Tuesday, May 04, 2010

New Site

Thanks to the wonderful work of Brian Denker a new site has been launched which is now the new home of the Oversight of Souls blog.

The new site has allowed me to bring together things I had in several places. In addition to hosting this blog it hosts links to audio, articles, syllabi, etc. I hope it will be useful. If you want to keep following this conversation, please update your book marks or feeds.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Value of Testimonies

At our church each person who wants to join the church shares their testimony with the church in our prayer meeting as part of the process. It is wonderful to hear about the work of God in another person’s life whether the account be long or simple. Yet, when I have commented on this here, many people have been nervous about the use of ‘testimonies.’ Such ‘sharing’ may have in certain places taken precedence over direct revelation, but that does not mean there is no place for believers to praise God by sharing how he has been at work in their lives. We have found this to be a very useful way for members to begin getting to know new members.
My friend and fellow pastor, Eric Smith, has written a useful explanation of the value of such testimonies and I commend it to you.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Gill on the Pastorate

In John Gill’s exposition of Matt. 13:52, he gives a good description of the work of the pastor:
“…of which indeed Christ is properly the householder and master, but Gospel ministers are deputies and stewards under him, and under him preside over the household, and have the government of it, provide food for it, and protect and defend it; all which require large gifts and abilities, great love and affection, both to Christ and his people; much wisdom, prudence, and knowledge; and great faithfulness and integrity, courage and firmness of mind.”
(John Gill’s Exposition of the Old and New Testaments: Volume 7, Matthew to John, [1809]. Reprint. The Baptist Commentary Series, Volume 1. Paris, AR: Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989, p. 157).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Communicating Familiar Truths Conference

Tomorrow Greg Thornbury & I will be speaking at the “Communicating Familiar Bible Stories in Unfamiliar Ways” conference at FBC Goodletsville. The basic schedule is as follows:

8:30- Registration & coffee
Session 1- “Staying Alive to the Living Word”, Ray Van Neste
Session 2- “The Bible is Strange When You are a Stranger”, Gregory Thornbury
Session 3- “Hope Always Connects”, Ray Van Neste

My wife, Tammie, will also be singing.
The conference and lunch are free, though registration is required.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Church- Conduit of the Power of God

Hezekiah Harvey was a prominent Baptist preacher, teacher and author in the 19th century. His comments here on the importance of the church are strikingly relevant today.

“The gospel becomes a permanent and aggressive power on earth only through the church, the divinely constituted organization, to which God has committed it, and through which it is appointed to act on men. The pietism which, in the professed interest of spiritual religion, undervalues the outward institutions of the gospel, finds no sanction in Scripture; on the contrary, the church, with its heaven-given ministry and ordinances, there stands in the foreground as God’s agency for the conservation of his truth and the conversion of the world.”
--H.H. Harvey, Timothy to Peter, An American Commentary on the New Testament (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1890), 129.
Several of Harvey's books can be found online here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rescue the Perishing

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave
(Fanny Crosby)

‘Christ had the good of souls in his eye. He came to seek and save that which was lost …Follow Christ in this, O my soul, that thou mayst be a fisher of men. When thou studiest thy sermons, let the good of souls be before thee; when thou preachest, let this be thy design, to endeavour to recover lost sheep, to get some brands plucked out of the burning; to get some converted, and brought in to thy Master. Let that be much in thy mind, and be concerned for that, whatever doctrine thou preachest.’
(Thomas Boston, The Art of Manfishing, 79-80).

[photo by Mary Chind]

Friday, April 23, 2010

Value of Studying Greek

From time to time here I comment on the value of Greek for ministry. Though many today seriously doubt the real, practical value of Greek study for day to day ministry, I want to encourage pastors to discover (remember, or maintain) this value.

Here is an astute comment from a current Greek student:
“Enriching our studies, however, is only a part of the value that is wrapped up in learning the Biblical languages. For me, studying Greek has been an incredibly beneficial process because of the discipline it requires and cultivates. A.T. Robertson points out that learning the Biblical languages is an enriching process for the mind [referring to this book]. An hour of study a day is crucial. Not only it is required, but it is also a necessity for all of the understanding and memorization that is involved in the study. I can honestly say that learning Greek is the most difficult thing I have been involved in, but it is a good challenge. I am more disciplined than I ever have been before, and I firmly believe it is due in large part to Greek. It requires motivation, intentionality, patience and discipline. And not only does it require these things, but it cultivates them as well.”

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Faithful not Flashy

Years ago, while in college I read a few entries from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. One entry really struck me and has stayed with me these last 20 years or so. In preparing to preach tonight for a student event, this came back to mind, and I was able to find it on the internet. There is much humbling and empowering wisdom here:

Discipleship is built entirely on the supernatural grace of God. Walking on the water is easy to impulsive pluck, but walking on dry land as a disciple of Jesus Christ is a different thing. Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, but he followed Him afar off on the land. We do not need the grace of God to stand crises, human nature and pride are sufficient, we can face the strain magnificently; but it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Philips Brooks on Knowing Your Congregation

“Philips Brooks presented three rules to students, introducing them with due solemnity:
‘I beg you to remember them and apply them with all the wisdom that God gives you. First. Have as few congregations as you can. Second. Know your congregation as thoroughly as you can. Third. Know your congregation so largely and deeply that in knowing it you shall know humanity.’ ”

(Geoff Thomas, “Find a Place to Settle,” 362, in Thomas Ascol, Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry; Thomas is quoting from Philip Brooks, Lectures on Preaching, 190)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Midwest Founders Conference Messages Available

The messages I delivered at the Midwest Founders Conference in February are now available online.

“Oversight of Souls: The Heart of Pastoral Ministry, Part 1”- link is actually to another setting where this address was given

“Oversight of Souls: The Heart of Pastoral Ministry, Part 2”- addressing some more practical issues on how to pursue this approach to ministry

“Shepherding a Rebellious People”- exposition of Exodus 32

Thursday, April 15, 2010

John Angell James on Keeping Watch

“The friends of evangelical doctrine, and the advocates of orthodoxy, have the following objects to keep ever in view in this age; they must take care of their Bibles, that they be not mutilated or curtailed by lawless criticism; they must take care of their theology, that it be not perverted by false philosophy; and they must take care of their pulpits, that they be not occupied by heretical, unspiritual, or incompetent ministers.”

"Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers" - 1 Timothy 4:16

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Itching Ears

This powerful warning from John Angell James in his valuable book, An Earnest Ministry, still applies today:

“The prevailing disposition, therefore, to do such homage to talent, rather than to moral excellence, is only another species of idolatry, more refined and subtle than the worship of stocks and stones, but scarcely less guilty…
But when the Christian public is so enamoured of talent, as to admire it more than he message, which it is employed to set forth; when no preacher can be heard with pleasure or even endurance, however sound his doctrine, clear his statements, impressive his manner, or earnest his address, unless his discourse is radiant with the light of genius, and gay with the flowers of rhetoric; when truth itself is unpalatable unless it is sweetened with the honey of human eloquence, and even error so sweetened is swallowed for the sake of its luscious accompaniment; when the hearer of a sermon turns from it with disgust, because it fails to regale his fancy by the brilliancy of its images, or to lull his ear by the smoothness and harmony of its periods; when this is the state of the public taste, and it is to be feared that to a great extent it is the state of it now, surely it is time to call the attention of our congregations to something higher and better.” (250-251)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tolkien’s Rangers as Pastors

Reading The Return of the King (third volume of The Lord of the Rings) to my boys a comment from Halbarad, a Ranger and kin of Aragorn, struck me as paralleling pastoral ministry. Speaking of the Shire, the peaceful land of the Hobbits, he said:
“Little do they know of our long labour for the safekeeping of their borders, and yet I grudge it not” (971).
One of the words for pastors in the New Testament is episkopos, typically translated as “overseer.” This word also has the connotation of “guardian.” This is part of what is in view in Hebrews 13:17 when pastors are described as those who keep watch over the souls of their people.

If we do our task well, our people will often not know the labor that has gone into their safekeeping. But the true shepherd will not begrudge this. He will be satisfied to see his flock make it safely home to the celestial city.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Singing Psalm 127

Psalm singing continues to be a great joy in my family having a standard place at our evening meal. We began a little over a year ago with Psalm 128, and have added a few more along the way. As we began 2010 we introduced Psalm 127 the other really strong family Psalm. The version of Psalm 127 found in the Trinity Psalter was pretty rough and awkward, so I worked on editing it seeking to follow the biblical text and to achieve more clarity in expression. In the end I still wanted to do more, but decided it was time to start singing with what we had- lest the pursuit of perfection mean the actual practice of nothing.

So, here is my edited version. It is still not as smooth as the version of Psalm 128, but it has been useful to us and we all now know it by heart after singing it a few months. It is in the Common Meter so we have sung it to the tune of “Amazing Grace.”

Psalm 127

1Except the LORD shall build the house
The builders work in vain;
Except the Lord the city keep
The watchmen watch in vain.

2‘Tis vain for you to rise ear-ly,
Or late from rest to keep,
To eat the bread of anxious toil;
He gives His loved ones sleep.

3Lo, children are the LORD’s good gift;
Rich payment are men’s sons.
4The sons of youth as arrows are
In hands of mighty ones.

5Who has his quiver filled with these
O happy shall he be;
When foes they greet within the gate
They shall from shame be free.

I believe singing verses 4 and 5 have particularly hit home to my sons. They are reminded of the future God envisions for them. What an encouragement for my children, also, to sing regularly together a scriptural reminder that they are blessings from God. It has been helpful to me, also, to have verse 2 running through my head from time to time, reminding me not to fall for the frenetic lifestyle but to rest in God.

Perhaps some of you will be able to work on this rendering even further.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Chrysostom as a Preacher

“[John Chrysostom’s] excellence we appreciate today from an exegetical point of view, from an ethical point of view, and from a literary point of view.

The preaching of this master centers in his series of exegetical sermons on individual books of the Bible. . . . . his great authority as a preacher rested in his faithfulness to Scripture. When he preached, there was never any question but that it was the Word of God which he preached.”
(Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship Reformed According to Scripture, p. 65)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Middle TN Bible Conference, April 29

On Thursday, April 29, Greg Thornbury and I will be the speakers for a one day Bible conference with the theme, “Communicating Familiar Bible Stories in Unfamiliar Ways,” hosted by Union University, Hendersonville. We will be considering the familiar pastoral struggle of preaching texts which you feel like the people already know very well. Pastors often speak of this struggle in connection with Christmas and Easter.

We had a great time with the attendees last year as we considered the return of Christ, so we look forward to this year as well.

Registration is required, but it is free. Lunch is also provided for free.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Making of an Atheist, by Jim Spiegel

I have previously mentioned the blog tour for this book and made some preliminary comments about it. My appreciation of the book only grew as I finished it. It has often been said- correctly I think- that we need more very well done short books on important topics. This is one of those books. In short compass, in a very readable and engaging manner, Spiegel lays out the biblical teaching on how sin blinds us.

Spiegel states that the “the ultimate point” of the book is “to encourage us to look elsewhere besides appraisal of the evidence for the real explanation of atheism” (23-24). Much of the approach of Christians toward atheists is based on the idea that what is needed is more evidence, a better rational explanation. However, Spiegel argues, the real problem is not academic or rational but moral and psychological. He notes:

“A common way of thinking about the relationship between cognition and conduct is to regard belief as always determining behavior. We have a certain belief and choose to act on it. But the above passages [Eph. 4:17-19; Rom. 1:18-24, 28-29] suggest that it works the other way around, too” (54)

“What they (such passages) do point to is a certain moral corruption that influences how they (unbelievers) use their cognitive faculties. It is not intelligence they lack so much as self-control and the right values” (52).

Speigel also points to some candid remarks by prominent atheists.

Aldous Huxley:

“For myself as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.” 73

“Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know. It is our will that decides how and upon what subjects we shall use our intelligence. Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because, for one reason or another, it suits their books that the world should be meaningless.” 73

William James
“If your heart does not want a world of moral reality, your head will assuredly never make you believe in one.” 84

This truth, that our behavior shapes our belief and that mankind in our fallen state actively hide from God, is an important one for us to reaffirm. It will inform life an ministry in many ways. Reasoned apologetics has a place, but we must realize that rebellion is what must be cured and only God through his gospel can do this (2 Cor 4:1-6). This also means that living out the gospel has great apologetic value. Spiegel writes:

“…there is apologetic power in a life well-lived.” (116)

“Personal virtue and self-sacrifice are the most effective tools of persuasion. . . . When it comes to proving religious truth, an ounce of love is worth a ton of argument.” (116-117)

“…the more virtuously one lives, the more truth one is able to access…” (117)

“…one’s sinful commitments cause cognitive interference by the will . . . . In order to apprehend truth, which is the goal of the intellectual life, one must live a moral life.” (118)

This is a great, helpful little book and I encourage you to read it. I have already bought a copy for our church library and am planning to make it required reading for one of my courses.

