Wednesday, February 29, 2012

People You’ve Maybe Never Heard Of But Should: Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts was born in July of 1674 in Southampton, England.  His father, Isaac, was imprisoned at the time of his birth for his being a deacon of a dissenting church.  Because of their non-conformity Watts was never able to attend the prolific Oxford or Cambridge but instead attended the Dissenting Academy of Stoke Newington.

After his education Watts took up a pastorate of a large independent chapel in London.  John Owen had previously ministered in the church Watts now pastored.  During this season of his life his intense study and dedication to the pastorate led him to have frequent attacks of illness.  Within his first couple years Watts had to have a co-pastor (Samuel Price) assist him in his duties.  Though often ill—and often having misgivings about taking a salary—Isaac Watts’ congregation refused to break their connection. 

Watts finally succumbed to illness in 1748 dying in Stoke Newington at the house of the beloved Sir Thomas Abney family.

Why You Should Know Him:

Even if you do not know Watts you have more than likely read some of his hymns.  He was one of the most popular writers of his day for his hymns.  But he also was very popular for his catechism and his Scripture History—these were standard works for years.  Even his books on philosophy were often used as textbooks.  Watts, however, is most known today for his hymn writing. 

Watts broke the mold of the day by introducing new poetry and new songs and hymns of spiritual worship.  Previously churches would only sing hymns or other poetry found in the Scriptures.  Watts’ use of extra-biblical poetry opened up the door for the hymns and songs we now sing in our churches. 

Some of Watts’ more famous hymns include:

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed
Joy to the world
This is the Day the Lord Has Made

These are only four of over 500 hymns that Watts composed.  You can read all of these hymns here.  Watts’ poetry and hymn writing is very rich, God-centered, drenched in the gospel, and Christ-focused.  It is worth noting that John Newton was very much influenced by the hymns of Watts.  His mother would sing them to a young Newton and many believe that these seeds of truth were instrumental in Newton’s later conversion.  Certainly, it influenced Newton’s own hymn writing. 


I gave you this last week but it fits here as well.  This is classic Watts:

Hast thou not seen, impatient boy!
Hast thou not read the solemn truth,
That gray experience writes for giddy youth
On every mortal joy?

Pleasure must be dash’d with pain:
And yet with heedless haste,
The thirsty boy repeats the taste,
Nor hearkens to despair, but tries the bowl again.
The rills of pleasure never run sincere,
    (Earth has no unpolluted spring)
From the curs’d soil some dangerous taint they bear;
So roses grow on thorns, and honey wears a sting

In vain we seek a Heaven below the sky;
The world has false, but flattering, charms;
Its distant joys show big in our esteem,
But lessen still as they draw near the eye;
    In our embrace the visions die,
    And when we grasp the airy forms
         We lose the pleasing dream.

Earth with her scenes of gay delight,
Is but a landscape rudely drawn,
With glaring colors, and false light;
Distance commends it to the sight,
    For fools gaze upon;
But bring the nauseous daubing night
Course and confus’d the hideous figures lie,
Dissolve the pleasure, and offend the eye.

Look up, my soul, pant toward th’ eternal hills;
    Those Heavens are fairer than they seem;
There pleasures all sincere glide on in crystal rills,
    There not a dreg of guilt defiles,
         Nor grief disturbs the stream.
     That Cannan knows no noxious thing,
     No cursed soil, no tainted spring,
Nor roses grow on throns, nor honey wears a sting.
(Isaac Watts, Earth and Heaven)

Further Study:

Psalms and Hymns of Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts’ biography

A search for Isaac Watts on Google Books will give you a few very helpful books for free.  Some by Watts and a few biographies from others.

Watts was more than just a hymn writer he was also a physician of the soul.  Check out his counsel to those going through spiritual ups and downs

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review of The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips

During a mission trip to inner-city Kansas City I found myself sharing the gospel with a homeless man.  As his alcohol-laced breath washed over me I began wondering if this man was actually a believer.  He was speaking as if he understood fundamental elements of who God is, that he understood the effects of the Cross, he seemed to understand and be convinced of the sinfulness of mankind. 

Just as I was beginning to encourage myself that this man was a believer he took a really strange detour.  The next thing I knew we were talking about Moses being an alien and a whole host of other weird things.  What had originally sounded like an understanding of the gospel was everything but.  He was using the same terms as me but meant something entirely different by them.  Apparently “salvation” to him was rescue from our secret Martian overlords. 

I wish I were joking about this story.  I feel bad for this man that probably has a mental order but is left untreated on the streets of Kansas City.  I pray, as I did then, that the Lord will rescue this man in his wilderness.  I also wish that this story were not so common.  People may not think that “salvation” equals rescue from Martian overlords but they might as well. 
Dan Phillips believes that what is taking place is that:
“our culture’s mindset is (at best) ignorant and (at worst) diametrically opposed to the background meaning and worldview that make [biblical] words have any saving import…we use the words, and the worldling filters those words and nods—and nothing redemptive has occurred”.  (305)
Because of this deficit Phillips has written The World-Tilting Gospel.  His central aim in this book is to give a “whole-biblical worldview that assigns specific meaning to the words that expresses the gospel” (306).  Phillips does not quite follow the God, Man, Christ, Response narrative but it is close.  He begins with who we are—or maybe who God is—or maybe who we are.  From here he looks at the Fall and the pitiable state of our condition.  He then moves on to discuss the accomplishment of Christ and then in part three he looks at two truths that allow us to “get in”.  The fourth part of the book—which is six chapters long—is dedicated to the living out of the Christian life. 

Throughout each of these chapters Phillips writes with the fervor and passionate dedication to God and the Scriptures that readers of Team Pyro and his own blog Biblical Christianity have come to expect.  His writing is engaging, challenging, and clear-cut.  He makes a compelling case for our need to believe again the powerful World-Tilting Gospel and forsake shallow replacements.

My Take

As I read through this book I couldn’t help but think that I would love to get this book in the hands of many within our church.  Even at points when Phillips engages in often difficult areas of doctrine he writes with clarity and a biblical focus.  Though they would be greatly challenged, I do not think any member of our congregation would be lost in “big theology words” or anything of the sort.

Going through first three sections I kept telling myself I want to give this book to a few people.  Then I started reading the fourth section.  As I made my way through this section on Christian living my attitude changed.  Now, rather than saying it’d be nice to give this book to a few people I kept thinking I MUST get this book in the hands of many people in our church.  Phillips’ dealing with the misguided mindsets of Christian living is worth the price of the book.  He puts his finger on a crippling aspect of much evangelicalism, he rips it open with biblical truth, and applies the powerful gospel. 

Should You Buy It?


