Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reading the Bible

It is that time of year again when we begin to look ahead at goals for the coming year. Scripture reading should naturally be part of this. Crossway offers 10 different plans for reading through the Bible in one year. Check them out here.

Why should a believer invest time reading the Bible? The Bible itself provides answers to that question:

  • The Bible is the means through which one finds salvation. See Ps. 19:7; Jn. 5:39; Rom. 10:17; 2 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pt. 1:23.
  • The Bible forms the material from which we are to have a “ready answer.” 1Pt. 3:15
  • The Bible is the means of our growth in grace. 1 Pt. 2:2
  • The Bible equips us for the ministry to which we have been called. 2 Tim. 3:16
  • The Bible is a means for our sanctification and walk in holiness. Ps. 119:11; cf. Heb. 5:11-14

Health Benefits of Coffee - WSJ

Once again, we caffeine hounds are vindicated by a reputable news source. Naysayers, take note.

Happy New Year and please enjoy another cuppa joe!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Beagle

I missed this yesterday, but on Dec. 27, 1831, Charles Darwin set sail on The Beagle on a trip that would revolutionize how people think about the origins of life. Much has been said about the controversy between evolution and creationism, and the larger issues of naturalism vs. theism.

It goes without saying that there has been an explosion of technological advancement in the ensuing 178 years since Darwin stepped onto The Beagle. But technology aside, have we really "evolved" as a "species?" Consider:

  • It is difficult to speak about morality because many question the validity of a shared morality. To some, morality is a social construct.

  • We have the technology to prolong life, yet question whether or not we should do so.

  • We can perform surgery in utero while arguing that the fetus isn't a person until it is viable ex utero.

Is it really "change we can believe in?"

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After Christmas

Tim Challies says what many Christians hesitate to express. This is a great post worth reading.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Another Book List

Tony Reinke shares his recommended list for Christmas gifts.

One More Woe

As if the Anglican Church and its American sister the Episcopal Church do not have enough controversy, this story was reported by the Associated Press. In regards to the Ten Commandments, I am reminded of the song by Queen: Another One Bites the Dust.

British priest: Shoplifting by poor can be OK - News National & World -, The Vindicator

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas in 7 Minutes

In lieu of a family Christmas letter, I want to share this clip. It says it all.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

John Flavel - "Abundant Encouragement Against Deadness of Spirit in Prayer"

Thou complainest thy heart is dead, wandering and contracted in duty: O, but remember Christ's blood speaks when thou canst not; it can plead for thee when thou art not able to speak a word for thyself. :Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?" Cant. 3:6. The prayers of Christians often go up before God sullied with their offensive corruptions; but remember, Christ "perfumes them with myrrh," by his intercession he gives them a sweet perfume.
The Fountain of Life by John Flavel (1628-1691)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Book Lists

Here are a few "best books of 2009" list from various blogs. Instead of getting permission to list them, I will post the links. If you are a bibliophile, you may want to check them out.

From Keith Mathison of Ligonier Ministries.
Sam Storm's list via Justin Taylor.
Andy Naselli's list of books on Job.
Thabiti Anyabile's list of favorites (who suffers for the kingdom at 1st Baptist Church of Grand Cayman).
This is beyond comment.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Blog

I have begun a new blog for the Rescue Mission. It is called City Lights. I would love to have your input.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

John Owen on Tiger Woods?

This is the sore travail they are exercised with all their days: - If they accomplish their designs they are more wicked and hellish than before; and if they do not, they are filled with vexation and discontentment. This is the portion of them whom know not the Lord nor the power of his grace. Envy not their condition. Notwithstanding their outward, glittering show, their hearts are full of anxiety, trouble, and sorrow.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Excellence in Worship

More from J. P Moreland:

I live about twelve miles from Disneyland, and I have a season pass that entitles me to visit the park several times each year. Disneyland is no mere theme park. Compared to other parks of amusement, Disney land is just different. From the restaurants and shrubbery to the Indiana Jones ride, the par k exudes excellence. For example, Disneyland employs one crew to do nothing but change light bulbs throughout the park year-round. The crew has a catalogue listing the life expectancy of the thousands of light bulbs in the park, and they make sure to change each and every bulb at 80 percent life expectancy so no one ever sees a burned-out bulb! I have been to Disneyland about one hundred times and have never, ever seen a burned-out bulb.

If Disney can impart this sort of spirit of excellence to its bulb changers, we Christians can afford to do no less when it comes to worshipping the living God. We need to increase our expectations of excellence when it comes to corporate and private worship. And if we do, the proper cultivation of the mind will be a crucial dimension of our excellence in worship. Loving and worshipping God includes the total personality, including the mind. We worship God with our minds when we struggle to read something so we can love and serve Him better, when we understand the contents of the hymns we sing, when we activate our minds and make them ready to hear before given something to which to respond in the worship service. Without the bulb changers, Disneyland would be just another amusement park. Without an intellectual component, worship becomes a less than total expression of adoration to a God who deserves a lot more effort than Disney insists on at its park.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Enough Said

This comes from J.P. Moreland in Love Your God with all Your Mind. That this also speaks of many Christians is cause for alarm:

Our society has replaced heroes with celebrities, the quest for well-informed character with the search for a flat stomach, substance and depth with image and personality. In the political process, the make-up man is more important than the speech writer, and we approach the voting booth, not on the basis of a well-developed philosophy of what the state should be, but with a heart full of images, emotions, and slogans all packed into thirty-second sound bites. The mind-numbing, irrational tripe that fills TV talk shows is digested by millions of bored, lonely Americans hungry for that sort of stuff. What is going on here? What has happened to us?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Time Management from John Owen

Men have not leisure to glorify God and save their own souls. it is certain that God gives us time enough for all that he requires of us in any kind in this world. no duties need to jostle on another, I mean constantly. Especial occasions must be determined accordingly unto especial circumstances. but if in anything we take more upon us than we have time well to perform it in, without robbing God of that which is due to him and our souls, this God calls not unto, this he blesseth us not in.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thank God for Evolution?

A friend recently loaned me a book by Michael Dowd titled Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Evolution Will Transform Your Life and Our World. The endorsement on the cover reads, “The science vs. religion debate is over.”

Admittedly, I have not read the entire book. My interest waned early into the text. What I have read left me with several impressions:

Dowd’s book claims to find a middle ground where both religion and evolution are seen to contribute to our understanding of origins. However, one does not need to read very far to see that this is a patronizing look at religious belief while praising the intellectual superiority of those who have articulated scientific truth (read: evolution). In explaining the focus of Part 1, Dowd observes that in this section, “we shall consider what evolution is, what it is not, and why human societies require a mythic and meaningful context…We cannot thrive without myth – that is, without meaningful stories that freely use poetry and metaphor to communicate what we individually and collectively experience to be true” (italics mine). Note that there are things we collectively “experience to be true.” Certainly, religious experience could not actually be true!

