Archive for November, 2006

An update from the home office

December looks to be a slow blog month as this year comes to a close. January 1st will be our first anniversary at Expository Thoughts and I’m thankful that this blog has filled a small part of what some of us saw as a void in blogdom. Since that time numerous other blogs have started that share our dedication to all things “preaching and preachers.” In December of last year we wrote,

In a little over a week, we will launch what we hope will be a useful blog for preachers who are called to herald the Word of God. The discipline of preaching has taken on many forms these days (post-modern, seeker-friendly, purpose-driven, narrative-centered, afro-centric, feministic, and man-centered are just a few terms that are used to describe the current state of the pulpit).There are many problems with the state of modern preaching but we also believe there are many positive signs of biblical renewal going on behind the sacred desk. It is our goal to not only point out both but to contribute to the refinement and progression of expository preaching. We hope to show that true preaching must be what the old Scot called a mixture of “godliness” and “bauldness.”John Knox’s secretary,Richart Bannatyne, recorded the passing of the “Thundering Scot” with these stirring words:

“On this manner departed this man of God, the lycht of Scotland, the comfort of the kirk within the same, the mirror of godliness, and patrone and example of all true ministeris, in puritie of lyfe, soundness in doctrine, and bauldness in reproving of wickitness, and one that cared not the favor of men (how great soever they were), to reprove their abuses and synis. In him was sic a myghtie spreit of judgement and wisdome, that the truble never came to the kirk sen his entering in publict preiching but he foirsaw the end thereof, so that he was ever reddie a trew counsall and a faythfull to teich men that wald be taught to tak’ the best and leive the worst.”Stay tuned for more updates from “expository thoughts”. . .

We have a number of things on the front burner that we hope to pursue in early 2007. We will do a full-scale analysis of the recent rebirth of interest in the “biblical-theological” and “redemptive-historical” schools of preaching, seeking to identify helpful and not-so helpful aspects of both. Along these same lines I will host a forum-discussion on Sidney Greidanus’ Preaching Christ from the Old Testament. A popular feature over the last year has been our various interviews of current preachers. We have a few new interviews ready to go and some of a particular author that you’ll certainly not want to miss. We might even be able to awaken our band of contributors for their “annual” respective posts. Thank you for you patronage and your commitment to the preaching ministry whether you find yourself on the giving or receiving end of expository preaching. Preach the Word!

Learning and Teaching Theology

Outside of preaching every week I enjoy teaching theology the most. Some of the more rewarding times in ministry have been inside dingy classrooms in Russia or Romania teaching theology to hungry pastors. Throughout these experiences there were a few “events” that catapulted my understanding of theology in new and fresh ways.

1. When I was a senior in high school the little gem Knowing God fell into my hands. Through a long process, a few years later, this would lead me to finally read Calvin’s Institutes. I would subsequently learn that when most people said something about Calvin it would be glaringly obvious if they had never actually read him (much less understood him). This exercise was solidified over another two year period where I was able to read through his commentaries (yes, this was before marriage and children). Calvin is one, for all his foibles (both real or perceived) who I think actually got it. He was a theologian, he was a pastor, he was many things but his ministry was driven by the desire to expound the text. So what I saw in Calvin was a theologian but underneath it all was a consummate expositor.

2. When I was in college I plunged myself, for a while, into the writings of Karl Barth. I don’t have time or energy to explain why at this point but the experience sealed a number of things into my growth and understanding. One, Barth was a nimble mind and profound at amazing levels BUT his demythologizing was a constant hurdle upon which I would keep hitting my knees. In the end he left me hollow and without, what I now believe is, a biblical view of grace or Christ. This is one of the reasons why I put my head in my hands and pray when I read here or there that someone has “discovered” Barth. Turn back while you can.

3. A few years ago, I found in my favorite local second-hand book store, a set of G. C. Berkouwer’s Studies in Dogmatics. I knew that certain men (like R. C. Sproul while studying at Free University in Amsterdam) had been greatly influenced by his writings which were not made available in English until the 1960’s. Though Berkouwer would amend some of his earlier views his writings remained a benchmark of modern reformed theology. One finds in Berkouwer a sound answer to many of the newer “questions” that have been spewed forth yet again, albeit in a modern package. His chapter “The Motive of the Incarnation” in his The Work of Christ is a great place to start in light of recent discussions about justification and the atonement.

