Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The God Delusion Reviewed

Alvin Plantiga is a very well respected Christian philosopher at Notre Dame. He is the author of the excellent book "Warrented Christian Theism". In the most recent issue of Books & Culture, Plantiga reviews Richard Dawkins book "The God Delusion". Find his review here.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Tales from the Living Room Floor

Click here to read a very exciting birth story that recently happened to some friends of mine in Scotland.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Back from Orlando

Mindy and I have spent Monday night through Thursday afternoon in Orlando, Florida meeting with a group of pastors and their wives. We got home last night around 9 very mentally, emotionally and spiritually stimulated but physically exhausted. We met from about 8am till 10pm every day, with only a little 5 min potty break here and there. Our time was filled with VERY intense conversations over very weighty topics. It was a great, great time, but we are very glad to be home. Today I'm going to spend some time capturing on paper many of the high points of our discussions and thinking through how to incorporate the lessons learned into my own life, as well as devoting all of these thoughts to the Lord in prayer. We read "The Leader's Journey" and "The Peacemaking Pastor" before attending this summit. We're now going to read "The Emotionally Healthy Church" and "The Emotionally Healthy Spiritual Life" before our next gathering this July. But for now, we're glad to be back!

Monday, February 19, 2007

William Wilberforce the Movie

Get ready to go see a wide-release movie about the life of one of the heroes of the faith, William Wilberforce. The movie is called "Amazing Grace" and opens Feb 23rd, staring Ioan Gruffudd and Albert Finney. The movie is made by Walen Media, who also brought us "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". Wilberforce, as you know, was a committed Christian and British MP who fought for over 20 years to abolish the slave trade in England. It is a beautiful portrait of a man who knew his calling and persevered faithfully in following the Lord's calling upon his life year after year.
Here is a review of the movie.
Here is the wiki article on his life.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Bruce Metzger 1914-2007

Bruce Metzger, authority on biblical manuscripts, dies at 93

February 14, 2007, 2:04 PM EST

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Bruce Manning Metzger, professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary and an authority on Greek manuscripts of the Bible, has died at age 93.

Metzger, who was born in Middletown, Pa., died Tuesday of natural causes, according to The Mather-Hodge Funeral Home Princeton.

At the time of his death, he was the George L. Collord Professor Emeritus of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary.

The son of Maurice and Anna Metzger, he earned a bachelor's degree from Lebanon Valley College in 1935, a bachelor of theology degree from Princeton Seminary in 1938 and a doctorate in classics from Princeton University in 1942. He became an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church in 1939.

Metzger began his teaching career at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1938, where he stayed in the New Testament department for 46 years. During his time at the seminary, Metzger developed 25 courses on the English and Greek texts of books in the New Testament.

He was also involved with committees in the production of three new editions of the Scriptures: the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (1966), the Reader's Digest condensed Bible (1982) and the New Revised Standard Version (1990).

In 1986, Metzger was elected to the American Philosophical Society in the class devoted to the Humanities and in 1994 he was awarded the F.C. Burkitt Medal by the British Academy for his contributions to biblical studies.

Metzger is survived by his wife of 62 years, Isobel Mackay Metzger, two sons and a sister. A memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 20, in Princeton.

5 audio lectures on John Owen by Carl Trueman

If you want an introduction to John Owen's theology, here is a series of five lectures by Carl Trueman (WTS church history Prof) on Owen:

Also, follow this link.

Richard Muller's "Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics"

