Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Calvin on the Principal Office of Christ

"The principal office of Christ is briefly but clearly stated; that he takes away the sins of the world by the sacrifice of his death, and reconciles men to God. There are other favours, indeed, which Christ bestows upon us, but this is the chief favour, and the rest depend upon it; that, by appeasing the wrath of God, he makes us to be reckoned holy and righteous, that, by not imputing our sins, he receives us into favour."

John Calvin
Commentary on John 1:29

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Word for Preachers...Ferguson on the Preacher's Heart

"There is a widespread need for (preaching that produces inner prostration of the hearts of listeners). We have an equal need as preachers to catch the vision for it in an overly pragmatic and programmatic society that believes it is possible to live the Christian life without either the exposing of our own hearts or the accompanying prostration of ourselves before the majesty of God on high.

"It is just here that one notices a striking contrast between the biblical exposition one finds in the steady preaching of John Calvin in the sixteenth century and preaching in our own day. It is clearly signaled by the words with which he ended virtually every one of his thousands of sermons: 'And now let us bow down before the majesty of our gracious God...' Reformed biblical exposition elevates God and abases man. By contrast, much modern preaching seems to have the goal of making man feel great, even if God Himself has to bow down.

"So a leading characteristic of preaching of to their heart will be the humbling, indeed, prostration of hearts before the majesty of god on high. This is simultaneously the true ecstasy of the Christian, and therein lies the paradox of grace: the way down is always the way up.

"But if, through the preaching of the gospel, we want to see people prostrated with mingled awe and joy before God, the essential prerequisite is that we ourselves be prostrated before him. John Owen's words still ring true even after three and a half centuries: ' a man preacheth that sermon only well unto others which preacheth itself in his own soul....If the word do not dwell with power in  us, it will not pass with power from us.'"

Sinclair Ferguson
Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sinclair Ferguson to Leave First Presbyterian

I know it's probably wrong to have "favorite pastors" that you don't even personally know. Even so, I must admit that Sinclair Ferguson has long been one of my favorite pastors. In seminary I was greatly blessed by such books of his as The Holy Spirit and Children of the Living God...and that was before I was even aware of his incredible accent! A number of years ago he spoke at my denomination's General Assembly and preached the two best sermons I've ever heard at a GA. I subscribe to his podcast through SermonAudio, and am routinely blessed by his preaching from the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church (ARP) in Columbia, South Carolina.

Yesterday I received an email from a friend informing me that Ferguson would be retiring. It contained a link to an article from The Aquila Report that included part of the message he wrote to his congregation. As I read it I was struck (though not surprised) by its pastoral tone and Christ-centeredness. He wrote the following:

I do not really need to remind you of the first thing. Christ alone is our anchor.
Our church is first and, foremost Jesus Christ’s Church. He has built us together
here over the centuries; his servants have come and gone. But he has remained
“ever faithful, ever true.” It is always right and healthy when we love our
pastors—and like my predecessors here I have felt myself to be deeply loved; but
we are here only to point to the Savior whose church we are. I did not anticipate
that the last series of sermons I would preach to you would be from Hebrews (I
wanted to expound Philippians!). But how appropriate that these Sunday
morning we hear the message again and again: See how great Jesus is. Fix your
eyes on him.
I do not really need to remind you of the first thing. Christ alone is our anchor.
Secondly, let us continue to love and encourage one another. I have often said
that I believe the most important picture of the church in the New Testament is
that of a family. More and more I have felt that is what we want to be here at
First Presbyterian. It is certainly here that a chief element in the impact of our
witness will be found in a day when so many natural families have become
dysfunctional. Life as it is meant to be is found in Christ. His grace runs in the
dried up riverbed sin has created in every dimension of life—not least family. So,
in the church, as we often sing,
He wills us be a family, diverse, yet truly one:
O let us give our gifts to God, and so shall his work on earth be done.
The third thing (yes, there would be a third thing!)? Let us continue in prayer
that the Lord will work on among us, and provide for us the ongoing ministry
that will keep us growing in Christ and faithfully serving him into the future.
On Monday night when I went home after breaking the news to our elders,
Dorothy overheard me singing and commented on the words: “Through the love
of God our Savior, all will be well…” “Yes” I said, “but as I was singing the words,
tears were flowing down my cheeks!”
Surely if the heart of a stoic Scot can be melted with love for this congregation,
the capacious heart of the Lord Jesus is filled with a love for us that knows no
bounds, and “all must be well.” I certainly believe that will be so.
Whatever he may choose to do upon his return to Scotland, my prayer is that Sinclair Ferguson might be blessed at least a fraction as much as he has been a blessing to me. If so, he will be mightily blessed indeed!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Fun...Trick Shot Titus

