Thursday, March 26, 2009

Read with Humility

“If thou wilt receive profit, read with humility, simplicity, and faith; and seek not at any time the fame of being learned.”

- Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Monday, March 23, 2009

Basil the Great, "Speak of God's Glory"

Several weeks ago now Dr. Craig Blaising was in Union’s chapel as a part of our Psalms Project. He gave a wonderful address titled “The Psalms in Early Christian Worship.” Blaising basically demonstrated how the early church fathers sought to teach their people to pray from the Psalms. Drawing from his work on the recently published commentary on Psalms 1-50 in the Ancient Christian Commentary series, he cited a number of powerful quotes from the Patristics.

Here is one from Basil the Great which deals with how we approach worship. This struck me as particularly relevant in our busy noisiness which often fails to have a place for quiet in the presence of God:

One who is in the temple of God does not speak out abuse or folly or words full of shameful matters, but "in his temple all shall speak his glory." .,. This one duty, referring glory to the Creator, belongs to every army of heavenly creatures. Every creature, whether silent or uttering sound, whether celestial or terrestrial, gives glory to the Creator. But wretched people who leave their homes and run to the temple, as if to enrich themselves somewhat, do not lend their ears to the words of God; they do not possess a knowledge of their nature; they are not distressed, although they have previously committed sin; they do not grieve at remembering their sins, nor do they fear the judgment; but, smiling and shaking hands with one another, they make the house of prayer a place of lengthy conversation, pretending not to hear the psalm that solemnly protests and says, "In the temple of God all shall speak his glory." You not only do not speak his glory, but you even become a hindrance to the other, turning his attention to yourself and drowning out the teaching of the spirit by your own clamor. See to it that you do not at some time leave condemned along with those blaspheming the name of God instead of receiving a reward for glorifying him. You have a psalm; you have a prophecy, the evangelical precepts, the preachings of the apostles. Let the tongue sing, let the mind interpret the meaning of what has been said, that you may sing with your spirit, that you may sing likewise with your mind. … This statement, "In his temple all shall speak his glory," was made not unfittingly in a digression, because some in the temple of God talk endlessly until their tongue aches; and these enter without profit.

(Homily on Psalm 13.8).

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Particular Baptist Ecclesiology

I am excited to see James Renihan’s dissertation now available in book form! The full title is Edification and Beauty: The Practical Ecclesiology of the English Particular Baptists, 1675-1705. In the past I have only been able to access this for brief periods of time through interlibrary loan. Here is my blurb on the back cover of the book:

“This is an important work on the history of Baptist ecclesiology and I am delighted to see it published. It is well argued, insightful and timely given the increasing interest in Baptist ecclesiology. I expect this book to play a significant role in the ongoing discussions of Baptist history and polity. Renihan’s work has benefited not only my academic considerations but also my direct pastoral work.”

In rethinking how we “do church” I have often found myself without models. I was heartened in reading Renihan’s book to find that I was thinking similarly to brothers who have gone before. We desperately need the help of those who have gone before us, but it is often difficult to find access to the voices of our forebears. Renihan gives us great helps us in this regard, sharing the thoughts of Baptists from the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

9 Marks, Advice for Young Pastors

The latest 9 Marks ejournal is now available (in pdf as well).
Below is the table of contents with links.

This is a great resource for younger and older pastors. The article that most caught my eye is Leeman's "Love the Church More than Its Health." I have too often had pastors want to tell me how they were about to initiate a new direction but it was clear there was little love for their people. This concern is reflected in an ordination charge I posted a couple of years ago.


Editor's NoteYoung Pastors: Where Do You Begin?
A Pastor's Priorities For Day One
So you're a brand new pastor. What do you do when you show up at the office on Monday?
By Bob Johnson

The Goals and Benefits of an Installation Service
More than a formality, an installation service gives you a chance to set the tone for your pastorate and begin the work of shepherding.
By Aaron Menikoff

Young Pastors: What Did You Inherit?
8 Steps for Dealing with Difficult Leaders
What do you do when influential members of your church are—shall we say—less than helpful?
By Ken Swetland

Dealing with Bad Documents
You're the pastor now, but the church constitution is clunky and the statement of faith is almost heretical. What do you do?
By Greg Gilbert

Young Pastors: How Do You Lead Change?
Is This a Hill Worth Dying On?
Some pastors make every dispute a hill to die on; others wouldn't fight to save their grandmother's life. Schmucker offers some guidance.
By Matt Schmucker

What I CAN and CANNOT Live With as a Pastor
What issues are worth fighting—or leaving—over? Are there any criteria?
By Mark Dever