Even if you are a pastor or student, like me, that reads through tons of books on theology you will gain much from this book.  Through most of the book there was not a ton of new information but it was applied and written in such a way that it helped make biblical concepts crystal clear and memorable.  Phillips says things in ways that I found myself wanting to emulate as I preach through certain sections of Scripture and on certain points of theology.  Great writers do this, and Phillips is a great writer.

You’ll want to purchase this book and work your way through it.  You can get it here for 12.00 in paperback or 10 bucks on your Kindle.

From the Pen of Newton: A Word to Authors

In a letter to William Cowper, John Newton discuss the trepidation that he and certainly Cowper feel upon releasing a new book.  In the midst of this Newton displays for us what should be the motivation of all authors (even those that are authors of tweets and Facebook statuses). 

I am an author likewise, and am soon to launch forth into the public notice a new book.  I can therefore have a fellow-feeling with you.  Some [approval] I may hope for.  A portion of censure and dislike I may likewise expect…But were our admirers and censurers as tall as [giants], their applause and their [rudeness of speech] will soon be stifled in the dust.  These are in a manner but creatures of a day; and indeed so are we.  But we belong to another world…Let our ambition be of the noblest kind: let our aim be to please God.  If the great Judge shall be pleased to receive us with [approval], we shall be little concerned what the [ants] we have left behind may think of us after we are gone.  In his favor is life.  His smile would amply overbalance the frown of the whole creation.  (Letters of Newton, 165-166)

May everything we write be for His smile. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday’s Ministry Musing: Turning “Helps” Into Idolatry

Does God wound thy spirit, does he make it sick, and dost thou seek to unlawful means for help?  Dost thou go to thy company, to music, to good cheer, to relieve thee?  Oh this provokes God against thee!…those that in trouble of conscience seek for carnal helps, by their vain tampering only render their condition worse.  (Jeremiah Burroughs commenting on Hosea 5:14)

There is an assumption that Burroughs is making here that some of our readers may not be willing to agree with.  Namely, Burroughs assumes (as I do) that God is sovereign and everything that happens comes from His hand—whether it is directly or indirectly.  This would include “wounds to our spirit” and “trouble of conscience”. 

I have mentioned previously that I battle depression or perhaps the better term would be “fits of melancholy”.  In fact our nation seems to be very much plagued by this malady.  One particular study notes that, "An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year."   That means that when you go to the grocery store 1 of every 4 people that you see suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder.  That is huge.

I understand that any mental disorder is complex and there are usually not simple answers.  But is it possible that part of our restlessness (our depression, our mental anxieties) may stem from the effects of running to lesser gods?  Is it possible that when we have restlessness and anxiety we first seek unlawful means for help instead of going to the Lord?  Is it possible that this brokenness is meant to cause us “in our affliction to not fly from, but humble ourselves before him”? 

I do believe that the Lord by His grace has provided helps to our brokenness.  I believe that there are ripple effects to the accomplishment of Christ on the Cross.  I believe that there is common grace—such as antidepressants—that the Lord may use as a means to calm the effects of our brokenness and provide substantial healing.  But I also believe that these “helps” can subtly become functional saviors and when we principally turn to them not only does our condition worsen but the Lord’s displeasure is aroused. 

God may not fully heal the pain that I feel or the darkness that sometimes seems to overcome me; at least not this side of a Eden Restored.  Am I willing to have shards of brokenness in my life if it means that His glory shines brighter in my weakness?  Is it possible that I am muting God’s glory or defaming His name by going to “other helps” that may work for a season but won’t give ultimate rest? 

The Case in Hosea

Just so you know that all of this is coming from somewhere consider what took place in Hosea’s day.  The Israelite’s were stuck between two super powers: Assyria and Egypt.  They decided that they could go to both of these super powers for “help” and to gain wealth and security from these “lovers”.  They called it wisdom but God called it “playing the whore”. 

God had given Egypt wealth.  God had given Assyria power.  And it is quite possible (though we have no idea of knowing) that had Israel remained faithful to the Lord he would have employed either Egypt or Assyria as helpers—though not likely.  But when “Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria, and sent to the great king.  But he is not able to cure you or heal your wound.” 

Here is the kicker, the “sickness of Ephraim” and the “wound of Judah” is one that is given by the Lord.  And while the Lord is administering discipline to his children they run to Assyria (and later Egypt) for protection from the Lord.  But he cannot cure them.  He cannot heal their wound.  Only God can.  That is why Hosea entreats them to “return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.  After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.” 

The Flaw

Blanket statements are dangerous.  Do not apply this as a “when ___ happens then it means that God is ______”.  There is an assumption that is being made in connecting a “wounded spirit” to the days of Hosea.  They were being wounded because of their sin and their idolatry.  The Lord was ripping out of their hearts idolatry and residue from the fall.  This is what He lovingly does with His covenant children. 

This is true in those cases. Yet, we would be in great error to look out on the brokenness and depression of every person and say, “don’t try to find help” just endure the Lord’s discipline and stop bowing to idols.  That was the foolish council of Job’s friends.  Job wasn’t enduring his suffering because of his sin.  He was enduring suffering because he was going through suffering.  But what Job got right was that his only source of ultimate refuge and rescue was in the LORD. 

It takes wisdom to know whether I am turning “helps” into idolatry or if I’m legitimately using “helps” for the glory of God.  It takes even more wisdom and grace to sit in ashes and cling to the Lord of glory and say as Hosea did, “He has torn us, that he may heal us…let us press on to know the LORD…he will come to us as showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” 

It takes grace to trust a lion when Assyria and Egypt look so splendid…

Torn to Heal; Or What My Monday’s Look Like

Lord willing, every Monday until it is complete I am working on writing a book.  I hope to self publish this book through Amazon unless something else comes up before it is completed.  Because the book is not yet completed I cannot really “pitch it” to you but I will provide you a brief summary and the potential chapters. 

The major thesis or theme is simply this:

Redemption is painful and God will stop at nothing to bring it about. Completely. And that is what this book is about. All things, both good and ill, work together for our greatest good—conformity to Jesus. This includes our pain. It is the argument of this book that the Lord in his goodness will rip us to shreds to replace idols with lasting joy. He will stop at nothing to fully redeem us--which means He will have to fully change our desires. And this is good.

The chapter break down as of now looks like this:

Chapter One: God makes sweeping promises.  We like the fruit of the promise but not the labor of trust needed to enjoy them.  So we hew out for ourselves broken cisterns and try to find rest in lesser promises. 

Chapter Two: Because God is supremely loving and good He will not allow us to rest in an inferior promise.  He will expose the emptiness of our idols and even allow profound brokenness so that our restlessness draws us to resting in His superior promise. 

