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 clich├ęs 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

Monday, January 18, 2010

Give Us Songs Men Can Sing

Here is another interesting quote from Gaines Dobbins’ The Churchbook from 1951. The call for music which allows congregational participation, and particularly allows men to participate was timely then. From appearances it was not largely heeded. It is timely now as well.

“Our church songbooks contain some splendid hymns, and also some which kill a congregation’s enthusiasm. From the psychological angle, a good song is one which has harmony and a stirring rhythm which lends itself to untrained male voices, as well as to graduates of conservatories of music.

Recently, I have been visiting various churches for the purpose of observing their music. Just from my listening to the half-hearted singing in many of them, I have felt sorry for the congregation, since many of the men were really trying to participate in the music but couldn’t because it was so difficult or so lacking in a strong, essential rhythm. It would be a great boon if our churches limited themselves to a few dozen of the good old hymns in which people can really participate. For church music should be sung with delight and gusto, so that the very walls almost burst outward with the hearty music. Churches need more men’s music. …

Effeminate hymns, too often employed today, handicap the clergyman, kill the interest of the congregation ….” (163-64)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Value of Worship at Home

In some of my work on Baptist theology and practice I came across this quote from Gaines Dobbins’s, The churchbook: A treasury of materials and methods (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1951), a standard text in the 1950’s. His point applies just as well today.
“Children who have learned to worship at home will not find it difficult to worship in the church. Children from worship-less homes cannot be led easily to appreciate the meaning and the value of church worship. A mark of the decadence of our civilization is the decline of family worship. Its revival would be one of the most significant signs of spiritual recovery. The use of one of the popular aids to family devotions, with suggestions for daily Bible readings and prayer, would prove of inestimable value in the promotion of worship in the home, where the best of all training in worship may be received.” (157).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Solid Ground Sale on Baptist Classics

My friends at Solid Ground Christian Books are offering a sale on 11 Baptist classics with a plan for reading them through the year. I have already taken advantage of the offer and wanted to pass along the news. The titles with descriptions are listed below. You can view the titles and place an order here.

JANUARY - Benjamin Keach The Travels of True Godliness This is a work, written in the style of The Pilgrim's Progress, tracing the growth, struggles and temptations faced by 'True Godliness.' It is an enjoyable journey depicting the path of growth in holiness.

FEBRUARY - Andrew Fuller: A Heart for Missions (Pearce Bio) One of the best Christian biographies ever written! Samuel Pearce was the Baptist version of Robert Murray McCheyne--a young pastor known for godliness and zeal whose life was brief but impact was profound.

MARCH - Hercules Collins Devoted to the Service of the Temple A mighty man of God, Hercules Collins was a pastor of a very large London Congregation during the 17th century. This little book very helpfully collects some of his wonderful doctrinal and devotional writings.

APRIL - Adoniram Judson On Christian Baptism The Congregational Missionary Society was shocked when its first missionary, Adoniram Judson, adopted credobaptist views while on his way to serve in India. In this book, Judson demonstrates the nature of Christian baptism.

MAY - Southern Baptist Sermons on Sovereignty and Responsibility American Baptist history is full of great preachers. Here is a collection of sermons by Southern worthies, expounding vital topics; by Basil Manly, Sr., W.B. Johnson, R.B.C. Howell & Richard Fuller.

JUNE - John Broadus: Jesus of Nazareth Our Lord Jesus is wonderfully presented by another great Southern preacher, John Broadus.

JULY/AUGUST - Benjamin Beddome's Exposition of the Baptist Catechism Here is a gem, long out of print, but recently reprinted. Theology is made practical by this pastor from the village of Bourton-on-the-Water in the English Cotswolds.

SEPTEMBER - Andrew Fuller: The Backslider Christians struggle with sin--this is a fact. We need to consider this truth, learn about its dangers, and find the right method of recovery. This book will help.

OCTOBER - John Bunyan: Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ We can't neglect Bunyan! In this book, he calls us to find our full satisfaction in Jesus Christ.

NOVEMBER - Benjamin Keach: The Marrow of True Justification We live in a day when the doctrine of justification by faith alone is under attack. One of our fathers, Benjamin Keach, ably explains this doctrine here. This is the heart of the gospel.

DECEMBER - Charles Spurgeon: Sermons on Men or Women of the Bible What a great way to conclude the year! As always, Spurgeon shows us how the men and women of the Bible point us to Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Think and Act Locally

Barry Maxwell has a great post on the centrality of the local church in the Christian life. He particularly critiques the temptation to focus on big names and distant issues rather than focusing on personal relationships with the people with whom you are covenanted.

Here is an excerpt:

In no way minimizing the gift these pastoral and theological giants are to the church, the primary field in which our soul’s graze is our local church. It is to our local brothers and sisters we owe primary attention. It is with them we must work out God’s word and share common convictions and confession. What Piper, MacArthur, Driscoll, Sproul or you-name-him thinks about an issue is important, but not nearly as important as what our local church thinks about it. Unless we’re members of Bethlehem Baptist Church John Piper is not commanded to keep my brothers and sisters from evil, unbelieving hearts that fall away from the living God, nor we him (Heb 3.12). We as members of our local church are commanded to do so for our brothers and sisters with whom we’re covenantally committed.

