Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Our Home Is Like a Little Church

Sojourn Community Church in Louisville recently published an excellent resource to encourage family worship - Our Home Is Like a Little Church.

This brief book was written to teach preschool children the Christian doctrine of the home as a place of worship where the father teaches his family God's commands and leads them to worship the one true God. The home is the front line of ministry to children—not the Sunday school or public church gathering. All the practices present in a Christian worship service—the Scriptures, prayer, and praise -should be present in the home as well.

Below is a brief video of Bobby Gilles, one of the authors, discussing the book.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tasting Grace, Hating Sin

A sobering quote by J.C. Ryle:
The man who professes to know Christ and trust Him, while he cleaves to sin and the world, is going down to hell with a lie in his right hand. The heart that has really tasted the grace of Christ, will instinctively hate sin.
HT: J.C. Ryle Quotes

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bonhoeffer and Preaching

How Dietrich Bonhoeffer thought about preaching:
Bonhoeffer took preaching seriously. For him a sermon was nothing less than the very word of God, a place where God would speak to his people. Bonhoeffer wanted to impress this idea on his ordinands, to help them see that preaching was not merely an intellectual exercise. Like prayer or meditation on a scriptural text, it was an opportunity to hear from heaven, and for the preacher, it was a holy privilege to be the vessel through whom God would speak. Like the incarnation, it was a place of revelation, where Christ came into this world from outside it.
--From Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, by Eric Metaxas

Friday, June 25, 2010

Scriptural Doxologies

The following hymns were written by Gary Parrett and are included in the back of his and J.I. Packer's new book, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way (which I mentioned in a post earlier this week). They all can be sung to the OLD ONE HUNDREDTH tune ("Praise God, From Whom All Blessings Flow").

James 1:17
Each perfect gift from heaven's heights
Comes from our Father, God of Lights,
Who knows full well our ev'ry need
And ev'ry prayer of faith will heed.

Philippians 2:6-8
When we were held by sin's fierce chain,
Heaven's great loss was our great gain,
For grasping not His throne above,
Christ came to us: redeeming love!

2 Corinthians 8:9
You know the grace of Christ, our Lord:
Though He was rich, He became poor,
That we, through His true poverty,
Would be made rich eternally.

Revelation 5:13
To God the Father, God the Son
And God the Spirit, Three-in-One,
Be all glory, pow'r and praise
From ev'ry heart through endless days.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Addressing Two Difficult Topics

Tim Challies provides helpful overviews of two recent talks given at the 2010 Ligonier Ministries National Conference, both of which address difficult topics.
They're both worth reading (the audio is not yet online).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Good Thoughts in Relation to Ourselves

From a conversation between Christian and Ignorance in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress:
"What do you think are good thoughts in relation to ourselves?" Ignorance inquired.

Christian answered, "Such as agree with the Word of God."

"What kind of thoughts about ourselves agree with the Word of God?" Ignorance asked further.

Christian explained, "We think rightly of ourselves when we pass the same judgment upon ourselves that the Word passes. To explain myself more fully, the Word of God says of persons in a natural condition, 'There is none righteous, there is none that doeth good.' It also says that 'every imagination of the heart of man is only evil, and that continually.' And again, 'The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.' Now then, when we think these thoughts of ourselves, our thoughts are good ones because they agree with the Word of God."

Ignorance insisted, "I will never believe that my heart is that bad."

"Therefore you have never had one good thought concerning yourself in your entire life," Christian exclaimed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Comeback of the Catechism

Catechisms, catechizing, and catechesis are making a comeback - and not just in Roman Catholicism or Lutheranism. They're making a comeback in many Protestant denominations, even among evangelicals. J.I. Packer (who has been calling for a renewal in catechesis for some time now) and Gary Parrett have recently written a book on the need for such a comeback. It's called Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way.

Here is some of the historical rationale they provide for why this comeback should be a sign of health:
[T]hroughout the two millennia of Christian history, the health of Christian communities has, in fact, often been linked to the presence or absence of serious catechetical ministries.

It could well be argued that the Reformation itself was a response to centuries of catechetical decline.

And quoting Calvin: Believe me...the Church of God will never be preserved without catechesis.
Besides exploring the biblical and historical rationale for the practice of catechesis, Packer and Parrett provide helpful and practical counsel on how to actually go about doing it in the church today. This is a book well worth reading...and applying. It would do a world of good for our churches, their members, and the effectiveness of our witness to the truth of the gospel.

Of course, it should also be noted (especially on this blog) that there are a number of original hymn texts written by Parrett in the back of this book.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I have been reading the new biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, (which I am thoroughly enjoying and highly recommend), and there are a number of quotes by Bonhoeffer that are simply too good not to share.

