Archive for October, 2006

Happy Reformation Day, have some “Diet of Worms cake”

A few resources for your enjoyment:

  1. What is it and why?
  2. Don’t miss the Reformation Polka (to the tune of”Supercalifragilistic-expialidocious”)
  3. John Piper’s lecture notes and audio on the life of Martin Luther
  4. Everything Martin Luther
  5. Lutheran Mad Libs
  6. Martin Luther warp game
  7. Wacky ideas to get the party started:
  • Make a “Diet of Worms Cake” and bring it to your office or school.
  • Have a “Baptismal Apple Dunk”
  • Run a “Law and Gospel Shuffle Relay”
  • Create a “Fishers of Men” Fishing Pond
  • Do a “Defeat the Devil Ball Toss”
  • Play “Pin the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg Door”
  • Run a “Throw Indulgences in the Trash” relay

MacArthur embraces Rap Music

John MacArthur has finally embraced his rap alter ego “Dr. Miggidy Mac”. Listen here.

HT: The Puppy Dogs

Weekend Fun

My son is all the rage over at Girl Talk blog. I’m not sure if I should be proud or not.

updated: The problem of Scripture-less worship

“Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching” (1 Tim. 4:13).

Why is it that churches that seem to despise the Bible most are also the ones who read it the most in their liturgies and services? On the other hand, why are churches which get blue in the face over the authority of Scripture the ones who rarely read from extensive portions of it? To the first group I ask, “Why bother?” and to the second group I ask, “Why the hypocrisy?” Johnson and Duncan have rightly noted, “One of the striking things about evangelical corporate worship in our times is the evident paucity of Scripture” (Give Praise to God, 140). How many times have we seen the preacher say “open your Bibles to…” only to watch him run away from the text as fast as he can? Thankfully there has been a growing awareness against this putrid trend of Scripture-less services but many go on in the name of Christ every Sunday without a Word from Christ.

One gets the feeling that if Ezra and his crew were to lead services today they would not be asked to come back the following week (cf. Neh. 8:3). If possible, would Jesus even be allotted a spot in today’s typical service so that He could read from the scroll of Isaiah and proclaim its fulfillment (cf. Luke 4:17)? I constantly hear pastors bemoan the fact that their average church member is illiterate when it comes to the Scriptures. However when I ask a simple question, “do you give a dedicated place for the Scripture to be read in your worship service?” you would think I had asked them to give a detailed analysis of the hypostatic union of Christ.

Brothers, read the Scripture to and for your people so that they might hear God’s voice and be changed. The means of evangelism and the continued sanctification of God’s people is the reading and proclamation of His Word. The Church has the distinct privilege to be the pillar and support of what God says and ministers have the unique opportunity to insure that a steady diet of Truth is administered into the ears of the congregation. The only time some will hear the Psalms read (or sung) will be on Sunday mornings. The only time some will ever dive into the dark continent of the “older testament” will be when they hear it read or preached by a Christian minister. The only time many will hear The Gospel (outside of a tract) will be when it is read from one of the four Evangelists.

Do whatever you have to do to make it happen. Cut short the announcements or bump Sister Susie’s solo but heed the words of J. R. Miller who wrote that “The reading of the word of God ought to be an event.” Hear again the words of David Wells,

“This Word of God is the means by which God accomplishes his saving work in his people, and this is a work that no evangelist and no preacher can do. This is why the dearth of serious, sustained biblical preaching in the Church today is a serious matter. When the Church loses the Word of God it loses the very means by which God does his work. In its absence, therefore, a script is being written, however unwittingly, for the Church’s undoing, not in one cataclysmic moment, but in a slow, inexorable slide made up of piece by tiny piece of daily dereliction.” (David Wells, Above All Earthly Pow’rs , 9).

