Thursday, August 28, 2008

Practical Theology for Women

Practical Theology for Women: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives, Wendy Horger Alsup
(Crossway, 2008), pb., 154 pp.

I have been thumbing through this book and it seems quite good. I particularly appreciate her arguments that theology is for everyone, that there are not two tracks for Christians: the theology track and the ‘practical-only’ track. This point needs affirming repeatedly in our churches today.

Here is a good quote on the practical effect of theology:

“I have heard some women argue that they don’t want to know more theology than their husbands know. They seem to fear that studying theology will turn them into theological Amazon queens who naturally relegate their husbands to second-class positions in the home. But this is a terrible way to think about theology. God forbid that women should avoid studying the deep things of the Word lest they surpass the understanding of the men in their lives! Studying theology- such as the Holy Spirit’s role in convicting man of sin, and God’s sovereignty over all creation- will curb, not enhance, a woman’s sinful tendency to nag and manipulate her husband. My husband can bear witness to the fact that a better understanding of God’s character, that is, theology, makes me a better wife. No matter where our husbands, fathers, or pastors may be in their spiritual journey, when we ladies grow in our understanding of God’s character and attributes, it can only be a blessing for our homes, our marriages, and our churches.” (21-22)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Pastor, New Blog, Old Gospel

It was my privilege this past Sunday to preach the ordination sermon for Eric Smith, a young man who has just finished his work here at Union and has begun a pastorate here in West TN. Eric is an encouragement to me as I see him pursuing the task of overseeing the souls of his people and hear how his love for his people shapes his preaching and visiting. The Lord has already richly blessed the faithful work being done there. Eric has begun a blog titled “Shepherd of the Sheep” and I look forward to what he will share there.

He has posted the audio of the sermon I preached from 1 Timothy 4:6-16. This text is such a rich exhortation to those of us laboring in pastoral ministry, particularly as Paul stresses the importance of learning, teaching and living the gospel.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Worshipping the Right God

Here is a good word from a great new commentary on how the Psalms can help shape our worship and a warning on how we can easily worship a false god under the guise of worshipping the one true God. This is a needed warning for the church.
“Like the temple worshippers, Christians too need to be sure they are worshipping their God in accordance with what he has shown himself to be. They may not be constructing a visible idol, yet their conception of him may not be biblical. They may not think of him simply as just, but also as harsh, not simply as loving but also as sentimental. As we have seen, Psalm 50 shows us that it is possible to call him Yahweh and yet to be thinking of him as if he is Baal. The Psalms with their God-centered theology are a most effective antidote to wrong thinking about God and so may be effective in reforming our worship.”
(Geoffrey Grogan, Psalms, The Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary, p. 408)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Don Whitney on Pastors’ Clothing

One of the things I like so much about Don Whitney’s ministry is how he addresses so many concrete practical things- often times things others have not thought to address. I recommend you browse his site occasionally to read the various articles there.
I recently came across a brief piece of his titled, “Clothing Tips for Ministers.” He makes clear that he is not wanting to exalt appearance over godliness, but simply to offer guidance. He states:
So I’m writing these clothing tips specifically to help the minister … who sometimes must dress up, but who feels some need for guidance on the matter and cannot afford to spend a great deal on clothes. …
But no minister wants his appearance, especially on more formal occasions, to hinder his ministry in any way or be an embarrassment to those he represents. So to help ministers dress at these events in ways that will not be a distraction or a stumbling
block, and yet be as affordable as possible, I offer these suggestions.
What follows is great advice on ways to save money, including what items and colors are most versatile. Whitney notes that most of what he mentions is what fathers once handed down to their sons, but obviously these things are not being handed down so often today.
I think this is a very helpful article.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Beauty of Modesty

David and Diane Vaughan. The Beauty of Modesty: Cultivating Virtue in the Face of a Vulgar Culture. Nashville, TN: Cumberland House, 2005.

The issue of modesty is an important one for our churches today. Barry Maxwell a couple of months ago provided a helpful post on this issue in our churches and homes. At about the same time as Barry’s post I was reading this book by the Vaughans. I had first encountered David Vaughan through his excellent book on Patrick Henry. I was interested to see what he and his wife had to say on modesty and I was not disappointed.