Skillfully, Dowd praises the “science” of evolution while relegating religion to an evolutionary need to find meaning in life. Religion is a satisfying way of quenching an instinctive need for meaning. The door is left open that, with some evolutionary good fortune, we will grow out of this.

As Christians, we anchor our faith, not in a need to define meaningful existence, but in a God who is Creator and Redeemer. This God has revealed Himself in an inspired book, the Bible.

A system that omits a Creator from the equation can in no way be compatible with the belief of God as Creator. Dowd’s attempt to straddle the fence adds little to the continuing controversy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Words are wonderful things. They are not actually concrete things, they are symbols. They are expressions of thoughts and emotions. You can never know the depths of another’s thoughts without words.

Words are powerful. They encourage and destroy; they can mobilize an army or calm a riot. In 1095, the First Crusade was launched by Pope Urban II’s rousing sermon condemning Moslem control of Jerusalem. The world was set on a course of global war when Adolf Hitler became Reich’s Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and moved a nation with his rhetoric.

Words sometimes become toys or tools in our hands. By the art of “spinning” words, we can make something horribly ugly sound desirable. Who would not prefer to “go home to be with the Lord” over being “dead?” And while any sane person opposes abortion, who would disagree with the “right to choose?”

Christianity is inexorably bound up in words. Words are our tools of trade in that:

  • They are the “stuff” of revelation. God has disclosed His power and Godhead in creation, but He has definitively spoken to us in His Word, the Bible. Without the inspired words of Scripture, we would have no knowledge of the saving goodness of God.
  • They are the means of gospel communication. It has been said that of all the world’s religions, Christianity is unique in that it has been spread through preaching, through the use of words. God has chosen to speak at in different times and in various ways through human instrumentality.

Of course, the ultimate expression of God the Father is Jesus Christ. Heb. 1: 1-2 says that in these last days, God has spoken to us in His Son (or, literally “in a Son-kind-of way”). John calls Jesus “the Word” in the 1st chapter of his gospel. As the Word, He is the concrete expression of the Father. John says that the Son “declares” (or “exegetes”) the Father.

In this season, we remember the Word who was made flesh and dwelt among us. The eternal Logos or Word dropped into human history through the virgin’s womb to dwell among us, not apart from us, not above us. This He did to show us God’s glory; a glory filled with grace and truth.

Monday, November 2, 2009


This was posted on Michael F. Bird's website a few weeks ago. This is from a paper by Kevin Vanhoozer. The final paragraph is particularly challenging. May God give us a new perspective on pastoral ministry.

Seminary faculties need the courage to be evangelically Protestant for the sake of forming theological interpreters of Scripture able to preach and minister the word. The preacher is a “man on a wire,” whose sermons must walk the tightrope between Scripture and the contemporary situation. I believe that we should preparing our best students for this gospel ministry. The pastor-theologian, I submit, should be evangelicalism’s default public intellectual, with preaching the preferred public mode of theological interpretation of Scripture (emphasis mine).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Reformation Day

(This is a repeat from last year)

Many in our country celebrate today with cries of “Trick or Treat.” For Christians, the more significant cry should be “sola Scriptura.” On this date in 1517, Martin Luther, a young Augustinian monk, posted his “95 Thesis” on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church (this is probably apocryphal, but the door posting idea has survived). The resulting controversy over Luther’s opinions regarding the sale of indulgences led to what would be later known as the Protestant Reformation. As can be seen in the “95 Thesis,” Luther had no intention of creating a schism within his Church – he merely wanted to correct what he considered to be the bad theology practiced by those who did not understand canon law. In reality, it was Luther who naively misunderstood the furor that his thesis would cause. It was not so much theology at stake (for the Roman Church, that is), but power and money.

The essence of the Reformation is Luther’s insistence upon the authority of Scripture. Of course, his emphasis upon justification by faith alone (sola fide) is key; but this flows from his view of the sufficiency and primacy of the Bible’s teaching over the opinions of men. This is the relevance of the Reformation today.

For the world at large, people who believe in and take the Bible seriously are considered dangerous but probably not for the same reasons that Luther was considered dangerous. Those who actually believe the Bible are accused of endorsing book burning, Usher’s date of creation (4004 BC), and discrimination against any kind of people they don’t like. Nonetheless, the church must return to the principle of sola Scriptura. Thankfully, there are encouraging tokens of this. The very real shame is among those who profess to believe the Bible but do not honor or regard the Bible in the life or methodology of the church. There are churches that still covet the label “Fighting Fundamentalist,” yet one is hard pressed to hear the Bible capably and systematically taught or expounded. Scripture is preached about, but not always proclaimed.

On this Reformation Day, may we once again renew our appreciation for and determination to live by the holy Word of God.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Trick or Treat

Whatever you, as a Christian, think about the celebration of Halloween, read this blog. Bottom line: why are some so hot under the collar about this practice when popular assualts on the doctrine of the Trinity are welcomed, endorsed, studied, and defended? Perhaps the words of Jesus to the Pharisees are in order: "This you should have done and not left the other undone."

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Jerry Bridges on God's Providence:

All things are indebted for their existence to the continuous sustaining action of God exercised through His Son. Nothing exists of its own inherent power of being. Nothing in all creation stands or acts independently of the Lord’s will. The so-called laws of nature are nothing more than the physical expression of the steady will of Christ. The law of gravity operates with unceasing certainty because Christ continuously wills it to operate. - Jerry Bridges, Trusting God

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Reason for Creation

The newly released images from the Hubble Space Telescope are pretty amazing. I can’t help but recall the opening lines of the Star Trek TV series which ends with the statement, “to boldly go where no man has gone before” (“man” changed to “one” in Star Trek, the Next Generation to be more politically correct). Of course, scientists now believe that they have a new window into the origins of the universe.

My mind went immediately to these images as I read Graeme Goldsworthy’s comments on Ps. 19. The fact that Paul in Colossians 1:15-17 speaks of all things being created in him, through him, and for him is significant. It indicates that the gospel is not an afterthought but is in fact the reason for the creation in the first place (Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, 204).
Why is the universe so large, so massive, so expansive? Because the God who made is so big and because the gospel is so awesome!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Most Difficult Book

Another great post by Pastor Ray Ortland:

"The books of Israel's prophets are among the most difficult in the Old Testament, and probably among the most difficult books ever written."Delbert R. Hillers, Covenant: The History of a Biblical Idea, page 124.