4. The release of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics in English (three volumes so far) was another welcome addition to my theological learning. Now that he is not confined to the Dutch I can read for myself what has remained merely inaccessible footnotes in some of the modern systematic theology works. I just learned today that there is an excellent review/overview of Dogmatics over at Reformation21 (see here). Also Ron Gleason has offered an excellent biographical overview of Bavinck’s life (see here). Gleason is writing a fuller biography of Bavinck which should fill a massive void in understanding the life and theology of this great Dutch theologian.

5. There are other factors in my theological learning which are probably just as profound, even more so than those I’ve listed here. Two things that readily come to mind are my seminary experiences at Master’s Seminary which were invaluable and my weekly preaching which constantly forces me to grind my theology in the mill of exegesis. However, one of the greatest developments for me was when I taught bibliology, theology proper and christology to our congregation over a year’s time. It deepened my understanding of the critical fact that theology belongs to the church. When theology falls into the hands of academics who lack a robust understanding of ecclesiology it is only a matter of time before the church is fed the crumbs of speculative thinking. That time of teaching theology in our congregation continues to bear fruit in the lives of the people and in my own life.

Richard Baxter famously wrote in his The Reformed Pastor, “nothing can be rightly known unless God be known.” It is for this reason that learning and teaching theology are crucial to the expositor and the church of Jesus Christ.

The Secret to Being Thankful

The Secret to Being Thankful
(Psalm 107:10-16)

Three Reminders on the Path to a Grateful Heart:

  1. The Misery of Your Sin (10-12)
  2. The Mercy of Your God (13)
  3. The Magnitude of Your Deliverance (14-16)

To the degree that you are consistently gripped by these realities, giving thanks isn’t something you’ll have to discipline yourself to do; it isn’t something you’ll have to conjure up out of a sense of obligation; and it isn’t something you’ll do reluctantly. Giving thanks will be the unstoppable cry of a heart that is enraptured by the lovingkindness of God and His wonders to the sons of men. Have a great Thanksgiving!

The world just got “LAMEYer” (now with pictures!)

See pictures here.

Margaret Ruth (Maggie) Lamey was born at 11:24 a.m. today to Julie and Paul Lamey. She weighed 7 pounds 9 ounces, 19 1/2 inches long, and bats right, throws right. Both Maggie and mom are doing great, thanks for your prayers.

Here’s where I am right now…

In honor of “His Phil-ness” I thought I would do a post on “where I am right now” (see background to this phenomenon here). This is what bloggers do when they have nothing really important to say so they make-up for it by giving you answers about their life that no one is asking about. I do think this provides a valuable service as Phil and others often introduce me to items I might have overlooked or was simply unaware of while some bloggers are just footnotes on why this can be a tricky endeavor. However, I thought I would eschew proper etiquette and tell you anyway that “this is where I am right now.”

I am here right now and might not be here for a while because my wife is about to give birth at any moment to my third offspring. If the prophesies of the doctor are correct then this one just might be a female which, for those keeping score, keeps the male population in our house at a slight majority with a 3-2 edge (I’m proud to say we have kept our majority without running any negative campaign ads). At any rate I could be hanging out at the local hospital real soon so I’m taking along my folder that is clearly labeled: “reading” (I know that’s a real original title). Here’s what’s in the folder:

So that’s where I am right now, where are you?

Learning from the Gipper’s Regret

One of my heroes in the realm of politics is Ronald Reagan. What many people don’t know about Reagan is that Nancy was not his first wife. Back in 1940, Reagan married an actress named Jane Wyman, and for several years they lived the glamorous life of a Hollywood couple. Then, in 1947, Reagan was elected president of the Screen Actor’s Guild where he became involved with union negotiations and began to resist underground communist organizations that were infiltrating the film industry. This marked the beginning of Reagan’s lifelong battle against communism.

According to historians, Reagan became so preoccupied with his fight against communism that his marriage suffered severely. He became emotionally detached and aloof and neglected his wife Jane to such an extent that eventually she divorced him. A short time after the divorce, a melancholy Reagan said something very profound: “Maybe I should have let someone else save the world and saved my own home.”