Martin Bucer on the Lord’s Supper

These themes I found valuable:
- communion is a gift from God given because we need it
- frequency
- the tone of thankfulness and joyful triumph

“The Lord, therefore, out of his great and ineffable love, has ordained and appointed for us a sacred supper in which he gives us his body and blood, in order that we through him and in him may become a new and divine flesh-and-blood and ever more fully live in him and he in us, with a life truly divine. We should receive these great and precious gifts as frequently as possible with sincere devotion and utter thankfulness, and in the act of receiving commit ourselves ever more completely to him and proclaim triumphantly and declare to others by word and deed his death and our redemption.”
(Martin Bucer, “A Brief Statement or Instruction on How the Sick Should Be Visited by the Ministers of the Church and the Procedure to Be Followed in Their Homes, about 1549.” In Early Protestant Spirituality (The Classics of Western Spirituality). Edited and translated by Scott H. Hendrix.)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Whitney, “Learning to Pray Scripture”

Don Whitney will be on campus at Union University this week, Thursday, April 8, leading a seminar titled “Learning to Pray Scripture.” The public is invited. The seminar will meet from 1:00-3:00 pm in Luther Hall. It is free and refreshments will be provided.

Dr. Whitney lead a similar seminar last Spring focusing on praying the Psalms and it was very beneficial. If you are in this area this will be a great opportunity for helpful and encouraging teaching.

If you would like more information you can contact Campus Ministries at 661-5061.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Gospel and the Mind, Brad Green

The Gospel and the Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual LifeBrad Green’s new book, The Gospel and the Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life (Crossway) is now available. Since Brad is a good friend and colleague, I have had the privilege of hearing him discuss portions of this book along the way, and can testify that this will be a very helpful book. I look forward to reading it!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Alfred the Great on the Psalms

The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the GreatAnother striking thing from Ben Merkle’s book, The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great, was the value he saw in the Psalms. Well before Wycliffe, Alfred, King of Wessex, was translating the Psalms for his people as part of his “essential books everyone should read” project.

“The translation of the Psalms was Alfred’s last project, being only one-third complete at the king’s death. These psalms, primarily the songs of King David composed throughout the king of Israel’s tumultuous reign, had always had a special place in Alfred’s heart. Having memorized many of the psalms in his youth, Alfred had used these sacred words throughout his life to embolden himself in battle, encourage himself in despondency, humble himself in his sins, and comfort himself in his forgiveness. The entire spectrum of Alfred’s personal trials and triumphs seemed to have been lived out already by the shepherd king of Israel. More than any other text, the book of Psalms had become the poetry of Alfred’s life.

Thus, it is no surprise that when searching for the ‘books most necessary for all men to know,’ Alfred’s thoughts turned to the book of Psalms. This was fit reading material for the king and for the peasant, for the warrior and for the clergyman, for the novice and for the sage. Interestingly, of all the texts Alfred translated, the king’s rendering of the Psalms remained the most consistently literal throughout, with very little of the king’s own explanatory additions to the text. Alfred felt this was a book that needed little assistance in speaking to the Anglo-Saxon heart.” (191)

Friday, March 26, 2010

The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great

I recently read Benjamin Merkle’s The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great (not the Ben Merkle at Southeastern Seminary). I have commented often here on the value of history reading for pastors (as well as others), and this book has much value in this realm as well. Alfred was an amazing man who accomplished much.

The first six chapters of the book primarily tell of the struggle of Alfred and his predecessors against the Viking invasions. There are compelling battle stories and reminders of the blessing of peace. Also the description of the “shield wall” formation used in battle provides a powerful picture of church unity.

The great strength of the book in my opinion, though, is chapter seven which describes Alfred’s effort to rejuvenate his country. They had resisted the foreign invader, but he realized they needed more to ensure domestic health. He believed the Vikings were only a symptom of the greater problem of his people’s turn away from Christianity and the resultant loss of learning and character. Here are a few quotes:

“The English church had grown complacent, indolent, and lethargic. Numbed by their prosperity, their love of learning grew cold, and their interest in Christian study died off altogether. . . . By neglecting the study of the great works of Christendom, the Bible in particular, the Anglo-Saxon people had lost not only the ability to read but more important, the ability to understand the wisdom of God. England, through her intellectual lethargy, was slowly devolving into a pagan nation, a people who neither knew nor served the Christian God.” (179)

“If Christian virtue were to return to England, then the Anglo-Saxons would need to return to Christian learning. With an eye toward restoring this learned piety to the people, Alfred orchestrated a tremendous revival of literacy, a revival that culminated in the greatest literary renaissance ever experienced in Anglo-Saxon Britain.” (184)

“Alfred truly was the great king of England, the one monarch who rightly understood the needs of the nation and unrelentingly gave all he had to supply those needs.
England, and the many nations descended from her, still have Alfred to thank for a substantial portion of the heritage and freedoms that they enjoy today. The title ‘Alfred the Great,’ so strangely offensive to the modern ear, was well deserved by the Anglo-Saxon warrior-king.” (233)

There is much to glean from Alfred on the work of restoring a culture, of the value of learning, and the renewal of the church.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pastoral Ministry: Hard Work for the Salvation of Souls and the Restoration of the World

Calvin commenting on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 states well the importance of hard work in pastoral ministry and what our work actually is.

In the first place, he says that they labor. From this it follows, that all idle bellies are excluded from the number of pastors. Farther, he expresses the kind of labor when he adds, those that admonish, or instruct, you. It is to no purpose, therefore, that any, that do not discharge the office of an instructor, glory in the name of pastors. ...

Now, this work is the edification of the Church, the everlasting salvation of souls, the restoration of the world, and, in fine, the kingdom of God and Christ. The excellence and dignity of this work are inestimable: hence those whom God makes ministers in connection with so great a matter, ought to be held by us in great esteem.
(emphasis added)
(HT: Gentry Hill)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Practical Shepherding, new blog

Brian Croft, pastor of Auburndale Baptist Church, Louisville, KY, is a faithful pastor whom I am blessed to call a friend. He has written two very helpful books on pastoral ministry (Visit the Sick, & Test, Train, Affirm, and Send into Ministry: Recovering the Local Church’s Responsibility to the External Call), so I am pleased that he has launched a blog dedicated to specific issues in pastoral ministry. It is titled Practical Shepherding. Some of his current posts deal with helping a wife who is hurt by her husband’s use of pornography, ministering to widows, and identifying men in your church who are called for ministry. This is useful material for pastors and I encourage you to give it a look.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Communion with Christ and with the Saints

"Communion with Christ and with the Saints"

Isaac Watts

Jesus invites His saints
To meet around His board;
Here pardoned rebels sit and hold
Communion with their Lord.

For food He gives His flesh,
He bids us drink His blood;
Amazing favor, matchless grace
Of our descending God!