Love the Church More than its Health
Pastors need to love the people in their church more than their dream of a healthy church.
By Jonathan Leeman

Should Pastors Change Anything in the First Year?
An old maxim says, "If you don't change something in the first year you never will; and whatever you change in the first year will be a mistake." Is that right?
By Phillip Jensen

One from the Vault:
Mark Dever's classic article from 2000, How to Change Your ChurchYoung Pastors: How to Persevere
WWJD—What Would Jim Do?
James Montgomery Boice's successor shares a few lessons he learned from watching a master.
By Philip Graham Ryken
Shepherding and Trust
A church doesn't learn to trust its pastors overnight; he better be in it for the long haul.
By Robert Norris
A Pastor For Now
Why Mark loves the pastorate, but will be happy to proceed to what’s next.
By Mark Dever

Friday, March 13, 2009

Shackelton and Camaraderie

I recently finished listening to The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, by Caroline Alexander. Ever since I first heard the story of Shackleton’s perseverance through a year and half adrift on ice, the sea and an isolated, frozen island I have been captivated by it. It is a moving story of leadership and perseverance. Much could be said about it, but here I simply want to point out one quote that caught my attention. One of the men on the journey commented in his journal, stating:

“Never is etiquette so carefully observed as by experienced travelers when they find themselves in a tight spot.”
He was commenting on how easy it is to begin to annoy one another when you are all suffering through amazingly difficult conditions, trying to survive and knowing you need one another to survive. This made me think of how we as Christians need one another and how we also find ourselves in “tight spots.” Perhaps if we were more keenly aware of our difficulties and need of one another, we might be more gracious to one another. The illusion of comfort and being in control fools us into thinking we have the luxury of dismissing one another. But we deeply need one another.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Singing Psalm 128

It may seem that I have gone “Psalm-crazy” from my recent posts, and that assessment would not be altogether inaccurate. Over the years as I have discovered how generations of Christians were nurtured on the Psalms and have seen various historical examples of the faith that blossomed from such nurturing, I have longed for this for myself and my children. Oh, to be like those who, having grown up singing the Psalms, know all 150 Psalms by heart! If I did not know of real examples of this I might doubt the possibility.

This, then, is not merely an academic or abstract issue for me. My wife and I took a Trinity Psalter a couple of weeks ago and worked through it looking for Psalms set to tunes we know (a key point of this Psalter is to provide familiar hymn tunes for Psalm settings). In the process we came across Psalm 128 in a version adapted from the Scottish Psalter.
Blessed the man that fears Jehovah
And that walketh in His ways.
Thou shalt eat of thy hands’ labor;
And be prospered all thy days.
Like a vine with fruit abounding
In thy house thy wife is found
And like olive plants, thy children
Compassing thy table ’round

Lo, on him that fears Jehovah
Shall this blessedness attend
For Jehovah, out of Zion,
Shall to thee His blessings send
Thou shalt see Jerus’lem prosper
All thy days ’til life shall cease
Thou shalt see thy children’s children
Unto Isr-a-el be peace.

When I sang these words with my wife, it hit me that this is particularly suited to the family setting. So, for the last two weeks my family has sung this Psalm to the tune of “Come Thou Fount” at meal times. It has been a wonderful experience, and my children have about memorized this Psalm just from our singing. And we all have enjoyed it.

I commend it to you.

Psalms Project Site

Brian Denker has set up a blog site to house information on the speakers for the Psalms Project which I have been commenting on here. At the site you can see the upcoming schedule as speakers as well as get the links for the audio of addresses already given. This is the place to go to keep up with the project and to know when new audios are available.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Doug Bond on the Psalms

We were privileged to have Doug Bond in chapel last Friday giving an address titled, Biblical Poetry in a Post-Biblical, Post-Poetry World. After arriving in town at 2am the morning of chapel Doug’s was having trouble with his voice, but he gave a brilliant lecture on the place of the Psalms in our life and worship. He also spoke to a communications class and then spoke again on the psalms shaping our worship in the afternoon.

I have pasted in here Bond’s concluding points from his chapel address (some of which he had to skip due to time). They are his points on why the Psalms are valuable to us today.

1. If you wish you prayed better, with more heart, with words worthy of God, learn the Psalms.

2. Secondly, you and I need the Psalms today because the Psalms keep in perfect tension the poles of joy and fear in our worship, … Joy and trembling are perfectly wedded in the Psalms.

3. … we need the Psalms today because they help free us from our slavery to the here and now, to the goofiness of personal taste.

