Friday, February 26, 2010

Surely Christ Thy Griefs Has Borne

Surely Christ Thy Griefs Has Borne
Augustus Toplady, 1740-1778

Surely Christ thy griefs has borne;
Weeping soul, no longer mourn:
View Him bleeding on the tree,
Pouring out His life for thee;
There thy every sin He bore;
Weeping soul, lament no more.

All thy crimes on Him were laid:
See, upon His blameless head
Wrath its utmost vengeance pours,
Due to my offence and yours;
Wounded in our stead He is,
Bruised for our iniquities.

Weary sinner, keep thine eyes
On th' atoning sacrifice;
There th' incarnate Deity,
Numbered with transgressors, see;
There, His Father's absence mourns,
Nailed and bruised, and crowned with thorns.

See thy God His head bow down,
Hear the Man of Sorrows groan!
For thy ransom there condemned,
Stripped, derided, and blasphemed;
Bleed the guiltless for the' unclean,
Made an offering for thy sin.

Cast thy guilty soul on Him,
Find Him mighty to redeem;
At His feet thy burden lay,
Look thy doubts and cares away;
Now by faith the Son embrace,
Plead His promise, trust His grace.

Lord, Thine arm must be revealed,
Ere I can by faith be healed;
Since I scarce can look to Thee,
Cast a gracious eye on me:
At Thy feet myself I lay;
Shine, O shine, my fears away!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thank God for Feeling Your Sinfulness

Ponder the glorious truth of this quote from J.C. Ryle:
He that has any feeling of his own sinfulness, ought to thank God for it. That very sense of weakness, wickedness, and corruption, which perhaps makes you uncomfortable, is in reality a token for good, and a cause for praise. The first step towards being really good is to feel bad. The preparation for heaven is to know that we deserve hell. Before we can be counted righteous we must know ourselves to be miserable sinners. Before we can have inward happiness and peace with God, we must learn to be ashamed and confounded because of our manifold transgressions. Before we can rejoice in a well-grounded hope, we must be taught to say, “Unclean, unclean! God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

HT: Eric Kowalker

Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Debtor, an Enemy, a Criminal

Tim Challies posted an excellent reflection on the early part of R.C. Sproul's book, The Truth of the Cross, where Sproul describes the human condition with three biblical concepts: debtors, enemies, and criminals. It is well worth your own reflection as you ponder how Christ saves you from each of these conditions.

Read it here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Two Things Every Preacher Must Have in His Proverbial Toolbox

Every preacher ought to utilize these two items:
  • A microscope - to analyze the details of the biblical passage being studied (i.e., for zooming in)
  • A telescope - to see how the biblical passage being studied fits into the larger context of the entire redemptive story of the Bible (i.e., for zooming out)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Falling on Deaf Ears

Al Mohler's recent article explores why so many churches hear so little of the Bible. Here is an excerpt:
Indeed, in many churches there is very little reading of the Bible in worship, and sermons are marked by attention to the congregation's concerns - not by an adequate attention to the biblical text. The exposition of the Bible has given way to the concerns, real or perceived, of the listeners. The authority of the Bible is swallowed up in the imposed authority of congregational concerns.

...In many churches, there is almost no public reading of the Word of God. Worship is filled with music, but congregations seem disinterested in listening to the reading of the Bible. We are called to sing in worship, but the congregation cannot live only on the portions of Scripture that are woven into songs and hymns. Christians need the ministry of the Word as the Bible is read before the congregation and God's people -- young and old, rich and poor, married and unmarried, sick and well -- hear it together. The sermon is to consist of the exposition of the Word of God, powerfully and faithfully read, explained, and applied. It is not enough that the sermon take a biblical text as its starting point.

How can so many of today's churches demonstrate what can only be described as an impatience with the Word of God? The biblical formula is clear -- the neglect of the Word can only lead to disaster, disobedience, and death. God rescues his church from error, preserves his church in truth, and propels his church in witness only by his Word -- not by congregational self-study.
Read the whole article here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Hope of Spring and the Hope of the Gospel

Death Brings Resurrection
© M. Justin Wainscott, 2010

The fallen leaves
From autumn trees,
Descend to their earthly tomb;
Yet limbs which shed
Their leaves all dead
Trust new life again will bloom.

‘Cause little mounds
Of lifeless browns
Are only half the story;
For, lively green
Will soon be seen
With Spring and all its glory.