This holy bread and wine
Maintains our fainting breath,
By union with our Living Lord,
And interest in His death.

Our heavenly Father calls
Christ and His members one;
We, the young children of His love,
And He, the firstborn Son.

We are but several parts
Of the same broken bread;
One body hath its several limbs,
But Jesus is the Head.

Let all our powers be joined
His glorious name to raise;
Pleasure and love fill every mind,
And every voice be praise.

Quoted in Worthy Is the Lamb: Puritan Poetry in Honor of Christ
Maureen Bradley; Edited by Don Kistler and Joel Rishel (page 238)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Don’t Seduce the Church

Here is a good warning to preachers against exalting ourselves before the church:
“For that man is an enemy to his Redeemer who on the strength of the good works he performs, desires to be loved by the Church, rather than by Him. Indeed, a servant is guilty of adulterous thought, if he craves to please the eyes of the bride when the bridegroom sends gifts to her by him.” (Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care, 75)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Longing for Resurrection

Even the ancient pagan stories bear witness to the universal human longing to overcome death. In the Aeneid Aeneas begs for permission to visit the realm of the dead to consult his father. In response he is told by the prophetess:

The gates of hell are open night and day;
Smooth the descent, and easy is the way:
But to return, and view the cheerful skies,
In this the task and mighty labor lies. (Dryden trans.)
Indeed! It is easy to enter the realm of the dead. To come back out, that is the trouble. We gather in the morning to worship the one who did just this, who entered death and emerged triumphant enabling all his people to do the same.

The prophetess tells Aeneas that only a few in Greco-Roman mythology have been able to re-emerge from the realm of the dead and they were all semi-divine sons of gods. In fact only one conquered death, the fully divine Son of God. And, now He has made it possible for all those who believe in him to be made children of God who will also re-emerge from the realm of the dead.

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:54b-57)

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I have often commented here on the importance of pastors being involved in the lives of their people. Here is a comment from a student paper in my pastoral ministry class affirming this truth.

“My best memory of my pastor is not a great sermon that he preached, but the fact that he invited me into his home on Thanksgiving when he found out my step-dad was in the hospital and my family wasn’t having a Thanksgiving dinner. I feel like I learned more from that than I have from a message he preached, and through him doing that I’m more prone to listen to his messages and believe him on Sundays.”

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Older Saints are a Treasure

In our age which idolizes youth we often miss the biblical teaching which esteems age and, as a result, miss the treasure that our older saints are. They are a great blessing to the church too often overlooked.

Recently I had the opportunity to converse with an elderly lady from out of town. She has memories of life during World War II and primarily told me of her father, a faithful man of God of whom she is very proud. She related incident after incident where God intervened and provided for her father or for her in amazing and sometimes miraculous ways. These were not the outlandish fantasies of youth but the measured steady testimony of one who has walked with God for many decades. She often apologized for “going on” and said apologetically, “I could keep you here for a year with such stories.” I assured her that hearing these was good for my soul.

I started to leave, but some comment stirred another story. She related how her marriage had been difficult years ago when her husband, whom I had just met, was unconverted. There was a time when he was regularly drunk and abusive. Her children had even intervened at one point offering her the opportunity to move in with them or with another friend. She told me what she had said to them. “No. You do not understand. I chose to marry this man. I was only 17 at the time, but I promised ‘for better or for worse.’ Right now all you see is the worst. But a better day is coming.” A few years later he was converted and has now walked with the Lord for years. I had noticed earlier in the visit his Bible, pen and brief commentary situated neatly at a table where he obviously met with God regularly. He now serves as a deacon and was at that moment out making visits for the church.

What a blessing to see and hear faithfulness and God’s care lived out. Take time to hear the stories of those who have walked with God for years. Thank God for the gift of senior saints.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ortlind on Wisdom

Ray Ortlund, always worth hearing, has a good word on "How to become a Sage." Here is an excerpt:

Principle: The further we advance in Christ, the more we marvel at his untapped riches.

Corollary: The more we feel people need our opinions, the more obvious it is they don’t.

Another corollary: The more we feel we have to learn, the more we might have to offer.

So, how to become a sage? “Let the wise hear . . . .”
So true.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

“Strive to Be Ordinary”

In my Pastoral Ministry class today B. J. Maxwell, pastor of Unity Baptist in Millington, TN, gave a lecture titled, “Strive to Be Ordinary.” It was an excellent exhortation to pursue faithful ministry to people rather than the trappings of success. I attempted to record it but was unsuccessful. The manuscript should be available soon, and I will link to it.

Maxwell began by rooting pastoral ministry in a proper understanding of the church. Is it a business to keep profitable? A team to be coached? A brand to be marketed? Or God's redeemed and sojourning people who need shepherding on their journey home? Because the church is a unique entity, pastoral ministry is a one-of-a-kind service. It cannot be approached or defined by categories of this world.

He described pastoral ministry as helping people to die well.

The heart of the presentation was “five rungs for climbing down the ladder toward ordinariness.”

1. Get acquainted with suffering

2. Develop a theology or vocabulary of encouragement. Learn how to encourage God’s people with the gospel.

3. Focus largely on micro-ministry before macro-ministry (i.e. needs of specific people before structural or programmatic issues)

4. Think in terms of decades and generations rather than weeks and years.

“Work today not with an eye to impressing the state paper, but with an eye to shaping your grandchildren.”

5. Recover simple personal discipleship
UPDATE: The manuscript is now available here. Highly recommended!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns

Justin Wainscott has a fascinating, provocative interview at his site with Dr. T. David Gordon, author of Why Johnny Can't Preach: The Media Have Shaped the Messengers. The interview is about Gordon’s sequel, Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Re-Wrote the Hymnal (to be published by P&R early this summer).

Wainscott’s questions and Gordon’s answers are provocative and helpful. Here is one excerpt from Gordon.

There probably is a relationship between not reading poetry and tolerating contemporary worship music. If one reads poetry, one comes to appreciate language that is well-crafted; in the process, one becomes less accepting of language that is poorly crafted. So, most contemporary worship makes me cringe not only musically but also lyrically (not to mention theologically). The commercial forces in our culture want us to be content with pablum, because it is easier to produce pablum than really good stuff. Those commercial forces have pushed us away from demanding disciplines such as reading verse (where there is almost no room for significant commercial profit); and in the process, we as a culture no longer notice inferior art, because we are surrounded by it.
Check out the interview. This is a book I will be watching for.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Oversight of Souls PowerPoint

I have had several requests for the PowerPoint slides with historical quotes on the place of oversight in pastoral ministry which I have used in an address here at Union and last month at the Midwest Regional Founders Conference. Almost all of those quotes have previously appeared on this site. However, the slides (in PowerPoint or PDF) are now available.

May these echoes from the past stir us all to faithful shepherding.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Solomon and Pastoral Wisdom

This past Sunday Lee Tankersely preached a good message on 1 Kings 3-11, Solomon’s rise & fall. Chapter 3 caught me afresh with implications for pastoral ministry. As Solomon came to the throne the Lord essentially granted him a wish. We know he asked for wisdom and this pleased the Lord so that the Lord gave Solomon wisdom plus wealth, honor and long life.

The Davidic king is not a type of the New Testament pastor, but there are some lesser parallels here. Solomon in chapter three is beginning his role of leading the people of God. If God, as you began a new pastorate, offered you any wish in regards to your ministry, what would you ask for? Longevity? Increase, of wealth or membership? Honor? Or wisdom so that we might shepherd God’s people well?

What struck me was the motivation Solomon gives for his request for wisdom. We know he learned from his father the value of wisdom. But, he does not say, “I know wisdom is the greatest thing so please give me wisdom.” His request is not so abstract. Rather, he acknowledges his inexperience (“I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in”, v. 7) and the greatness of the people. His request arises from humility, acknowledging the greatness of the task and his need for divine aid to adequately lead the people of God. Surely God’s pleasure in this request is tied not only to God’s esteem of wisdom, but even more so to God’s love for His people and his desire for leaders to care for His people (cf. Acts 20).

Surely pastors today realize our own inability to adequately shepherd the people of God. Rather than dreaming of large numbers or wide acclaim, let us ask God for wisdom to lead God’s people well. This will please God.

Joy in Communion, Once More

I have previously commented here on the fact that we should come joyfully to the Lord’s table contrary to some practice and teaching we have received. Ray Ortlund recently posted this quote which nicely affirms this point as well.

“We come as children to our Father’s table and to sit there with Jesus Christ, our elder brother. Now a father does not love to have his child sitting in a sullen and dogged way at his table or to be crying, but would rather have the child sitting in comfort with a holy cheerfulness, with a holy freedom of spirit, not in a sullen way, but as a child in the presence of his father, and not as a servant with the master.”

Jeremiah Burroughs, Gospel Worship (Ligonier, 1990), page 330.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Funeral Message by Eric Smith

Eric Smith has posted the audio of the message he preached at his grandfather’s funeral a couple of weeks ago. I was privileged to hear this message in person, and I commend it you. It is helpful in several ways. First, it is a moving tribute to the impact of a man’s life on those in his family. I was deeply moved and yearned all the more to lead my family well.

Also, it is a good example of a funeral message. Funeral messages can be a real challenge. Eric’s grandfather is a believer so that helps greatly. Often, though, I talk with pastors who seem hesitant to highlight the grace of God evident in the lives of people. In an effort not to substitute the praise of man for the praise of God, we can forget that we see the grace of God by what He does through people. Eric recounts various ways God blessed him through his grandfather all the while pointing out that every good gift comes from God.

I am thankful this message was recorded and is now available. I requested it that very day, and now I commend it to you.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Preaching Christ in the OT

At the MidWest Founders Conference this week I recommended Lee Tankersley’s sermons as good examples of preaching Christ from the Old Testament. For anyone following up, you can find those sermons here. You could begin with the sermon from this past Sunday on 1 Kings 1-2. Lee does a good job of noting some of the practical items in the text (implications for fathering in this instance) as well as showing how the text ultimately points to Christ.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Not Stars but Servants

“What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.” (Paul, 1 Cor 3:5-9)

“The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren. Not in the former but in the latter is the lack.” (D. Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 109)

“Preachers are not celebrities and Christians are not to act like groupies.” (Tom Ascol)

This is a key point for those of us who lead in God’s church. It is a wicked thing for the servant of the groom to seduce the affections of the bride.

These quotes came together in my mind as I reread today this excerpt from a previous post:

I just came across an essay by Geoff Thomas which addresses this. It is entitled, “Find a Place to Settle,” and is contained in Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, ed. Tom Ascol (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2004). In this quote below Thomas provides an extended quote from Dr. James Stalker on his experience watching a man who had had such an extended ministry.

“It was my happiness, when I was ordained, to be settled next… to an aged and saintly minister. He was a man of competent scholarship, and had the reputation of having been in early life a powerful and popular preacher. But it was not to these gifts that he owed his unique influence. He moved through the town, with his white hair and somewhat staid and dignified demeanour, as a hallowing presence. His very passing in the street was a kind of benediction, and the people, as they looked after him, spoke of him to each other with affectionate veneration, children were proud when he laid his hand on their heads, and they treasured the kindly words which he spoke to them. At funerals and other seasons of domestic solemnity his presence was sought by people of all denominations. We who labored along with him in the ministry felt that his mere existence in the community was an irresistible demonstration of Christianity and a tower of strength to every good cause. Yet he had not gained this position of influence by brilliant talents or great achievements or the pushing of ambition; for he was singularly modest, and would have been the last to credit himself with half the good he did. The whole mystery lay in this, that he had lived in the town for forty years a blameless life, and was known, by everybody to be a godly and prayerful man. He was good enough to honour me with his friendship; and his example wrote deeply upon my mind these two convictions—that it may sometimes be of immense advantage to spend a whole life time in a single pastorate, and that the prime qualification for the ministry is godliness.”

The man to whom he was referring was a certain James Black of Dunnikier and little more than that paragraph of Stalker’s is known of the man or even the place where he labored. Dunnikier is too small to appear in any British atlas. Black was one that army of holy men who have served the Lord in obscure communities modestly and humbly for no reward other than the immense privilege of having so great a Master as our Christ. (pp. 363-364)

May we see more of this sort of ministry.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shepherding Conference Update

As I previously mentioned the conference “Pastoral Ministry: Shepherding God’s Flock” is coming up Tuesday and Wednesday of next week in the St. Louis area. The schedule has been adjusted, however. Dr. John Thornbury who was to speak has had to have heart surgery, and, therefore, will not be able to participate. I am told he is recovering well, and we will miss the opportunity to hear from him. Dr. Phil Newton, pastor of Southwoods Baptist Church in the Memphis area, will now be joining us.

The revised schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010
12:00 Registration
1:30 “Pastoral Ministry” Dr. Phil Newton
3:00 Break
3:30 "Oversight of Souls: The Heart of Pastoral Ministry" Part 1 Dr. Ray Van Neste
5:00 Dinner
6:30 “Gospel Saturated Preaching” Dr. Tom Ascol
Q & A Panel Discussion after Tuesday Evening session

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
9:00 "Oversight of Souls: The Heart of Pastoral Ministry" Part 2 Dr. Ray Van Neste
10:00 Break
10:30 “Pastoral Ministry” Dr. Phil Newton
Noon Lunch
1:30 “Gospel Shaped Ministry” Dr. Tom Ascol
3:00 Break
3:30 “Shepherding a Rebellious People” Dr. Ray Van Neste
5:00 Dinner
6:30 “Jesus Christ: The Pastor’s Message” Dr. Tom Ascol

Friday, February 19, 2010

Should Churches Be as Friendly as a Bar?

Mark Galli has a good article by this title in Christianity Today. He interacts with a recent survey and those fretting over its results which suggest people do not view churches as being as friendly as bars. He raises good questions about the assumptions of those who fret this.

He comments:

Could it be that the culture no longer takes the church seriously because we don't take ourselves seriously? Could it be that the more we strive to be as friendly as a bar, the more we'll be viewed as seriously as people view a bar?
Valuable reading for those of us who lead God’s church to help us make sure we have in view the goals of the Lord of the church rather than the culture around us.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bonhoeffer’s Life Together

Last month I finished reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s little book, Life Together. It is truly a spiritual classic. There is so much depth and wisdom here about living the Christian life, particularly living in communion with fellow believers and living in light of the truth having been freely justified in Christ (the imprint of Luther is clear). I was encouraged as I saw much of the practice of my fellow church members reflected here.

In a day when (in Phil Ryken’s words) “church has become a place you go rather than the community to which you belong” Bonhoeffer’s message is particularly needed.

Here are a couple of quotes about the value of community:

“The Physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” (p 19)

“The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians. Man was created a body, the Son of God appeared on earth in the body, he was raised in the body, in the sacrament the believer receives the Lord Christ in the body, and the resurrection of the dead will bring about the perfected fellowship of God’s spiritual-physcial creatures.” (pp. 19-20)
Bonhoeffer also deals with the false community we tend to establish where fake closeness by never really facing sin. He powerfully argues that there is no real intimacy until sin is faced and we can come out on the other side.

“Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community.” (p. 27)
Similarly, true love will not call us to indulge one another but to help one another toward Christ-likeness. And our own personal ideas of love will not do. We must look to the Scriptures to teach us what love really looks like.

“I do not know in advance what love for others means on the basis of the general idea of love that grows out of my human desires-all this may rather be hatred and an insidious kind of selfishness in the eyes of Christ. What love is, only Christ tells in his Word.” (p. 35)

“Where Christ bids me to maintain fellowship for the sake of love, I will maintain it. Where his truth enjoins me to dissolve a fellowship for love’s sake, there I will dissolve it, despite all the protests of my human love.” (p. 35)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Making of an Atheist Blog Tour

In a previous post I mentioned Jim Speigel’s new book, The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief. Now I can post the full schedule of the blog tour for the book. By visiting these blogs you can get a good overview of the book over the next couple of months.

It will be important for us as pastors to help our people in responding the reinvigorated attacks of prominent atheists.  This book will be a great aid.

EPS Blog   February 10-12

Cloud of Witnesses  February 14-16

Apologetics.com  February 22-24

Truthbomb Apologetics February 25-27

Triablogue  March 1-3

Apologetics 315 March 4-6

Mike Austin’s blog March 8-10

The Seventh Sola  March 11-13

EPS Blog  March 15-17

Evangel and TeamPyro 

Doug Geivett’s blog   March 22-24

Say Hello to my Little Friend  March 25-27

PleaseConvinceMe.com March 29-31

Just Thinking   April 1-3

Oversight of Souls  April 5-7

Constructive Curmudgeon April 8-10

A-Team Blog  April 12-14

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ortlund on Marriage

Valentine's Day puts me off because of what is done with it.  The world around us does not know what love is and so many of the attempts are sad and tragic.

However, the love between a husband and wife is a beautiful thing, supposed to mirror the love of Christ for His Church.  Ray Ortlund has spoken powerfully to this in a recent post which I have pasted in here in full.  This is a good word for husbands and wives.  I am blessed to have a wife who does as Ortlund describes and "breathes life into her man."

"Let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Ephesians 5:33
God made Adam first and put him in the Garden with a job to do, a mission to fulfill. In the heart of every fallen man is the self-doubt that wonders, “Am I man enough to climb this mountain God has called me to? Can I fulfill my destiny?” A wise wife will understand that question at the center of her husband’s heart. And she will spend her life answering it, communicating to him in various ways, “Honey, I believe in your call. I know you can do this, by God’s power. Go for it.” In this way, she will breathe life into her man.

God made Eve from Adam, for Adam, to help him follow the call. In the heart of every fallen woman is the self-doubt that wonders, “Do I please you? Am I what you wanted?” A wise husband will understand that question at the center of his wife’s heart. And he will spend his life answering it, communicating to her in various ways, “Darling, you are the one I need. I cherish you. Let me hold you close.” In this way, he will breathe life into his wife.

John MacArthur on How to Serve Christians Who Are Needlessly Restrictive

Andy Naselli has posted audio and a written summary of John MacArthur’s response to the question:

How would you approach a congregation trapped in years of legalistic tradition?
MacArthur’s call for patient loving instruction is helpful, providing a good portrait of shepherding.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Making of an Atheist

I am pleased to be participating in a blog tour for Jim Speigel’s new book, The Making of an Atheist. Once the tour schedule is completed I will post it. I am not scheduled to post on the book for a while, but the book came yesterday and I have been quite taken with it. First, the subtitle got me: “How Immorality Leads to Unbelief.” Yes! The Bible is clear on this point so I rejoiced in seeing someone willing to state this clearly in a book.

Then his introduction makes this point even more clearly. He is writing in response to the New Atheism, but his goal is not to respond to their various arguments (others have done so and these arguments are nothing new). Instead he states:

"I want to show that atheism is not ultimately about arguments and evidence." (10)

"Atheism is not at all a consequence of intellectual doubts. Such doubts are mere symptoms of the root cause- moral rebellion. For the atheist, the missing ingredient is not evidence but obedience." (11)
The New Atheism, Spiegel notes, “is little more than moral rebellion cloaked in academic regalia” (16).

Of course Spiegel is not the first to diagnose this moral cause of unbelief. He stands in an honored line of philosophers and theologians, and it is refreshing to see this truth clearly and boldly stated today.

I am excited to read the rest of the book and invite you to join me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Interview in Towers

The February 8, 2010 edition of Southern Seminary’s Towers Magazine includes a brief interview with me on the importance of shepherding souls (p. 16). The key concerns which animate this blog come out in the interview.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Imagination the Basis of Ethics, Worldview

Below is a recent post from my blog on children's literature, "The Children's Hour."  It concerns the role of the imagination in the development of a worldview and in sanctification.  This is a significant pastoral issue btoh in the pastor's role of thinking about the training of the children in the church and just in thinking about the way adults think as well.

David Mills' article, "Enchanting Children: Training Up a Child Requires a Well Formed Imagination" (from Touchstone) is a great resource for parents. He deals with several issues, primarily the importance of the imagination in shaping life. He argues that the imagination shapes life more than the facts we know and that stoires are the key factor shaping our imaginations. Therefore we ought to be very diligent in guarding what stories our children take in- e.g. limit television and read them good stories. I agree wholeheartedly!

Here are some quotes.
On the importance of imagination Mills wrote:

We tend to rely, I think, too much on knowledge. Even if Johnny has memorized the Baltimore Catechism or the Westminster Confession, or even hundreds of verses of Scripture, if his imagination has been formed by the wider, secular culture, he will respond to temptations as a secularist, not as a Christian.

He will know that fornication is wrong and that intercourse is a gift reserved for marriage, but he will feel that it is a recreational activity to be enjoyed ... When he brings himself to temptation, his feelings are more likely to move him than his thoughts, and of course once he falls, his thoughts will start to change to fit his feelings.
Revulsion is a much better protection from the force of the passions than an intellectual understanding by itself. To feel “This is yucky” is not a final protection from sin, but it is better than thinking “This is wrong” but feeling “This is okay.” Lust offers the paradigmatic case (examples come quickly to mind), but this is true of pride, gluttony, envy, and all the rest, even sloth.
He encoourages avoiding the warped stories which cascade from the television and developing a family culture more oriented to reading. He admits this will be difficult and will set you apart as odd in comparison with others.

But it is worth the effort. Hearing his father or mother read a good story forces the child to hear and begin to imagine stories he would not necessarily read himself, and it gives you another time to talk with him about the deeper things, without being overtly religious in the way that puts off so many children
He continues:
Good stories read seriously and with enjoyment will help form a child’s imagination, and give it a shape it will never entirely lose, no matter what the child does when he grows older. But we would be foolish to rely on stories to do more than stories can. Wise Christian parents will immerse themselves and their children ever more deeply in the life of the Church, whose worship and teaching and charity and fellowship will be the most profound creator of the Christian imagination.

There they should meet Jesus. The world in which the child knows that Jesus is present is a world he will always live by, even in reaction and even when he convinces himself that it is an illusion. The well-formed imagination is a gift that keeps on giving.
As St. James pointed out, even the devils believe, in the sense that they know what the reality is (James 2:19). But they cannot imagine that the reality is good. They may know of God the Father, but to them such Fatherhood feels like domination and oppression, because their imaginations are so completely corrupted. They do not hear “Thus says the Lord” as “Here is the antidote for the poison that is killing you,” but as “Down, vermin slaves.” Think of Uncle Andrew in The Magician’s Nephew, who hears Aslan’s kind words only as a threatening growl.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Psalm 19

Aaron O’Kelly delivered a wonderful sermon this morning at Cornerstone on Psalm 19. I was helped by his exposition noting how God speaks through creation and Scripture and that this speech calls for a response. It is well worth a listen.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

350 Pounds of Books

Here is a statement just released from Union University's Ryan Center for Biblical Studies about a wonderful opportunity:

The Ryan Center has an exciting opportunity to partner with Indigenous Outreach International in their ministry in Ethiopia. IOI, founded and led by Union alum Patrick Beard, has been working in Ethiopia for years. This April they will launch a library/reading room with English language materials. The library will have two primary purposes. First, it will provide resources for area pastors. In this way it is practically a sister institution to the Ryan Center. Secondly, it will have an evangelistic purpose. The public schools in Ethiopia teach English as a required subject and the students are eager for anything to read in English. This library will give them the opportunity to read English Bibles and Bible material. I think this is a wonderful project.

The Ryan Center is helping to gather books. We are accepting donations of books to place on the shelves there in Addis Ababa. When Patrick and his team go to launch the library in April they have room in their luggage for 350 pounds of books.

Will you help us collect 350 pounds of useful books to help pastors and to proclaim the gospel in Ethiopia? A wide variety of Christian literature is needed. In addition to a case of Bibles that has already been donated we hope to add Bible study materials, books on theology, Christian living, church life, etc. Many Ethiopians have an excellent ability to read English but since it is not their first language they would benefit most from books which are easy to understand, perhaps on a school age level.

Book donations can be sent/brought to the Ryan Center. We will screen the books before sending them on. Any that are not best suited for the library will be used in other ways here. Also, since the airlines now charge for extra baggage you can help pay this cost, if you are able, by placing a dollar in books you donate.

If you have any questions about this project feel free to contact Brian Denker (bdenker@uu.edu) or Ray Van Neste (rvanneste@uu.edu).

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Bold Testimony

I appreciated Eric Smith’s recent post, “Meeting a True Bishop,” for the portrayal of proper pastoral boldness in the life of Basil the Great. It brought to mind a section I had just read in Baptist Piety: The Last Will and Testimony of Obadiah Holmes.

Edwin Gaustad, the author, is describing the setting into which Holmes was born. He recounts the martyrdom of John Bradford who had pastored in Stockport, the village nearest Holmes’ birthplace. Five months before he was burned at the stake, Bradford wrote his parishioners from prison with a powerful exhortation including these words:

Oh! forget not how the Lord hath showed himself true, and me his true preacher, by bringing to pass these plagues which at my mouth you oft heard me preach of before they came: specially when I treated of Noah’s flood and when I preached of the 23rd chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel on St. Stephen’s day, the last time that I was with you … you have been warned, and warned again, by me in preaching, by me in burning.” (p. 6; emphasis added)

This sort of pastoral exhortation and example is powerful. No trite truisms, or bland clichés here.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The Holiest Day of the Year

The flap over the Tim Tebow Super Bowl ad has been interesting and particularly revealing. About a week ago I heard a guy on ESPN complaining about it (his name has escaped me) and I remember thinking, “He is making a religious argument.” He was essentially arguing that the Super Bowl was sacred space that was sullied by such discussions.

Then, today, I read the latest Shepherd Press newsletter which quoted sports writer Greg Doyle as saying this:

"And I'm not complaining about the ad because it's anti-abortion and I'm not. I'm complaining about the ad because it's pro-politics. And I'm not. Not on Super Sunday. If you're a sports fan, and I am, that's the holiest day of the year. That's a day for five hours of football pregame shows and four hours of football game and three hours of postgame football analysis. That's a day for football addicts to gorge themselves to the gills on football.

