Friday, July 25, 2008

When to Leave Your Church and Other Articles

Pulpit Magazine has been publishing several helpful articles on the local church, including:
 
When to Leave Your Church (Part 1) (Part 2)
 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pointing out Wolves

Hank Hanegraff and Russell Moore have the backbone to identify a wolf masquerading as a shepherd. See this article about so-called "faith-healer" Todd Bentley. (On a related note, read William Dembski's experience with taking his autistic son to a Bentley service.) It is sad to have to point out false teachers, but it is a necessary safeguard. And it is a duty for those who seek to be faithful shepherds of God's sheep. Titus 1:10-11 (NKJV) says, "For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain."

From the article by David Roach:

Russell D. Moore, senior vice president for academic administration and dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, bemoaned the fact that people believe Bentley's claims.

"Every few years here comes another fraudulent, scandal-riddled 'faith healer,'" Moore said. "That's, sadly, no surprise. I am not dubious about healing. I believe that God heals today.... We all know, however, that there are those who will use the power of God to peddle a product.

"What's most tragic about this cycle, though, is the fact that there's always a constituency for guys like this. I fear that it's more than just P.T. Barnum's famous old maxim about the gullibility of the American public. I fear that there's something missing in our churches that drives even some of our people to charlatans. Might there be less of a demand for these traveling health-and-wealth revivalists if our churches spent more time on our knees in prayer for sick and hurting people?"

Moore encouraged believers to pray for the sick according to the commands of James 5:13-15 instead of looking to faith healers like Bentley.

"Perhaps if we gave more attention to prayer in our own churches, the most desperate among us -- in our neighborhoods and in our pews -- would have less reason to search out a self-appointed carnival-tent apostle," he said.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Some Wordles

I tried out Wordle today.

Wordles, or word clouds, for one book and three blogs follow (I'm not sure on the blogs to what extent it searches the whole blog; some attempts with other blogs seemed to point to the very most recent posts only).

Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, Part the First:

9Marks blog:

Theosource:

PureChurch:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Leaving a Legacy for the Next Generation

Foundations of Spiritual Parenting

by Doug Smith
 
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart,
smith_shelter.jpg with all your soul, and with all your strength.
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,
when you walk by the way,
when you lie down,
and when you rise up.
You shall bind them as a sign on your hand,
and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
—Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NKJV)

Are you thinking about tomorrow? No, I don't literally mean the next day on the calendar as much as I mean the future when you are no longer on this earth. Many people are so focused on living life on earth now that they make no plans for tomorrow. This attitude can result in chaos for the next generation. Have you ever seen the bickering and bitterness that come about in a family when a parent dies and doesn't leave a will with clear instructions about the inheritance? This is just one example of why we need to think about tomorrow.

In Deuteronomy 6, God gave Moses instructions to the second generation of Israelites. The first generation had blown it. None but Joshua and Caleb would enter the Promised Land. The commandments were given again to this new generation, and Moses drove home the priority and process of preparing their children and grandchildren. This passage is particularly applicable to parents, grandparents, and others who are (or will be) in a place of teaching children. In this article, I hope to help us think about tomorrow and how we can spiritually prepare the next generation for it.

The Priority: Relationship

When God calls His people to teach their children, He speaks as a Father Himself. He speaks to those who know Him and have a relationship with Him. Notice that verse 4 refers to Jehovah as "our" God, not impersonally as "the" God. Notice the command to love Him with the whole heart, soul, and strength (v. 5). Notice that the words of the commandment are to be in the hearts of the people (v. 6). Their whole selves are to be committed to God and His teaching.

Before we teach others, we must be sure of our own relationship with God. We must know Him through Jesus Christ His perfect Son, the One who perfectly obeyed all His commands and always pleased the Father. We must trust in the sacrifice of this crucified and risen Lord and Savior to have a relationship with God as our Father.

This relationship changes our hearts so we recognize God as the supreme authority of our lives. We should be completely committed to Him, loving Him heart, soul, and strength—seeking to please Him above all else.