‘Tis all a sign
Of truth divine
Revealed for our reflection;
As one life ends,
A new begins –
Yes, death brings resurrection.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bunyan's Picture of a True Gospel Pastor

From John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (Christian has just arrived at the house of the Interpreter):

So [the Interpreter] commanded His servant to light the candle and then asked Christian to follow Him to a private room that, when the manservant opened the door, revealed a picture of a very grave person hanging on the wall. This is what the man in the picture looked like: he had eyes lifted up to Heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth written upon his lips, the world behind his back. He stood as if pleading with men, and a crown of gold hung over his head.

Then said Christian, "What does this mean?"

"The man in this picture represents one of a thousand: he can conceive children, travail in birth with children, and nurse them himself when they are born. You see him with his eyes lifted up to Heaven, the best of books in his hand and the law of truth written on his lips. All this is to show you that his work is to know and unfold dark things to sinners. You see him pleading with men, the world cast behind him, and a crown hanging over his head to show you that by rejecting and despising the things of this present world for the love that he has for his Master's service, he is sure to have glory as his reward in the world to come. I have shown you this picture first because the man whom it represents is the only man authorized by the Lord of the place where you are going to be your guide in all the difficult places you will encounter on the way. So pay attention to what I have shown you, and keep this picture foremost in your mind, so that if you meet with someone who doesn't resemble this picture's likeness but who pretends to lead you in the right way, you will not follow him down to destruction."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

From the Ash Wednesday liturgy:
Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why Spurgeon Believed in the Doctrine of Election (and I Do Too)

"I believe in the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love."

--Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Monday, February 15, 2010

Noteworthy Quotes on Preaching

  • I never want to preach a sermon that would still be true if Jesus had not died on the cross. (Ed Stetzer)
  • Let a good expositional ministry be established and watch what happens. Forget what the experts say. Watch hungry people have their lives transformed as the living God speaks to them through the power of His Word. (Mark Dever)
  • Much of what emanates from modern pulpits would not be recognized by history’s great preachers as being Bible-based and glorifying to God. Rather than the spiritual meat the Body of Christ needs – marked by doctrinal clarity, a sense of gravity, convincing argument, and a proper focus on Christentire churches are being administered a sweet but substanceless snack by their pastors. Consequently, congregations leave the sanctuary malnourished and ill-prepared to stand firm when their faith is challenged. (Alistair Begg)
  • Throughout the history of the church the greatest preachers have been those who have recognized that they have no authority in themselves, and have seen their task as being to explain the words of Scripture and apply them clearly to the lives of their hearers. Their preaching has drawn its power not from the proclamation of their own Christian experiences or the experiences of others, nor from their own opinions, creative ideas, or rhetorical skills, but from God's powerful words. Essentially, they stood in the pulpit, pointed to the biblical text, and said in effect to the congregation, "This is what this verse means. Do you see that meaning here as well? Then you must believe it and obey it with all your heart, for God himself, your Creator and your Lord, is saying this to you today!" Only the written words of Scripture can give this kind of authority to preaching. (Wayne Grudem)
  • The gospel is preached in the ears of all men; it only comes with power to some. The power that is in the gospel does not lie in the eloquence of the preacher; otherwise men would be converters of souls. Nor does it lie in the preacher’s learning; otherwise it would consist of the wisdom of men. We might preach till our tongues rotted, till we should exhaust our lungs and die, but never a soul would be converted unless there were mysterious power going with it – the Holy Ghost changing the will of man. O Sirs! We might as well preach to stone walls as preach to humanity unless the Holy Ghost be with the Word, to give it power to convert the soul. (Charles Spurgeon)
HT: Ray Ortlund, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Colin Adams

Friday, February 12, 2010

'Tis a Strange Mysterious Life

Kindle, Savior, in My Heart
John Newton, 1725-1807

Kindle, Savior, in my heart,
A flame of love divine;
Hear, for mine I trust Thou art,
And sure I would be Thine.
If my soul has felt Thy grace,
If to me Thy name is known,
Why should trifles fill the place
Due to Thyself alone?

'Tis a strange mysterious life
I live from day to day;
Light and darkness, peace and strife,
Bear an alternate sway.
When I think the battle won,
I have to fight it o'er again;
When I say I'm overthrown,
Relief I soon obtain.

Often at the mercy seat,
While calling on Thy name,
Swarms of evil thoughts I meet,
Which fill my soul with shame;
Agitated in my mind,
Like a feather in the air,
Can I thus a blessing find?
My soul, can this be prayer?

But when Christ, my Lord and Friend,
Is pleased to show His power;
All at once my troubles end,
And I've a golden hour.
Then I see His smiling face,
Feel the pledge of joys to come;
Often, Lord, repeat this grace,
Till Thou shalt call me home.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lent - Why Bother?

