Monday, November 30, 2009

Sermons on Ruth

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Thanksgiving Hymn

Great Sovereign Lord, What Human Eye
Samuel Boyce, 1812

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are You More Like Augustine or Jerome?

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

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

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ken Myers on "Our Accelerated Culture"

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

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

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

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

Personality and the Pulpit

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

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

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Send "Happy Birthday" Wishes to Jerry Bridges

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chief of Sinners

Chief of Sinners Though I Be
William McComb, 1864

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Prayer and Preaching

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

--Gardiner Spring, The Power of the Pulpit

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Speaking of Good Instructors

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

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

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

HT: Justin Taylor

The Importance of Good Instructors

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

God's Means of Preventing Amnesia

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

HT: Tim Challies

Christ-Centered Cautions

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

Our "Cocoonish" Condition

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

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

Friday, November 13, 2009

Beautiful 8th Century Latin Hymn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bunyan on Acts 2:38

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

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

Peter: Every one of you.

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

Peter: For every one of you.

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

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

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

Peter: For every one of you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Prayer and the Gospel

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

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Our Only Glory and Our Only Hope

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

Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

Monday, November 9, 2009

Remembering B.B. Warfield - The Lion of Princeton

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

Thursday, November 5, 2009

O Sing of Christ, My Savior, Sing

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

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

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

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


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


Horton on the Importance of Passing on the Faith

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

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mourning Most Over Secret Sins

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

--Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks

To learn more about Thomas Brooks, click here.

Packer on the Puritans as Ministerial Midwives

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sister Graces

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

--Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton

9Marks eJournal (Nov/Dec 2009)

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

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Primeval Problem, Not a Medieval One

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

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