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Monday, November 10, 2008

Blog Silence

It has been a while since my last post, but I have not had much opportunity to enter the blogging domain recently. The reason for the hiatus was my recent acceptance of a new pastorate in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. We moved two weeks ago tommorrow.

In my next posts I will try to reflect and blog about what God taught me through my experience at the first church I pastored. This blog venture will also probably end shortly. Once we have a new website up for Westwood Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, I will begin blogging from there. But until then I will post reflections about Little River Baptist Church and my hopes for Westwood Baptist Church in Tennessee.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Preaching Notes of Six Pastors

In a recent blog series, Josh Harris, Pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland reveals the preaching notes of six pastors. So far, Harris has featured the notes of the following Pastors:

Mark Dever, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
Mike Bullmore, CrossWay Community Church, Bristol, Wisconsin
C.J. Mahaney, Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland
Ray Ortlund, Jr., Immanuel Church, Nashville, Tennessee
Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City, New York
Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, Seattle, Washington

You can find an introduction to each pastor here: Dever, Bullmore, Mahaney, Ortlund Jr., Keller, and Driscoll.

Click on full name to go directly their preaching notes.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The 37th Ryder Cup

There is nothing like match play golf on golf's biggest stage. The American Team defeated the European team 16.5 to 11.5. Check out this great article by ESPN's Pat Forde where he focuses on the play of three country boys for the American Team, Kenny Perry, J. B. Holmes, and Boo Weekley.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

September 7th AM Sermon Wordled

Here is my latest sermon wordled. The title of the sermon was, "Do Not Call Me Naomi, Call Me Mara: The Kindness of God Called into Question." Wordle is a program that makes a "cloud" of the words from a text. The words used most frequently are larger in font. To enlarge, just click in the image.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Hymn of the Week

The hymn of the week came to me as I read and prayed for the residents of the people in the path of Hurricane Gustav. The lyrics come from the hymn, Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken, by Henry Lyte. In keeping with the theme of the title, Lyte writes, "Storms may howl and clouds may gather, all must work for good to me." No doubt this faith comes from the promise of God's word in Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose."

You can find a traditional arrangement to the hymn at cyberhymnal. To find an alternative arrangement, check our Indelible Grace.

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken

Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition, all I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition! God and Heaven are still mine own.

Let the world despise and leave me, they have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like them, untrue.
And while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me, show Thy face and all is bright.

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure! Come, disaster, scorn and pain!
In Thy service, pain is pleasure; with Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee, “Abba, Father”; I have set my heart on Thee:
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather, all must work for good to me.

Man may trouble and distress me, ’twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me; heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me while Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me, were that joy unmixed with Thee.

Take, my soul, thy full salvation; rise o’er sin, and fear, and care;
Joy to find in every station something still to do or bear:
Think what Spirit dwells within thee; what a Father’s smile is thine;
What a Savior died to win thee, child of heaven, shouldst thou repine?

Haste then on from grace to glory, armed by faith, and winged by prayer,
Heaven’s eternal day’s before thee, God’s own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission, swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;
Hope soon change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

John Piper on True Revival and Lakeland

John Piper weighs in on tests for authentic Spirit driven revivals in light of recent events at the Lakeland "Revival" especially after the leader's recent announcement of his separation with his wife. His post launches off of a statement made by Lee Grady , editor of Charisma, where he quotes one Pentecostal Pastor who said a large section of the Charismatic Church will follow after the Anti-Christ because they have little discernment.

Piper argues that one of the tests must be a love for truth, doctrine, and the word of God.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hymn of the Week

This hymn is one of my favorites. I have led our church to reintroduce this classic since my pastorate began, and have had a good response from the church concerning this hymn. This hymn was originally composed in German by Joachim Neander in 1680. It was translated into English by Catherine Winkworth in 1863.

You can find the traditional arrangement at cyberhymnal. Additionally, Christy Nockels has recorded a nice arrangement of the hymn on the album titled, Hymns: Ancient and Modern.

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Are our churches really churches if...

This Sunday night, I will be arguing that the central mission of a New Testament Church is the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to sinners.

If your average church is filled with a majority of members who either will not share their faith with anyone in the next year or cannot share their faith with someone in the next year, then does a true New Testament Church really even exist?

It seems to me that after four years of pastoring, this seems to be the chief shortfall of many churches, namely the absence of church members sharing the gospel with unrepentant sinners. And if this is, as I argue, the chief mission of the Church, I do not think God's blessing will ever fall until the Church is willing to proclaim the gospel outside of our Sunday meeting places.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Hymn of the Week

The hymn of the week is written by Joseph Hart titled, Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy. I was listening to the hymn this week and thought to myself how this song represents my preaching and my theology. You can find the traditional format of this hymn at Cyberhymnal. You can also sample an altered version of the Hart hymn by Indelible Grace.

Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.


Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.


View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies.
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?


Lo! th’incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood:
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.


Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Spurgeon: Thoughts on the Last Battle

In preparation for preaching through 1 Corinthians 15, I checked to see if any of Charles Spurgeon's sermons in 1 Corinthians 15 were published and found his sermon titled Thoughts on the Last Battle, preached May 13, 1855. Although I do not regularly read Spurgeon sermons, it is easily one of the top three I have read and would encourage everyone to read it.