Chapter Three:  But does God really do this?  Is it really true that everything that happens comes from His hand?  Does God really tear in order to heal? 

Chapter Four: God tears to heal.  He breaks to dance, He leaves naked to woo.  What happens in Hosea and Zephaniah serves as a grid for understanding much of our own pain and brokenness.  God is providing redemption. 

Chapter Five: The already, not yet of healing.  What does healing look like this side of Eden.  Yes we are healed, but not fully, not yet.  We still go back to our idols.  Yet, thankfully God is radically committed to our joy in Him.  This process of tearing to heal happens often.  And someday it will be complete.  God completes what He begins.

Chapter Six: Tearing and Healing in the context of the local church.  You alone are not the bride of Christ.  This rescue plan involves all of His children.  What does this look like lived out in a local church? 

Chapter Seven/Conclusion: So What?  What does this mean for our every day lives?  Why even bother writing this book?


My goal is to make this book about 144 pages and to be written on a somewhat popular level (Think Crossway titles and not Joel Osteen type of popular).  I could certainly use your prayers, this is a huge undertaking and I constantly question my ability to even write cogently.  At the end of the day pray that even if this book never hits the press that God uses my labor on Monday’s for His glory.  Everyone can pray.

I also will need some pre-editors.  If you would be willing to look through this book once I get it “finished” and try to find grammar and punctuation mistakes it would be much appreciated. 

I also need a cover designer.  This is not a picture book but it would be very helpful to have a good cover.  I am not all that creative or artistic, but I need something to capture the major concept of the book; namely, Torn to Heal.

Lastly, I will need reviewers once the book is completed.  If you want to help out in any of these please let me know via comment, email, or social media comment. 

Things I’m Looking Forward To

There are several things happening in the next couple of months that I am very excited about.  These are not to mention the wonderful adventure of living my every day life with my beautiful wife and children.  So in no particular order here are things I’m looking forward to in March and April:

1. March 6th release of Flame’s new album

2. March 6th release of MLB2K12 on XBox 360

3. MLB Spring Training

4. MLB Opening Day and every subsequent baseball game after until the Royals are out of the pennant race.  (Which may be around June).

5. Together for the Gospel

6. Matt Chandler’s first book The Explicit Gospel

7. The potential of our second FBC Jasper Marriage Retreat

8. The opportunity to preach again in March

9. Being finished with my online Hebrew class.

10. Isaiah finally getting his new Spiderman and Avenger comic books in the mail. 

Also, in May my wife and I are taking an anniversary trip to the Whitestone Inn in Tennessee.  I am looking forward to this more than anything else on the list. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hump Day Humor 2/22/12

Though I wouldn't recommend this practice for believers--no matter how bad the service, I did find this rather clever and funny.

  (HT: 22 Words)

This is also clever:

  (HT: Trevin Wax)

You gotta’ love some fishing bloopers:

(HT: Kevin DeYoung)

This was totally me---it may still be…

If you fear the CIA here is why you need to get out of Facebook:

(HT: Z)

Kitty Fail!

(HT: 22 Words)

People You’ve Maybe Never Heard Of But Should: Alexander Whyte

whyte-alexander Alexander Whyte was born in January of 1836 in a small town in Scotland.  He was raised by his mother—as his father abandoned he and his mother when he was still a baby.  Growing up to a single mother Whyte did not have the finances to afford an education.  This did not stop him as he taught himself to read. 

Fortunately for Alexander his abilities were discovered and a kind minister taught him Latin and Greek so he could attend university.  He eventually was educated at Aberdeen University and the Free Church College in Edinburgh, but not before having to seek out his biological father.  Young Alexander had to ask his father—now a wealthy businessman—for the resources to attend university. 

Alexander Whyte died quietly in his sleep at the age of 85. 

Why You Should Know Him:

Though Whyte looks like he played a scary butler from a 1960’s Hitchcock film his value to the church is far greater than a supporting role in a horror flick.  Within his eighty-five years Whyte pastored the largest church in Scotland and was also a college president.  He was known as a tremendous orator with vivid illustrations that were saturated with gospel truths.  Whyte was also responsible for introducing D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey to the people of Scotland.  Whyte also wrote many books and biographies. 

What originally drew me to Andrew Whyte were quotes from his preaching and sections from his biographies.  He proved to be a faithful biographer of many God-besotted men.  He was also a tremendous preacher himself. 


Whyte was very passionate about the importance of wrestling with God in prayer.  Consider this quote:

Take good care that you are not spiritual overmuch in the matter of prayer. Take good care lest you take your salvation far too softly, and far too cheaply. If you find your life of prayer to be always so short, and so easy, and so spiritual, as to be without cost and strain and sweat to you, you may depend upon it, you are not yet begun to pray.  As sure as you sit there, and I stand here, it is just in this matter of time in prayer that so many of us are making shipwreck of our own souls, and of the souls of others.

I also found this quite helpful from Barbour’s Life of Alexander Whyte:

As he had his own heart warmed by Christ, so he singed others. He learned about human character from delving deep into the recesses of his own "desperately wicked" heart. Strict self-examination and self-knowledge were a major part of his own life and teaching. What he himself had experienced was a basis for what he then taught others. He related to his people the terrors and the glories at which his own heart had trembled or rejoiced. Nobody ever heard from his lips any cold truth. He was not detached from the truth he preached. His fiercest accusations were always against himself. When he was speaking in a slum where its inhabitants were known for their drinking he astonished his hearers by informing them that he had found out the name of the wickedest man in Edinburgh, and he had come to tell them; and bending forward he whispered: "His name is Alexander Whyte."

Further Study:

Barbour’s Life of Alexander Whyte is very interesting and about the only at length biography of Whyte that I know of.  Buy it here.

Dr. Michael Haykin has put together a nice collection of snippets from the works of Whyte.  A Consuming Fire: The Piety of Alexander Whyte.

You can access one of his books, “Lord Teach Us to Pray” for free at CCEL.

If you do a search on Google Books for Alexander Whyte you will find several free offerings

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Earth and Heaven by Isaac Watts

Hast thou not seen, impatient boy!
Hast thou not read the solemn truth,
That gray experience writes for giddy youth
On every mortal joy?

Pleasure must be dash’d with pain:
And yet with heedless haste,
The thirsty boy repeats the taste,
Nor hearkens to despair, but tries the bowl again.

The rills of pleasure never run sincere,
    (Earth has no unpolluted spring)
From the curs’d soil some dangerous taint they bear;
So roses grow on thorns, and honey wears a sting

In vain we seek a Heaven below the sky;
The world has false, but flattering, charms;
Its distant joys show big in our esteem,
But lessen still as they draw near the eye;
    In our embrace the visions die,
    And when we grasp the airy forms
         We lose the pleasing dream.