God did not give us a comic book. But precisely because the Bible is so challenging, it's satisfying. God treats us like adults.There's something about our culture that leaves us men feeling deeply trivialized: "My capabilities are video games, pornography and goofing off, I will never change, and I see no reason to change." Then along comes the gospel and tells us that we matter to God. Along comes theological grandeur that lifts our minds into lofty things. Along comes the cause of Christ that gets us working in ways that will still matter a bazillion years from now.

At the center of this revolution is the Bible. It gets us reading and thinking and studying and discussing and going deeper than we've ever gone before, deeper than we've ever dreamed of going.Thank God for the Bible. Difficult, but not impossible.
Posted by Ray Ortlund at Saturday, August 08, 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

News Stories I Like

This from Press TV:

Coffee helps brain, liver to function better
Mon, 27 Jul 2009 08:48:54 GMT

The latest studies by German researchers have shown positive effects of coffee on human health, saying it improves functions of liver and brain. The studies run by Germany's Green Cross points out that coffee accelerates digestion, and prevents age-related diabetes, chronic liver disease and replacement of liver tissue by fibrous scar tissue. Drinking at least four cups of coffee a day is also reported to reduce the risk of liver cirrhosis by up to 80 percent. The report says coffee can help reverse some elements of memory impairment commonly seen in Alzheimer sufferers and improves concentration. Health promoting ingredients of coffee like chlorogenic acid also play important roles too. Chlorogenic acid is one of the antioxidants found in coffee that can cut nearly in half the risk of Alzheimer's Disease.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Engaging the Culture War

Several books have lately appeared encouraging Christians to engage in the culture war. The fear is that as modern culture becomes more and more secular, there will be no room for the Christian’s morality, values, and worldview. Certainly this is justified. The culture of violence, immorality, hedonism and the devaluing of human life is in no way compatible with Christian principles.

However, it strikes me as strange how Christians relate to the call to engage the culture. By and large, churches do an abysmal job in cultural engagement.

On the one hand there are the isolationists, the separatists. For them, the church becomes a monastery or a compound where only Christians are permitted. Within the compound walls we find Christian movies and videos, Christian music, Christian exercise programs, and such like. There are even Christian retirement villages. One can be born and die without ever leaving the compound.

On the other hand is the tendency to engage the culture by adaptation and stealth. This is evident in the great pains that some churches take in structuring the services and meetings of the church in such a way that a secularly minded person will feel quite comfortable and will not be put off by any overt and aggressive religious talk. This is more capitulation to the culture than engagement with it.

I am not so sure that the culture war should be our priority. Unless you are a postmillennialist or a reconstructionist, you have no delusion that the culture will be converted to Christ. An informed reading of church history demonstrates that the church and culture have always been in conflict. And while kingdoms have come and gone, the church has remained. Therefore, consider the following:

  • The church is its own culture. We have an allegiance that transcends nations and governments. We have our own language, our particular values and rituals. These cannot be compromised.
  • The gospel is – by its very nature – offensive. You cannot faithfully preach the gospel and peacefully coexist with culture.
  • Our mandate is not a cultural mandate; it is a kingdom mandate. We are to proclaim the gospel, not politics, to every nation and every culture.
  • We are sent into the world to confront sinners with the gospel. This requires invading the kingdom of darkness. We cannot do this sitting around the campfire on the Christian compound singing Kum-by yah.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gospel Starved

My recent reading has followed similar themes; namely that evangelical Christianity, though popular and profuse, is, nonetheless, “gospel-starved.” In Christless Christianity Michael Horton refers to a sermon delivered in the 1950’s by the late Donald Grey Barnhouse:

What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city…? Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia, all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say “Yes sir” and “No, ma’am” and the churches would be full every Sunday…where Christ is not preached (p. 15).

Barnhouse was speaking prophetically, according to Horton. He calls modern evangelical Christianity “moralistic therapeutic deism” devoid of gospel.

In Above all Earthy Powers, David Wells makes a similar observation. He notes that the problem with contemporary evangelicalism is its failure to distinguish itself from other forms of spirituality.

Therapeutic spiritualities which are non-religious begin to look quite like evangelical spirituality which is therapeutic and non-doctrinal. (p. 5)

Rounding out this theme is Graeme Goldsworthy’s Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture. In this work, Goldsworthy calls Christians back to the Bible as more than a collection of godly examples to follow or ungodly ones to avoid. He challenges us to see the Bible as the unfolding drama of redemption.

The gospel is the power of God (Rom. 1:16). Read the Bible for the gospel; attend church to hear the gospel; remind yourself daily of the gospel.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jesus Jr?

Once again I defer to Pastor Ray Ortland for this cutting and insightful comment. He speaks of the deity honored by many professing Christians in our culture. Read this short post here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Book Review

Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions is an encyclopedic work that could well have been the product of a team of writers. It is the, however, the work of one individual. James A Beverly has contributed a massive amount of research in this 850 page volume.

The “illustrated” aspect of the book contributes to its readability. Throughout the volume one finds informational boxes, biographical sketches, photographs, and time lines. Many of the important features of the religions that are covered are bulleted for ease of reading. The style of writing will appeal to everyone – academics, pastors, and laymen.

Beverly admits that he writes from the perspective of a conservative, evangelical Christian. Yet, I found his treatment of other religions to be fair and even-handed. He is careful to mention some of the positive aspects of various religions, when possible. It is refreshing to find someone who can deal with “cults” (a pejorative term, I realize) and yet debunk some of the misinformation and conspiratorial ideas that have been associated with other belief systems.

The section on the New Age is one of the longer parts of this book, and one of the more interesting. He is very thorough in dealing with the more popular groups as well as those which are lesser known.

In an age of runaway pluralism, this reference would be a great asset.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Making the World Safe...

I am no political junkie, but I came across these interesting stories. It seems that the House passed the Waxman-Markey bill, aka the climate bill. You can read 2 brief articles here and here.

I can sleep peacefully knowing that the United States Congress will rescue the environment from the evil clutches of Global Warming in the same competent manner that they rescued AIG, the banking industry, General Motors and Chrysler. Yep, all's right with the world.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Signs You Drink Too Much Coffee

My smart-aleck brother sent these to me:

Do you think you're drinking too much coffee? You just might be if you exhibit any of the following:
  • You answer the door before people knock.
  • Juan Valdez named a donkey after you.
  • You lick the coffeepot clean like one does the icing bowl.
  • You're the employee of the month at the local coffeehouse even though you don't even work there.
  • You chew on fingernails - both your own and other people's.
  • You can type sixty words per minute with your feet.
  • You can jump-start your car without cables.
  • Your main source of nutrition comes from "Sweet & Low."
  • You don't sweat, you percolate.
  • You go to AA meetings not because you're an alcoholic, but because they have free coffee.
  • You walk ten miles on your treadmill before you realize it's not plugged in.
  • You've built a miniature city out of little plastic stirrers.
  • The Taster's Choice couple wants to adopt you.
  • You are of the opinion that instant coffee takes way too long.
  • Your birthday is a national holiday in Brazil.
  • You have a picture of your coffee mug on your coffee mug.
  • You don't tan, you roast.
  • You can't remember your second cup.
  • You help your dog chase its tail.
  • When someone asks, "How are you?" you say, "Good to the last drop."

