Monday, January 30, 2012

Philadelphia Conference...The Gospel: What? Why? How?

Each year the Alliance for Confessing Evangelicals hosts the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology in multiple locations. This year the conference will be held March 23-25 in Grand Rapids and April 20-22 in Philadelphia, and it promises to be a wonderful time of instruction and fellowship.

The theme of the conference is The Gospel: What? Why? How? and speakers will include Sinclair Ferguson, Richard Phillips, Ligon Duncan and others. You can click here to register for the Grand Rapids event, or can click here to register for Philadelphia.

Below is the schedule for this year's conferences:


8:00 a.m. Pre-Conference Registration
9:15 a.m. Devotional: A Minister of the Gospel Eph. 3:7-9, Richard Phillips
9:45 a.m. The Necessity of Gospel Preaching – Romans 10:13-17, Harry Reeder
10:45 a.m. Coffee Break
11:00 a.m. The Profile of Gospel Preaching – I Cor. 2: 1-5, Harry Reeder
12:00 p.m. Lunch (at local restaurants)
1:30 p.m. The Man, The Message & The Method of Gospel Preaching – II Tim 2:14-4:8, Harry Reeder
2:30 p.m. Question & Answer: Harry Reeder and Richard Phillips
3:15 p.m. End of Pre-Conference

7:00 pm The Gospel of Great Joy - Luke 2:10-12, Sinclair Ferguson


8:00 a.m. Late Registration
9:00 a.m. The Gospel Remedy for Bad News – Romans 3:21-26, Harry Reeder
10:00 a.m. The Gospel Power of God – Romans 1:16, Sinclair Ferguson
11:00 a.m. Question and Answer Session
12:00 p.m. Lunch (at local restaurants)
2:00 p.m. The Gospel Preaching of the Cross – 1 Corinthians 1:17, Ligon Duncan
3:15-4:30 p.m. Seminars - Please choose one
  1. The Gospel in the Contemporary Evangelical Churches, Ligon Duncan
  2. A Gospel Reformation: Then and Now, Robert Godfrey (MI)
  3. Getting the Gospel Out, Liam Goligher (PA)
  4. The Full Gospel: Justification and Sanctification, Richard Phillips
4:30 p.m. Dinner (at local restaurants)
6:30 p.m. Sacred Concert
7:00 p.m. The Gospel Message of Christ – Mark 1:14-15, Robert Godfrey (MI); Liam Goligher (PA)


AM Worship - The Gospel Ministry of Reconciliation – 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Ligon Duncan

A Word for Preachers...Lloyd-Jones on the Need for Preaching

"Is there any need of preaching? Is there any place for preaching in the modern Church and in the modern world, or has preaching become quite outmoded? The very fact that one has to pose such a question, and to consider it, is, it seems to me, the most illuminating commentary on the state of the Church at the present time. I feel that that is the chief explanation of the present more or less parlous condition and ineffectiveness of the Christian Church in the world today."

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Preachers & Preaching

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Double Dose of Twin Tales

We have a woman in our church with a granddaughter expecting twins. I heard about her situation a week or two ago as it was passed through our prayer chain. I won't go into all the details, but even though she was not quite six months along, she had to be admitted to the hospital and it looked like she was going to be there until her babies were born.

The "good" news is that the doctors were quite certain that this would not be the full three months until her due date; the twins would almost certainly be significantly premature. Yesterday, we received word that the babies were born, three months early. And though one was two pounds and the other one and a half, both are relatively healthy and actually breathing on their own. As the father of a child who was born six weeks early and spent time in the neonatal ICU, I am amazed that this is even possible.

I also have a friend named Ryan Anderson with whom I went to seminary and used to attend church.  His wife, Laura, is likewise pregnant with twins. Just over a week ago, they were diagnosed with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome, which (long story, short) caused one baby to be much larger than it should be and the other to be much smaller.

Due to the severity of their case, the doctors recommended the most aggressive treatment option available: laser ablation surgery, which severs the arteries between the babies and allows them to develop independently. Such surgery is risky, potentially causing problems as severe as the immediate death of the babies. Without the surgery though, it was highly unlikely that they would survive until birth.

