Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Bonhoeffer on Advent

“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Word for Preachers...Carl Trueman on Christ-Cent(e)red Preaching

"Too often today churches with a high view of Scripture and of the preaching ministry actually tolerate sermons which, while being very faithful in a sense to the text, never mention Christ. Yet if the Reformers' claim that Christ is the centre of the Bible and that the whole Bible tells one story, that of God's grace in Christ, then no sermon worthy of the mane Christian can possibly omit speaking of Christ, wherever the chosen text may be taken from, Old or New Testament. God-centred sermons must by definition be Christ-centered sermons if they are to contain even a drop of grace."

Carl Trueman
Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Fun...Thanksgiving Dinner

I hope your Thanksgiving dinner was at least as enjoyable as the one depicted below...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Children in the life of the Church

"Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:13-14 ESV)

The other day, Kevin DeYoung had a post with a couple helpful suggestions on how to have a prayer service at your church. Of all the wise advice included, I was especially pleased to read what he had to say in regards to the inclusion of children:
Keep the kids. I know that keeping kids in the church service, let alone a prayer service, can be challenging. We do have a nursery for infants and toddlers on Sunday night. But one of the best things about our prayer service is that many children are present. They sit in the small group circles (when we break up into groups) and often contribute with the adults. I can’t tell you how pleased I am when one of my kids prays in our circle. I’m just as pleased that they are seeing prayer modeled by believers from outside their family and from every age group. They get to hear confessions, praises, and supplications just like everyone else. We are teaching our children to pray by having a prayer service. We are also demonstrating that prayer really matters.
Far too often we fail to include children in our church activity, either because we (like the disciples in Matthew 19) find them to be an unnecessary distraction, or perhaps because we feel they're not mature enough to understand what's going on anyway. Before we fall prey to this prevalent though faulty way of thinking, let us consider the words of R.C. Sproul Jr.:
"There is every reason to believe that little children do not have the capacity to believe the gospel. They lack that which is necessary. The good news, however, is that no person has the capacity to believe the gospel. Not one of us can believe on our own, not because we aren't smart enough, but because we aren't good enough. What stops the little children from believing is not an underdeveloped brain, but a wicked heart. But God is stronger than both underdeveloped brains and wicked hearts."
 For a couple other posts in this vein, click here and here.

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Keller on Idols and Guilt

"There is legitimate guilt that is removed through repentance and restitution, and then there is irremediable guilt. When people say, 'I know God forgives me, but I can't forgive myself,' they mean that they have failed an idol, whose approval is more important to them than God's."

Tim Keller
Counterfeit Gods

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Thought for Thanksgiving

I love family. I love turkey. And I love football. No doubt many of you share these attitudes, and as a consequence, you share my love for Thanksgiving.

It is my prayer though, that this Thanksgiving, I might focus more on the original intent of the holiday, and that perhaps you might as well. Please consider the statement below from President George Washington proclaiming a National Day of Thanksgiving.  May it enhance your celebration this week.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor...

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these United 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 then may all unite 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 in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed...

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable Us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and Concord, to promote the knowledge and practice of the true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd of October, A.D. 1789.
- - Go Washington.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Word for Preachers...E.M. Bounds on Unction

"This unction comes to the preacher not in the study but in the closet. It is heaven's distillation in answer to prayer. It is the sweetest exhalation of the Holy Spirit. It impregnates, suffuses, softens, percolates, cuts, and soothes. It carries the Word like dynamite, like salt, like sugar; makes the Word a soother, an arranger, a revealer, a searcher; makes the hearer a culprit or a saint, makes him weep like a child and live like a giant; opens his heart and his purse as gently, yet as strongly as the spring opens the leaves. This unction is not the gift of genius. It is not found in the halls of learning. No eloquence can woo it. No industry can win it. No prelatical hands can confer it. It is the gift of God -- the signet set to his own messengers. It is heaven's knighthood given to the chosen true and brave ones who have sought this anointed honor through many an hour of tearful, wrestling prayer."

E.M. Bounds
Power Through Prayer

Behold the Lamb of God

Once again this December, Andrew Peterson (along with Ben Shive, Andy Gullahorn, Jill Phillips, Andrew Osenga, Jason Gray, Gabe Scott, Todd Bragg, Paul Eckberg, Claire Indie, and Cason Cooley) will be hitting the road for the Behold the Lamb of God tour.

I've never seen the show, but the album Behold the Lamb of God is a favorite of mine year 'round, not just at Christmas!  If you can make it to any of the following shows, I highly recommend it.  Click here and here to access some previous posts that include music from the show.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Weekly Words of Wisdom...Calvin on Prayer

"We may conclude...that no prayers are lawful or rightly composed unless they consist of these two members: First, all who approach God ought to cast themselves down before him, and to acknowledge themselves deserving of a thousand deaths; next, to enable them to emerge from the abyss of despair, and to raise themselves to the hope of pardon, they should call upon God without fear or doubt, and with firm and stable confidence. This reliance upon God can have no other support than the nature of God himself, and to this he has borne ample testimony."