These first few are just to give you a taste of his theology (and his mind):
Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.

Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic....Do not defend God's Word, but testify to it.
Reflections on his first trip to America (1930-1931):
In New York they preach virtually everything, only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life.

The separation of whites from blacks in the southern states really does make a rather shameful impression....The way the southerners talk about the negroes is simply repugnant, and in this regard the pastors are no better than the others....It is a bit unnerving that in a country with so inordinately many slogans about brotherhood, peace, and so on, such things still continue completely uncorrected.
From a letter to Reinhold Niebuhr in 1939 (on why he decided to leave the U.S. and go back to Germany):
Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose, but I cannot make that choice in security.
Just prior to his martyrdom (to a fellow prisoner):
This is the end. For me the beginning of life.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sweet Benefits Divine

How Vast the Benefits Divine
Augustus Toplady, 1740-1778

How vast the benefits divine,
Which we in Christ possess,
Saved from the guilt of sin we are,
And called to holiness.

But not for works which we have done,
Or shall hereafter do,
Hath God decreed on sinful worms
Salvation to bestow.

The glory, Lord, from first to last,
Is due to Thee alone;
Aught to ourselves we dare not take,
Or rob Thee of Thy crown.

Our glorious Surety undertook
To satisfy for man,
And grace was given us in Him,
Before the world began.

This is Thy will, that in Thy love
We ever should abide,
And lo, we earth and hell defy,
To make Thy counsel void.

Not one of all the chosen race,
But shall to heaven attain;
Partake on earth the purposed grace,
And then with Jesus reign.

Of Father, Son, and Spirit, we
Extol the three-fold care,
Whose love, whose merit, and whose pow'r
Unite to lift us there.

Monday, June 14, 2010

How To Speak to the Devil When He Throws Your Sins in Your Face

"When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares that we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: 'I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also.'"

--Martin Luther

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Terms Are Fixed - Believe, Or Die

With Conscious Fear and Humble Awe
Samuel Davies, 1723-1761

With conscious fear and humble awe,
I view the terrors of the law;
Condemned at that tremendous bar,
I shrink, I tremble, and despair.

But hark, salvation in my ears,
Sounds sweetly and dispels my fears;
Jesus appears, and by His cross,
Fulfills His Father's broken laws.

Jesus, Savior! dearest name!
By Him alone salvation came;
Terror, destruction and despair,
Where e'er I look besides, appear.

Adam, my head and father fell,
And sunk his offspring down to hell;
And the dread sword of justice waits,
To guard me from the heavenly gates.

Unnumbered crimes of dreadful names
Call loud for everlasting flames;
And all the duties I have done,
Can neither merit, nor atone.

Yet weak and guilty as I am,
I fix my trust on Jesus' name.
Jesus, whose righteousness alone
Can for the deepest crimes atone.

On Him, my soul, on Him rely;
The terms are fixed - believe, or die.
Thee let the glorious gospel draw,
Or perish by the fiery law.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns

You may remember my interview with David Gordon a while back about the new book he was working on, Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns (which is a sequel to the excellent work, Why Johnny Can't Preach). Well, the new book was just released and is now available.

Click here to order a copy.

Click here to see the Table of Contents (PDF).

Click here to read a sample chapter (PDF).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What the Reformation Was Really About

"The closer one looks, the clearer it becomes: the Reformation was not, principally, a negative movement, about moving away from Rome; it was a positive movement, about moving towards the gospel."

--Michael Reeves, The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation

For a recent 9Marks interview with Reeves (about the Reformation), click here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Value of Books

Nicholas Carr, author of the now famous Atlantic Monthly article, "Is Google Making Us Stupid?", has just written a new book - The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. In it, he spends time discussing why books are so valuable. Here is an excerpt:

It’s not hard to see why books have been slow to make the leap into the digital age. There’s not a whole lot of difference between a computer monitor and a television screen, and the sounds coming from speakers hit your ears in pretty much the same way whether they’re being transmitted through a computer or a radio. But as a device for reading, the book retains some compelling advantages over the computer. You can take a book to the beach without worrying about sand getting in its works. You can take it to bed without being nervous about it falling to the floor should you nod off. You can spill coffee on it. You can sit on it. You can put it down on a table, open to the page you’re reading, and when you pick it up a few days later it will still be exactly as you left it. You never have to be concerned about plugging a book into an outlet or having its battery day.

