Thursday, May 28, 2009

Summer Reading, History

In a previous post I commended the Greek New Testament as part of one’s summer reading. Here I want to commend the reading of history. Reading history has so many benefits for people in general and for pastors in particular. It is useful to broaden our horizons and our awareness of the story of humanity. It is also helpful to understand what has gone on before us and around us as we seek to understand and interpret our own existence. In order to remain brief, I will illustrate from two books in my recent reading.

John S. D. Eisenhower’s General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence was a fun book to me. The author is the son of the famous general and U.S. President and provides some glimpses of his father’s life from a son’s perspective. Let me highlight just two illustrations which arose in my mind from this book. First, it was interesting to hear of how a young Ike was mentored by Gen. Fox Conner in Panama after WWI. These were uneventful years compared to what was to come. However, Ike himself would later say these were his formative years as an older officer took the time to invest in him, encourage him in reading the classics, and to deepen his mind. Today few of us know about Gen. Conner, but he shaped the key figure in the European theatre of WWII and an American President. Regardless of what you think of Eisenhower, Conner had a significant impact on history by investing in a younger man. Isn’t this the point of discipleship? I was encouraged to invest in the young men around men (not least my own sons).

Second, it was fascinating to learn how devastated Ike was when the plans to invade Europe in 1942 were scuttled. We know D-Day eventually occurred in June 1944, but Ike and Gen. George Marshall worked hard on plans for an invasion in 1942 and lobbied strenuously for this plan. When it was scuttled, Ike wrote that this was the darkest day of his life. His son, looking back, noticed how this decision actually catapulted his father’s career. Ike would not have been the Allied (or even US) commander in the 1942 invasion. However, by the time 1944 rolled around President Roosevelt felt he could not spare Gen. Marshall in Washington so Ike was given the lead command. So, what he thought was his darkest day was actually a blessing, setting in motion opportunities he had not dreamed of. He had said at one point he would be stuck at desk jobs with no advancement.

Now again, whatever you think of Eisenhower, the illustration is clear. The book did not seek to make this point, but God has told us how life works- whether other people recognize it or not! Often times what we interpret as a setback God will use as a blessing.

Lastly, I have only begun reading Barry Strauss’s new book, The Spartacus War, but the opening is an example of brilliant writing. After reading the first page of the “Introduction” I sat the book down and said to myself, “That’s good writing!” Click here and you can read that first page. Reading good writing is not only enjoyable but it also helps teach you to communicate well. As preachers we need to read good writing to enhance our own ability to communicate this great truth as clearly and faithfully as possible.

These are just a couple of examples from my own experience of benefitting from reading history. I hope you will benefit as well.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Self-reliant, High-Pressure Evangelism Illustrated

If you have read Mark Dever’s good little book on evangelism, then you have seen an excerpt from C. S. Lovett’s Evangelism Made Easy used to illustrate the overly pragmatic approach to evangelism which relies on psychological pressure and aims simply at “decisions.” Now Tim Challies has more quotes along with the illustrations from Lovett’s book. You can’t spoof stuff like this! Check this out and be reminded why our thoughts of evangelism have been skewed so.

May this urge us on in proper evangelism, where we “renounce disgraceful and underhanded ways, … refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor 4:2-3)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

As part of my class on Paul’s letters one of the daily assignments always is to trace the argument of a paragraph in Paul’s letters. Tom Schreiner has a helpful discussion of this in his little book Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, and some readers may have heard John Piper talk about “arcing.”

I have just recently learned about a new website devoted to helping people learn this method of “arcing,” which is essentially diagramming at a paragraph level. It is a graphic portrayal of the logical connections between the different assertions in a text. This is a very helpful tool in paying close attention to the text and seeking to understand the authors intended flow of thought.

This site,, provides video tutorials on this method. If you have some familiarity with the approach I would recommend you go straight to the examples page where you can see someone walk through a text applying the method. Here you can also see how the software at the site works. I was really impressed.

This is a very helpful tool, which will take time but will render rich rewards.

Lastly, here is John Piper discussing why this approach is valuable:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Summer Reading, Greek

Greek students often ask what they can do over the summer to maintain the Greek they have learned and to really begin to use it. Pastors who have been out of school for a while often ask about tools to help revive their Greek skills. For both groups, and anyone interested in reading the Greek New Testament, I heartily recommend The UBS Greek New Testament: A Reader's Edition.

