Saturday, March 31, 2007

even "baptist" presidents get it wrong

although the title of this post may get readers expecting a "bush-whacking", the topic at hand is about former president jimmy carter with a cameo role by former president bill clinton.

i first heard of this a few months ago and it has recently come up again with carter's new book recently having been released.

here is the back story from the january 21 issue of the washington post:

Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton
are leading an effort to forge dozens of small and
medium-size, black and white Baptist organizations
into a robust coalition that would serve as a counterweight
to the conservative Southern Baptist Convention...

On Jan. 9 at the Carter Center in Atlanta, the two
ex-presidents brought together the heads of 40
Baptist denominations and organizations to launch
a year-long organizing effort that they hope will
climax with the celebration of a "New Baptist
Covenant" in early 2008. Clinton described himself
as just a "cheerleader" for the effort and declined to be

One of the main organizers, William D. Underwood,
president of Mercer University in Atlanta, said the
covenant's members will spend the coming months
identifying joint projects to undertake in international
aid, domestic poverty relief and missionary work.

"We're not against any other group
of people of faith," he said. "We're against the fact
that 100,000 people died last month of malaria.
We're against the fact that hundreds of
thousands of Africans face starvation each year

now, although i am a southern baptist, i am not so elitist as to think that the sbc is the only denomination containing god loving and obeying christians. i have friends, mentors, and heroes from various denominations including the general baptist, pcusa, pca, anglican, and non-denominational churches.

this to say, i do not feel threatened by a group of people coming together forming a new denomination.what i am wary of is the founding of a new denomination on principles contrary to, or other than scripture.

the quote above from organizer william underwood bothers me. he has made a false dichotomy between churches that care about meeting the physical needs of the people in the world and those who stand against the teachings of other faiths.

it is possible to stand against teachings contrary to scripture *and* reach out to the needy. one need not say " we are not for religious battles, we are for helping the needy." the gospel based church does both. in addition, one can be against what other "faiths" believe, and not be against "people". this language only serves to muddy the waters. i am sure mr. underwood would be against the beliefs of those who sacrifice babies in the name of their gods, but you would never know it from the way he worded his statement.

(for the record, for all of its faults, the southern baptist convention is one of the largest providers of disaster relief in the country. see here, here, and here)

but what about mr. carter? what are the beliefs that he feels so strongly are not represented by the southern baptist convention, the denomination of which both he and clinton were once members?

for starters, he has recently stated in an interview with (found here) that one need not accept christ to be saved. he bases his answers on a mind bending, smattering of out of context biblical references.

this ex- president, who many christians listen to and respect his word on christianity out rightly, who teaches sunday school, is *wrong* about the gospel.

so this is where the new baptist denomination is starting. i do not fear for the sbc because of numbers or competition. i fear for the soul's of those who follow any gospel based on something other than the gospel of jesus christ, no matter what the denomination.

mr. carter would do well to heed the words of the apostle paul to the church at galatia:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him
who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to
a different gospel-- not that there is another one, but there
are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of
Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach
to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let
him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again:
If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you
received, let him be accursed

[read al mohler's excellent coverage of this same interview here]

when heroes point you to christ

i began my short biographical series a few weeks ago with the words
"these men have been some of the most influential men i have never met."

john piper (who i wrote about here and here in the series) was at southern seminary this week.
(photos by timmy brister and andrew lindsey)


as one person described it, "a gospel bomb detonates at southern seminary"

he goes on to write:

Last week I mentioned reading George Whitefield’s
biography. I mentioned how, just before he died,
people were begging him to preach the gospel.
However, I failed to mention that this was not a
rare occurrence in Whitefield’s life. Often the people
who heard him preach begged for more. Begged.
And, when I think about that, my thought is usually,
“Did this really happen? Did people actually beg to hear
him preach again? It seems a bit far-fetched and fanatical.”
And as I sat today under the preaching of John Piper in
chapel, I thought to myself, “It’s not so far-fetched…not
so fanatical.” I knew that if he would have rattled on for
hours I would have sat there and soaked it all up

i couldn't agree more.

but it wasn't more "piper" i (or, im sure the author of the above) wanted, it was more of the glory of christ that he showed from scripture.

i greatly encourage you to listen to thursday's message here (tuesday's is available as well)
after the message on thursday, i sat in a state of wonder, awe, and humility at the glory and goodness of god.

because i sat for awhile, i was the last person to leave, so i was able to chat with dr. piper for a brief minute or two. i found him to be incredibly and authentically humble, warm, and inviting.

and shorter than i had thought.

in my own life, i am often wary of "man" worship, thinking more of the man than his message and the god who he represents.

however, it was refreshing to find that after i heard piper preach, that though i was blown away by his passion, his presentation, and his command with the scriptures, i walked away with a greater love for god and the wonder of the gospel.

on thursady i met john piper, but more importantly i grew closer to the one true god.

Friday, March 30, 2007

disgusting chocolate (why i refuse to eat "jesus")

A controversial planned exhibit of a milk chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ, dubbed "My Sweet Lord" by its creator, has been cancelled...
-fox news

as distasteful as this is (a chocalte sculpture of jesus crucified, anatomically correct with no loin cloth), i challenge everyone to to think about the obsurdity of buying and eating chocolate crosses, praying hands, and "mini-jesus'", all of which are on sale to fill easter baskets this week.

how on earth can we be serious about the worship of our holy, majestic god when we eat chocolate representations of him? it is repulsive, greivous, and utterly shameful.
i am not much of a chocolate person, but i am definately disgusted by this.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

watch your mouth, "homeboy"

