Monday, October 31, 2011

A Word for Preachers...Matthew Simpson on the Uniqueness of Preaching

"(The preacher's) throne is the pulpit; he stands in Christ's stead; his message is the word of God; around him are immortal souls; the Saviour, unseen, is beside him; the Holy Spirit broods over the congregation; angels gaze upon the scene, and heaven and hell await the issue. What associations, and what a vast responsibility!"

Matthew Simpson

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Fun: Tim Hawkins on Halloween Candy

I posted this last year the weekend of Halloween and thought it might be appropriate to do so again.  In the video below, Tim Hawkins shares his thoughts on bad candy.  As I mentioned last year, please people, no matter what your thoughts are regarding Halloween, don't be the house that gives out the lame stuff.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

You're Invited!

If you're in Michigan and are looking for a great way to spend your day this Saturday, let me invite you to consider attending the Mid-Michigan Conference on Reformed Theology.  This is the eighth year our church has hosted the conference, and our focus this year will be on the Reformed doctrines of the TULIP:
  • Total Depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perseverance of the Saints
Our speakers will be pastors from various churches throughout the region, and we anticipate a wonderful time of learning and fellowship as we gather together.  Click here to see a bulletin, and feel free to sign up at the door.  We hope to see you there!

A Song for Reformation Sunday

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my friend and fellow-pastor, Zac Hicks, recently released the album Without His Aid with the worship team at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church outside of Denver.  Once again I highly recommend it.

Zac points out at his blog that the first song on the album is especially suitable for Reformation Sunday, which is coming up this weekend. It is entitled Sola and focuses on "the five solas" of the Reformation: 
  • Sola fide – faith alone
  • Sola gratia – grace alone
  • Solus Christus – Christ alone
  • Sola scriptura – Scripture alone
  • Soli Deo gloria - to God alone be the glory
Check it out below and click here to learn more about the album or, even better, to purchase it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Churches and Haunted Houses

The other day, I saw a sign advertising "a live, multimedia, theatrical performance that will scare the 'Hell' out of you."  It wasn't your run-of-the-mill Halloween haunted house, it was actually a production put on by a local church, no doubt with the best of evangelistic intentions.

Though certainly not my cup of tea, my purpose here is not to out-and-out condemn this type of practice.  I would recommend though that before any church hosts such an event, they at least consider Russell Moore's thoughts as to why this type of outreach often misses the mark:
1. They’re not scary enough.
2. They assume people’s problem is that they don’t know about judgment.
3. They abstract judgment from the love of God. 
4. They abstract judgment from the glory of God. 
5. It’s hard to cry at a Judgment House. 
6. The Holy Spirit doesn’t usually like to work that way. 
7. They’re easier to pull off than talking to people.
Click here to read his entire post, in which he fleshes out each of the points.

Wednesdays Words of Wisdom...Pascal on Original Sin

"It is, however, astonishing that the mystery most distant from our knowledge, that of the transmission of sin, should be a thing without which we can have no knowledge of ourselves. For without doubt there is nothing more shocking to our reason that to say that the sin of the first man has made culpable those who, being so remote from this source, seem incapable of participating in it. This transmission not only seems impossible to us, it even appears very unjust...Certainly nothing shocks us more harshly than this doctrine. And yet without this most incomprehensible of mysteries, we are incomprehensible to ourselves. The knot of our condition takes its twists and turns in this abyss, so that man is more unintelligible without this mystery than this mystery is unintelligible to man."

Blaise Pascal 

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Word for Preachers...Chapell on the Motivating Power of the Cross

"The old preaching imperative, 'make much of the blood,' reflects great wisdom about human motivation. The cross stimulates love for God, the resurrection zeal for his purposes, and the second coming perseverance in his cause. All are necessary, but God's mercy toward the undeserving -- as it unfolds through Scripture and culminates in the cross -- is still the message that programs the heart to receive and employ all other truths of the gospel."

Bryan Chapell
Christ-Centered Worship

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Be Thou My Vision

Zach Nielsen's blog, Take Your Vitamin Z, is near the top of the list of blogs I check almost daily. In addition to being a blogger and a pastor, Zach is also a very talented musician. Yesterday he posted the video below of the hymn Be Thou My Vision. I really enjoyed it, so I thought I'd pass it along.