The second edition of Muller's four volume "Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics" is gaining much praise within the reformed community. Originally published in 1987, this (apprently) ground-breaking study explains and defends post-Calvinian Reformed orthodoxy, which is often referred to as "reformed scholasticism", which is not usually a very complimentary term. Muller's work shows us how much we really don't understand this era of theological reflection (ca. 1520-1725). Muller very effectively debunks many myths concering reformed scholasticism. Muller's work makes it much easier to see why Charles Hodge and Old Princeton routinely required Francis Turretin and other such reformed scholastics. (I found the discussion of theological method in volume 1 alone very interesting.) My interest in the theology of this era was piqued a few years ago when I read in George Marsden's biogrpahy a comment that Jonathan Edwards made concerning Peter van Mastricht. Edwards praised van Mastricht as one of the very best theologians, even superior to Turretin. He would have his students read van Mastricht above all others. I immediately began to search for volumes by him, but found that he originally wrote in Latin, and then it was translated into Dutch, but that there has been no English translation of his works to date. The only work of van Mastricht to be translated into English that I could find is "A Treatise on Regeneration" published by Soli Deo Gloria. So be aware of Muller's work. There are entire vistas of sweeping theological thought that are barred to us simply because we know English, but not Latin or Dutch. If you have any interest in reading Muller (and I would recommend reading Herman Bavinck or John Owen first), then a good place to start is this overview of his four volume work:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Carl Sagan's lectures on science & religion

Carl Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, has collected his lectures on science and religion, given in Glasgow in 1985, and retitled them (with a nod to William James) "The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God." I supposed that Sagan can be considered a generational precusor to the shrill, overrated Richard Dawkins ("The God Delusion"). These lectures support that POV which says that "religion is bad", particularly in its "fundamentalist" form (see also Sam Harris' "Letters to a Christian Nation"). It seems that the pejorative term "fundamentalist" is applied to anyone who believes in revealed truth (which is particular, exlusive truth) concerning what lies beyond the metaphysical veil. I have to admit that I've never thought of myself as a "fundamentalist", just an orthodox Christian who confesses the historic, biblical Christian faith. And I certainly have never thought of myself as being part of the same cloth as Islamic terrorism. I cannot see how a snapshot of my life and a snapshot of the life of a member of al Qaeda would in any way overlap. The fruit of our lives is different, to say the least. The claim is absurd. But nonetheless it is made. The same folly is repackaged generation after generation with an academic gloss. And people go on surpressing the knowledge of the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1). Read the New York Times article on the Sagan/Druyan book here: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/13/science/13carl.html?pagewanted=1&8dpc&_r=2

Monday, February 12, 2007

Al Groves' letter to us...

Read the letter that Al Groves wrote to those attending his memorial service.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Flossing as an Act of Hope

As my readers know, our friend and teacher Al Groves had his grand "homegoing" to heaven this week. I wanted to post this blog entry he wrote 11 months ago, just about a month after the doctors told him that his case was terminal. I am moved by the picture of remaining faithful in the little tasks of life as an expression of a living hope in Christ. My own life is filled with so many things I'd rather not do, but part of following Jesus is doing them anyway (and, with God's help, doing them with excellence!) because it's not about me. It's about Jesus. May God give me grace to keep flossing all the way to the end!
Anyway, here is what Al wrote back in March of last year:

03.16.06 Flossing as an Act of Hope

Like many of the rest of you, I have been flossing my teeth for years, more years than I can count, it seems! Notwithstanding flossing every night, I still never managed to make it a habit, because I simply never really enjoyed flossing. Perhaps it's because I try to do it last thing of the day, at a time when I'm usually tired. Who knows? Not surprisingly, any excuse that made flossing a pass for the evening, and I was all over it. Most of the time however, I had no excuse, so I dutifully flossed.

Lately it crossed my mind that flossing my teeth may not matter any more. If I'm dying, what's the point? My teeth are in good shape (one of God's providential blessings in my life is that I have never had a cavity.) Just think: going to bed without any pre-bedtime rigmarole. Bliss. But somehow I just couldn't do it. And it wasn't the guilt of abandoned habit or improper hygiene crying out to my conscience. Rather, I realized that I would be caving in (in a small way) to hopelessness. Flossing your teeth is hardly earth-shaking. But somehow, it felt like giving up. I don't know what God is going to do with this cancer. So many people are praying for me/us. God might choose to extend my life, even bring me healing for years to come. I have not given up hope, and I'm not going to start a slide down the slippery slope.

Guess what? Each night flossing my teeth has become an act of faith and hope! At least one point in every day I am reminded that until I draw my final breath, God is my hope. And he can do as he alone is able.

