Blog Posts

Octavius Winslow on the Sympathy of Christ

June 30, 2020

Christ’s heart overflows with sympathy for his people as they experience weakness, grief, trials, and temptations. Octavius Winslow’s book The Sympathy of Christ can help us better appreciate the sympathetic heart of our Savior.

Questions I’m Asking Myself About Racism and the Church

June 18, 2020

I’m wrestling through questions about racism and the church, trying to examine my own heart and thinking on the subject, trying to listen to and learn from African-American neighbors and brothers and sisters in Christ.

George Floyd's Past Is Irrelevant

June 08, 2020

Should we even care about justice when the murder victim had a criminal past? If George Floyd wasn’t a “good person,” does that mean black lives don’t matter?

Give Me Understanding, That I May Keep Your Law and Observe It With My Whole Heart

May 19, 2020

I’m getting ready to preach on the Ten Commandments at my church as we work our way through the book of Exodus on Sunday mornings. I’m excited to use Kevin DeYoung’s book, The 10 Commandments: What They Mean, Why They Matter, and Why We Should Obey Them, as an aid in my sermon prep. From what I can tell so far, it's thoroughly biblical, rooted in the Reformed tradition (that's a good thing in my opinion), informative, accessible, and practical.

A Brief Encouragement to a Church Weary of Living in Lockdown

May 06, 2020

Here we are. Another Sunday online. I think a word that captures how many of us feel lately is weary. Weary of bad news. Weary of isolation. Weary of economic fears. Weary of not gathering on the Lord’s Day. If that’s how you feel, you’re not alone. I feel it, too.

Jesus Loves Me, This I Know

April 30, 2020

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. This line from a classic children's hymn is familiar to many of us, especially if you grew up going to Sunday school. You likely know the rest of the words by heart. My sense is that as adult believers we think the hymn is memorable but rather simplistic; helpful to children but too elementary for the mature. But is it? Do you really know that Jesus loves you?

Check Out These Resources (April 29)

April 29, 2020

I’m keeping today’s list intentionally short. We’re bombarded with so much information each day. I don’t want to add to the noise. However, I do think the resources listed below are worth exploring.

What to Pray During a Global Pandemic

March 30, 2020

Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have been infected by novel coronavirus. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths resulting from the illness continue to rise daily in the United States. The reality of COVID-19 is starting to hit closer to home for many of us. Maybe we have a friend, a relative, or a neighbor who has the disease. Do you feel powerless in the face of a global health crisis? You should. Let that sense of powerlessness drive you to prayer.

Check Out These Resources (March 19)

March 19, 2020

Many of us now find ourselves a bit more housebound than usual. Maybe you’re wondering what to do with your time. If so, here’s a round up of articles, sermons, audiobooks, and videos that are worth checking out.

Why Read Fiction?

April 04, 2016

On a recent episode of Ask Pastor John, John Piper discussed how he uses technology in his Bible reading, prayer, relationships, and entertainment. While discussing the tools he uses for reading eBooks Piper provided a helpful explanation of why reading fiction is beneficial for us.

A Ground of Solid Comfort

March 29, 2016

The perfect satisfaction of the Father with Christ’s work for his people, so that Christ could say, ‘It is finished,’ is a ground of solid comfort to his church evermore.
— Charles Spurgeon, Sermon no. 2344: “Christ’s Dying Word for His Church”

Head and Heart

December 07, 2014

The more extensive and accurate are our views of literal truth, so much the more numerous and salutary are the forms which it may assume for enlisting the affections. It is a tendency of pietism to undervalue the human intellect for the sake of exalting the affections, as if the reason had fallen deeper than the will. It cannot be a pious act to underrate those powers which were given by him who made the soul in his image. We must speculate. The heart is famished by an idle intellect.
— Charles Hodge, The Theology of the Intellect and That of the Feelings (emphasis added).

The Wonderful Exchange

December 05, 2014

This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us; that, becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him; that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us; that, by taking on our mortality, has conferred his immortality upon us; that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power; that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us; that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness.
— John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.2.

2014 Summer Reading

June 20, 2014

This summer I'm planning to continue or finish reading a few books I started earlier in the year. I'd also like to work my way through a few additional titles.

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament

June 18, 2014

The preacher who seeks to proclaim Christ from the OT has a rewarding, but challenging task. He will be helped in his efforts to proclaim Christ in all the Scriptures by keeping in mind the following important guidelines.

Finding and Preaching Christ in the Old Testament: Promise

June 16, 2014

A second key way in which the OT bears witness to the person and work of Christ is through promises of a coming Savior and salvation. God's promises directed the hopes of his people toward a time when his redemptive purposes would be fulfilled (Heb. 10:39-40). Although there were immediate and partial fulfillments of many of the promises in OT times, the OT ends as an incomplete story. The promise of a glorious day of salvation had yet to be fulfilled. The good news proclaimed by the NT is that God's promises have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:8; 2 Cor. 1:20).

Finding and Preaching Christ in the Old Testament: Typology

June 13, 2014

The Old Testament’s witness to Christ is not as clear or detailed as the New Testament’s, yet it is an essential component of the Bible’s presentation of who Jesus is and the salvation he accomplished. One key way in which the Old Testament bears witness to the person and work of Christ is through the use of typology.

Finding and Preaching Christ in the Old Testament: The Old Testament Bears Witness to Christ

June 11, 2014

In the previous post in this series we considered the challenge of preaching Christ-centered sermons from the Old Testament. In a future post we will examine how the OT bears witness to the person and work of Christ. However, before exploring the how we must first establish the fact that the OT does bear witness to Christ. First, the teaching of Jesus, Paul, and Peter will be considered. Second, the NT’s presentation of the storyline of the OT will be examined. Third, the way in which progressive revelation affects the OT’s witness to Christ will be explored.

Finding and Preaching Christ in the Old Testament: Introduction

June 09, 2014

Today I am beginning a new series of posts on finding and preaching Christ from the Old Testament. In this series we will consider the manner and extent to which the Old Testament bears witness to the person and work of Christ. My aim is to help preachers and teachers of God's Word see that the Old Testmanet isn't merely a collection of ancient stories. Rather, it is a rich, divinely inspired witness to our Lord and Savior.

The Psalms By Crossway

March 03, 2014

While browsing the Bibles on Crossway's site I noticed that an edition of the Psalms is planned for June 2014. The Psalms will feature a single column layout, 11 pt. type, and a sewn binding.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.7.1

May 28, 2013

We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it at as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours.

Press On

May 22, 2013

Therefore, let us not cease so to act that we may make some unceasing progress in the way of the Lord. And let us not despair at the slightness of our success; for even though attainment may not correspond to desire, when today outstrips yesterday the effort is not lost.

-- John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.6.5.

Worth Checking Out (Aug. 29)

August 29, 2012

How to Roll Up Your Shirt Sleeves — Helpful tips from the folks at The Art of Manliness.

Is it Anti-Gospel to Teach Kids Self-control  Before Conversion? — Owen Strachan provides wise and balanced counsel.

The Craft of Life-Changing Preaching (Paul Tripp) — "Preaching is not just a craft of content; it is also a craft of communication. You must meditate, pray, labor, and wrestle with how to communicate the truths you now understand to the particular people in your care."

Worth Checking Out (Aug. 23)

August 23, 2012

The theme today is biblical counseling.

David Powlison on using Ephesians in counseling – "You will not go wrong if you plunge into Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Master it. Be mastered by it. Work Ephesians into your thinking, your living, your prayers, and your conversation. The Bible is vast and deep, and human life is diverse and perplexing. But in a pinch you could do all counseling from Ephesians. It’s all there: the big picture that organizes a myriad details. And Ephesians is not only 'counsel,' but also 'counseling.' It talks and walks method as well as content. Paul himself is a changed man. He lives out and teaches wise pastoral strategy. Ephesians aims to teach you how to live. That is a synonym for counseling biblically, for doing face-to-face ministry."

X-Ray Questions – "Counseling that is faithful to Scripture must do justice to what God says about the whys and wherefores of the human heart…The questions aim to help people identify the ungodly masters that occupy positions of authority in their hearts. These questions reveal 'functional gods,' what or who actually controls their particular actions, thoughts, emotions, attitudes, memories, and anticipations."

The Basics of Biblical Counseling (mp3) – A free, thirty-five part introductory course taught by Jim Newheiser, Director of The Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (IBCD). I've been through the material a few times. It's excellent.

Psychotherapy and the Pursuit of Happiness – "Psychotherapy is no longer an intellectual movement today as it once was. But in the form of modern professional 'caring,' it has assumed a new role, which is to provide a peculiar sort of substitute friendship — what we might call 'artificial friendship' — for lonely people in a lonely age."

View High-Resolution Images of Jonathan Edwards' Works

August 20, 2012

The Jonathan Edwards Collection at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (Yale University) contains sermon manuscripts, theological notebooks, letters, and other material from Edwards' library. A number of the items from the collection are available to view online. This is fascinating stuff!

Preaching: A Living Transaction

August 14, 2012

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

In Preaching and Preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones argues that preaching isn't merely about imparting information to the hearers. It's a living transaction.