In addition, we should treasure His words. If we love God, we will love what He has communicated and commanded. As we seek to teach, we are not to be mere conduits through which His words flow. His words are to dwell in our hearts first. We must seek to know and treasure and obey them for ourselves.

Do you know God? Do you love Him? Do you treasure His Word? We need to have faith in Christ to know God. We are to love Him wholeheartedly. We must read, know, and practice the Bible if we are to be those who have His words in our hearts. These things are essential if we are to realize and communicate the priority of a right relationship with God, both for ourselves and for our children.

The Process: Repetition

Have you ever manually sharpened a knife with a whetstone or watched someone else do so? It's not a quick process, is it? It requires continual exposure to the object that causes the blade to become sharp. So it is with spiritual parenting.

Spiritual parenting is a repetitive process. Hollywood and Madison Avenue know the value of repetition. Have you ever considered how bombarded we are with the world's messages, whether through billboards or media intake? Have you noticed how these messages often permeate the conversations people have? Yet many of us forget the need to continually speak about and teach the truths of God's Word.

The passage emphasizes a regularity and repetition to spiritual instruction. God's people are to teach His words "diligently" to their children (v. 7). This is the idea of the whetstone—constant exposure and contact. This is how we are to make an impression. This is done throughout the mundane and ordinary processes of daily life: "when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up" (v. 7). God commanded the people to put His words on their hands as signs and as frontlets between their eyes and to put reminders not only on their bodies but also on their property—on the doorposts and gates. They were to take no vacation from spiritual parenting.

The application for us is that we need to take steps to regularly and constantly teach God's Word. We should be ready to take advantage of every opportunity. We can teach our children about God and pray with them when they wake and when they go to bed. We can talk about spiritual things as we enjoy a day around the house, work on a project together, take a walk, or ride in the car somewhere. Although we certainly can seek to literally have the reminders God commanded the Israelites (and it certainly does not hurt to have key Scriptures displayed in your home, for example), the point is that we are to continually whet our children with His Word.

Are you seeking to take this step? Do you speak of spiritual things with your children? If so, when? Only on Sundays or regularly throughout the week?

While the daily, diligent instruction of our children shouldn't end, a great place to start is with family worship. We certainly must emphasize the importance of the local church to our children and the spiritual food we receive from public preaching and teaching. But we should also consider how a regular structured time or two each day can help keep spiritual truths before our children and give rise to conversations throughout the day. Family worship does not need to be elaborate or overly formal. It can be short and simple. In his practical booklet, Family Worship: in the Bible, in History, and in Your Home, Don Whitney suggests three elements: read, pray, and sing (if you like alliteration, Jerry Marcellino's booklet, Recovering the Lost Treasure of Family Worship, presents these elements as Scripture, supplication, and song).

Our own children are small at this time. We have been alternating reading The Big Picture Story Bible with working on some Scripture memory. In prayer, we often ask God for something related to the Scripture we have just presented (for example, if it was about Jesus as King, we ask God to work in the hearts of our children so that they will follow Jesus as their King in this life). Then we sing at least one or two songs. Sometimes we will also work with a Baptist catechism (presently the material presented in The Truth and Grace Memory Books from Founders Press, edited by Tom Ascol).

This repetition has helped our children learn several verses, songs (including hymns), and catechism questions and answers. As they grow, we hope to utilize Catherine Vos's The Child's Story Bible and then actually read from an English Bible. We hope to see the children pray around our family circle. Our responsibility is to teach them diligently God's truth daily and consistently. Our prayer is that they will come to know Him and teach others.

Conclusion

We need to be thinking about tomorrow, with the desire that the next generation will embrace God's truth and glorify Him and teach others. If we do not teach our children, we are giving them a smooth road to destruction. Notice what happened to the generation after those who heard in person the words of Deuteronomy 6:

When all that generation [the one that had heard God's Word through Moses] had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel . . . and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods . . . and they provoked the LORD to anger." (Judg. 2:10, 12 NKJV)

While we cannot make our children into believers, we certainly can seek to ensure that they have no excuse if they fail to repent and trust in Christ. Our time on this earth is limited. We must think of tomorrow. May God grant that we who have this privilege of training children do not squander it but be faithful today and leave them a legacy for tomorrow. Then they may teach His truth to yet another generation until He returns.
 