In truth, I still sometimes feel the bother of flossing on the occasional late night, but each time I come to that moment of flossing, I am reminded that I want to live and that God is a God in whose faithfulness I can trust. He may choose not to heal me, but my choice is to hope in Him. If I die, my hope is in his resurrection. If I live, my hope is in Christ as well.

And this has applied across the board in my day-to-day life. What joy the little things in life have become. I might even learn that taking out the garbage is blessing. Okay. That's a bit much for now.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Evangelism and Small Groups

Mindy and I went to small group tonight and had a great time. The conversation around Acts 3 was particularly stimulating. Lots of folks had great insights.
Our small group leader tonight did a wonderfully simple thing. As each of us went around the circle to share prayer requests, he asked us to include the first names of one or two people we know who do not "obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:8, 1 Peter 4:17). In this way, we were all encouraged to remember those in our lives who are spiritually lost and under God's wrath (Romans 1:18, Ephesians 2:3). It is a way of holding ourselves accountable to pray for and find ways to share the good news of Jesus with the lost. And it also employed at that very moment the most powerful evangelistic weapon ever invented: prayer. A very simple idea. But one worth replicating dozens and dozens of times in our small groups, homes, quiet times, and lives.

How You Prepare to Preach

Another great post from Colin Adams on how one pastor prepares his sermons. It certainly reminds us all that sermon preparation is hard work.

New York, Sam Brownback, and Rudy Guiliani

Peggy Noonan on New York as the center of the political map in 2008 (Guilian vs. Clinton?): http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/pnoonan/
John Armstrong reflects on how well a Christian candidate for President (Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback) reflects godly values when he is strongly pro-life but rarely goes to work on the Hill when Congress is in session: http://johnharmstrong.typepad.com/john_h_armstrong_/2007/02/if_you_want_to_.html
Guiliani's strategy with evangelical voters: http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1587264,00.html

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Time Mag: A Calvinist Faces Death

Al Mohler, a reformed Baptist, had a recent brush with death. To my surprise, Time Magazine interviewed him about his experience. To my even greater surprise, Time entitled the article "A Calvinist Faces Death". I've included the introduction to the article below. It speaks about how calvinism is making a comeback among younger evangelicals. Check it out. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1583921,00.

After roughly 200 years of decline, Calvinism, the faith of the Puritans, has made a modest comeback among younger Evangelical Christians. One of the movement's potent mentors is Albert Mohler, the influential, telegenic head of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who made waves last June when he critiqued the religious claims of presidential contender Barack Obama in an essay called Secularism With A Smile.

Mohler, a Calvinist, went into the hospital in December for a fairly routine stomach operation and suddenly developed pulmonary embolisms, a frequently fatal form of clotting, in both lungs. After emergency surgery and four days in the Intensive Care unit, he made a complete recovery. David Van Biema asked him whether his crisis could illuminate his brand of faith.

Death by Ministry?

Here is a very sobering article by Mark Discoll in Seattle on "Death by Ministry?"It points out many of the dangers associated with full time ministry. I think these dangers are very real and they call us to keep our hearts open and fresh with both the Lord and one another. http://theresurgence.com/mdblog_2006-05-24_death_by_ministry

Monday, February 5, 2007

Al Groves, 54, went to be with the Lord tonight

In Memoriam, Professor J. Alan Groves

J. Alan Groves (b. December 17, 1952) met his Savior face to face on February 5 at the age of 54. He is survived by his wife of 28 years, Elizabeth W. Davis Groves; by his four children, Alasdair and wife Lauren, Rebeckah, Eowyn, and Alden. Born in 1952, Al received his B.A. in 1975 and B.E. in 1976 from Dartmouth College, and an M.A.R. in 1981 and a Th.M. in 1983 from Westminster Theological Seminary. He also pursued graduate studies at Dropsie College of Hebrew and Cognate Learning and was a Ph.D. candidate at Vrije Universiteit, working on a doctoral thesis entitled “A Textlinguistic Analysis of Exodus 1-14.” He was a ruling elder at New Life Presbyterian Church (PCA), Glenside, Pennsylvania.

