Recommended - Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor by D.A. Carson

I received Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor for Christmas and enthusiastically read it in one day. The book, written by D.A. Carson, is about the life and ministry of his father, Tom Carson. Tom Carson was an "ordinary" pastor in the sense that he never preached to thousands, wrote a book, or even had a "successful" ministry. Yet, he was a faithful pastor who pressed on in the Christian life and ministry despite what seemed to be a lack of fruit from his work.

I found the book to be very encouraging, even moving. It's the type of Christian biography that would be useful to pastors and non-pastors alike. If you're looking for a biography to read this year this one should definitely be on the list. If you want to know more about Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor check out Tim Challies' review or watch this interview with D.A. Carson.

"Preaching" to Yourself

"Preaching" God's promises to yourself is an important practice that every Christian ought to develop.

My first exposure to the concept came by way of the book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, a collection of sermons preached by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel in London some 40+ years ago.

In the first chapter Lloyd-Jones examines the words of the psalmist in Psalm 42 verses 5 and 11:

"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance...Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God" (KJV, the translation used in the sermon).

Lloyd-Jones comments,

"...we must learn to take ourselves in hand. This man was not content just to lie down and commiserate with himself. He does something about it, he takes himself in hand. But he does something which is more important still, that is he talks to himself" (p. 20).

He continues,

"...I say that we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing 'ourselves' to talk to us! Do you realize what that means? I suggest that the main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self...Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?" (p.20).

Later Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains that,

"the main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: 'Why art thou cast down' - what business have you to be disquieted?...and say to yourself: 'Hope thou in God' - instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way." (p. 21, emphasis added)

Lastly, Lloyd-Jones says,

"...you must go on to remind yourself of God. Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: 'I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God''" (p. 21).

This is such wise and valuable instruction. I've benefited from it immensely over the years (even this past week!). So what are you waiting for? Start "preaching" to yourself.

Upcoming Conference - Calvin's Legacy

The topic of this year's conference at Westminster Seminary California is John Calvin, his legacy, and his relevance to the Church today.

2009 is the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth. Since 1509, John Calvin has been one of the most influential and insightful figures in the history of the church. He was a man of effective action and profound thought. But Calvin’s significance is not limited to the past. His reforming work and biblical teaching are arguably more needed today than they were in the sixteenth century. Vital reforms which he championed are being abandoned in the life and doctrine of many churches in our time. Our conference will examine the ways in which John Calvin’s life and theology can help the church of the twenty-first century rediscover the biblical path of faithfulness and fruitfulness.

This year the conference is held on a Friday night and Saturday which means I can attend! More information about the conference including a list of speakers, dates, and registration information can be found on WSC's web site. The conference is about 2 weeks away so sign up quickly.

Reading and Study Plans for 2009

2009 is here and there are a few reading/study projects I plan to engage in throughout the year.

Reading

  • The Bible - I've attempted to read through the entire Bible each year for the last 10 years. Some years I was successful and others I was less so. I've discovered that I don't do well with most of the Bible reading plans I've tried. Some of the plans require too much reading per day while others require too little. This year I'm using the Bible Reading Record (download PDF) from bulletininserts.org. I first tried this tool in 2008. It's simply a list of each book of the Bible along with the chapter numbers. I find that it provides an easy way for me to keep track of what I've read. I typically work through both the Old and New Testaments at the same time.
  • Institutes of the Christian Religion (John Calvin) - I've read various parts of the Institutes in the past, but never the entire 2 volumes. I'll be following the reading plan made available at Reformation 21.
  • A few books in the New Testament studies category - I've already started Paul and First-Century Letter Writing by E. Randolph Richards. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham is also on my list.

Study

  • New Testament Greek - I want to work my way through A New Testament Greek Primer by Dr. Steven Baugh of Westminster Seminary California. I worked on the first several lessons a few years ago, but this time around I plan to complete the entire primer.
  • The Book of Ephesians - I've studied Ephesians numerous times, but plan to spend the entire year mining its depths.

There are other books I want to read and topics I would like to study, but the items listed above should keep me sufficiently busy in addition to my family, church, and work responsibilities.