We need to be reminded in our culture today, and even in our churches today,that God is not some cosmic cheerleader committed to your happiness and self-fulfillment... God is not your buddy. Jesus is not your homeboy. To call Him your homeboy is disrespectful and rude and indicates that you have not yet comprehended the greatness andthe glory of this One who died for you.
-danny akin, president of southeastern theological seminary

we do not read about isaiah or john, when they encounter god, greeting him with a high five or a pat on the back. instead they were struck with fear, awe, and humility. even the heavenly beings cover their faces in his presence.(isaiah 6:1-7; revelation 1:17)

what would our churches be like if the god we say we "worship" were held in the high esteem and reverance his word demands?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

martin luther

"Unless I am convinced by Scripture and
plain reason - I do not accept the authority
of the popes and councils, for they have
contradicted each other - my conscience
is captive to the Word of God. I cannot
and I will not recant anything for to go
against conscience is neither right nor
safe. God help me. Amen."
-martin luther
from the hall of church history:
Martin Luther dealt the symbolic blow that began the
Reformation when he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses
to the door of the Wittenberg Church. That document
contained an attack on papal abuses and the sale of
indulgences by church officials. But Luther himself
saw the Reformation as something far more important
than a revolt against ecclesiastical abuses. He believed it
was a fight for the gospel.

Luther even stated that he would have happily yielded every
point of dispute to the Pope, if only the Pope had affirmed the
gospel. And at the heart of the gospel, in Luther's estimation,
was the doctrine of justification by faith—the teaching that
Christ's own righteousness is imputed to those who believe,
and on that ground alone, they are accepted by God.

That doctrine, often called the Material Principle of the
Reformation, is what the apostle Paul taught as well:
"To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that
justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for
righteousness" (Rom. 4:5).

martin luther is probably my favorite of all of the men in history after the time of christ.
if you do not know his story, then i encourage you to. if you are a christian you *should* know his story. if you are not catholic, you *need* to know his story.

martin luther did not intend to alter the state of history or religion, but alter it he did.
convinced that many deeds done in the name of christ by the pope and the catholic church were
actually contrary to scripture, he did what, in his day, was unthinkable. he challenged the word of the religious authorities, and his actions sent shock waves throughout the religious, social, and political world.

i do not have the time or space to go into as much detail as i would like, but i will implore you to, if nothing else, spend two hours of your time watching this movie, which does a marvelous job of putting luther's life into a movie. you can purchase or rent it most anywhere.

luther's sermons and writings continue to have profound influences. his most popular work,"the bondage of the will" is widely known as one of the great works of the reformation, and is a standard recommendation even today. his hymn "a mighty fortress is our god" is sung each week by churches all over the world.

luther's bravery is what i appreciate about him the most. his actions resulted in his being kicked out of the church, though while corrupt had great social ramifications, and even his life being called for by religious and political leaders.

there are several aspects of luther's theology where i disagree, but for his love of the gospel, his love for scripture, and his honest intent of purity in the church, i regard him as a hero.

i recommend these resources to familiarize yourself with martin luther:

1.) the 2003 film, "luther"
i saw this in the theatre and bought it as soon as it came out on dvd. very historically
accurate and an entertaining and well done film. (aside from the "attractiveness"
of the actor portraying luther"!)

2.) martin luther: a guided tour of his life and thought- stephen j. nichols
an excellent introduction to luther and a very easy read.

3.) the bondage of the will
Acknowledged by theologians as one of the great masterpieces
of the Reformation, Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will was also
Luther’s favorite work. Luther responds to Desiderius Erasmus’
Diatribe on Free Will with the bluntness, genius, sarcasm, and
spirituality that were as much a part of his writing as they were
of his colorful personality. Luther writes lucidly on the themes of
man’s inability and God’s ability, man’s depravity and God’s
sovereignty. The crucial issue for Luther concerned what ability
free will has, and to what degree it is subject to God’s sovereignty.
Luther’s doctrine of salvation pivoted on this key issue. Is man able
to save himself, or is his salvation completely a work of divine grace?
This work will long remain among the great theological classics of
Christian history. Bondage of the Will was first published in 1525,
eight years after Luther penned his Ninety-Five Theses

4.) martin luther's basic theological writings (2nd ed.)
product description from c.b.d.:
Now in a new edition, with additional texts and a companion CD-ROM,
Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings provides a rich and judicious
selection of signal texts from, arguably, the most influential reformer of the
Christian tradition. With his most important writings represented here, this
volume takes the reader straight to Luther the man, to his controversial
insights, to his strongest convictions about God and Scripture and the life
of the church, and most valuably to his theology, which still offers an exciting
encounter with the meaning of Jesus Christ for each age. The second edition
also includes a CD-ROM with the fully searchable texts, links to other resources,
a short biography of Luther, a research paper guide, and a glossary.

Friday, March 23, 2007

john calvin

We see that our whole salvation
and all its parts are comprehended
in Christ. We should therefore take
care not to derive the least portion
of it from anywhere else. If we seek
salvation, we are taught by the very
name of Jesus that it is "of him". If we
seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they
will be found in his anointing. If we seek
strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity,
in his conception; if gentleness, it appears
in his birth. For by his birth he was made
like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain. If we seek
redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation;
if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if

purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into
[the grave]; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness
of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance
of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection,
if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom;

if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him
to judge.
In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let
us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.
-john calvin

from calvin college's website
Born July 10, 1509 in Noyon, France, Jean Calvin was raised
in a staunch Roman Catholic family. The local bishop employed
Calvin's father as an administrator in the town's cathedral. The
father, in turn, wanted John to become a priest. Because of close
ties with the bishop and his noble family, John's playmates and
classmates in Noyon (and later in Paris) were aristocratic and
culturally influential in his early life.

At the age of 14 Calvin went to Paris to study at the College
de Marche in preparation for university study. His studies
consisted of seven subjects: grammar, rhetoric, logic,
arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.

... [w]hile in Paris he changed his name to its Latin form,
Ioannis Calvinus, which in French became Jean Calvin.
During this time, Calvin's education was paid for in part
by income from a couple of small parishes. So although the
new theological teachings of individuals like Luther and
Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples were spreading throughout Paris,
Calvin was closely tied to the Roman Church.