Any true definition of preaching must say that [the preacher] is there to deliver the message of God, a message from God to those people…He has been sent, he is a commissioned person, and he is standing there as the mouthpiece of God and of Christ to address these people. In other words he is not here merely to talk to them, he is not there to entertain them. He is there–and I want to emphasise this–to do something to those people; he is there to produce results of various kinds, he is there to influence people. He is not merely to influence a part of them; he is not only to influence their minds, or only their emotions, or merely to bring pressure to bear upon their wills and to induce them to some kind of activity. He is there to deal with the whole person; and his preaching is meant to affect the whole person at the very centre of life. Preaching should make such a difference to a man who is listening that he is never the same again...

[Preaching] should always be a transaction between preacher and listener with something vital and living taking place. It is not the mere imparting of knowledge, there is something much bigger involved. The total person is engaged on both sides; and if we fail to realise this our preaching will be a failure...

[The preacher] is dealing with living persons, people who are in need and in trouble, sometimes not consciously; and he is to make them aware of that, and to deal with it. It is this living transaction...

If people can listen to us without becoming anxious about themselves or reflecting on themselves we have not been preaching…

[Preaching] addresses us in such a manner as to bring us under judgment; and it deals with us in such a way that we feel our whole life is involved, and we go out saying, 'I can never go back and live just as I did before. This has done something to me, it has made a difference to me. I am a different person as the result of listening to this'…

Preaching is that which deals with the total person, the hearer becomes involved and knows that he has been dealt with and addressed by God through this preacher. Something has taken place in him and in his experience, and it is going to affect the whole of his life.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1971) 53-56, emphasis added.

Worth Checking Out (Aug. 13)

August 13, 2012

Can Syria's Christian Survive - "Nonetheless, many Christians fear any government that replaces the Assad regime might be dominated by groups like the Muslim Brotherhood that could relegate them back to second-class status. They also worry their communities could be devastated in the crossfire between Syria's largely Sunni Muslim insurgency and the well-armed Alawite regime, just as Christians in neighboring Iraq have suffered mightily in the sectarian wars there over the past decade."

German Austerity's Lutheran Core - Steven Ozment, author of The Serpent and the Lamb: Cranach, Luther, and the Making of the Reformation, discusses the ways in which Germany's Lutheran heritage still influences the nation's public policy. "But if their Lutheran heritage of sacrificing for their neighbors makes Germans choose austerity, it also leads them to social engagement. In classic Lutheran teaching, the salvation of the believer 'by faith alone' does not curtail the need for constant charitable good works, as ill-informed critics allege. Faith, rather, empowers the believer to act in the world by taking the worry out of his present and future religious life."

A Nation That Believes Nothing - The teaser for Peggy Noonan's WSJ article on the presidential campaign reads "Romney doesn't need to talk about America becoming like Europe. He needs to warn us about America becoming like California." As a Californian that caught my attention. And as a Californian I have to say I tend to agree.

True Preaching

August 02, 2012

Paul preaching in Athens

In A Scottish Christian Heritage Iain Murray has this to say about preaching that is worthy to be called such:

True preaching, according to the New Testament, does not mean simply hearing about Christ, it is hearing Christ himself: it is Christ speaking, Christ inviting, Christ calling to repentance. The preacher is present only as a messenger; Christ is present to be believed, to be obeyed and to be worshipped. Where preaching does not lead to that, and only begins and ends with the sermon, it has failed (332, emphasis in the original).

I think Murray has in mind passages such as Ephesians 2:17.

And he [that is, Christ] came and preached [through his messengers] peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near (ESV).

Comments, thoughts, questions?

Upon A Life I Did Not Live

June 27, 2012

Upon a life I did not live,
Upon a death I did not die;
Another's life, another's death,
I stake my whole eternity. - Horatius Bonar

My Summer 2012 Reading List

May 30, 2012

I'm planning to read, and in some cases, reread, several books this summer.

Below is the first batch (with the publisher's description included). I'm going to work on these before adding others to the list.


Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer

The murder of Abraham Lincoln set off the greatest manhunt in American history. From April 14 to April 26, 1865, the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, led Union cavalry and detectives on a wild twelve-day chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., across the swamps of Maryland, and into the forests of Virginia, while the nation, still reeling from the just-ended Civil War, watched in horror and sadness.

James L. Swanson's Manhunt is a fascinating tale of murder, intrigue, and betrayal. A gripping hour-by-hour account told through the eyes of the hunted and the hunters, this is history as you've never read it before.


The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment With the Wisdom of God

The Meaning of Marriage

Based on the sermon series by Timothy Keller, this book shows everyone—Christians, skeptics, singles, long-time married couples, and those about to be engaged—the vision of what marriage should be according to the Bible.

Modern culture would make you believe that everyone has a soul-mate; that romance is the most important part of a successful marriage; that your spouse is there to help you realize your potential; that marriage does not mean forever, but merely for now; that starting over after a divorce is the best solution to seemingly intractable marriage issues. All those modern-day assumptions are, in a word, wrong.

Using the Bible as his guide, coupled with insightful commentary from his wife of thirty-six years, Kathy, Timothy Keller shows that God created marriage to bring us closer to him and to bring us more joy in our lives. It is a glorious relationship that is also the most misunderstood and mysterious. With a clear-eyed understanding of the Bible, and meaningful instruction on how to have a successful marriage, The Meaning of Marriage is essential reading for anyone who wants to know God and love more deeply in this life.


The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict

The Peacemaker

Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." But it often seems like conflict and disagreement are unavoidable. Serious, divisive conflict is everywhere-within families, in the church, and out in the world. And it can seem impossible to overcome its negative force in our lives.

In The Peacemaker, Ken Sande presents a comprehensive and practical theology for conflict resolution designed to bring about not only a cease-fire but also unity and harmony. Sande takes readers beyond resolving conflicts to true, life-changing reconciliation with family members, coworkers, and fellow believers.

Biblically based, The Peacemaker is full of godly wisdom and useful suggestions that are easily applied to any relationship needing reconciliation. Sande's years of experience as an attorney and as president of Peacemaker Ministries will strengthen readers' confidence as they stand in the gap as peacemakers.


Communion With God

Communion With God

In 1657, John Owen produced one of his finest devotional treatises: probably originating from the substance of a series of sermons. He examines the Christian's communion with God as it relates to all three members of the trinity. He assures that every Christian does have communion with God, no-one is excluded and that this communion takes place distinctly with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This was a controversial work in ecclesiastical circles of the 17th century. Twenty years after its publication, the rational ecclesiastical elite were scoffing at it's contents. Owen strongly defended the ideas within this book, and history has shown him to be right! It is a classic of Christian devotional thought that still influences the church today.


Preaching and Preachers

Preaching and Preachers

For over 30 years, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones ministered at Westminster Chapel in London. Today, he is widely considered one of the greatest preachers of the 20th century. Based on a series of lectures originally given by Lloyd-Jones to the students of Westminster Theological Seminary in 1969, this collection of essays on the essence of powerful preaching has become a modern classic.

Lloyd-Jones defends the primacy of preaching, showing that there is no substitute, and he challenges preachers to take their calling seriously: 'The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching.' He also provides practical direction on the task of preparing a sermon, sharing insights on the shape and form of a message, as well as covering such topics as the use of humor, giving invitations in a message, and the preacher's relationship to the congregation. If you can own only one book on preaching, make this the one.


Is Theology Boring?

March 21, 2012

During my lunch break last week a coworker asked me what I was reading. After I explained that it was a book on theology written in the early 20th century by a Dutch theologian, he replied, with unrestrained sarcasm, "that sounds really interesting."

I'll admit that many theological works are written in such a way that an insomniac could find some relief by reading them. It's a shame that this is the case because theology is far from boring. I'll let the Dutch theologian I mentioned above explain.

Herman BavinckDogmatics is the system of the knowledge of God as he has revealed himself in Christ; it is the system of the Christian religion. And the essence of the Christian religion consists in the reality that the creation of the Father, ruined by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God and re-created by the grace of the Holy Spirit into a kingdom of God. Dogmatics shows us how God, who is all-sufficient in himself, nevertheless glorifies himself in his creation, which, even when it is torn apart by sin, is gathered up again in Christ (Eph. 1:10). It describes for us God, always God, from beginning to end—God in his being, God in his creation, God against sin, God in Christ, God breaking down all resistance through the Holy Spirit and guiding the whole of creation back to the objective he decreed for it: the glory of his name. Dogmatics, therefore, is not a dull and arid science. It is a theodicy, a doxology to all God's virtues and perfections, a hymn of adoration and thanksgiving, a "glory to God in the highest" (Luke 2:14).

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, Prolegomena, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003) 112.

Source of image: This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

John Piper - "I Am a Debtor"

February 27, 2012

From the preface to Let the Nations Be Glad (1st edition):

This book is a partial payment of a debt I owe to the nations. The apostle Paul is not alone in saying, "I am a debtor to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, to the wise and to the foolish" (Romans 1:14). To those culturally near me and those culturally far I am a debtor. Not because they gave me anything that I must pay back, but because God gave me what can't be paid back. He gave me the all-satisfying pleasure of knowing him and being loved by him through his Son Jesus Christ.

