Sunday, November 29, 2009

The human creature: frail and fragile

Today I was reminded, in a small way, of just how replaceable I am. About 20 minutes prior to the close of my morning sermon my heart started racing, like I was in the 4th quarter of a basketball game. About 10 minutes before close, with my heart still racing, I started feeling very dizzy. As I was concluding with a prayer, I remember thinking: 'just don't faint'. Sadly, I was so focused on not fainting that I forget to bring a family up who were prepared to come into membership.

Worse yet, I don't even remember what I said during the last 10 minutes of my sermon. My wife assures me there was nothing heretical---though I did somehow manage to insert a quote by R.C. Ryle (mis-referenced as being from a Puritan book from the 1600's) on prayer that really had nothing to do with my sermon on the walls of Jericho (Josh 6/Heb 11:30). Oh well, one cannot be too disturbed by discovering his "default mode" when disoriented is to randomly quote Ryle.

I'm not too alarmed, and I have no known heart conditions. But, at my wife's insistence I will make a visist to the doctor this week and go through a bunch of tests (I assume).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pink on Election

A.W. Pink is a well known name in the theological circles of Evangelicalism. What many do not know is that his wife, Vera, also possessed a penetrating theological mind. While she perhaps lacked the breadth and depth of her husband, she did have the ability to grasp and explain weighty theological matters in the most simple ways. Read what she says about the doctrine of election:

"Election is a truth more widely and hotly persecuted than any other in Scripture. Perhaps it is because God is given his rightful place and man put in the dust that enmity is so stirred up."
Written in a letter to Evelyn Green. Quotation found in The Life of Arthur W. Pink (Banner of Truth), p 237.

The QUEST book giveaway

In addition to this blog, I occasionally contribute to the Quest, a blog run by several younger pastors within the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC). Though broad and varied, I have greatly appreciated the articles by the other guys.

For the next week they are hosting a book giveaway. You can either win a $40 gift card or a stack of books (provided by yours truly). The book stack includes:
  • ESV Compact Bible – Charcoal Leather
  • Jesus Nation by Joe Stowell
  • Preaching the Cross (Together for the Gospel) by Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan III, R. Albert Mohler Jr., and C. J. Mahaney
  • Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Old Testament, XIV): The Twelve Prophets by Alberto Ferreiro and Thomas Oden, editors
  • Moments with You: 365 Daily Devotions for Couples by Dennis and Barbara Rainey
  • Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals by Timothy Larsen, editor
  • The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards by Steven Lawson
Go on over to the Quest and follow the instructions to enter the contest.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Newton on the problem of Congregationalism

Here is another gem from Newton's collected letters to John Ryland Jr (the book is titled Wise Counsel, and is published by Banner of Truth). This quote is from page 223:
That sovereign power, which Independents assume over their ministers, appears to me to great to be trusted in such hands. If a man ranks as a member of the Church of Christ [1], however ignorant, illiterate and illiberal he may be, though he has seen nothing beyond the bounds of his own parish, though his temper be sour, and his spirit obstinate as a mule, still he thinks himself both qualified and authorized to teach his pastor. Half a dozen persons of this description are sufficient to make a minister and a whole congregation uneasy throughout life. Whatever burden we are supposed to have in the Establishment [2], we are free from this.

While such an idea is not very popular in the West, which is marked by a pervasive anti-authoritarian sentiment, I could not help laughing at the accuracy of Newton's description of our churches. Far too often we kick against the very men that God has risen up to lead us. Still, lest my institutional-leaning church friends take this too far, the New Testament pattern does indicate that the congregation is to be actively involved in many matters of the church.

[1] In Newton’s time this was another way of referring to the Independent churches (such as the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists).

[2] The Establishment referred to the established church in England (e.g. the Anglican Church).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

John Newton on disagreeing with grace

Today I purchased a newly published volume of letters by John Newton. I had already owned The Letters of John Newton
(Banner of Truth), but this new volume contains eighty-three previously unpublished letters (the title of this work is Wise Counsel, also published by Banner). All the letters are addressed to a single correspondance, John Ryland Jr--a young Baptist pastor. Though twenty-five years his senior, Newton struck up a friendship with the younger man and the two corresponded for over thirty years.

Newton's first letter, written when Ryland was still a teenager (though the lad had recently published a volume of theological poetry), was nothing short of a firm (yet loving) rebuke of the younger man's vanity. Here we see Newton, seasoned with spiritual maturity, intentionally stepping into the life of a younger believer in order to show him the fuller riches of the Christian life. The letter, as well as the entire volume, is a beautiful expression of wise counsel.

In one section of the letter takes Ryland to task for his arrogance towards Arminian believers. Newton writes:
"You say 'I have aimed to displease the Arminians', I had rather you had aimed to be useful to them, than to displease them. There are many Arminians who are only for want of clearer light. They fear the Lord, and walk humbly before Him. And as they go on, by an increasing acquaintance with their own hearts and the word of God, their objections and difficulties gradually subsided. And in the Lord's time (for He is the only effectual teacher) they receive the doctrines of grace which they were once afraid of. These individuals should not be displeased by our endeavouring to declare the truth in terms the most offensive to them which we can find, but we should rather seek out the softest and most winning way of encountering their prejudices. Otherwise we make a parade, and grow big with a sense of our own wisdom and importance, but we shall do little good. Our Lord you know taught his disciples as they were able to bear it, he did not aim to displease them thought it is pretty plain they had a good deal of the Arminian spirit in them for some time after they began to follow him. You will perhaps say, 'A humble Arminian! Surely that is impossible!' I believe it not more impossible to find a humble Arminian, than a proud and self-sufficient Calvinist. The doctrines of grace are humbling, that is in their power and experience, but a man may hold them all in the notion, and be very proud. He certainly is so, if he thinks his assenting to them is a proof of his humility, and despises others as proud and ignorant in comparison to himself. I believe you mean well, but some things you have written against the Arminians manifest that you have not been aware of your own spirit. "

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sermon Teaser - What is Faith?

Inspired by the makers of "Sermon Jams", here are a few thoughts gleaned from my longer sermon titled "What is Saving Faith?" The audio isn't exactly where I want it to be, but until we upgrade our system at church this is it.