However, by 1527 Calvin had developed friendships with
individuals who were reform-minded. These contacts set
the stage for Calvin's eventual switch to the Reformed faith.
Also, at this time Calvin's father advised him to study law
rather than theology.

By 1528 Calvin moved to Orleans to study civil law. The
following years found Calvin studying in various places and
under various scholars, as he received a humanist education.
By 1532 Calvin finished his law studies and also published his
first book, a commentary on De Clementia by the Roman
philosopher, Seneca. The following year Calvin fled Paris because
of contacts with individuals who through lectures and writings
opposed the Roman Catholic Church. It is thought that in 1533
Calvin experienced the sudden and unexpected conversion that
he writes about in his foreword to his commentary on the Psalms.

For the next three years, Calvin lived in various places outside
of France under various names. He studied on his own, preached,
and began work on his first edition of the Institutes—an instant best

By 1536 Calvin had disengaged himself from the Roman Catholic
Church and made plans to permanently leave France and go to
Strasbourg. However, war had broken out between Francis I and
Charles V, so Calvin decided to make a one-night detour to Geneva.

But Calvin's fame in Geneva preceded him. Farel, a local reformer,
invited him to stay in Geneva and threatened him with God's anger
if he did not. Thus began a long, difficult, yet ultimately fruitful
relationship with that city.

He began as a lecturer and preacher, but by 1538 was asked to
leave because of theological conflicts. He went to Strasbourg until
1541. His stay there as a pastor to French refugees was so peaceful
and happy that when in 1541 the Council of Geneva requested that he
return to Geneva, he was emotionally torn. He wanted to stay in
Strasbourg but felt a responsibility to return to Geneva. He did so and
remained in Geneva until his death May 27, 1564.
Those years were filled with lecturing, preaching, and the writing of
commentaries, treatises, and various editions of the Institutes of the
Christian Religion.

to many, john calvin is known by name and reputation. what that reputation is, depends on the person. to be sure, calvin's name carries with it a lot of baggage.

i will insert here my disclaimer that i do not agree with everything calvin did or taught. i do not agree with his views on baptism, or the role of the church in government. calvin was a man of much controversy in his own day, as he is in ours.

so why do i list him as a great influence?

well, mostly because his ideas and teachings have been greatly influential. calvin was wrong in some areas, but where he was right he was powerfully correct.

his commentaries on almost every book of the bible are still best seller's, as he was an excellent exegete of god's word. his systematic theology, institutes of the christian religion, is still considered a standard work of theology.

the so called "five points of calvinism", subject of much controversy, are actually a misnomer. calvin had been dead some fifty years before, at the synod of dort, the "five points" were formulated as orthodox teaching of the christian church to combat the remonstrance of the followers of jacobus arminius, whose ideas were declared by the church to be heretical.

so often, much venom is spewed at calvin's name based on an ignorance of history. while calvin was by no means perfect, the church owes a great debt to the life and ministry of this man.

i recommend the following: (click on titles for links)
  1. his 22 volume commentaries on the bible are expensive, but are well worth the read when studying scripture.
    from the publisher:
    A towering figure in the Reformation and prolific scholar
    and theologian, John Calvin authored not only his famous
    Institutes of the Christian Religion, but commentaries on
    twenty-four books of the Old Testament and all of the New
    Testament except for 2 and 3 John and Revelation. These
    classic commentaries continue to be valued exegetical reference
    works for pastors and serious students of the Bible today.
  2. institutes of the christian religion (abridged version)
    from the publisher:
    John Calvin's Institutes has established itself as
    "one of the most important theological works ever written,"
    writes Tony Lane. This abridged edition of the Institutes
    provides a readable and inexpensive sampler of Calvin's
    greatest work. Lane has condensed the 1559 edition, retaining
    the heart of Calvin's teaching on all his major themes. Hilary
    Osborne has put Henry Beveridge's translation "in simpler and
    more modern English." The result is "a selection from the Institutes
    which is manageable for the average modern reader, in terms of
    length and of intelligibility." Lane reminds us that Calvin designed
    the Institutes "to be a practical book .... He re- quires of all doctrine
    that it be scriptural and that it be useful for Christian living.
    " Specific topics discussed include: (1) The knowledge of God
    the Creator (2) The knowledge of God the Redeemer, in Christ
    (3) The way of obtaining the Grace of Christ (4) Outward means
    by which God helps us

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

jonathan edwards

They who truly come to God
for mercy,
come as beggars,
and not as creditors:

they come for mere mercy,
sovereign grace, and not
for anything
that is due.
- jonathan edwards


(b. Oct. 5, 1703, East Windsor, Conn. —d.
March 22, 1758, Princeton, N.J.),
"greatest theologian and philosopher of British
American Puritanism, stimulator of the religious
revival known as the "Great Awakening," and one of
the forerunners of the age of Protestant missionary
expansion in the 19th century.

"The greatest philosopher-theologian yet to grace the
American scene" (Perry Miller). After a precocious
childhood (before he was thirteen he had a good knowledge
of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and was writing papers on philosophy)
he entered Yale in 1716. It appears that it was during his
time at college that he "began to have a new kind of
apprehensions and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption,
and the glorious way of salvation by him."

After a short pastorate in New York, he was appointed a
tutor at Yale. In 1724 he became pastor of the church at
Northampton, Massachusetts, a colleague of his
grandfather Samuel Stoddard until the latter's death in 1729.

Under the influence of Edwards's powerful preaching,
the Great Awakening occurred in 1734-35, and a
geographically more extensive revival in 1740-41.
Edwards became a firm friend of George Whitefield,
then itinerating in America.

After various differences with prominent families
in his congregation, and a prolonged controversy
over the question of the admission of the unconverted
to the Lord's Supper, [edwards wanted to have believer's
only take the supper-stephen]he was dismissed as pastor in
1750 (though, curiously, still preached until a suitable replacement
could be found) and became, in 1751, pastor of the church in the
frontier town of Stockbridge, and a missionary to the Indians.