Update: thanks to Matt and Chris who reminded us of Daniel Block’s stirring quote from a paper he delivered at ETS and subsequently published in Giving the Sense, 435):

“Evangelicals must rediscover that in the reading of the Scriptures worshipers hear the voice of God. Despite our lofty creedal statements and our affirmations of the inerrancy, infallibility, and authority of the Scriptures, the relative absence of the Scriptures is one of the marks of contemporary evangelical worship. At best the Scriptures are read piecemeal and impatiently so that we might get on with the sermon, which suggests to the congregation that our interpretation of Scripture is much more important for them than the sacred word of God itself. At worst we do not open the Scriptures at all. In our efforts to be contemporary and relevant, we dismiss the reading of the Scriptures as a fossil whose vitality and usefulness has died long ago. . . .In the process we displace the voice of God with the foolish babbling of mortals, and the possibility of true worship is foreclosed. And then we wonder why there is such a famine for the word of God in the land (Amos 8:11-14).”

We’re more hip than we thought

I just have to share this. In the deep resources and bowels of this blog, it is possible for us to see the actual search terms that folks use to arrive here at Expository Thoughts. So for example almost every Saturday night our blog gets an enormous amount of hits from desperate preachers looking for sermon material. Google searches like “sermon on love” and “sermon on finances” somehow ditch people at our blog. However the best one yet happened today when someone did a Google search for “what does soul patch mean?” I have no idea why they were brought here but it is certainly an indication to me that expository preaching is more hip than I thought. Peace out yo!

Preachers listening to preachers

Those who regularly preach should have a reading program that fits their schedule and exposes them to an array of serious exegetical discussion, theological thought, and practical pastoral wisdom (just to name a few areas).

However, an expositor should also seek out a regular “sermon-listening” schedule as well. I can count on one hand the times I have been present in my church while someone else was preaching. Therefore I’m trying to incorporate a weekly pattern of listening to other men’s sermons so as to learn and have an extra “feeding” outside of my regular study. The benefits of this are enormous and should only serve to deepen our wells. The internet makes the possibilities endless and you can essentially listen to anyone from Lloyd-Jones to MacArthur or even the lesser-known pastors who are toiling faithfully under the radar of popularity. This week I’m listening to some of the Mullins lectures that have been delivered at SBTS over the last few years (listen here). John MacArthur is actually there again this week delivering this year’s series.

I would be interested to hear what some of your habits are in this regard and what you have found to be profitable.

Schaeffer and Scripture

Our church’s adult Sunday School class has begun a series through Francis Schaeffer’s video and book How Should We Then Live? For those in the class and others who may be interested, Reformation21 has posted a series of articles on Schaeffer that provide an excellent introduction to his life and thought.

Also , Mark Dever reflects on the use of Scripture in our church services. Quoting David Wells who writes:

“This Word of God is the means by which God accomplishes his saving work in his people, and this is a work that no evangelist and no preacher can do. This is why the dearth of serious, sustained biblical preaching in the Church today is a serious matter. When the Church loses the Word of God it loses the very means by which God does his work. In its absence, therefore, a script is being written, however unwittingly, for the Church’s undoing, not in one cataclysmic moment, but in a slow, inexorable slide made up of piece by tiny piece of daily dereliction.” David Wells, Above All Earthly Pow’rs (2005), p. 9.

Bleaching: when bloggers and preaching collide to make a mess

Reading blogs can be hazardous to your health. It is what we will call “bleaching.”
If you preach every week like I do then I will guess, like me, you are always thinking about your next sermon. It’s as if I’m constantly sifting through the minutia of the next text and how I will preach such wonderful truth through such an earthen means (2 Cor. 4:7). I also take note of how others preach because I’m not only a preacher but a student of preaching and therefore I have volumes to learn in this regard.

As I have read a few blogs about or by preachers this morning there are two issues in the forefront of my mind that cause me to tremble in my loafers. Both can be summarized by the axiom, “it’s not only important what you say but how you say it.” The inflicting wounds are from two different spectrums however both end in the same cesspool of unbiblical logic.