Hmmmm... Maybe you should cut down...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Reading: Church History

For your summer reading enjoyment, why not try reading church history? Here are 5 books that I recommend:

Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelly. Shelly writes in concise sentences for those who may be unaccustomed to more academic treatments. It is available in paperback.

The Story of Christianity by Justio González. This is available in a 2 volume in 1 edition. I am presently reading this book. González writes clearly. Parts of it read like a novel.

Historical Theology by Alister McGrath. McGrath provides us with an interesting combination of theology and church history. In this book, he traces theological controversies and developments. This is a must read for all interested in either or both disciplines.

A Faith for All Seasons by Ted Dorman. For those who may have difficulty with McGrath, this offers essentially the same kind of material on a non-academic level.

Turning Points by Mark Noll. Noll examines “decisive moments” in the history of the church. This is your best bet for a bird’s-eye view of Christian history.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dangerous Brew!

Coffee, which has been associated with all things Arabic, was actually banned from Arab countries in the 15oo’s. Mark Pendergrast reports this in Uncommon Grounds (p. 7):

The Grand Vizier Kuprili of Constantinople, for example, fearing sedition during a war, closed the city’s coffeehouses. Anyone caught drinking coffee was soundly cudgeled. Offenders found imbibing a second time were sewn into leather bags and thrown into the Bosphorus. Even so, many continued to drink coffee in secret, and eventually the ban was withdrawn.

Why did coffee drinking persist in the face of persecution in these early Arab societies? The addictive nature of caffeine provides one answer, of course; yet there is more to it. Coffee provided an intellectual stimulant, a pleasant way to feel increased energy without any apparent ill effects… Coffeehouses allowed people to get together for conversation, entertainment, and business, inspiring agreements, poetry, and irreverence in equal measure. So important did the brew become in Turkey that a lack of sufficient coffee provided grounds for a woman to seek a divorce.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Take Heed to Yourself

Take heed to yourselves, lest your example contradict your doctrine, and lest you lay such stumbling-blocks before the blind, as may be the occasion of their ruin; lest you unsay with your lives, what you say with your tongues; and be the greatest hinderers of the success of your own labours... This is the way to make men think that the Word of God is but an idle tale, and to make preaching seem no better than prating...It is a palpable error of some ministers, who make such a disproportion between their preaching and their living; who study hard to preach exactly, and study little or not at all to live exactly.

Richard Baxter (1615-1691), The Reformed Pastor, p.63-64

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Luther on Preaching

I hate to always be the last to find something good, but when I do, I must pass it on. Ray Ortland posted this Luther quote today.

The office of preaching is an arduous office, especially when it is like what Paul encountered here [in 2 Corinthians]. I have often said that, if I could come down with good conscience, I would rather be stretched upon a wheel or carry stones than preach one sermon. For anyone who is in this office will always be plagued; and therefore I have often said that the damned devil and not a good man should be a preacher. But we're stuck with it now.

John W. Doberstein, translator, Luther's Works, Volume 51: Sermons I, page 222.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Preparation for Preaching

Tony Reinke shares this post:

“I have a conviction that no sermon is ready for preaching, not ready for writing out, until we can express its theme in a short, pregnant sentence as clear as a crystal. I find the getting of that sentence is the hardest, the most exacting, and the most fruitful labour in my study. To compel oneself to fashion that sentence, to dismiss every word that is vague, ragged, ambiguous, to think oneself through to a form of words which defines the theme with scrupulous exactness—this is surely one of the most vital and essential factors in the making of a sermon: and I do not think any sermon ought to be preached or even written, until that sentence has emerged, clear and lucid as a cloudless moon.”

—J. H. Jowett, The Preacher: His Life and Work (Harper & Bros, 1912), p. 133.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Prayer for Assurance

O God, preserve me from delusion in a business of everlasting importance! Let me feel a thousand terrors rather than perish with a lie in my right hand. But if I am thine, save me now from the uncertainties I now feel. Give me the full assurance of hope unto the end. Let me know, not only that there are exceeding great and precious promises, but that I am an heir of promise; not only that in the Lord Jesus all fullness dwells, but that I am blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in him; and say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.
William Jay (1769-1853) in Morning Exercises for May 28

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Worship, OT Style

And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law…They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. Neh. 8:1-3; 8

In modern culture, we are so sensitive to the laws of learning. We realize that modern people have short attention spans, that they respond better visually, and that they retain information in which they participate as a learner. With this in mind, this passage in Nehemiah seems to us like a strange tongue. Can you imagine gathering together for about 6 hours straight listening to a reading of the Law of Moses (Genesis – Deuteronomy) with exposition? This would be considered today to be at best, dry, tedious, and boring; at worst down right torturous.

As foreign as this may seem to us, there are noteworthy features in this passage that certainly have relevance to modern hearers. First, observe who attended this gathering. Present were “men, women, and those who could understand.” This seems to imply that the people were gathered in families, including older children who could understand the proceedings. There is something Biblical to exposing children to the truth of Scripture, more than the basic “Bible story” fare with which we usually entertain them.

Secondly, note that the people were gathered out of doors. Granted they had no large auditorium to hold a mass of people, so their options were few. It strikes one as odd that today, with modern, attractive, and comfortable buildings it is difficult to get people to come unless there is some attraction. Who would still come if we met outside each Sunday?

Thirdly, they assembled to hear the Law expounded. This was the pure teaching of God’s Word. There was no Praise Team, offertory, power point, choir, etc., all those elements that many think are absolute essentials to worship. In fact, the result was closer to what we might call worship than anything most of us have experienced. The people “lifted their hands” (Neh. 8:6), shouted “Amen” (6), “worshipped” (6), and “wept” (9).

The modern church has done everything imaginable to manufacture genuine worship – from the Ladies’ Ensembles and Gospel Quartets of the 40’s and 50’s to modern contemporary Praise bands – yet we cannot make it happen. So what’s wrong with following an inspired example? Maybe we should give it a try.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

This is a post published last year on Memorial Day.

Since 1999, my view of Memorial Day has been profoundly different. That year, my wife and I spent the first 2 weeks of May in France visiting missionaries from our church who had returned for a station relief assignment. The highlight for my wife was the Louvre, Versailles, and Giverny, the home and studio of Claude Monet, her favorite artist. Of course, being the dutiful husband, I tried to feign interest, but after 25 years of marriage (at that time), her expectation level was low. I will admit to being impressed with Giverny. We could have spent more time there. The house and gardens were beautiful.