Christianity Today asked leading voices from three different traditions to discuss the merits of observing Lent:
  • Michael Horton, a Presbyterian who teaches at Westminster Seminary California - To Lead Us to Christ

Beware of Self-satisfied Self-deception

A helpful reminder from J.I. Packer's classic work, Knowing God:
If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate and dismiss them as very poor specimens....

To be preoccupied with getting theological knowledge as an end in itself, to approach Bible study with no higher a motive than a desire to know all the answers, is the direct route to a state of self-satisfied self-deception. We need to guard our hearts against such an attitude, and pray to be kept from it.

May this ever be in the forefront of our thinking!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Trees in Winter

I just read the following poem on Michael Haykin's blog, Historia ecclesiastica. With the winter weather we are experiencing here (and in many other places), I thought it was appropriate.

Trees in Winter

What do trees do in winter?

Seemingly frozen, they are waiting.
With trunks and branches
Stretched heavenward, they wait,
For the coming of the sun.

And what of us more sentient beings?

© Michael A.G. Haykin, 2010.

Seven Common Fallacies of Biblical Interpretation

The Parchment and Pen blog offers seven common fallacies of biblical interpretation:

1. Preunderstanding fallacy: Believing you can interpret with complete objectivity, not recognizing that you have preunderstandings that influence your interpretation.

2. Incidental fallacy: Reading incidental historical texts as prescriptive rather than descriptive.

3. Obscurity fallacy: Building theology from obscure material.

4. Etymological root fallacy: Looking to the root etymology of a word to discover its meaning.

5. Illegitimate totality transfer: Bringing the full meaning of a word with all its nuances to the present usage.

6. Selective use of meaning: Selecting the meaning you like best.

7. Maverick fallacy: Believing that you don’t need anyone but the Holy Spirit to interpret the text.

Read the whole post here for further explanation and examples.

HT: Thabiti Anyabwile

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Anxiety Is Really Self-Sufficiency

M. Justin Wainscott, © 2010

I received a phone call this morning
That’s made me anxious all the day.
The outcome’s out of my control,
But that’s certainly not stopped me
From being consumed with wondering
And fearing and hoping what it will be.
At the heart of the matter is the glaring fact
That in my heart I don’t trust the matter
To a God who promises good for me.
I care far too much about my anxieties,
Not nearly enough about casting those cares
On the only One who truly cares for me.
My anxiety is really self-sufficiency,
Disguising itself as something else, something less.

Just so you know, I wrote this poem yesterday, and everything turned out fine.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Necessity of Praying and Preaching

John Angell James provides a sobering reminder to pastors of our deep need for prayer:
A deep, practical conviction of the need of the Spirit, would make us men of prayer, would send us to our closets, and keep us there! Here perhaps is the cause why we have not more success in our ministry, and are not more frequently and more heartily gladdened by the conversion of souls to God; we seek to be men of the pulpit merely, and are not sufficiently men of the closet.

...[W]e do not pray as if we believed we were sent to save souls from eternal death, and that we could not be successful in a single instance without the grace of God! Who of us can read the diaries of such men as Doddridge, Brainerd, Payson, and Martyn, and very many others, and not stand reproved for our lamentable deficiency in the exercise of earnest prayer?

...A praying ministry must be an earnest one - and an earnest ministry a praying one!

...The eternal destinies of our hearers hang not only upon our sermons but upon our prayers; we carry out the purposes of our mission, not only in the pulpit - but in the closet; and may never expect to be successful ministers of the New Covenant - but by this two-fold importunity in first beseeching sinners to be reconciled to God, and then beseeching God to pour out his Spirit upon them - thus we honor his wisdom in the use of the means he has appointed, and then his power by confessing our dependence upon his grace.

--Taken from An Earnest Ministry, John Angell James

Friday, February 5, 2010

350 Pounds of Books

Ray Van Neste posted a statement just released from the Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University. It is a call to help provide books for a new library/reading room in Ethiopia for pastors and students interested in reading English works.

See the statement here.

Make Us Well Our Vileness Know

Gracious God, Thy Children Keep
Joseph Hart, 1712-1768

Gracious God, Thy children keep;
Jesus, guide Thy silly sheep.
Fix, O fix, our fickle souls;
Lord, direct us; we are fools.

Bid us in Thy care confide;
Keep us near Thy wounded side.
From Thee let us never stir,
For Thou know'st how soon we err.

Lay us low before Thy feet,
Safe from pride and self-conceit;
Guard us from a world of sin;
Foes without, and worse within.

Look upon the unequal war;
Savior, do not go too far.
Crafty is the foe, and strong;
Savior, do not tarry long.

By Thy Word we fain would steer,
Fain Thy Spirit's dictates hear;
Save us from the rocks and shelves,
Save us chiefly from ourselves.