He was elected president of Princeton in 1757, but was reluctant
to accept because of his desire to continue writing. Finally yielding
to pressure, he was inaugurated in February 1758. One month later
he died of the effects of a smallpox injection...

Many of Edwards' important works were collected into a two-volume
set, available as a reprint from [Banner of Truth]. Yale University is now publishing Edwards' works and many are available. Some shorter works
are available from various publishers.


i was first introduced to jonathan edwards in my junior year of high school
when we read "sinner's in the hands of an angry god". it did not make much
of an impact to my 16 year old heart or mind.

through the years as i was reading more and was involved in more
disciplined study, edwards' name would come up in various places.
but when i began reading books and listening to sermons by john piper,
i took an interest in edwards himself.

almost ten years exactly from the time i first read "sinners in the hands of
an angry god", i took a class in seminary on edwards himself: his life, his
thought, his writings, and his ministry.

it was by far the most difficult reading i have ever done.

scholars who are antagonistic to edwards' religion nevertheless widely
recognize his intellectual might. yale university (hardly a hotbed of christianity)
has a department devoted entirely to the study and preservation of his works.

but what i did gain from reading works as "religious affections",
freedom of the will", "a history of the work of redemption" and many,
many sermons was well worth the effort.

edwards proves that one can be an intellectual and still have a rigorous faith.

if all you know of jonathan edwards is his sermon "sinners in the hands...", then you
owe it to yourself to know more. because out of context, it is nearly impossible to "get"
that sermon that was life changing for so many. read what john piper says of him in a
pastors conference address:

Most of us don't know the real Jonathan Edwards. We all
remember the high school English classes or American
History classes. The text books had a little section on
"The Puritans" or on "The Great Awakening."

And what did we read?

Well, my oldest son is in the 9th grade now and his American
History text book has one paragraph on the Great Awakening,
which begins with the sentence that goes something like this:

"The Great Awakening was a brief period of intense religious feeling
in the 1730's and '40's which caused many churches to split."

And for many text books, Edwards is no more than a gloomy
troubler of the churches in those days of Awakening fervor. So
what we get as a sample of latter-day Puritanism is an excerpt
from his sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."...

And so the kids are given the impression that Edwards was a
gloomy, sullen, morose, perhaps pathological misanthrope who
fell into grotesque religious speech the way some people fall into

But no high school kid is ever asked to wrestle with what Edwards
was wrestling with as a pastor. When you read "Sinners in the Hands
of an Angry God" (which you can do in the Banner of Truth two-
volume collection of his works), you see quickly that Edwards was not
falling into this kind of language by accident. He was laboring as a pastor
to communicate a reality that he saw in Scripture and that he believed
was infinitely important to his people.

And before any of us, especially us pastors, sniffs at Edwards'
imagery, we had better think long and hard what our own method
is for helping our people feel the weight of the reality of Revelation 19:15.
Edwards stands before this text with awe. He virtually gapes at what he
sees here. John writes in this verse,
"He [Christ] will tread the wine press of the fierceness
of the wrath of God the Almighty."

Listen to Edwards' comment in this sermon,

The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said,
"the wrath of God," the words would have implied that
which is infinitely dreadful:
but it is "the fierceness and wrath of God! The fierceness of
Jehovah! O how dreadful must that be! Who can utter or
conceive what such expressions carry in them?

What high school student is ever asked to come to grips with what
really is at issue here? If the Bible is true, and if it says that someday
Christ will tread his enemies like a winepress with anger that is fierce
and almighty, and if you are a pastor charged with applying Biblical
truth to your people so that they will flee the wrath to come, then what
would your language be? What would you say to make people feel the
reality of texts like these?

Edwards labored over language and over images and
metaphors because he was so stunned and awed at the
realities he saw in the Bible. Did you
hear that one line in the quote I just read:

"Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them?"

Edwards believed that it was impossible to exaggerate the horror of
the reality of hell.

High school teachers would do well to ask their students the really
probing question, "Why is it that Jonathan Edwards struggled to find
images for wrath and hell that shock and frighten, while contemporary
preachers try to find abstractions and circumlocutions that move away
from concrete, touchable Biblical pictures of unquenchable fire and
undying worms and gnashing of teeth?"

If our students were posed with this simple, historical question,
my guess is that some of the brighter ones would answer:

"Because Jonathan Edwards really believed in hell,
but most preachers today don't."

But no one has asked us to take Edwards seriously, and so most of
us don't know him. Most of us don't know that he knew his heaven
even better than his hell, and that his vision of glory was just as
appealing as his vision of judgment was repulsive.

Most of us don't know that he is considered now by secular and
evangelical historians alike to be the greatest Protestant thinker
America has ever produced. Scarcely has anything more insightful
been written on the problem of God's sovereignty and
man's accountability than his book, The Freedom of the Will.

Most of us don't know that he was not only God's kindling for
the Great Awakening, but also its most penetrating analyst and critic.
His book called the Religious Affections lays bare the soul with such
relentless care and Biblical honesty that, two hundred years later,
it still breaks the heart of the sensitive reader.

Most of us don't know that Edwards was driven by a great longing
to see the missionary task of the church completed. Who knows
whether Edwards has been more influential in his theological efforts
on the freedom of the will and the nature of true virtue and original
sin and the history of redemption, or whether he has been more
influential because of his great missionary zeal and his writing
The Life of David Brainerd.

Does any of us know what an incredible thing it is that this
man, who was a small-town pastor for 23 years in a church of
600 people, a missionary to Indians for 7 years, who reared
11 faithful children, who worked without the help of electric light,
or word-processors or quick correspondence, or even sufficient
paper to write on, who lived only until he was 54, and who
died with a library of 300 books – that this man led one of the
greatest awakenings of modern times, wrote theological books that
have ministered for 200 years and did more for the modern
missionary movement than anyone of his generation?

Mark Noll, who teaches history at Wheaton and has thought
much about the work of Edwards, describes the tragedy like this:

Since Edwards, American evangelicals have not
about life from the ground up as Christians because
entire culture has ceased to do so. Edwards's piety
on in the revivalist tradition, his theology continued
on in academic Calvinism, but there were no successors to his
God-entranced world-view or his profoundly theological
philosophy. The disappearance of Edwards's perspective
in American Christian history has been a tragedy.

(Quoted in "Jonathan Edwards, Moral Philosophy,
and the Secularization of American Christian Thought,"
Reformed Journal (February 1983):26.

i now include my disclaimer from previous "biographical" sketches about not agreeing
with everything any mere man writes or teaches, but that scripture is my sole authority....

the language in edwards writings is a bit difficult for the modern reader (along the lines
of a work by shakespeare), but the benefits of laboring through it can be life changing.

edwards most notable works are:(click for links)

  1. The Religious Affections
  2. The Freedom of the Will
  3. The End for Which God Created the World
    (this edition includes a helpful introduction by john piper)

these, along with many other writings and several sermons have been collected into
two volumes that represent a large part of edwards works. they can be found here.

john piper and justin taylor have edited a book of collected essays on the life of edwards that serves as an excellent introduction. it is titled " a god entranced vision of all things" (found here)

if nothing else, read the whole of piper's talk on edwards (here), his life, and ministry. if you really listen, you might be compelled to begin your own study into the writings of this man who loved his god with all of his mind...

Monday, March 19, 2007

r.c. sproul

after i had posted on spurgeon, my wife pointed out that i had not mentioned anything about r.c. sproul in these posts about pastors and authors who have had a large influence on me.

as usual, she sees the obvious that i am in too big of a hurry to notice.

i have since gone back, being the poster child for o.c.d. that i am, and added sproul to my original post entitled "names and faces". but here, i will elaborate on him and his ministry. (though it will be out of order, he should come after piper, but i cant change the order of posts already up)


Loving a holy God is beyond our
moral power.
The only kind of God we can love by
our sinful nature is an unholy god,
an idol made by our own hands.
Unless we are born of the Spirit of God,
unless God sheds His holy love in our hearts,
unless He stoops in His grace to change
our hearts, we will not love Him . . .
To love a holy God requires grace, grace
strong enough to pierce our hardened hearts
and awaken our moribound souls."
- R.C. Sproul

from ligonier ministries

Dr. Robert Charles Sproul was born in 1939 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
He is the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, which started as the Ligonier Valley Study Center in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, more than thirty years ago. In an effort to respond more effectively to the growing demand for Dr. Sproul’s teachings and Ligonier’s other educational resources, the general offices were moved to Orlando, Florida, in 1984, and the ministry was renamed “Ligonier Ministries.”

Dr. R.C. Sproul is featured daily on Renewing Your Mind, an international radio broadcast that has aired for more than ten years with an estimated two million people tuning in every week on more than 235 radio outlets in the United States and throughout more than 40 countries. In addition, he can be seen daily on DirecTV.

Dr. Sproul is a respected teacher, theologian, and pastor. He is currently serving as the director of Serve International, and as senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew’s Chapel ( in Sanford, Florida. Dr. Sproul is ordained as a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.

In addition, Dr. Sproul was the general editor of The Reformation Study Bible, which was also known as The New Geneva Study Bible, and he is the executive editor of Tabletalk magazine. As a prolific author he has written more than 60 books and scores of articles for national evangelical publications. Dr. Sproul has produced more than 300 lecture series and has recorded more than 80 video series on subjects such as the history of philosophy, theology, Bible study, apologetics, and Christian living. He signed the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which affirmed the traditional view of biblical inerrancy, and he wrote a commentary on that document titled Explaining Inerrancy.

Dr. Sproul holds degrees from Westminster College, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and the Free University of Amsterdam, and he has had a distinguished academic teaching career at various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and Jackson, Mississippi, and Knox Theological Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.


it is odd indeed that i would have left r.c. sproul out of my original post. after all, i have nearly ten of his books on my bookshelves at home!

sproul has a gift of communication. he is able to write books on complex, or at least greatly misunderstood topics and making them easily digestible. he also is able to write on topics that are so well known they seem to have lost their punch, and leaves his readers clamoring for more.

again, (you knew it was coming), i do not agree with everything sproul writes or teaches. (as a baptist, i obviously disagree with his views on infant baptism).

but through reading authors like sproul who so obviously want to be faithful to scripture in all that they do, seeing where i think they depart from scripture keeps me from idolizing men, and it also keeps me from simply believing everything someone i respect says, just because "they" said it. it also keeps me humble, lest i get to the place where i believe i cannot be wrong about anything.

that being said, i do believe that the large majority of what sproul writes and teaches is purely biblical, and the books that i offer as recommendations i do so without hesitation.

these books by sproul are very easy to read, understand, and apply, and i encourage everyone who doesnt have them to buy them, borrow them, or check them out from a library, you will be better for it. (click titles for links)


1) the holiness of god
sproul's most famous work, and a blessing to the church.
to properly worship god and know who god is,
we have to understand his holiness - biblically.
sproul does a masterful job in communicating the importance
of this, and you cant help put finish the book changed.

from the publisher:
Revised in 1997, The Holiness of God has sold almost
200,000 copies since it was first released in the 1980s.
An instant classic on the awesome nature of God,
this new paperback edition (of the 1997 revision)
will keep ministering to people for many years to come

2) five things every christian needs to grow
from the publisher:
In Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow, acclaimed theologian
Dr. R.C. Sproul guides his readers through the basic training of Christianity
and reveals the five most vital fundamentals of the Christian faith:
Prayer, Worship, Service, Study, and Stewardship.
[only 96 pages in
small hardcover book very worthwhile read for new or longtime chrisians]

3) saved from what?
imagine, while you are witnessing, that the lost person tells you
"i dont need saving!"
how would you respond? what exactly are we saved "from"?
in order to fully appreciate our salvation, and to fully praise god
for what he has done,we need a proper understanding of what
we are saved "from". a very insightful and beneficial book that
informs our worship as well as our evangelism.
[also another short hardcover book]

4) chosen by god
if you have ever wondered what the bible means in the many passages
when it uses words like "predestined" "elect", or "foreknown", then you
owe it to yourself to read this book. sproul lets the bible speak for itself
on this controversial, often misunderstood and largely misrepresented truth
of scripture.

