Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Making the Most of Mondays

Peter Mead offers some helpful counsel on how preachers can make the most of Mondays. Read his thoughts here.

Relevance in Preaching

Thoughts from John Piper on relevance in preaching:

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

White Horse Inn on Justification

On this edition of the White Horse Inn, the hosts interact once again with polls taken at a Christian convention, this time relating to the doctrine of justification. Why is this doctrine so central, and how is it related to the gospel of Christ?

The Heart of Christianity (June 28, 2009 broadcast)

President Obama's New Pastor (updated)

The White House is saying that the Time Magazine story (reported below) is not true and that the Obamas continue to look for a church.


Justin Taylor just posted news about the Obama's new pastor, Lieut. Carey Cash, a Southern Baptist who leads the services at Camp David.

Phillip Jensen Classic Sermon Collection (MP3)

Matthias Media is making some of Phillip Jensen's classic sermons and talks available in MP3 format. Unfortunately, they are not free. But if you have $38 to spend, Jensen is certainly worth listening to and learning from - and you've got to love his Australian accent!

Friday, June 26, 2009

In Celebration of God's Wondrous Mercy

The Joyous Song of Mercy
M. Justin Wainscott © 2008

Naked in our sin and shame,

Like Adam, let us hide;

How we fear Mt. Sinai’s flame.

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 Mt. Sinai’s flame;

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!

Fifteen Reasons We Need the New Birth

While most of the reasons listed below are plucked directly from the Bible (and therefore in language that is familiar to us), seeing them all piled together and thinking over the sheer gravity of what is entailed by these truths should cause us to do exactly what Piper wants us to do - to leap for joy!

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

Hope of Heaven

Divine Breathings
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.

Significant Baptist Figures

If you are interested in learning about some of the significant voices in Baptist history, I would highly recommend the book that Timothy George and David Dockery edited, Theologians of the Baptist Tradition.

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

More Reflections from the SBC

Michael Spencer offers his thoughts about what took place at the Southern Baptist Convention. Read them here.

How To Read the Bible

From Stephen Nichols and Eric Brandt in Ancient Word, Changing Worlds: The Doctrine of Scripture in a Modern Age.

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.

Seven Reflections from the SBC

Aaron Menikoff offers seven reflections from the Southern Baptist Convention at the 9Marks blog. You can read them here. They are refreshingly encouraging.

Thankful for Southern Baptist Controversy

It is difficult to think about the current state of the Southern Baptist Convention without the word controversy coming to mind. For good or ill, it is part of what defines us. But sometimes, controversy can produce a good and desired effect. Such was the case with the conservative resurgence and the discussions over the Bible that took place within our denomination during the last few decades. I am reminded of what B.B. Warfield said in the midst of his own controversy over the authority of Scripture: "But fierce controversies can rage only where strong convictions burn."

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

Approaching the Scriptures with Reverence and Humility

I am thoroughly enjoying Stephen Nichols and Eric Brandt's new book, Ancient Word, Changing Worlds: The Doctrine of Scripture in a Modern Age. It is an excellent overview and discussion of "The Battle for the Bible" that raged throughout the twentieth century, as well as a strong defense for the authority of God's Word as inspired and innerant. They give specific attention to three words (and the arguments over those words): inspiration, innerancy, and interpretation. Two chapters are devoted to each word - the first providing a theological and historical overview of the significance of each word and what it implies and the second giving space for the actual words written by some of the major figures involved on both sides (called "In Their Own Words").

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!

New Publications on Baptists

There are several new books on or about Baptists that have recently been published, a few of them I'd like to highlight here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Power of Conversation

Most of you are probably familiar with the writings of Os Guinness, and some of you may be aware of his work with The Trinity Forum. If not, you can read more about The Trinity Forum here.

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.

The History of Baptists

Since the annual Southern Baptist Convention (of which I am a part) is meeting this week in Louisville and since Baptists will celebrate our 400th anniversary next month, I thought I would give some attention over the next few days to Baptist history, distinctives, figures, etc.

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

Shakespeare and the Intersection of Christian Faith

Was William Shakespeare a Christian writer? That is the question Leland Ryken seeks to answer in this very interesting article. To be fair, Ryken is not thinking what you are thinking when you think of a "Christian" writer. He's not referring to the state of Shakespeare's soul or his personal spiritual standing. Instead, he simply wants to explore the presence of Christianity in Shakespeare's plays.

I commend this article to you for your own reflection and consideration.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Calvin Resources from Monergism Books

Monergism Books has now made available (in one place) an excellent collection of resources on and by John Calvin. Check out the list here.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ella Rose Wainscott, Born 6/16/09

Our first child, a daughter named Ella, was born on Tuesday morning. Thanks be to God for this wonderful blessing!