4. Fourthly, we live in an egalitarian age, where high register things, especially words and language, are scorned. All the more reason you and I need the majesty of the Psalms to elevate our ability to enter God’s courts, a place you would never slouch or swagger into un-tucked. Worship is the highest-register activity a human being can engage in, and the content and tone of the Psalms ought always to regulate our attitude and posture in that worship.

5. Fifthly, Psalms give us theological discernment. The Psalms help us measure what is worthy and what is not. They help us reject vacuous praise, praise verbalized but without objective theological reasons informing those words. You and I need to return to the inspired sung worship of the ancients because it adorns doctrinal truth and helps us see the loveliness of that truth.

6. In the sixth place, recovering Psalm singing in our worship and life will raise the bar for all new worship poetry in every age. Seek God in the Psalms and then measure everything else by what you find there. Stop asking of what you listen to, what you sing, what you write, if it sounds like the latest thing. Rather ask: is it Psalm-like? An honest answer will enable you to rise above the inappropriate and tread on the high places of the earth.

7. Finally, Psalmody and classic hymnody serve to unite you and me with the vast throng of dazzled worshipers throughout the ages. The Psalms are God-given sung praise that transcends all barriers, ones of race, gender, ethnicity, geography, and most-importantly, Psalms free us from that, oh so, postmodern, all-preoccupying, all-excusing barrier: personal taste. Psalm poetry is for all time, the ultimate multicultural poetry, poetry for “All people that on earth do dwell.”

If you do not know of Doug Bond’s books I encourage you to check them out. His fiction provides, among other things, some of the best reflection on the value of the Psalms and deeply inspiring and convicting portraits of godly fathering. His Fathers and Sons series
series expounds on the fathering portion more explicitly.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I was sent this cartoon, titled "Progress," today and loved it!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Baucham, What He Must Be

Vodie Baucham has a new book focused on a father’s role in deciding who can marry his daughter- What He Must Be: ...If He Wants to Marry My Daughter. This role is important, and I hear of more and more fathers who are taking this seriously. However, most of us have not seen this done, so good examples and thoughtful reflection are at a premium. Baucham’s book aims to give us such reflection.

One of the challenges, which I see often in my work as college professor and pastor, is that many well meaning young men have never been taught what it means to be a man and are not ready to lead a family. Baucham mentions this stating:

“We cannot expect young men in our culture to turn up as ready-made husbands. Our culture is broken. As a result, young men are broken. They do not have the tools they need. This is not always due to a lack of spiritual commitment. It is usually a result of a lack of teaching and discipleship. They just don’t know what they don’t know. As a result, fathers have to consider the possibility that they may, in a very real way, have to build their own son-in-law.”

This is true. I recently had a good conversation with Douglas Bond on this very point. I was encouraged hearing how when a young man comes inquiring about his daughter he takes it as an opportunity for discipleship- not just saying “No”, when that is necessary, but showing young men what they are lacking and how to mature.

I am looking forward to reading Baucham’s book. I have no doubt it will be substantive and helpful. Baucham is a leading voice helping the church thinking more carefully about the family.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

ESV Study Bible Online, Free for March

Crossway is making the online version of the ESV Study Bible available for free for the month of March. You can register here. Continual access to the online version comes with the purchase of a hard copy. This offer thought allows others to give the material a try. The online version is great for access and ease of use.

I am not the right person to assess the value of the study Bible since I wrote the notes for the Pastoral Epistles, but I have greatly appreciated the work of others in this study Bible. I am also impressed with the wealth of information available in all the extra articles.

So, I encourage you to take advantage of this free offer and see how useful it is to you.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Terry Johnson on History of Psalm Singing

I mentioned previously my appreciation of a paper given by Terry Johnson, pastor of Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA, at Erskine Seminary’s conference on Psalm singing. Terry’s paper, titled “The History of Psalm Singing in the Christian Church”, is now available at the church’s website.

I commend the article to you.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Ortlund, The Word and Worship

We had a wonderful visit from Ray and Jani Ortlund as the Psalms Project continued yesterday. Dr. Ortlund preached in chapel from Psalm 1, noting that the Psalter, as the divinely inspired worship guide, begins with attention to Scripture. The Ortlunds also held an informal Q&A with students on a wide range of topics concerning doing ministry. They were very encouraging.

Mrs. Ortlund’s address to the ladies, “Fearlessly Feminine,” was recorded and should be available soon. An interview discussion with Dr. Ortlund, Tim Ellsworth and myself on pastoral ministry should be available soon as well.

