Monday, January 31, 2011

Canon of Theologians- January Report

In case you missed this post I am reading through various historical works of theology throughout the year. My goal is to blog on them at the end of the month. For January I read the Letter to Diognetus. This letter dates to the mid to late 2nd century and falls in the collection of writings known as the "Apostolic Fathers". These writings are so-called because they come in the generation immediately following the Apostles. Some of these writings are good, some bad, and some ugly. The Letter to Diognetus is a good one.

We don't know who wrote it. It is attributed to Mathetes which is the Greek word for disciple so literally it is 'a letter from a disciple to Diognetus'. There is some debate (and ultimately uncertainty) regarding who Diognetus is. Some suggest he was the tutor to Emperor Marcus Aurelius but all we really know is that he is addressed as "most excellent Diognetus" which suggests he was a man of great significance.

The letter is easy to read because it is brief and because it is so applicable. Obviously this is no inerrant, God-inspired writing but it expounds on the teachings of the apostles as any good preaching would today. I found the letter to be spiritually motivating and encouraging. I also found it to be "reformed" in doctrine, at least in some places. There are some passages that almost sound as though penned by Luther himself! Here are a few excerpts but go read it yourself- you will be blessed!

On why the world hates Christians- Diognetus 6:5...

"The flesh hates the sould and wages was with it, though it receives no wrong, because it is forbidden to indulge in pleasures; so the world hates Christians, though it receives no wrong from them, because they set themselves against its pleasures."

On penal substitution and the imputation of Christ's righteousness- Diognetus 9:3-5...

"For what else but [Christ's] righteousness would have covered our sins? In whom was it possible for us lawless and ungodly men to have been justified, save only in the Son of God? O the sweet exchange, O the inscrutable creation, O the unexpected benefits; that the iniquity of many should be concealed in One Righteous Man, and the righteousness of One should justify many that are iniquitous!"

On the imitation of God/ God's sovereign grace- Diognetus 10:4...

"Marvel not that a man can be an imitator of God. He can, if God wills it."

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Lord's Supper: A Baptist Perspective

I've got a shelf in my house full of books in my "queue". They are waiting to be read or at least perused. I'm reading two books now- one bound and one on my Kindle. Yet I cannot resist the lure of buying a new book. I am really trying to have self-control and patience in this matter! One book is hitting the shelves that is begging me to purchase it and I am more eager to read it than perhaps any other right now. That book is The Lord's Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes. It has several contributors and is edited by Tom Schreiner and Matthew Crawford as part of B&H's NAC Studies in Bible and Theology series. This is a subject near to my heart and one I am eager to study more about as it is an essential element for congregational worship and for personal sanctification.
  • Here is a review by Keith Mathison at the Ligonier website.

  • Here is a review by Trevin Wax from his blog.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Watch and Learn

I came across a great quote by Houston Chronicle writer John McClain on a sports blog I read. When asked if he thought current assistant coach and former player Bruce Matthews would one day be in a head coaching position McClain said, “No, but I never saw Nick Saban in one, either. In his two seasons with the Oilers, he was so quiet that when he went to Toledo I wondered how could he ever recruit with a personality like that. Turns out he was hiding it, watching and learning as young coaches should be doing.” Of course Nick Saban now is one of the best college football coaches today (currently at Alabama).

As I read that I thought what great advice that is for men who sense a call to pastoral ministry. Watch, listen, and learn. I had the privilege of serving three congregations as a staff member before becoming pastor at Memorial. I served under four pastors, an interim pastor, and worked with or under other staff members. There were many times I thought I knew better or would do it better but in hindsight those thoughts were often born from ignorance and lack of experience. It is a great deal different when you are in the position of pastoral leadership. I’m thankful for those men and all I learned from them but do wish I’d kept my mouth closed and my ego in check more often. I’m trying not to continue making that mistake by “watching and learning” from those who have done this much longer with great faithfulness.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Mom

My mom is celebrating her birthday today. I won't give away her age- not that she has anything to be embarrassed about, but I'll play it safe. We'll be celebrating with her on Friday but I wanted to just say how thankful I am the Lord has given me a godly, loving, supportive mom. You cannot imagine what my mom has had to put up with and endure- particularly having to raise three boys!

My son, as much as I love and enjoy him, is a handful so I know that times three it is a testimony to the Lord's grace that she survived us. Truly though my mom has modeled how to be joyful (and even lighthearted) and faithful during both difficulty and prosperity. She has engrained in me to trust the Lord in all matters and to always seek His will in His Word. I love my mom (a great Nana too) and thankful for another year the Lord has provided.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday Hodge-Podge (Jan 25)

  • I'm going to say it- this church is an embarrassment. A golden opportunity for evangelism exchanged for an opportunistic money grab. Shameful.
  • Interesting and respectful debate on Calvinism v. Arminianism. I'm in agreement with Horton here but I regularly read Olson and appreciate some points he makes.
  • Links to archived lectures by Francis Shaeffer are here and links to the various messages by John Piper at the Passion Conferences are here.
  • Free video of Max McLean performing the Gospel of Mark is available here.
  • You can read a helpful article here entitled Ten Ways to Improve your Church's Worship Service. Does your church practice these elements in worship?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Video Monday- David Miller

Here is a clip of Bro. David Miller, the "Country-Preacher-at-Large". He's not flashy but the man brings solid and powerful exposition of Scripture. This clip is an explanation of God's unchanging nature- a very important doctrine.

--Here is an audio excerpt where Bro. Miller refutes certain popular false teachers.

