Monday, May 17, 2010

Feed My Sheep- A Passionate Plea for Preaching****

Feed My Sheep- A Passionate Plea for Preaching, is a compilation of essays from various preachers. The book is published by Reformation Trust, a division of Ligonier Ministries.

The book includes essays on preaching from many prominent reformed preachers. The topics include The Primacy of Preaching by Al Mohler, Preaching to the Heart by Sinclair Ferguson, Preaching with Authority by Don Kistler, Preaching to Suffering People by John Piper, and A Reminder to Shepherds by John McArthur. There are also other essays, including chapters by RCs Sproul, Sr and Jr.

I highly recommend these essays for preachers. All the articles are excellent reminders of the purposes of preaching, before God, to the congregation and in the life of the minister.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Day God Made- Glen Knecht****

If you want a short, concise and convincing book on the power of the Lord's Day as the Christian Sabbath, then you should read Pastor Glen Knecht's book The Day God Made. He gives a clear and sound argument for the day as continuing into the New Covenant era. Furthermore, he points out the need for the day as a day of rest, delight, worship, instruction and works of mercy.

Many of our troubles can be traced to the contempt that most Christians today show for the Lord's Day. As one day in seven that is put aside and holy, consecrated to the Lord, we have a simple way to show our allegiance to our Father in Heaven and to restore our souls for the work that He has called us to do.

The neglect of the Lord's Day is both a symptom of our spiritual emptiness as well as a cause of our further decline. We need to repent and restore the day that the Lord has given to man.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Prodigal God- Timothy Keller****

Just finished The Prodigal God- Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer PCA Church in New York.

This was an excellent handling of the story of the two sons and the Prodigal Father. His telling of the story is very good and forces some important and very biblical paradigm changes.

God is lavish. The two brothers are both pursuing dead end courses. The Father goes out to both of them. One responds, the other rejects. While we tend to relate to the younger brother, much of the problem in our own midst and in our own churches is that we are in danger of being the older brother, the one who fails to respond to the Father. The younger brothers besetting sin is his bad deeds. The older brother's besetting sin is his good deeds. Which brother are you?

The answer is to turn to the true Elder Brother, the Lord Jesus, who fulfills His calling before the Father. He will find the profligate brother and bring him home. He will remind the cold elder brother that he must serve the Father out of love, not pursuing the self-righteousness of his own good deeds. Jesus, our true elder brother is eminently faithful. When we respond to Him in true gratitude for the great price of His serving us, we will find peace like a deep river.

Furthermore, we will be transformed by this kind of love so that our own profligate lives or our own self-righteous pride are annihilated in the deep, deep, love of Jesus. This is nothing less than walking in the New Creation, in our hearts first and in our lives and the lives around us in this world, thereafter.

Highly recommended book.

Communion Meditation- Jesus is Good

At this table, we are called to peace. Jesus has called us friends and has seated us for a special meal with Him. This should do wonders for our assurance of peace and salvation in Christ. But where does your assurance lie? I hope that no one gathered here is assured of peace and friendship with Christ based upon how well you are doing. You should not feel blessed at this table because the Lord has thought so highly of you that He invited you here.

It is not because you are so great that you are here. If you think that, then you need to be humbled. But for those of you who are weak of conscience and feel as if you are too bad to be here, there is a message of peace and hope for you. Jesus knows you. He knows what you think. He knows what you say. He knows what you do. He knows you even better than you know yourself. He knows your good deeds and He knows your many failings.

So, being at peace here is not a matter of how good you are but of how good Jesus is. He has not only invited you here. He has given you new clothes through forgiveness of sin. He has cleansed you with the fire of His Holy Spirit. He has given you a soft heart of flesh in place of a hard heart of stone. He has been very good. There is nothing that you can do to match His goodness, so your only faithful response is to simply and exuberantly give thanks.

Pluck Out Your Eyes

How do we pluck out our eyes or chop off our hands or feet? Could we even do such a thing? Why would we want to? After all, we need our eyes. We need our hands. We need our feet. But Jesus is talking about those sins that stumble you, that keep you from pressing on in obedience with Him.

We are Christians and we say that we hate sin. But the fact is, we really love some of our sins. Are you in battle against those things that keep you from adequately loving Jesus? Or have you embraced them and are you unwilling to let them go? Could you be like one of C.S. Lewis’s characters in The Great Divorce that chooses your pet sin and hell rather than choosing to repent and go to heaven? Be honest now. What keeps you from really repenting, turning away, letting go? What causes you to stumble? Is it the comfortable desire of your body? The sensual desire of your eyes? The irrational desire of accumulation?