What makes a debt a debt is that if you don't pay it, you lose a possession. They take back your house or your car. And the more precious the possession, the more urgent the payment of the debt. If I don't do my utmost to show the nations "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ," I will in effect be saying, "It is not infinitely valuable. It is not absolutely necessary for eternal life. It is not great enough to satisfy the deepest needs in every culture on earth. And it's beauty has not freed me to be a man for others." But if I say this, then I do not believe in "the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." And if I do not believe, I lose everything. Therefore I am a debtor. For I would rather lose anything and anyone on earth, than to lose Christ.

Portraying the World of the New Testament through Historical Fiction

December 27, 2011

The Lost Letters of Pergamum coverI received The Lost Letters of Pergamum by Bruce W. Longnecker as a Christmas present. I was eager to start reading it and finished it in a day. Longnecker is currently Professor of Religion at Baylor University. His work of historical fiction contains correspondence between Luke the evangelist and Antipas, a wealthy pro-Roman businessman. Antipas obtains a copy of Luke's Gospel and begins writing to Luke, to whom he was introduced through a mutual acquaintance, with questions, comments, and even criticisms of Jesus' life and teaching. I won't say more about the story, but I will point out that this Antipas is the same man mentioned in Revelation 2 who dies as a martyr.

The Lost Letters of Pergamum is fiction, but the storyline is realistic and it's portrayal of late first century Roman culture and beliefs is based on solid historical research. I found this short book to be a great introduction to the world of the New Testament and a fun read.

Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamations

November 25, 2011

American presidents have a history of making Thanksgiving proclamations and addressing the American people on Thanksgiving Day. Below are snippets from several different presidential proclamations.

George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation 1789:

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war.

Abraham Lincoln, Proclamation for Thanksgiving 1863:

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be reverently, solemnly, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and voice, by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and prayer to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

Ronald Reagan Thanksgiving Proclamation 1985:

Although the time and date of the first American thanksgiving observance may be uncertain, there is no question but that this treasured custom derives from our Judeo-Christian heritage. 'Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks,' the Psalmist sang, praising God not only for the 'wondrous works' of His creation, but for loving guidance and deliverance from dangers...Let us thank God for our families, friends, and neighbors, and for the joy of this very festival we celebrate in His name. Let every house of worship in the land and every home and every heart be filled with the spirit of gratitude and praise and love on this Thanksgiving Day.

George H.W. Bush, Thanksgiving Proclamation 1991:

From the moment it was 'conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,' our Nation has enjoyed the mercy and protection of Almighty God. Thus, when we join with family and friends on Thanksgiving, we celebrate not only the many blessings that we have received as individuals—including the gift of life itself—but also our great fortune as one Nation under God. On this occasion, Americans of every race, creed, and walk of life are united by a profound sense of gratitude and duty...Finally, as we gather with family and friends on Thanksgiving, we know that our greatest blessings are not necessarily material ones. Indeed, perhaps the best thing about this occasion is that it reminds us that God loves each and every one of us. Like a faithful and loving parent, He always stands ready to comfort, guide, and forgive. That is our real cause for Thanksgiving, today and every day of our lives.

Bill Clinton, Thanksgiving Proclamation 1996:

America's oldest tradition, Thanksgiving is also a reaffirmation of our most deeply held values; a public recognition that, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, 'God who gave us life gave us liberty.' In gratitude for God's gift of freedom and 'for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us,' George Washington made Thanksgiving his first proclamation for the new Nation, and it is one we are privileged to renew each year...Americans today still cherish the fresh air of freedom, in which we can raise our families and worship God as we choose without fear of persecution. We still rejoice in this great land and in the civil and religious liberty it offers to all. And we still—and always—raise our voices in prayer to God, thanking Him in humility for the countless blessings He has bestowed on our Nation and our people.

Let us now, this Thanksgiving Day, reawaken ourselves and our neighbors and our communities to the genius of our founders in daring to build the world's first constitutional democracy on the foundation of trust and thanks to God. Out of our right and proper rejoicing on Thanksgiving Day, let us give our own thanks to God and reaffirm our love of family, neighbor, and community. Each of us can be an instrument of blessing to those we touch this Thanksgiving Day—and every day of the year.

George W. Bush, Thanksgiving Proclamation 2008:

Thanksgiving is a time for families and friends to gather together and express gratitude for all that we have been given, the freedoms we enjoy, and the loved ones who enrich our lives. We recognize that all of these blessings, and life itself, come not from the hand of man but from Almighty God...On this day, let us all give thanks to God who blessed our Nation's first days and who blesses us today. May He continue to guide and watch over our families and our country always.

Barak Obama, Thanksgiving Proclamation 2011:

One of our Nation's oldest and most cherished traditions, Thanksgiving Day brings us closer to our loved ones and invites us to reflect on the blessings that enrich our lives. The observance recalls the celebration of an autumn harvest centuries ago, when the Wampanoag tribe joined the Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony to share in the fruits of a bountiful season. The feast honored the Wampanoag for generously extending their knowledge of local game and agriculture to the Pilgrims, and today we renew our gratitude to all American Indians and Alaska Natives. We take this time to remember the ways that the First Americans have enriched our Nation's heritage, from their generosity centuries ago to the everyday contributions they make to all facets of American life. As we come together with friends, family, and neighbors to celebrate, let us set aside our daily concerns and give thanks for the providence bestowed upon us...As we gather in our communities and in our homes, around the table or near the hearth, we give thanks to each other and to God for the many kindnesses and comforts that grace our lives. Let us pause to recount the simple gifts that sustain us, and resolve to pay them forward in the year to come.

Barak Obama, Thanksgiving Day Address 2011:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STsr9_VvzNA&w=560&h=340]

The History of Thanksgiving

November 24, 2011

The federal holiday we know today as Thanksgiving was established by Congress in 1941, but American thanksgiving celebrations date all the way back to the time of the Pilgrims.

This post at a Library of Congress blog has a helpful summary of the history of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. The Library of Congress website also provides access to some great primary source material related to Thanksgiving. Be sure to check it out.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Effectual Call

November 21, 2011

You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 201.

Recommended Biography - To the Golden Shore

November 19, 2011

To the Golden ShoreI picked up To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson in June and devoured it over the course of a week. Judson was a 19th century American missionary to Burma and his story is amazing and heartbreaking at the same time.

Courtney Anderson's biography of Judson doesn't shy away from describing the emotional and spiritual toll Judson paid to bring the gospel to Burma. I appreciated the honesty. If you're wondering what biography you ought to read next you'd do well to pick up this one.

The Happy Life

November 17, 2011

There is a delight which is given not to the wicked, but to those who worship you for no reward save the joy that you yourself are to them. That is the authentic happy life, to set one's joy on you, grounded in you and caused by you. That is the real thing, and there is no other. Those who think that the happy life is found elsewhere, pursue another joy and not the true one.
— Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 198-199.

The Surpassing Worth of Knowing Christ

November 16, 2011

Augustine reflecting on his conversion from a life of pride and sexual immorality to faith in Christ:

Suddenly it had become sweet to me to be without the sweets of folly. What I once feared to lose was now a delight to dismiss. You turned them out and entered to take their place, pleasanter than any pleasure but not to flesh and blood, brighter than all light yet more inward than any secret recess, higher than any honour but not to those who think themselves sublime. Already my mind was free of 'the biting cares' of place-seeking, of desire for gain, of wallowing in self-indulgence, of scratching the itch of lust. And I was now talking with you, Lord my God, my radiance, my wealth, and my salvation.1

His words remind me of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:7-11, ESV).

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  1. Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 155. []

Style vs. Substance

November 10, 2011

Fine style does not make something true, nor has a man a wise soul because he has a handsome face and well-chosen eloquence.
— Augustine, Confessions (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 78.

All in Christ

November 08, 2011

Martyn Lloyd-Jones commenting on Philippians 3:3:

There is nothing that the soul of man can need in time or eternity but that it is all in Christ. You need pardon? There it is. You need reconciliation to God? The man Christ Jesus is the one and only mediator between God and man. You need new life and a new nature? You receive it from him. You need strength and power? He sent the Holy Spirit that you might have it. You need an Advocate with the Father? There he is, seated at the right hand of God. You tremble at the thought of death and of going to face God in the judgment? You are assured that you will be clothed with his righteousness and he will present you spotless. What else do you need? He is everything: Prophet, Priest and King, the All in all.

The Life of Joy and Peace: An Exposition of Philippians (Grand Rapids:Baker, 1999), 273-274.

Reading About Hudson Taylor

May 05, 2011

I love biographies. I'm especially fond of biographies of Christian missionaries and pastors. I knew of Hudson Taylor and his work in China in the 19th century, but I had yet to read anything about him; until this week.

My wife recommended I read a brief account of Hudson and Maria Taylor's marriage and ministry. Hudson Taylor & Maria: A Match Made in Heaven is a quick read and gives the reader a glimpse into the Taylors' faith in a wise and sovereign God as they labored to spread the gospel throughout inland China.

Pick up a copy. You won't be disappointed.

Calvin on the Theologian's Task

March 14, 2011

More Christians ought to read Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. Many people assume Calvin's writings will be dry, abstract, and difficult to understand. What you'll discover when you dive in to the Institutes is that Calvin is very accessible and edifying. I think that Calvin's ability to teach biblical truth in a clear and engaging manner is due, in part, to his understanding of the theologian's task.

The theologian's task is not to divert the ears with chatter, but to strengthen consciences by teaching things true, sure, and profitable (1.14.4).