A wonderfully honest and tender blog has been kept these past 13 months. www.algroves.info is well worth reading to improve your hope of heaven.

What Ever Happened to Discipleship?

S. Michael Craven offers up a particularly good "Truth in Culture" weekly today on the loss of discipleship in the church. Below is a teaser. Check it out.
The “modern” idea of church, or ecclesiology, it seems is that the church exists as a venue to “attract” the lost through dynamic programs, performances and events – the more dynamic the better. What one pastor friend of mine referred to as “theo-tainment.” The problem with this approach exclusively is that a disproportionate amount of the church’s time and resources go into these efforts at the expense of discipleship and training the already saved. The result is the proverbial church that “is a mile wide and inch deep.” Yes the church grows in numbers but rarely in spiritual maturity and the witness of the Church is often rendered lackluster.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Pray for the family of Al Groves

Pray for my friend and former OT professor Al Groves who will soon be with Jesus. Take a minute to read a blog that is filled with the hope of heaven. http://www.algroves.info/

9Marks: Elders in the Church

The Feb 2007 issue of the 9Marks newsletter address the issue of elders in the church.
Here is Jonathan Leeman's summary of this month's issue:
This issue of 9News and the next are devoted to the topic of elders. This month, we asked a number of thoughtful pastors like John MacArthur, Alexander Strauch, Tom Schreiner, Sinclair Ferguson, and others what lessons they had learned in selecting men as elders. Mark Dever and Paul Alexander offer their collective thoughts on finding the right men. Justin Taylor and Matt Schmucker reflect—exegetically and practically—on whether unbelief in an elder’s children disqualifies him. And Burk Parsons and Benjamin Merkle discuss, respectively, nominating and ordaining elders.

Watch for these articles in the March issue on training and working as an elder:

  • Four Lessons in Shepherding, by Paul Alexander
  • How Ligon Trains His Men
  • Bill Mounce and Seminary Smarties
  • Thabiti Anyabwile on the Ninth Mark of Healthy Church
  • Disagreements and Differences Among Elders, by Matt Schmucker
  • What the Capitol Hill Baptist Church Elders Who Aren’t Mark Dever Say Is Essential for Eldering!

35 cent coffee beats out $3.50 coffee

Here is a painful blow to yuppies everywhere: McDonald's coffee beats Starbucks.

Resources for your quiet time - part 1

Spiritual growth is impossible apart from the reading of Scripture (combined with Spirit-enabled faith & obedience) and the practice of prayer. As central as these twin disciplines of prayer & Scripture are to our spiritual life, most Christ-followers are frustrated by hit-and-miss approaches to both. Some respond to this by giving up altogether. Others turn to devotional literature (Max Lucado, Oswald Chambers, or Charles Spurgeon) as a replacement for (rather than as a supplement to) God's appointed means of grace. Others continue on diligently and faithfully with prayer & Scripture, but find it unsatisfying, routine and even boring.

One typical problem with Scripture reading is that a thorough reading of the whole counsel of God is found to be too difficult, so many resort to turning randomly to various passages for a quiet time. The problem with this is two-fold: first, they often turn to the same limited set of Scriptures over and over and thereby, second, fail to grasp God's entire message to His people.

Typical problems in prayer include both too much structure and too little structure. Those who have too much structure in the prayer (only praying pre-written prayers) tend to not engage their own hearts honestly before the Lord, but fall into rote or impersonal forms of praying. Those who have too little structure in their prayers tend to fall into another kind of rote prayer, only praying what comes to their minds at the time. By nature, our minds gravitate back to the same themes over and over again. Structure in prayer has the benefit of forcing us into areas of prayer where we might not venture on our own. The right balance of form and freedom in prayer can be both empowering and liberating.

I want to share with you some resources that have helped me maintain that balance of form and freedom, and have also given me much fodder my thinking and praying.