My favorite part begins at the 1:42 mark.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Keller on Rejoicing and Repentance

“Rejoicing and repentance must go together. Repentance without rejoicing will lead to despair. Rejoicing without repentance is shallow and will only provide passing inspiration instead of deep change. Indeed, it is when we rejoice over Jesus’s sacrificial love for us most fully that, paradoxically, we are most truly convicted of our sin. When we repent out of fear of consequences, we are not really sorry for the sin, but for ourselves. Fear-based repentance (‘I’d better change or God will get me’) is really self-pity. In fear-based repentance, we don’t learn to hate the sin for itself, and it doesn’t lose its attractive power. We learn only to refrain from it for our own sake. But when we rejoice over God’s sacrificial, suffering love for us -- seeing what it cost Him to save us from sin -- we learn to hate the sin for what it is. We see what the sin cost God. What most assures us of God’s unconditional love (Jesus’s costly death) is what most convicts us of the evil of sin. Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin.”

Tim Keller
Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters  

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Word for Preachers...William Taylor on Evangelistic Preaching

"To call upon men constantly to come to Christ and to repeat perpetually the words of Paul to the jailer, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,' without at the same time telling them who Jesus Christ is and what it is to come to Him, is the merest mockery. It is using the name of Christ as though it were some cabalistic charm and reducing the Gospel message to an empty formula. If therefore we would be effective evangelists, we must be ready to give an answer to him who asks us, 'Who is this Jesus that I believe upon him? What is there in His dying that has any relation to me?'"

William M. Taylor, in his book The Ministry of the Word
cited in What is Biblical Preaching? by Eric J. Alexander

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Fun...Top TV Marriages

Yesterday being Valentine's Day, I saw an interesting article at Relevant Magazine offering up the top TV marriage of each decade since the 1960s. According to the author, the winners were:
  • 1960s - Rob and Laura Petrie of The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • 1970s - Bob and Emily Harley of The Bob Newhart Show
  • 1980s - Cliff and Clair Huxtable of The Cosby Show
  • 1990s - Homer and Marge Simpson of The Simpsons
  • 2000s - Eric and Tami Taylor of Friday Night Lights
  • 2010s - Peter and Kristina Braverman of Parenthood
You can click here to read the whole article and I'd love to hear your feedback. First though, here are a few of my own observations:
  1. It's odd that the first three selections all come from shows called "The (Star of the show's name) Show." Not the name of the character played, but the actual name of the actor. Bizarre.
  2. Interestingly (albeit, I would argue, not coincidentally) Friday Night Lights and Parenthood both had Jason Katims as executive producer and a main creative influence. Both of these shows were/are favorites of my wife and mine. In fact, we only watched Friday Night Lights (on DVDs from the library) after having gotten hooked on Parenthood and finding out that Katims had also done FNL. 
  3. The Simpsons? Either TV marriages were horrible in the 1990s or...well, you'll just have to read the article.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

2013 Magnify Conference with Alistair Begg

If you plan on being anywhere near Mid-Michigan on April 5th and 6th, please allow me to heartily recommend that you attend the Magnify Conference, hosted by a quintet of churches from the Lansing area. Alistair Begg will be the featured speaker and will be examining the priority of God in a world that is eminently consumed with self.

The conference is very affordable ($20 for an individual, $10 for each additional family member) and you can register by clicking here.