Why am I telling you this? Because I am convinced that many a pastor has looked back on his life with regret and said the same thing: Maybe I should have let someone else save the world and instead saved my own home. Maybe I should have let someone else grow the church and instead cultivated my own marriage. Maybe I should have let someone else shepherd the people of God and instead loved my own family.

Loving your family and leading the flock are not mutually exclusive, but failing at the former will disqualify you from the latter. I am a young pastor just starting out in ministry, and already I see the temptation to neglect my family. Already I see how easy it is to get caught up in the tyranny of the urgent at the expense of time with my wife and children. Being young, I don’t have all the answers about how to safeguard this precious priority. But I am convinced that part of the solution is found in reflecting on the profound regret that lies at the end of an unfaithful life and asking myself if I am already taking steps in that direction.

35 years of Preaching: Q & A

Here is my interview with Pastor Joe Flatt ( )

1. How long have you been involved in an expository preaching ministry?
I started in Yarmouth Iowa in Nov 1971 – was there for only 2+ yrs
2. How would you describe your preaching method and style?
Exegetical exposition
3. What/who were the biggest influences in your life regarding your commitment to biblical exposition?
Dr Ken Brown my undergraduate NT Greek prof at Baptist Bible College.
4. What is the most difficult aspect of verse by verse preaching (done over the long haul) that you’ve personally experienced?
Because of the expositor’s commitment to being faithful to the Scripture and thus being cautious about taking homiletic liberties, I have to work hard at avoiding a wooden final product – this was especially difficult for me in my early years.
5. What is the most rewarding part of an expository ministry?
I marvel that I am actually handling and communicating the very Word of God. I must never take this privilege/responsibility lightly.
5B. What are the advantages you’ve seen as you look back on 32 years of faithful Bible ministry at the same Church?
After a few years people realize that I don’t pull punches when dealing with the Scripture. They observe that I am honest with the text and that I don’t have an agenda that supersedes the Bible. This spills over into shepherding. As people have come to trust me in teaching the Word to them they conclude that they can also trust me in applying the Word to the stuff of their life even if it is unpleasant or they don’t like what they hear. Frankly, I see very little down side to longevity in ministry.
6. Can you describe for us a time when you approached a passage of Scripture and thought, “There’s really not a lot here;” only to find yourself blown away after you finished your exegetical study?
I’m not sure if your question accurately describes any one situation for me. However, I recall hesitating about the prospect of working through Christ’s genealogy in Mat 1 only to discover some gems as a result of wrestling with the text.
7. What was the most difficult text (or portion of Scripture) you’ve ever preached though?
Perhaps Psa 119 because the repetitious nature of the text required creativity without compromising the main message.; or Eccl. only because of the initial challenge in determining how to make sense of the pessimism or cynicism of the book.
8. Describe for us (if you can) the most challenging context in which you’ve been called on to preach?
Generally: without question it is funerals of those whom I believe were not converted but whose family believes the opposite. Specifically: the Sunday after an officer of our church publicly declared that I “was not fit for the pastorate”.
9. What role should the doctrines of grace have in the formation of an expository sermon?
None! This may sound way off for a guy committed to these great doctrines, or it even may sound arrogant. But I truly believe the preacher must go where the text leads him. Somehow I must avoid fitting the text into my theological system. I know none of us are purely objective and I know I am amazed at how often sovereign grace oozes out of passages, but I’d like to think I don’t intentionally twist texts so that I can trumpet TULIP.
10. What has been your favorite book of the Bible to preach through verse by verse? ALL
11. If you could only take one commentary series with you on an extended sabbatical which series of books would you take and why?
Do you know something about a proffered sabbatical I don’t? When I was away on active duty with the Army for a year I chose to take only the Bible Works for Windows software primarily because of portability issues.
12. What’s the most common error you see preachers making in the Church (universal) today?
Without doubt it is buying into the consumer marketing model of ministry. The pressure to be big or relevant is enormous. I personally think this fad is ending however it is presently being replaced by the emergent model which might be even more troublesome. Of course I think the more basic issue is a lack of commitment to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.
13. How did your D. Min studies at TEDS contribute to your preaching ministry?
I had been here about 17 or 18 years and realized I was growing a bit stagnant. I had always regretted not following through with my Th.M. plans when I was younger so I wondered if the discipline of formal education might reinvigorate me. It did.
14. What are some of the major preaching lessons you’ve learned along the way?
A few in no particular order might be…Expositional preaching is hard work. The busy pastor, especially the solo guy, must be willing to burn the midnight oil. Expositional preaching, even the good variety, may not always be popular. But so what? Some claimed expositional preaching is not. Good topical preaching is better than bad expositional preaching. Steaks are more palatable cooked and seasoned than raw and bloody. The hearer has responsibilities as well as the preacher.Please God, not men. At the end of he day if you don’t have his vote you loose.
15. What sort of preaching counsel would you give a young preacher who’s just starting out his expository ministry?
To the guy who is committed to expository preaching and already has the basic skills I’d say, “Be yourself. God doesn’t need two of anybody.”
16. Are their any final thoughts or words of wisdom you’d like to add?
Forgive my bluntness but…Hey stupid…It’s the Word, it’s the Word, it’s the Word.