1. A Bible reading plan. Mindy and I are currently reading the Bible together using Robert Murray M'Cheyne's famous plan. A Scottish Presbyterian minister, he died at the age of only 29, but many come to faith in Christ through his powerful preaching ministry. With the M'Cheyne plan, you read through the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice in a year. It comes out to about four chapters a day, two in the morning and two in the evening. If this will be your first time to read through the Bible cover to cover, it is probably a good idea to use a good study Bible, so that you can keep the big picture in mind. If you are brand new to reading the Bible, you might find it helpful even to read Catherine Vos' Child's Story Bible - a wonderful overview of the whole Scriptures that is for older children and is chock full of great Christ-centered theology. A simply Bible reading plan is to read 1 chapter in both the OT and NT each day, plus one psalm. You can also obtain a one-year Bible with your readings laid out for you in a simple, straightforward way. Even an audio Bible on audio CD or MP3 is much better than nothing at all. Discipleship Journal also has a good Bible reading plan, as well as our church.

2. Valley of Vision. Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers is one book that every Christian should have in his/her library. A longtime friend of mine is now President of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. But when he was pastoring a large church in the metro D.C. area, he came to see me when I was a student at WTS. I took him to the campus bookstore and told him he needed to get this. He bought it and immediately fell in love with it. He told his congregation that every one of them needed to buy it and use it, no questions asked. His church bookstore subsequently sold about 800 copies. And he was right on target. In fact my friend went on to write his own book on prayer, Interludes, which is quite good and worth every penny. In Valley of Vision, you will find written prayers that are intensely personal, make much of sin and even more of Christ and His grace. These prayers will help sensitize you to the exceeding sinfulness of sin. They will also help stir your affections for God. Most often, I read one or two lines of a prayer, put the book down, and express those thoughts to the Lord in my own words. If you only have one devotional resource, make it this one!

3. The Trinity Hymnal. Most people think of their hymnal as something that belongs in the pew at church. But I believe that every household should have a good hymnal. Even if you are not musical, the words of the hymns are richly suggestive for your prayer life. The Trinity Hymnal has a very large section of hymns based on the Psalms. At TPC, we have been learning hymn no. 620, "O Lord, I Love You, My Shield, My Tower." The text is written by my late friend/acquaintance Ed Clowney and is based on Psalm 18. The music was adapted from a Saint-Saens symphony by Larry Rolf. It is a song beautiful in both text and music. There are many such hidden treasures in the Trinity Hymnal.

At the bottom of every page you will find some notations. In the lower right hand corner, you will find the name of the melody, such as Saint-Saens, Leominster, Jerusalem (Parry), or St. Anne. St. Anne is the melody for "O God, Our Help in Ages Past". In the back of the hymnal on page 893 you will find a list of hymns that use that particular melody. For example, no. 713, "Great King of Nations, Hear Our Prayer" also uses St. Anne. You will also find in the lower right hand corner the meter of the song. Some are common meter (C.M.), a few are short meter (S.M.), and many are long meter (L.M.). Others follow a more unique meter such as If you look on page 897 at the Meters Index, you will find a list of all the songs that can be used to sing that text. So if you find a hymn that you like, but are not familiar with the melody, then turn to the meter index and you may find another melody that you do know and that will fit the text. For example, hymn no. 134 is "God Will Take Care of You." I like the text, but I'm not familiar with the music. But if I look in the meter index, I find that C.M. ref. can also be song to "Shout On", which is the music for no. 281, "I Know That My Redeemer Lives - Glory, Hallelujah!" Since I do know that melody, I can then sing that melody to the text of "God Will Take Care of You." None of this is really necessary at all to use the hymnal for your own devotions, but I find that most people do not know how to fully utilize their hymnals. At a minimum, I think every pastor should be familiar with these resources. Of course, on the bottom left of every page, you will find the author of the text of the hymn.

