Friday, July 30, 2010

Thou Callest Burdened Souls to Thee, And Such, O Lord, Am I

Approach, My Soul, The Mercy Seat
John Newton, 1725-1807

Approach, my soul, the mercy seat,
Where Jesus answers prayer;
There humbly fall before his feet,
For none can perish there.

Thy promise is my only plea;
With this I venture nigh;
Thou callest burdened souls to Thee,
And such, O Lord, am I.

Bowed down beneath a load of sin;
By Satan sorely pressed;
By wars without and fears within,
I come to Thee for rest.

Be Thou my shield and hiding place,
That, sheltered near Thy side,
I may my fierce accuser face,
And tell him Thou hast died.

O wondrous love! to bleed and die;
To bear the cross and shame;
That guitly sinners such as I,
Might plead Thy gracious name.

Poor tempest-tossed soul, be still;
My promised grace receive;
I'll work in thee both power and will;
Thou shalt in me believe.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reasons to Leave a Church

Jason Helopoulos has a great guest post on Kevin DeYoung's blog related to reasons for leaving a church. I'll summarize them below, but it would be worth reading his entire post for further discussion and clarification of the reasons he provides.
Good Reasons for Moving On - The Four P's

1) Providential moving

2) Planting another church

3) Purity has been lost

4) Peace of the church is in jeopardy due to my presence

Possible Reasons for Moving On - The Three S's

1) Spouse

2) Special Needs

3) Special Gifts

Reasons Often Used Which Are Insufficient

1) Children's ministry

2) Buzz

3) Youth group

4) Church has changed

5) New pastor

6) I'm not being ministered to

7) Music

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Russell Moore on "Christ and Katrina"

The feature article in the July/August issue of Touchstone is Russell Moore's "Christ and Katrina." It is a haunting yet hallowed reflection on the five-year anniversary of Katrina and how that "apocalyptic event" affected his hometown of Biloxi, Mississippi - as well as his theology. You can read the entire article online here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two Quotes to Caution Against Misguided Methodology

Many churches' strategies and methods for outreach are well-intentioned but often misguided. Here are two quotes that caution against such misguided methodology.
What you win them with is what you'll keep them with.
(Mark Dever)

If reaching people "where they are" appears to endorse "where they are," then it is the most significant strategic error the church can possibly make....When the church approaches an individual as a consumer to be pleased, rather than as a recalcitrant sinner to be rescued, the church is no longer doing what it is called to do. (David Gordon)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Poetic Excess

From the Quodlibet section of the July/August issue of Touchstone (by Peter Leithart):
Poetry is a concentrated excess of language. Concentrated, because it always means more than it says. Excessive, because it always says more than it needs to say, because in many cases it need not be said at all.

Concentration: "The Lord is my shepherd" is a simple declarative sentence, but it unlatches a window on an alternative world, in which God is a shepherd, men are sheep, lives are pathways, providential discipline is a rod, and so forth.

Excess: Andrew Marvell could have said: "It's late, and we're going to die, so let's make love now." What he said was, "Had we but world enough and time,/this coyness, Lady, were no crime," and then went on to speak of the Ganges, the conversion of the Jews, worms and decaying corpses, and the cherubic (or Apollonian) chariot of time pressing close.

No wonder God chose to write so much of his own book in poetry.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Debtors to Mercy

A Debtor to Mercy Alone
Augustus Toplady, 1740-1778

A debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on,
My person and off’ring to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Savior’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view.

The work which His goodness began,
The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Nor all things below or above,
Can make Him His purpose forgo,
Or sever my soul from His love.

My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is giv’n;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in Heav’n.

Thanks to my friend, Ron Boud, for reminding me of this great hymn!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Usefulness of the Doctrine of Sin

“…[It] cannot but be extremely useful to let men see what sin is: how prodigiously vile, how deadly mischievous, and therefore how monstrously ugly and odious a thing sin is. Thus a way may be made: (1) For admiring the free and rich grace of God (2) For believing in our Lord Jesus Christ (3) For vindicating the holy, just and good law of God, and his condemnation of sinners for breaking it (4) For hating sin, and repenting for and from it, thereby taking a holy, just and good revenge on it and ourselves (5) That we may love and serve God at a better rate than we ever did in the little and short time of innocence itself (6) And, lastly, that this black spot may serve to set off the admirable, incomparable and transcendent beauty of holiness.”

--Ralph Venning, The Sinfulness of Sin

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Spurgeon on the Necessity of Preaching with Power from on High

"I shall not attempt to teach a tiger the virtues of vegetarianism; but I shall as hopefully attempt that task as I would try to convince an unregenerate man of the truths revealed by God concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment to come. These spiritual truths are repugnant to carnal men, and the carnal mind cannot receive the things of God. Gospel truth is diametrically opposed to fallen nature; and if I have not a power much stronger than that which lies in moral suasion, or in my own explanations and arguments, I have undertaken a task in which I am sure of defeat. . . Except the Lord endow us with power from on high, our labor must be in vain, and our hopes must end in disappointment."