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.
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Monday, June 15, 2009

The Joy of 2 Corinthians 5:21 (in verse)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. -- 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

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.

The Benefits of Poetry (or Why Reading This Blog Is Good for You)

I do not mean for the parenthetical title of this post to be self-serving (though I realize it might sound that way). But with a blog called "Theology in Verse," should it really surprise you that I think you will benefit from reading the poetry and hymnody that I frequently post? Turns out, I am not the only one who feels that way.

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.

Thomas Watson on Loving the Saints

This is a call for humility, a call for gracious love, and a sober reminder that even "the best of the saints have their failings." Ponder that last line!

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

O Pulpit, Where Art Thou?

I discovered this interesting post (via Tim Challies) by Erik Kowalker (you may remember him from his old site, Gospel Reminders). It contains both his observations and his thoughts on the absence of pulpits in so many of the churches he visited in the Portland area where he lives. It is aptly titled "O Pulpit, Where Art Thou?"

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Three Questions to Ask about a Sermon (and Possibly a Fourth)

You may remember my post from earlier this week on David Gordon's book, Why Johnny Can't Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers. Well, there is something else from that book that I'd like to share as we approach the Lord's Day tomorrow and have the opportunity to hear his Word proclaimed. Gordon mentions three questions that listeners ought to be able to answer about a sermon:
  1. What was the point or thrust of the sermon?
  2. Was this point adequately established in the text that was read?
  3. Were the applications legitimate applications of the point, from which we can have further fruitful conversation about other possible applications?
Personally, I would want to add a fourth question to the three above: Did the sermon clearly point us to Jesus Christ, demonstrating how the biblical text preached relates to his person and/or work?

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.

Calvin on Christ as the Focal Point of the Whole Bible

Calvin believed that all of Scripture pointed to Christ - and, specifically, to Christ's death and resurrection for sinners: "Whenever we take the sacred books [of Scripture] into our hands, the blood of Christ ought to occur to our minds, as if the whole of its sacred instruction were written therewith" (Four Last Books of Moses III:320). In his Commentary on Corinthians, he wrote, "All the wisdom of believers is comprehended in the cross of Christ" (1:74). Further interpreting Paul, he adds, "There is no tribunal so magnificent, no throne so stately, no show of triumph so distinguished, no chariot so elevated, as is the gibbet on which Christ has subdued death and the devil" (Commentary on Philippians-Colossians, 191).

-- 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

New Edition of a True Classic

I am very happy to see that a new edition of J. Gresham Machen's classic work, Christianity and Liberalism, is being published (with a foreword by Carl Trueman). Few books have stated more clearly and more accurately what was (and still is) at stake with liberalism. If you want to get a pulse on 20th Century Christianity in the West (especially in America) and hear a first-rate theologian defend Christian orthodoxy, this is the best book you can read. It is a true classic!

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.

Why Christians Should Read Fiction

This article by Mary DeMuth, from BreakPoint Worldview Magazine, is a helpful reminder to us why we should be reading good fiction. You can read it here.

A Great Hymn on Christ and His Church

Shame on most of our hymnals for not including all these verses!

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

The Sad State of Preaching Today

The quote below is from the opening sentences of Chapter 1 in T. David Gordon's new book, Why Johnny Can't Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers, which I highly recommend for both preachers and hearers of preaching. It is a brief (only 108 pages) but needed addition to the ongoing conversation and discussion about preaching today.

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

An Overview of Puritanism by Mark Dever

I stumbled across an address on the Puritans by Mark Dever given on Reformation Day back in 1999. It is a great historical and theological overview of Puritanism. You can listen to it here.

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.

A Wonderful But Rarely Sung Hymn by John Newton

Without a doubt, "Amazing Grace" is John Newton's most famous hymn. Almost every church knows and sings that hymn (as well they should!). But it seems that many of his other hymns are largely neglected, which is a shame because they are beautiful texts. Not to mention, most of them are in the Common Meter and thus very sing-able to familiar tunes.

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

Marilynne Robinson, God, and Calvin

Marilynne Robinson is the author of my favorite contemporary novel, Gilead. She was recently awarded the Orange Prize for fiction. She was also recently interviewed byAndrew Brown, who posted some of the excerpts from the interview on his blog. In the interview, she discusses Calvin's influence on her thinking and writing.

If you haven't read Gilead, it is a must-read. Move it to the top of your summer reading list!