If you'd like to get a feel for Calvin's writings you can read the Institutes online at CCEL.

Kindle: Two Months Later

March 02, 2011

KindleIn January I received a Kindle (3G + WiFi) as a birthday present. I was very excited about this gift since I love to read and already owned several Kindle books (the Kindle software for PC and iPhone substituted for an actual device). I immediately downloaded a number of free classic books and dove in. Now that I've used the Kindle for close to two months I feel like I can speak to what I enjoy about it and what I don't.

What I enjoy about the Kindle

1. Free books - There are many public domain works available in the Kindle store. In addition, you can find more free Kindle format ebooks at websites like Archive.org and Project Gutenberg. I rarely read fiction that is younger than I am so the availability of classic works is a big selling point for me.

2. Highlights and notes - I mark up my physical books quite a bit. The Kindle allows me to highlight passages and add notes. I can then access my highlights and notes via the Kindle website.

3. Synchronization - With the Kindle software for PC and iPhone I have access to my ebooks from virtually anywhere. The ebooks, last location, highlights, and notes are synced across the various devices.

4. Easy on the eyes - The thought of staring at the screen of an electronic device for more than a few minutes isn't too appealing to me. However, the Kindle display is very easy on the eyes. It isn't backlit like a computer screen so my eyes don't tire the way they would if I were reading something on my laptop.

What I don't enjoy about the Kindle

1. Ebooks are ebooks - Obvious, I know. There's something about holding a book in my hand that I really enjoy. In my opinion, the reading experience on a Kindle just can't compare with reading a physical book.

2. Can't export highlights - I use the highlighting feature a lot. The Kindle website enables me to copy and paste those highlights into a word processor, but I'd really like to see a simple 1-click export feature.

Overall I really enjoy the Kindle. It's a device I plan to use for years to come. If you're a reader I recommend you give the Kindle a try.

Prayer and the Gospel

February 28, 2011

I'm really enjoying A Praying Life by Paul Miller. In a chapter titled Learning to Be Helpless Miller connects the gospel to our prayer life.

Prayer mirrors the gospel. In the gospel, the Father takes us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of salvation. In prayer, the Father receives us as we are because of Jesus and gives us his gift of help. We look at the inadequacy of our praying and give up, thinking something is wrong with us. God looks at the adequacy of his Son and delights in our sloppy, meandering prayers.

Great stuff!

IBCD Spring Seminar - Money Matters

February 25, 2011

IBCD, the biblical counseling ministry of our church, is putting on a one day seminar on March 12th in Escondido, CA. The title of this year's seminar is "Money Matters: Biblical Wisdom in Troubled Times". Jim Newheiser, the director of IBCD, will be the speaker.

Jim will cover:

  1. General Principals & Acquiring Wealth Wisely
  2. Spending Money Wisely
  3. Getting Out of Debt
  4. Preparing for Your Financial Future

If you register before March 1st the cost is only $10! More information about the seminar is available on the IBCD website.

The Growth of the Church in the Book of Acts

February 23, 2011

Whenever I read through the book of Acts I'm struck with the number of times Luke comments on the growth of the church. The early church was a growing church. The language of growth in Acts can be grouped into two broad categories: 1) texts that speak of the word of God increasing or spreading 2) texts that speak of the number of disciples increasing.

The Word of God Increased

Acts 6:7 - And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Acts 12:24 - But the word of God increased and multiplied.

Acts 13:49 - And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.

Acts 19:20 - So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.

 

The Number of Disciples Increased

Acts 2:41 - So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Acts 2:47 - And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 5:14 - And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.

Acts 6:1 - Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.

Acts 9:31 - So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

Acts 11:24 - for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.

Acts 16:5 - So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

2000 Years of Christ's Power - Part 1

February 21, 2011

This volume is the first of a planned 4 or 5 part series covering the early centuries of the Church up through the modern era (Part Two on the Middle Ages and Part Three on the Renaissance and Reformation are also available). If you want to get a better grasp on the history of the Church after the time of the New Testament this book is a great place to start.

In Life, in Death, O Lord, Abide with Me

February 16, 2011

Henry F. Lyte wrote the hymn "Abide With Me" in 1847 while dying from tuberculosis. It's a prayer to the Lord to be near the believer in life and, in particular, death. The lyrics below are from the Trinity Hymnal.

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide:
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide:
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day;
Earth's joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need thy presence ev'ry passing hour;
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's pow'r?
Who like thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless:
Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if thou abide with me.

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes:
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies:
Heav'n's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee:
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Over the past week I've really enjoyed Page CXVI's beautiful rendition of this hymn on the album Hymns II. Make sure to check it out.

Biographies I Read in 2010

December 31, 2010

I enjoy reading biography. Biography is perhaps my favorite genre because it deals with two subjects I’m very much interested in: history and people.

As I reviewed the list of books I read in 2010 I was surprised to learn that I didn’t read as many biographies as I would’ve liked. However, those I did get around to reading were enjoyable. Below is the list of biographies I read in 2010 along with a few comments.

Update: I finished another biography after writing this post. It's last on the list.

Guys, Don’t Follow Whitefield’s Example

December 23, 2010

Arnold Dallimore, in his two volume biography of George Whitefield, notes that Whitefield “wanted a wife who would never place her own desires above the demands of his ministry” (vol. 2, 105).

After marrying the widow Elizabeth James, Whitefield certainly tested her devotion to his ministry.

There was no wedding trip but he remained at her home at Abergavenny preaching twice a day throughout the area for the better part of a week, and then, leaving Elizabeth and her daughter Nancy there, he set out on a preaching tour that took him to Bristol and Gloucester and then to London.

After a month of this labor he returned to Abergavenny for the Christmas day, but the next morning he was on his way to Bristol and London again.

When almost five months of marriage had passed he described his manner of life in the words, ‘I sleep and eat but little, and am constantly employed from morning till midnight.’ Several other statements of a similar nature occur in his letters of these days and it is evident that he felt he had succeeded in his determination not to let marriage create the slightest hindrance to his ministry (vol. 2, 110).

It sounds to me like Whitefield may have been guilty of putting his own desires above the interests of his wife (Phil. 2:4). That isn’t exactly the kind of Christ-like love a husband is called to display toward his wife (Eph. 5:22-33).

A Quote That Changed My Life

December 09, 2010

Recently Justin Buzzard wrote about an A.W. Tozer quote that had a profound impact on him as a 20 year old. His post reminded me of a quote by Martyn Lloyd-Jones that I first came across as a somewhat new believer.

Superficial views of the work of Christ produce superficial human lives.

It comes from a series of sermons on Galatians 6:14 preached by Lloyd-Jones and later released as The Cross: God’s Way of Salvation. Lloyd-Jones’ sermons helped shaped much of my understanding of what Scripture teaches concerning the work of Christ. Ten years later I still think about that sentence regularly.

How Can Sinners Love a Holy God?

November 30, 2010

R.C. Sproul poses the question in The Holiness of God and then proceeds to answer it.

The simplest answer I can give to this vital question is that we can’t. Loving a holy God is beyond our moral power. The only kind of God we can love by our sinful nature is an unholy god, an idol made by our own hands. Unless we are born of the Spirit of God, unless God sheds His holy love in our hearts, unless He stoops in His grace to change our hearts, we will not love Him. He is the One who takes the initiative to restore our souls. Without him we can do nothing of righteousness. Without Him we would be doomed to everlasting alienation from His holiness. We can love Him only because He first loved us. To love a holy God requires grace, grace strong enough to pierce our hardened hearts and awaken our moribund souls (222).

One Year Later

November 24, 2010

In November 2009 I was ordained as an elder/pastor at Grace Bible Church in Escondido, CA. In the past year I’ve learned that I have so much more to learn about the gospel, life, and ministry. With that said, there are a few important takeaways from my first year of pastoral ministry that I’d like to share.

Keep your priorities straight

Pastoral ministry is important work, but it isn’t top priority in the life of a pastor. I’m called to be a follower of Christ first. Unfortunately it’s quite common for pastors to neglect their own spiritual health and growth while seeking to help others.

I’m also called to be a faithful husband and father. There’s a constant temptation in pastoral ministry to neglect your wife and children because you’re “serving the Lord.” That kind of thinking can destroy marriages and families. I would consider myself a failure in 30 years if I had a “successful” ministry, but my wife and sons doubted my love for them. A pastor who isn’t a leader in the home shouldn’t be a leader in the church.

Don’t be fooled by the smile

I encounter a lot of smiles as I greet people at the worship services on Sundays. However, many of the seemingly happy people with whom I interact are struggling on the inside. They’re wrestling with disappointment and depression; burdened with worry; overwhelmed by circumstances; angry with a spouse or child; dabbling with sin. They need to be loved, encouraged, and admonished but on the surface everything may appear to be OK. A simple “How’s it going?” isn’t going to draw out what’s really going on. As a pastor I need to take the initiative in asking strategic, and sometimes tough, questions. I need to make myself available and demonstrate that I care.

Keep the gospel at the center

The gospel is central to Christian belief. It’s also central to Christian living. All too often we pastors tell people what they ought to do, but fail to show them the ways in which the gospel provides the whys and hows of godly living. It’s critical that I help people understand that the gospel informs belief and behavior.

Overwhelmed?

November 13, 2010

1 Peter 5:6-7 has been very helpful to me this morning:

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (ESV).