Wednesdays Words of Wisdom...Carl Trueman on the Reformers

"(W)e must remember first and foremost that, if the Reformation is a significant moment in church history, and if the Reformers are significant theologians for us today, it is only to the extent that they represent faithful attempts to place God in Christ at the centre. It is beyond dispute that many Reformers were brave men; that they attacked many manifest theological, ecclesiastical and moral abuses; and that some of them died terrible deaths for their beliefs. Yet none of these things, either individually or taken together, means that they have anything to teach us today. Many non-Christians have been brave; many have achieved wonderful things; many have spoken out against abuses; and many have died heroic and steadfast deaths for their beliefs. But, as the old saying goes, a good death does not sanctify a bad cause. Moreover, none of the other actions listed makes any individual of perennial relevance to the church. It is only to the extent that they brought God and Christ to bear upon the church of their day that the Reformers have any ongoing relevance for us today."

Carl Trueman
Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Word for Preachers...R.L. Dabney on the Preacher's Character

"The doctrines we preach are naturally distasteful to the heart of man, and foolishness to his understanding. We are required to spend a life in the iteration of the same truths, until all the charm of novelty is gone. The most brilliant mind would fail to retain the attention of a charge, during a whole ministry, by the mere force of mental interest: the attractions of love and confidence must be added. Without a sacred weight of character, the most splendid rhetoric will only win a short-lived applause; with it, the plainest scriptural instructions are eloquent to win souls.  Eloquence may dazzle and please; holiness of life convinces."

R.L. Dabney
Sacred Rhetoric: A Course of Lectures on Preaching

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Fun: Things We Say Wrong(ly?)

I may have shared this one before, but when I looked back at my blog history, I couldn't find it. My apologies if you've seen it already.

(HT: Kevin DeYoung)

The Underestimated Gospel

Mark Dever and Matt Chandler discuss how the Gospel is often underestimated.

How is the gospel underestimated today? - Mark Dever from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian

Last month, Crossway Publishing released John Piper's most recent book, Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian. Below is a related video documentary featuring Piper as he discusses his personal history of growing up in the segregated South. In it we clearly see the transforming power of the gospel and the beauty of racial diversity and harmony in Christ.

It's a little longer than most videos I post, but please take the time to watch it. I promise, it will be 17 or 18 minutes very well spent.

Bloodlines Documentary with John Piper from Crossway on Vimeo.

West Cannon Pastors' Conference Audio

Each September, West Cannon Baptist Church near Grand Rapids hosts a wonderful pastors' conference.  This year's speakers were Stephen Lawson, Joel Beeke and James Grier, and the theme of the conference was Don't Lose Heart.

Though I was unable to attend the event, I was pleased to see that they have made audio of the messages available online.  Join me in checking it out, and mark your calendars for September 24-25 of 2012, as next year's speakers will be Michael Horton and Kevin DeYoung.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kevin DeYoung on Heroes and Celebrities

Kevin DeYoung had an interesting post this morning comparing heroes with celebrities.  Among the contrasts he noted were the following:
  • Heroes are admired for bravery, nobility, honor, and character. Celebrities are admired for beauty and talent.
  • Heroes serve others with or without being noticed. Celebrities perform to be seen by others.
  • Heroes admit their faults. Celebrities flaunt their talents.
  • Heroes deflect praise. Celebrities crave it.
  • Heroes edify. Celebrities entertain.
Click here to read the entire post.  And in both who we seek to be as well as in who interests us, may heroism be the focus and not celebrity.

Wednesdays Words of Wisdom...Edwards on the Glorious Perfections of God

"It seems to be a thing in itself fit and desirable, that the glorious perfections of God should be known, and the operations and expressions of them seen by other beings besides himself...(and) 'tis a thing infinitely good in itself that God's glory should be known by a glorious society of created beings."

Jonathan Edwards
The End for Which God Created the World

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Faith Reviving by Augustus Toplady

Recently I came across the words to the hymn Faith Reviving by Augustus Toplady, who also more famously penned Rock of Ages.  I have no idea to what tune it Faith Reviving is sung, but I was struck by the poignancy of the great message of Christ's atonement for his Church.  What comfort we who are in Christ find in the fact that he not only died to make our salvation possible, but to make it sure!

