Friday, December 29, 2006

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

A couple of years back I finally actually read A Christmas Carol. A good friend of mine reads it each year at Christmas. I was struck by how good it was and how much superior the actual book was to the various stage versions I have seen- and how much more explicitly Christian. If you, like me, have managed to skip reading the book but feel like you know the story well enough, I would encourage you to read it. It is short and well worth the read.

Here are a few quotes:

“I am sure I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come round – apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that – as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open there shut up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that, while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”

“Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar here, and dress it with such terrors as thou has at thy command, for this is thy dominion! But of the loved, revered, and honored head, thou canst not turn one hair to thy dread purposes, or make one feature odious. It is not that the hand is heavy, and will fall down when released; it is not that the heart and pulse are still; but that the hand was open, generous, and true, the heart brave, warm, and tender, and the pulse a man’s. Strike, Shadow, strike! And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow the world with life immortal!”

“Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them, for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset…”

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from our family to you!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Poem, Robert Southwell

As Christmas draws near, I wanted to share a favorite Christmas poem. This is actually only a portion of the poem, but it is the most relevant and best part. I appreciate how the poet moves appropriately from the “baby” imagery to the purpose of the incarnation- “to rifle Satan’s fold” (“The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil,” 1 John 3:8).

New Heaven, New War

This little Babe so few days old,
Is come to rifle Satan's fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake,
Though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak, unarmed wise,
The gates of hell he will surprise.

With tears he fights and wins the field,
His naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries,
His arrows made of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns cold and need,
And feeble flesh his warrior's steed.

His camp is pitched in a stall,
His bulwark but a broken wall;
The crib his trench, hay stalks his stakes,
Of shepherds he his muster makes;
And thus as sure his foe to wound,
The Angels' trumps alarum sound.

My soul with Christ join thou in fight,
Stick to the tents that he hath dight;
Within his crib is surest ward,
This little Babe will be thy guard;
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy,
Then flit not from the heavenly boy.

By Robert Southwell

Friday, December 15, 2006

Regarding Thomas Goodwin

When I was a student at Trinity Evangelical School I was blessed to have Dr. Ray Ortlund, Jr. as a professor and in one of our Hebrew classes he handed out a sheet with the following quote. Goodwin's example is a helpful one for us as we seek to shepherd the poeple of God. Dr. Ortlund used the quote to stress the combination of learning and godliness.

Regarding Thomas Goodwin (d. 1658):
“He was a learned and a godly person, and it is difficult to say which of the two had the pre-eminence: they seemed to keep pace, and he was eminent in both. He was a great proficient in the study of divinity and in a knowledge of the holy scriptures. Like Ezra, he was a ready scribe in the law of the Lord; and, like Apollos, mighty in the scriptures. Though he was young, his attainments were very great; God gave unto him abundantly of his spirit. In prayer he had much of the spirit of devotion, and was filled with the breathings of the Holy Ghost. In preaching, he was most exemplary, both as a Christian and a minister. His preaching was admired by the godly and the learned, yet persons of the meanest capacity could understand him. He had such a winning method, that his sermons were never tedious, but the attention of his hearers seemed to be chained to his lips. He took great pains in his ministry, and was frequently engaged in preaching, in which he took great delight. The love of Christ, and the souls of the people, made frequent preaching his recreation and his pleasure.”
-Benjamin Brook, The Lives of the Puritans (London, 1813), III:301

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Heart Prepared to Preach

Some years a go I came across this quote from Spurgeon in a secondary source under the heading given here. I have kept it with me and appreciated it so I thought I would pass it along.

“When we speak as ministers and not as men, as preachers instead of penitents, as theologians instead of disciples, we fail; when we lean our head too much upon the commentary, and too little upon the Savior’s bosom; when we eat too largely of the tree of knowledge, and too little of the tree of life, we lose the power of our ministry. I am myself a sinner, a sinner washed in the blood, and delivered from the wrath to come by the merit of my Lord and Master – all this must be fresh upon our mind. Personal godliness must never grow scanty with us. Our own personal justification in the righteousness of Christ, our personal sanctification by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, our vital union with Christ, and expectancy of glory in Him, yea, our own advancement in grace, or our own declension; all these we must know and consider.”
-C.H. Spurgeon

Monday, December 11, 2006

Student Statement on Pastoral Ministry

This is finals week so I am knee-deep in grading papers. Here is one particularly encouraging quote from a student essay, where the student is addressing the question of what the nature of pastoral ministry is.

“It should be the heart of every minister that he does not lose one of the sheep that he has been given, but that he works with all his might, intellect, sweat, and blood for their sanctification so that the church, the bride of Christ, may be presented blameless before the bridegroom at the end of days.”

Well put, and Amen!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Live What You Preach

While rummaging back through variosu papers this evening looking for notes for some teaching tomorrow, I came across this quote sent to me by a pastor friend 8 years ago. He had mentioned it in a sermon and i had asked for it. It coems from T. H. L. Parker's book on Calvin's preaching, and, as I understand it, is a quote from Calvin:

"It would be better for him to break his neck going up into the pulpit if he does not take pains to be the first to follow God."

