31 January 2009

Equilibrium

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "The Holy Spirit Glorifying Christ," a sermon preached Sunday morning, 17 August 1862, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London. Spurgeon's words were never more applicable than they are today, even though the tables have turned and the greater danger seems to come from pseudo-prophecies and other charismatic lunacy of the type Spurgeon said was uncommon in his time. Today there is much "danger from the excesses of fevered brains."

But there is still also the danger of those who approach the Scriptures in a cold, merely-academic fashion, and both sides of Spurgeon's admonition are worthy of the most sober reflection.


here are two faults of the Church which appear to me periodically to manifest themselves.

The one is when men ascribe wrong things to the Holy Ghost, and maketh him the author of human novelties and delusions. In seasons when the minds of good men were anxiously alive to spiritual operations, certain weak-headed or designing persons have grown fanatical, and being bewildered by their own confused feelings, and puffed up by their fleshly mind, have forsaken the true light which is in the Word, to follow after the will-o'-the-wisps of their own fancies, the ignis-fatuui of their own brains.

Such vain-glorious fools aspiring to be leaders, masters of sects, will boldly tell to men of itching ears that fresh doctrines have been specially revealed to them. They prate much of what they call the inner light (which is often an inner darkness), which dim candle they exalt above the light of the word of God, and tell you that marvellous things have been taught to them in dreams and visions.

Ah! this is a high and crying crime. What, will you lay at the door of the Holy Ghost a deed which God hath solemnly cursed? Do you not start back at such a thought? Is it not almost blasphemy to imagine it? And yet remember, he that adds a single word to the canon of inspiration is cursed. Give ear to the very words of the Lord our God, "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."

And do you think the Holy Ghost would do that which involves a curse upon man? If I venture to add to God's word, or to take from it, I do it with this as my penalty, that God shall blot my name out of the Book of Life and out of the holy city; and yet these base pretenders, who would lay their foolish notions at the door of God the Holy Ghost, will have it that he has taught them more than is in the Book, that he has removed that which God laid down as the grand land-mark, and added to the finished testimony of God.

Let none of you have any sort of patience with men who talk thus. Deny their very first principle, tell them whether it be the deceiver of Western America, or the false prophet of Arabia—tell them that they are all impostors, for they ascribe to the Holy Ghost that which is impossible for him to commit, a violation of the revealed will of God in which it is declared that the canon of inspiration is shut up once for all.

A little of this evil I detect among godly people. I find that sometimes even gracious men think they have had revelations. Texts of Scripture are no doubt laid home by the Holy Ghost to the souls of men as much to-day as in Paul's time, and there can be no doubt whatever that the Spirit bringeth all things to our remembrance whatsoever Christ hath taught, and that he leadeth us into all truth; but when a man tells me that the Holy Ghost has revealed to him something that is not in the Bible, he lies!

Is that a hard word? It doth but express the truth. The man may have dreamed his revelation, he may have fancied it, but the Holy Spirit goeth never beyond the written word. "He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you." And beyond what Christ hath spoken and what Christ hath taught, the Holy Spirit goeth in no sense and in no respect. You understand what Christ has taught through the Spirit's teaching; but anything beyond the teaching of Christ and his apostles must be not of God but of man.

This is a most important principle to be held fast by all godly people, for the day may come when false prophets shall arise, and delude the people, and by this shall we be able to discover them; if they claim aught beyond what Christ hath put them aside, for they be false prophets, wolves in sheep's clothing. The Spirit only teacheth us that which Christ hath taught beforehand either by himself or by the inspired apostles. "He shall take of mine and shall show it unto you."

Just now we are in little danger from the excesses of fevered brains, for, as a rule, our sin is in being far too cold and dead to spiritual influences. I fear me we are liable to another evil, and are apt to forget the person and work of the Comforter altogether. We fear some congregations might say, "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." From many modern sermons would you know that there was a Holy Spirit? If it were not for the benediction or the doxology you might go in and out many churches and meeting-houses by the year together, and scarcely know that there was such a person as that blessed, blessed giver of all good, the Holy Ghost. Sometimes we hear a little about his influences, as if the Holy Spirit were not as truly a person as even Jesus Christ himself, who in flesh and blood trod this earth.

Oh, dear friends, I fear the first danger, that of running wild with whimsies and fancies about inner lights and new revelations; but I equally dread this last, this putting the revelation above the revealer, this taking the book without the author, this preaching of the truth without the great truth-applyer, this going forth to work with the sword, forgetting that it is the sword of the Spirit, and only mighty as the Holy Ghost maketh it "mighty to the pulling down of strongholds." May this Church ever continue to reverence the Holy Spirit without exaggerating his work! May we prize him, love him.