Rather than immediately wonder what Piper might think, we would benefit far more by asking what our brothers and sisters might think. If I’m commanded to help my brother hold fast his confession then I’d better know what he confesses! How will Bill work out this week’s text in his marriage? In what way did Bonnie see Christ in the text this week? How do we as a church work through Jesus’ teaching on divorce or Paul’s teaching on communion? Do we insist on independence and autonomous self-study (hyper-priesthood of the believer) or do we want to work out and share convictions within the biblical community?

It matters what “those” guys think in the big picture scheme of things, but not nearly as much what “these” guys in my life think. These guys with whom I share the same cup and loaf. These guys who know my children and cry when we’re hurting. These guys who see me sin and fumble the faith. These guys who know the right ways to encourage and confront me. These guys are the theologians from and about whom I should most want to learn.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Our Need of the Church

I recently read this quote from Gresham Machen posted by Darryl Hart. I found myself saying, “Yes!” and “Thank you Lord for my church!”

. . . whatever the solution there may be, one thing is clear. There must be somewhere groups of redeemed men and women who can gather together humbly in the name of Christ, to give thanks to Him for his unspeakable gift and to worship the Father through Him. Such groups alone can satisfy the needs of the soul. At the present time, there is one longing of the human heart which is often forgotten — it is the deep, pathetic longing of the Chrsitian for fellowship with his brethren. One hears much, it is true, about Christian union and harmony and co-operation. But the union that is meant is often a union with the world against the Lord, or at best a forced union of machinery and tyrannical committees. How different is the true unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace! Sometimes, it is true, the longing for Christian fellowship is satisfied. There are congregations, even in the present age of conflict, that are really gathered around the table of the crucified Lord; there are pastors that are pastors indeed. But such congregations, in many cities, are difficult to find. Weary with the conflicts of the world, one goes into the Church to seek refreshment for the soul. And what does one find? Alas, too often, one finds only the turmoil of the world. The preacher comes forward, not out of a secret place of meditation and power, not with the authority of God’s Word permeating his message, not with human wisdom pushed far into the background by the glory of the Cross, but with human opinions about the social problems of the hour or easy solutions of the vast problem of sin. Such is the sermon. And then perhaps the service is closed by one of those hymns breathing out the angry passions of 1861, which are to be found in the back part of the hymnals. Thus the warfare of the world has entered even into the house of God. And sad indeed is the heart of the man who has come seeking peace.

Is there no refuge from strife? Is there no place of refreshing where a man can prepare for the battle of life? Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus’ name, to forget for the moment all those things that divide nation from nation and race from race, to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in overflowing gratitude at the foot of the Cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that the gate of heaven. And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world. (Christianity and Liberalism [1923], 180-81)

Monday, January 04, 2010

Books in 2009 (Best & Worst)

In keeping with the book lists which are common at this time I thought I would list some of my favorite (& least favorite) reads from 2009. This is an idiosyncratic list- just my favorites from what I happened to read. I include here only books that I read straight through (so commentaries and other reference works do not show up here). Also, in the list I keep of books I read each year, I include lecture series as books. I have also indicated where I listened to the audio of a book.  Several of these have showed up in posts throughout the year.


1. The Spartacus War, Barry Straus- A great book! Good example of re-telling an ancient story in a compelling way without fudging the data. Historians (and preachers) tend either to tell a compelling story without clarifying what is certain and what is conjecture or to bore us to tears with lists of possibilities. Strauss gives a good example of how we can handle our ancient texts as well.

2. The Mind of a Patriot: Patrick Henry and the World of Ideas, Kevin Hayes- This was an excellent book! Demolishes T. Jefferson’s picture of Henry as caring little for learning. A very interesting example of the value of learning.

3. Books that Have Made History: Books that Can Change Your Life, Rufus Fears (audio)- A course from The Teaching Company. Fears is a great lecturer so this was a fun listen. He had to give brief overviews of significant books (obviously from his own perspective), but it was worthwhile to get more acquainted with these important books. (list of books covered here, left hand side of page).  The key with the Teachign Company is to watch for sales.

4. They Called Him Stonewall, Burke Davis (audio)- Davis is an engaging writer so I have looked for all his books. This is one is well written and a good presentation of Jackson- an inspiring character.

5. A Magnificent Catastrophe: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, America’s First Presidential Campaign, Edward Larson (audio)- A really good read listen. This was a very significant point in American history.

6. Old Trails and Tales of Tennessee and Tales of Madison: Historical Sketches on Jackson & Madison County, both by Harbert Alexander- Great on local history. Light reads with interesting stories of what has gone on in my area over the years.

7. Zachary Taylor, John S. D. Eisenhower- I did not know much about Taylor before and this gave good information on him and his contribution. Well written.

8. Raising the Hunley: The Remarkable History and Recovery of the Lost Confederate Submarine, Brian Hicks & Schuyler Kropf (audio)- A fascinating book about this significant submarine. In various ways it seems the book could have been put together better. However, it was well worthwhile to listen to as I learned very much about the Hunley, its history, its place in the development of naval warfare (first successful attack submarine), the process of finding it (about 130 years later!), and the process of raising and examining it.

