Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Visit the Sistine Chapel lately? You can today.

If you are a fan of art, beauty, and history you need to check out this virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel which features the brilliant work of Michaelangelo. This is truly breathtaking in person but this website gives you the second best way to view the chapel. It is very cool.

View Sistine Chapel HERE (it takes a few moments to fully load but worth the patience).

Speaking of the Vatican... if you want to understand Roman Catholic beliefs, particularly in how they are distinct from Protestant beliefs, R.C. Sproul has recently taught a series on this subject. You can listen to these lectures HERE.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Two years... Two Praises... Two Prayer Requests

Two years ago on this date, March 23 I preached my "installation" sermon as pastor of Memorial Baptist. Time flies when you're having fun! Some days it feels like just a short time- which it has been, but other days of course it feels much longer. Such is life in the pastoral ministry. I'm so thankful the Lord brought me to serve at Memorial and in Port Arthur. He has put such a burden on my heart for this city and for the people under my watch. On my first Sunday we celebrated Easter Sunday and I preached from the text of Peter's sermon in Acts 2. Since that day the Lord had done many wonderful things in my life through this ministry and today I'm very reflective about where we've been and where we're going. Being my 2-year anniversary as pastor I thought of two praises or things I'm thankful to the Lord for, and two prayer requests or things I'm really seeking the Lord for.

Two Praises:
  1. I'm so thankful for the precious and encouraging saints the Lord has put in Blair's and my life. We have so many more life-shaping friendships with brothers and sisters of different generations and are thankful that these friends will also be part of our new son's life.
  2. I'm so thankful for a church that is eager to hear God's Word preached. I came with one clear agenda--to systematically and expositionally preach through Biblical books. It has been such a blessing to hear people (of all ages) excited about learning the Bible.

Two Prayer Requests:

  1. I'm praying the Lord will use our congregation to call men and women to faith in Christ and be united with our fellowship. I'm so eager to see the miracle of salvation in happen in our community and through our church's reach. Nothing excites me more than seeing God's sovereign grace at work!
  2. I'm praying the Lord will raise up doctrinally sound and evangelistic leaders in our congregation. You can never have enough. We need more people (especially men) who will be called to teach God's Word and stand with conviction on God's Word.

I'm eager to see and to savor what God does among us. My hope since day one was to be part of a Word-driven church who could speak of what exciting things are happening among our fellowship and say, "Only by the power of the Word... only God has done it."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Video Monday- Alistair Begg

Okay so these aren't really videos but you'll dig 'em none the less. This guy could be speaking about changing the oil in my car and his accent would make it eloquent. However you could take away the eloquence and the power is still present in Alistair Begg's pulpit because he's a faithful expositor of Scripture. In these clips he's lecturing at a conference for pastors on the subject of preaching. If you'd like to hear some preaching go HERE (Truth for Life Ministries) or HERE (Parkside Church- Cleveland, OH).

Reflecting on the Congressional Vote Yesterday... Good Questions to Ask

Russell Moore provides a perspective that all Christians must consider regarding the health care debate and legislation that is at the center of our nation right now. Here is a sample of some questions he says we should consider.
Is it a problem that some of us who are tranquil as still water about biblical doctrine and ecclesial mission are red-faced about Nancy Pelosi and the talking heads on MSNBC? Is it a problem that some who haven’t shared the gospel with their neighbors in months or years are motivated to vent to strangers on the street about how scary national health care will be?

Read the whole article HERE.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Good Theology Books

After yesterday's post I was think of the most influential books towards shaping my theology. That is a loaded statement of course and needs some explaining. Most of my Christian life (from being converted in childhood through early college years) I was sort of a-theological. I barely scratched the surface of the texts I knew and was generally Biblically-illiterate as doctrine was concerned. I knew the books of the Bible, the central figures, many Bible stories, and many moral principles. I also had a simple understanding of the gospel which the Spirit used to call me to faith. Beyond that I knew very little until I really began to read the Bible verse by verse, book by book. Paul's letters to the Romans, Philippians, and Ephesians were especially gripping to me in my early twenties, as was the Old Testament books of Genesis, Deuteronomy, and Judges. From this my theology grew but like many, the temptation was there to interpret the Bible and make conclusions apart from testing it against history. In other words, if you have a "new" take on an ancient verse it is in serious question. It is essential to see how the church has interpreted the Bible over history before concluding you have an orthodox understanding. So these books are those I read that helped affirm and clarify what I was seeing in the Bible (in no particular order)...