Here is an excerpt from the sermon that I used in part in my own sermon:

2. But I must take it in another sense. "The sting of death is sin:"—that is to say, that which shall make death most terrible to man will be sin, if it is not forgiven. If that be not the exact meaning of the apostle, still it is a great truth, and I may find it here. If sin lay heavy on me and were not forgiven—if my transgressions were unpardoned—if such were the fact (though I rejoice to know it is not so) it would be the very sting of death to me. Let us consider a man dying, and looking back on his past life: he will find in death a sting, and that sting will be his past sin. Imagine a conqueror's deathbed. He has been a man of blood from his youth up. Bred in the camp, his lips were early set to the bugle, and his hand, even in infancy, struck the drum. He had a
martial spirit; he delighted in the fame and applause of men; he loved the dust of battle and the garment rolled in blood. He has lived a life of what men call glory. He has stormed cities, conquered countries, ravaged continents, overrun the world. See his banners hanging in the hall, and the marks of glory on his escutcheon. He is one of earth's proudest warriors. But now he comes to die, and when he lies down to expire, what shall invest his death with horror? It shall be his sin. Methinks I see the monarch dying; he lies in state; around him are his nobles and his councillors; but there is somewhat else there. Hard by his side there stands a spirit from Hades; it is a soul of a departed woman. She looks on him and says, "Monster! my husband was slain in battle through thy ambition: I was made a widow, and my helpless orphans and myself were starved." And she passes by. Her husband comes, and opening wide his bloody wounds, he cries, "Once I called thee monarch; but, by thy vile covetousness thou didst provoke an unjust war. See here these wounds—I gained them in the siege. For thy sake I mounted first the scaling ladder; this foot stood upon the top of the wall, and I waved my sword in triumph, but in hell I lifted up my eyes in torment. Base wretch, thine ambition hurried me thither!" Turning his horrid eyes upon him, he passes by. Then up comes another, and another, and another yet; waking from their tombs, they stalk around his bed and haunt him; the dreary procession still marches on, looking at the dying tyrant. He shuts his eyes, but he feels the cold and bony hand upon his forehead; he quivers, for thesiting of death is in his heart. "O Death!" says he; "to leave this large estate, this mighty realm, this pomp and power—this were somewhat; but to meet those men, those women, and those orphan children, face to face; to hear them saying, 'Art thou become like one of us?' while kings whom I have dethroned, and monarchs whom I have cast down shall rattle their chains in my ears, and say, 'Thou wast our destroyer, but how art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou brought down as in a moment from thy glory and thy pride!'" There, you see, the sting of death would be the man's sin. It would not sting him that he had to die, but that he had sinned, that he had been a bloody man, that his hands were red with wholesale murder—this would plague him indeed, for "the sting of death is sin."

Or, suppose another character—a minister. He has stood before the world, proclaiming something which he called the gospel. He has been a noted preacher; the multitude have been hanging on his lips; they have listened to his words; before his eloquence a nation stood amazed, and thousands trembled at his voice. But his preaching is over; the time when he can mount the pulpit is gone; another standing-place awaits him, another congregation, and he must hear another and a better preacher than himself. There he lies. He has been unfaithful to his charge. He preached philosophy to charm his people, instead of preaching truth and aiming at their hearts. And, as he pants upon his bed, that worst and most accursed of men—for surely none can be worse than he—there comes up one, a soul from the pit, andlooking him in the face, says, "I came to thee once, trembling on account of sin; "I asked thee the road to heaven, and thou didst say, 'Do such and such good works,' and I did them, and am damned. Thou didst tell me an untruth; thou didst not declare plainly the word of God." He vanishes only to be followed by another; he has been an irreligious character, and as he sees the minister upon his deathbed, he says, "Ah! and art thou here? Once I strolled into thy house of prayer, but thou hadst such a sermon that I could not understand. I listened; I wanted to hear something from thy lips, some truth that might burn my soul and make me repent; but I knew not what thou saidst; and here I am." The ghost stamps his foot, and the man quivers like an aspen leaf, because he knows it is all true. Then the whole congregation arise
before him as he lies upon his bed; he looks upon the motley group; he beholds the snowy heads of the old, and glittering eyes of the young; and lying there upon his pillow, he pictures all the sins of his past life, and he hears it said, "Go thou! unfaithful to thy charge; thou didst no divest thyself of thy love of pomp and dignity; thou didst not speak

'As though thou ne'er might'st speak again, A dying man to dying men.'

"Oh! it may be something for that minister to leave his charge, somewhat for him to die; but worst of all, the sting of death will be his sin: to hear his parish come howling after him to hell; to see his congregation following behind him in one mingled herd, he having led them astray, having been a false prophet instead of a true one, speaking peace, peace, where there was no peace, deluding them with lies, charming them with music, when he ought rather to have told them in rough and rugged accents the Word of God. Verily, it is true, it is true, the sting of death to such a man shall be his great, his enormous, his heinous sin of having deluded others."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Priorities: American Patriotism or Zeal for God

This past July 4th, the blogosphere was alive with talk concerning the appropriateness and inappropriateness of Patriotic displays in Christian worship gatherings. Dr. Russell Moore, guest host of the Albert Mohler Radio Show, even dedicated an entire show to the debate with two guests who do not favor patriotic displays in corporate worship.

I may catch some heat for what I am about to say, but ultimately Christians are supposed to fear God more than they fear man, so here goes...

Personally, I am not in favor of grand displays of patriotism in Christian worship gatherings. I do not believe pledges of allegiance to the American Flag in Christian worship gatherings are helpful. I do not believe the Star Spangled Banner should be sung. I believe if I see one more power point of the American flag as the backdrop with an image of Jesus at the forefront I going to be sick.

I do believe in our Christian corporate worship gatherings we should give thanks unto God for the freedom we have in this country to worship freely and without governmental interference. We should pray for our governmental leaders, including the commander-in-chief. We should pray earnestly for the men and women and the families of those who serve our country admirably in the military. We should pray for peace.

But at the center of every Christian corporate worship gathering should be Jesus Christ. I know this is difficult for previous generations to believe, but people like myself who do not favor grand patriotic displays, are patriotic, however, I am much more zealous to see the Kingdom of Christ increase more than American zeal. I know you can have zeal for Christ and American patriotism, but the problem I see is that most people I run into have a far greater concern for America and its future than Christ's Kingdom and the future of their own local church.

For example...

You are far more likely to find in many Christian churches members who are talking about the increase of gas prices and its impact on Americans than the increase of unbelief in the community and its impact on God's glory.

