Monday, April 30, 2012

The Unfathomable Depths and Innumerable Implications of the Gospel

"We do not move on from the Gospel. Instead, we move on in the Gospel, for its depths are unfathomable and its implications for life and teaching are innumerable."

--Gary Parrett and Steve Kang, Teaching the Faith, Forming the Faithful

HT: Of First Importance

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ye Glittering Toys of Earth, Adieu

Ye Glittering Toys of Earth, Adieu
Anne Steele, 1716-1778

Ye glittering toys of earth, adieu,
A nobler choice be mine;
A regal prize attracts my view,
A treasure all divine;
Begone unworthy of my cares,
Ye spacious baits of sense;
Inestimable worth appears
The pearl of price immense.

Jesus, to multitudes unknown—
O name divinely sweet!
Jesus, in Thee, in Thee alone,
Wealth, honor, pleasure meet!
Should both the Indies at my call
Their boasted stores resign:
With joy I would renounce them all,
For leave to call Thee mine.

Should earth’s vain treasures all depart,
Of this dear gift possessed,
I’d clasp it to my joyful heart,
And be forever blest:
Dear Sovereign of my soul’s desire,
Thy love is bliss divine!
Accept the wish that love inspires,
And bid me call Thee mine.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Panel Discussion on "What Is the Mission of the Church?"

For those of you in and around Jackson, we at First Baptist Church are having a panel discussion this Sunday at 5:00PM related to the recent book, What Is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission, by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert.

Panelists include our own pastoral staff, as well as two of our church members who have served as pastors, Ben Mitchell and Todd Brady.  

For more information click here.

Wendell Berry's Jefferson Lecture

Wendell Berry was awarded the privilege of delivering the 2012 Jefferson Lecture for the National Endowment for the Humanities earlier this week.  Though lengthy, it is filled with profound statements and thoughts.  Below are just a few excerpts:           
The problem that ought to concern us first is the fairly recent dismantling of our old understanding and acceptance of human limits. For a long time we knew that we were not, and could never be, “as gods.” We knew, or retained the capacity to learn, that our intelligence could get us into trouble that it could not get us out of. We were intelligent enough to know that our intelligence, like our world, is limited. We seem to have known and feared the possibility of irreparable damage. But beginning in science and engineering, and continuing, by imitation, into other disciplines, we have progressed to the belief that humans are intelligent enough, or soon will be, to transcend all limits and to forestall or correct all bad results of the misuse of intelligence. Upon this belief rests the further belief that we can have “economic growth” without limit.


To hear of a thousand deaths in war is terrible, and we “know” that it is. But as it registers on our hearts, it is not more terrible than one death fully imagined. The economic hardship of one farm family, if they are our neighbors, affects us more painfully than pages of statistics on the decline of the farm population. I can be heartstruck by grief and a kind of compassion at the sight of one gulley (and by shame if I caused it myself), but, conservationist though I am, I am not nearly so upset by an accounting of the tons of plowland sediment borne by the Mississippi River. Wallace Stevens wrote that “Imagination applied to the whole world is vapid in comparison to imagination applied to a detail”—and that appears to have the force of truth.

It is a horrible fact that we can read in the daily paper, without interrupting our breakfast, numerical reckonings of death and destruction that ought to break our hearts or scare us out of our wits. This brings us to an entirely practical question:  Can we—and, if we can, how can we—make actual in our minds the sometimes urgent things we say we know? This obviously cannot be accomplished by a technological breakthrough, nor can it be accomplished by a big thought. Perhaps it cannot be accomplished at all.
For those of you who are Berry fans, you will find much that is familiar in this lecture (and you'll be reminded why you appreciate him so).  For those of you who do not know Berry or his work, this may be a good introduction to him (and to his importance).  You may not agree with everything Berry says, but his is a voice we need to listen to - whether that be in his novels, poems, essays, or lectures.

To read the text of Berry's Jefferson Lecture in its entirety, click here.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Robert Smith to Deliver Mullins Lectures at SBTS

For those of you in and around Louisville, I highly recommend going to hear Robert Smith deliver the Mullins Lectures at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary this week.  And for those of you who cannot be there in person but would like to listen, you can get the livestream from the Southern website here

Dr. Smith will be giving three lectures, one each day (Tuesday-Thursday), and his overall theme is "Preaching as Intra-Trinitarian Presence."  The schedule and the topic of each day's lecture is as follows:

God of Our Weary Years - Theocentricity 
Tuesday, April 24 (10:00am - EST)

Theology of the HIMbook - Christocentricity  
Wednesday, April 25 (10:00am - EST)

The Neglected God - Pneumacentricity 
Thursday, April 26 (10:00am - EST)

Few men have been more influential in my preaching than Robert Smith.  It was a privilege and a joy to sit under his teaching while at Beeson Divinity School and it is a pleasure to call him my friend.