The highlight of the trip for me, however, was more personal. I was anxious to visit the American Cemetery at Normandy to see the place where an uncle I never knew is buried.

As I a child, I remember seeing his photo on the wall at my grandparent’s house. There were 4 pictures: my mother as a teenager, her youngest brother’s high school graduation picture, and her 2 older brothers in their army dress uniforms. Of course I knew 3 of them, but I remember asking about the 4th one who bore an uncanny resemblance to a younger version of my grandfather. The only answer I ever remember receiving was this: “That’s your uncle James. He died in the war.” When I asked why grandma was riding in the Gold Star Mothers car with several other older ladies during the “Decoration Day” parade, it was: “Uncle James died in the war.”

I confess that I was not very curious about the affair, maybe because around the kids it was not a topic of discussion. It was only as we planned the trip to France that I was determined to find out as much as I could. My aunt had learned that he was buried at St. Mere d’ Eglise, in a temporary cemetery. All else that they knew was that he died on June 10, 1944 – 4 days after the D Day invasion. In Caen, we were told by a missionary (Dan Lacy, a great guy, now with Lord) that the remains at all the temporary cemeteries were reburied at Normandy.

In the final analysis, we have learned no more about the circumstances of his death. I have questions that, 65 years later, will likely never be answered. How did he die? We heard a rumor that he was last seen driving a jeep (I wonder if this is borrowed from the Patton story. My grandparents loved George Patton). Did he survive the initial landing on Omaha Beach or did he come later after the beach was secured?

I can only imagine the pain that my grandparents felt when the black sedan pulled up in front of their house in tiny Mogadore, Ohio. This was not an uncommon occurrence during that time, and the whole town knew when those official-looking men showed up with the horrible news.

Today, there is only one member of that immediate family left, my uncle Ken, the youngest. Grandma & Grandpa, uncle Harold, and my mom are all gone. So far, I have been the only family member to visit the grave at Normandy. That visit was one of the most moving experiences of my life. It was made all the more poignant by a remark spoken by our friends; “Ron, your uncle gave his life so I could preach the gospel in France for 33 years.”

Uncle James was weeks shy of his 19th birthday. He lies besides hundreds of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for for a cause greater than himself.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I am becoming more convinced that the sins that plague me most are not the ones that are most observable. No, they are the ones that are hidden from view, but not from God. Particularly, I refer to idolatry.

It is not by accident that 1st of the 10 commandments begins with this prohibition: You shall make no other gods, no image or likeness of God (Ex. 20: 3-4). We are normally conditioned to think of idolatry as making images or statues of pagan deities and bowing and burning sacrifice to them. But heart idolatry is much more subtle.

American idolatry is rather obvious: sex, money, power, fame, influence, and such like. These are issues that drain spiritual vitality from Christians to lure us away from the priority of Christ. But there are also others. A failure to forgive others of wrongs against us is a form of idolatry. It says, in essence, “God may forgive you, but I won’t forgive you.” Does not this place us as one greater than God?

When Moses repeated the Law to the 2nd generation of Israel, he listed the commandments in chapter 5 (Deut. 5:1-21), and gave the corrective in chapter 6, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might.” (Deut. 6:5). How do I keep myself from idolatry? By loving God supremely! To love anything or anyone more than God – including myself or my family – is idolatry.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Shack Part 4

This will be the final post on this subject. I don’t want to be considered hyper-critical, but when we see error, it needs to be exposed. The error is rather subtle (though I do not see how anyone who knows the Bible even in part can fail to see it); Young woos the reader with a compelling story that keeps you reading. I will admit to this: he tells a good story.

Scripture claims that there are certainties that can be and should be known. For example, according to Heb. 11:1, faith is not some blind adventure, rather it is substance and evidence. John tells us that we may know the certainty of life with Christ (Jn. 20:31; 1 Jn. 5:13). One of my seminary professors gave this excellent definition of faith: “Faith is sufficient reason to believe.”

According to The Shack, certainty will get you nowhere. Indeed, it is the chief obstacle in the Christian life. To Mack (the main character) God says, “Faith does not grow in the house of certainty.” Sarayu, leads Mack to a garden that she has produced where Mack “unsuccessfully tries to find some order in this blatant disregard for certainty.”

This is postmodern thought at its best. The new intellectualism holds uncertainty in high esteem. To really know is to know nothing for sure. This is diametrically opposed to historic Christianity which is rooted in historical fact and propositional truth.

Young’s slavish devotion to political correctness is splattered throughout The Shack. Here is but one example:

“I’ve always wondered why men have been in charge,” Mack pondered. “Males seem to be the cause of so much of the pain in the world. They account for most crimes, and many of them are those perpetrated against women and” – he paused – “children.” To which Jesus replies: “The world would be a much calmer and gentler place if women ruled. There would have been far fewer children sacrificed to the gods of greed and power.”

The Shack’s outright heresies have been chronicled elsewhere (see Tim Challies reviews). I think this is enough said. I could rant, but it would be not be productive.

For all who have read The Shack and love it, I offer this counsel. Regardless of what William Young says in this work of fiction (remember, it is fiction), do not devalue the Word of God. If you, as an evangelical Christian, believe that Scripture is the inspired Word of God, then gather your knowledge of God, forgiveness, and eternity from the Bible, not from someone with a chip on his shoulder.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Shack Part 3

One of the disturbing features of The Shack is William Young’s attitude toward Scripture. Revealed Scripture apparently is too confining when it comes to the knowledge of the Holy. In fact, one has the impression that Young thinks that the Scriptures are untrustworthy. Note this observation from the narrator:

In seminary he had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring them only to listen and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted of course. God’s voice had been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while Westerners’ access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia.

I doubt that even those of a more charismatic persuasion would be comfortable with sidelining the Bible, as Young appears to do. History informs us that the heart of the Reformation was to take the Bible out of the hands of the “proper authorities” and place it into the hands of the plow boy and blacksmith.

Young does not completely disavow Scripture. He acknowledges that it may provide some information about God, but apparently religious people have gotten it all wrong. The Holy Spirit character, named Sarayu, says;

My ability to communicate is limitless, living and transforming, and will always be tuned to Papa’s (Young’s name for God) goodness and love. And you will hear me and see me in the Bible in fresh ways. Just don’t look for rules and principles; look for relationship – a way of coming to be with us.

Jesus tells us in John 16:13 that the Holy Spirit will not speak of Himself, but will exalt the Savior. And further:

The Bible doesn’t teach you to follow rules. It is a picture of Jesus.