Earth with her scenes of gay delight,
Is but a landscape rudely drawn,
With glaring colors, and false light;
Distance commends it to the sight,
    For fools gaze upon;
But bring the nauseous daubing night
Course and confus’d the hideous figures lie,
Dissolve the pleasure, and offend the eye.

Look up, my soul, pant toward th’ eternal hills;
    Those Heavens are fairer than they seem;
There pleasures all sincere glide on in crystal rills,
    There not a dreg of guilt defiles,
         Nor grief disturbs the stream.
     That Cannan knows no noxious thing,
     No cursed soil, no tainted spring,
Nor roses grow on throns, nor honey wears a sting.
(Isaac Watts, Earth and Heaven)

From the Pen of Newton: The Painter Knows Better Than Myself

This from a letter to Daniel West shows John Newton’s creativity as well as his firm confidence in Christ:

Did you ever see my picture?  I have it drawn by a masterly hand.  And though another person, and one whom I am far from resembling, sat for it, it is as like me as one new guinea is like another.  The original was drawn at Corinth, and sent to some persons of distinction in Rome.  Many copies have been taken, and though perhaps it is not to be seen in any of the London print-shops, it has a place in most public and private libraries, and I would hope in most families.  I had seen it a great many times before I could discover one of my own features in it; but then my eyes were very bad.

What is remarkable, it was drawn long before I was born, but having been favored with some excellent eye-salve, I quickly knew it to be my own.  I am drawn in an attitude which would be strange and singular, if it were not so common with me, looking two different and opposite ways at once, so that you would be puzzled to tell whether my eyes are fixed upon heaven or upon earth: I am aiming at things inconsistent with each other at the same instant, so that I can accomplish neither.  According to the different light in which you view the picture, I appear to rejoice and mourn, to choose and refuse, to be a conqueror or a captive.

In a word, I am a double person; a riddle.  It is no wonder if you know not what to make of me, for I cannot tell what to make of myself.  I would and I would not; I do and do not; I can and I cannot.  I find the hardest things easy, and the easiest things impossible: but while I am in this perplexity, you will observe in the same piece, a hand stretched forth for my relief, and may see a label proceeding out of my mouth with these words,—“I thank God, through Jesus Christ my Lord.”  The more I study this picture, the more I discover some new and striking resemblance, which convinces me that the painter knew me better than I knew myself…”  (Letters of John Newton, 136-137)

Friday, February 17, 2012

3 Quick Reviews: Sexual Brokenness, Begin, If Walls Could Talk

Here are a few books that I have recently read and want to quickly review. 

Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do by Thom Hunter

Thom is a fellow contributor to SBC Voices.  Awhile back Thom gave me his book in exchange for a review.  Unfortunately, it was one of the 8-10 books that sat in a pile for a lengthy time during a busy seminary semester.  I did not get a chance to pick the book back up until a few weeks ago. 

As self-described on the back of the book, Thom is a “Christian married father of five who fought, fell and rose again to fight against unwanted same-sex attraction”.  This book, then, comes from one that is not distanced from the battle—Thom is in the middle of it.  This book is filled with 33 short chapters that feel like blog entries.  They are helpful not only for those that would describe themselves as sexually broken but for any of us that are sinners living on this side of full redemption.  For this Thom’s book is immensely helpful. 

If I had one critique it would be that the book felt a little scattered.  It may have been more helpful given the content for Thom to have told his story chronologically and used these blog entries as a supplement to the thread of his own life story.  But that really is not a critique that would cause me to not recommend this book.  I think it is very helpful for any struggler. 

You can buy the book for $11.86 at Amazon.  You would also benefit from reading Thom’s contributions to SBC Voices

Begin (Compiled and Edited by Ken Ham & Bodie Hodge)

Begin is “a journey through the Scriptures for seekers and new believers”.  Within it’s pages is the complete ESV text of Genesis 1-11, the Gospel of John, Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and Revelation 21-22.  Smattered throughout the contents are little comments and cross-references to help the seeker/new-believer understand Scripture better.  Also helpful are the lines to the side of the book for brief note-taking or further questions.  At the end of the book the reader will find a short article that seeks to answer “What Does it Mean to Be Saved” as well as a 10 point list and explanation of the “10 Basics to Boldly Proclaim a Biblical Worldview”.

For full disclosure I must say that I am a young-earth creationist with sympathies for those believers that believe in an old-earth.  I do not think you have necessarily sold out the Christian faith just because you think the world may be older than 6,000 years.  In fact I could probably be convinced of that position somewhat easily.  Having said that I found it rather unhelpful that this book seems to major on young-earth creationism. 

Consider the 10 things for a biblical worldview; number 10 is the gospel and number 2 is radiometric dating.  Even if this list is not in order of importance I find it rather silly that radiometric dating would be in the top 10 basics for a biblical worldview.  Yes, I understand that the biblical view of creation is under attack.  But is it really necessary to believe in a young-earth to be a believer?  Is that really and integral part of the gospel once and for all delivered to the saints?  Yet, many of the comments seem bent on proving this particular position.  For this reason I find it very unhelpful for new believers or seekers. 

I appreciate that in many places they encourage the reader to seek out a local church.  That is wonderful.  Their explanation of the gospel is also pretty solid.  But it seems to be so infused with this young-earth agenda that is muddies the Scriptures and makes the point of the Bible something other than what it is.  “Christians who stand confidently on the Bible’s historical record have the answer to life’s troubles” is not the gospel and it is not what the point of the Bible is about.  The Bible isn’t to prove that God is the creator of a young-earth.  I agree that the “ultimate goal of ministry is not simply winning debates but proclaiming the gospel”.  I further agree that the scientific data etc. are “secondary in importance to the proclamation of the gospel” but what you have in this book appears to be a blurring of those lines.

If Walls Could Talk by Lisa Worsley

As it says in the press release, “Lucy Worsley is, by day, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, the independent charity that looks after The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Kensington Palace State Apartments, the Banqueting House in Whitehall, and Kew Palace in Kew Gardens.”  As such this makes Worsley someone “in the know” when it comes to the history of these homes.  That is why this particular work is so interesting.  You will not find footnotes but just secondary sources, making this a unique look into the history within the walls of England’s royal palaces. 

I read this book as one that is very interested in the history of England.  I intend to write a book on John Newton and any bits of historical information I can find help me to get a feel for what it would have been like to live in Newton’s day.  This book delivered what I was looking for.  It is written in a fun and engaging way. 