You are far more likely if the subject of Hispanics is raised in many Christian churches to have members making comments about how Hispanics are taking jobs from Americans and how Hispanics need to learn English than how we might reach them for Christ and bring them into the fellowship of our churches.

You are more likely in many Christian churches to have members extremely more incensed when the nation is attacked than when the nation repeatedly attacks the character of God.

You are more likely in many Christian churches to have tears run down the cheek of a member's face or the stirring of a member's affections when God Bless America is sung than if the hymn There is a Fountain Filled with Blood is sung.

You are far more likely to have Christian members of your local church who will fight and die while serving in the military for their country than you will have members who will die while serving their Lord on the mission field in the hard places.

You are more likely to have many Christian members in your local church who celebrate July 4th weekend more than they celebrate Resurrection weekend.

In some Christian churches you are far more likely to hear a comment about "bombing those Muslims" than "preaching the gospel to those people of the Muslim faith."

You are far more likely in some Christian churches to hear conversations about the problems of America and how to fix them than to hear the problems in the local church and how to fix them.

You are far more likely to hear a heated conversation from a church member in many Christian churches over illegal immigration than a heated conversation about regenerate church membership.

You are far more likely in many Christian churches to hear conversations about the decline of the American economy than to hear conversations concerning the decline of baptisms.

How many readers can quote the pledge of allegiance to the American Flag? Now how many of you who quoted the pledge of allegiance to the American Flag can quote Matthew 22:37-38, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, or Acts 4:12?

When I see the day where more Christians are more concerned with the Lord's Kingdom than concern for the future of America I will be less concerned about songs like America the Beautiful being sung on July 4th weekend.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hymn of the Week

Back on May 13, I featured the relatively unknown hymn Friend of Sinners by Augustus Toplady. This week I will feature perhaps his most known and beloved hymn, Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me. You can find a traditional musical arrangement to the hymn at cyberhymnal. You can also find a sample of the hymn with an alternative musical arrangement here on Upward: The Bob Kauflin Hymns Project.

Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
[originally When my eye-strings break in death]
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Excellent Audio Resources

The following sermons and conference addresses are very powerful. I suggest you take the time and download these to your MP3 Player and listen and be challenged and be edified.

Church Planting Evangelism by Mark Dever. Given at an Acts 29 Boot Camp in Chicago.

I have listened to this talk about four times so far. This talk has great application regardless of whether you are a church planter or not.

Adoption by C.J. Mahaney. Preached at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.

This sermon opened my eyes to the significance of this truth and the joy to be found in this truth. I do not recall hearing enough sermons on this topic.

Pastoral Character and Loving People by C.J. Mahaney. Given at the National Resurgence Conference titled Text and Context.

Mahaney in this address gives great application in how to look for God's presence among church members.

How My Pastoral Ministry Shapes My Pulpit Ministry by John Piper. Given at the National Resurgence Conference titled Text and Context.

In the first part of the address, Piper gives examples of how the Bible and Theology shape his pulpit ministry. Then he gives pastoral care examples that shape his pulpit ministry. Many of these are extremely moving.

Calvinism: A Cause for Rejoicing, A Cause for Concern by Jeff Noblit. (Just scroll down to the appropriate message) Given at the Building Bridges Conference sponsored by The Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The Founders Organization.

I have also listened to this address multiple times. This is not only a good address for those who share Noblit's theological convictions, but would be great for those who know little about Calvinism, maybe those who have only heard negative comments by others and have done no research themselves.

The Role of Men, Part I
The Role of Men, Part II
The Role of Men, Part III
by Matt Chandler. (Just scroll down the 2007 sermon archive to find these three sermons) These sermons were preached at The Village Church.

These sermons are great for engaging men, which the church so desperately needs today.

Note: Most of these sermons may still be located on ITunes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

New Pictures IV

Our little one, Karis

New Pictures III

The young ones at Little River Baptist Church

New Pictures II

Here are some pics from both Lydia and Chloe's birthday parties.

New Pictures

Here are some recent pics of Lydia at her first dance recital.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday is for Hymns

One of my favorite hymns is There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood by William Cowper (1731-1800). Cowper and Amazing Grace author John Newton collaborated in writing hymns of which the fruit can be found in the Olney Hymns. Newton ministered to Cowper who suffered from severe depression and tried on more than one occasion to take his own life. You can find some information on Cowper at cyberhymnal and much more at igracemusic. In fact Newton's suggestion of the Olney Hymn Project was to help Cowper in his depression.

There are several musical arrangements to this classic hymn, some of which can be found on the previous cyberhymnal link. There is a new arrangement of music for this hymn found here recorded by Red Mountain Church which I have grown fond of recently.

There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Hymn of the Week

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why this relatively new and popular hymn is not found in the current Baptist Hymnal published in 1991. However, according to Lifeway, The Love of God will be included in the new Baptist Hymnal.

The third stanza of this song comes from a Jewish poem dated to around 1050. For more information on the author, Frederick Lehman and the song check out cyberhymnal.

The Love of God

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

IMB Policy Change

Thought you might all be interested in the online petition and letter to the IMB found at this site This is of course in reponse to fairly recent IMB policy changes that invalidate baptism outside of a Southern Baptist church and reject as missionary canidates those with a private prayer language.
The petition began with former IMB trustees but seems to have branched out since it's beginning a couple days ago. I believe this is a huge issue and a lot is at stake if the IMB is not held accountable on this. Not only are they going outside of the realms of scripture on making this requirement, but the BFM 2000 in no way addresses these issues.
I for one will join the ranks of Chris and Elisabeth Hilliard and affix my name to this important document.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tuesday is for Hymns

My introduction to Hark! the Voice of Love and Mercy comes from the album titled Help My Unbelief, by Red Mountain Church, which is retitled It Is Finished -- Part II. The authors of this hymn are Jonathan Evans and Benjamin Francis. You can listen to the music for the hymn on cyberhymnal (by William Owen) or you can listen to the hymn set to a different arrangement by Jeff Koonce at Red Mountain Music.