While it the case that Christ is the theme of Scripture, it does not follow that with one stroke we can dismiss propositional truth. Are the Ten Commandments irrelevant? Can we ignore those “rules” and opt for the relationship with God that the rules are pointing to? I would love to see how this works if someone “stole” William Young’s ideas by plagiarizing his book and violating the copyright. I think that “Thou shalt not steal” may become amazingly relevant.

Why is The Shack so popular? Is it because it’s new, controversial, and heart warming? Let’s hope this is the reason. Let’s hope that it is not because those who profess to know God are tired of the Bible, of sound doctrine, of objective truth.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Shack Part 2

The Shack is promoted as a work “wrapped in creative brilliance…spiritually profound, theologically enlightening and life impacting.” Wow. This is quite an endorsement from a pastor. However, this is not cutting edge stuff. It is one of the most politically correct piles of postmodern scatology written in a long time.

William Young’s bias against religion and Christianity in particular, leaps out in the opening pages of The Shack. The father of the story’s main character is portrayed as an elder in the church, one with a good reputation in the congregation, but a closet drinker and a physically abusive hypocrite. Of course, we have all met people like this. Hypocrisy is rife within Christian circles. However, Young mentions this to set up his assault on traditional Christianity. Given his rearing in a missionary family, I wonder if this is partly autobiographical.

Theology takes a beating in The Shack – maybe because an understanding of theology would ruin an otherwise interesting story. Mack, the main character, was once in seminary until he “had his fill of theology and philosophy.” Later in the book, when Mack arrives at his life changing revelation about the true nature of God, he reflects upon the institutions that provided him with what he had previously believed, those institutions being the church and seminary. Of these, Jesus said, “It’s all false.” Mack then has an epiphany. He says, “I have been told so many lies.”

Postmodern themes of power and control abound in The Shack. All organized structures appear to exist to oppress and control. In one exchange, Mack is told by God that organized religion aka, the church is one of the “man –created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about” (the other 2 being politics and economics). Sounds a little like Marxist propaganda to me!

There is so much more in this book that should cause alarm. I will mention more as the days follow. My concern is how any Christian who knows Scripture can be taken in by such deception. More to follow.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Shack

Several people have asked me if I have read The Shack. I will admit to being a Johnny-come-lately in this. I tend to be contrary about a lot of things, especially when others are “ga-ga” about them. For example, I have yet to see the movie It’s a Wonderful Life even though it has been on television as frequently as any other holiday “classic.” A friend even bought the VHS tape for me some years back, trying to repair my cultural deficiencies. Alas, I still did not watch it. I am now going for a record; to be the only male of my generation in the United States to have never watched this movie (give me National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or A Christmas Story any day).

So, when everyone was abuzz over The Shack, my natural inclination was to leave it alone. Fads don’t intrigue me – I do not own a Prayer of Jabez mouse pad or a Purpose Driven Life coffee mug. But, I read recommendations from others that drew me into the book. One person – a graduate from a well-known Christian college – said, “The Shack taught me things about God I never knew before.” Another involved in a Christian ministry said, “Drop what you are doing now, and go out and buy The Shack. You will thank me for it later.” A dear lady in our church told me that she attended a funeral where there were copies of this book available for everyone, because it had so transformed the life of the deceased person.

Wow, how could I not read this book! Apparently my study of the Bible has not been sufficient! I have missed some life-transforming truths by narrowly focusing on God’s Word.

I will be at the Basic’s Conference this week, so posting will be sporadic (like I do this often in the first place). In future posts, I will give you my thoughts on The Shack. I know that you are waiting with bated breath.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Page versus Screen

This is a great segment from Tim Challies interview with Doug Groothuis about his book The Soul in Cyberspace:
A quote from your book: “The book, that stubbornly unelectric artifact of pure typography, possesses resources conducive to the flourishing of the soul. A thoughtful reading of the printed text orients one to a world of order, meaning, and the possibility of knowing truth.” Is there a way, then, in which the printed word is inherently superior to the digital word? What do we stand to lose as we transition to the digital word?

The printed word, as a unique medium, has strengths (and weaknesses) not shared by the digitized word. I appeal to McLuhan: “The medium is the message.” Or, to dilate a bit: each communications medium shapes its content distinctively and shapes the perceiver necessarily. For one thing, we lose a sense of history when we move from books to screens. Books can be old friends, both the content (which stays in our minds) and the artifacts themselves, which we treasure. For example, I would not part with my 1976 edition of Francis Schaeffer’s The God Who is There, which I read shortly after my conversion. It was that book, those ideas, that sparked my vision for Christian ministry. Moreover, I love the cover of that edition and enjoy looking over the many notations I put into the book through multiple readings. Having the same book in a digital form, while worthwhile in many ways (for example, I could capture text and put it on my blog!), would not be the same. Much would be lost.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Dred Scott's Revenge by Andrew Napolitano

For many in my generation (early Baby Boomers), Judge Napolitano’s book will slaughter a sacred cow or two. Dred Scott’s Revenge provides a history of racism in the United States. Had anyone else written this book, they would be accused of being a revisionist. However, coming from one such as the Judge makes this accusation difficult to maintain.

From our founding as a nation to recent days, racism has marked American culture. This comes as old news to black Americans, but to others, the roots of racism have long been hidden. Andrew Napolitano charts the course of this blight from our founding documents to civil rights legislation. On page 220, he summarizes the theme of his book; “Ever since July 4, 1776, the federal and local governments in the independent United States have aided in the treatment of black Americans as chattel property or as second class citizens.”

No political persuasion escapes responsibility for this. Our first Presidents were slave owners, Abraham Lincoln, author of the Emancipation Proclamation, favored emancipation as a means of preserving the Union, not because he believed in the inherent equality of all people. Both the right and the left are complicit in promoting racist policies. Concerning the criminal justice system, Napolitano says, “The right disbelieved in big government, yet helped create a prison system of unprecedented scope and size. The left opposed racially discriminatory punishment, yet reinforced and expanded the most racially skewed prison population in American history” (pages 222-223).

This books needs to be read by every American, regardless of political party. As has been commonly remarked, the only way to avoid making mistakes in the future is to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger Program

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Joy Erupts

See this great YouTube video. I love Dr. Ortland's analogy to the church. Would that we would demonstrate more of the joy of the Lord.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Gospel

Someone said that anything with D.A. Carson's name attached to it is worth reading. That holds true for this editorial from Themelios concerning the gospel. Thanks to Justin Taylor for putting us on to this.

Carson rightly reminds us of what actually constitutes the gospel. We tend to identify the results of the gospel with the gospel. I cannot count the number of times I have heard statements like, "He doesn't preach the gospel; he doesn't give an altar call."

