep emotional roots in the hearts of believers, which makes them particularly effective for vividly illustrating a biblical truth. 
  2. Hymn texts are poetic in nature, and poetry can have a strong oratorical effect. 
  3. Hymn texts, in and of themselves, teach us something theologically (sometimes good, sometimes bad).  Though we preachers may not like to admit it, most people learn more theology from the songs they sing than the sermons they hear.  So, why not utilize the good ones to help teach them the truth that they are singing, and how the truth in that song is based on the truth of God's Word?  This helps connect the biblical and theological dots for your hearers - both in the biblical text and in the hymn that they may have sung hundreds of times before but never really thought about until you pointed it out to them.   
  4. Hymn texts that are used well in a sermon illustration will be sung with much more understanding the next time around.  Using that text as an illustration makes that hymn even more meaningful for your hearers, which means you are helping strengthen and reinforce the importance of congregational singing (as well as the importance of singing good theology).
  5. Hymn texts that are quoted in a sermon, when those hymns either have been sung or will be sung in the same service, unifies the worship experience and teaches the congregation something about the holistic nature of public worship.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Let Your Books Be Your Friends

A great quote passed on to me by a church member who is a fellow book-lover:
If you cannot read all your books, at any rate...peer into them, let them fall open where they will, read from the first sentence that arrests the eye, set them back on the shelves with your own hands, arrange them on your own plan so that you at least know where they are.  Let them be your friends; let them be your acquaintances.

--Winston Churchill 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Meditating on Mercies Multiplied

Psalm 16, from the 1912 Psalter

When in the night I meditate
On mercies multiplied,
My grateful heart inspire my tongue
To bless the LORD, my guide.

Forever in my thought the LORD
Before my face shall stand;
Secure, unmoved, I shall remain,
With Him at my right hand.

My inmost being thrills with joy
And gladness fills my breast;
Because on Him my trust is stayed,
My flesh in hope shall rest.

I know that I shall not be left
Forgotten in the grave,
That from corruption, Thou, O LORD,
Thy holy one wilt save.

The path of life Thou showest me;
Of joy a boundless store
Is ever found at Thy right hand,
And pleasures evermore.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Hopeful Future for the Southern Baptist Convention

The Baptist & Reflector, our state Baptist paper, was kind enough to run an article I recently wrote on "Signs of a Hopeful Future for the SBC." 

To read it, click here.

There will be another one next week on "Signs of a Hopeful Future for the TBC." 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Morning Encouragement for Preachers

This is intended to encourage those of you who preached yesterday (and for those of you who listened to someone preach yesterday, here's some insight into how we preachers often feel...and how you can pray for us).
Few preachers who preach God's Word feel great when the sermon's done. I'm usually thinking about everything I didn't have time to say or even a few things I did say that I wish I hadn't.  Then the time for the benediction slips up on me, I give it, and then I sneak to the back door to talk with people as they walk out. Sometimes people come to talk, and I'm humbled and encouraged by the ways they say the Lord used the sermon in their lives. Other times no one says much of anything, which bothers me more than I wish it did.

But the immediate feedback - as much as we crave the instant gratification - isn't the point. A pastorate is made up of a lot of sermons, and the fact is, most of those sermons are going to be singles rather than triples or home runs. But that's fine. If the Lord is so kind as to give you even a long string of singles, that's purely of His grace, and your congregation will benefit and grow from that. You score runs with a string of singles. So don't worry if you haven't hit a home run in a while - and if you hit one today, don't get cocky! Either way, go home, rest, thank God for the grace He gave you to teach and encourage His people again, take some time off, and then start the whole process over the next week. Our God is a good God, and week after week, sermon after sermon, He will give grace and strength and insight to the men who preach His Word.

--Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert, Preach: Theology Meets Practice 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Flow My Praise, Forever Flow

Mighty God, While Angels Bless Thee
Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

Mighty God, while angels bless Thee,
May a mortal sing Thy name?
Lord of men as well as angels,
Thou art every creature’s theme.
Lord of every land and nation,
Ancient of eternal days.
Sounded through the wide creation
Be Thy just and endless praise.

For the grandeur of Thy nature,
Grand beyond a seraph’s thought;
For the wonders of creation,
Works with skill and kindness wrought.
For Thy providence, that governs,
Through Thine empire’s wide domain,
Wings an angel, guides a sparrow,
Blessed be Thy gentle reign.

For Thy rich, Thy free redemption,
Bright, though veiled in darkness long,
Thought is poor, and poor expression;
Who can sing that wondrous song?
Brightness of the Father’s glory,
Shall Thy praise unuttered lie?
Break, my tongue, such guilty silence!
Sing the Lord who came to die.

From the highest throne of glory
To the cross of deepest woe,
All to ransom guilty captives;
Flow my praise, forever flow!
Reascend, immortal Savior;
Leave Thy footstool, take Thy throne;
Thence return, and reign forever,
Be the kingdom all Thine own!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Honoring God Before Country

As Christians and Americans, we must learn to practice patriotism without succumbing to nationalism.  That was what many Christians in Germany during the reign of the Nazis failed to learn.  Let us not make the same mistake.  I hope that what I've written below will serve to help remind us where our ultimate loyalties truly lie.      
Honoring God Before Country
As we celebrate the independence of our great nation, we acknowledge God's bountiful blessings and providential care throughout our history.

We acknowledge the courageous and sacrificial service of so many men and women who fought, and are fighting, for the freedoms we enjoy and so often take for granted. With deep gratitude, we recognize and remember those who gave their lives defending those freedoms.

We acknowledge those who have gone before us to help shape and form these United States.

And we acknowledge the wonderful opportunities and benefits afforded to us simply by being American.

But as Christians, while still being grateful and mindful of this wonderful nation of ours, we celebrate a far greater freedom today - freedom from sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus on this day it becomes especially important for us to remember and confess that we are Christians first, then Americans.

We acknowledge God before country; the glory of God before Old Glory; and the Bible before the Declaration of Independence. Our primary loyalty is to Jesus Christ and his kingdom, which is made up of people from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

So we proclaim today that "our citizenship is in heaven, and from there we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3:20).

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Most Urgent Need of the Church

A great reminder from one of the greatest preachers of the last century and from one of my favorite books on preaching:
I would say without any hesitation that the most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need of the world also.

--D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers