Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Carson on Use of OT in Hebrews

Our Ryan Center Conference this last weekend, “Word Within the Word,” went very well. It was a delight to see old friends and former students as about 230 registrants along with many students packed into the Grant Center.

Dr. D. A. Carson’s plenary addresses were excellent, and I commend them to you as examples for understanding how the NT uses the Old Testament. This is an important and sometimes difficult issue. As Dr. Carson stated in the first session:

“If you’ve never been troubled by the way the New Testament quotes the Old, you’ve never read the New Testament and looked up the texts it actually quotes.”
He dealt with three texts in Hebrews where OT texts are quoted. Links will take you to the audio of each lecture.
Plenary 1- Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14 in Hebrews 1
Plenary 2-Psalm 95 in Heb 3-4
Plenary 3- Gen 14 and Psalm 110 in Heb 7

In these lectures Carson not only demonstrates the way to understand the use of the Old Testament but also makes valuable observations on theology and pastoral application. Listening to these lectures will be a valuable investment of time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Whitney on Praying the Psalms

Last Thursday we were privileged to host Don Whitney as part of the ongoing Psalms Project here at Union. His two sessions on praying Scripture were very helpful. You can hear him giving the same basic lectures in another setting here.

The church through the ages have used the Psalms as a guide to their prayer. We can benefit much form this practice as well, and Whitney’s approach is a helpful way to go about it. I encourage you to take the time to listen.

On Friday, then Whitney preached on Rom 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” It was a wonderful sermon applied well. It is a good example of true pastoral preaching.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wesley on the Importance of Reading

Ray Ortlund posted this quote recently I had to pass it along. Letters Along the Way is a book I heartily recommend.

"What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher who read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian. Oh begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you; and in particular yours."

- John Wesley, writing to a young preacher, quoted in D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge, Letters Along the Way, page 169.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bonhoeffer, Praying the Psalms

My colleague, Jim Patterson, recently passed on to me an excerpt from Bonhoeffer’s Life Together where he discusses praying the Psalms. It is a good piece on how and why we can pray the Psalms, including the imprecatory psalms and the ones that claim innocence. His basic argument is that the Psalms are the prayers of Jesus and we join him in praying in his name.

As we prepare here for Don Whitney’s seminar on praying the Psalms tomorrow, I thought I’d share a few quotes from this section by Bonhoeffer.

“From ancient times in the Church a special significance has been attached to the common [in the sense of ‘corporate’] use of the psalms. … The custom has been largely lost and we must find our way back to its prayers.”

“the prayer of the psalms belongs in a peculiar way to the fellowship. Even if a verse or a psalm is not one’s own prayer, it is nevertheless the prayer of another member of the fellowship.”

By praying the Psalms one “learns to pray the prayer of the Body of Christ. And that lifts him above his personal concerns and allows him to pray selflessly.”

“The more deeply we grow into the psalms and the more often we pray them as our own, the more simple and rich will our prayer become.”

[BTW: Whitney's seminar tomorrow is open to the public. Feel free to come for the seminar even if you have not previously registered]

Friday, April 17, 2009

Diluting the Gospel

“I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a demanding and serious religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether.”
- Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, as cited in White & Yeats, Franchising McChurch: Feeding Our Obsession with Easy Christianity, 139.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Whitney Seminar on Praying the Psalms

As part of the ongoing Psalms Project here at Union Don Whitney will be with us Thursday April 23 for a seminar titled, "Turning the Words of Scripture into the Wings of Your Prayers: The Simple, Permanent Cure to Boring Repetition in Prayer." He will focus on praying the Psalms.

Here is the schedule for the day. The cost is just $10 to cover the lunch.
Noon Lunch
12:30 Session I
2:00 Break/refreshments
2:30 Session II
4:00 Adjourn

The seminar will take place in Luther Hall on the Union campus.

To register you can contact Stacy Preston- or 731-661-5062.

Whitney will also preach in chapel Friday morning on "If God Is for Us, Who Is Against Us?" out of Rom. 8:31.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Bond Blog!

Bond. Doug Bond- far more beneficial than the sometimes known British cousin James.

Douglas Bond has started a blog where you can see updates on speaking events, forthcoming books and other material from him. You can also find there J. C. Ryle’s Thoughts for Young Men (entire book) read by Bond. This is an exciting development and I encourage you to check it out.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Ortlund, Old Time Religion

Check out Ray Ortlund’s post, “I Remember When.” It is not simple nostalgia but a warning about “chronological snobbery” (to use C S Lewis’s term). There is much to contemplate in the post. Here is just one excerpt:
I remember when churches were not commodities but communities. I grew up in a spiritual neighborhood, where the adults took responsibility to care for the next generation. I lived among hundreds of spiritual aunts and uncles who loved me, told me about Jesus, taught me the Bible, corrected me when I got out of line and generally sacrificed for me so that I could grow up to be a man of God.
Let us be such communities of faith.