One note of caution, though, for the Christian audience is that this book deals rather vividly with some private topics that are perhaps unbecoming.  There is an entire chapter dedicated to “masturbation”.  Many of my Christian readers would be turned off by some of the contents of the book.  I was able to read through that and found some very helpful and entertaining material within.  It’s not particularly crass in it’s dealing with sensitive topics just rather matter of fact. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Perpetual Warning to Truth Majors

I find this song by Shawn McDonald frequently convicting.  Of course the words are grounded by 1 Corinthians 13.  Without love we are nothing.  It’s a good word for those of us that are “truth majors” and who write and respond in the midst of various controversies.  Without love we are nothing.  Don’t forget that. 

So hard to fathom the pain in Your eyes
As You`re watching Your children, doing what You despise
In pursuit of our own
We just go round and round
Another nail to our cause
We continue to pound

What are you, man, if you do not learn love
What are you, man, if you do not learn love

So hard to fathom, oh, the feelings inside
As You`re watching Your people choosing to die
You called out a warning
To all that would hear
Saying come to Me, come to Me
And I will draw near

What are you man, if you do not learn love?
What are you man, if you do not learn love?

Learn love
I must
Learn love
Learn love
Learn love
Learn love
Learn love

What are you man, if you do not learn love?
What are you man, if you do not learn love?

From the Pen of Newton: Not Being Content With a Little

…He has given us exceeding great and precious promises; has bid us open our mouths wide, and has said that He will fill them.  He would have us ask great things, and when we have enlarged our desires to the utmost, He is able to do exceeding more than we can ask or think.  May we be as wise in our generation as the children of this world.  They are not content with a little, or, even with much, so long as there is any probability of getting more.  As to myself, I am but a poor man in the trade of grace; I live from hand to mouth, and procure just enough, (as we say,) to keep the wolf from the door.  (John Newton to D. West from Letters of Newton, 130)

I think so long as I have an empty pack of jelly-beans, marshmallows, or any other sweets my children are not content until the bag is empty.  The same goes with other teeth-rotting products like soda.  Newton is saying that we should be like that.  We should never content ourselves with the level of promises that we have received but should be constantly pressing the Lord for more.  This is not selfish, stupid, or sinful this is holy, right, and good. 

May we be more like Jacob who wrestled with God until he received His blessing and less like Esau who flitted away the promise on a bowl of soup. 


Lest, I or Newton be misunderstood this is not fodder for your health and wealth TV preachers.  Jacob’s asking God to bless him had far more to do with covenant than it did with product.  This isn’t a call to “not let God go until he gives me my Mercedes”.  This is a call not be content until God destroys those feeble but boisterous desires for idols and replaces them with God-sized desires. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Take More Than a Glance at Herbert’s The Glance

Earlier today I gave a few reasons why you should get to know George Herbert.  I gave you a couple of sample poems but this one I neglected to put in an already lengthy post.  For your benefit I have modernized the English but have not changed the words (i.e. “Vouchsaf’d” has become “vouchsafed”

     When first thy sweet and gracious eye
Vouchsafed even in the midst of youth and night
To look upon me, who before did lie
                         Weltering in sin;
       I felt a sugared strange delight,
Passing all cordials made by any art,
Bedew, embalm, and overrun my heart,
                         And take it in.
       Since that time many a bitter storm
My soul hath felt, even able to destroy,
Had the malicious and ill-meaning harm
                         His swing and sway :
       But still thy sweet original joy
Sprung from thine eye, did work within my soul,
And surging griefs, when they grew bold, control,
       And got the day.
       If thy first glance so powerful be,
A mirth but opened and sealed up again ;
What wonders shall we feel, when we shall see
                         Thy full-eyed love!
       When thou shalt look us out of pain,
And one aspect of thine spend in delight
More then a thousand suns disburse in light,
       In heaven above
(The Glance, From the Works of George Herbert)

I urge you to read through this slowly and think through what Herbert is saying—it is beautiful.  If “original joy” is enough to sustain us through many trials and temptations what “wonders shall we feel” when we are the objects of his “full-eyed love”.

People You’ve Maybe Never Heard Of But Should: George Herbert

George Herbert was born in April of 1593 to a wealthy and artistic family in Montgomery, Wales.  Herbert attended Trinity College in Cambridge where he excelled in languages and music.  His intentions were to become an Anglican priest but his aims were thwarted when King James called him into parliament.  However, later in life (in his thirties) Herbert did take holy orders in the Church of England and became a rector of a little parish near Salisbury.  For the rest of his days Herbert faithfully served as the rector of Fugglestone St. Peter.  He died a month before his fortieth birthday of tuberculosis. 

Why You Should Know Him:

What sets Herbert apart from others is not only his stately nose undergirded by a faithful mustache, but also his beautiful poetry.  Herbert’s collection of poems entitled The Temple were given to Nicholas Ferrar instructing him to either use them for the “advantage of any dejected poor soul” or to burn them.  Thankfully Ferrar chose the former. 

Herbert also had a book of pithy sayings published after his death.  One of these sayings is probably familiar to you:  “His bark is worse than his bite”.  But more than anything Herbert’s poems are what set him apart from others.  Particularly cool are his “pattern poems” which take the shape of an object that the poem is about.  Regardless of the style, though, Herbert’s poems were always gospel-centered and aimed at promoting the beauty and majesty of Christ. 


MY words and thoughts do both express this notion,
That LIFE hath with the sun a double motion.
The first IS straight, and our diurnal friend :
The other HID, and doth obliquely bend.
One life is wrapt IN flesh, and tends to earth ;
The other winds t'wards HIM whose happy birth
Taught me to live here so THAT still one eye
Should aim and shoot at that which IS on high—
Quitting with daily labour all MY pleasure,
To gain at harvest an eternal TREASURE.
(Colossians 3:3)

LORD, who createdst man in wealth and store,
    Though foolishly he lost the same,
        Decaying more and more,
            Till  he  became
                Most poor :
                With  thee
            O  let  me  rise
        As larks, harmoniously,
    And sing this day thy victories :
Then  shall  the  fall  further  the  flight  in  me.
My  tender  age  in  sorrow  did  beginne :
    And still with sicknesses and shame
        Thou didst so punish sinne,
            That  I  became
                Most thinne.
                With  thee
            Let me combine,
        And feel this day thy victorie,
    For,  if  I  imp  my  wing  on  thine,
Affliction  shall  advance  the  flight  in  me.
(Easter Wings)

Further Study:

There are many more poems from Herbert that will nourish your soul.  They are not only poetically brilliant but they also point to the fountain of life.  We live in a world of blogs and “quick reading” I invite you to look through some of Herbert’s poems and just sit awhile.  Read them a few times, they are profound and you will not catch everything on just a first glance. 