1. The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen
2. Knowing God by J.I. Packer
3. Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther
4. Cur Deus Homo? by Anselm
5.The Pleasures of God by John Piper
6. The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
7. The Doctrines of Grace by James Boice and Philip Ryken
8. Counted Righteous in Christ by John Piper
9. Christian Theology by Millard Erickson
10. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
11. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
12. Faith Alone by R.C. Sproul

I know I'm forgetting some but those rattled from the top of my head. I'd recommend most-some with caution, and I don't necessarily ascribe to everything written in each book. If you are looking for a good theology book to dive into, those are some suggestions. Mainly of course, dive again and again into THE BOOK.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Calvinism as defined by J.I. Packer

One of the best books I've ever read is The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen. J.I. Packer's introductory essay alone is worth the purchase but Owen's work is a classic. John Piper has recently blogged about the oft misunderstood and oft maligned acrostic TULIP which explains the Biblical doctrines of grace. Regarding this he has posted some great quotes from Packer's introductory essay to Owen's classic book on the atonement. Here is how Packer defines Calvinism, and I hope this clears away some misrepresentations,

It would not be correct to simply equate Calvinism with the 'five points'... Calvinism is something much broader than the 'five points' indicate. Calvinism is a whole world-view, stemming from a clear vision of God as the whole world’s Maker and King. Calvinism is the consistent endeavour to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of His will. Calvinism is a theocentric way of thinking about all life under the direction and control of God’s own Word. Calvinism, in other words, is the theology of the Bible viewed from the perspective of the Bible—the God-centred outlook which sees the Creator as the source, and means, and end, of everything that is, both in nature and in grace. Calvinism is thus theism (belief in God as the ground of all things), religion (dependence on God as the giver of all things), and evangelicalism (trust in God through Christ for all things), all in their purest and most highly developed form. And Calvinism is a unified philosophy of history which sees the whole diversity of processes and events that take place in God’s world as no more, and no less, than the outworking of His great preordained plan for His creatures and His church. The five points assert no more than that God is sovereign in saving the individual, but Calvinism, as such, is concerned with the much broader assertion that He is sovereign everywhere.

HT: John Piper

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Today's O'Post

Admittedly, I've always loved St. Patrick's Day. As a kid it was simply the holiday which always fell during the month of my birthday (I don't count the Ides of March but do love when Easter falls in March) so I thought it was cool. I liked wearing green. I enjoyed the pinching game. And of course when I was in school this always meant fun things would be planned on an otherwise laborious day. Sure my reasons were superficial but knowing a little more today about this fellow saint, Patrick of Ireland, I'm even more happy to celebrate.

Today I celebrate the gospel on this day. Patrick was a champion of the gospel in Ireland and his story is a challenge and inspiration. Russell Moore provides a brief biographical sketch HERE.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Video Monday- Paul Washer

I remember the email I received with a link to a sermon from Paul Washer. I thought, yeah another "amazing preacher" that will string together some funny stories and goose bump one-liners with a sprinkling in of some out-of-context Bible verses. Was I way wrong! Paul Washer is a faithful preacher whom God is using mightily. This brother brings the Word and this is an excellent interview to get familiar.

Also, here is a LINK to his website .

