Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Need for Teachers

Last week after one of the services where I was preaching, an older man came up to talk with me. One of the joys of these situations for me is the opportunity to hear from such saints who have walked with the Lord for many decades. This man was 89 and told me how he was converted at a meeting held over 70 years ago just a few yards from where we stood. His testimony was encouraging.

At one point he leaned in closer and said, “Preacher, you want me to tell you what’s wrong with our churches today?” I responded eagerly, “Yes, sir!” He said, “We don’t have enough Bible teachers anymore.” I really was amazed. I hear people point to many things, but this dear brother who had served the Lord in this same area for seven decades put his finger on a key issue. He talked about how he reads the Bible and learns on his own but how much we need more teachers in the church, how we need people who will give themselves (pastors and lay leaders as well) to know and teach the Bible.

Brothers, take this as a cry from the pews. Those who are aware enough are crying out to be taught the Bible. Let us faithfully feed the flock and train others to teach the Bible also. This sort of training is the mission also of the Ryan Center for Biblical Studies which I direct. I will be saying more in coming days about an upcoming conference which will be a great training opportunity for pastors and bible study leaders to help fill the void pointed out by this dear elder brother.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Discipleship Study Bible

With all the new study Bibles coming out this year and new editions of previous ones, a number of people have dubbed this the “Year of the Study Bible.” I have commented on these in my forthcoming annual survey of bibles and bible reference books for Preaching Magazine (you can see last year’s installment here). In this post, though, I want to give further comment on one of The Discipleship Study Bible, one of the new study Bibles this year.

This study Bible sets itself a good aim in the introduction stating that there is no need to choose between explaining the text in its original setting and applying to contemporary readers. I agree with this approach wholeheartedly. However, the execution is disturbing to me in various places. This is due primary to the critical stance taken toward the Scriptures.

One example will suffice. In Exodus the notes display little confidence on the historical accuracy of the account. Worse than this are the comments on 14:30 where mention is made of the Egyptians destroyed as they sought to follow the Israelites through the Red Sea. The notes state:

We need always to remember that there is more than one side to a story. For Egyptians this is a story of tragedy and defeat. … We need to hear the story of Egyptians and the slaves … Israelis and Palestinians. We must hear even the stories of our enemies. Perhaps as we consider not only our own inclinations to oppress but also the consequences, we’ll be inclined to heed the voices of those crying out to be let go.
What?! We hear in this text the divine interpretation of this event. Of course this was a tragedy for the Egyptians. They were being judged for their rebellion against God. We should take from this text, not “Oh my! There are two sides to the story!” but “It is a terrible thing to fall under God’s judgment!” Of course in our dealings with people we need to hear both sides of a story- Proverbs tells us that- but that is not the point of this text.

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident in the notes for this Bible. Skepticism of the text and political correctness obscure the Bible, so it is not suited to be a help in one’s spiritual growth.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Revival messages on the church

Sunday I began preaching a series of meetings at a small church in the next county. I am attempting to do the same basic thing I mentioned here once before, preaching to the people about what the church should be on the ground that a true work of renewal begins with the people of God. I have so far preached on the same texts I mentioned before:

1 Tim 3:14-16- on the nature of the church
Eph 4- on the necessity of every
member supplying
Heb 3:12-4:16- on the responsibility of members to exhort
(encourage & rebuke) one another every day as a key to our perseverance.

My intention is to preach on 1 Cor 5 tonight on church discipline as the logical outcome of Eph 4 and Heb 3-4. This is how we show that we truly do love one another and that we love the glory of God. I have also stressed to the people that one of their primary fields of evangelism in this area will be people who profess faith but demonstrate by their life and lack of concern for the things of God that they do not know God (Titus 1:16).

I will hope to post in the next few days some other encouraging things I have seen during these meetings.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints

Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints, ed. John Piper & Justin Taylor
(Crossway, 2008), pb., 157 pp.

I just received my copy of this book and thumbed through it reading various portions. I had not intended really to read anything just yet, but I found myself captivated. “Perseverance” is a word I talk about often with my boys. They call it “our word,” because I stress it so often. I do so because it is such a lacking theme in the culture around us (including the church) and it is so important. So, I was very interested in this book.

There is much wise reflection here from people who have endured. The exhortations from Jerry Bridges, John MacArthur and John Piper are solid and piercing as always. The personal story of Randy Alcorn particularly grabbed me. I knew Alcorn only by some of his books, but I had no idea of his own setting or experiences. His account of enduring persecution, particularly as his children watched, suffered and endured with him, was especially moving and challenging. This is material I will share with my family today.

May we glorify God with faithful perseverance.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Charles Brown posts

This past Spring I read Charles Brown’s The Ministry and found it a wonderful little book packed with much wisdom for pastoral ministry. Since that time I have been meaning to comment on various portions of the book. I have been delayed for numerous reasons but Eric Smith over at Shepherd of the Sheep has provided a number of good posts from the book. He has also posted several thoughtful and helpful meditations from Titus. I commend them to you.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Be Faithful

In a recent conversation a friend told me of the church experience of a mutual friend of ours. Our mutual friend is in his later 30’s like me and has been in church for about 16 years. During that time he has been in four or five churches and in everyone one of them the pastor has fallen in sexual immorality. How many today have this same experience that every pastor they have had has eventually had to step down due to immorality (sexual, financial, etc.)?!