They had the surgery yesterday and I was joyously encouraged as I read a post at the Andersons' blog from Ryan, chronicling the day's events. He wrote,
As I type, Laura is trying to get some Z's. She's chilling out as some drugs wear off. She went into surgery at about 10am and came out close to 11:30. Dr. Moise came out and talked to me afterwards and gave nothing but a fantastic report. He said (I'm paraphrasing), "Everything went great. She's (Laura) doing well and we've got good heartbeats out of the girls (twins)." In my mind, I'm thanks to God for His steadfast love and mercy. I asked Dr. Moise, "Are you a hugger?" and he replied, "Yes." So, with my body, I wrapped my arms around the head and neck of the man who just promoted life as best as he could. And then I began to weep.
 He went on...
In short, Laura is doing great and so are the twins. We've got other hurdles to cross (when we get to them), but for now, we can exhale. God is (and always has been) kind. Our circumstances do not change His character; in fact, I've realized that I'm only able to make sense of my circumstances in light of His character.
Please join me in thanking God for his goodness. As Ryan points out, this goodness is not dependent upon what happened yesterday, rather his unchanging goodness was made apparent in these two situations. And please join me in praying for all four of these babies, that their continued development might further manifest the goodness of God.

Friday Fun...Sleight of Hand

I enjoy illusionists and have seen a lot of them. This guy is really good.

(HT: Challies)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Receiving the Kingdom Like a Child

Last night at dinner I was sharing with my family an idea I had for a sermon from Joshua 2 and the story of Rahab and the spies. I know, don't you wish you could have dinner at our house?

Anyway, I was making the point that in order to believe what God has done, we must first hear about it. But simply hearing about it is not enough; many hear the message of God's mighty works and still refuse to believe. This calls into question why some believe and others do not.

I went on to share with my family my thoughts on the matter. It seems to me that if some hearers believe, while there are others who do not, there are really only three explanations. I put the three options in the first person for purposes of illustration:
  1. I am smarter than all those non-believers, and as a result was able to figure out what they had not figured out.
  2. I am better than all those non-believers, and therefore did not have my judgment clouded by sin the way they did.
  3. By his grace and for his own purposes, God chose to work savingly in me in a way that he did not work in non-believers.
As the third option was still rolling off my tongue, my seven year old daughter blurted out, "I'll take the last one!" Yes, indeed, my daughter knows me well: I am neither smarter nor better than most people. But more importantly than knowing the nature of her earthly father, I am thankful that she also knows the nature of her heavenly one!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

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

"We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.

"What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give."

Tim Keller
Counterfeit Gods

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Word for Preachers...Spurgeon on the Road to Christ

"Don't you know young man that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London? ... (A)nd so from every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ. And my dear brother, your business is when you get to a text, to say, 'Now what is the road to Christ?' and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis - Christ. I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it, I will make one; I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savor of Christ in it."

Charles Spurgeon
Lectures to My Students

Friday, January 20, 2012

Seminary Doesn't Need to Kill Your Faith

The other day I saw a blog post from Carl Trueman lamenting the fact that seminaries don’t really do a good job of teaching students to preach.  And then I saw over at the Desiring God blog, that they just started a new series entitled How to Stay Christian in Seminary, focusing on the fact that in the midst of theological study, seminarians often see their faith lose much of its vitality, becoming almost purely academic in nature.

It seems that our seminaries are failing to do the very things they are supposed to focus on. I have heard stories about this from other pastors. The old joke is that there’s a reason “seminary” and “cemetery” sound so much alike. But I am thankful to be able to tell you that my experience at Covenant Theological Seminary couldn’t have been more different.

I say this not as a matter of pride. I am fully confident that I had very little (if anything) to do with it. Rather, it was primarily due to the grace of God, and in large part a result of the seminary I attended. I have not been a student at any other seminaries, but from the stories I’ve heard, I am left to assume that Covenant is exceptional.

I studied the language of Hebrew from a professor who made the classes seem devotional in nature. I was blessed to take a number of classes from (and do an independent study with) a man who I am quite certain is the most Christ-like individual I’ve ever known. I learned about preaching under the man who literally wrote the book on Christ-Centered Preaching. I could go on an on.

Grace is not just something that is taught academically at Covenant, it is the water in which you swim as a student there. And being constantly surrounded by others who were longing to grow and learn and serve God with their lives was an absolute joy. My only regret was that I didn’t get to spend more time there.