Hark! the Voice of Love and Mercy

Hark! the voice of love and mercy
Sounds aloud from Calvary;
See, it rends the rocks asunder,
Shakes the earth, and veils the sky.
“It is finished!” “It is finished!”
“It is finished!” Hear the dying Savior cry;
Hear the dying Savior cry.

“It is finished!” O what pleasure
Do these precious words afford;
Heav’nly blessings, without measure,
Flow to us from Christ the Lord:
“It is finished!” “It is finished!”
“It is finished!” Saints the dying words record;
Saints the dying words record.

Finished all the types and shadows
Of the ceremonial law;
Finished all that God had promised;
Death and hell no more shall awe:
“It is finished!” “It is finished!”
“It is finished!” Saints, from hence your comfort draw;
Saints, from hence your comfort draw.

Tune your harps anew, ye seraphs,
Join to sing the glorious theme;
All in earth, and all in heaven,
Join to praise Emmanuel’s Name;
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Glory to the bleeding Lamb!
Glory to the bleeding Lamb!

A Son's Rememberance of his Father's Prayers

I am currently working through a series on Sunday evenings focusing on prayer. Last night I shared an excerpt from John Paton, missionary to the New Hebrides, concerning his Father's prayers. John Piper rightly concludes that John was the man he was in part because of the godly influence of his father. I weep just about every time I read this as it is a great encouragement in my own life to lay before my own children a godly heritage of prayer unto God. I am hoping it will also build up the type of dependence upon God that leads my children to do great things for the glory of God.

The following is taken from John Piper's autobiography on John Paton, given at the 2000 Desiring God Pastor's Conference. Paton's autobiography can be found through Banner and Trust Publishers:

There was a small room, the "closet" where his father would go for prayer, as a rule after each meal. The eleven children knew it and they reverenced the spot and learned something profound about God. The impact on John Paton was immense.

Though everything else in religion were by some unthinkable catastrophe to be swept out of memory, were blotted from my understanding, my soul would wander back to those early scenes, and shut itself up once again in that Sanctuary Closet, and, hearing still the echoes of those cries to God, would hurl back all doubt with the victorious appeal, "He walked with God, why may not I?" (p. 8)

How much my father's prayers at this time impressed me I can never explain, nor could any stranger understand. When, on his knees and all of us kneeling around him in Family Worship, he poured out his whole soul with tears for the conversion of the Heathen world to the service of Jesus, and for every personal and domestic need, we all felt as if in the presence of the living Savior, and learned to know and love him as our Divine friend. (p. 21)

One scene best captures the depth of love between John and his father and the power of the impact on John's life of uncompromising courage and purity. The time came for the young Paton to leave home and go to Glasgow to attend divinity school and become a city missionary in his early twenties. From his hometown of Torthorwald to the train station at Kilmarnock was a forty-mile walk. Forty years later Paton wrote,

My dear father walked with me the first six miles of the way. His counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey are fresh in my heart as if it had been but yesterday; and tears are on my cheeks as freely now as then, whenever memory steals me away to the scene. For the last half mile or so we walked on together in almost unbroken silence – my father, as was often his custom, carrying hat in hand, while his long flowing yellow hair (then yellow, but in later years white as snow) streamed like a girl's down his shoulders. His lips kept moving in silent prayers for me; and his tears fell fast when our eyes met each other in looks for which all speech was vain! We halted on reaching the appointed parting place; he grasped my hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly and affectionately said: "God bless you, my son! Your father's God prosper you, and keep you from all evil!"

Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears we embraced, and parted. I ran off as fast as I could; and, when about to turn a corner in the road where he would lose sight of me, I looked back and saw him still standing with head uncovered where I had left him – gazing after me. Waving my hat in adieu, I rounded the corner and out of sight in an instant. But my heart was too full and sore to carry me further, so I darted into the side of the road and wept for a time. Then, rising up cautiously, I climbed the dike to see if he yet stood where I had left him; and just at that moment I caught a glimpse of him climbing the dyke and looking out for me! He did not see me, and after he gazed eagerly in my direction for a while, he got down, set his face toward home, and began to return - his head still uncovered, and his heart, I felt sure, still rising in prayers for me. I watched through blinding tears, till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as he had given me. (pp. 25-26)

The impact of his father's faith and prayer and love and discipline was immeasurable. So much more could be said.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday Can Be for Hymns Too

Well it has only been three weeks now since I began posting one hymn a week on Tuesday, however I forgot to post the hymn on Tuesday this weel. So two days past due, I post the hymn of the week. The selection for this week is In the Secret of His Presence. This hymn was written by a woman named Ellen Lakshmi Goreh (1853-1937) from India. Her father was a convert to Christianity, but gave her up for adoption, when his wife died when Ellen was two months old. She was raised by a Rev. Stores in England, but later returned to India to live and minister. Dr. Hudson Taylor reported that this hymn was the favorite among his missionaries in China.

For more info on the song, look up the song at Cyberhymnal.

In the Secret of His Presence

In the secret of His presence, how my soul delights to hide!
Oh, how precious are the lessons which I learn at Jesus' side!
Earthly cares forever vex me, all my trials lay me low;
But when Satan comes to tempt me, to that secret place I go,
To that secret place I go.

When my soul is faint and thirsty, 'neath the shadow of His wing
There is cool and pleasant shelter, and a fresh and crystal spring;
And my Savior rests beside me, as we hold communion sweet:
If I tried, I could not utter what he says when thus we meet,
What He says when thus we meet.

Only this I know: I tell Him all my doubts, my griefs and fears;
Oh, how patiently he listens! And my sorrowed soul he cheers:
Do you think He ne'er reproves me? What a false friend He would be,
If he never, never told me of the sin which He must see,
Of the sin which He must see.