Proclaiming the gospel is not the same as what may result from the proclamation of the gospel.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Quiet Time Performance

I was raised and educated in the toxic atmosphere of legalism. As such, this post by Tim Challies is really helpful. It's amazing how we can take something that is good and helpful and make it an instrument of bondage and guilt. I love this statement by Jerry Bridges: “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Soul Care

John Owen has a timely word for today's Christian culture that seems to place more value on how we feel than on what we know. The cultivation of the mind is an important part of soul care:

The principal charge and care of the soul lies on the mind; and if that fail of its duty, the whole is betrayed, either as unto its general frame or as unto particular miscarriages. The failing of the mind is like the failing of the watchman in Ezekiel; the whole is lost by his neglect.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

More Keller

It is only when you see the desire to be your own Savior and Lord - lying beneath both your sins and your moral goodness - that you are on the verge of understanding the gospel and becoming a Christian indeed. when you realize that the antidote to being bad is not just being good, you are on the brink. If you follow through, it will change everything: how you relate to God, self, others, the world, your work, your sins, your virtue. It's called the new birth because it's so radical. - Tim Keller, The Prodigal God, p. 78

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I Know People Like This...

If you have not grasped the gospel fully and deeply, you will return to being condescending, condemning, anxious, insecure, joyless, and angry all the time. Elder brothers have an undercurrent of anger toward life circumstances, hold grudges long and bitterly, look down at people of other races, religions, and lifestyles, experience life as a joyless, crushing drudgery, have little intimacy and joy in their prayer lives, and have a deep insecurity that makes them overly sensitive to criticism and rejection yet fierce and merciless in condemning others. What a terrible picture! - Tim Keller, The Prodigal God, 70-71.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Martin Downes posts an interview with Ligon Duncan. You can read it here. This paragraph is worth reproducing since we are faced with opposition by those who think they know our position, but do not. Christians are not always good at dealing with criticism. This is valuable advice:

Refuse to take the insults thrown back at you personally. You are a servant of the word. And if a servant, you must be prepared to be treated like a servant. The only thing that matters is the glory of God, the vindication of the word, the upholding of the truth, the faithful proclamation of the Gospel and the good of souls. Let them cast what aspersions they may. You only crave the affirmation of One.
Thanks to Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds for this link.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Hardest Working Man in Show Business

Ray Ortland calls this the greatest YouTube video of all time. He knows culture when he sees it. By the way, who would have thought that James Brown would have pre-dated some of the healimg crusades and had his own "catchers?"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

More Wells

Scripture cannot function authoritatively if the church is not willing to put itself under its authority and learn from it as God's sole authoritative guide for its belief and practice... And today we cannot claim we believe in the Bible's authority if we set it aside to build the church in our own way.

For evangelicals, this has taken the form of using polling, marketing, and business know-how to adapt Christian faith to generational niches. It has also involved recasting Christian faith in therapeutic terms for those who have left a moral world and now inhabit a psychological world.

David Wells, The Courage to be Protestant

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Stimulus Plan

David Wells in The Courage to be Protestant:

The central and simple message of the New Testament is that the promised age to come has dawned, the promised victory over what has emptied life of meaning and filled it with confusion and dismay has been won... Were it not for the resurrection, Paul suggests, abandoning ourselves to a life of empty party making and a fatalistic sense of doom would be quite logical. There is no hope in "this age." It lies under the judgement of God. It is all, despite its brilliance, now dying. It has no future. It can offer many pleasurable experiences, many momentary distractions, but it is doomed. It has no long term future and can offer no meaning besides what it manufactures for the moment, which is as fleeting as the morning mist. (p. 203).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Good Stuff

Ray Ortland provides these insights from the recent Acts29 boot camp. Read the original here.

1. A church should have a masculine ethos. 1 Corinthians 16:13 commands a whole church, "Act like men." There is cowardice, even effeminacy, in American churches today.
2. When you're doing the right thing, compromise is not leadership. It is capitulation.
3. All our problems arise from not connecting with the gospel. All our remedies are found in rediscovering and applying the gospel.
4. If you are not growing, you cannot lead others into growth. If you are growing and changing, you will be a force for renewal.
5. People in whom the Holy Spirit is at work love challenge; people in whom the Holy Spirit is not at work resent challenge.
6. We do not yet appear to be in the Third Great Awakening. If we were, the conversations at Harvard and CNN and the White House would be about Jesus. But renewal does seem to be growing in impact. I rejoice to see this in the Acts 29 Network and feel honored to be involved. If we will stay low before the Lord, I expect the blessing to grow and increase.

While you're at it, read this further word on#1 above.

The Shack, et. al.

A few weeks ago, our Pastor off-handedly mentioned The Shack in his morning sermon. If you are at all familiar with this book, you know that it has caused quite a stir in the evangelical world. Frankly, I am surprised by how many people I know who have read it have commented positively on it. The readers’ comments I have read range from, “It is pure heresy,” to “It taught me things about God I didn’t know.”

I have not read this book – yet. I probably need to so I can know what it is about first hand. I have, however, read reviews from evangelicals whose perspectives I respect, and their comments make me wonder why Christians are so taken with it.

So, with this in mind, I offer a few observations:

Remember that The Shack is a work of fiction. I recall Frank Peretti’s popular novel, This Present Darkness. Some people were holding “Bible studies” using this book claiming that it opened new venues of prayer. To his credit, Peretti himself discouraged this by reminding readers that it was just fiction. Some have done similar things with the Left Behind series. These books (rather than Scripture) have become the source for some people’s eschatology.

Remember that everything that God wants us to know about Himself has been given to us in Scripture. We are on dangerous ground if we rely upon the insight of others to provide new information about God. The penchant for “new revelation” is disturbing.

So, I return to a well-worn theme: the absolute necessity for Biblical literacy. It appears that with evangelicalism gaining popularity, Biblical precision has not necessarily been part of it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


One of the best books on the subject of personal godliness is Holiness by J.C. Ryle. Here are his divisions in his 2 chapters on sanctification.

  • Sanctification is the result of a vital union with Christ.
  • Sanctification is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration
  • Sanctification is the only certain evidence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
  • Sanctification is the only sure mark of God’s election
  • Sanctification is a thing that will always be seen.
  • Sanctification is a thing for which every believer is responsible.
  • Sanctification is that which admits of growth and degrees.
  • Sanctification is a thing which depends greatly on a diligent use of Scriptural means.
  • Sanctification does not prevent one from having a great deal of inward spiritual conflict.
  • Sanctification is a thing which cannot justify a man, yet it pleases God.
  • Sanctification is that which will be found absolutely necessary as a witness to our character in the great Day of Judgment.
  • Sanctification is absolutely necessary in order to train and prepare us for heaven.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Preaching and Pastoral Care

This article was emailed to me by a friend. It is taken from Modern Reformation magazine. I would give credit to the author if I had the source information. However, this is too good and too convicting not to share. This paragraph explores the important relationship between expository preaching and pastoral care. It is not the last word, but certainly gives food for thought.