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Taking Preaching into Overtime

How is it that good ole church folk can hardly stand for the preaching of God's Word to go past thirty minutes but will spend nearly three hours watching a bunch of grown men just standing around? What am I talking about you ask? Well one of those action-packed football games of course! A recent study of NFL football broadcasts it was concluded that on average there is only 11 minutes of actual gametime... most of what you tune into is well, a bunch of grown men just standing around. So how is this more engaging that God's living Word being explained?
Read Wall Street Journal article HERE

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sermon Text Selection

Thought I'd let you peek into my sermon prep a little in case you were curious. My constant struggle (a good one of course) is where to bracket the sermon text from the Biblical narrative. Sometimes the text is easy to discern- Psalm 23 doesn't spill over into Psalm 24, but other times a judgment call has to be made. I've got to decide which verse to end on. Since I preach through books of the Bible and not randomly through topics I at least know where I am beginning each week but ending is another matter.

Take for example my sermon this week compared to the last two weeks. In Matthew 21:23 there begins a series of confrontations between the temple priests (especially the Pharisees) and Jesus. They question Jesus' authority and He responds with three parables that illustrate salvation history and the condemnation of unbelieving Israel- represented by those priests. After the second parable Jesus proclaims that He is the cornerstone on which a glorious eternal kingdom is being built (not limited to ethnic Israel). The third parable follows in Matthew 22 describing who is part of this kingdom and who is not. Then in Matthew 22:15 those priests come back at Jesus' three parables with three questions meant to trap Jesus and find cause to kill Him. He masterfully responds and silences His enemies proving yet again His divine authority and messianic fulfillment. In answering these questions Jesus also distinguished some characteristics of those who are citizens of this new and glorious kingdom.

So part of me sees these texts and observes about eleven or twelve potential sermons yet I am preaching all these verses in three sermons. What is my thought process in this? I believe there is great benefit in meditating slowly on the details of the text just as a microscope helps you see things in soil that you couldn't see by flying over that soil in an airplane. On the flip side there is also great benefit in seeing how all these texts flow together and connect in a greater narrative just as you would see things from an airplane that you couldn't appreciate up close and through a microscope. In preaching there should be balance. If you are in my flock I hope you are studying these texts (since I provide them ahead of time) "through a microscope" on your own and with other believers, so that when we come together on Sunday you can see the big picture as well.

This "high altitude" approach is not my favorite. I like getting down in the details and it kills me that I cannot preach four hour sermons to cover more in one Sunday! However I try to vacilate between styles and when we get to Galatians in 2011 Lord willing we will be more microscopic (so you'll have to read the whole book each week to keep the big picture in mind). The great comfort to me is that "all Scripture is God-breathed" and I cannot go wrong as long as I'm committed to faithfully expositing the sacred text as God intends it to be understood.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Video Monday- Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Here is a brief biography of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. MLJ was perhaps the greatest preacher of his generation and his decades of pastoral leadership in Wales and in London is a shining example of what can be accomplished through a ministry built on faithful expositional preaching.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

God is not 99.9% Pure

What does it mean to be pure? Have you thought about what an amazing statement it is in light of our sinfulness to say that God is 100% holy? Tim Challies helps us meditate on this incredible truth.

Read Tim Challies' article "Pure" HERE.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Modern Parables

This Sunday I'll be preaching from Matthew 22:1-14 in which Jesus teaches about the Kingdom through another parable. He was a master at using parables to communicate truth. I came across some "modern-day" parables that while not Holy Spirit-inspired, authoritative, or effectual as what we read in Scripture (there is no substitute), these are short and clever and help illustrate some important spiritual lessons for the church. Go HERE for the first video (and better of the two) entitled Sea Parable and view the second below.

I Love Elvis from ilovepinatas on Vimeo.

HT: Christians in Context

Monday, March 1, 2010

Video Monday- Thabiti Anyabwile

As you know I like posting videos from time to time of preachers I've come to respect and learn from. I like introducing you to guys you may have otherwise not heard from. So every Monday, Lord willing, I'll post a clip of a guy who'd be edifying for you to listen more from or read from. Check this clip out from Thabiti Anyabwile. He's the pastor of First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman. In this clip he gives a brief but potent explanation of why Jesus came to die, or what He accomplished in that death.