Would you like to know the sweetness of the secret of the Lord?
Go and hide beneath his shadow: This shall then be your reward;
And whene'er you leave the silence of that happy place,
You will surely bear the image of the Master in your face,
Of the Master in your face.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Church, Remember the Exodus and Wilderness: A Sermon from 1 Corinthians 10:1-11:1

Sunday Morning Gathering
May 25, 2008
1 Corinthians 10:1-11:1


As we have progressed through the letter called 1 Corinthians, we have seen how the Apostle and the Church at Corinth are having a back and forth. We find the church asking specific questions to Paul on how to live in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

--What should the church do in response to the sexually immorality of a church member?

--How should Christians settle grievances that they have with one another?

--How do Christians avoid sexual immorality?

--What should Christians think about marriage in light of the gospel mission?

--Should we marry if we are single?

--Should we divorce if we are married?

--Should we stay betrothed?

We are now in our fourth and final sermon based on Paul answer to the question, “Should we eat food sacrificed to idols in the temples of pagan gods?”

Cause No Brother or Sister to Stumble

Paul’s first teaching that arises from this particular teaching is concern for the weak. Although Paul conceded that idols and pagan gods were not real, he warned the Corinthians that some who are weak among them may fall back into idolatry by participating in these pagan celebrations. So Paul’s first teaching is that we should have concern for others and do nothing to cause another brother and sister to stumble as he or she pursues Jesus Christ in discipleship.

Forsake Your Freedoms for the Gospel

Paul’s second teaching arising from this question of eating meat addresses Christian freedom. The Apostle’s argument is simply: Do everything for the sake of the advance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ even if it means we sacrifice personal rights. In other words, the freedom that God has given us through Christ is to be used for the sake of the Gospel and introducing sinners to this gospel. Paul then proceeds to lift himself up as an example to the Corinthians as one who has forsaken many rights to see the gospel proclaimed.

Idolatry Kills

Finally, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10 that flirtation with and participation in idolatry kills.

He takes us back to the event of the Exodus. God brings great judgment upon Egypt and the Pharaoh in order to display his glory and to free the Israelites. God freed the Israelites who had become slaves. He brought them salvation. Then he began to lead them to the Promised Land of Canaan. God brought them through the waters of the Sea and used the Sea to slay the Egyptian armies. By day he would lead them by a great pillar of smoke and by night he would lead them by a great pillar of fire. When they were hungry, he feed them. When they were thirsty, he gave them water.

But guess what happened to the adult generation of Israelites who were saved out of Egypt? They all perished except Caleb and Joshua outside the Promised Land. Paul says in verse 5, “Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.”

Why does Paul remind us of the events of the Exodus and the deaths of the people of God in the wilderness? He says in verse 6 that they are examples for us that we should not desire evil as they did. What happened that caused God to destroy the very people he rescued? Answer: They committed idolatry. They were sexual immoral. They tested Christ? They grumbled against God?

You probably can recount their idolatry. Moses was up on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights and the people decided that Moses was not going to return so they asked Aaron to make an idol. Then the Israelites worshiped and made sacrifices to the idol and the text says “they rose up to play”, which many interpreters interpret to mean sexual immorality was committed in the worship of the idol by the Israelites (See Exodus 32). Twenty-three thousand Israelites were slain in one day for this idolatry.

What is Paul’s point? His answer is in verse 12, “Therefore let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” In other words, the same experience of the Israelites could be our own fate if we do not cling to God and flee from idolatry. Paul’s ultimate pronouncement concerning eating this meat sacrificed to idols is a participation in the demonic. While he concedes that idols are nothing, there is a true reality behind them, and he describes it as demonic.

Read 1 Corinthians 10:19-20

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 are filled with the Apostle’s application on how to live with regards to this question.

For example…

v24, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” – Do not cause others to stumble

vv25-26 – Do not worry about meat put into the marketplace regardless of its origin.

vv27-30 – eating food at a neighbor’s is fine so long as the neighbor does not indicate that it has been dedicated to pagan gods.

v31 – Do everything for the glory of God; focus on the gospel

vv32-33 – Do not make anyone stumble but put before many the gospel.

However, I believe the most important application for our church is the admonition to stay away from idolatry for we do not have to worry if the meat we buy at Publix or Walmart was sacrificed to Satan. However for too long in efforts to attract people, increase membership and attendance, and appear successful in the eyes of other churches, we have given false assurances to people concerning their salvation. And we need to let the Exodus and Wilderness example be a great and terrible warning who find salvific assurances in other places outside of daily repentance of sin and daily faith in Jesus Christ.

Observations from the Exodus and Wilderness of Israel

1. Just because I receive some of the benefits of God’s salvation does not mean that I myself have been saved.

All of Israel was delivered from slavery in Egypt, but not all made it to the Promised Land. I warn especially those here who have been raised up in the church culture. Kids raised in the church are often the recipients of so many of God’s blessings, but being a child of a Christian father and mother does not mean you are reconciled with God. Are you trusting in God today? Is Jesus Christ your Lord? Are you looking to him for your joy?

There have been a great many walk the isles of local churches not because they had experienced the new birth, but because their momma wanted them to or because their friends walked the isle.

2. Just because you have been baptized, does not mean you will inherit the new heavens and the new earth.

Israel experienced a baptism as they went through the parted waters of the Sea, but few reached the Promised Land.

I have seen too many times decisions for Christ be merely decisions that later became decisions to depart from Christ.

3. Just because God is working in your life and his presence is in your very midst does not mean you are assured of eternal life with God.

The pillar of fire and smoke, which was the presence of God protected and guided the people of Israel on their way, but all but two of those over the age of 20 save Joshua and Caleb perished in the wilderness and did not enter into God’s rest.

The presence of God was all around Israel and yet they still perished. Just ask Judas about this. Just ask the Pharisees. Just ask the rich young ruler?

4. Just because you eat of the bread and drink of the cup at communion does not mean that you are abiding in Jesus Christ.

The Israelites eat manna from heaven and drank water from Christ himself, yet they also drank of the cup of idolatry, drank from the well sexual immorality, tested the Lord himself, and grumbled against God and they forfeited the Promised Land.