Lessons on Sin

The last two weeks in Sunday School at our church I have taught on the Fall and the resulting spread of sin. It is always good and challenging for me to study these texts again. The audio of the lessons are online (recorded last semester). In the first session I aim to walk through Genesis 3 noting how the first temptation proceeded and seeking to draw out lessons for our encounters with temptation. In the second lesson, we traced the spread of sin in the following chapters of Genesis, again seeking to draw out implications on the reality and aggressiveness of sin and what that means for us in seeking to resist sin.

I need regularly to be reminded about the aggressive nature of sin, lest I lull myself to sleep or seek a truce with it, forgetting that the fight with indwelling sin is always “kill or be killed” (Rom 8:5-8).

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Psalm Singing and Sanctification

I mentioned previously that my family has begun to sing Psalm 128 at our dinner table. It has been very enjoyable and a great blessing in various ways. We have begun including other psalms.

Recently, we ate dinner at a fast food restaurant in order to go on to a store for some errands. I did not think of or mention the singing of the psalm. As we drove from the restaurant to the store, one of my boys asked, “Daddy, since we could not sing our psalm in the restaurant, can we sing it while we’re in the car?” You better believe we can! If a small step on my part can lead to my 11 or 12 year old asking to seize a moment to sing scripture together, let me take that step!

Then, our singing of Psalm 128 has had an unexpected sanctifying influence on me. The children enjoy the song so I can often hear them singing it lightly as they go about their tasks in the home. I hear them singing “Bless the man who fears Jehovah and that walketh in his ways” and the rest of the Psalm which expounds the benefits which will come to them as their father fears and obeys God. These truths, in the voice of my 12 year old boy who is entering into manhood or my two year old daughter (or anyone in between), has a sobering effect on me. It leads easily to preaching to myself along these lines:
These children will know specific blessings from God as you fight sin, truly fearing God and obeying him. This sin which tempts you is no mere personal matter. It has implications for these little ones as well. Will you be this man about whom they sing? Will you by grace live in such a way as to bring down the blessing of God upon them?
These are truths I already know, but they come home in special force this way. This has been a good reminder to me not to be spiritually lazy, but to cry out to God for his grace to be a godly man.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Pastoral Inefficiency

I have recently read Julia Duin’s Quitting Church: Why the Faithful are Fleeing and What to Do about It and I hope to post some thoughts from it. For now, I wanted to post this quote from Eugene Peterson. As usual, when talking about pastoral ministry, he is so good!

In a day when hard-edged efficiency is the buzz word, really living with, walking alongside people falls on hard times. The real life of human beings is messy, and we will not be able to minister in those lives if bottom-line efficiency is our high priority. Efficiency is a good tool but is harmful as a “greatest good.” Duin documents the dissatisfaction of church members who feel like their pastors run a well-oiled machine but do not know or shepherd them as individuals. In that context she references Peterson:

“It’s the job of pastors, he added, to know about their sheep and not dump the job on a subordinate. ‘People deserve to have their name known,’ he said. ‘They deserve to have somebody who is a spiritual guide and a preacher and pastor to them and who has had a cup of coffee in the kitchen. The is so much alienation, so much loneliness around us. Classically, that is what a pastor does. We’ve lost that. Of course some people think I’m out to lunch because we don’t do that in America. We do something big and influential and cost-efficient. Well, a pastoral life is not cost-efficient, I’ll tell you. You don’t spend three hours in a nursing home and come away feeling like you’ve been cost-efficient’” (p. 126).


Friday, April 03, 2009

Psalms as Lyric Poems

Dr. Ryken’s address this morning, “The Psalms as Lyric Poems for Private Worship,” was wonderful. He essentially argued that to appreciate and benefit from the Psalms we need to appreciate them as poetry (appropriate for National Poetry Month!). He accurately noted how our approach today is so often to try to flatten out the imagery simply to get the “idea” in the psalm, failing to appreciate that God sovereignly chose to give us this revelation in poetic, image-laden language. If we are going to appreciate the Psalms (I would add, either personally or for preaching to others) we must experience the evocative imagery they contain.

Dr. Ryken made the point that poetry is not simply a delivery system for an idea but a way of thinking. Further, he stated (in words reminiscent of John Witvliet’s address) that “the poet [psalmist] is our representative, saying what we want said, only better. Citing Milton, Wordsworth, and Shelley, he showed that it has been commonly understood that one of the functions of poetry is to train our affections, our feelings. Milton said poetry is to “set the affections in right tune.” How desperately we need this! In a day when we tend either to be ruled by untrained affections or to seek to ignore the affective realm altogether, this is a particularly good word. God expects feeling! And he has given us a tool to train us to feel properly.

I encourage you to listen to the audio when it is available. As soon as it is available the link will be posted on the Psalms Project site.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Ryken on Psalms

Our Psalms Project continues this week with a visit to chapel on Friday by Dr. Leland Ryken, professor of English at Wheaton College. Dr. Ryken is known for his works on the Bible as literature like the ESV Literary Study Bible. His chapel address is titled “The Psalms as Lyric Poems for Private Worship.”

I have enjoyed conversations with and addresses from Dr. Ryken on the Psalms. He is passionate about our reading of the Psalms for personal devotional benefit and I think this address will be very helpful.

As before chapel is at 10 am and is free and open to all. The audio of the address will be posted at the Psalms Project site as soon as it is available