Friday, March 16, 2007

charles haddon spurgeon

"On Christ, and what he has done, my soul hangs for time and eternity. And if your soul also hangs there, it will be saved as surely as mine shall be. And if you are lost trusting in Christ, I will be lost with you and will go to hell with you. I must do so, for I have nothing else to rely upon but the fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived, died, was buried, rose again, went to heaven, and still lives and pleads for sinners at the right hand of God." - c.h. spurgeon

excerpts from biographical "sketch"at
christian biography resources

Charles Haddon Spurgeon:
English Baptist;
born at Kelvedon (40 miles northeast of London), Essex, [England], June 19, 1834;
died at Mentone (13 miles northeast of Nice),
France, January 31, 1892.

In 1851 he became usher in a school at Cambridge, and entered
the lay preachers' association in connection with the Baptist church
meeting in St. Andrews Street, Cambridge. Forced by circumstance
he preached unprepared his first sermon in a cottage at Teversham
near Cambridge, at the age of sixteen.

His gifts were recognized at once and his fame spread.
He preached in chapels, cottages, or in the open air in
as many as thirteen stations in the villages surrounding
Cambridge, and this after his school duties for the day were
past. In 1852 he became pastor of the small Baptist church at
Waterbeach, and in 1854, after preaching, three months on
probation[ trial period], he was called to the pastorate of the
New Park Street Church, Southwark, London.
Only 100 persons attended his first service; but before the end of
the year the chapel had to be enlarged...

..., in 1856, Spurgeon preached at the Surrey Gardens music-hall
to congregations which numbered 10,000 people; and at twenty-two
he was the most popular preacher of his day.

In 1861 the Metropolitan Temple [Tabernacle], seating 6,000,
was opened and there he ministered until his death, retaining
his popularity and power as a preacher to the end.

i just recently finished a biography of spurgeon by arnold dallimore, which i heartily recommend. if it is possible to be incredibly encouraged and discouraged at the same time, that would be my state as i finished the book. this one man accomplished more by the time he was thirty years old than most people do their entire life. he was a man of great character and integrity. he loved and treasured the bible, and loved its message. spurgeon was a man who preached the gospel unendingly, and he was often brought to tears while in the pulpit while pleading for sinners to come to christ.

known in his day, and still called by many "the prince of preachers", spurgeon's abilities as a preacher were known literally all over the world.

not only a preacher, but spurgeon also founded and ran a pastor's college and an orphanage, and also founded and edited the monthly publication " the sword and the trowel". it has also been documented that spurgeon hand wrote over 500 letters a week during his ministry (not only by hand, but with a pen that needed to be dipped in ink every few words!).

if the sheer volume of his work load doesn't leave an impression, consider this. for most of his adult life spurgeon was often times rendered incapacitated by gout and arthritis, as well as numerous other illness and spent days and sometimes weeks at a time in bed, unable to move because of intense pain.

thousands of spurgeon's sermons remain and can easily be purchased, as well as many of his other writings.

*insert disclaimer from previous sketches' about human fallibility*

spurgeon was a man of unwavering conviction and commitment, and endured daily public criticism for most of his adult life. still, he never wavered, and never compromised the gospel of christ for the approvel of men who did.

if you want to be encouraged and challenged in a way that leaves you wanting to love the gospel as much as possible, i present to you, charles spurgeon.
there are literally thousands of printed works by spurgeon, so the list is by no means exhaustive. that being said, i recommend these to you to learn about and from this amazing servant of god: (click titles for links)

spurgeon: a new biography
a very good introduction to spurgeon. it hits the high points of spurgeon's life without losing the intimacy of a good biography. information gathered largely from spurgeon's own autobiography as well as his contemporaries. i devoured this in a week of "spare time" increments.

morning and evening
a collection of short, one page devotions for every day of the year. one for morning and one for evening each day.

the best of charles spurgeon
i won't be redundant (the title says it all), though "best" is subjective.
one can get a good taste of spurgeon in this volume, which updates
the language a bit from the 19th century british of spurgeon's day.

a treasurey of david
spurgeons magnum opus. a thorough discussion of every verse of every psalm.

sermons of charles spurgeon
for those who can't get enough, for under $50 you can have five volumes (over 4,000 pages) of sermons complete with date and location preached.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

j.i. packer

"Our business is to present the Christian faith
clothed in modern terms, not to propagate
modern thought clothed in Christian terms.
Confusion here is fatal " - j.i. packer

from the faculty page of regent college:

What do J. I. Packer, Billy Graham and Richard John Neuhaus have in common?

Each was recently named by TIME magazine as among the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.

Dr. Packer, the Board of Governors’ Professor
of Theology at Regent College, was hailed by TIME as “a doctrinal Solomon” among Protestants. “Mediating debates on everything from a particular Bible translation to the acceptability of free-flowing Pentecostal spirituality, Packer helps unify a community [evangelicalism] that could easily fall victim to its internal tensions.”

Knowing God, Dr. Packer’s seminal 1973 work, was
lauded as a book which articulated shared beliefs for members of diverse
denominations; the TIME profile quotes Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington as saying, “conservative Methodists and Presbyterians and Baptists could all look to [Knowing God] and say, ‘This sums it all up for us.’”