C. H. Spurgeon


30 January 2009

For this reason

by Frank Turk

IMPORTANT UPDATE & CLARIFICATION:

Justin Taylor has come to the aid of the interview hereafter lambasted by me and, after trading some comments in the meta, e-mailed Dr. Moreland to see what he'd say about my assessment of the interview.

The summary of my assessment of the interview was summarized (by me) in this way:

I think that Dr, Moreland would affirm “I truly believe that (a) the first thing pastors should be concerned about is their flocks inhabiting the political process, and (b) the first thing that our pulpits should be used for is causing Christians to inhabit the political process. And the reason is that this is the most pressing issue for Christianity today.”

Here's JT's final post in that exchange:

I sent Moreland your restatement. Here is his response (reprinted with permission):

"You are correct. The context was politics and not ministry in general. I would have to be nuts to say the first thing in general is political engagement!! JP"


While this answer leaves me somewhat puzzled by the interview as a whole, one thing is clear: I owe Dr. Moreland an apology for framing his views in a way he would not. I was wrong. I apologize to Dr. Moreland and our readers for that. Because we have a policy of not deleting our posts here, please read this one in the light that my outrage is, at best, overstated and made against something Dr. Moreland himself would disavow.

Honestly: there are reasons to admire Hugh Hewitt. He's a man of many public accomplishments, a public servant, a lawyer, apparently a fine administrator and speech-writer. He's a fine man. Probably a good neighbor.

He deserves our respect.

What we are not required to give him, however, is intellectual and spiritual carte blanche. In spite of his allegedly-conservative political views, he's vacant on the subject of the Christian faith and what it means to have a savior and a Gospel and a church. And if he would stay away from these subjects, he'd be far more admirable.

But he doesn't. Maybe he can't -- maybe like a moth compelled to throw itself into the flame of a candle, or maybe like a wolf who bleeds to death because he is licking a razor and tasting his own blood -- Hewitt always circles back to the subject of christianity (small "c" intentional).

And he comes back because he thinks that the ends of the church are the same as the ends of conservatism. It's because he sees the church as a moral improvement society -- something which only teaches the world something it couldn't learn on its own.

This is why Hugh Hewitt gets my goat: he sees the church as a means to a political end. I find his views in that respect reprehensible.

Which is why it surprised me a little to see that J. P. Moreland was on Hewitt's show recently advocating for the same clap-trap Hewitt is selling. I mean: J. P. Moreland. He's a respected apologist -- same class as William Lane Craig and Francis Beckwith, right?

I'll leave that part to the meta.

But on Hewitt, we can see Dr. Moreland saying stuff like this:
Being involved in politics is not unchristian. In fact, it’s a part of our calling as Christians. Why? Because we are supposed to do good to all people including the household of faith. And to do good to all people means establishing just laws and a just and a stable social order. And that’s the job of the state. It’s political. So the first thing a pastor should do and the Church should do is to enlist people like the dickens to be involved in the political process and vote. It is unconscionable that we have these rights, and that we have an obligation as disciples of Jesus to try to bring goodness and truth to society, that we don’t use all means available to promote just laws and a just and stable social order through the political process. And so voting is absolutely critical.
Get that? The first thing we should be concerned about as Christians is inhabiting the political process.

The first thing. Seriously: that's the first thing the pulpits of our churches should be used for? But get this as a chaser:
This is important because the Evangelical does not want to place the state under Scripture. That would be to create a theocracy, and that has never been a good idea. What we want is we want to place the state under the natural moral law. Therefore, if an Evangelical is going to be for traditional marriage, and it’s going to be against gay marriage, it cannot use Scripture to argue that case in the public square. It can be preached from the pulpit that this is a Biblical view, but when it comes to political engagement, it is not our attempt to place the state under the Bible, but to place it under the natural moral law. So it would follow, then, that Christians need to learn how to provide independent arguments for traditional marriage that do not require premises from the Scriptures.
Look: I can't make up stuff like this. I'd feel embarrassed if I attributed a statement like that to someone because it is surreal -- absurd in such a way that it makes sarcasm irrelevant.

Read the whole interview with Dr. Moreland for yourself, but don't be taken in by it. You know better. You know for a fact that Jesus did not die to make sure that the Republicans will control both houses of the Legislature, the Oval Office, and appoint only right-of-center judges to Supreme Court.

Paul knew it, anyway. Listen to what he said:
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world ...
Now listen: Paul says this from a prison cell under a government based wholly on idolatry. If anyone ever had a chance to declare and proclaim and require a political solution to his plight, it was Paul. But he says this:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
The pontifications of Hugh Hewitt or J.P. Moreland or any of the dunces who agree with them that somehow "evangelicalism" has "died" because Barack Obama is our president are like the sounds of tin cans being kicked in the street by rough and homeless children. The sounds that come out of them are because they are part of the game and not because they have something to say. They get kicked, and it's "POP! CLACK-tee-CLACK-clack!" -- a small, insulted sound at which the children laugh.