You can read the works of Herbert for free here:  The Works of George Herbert

Quick Review of A Quest for Comfort by William Boekestein

Baptist do not tend to do catechisms.  I don’t know why.  We should.  One particular catechism that is well written and quite helpful (though perhaps with a few baptistic tweaks) is the Heidelberg Catechism.  I knew very little about the catechism until I read The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung.  Reading through this made me consider going through such a catechism.  As of now we are using Children’s Desiring God material for weekly Bible studies.  But that catechism remains in the back of my mind.

The Heidelberg Catechism and it’s benefits were brought to forefront of my mind again when I received a copy of William Boekestein’s latest children’s book The Quest for Comfort.  This children’s book chronicles the lives of the three men instrumental in writing the Heidelberg Catechism: Caspar Olevianus, Zacharias Ursinus, and Frederick III. 

You may be wondering who in their right mind would write a children’s book about three guys hardly nobody has heard of that wrote a little book that few people use anymore.  Boekestein offers a defense on the final page of the book saying, “this is no ordinary document, and the record of its birth is anything but boring”.  Boekestein then goes on to defend the importance of the Heidelberg Catechism. 

Previously I had reviewed Boekestein’s earlier children’s book; Faithfulness Under Fire.  In that review I noted that some of the material and some of the pictures might be a little too much for some children.  In this particular book there is very little that might fall into that category.  There is a picture of teenagers “drowning” but there isn’t much else that would provide such a caution. 

This book aims at teaching “us that deeply held beliefs and profound theological truths are worthy of the difficulties often faced defending them”.  Our children need to know that.  They need to be brought up knowing that there are some truths that are so precious they are worth fighting and even dying for.  This book helps children to discover that our “quest for comfort” often follows a road filled with suffering, but God is faithful and His gospel is worth it. 

Should You Buy It?

I may encourage a few families in our church (myself included) to begin going through the Heidelberg Catechism with their children.  If I do this I will certainly suggest that they read this children’s book with their kids first.  I know that my son would enjoy the book and would like to know the people behind the catechism that we are studying. 

You can buy it for only $7.50 and it is a great book to add to your family library. 

You may also want to read my review of Faithfulness Under Fire and also an interview that William kindly agreed to do with me. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday’s Ministry Musing: Do We Have a Place for Lament?

…the language of lamented is seriously neglected in the church.  Many Christians seem to feel that somehow it can’t be right to complain to God in the context of corporate worship when we should all feel happy.  There is an implicit pressure to stifle our real feelings because we are urged, by pious merchants of emotional denial, that we ought to have “faith” (as if the moaning psalmists didn’t).  So we end up giving external voice to pretended emotions we do not really feel, while hiding the real emotions we are struggling with deep inside.  Going to worship can become an exercise in pretence and concealment, neither of which can possibly be conducive for a real encounter with God.  So, in reaction to some appalling disaster or tragedy, rather than cry out our true feelings to God, we prefer other ways of responding to it.  --(Christopher J.H. Wright, The God I Don’t Understand, 52)

When you consider that almost half of the Psalms are songs of lament, I think Wright may be on to something.  Is there a place for lament, complaining, questions, longing, etc. in our churches?  Or are these to be stuffed down and dropped off at the door so we can engage in" “worship”? 

Is it possible that the Lord does not want us to leave our baggage at the door but instead to bring it into the sanctuary and offer it up—jaded questions, hopeful discontent, broken longing, indeed every range of emotion—in lament to the Lord of glory? 

Of course this doesn’t mean that we always come with lament.  Sometimes we come with thanksgiving.  Sometimes we come with exuberant joy. Often we come with a mixture of all of these.  But does your church have a place for nearly half of the Psalms?  Or do we only corporately engage in the “happy” ones? 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Review of Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches by James M. Hamilton Jr.

As a preaching pastor (for students on Wednesday evenings, Sunday morning Sunday school, and adults on Sunday evenings) about 6-8 times per year I come to that most difficult time when a series is almost completed and I have to decide on what book of Scripture or topic we will cover for the next few weeks/months. 

Most of the time I welcome input as I am trying to discover what to teach on next.  I usually eliminate the pleas for “let’s go through Revelations”.  First of all I eliminate it because Revelations is not a book in the Bible.  The Revelation of Jesus Christ to John is a book of the Bible but not Revelations.  I jokingly say that but underneath that joking statement is the reason why I usually avoid going through Revelation.  Most people view it as a manual for the end times.  I take a different approach to Revelation.  So out of fear of sorely disappointing people—or perhaps because I am afraid I do not quite have enough rapport to dismiss the Left Behind series—I tend to avoid going through Revelation. 

That may change.

Book Summary:

Jim Hamilton has written a tremendous “commentary” on Revelation.  It is part of the Preaching the Word series edited by R. Kent Hughes.  Hamilton shows how one can hold a historic-premillenial view (as I do—though I want to be amillenial) and preach through Revelation without every week just being “I’m not sure what this means but I do know that Jesus wins”. 

This book is marketed as a commentary.  While it could serve as a commentary and do a very good job it is actually a collection of sermons that Hamilton preached at his church.  These manuscripts are tweaked to fit a commentary type of mold.  For those familiar with Martin Lloyd-Jones’ “commentary” series on Romans this is almost what you are getting in this offering from Hamilton. 

There are 37 chapters with each having a catchy introduction followed by a brief placing of the text and a stating of the main point.  Hamilton then engages in practical exposition of the text at hand and then wraps it up with a helpful conclusion.  Revelation 1-22 is covered in this commentary, and the first sermon serves as an overview of the entire message of Revelation.

One could theoretically read through the book from front cover to back cover and benefit greatly.  But those that will perhaps benefit most from this work are pastors looking for a supplement to their own study and preaching through Revelation.  A large part of sermon preparation is trying to really come to grips with what the text says.  Hamilton’s commentary will be somewhat useful for that task.  But it will be most useful for the more difficult task of the preachers task; namely, trying to figure out how to say what the Scriptures say in a compelling way.  I could see myself consulting Hamilton’s work asking the question to myself, “how could I best explain this truth”. 

Is It Helpful?

As I worked through this book I asked two questions of it:

Is the book solid theologically and still fair to other positions?  This first question is important because I have read a decent amount of commentaries or books on Revelation that are either not sound theologically or largely dismissive of other positions.  Eschatology has proven to be a hot-bed for theological controversy.  So obviously the book that is often seen as an end times manual is usual fodder for end-times controversy.  So how does Hamilton handle these passages?  Consider is explanation of Revelation 3:10—an often used verse for those of a pre-tribulation mindset.  Does Hamilton just dismiss them as nutjobs or does he engage their views with grace? 