Those who drink both from the cup of Christ and Demons will provoke the Lord to jealousy (v22).

5. Just because you sing to the Lord does not ensure that he is your heart’s desire.

When God destroyed the Egyptians by closing the sea upon them, the Israelites sang a song expressing great truths about him like:

“Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?”

“Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?”

“The Lord will reign forever and forever.”

Yet their songs would soon be turned to other idols.

6. A good beginning does not ensure a good ending.

Israel was obedient to spread the blood over their doorposts and the Angel of Death came over Egypt killing the firstborn. It is said of Israel after the waters crushed the armies of Pharaoh, “Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses (Exodus 14:31).”

But their faith was not enduring as they would soon trade it for a golden calf and sexual immorality.

Brothers, sisters, friends the salvation of God has two dimensions: the already and the not yet. God did a work in the Old Testament bringing deliverance to Israel. But many Israelites did not find the consummation of that salvation because they gave themselves to idols. God has done a great work of salvation in the New Testament. Christ has made atonement for sinners on the Cross. It has already happened. Yet our final salvation is in the future when our bodies will be glorified and we will live with God in the new heavens and in the new earth, but it is only for those who endure to the end, Jesus says. Do not walk away from Jesus Christ.

The Israelites experienced deliverance from Egypt, but so many failed to see the Promised Land. So “let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Friends, did you start out years ago with your heart surrendered to the Lord only to find your heart today surrendered to sexual immorality, idolatry, and grumblings against God. Then it is not too late to genuinely receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Repent of all your idols, the things you value more than Jesus and put your faith in Jesus. Pray that God grant you repentance. Pray that God help your unbelief.

There is a great danger in growing up in the south where for generations there were present very strong Christian roots because we can assume that if we do the church thing, then we know God. But I want to ask each of you this morning…

Where is your treasure?

How do you find your joy?

What do live for?

Where is your purpose in living found?

Whom do you love and serve?

There is coming a day children when you will leave the home of your parents or guardians. This will be the great test for you whether or not you will continue to live for Jesus. This will be a day when your obedience will be more clearly evaluated as obedience to parents or obedience to God.

There is coming day when we will all find ourselves before God giving account. And you will not be able to look at your father, your mother, your husband, your wife; you will not be able to look to your water baptism, your participation at communion, the songs you sung, but only to Jesus Christ whose blood can make you clean.

As we turn in our small hymnal to page 30 to close by singing What a Day that Will Be, when we sing the words “There is coming a day…what a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see, and I look upon his face, the one who saved me by his grace; when he takes me by the hand, and leads me through the Promised Land, what a day, glorious day that will be,” what will your heart reveal about Jesus. Will you sing with a soul full of joy because Jesus is your Savior or will you merely mouth the words because everyone else is?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Book Review: Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament

Wright, Christopher J. W. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992. 256 pp, $16.00.

One of my favorite teachers I had the honor of sitting under during my years at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was Dr. Daniel Block. It was under his teaching that my appreciation for and knowledge of the Old Testament grew in leaps and bounds. It was under Block’s teaching from the three courses I sat under him that I began for the first time to really see the Scriptures as a grand narrative of God’s salvific actions to redeem his creation.

It was also through his recommendation that I became acquainted with the book Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament. Dr. Block highly advised all his students to read this selection in order to understand Jesus in light of the Old Testament. I recently purchased and finally read this book which he so highly recommended and it did not disappoint.

Wright starts his book out in the Gospel of Matthew and notes how for many Christians, the beginning of understanding Jesus starts at Matthew 1:18. Yet what is missed in the previous verses of Matthew 1:1-17 is the Old Testament roots of Jesus. Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, the same Abraham through whom God promised to bring blessing to all peoples and nations. It is in Jesus that the Old Testament promises find their fulfillment. Or as Wright says, “The Old Testament tells the story which Jesus completes (p 2).

Jesus is also a new beginning. As Wright notes, Matthew’s gospel begins literally, ‘An account of the genesis of Jesus the Messiah…’ For any Jew, this would have caused them to recall the words of Genesis 2:4 and 5:1 (p 7). Just as we find a new work in the Book of Genesis, we find a new work of God in the Book of Matthew.

Wright says that Matthew 1:1-17 really tells us through a genealogy the long history of God and his people, Israel. The names point us to the call of Abraham, the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, the covenant made at Mt. Sinai, the inheritance of the Promised Land, the kingship of David, the splitting of the kingdoms, the unrest of Israel through evil kings, the destruction of Jerusalem and exile of God’s people into captivity, the restoration of Israel, and up to the time to the birth of Jesus.

In chapter 2, Wright details how five events in the life of Jesus as a baby and child reveal fulfillments of Old Testament promises:

1. The son conceived in Mary was a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, where a virgin shall conceive a child.

2. The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem fulfilled Micah 5:2, where a ruler is prophesied to be born for Israel.

3. Jesus’ escape to and then return from Egypt fulfilled Hosea 11:1, where it is said, “Out of Egypt I have called my Son.”

4. The murder by Herod of the young boys in Bethlehem fulfills Jeremiah 31:15.

5. The fifth fulfillment is a bit more difficult to detail as Wright acknowledges, but he points to Jesus settlement in Nazareth as a fulfillment of the prophets.

The particular stories that are detailed about Jesus’ early life are given to us with the purpose of helping us understand how the Old Testament was preparing and leading to the birth and mission of this man named Jesus.

Additionally much of the chapter is spent on commenting on the nature of God’s promises and covenants, and their implications. For example, when Wright talks about the implications of being in Christ as it relates to the promise made to Abraham he writes:

To be ‘in Christ’ was to be ‘in Abraham’, and therefore to share in the inheritance of God’s people. And that inheritance now far transcended the national territory, and included rather all the blessings and responsibilities of the fellowship of God’s people. He was the Passover lamb protecting God’s people from his wrath. His death and resurrection had achieved a new exodus. He was the mediator of a new covenant. His sacrificial death and risen life fulfilled and surpassed all that were signified in the tabernacle, the sacrifices and the priesthood. He was the temple not made with hands, indeed he was Mount Zion itself, as the focus of the name and presence of God. He was the son of David, but his Messianic kingship was concealed behind the basin and towel of servanthood and the necessity of obedience unto death (pp 74-75).

