Monthly Archives: February 2008

Book Review: "The Reason for God" by Tim Keller (Part I)

When news came out that Tim Keller was writing another book, excitement shot around the reformed blogosphere.  When news came out that Keller’s book would be published by Penguin Books, we were thrilled that his voice would be heard (read) on a wider landscape than just among Christian evangelicals. When we heard that his book would address the secular humanists’ skepticism of all things theistic, we were thankful that such a balanced and well-spoken voice would represent us in such a wonderful way.

Now, his book is out. Westminster Theological Seminary’s online bookstore noted that Keller’s book is the fastest selling book in their storied history (high praise, since they have the best book deals online, bar none).  This book, along with his corresponding online site , provide a welcome understanding of the role of Christ, the Gospel, and the Christian church in our culture and world.

This book is a smooth read — as if you were sitting down and having a conversation with Keller himself.  Keller starts off by disarming critics and disturbing conservative theists.  When the introduction is titled, “The Enemies Are Both Right,” theists looking for an ally may have been taken aback by his apparent concession of room to the atheists.  But notice this rather insightful paragraph:

We have an impasse between the strengthening forces of doubt and belief, and this won’t be solved simply by calling for more civility and dialogue.  Arguments depend on having commonly held reference points that both side can hold each other to.  When fundamental understandings of reality conflict, it is hard to find anything to which to appeal.  … I want to make a proposal that I have seen bear much fruit in the lives of young New Yorkers over the years.  I recommend that each side look at doubt in a radically new way (xvi).

Keller introduces this radical new way of seeing doubt as a way to educate and explore rather than something to be avoided.  Atheists have doubts about Christianity — but they should not avoid it, but honestly explore those doubts to see if they have any credibility.  Theists should look at the arguments made by the atheists to strengthen their own understanding of the Scriptures.

The core of the book is for each side to examine their beliefs and the “leaps of faith” to which each side holds.  Keller says:

This … book is a distillation of the many conversations I’ve had with doubters over the years.  I’ve tried to respectfully help skeptics look at their own faith-foundations while at the same time laying bare my own to their strongest criticisms.  … Respectful dialogue between entreached traditional conservative and secular liberal people is a great good, and I hope this book will promote it (xix).

This book does just that!  In the next part of this review, I will examine Part One, entitled “The Leap of Doubt.”  In this section, Keller fleshes out what he calls “defeater beliefs” that many secular folks levy toward Christians to apparently show why Christianity is not viable in our contemporary age.

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Categories: Book Review, culture | 1 Comment

A Hymn for Preachers of the Word

At one time, I was an aspiring hymn writer/hymnologist.  Back in November 2005, I wrote a hymn for preachers. 

This is the charge we have to keep!
To tell it strong before His sheep
And rouse the lost out of their sleep!
O preach, O preach the Word of God!

Be ready, shepherds, to reprove
Exhort the church so it may move
To spread the truth, embraced with love!
O preach, O preach the Word of God.

The world moves out with itching ears
That long to hear what they hold dear
And mute the Word that’s all too clear!
O preach, O preach the Word of God!

With sober minds and patient hearts
We persevere as from the start
“Fulfill your calling — do your part!”
O preach, O preach the Word of God!

L.M. 

Copyright (c) 2005 by Matthew Perry, Boone’s Creek Baptist Church.  185 N. Cleveland Rd., Lexington, KY 40509 (859) 263-5466.

Categories: preaching | 5 Comments

Preachers Using (Gasp!) Their Greek New Testaments for Devotions?

The ESV Bible Blog points us to Duncan Forbes’ blog who is currently posting a series on doing his devotions from the Greek New Testament.  What a novel idea!  What think ye?

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Sound Advice for Studying Theology at Home (Reformation Theology)

Excerpt:

No Time for Seminary? Here is some sound advice for studying theology at home. Due to the compromising theological climate at many modern  seminaries, we believe that if you take the time to carefully read the following materials you will get a better theological education than 90% of seminary graduates. Click on the following links if you are interested in learning more or want to purchase any of these books.