Learn to hate every unlawful desire that competes with your love for Jesus. Turn away now, kill it, don’t look back and press on to the higher calling in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sackett's Land- Louis L'Amour***

Stupid is as Stupid Says. Guess I didn't know any better. Like Peter, I didn't know what to say, so I spoke. Live and learn.

I just finished my first Louis L'Amour book. I think I had read a few pages in the past but never stuck with a book. I had always thought L'Amour was dime store novels of the Old American West and perhaps some of his books are just that. I should not have pronounced on a topic of which I knew little, if anything.

But I found this first of the Sackett series quite good. L'Amour is a good writer, go figure, he's only sold about 300 million books! He has obviously done a great deal of research and so there is good historical data to be gleaned from these adventure stories, as well.

I needed some true leisure reading and found this just the ticket. I am currently reading the next book in the series. It is a bit long and wordy but I am still finding it enjoyable. In my small experience with L'Amour, he likes his men to be men and in mostly the right sort of ways. I find that a welcome remedy to our effeminate minded modern culture.

The Mystery of the Lord's Supper-Robert Bruce****

The Mystery of the Lord's Supper by Robert Bruce is an excellent presentation of various aspects of the Lord's Supper.

There is a fair amount of emphasis on self-examination but it is not too introspective. He presents a good balance of simply heeding God's promises, recalling your own good experiences with God, and living in real assurance of God's goodness. While self-examination ought to occur in order that we honestly confess our sins before the Lord, there is a perverse introspection that will never see God's grace in our own fallen heart. So, we must strike a healthy and biblical balance. I think Bruce does that quite well.

The final chapter is quite good in this regard although he makes a great blunder in the end. He says that a child or a mad man cannot examine themselves, therefore they should not partake of the Lord's Supper. To which I respond, if a child or mad man is baptized and is seeking Christ, confessing sins, or not outwardly rebellious, then the Lord's Supper is just what the mad man needs to restore his sanity and what the child needs to grow in maturity.

Otherwise, though, a sound book and recommended.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Communion Meditation- Eat, Drink, Digest

We enjoy food long before it gives us nourishment.  We see it and it is a delight to the eyes. We smell it cooking and it wets the appetite.  We may even hear it, think of bacon cooking, or enjoy the texture as you peel an orange.  Finally, we taste it. We can do this with little or no nourishment. You can simply put something savory on your tongue.  Or you can chew food, receiving some of the pleasure, then spit it out, receiving little or no benefit.  In order to receive the nourishment of the food, we must take, eat, take, drink, chew, swallow, digest.   

Many people see Christ in some measure of belief.  They hear the Word of God and assent to the truth. They may taste of His benefits in the church. They may feel the love of the saints.  They may even sense the sweet aroma of the bread of God’s people.  Yet, they never really partake. They do not eat the Word of God.  It does not enter them in a meaningful or saving way, giving life and health to their body and soul.  

So, we come to this meal of thanksgiving. Let us take and eat in faith, not simply eating bread and wine, but by faith, laying hold of the Word of God, chewing on it and being transformed by its power.  Let us not simply look with approval from a distance but rather, being seated at the table of the Lord, let us be fed and nourished by His life-giving food.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Caught by My Daughter

In my sermon on Mark 9, I spent a great deal of time and preaching zeal on Mark 9:40, "for the one who is not against us is for us."

My 13 year old daughter is reading Martin Luther's The Bondage of the Will. In it, Luther lays hard claim to Matthew 12:30, "He that is not with me is against me."

What are we to make of these two sayings of Jesus?  Clearly, the statement, "He who is not against us, is for us," is a much milder statement than, "He that is not with me is against me."

The context is the key. In Mark 9, a man is casting out devils in the name of Jesus. Since it is working, we should assume that he is actually working by the power of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit.  The disciples want the man to stop because he is not expressly following or traveling with them.  Jesus says that anyone who does a miracle in his name will not then lightly speak evil of him and that the one who is not expressly against us is for us.

In Matthew, Jesus had been doing miracles, casting out demons. The Pharisees claimed that He did this work by the power of Beelzebub.  They had already declared against Jesus. In that situation, Jesus says that he who is not for us is against us.  The Pharisees had already made their position clear, they were opposed to Christ.

So, the difference in the two passages is clear. The Matthew passage is for those that have declared open hostility to Christ. The Mark passage is for those brothers and sisters that are working in the name of Jesus but are clearly not completely with us.  The former are to be rejected and judged. The latter need to be received and taught.