This edition makes reading the Greek New Testament very accessible. I heartily commend it. It is a good way to make Greek a part of your summer reading.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Theology in Verse

My friend Justin Wainscott has started a blog called, Theology in Verse and I encourage you to check it out. He has posted on a number of topics, quite often posting poems and hymns several of them his own. He recently posted his hymn, Jesus Christ our Priestly Savior, which he wrote after hearing D. A. Carson, at the Ryan Center Conference, comment on the lack of good hymns about the priestly work of Christ. I also like his “How Slow and Dull of Heart We Are.”

Good stuff!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Humility & Hope in Psalm 49

As part of the Psalms Project We recently had the privilege of hosting Michael Morgan as he displayed a small portion of his incredible, personal collection of old and rare Bibles and psalters.

One of the rare psalters was:
William Tattersall's collection, A Metrical Paraphrase of the Psalms, Originally Written by the Rev. James Merrick, Divided into Stanzas and Adapted to the Purposes of Public and Private Devotion (London: Thomas Paine, 1789).

Apparently this one never made it into common use and is recognized as not being very good for singing. I don’t know anything about that conclusion, but I was gripped by the rendering of Psalm 49, particularly these two verses:

10. Yet Man, with erring pride elate,
And high in pow’r, in honour great,
Shares with the Brute an equal doom,
And sleeps forgotten in the tomb.

15. My Soul, amidst your happy train,
The wish’d redemption shall obtain,
By God adopted, Death shall brave,
And mock the disappointed Grave.

I need to be reminded of my smallness and mortality so as to be delivered from pride and to be reminded of the hope of the gospel so as to be delivered from despair. This Psalm accomplishes these purposes well.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Grant’s Psalms Booklet

When James Grant spoke on introducing your church to Psalm singing last week he handed out a very helpful little booklet. He has now posted the booklet. In this post he links to the booklet and lists some other resources.

This booklet is great. It gives a basic overview of meter and lists some commonly known hymn tunes in some of the most common meters. With such a list in hand you can pick up a standard psalter and begin singing Psalms.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Second Coming of Christ Conference

I was privileged last week to speak along with my dean, Greg Thornbury, at the Second Coming of Christ Conference at FBC Goodletsville (TN), sponsored by Union University, the Tennessee Baptist Convention and several local Baptist Associations. The people in attendance were wonderful and we had a good time studying the scripture. The messages (with links to audio) were:
Session 1 - Greg Thornbury - 666, The Apostle John, Emperor Domitian & What 'Left Behind' Didn't Teach You
Session 2 - Ray Van Neste - How the New Testament Applies the Truth of Christ's Return
Session 3 - Ray Van Neste - Pastoring and Serving in Light of Christ's Return (2 Cor 4-5)

Greg’s address focused on the historical setting of Revelation making the point that this book is not about abstract speculation but is the ultimate tract of political resistance. It is a clarion call to remain faithful to the one Lord, Christ, in the face of persecution by would-be gods.

In my first address I sought to survey key NT references to Christ’s return demonstrating the the NT does not encourage us to speculation. Rather, when the NT refers to Christ’s return it uses this doctrine to urge us to holiness and to the task of taking the gospel to the nations.

In my second address I examined 2 Cor 4-5 noting how the truths of Christ’s return and the resurrection empowered the Apostle Paul to endure in difficult, unpopular ministry. These are not idle, abstract ideas but bedrock truths to help us look beyond what is seen, to live in light of eternity, and to endure joyfully.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Introducing A Church to Psalm Singing

Last week James Grant, pastor of FBC Rossville, TN, spoke at Union as part of our Psalms Project. James’ title was "How I Introduced Psalm Singing to My Church...Without Getting Fired!"(link will take you to the audio). James knows more about Psalm singing than any other Baptist pastor I know and he did an excellent job. He has commented on this topic at his blog previously. He discussed how Psalm singing was a basic element of Christian worship from the beginning of the church until just about 150 years ago and then demonstrated how easy it is to begin singing metrical psalms to familiar hymn tunes.