In a similar tribute to Dr. Packer almost ten years
ago, American theologian Mark Noll wrote in Christianity Today that, “Packer’s ability to address immensely important subjects in crisp, succinct sentences is one of the reasons why, both as an author and speaker, he has played such an important role among American evangelicals for four decades.”



i first remember hearing about j.i. packer while browsing through some books at (yet another) conference while in college. i saw a copy of knowing god and saw the many endorsements by a lot of people whose names i recognized. a while later, i was able to get a copy for free and started reading through it.

i was impressed by the simplicity of the writing, yet moved by the profundity of the content. Since that time i have taught through many sections of this book, and i have given away many copies. besides the bible, i would probably go so far as to say this book is the one "must have" for any christian. i say must "have" because it is not enough to read it once. you will want it at your disposal to refer back to time and time again.

my second year of seminary i was required to read packer's book a quest for godliness for my "spiritual disciplines" class. i think i may have underlined three fourths of the entire book. page after page was filled with golden nuggets. i strained to retain all that i was reading, worried that i wouldn't remember it all. i have never read a book, other than scripture, that i so immediately wanted to change my life, attitude, and actions.

again, i will state my disclaimer that there are some things that packer has said, written or taught that i disagree with, but on the whole, the lord has used him in a mighty way in the lives of many to articulate the truth of scripture in a way that is understandable and motivating.

i recommend the following books from j.i. packer: (click titles for links)

  • knowing god
    as stated above, one of the best books you could ever read. written in a very accesible manner, packer walks his readers through basic christian doctrine in a manner that is warm and welcoming, without sacrificing content or quality.
  • a quest for godliness
    "Dr. Packer has blended theology, biography, history, and practical exhortation in a book that is a delight to read. But even more, the book speaks to our contemporary church situation and causes us to search our hearts and examine our ministries. Whether you are just getting acquainted with the Puritans or are a long-time friend, A Quest for Godliness will instruct and inspire you. Here is solid spiritual food that contributes to maturity." --Warren W. Wiersbe
  • evangelism and the sovereignty of god
    putting another nail in the coffin of the argument that belief in the sovereignty of god in salvation is incompatible with a drive and desire for evangelism, dr. packer unpacks in this very small paperback book how god's sovereignty and our responsibility to evangelize are not at odds, and go hand in hand.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

john piper




"The ministry of preaching is the
central labor of my life. My prayer
is that through that ministry and
everything else I do the great glory
of our God and Savior Jesus Christ
would be magnified as more and more
people come to live out the obedience
of faith more and more deeply."
- john piper

John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem
Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew
up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at
Wheaton College, where he first sensed God's call
to enter the ministry. He went on to earn degrees
from Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.) and the
University of Munich (D.theol.). For six years
he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in
St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call
to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author
of more than 20 books and his preaching and teaching
is featured on the daily radio program Desiring God.
He and wife Noel have four sons, one daughter, and
an increasing number of grandchildren.

i first encountered john piper at a conference for college students in january of 1999. he was giving a talk on "how to glorify god while you are suffering".
this was of particular interest to me, as i was twenty years old and two weeks away from having back surgery. i had traveled 12 hours on a bus while lying in the floor because sitting was too painful.
dr.piper took the podium and began, but after a few minutes, i had to leave and walk out into the concourse of the arena which was hosting over 12,000 college students.
as i laid down on the concrete, seeking relief from the burning sensation radiating down my back and legs, i listened to this man preach with such bold authority about glorifying god in the midst of suffering.
as his voice boomed down those corridors, my immediate reaction was one of frustration and offense. how could this man speak so vividly about god's glory being my sole desire when i was in such pain? didnt he understand that there might be people with real pains and troubles who needed to hear a message of god's healing and promises to deliver us from pain and discomfort? isnt that what god does? doesnt he exists to meet my needs and wishes?

i distinctly remember these words careening through the stadium and through the empty concourse where i was laying
"do you retain your joy [in christ]- while you are suffering?"

it wasn't so much of an open ended question, but rather an indictment on the conscience.

who wants to say no to that? who would dare say yes?

and so began my journey into the ministry of john piper. as i wanted to learn more about why this man was so concerned about the "glory of god above all things", i found myself searching the scriptures to see if what this man was saying was true. either he was a lunatic, or i had greatly misunderstood my worth and my purpose.
i discovered that it was the latter.

i will insert here my disclaimer from my last post that i do not agree with every single thing john piper says or does. but where i disagree, i still see his desire to be faithful to scripture.

i do agree with the large majority of what he has said and taught, because the content of his teachings is saturated with bible; and not just bible verses (anyone can take verses out of context to support their views), but good bible exposition that is faithful to the overall message of scripture.

through john piper's ministry, the lord has helped me be a better reader of scripture, and to know him better, as well as see my self more accurately in light of his holiness. piper's ministry statement is "god is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him". i pray that my life would be a testimony to satisfaction in him.

i recommend the following books from piper:(click titles for link to purchase)

*The Dangerous Duty of Delight (Multnomah, 2001).
an excellent introduction to piper. if you have never read anything by him, start here. in this very small book (96 pages, small hardcover), piper lays out in concise form what he describes in great detail in "desiring god")

* Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist(Multnomah, 3rd edition, 2003).
-piper's magnum opus

*Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions (Baker, 2nd Edition 2003).
flying in the face of critics who suggest calvinists do not evangelize, this book is widely regarded as one of the best books in recent years on the importance of missions and evangelism. used in seminaries across the nation in evangelism classes

*Don’t Waste Your Life (Crossway, 2003).
ideally, this would be required reading for every high school senior, college graduate, 30 year old, and grandparent. a refreshing vision for not trivializing our life by having goals that will all fade away.

When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy(Crossway, 2004).
a wonderful and necessary book for those of us (all of us??) who find ourselves unable to keep an unquenched desire for god. called by one respected author "a gift to the church".

