Don’t Just Put the Cookies on the Bottom Shelf

If you are a parent of younger children then you make decisions every day about what they are exposed to. The concern is, of course, over influence. We know that certain things (movies, music, video games, friends, etc) are impactful. These outlets can shape they way they see and experience the world. Therefore we are intentionally selective about what they see.

Pastors do a similar thing in their preaching. They look at the context and culture of their church and decide what is best in terms of exposure. They set the preaching schedule, cadence, and style off of it. As a result one of the first things that gets shifted is the depth of the sermon. The pastor (with good motives, I’d assume) keeps the content at a relatively surface level for his people to keep up and tune in.

I believe that while this is helpful in parenting and counterproductive in preaching.

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Pastors: An Idea for your next Sermon Series

Preachers love to preach. We love to dive down deep, mining God’s Word for glorious, eternal treasures and then to swim back up to the service, sharing them with our church each week. But sometimes we get a little preacher’s cramp in so far as what to preach next. After preaching through Ezra and Nehemiah, I am thoroughly convinced that pastors, in particular church planting pastors, should prayerfully consider preaching through these books.

Here are some reasons…

New Beginnings: Ezra starts out with the people of God in Babylon. Within a verse or two God is strirring the heart of a pagan King (Cyrus) to send his people back to Israel to rebuild the temple and reestablish the covenant community. It is time for a new day. In particulur for a church plant this helps to show how God works in people and communities to build something new.

Idolatry: The books are repleat with examples of what idolatry is. Everywhere from the neglegence of the weak in Nehemiah 8 to the ignorance of the Sabbath in order to make wine in Nehemiah 13, God shows how the elevation of good things to ultimate things is actually a replacement of what is ultimate, namely the worship and adoration of the Lord God. This primes the pump for a crucial discussion on idolatry.

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The Measure of His Torment is the Measure of What We Deserved

Biblically faithful Christianity does not present itself as a nice religious structure that makes happier parents and well-ordered children and good taxpaying citizens. It may produce better parents and taxpaying citizens, but the issues at stake in biblical Christianity have to do with eternity: heaven and hell, matters of the utmost significance, your relationship to your Maker, what God has provided in Christ, what the cross is about, the resurrection.

At the end of the day, what hell measures is how much Christ paid for those who escape hell. The measure of his torment (in ways I do not pretend to begin to understand) as the God-man is the measure of torment that we deserve and he bore. And if you see that and believe it, you will find it difficult to contemplate the cross for very long without tears.

–D.A. Carson The God who is There (Amazon -  Westminster)

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Review- The Pastor as Scholar and The Scholar as Pastor

When I think about contemporary evangelical leaders and their impact on the church I can scarcely think of two more prominent figures than D.A. Carson and John Piper. Both have a multi-generational, expanding swath of reach. They seem to be getting better and stronger with age.

For me personally, I can sometimes hear these men over my shoulder banging the drum of the beauty and supremacy of Jesus and his gospel. I love that about them.

This is why it is always interesting to hear them talk. In this occassion they are talking about the roles of pastor and scholar. In particular the way the pastor should be a scholar and the scholar a pastor. The book here puts in print an evening with Carson and Piper following the 2009 Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago. I was in attendence that night and listened carefully as Drs Piper and Carson talked about their respective paths in ministry. It was encouraging, refreshing and interesting.

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Carson: Is there a central message throughout all 66 unique books of the Bible?

I love this video from Dr DA Carson. It is so helpful and clear. I praise God for men like this who help boneheads like me to be more clear.

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The Measure of His Torment is the Measure of What We Deserved

Biblically faithful Christianity does not present itself as a nice religious structure that makes happier parents and well-ordered children and good taxpaying citizens. It may produce better parents and taxpaying citizens, but the issues at stake in biblical Christianity have to do with eternity: heaven and hell, matters of the utmost significance, your relationship to your Maker, what God has provided in Christ, what the cross is about, the resurrection.

At the end of the day, what hell measures is how much Christ paid for those who escape hell. The measure of his torment (in ways I do not pretend to begin to understand) as the God-man is the measure of torment that we deserve and he bore. And if you see that and believe it, you will find it difficult to contemplate the cross for very long without tears.