I’m sure there are people who struggle to see their faith grow while at seminary. Some of them may even be at Covenant. But if, on the other hand, their time at seminary is anything like mine was, they will look back on their experience 5-10 years later thanking God for the seeds he sewed in their heart during this period, for the influences there that helped shape the rest of their life, and for the sweet foretaste of heaven that they were blessed to receive.

Valley of Vision: A Christian's Prayer

Blessed God,
Ten thousand snares are mine without and within,
   defend thou me;
When sloth and indolence seize me,
   give me views of heaven;
When sinners entice me,
   give me disrelish of their ways;
When sensual pleasures tempt me,
   purify and refine me;
When I desire worldly possessions,
   help me to be rich toward thee;
When the vanities of the world ensnare me,
   let me not plunge into new guilt and ruin.
May I remember the dignity of my spiritual release,
   never be too busy to attend to my soul,
   never be so engrossed with time
   that I neglect the things of eternity;
   thus may I not only live, but grow towards thee.
Form my mind to right notions of religion,
   that I may not judge of grace by wrong conceptions,
   nor measure my spiritual advances
   by the efforts of my natural being.
May I seek after an increase of divine love to thee,
   after unreserved resignation to thy will,
   after extensive benevolence to my fellow creatures,
   after patience and fortitude of soul,
   after a heavenly disposition
   after a concern that I may please thee in public and private.
Draw on my soul the lineaments of Christ,
   in every trace and feature of which thou wilt
   take delight, for I am thy workmanship,
   created in Christ Jesus,
   thy letter written with the Holy Spirit’s pen,
   thy tilled soil ready for the sowing, then harvest.

From Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

Friday Fun...Brian Regan and Lost Balloons

Sometimes we parents forget what it's like to be a kid...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Parenting By God's Promises: Raising Children in the Covenant of Grace

Check out the promotional video below for the book Parenting by God's Promises: How to Raise Children in the Covenant of Grace by Joel Beeke. It looks to be a wonderful offering on the subject. I especially want to draw your attention to the 30 seconds between 1:47 and 2:17 in which Beeke quite succinctly states the basic idea behind gospel-centered parenting.

Parenting By God's Promises - Joel Beeke from Ligonier on Vimeo.

Matt Chandler: God is for God

Recently Matt Chandler preached at Elevation Church in North Carolina. If you've heard about it, likely it was due to some mild controversy that followed. Having listened to the sermon, I frankly am not exactly sure what the source of the controversy was. What I am sure of is this: This is a fantastic, Christ-exalting sermon that you will blessed to listen to.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Calvin on Mystery and Revelation

"And let us not take it into our heads either to seek out God anywhere else than in his Sacred Word, or to think anything about him that is not prompted by his Word, or to speak anything that is not taken from that Word. But if some distinction does exist in the one divinity of Father, Son, and Spirit-something hard to grasp-and occasions to certain minds more difficulty and trouble than is expedient, let it be remembered that men's minds, when they indulge their curiosity, enter into a labyrinth. And so let them yield themselves to be ruled by the heavenly oracles, even though they may fail to capture the height of the mystery."

John Calvin
Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Stained Glass Windows

Check out the video below and experience the story behind Stained Glass Windows, the most recent single from The Daniel Doss Band. It's a story about how God creates beauty out of our shattered dreams, and a reminder that his plans are far greater than our own.

The lyrics to the song are at the bottom of this post and you can click here to purchase the MP3.

“Stained Glass Windows” by Daniel Doss
Last week I walked on water
Today I’m sinking low
Can your hand reach down to me and pull me up once more
The dreams I had are shattered, scattered on the floor
The last time you picked up the pieces helped me dream some more

Cause we're making stained glass windows
Every piece a different shade
Broken and then put together like a big mistake
But when the light shines through the colors form a tapestry
A hundred different images of how you keep loving me

Each moment you are with me
Each word I hear you say
Help me understand and trust in your higher ways
The road that goes through valleys help me cling to you
And when we find a mountain top we’ll dance the whole day through

Cause we're making stained glass windows
Every piece a different shade
Broken and then put together like a big mistake
But when the light shines through the colors form a tapestry
A hundred different images of how you keep loving me