And in case you cannot read my parable here, the children are the unbelievers. They have kicked Hewitt's can, and his complaint is really: because he played the game, he got kicked. Having more cans in the street is not going to stop the kickers from kicking: it is going to cause them to kick more cans.

Christians ought to be more than cans in the street getting kicked. Paul has indeed instructed us -- Christ has indeed instructed us, and God in all of Scripture has sufficiently and perfectly instructed us -- on what we are to do first. May He who calls us out of the world to pass through the world as if it were not our home also call us to preach the Gospel which is the only hope of men -- and not trade it for the noises of traducers like Hewitt who don't understand that they are the problem, not the Gospel.

And to be sure you know what I'm telling you personally to do here, be in the Lord's house with the Lord's people on the Lord's day this weekend -- start there. Call people there. The solutiuon that ought to be preached there should be the Gospel and not new law.







29 January 2009

Let me introduce you to you

by Frank Turk

So you're saying to yourself, "cent -- don't be like this. Pastors have it hard enough, and the people who go after them are worse than wicked."

Oh wait -- no: most of you are saying something like, "I sure wish my pastor was reading this," or, "I sure hope my ex-pastor is reading this -- maybe it'll drive some sense into his fool head."

Which isn't very nice -- and it probably isn't very wise, either. See: in the whole NT where we draw our practical theology of church (our presbyterian brothers and sisters draw a lot of their presuppositions about the church from the OT -- but don't let me get distracted here), we don't see Paul and Peter telling a lot of people to flee the church because of lousy pastors, do we?

What we see instead is Paul saying stuff like this:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
or this:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
or most robustly like this:
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
There's a lot to go after there, but I'm only going after the underlined parts to start.

Paul calls these guys, in various ways, "my true child in the faith".

As I read that, I find myself thinking, "dude -- how would it feel to have someone introduce you as, 'my true child in the faith'? How would it feel if Paul introduced you as 'my true child in the faith'?"

On the one hand, it would have to be ridiculously rewarding -- and at the same time, immensely humbling, like a rolling pin on my stupid ambitions and my scale of what's important. If Paul knew me, and when Paul spoke of me he said, "hey -- that Frank? he's my true child in the faith," I'd tell him to stop calling me that -- because it would be too much to bear. I personally am not worthy to be the heir to the legacy that Paul left for the church, but to receive it and honor it would be a huge reward in and of itself.

I was once introduced to a room full of people as "a good and faithful man," and I nearly couldn't go on -- because in that context (which was a church context), those words meant something more than merely a compliment. It means that somehow, my faith shows up. Other people see it. And that's nothing compared to being called by Paul, the apostle, "my true child in the faith."

So as I begin pointing out what Paul said to these two men -- his true children in the faith -- consider that in Paul's view, it is men like these who are worthy of his legacy. What Paul charges them with is the charge he makes to the true sons in faith to pass on.

Begin reading this stuff by asking yourself, "Would Paul call me his 'true child'? Would anybody say that about me?" That's what you should be aspiring to, and if you're not ... well, we're not to those parts of these letters yet. But before we get there, I think this is enough to start with: a pastor is someone who Paul would call a "true child in the faith".

BTW, as we do this, you should start making your list for this series. Split a sheet of paper in half, and on the right side list all the things you think -- you, walking around, not poking through these letters -- a pastor should be. Then on the left you can write down the things Paul says a pastor should be. We can compare lists at the end.







28 January 2009

Not from my own bleak & meager experience

by Frank Turk

Lite fare today, and then we get to the meat and potatoes tomorrow and for the rest of 2009.

About two years ago, I started a series here at TeamPyro about "my poor church" -- why you should not leave your church, because let's face it: many of you are either just about to leave your church, or have just left your church, or are thinking about leaving your church, and I think that you have missed a lot of practical theology by being like that. Go read that series under the tag "household chores" here at this blog if you missed it.

Anyway, I gave you a year off to think about it, and now that you have fully digested who you ought to be -- you, the goer-to-church, the member of the body, the part of the family of God -- I want to carefully and circumspectly talk about the other side of the coin.

Yes pastor: it is your turn.

Now, I am not a pastor, nor am I a trainer of pastors. I am a friend to my pastor, and I have a friend who is a pastor, and I have another friend who used to be a pastor and wants to again pastor if God will so ordain it. But me? Let me admit that I am not qualified to be a pastor. Timmy Brister and Tom Ascol are qualified to be pastors. I barely qualify to be a readable blogger.