Click here to read more. 

(HT: Tony Kummer)

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A Hypocrite’s Guide to Preaching (9Marks)

Michael Mckinley writes a very probing article for all Christian preachers.

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How To Pray For Next Sunday's Preacher

Unashamed Workman gave this quote found on the Reformation Theology Blog:

Our gracious God and Father. I approach Your throne
today, knowing that it is only through the name of Jesus that I can
stand before You. I thank and praise You for Your goodness in allowing
me to do so. I recognize very well that I am unworthy of this honor,
this privilege, apart from Your unmerited favor and grace. I come
before You to seek Your blessing on the service on Sunday.

Grant that the Word will come to us with power and with great
freedom. Be near to our Pastor and his family. Keep the family close as
they serve You together. Protect them from dangers both seen and
unseen. May our pastor know great wisdom as he plans his day and his
week around the priorities You lay before him. May his schedule allow
him much time to study Your word and to pray. May he know that he is
serving You and all of us very well as he makes these a high priority.
May our pastor’s family time also be protected. Grant that he would be
free from all unnecessary busy-ness in ministry. Also grant our pastor
sufficient rest and sleep.

Grant our pastor humility before Your Word as he finishes his
preparations and grant that he may be filled with a holy dread and
gravity as he stands before Your people. May he know what it is to be
filled afresh with the Holy Spirit. May we truly know what it is to sit
under the preaching of the Word. Speak to us, we pray. Speak to our
hearts through the words we hear. May we never be the same.

Be with those who will lead us in worship. Be near to those who will
sing or play instruments. Grant that in all things they may seek to
serve You. May songs be selected that will bring glory and honor to
Your name. May they lead us in singing songs that celebrate the beauty
of the Savior and sing of Your wonders, Your glory, Your triumphs, Your
holiness, Your majesty and Your great gospel. Let everything that has
breath in that place praise the Lord together. May our worship be a
sweet and fragrant offering to You. Accept it Lord, though we know it
is poor and imperfect. Accept it through Your grace.

Be with the men and women who will be serving this week – those who
are responsible for hospitality, greeting and ushering; those who will
work in the sound booth, in the bookstall, in administration, and with
those who will minister to our precious children and youth. Even now
Lord, please fill all of these people afresh with Your Spirit. We thank
you for the servant’s hearts You have given to them. I ask that You
will allow them to be a blessing to many this week, even to those who
do not yet know You. May the service run smoothly and may Your hand be
evident in all that transpires. May Your love truly flow amongst us.
May each of us be sensitive to the needs of others.

Bless our church’s outreach this week, through the words we speak,
the love we show and the help we give to others. Bless the proclamation
of Your gospel both by word and by life. In Your goodness, bring many
to repentance. Direct our conversations, and help each of us to be bold
in sharing the good news of Christ with others. Use me and all of our
church in outreach this week I pray.

Would you help all who attend to come to the Sunday service as true
worshippers–as those who worship You in spirit and in truth. Remind us
that the gathering of Your people to worship is something You have
ordained for us. It is a holy and sacred time. Help us to take the
Lord’s day seriously. Prepare my heart and each of our hearts even now
for what You will say to us then. Grant that we may not come before you
as frauds, standing in Your presence filled with unconfessed sin. Give
us the strength and wisdom to reconcile ourselves to our brothers and
sisters before we come before You in worship. Give us discerning hearts
that we may see and confess our sin before You. Open our eyes to see
and to know You in a new way. Help us to worship You, not only with our
lips, but with our hearts, our souls, and all that we are. Accept the
gift of worship we will bring to You. May it please You.

Be with our pastor as he prepares to preach Your Word on Sunday.
Grant that his time of preparation will be fruitful and that You will
stir His heart with the great news of the gospel, of the precious truth
of justification by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, all to
the glory of God alone. May all of us at our Church live in the power
of this gospel always. Protect us from the devil’s lies and help us to
never be bored by the wonderful doctrines of grace, but grant that they
may be the joy and delight of our hearts. Open our eyes Lord to see
just how Your glorious gospel affects each and every area of our lives.
Grant that our pastor or any guest minister may preach with great power
and passion on Sunday morning. May the preaching be God centered, cross
centered and gospel centered.

Be with me Lord. Prepare my own heart for Sunday morning when You
speak to us as Your people. I confess that already my heart is polluted
with sin. As I think about worshipping You, already I wonder how other
men may perceive me. Already I sin against you. Extend Your gracious
forgiveness to me that I may come before You with a clean heart. Renew
a right spirit within me. Keep the truth ever before me that to obey is
better than sacrifice. Help me to be obedient to You in all things.
Fill me with Your Spirit. Grant that I may serve You by serving others.

Grant traveling mercies as men and women, boys and girls come to our
Church on Sunday. Keep us safe this week and as we gather together in
Your name.

We pray for peace and unity while we gather together. We ask that
there will be mercy and understanding. We ask that there will be a
great outpouring of your Spirit. We ask that you will bless us for the
sake of the glory of Your great name.

I ask these things humbly and in the name that is above all names,
the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that I may be expectant and observant in
seeking answers to this prayer so that I may praise You for Your
goodness. May we all seek Your presence and glory in it together as we
worship You this week.

Categories: Church Life, For Preachers/Pastors, preaching | Leave a comment

How Pastors Can Help Their People Reinforce the Sunday Sermons

Consider for a moment that every one of us has 168 hours per week (24 hours a day x 7 days a week). The average person in the United States watching seven hours of television a day (equaling 49 hours per week — egad!). Many work 40-50 hours per week. That’s a lot of time to be influenced!

Preachers, however, only get one-half hour on Sunday morning (on average — I preach just under 40 minutes per Sunday), plus a Sunday night and Wednesday sermon/Bible study. So, of the 168 available hours in a week, preachers get 1 1/2 to 2 hours to preach the Word to their people. Can anything be done to reinforce the sermon?

Yes. I would recommend giving your people daily devotions as an insert in your church bulletin based on passages and themes from the sermon. Below is an example of what I include on the back of the sermon notes we give our people each Sunday. My sermon was on Luke 5:1-11. In this devotional, I took one aspect of the sermon, “but at your word” (Luke 5:4). As you will see, the devotionals are crafted around Psalm 119.

Treasure The Word Notes
For the Week of February 18-23, 2008

Over the past few weeks, you have had a particular passage to read each day in order to reinforce what you heard on Sunday mornings. This week, we will study just one chapter out of the Bible: Psalm 119. When you look at this chapter, you will say, “176 verses!? That’s a long chapter!” You are right — this is the longest chapter in the Bible by far. This Psalm is divided up into 22 sections of eight verses each — with each section’s verse starting with a Hebrew letter (verses 1-8 with the first letter, verses 9-16 with the second letter, etc.).

Psalm 119 takes about 10-15 minutes to read through — and it’s worth it. While we have done this exercise on Sunday nights, our entire church body would be well served to do this as well. Sonny Richardson, a pastor in Trinidad, has read through this Psalm every morning for the last thirty years — and the Lord has used this to transform His heart to the Word.

Monday, February 18, 2008: Read through the entire Psalm to get its ebb and flow. What is the basic teaching of this Psalm? What is the Psalmist spending the majority of time talking about? Does this surprise you, are is this something you would expect?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008
: Read through the Psalm and make a list of all the words the Psalmist uses to describe the Word of God (one example is the word ‘law’). As you look over this list, what does this tell you about all that the Word of God is? Are there any surprises to you?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008: Read through the Psalm again and make a list of the Psalmist’s reaction to the Word (one example is the word ‘delight’). What does this say about the Psalmist? Does this describe you? Why or why not? Ask God to give you the reactions and devotions that He gave the Psalmist. See you at our Wednesday Night Bible Study!