By the way, his book, Doctrine That Dances: Bringing Doctrinal Preaching and Teaching to Life, is an excellent resource for those of you who preach and teach.

Monday, April 23, 2012

More Frequent Communion

The Gospel Coalition recently ran three different articles on the frequency of Communion:
These three articles provide three different perspectives on an important issue in the life of our churches, many of whom probably celebrate the Supper far too infrequently. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Names of All His Saints He Bears

Now Let Our Cheerful Eyes Survey
Philip Doddridge, 1702-1751

Now let our cheerful eyes survey
Our great High Priest above,
And celebrate His constant care,
And sympathetic love.

Though raised to a superior throne,
Where angels bow around,
And high o’er all the shining train,
With matchless honors crowned—

The names of all His saints He bears
Engraven on His heart;
Nor shall a name once treasured there
E’er from His care depart.

Those characters shall fair abide
Our everlasting trust,
When gems, and monuments, and crowns,
Are moldered down to dust.

So, gracious Savior! on my breast,
May Thy dear name be worn,
A sacred ornament and guard,
To endless ages borne.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Encouragement to Read through the Bible

Don Whitney on making the time to read through the entire Bible (and that it might not be as impossible a task as it sometimes seems):
Perhaps one of the main reasons Christians never read through the entire Bible is discouragement. Most people have never read a thousand-page book before and get discouraged at the sheer length of the Bible. Do you realize that tape-recorded readings of the Bible have proven that you can read through the entire Book in seventy-one hours? The average person in the United States watches that much television in less than two weeks. In no more than fifteen minutes a day you can read through the Bible in less than a year's time. Only five minutes a day takes you through the Bible in less than three years. And yet the majority of Christians never read the Bible all the way through in their whole life.
--Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

Monday, April 16, 2012


Yesterday morning, I preached from Genesis 4:17-5:32. Part of that text is the unique description of what happened to Enoch, in contrast to everyone else who died: "Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him" (Genesis 5:24).

I love this little poem by Luci Shaw, which aptly captures what happened to Enoch.

Luci Shaw

crossed the gap
another way;
he changed his pace
but not
his company.

--from Polishing the Petoskey Stone: Selected Poems

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sinner, Come and See

Jesus! Dear Name, How Sweet It Sounds
Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

Jesus! dear name, how sweet it sounds!
Replete with balm for all our wounds:
His Word declares His grace is free,
Come, needy sinner, Come and see.

He left the shining courts on high,
Came to our world to bleed and die;
Jesus the Lord hung on a tree,
Come, thoughtless sinner, Come and see.

Your sins did pierce His bleeding heart,
Till death had done its dreadful part;
His boundless love extends to thee,
Come, trembling sinner, Come and see.

His blood can cleanse the foulest stain,
Can make the vilest sinner clean;
This fountain open stands for thee,
Come, guilty sinner, Come and see.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The First (and Last) Time Jesus Spoke and Nothing Happened

Here's the way The Jesus Storybook Bible captures the cry of Jesus from the cross and the forsaking silence of the Father:
"Papa?" Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky. "Papa? Where are you? Don't leave me!"

And for the first time - and the last - when he spoke, nothing happened. Just a horrible, endless silence. God didn't answer.
--Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Alleluia! Christ Is Risen!

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today
Charles Wesley, 1707-1788

Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth, reply, Alleluia!

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Lo! the Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!
Lo! He sets in blood no more, Alleluia!

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail, the Lord of earth and Heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail, the resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Surveying the Wondrous Cross

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Interview with Gerald Bray

I mentioned in the previous post the publication of Gerald Bray's new biblical and systematic theology, God Is Love, and I provided some of the endorsements for it there.

To continue helping spread the word about Bray's new book, I asked him a few questions that he was kind enough to answer. I hope you'll find his answers helpful and informative, and I hope they will encourage you to get the book and read it.

Many of us who have sat under your teaching in the classroom (and benefited from it) are thrilled that you have decided to distill your theological thoughts in print. But there are no shortage of theology books in the Christian world, so what motivated you to write God Is Love and what makes it unique among theology texts?

Bray: I was motivated to write God Is Love because although there are indeed many theological books out there, none of them seems to put this theme at the center, even though it is what the Gospel message is all about! I also felt that most systematic theologies are only marginally connected to the Bible and that they tend to be written for a specialist audience. My book is for ordinary people!

This is both a biblical and systematic theology. These two disciplines are often treated separately, so what made you want to connect them? And how does God Is Love treat both of them together?