Righteous in Christ

November 11, 2010

Philippians 3:2-11 (ESV):

2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Recommended: Augustine of Hippo by Peter Brown

November 01, 2010

I love reading well written biographies of figures from church history. I recently finished Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (WTS Books | Amazon) by Peter Brown and I think it's safe to say it's now one of my favorites.

At nearly 600 pages it isn't a quick read, but Brown knows how to keep a reader's attention. If you'd rather start with something smaller on Augustine I recommend John Piper's The Legacy of Sovereign Joy (free PDF or book).

Productivity and Priorities

September 24, 2010

Yesterday Matt Perman posted his answers to 3 questions on the topic of productivity. Each answer provides helpful insights on the topic. I appreciate his perspective on the relationship between productivity and priorities.

You need to operate from a center of sound principles and organize and execute around priorities. This means that instead of prioritizing your schedule, you schedule your priorities.

Make sure to read the entire post here.

Dear Dad, I Want An ESV Study Bible

September 17, 2010

A few months ago my 8 year old son asked me to buy him an ESV Study Bible. I told him to write a proposal explaining why the Study Bible would be useful to him and that I would consider it. At the time he gave me a quickly written, one sentence proposal so I never moved forward with purchasing a copy for him.

Just this past week I sat down at my desk and found a concise, but well written proposal. My son did a great job explaining why the features of the ESV Study Bible would help him in his Bible reading. Below is the text of the proposal in my son's own words, spelling mistakes and all.

Dear Dad,

I want an ESV Study Bible because I think I would be interested in the pictures that show the maps and pictures of things. I saw clothes that I think a priest wore and the ark, the box that if someone touched it they would die and I saw the lamstand that Moses made. At the bottom theres a section were it explain words. That is why I want one because I think it would be interesting.

I certainly can't say no to that!

R.C. Sproul on Studying the Holiness of God

September 15, 2010

Over the years I've heard many good things about The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul (WTS Books | Amazon), but I just never got around to reading it. Last April at Together for the Gospel I received a copy and have recently started working through it. This is one of those books I should have read a long time ago!

Sproul concludes chapter 2, a chapter about Isaiah's encounter with God, by providing a helpful perspective on studying God's holiness.

It's dangerous to assume that because a person is drawn to holiness in his study that he is thereby a holy man. There is irony here. I am sure that the reason I have a deep hunger to learn of the holiness of God is precisely because I am not holy. I am a profane man—a man who spends more time out of the temple than in it. But I have had just enough of a taste of the majesty of God to want more. I know what it means to be a forgiven man and what it means to be sent on a mission. My soul cries for more. My soul needs more.

Lead With Clear Vision

September 13, 2010

The Gospel Alliance recently interviewed Justin Buzzard and asked a great question about pastoral leadership.

What single bit of counsel has made the most significant difference in your leadership?

Lead with clear vision. Where there’s no vision, the people perish. I’ve found that my generation is hungry for vision, for clear leaderships, for leaders who know where they’re going. I’ve learned to become more clear and simple in articulating vision as a leader (emphasis added).

An excellent piece of counsel for pastors. Leading with clear vision is difficult, but I'm learning that it's crucial for fruitful pastoral ministry.

You can read the rest of the interview here.

The Gospel is for Christians Too

September 08, 2010

One of the more important truths I've been learning over the past several years is that the Gospel isn't just for unbelievers. It's something that I, as a believer, need to be reminded of every day.

Here's how Bryan Chapell puts it in Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice:

While the gospel includes the good news of God's grace for those who would turn to him in faith, the gospel is not just for outsiders or unbelievers. Great power lies in the line popular among young Christians today: "We must preach the gospel to our hearts every day." This ethic is not just about repeating those portions of the gospel that lead to new conversions; it is about engaging the power of the good news that God has provided his grace to save, to sanctify, and to equip his people for this day, every day, and forever. We need this gospel to enter Christ's kingdom, but we also need it to walk with him through our daily trials and demands.

The One Thing No One Else Will Do

August 25, 2010

Last week I linked to a talk by Mark Dever on the church's relationship to the culture. If you haven't listened to the audio or read through the notes I encourage you do so. Dever makes a number of excellent points that deserve careful consideration.

One point in particular has occupied my thoughts since listening to the talk. In point #30 Dever states,

We must carefully consider the amount of our members’ time, vision, excitement and prayers we are encouraging to be occupied by actions non-Christians might do, when non-Christians will never be giving themselves to evangelizing our community (or beyond).

There's something the church is called to do that no one else will do for us: preach the gospel. Since no one else will engage in this activity we must guard against the subtle temptation to allow other noble, yet less important endeavors to occupy too much of our congregations' time and energy. The verbal proclamation of the gospel must be top priority. Faithfulness to our calling demands nothing less.

Advice on Prayer for Moms with Young Children

August 23, 2010

I was recently asked what advice on prayer I would give to a stay-at-home mom with several young children. This mom wants to have a healthy prayer life, but feels overwhelmed with all of her other responsibilities and doesn't know how to get started. Here's what I said.

1. Realize that you don't have a lot of time to pray. Many moms of young kids feel a constant sense of guilt that their prayer life doesn't measure up to the prayer lives of the older women in their church. While it's good to be challenged by the example of more mature believers you need to recognize that those women didn't always have as much time to pray as they do now.

God has called you to care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of your kids. At this stage preparing meals, keeping up with house work, changing diapers, shepherding hearts, and maintaining your sanity will take up most of your time and that's OK. You ought to be busy with those things not locked away in a room praying for hours at a time.

2. Start small. Right now don't worry about getting to all of the things for which you ought to pray. Your goal is to develop a lifelong habit of consistent prayer. One of the most effective ways to build a habit that sticks is to start small. Begin by committing to pray for 1 minute everyday for a week. It may not seem like much, but in many cases a simple repeated act over a period of time leads to new lifelong patterns. Once the habit of daily prayer is firmly established you can begin extending the length of time you spend praying. Keep in mind my first piece of advice though.

3. Use the Lord's Prayer as a guide. So you've committed to pray each day. Now what do you pray about? Jesus gave his disciples a pattern of prayer to follow (see Matthew 6:9-13) that you can use as a guide for you own prayers. The first few times you pray just read the Lord's Prayer out loud. It's not a magic spell so the goal isn't merely to repeat the words. You want the priorities and concerns reflected in the Lord's Prayer to inform and give shape to your own prayers. Regularly reading and repeating the prayer helps you internalize it. After a while you'll find that your own prayers are much more substantial than when you first started.

Two Kingdoms

August 21, 2010

My wife and I met with several friends last evening to discuss the doctrine of the two kingdoms and some of its implications for congregations and individual Christians.

In preparation for the discussion each of us read A Biblical Case for Natural Law by Daivd VanDrunen. In addition to VanDrunen's monograph we used a talk Mark Dever delivered at the 2009 Sovereign Grace Pastor's Conference (Kevin DeYoung has posted Dever's notes here) to help us work through some of the practical implications of two kingdoms doctrine. Though Dever doesn't use the phrase "two kingdoms" much of what he discusses seems to flesh out the concept.

Both resources are thought provoking and worth consulting if you're interested in this subject.

Logos 4 Mac

August 21, 2010

The release version of Logos 4 Mac will be available in October. They're putting on a great giveaway with prizes including Macs, iPads, and Logos gift cards. You can find out more about the software and the giveaway here.

Be a Plodder Not a Revolutionary

May 21, 2010

From Kevin DeYoung's article The Glory of Plodding in Tabletalk Magazine,

What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church — a multitude of faithful, risktaking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency.

Take a moment to read the rest of the article. It's well worth your time.

Daily Devotions: Five Reasons

May 05, 2010

In a post at entitled "Devotions Aren't Magic" Jon Bloom writes,

We know that [devotions aren't magic]...But still, we can be tempted to think that if we just figure out the secret formula—the right mixture of Bible meditation and prayer—we will experience euphoric moments of rapturous communion with the Lord. And if that doesn’t happen, our formula must be wrong.

He then lists five reasons daily devotions are crucial to progress in the Christian life even if our devotional experiences seems rather ordinary.

  1. Soul Exercise
  2. Soul Shaping
  3. Bible Copiousness
  4. Fight Training
  5. Delight Cultivation

I encourage you to read the entire post for Jon's explanation of each point.

Scripture Memory Tip

April 29, 2010

I'm currently working on memorizing Philippians in its entirety. A method I've found helpful for memorizing longer sections of Scripture is to put the verses on 3x5 cards.

The 3x5 cards are easy to carry with me on the go so I can review the verses while on a lunch break at the park, sitting at a stoplight, or exercising.

I've experimented with both writing out the verses by hand (my handwriting is reasonably legible) and printing the passage on a sheet of paper and then taping it to the card (cheaper than buying printable 3x5 cards). I find the printing method works out well. There's even a Microsoft Word template available to make printing a bit easier.

If you'd like to get started with memorizing Scripture you may want to give this method a try. I've also listed a few Scripture memory resources here.

More Resources for Husbands and Dads

April 27, 2010

The folks over at the Acts 29 Blog continue to post helpful material for husbands and dads. The articles focus on church planters/pastors, but the material is equally applicable to any Christian husband.

Today Dustin Neely writes about the "Family Dashboard".