John Calvin
Commentaries on The Prophet Daniel, Volume 2

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Word for Preachers...John Owen on the Principal Duty of Pastors

"The first and principal duty of a pastor is to feed the flock by diligent preaching of the Word...This feeding is of the essence of the office of a pastor, as unto the exercise of it, so that he who doth not, or can not, or will not, feed the flock is no pastor whatever outward call or work he may have in the church."

John Owen, Works, vol. 16

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What Scandals Can Teach A Christian Sports Fan

A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting author Ted Kluck.  Since then, I've enjoyed getting to know him.  Ted and I share many interests, not the least of which are sports, theology and the relationship between the two.  The author of The Reason for Sports: A Christian Fainfesto, Ted has written in many different genres that I've enjoyed, but I think it is when he is writing on this area that I most appreciate his talents.

If you (like Ted and me) are a sports fan, no doubt you have heard of the scandal that is currently rocking the world of college football.  If you are unaware of the details, simply consider yourself fortunate. Regardless though, check out this piece Ted wrote related to the scandal, dealing specifically with the topic of our attitude toward sports as Christians.

In it he states,
I’m reminded of something that we say a lot but I think rarely internalize and actually live: The idea that nothing good is possible apart from Christ. As proud and hopeful as Penn State football made us feel over the years, this story is an occasion to be reminded that Christ is our only comfort, and our only source of joy. It’s a chance to be reminded that God gives football and God, sometimes, in his sovereignty, takes it away.
And I think it’s an occasion to question our own tendency toward hero-worship. If we say that we worship the author and perfector of our faith, why then do we have an almost insatiable and semi-embarrassing drive to create heroes in other walks of life?
Click here to read the whole post.

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Trueman on Personal Religious Experience

“(I)t seems to me to be theologically significant that we often know very little of the detailed religious experiences of the great Reformers. This is not, of course, because they did not have such experiences; it is simply because they seem implicitly to have regarded these experiences as not germane to their public role as church leaders. At the end of the day, the gospel is believed because God – because God – so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, and so on. The power and persuasiveness of the gospel lies in the fact that God acted in history to save humanity in and through his Son, Jesus Christ. The experience of this salvation by individual people and by whole churches is a source for rejoicing but should never be allowed to eclipse the emphasis on the great saving acts of God’s redemptive history. The gospel is the story of what God has done for sinners in Christ; it is not first and foremost the experience of God by any particular individual; and, if testimonies are to be given in a useful way, they must reflect this fact.”

Carl Trueman
Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Word for Preachers...Eric Alexander on Preaching and Shepherding

"It is by faithful ministry of the Word of God that true pastoral care comes. We are to pastor biblically and to preach pastorally. It is significant that the apostle Paul describes himself in various roles in that one ministry: he is not only a herald of the gospel, and a custodian of the truth, and an expositor of Scripture; he is also a father to his children, a travailing mother who goes through the pain of bearing them, and a gentle nursemaid who learns loving patience with them. All of these things ought to be visible in a truly biblical preaching ministry, because it is from Scripture that the pastoral model comes. This of course is just to say that we can never be detached from the people to whom we are ministering. A lecturer may be, but a preacher never can be."

Eric Alexander
What is Biblical Preaching?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Fun...Palindrome Day

Wednesday was a special day on the calendar because of its palindromic nature. That is to say, read forward or backward, the date (11/02/2011) was the same. In honor of that fact, I posted the following video on Facebook. The song, by "Weird Al" Yankovic is titled "Bob," in tribute (and palindromically so!) to Bob Dylan, whose video for Subterranean Homesick Blues served as the inspiration and pattern for this one.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How Sermons Work

Recently I got David Murray's book, How Sermons Work. I'm not all the way through it yet, but what I've read so far, I've really liked. Understanding how sermons are put together is something that can be quite helpful for hearers of sermons as well as those who deliver them, and Murray has written this book with the exact point in mind.

Below is a quick video that very creatively gives a preview of How Sermons Work.

How Sermons Work from HeadHeartHand Media on Vimeo.

(HT: Challies)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wednesdays Words of Wisdom...Keller on the Uniqueness of Christianity

"The essence of other religions is advice; Christianity is essentially news. Other religions say, 'This is what you have to do in order to connect to God forever; this is how you have to live in order to earn your way to God.' But the gospel says, 'This is what has been done in history. This is how Jesus lived and died to earn the way to God for you.' Christianity is completely different. It's joyful news."

Tim Keller
King's Cross

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

8th Annual Mid-Michigan Conference on Reformed Theology

This weekend, in honor of Reformation Sunday, our church hosted the 8th annual Mid-Michigan Conference on Reformed Theology.  Our speakers were five pastors from throughout the region and this year's conference dealt with the Reformed doctrines of the TULIP:
  • Total Depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perseverance of the Saints
I'm pleased to let you know that the conference was a rousing success.  Click here to listen to any of the messages from the conference, and please send me an email ( if you would like to receive information about future conferences.