The experience of reading tends to be better with a book too. Words stamped on a page in black ink are easier to read than words formed of pixels on a backlit screen. You can read a dozen or a hundred printed pages without suffering from the eye fatigue that often results from even a brief stretch of online reading. Navigating a book is simpler and, as software programmers say, more intuitive. You can flip through real pages much more quickly and flexibly than you can through virtual pages. And you can write notes in a book’s margins or highlight passages that move or inspire you. You can even get a book’s author to sign its title page. When you’re finished with a book, you can use it to fill an empty space on your bookshelf—or lend it to a friend.

HT: Tim Challies

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Depths of Our Depravity

From a conversation between Christian and Hopeful in The Pilgrim's Progress (where Hopeful explains how he began to be convicted of his sin):
Hopeful: "I have committed enough sin in one of my most recent good duties to send me to Hell."

Friday, June 4, 2010

No More, Believers, Mourn Your Lot

The Joys Which Satisfy
John Newton, 1725-1807

Joy is a fruit that will not grow
In nature's barren soil;
All we can boast, till Christ we know,
Is vanity and toil.

But where the Lord has planted grace,
And made His glories known;
There fruits of heavenly joy and peace
Are found, and there alone.

A bleeding Savior, seen by faith,
A sense of pardoning love,
A hope that triumphs over death,
Gives joys like those above.

To take a glimpse within the veil,
To know that God is mine,
Are springs of joy that never fail,
Unspeakable, divine!

These are the joys which satisfy,
And sanctify the mind;
Which make the spirit mount on high,
And leave the world behind.

No more, believers, mourn your lot,
But if you are the Lord's,
Resign to them that know Him not
Such joys as earth affords.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dockery's Call for a "Both/And" Vision for the SBC

David Dockery, president of Union University and member of the GCR Task Force, wisely calls for a "both/and" vision for the Southern Baptist Convention in his most recent article concerning the Task Force's final proposal.
In recent weeks I have heard Southern Baptists from various sectors of our Convention express some concern regarding the proposals to be recommended by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force at the forthcoming gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting this year in Orlando. As I have tried to listen to these concerns, I have noticed that several of them have been framed as “either/or” one-sided arguments. Historically, some of the church’s saddest moments have come when people have wrongly insisted on “either/or” answers. And, some of the church’s most significant breakthrough moments have come when “both/and” answers have shed light on a challenge.
And here is his conclusion:
I personally believe that the Great Commission Resurgence proposals can be used of God to help Southern Baptists thrive. To do so, we must remain convictionally connected to Scripture, to the Gospel, and to the best of our Southern Baptist heritage that has emphasized cooperation and partnership in missions and evangelism. Learning to work afresh in cooperative ways will also be important, with associations, state conventions, and the SBC no longer seeing themselves as rivals. It is time for us instead to refocus our convictional grounding while celebrating our commonalities with a kingdom-focused cooperative spirit and mindset.

I believe the GCR proposals can be used of God to launch a new “both/and” vision, which will include both preaching and praying, giving and going, worship and witness, conviction and cooperation, teaching truth and touching needs, defining boundaries and building bridges, all the while encouraging both sacrificial stewardship in the pews and the sending of missionaries to the nations. This vision must include the refocusing and the re-prioritizing of denominational structures combined with the renewing work of the Holy Spirit in and among us. All will be necessary to move the SBC forward in dynamic and constructive ways in coming years.

The GCR proposals point the SBC in a trajectory that, if adopted, will begin to move us forward toward shared service in extending the work of taking the gospel to unreached people groups in this country around the globe. One of the real dangers of this present hour is the possibility of becoming sidetracked by “either/or” thinking. The duties of this present hour call for us to recognize the amazing opportunities that are ours even in the very midst of complex local and global challenges. This unique moment pushes us toward a new and bold “both/and” vision, nothing less than a Great Commission Resurgence vision that calls for us to cooperate together in pushing back lostness, a vision grounded in the gospel itself, and a vision motivated by the words of the resurrected and exalted Christ who has commissioned us to “make disciples of all the nations.”
Read the whole article here.

A Summary of the SBC's Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Proposal

For those of you who are Southern Baptist (or others of you who may have interest), Trevin Wax provides a helpful summary of the GCR Task Force's proposal to be discussed and voted on at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, which is a little over a week from today in Orlando, Florida. You can read it here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A God-Centered Prayer for Personal Deliverance

Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name's sake!

--Psalm 79:9

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What a True Outcry to God Would Be Like

An Embarrassment
Wendell Berry (from Part 1 of Leavings)

"Do you want to ask
the blessing?"

"No. If you do,
go ahead."

He went ahead:
his prayer dressed up

in Sunday clothes
rose a few feet

and dropped with a soft

If a lonely soul
did ever cry out

in company its true
outcry to God,

it would be as though
at a sedate party

a man suddenly
removed his clothes

and took his wife
passionately into his arms.