It's not a day to discuss abortion. For it, against it, I don't care what you are. On Super Sunday, I don't care what I am. Feb. 7 is simply not the day to have that discussion."

Wow! Someone will say he is intentionally exaggerating.  However, notice that this event is supposed to nullify for the moment any other weighty matters.  In other words it is sacred.  Revealing.
We are always a religious people.  The only question is, "Who are the gods?"

Monday, February 01, 2010

Audio of the Psalms

As another way of imbibing the Psalms I recently purchased The Listener’s Psalms and Proverbs, narrated by Max McLean from Audible.com. McLean reading voice is well known, and he does a good job with the Psalms. The text being read is the NIV. I have long appreciated the rendering of the Psalms in the NIV- I think it is the greatest strength of the NIV.

In Bible reading, I am most accustomed to close, slow reading of small texts. Listening gives me the opportunity to take in larger sections of texts, hearing Psalm after Psalm. It takes time to acclimate to this form of reading. Of course, you can’t pay attention to all the details as you can in slow reading. However, I have noticed broader patterns and themes, and connections across the Psalms. It has been beneficial to just allow the words of the Psalms to wash over my mind on the ride into work, or home, or wherever. I am really enjoying this recording.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Indictment on Evangelical Worship

Justin Wainscott, pastor and poet, has penned a powerful poetic challenge to much of what is typical in evangelical worship today.  If you do not already read his blog, I recommend it to you.

Indictment on Evangelical Worship

M. Justin Wainscott, © 2007

Set the stage and dim the lights,
Create my mood; abuse my rights.
Out-do all you did last week,
And never let the silence speak.
Entertain me, at all costs,
Blur the lines ‘tween true and false.
Smile and tell me all’s okay,
I’ll believe whate’er you say.
Give me mirrors; give me smoke,
Fill me with clichés and jokes.

Like an orphan with no story,
Cut me off from all before me.
Hide the pain and fake the smile,
Lamentation’s out of style.
Give me milk and warm the bottle,
Make sure it’s the latest model.
Numb my mind with borrowed tricks,
Feed my soul with Pixi-stix.
Don’t confront what lurks within,
Or else I’ll never come again.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When the Church Has No Power

Local Church Delivers Sermon From Boxing Ring

2 Corinthains 4:1-6:
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
HT: Tim Ellsworth

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The King of Glory

This past Sunday I benefitted greatly from a powerful sermon on Psalm 24 by Tom Fox, former IMB missionary and fellow member at Cornerstone. Tom particularly emphasized the point from verses 1-2 that God is not a tribal deity- His concerns embrace the whole world. Tom’s applications on world mission were compelling. He mentioned reading that a missionary was among those dug out of the rubble in Haiti and said, “Praise God! Missionaries ought to be dug out of rubble where rubble is to be found.”

The whole thing is well worth a listen.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Serving Christ

An audio series by Doug Wilson (available free!) I have been listening to plus a Sunday School lesson by Bob Sparks has been stirring my mind about wonderful truths related to the doctrine of vocation. This wonderful truth that all of life resounds to the glory of God (and ths God is interested in every area) continues to need recovering in our churches. I teach on this doctrine regularly and continue to be blessed by seeing new facets of it.

This week what has struck me is that we directly serve Christ in our menial tasks. I am most accustomed to thinking of serving for Christ, serving on behalf of Christ, or for the sake of Christ in my various activities. However, Colossians 3:24, after calling us to do whatever we do for Christ, says “You are serving the Lord Christ.” So when you are grading papers, or dispensing discipline, or folding clothes, sweeping a floor, or cleaning a dirty diaper you are serving Christ. This has a significant impact on how we see our daily routines and duties.

In the midst of writing this, I stopped to help one of my sons with a math problem. I ended up discussing this point with him. He responded with, “Mom must be really good at serving Jesus then with all she does.” Yes, son, exactly right!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Transformative Power of Corporate Worship

I have commented several times here about the importance and impact of corporate worship. I am convinced this is a truth we need to recover. Eric Smith has written a moving account of how God rescued him at a significant crossroads in his life through the corporate singing of a local body. I commend his post to you.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ortlund on Pride vs. Christ

Ray Ortlund’s post “I am … nothing” is another helpful shot at our man-centered thinking. It is brief, but I encourage you to read it. He cites a statement from an Assyrian king:

“I am royal, I am lordly, I am mighty, I am honored, I am exalted, I am glorified, I am powerful, I am all-powerful, I am brilliant, I am lion-brave, I am manly, I am supreme, I am noble.”

He contrasts this with Christ. What hit me was how the Assyrian quote parallels how we are often encouraged to think of leadership and pastoral ministry. May we be Christlike.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Conference: “Shepherding God’s Flock”

I have the privilege of ministering alongside John Thornbury, Tom Ascol and Joseph Braden February 23-24 at a conference with the theme, “Pastoral Ministry: Shepherding God’s Flock.” I am particularly excited about the conference theme, which is the theme of this blog. These other men bring years of faithful experience in the pastorate.

The Schedule is as follows:
Tuesday, February 23
12 noon- Registration
1:30 p.m. Joseph Braden -“Our Shepherd God”
3:30 p.m. John Thornbury- “The World’s Greatest J ob”
5:00 p.m. Dinner
6:30 p.m. Tom Ascol- “Gospel Saturated Preaching”

Wednesday, February 24
9:00 a.m. Ray Van Neste- "Oversight of Souls: The Heart of Pastoral Ministry”
10:30 a.m. John Thornbury- “Pastoral Pitfalls"
12 noon- Lunch
1:30 p.m. Tom Ascol- “Gospel Shaped Ministry”
3:30 p.m. Ray Van Neste- “Shepherding a Rebellious People”
5:00 p.m. Dinner
6:30 p.m. John Thornbury- “Jesus Christ, the Pastor’s Message”

Just for clarity (especially for my own church members) my address, “Shepherding a Rebellious People,” is not autobiographical but is a study of Moses as a pastoral example. :)

The conference is the 2010 Southern Baptist Founders’ Conference Midwest and will meet at First Baptist Church, St. Peters, Missouri. Information on registration, housing, etc. can be found here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Love Bade Me Welcome

Here is George Herbert's wonderful poetic portrayal of justification by faith:


LOVE bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
       Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
       From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
       If I lack'd anything.

'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:'
       Love said, 'You shall be he.'
'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
       I cannot look on Thee.'
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
       'Who made the eyes but I?'

'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame
       Go where it doth deserve.'
'And know you not,' says Love, 'Who bore the blame?' 15
       'My dear, then I will serve.'
'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.'
       So I did sit and eat.

- George Herbert. 1593–1632