Saturday, March 10, 2007

names and faces

dr. john piper, author
and pastor of bethlehem
baptist church
in minneapolis, minnesota.
known primarily for his book
"desiring god",
dr. piper champions the
glory of god in all things with
his mission statement
"god is more glorified in
us, when we are most
satisfied in him."


. dr. r.c. sproul, is the senior minister
of teaching and preaching at saint andrew's
chapel in sanford, florida. sproul is also the
founder and chairman of ligoneir ministries
and author of over 60 books. he has also served
on the faculty of respected seminaries and colleges
teaching such courses as systematic theology, philosophy,
and apologetics.


j.i. packer, author and
board of governors' professor
of theology at regent college
in vancouver, british columbia.
though anglican, his writings
have profoundly influenced many
in wider evangelical circles.


charles haddon spurgeon, baptist pastor
of 19th century england. known as the
"prince of preachers"


jonathan edwards,
18th century american pastor
in the puritan tradition.
considered by many to be
"the greatest theological mind
america has ever produced"



john calvin, french reformer in the 16th century.
largely misrepresented and misunderstood, the protestant
church owes a large debt to the man and his writings.



martin luther,
monk turned
pastor who turned
the world upside
down religiously
and politically in
the 16th century. is
credited with
beginning the

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
these men have been some of the most influential people i have never met.

their writings have helped shape and strengthen, as well as reshape and tear down my ideas and convictions.
while i would never (i pray) put any mere man or his writings on the same level as scripture, they have helped me think through and understand scripture better.

i do not agree with everything any of these man have said or written, but i am thankful for how the lord has used them to help me know and understand him better.

they are great teachers, and i recommend them to you.

i plan on writing briefly on each of these men in hopes that you may learn about them and from them first hand.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

a letter of love and discipline

ben cole, who is the pastor at a church in arlington texas, sent this letter to inactive church members in hopes that they would return to fellowship with their local body.

i believe that if more of our churches (all?) would forsake their pride of numbers on the roll, pride of desiring to be thought of kindly over concern for the eternal destiny of souls, and teach their members the biblical standard of regenerate church membership, our churches would be more biblical and effective.

(HT: tom ascol)

This is the letter that went out two days ago to church members who have not been in active participation of our church ministries since Oct. 1, 2006. I publish it here with the hope that it might stimulate others to follow suit.


February 27, 2007

Mr. and Mrs. XXX XXXXXX
PO Box 77777
Arlington, TX 76013

Dear XXX and XXXXXX:

Parkview Baptist Church continues to be a place where God’s people grow together in a mutual love for the Lord, for the Word of God, and for each other. As your pastor, I am especially concerned that all of our church members are experiencing the joys of salvation that accompany fellowship with those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ.

The Word of God teaches that the Lord’s people should not “forsake the assembly as is the custom of some” (Hebrews 10:25). Again and again in Scripture, those who have believed the Gospel are exhorted to persevere in their faith, knowing that their salvation is close at hand. (Matthew 24:13). Believers are admonished to show good works, demonstrating the power of the Lord to transform lives from selfish pursuits unto a life of service to God (Ephesians 4:11-20). We are to be a people who come together for worship and service with glad hearts, rejoicing that the Lord has called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light (Psalm 122:1; 1 Peter 2:9).

With these truths in mind, I want to write you as your brother and friend to tell you how sorely you have been missed among the saints of God at Parkview Baptist Church. This Wednesday night, February 28, 2007, your church family is going to spend extra time in prayer for you, asking that the Lord would restore health of body and fervor of spirit to you that you may return to serving him faithfully.

Now it is possible that you have united with another church, and you are serving Christ with the fullness of grace that he supplies. If this is the case, we rejoice that you have found a family of faith with which to become more committed disciples of our Lord. In the event you have not been serving in a local church and supporting the work of our Lord’s ministry through that church, we at Parkview grieve over your lost enthusiasm for the Lord’s work.

The Scriptures are very bold about the spiritual dangers to believers who grow indifferrent to the Lord and his work (Revelation 3:15-16), and who depart from spiritual fellowship with his people (1 John 2:19). As your pastor, I am saddened that you may have grown discouraged in your faith, not finding strength and mercy to persevere through the trials that have distracted you from the glorious grace of our Lord and Savior. Perhaps this is my fault, that I have not been as faithful an under-shepherd to seek you and draw you back to the safe and loving fellowship of our Good Shepherd’s fold. To some degree, I hope this letter affirms my desire to see you grow in grace and commitment to follow the Lord by obedience to the gospel.

Parkview Baptist Church is committed to maintaining a healthy congregation that will not neglect each other’s spiritual discipline, or our own. For this reason, our church adopted a revised Constitution and Bylaws on October 1, 2006, which requires that the membership privileges of inactive members be suspended at the conclusion of six months without support of the church ministry through active worship participation or financial contribution. At the end of March 2007, six months will have passed since we adopted this provision of membership. Since that time, it has burdened our hearts that we have not enjoyed the fellowship we once knew with you.

If you have united with another church family, then please know that we are excited about the possibility of your serving Christ faithfully in that place. We would appreciate your letting us know so that we may rejoice with you in your continued faith and spiritual growth. If you have not united with another church family, but circumstances have arisen in your life that providentially hinder your active support of the ministry of Parkview Baptist Church, then we want to know about them so we can pray for you more specifically and earnestly.

If, instead, you have become lax in your spiritual growth, cold in your service to the Lord, and disinterested in joining God’s people for Sunday worship, then we sincerely hope to have the opportunity to visit with you about your Christian commitment before March 31, 2007, at which point your membership privileges at Parkview Baptist Church will be suspended.

As your pastor, please know that I am available to you if you would like to visit. I would cherish the opportunity to pray with you about God’s will for your life, and to encourage you in your spiritual walk. I hope to see you reconciled to a life of faithfulness and a service of rewarding obedience to Christ. Please know that I love you, and I am eagerly awaiting your reply to this letter of exhortation and encouragement.

In Christ,