The Faithful Pastor (Pt. 5)

     Which leads us to Mark # 8, The faithful pastor is passionate for lost souls.  The proof of this is reflected not only in his personal witness but also in the church budget. Does his church commit 10-20% of their budget to local and global outreach? Are the elders involved in the lives of there missionaries? You need to ask yourself this fundamental questions: Do I have a passion for the lost? Does my personal/private life confirm this reality? Paul exhorted Timothy, in 2 Timothy 4:5 to “do the work of an evangelist.”

In Romans 9:3 Paul’s “missional heart” is clearly revealed, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Such was Paul’s passion for the salvation of the Jews. He loved his own so deeply. This internal burning kept his evangelistic heart aflame.

Our Divine mandate is also found in Acts 1:8 (the Apostles commissioning), “…You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Pastors should be able to echo the words of George Whitefield, “Lord give me souls or take my soul!” They should have hearts like John Knox, “God, give me Scotland or I die!” The faithful pastor has a genuine passion for lost souls.

 Mark # 9, The faithful pastor relentlessly protects his flock.  In other words, the faithful shepherd is willing to expose all false teachers and eliminate any false doctrine that could potentially harm his flock. His church is aware of the Emerging Church movement, the New Perspective on Paul, and other dangerous aberrations.  Throughout the NT the apostles warned their people of false teachers (2 Tim 4:15, 2 John 7-11, 2 Peter 2, Jude 4, Phil. 3:1-2). Probably two of the most powerful examples of this are detailed in Titus 1:9-16 & Gal. 1. Can you find stronger language anywhere else in the New Testament? The loving shepherd’s staff has many different functions! Sometimes the pastor has to use his staff like Gandalf the grey (remember the wizard battle in the Lord of Rings between Gandalf and Saruman?). The shepherd’s staff is used as a weapon to ward off dangerous prey (to defend one’s sheep). The faithful pastor relentlessly protects his flock.

 Which brings us to our final mark tonight; the 10th Mark of a faithful pastor is this. Through good times and bad, the faithful pastor perseveres. In the language of Paul “he endures hardship.” The national average of pastors remaining in a ministry is currently 2.3 years! Isn’t that amazing? In our churches case that would mean we would have had 14 pastors in the time we’ve had one.
 Why is this average so low? There are lots of reasons why pastors don’t last in the ministry. Sometimes a man goes to a place where the people driven him out (can I get a witness in the congregation?). Other times the elder or deacon board is unqualified and ungodly (and thus ultimately pushes the man of God out). In some cases the pastor is not qualified or equipped to handle the challenges of the pastorate. No one would deny that ministry consists of highs and lows, mountains and valleys, and it is not for the faint-hearted. Many who start in FT ministry, quit well before they retire. In Acts 20:19, Paul said he served the Ephesians with tears and through trials.
 There are many occasions which can contribute to Pastoral depression. In 2 Cor 7:6, Paul wrote, “But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us.” The Corinthian church drove Paul down to the “pits of despair.” Many pastors, like C.H. Spurgeon, have wrestled with dark days of depression throughout their ministries. Did you know that ministers can also get Discouraged? Pastor R Kent Hughes notes, “Almost everything a pastor does, can be scrutinized by the church- selection of house, and cars, tastes in clothing, education of their children, choices of entertainment- to name just a few possibilities.” The “fishbowl syndrome” has given rise to some inside humor among ministers about The ‘Ideal Pastor’.
The Ideal Pastor:
Is always casual, but never underdressed-
Is warm and friendly, but not too familiar-
Is humorous, but not funny-
Calls on his members, but is never out of the office-
Is an expository preacher, but always preaches on the family-
Is profound, but comprehensible-
Condemns sin, but is always positive-
Has a family of ordinary people, who never sin-
Has two eyes- one brown and the other blue