Thursday, February 21, 2008: Read through the Psalm again. Remember how Peter took Jesus at His Word and left everything to follow Him (read Luke 5:1-11)? Do you see how the Word of God transforms our thinking and our living?

Friday and Saturday, February 22-23: Read Luke 5:12-26. Jesus heals two different people in two different situations from two different ailments. Come and see what we can learn about this extraordinary Jesus. Men, I hope to see you at the Baptist Men on Mission Breakfast and Bible Study on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. in our Fellowship Hall.

Some of you pastors with a more scholarly bent will say, “This is far too basic.  I prefer more meat.”  Then by all means, provide the meat.  Just remember, for the majority of your congregations, you need to put the groceries on the bottom shelf.  Make the devotionals not only accessible to your flock, but make them in such a way that they can use this to springboard a time of discipleship/evangelism with a neighbor or friend over a cup of coffee.

There are other ways. 

  • Blogs based on your sermons which will allow for interaction;
  • Podcasts or any other type of sermon recording where you can post it on your church’s website so folks can take time to listen to the sermon again (wouldn’t that be wonderful?);
  • Sunday Night Q&As:  Every once in a while, I take time to ask the folks who come back on Sunday nights if they had any questions about anything I preached on in that morning service.  Sometimes, all we have are crickets, but on occasion someone asks something.  And usually, when one person asks, about ten others are thinking that same question! 

Your turn!  What other tools do you implement to help reinforce the Sunday sermon?  I’m all ears — anything to help the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus advance!

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Friday Jazz: Dave Brubeck Quartet, 1961


Dave Brubeck is by far my favorite jazz pianist. Here he is with his great Dave Brubeck playing “St. Louis Blues.” Paul Desmond on the alto sax, Eugene Wright on the bass, Joe Morrello on drums. Enjoy!

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An Apparently Innocent Question: The Nature of the Scriptures (Stott)

John Stott, in his wonderful commentary on Romans, deals masterfully with Romans 4 by showing how Abraham and David maintain a justification by faith alone — showing that at Paul’s contention of justification by faith is not a mere novelty. For us preachers of the Word, I think Stott’s paragraph about an “apparently innocent question” Paul asks in Romans 4:3: “For what does Scripture say?” (ESV).

Consider the implications of this apparently innocent question. First, the singular form (‘the Scripture’), like our ‘the Bible,’ indicates that Paul recognizes the existence of this entity, not just a library of books but a unified body of inspired writings. Secondly, his quasi-personification of Scripture as being able to speak indicates that he draws no distinction between what Scripture says and what God says through it. Indeed, throughout the New Testament we seldom know whether to translate legei, when it has no subject, as ‘he says’ or ‘it says.’ Thirdly, instead of the present tense, ‘What does the Scripture say?’ Paul could have used the perfect tense and asked, ‘What was written?’ or ‘What stands written?’ (gegraptai). For ‘The Scripture’ means ‘what is written,’ and in asking what it ‘says,’ the apostle indicates that through the written text the living voice of God may be heard. Fourthly, to ask the question is to turn to Scripture for authoritative guidance. It implies that, as with Jesus and its critics, so with Paul and his, in every controversy Scripture was acknowledged as the final court of appeal! (Stott, Romans, 125)

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Fundamental to the Gospel of Salvation

Fundamental to the gospel of salvation is the truth that the saving initiative from beginning to end belongs to God the Father.  No formulation of the gospel is biblical which removes the initiative from God and attributes it either to us or even to Christ.  It is certain that we did not take the initiative, for we were sinful, guilty and condemned, helpless and hopeless.  Nor was the initiative taken by Jesus Christ in the sense that he did something which the Father was reluctant or unwilling to do.  To be sure, Christ came voluntarily and gave himself freely.  Yet he did it in submissive response to the Father’s initiative.  ‘Here I am … I have come to do your will, O God’ (Hebrews 10:7).  So the first move was GOd the Father’s, and our justification is freely by his grace, his absolutely free and utterly undeserved favour.  Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.

— John Stott, Romans, p. 112

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