I don’t know why, I don’t know why
You keep loving me
Yeah, yeah

Broken and then put together
We're making stained glass windows
Every piece a different shade
Broken and then put together like a big mistake
Oh and when the light shines through the colors form a tapestry
A hundred different images of how

And when the light shines through the colors form a tapestry
A hundred different images of how you keep loving me

(HT: Vitamin Z)

Worship Conference: Magnify 2012

If you are in Michigan, I wanted to let you know about what looks like it will be a great conference next month.  Magnify 2012 is coming up on February 10-11 in East Lansing, and will feature Bob Kauflin, Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Pastors, worship leaders, and church members will all benefit from this conference, which is for all those who want to grow in biblical understanding and in a theologically-grounded experience of worship. The conference is very reasonably priced ($20 in advance, $25 at the door) and is being held at University Reformed Church.

Click here to register for the conference, click here for a brochure, or if you would like more information you can click here.

Free Download of Piper's Bloodlines

You may recall a couple months ago I posted a video related to John Piper's book Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian, which tells the story of his personal journey from racism to the path of redemption. I just saw that Desiring God is making the book available for free download in PDF form. Click here to take advantage of this wonderful offer.

I have once again embedded the video below. If you have not yet seen it, please set aside 17-18 minutes to do so.

Bloodlines Documentary with John Piper from Crossway on Vimeo.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Another Great Book Deal

I just received word yesterday that Reformation Heritage Books is running a one week special for 50% off on their 10 best sellers of 2011. Included in the special are David Murray's Christians Get Depressed Too and How Sermons Work, Joel Beeke's Family Worship, and William Farley's Gospel-Powered Parenting. To see all the books involved in the special click here, or click here to go to the RHB website and browse all of their selections.

Friday Fun...Just Like Ol' Abner Drew It Up

In the cold of winter, a baseball fan like me needs to throw a few logs on the fire to keep warm until spring training. Here's one such piece of kindling that was brought to my attention by one of my seminary professors, Jack Collins.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Beginning Again

You may recall the devastating fires that swept through Bastrop, Texas this past Labor Day weekend. It is likely that you had never heard of Bastrop before that. This was not the case for my family as we have friends who live there. Sadly, Clyde & Kitty's home was one of the 1700+ destroyed.

Since then, Kitty, who is also a very gifted painter, has been blogging through the daily journey of their recovery from this traumatic experience, with the goal that not only she but others might be helped by her doing so. As we've read her blog, entitled Providence Firestorm, my wife and I have been heartened by their resolve and encouraged by their faith. On many occasions, it has been a helpful corrective to me in the re-ordering of my priorities and focus. Today was one such occasion as she wrote the following:

20120112-074214.jpg"This is today's front page of our local paper. It is now 4 months after the fire took our home and at least 1700 other homes in our area. Through the months we have often heard the question “what started the fire” but this is the first time I have seen or heard the word LAWSUIT in regards to the devastating fires over Labor Day weekend. Even in my circle of friends and acquaintances, no one has asked me if I thought the Lord was the cause or was it pure evil. Why is it that we people have to find someone to blame for our misfortune. There are times when you have to understand your past and the damage done in order to forgive and move forward. In the case of these wildfires there is no choice, in my mind, but to move forward and begin again. Yes grieving the losses, but we must see God daily in the way he restores all things. The blame game takes away the focus of living and seeing His goodness and provision. Perhaps it’s like having a double mind set. You just can’t do both. There in not enough emotional energy to look backwards and move forwards. At least I can’t.

"Today I will pick up a paintbrush for the first time since August. It’s my move forward for today and a bit difficult, but I must begin this again."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Duties of Pastors

As I prepare to preach this Sunday from Hebrews 6:9-12, I have been reading from John Owen's seven volume work, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews. In so doing, I came across two observations that he makes that were convicting to me, as they should be to every pastor. He states,

"Obs. I. It is the duty of the dispensers of the gospel to satisfy their hearers in and of their love in Jesus Christ to their souls and person."

Said another way, we could ask, do the members of your congregation have sufficient reason to be convinced that you love them on account of what Christ Jesus has done for you? There of course are two parts of this: They must know that you love them, and they must know that it is the love of Christ which engenders this love.

Owen's second observation is this:  

"Obs. II. It is our duty to come unto the best satisfaction we may in the spiritual condition of them with whom we are to have spiritual communion."