Theological principles such as these must impact praxis at the deepest level, even right down to issues of how preachers structure their week and organize their priorities. To listen and to listen well takes time. A lot of time. This means that where preachers do not protect sermon preparation time with prosecuting zeal, the end result of the sermon will be the work of those who speak before they listen. The sermon will reveal the kind of people who think they know best before they've heard both sides of an argument-the text will be handled in ways that ignore its details and nuances and miss its structure or surprises. One of the clearest signs of a sermon not born out of sensitive listening is that the congregation actually gets more Bible, not less, as the preacher draws on a reservoir of knowledge to speak about the text, expanding it, but does not explain the text, expounding it. (It is said that Winston Churchill once remarked after a lengthy address that he hadn't had time to prepare a short talk.) It is conceivable that the preacher's approach to the sermon text will go hand in hand with the approach to other facets of the ministry. Where the sermons are under-prepared and ill-conceived, so too pastoral relationships will often be underdeveloped and stunted, because genuine listening as a moral imperative is not being adopted as intrinsic to the theological task. The minister will very likely be hurried and busy, an activist, and on the fast-track to becoming a church manager doing God's work rather than a preacher speaking God's Word.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Book Offer

WTSB's offer on Thursday - Get Outta My Face by Rick Horne - sold out in 12 hours. There were 1000 copies available at the 65% off price. However, if you still want it, it is available at their usual 30% off discount price.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Book Offer

If you work with teens in any capacity, Westminster Bookstore announces a great resource by Rick Horne. WTSB says this about the book:

Get Outta My Face: How to Reach Angry, Unmotivated Teens with Biblical Counsel is the most exciting and helpful book on that topic we've seen since Paul Tripp's Age of Opportunity. Author Rick Horne has years of experience turning around the lives of troubled teens with the gospel. We're so excited about this new resource, we're making it available at an introductory price of just $4.88. That's 65% off the list price! THIS PRICE IS ONLY GOOD UNTIL NOON EST JANUARY 24, 2009. At that time, the book will sell at our regular discount of 30% off.

Here's what Paul David Tripp has to say about it: "Rick Horne has invested in teens his whole life. He has learned that he is more like them than unlike them. From years of first hand experience, he knows how to talk with them and his is not afraid of the tough ones. What you will read here is the wisdom of a man who has experienced the courage and hope that transforming grace can give to you and that hard teenager God has chosen for you to be near. This book is a call to action with biblical perspectives and practical steps that God can use to change the teenager and you as well."

Dave Harvey, author of When Sinners Say "I Do" says: "Rick Horne knows teens the kind that won't talk and those that won't stop talking. If you have a teenager, you need this book. In fact, don't wait for the teen years! Arm yourself now with the timeless truths from this book that counsels moms and dads with gospel-hope for teenage trials."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Prayer for our President

Evangelicals were pleased with the choice and the words of Rick Warren yesterday as he gave the invocation for the inauguration (just a note: the day began with a church service, there was prayer at the beginning and the end of the ceremony. Let's not forget how unique that is). Dr. Al Mohler offers his own prayer on his blog. Read it here. Can you imagine had he been asked to give this prayer? This is a great pattern for Christians as we obey God's command to pray for our leaders.

How True, How True.

Ray Ortland posted this yesterday on his blog. Read "'One Anothers' I Can't Find in the New Testament."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Evangelism From a Different Perspective

I came across this clip the other day. This is a remarkable "testimony" from the other side of the fence. Penn poses a good question that I will paraphrase: "How much do you have to hate someone to not share the gospel?"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Counting the Cost

Tim Challies offers this preview of a new book by Michael Haykin The Christian Lover. The excerpt from Adoniram Judson shows the danger and dedication involved in early missions. What a challenge!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mohler, Hell, and Evangelicals

I refer you to Al Mohler's blog on "The American Experience and the Death of Evangelism." During a class in Romans, specifically Romans 1, one of the students - a good church member for more than 2 decades - could not believe that God would allow those who never heard the gospel to suffer in hell. "That's not the way I think God is," was his rationale.

Mohler has hit the nail on the head. Modern evangelicals (if that term still means anything, according David Wells in The Courage to Be Protestant) struggle with this concept as pluralism creeps ever closer into our churches.

Books, Part 4

The Ligonier Blog has a list of "Ten Significant Christian Publications." I am reading the book by Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant. I guess I am less than "with it." How many of these have you read?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Recommended Reading

I have recently finished Tim Keller's book The Reason for God. You will want to read this to challenge the way you present truth to doubters, sceptics and unbelievers in general.

On Books, Part 3

My previous postings on books were inspired by this article from the online edition of the WSJ. In this piece, Karl Rove mentions that he “out-read” President Bush in 2005 by 110-95 books. It made me feel like a real sluggard. I mean, President Bush – or any modern president for that matter – does not have a load of free time on his hands, yet he managed to read 95 books in one year. I know some people who have not yet read that many in their lifetimes!

Anyway, I was challenged to diligently improve my reading habits for this year. I am already making progress. I have committed to at least 3 “read this in a year” projects and I am making my way though several books that I have wanted to read.

This post about reading caught my attention. Anything that helps me read better and more productively is most welcome. I hope that this helps you as well.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bible for Dummies

Ray Ortland posts this list of 6 things that we can do to combat the Biblical illiteracy that runs through our churches. I especially appreciate the emphasis on reading the Bible in the worship service. Years ago, a friend mentioned to me that a certain church was "liberal" because they read the Bible publicly. This illustrates how foreign the public reading of Scripture is to many people in the church.

If we are, as we claim, people of the Word, why does it not hold a more prominent place in the worship of the church? Food for thought!

Friday, January 2, 2009

On Books, Part 2

It was once thought that the computer and the internet would make books obsolete. This prophecy has yet to be fulfilled. In truth, bookselling is big business. Yes, bookstores, especially smaller ones, face stiff competition – but not from cyberspace alone. Strong competition comes from big chain stores – Barnes & Nobles, Borders, Sam’s Club, and WalMart.

Perhaps it could be argued that the computer age has helped the sale of books, not hindered. Book reviews are more accessible than any time before. There is no need to consult specialized journals or publications – just surf the web.

There was a time when people were excited that they could download books on to their computers. I have a few of these, but nothing will replace the look, feel and smell of a real live book.

When I was last in one of the big chain bookstores, there was little indication that the store was on hard times. I hope this indicates that the bookstore will not soon vanish from the landscape.