Of course we are all sinful, but this cries out for us to be ‘above reproach’ (1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6). Brothers, we need to be diligent and to have other men around us who are ‘in our business.’ Do not allow yourself to be aloof and alone. That is a recipe for disaster, and it is not the biblical model for pastors. We need the Body as much as anyone else. Such accountability and openness will puncture our pride releasing the harmful gas which inflates our egos- which is to say it will encourage us to godliness and real joy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ella Broadus Robertson

Since I commented on Broadus yesterday it is appropriate today to link to a recent Kairos Journal article on his daughter, Ella Broadus Robertson. Her husband was A. T. Robertson, prominent Greek scholar at Southern Seminary in the early 20th century.

This Kairos Journal article summarizes Mrs. Robertson’s work in speaking to women and encouraging a biblical world view with books like The Fine Art of Motherhood.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Broadus Book

John A. Broadus: A Living Legacy
Ed., David Dockery & Roger Duke
(B&H Academic, 2008), pb., 272 pp.

It continues to be so encouraging to see the quality of material coming from B&H Academic these days. I recently received a copy of this book on John Broadus, and it looks great. Broadus was a giant in the land, and it is good to recover awareness of key leaders in or past. Charles Spurgeon said Broadus was the “greatest of living preachers,” and comparatively few people are truly aware of him today. This book contains essays on various facets of Broadus’s work and legacy by accomplished scholars including David Dockery, Jim Patterson, Timothy George, Tom Nettles, Rick Melick and Mark Overstreet.

I believe this book is also the first in a new series, Studies in Baptist Life and Thought, edited by Michael Haykin. This series looks promising as well.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Minor Prophets Study

This summer in adult Sunday School at our church we surveyed the Minor Prophets taking up one book each week. Several different people shared in the teaching. I found these to be very profitable (no pun intended this time!) and I have heard from many others who did as well. Due to the labors of Jeremy Rasnic the audio of each of these lessons are online.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wesley Dramatization

As part of the “starting back” activities at Union we had the opportunity to see “The Man from Aldersgate” performed by B J Johnston. Johnston gave a wonderful presentation of Wesley with humor and good theological application. Sure, I have my differences with Wesley, but this presentation hits they key areas of evangelical agreement- and there is no doubting Wesley was a dear brother greatly used of God. I found this presentation stirring and engaging and would commend it to you if you have a chance to see it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Spurgeon on Gossip

I am to preach on Psalm 15 in the morning so I was looking over Spurgeon’s comments in his Treasury of David. Spurgeon’s comments on gossip are worth noting, especially since gossip may tear more churches apart than any other sin. We ought to deal directly and forcefully with any who bring gossip to us. Spurgeon helpfully makes the point of how dangerous this sin is and how we should respond accordingly.

"Nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour." He is a fool if not a knave who picks up stolen goods and harbours them; in slander as well as robbery, the receiver is as bad as the thief. If there were not gratified hearers of ill reports, there would be an end of the trade of spreading them. Trapp says, that "the tale-bearer carrieth the devil in his tongue, and the tale-hearer carries the devil in his ear." The original may be translated, "endureth;" implying that it is a sin to endure or tolerate tale-bearers. "Show that man out!" we should say of a drunkard, yet it is very questionable if his unmanly behaviour will do us so much mischief as the tale-bearers insinuating story. "Call for a policeman!" we say if we see a thief at his business; ought we to feel no indignation when we hear a gossip at her work? Mad dog! Mad dog!! is a terrible hue and cry, but there are few curs whose bite is so dangerous as a busybody's tongue. Fire! fire!! is an alarming note, but the tale-bearer's tongue is set on fire of hell, and those who indulge it had better mend their manners, or they may find that there is fire in hell for unbridled tongues. Our Lord spake evil of no man, but breathed a prayer for his foes; we must be like him, or we shall never be with him.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Derek Thomas’ Commentary Guide

I recently purchased a copy of the revised edition of Derek Thomas’ The Essential Commentaries for a Preacher’s Library and have enjoyed looking through it. I always appreciate seeing what commentaries are found useful by preachers or teachers whom I respect. I must say I find more benefit from Carson and Longman’s commentary surveys though. Thomas tends to list with no or little comment whereas Carson & Longman provide more description and critique (esp. Carson).

Still, this is a useful tool.

I purchased my copy at Solid Ground Christian Books.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Owen on Divine Aid in Bible Study

In going back over my OT Survey material in preparation for the beginning of term, I came across this quote from John Owen. It is well put in so many ways and a good warning to us not to rest in our own abilities when approaching Scripture. Of course we must study and labor, but we must also pray.

“For a man solemnly to undertake the interpretation of any portion of Scripture without invocation of God, to be taught and instructed by his Spirit, is a high provocation of him; nor shall I expect the discovery of truth from anyone who thus proudly engages in a work so much above his ability.”
- John Owen