Do you know the members of your congregation well enough that you can confidently give an accurate appraisal of their spiritual condition? The key to accomplishing this goal is of course the same as in the first: The shepherd must spend time with the sheep of his flock! Now this is not just the job of just one man; biblically, the elders of a church are all called to shepherd the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3). But just as the elders are to set an example for the church, so too a pastor needs to be modeling this to the other elders.

Let me be quick to admit that I have not done as good a job at this as I would like. But it is my goal and my desire that in 2012 I would spend more time with the people whom God has entrusted to my care. I pray that I would know them better and that they would better know my love for them in Christ Jesus. May all who are called to be shepherds have a similar commitment.

Tim Tebow, Lance Berkman and Athletes Talking About Faith

The story of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has gotten a lot of publicity over the last few months. With that, and the fact that Tebow often publicly speaks about Christ, there has been somewhat of an ongoing conversation in the public arena about how much athletes should talk about their personal faith.

Below is a video of Lance Berkman recently accepting an award from the Missouri Athletic Club as their Sports Personality of the Year. I was impressed with both what he had to say and the tone in which he said it. But then again, I'm a Cardinal fan and a Christian; an atheistic Cub fan might feel differently.

No matter where you are on either spectrum (religious or athletic) I'd love to know what you think about his comments. Please take a listen to what he has to say and let me know, be it in the comments section, on Facebook, or via email at

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Douglas Wilson on Christian Liberty

The way others are to view your liberty is not the same way that you should view your liberty. Other Christians should let you do what you want unless the Bible forbids it. That’s how we guard against legalism. But you should use your liberty differently—you should be asking what the reasons are for doing it, and not what the reasons are for prohibiting it. Liberty is intended by God for you to use as an instrument for loving others (Gal. 5:13), and not as an instrument for suiting yourself.

Douglas Wilson

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Grateful for Grace

"So the real question is whether we delight in and cherish the grace of God. Is our song, 'Grace, grace' from beginning to end? Do we magnify God's grace in our personal and corporate worship? With our children? In our world view? In the workplace? If every benefit we have comes from God's hand and choice, then we must be the most grateful people in the world."

Sean Lucas
From Zeal for Godliness: Devotional Meditations on Calvin's Institutes

Grace That Saves and Sanctifies

Teach me to know that grace precedes, accompanies, and follows my salvation,
     that it sustains the redeemed soul,
     that not one link of its chain can ever break!
From Calvary's cross, wave upon wave of grace reaches me,
     deals with my sin,
     washes me clean,
     renews my heart,
     strengthens my will,
     draws out my affection,
     kindles a flame in my soul,
     rules throughout my inner man,
     consecrates my every thought, word, work,
     teaches me Your immeasurable love.

From Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions

For Our Good and For His Glory

I'm thinking about preaching a series of sermons on the Exodus and an interesting thing caught my eye today. In Exodus 7:3 God tells Moses that he is going to "multiply signs and wonders in the land of Egypt" so that Pharaoh will be made aware that he should let the nation of Israel go. Pharaoh will not listen, Moses is told, so god declares that he will instead bring his people out of Egypt "by great acts of judgment."

What caught my attention is what comes as a result of this judgment. In 7:5 we read, "The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them."

Did you catch that? God's intention is not just that Israel would be delivered out of bondage, but also that Egypt would know that he is God. I find two things interesting about this.

First of all, God is not just some tribal deity, content to receive the homage from some small group of people. He is the God of all creation, and is rightly jealous for acclaim as such from all peoples. He wants the Egyptians to know his name.

Secondly (and I can never be reminded of this enough), while the Bible is an unfolding drama, I am not the center of the story, God is. God is indeed acting for the benefit of his people (both in Exodus and today), but his ultimate goal is far greater than them. He is concerned that his glory be made manifest in all the earth.

We would never consciously admit that we think God exists to serve us. But functionally, this is the way we often approach him. We often ask questions as to why WE are victims of injustice or how good could possibly come from the bad things that happen TO US. Our finite minds can't conceive how certain circumstances could possibly work our for our good, much less for God's glory.

In the midst of such thoughts and feelings, let us rejoice that this was not the mindset of Jesus. For however much we might feel that we have been treated unfairly, that we have been wronged, no man has ever been treated more unjustly than the man Jesus Christ. And no person has ever experienced bad things quite like the Son of God.