--Charles Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Interview with Justin Taylor

The 9Marks blog has an interview with Justin Taylor, whose own blog is one of the most helpful and beneficial stops on the web for evangelicals (in my opinion). If you are not familiar with Taylor or his blog, you can learn a great deal from this interview.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Book on the Importance of Congregational Singing

My friend, Paul Clark, has written a book that is the product of years' worth of researching, reflecting on, practicing, theologizing about, and leading congregational singing. Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace: Worship Renewal through Congregational Singing will be of great benefit to any pastor and/or worship leader, and hopefully it will have the effect on countless churches that its subtitle proclaims. Paul has been writing about worship in a weekly newsletter for pastors, ministers of music, and worship leaders for years. I have always wished a wider audience could read his reflections and learn from him. With this book, that now can happen.

Here is what people are saying about the book:
Paul Clark is a church musician who is equally committed to the glory of God, the building up of his church, and using the best of creativity of the past and present to look towards the future. I cannot recommend him highly enough.

--Keith Getty, Christian artist, lecturer, and modern hymn writer

Worship involves a rhythm of revelation and response, and this book beautifully reflects that reality. Paul Clark reveals biblical, theological foundations for radically God-centered worship, and then he gives us clear, practical guidance for how God's people respond congregationally to God's greatness. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for pastors, worship music leaders, and Christians who long to see God-honoring, Christ-exalting, Spirit-led worship in the church.

--David Platt, PhD, Senior Pastor, The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, AL

In Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace, Paul Clark has crafted a powerful book on congregational singing. Writing out of a heart that has been richly shaped by God's mercy, Clark provides a roadmap through the story of song in the Bible and church history. From years of consultation with churches, he offers sage advice for how individuals and churches can "retune" their singing. I needed the "retuning" this book provided - and you probably do too!

--Dr. Reggie Kidd, Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary
Dr. Clark serves as the director of worship and music ministries for the Tennessee Baptist Convention and blogs at Tune My Heart to Sing Thy Grace. To order the book, click here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sweet Truth, and Easy to Repeat!

When Darkness Long Has Veiled My Mind
William Cowper, 1731-1800

When darkness long has veiled my mind,
And smiling day once more appears,
Then, my Redeemer, then I find
The folly of my doubts and fears.

I chide my unbelieving heart,
And blush that I should ever be
Thus prone to act so base a part,
Or harbor one hard thought of Thee.

O let me then at length be taught
(What I am still so slow to learn)
That God is love, and changes not,
Nor knows the shadow of a turn.

Sweet truth, and easy to repeat!
But when my faith is sharply tried,
I find myself a learner yet,
Unskillful, weak, and apt to slide.

But, O my Lord, one look from Thee
Subdues the disobedient will;
Drives doubt and discontent away,
And Thy rebellious worm is still.

Thou art ready to forgive
As I am ready to repine;
Thou, therefore, all the praise receive;
Be shame and self-abhorrence mine.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Gospel and Personal Honesty

An excellent (and helpful) quote from Tim Keller in the Journal of Biblical Counseling:
The gospel gives you psychological freedom to handle the wrong things that you will do. You won’t have to deny, spin, or repress the truth about yourself... Only with the support of hearing Jesus say, “You are capable of terrible things, but I am absolutely, unconditionally committed to you,” will you be able to be honest with yourself.
HT: 9Marks Blog

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Song Shapes Theology

The following quote is a reminder why we must be so careful and diligent in choosing the songs we sing in church:
It is well known that the character of its song, almost equal with the character of its preaching, controls the theology of a church.
--From the preface of the Trinity Hymnal

Monday, July 12, 2010

How to Meditate on Christ

John Owen, the chief of the Puritan theologians, offered five helpful ways to meditate on the person and work of Christ:
  1. Consider that the knowledge of Christ as fully God and fully man in one Person is the most useful object of our contemplations and affections.
  2. Diligently study the Scriptures with the express purpose of finding the glory of Christ in them.
  3. Meditate frequently upon the knowledge of Christ that you have already obtained, both from Scripture and from sermons.
  4. Do not simply rely upon fixed times set aside for meditation, but think upon Christ at every possible occasion throughout the day.
  5. Accompany your thoughts of Christ with admiration, adoration, and thanksgiving.
--John Owen, The Glory of Christ

HT: Meet the Puritans

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Weight of Atonement Fully Known by God Alone

Much We Talk of Jesus' Blood
Joseph Hart, 1712-1768

Much we talk of Jesus' blood;
But how little's understood!
Of his sufferings so intense,
Angels have no perfect sense.
Who can rightly comprehend
Their beginning or their end?
'Tis to God, and God alone,
That their weight is fully known.