If we will keep our eye on the “Family Dashboard,” we will spend more time on the road for the Gospel and less time in the ditch looking helplessly at a burned out engine.

Read the entire article here.

Worship Motivates Mission

April 26, 2010

Over the past week I've been working my way through Christ-Centered Worship by Bryan Chapell. The subtitle, "Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice", is a concise summary of the book's message that the Gospel itself ought to shape the structure of our worship gatherings.

Chapell concludes a chapter entitled "The Mission of Christ-Centered Worship" with the following comments about the connection between worship and mission.

The gospel narrative does not simply form the structure of our worship; it simultaneously stimulates mission on behalf of the One we worship. The story of Christ-centered worship is the story of the God who has come to redeem his people. As we retell his story in our worship, our hearts are moved by his love and we want to tell the world of it. We intuitively know that more glory will come to the One we worship if more people worship with us. As our worship resonates with the message of his love for us, our hearts resonate with love for him and his purposes. More and more we come to understand that our worship is part of God's mission to make known his Son to our hearts and to the world (135).

Worship motivates mission!

Michael Horton on the Young, Restless, and Reformed

April 23, 2010

Over at the White Horse Inn blog Michael Horton shares some of his thoughts on the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement.

What I found of particular interest is his explanation of how "Reformed" ought to be defined.

“Reformed” has a specific meaning. It’s not defined by movements, parachurch ministries, or powerful leaders, but by a confession that is lived out in concrete contexts across a variety of times and places. The Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dort) define what it means to be Reformed. Like Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Anabaptism, Reformed Christianity is a particular tradition. It’s not defined by a few fundamentals, but by a whole system of faith and practice. If being Reformed can be reduced to believing in the sovereignty of God and election, then Thomas Aquinas is as Reformed as R. C. Sproul. However, the Reformed confession is a lot more than that. Even the way it talks about these doctrines is framed within a wider context of covenant theology.

It’s intriguing to me that people can call themselves Reformed today when they don’t embrace this covenant theology. This goes to the heart of how we read the Bible, not just a few doctrines here or there. Yet what was once recognized as essential to Reformed faith and practice is now treated merely as a sub-set (and a small one at that) of the broader “Reformed” big tent...For centuries, the “Reformed” label has been embraced by people from Anglican, Presbyterian, and Reformed traditions. Only in the last few decades has it included those who do not embrace a covenantal interpretation of Scripture, which encompasses baptism and the Supper, the connectional government of the church, eschatology, and a host of other issues that distinguish Reformed from non-Reformed positions. I often run into Christians who say that they are Reformed—and also dispensational or charismatic, Baptist or Barthian, and a variety of other combinations. Like the term “evangelical,” “Reformed” is whatever you want it to be. It’s hard to challenge pragmatic evangelicalism’s cafeteria-style approach to truth when “Reformed” versions seem to be going down the same path (emphasis added).

Dr. Horton proposes that the young, restless, and reformed movement should be called "Evangelical Calvinism" rather than "Reformed".

Reformed Baptists may not necessarily belong to the YRR movement, but I think Horton's point is still relevant to us. Should Reformed Baptists refer to themselves as "Reformed" or is "Evangelical Calvinist" a better description? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Pursuing Christ in Fatherhood

April 21, 2010

Scott Thomas lists 6 ways fathers pursue Christ in fatherhood.

  1. Fathers pursuing Christ see their children as a blessing from God.
  2. Fathers pursuing Christ understand that their children are born with a bent toward evil.
  3. Fathers pursuing Christ believe the Gospel is the Good News for Children.
  4. Fathers pursuing Christ train their children to honor and obey.
  5. Fathers pursuing Christ practice and demonstrate submission.
  6. Fathers pursuing Christ love their wives.

Read the entire post for his explanation of each point.

Worth a Look - April 20, 2010

April 20, 2010

Watch - Dr. Sinclair Ferguson delivered the 2010 den Dulk Lectures in Pastoral Ministry at Westminster Seminary California. Download or watch all three lectures or listen to the audio.

Listen - Tim Challies and David Murray have started a new podcast named "Connected Kingdom" in which they discuss living the Christian life in a digital world. Subscribe to the RSS feed.

Read - The latest edition of Themelios, a theological journal edited by D.A. Carson, is available at The Gospel Coaliation website. I plan to check out Martin Salter's article on the relationship between circumcision and baptism in Colossians 2:11-12.

What is a Gospel Centered Church?

February 12, 2010

Ray Ortlund has written a helpful post on being a gospel centered church.

How we treat one another reveals what we really believe as opposed to what we think we believe. It is possible to say, “We are a gospel-centered church,” and sincerely mean it, while we make our church into a law-centered social environment.

You can read the full post here.

In the Fullness of Time

December 25, 2009

Galatians 4:4-6 - "4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God."

Thank you most holy God for sending your Son into this sinful world to redeem us so that we may be adopted into your family and receive the gift of the Spirit. We delight to now call you "Father". What an amazing privilege it is to be your sons and daughters! We praise and thank you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Piper on Children, God's Commands, and the Gospel

December 10, 2009

John Piper has written a helpful post at the Desiring God blog titled "Why Require Unregenerate Children to Act Like They’re Good?"

Piper answers the question in the title of his post with three points.

  1. For children, external, unspiritual conformity to God’s commanded patterns of behavior is better than external, unspiritual non-conformity to those patterns of behavior.
  2. Requiring obedience from children in conformity with God’s will confronts them with the meaning of sin in relation to God, the nature of their own depravity, and their need for inner transformation by the power of grace through the gospel of Christ.
  3. The marks of devotion, civility, and manners (“please,” “thank you,” and good eye contact) are habits that, God willing, are filled later with grace and become more helpful ways of blessing others and expressing a humble heart.

I think many parents with young children struggle with this issue. Piper offers wise counsel so make sure to read the entire post.

Gospel Growth

December 10, 2009

Audio from the 2009 Matthias Media conference is available to download at peoplegrowth.org. The conference was titled "Gospel Growth = People Growth" and focused on how gospel growth happens in people and through people. Below is a list of topics addressed at the conference.

  • D.A. Carson - Ministry, Motives, and Mentors (mp3)
  • David Helm - The Personal Work of Gospel Witness (mp3)
  • Mark Dever - The Four Ps of Evangelical Ministry (mp3)
  • Phillip Jensen - Biblical Theology of Ministry 1: The Aim and Method of Ministry (audio unavailable)
  • Phillip Jensen - Biblical Theology of Ministry 2: All God's People as Prophets and Disciple-Makers (mp3)
  • Phillip Jensen - What is Training? People not Programs (mp3)
  • Marty Sweeney - Obstacles to Training (mp3)
  • David Helm - The Pastor's Work of Gospel Training (mp3)
  • Tony Payne - Training and Gospel Resources (mp3)
  • Phillip Jensen - How a Training Mentality Leads to Gospel Workers (mp3)

The Trellis and the Vine

December 09, 2009

Tim Chester has written a review of The Trellis and the Vine, a new book on church ministry. Some of my fellow elders have ordered copies and I'm looking forward to borrowing the book from them when they're finished reading it.

Make sure to watch the video below of Mark Dever recommending The Trellis and the Vine.

(If you're reading this in an RSS reader you may need to click through to the blog to see the video clip)

Don't Let the Periphery Displace the Center

November 27, 2009

From The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson,

Western evangelicalism tends to run through cycles of fads. At the moment, books are pouring off the presses telling us how to plan for success, how "vision" consists in clearly articulated "ministry goals", how the knowledge of detailed profiles of our communities constitutes the key to successful outreach. I am not for a moment suggesting that there is nothing to be learned from such studies. But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without enjoying these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature. But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel. Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements -- but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning. Again, I insist, my position is not a thinly veiled plea for obscurantism, for seat-of-the-pants ministry that plans nothing. Rather, I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry (25-26).

Real Change

November 16, 2009

Real change happens when biblical truth and personal honesty intersect in repentance, faith, and obedience (David Powlison, "Getting to the Heart of Conflict: Anger, Part 3". The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 16:1, p. 32).

The Failure of Accountability

October 05, 2009

In Fight Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Jonathan Dodson discusses the failure of accountability groups. He explains that accountability groups tend toward two extremes.

1. Legalistic Accountability

Although the aim of accountability groups is good, misguided accountability practices can lead to legalism. In legalism, performance replaces obedience, we are motivated by works not grace. In legalistic accountability, failures to perform are punished through graduated penalties...Even if the intention is to honor God; the motivation is reduced to merit-making before God. Instead of holding one another accountable to trusting God, we become accountable for exacting punishments. The unfortunate result is a kind of legalism in which the healing of repentance and faith in the gospel is substituted by peer prescribed punishments. As a result, our motives for holiness get warped (20).

2. Confessional Booth Accountability

Alternatively, accountability groups can devolve into a kind of confessional booth. We confess our sins and depart absolved of any guilt, fearing merely the passing frown of our fellow confessor. I confess my sin; you confess yours. I pat your back. You pat mine. Then we pray. Accountability groups become circles of cheap grace, through which we obtain cheap peace from a troubled conscience. Confession is divorced from repentance, reducing holiness to half-hearted morality...This approach to discipleship is hollow. It lacks the urgency required by the fight of faith (21).