--Here is a video clip by Bro. Miller preaching on the excellency of Christ.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My "Canon of Theologians" for 2011

Members of my congregation know I love history. It often creeps into my sermons. Particularly I love studying church or Christian history. I've recently really benefited from the ministry of Theology Network and Michael Reeves teaching ministry. Church history was not always a love but my studies in seminary- specifically under one of my professors, Dr. Miles Mullin- really sparked this desire to study more and learn from those who have gone before me.

There's always a new (fad) book that makes the rounds and everyone gets in a stir about these books- some good, some bad, and some just plain ugly. Rather than hopping on the latest band wagon I've been challenged to sit under the tutelage of time-tested writers and theologians and study their historical context. After hearing about Mark Dever's (pastor- Capitol Hill Baptist, DC) "canon of theologians" he reads through each year I'm picking up that challenge and want to encourage you to do the same. Here's the list I've picked out for 2011. I'll blog on what I read. You can read along or make your own list but I hope you'll be challenged to benefit from these men who God has used over history.

January: The Epistle to Diognetus (Apostolic Father/ 2nd cent)... find here.
February: On Idolatry by Tertullian (Latin Church Father/ 2nd-3rd cent)... find here.
March: On the Incarnation by Athanasius (Greek Church Father/ 4th cent)... find here.
April: Confessions by Augustine of Hippo (Latin Church Father/ 4th-5th cent); reading portions
May: Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther (Reformer/ 16th cent)
June: Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin (Refomer/ 16th cent); reading portions
July: The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes (Puritan/ 16th-17th cent)
August: The Holy War by John Bunyan (Baptist preacher/ 17th cent)
September: A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God by Jonathan Edwards (Pastor/ 18th cent)... find here.
October: Only a Prayer Meeting by Charles Spurgeon (Pastor/ 19th cent); reading portions
November: The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis (Theologian/ 20th cent)
December: The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul (Theologian/ 20th-21st cent)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Be Mighty... in Faith and Humility

Last Sunday night I taught from 1 Samuel 2:12-36 as part of my series on 1-2 Samuel. This passage is a stunning literary contrast between two corrupt priests- Hophni and Phinehas, sons of Eli- and one faithful, God-pleasing little boy. The two verses that capture the theme of the passage (and I'd argue, the theme of the book) are verse 17 and verse 21. In verse 17 we see the sons of Eli described in this way, "The sin of the young men was very great before the LORD" and in verse 21 young Samuel is described in this way, "the boy Samuel grew before the LORD". The words I've italicized are from the same root Hebrew word- gadol, which means great or mighty- so that in the original language this is a clever play on words. Hophni and Phinehas were great sinners while Samuel was becoming a man of great faith.

Of course the sons of Eli met a violent end by the edge of Philistine swords while Samuel continued to grow in the LORD and was used mightily by the LORD. The message is clear: God brings low those who are mighty in sin and self (see also King Saul and Goliath as examples here) and lifts up those who are mighty in faith or to put it another way, have faith in the LORD's might (see also the shepherd boy David). There is tremendous application here as we should seek to heed the words of our Lord Jesus in Luke 14:11, "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Cool Christianity

While reading over Sam Storms' list of his favorite books from 2010 I was gripped by the quote he gave from Brett McCraken's book Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide:

"If we are making the case that cool Christianity can be a good thing, we have to be clear that the 'cool' part of Christianity must exude out of the 'Christ' aspect of it, not from the stylish package or trendiness it might otherwise be associated with. In other words, an authentic Christian hipster community looks attractive and hip and cool, not because it tries to fashion itself in the world's image, but because it does exactly the opposite- it fashions itself after Christ's strange kingdom and his transforming gospel for a world that desparately needs it" (209).

I've not read the book but that is a really good statement. There are so many who think the church must conform itself to some vague idea of coolness to be attractive and appealing to the uncoverted. In fact such external efforts at being hip will attract people but attract them to Christ or to a fleeting image of coolness? I'm continually baffled that so many of us think we have to be churches "that don't seem like churches" or preachers "that don't sound like preachers". Do we really long to see unregenerate people transformed into people who glorify God or do we desparately just want people to like us? Islam and other world religiouns are growing leaps and bounds without trying to apologize for who they are and what they believe. Yet we Christians carry the truth and seem so embarrassed by it. We must be set apart- in our worship and in our lifestyles. If we seem "cool" let it be because of the incomparable Christ that radiates through us.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"Don't Judge a Book by its Cover"

This has gone viral so you may have already seen it but it's still pretty cool. I hope this man knows Christ and if not, that someone would share with him the good news. I pray the Lord would give him ears to hear and a heart to receive the gospel. What an incredible talent that should be used for God's glory!

I also just read that the "Golden Voice" has a job offer... from the Cleveland Cavaliers! Not sure though if there will be an ESPN special with Ted declaring that he's "taking his talents to Cuyahoga County".

HT: Tim Challies

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 Resolutions

There's nothing magical about January 1 that will make me more disciplined or work harder but it is a good time to set goals and make resolutions. Here are a few of mine (posting them on my blog adds accountability):

1. Resolved: To read the Bible daily with my wife.
2. Resolved: To journal regularly for my son.
3. Resolved: To cultivate joy in others through encouragement and reminding them of the promises of God.
4. Resolved: To watch less television and read more books.
5. Resolved: To take more walks during my downtime.
6. Resolved: To rebuke paranoia and anxiety (to cultivate a deeper faith in God).
7. Resolved: To make pastoral visits every Tuesday.
8. Resolved: To engage a non-believer in conversation every week.