Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Importance of Books for the Pastor

Ligon Duncan spoke at the Gospel Coalition conference this morning on 2 Timothy 4:6-22. As he was expositing the text, he mentioned what he called a classic sermon by Charles Spurgeon on verse 13, in which Paul admonishes Timothy to "bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come-- and the books, especially the parchments." Ligon then went on the quote the sermon at some length, and I was so taken by this quote (as also was Ligon, obviously) that I wanted to share it with you all. Although Spurgeon's remarks are aimed primarily at pastors, I am sure most of us will agree with Spurgeon that all of God's people also have this same need. So, without further ado, from the sermon entitled Paul—His Cloak and His Books:

We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read. Some of our very ultra Calvinistic brethren think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermon must be a very deplorable specimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men's brains—oh! that is the preacher. How rebuked are they by the apostle! He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books! The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, "Give thyself unto reading." The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master's service. Paul cries, "Bring the books"—join in the cry.

Sadly, reading has fallen on hard times these days, as Ligon noted in his own sermon. This is why we need Spurgeon's warning even more in our own day. You see, we tend to acclimate ourselves to being spoon fed information in entertaining ways, training ourselves to be impatient with the length and attention required by reading books. But since we are a people of the Bible - the book inspired by God - then we all need go against the cultural current and train ourselves to be readers again. This may mean that we need to turn off the television more. It may mean we need to listen to the radio less. It may mean that we need to spend less time on the internet, where we learn to read only minutes at time. But aren't these small sacrifices to make in order to help ourselves become better able to read longer and more attentively and so become more competent readers of God's Word?

Friday, April 17, 2009

John MacArthur on the "Rape of Solomon's Song"

I have long been impressed by John MacArthur's courage and care in taking a stand on important issues confronting the Church. And I continue to be impressed and encouraged by his recent willingness to address the concerns many of us have with respect to the obscene language that is being used all too often in pulpits these days. In this case, John was prompted to address a particular example of this problem, which is a sermon that Mark Driscoll preached on the Song of Solomon.

The audio of the sermon may be found here, but a transcript of selected problem portions of the sermon may be found here. (Warning: There is sexually explicit language in both the audio and the transcript linked here.)

John has addressed his concerns this week in a four part series of blog articles entitled "The Rape of Solomon's Song," which were posted at the Grace to You website. Here are the links to each of the four parts:

Part One (Posted Tuesday, Apr 14, 2009)

Part Two (Posted Wednesday, Apr 15, 2009)

Part Three (Posted Thursday, Apr 16, 2009)

Part Four (Posted Friday, Apr 17, 2009)

This is an issue and a series that I think it important for this blog's readers to be aware of. For more information addressing the Biblical response to such matters, see also my earlier post providing the videos of Phil Johnson's message entitled "Sound Doctrine; Sound Words."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Lessons Learned From Ethan, Nathan, and Joshua

Ethan Loomis, a dear friend of the family, who is one of my son Joshua's best friends, was diagnosed with Leukemia in April of 2008. The first video was made by Ethan as a testimony to God's faithfulness during his struggle.

The second video was filmed and edited by Ethan and features my son Joshua and another close friend of theirs, Nathan Schmidt, who wrote the short script to help teach an important lesson about how to treat -- or not to treat -- people who are hurting.

And, by the way, my son Joshua was the first guy sitting alone on the couch.

I am proud of these young men and am excited about the way God has worked in their lives for His glory, and I just wanted to share a little bit about their story from their perspective.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Steve Camp and Tim Challies on the Good and Bad of "Watchblogging"

This week I read a couple of interesting articles on the issue of Christian "watchblogging," the internet phenomenon involving the use of blogging to warn the churches about the sinful practices and theological errors they may encounter online or in their communities.

First, on April 6 Tim Challies offered a helpful article entitled Evil as Entertainment, in which he warned against the tendency to virtually revel in "all that is wrong in the church." I think he has hit on something here. It is the same kind of evil that leads so many Christians into gossip, and it should be avoided. Here is Tim's final admonition:

Filling our minds, our hearts, our computer screens, our blogs with all that is wrong in the church will do little to conform us into the image of the Savior. It can do little. My encouragement to you, whether you are a regular visitor to one of these sites or whether you simply visit them occasionally, is to examine your heart and to examine your motives. Do you visit such sites because they have information that you truly need to know? Or do you visit as a means of entertainment? Are you delighting in what is good and true and pure and lovely, or are you finding a strange, sick delight in all that is evil and ugly?
Shouldn't we all agree that we ought check our hearts whenever we seek to be informed about the errors that are revealed in watchblogs? Shouldn't we all agree that we can do the right thing with the wrong motive at times? Can't we perform the tasks of writing and reading watchblogs with the wrong attitudes in our hearts, failing to seek first of all the glory of God and the good of His Church? I think Tim's warnings are good for us all!

However, I also think there is much that is good and necessary about watchblogging. In fact, I have engaged in a bit of this myself, as regular readers of this blog know. I see it as a part of my duty as a pastor given by Jesus to the Church (Eph. 4:11f). I see it as a part of what Paul admonished elders to do for the churches. For example:

NKJ Acts 20:28-31 "28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. 31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears."

ESV Titus 1:7-9 "7 For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it."

This is where I believe that Steve Camp's April 8 response to Tim, entitled Blogging, Watchblogging, and Ministry, provides needed balance to what Tim has written. For example, Steve reminds us about the point I have raised above:

The Apostle Paul on Watchblogging
The Apostle Paul states the balance we all so desperately need in this area of Christian blogging. He issues a charge to pastors (but a principle we may all learn from and employ in our blogging) found in Titus 1:9b, "instruct in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict." One positive aspect, one negative aspect. One that instructs; the other that confronts. Both are quite necessary. Faithful instruction in sound doctrine will have to by its very nature confront and address that which is unsound according to Scripture if one is clearly teaching "the whole counsel of God." And by mentioning that which is unsound biblically, means that you must also instruct in that which is sound doctrine for addressing error without the clarification and context of Scriptural truth can push our righteous indignation buttons and be very motivational, but in the end unprofitable. And one that seeks only to state that which is positive biblically and fails to refute error, is more like Norman Vincent Peal than like the Apostle Paul, Peter, or our Lord Jesus Christ (cp, Matt. 23; 2 Peter 2; Jude; 2 Cor. 10).
That last sentence reminds me of the old saying - I think from Vance Havner - "Paul I find appealing, but Peale I find appalling." At any rate, Steve goes on to give some very good advice about questions we can ask ourselves before we blog and lessons we can learn about watchblogging, and it is a must read for those of us who want to honor Christ in our blogging.

I highly recommend checking out both of these men's articles, but especially Steve's practical wisdom regarding the necessity for watchblogging and the appropriate way to go about it.