Dodson goes on to describe how these extremes can be avoided.

We need to remove accountability from the center and replace it with the Gospel. We need to orbit around Jesus, not rules or confession. Instead of groups gathered around accountability, we must gather around Jesus. Only then will we find something truly worth fighting for. The question, then, is not only “Will we fight” but “How will we fight?” What will motivate us, and how can we keep the gospel central in our obedience (21-22)?

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on accountability groups and the issues Jonathan raises in his book.

At Work and Worship in the Theater of God - Julius Kim

September 26, 2009

I'm looking forward to watching/listening to Julius Kim's session at the 2009 Desiring God National Conference. Julius Kim is a professor at Westminster Seminary California and an associate pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church, both of which are here in my neck of the woods. My friends who have taken courses with Julius have always spoken very highly of him.

Video of Julius' session is embedded below.

If you're reading this in an RSS reader you'll likely need to click through to the actual blog post to see the video.

Re-examining Doubt

September 25, 2009

I figured I might as well continue with the Tim Keller theme today (see the posts from Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday).

In the introduction to The Reason for God Keller challenges both believers and skeptics to re-examine doubt. Usually we associate doubt with skeptics, but Keller shows why both groups need to rethink this topic.

To believers Keller writes,

Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts -- not only their own but their friends' and neighbors'. It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them. Only if you struggle long and hard with objections to your faith will you be able to provide grounds for your beliefs to skeptics, including yourself, that are plausible rather than ridiculous or offensive. And, just as important for our current situation [a divided culture], such a process will lead you, even after you come to a position of strong faith, to respect and understand those who doubt (xvii).

Then he addresses skeptics.

(...) skeptics must learn to look for a type of faith hidden within their reasoning. All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs. You cannot doubt Belief A except from a position of faith in Belief B. For example, if you doubt Christianity because "There can't be just one true religion," you must recognize that this statement is itself an act of faith. No one can prove it empirically, and it is not a universal truth that everyone accepts. If you went to the Middle East and said, "There can't be just one true religion," nearly everyone would say, "Why not?" The reason you doubt Christianity's Belief A is because you hold unprovable Belief B. Every doubt, therefore, is based on a leap of faith" (xvii, emphasis in the original).

If you're interested in reading more from Keller's book check out the The Reason for God website. The site contains a study guide and several audio lectures in which Tim speaks on the topics addressed in the book.

More on Persuasion and Preaching the Gospel

September 24, 2009

Yesterday I posted a video of a talk given by Tim Keller on the role of persuasion in preaching the Gospel. As a follow up I wanted to provide an explanation of what Keller means by persuasion. The following is a paraphrase of Keller's definition.

Persuasion is seeking to understand your audience so what you say to them will address their concerns and overcome their objections. In doing so, the barriers that formerly prevented your listeners from giving thought to the message you proclaim will be taken away and they can begin to see the attractiveness of the Gospel.

I encourage you to watch or listen to Keller's talk in its entirety (see yesterday's post).

What Role Does Persuasion Play in Preaching the Gospel?

September 23, 2009

At the 2008 Dwell Conference in New York City Tim Keller spoke on the topic of persuasion in preaching. I appreciated how at the very beginning of the session Keller addressed some of the common objections to the use of persuasion in preaching the Gospel. Video of the session is embedded below.

http://theresurgence.com/sites/all/modules/video/resurgence_player.swf

You can also download the audio and notes at the Acts 29 website.

Reformed Theological Resources in Spanish

September 21, 2009

Matt Leighton is a missionary, local church elder, and professor at El Colegio Bíblica de la Gracia in Spain. Over the last few years he's produced, in Spanish, a number of theological resources from a Reformed perspective. The resources (audio and papers) are all available for *free* at the website of Grace Bible Church (see below).

Please pass on the link to anyone you think may be interested in these excellent resources.

Links:
About Matt Leighton
Reformed theological resources in Spanish by Matt Leighton

Al Mohler on Obama's Speech

September 07, 2009

Al Mohler has posted a helpful and balanced piece on how to think about Obama's speech to America's school children. You can read the article here.

Jim Elliff on Loving Difficult People in the Church

August 26, 2009

Jim Elliff's Loving Even the Cantankerous is a brief article full of sound advice on dealing with difficult individuals in the church.

He was one of the most cantankerous men I had ever known. When all the church wished to move forward into a new area of ministry, you could count on him confronting the elders about it in a negative way. In fact, “negative” was his middle name. Our system of decision-making did not allow his views to be buried in a hidden vote, but brought him straight into contact with the leaders with whom he almost always disagreed. Time after time, there he was, the only “aginner.”

You can read the full article here.

What Defines You as a Christian?

July 28, 2009

My good friend Jason has begun blogging at Personal Theology. Today he asks the following questions.

What above all else characterizes a Christian? The Republican party? Opposition to abortion and gay marriage? Is it creationism vs. evolution(ism)? Is it morality? The 10 commandments? The location of the 10 commandments in public places? Is it boycotts of offensive/immoral movies? Is it 7 steps to how to live life to its fullest? Is it don't drink, don't smoke, don't chew (or go with girls who do)? If one were to take a poll of non-Christians—heck, if a poll were taken of Christians themselves—what would be said to be the defining characteristic of a Christian? What would be that sine qua non of Christianity?

See the full post for Jason's answer.

Live Biblically on the Lord's Day

July 27, 2009

In Simplify Your Spiritual Life Don Whitney asks the question

[Other than attending church] how do you decide what else you should or should not do on Sunday?

Whitney then summarizes what he sees as the three prominent views among Christians regarding how Sunday is to be approached.

Christian Sabbath view - according to this view the Fourth Commandment ("Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" [Exodus 20:8]) is a "perpetual, moral law of God and remains intact under the New Covenant...Except for the ceremonial aspects of the Jewish Sabbath, all the other Sabbath laws should be embraced by Christians today, just as much as any of the other Ten Commandments" (Donald S. Whitney, Simplify Your Spiritual Life, 165).

Lord's Day view - this view argues that "the Sabbath pointed to Christ. Jesus is the true Sabbath...when we rest from (that is, stop relying upon) our good works as the way to be right with God and rest by faith in the finished work of Christ on our behalf, we 'keep the Sabbath'" (Whitney, 165).

Oblivious view - this view is not really a view, but rather the absence of a position regarding the Sabbath due primarily to a lack of consideration about what the Bible says on the matter.

Sadly, it seems many Christians fall into the third category. Most of us simply don't give much thought to what we do or don't do on Sundays. Yet whatever we do or don't do on Sundays we're to do it to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). In light of this Whitney concludes with an important exhortation for us to consider.

I want to encourage you to base your decisions about your Lord's Day activities -- whatever they may be -- more intentionally upon the Bible. That's what a Christian really wants to do in everything, isn't it?...Study the issue, be persuaded in your own mind, and then act accordingly. Believe that it's always more blessed by God and glorifying to God to choose to live biblically (Whitney, 166).

Not What My Hands Have Done

July 03, 2009

Last Sunday we sang "Not What My Hands Have Done" by Horatius Bonar in preparation for hearing the morning's sermon from Romans 5. The lyrics have been running through my head all week so I wanted to share them here.

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful load.
Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.

Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease this weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.

I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.

I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy and light.
’Tis He Who saveth me, and freely pardon gives;
I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives.

Memorizing Scripture

July 02, 2009

Have you ever attempted to memorize a Bible verse? What about an entire chapter or book of the Bible? I once set out to memorize the book of Ephesians. I made it to chapter 4, but never finished.

Recently, as I was reading John Piper's When I Don't Desire God, I was encouraged to begin memorizing significant portions of Scripture again. Piper writes,

If you are not a memorizer at all, shift up to memorizing a Bible verse a week. If you only memorize single verses, shift up to memorizing some paragraphs or chapters (like Psalm 1 or Psalm 23 or Romans 8). And if you have ventured to memorize chapters, shift up to memorize a whole book or part of a book. Few things have a greater effect on the way we see God and the world than to memorize extended portions of Scripture.

Piper recommends a little booklet on Scripture memorization by Andy Davis entitled An Approach to the Extended Memorization of Scripture (free PDF). I read through the booklet last night and found its practical advice very helpful.

If you're ready to start memorizing books of the Bible check out the booklet. If you'd rather start off with individual verses you may want to look at the Topical Memory System from NavPress or Desiring God's Bible memory products.

Read for 15 Minutes Each Day

July 01, 2009

In When I Don't Desire God John Piper demonstrates how much reading you could do in 1 year simply by reading for 15 minutes each day.

Suppose you read slowly like I do--maybe about the same speed that you speak--200 words a minute. If you read fifteen minutes a day for one year (say just before supper, or just before bed), you will read 5,475 minutes in the year. Multiply that by 200 words a minute, and you get 1,095,000 words that you would read in a year. Now an average serious book might have about 360 words per page. So you would have read 3,041 pages in one year. That's ten very substantial books. All in fifteen minutes a day.

Or, to be specific, my copy of Calvin's Institutes has 1,521 pages in two volumes, with an average of 400 words per page, which is 608,400 words. That means that even if you took a day off each week, you could read this great biblical vision of God and man in less than nine months (about thirty-three weeks) at fifteen minutes a day.