One perspective says, “Lord I thank you that I’m not like…” which is the mantra of the legalist who critiques everyone else’s theology yet trips over his own “system” all the while failing to deal with what Scripture actually says. I read one blog this morning that almost (unintentionally I’m sure) quoted Luke 18:11 verbatim in a positive light while waxing eloquent on things eschatological. It seems that some would rather turn the serious discipline of systematic theology into a sensational circus of caricature and ad hominem argumentation. This sort of thing may increase blog stats and gain the approval of the masses who fail to read Scripture for themselves but it’s not the sort of thing pastors should waste their precious time with. As a result, we pastors have fostered a generation of good theology book readers who can’t find their “good theology” in the only book that matters. Could this be because pastors have made their exegesis slaves to their theology?

At the other end of the spectrum are the self-titled “progressives” that would have you believe they have thrown off the shackles of conservative theology but have not yet jumped from the cliffs of theological liberalism. They are all the more “wise” because they are not bound to anything in particular and therefore remain, from their perspective, in the best position of fostering “conversation”. However, just try to question their logic and you will see the fangs come out. The phrase “TR” (a derisive term meaning “truly reformed”) will get thrown around like fur in a cat fight.

By way of example, I am amazed that some would take a Christian brother to task because he pointed out the fact that some preachers have failed to guard their language in the pulpit. When did we reach such a state of biblical ineptitude that we would think that the Apostle had his fingers crossed behind his back when he said things like, “we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by manifestation of truth….” or when Jesus said “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks”?

I have listened to what both sides have to say about this issue and the question that plagues me is this: why are good men wasting their time defending the use of vulgar language and coarse jesting in the pulpit? Do they really have such a low view of their congregation that the only way they can get them to swallow a vitamin is to wrap it in bacon? I have done my duty, I have listened, I have embraced “conversation” and yet I fail to see their point. So I close with this fitting reminder from Richard Baxter,

“You cannot break men’s hearts by jesting with them, or telling them a smooth tale, or pronouncing a gaudy oration. Men will not cast away their dearest pleasures at the drowsy request of one that seemth not to mean as he speaks, or to care much whether his request be granted or not. If you say that the work is God’s, and he may do it by the weakest means, I answer, It is true, he may do so; but yet his ordinary way is to work by means, and to make not only the matter that is preached, but also the manner of preaching instrumental to the work” (The Reformed Pastor, 149).

Evangelistic Preaching

This may sound like a basic question but how does evangelistic appeal factor-in to your sermons? This is not the same as asking someone to pray “a sinners prayer” or tacking Jesus on to the end of a sermon. I’m wanting to know how you preach Christ which I think speaks to 1) our understanding of the gospel, 2) our view of Scripture, and 3) our understanding of God’s overall redemptive plan.

I was recently listening to an interview that Tim Challies conducted with Mark Dever. He asked Dever what he thought of approaches like “The Way of the Master” which emphasize the preaching of the law as a way to lead people to Christ. Dever made the point that 1) there is no other way to preach the gospel and 2) you don’t have to go to the ten commandments to preach the perfections of the Triune God. God’s holiness can be seen from any corner of Scripture.

On a similar note, Gunner has an interesting post where Kirk Cameron paid a visit to his seminary evangelism/apologetics class. Also, Joe Thorn reminds us that Spurgeon addressed the issue of law and gospel many years ago.

Mohler on Preaching

Phil Ryken at Reformation21 highlights a recent article from Al Mohler on preaching (see Mohler’s article here).

The fall issue of Southern Seminary’s magazine opens with a manifesto from Al Mohler on “The State of Preaching Today.” In his indictment of contemporary trends, Mohler mentions five critical areas of concern:

1. A loss of confidence in the power of the Word.

2. An infatuation with technology.

3. An embarrassment before the biblical text.

4. An evacuation of biblical content.

5. An absence of the Gospel.

HT: Phil Ryken

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