If you're interested the schedule will be as follows:

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm...Plenary Session #1

8:00 am – 9:00 am...Musician & Pastor Breakfast Seminar (RSVP only)
9:15 am – 10:45am ...Plenary Session #2
11:00 am – Noon...Q & A
Noon – 1:30 pm...Lunch on your own
1:30pm – 3:00 pm...Plenary Session #3

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Road to Calvary

I'm looking forward to a new sermon series that I'll be preaching during Lent. Check out the video preview below and, if you're in the neighborhood on a Sunday morning, stop by Calvary Presbyterian Church for corporate worship at 10 o'clock. We'd love to worship with you!

A Word for Preachers...Campbell Morgan on Being Crucified with Christ

"It is the crucified man that can preach the cross. Said Thomas 'except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails...I will not believe.' Dr. Parker of London said that what Thomas said of Christ, the world is saying about the church. And the world is also saying to every preacher: Unless I see in your hands the print of the nails, I will not believe. It is true. It is the man...who has died with Christ,...that can preach the cross of Christ."

Campbell Morgan
cited in John Stott's The Cross of Christ

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Beyoncé at Halftime: Children, Social Justice & the Empowering of Women

John Stonestreet of Breakpoint had some good thoughts related to Beyoncé's halftime show at the Super Bowl. Please take a minute and read or listen to it in its entirety.

In all fairness, I didn't even see the halftime show, so I can't comment directly on its content. What I can heartily agree with though are some of the broader themes Stonestreet discusses as he addresses the hypersexualization of youth in our culture and the damaging effects it has. He states,
This is a social justice issue. And to the hipster Christian writers so concerned with social justice who celebrated Beyoncé’s performance as “empowering women,” shame on you. Beyoncé is unbelievably talented. But using sexuality for power is not a triumph for feminism. It only leads to the objectification and victimization of women, especially young ones. I will tell you that wives, watching their husbands watch Beyoncé, weren’t empowered.
Click here for the entire post.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom...Stanley Gale on Prayer and God's Sovereignty

"Prayer is a means by which God enfolds us int the outworking of his eternal plan. Prayer is God's means for God's ends. God executes his plan and accomplishes his purposes through the mediation of our prayers as his people. Prayer is intended by God to engage us in the accomplishment of his purposes for his own glory and goals.

"We can say that in praying we can expect God to do something he would not have done had we not prayed, not to limit God but to exalt the glory of his unfathomable providence that governs all causes, mediate and immediate. In other words, to suggest God waits on our prayers does not make God smaller. It makes him bigger than we could ever possibly fathom. Who is like God, governing means and ends, including the acts and prayers of his creatures, without violating their free agency and still maintaining their responsibility and culpability?

"We can take it even a step further: God's sovereign plan not only does not invalidate responsible action, it establishes it because that is the way God has designed things. Our prayers are not intruders on God's plan but instruments in that plan."

Stanley D. Gale
Why Do We Pray?

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Word for Preachers...Chapell on Grace-Focused Preaching

"No matter how great your skill or accolades, you are unlikely to lead others closer to God if your heart does not reflect the continuing work of the Savior in your life. A grace-focused ministry recognizes the repentance our prayers must consistently express, confess the divine aid that grants us the strength of our resolutions, obeys God in gratitude for forgiveness Christ supplies, expresses the humility appropriate for a fellow sinner, exudes the joy of salvation by faith alone, and reflects the Love that claims our own souls and accepts our service without any merit of our own. Preaching without a grace focus concentrates on means of earning divine acceptance, proofs of personal righteousness, and contrasts with those less holy than we.

"The necessity of grace in balanced preaching inevitably points both preacher and parishioner to the work of Christ as the only proper center of our sermons. Christ-centered preaching is not merely evangelistic, nor confined to a few gospel accounts. It perceives the whole of Scripture as revelatory of God's redemptive plan and preaches every passage within this context--a pattern that Jesus himself introduced to us (Luke 24:27)...(T)he Bible requires us to construct our messages in such a way as to reveal the grace that is the ultimate focus of every text, the ultimate enablement for ever instruction, and the only source of true holiness."

Bryan Chapell 
Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon

Friday, February 1, 2013

You'll Find Your Way

Being the father of a young man who is growing up so very quickly, this beautiful song is just as quickly becoming one of my favorites from Andrew Peterson...