This is an excellent, careful, biblical book that would be good to make available to the families at your church. The book develops in three parts: “The Need for Modesty”, “The Nature of Modesty”, and “The Nurture of Modesty.” They root this virtue solidly in the biblical teaching of holiness as a proper outworking of the gospel. There is no mere moralism here; rather there is exposition and exhortation to applying the gospel to all of life, to living purely unto God and to being aware of how our behavior impacts others.

The fact that there is too little difference between the modesty of the church and the world is a compromise of the gospel. The Vaughans write:
“If immodesty is the incarnation of a pagan worldview, then why are we seeing so much immodesty among Christians? ...The answer is that we are experiencing the cultural captivity of the church.” 39

“…what we are witnessing is a sweeping secularization of the church in her very mind and morals.” 44

“Modesty matters because it is an expression of our worldview and a measure of our sanctification.” 46

This is so true.
The book then discusses the need to be shaped by biblical truths and discusses in much detail the role of parents, particularly fathers, in training children in understanding the value and message of modesty. Along the way this is then a great book simply on parenting. I recommend this book highly.

In closing here are a few other representative quotes:

“In light of the value God places on marriage and fidelity, immodesty is no small sin. It is not simply a silly and vain form of self-display. It is a snare to serious sin.” 80

“When it comes to finding a man, no attention is better than the wrong attention….A modest woman, on the other hand, is not only communicating her respect for the institution of marriage, she is also telling all would-be suitors that she is not cheap.” 81

“… in teaching holiness we will be restoring modesty, for holiness is its soil.” 155

“an immodest worshiper is an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms. . . . It is a frightening thought, but if a woman comes to church dressed to get attention, then she is competing with Christ.” 157-158

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Spurgeon, Apply the Text Directly to Hearts

No, my brethren, we must always take our texts so that we may bear upon our hearers with all our might. I hope I may never preach before a congregation—I desire always to preach to you; nor do I wish to exhibit powers of eloquence, nor would I even pretend to exhibit any depth of learning. I would simply say, “Hear me, my fellow men, for God doth send me unto you. There are some things that concern you; I will tell you of them. You are dying; many of you when you die must perish for ever; it is not for me to be amusing you with some deep things that may instruct your intellect but do not enter your hearts; it is for me to fit the arrow to the string and send it home—to unsheathe the sword—be the scabbard never so glittering, to cast it aside, and let the majesty of naked truth smite at your hearts; for in the day of judgment aught beside personal home-speaking will be consumed as wood, and hay, and stubble; but these shall abide, like the gold and silver and precious stones that can not be consumed.
But some men will say, “Sir, ministers ought not to be personal.” Ministers ought to be personal, and they will never be true to their Master till they are. I admire John Knox for going, Bible in hand, to Queen Mary, and sternly upbraiding her. I admit I do not exactly love the way in which he did it; but the thing itself I love. The woman had been a sinner, and he told her so flat to her face. But now we poor graven sons of nobodies have to stand and talk about generalities; we are afraid to point you out and tell you of your sins personally. But, blessed be God, from that fear I have been delivered long ago. There walketh not a man on the surface of this earth whom I dare not reprove. There are none of you, however connected with me by ties of profession or in any other respect, that I would blush to speak personally to, as to the things of the kingdom of God; and it is only by being bold, courageous, and sending home the truth, that we shall at last be free from the blood of our hearers. May God grant us the power of Paul, that we may reason on appropriate subjects, and not select generalities, when we ought to be pushing home truths to the consciences of our hearers.”

- From Paul’s Sermon Before Felix

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Spiritual Home

I have commented a number of times on D. A. Carson’s book about his father, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor. In the most recent Crossway book report Dr. Carson was interviewed about the book and he commented on the value of growing up in a home where his pastor father was faithful and consistent. In the interview he stated:
“I’d be the first to insist that modeling Christian virtues, not least in the home, is of paramount importance. The worst sort of home to be brought up in is the one where spiritual pretensions are high and performance is low; the best sort of home is the one where spiritual pretensions are low and performance is high. That was the kind of home in which I was reared.”
This is a good reminder to anyone particularly us pastors.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Pastor Daddy

Last week at my children’s literature blog I commented on a new book titled, Pastor Daddy. This book is an excellent tool for leading the men in our churches to take seriously their responsibility to lead their families spiritually. I comment further at the other blog and give ordering information. May the Lord use this little book to be a great blessing to many churches.