9. The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, Caroline Alexander (audio)- This book was slow in places but makes this list because it is such an amazing story of perseverance.

10. General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence, John S. D. Eisenhower (audio)- Well done! J. Eisenhower is a good writer (see #7) and the reading by Edward Herrmann was well done. I like history from this sort of angle. Interesting examples of the impact of mentors (see previous post)

11. A History of Hitler’s Empire, 2d ed., Thomas Childers (audio)- This is the first course I listened to from the Teaching Company and I really liked it. Very informative.

12. Gilgamesh, trans. David Ferry- I had never read this key work before and I found it very interesting.

13. George Washington: The Founding Father, Paul Johnson (audio)- Well written, engaged with the subject, sympathetic but not hagiographic. Good on Washington being horrified on how people today think religion should be barred from anything assoc with federal government. Good also on Washington as a thinker as well as man of action- not an intellectual, per se, but thoughtful, articulate, informed etc. Also shows Washington as thinking clearly to his last days (contra charges of some, including Jefferson).

14. The History of the English Language, Seth Lehrer (audio)- Another Teaching Company course. The first part was the most interesting to me as he dealt with the roots of Indo-European languages.

15. Two Little Confederates, Thomas Nelson Page- A good read with much humor as you see Virginia in the Civil War through the eyes of two young boys. It gives a good glimpse of what every day life was like at the time, written by one who grew up in this era.

16. The Life of Robert E. Lee for Young Gentlemen, J. G. deRoulhac Hamilton (originally pub. 1917)- This was a bit of a slow read, but the strength was use of so many primary sources, particularly Lee’s letters.


Full discussions of these are found at my children’s literature blog, so I will just list them here.

1. Bud & Me: The True Adventures of the Abernathy Boys, Alta Abernathy

2. Guns of the Lion, Douglas Bond- historical fiction

3. The Sword Bearer (The Archives of Anthropos 1), John White- allegorical fantasy

4. Roverandom, J. R. R. Tolkien

5. Gaal the Conqueror (The Archives of Anthropos 2), John White- allegorical fantasy

6. The Princess and Curdie, George Macdonald


1. Quitting Church, Julia Duin- I don’t agree with her everywhere, but this is an informative read on the state of many becoming disenfranchised with church.

2. Franchising McChurch, Yeats and White- Great critique of much of what is going on in church today.

3. All of Grace, Spurgeon (audio)- Wonderful! Theologically rich and applied so well. Great example of pastoral preaching.  I think Spurgeon might be best in audio.

4. An Unexpected Journey, Robert Godfrey- Really good, refreshing read. Godfrey’s spiritual autobiography.

5. The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan, edited by C. J. Lovik- This is a good new edition. This book is worth regularly re-reading.

6. The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus, Dale Allison- I did not intend to read this book much less like it! Allison is of course very critical, but it was very interesting seeing how he wrestles with the issues of the faith. There is much to disagree with, but some to appreciate as well.

7. The Blenheim Lectures, Doug Wilson (audio)- Available free at Canon Press website. I particularly liked the personal narrative portion where he discussed shaping a church, learning as you go, seeking to faithfully live out the Scripture in the context of a specific community.


1. They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dip Stick, Todd Starnes- Todd used to work at Union and this is the humorous account his health trouble and weight loss. Reminiscent of Lewis Grizzard.

2. Edgar Allan Poe: An Illustrated Companion to His Tell-Tale Stories, Harry Lee Poe- Fascinating read. Hal critiques the typical account of Poe and shows his significant impact on literature and science. Along the way, Hal discusses Poe’s journey to faith.

3. The Little Boy Down the Road: Short Stories & Essays on the Beauty of Family Life, Doug Philips – Wonderful, challenging, encouraging book on family.

Lastly, two of the most disappointing books I read. Luke Timothy Johnson’s The Apostle Paul (audio) from the Teaching Company was an entirely secular reading. He seemed to take no account of faith. Then, the worst book I read was Bruce Malina’s Timothy: Paul’s Closest Associate. The current results of social scientific criticism were considered absolute fact and the assertions of Scripture were always suspect.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Good New Year Word from Doug Phillips

Doug Phillips has a really good exhortation for families concerning reflecting on the past year. Here is his introduction:

“Life moves fast. If we don’t take the time to chronicle the providences of God, we forget them. If we don’t take the time to say thank you to those who have invested in our lives, we actually cultivate a spirit of ingratitude in our own hearts. If we don’t stop and make sure that we have a spirit of forgiveness toward others, we grow bitter, we lose the capacity to move victoriously into the future, and our prayers are hindered.

Here is a little practice that I was taught and would like to share with you. Each year, during the last week of December, I would encourage you to do the following things.”

He lists and discusses three things:

1. Outline and Chronicle the Many Providences of God

2. Say ‘Thank You’ to Those Who Have Invested in Your Life

3. Forgive Those Who Have Wronged You

Good, challenging, realistic ideas. Read the whole thing.