Never, never may we dare,
What we're not to say we are;
Make us well our vileness know;
Keep us very, very low.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Companions in a Common Misery

Ray Ortlund has an excellent quote on his blog from Luther's Lectures on Romans about how we sinners ought to view one another:
Who then can pride himself over against someone else and claim to be better than he? Especially in view of the fact that he is always capable of doing exactly the same as the other does and, indeed, that he does secretly in his heart before God what the other does openly before men. And so we must never despise anyone who sins but must generously bear with him as a companion in a common misery. We must help one another just as two people caught in the same swamp assist each other. Thus we must "bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). But if we despise the other, we shall both perish in the same swamp.

--Wilhelm Pauck, translator, Luther: Lectures on Romans (Philadelphia, 1961), page 115.

Four Costs of Becoming a Christian

Erik Kowalker's great site, J.C. Ryle Quotes (which I have mentioned on this blog before), has a series of posts this week regarding the four things Ryle said a person must be ready to give up if he/she wishes to become a Christian (all of them from Ryle's classic work, Holiness). They are well worth pondering.
  1. Your Self-Righteousness
  2. Your Sins
  3. Your Love of Ease
  4. The Favor of the World
And check the Ryle site tomorrow for a summary post, "Contemplating the Four Costs."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Theater of God's Glory

My friend, Eric Smith, has a great post today on his blog (Shepherd of the Sheep), reminding us that compartmentalized thinking (which runs rampant in American Evangelicalism) simply will not do when we realize the universal scope of God's reign. Here's an excerpt:

It is easy to live a divided, compartmentalized kind of life in which God fits neatly into Sundays and Wednesday nights, as well as in our quiet times, but then to view everything else from our jobs to our back yards to our meals with completely secular lenses. But Scripture, and I think especially the psalms, call us to reject such a notion.

Israel’s God, Yahweh, was not limited to a certain sphere of the world; he was the Creator of all things – their covenant God was the Lord of the universe! And so we must see, and confess, and delight in the truth that everything – everything – belongs to the Triune God of our salvation. It was created by him and for him.

Let us remind ourselves today that we are not simply going about business as usual; we are passing through the theater of the glory of God.

I encourage you to read the whole thing here.

Giving Thanks for Human Instruments of Divine Mediation

The following quote ought to cause us to be grateful for those human beings God used to mediate the knowledge of himself to us:
Though the knowledge of God is intimate and personal it does not come to us directly; it is always mediated, usually through another human being. Whether this be a mother teaching her child the Lord's Prayer, a bishop expounding a passage from the gospels, a missionary explaining the words of the Apostles' Creed, or someone telling a friend how her life has been changed by Christ, the truth that Christians confess is transmitted through other persons, through the Christian community, the church.

--Taken from The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, Robert Louis Wilken

Christian Witness in the First Person

The following quote is a reminder that, in some sense, truth does not become meaningful until it becomes personal.
It is not enough, Origen explained, to say, "Christ was crucified": one must say with Saint Paul, "I am crucified with Christ." Likewise it is not enough to say, "Christ is raised." One who knows Christ says, "We shall also live with him" (Rom. 6:10).

All Christian witness is in the first person...

--Taken from The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, Robert Louis Wilken

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sinners' Never-Ceasing Praise

Sinners’ Never-Ceasing Praise
M. Justin Wainscott, © 2010

O Christ, our true and living Head,
Our Savior and our God;
You suffered in the sinner’s stead,
And bought us with your blood.
What tribute fits this blood-bought grace,
But sinners’ never-ceasing praise?

Your precious blood has washed away
The stain of guilt and sin;
Now Satan’s left with naught to say,
And we have peace within.
What tribute fits this pard’ning grace,
But sinners’ never-ceasing praise?

Though holy wrath was once our dread,
Our punishment you bore;
Because your sinless blood was shed,
God’s wrath we dread no more!
What tribute fits this matchless grace,
But sinners’ never-ceasing praise?

This saving act of Triune love,
Achieved by God the Son,
Gives substance to the songs above,
Sung to the Three in One.
What tribute fits this saving grace,
But sinners’ never-ceasing praise?

Monday, February 1, 2010

2010 Men's Conference with Randy Stinson

First Baptist Church of Paducah, Kentucky, will be hosting a Men's Conference March 5-6 with special guest, Dr. Randy Stinson. Stinson is Dean of the School of Church Ministries at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Executive Director for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

He will be speaking three times on the following topics: biblical manhood, husbandry, and fatherhood.

The cost for the conference is only $20 ($30 after February 26), and it is free for college students.

Click here for the conference brochure (and more details).