This article was posted yesterday at SharperIron.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Some Items Worthy of Note

Here are some worthwhile articles I have come across lately.

Tony Kummer asks, "What's So Great About Seminary?" - and gives some good answers. As I have completed one year of studies, it was an encouragement.

Tim Ashcraft commemorated Calvin's birthday yesterday with a quote on prayer.

Tim Adkins writes about "Our Chief Entangling Sin."

Mike Belcher on "An Unusual Wednesday Night" - a story of God's blessing on perseverance through an inconvenient difficulty.

Jeff Robinson highlights Don Whitney on Church Discipline - an act of love.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, John Calvin!

Today marks the 499th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin - Reformer, theologian, and pastor.

To commemorate, below is a review of a recent book about Calvin as preacher, The Expository Genius of John Calvin (originally published by SharperIron and first published here on October 30, 2007.)

(For another Calvin related post, see his sermon with comments on evangelism here.)

BOOK REVIEW: THE EXPOSITORY GENIUS OF JOHN CALVIN

Steven J. Lawson, The Expository Genius of John Calvin. (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2007), 142pp. reviewed by Doug Smith

Steve Lawson has a goal. He aims “to raise the bar for a new generation of expositors” (xiii). Lawson quotes with approval T. H. L. Parker: “Expository preaching consists in the explanation and application of a passage of Scripture. Without explanation it is not exposition; without application it is not preaching” (p. 79). This book gives us a look at the expository preaching of John Calvin as a model and gold standard for ministry. Calvin was committed to systematic exposition of the Bible, preaching each verse in the text he covered. This book is significant because people need to hear the Word of God taught and applied, not another self-help message or a man’s ideas artificially buttressed by proof-texts. Lawson wants to see a new reformation, and believes that a renewed commitment to biblical preaching is essential for it to happen.

DESCRIPTION

Lawson’s book is simple. This book is almost pocketsize and is an easy read. Eight chapters and 132 pages of prose distill Calvin’s philosophy and practice of preaching, delineating thirty-two distinct characteristics. Two appendices give examples of the textual units Calvin covered and the flow of one of his sermons. After providing the biographical and historical context of Calvin, Lawson proceeds to consider the elements of his preaching. Calvin’s presuppositions, personal devotion to Christ, and homiletical methods are surveyed.

One comes away from this book with a well-developed portrait of Calvin the preacher. Here was a man committed to the absolute supremacy of God’s Word, for himself and his congregation, knowing that “when the Bible speaks, God speaks” (p. 27). Here was a man committed “to behold the majesty of God” in the Word (p. 40) as he sought food for his own soul. Here was a man committed to discovering through diligent study the intended meaning of the text and declaring what it said and required of its hearers. He “made disciplined study a way of life, remaining in his study until the meaning was clear” (p. 41). Here was a man who approached the text with a literal (not literalistic) hermeneutic, rejecting fanciful allegorization. He said, “The true meaning . . . is the natural and obvious meaning” (p. 71). Here was a man who preached through entire books of the Bible, verse-by-verse, not skipping over controversial, difficult, or unpopular material. He viewed the role of the preacher as that of “a dispatched messenger with the divine message” (p. 26), seeing not the preacher, but God’s Word as the final authority. Here was a man committed to prayer and a living orthodoxy, since the “light of truth must yield the warmth of devotion to God” (p. 44). Here was a man committed to a rigorous schedule, often preaching ten times in a two-week period! Although plagued by opposition from enemies and health problems, he preached as often as he could. Even when an invalid, he arrived at church, carried in on a stretcher to preach (p. 48)! While Calvin did take time to visit the sick and give counsel, he saw the pulpit ministry as that which took priority. Here was a man so committed to declaring God’s truth authentically that he left behind manuscripts and notes to speak simply from an open Bible. But this was no off-the-cuff discourse; rather “an entire lifetime of learning stood behind each message” (p. 58). Here was a man who spoke plainly to people in words they could understand, while retaining biblical terminology and avoiding the watering down of truth. Here was a man who did not waste time with trivialities outside the text, but tried to orient his hearers to the text as soon as possible, using his introductions “like a freeway entrance ramp” (p. 54). Here was a man who reasoned persuasively and used vivid imagery to drive home the point. Here was a man who relentlessly pressed upon himself and his hearers the demands of God on their lives.