Calvin on the Catholic Church's Teaching of Purgatory

Let us grant, however, that all this might have been tolerated for a time as a thing of no great moment; yet when the expiation of sins is sought elsewhere than in the blood of Christ, and satisfaction is transferred to others, silence were most perilous. We are bound, therefore, to raise our voice to its highest pitch, and cry aloud that purgatory is a deadly device of Satan; that it makes void the cross of Christ; that it offers intolerable insult to the divine mercy; that it undermines and overthrows our faith. For what is this purgatory but the satisfaction for sin paid after death by the souls of the dead? Hence when this idea of satisfaction is refuted, purgatory itself is forthwith completely overturned. But if it is perfectly clear, from what was lately said, that the blood of Christ is the only satisfaction, expiation, and cleansing for the sins of believers, what remains but to hold that purgatory is mere blasphemy, horrid blasphemy against Christ?

-- John Calvin, Institutes (3.5.6)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday with Mounce

Since I have Greek on the brain (see my previous post below), I thought I would direct your attention to today's edition of Monday with Mounce, Bill Mounce's weekly blog posts about Greek. It is a discussion of Romans 8:13, but especially helpful are his last few paragraphs on how to use BDAG.

A.T. Robertson on Preachers and their Greek New Testament

A preacher with college and seminary training can hardly keep his self-respect if he does not have upon his study table a Greek Testament, a Greek lexicon, a Greek grammar, and several modern commentaries on the book that he is studying. He will have many other books, of course, but these are prime necessities if he plans to do serious work upon a page in the New Testament before he preaches upon it. Only thus can he be sure of his ground. Only thus can he be relatively as original as he ought to be. The contact of his mind with the Greek Testament is a fresh experience of first importance. The mind of the Spirit literally opens to his mind in a new and wonderful fashion.

-- 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.

Makes a Great Father's Day Gift Too

In case you missed this on Valentine's Day, it makes a great gift for Father's Day as well. So if you want the dads in your life to smell like an old theologian, give them this irresistible fragrance.

As always, you can trust The Sacred Sandwich to provide us with a healthy dose of humor.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Friday, June 5, 2009

J.I. Packer on the Trinity

Third Millennium Ministries has made an excerpt from J.I. Packer's Concise Theology available in PDF. The excerpt is on the doctrine of the Trinity and can be read here. And true to the title, it is concise - only two pages long.

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

A Humbling Reminder

"A man may be theologically knowing and spiritually ignorant."

-- Stephen Charnock

The Ongoing Justification Debate

In this month's issue of Christianity Today, there are two brief but important articles on the ongoing debate about justification between John Piper and N.T. Wright. One is "The Justification Debate: A Primer," which summarizes the main arguments of Piper and Wright. The other is "Not An Academic Question" by Trevin Wax and Ted Olsen, which reveals the thoughts and experiences of several different pastors and how the justification debate affects their ministry.

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.

Mark Dever and Matt Schmucker at the Toronto Pastors Conference

The audio from the 2009 Toronto Pastors Conference with Mark Dever and Matt Schmucker is now available.

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)

God, the Gospel, and Your Marriage

Want a healthy reminder of the connection between marriage and the gospel? Listen to these three addresses by Art Azurdia.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Notable New Books

Here are a handful of new books that look like promising reads. All of them have either just been published or will soon be published. So if you're looking for some summer reading ideas, you might want to check out some of these.

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

Great Subtitle, Even Better Book

Kevin DeYoung's new book on the will of God may have the best subtitle I have ever seen, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will, Or How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc.

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).

The Mysterious Providence of God

God Moves in a Mysterious Way
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.

James MacDonald on "Common Mistakes Made by Young Preachers"

James MacDonald answers the question, "What are some of the most common mistakes made by young preachers?" in this brief video.

Dubious Photojournalism

In his next Christian conspiracy thriller titled “The C.S.
Lewis Code,” author Dan Brown exposes the truth about
Aslan the Lion, who purportedly left Narnia, got married,
and settled down with his wife and adopted lamb in
Secaucus, New Jersey.

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

A Sobering Poetic Prayer

As you read these sobering lines, might you be as humbled by your sin as I was mine. But might you also be encouraged to pray those last two stanzas!

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.

J.I. Packer & "The Reformation of Pastoral Ministry"

Beeson Divinity School recently announced that J.I. Packer will be the lecturer for the 2009 Reformation Heritage Lectures (October 27-29). He will be speaking each day at 11:00 am on "The Reformation of Pastoral Ministry" (with an additional lecture Wednesday at 1:00 pm). The lectures are free and open to the public, but there is a charge of $7.50 for the luncheon on Wednesday.

Reservations will not open until mid-August, but mark your calendars now.