It is impossible for me to capture all the impact of the day here. At the close of the day, and old quote came to mind about a man who had the chance to hear the great Scottish preachers of his day. Here is the quote:

"An Englishman who had come to Scotland about the time the Standards were adopted by the Scottish Church and who had never shown any sense of religion before, being asked on his return what news he had brought from Scotland, replied, "Great and good news. I went to St. Andrews where I heard a sweet majestic looking man (Robert Blair) and he showed me the majesty of God. After him I heard a little fair man (Samuel Rutherford) and he showed me the loveliness if Christ. I then went to Irvine where I heard a well favoured, proper old man with a long beard (D. Dickson) and he showed me all my heart. "
(from The Original Secession Magazine)

I thought of how I have been impacted by not just the preaching but the presence of some key men of God today. When I met and talked with C. J. Mahaney I felt like I truly understood the power of real humility. When I hung out with Ray Ortlund yesterday I felt like I gained a real appreciation of genuine graciousness and generosity towards others. In both cases I was convicted by my lack of these virtues and was drawn to more deeply desire these virtues.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Tolkien, Reconciliation

This scene between elves and dwarves in The Fellowship of the Ring is a powerful description of reconciliation:

“And the Dwarf, hearing the names given in his own ancient tongue, looked up and met her eyes; and it seemed to him that he looked suddenly into the heart of an enemy and saw there love and understanding. Wonder came into his face, and then he smiled in answer.” (Book 2, Chapter 7)

This should be happening regularly among believers, and then the watching world will see the reality of the gospel.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ortlund & Bond on the Psalms

This week at Union the Psalms Project continues with chapels on Wednesday and Friday (10am). On Wednesday Dr. Ray Ortlund will preach from Psalm 1 on the place of the Word in worship. His wife, Jani, will be with him and she will be speaking to ladies at 3pm on the topic, "Fearlessly Feminine: Boldly Embracing God's Plan for Womanhood." Dr. Ortlund was a favorite professor of mine when I was at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He currently serves as pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville and writes the blog “Christ is Deeper Still.”

On Friday we will have Douglas Bond author of numerous books, including the Crown & Covenant Trilogy, the Faith & Freedom Trilogy & Mr. Pipes Series. I have previously reviewed many of his books at my children’s literature blog. Mr. Bond will be speaking on the topic, “Biblical Poetry in a Post-Biblical, Post-Poetry World.” At 3pm Mr. Bond will continue the conversation by speaking further on how the Psalms should shape our hymns.

Both of these are wonderful opportunities. I am excited about the opportunity of hosting the Ortlunds and Douglas Bond here at Union.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Pulpit Plagiarism Illustrated

It has been sometime since I commented on this, though I continue to get emails from church members who have discovered that this is what their pastors are doing.
I was just informed of this amazing video (from this post and my friend Jrazz) illustrating two speakers who are telling the same story as personal experience. This sort of example comes down to a simple issue of integrity.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Erskine Psalm Conference

I had a great time the last part of this week at the Psalmody conference at Erskine. The plenary lectures by John Witvliet, Terry Johnson, Mark Ross and Robby Bell were excellent. Witvliet in an address similar to the one given earlier at Union argued for the formative use of the Psalms. Johnson gave a strong survey of Psalm singing in the history of the church showing how the singing of the Psalms was common in the church until more recently (since the Civil war). Mark Ross gave a compelling and inspiring argument for the use of the Psalms in our singing from a theological perspective. Robby Bell, who has recently endured much personal suffering, lectured on the place of the laments.

Johnson and Ross specifically argued clearly that we should sing complete psalms (rather than just snippets) and the whole Psalter. It is certainly true that the overall movement of the Psalm needs to be seen to fully appreciate the message of the psalm.

I was pleased to hear that the lectures will be posted at the school’s site soon. When they are available I will post the link.

I also had two wonderful opportunities to talk with Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old, certainly one of the giants in the land in regards to the history of worship practices in the church. One evening I had the opportunity to sit with Dr. and Mrs. Old, Terry Johnson, and James Hering at the Old’s guest house for a couple of hours discussing psalm singing. Johnson and Old were kind enough to think with me about how to introduce this practice to Baptist churches (James Grant has done this at his church and will be sharing his insights at Union on May 5). We also discussed Dr Old’s forthcoming visit to Southern Seminary to deliver the Mullins lectures. For any near Louisville this will be a great opportunity. Dr. Old also mentioned that he will be giving an additional lecture on leading the church in prayer. I would love to hear this myself. In our tradition the idea of preparation or careful thinking about leading the congregation is very rare.