This quote grabs me as it did then as a good reminder of beign earnest about livign out ourselves what we preach to others. Let us be faithful in this as we enter pulpits in the morning.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

O Shepherd, Where Art Thou?

O Shepherd, Where Art Thou?, Calvin Miller
Broadman & Holman, 2006

I am writing a review of this book for the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology so in fairness, I cannot write a full review here. Let me just say that this is a very valuable book on pastoral ministry, a tract for our time. There are things I would say differently, a place or two which concerned me, but overall this is an excellent book. If every pastor would read it and heed it, we would be much better off. It is a short, easy read as well so many might read this when they would not read other things.

In typical Miller story-telling fashion he lampoons a common view of success in pastoral ministry (gathering more and more people into your service) and argues that pastoral care is an essential part of pastoral ministry. He focuses on hospital visitation, but the principle points to the larger issue of the oversight of souls, keeping up with each of those under our care a ministering to them as individuals. Readers of this blog will know that this resonates with the key theme of what is written here. Get a copy for yourself, and give copies to other pastors. It would make a great gift for pastors this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Resource for Fathers

I am convinced that one key thing for pastors to do is to encourage fathers to take up their proper role of shepherding their families, discipling their children, etc. This is so foreign in our typical context but is clear in the Scripture as well as in the history of the church. Reclaiming this role of fathers is essential for achieving health in the church. This is a big subject, but my point here is simply to introduce a book that will be helpful in encouraging fathers in this direction. This is not a book that directly speaks to fathers on this issue. Rather it is a book that fathers can read to their children, particularly sons.

I am referring to the Crown and Covenant Series published by P&R. I have posted a review of the first volume in this trilogy over at my blog on children’s books. I will not repeat the review here, but simply suggest that these would be great books for pastors to urge the fathers in their churches to read to their sons. Sons will enjoy it and fathers, if they even barely pay attention, will be encouraged and convicted by the father in the book. The father in the stories, Sandy M’Kethe, takes seriously his role in discipling his children, leading his family, teaching them in word and example, etc. If you can encourage your fathers to read these books to their sons, you will accomplish much. Simply reading to their children is one good thing. Secondly, as they enjoy time together they will see a good example. Third, as the story wrestles with significant theological issues you may get them thinking on such topics as well.

Lastly, the books are best suited for children no younger than six. They are actually aimed children even a bit older than that. The review can guide you further.

Monday, December 04, 2006

ESV Reverse Interlinear

ESV Reverse Interlinear

The actual title of this book is The English-Greek Interlinear New Testament, English Standard Version. Most people, for obvious reasons, do not use the full title. :)

While carrying this book down the hall I was stopped by a colleague who practically exclaimed, “What are you doing with an interlinear?!” Greek professors are not supposed to affirm interlinears. I am sure this is somewhere written in the Greek professor equivalent of the Hippocratic oath. And, up to this time I have never found an interlinear that I thought much of. I picked one up as a student but found it to be of little help.

Thus, I was a bit skeptical when approaching this book. I had heard good things though so I wanted to see what it was like. I found myself not just pleasantly surprised, but amazed. This is truly a helpful volume.

One of the problems with typical interlinears is the English is so wooden that it is of little help with the result that you really only have a cluttered Greek text. The reverse feature helps this by starting with an English translation and arranging the Greek text according to the English. I knew this feature but was skeptical about the fact that the Greek word order would be lost. However, each Greek word is numbered so that you can easily see what the Greek word order is. Also where more than one English word is required to translate a Greek word, it is clearly noted what Greek word these English words are derived from. Each Greek word is also parsed. More features could be discussed, but in short I am really impressed with all that has been done to provide access from the English into the actual Greek text. This is a significant work.

I think this will be a great tool for various sorts of people. People who do not know Greek but want to can use this New Testament and dip into Greek as they have the opportunity. I have already recommended this to a doctor friend who simply out of personal interest took a crash course in Greek. This New Testament provides a good way to begin or maintain some element of contact with Greek. In the same way it can be a useful tool for first year students. Of course, it could provide a temptation for first year students to cheat on parsing exercises but laziness already has enough outlets so that this book does not seriously increase the temptation.

Also, since I am writing for pastors, this could provide the much needed opportunity for many to refresh some Greek skill. This tool would allow you to do as much or as little as you could in any given week. I think one major obstacle many pastors face in trying to refresh is the feeling that you have to jump all the way in. Thus, you begin to feel like there is no point in trying. Perhaps this tool can alleviate that fear and get some past that obstacle. If so, then this will have been a very useful tool.

Finally, the Preface by John Schwandt is very good on how and why knowledge of Greek is helpful. He does a great job of dispelling shallow reasons some times given for studying Greek and arguments against such study. This essay is one of the best on this topic that I have read.