Use the Trinity Hymnal in your devotions and in your family worship. Right now our children are learning "Praise to the Lord, The Almighty." It will continue to be our opening song for family worship each night for about another week, or until the kids really know it by heart. This equips them to participate fully in our worship at a younger age, as well as to know the rich theology expresses in these hymns.
Ok, we're going to take the kids to the park to play now. I'll post part 2 sometime soon.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

more TX snow

Mindy writes:

Well, yesterday we actually got substantially more snow than the wimpy amount we received the day before (it's still only about an inch, but hey! we'll take anything in Texas!) I couldn't even find mittens/gloves for Christopher at Walmart today (they already have spring stuff out), and we didn't last very long outside b/c we don't own snow suits or boots! So the kids' pants and socks got wet and uncomfortably cold after trying to make snow balls and draw pictures and letters in the snow. We have enough snow to make a miniature snowman...but it would probably take all of the snow in our yard! - so we settled for snow balls. Enjoy!

I couldn't get them to look up. It was so exciting for them to see their own footprints in the snow!

Finally they looked up:

Now we're getting ready for a wagon ride around the cul-de-sac:

Friday, February 2, 2007

Is the vision for personal evangelism starting to grow at Trinity?

On Wednesday night, I came up to the church to meet with our three WTS Texas seminary students for ministry training. There was a baby shower and choir rehearsal down the hall. Two women stopped me to say how wonderful and worshipful they thought Jeff's memorial service was on Tuesday. One said that there were lots of non-Christians there that she and her husband know from other walks of life. Then she said something that sent a jolt of pure joy through my heart! She said, "My husband and I are going to start following up with those people we know and put out some feelers with them to see if there is any interest in the gospel." Wow! This is exactly what I've been trying to encourage the congregation to do!!! Two weeks ago I preached on Jonah 1 and spoke about how the Lord had more compassion for the lost than did his prophet. Then the next Sunday Jim Bland, Coordinator to the PCA's Mission to North America, came and gave us two sermons on reaching the lost. Last Sunday we studied Romans 8:28 together in light of all the deaths recently in the church. But this Sunday I'll return again to Jonah 2 and continue the theme of turning our compassion for the lost into passion for evangelism. Evangelism cannot be done by a church program. It must be done in the every-day lives of ALL the members of a church. It must be in the DNA of the church. In the culture of the church. The feeling must be that "either we go find the lost and bring them in or else we die". Somehow we have to all gain the sense that reaching the lost with the good news is not a luxury ministry or a side effort or something only for the professional minister or the uniquely gifted. It must become an every member ministry. It must be richly personal. When that woman said that to me, I thought to myself, "Maybe it's really starting to catch on." I hope so. No, I pray so. And Lord give me the mercy and courage to lead by example in my own personal life.

A New, Extensive "ESV Study Bible" Coming Sept. 2008

Dr. Wayne Grudem has been appointed the General Editor for the new "ESV Study Bible", scheduled for publication in September, 2008. It will involve over 1,000,000 words of comments on the text of the Bible, written by over 70 specialist authors. Editing and supplementing those contributions will occupy his full time during the sabbatical.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Using OneNote for sermon preparation

I have been using Microsoft's OneNote for a few years now in my sermon prepartion process (along with Bibleworks). Today I came across a method that a missionary overseas uses to combine OneNote and Mindmapper to do all his teaching preparation, as well as ministry project planning. Here is a post for those who might be interested in learning more…

http://missionarygeek.blogspot.com/2007/01/putting-onenote-mindmanager-together.html and also http://blogs.msdn.com/descapa/default.aspx.

Texas Snow!

Mindy wrote:

Ok, all of you northerners can laugh if you want, but snow is a big event down here! As soon as we looked outside and realized that snow was falling from the sky, we had to bundle up the kids, get our camera and go outside. Granted, this is not the first time either kid has seen snow b/c we have been in PA with both kids in the wintertime before, and I think it snowed here on Valentine's Day 2004 when Christopher was nearly 1 year old. After being outside for a few minutes taking pictures, I realized how much colder it was and put Sarah's heavier coat and mittens on. Christopher wanted mittens too, but I realized that we don't even have mittens for him!! And the mittens Sarah had on were from last year (kind of small), but I think this is the first time she's ever worn them. Needless to say, there's just not a need for heavy winter-wear down here. So after all of that work of getting the kids bundled up and layered up, the snow stopped falling within a few minutes of being outside. -but it was still fun!