Chapter three focuses on the identity of Jesus in light of the Old Testament. Wright argues that Jesus partly understand his own mission as the Son of God from three Old Testament “son” texts, Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 42:1, and Genesis 22:2.

1. From Psalm 2, Jesus is identified as the Son of David and as King is the authoritative spokesman for all Israel.

2. From Isaiah 42:1, Jesus understands himself as a servant son. This Davidic, Kingly Son would serve his people even unto death as the Servant Songs of Isaiah teach us. The servant would suffer so that we his people might be healed.

3. From Genesis 22:2, Jesus sees himself as the beloved only son of God like Isaac unto Abraham. Yet in stark contrast, Isaac was spared, Jesus will not be.

Wright additionally launches into a major section on viewing the New Testament fulfillments of Old Testaments texts through typology. Here he makes 6 points about typology (pp 110-16). This discussion will definitely help many in the church who have a difficult time understanding in what sense many NT events are fulfillments of OT events, as we typically think of fulfillment as being only fulfillments of specific predictions.

Chapter four is largely spent surveying the mission of Jesus as the Messiah. Wright covers common Jewish expectations. But the large portion of this section is spent surveying the Servant Songs in Isaiah. In the songs, Wright says we find the Messiah’s mission to Israel, but also to the Gentiles. For example the Lord says in Isaiah 49:5-6,

And now says the Lord, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the Lord, and My God is My strength), he says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

Wright concludes this chapter by addressing what implications Jesus’ own mission has for understanding our own present mission as God’s people. Wright concludes, “Mission lies at the very heart of all God’s historical action in the Bible. Mission to his fallen, suffering, sinful human creation, and indeed ultimately to his whole creation as well. That is why he called Abraham, sent Jesus, and commissioned his apostles. For there is one servant people, one Servant King, one servant mission (p 175).”

In the closing chapter, Wright looks at the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness by Satan. Wright notes that Jesus’ rebuttals to Satan all come from the early parts of Deuteronomy, so Wright looks to Deuteronomy 4-11 as an instructive paradigm for living before God as his people. This leads into a proper understanding of the place of the law in the life of God’s people. Wright’s major point here is that law is always a response to salvation and then he lists four major reasons or motivations for Godliness.

This last chapter is filled with helpful teaching on how to grasp the way in which we are called to live as the people of God, where to place our priorities in light of the way Jesus prioritized his values. Perhaps one of the most helpful summarizations Wright leaves us with in closing about living for Jesus comes on pages 247-8 and this is where the review will end as well. Wrights says:

To enter the Kingdom of God means to submit oneself to the rule of God and that means a fundamental reorientation of one’s ethical commitments and values into line with the priorities and character of the God revealed in the scriptures. The point of being Israel and living as the people of Yahweh was to make the universal reign of God local and visible in their whole structure of religious, social, economic and political life. They were to manifest in practical reality what it meant to live as well as sing, ‘the LORD reigns’.

Can there be any doubt that this statement should also be true of the church of God which has been grafted into Israel through Jesus Christ? Should not our goal be also to be the visible and local manifestation of God’s reign here on earth?

I would recommend this book to both pastors and church members. Wright’s style is easy to take in. He thoroughly explains larger theological terms. The book does not have footnotes that distract the common reader. I would use this book as the answer to someone’s desire to learn about how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament and more importantly, to Jesus.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesday is for Hymns

This week's devotion is the hymn titled most often as Majestic Sweetness Sits Entroned, but also found as To Christ the Lord Let Every Tongue. The hymn was written by Dr. Samuel Stennett, who also wrote On Jordan's Stormy Banks. The version found below has been slightly altered by Laura Taylor.

Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned

To Christ the Lord let every tongue, its noblest tribute bring
When He's the subject of the song, who can refuse to sing?
Survey the beauties of His face, and on His glories dwell
Think of the wonder of His grace, and all his triumphs tell.

Majestic sweetness sits enthroned, upon His awful brow
His head with radiant glories crowned, His lips with grace o'erflow
No mortal can with Him compare, among the sons of men
And fairer He than all the fair, that fills the Heavenly train.

He saw me plunged in deep distress, He fled to my relief
For me He bore the shameful cross, and carried all my grief
His hand a thousand blessings pours, upon my guilty head
His presence guilds my darkest hours, and guards my sleeping head.

To Him I owe my life and breath, and all the joys I have
He makes me triumph over death, and saves me from the grave
To heav'n the place of His abode, He brings my weary feet
Shows me the glories of my God, and makes my joy complete.

Since from his beauty I receive, such proofs of love divine
Had I a thousand hearts to give, Lord they should all be Thine
A thousand men could not compose, a worthy song to bring
Yet Your love is a melody, our hearts can't help but sing.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Red Mountain Music

Back in December, I made a post about Indelible Grace, a group of Christian artists who collaborate together to set new music to older hymns in a effort to make them more accessible to the younger generations. I also want to introduce you to another group of musicians who are doing the same thing. They hail from Birmingham, Alabama and many of them belong to the same church there called Red Mountain Church. You can find their music and information about them at

They currently have produced five albums: This Breaks My Heart of Stone, Help My Unbelief, The Gadsby Project, Heaven, and Depth of Mercy.

There will be some hymns of which you will be familiar like Pass Me Not, O Gentile Savior, There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood, My Jesus, I Love Thee (all on Depth of Mercy album), but the great majority of hymns found on these albums will be unfamiliar. However, do not let this be an obstacle to purchasing the albums. These unfamiliar hymns will soon become some of your favorites.