Whether you think 3:10 means that the church will be raptured before the tribulation happens, or whether you think the verse means that the church will be preserved through the tribulation, we can all agree that Jesus says he will keep his people from the tribulation ‘because you have kept my word about patient endurance’…It seems to me that this text refers to the church’s being preserved through the tribulation rather than the church being raptured before the tribulation…But again the important thing for us to see and on which we can agree is the clear commendation of the way the church has kept Jesus’ word.  (Hamilton, 117)

I love it.  He is never shy in explaining his position and why he holds it, but at the same time he is not dismissive of other views, nor does he castigate them and cast them off as “not believing what the Bible clearly teaches”.  Because of his gracious tone I believe that any reader, regardless of eschatalogical persuasion, could benefit from reading this work.

Would I use this book in my sermon preparation?

I have to be honest and say that though I love D. Martin Lloyd-Jones reading his sermons on Romans is about as laboring as typing out his entire name.  They are lengthy and often you would have to read 40 pages just to discover his commentary on a few verses that you might be preaching.  Because of my experience with Lloyd-Jones I was skeptical that Hamilton’s work could be beneficial as a commentary. 

However, I was wrong.  The sermons are broken up in such a way that it would be helpful for the busy pastor if he only wants to read Hamilton on a couple of verses.  It is not necessary to read through an entire sermon to catch a comment on a particular text. 

Furthermore, each sermon is usually only around 10 pages and they are easy and engaging reads.  I could see myself preaching through Revelation and after laboring over a passage coming to the sermon construction step of sermon preparation and turning to Hamilton to see how he dealt with a particular passage.  The wise pastor may even consider using (while citing of course) some of Hamilton’s introductions or conclusions—they are very beneficial. 

Should You Buy It?

If you are a pastor, yes.  If you are a pastor preaching through Revelation, then you would probably be a goon not to buy it or at least try to find it in a library.  If you are are not a pastor I would still say that you would benefit from this book.  I would encourage any member of our congregation to purchase this book and read through the chapters slowly and devotionally.  If it benefited God’s people being preached on a Sunday morning I’m pretty sure it would benefit them reading it on the toilet on Monday….Or maybe I should have said bathtub, bedroom, or breakfast table. 

For a commentary its very inexpensive at only a little over 20 bucks.
As a devotional book its a little expensive at just over 20 bucks

Either way you can buy it here.

Five +One Friday 2/10/12

Timmy Brister considers Structuring the Church for Maximum Edification.  Really good thoughts here and an article that I’m going to read and think through a little more today.

Another article to mull over is this one by Bobby Jamieson: Pastors, Don’t Let Your People Resign into Thin Air

The Journal of Biblical Counseling is Returning.  Woot, Woot!  I’m excited about this.  Watch the video below:

The return of The Journal of Biblical Counseling from CCEF on Vimeo.

Chuck Colson is calling Christians to civil disobedience in regards to President Obama’s recent HHS decision.  This could get rather interesting.  Personally, I don’t think we are quite at a spot yet where people will get thrown in prison.  But I’ve been wrong before. 

Ed Stetzer exposes The Baptist Bogeyman.  Interesting piece with much to commend it. 

One reason I’m excited about baseball in 2012 and beyond: The ROYALS have a stacked youth movement.  Sometime I’m going to have to make a trip back to Missouri, pick up my buddy Brian and head to KC to catch a game. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Lion For Our Defense, A Lamb For Our Distress

If you are a poor distressed sinner, whose heart is ready to sink for fear that God never will have mercy on you, you need not be afraid to go to Christ, for fear that he is either unable or unwilling to help you: here is a strong foundation, and an inexhaustible treasure, to answer the necessities of your poor soul; and here is infinite grace and gentleness to invite and embolden a poor unworthy fearful soul to come to it.  If Christ accepts you, you need not fear but that you will be safe; for he is a strong lion for your defense; and if you come, you need not fear but that you shall be accepted; for he is like a lamb to all that come to him, and receives them with infinite grace and tenderness.  -Jonathan Edwards, “The Excellency of Christ”

A lion for our defense.  A lamb for our distress.

Hump Day Humor 2/8/12

I really like this:

(HT: 22 Words)

I really would like to work with Improv Everywhere:

I’m not sure this is meant to be funny, but I found it hilarious anyway:

Very helpful mushroom advice from 1916:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Quick Review of Justification: Five Views (Spectrum Series)

Justification: Five Views is edited by James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy. The five different views are as follows:

  • Traditional Reformed View: Michael S. Horton
  • Progressive Reformed View: Michael F. Bird
  • New Perspective View: James D.G. Dunn
  • Deification View: Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen
  • Roman Catholic View: Gerald O'Collins and Oliver P. Rafferty

Each contributor explains his view of justification for about 30 pages and then the other contributors offer responses.  The conversation is cordial but it often felt like one of these would have been handy:

I agree with Tom Schreiner’s assessment:

It is both enriching and frustrating to have both biblical scholars and systematicians dialogue in the same book. On the one hand, it is enriching to have scholars from different disciplines interact with one another. Too often biblical studies scholars work in one corner and systematics professors in another and never does the twain meet! It is helpful, therefore, to see them interact with one another. On the other hand, since they are in different disciplines, it occasionally feels as if they are talking past one another.

I do not pretend to be anywhere near as advanced in my understanding of justification as men like Tom Schreiner or the contributors in this book.  But I did notice that a few times it seemed as if everybody was talking about something different but using much the same words. 

I am not saying that at the end of the day every contributor basically agrees.  They have huge differences in their understanding.  But what leaves the reader frustrated is that it seems that the contributors are talking about many different facets of justification and never even using the same tools to discuss them. 

Perhaps the scope of the book is a bit too broad and the five views are too varied for this to really have a fruitful discussion.  It may also be my own density in regards to the discussion.  For me I felt that the essays were a bit too disjointed.  It may have been better to have had a separate book (or perhaps separate and smaller chapters) on each facet of justification that was being discussed; i.e. a chapter on the meaning of pistis, a chapter on the Paul’s attitude toward Judaism, etc,.  But as it stands I never felt as if the individual contributors really explained how their position is different from the others or why the differences matter. 

Should You Buy It?

If you are new to discussions on justification in contemporary theology then I would not make this your first book into the discussion.  Except for the first two chapters written by the editors.  I felt that they did a tremendous job of framing the discussion and setting the discussion within its historical perspective. 

However, if you are at least somewhat versed in the present discussions you will be helped by interacting (though not as much as one would like) with these varying viewpoints.  The contributors are very cordial and fair with one another.  And any reader will benefit from the first two chapters. 

I’m not going to say rush out to your local bookstore to buy this book—but I do think that 15 bucks is a pretty reasonable price and for theology nerds like myself its a fun read and provides some helpful perspective. 

You can buy it here.