–D.A. Carson The God who is There (Amazon -  Westminster)

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Retiring Irish Calvinist but Introducing ‘Ordinary Pastor’

Blogging is a strange thing. You write your thoughts down. Sometimes people read them. Sometimes people comment. Sometimes people email you. Over time, if you have struck a chord, you get some traction. More people are reading, commenting, linking, emailing, etc. The blog grows.

A LITTLE HISTORY
I was largely unaware of this whole process back in early 2006. My senior pastor and boss told me to write. So I did. He also told me to impact people with the gospel. And so I tried to. I would meet with guys and talk about what I was learning in the Scriptures. We would talk about the gospel and how we need to be more impressed with Jesus. I repeated myself often to these guys. They seemed to like it. So, in listening to Pat (my boss, mentor, & senior pastor) I wrote. My goal was to encourage these guys. I picked a funny moniker for the site, “Irish Calvinist”. This is funny because I am not from Ireland. I am from Massachusetts. In fact it is only my father’s side that is Irish (my mom is Polish—but, the jokes would be just too easy there).

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God’s Sovereignty Motivates Prayer

I was reading through D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation again yesterday and came across this gem. In the chapter he is wrestling with prayer and the sovereignty of God. He is so helpful in his clear headed reasoning. You end up wanting to pray.

The perverse and the unbeliever will appeal to God’s sovereignty to urge the futility of prayer in a determined universe; they will appeal to passages depicting God as a person (including those that speak of him relenting) to infer that he is weak, fickle, and impotent, once again concluding that it is useless to pray.

But the faithful will insist that, properly handled, both God’s sovereignty and his personhood become reasons for more prayer, not reasons for abandoning prayer.

It is worth praying to a sovereign God because he is free and can take action as he wills; it is worth praying to a personal God because he hears, responds, and acts on behalf of his people, not according to the blind rigidities of inexorable fate. — D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, p. 165

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Collected Writings on Scripture

The doctrine of the Scripture is one subject that will need to be defended, clarified, and reaffirmed in every generation. And this current generation is no different.

Thankfully we have many teachers who have devoted their entire lives to clarifying and defending the Scriptures. In our current generation D.A. Carson has been greatly used by God to this end. As a seminary professor, author, and pastor, Dr Carson has been a great gift to the church. And thankfully, he keeps on giving.

In a new book entitled Collected Writings on Scripture Carson has written a book that will no doubt help to strengthen believers in the orthodox understanding of the Bible. The book has two parts. First, Carson starts with the basics. He helps us to understand how to approach the Bible. He then moves onto survey the often murkey and confusing waters of scholarly debate centering on the Bible. He weighs in and interacts with the arguments and helps the reader better appreciate the nature, authority, and consistent interpretation of the Bible.

In the second half of the book Carson “presents critical reviews of nine books dealing with the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Carson’s reviews are serious works of scholarship, but are also accessibly written for those who are newer to the debates surrounding biblical inspiration and authority.” (from the introduction)

Who should read this book? Certainly scholars and pastors. It is really a gift in terms of cataloging the debate and replanting the orthodox flag in contemporary soil. But …

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The Heresy of Orthodoxy

This book is great so far. I am intrigued by the cultural chatter that I hear and read. And I am thankful that Kruger & Kostenbarger have worked hard to identify and interact with this increasingly prevalent argument against historic Christianity. Bart Ehrman and his ilk seem to be multiplying in our day.

In picking up this book, I read what I believe is the best book endorsement I have ever come across.

“In the beginning was Diversity. And the Diversity was with God, and the Diversity was God. Without Diversity was nothing made that was made. And it came to pass that nasty old ‘orthodox’ people narrowed down diversity and finally squeezed it out, dismissing it as heresy. But in the fullness of time (which is of course our time), Diversity rose up and smote orthodoxy hip and thigh. Now, praise be, the only heresy is orthodoxy. As widely and as unthinkingly accepted as this reconstruction is, it is historical nonsense: the emperor has no clothes. I am grateful to Andreas Köstenberger and Michael Kruger for patiently, carefully, and politely exposing this shameful nakedness for what it is.”

—D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

That is pretty much a walk off home run as far as endorsements go. If you are looking to learn more about and interact with this subject I recommend The Heresy of Orthodoxy. Amazon or Westminster Bookstore

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