You can preview and purchase the hymns online. Currently you can purchase the three most recent albums for $30. You can also find guitar chords and sheet music for their hymns here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Great Hymns as Devotionals

I have found that some of the best devotional books are hymnals. Starting this Tuesday, I will each week post a hymn each Tuesday that has particularly moved my soul. I probably will add no commentary as the words of the hymn will be sufficiently more enriching than anything I could possibly say. This week's hymn is titled Friend of Sinners, written by Augustus Toplady.

Friend of Sinners

Redeemer! Whither should I flee, or how escape the wrath to come?
The weary sinner flies to thee for shelter from impending doom;
Smile on me, gracious Lord, and show thyself the Friend of sinners now.

Beneath the shadow of thy cross the heavy laden soul finds rest;
I would esteem the world but dross, so I might be of Christ possessed.
I'd seek my every joy in thee, be thou both life and light to me.

Close to the highly shameful tree, Jesus, my humbled soul would cleave;
Despised and crucified with thee, with thee resolved to die and live;
This prayer and this ambition mine, living and dying to be thine.

There fastened to the rugged wood by holy love's resistless chain,
And life deriving from thy blood, never to wander wide again.
There may I bow my suppliant knee, and own no other Lord but thee.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Book Review: The Gospel & Personal Evangelism

Book Review: Dever, Mark. The Gospel & Personal Evangelism. Wheaton: Crossway, 2007. 124 pp, $9.99.

Mark Dever’s plan for biblical evangelism is summarized as “A God-given commission and method, a God-centered message, and a God-centered motive. We should all evangelize. Evangelism isn’t all those other things we considered; it is telling the good news about Jesus, and doing it with honesty, urgency, and joy, using the Bible, living a life that backs it up, and praying, and doing it all for the glory of God (p 107).

In seven chapters, Dever asks and answers seven crucial issues concerning the issue of evangelism:

Chapter 1 Why Don’t We Evangelize?
Chapter 2 What Is the Gospel?
Chapter 3 Who Should Evangelize?
Chapter 4 How Should We Evangelize?
Chapter 5 What Isn’t Evangelism?
Chapter 6 What Should We Do After We Evangelize?
Chapter 7 Why Should We Evangelize?

The most important chapter in the book is “What is the Gospel?” No issue rises above getting the gospel right for the Christian because the gospel is what makes us Christian. It is the message that God uses to forgive, reconcile, and redeem sinners. If the Gospel message itself is confused, evangelism will not take place and God will not be honored.

Dever tackles common modern misconceptions about the gospel. The gospel is not God saying we are okay (pp 32-35). The gospel is not a message that “God is love (pp 36-37).” The Gospel is not simply “Jesus wants to be our friend (pp 37-39).” The Gospel is not a message about right living (40-43). Dever writes, “One of the early stages of becoming a Christian is, I think, realizing that our problems aren’t fundamentally that we have messed up our own lives, or have simply failed to reach our full potential, but that we have sinned against God (p 35).”

Dever closes the chapter by presenting the gospel. “The good news is that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in his image to know him. But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him. In his great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that God’s wrath against us had been exhausted. He now calls us to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God.”

Chapter 5, “What Isn’t Evangelism” complements nicely with chapter 2 because here Dever gives examples of how well-intentioned Christians fall short of evangelism. One of the most common ways I have seen this personally is in the giving of personal testimonies. Personal testimonies are often full with ways God has blessed, but far too often the gospel itself is never spoken. Jesus is often completely left out.

An additional confusion when it comes to evangelism is the lumping in of decisions made or not made after the presentation to a sinner. Many believe evangelism occurs when someone hears the gospel and embraces it. However, evangelism is simply sharing the gospel. Dever writes, “We don’t fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don’t faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn’t converting people; it’s telling them that they need to be converted and telling them how they can be.”

A great strength of this book is its practicality. Chapters 1 and 4 are filled with helpful suggestions for how a Christian can evangelize more frequently and more faithfully. Particularly helpful was the author’s teaching on balancing honesty, urgency, and joy in presenting the gospel (pp 55-60). First, be honest about the cost of following Jesus Christ. Those who follow Jesus will live a cross-bearing life. Sins will need to be repented of and forsaken. Second, be urgent in your presentation of the gospel. No one knows the day or hour when Christ shall return therefore we should not harden our hearts to God’s gospel. We do not become coercive in our urgency, but we should plead with men for Christ’s sake. Third, we should infuse the joy of salvation into our gospel presentations. Talk much of the love of God. Talk about the joys of eternal life. Talk about the joys of being reconciled to our Creator God.

The book alone is worth the price for the great stories concerning evangelism. The opener about John Harper is truly remarkable. But perhaps the most encouraging is found on page 81 in the context of trusting in God for conversion.

“It took a long time for the conversion of Mr. Short. He was a New England farmer who lived to be one hundred years old. Sometime in the middle of the 1700’s he was sitting in his fields reflecting on his long life. As he did, “he recalled a sermon he had heard in Darmouth [England] as a boy before he sailed to America. The horror of dying under the curse of God was impressed upon him as he meditated on the words he had heard so long ago and he was converted to Christ—eighty five years after hearing John Flavel preach.”

We thank Mark Dever for this helpful contribution concerning the oft neglected duty and privilege to evangelize sinners. Let us glorify God by being more faithful and diligent to tell others the greatest news ever.

"Jesus Christ is Precious"

The following story is taken from Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions, by Kenneth W. Osbeck:

The story is told of this converted slave ship captain preaching one of his final sermons before his home-going at the age of 82. His eyesight was nearly gone and his memory had become faulty. It was necessary for an assistant to stand in the pulpit to help him with his sermon. One Sunday Newton had twice read the words, "Jesus Christ is Precious." "You have already said that twice," whispered his helper; "go on." "I said that twice, and I am going to say it again," replied Newton. Then the rafters rang as the old preacher shouted, "JESUS CHRIST IS PRECIOUS!"

Taken from the excerpt devoted to the Hymn, How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds, which Newton wrote (p 278).