EVALUATION

Lawson’s book is well researched, well organized, simple, and to the point. He does an excellent job portraying a model of expository preaching. His concise quotations of primary and secondary sources and succinct summaries of the elements of Calvin’s preaching make for a quick read (I read it in one evening; my wife read it over several days, taking a chapter a night), but provide enough depth for further meditation and review.

If the book had any weakness, it might be that it held up Calvin’s example in such a positive light that caveats against a slavish imitation of his habits were lacking. For example, although Calvin, to communicate more simply, used neither manuscript nor notes, it does not follow that contemporary preaching must avoid written aids to be biblical. However, some who read this book might be tempted to avoid the use of aids although their giftedness and personality may be much different from Calvin’s. Lawson points out that Calvin did not use homiletical headings (clearly articulated “points” of a sermon), but this structure may not be something that should necessarily be abandoned, so long as it does not get in the way of communicating the message of the text and is a help to the preacher and hearers in organizing and summarizing biblical truth. Likewise, although Calvin ushered hearers into the text soon with minimal or no extra-biblical material, contemporary audiences may need a bit longer ramp into the text, particularly if they are accustomed to hearing four to eight sermons a month (instead of twenty) at the most. However, the points are well taken that preachers should communicate simply and get people into the text soon, and Lawson does suggest that styles may vary among expositors, so long as they are faithful in discovering and communicating the message of the Bible (p. 84).

Pastors and aspiring pastors ought to read this book. It provides an excellent model for pulpit ministry, giving correction to those who need it and encouragement to those who are faithfully laboring in the Word. The Expository Genius of John Calvin would be a great book to use in mentoring another man in the ministry, as the chapters are ripe with potential for helpful discussion.

Although pastors are the most likely audience for this book, church members would benefit from it as well. Although this book is about Calvin, those who are not from his particular theological tradition will also profit from it, so long as they agree that the urgent need of people is biblical preaching. It is a good book for those looking for a church home or churches looking for a pastor, as it provides an excellent gauge for the type of preaching that most glorifies God and best meets the spiritual need of people.

This book ought to make those of us who have faithful preachers more thankful. It ought to encourage congregations to set men aside full-time to devote themselves to the ministry of the Word and prayer as soon as they can, if they are not already doing so. It should cause us to pray for fruitful study in the pastor’s life that results in fresh application of the truth to the heart of himself and his congregation. And we ought to pray for men training for ministry and those training them. Let us cry out to God, that He would continue to send forth laborers to proclaim His Word with honesty, clarity, and urgency.

CONCLUSION

Steve Lawson has given us a wonderful treasury of wisdom and a model of excellence and faithfulness in this book. I was convicted, encouraged, and had my appetite whetted for more. (He plans further books in this series, including Martin Luther, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon). There is nothing Christians need more than to understand and obey God’s Word, and nothing preachers need to be more devoted to than understanding, obeying, and declaring the whole counsel of God through systematic expository preaching. Lawson’s goal is worthy, and this book certainly does “raise the bar” by holding forth Calvin as a model. But the standard required is no less than what God expects of his ministers: “preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2). May He raise up men devoted to this task and congregations that will encourage and grow from it, to the praise of His glory.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

capsministry.com

The new Cumberland Area Pulpit Supply website is up! Check it out for more information on the CAPS ministry, including media files. Thanks to Steve Buchanan, uber-techie fellow and student in the CAPS Phase 1 class at Bristol. Click to visit the new site: capsministry.com.