Bray: The separation of biblical from systematic theology is a tragedy, especially in the Protestant world where "the Bible alone" is our standard of faith and practice. Modern biblical studies are so analytical that it is often hard to see how the different books hold together. I wanted to overcome all that by pointing out that there is a big picture that makes the Bible a single, coherent narrative of God's love. It revealed who he is, what he has done, how he has responded to our rebellion against him and what he plans for our eternal destiny. That's what God Is Love is all about.

You mention that your aim in the book is "to reach those who would not normally find systematic theology appealing or even comprehensible." How do you seek to accomplish that aim, and why do you feel it is important?

Bray: I accomplish the aim partly by keeping technical terms to a minimum and by referring to as few obscure theologians as possible. I try to back up everything I say from the Bible, which all my readers will have close to hand, I'm sure. I also make a special effort to deal with subjects that are on people's minds but don't often get treated in theological books -- things like drugs, astrology, homosexuality, evolution and so on.

How and why did you decide to make the love of God your central theme for this work?

Bray: I asked myself what the Bible was all about and came back to John 3:16: "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son." If Tim Tebow can paint that verse on his cheeks and everybody gets it, how would I dare say that it is not central? But there is also the great theological tradition -- Augustine, Luther and Calvin all thought the same thing.

What would you want readers to know about the book before they pick it up? What would you want them to remember as they're reading it?

Bray: I would like them to know that it has been written by one sinner saved by the grace of God in the hope that other sinners will be comforted and instructed in their faith. We are pilgrims on our own journey through life, but we are also part of the longer pilgrimage from the garden of Eden to the New Jerusalem. If we keep that in mind, then it will help us get other things in perspective.

You are also working on a companion volume to this one that is a historical theology. Can you tell us a little about what we can expect from that book and why you feel like it will be a helpful addition? When can we expect it be published?

Bray: I am working on a historical theology that will be called God Has Spoken. It starts with the Jewish inheritance of Christian theology and then goes through the person and work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, showing how each of these in turn has shaped the development of the church as we see it today. Finally I conclude with a chapter on the Trinity as a whole, a subject that has been revived in recent years and seems to tie the threads together nicely. It should appear in 2014.

How can we pray specifically for your labors in writing God Is Love to be blessed and used of God?

Bray: Please pray that people will read it in the spirit in which it was written and that they will not hesitate to share their impressions -- both positive and negative -- with me. My only aim is to offer the church a useful tool for growing in Christ, and in that, every reader has a part to play.

Thank you, Dr. Bray, for taking the time to answer these questions, and thank you for writing this book. May it be used greatly by the Lord!

To purchase a copy of God Is Love, click here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Gerald Bray's New Biblical and Systematic Theology

My former professor, Gerald Bray, has just published a new biblical and systematic theology with Crossway titled God Is Love.

It has received numerous endorsements:
"Gerald Bray is one of our leading evangelical scholars and teachers and he has given us here a magisterial overview of Christian belief and doctrine. A great example of theology in the service of the church."
--Timothy George

"Soaked in the depth and breadth of the Christian tradition, Gerald Bray brings a rich wisdom to his exceedingly accessible systematic theology. Freshly organizing his approach around love, Bray does not fall into cheap sentimentality, but instead carefully teases out the drama and story of divine love and how it should inform our understanding of countless areas of theology and life. Students and laity in particular will find this volume immensely helpful, and I heartily recommend it to all!"
--Kelly Kapic

"Here you'll find a firm place to stand to take in the full panorama of Christian belief—centered around the wonderful and worship-inspiring truth of the love of God, and firmly anchored in the sure and certain word of God. If you've read Lewis's Mere Christianity or Stott's Basic Christianity and you long to know more, then you're ready to move on to Gerald Bray's God Is Love."
--Stephen Nichols

"God Is Love is a warm, conversational, and contemporary systematic theology written by one of evangelicalism's leading thinkers. But it is much more. It is biblically saturated, historically rooted theological wisdom for the people of God."
--Christopher Morgan

"Gerald Bray delivers on his promise—he teaches Christians about the God who is love and about the love that this triune God shows to others. He keeps this promise by pointing insistently to God's gracious speech in the Bible, and by showing consistently how it all hangs together in the story of this God and his gospel. This book is a gripping lesson from a master teacher."
--Michael Allen
Click here to see the Table of Contents and read the first chapter.

Gerald Bray (DLitt, University of Paris-Sorbonne) is a research professor at Beeson Divinity School and director of research for the Latimer Trust. He is a prolific writer and has authored or edited numerous books, including The Doctrine of God and Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Making Holy Week a Teachable Time

Looking for a children's book to use during Holy Week to teach your children about Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and what He did on the cross? Try R.C. Sproul's The Donkey Who Carried a King.