Few of the people in attendance had sung psalms before but they easily caught on. We even sang Chad Davis’s version of Psalm 29 which no one had sung in a group before and went very well.

I encourage you to listen to James’s presentation and consider how your church might incorporate the songs which God gave us in His word.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Living in Light of Christ’s Return

Tomorrow I will be in Middle TN along with Greg Thornbury for a pastors conference focused on Christ’s return. Our focus will not be on millennial theories, date setting, etc. but on how the New Testament urges us to live in light of this truth.

It is being sponsored by area associations, the Tennessee Baptist Convention and Union University. It will be held at FBC Goodlettsville (615-447-0401 OR EMAIL: You can contact today to register or just come on for the sessions.

The schedule is as follows:
9:00am- Greg Thornbury, “666”
10:15am- Ray Van Neste, “How Does the New Testament Apply the Truth of Christ’s Return”
11:30am- Lunch (if pre-registered)
1:00pm- Ray Van Neste, “Pastoring and Serving in Light of Christ’s Return”

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Hansen, The Art of Pastoring

Today while reading in Scott Hafemann’s excellent commentary on 2 CorinthiansI came across this summary of key points from David Hansen’s The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers. Hafemann cites this on p. 201 of his commentary. These are good points about pastoral ministry flowing right out of 2 Corinthains 1-4.

1. Reading biblical studies, theology, and church history is more ‘practical’ and helpful in the ministry than the mountain of ‘how-to’ books on the market, since our primary need is for a greater sense of who we are and why we act, not more skills…
2. Ministry is a way of life, not a technology…
3. Those called to minister serve the church, but they do not work for the church. Instead, Jesus is their boss…
4. Ministry is not to be employer-driven, trend-driven, or task-driven, but is a following of Jesus Christ as the one who calls his pastors, so that the act of following Jesus is the act of pastoral ministry…
5. The Jesus whom we follow has a ‘general narrative direction’ in his life, namely, the way of the cross…

Monday, May 04, 2009

Canon Press, 1, 2, 3, Dollar Sale!

Canon Press is having a 1, 2, 3 Dollar Sale until May 8. It is a great sale with a large number of books on sale for $1-3 dollars (and the shipping is reasonable). I have already ordered a number of books myself!

Teaching the Bible to Children

As part of our “Word Within the Word” conference a week ago, David and Sally Michael from Children Desiring God, led three breakout sessions on leading children in Bible Study. The Michaels were gracious enough to come even though their national conference was just this weekend. Their breakout sessions were packed and they did an excellent job.

Too often the importance of teaching our children well is missed by both families and churches. The Michael’s passion is to change this. These are well worth listening to for pastors, children’s teachers, parents, grand-parents, and anyone concerned with children.

Session 1- God-Centered Bible Teaching for the Glory of God
Session 2- Raising Bible-Saturated Children
Session 3- Aiming for Application and Response in Teaching Children the Bible

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Psalm 29 Versification

This past week my friend and co-pastor, Chad Davis sent me his versification of Psalm 29. Having heard Don Whitney teach about using the “Psalm of the day,” Chad was reading, meditating on and praying from Psalm 29 on April 29th. As he did so, Chad employed his poetic gifts to versify this psalm in a 87.87.D meter. Chad had the tune for “Come Thou Fount” in mind but any tune in this meter will fit (e.g. “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee," “Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken,” “Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us”). This is part of the beauty of metrical arrangements.

Here is Chad’s versification. I think it is very well done- faithful to the text and easily singable.

Praise the Lord, O heavenly beings
Praise His glory and His might (v. 1)
Worship all His holy splendor
Give to Him what's His by right. (v. 2)

For His voice o'er waters thunders,
Over many waters roars (v. 3)
Full of majesty and power
Is the voice of our great Lord. (v. 4)

That great voice has such deep power
Mighty cedars it can break (v. 5)
Like a calf or wild oxen
It can make this whole world shake. (v. 6)

This voice makes the wild to tremble (v. 8)
From it flash forth fire and flame (v. 7)
This Lord brings both life and judgment
In His house all praise His name (v. 9)

O'er the flood our God is reigning
And His reign will never cease (v. 10)
May He give strength to His people
May He bless us with His peace (v. 11).