Unrealistic expectations seem to just come with the territory. This list doesn’t even include the “Sanbalets” in ministry who always seem to be working against the will of God (Neh. 4).  Or the contentious “Diotrephes’ ”, who love to stir up strife (3 John 9). It seems that every pastor has a Sanbalet and a Diotrephes. It’s no wonder there are seasons when pastors are totally restless (2 Cor. 2:13).  Only seasoned pastors can really empathize with Paul’s testimony in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. One teacher paraphrases this text well, “We are squeezed but not squashed, bewildered but not befuddled, pursued but not abandoned, knocked down but not knocked out.” Such is the gospel-driven ministry; BUT The faithful pastor perseveres to the end. He realizes that he’s fighting the good fight and he’s running the true course. The faithful servant of God endures hardship and thus he fulfills his ministry! Through good times and bad, the faithful pastor perseveres.

WSJ on Sermon Plagiarism

The Wall Street Journal has a cover story on pastors who plagiarize their sermons entitled: “That Sermon You Heard on Sunday May Be From the Web”.

HT: Justin Taylor 

What God Values in a Pastor (Pt. 4)

We come now to mark # 5, The faithful pastor strengthens Christ’s church through male discipleship. This in response to 2 Tim 2:2. “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Wise pastors realize they are NOT immortal; they acknowledge life is but a vapor. Thus, they mentor and disciple other men (note 2 Tim 2). They are not only interested in this generation but the ones to come. Faithful pastors also realize they are NOT omnipresent. They can not be everywhere, all the time. This often is a source of pastoral frustration (I have so many people who need me at once). Thus they raise up other men to help lead and shepherd the flock. They duplicate themselves. In other words, every Paul has a Timothy and a Titus. By God’s design, men are called to lead (in the church & in there homes). The faithful pastor strengthens Christ’s church through male discipleship. I know many of you men could testify of how God has used Pastor Flatt to help strengthen your faith. Faithful pastors pour their time and resources into other faithful men (as SBTS says), “for the truth, for the family, for the church, for the glory of God.”

This 6th Mark is crucial: The Faithful pastor loves his sheep (Phil. 2:20; 1 Pet. 5:2; 1 Thess. 2:7-11). The faithful pastor is more than a great preacher; that may be his chief task, but it’s certainly not his only task. The faithful pastor is a loving shepherd (1 Peter 5:2). He’s deeply involved in the lives of his people: He marries your children, and buries your loved ones. He rejoices with you when you’re happy, & he counsels you when you’re hurting. He visits you in the hospital before those major surgeries & He calls on you after those newborn babies are delivered. He gently corrects you when you need admonishing & he prays with you when you need some loving. This is why the faithful pastor is likened to a nursing mother (in 1 Thess. 2:7) and a loving father (in 1 Thess. 2:11). Ministers, study the ministry model of Paul while he served the church in Thessalonica. Read Baxter’s “The Reformed Pastor.” The faithful pastor loves his sheep. For this blogs sake I will try and move quickly through these next marks.

The 7th mark of a faithful minister is this: The Faithful pastor is a warrior for the Truth (Phil. 1:16; Jude 3; 1 Tim 6:12). According to Jude 3 every Christian is suppose to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3); clearly pastors must lead the way! 1 Timothy 6:12 calls on ministers to, “Fight the good fight of the faith.” It would be ignorant to not admit the church is under assault and is involved in spiritual warfare. The gospel is constantly coming under fire from outside the church and from within it. There is nothing more precious to the church then the glorious gospel of God. Pastor’s can not go about their entire ministries tip toeing through the tulips in the spirit of Robert Schuller & Joel Osteen. Not when there’s an ongoing war going on against God’s revelation. Sometimes the faithful pastor puts on his battle armor, as he preserves this objective body of nonnegotiable truth.

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