Friday, 31 October 2014

Halloween & Reformation Day

There is a round-up of some clear gospel thinking on Halloween and Reformation Day:

Here's a combo on Halloween and Reformation Day at Desiring God.

And here's some good, missional and incarnational thoughts on how to think of and do Halloween again, over at Desiring God.

And for a complete Desiring God hat trick, here we are reminded of the blessed gospel of God's grace in Christ that the Holy Spirit opened up to Martin Luther through his study of the Word, sparking the Protestant Reformation.

Justin Taylor quotes John Calvin on why God raised up Martin Luther to reform the church.

And here Justine Taylor interviews church historian, Carl Trueman, on Luther's 95 theses.

And here is Steven Wedgeworth on why we celebrate Reformation Day.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

J.I. Packer's Conversion 70 years ago

Justin Taylor posts about J.I. Packer's conversion at Oxford University, on October 22, 1944. 
"On Sunday, October 22, is doubtful that anyone noticed a soft-spoken, lanky, and decidedly bookish first-year university student leaving his dormitory room at Corpus Christi College and heading across Oxford for an evening Christian Union service at a local Anglican church."
Of course, God noticed.  In fact, although Jim Packer didn't know what was about to happen to him that evening, the Lord Jesus certainly did, just as he knew that he would use Packer mightily in the subsequent 70 years to teach, build up, strengthen and equip the church.  God knew these things because he planned them.  I am only one of very many people who are grateful for the plan God had for Dr. Packer in the church and in our lives individually as well.

Dr. Packer begins every class he teaches with a reminder to his students that the purpose of theology is doxology.  In other words, all our learning about God should not simply result in head knowledge but in a deep desire to worship God and glorify Jesus Christ with lives of faithful obedience.  No Packer class would be complete without singing God's praises together as a fitting and reverent response to the riches of Christian theology. 

You can read the story of  Packer's conversion here.  Much of Taylor's post is adapted from an upcoming Crossway biography on J.I. Packer by Leland Ryken.  The combination of a biography of this important stalwart written by such a capable author promises to be good.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

True Truth: Francis Schaeffer's Enduring Legacy

One of the great tragedies in the evangelical church of today is that it has largely forgotten one of its great heroes from the evangelical church of yesterday.  One of my heroes of the faith and someone who has profoundly affected my thinking is Francis Schaeffer. 

Just how influential was Schaeffer?  If you find yourself opposing or protesting the rampant abortion of our culture, you probably owe your awareness of the issue to Schaeffer.  If you are familiar with the term "Christian worldview", you likely have Schaeffer to thank.  If you self identify as a reformed evangelical, along with other incluences such as R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer and John Piper you likely have Francis Schaeffer to thank.  If you hold firmly to the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture, probably much of your reasoning can be traced back to Schaeffer's defences of the Bible.  If you believe there comes a time in the culture wars where Christians may have to take the stand of civil disobedience, you are following Schaeffer.  If you believe that evangelicals can and should present our faith and worldview through the arts (including film), and that we should do art better than anyone else because we know the great and first Artist, you have Schaeffer to thank.  And if you believe that love and kindness as well as strong intellectual reasoning are all part of the task of apologetics, you likely got that blend from Schaeffer.  And this is only part of his ongoing and pervasive legacy.

Certainly he did not stand alone in all this, nor was he the originator of any of these concepts or practices, but Schaeffer was a hugely persuasive popularizer of these things through his books, lectures, sermons and films.  He saw so clearly the effects of Secular Humanism, Pragmatism, Relativism and Postmodernism within modern society and with the clear gaze of a prophet he told the church of his day just where it would end up if it didn't recognize and reject these things as incompatible with the universal Lordship of Jesus Christ.  [Oh yeah, if you hold to the universal Lordship of Jesus Christ over all of thought and life, you probably also owe that to Schaeffer.]  God used him powerfully in his day and, thanks be to God, even though so many have forgotten about him or have never even heard of him or are unfamiliar with his work, there are some around who, while not perhaps agreeing with every single thing he said or did, still carry on his legacy and his Christian cultural project in their own ministries.

One such person is Donald Williams.  I am happy to recommend this article to you.  Williams reminds us of Schaeffer's enduring relevance and the legacy he passed on to us:
  • Christianity is Truth.
  • Christian Truth touches all of life: “The lordship of Christ over the total culture.”
  • Christian life & witness must show the whole character of God: “holiness and love.”
  • The truth of Christianity must be demonstrated both intellectually and practically through a life of faith.
[Oh yeah, and if you enjoy the music of Mark Heard as I do (I took the title of my blog page from one of his songs), you also owe your appreciation for the depth and artistic genius of Heard's songs at least in part to Schaeffer's personal influence upon and discipleship of Mark Heard.]

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Ten Shekels and a Shirt

A good friend told me about a sermon entitled Ten Shekels and a Shirt, preached back in the 60s by a pastor and missionary named Paris Reidhead.  I listened to it here and simultaneously read it here.  I cannot recommend this sermon too highly and I would put a plug in for listening and reading at the same time - you get so much more out of it, especially as the recording isn't as sharp as modern sermon recordings. 

Too often have we traded our gospel heritage, our re-birthright in Christ, the freedom-inducing truth of a loving God, for a mess of humanistic, man-centred pottage.  Or as Reidhead would put it, we have traded the glory and worthiness of the holy and loving God for ten shekels and a shirt. 

The glory of God, not the happiness of man, is the prime focus of the Christian life and message.  And God's gospel and God's glory must be proclaimed by God's methods, not by our methods and through our motivations with a token prayer requesting God's blessing.  This is as solid a reminder of that as I've heard in a long time.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Sermon prep work ethic

On the wall of my study above my desk and immediately in front of me I have this quote by A.W. Pink to encourage me (or shame me) as I prepare my sermons:

"No verse of Scripture yields its meaning to lazy people."