From whence this fear and unbelief?
Hath not the Father put to grief
     His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
     Which, Lord, was charged on thee?

Complete atonement thou hast made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
     Whate’er thy people owed;
How then can wrath on me take place
If sheltered in thy righteousness,
     And sprinkled with thy blood?

If thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
     The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God cannot twice demand—
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
     And then again at mine.

Turn then, my soul, unto thy rest!
The merits of thy great High Priest
     Have bought thy liberty;
Trust in his efficacious blood,
Nor fear thy banishment from God,
     Since Jesus died for thee.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Word for Preachers...William Still on the Spirit's Work in Preaching

"There is of course, only one Teacher, the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:16, 17, 26; 6:7-15). And if the Holy Spirit is not in our hearts, in our life and in all our teaching of the Word of God (and He will not be if our characters are not being moulded according to the moral and spiritual pattern of the Word), then we had better not open our mouths. For there is nothing so boring, so stale, flat and unprofitable as holy things retailed in the absence of the Spirit."

William Still
The Work of the Pastor

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Fun...Rally Squirrel

Those who know me know that I am a big fan of baseball in general and of the St. Louis Cardinals in particular.  Tonight the Cardinals play a fifth and deciding game in their best of five playoff series with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Cardinal fans are excited about the game, but they're also excited about a furry visitor to Busch Stadium this week.  In each of the last two games, a squirrel has interrupted action, making mad dashes across the field, much to the delight of the fans.

In St. Louis he's been dubbed "The Rally Squirrel" and he is being seen among fans as somewhat of an unofficial mascot.  The fun has been portrayed in song below by Randy Mayfield, one of the pastors at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wednesdays Words of Wisdom...Pascal on the Unique Sufficiency of God

"There once was in man a true happiness of which now remain to him only the mark and empty trace, which he in vain tries to fill from all his surroundings, seeking from things absent the help he does not obtain in things present.  But these are all inadequate, because the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and imutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself."

Blaise Pascal, Pensées

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Lamentations: A Tough Book to Handle

Recently in my personal devotions, I have been reading through the book of Lamentations.  In light of this fact, I found it providentially beneficial the other day when I came across a great post by fellow pastor, Erik Raymond entitled, Can Your Theology Handle the Book of Lamentations?  In it he deals with the fact that the way God is often portrayed in this book (as a God of righteous judgment and wrath) might not fit snugly into our preconceived notions of God.
Can your theology handle this book? Or, are you more comfortable ignoring these dark periods in the Bible? Are you more comfortable giving God an extreme makeover so that he is nicer and more palatable?

Lamentations forces those of us who affirm the authority and inerrancy of the Bible to come to grips with a God who gets really angry at sin and then shows it in judgment. This is who he is throughout the Bible, not just in Lamentations.
This is good news for us, because when we honestly assess our situations, we are forced to come to the conclusion that our sin is every bit as heinous as that for which Israel was judged.  And just as their was grace available to Israel as a result of God's steadfast love and covenantal faithfulness to his people, so to it is available to us in the gospel.
In the gospel, through the work of Christ, we have Lamentations come into full view.
  • We understand that God is a judging God—for he has judged his own son for our sins.
  • We understand that we are sinners—God has crushed his own son in our place so that justice might be paid.
  • We understand that grace is abundant—God has acted upon his promises of forgiveness by lavishing his people in grace.
What beautiful truths and what a beautiful framing of the book of Lamentations.  Click here to read Erik's entire post.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Word for Preachers...Leonard Ravenhill on the Preacher's Calling

"Nothing makes for a preacher’s effectiveness more than a true conception of his calling. He is a messenger. That which he speaks is not his own. He is not at liberty to criticize, modify, or tamper with that which is entrusted to him; neither has he any right to withhold it from any person to whom it is sent. But he is neither a postman nor a phonograph. He delivers an open message which he has received from God for men. His first business is to wait for his message, and his next is to see that it is faithfully delivered."

Leonard Ravenhill