From the Pen of Newton: How to Be Neither Useful Nor Respected

A young convert that has taken up preaching—the Rev. Thomas Bowman—was quite timid in the pulpit.  Part of it was his disposition, some of it may have been an unhealthy fear of man.  To this young man Newton writes:

There is certainly such a thing as Christian prudence, and a remarkable deficiency of it is highly inconvenient.  But caution too often degenerates into cowardice; and if the fear of man, under the name of prudence, gets within our guard, like a chilling frost, it nips every thing in the bud.  Those who trust the Lord, and act openly with an honest freedom and consistency, I observe He generally bears them out, smoothes their way, and makes their enemies their friends, or at least restrains their rage; while such as halve things, temporize, and aim to please God and man together, meet with double disappointment, and are neither useful nor respected.  If we trust him, He will stand by us; if we regard men, He will leave us to make the best we can of them…  (From Letters of Newton, 123, emphasis mine)

“Temporize” is not a word that we use much anymore.  In case you are not familiar with the word it means: to temporarily adopt a particular course in order to conform to the circumstances.  By “halving things” Newton is speaking of taking the sting out of truth.  He is referring to making things palatable at the expense of truth. 

Those then who attempt to please both God and men end up disappointing both ends.  They will not be useful to God and they will not be respected by men.  Nobody respects a “yes, man” or a coward that refuses to speak truth as it is.  So Newton (surprisingly to some) encourages this young man to fear the Lord, trust Him, and speak the truth with “honest freedom” and let God smooth out his rough edges. 

I read this as a reminder to always check my conscience to determine if my “prudence” in a matter is really just cowardice.  It is a running joke in our family that my answer to whether we can do something is usually “let’s wait” or “let’s let the dust settle”.  Sometimes it's prudence.  Many times its cowardice.  I want to have a heart and mind that is singularly focused on pleasing the Lord and as a result I want to live in humble boldness; because passive cowards are neither useful nor respected.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday’s Ministry Musing: Criticism

Death.  Taxes.  A Cleveland Browns losing season.  Criticism.  Four things that are pretty much inevitable.  For those that engage in ministry criticism—whether unfounded or legit is inevitable.  It really is true that you cannot please all of the people all of the time. 

Consider the apostle Paul.  Within the his recorded writings we can discern that Paul was taking criticism from many different opponents.  There were those of the legal variety who believed Paul was being loose on the law and too free in his grace.  But then he often ticked off the other side too—those shouting race, unity, and love—believing the Paul was too light on grace and too strong on the law. 

Those who were more legal in their understanding of the Scriptures would have loved the Paul of 1 Corinthians.  They would have been the loudest members of the “Amen” choir as Paul exhorted the Corinthians to “purge the evil person from among you”.  But as soon as Paul would say things like, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,” the amen’s would cease and the accusatory questions would begin.  “So why don’t we just keep on sinning Paul?  Your view of the gospel is directly opposed to the law.  It has no regard for God’s holiness.  If we follow your gospel then people will be all kinds of immoral”. 

Of course at the same time that Team Legal is accusing Paul of subverting the law then Team Grace is clapping and registering for their seat in the “Amen” choir.  They love hearing that grace covers over sin and that for those that are in Christ you cannot out sin his grace.  But as soon as Paul would say things like “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body” then Team Grace would turn on him and accuse him of subverting the gospel. 

You and I

If you are faithful in preaching the gospel you are going to upset those that are more legal in their understanding of the Scriptures AND you are going to upset those that herald a cheap grace that is marked by shallow unity and weak love.  Both sides may argue with one another about the Scriptures but they will be united in their belief that you aren’t being faithful to the Scriptures. 

The answer then is to keep preaching the gospel faithfully and ignore your critics. 

Or is it…?

While it may be true that you are just faithfully preaching the gospel and those gospel haters are unfairly criticizing you, it may be just as true that you are wrong and only think you are faithfully preaching the gospel.  You and I are just as prone to legalism and antinomianism in our lives and in our preaching as those that criticize us. 

There are two chief dangers when it comes to criticism.  First, is listening too much.  Secondly, is not listening at all. 

If you listen too much then you are going to ineffectively attempt to please everyone and as a result you will prove unfaithful in your sacred task of proclaiming the whole counsel of God.  You need to faithfully proclaim the gospel and offend the antinomians as well as the legalists. 

But not listening at all is just as deadly.  There is a danger when getting leveled with criticism to assume that you are Paul and your detractors are one of the gospel-haters.  But keep in mind that the antinomians and the legalists were pretty confident that Paul was the gospel-hater. 

So what do you do with criticism?  Three steps:

1. Humbly check your conscience.  In Acts 23:1 among other places Paul references his “good conscience”.  It seems that Paul was consistently listening to his conscience.  If he had a nagging sense of guilt he dealt with it by the same gospel that he proclaimed.  If you receive criticism get alone and get honest with yourself.  Is their charge really baseless?  Is it possible that you might have had a misstep?  If so, clear your conscience by grace through faith and repentance. 

2. Rest in grace.  If this charge is baseless your conscience will remind you that there are a hundred other charges that are not baseless.  You are held by grace whether this criticism is true or false.  As Abraham Booth has said, “the Christian in such a predicament may just say, ‘Though I am free from the charge alleged, it is not owing to the superior holiness of my heart, but must be ascribed to divine, preserving care”.  You do not need to needlessly defend yourself or your cause.  Yes, humbly defend where it has a bearing on the gospel—but at the end of the day sleep well because grace reigns. 

3. Live out the gospel you proclaim.  The gospel reminds you that you do not have to be a perfect shepherd because Christ is.  Our identity is wrapped up in the identity of the Good Shepherd who cares for us.  Your fundamental identity before the Savior is not “pastor extraordinaire”; but it is child, bride, adopted, forgiven, servant, etc,.  So by His grace and for His glory we must strive to grow and reflect Him.  We do not strive to be accepted in his Kingdom as a pastor.  We pastor because we are accepted in His kingdom.

I think following these steps is what Abraham Booth means by this:

“For even malevolent attacks and unfounded charges upon a Christian’s character, if his own temper is under proper government, may prove an occasion for promoting his best interests”  (Booth, The Christian Pastors Manual, 97)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Converting the Gospel

…it is your indispensable duty to preaching Christ and not yourself, that is, with sincerity and ardor to aim at displaying the glories of His person and the riches of His grace, the spirituality of His kingdom and the excellence of His government—not your own ingenuity or eloquence, your parts or learning. 

Guard then, my brothers, against the most pernicious evil; guard, as for your very life, against converting the gospel ministry into a vehicle to exhibit your own excellence, against prostituting the doctrine of Christ crucified to the gratification of your pride or that it may be a pander to your praise.    -Abraham Booth


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