As he died on the cross it made no sense to his followers. And if we had been there, it would have made no sense to us either. But in the midst of God's righteous judgment of OUR sin being levied against HIM, God was indeed working out things in a way that was better than we could possibly have imagined. It was for our good and for his glory.

So let us always be "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2)

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Father's Gift

Yesterday I was sitting in on an adult Sunday school class that one of our elders was teaching on the Westminster Confession. This class in particular dealt specifically with chapter 8, which begins with these words: 
It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and man, the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Savior of his church, the Heir of all things, and Judge of the world: unto whom he did from all eternity give a people, to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.
There are all kinds of wonderful truths contained in this statement, but one thing in particular stood out for me. The normal way we think about the relationship we have with Christ is that he came to save us from our sins. While this is technically true, it falls short of the whole truth. Ultimately, the reason Christ came was so that God's glory might be made manifest, first in Christ and then in us.

Note in particular these words from the Confession, "unto whom he did from all eternity give a people..." We are self-centered by (our sinful) nature. As a result, we tend to see things only from our perspective, often making Jesus little more than a role-player in the story of our lives. The Confession offers a helpful correction to this, reminding us that from all eternity, God's purpose was that we would be a gift to his Son. We are the role-players; he is the star. He does not exist for us; we exist for him.

May we each and every day, by the power of his Spirit dwelling in us, be more and more conformed to Christ's likeness, that we might be a gift that proclaims God's glory!

David & Goliath: A Gospel-Centered Approach

Trevin Wax posted the following video from Matt Chandler and The Gospel Project dealing with the difference between a moralistic approach to the Bible and one that is gospel-centered.  Far too often, Chandler suggests, we see the Bible as being primarily about us, when it is really to be understood as being primarily about God and what he has done in history to accomplish his purposes.

I remember sitting in a seminary class when I was first exposed to this truth. It was revolutionary. I had always thought the message of David & Goliath was essentially, "David trusted God and slew his giant. If you trust in God like David did, you can slay your giants too." As Chandler points out though, this is to miss the point of the story altogether, shifting the focus off of God and onto us.  In essence Chandler points out how much better it is to understand the story as follows:

There is one who is the anointed king of God's people, born in Bethlehem. One who, though not the most impressive physically, was chosen by God to shepherd his people.  This shepherd-king not only does battle with the giant who threatens the very existence of the people of God, but he slays this giant.  And even though the people of God have not done a single thing to accomplish this -- they have contributed NOTHING to it -- they get to share in the spoils of their champion's victory just as if it were their own...because it is, by the gracious provision of God.

A Word for Preachers...Ryle on Preaching Christ Crucified

"Let us never doubt for a moment, that the preaching of Christ crucified – the old story of His blood, righteousness, and substitution – is enough for all the spiritual necessities of all mankind. It is not worn out. It is not obsolete. It has not lost its power. We need nothing new – nothing more broad and kind – nothing more intellectual – nothing more effectual.

"We need nothing but the true bread of life, distributed faithfully among starving souls. Let men sneer or ridicule as they will. Nothing else can do good in this sinful world. No other teaching can fill hungry consciences, and give them peace. We are all in a wilderness. We must feed on Christ crucified, and the atonement made by His death, or we shall die in our sins."

J.C. Ryle
Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John; Volume 1

Friday, January 6, 2012

Great Book Deals!

I just saw that Westminster Seminary Bookstore is running a special on many of their best-selling books of 2011. Each is 50% off through Thursday, January 12. Click here to browse the selections.

Well, Aren't You Adorable?

I saw this great post by Jeff Lawrence last night. It is a response to a Huffington Post piece written by Lisa Bloom entitled How to Talk to Little Girls.  In Bloom's article, which has been "liked" on Facebook by almost 400,000 people, she makes the point that with little girls, far too often the way we talk to them overemphasizes their physical attractiveness (e.g., "You're so cute..."), and, "Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything"

This, of course, only reinforces unhealthy cultural standards that they will face later in life, and serves to grease the skids toward their own practice of the idolatry of beauty. Instead, Bloom asserts, we need to interact with young girls in such a way that sets them up for, "A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments."