O thou hideous monster, Sin,
What a curse has thou brought in!
All creation groans through thee,
Pregnant cause of misery.
Thou hast ruined wretched man,
Ever since the world began;
Thou hast God afflicted too;
Nothing less than that would do.

Would we then rejoice indeed?
Be it that from thee we're freed;
And our justest cause to grieve
Is that thou wilt to us cleave.
Faith relieves us from thy guilt,
But we think whose blood was spilt;
All we hear, or feel, or see,
Serves to raise our hate for thee.

Dearly we are bought for God
Bought us with his own heart's blood;
Boundless depths of love divine!
Jesus, what a love was thine!
Though the wonders Thou hast done
Are as yet as little known,
Here we fix and comfort take -
Jesus died for sinners' sake.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sometimes, Silence Is Best

The following quote is from a letter written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his seminary students, upon the news that one of their colleagues had been killed in the first three days of Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939. It is wise counsel for all of us when we face circumstances in which we cannot make sense of the seemingly senseless suffering and death of those close to us.
Where God tears great gaps we should not try to fill them with human words. They should remain open. Our only comfort is the God of the resurrection, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ....
--Quoted in Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Metaxas

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Simple Pleasures

Wendell Berry, from Given: Poems (2005)

How fine to have a radio
and beautiful music playing
while I sit at rest in the evening.
How fine to hear through the music
the cries of wild geese on the river.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Excellent Article For Young Mothers

The recent 9Marks eJournal is devoted entirely to the topic of "Pastoring Women" (and I would recommend all the articles to pastors and church staff members). But I would especially encourage every young mother to read Jani Ortlund's article, "For the Young Mother: Ministry, Guilt, and Seasons of Life." Here's an excerpt:
Mothering calls for the best in us as women. As mothers, we shape the souls of our children and ultimately influence the world. Children are our gift to the future. So accept your calling from God to serve your family. It is not godly guilt that would call you away from a wholehearted investment in your little ones for his sake. Don’t feel guilty over making your children your primary ministry investment when they are young. You are teaching the younger generation to form intimate emotional bonds with others. Your sensitivity, availability, devotion, affection, and unhurried attention are irreplaceable.

...Are you discouraged as you spend day after day immersed in the mundane tasks of mothering? Then think of the honor of guiding the spiritual and intellectual and social development of young minds and hearts. Think of the thrill of teaching them eternal truths from God’s Word. Think of the importance of teaching your young children how to live under authority, and of preparing them for future relationships by teaching them about love and trust. Think of the delight of sending one more godly, vibrant, strong, secure, loving young person into this needy world with the courage to live well for Christ’s sake. What a worthy investment!
Read the entire article here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Honoring God Before Country

There is always a danger for American Christians to confuse our allegiances to God and country around Independence Day, especially when July 4th falls on a Sunday. The following is a corporate reading I wrote for our congregation to help safeguard that very confusion.
Honoring God Before Country

As we celebrate the independence of our great nation, we acknowledge God's bountiful blessings and providential care throughout our history.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 2, 2010

Till Jesus Brings His Gospel Nigh

What Shall the Dying Sinner Do?
Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

What shall the dying sinner do,
That seeks relief for all his woe?
Where shall the guilty conscience find
Ease for the torment of the mind?

How shall we get our crimes forgiven,
Or form our natures fit for heaven?
Can souls, all o'er defiled with sin,
Make their own powers and passions clean?

In vain we search, in vain we try,
Till Jesus brings his gospel nigh;
'Tis there that pow'r and glory dwell,
That save rebellious souls from hell.

This is the pillar of our hope,
That bears our fainting spirits up;
We read the grace, we trust the Word,
And find salvation in the Lord.

Let men or angels dig the mines
Where nature's golden treasure shines;
Brought near the doctrine of the cross,
All nature's gold appears but dross.

Should vile blasphemers, with disdain,
Pronounce the truths of Jesus vain,
We'll meet the scandal and the shame,
And sing and triumph in his name.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Destructive Nature of Preaching

Good preaching is both instructive and destructive. It instructs us in the ways and words of God. But it also destroys - sinful strongholds, faulty arguments, and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.

As the apostle Paul reminds us, "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

And as Proverbs 21:22 tells us, "A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust."

Preachers, in what strongholds are your people trusting? In what arguments have they erroneously believed? Your preaching - your faithful, expositional, Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered preaching - is the God-ordained means of destroying those strongholds.