The Cross Makes True Joy Possible

June 29, 2009

The fight for joy is a fight to grasp and marvel at what happened in the death of Christ -- and what it reveals about our suffering Savior. If it were not for the death of Jesus in our place, the only possible joy would be the joy of delusion -- like the joy on the Titanic just before it hit the iceberg. Without the cross, joy could be sustained only by denying (consciously or subconsciously) the inevitability of divine judgment. In fact, that's the kind of joy that drives most of the world -- a joy that preserves the power of its pleasures by being oblivious to the peril just ahead. If the passengers were suddenly made aware that in a matter of hours most of them would drown in the icy ocean, all their merrymaking would cease. Their joy depends on their ignorance.
— John Piper, When I Don't Desire God, 71.

Preaching from the Fourth Gospel

June 27, 2009

In the introductory material of his commentary on The Gospel According to John, D.A. Carson includes a helpful section on preaching from the fourth Gospel. Carson reminds preachers and Bible teachers that John's Gospel is about Jesus; his person and work and "his place in the sweep of redemptive history". He then remarks,

“…John’s stated purpose in composing the Fourth Gospel is not that his readers might believe, but that his readers might believe that the Christ, the Son of God, is Jesus, and that in believing they might have life in his name. To hammer away at the urgency of belief without pausing to think through what it is John wants his readers to believe and whom it is he wants them to trust is to betray the Gospel of John. Preaching from the Gospels is above all an exercise in the exposition and application of Christology (102, emphasis in the original).

The Lord's Supper: Our Gift to God or God's Gift to Us

May 25, 2009

I would like to pose a question. In the observance of the Lord's Supper are we offering something to God or is God offering something to us? Do we give to God or do we receive from Him? Do you think this is an important nuance to make conclusions about?

What exegetical and theological arguments would you use to support your position? Please share your thoughts.

When You Can't Sing With Conviction

May 12, 2009

This past Sunday at our church's internship meeting we discussed various worship related issues. One of the questions that came up was what to do when you feel like you can't sing the lyrics of a hymn/song during the corporate worship service.

Jim Newheiser, who was leading the meeting, helpfully suggested that you first ask whether your issue with the song is one of preference or doctrine. There's a difference between simply not liking a hymn or worship song because of its tune, for example, and not liking the song because you believe it doesn't teach sound doctrine. Jim encouraged us to put aside preferences when necessary. However, if we believe the song isn't teaching correct doctrine then we must not violate our conscience.

What do you do when the lyrics of a hymn or song are so vague or unclear (but not clearly false) that you can't sing with conviction? There are a few songs (though not many) we sing at our worship services that contain lyrics I can't sing with conviction because I'm not sure what the words are communicating.

For example, do you think the following line is a proper/true description of Jesus Christ?

"You are the love song we'll sing forever".

I'm not asking whether that line makes you think of other things that are true of Christ, but whether the statement that Jesus is a "love song" is true on its own.

I've tried hard not to be a stick in the mud over this line, but I simply can't bring myself to sing it. It's not clear to me what it means for Jesus to be a love song and I haven't come across anything in Scripture that would shed some light. I haven't scoured the entire Bible over this lyric though so please let me know if I'm missing something!

What songs/lyrics do you have a hard time singing and why (keep it civil)?

People, Not Culture

May 07, 2009

Mark Lauterbach's article People, Not Culture in the May 2009 issue of NEXT is a helpful piece for those who are thinking through how to relate to the world around them. Lauterbach writes,

But I want to suggest that this question–“How should a Christian relate to culture?”–may be the wrong question. This may be the wrong place for us, as Christians in the middle of culture, to start. Here’s why: I am not sure how I am to relate to the culture, but I am sure I am to relate to people outside of Christ for the sake of their salvation

You can read the full article here.

Missional Living

May 04, 2009

Jonathan Dodson posted several suggestions at theresurgence.com for being more intentional about spending time with non-Christians. The suggestions are simple, common sense stuff, but all too often we overlook these types of opportunities.

  • Eat with Non-Christians
  • Walk, Don’t Drive
  • Be a Regular
  • Hobby with Non-Christians
  • Talk to Your Co-workers
  • Volunteer with Non-Profits
  • Participate in City Events
  • Serve Your Neighbors

(via JT)

Gospel Centered Resources

May 02, 2009

The Gospel Coalition website is proving to be a great resource for Gospel centered text, audio, and video resources. You can browse resources by the name of the author/speaker, topic, or Scripture reference. In addition, you can browse for specific types of resources such as sermons, articles, interviews, etc.

If you're looking for a place to start I suggest you listen to or watch D.A. Carson's lecture entitled "What is the Gospel?". You can find the audio and video here or in iTunes.

Standing Firm in the Grace of God

February 24, 2009

Recently one of our church's interns, Matthew Seymour, a student at Westminster Seminary California, preached an excellent sermon on suffering from I Peter 4:12-19. Matthew helpfully summarized how we're to understand passages that deal with suffering and persecution.

We may not face trials and suffering on the same level of physical intensity that our brothers and sisters do around the world. However there is a wider sense in which Peter’s words apply to every situation in our lives. We experience a trial any time when our faith is tested and proved true. We suffer when we feel the effects of sin in our work, relationships and our own bodies.

Peter wants to prepare these believers to stand firm in trials and suffering and so he gives them a ‘vaccination shot’ of a biblical theology of trials and suffering. Whether or not we are facing trials and suffering at this present moment, we need right thinking now so that we will respond with right responses in the future.

You can listen to or download the sermon here. It will be well worth your time.

Tools for Studying the Text of Scripture

February 01, 2009

One of my goals this year is to study the book of Ephesians in-depth (I'm beginning to think I'll need/want to continue the study beyond 2009). After having done some background reading on the author, recipients, and historical setting, as well as familiarizing myself with the epistle as a whole, I'm now at a place where I'm ready to examine actual paragraphs or units of thought.

One of the crucial steps in studying a portion of Scripture is analyzing the structure or flow of the text. A great way to do this is by creating a "sentence flow" schematic. It's a method for visualizing the flow of thought in your text by means of aligning, indenting, and subordinating the phrases/clauses in the text. I've found Gordon Fee's New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors to be very helpful on this topic. The chapter on structural analysis, with plenty of sentence flow examples, can be found on Google Book Search here.

A related method for examining the structure of a biblical text is called "arcing". BibleArc.com is the place to go on the web to learn about arcing. The site contains some great tutorials and even has tools to enable you to create, save, and share your own arcs with other users of the site.

I'll be sure to post links to more resources as I come across them.

Recommended - The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

January 26, 2009

In The Prodigal God Tim Keller "lays out the essentials of...the gospel" by examining Jesus' parable commonly known as "The Parable of the Prodigal Son". As you can tell from the title of the book Keller has a different take on the parable than most other preachers.

Keller contends that the parable isn't merely about the "prodigal" son (younger brother). Rather it's a story about two lost sons and a father who's love extends to both of them. It's a story in which Jesus shows that the Gospel is for both the outwardly sinful and the religious because both are in desperate need of salvation.

I think that this book, like Keller's previous book, will appeal to both believers and unbelievers alike since it focuses on a message that both groups need to hear.

Michael Horton on the Gospel

January 23, 2009

Michael Horton will be speaking on the topic of "What is the Gospel?" at Old Town Temecula Community Theater in Temecula, CA on January 27th at 7:00 pm. If you live in or near Temecula this would be a great opportunity to hear Dr. Horton on a very important subject.

You can find more information here.

Recommended: Paul and First-Century Letter Writing

January 20, 2009

I recently finished reading Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition, and Collection by E. Randolph Richards. The book challenges a number of common assumptions about Paul as a letter writer by drawing on what is known about letter writing in the first century as well as evidence internal to Paul's letters. As the title indicates, Richards spends a considerable amount of time addressing the role of secretaries in the composition of the epistles of Paul.

I found the book to be interesting and well written. Richards' arguments and conclusions have aided and enhanced my understanding and appreciation of a large portion of the New Testament. If you're at all interested in New Testament and Pauline studies I recommend getting a copy of Paul and First-Century Letter Writing.

Reflections on a Day Full of Heartbreaking News

January 07, 2009

Today was full of heartbreaking news from several of my fellow church members. The various pieces of news came in the form of emails throughout the day. There was one about a 2-year old’s grueling battle with cancer. Later an email appeared in my inbox about an unexpected death. Then, another email informed us that a toddler had fallen and broken her arm. In the afternoon we learned that a young husband and father who is in a coma after suffering a head injury had taken a turn for the worse. Lastly, we found out that another woman’s cancer had returned. Though my family and I were not directly affected by these events we share in the sorrow and grief that our brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing at this time.

Today’s news reminded me that we live in a fallen world; a world subject to decay and death and full of mourning, sorrow, and pain due to sin and its effects. Yet the heartache of life in this world causes me to anticipate more eagerly the world to come.

Long ago God promised, “…behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17, ESV). It is a world in which, “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, ESV). The creation will be set free from its bondage and our perishable, dishonorable, and weak bodies will be raised imperishable, glorious, and full of power (see I Corinthians 15:42-43). God himself will wipe away the tears from our eyes and we will dwell with him in perfect fellowship, unhindered by sin. He will be our God and we will be his people (see Revelation 21:3-4).

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

January 05, 2009

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

January 05, 2009

"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

January 02, 2009

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

January 01, 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.