This is where Lawrence adds what I feel is a helpful insight to the conversation. Reading, independent thought and accomplishments are all good things. As is physical beauty for that matter. But, as Tim Keller points out in Counterfeit Gods, when we make any good thing an ultimate thing, it has supplanted God and becomes an idol. To guard our daughters from this, Lawrence suggests the following:
I must recognize that I cannot control all of the voices that my daughter will hear. She will always live in a world that overvalues her beauty. She will also have to deal with pressures to measure up intellectually and educationally and financially. Countless voices will praise, or criticize, her according to unhealthy standards.

I cannot control all of the voices that my daughter will hear, but I do know which one I want to be the loudest in her ears. It is not the voice of her boyfriend, or the academic advisor at her college, or the CEO of her company, or even my voice as her father. It is the voice of Jesus.

Her deepest longing is not to be loved for her beauty, praised for her intelligence, or admired for her performance. No, the deepest longing of the human heart is to be loved, and this longing is so deep that only God can fill it.
That's the beauty of the gospel: Jesus doesn't love us because we are beautiful. Or smart, or talented, or anything else. He loves us as we are, in all our unloveliness, because of his grace. And that's the most beautiful thing of all.

Friday Fun...Shakespearean Children's Stories

John Branyan shares how The Three Little Pigs might have sounded had Shakespeare written it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Cool Church

I'm not very cool.  Never have been. My wife sometimes tells me I am, but she's incredibly nice and terribly biased.

I suppose I never will be one of the "cool kids."   I don't listen to the right music, partake in the right activities or wear the right clothes. I really wanted to like Mad Men, but sadly, I just didn't get it.

Even so, I have a tendency to want our church to be "more cool" than it is. There is something in me that wants everything at our church to be fashionable and state-of-the-art. There is something in me that yearns to have our church be the kind of church that is attractive to the "in" crowd.

We could call that something "sin."

Rachel Held Evans is a talented writer, with whom I sometimes agree and sometimes disagree. I suspect she's far cooler than I am. Regardless, in my opinion she couldn't be more right than in these words from an older blog post which was brought to my attention today:
Jesus taught us that when we throw a banquet or a party, our invitation list should include “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” So why do our church marketing teams target the young, the hip, the healthy, and the resourced?
She continues...
Some of us wear our brokenness on the inside, others on the outside. 
But we’re all broken. 
We’re all un-cool.
We’re all in need of a Savior.
May this truth guide our ministries so that they are less concerned with who we want to hear the gospel, and more concerned with who needs to hear it. And even more so, may it guide my heart and yours, so that we would truly see how much we are all a part of that latter group.

Now that would be cool.

 (HT: Rachel Blazer)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Gerhard Forde on Salvation by Faith Alone

"We are justified freely, for Christ’s sake, by faith, without the exertion of our own strength, gaining of merit, or doing of works. To the age old question, 'What shall I do to be saved?' the confessional answer is shocking: 'Nothing! Just be still; shut up and listen for once in your life to what God the Almighty, creator and redeemer, is saying to his world and to you in the death and resurrection of his Son! Listen and believe!'

Gerhard Forde
Justification by Faith—A Matter of Death and Life

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Queen, Forgiveness, and a Christmas Prayer

I'm not usually one who pays a whole lot of attention to royal proclamations, but did you happen to catch Queen Elizabeth's Christmas message? In this age of an ever-increasing secularization of Christmas, I was amazed and refreshed by the Christocentricity of her words.

I've posted a video of the part I most enjoyed below.  If you'd like to hear the entire message, click here.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas season, and may Christ dwell in each of us year-round!

(HT: reformation21)

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Word for Preachers...T. David Gordon on Moralism

Moralism occurs whenever the fundamental message of a sermon is "be good; do good" (or some specific thereof). Whenever the fundamental purpose of the sermon is to improve the behavior of others, so that Christ in his redemptive office is either denied or largely overlooked, the sermon is moralistic. Such moralism is so common in American pulpits that when in ordinary conversation one individual attempts to correct another's behavior, it its not uncommon to hear the reply: "Oh, so you're going to preach at me now, are you?" People have obviously come to associate preaching with moral improvement (or moral scolding); they do not associate preaching with a proclamation of the fitness of Christ's person and the adequacy of his work to save the uttermost those who come God through him.

T. David Gordon
Why Johnny Can't Preach