So my observations on this subject need to come from someplace other than my own tawdry opinions, and not from my own bleak & meager experience. We're going to spend a year walking through Titus and both letters to Timothy, and we're going to talk about what Paul charged the men whom he called his "true sons in the faith" to do with their poor, pathetic churches.

Nobody will enjoy this, and there will be great wailing and gnashing of teeth. But this stuff needs to be said, and who else is going to say it?






27 January 2009

Angels: fixed attention

by Dan Phillips

[NOTE: this is a reworking of this post from my blog, from 2007]

We know a lot about angels, and that we don't know a lot about angels. There is a great deal of Biblical material, on the one hand; but there are many gaps, holes, and lacunae.

We know that angels are spirit beings of great knowledge, antiquity and power. They can move quickly (Daniel 9:21; Luke 2:13), can appear on earth (Genesis 18:2), or in the throne room of God (Job 1:6). They are spirits (Hebrews 1:7), but can take tangible form and interact with matter (Daniel 10:10). They have consciousness of self and of others (Luke 1:19).

Artists have represented angels often, but almost always clearly wrongly. The effeminate—indeed, often female!—angels of the painters are dead wrong in almost every respect. Angels are never certainly depicted as female in the Bible, and virtually always depicted as definitely masculine. Not merely masculine, but awesome and fear-inspiring. Artists' angels look as if they're about to say "Please, may I have another chocolate?" Real angels usually have to start out with saying, "Dude, dude — try not to die!"

I surmise that there's a reason for that.

What fills an angel's day, though? The Bible seems to indicate various classes or even species of angels, with differing functions or specialties. As to the angels' potential scope of interest and activity, perhaps one can be forgiven to reflect on the information we have.

Being spirit, angels presumably wouldn't be limited by any need for a particular atmosphere or temperature-range, or gravity. They'd not need food or water. They could travel wherever they needed to, within the will of God.

So, in theory at least, an angel could choose to make a study of marine life at the ocean's depth, or the life of the most distant glittering star; of the tiniest atom on the highest mountain peak, or the rotations of Jupiter or Neptune. They could equally wander the Gobi Desert or the Milky Way, watch a homeless man in New York, or a prince in the Middle East or Europe.

But unlike Tolkien's angelic Istari such as Gandalf the Grey and Radagast the Brown, who study hobbits or animals, real angels are mostly interested in God. Usually, they're seen functioning as their title indicates: as God's messengers. We observe them characteristically running errands, carrying messages, sent on missions.

Still, the Bible does give us strong indication as to what fascinates angels. Both Testaments indicate that angels are particularly fascinated with our redemption.

Consider Exodus 25:18—"And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat." Isn't it interesting that they are not described? It is as if Moses says, "Okay, you know what cherubim look like, right? So, make two of them, and...." Wouldn't it be interesting to know what they knew about cherubim, and how they knew what they knew?

But if that were important, God would have given the details. A crucial rule of interpretation is to make much of what God makes of (and the converse). So what is of interpretive importance to us is that the cherubim's appearance is not of interpretive importance to us, or else they would have been described. God tells us what matters about them. What matters about them is that they are of hammered gold, they are at the two ends of the mercy seat, and that...
...[t]he cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be (Exodus 25:20)

So what are the cherubim looking at, as they face inward? They are depicted, by command of God, as forever fixing their unblinking gaze upon the mercy seat, the kapporeth, the solid gold lid to the chest of the covenant.

What is the significance of this lid? Yahweh appears and speaks there (Exodus 25:22), and bloody atonement is made there, on the great and highest holy day (Leviticus 16, especially vv. 14-15). This locus is the focus. The angels' two objects of fascination are closely tied to it: Yahweh, and believers' blood-bought redemption. The turning away of Yahweh's wrath by means of blood atonement absorbs them fully, as they are depicted as frozen in rapt attention towards that spot.

Does Peter possibly have this in mind as he writes? The apostle tantalizingly remarks, as it were in passing, that angels intensely desire to bend over and get a good look [παρακύψαι] at the truths of the Gospel that we preach (1 Peter 1:12). It is an object of great interest and perhaps curiosity to them. God constituted the church as an eternal exhibit of His grace and wisdom — for the angels (Ephesians 3:8-10).

Think of it: angels know nothing of redemption themselves, except as spectators. Some of their number fell into rebellion, and not one of that company will be redeemed. The others stood fast with the Triune God, and not one of them needs redemption. Angels experience nothing of redemption. They either have no chance of it, or they have no need of it.

That Yahweh Himself would undertake to set His love on filthy rebels, would design an intricate tapestry of pointers to that redemption, would come in person to effect that redemption — these are great mysteries to the angels, and are objects of intense fascination to them.

Reflect just a moment longer. Once again, can we even imagine the vantage-point of the angelic mind? Thousands of years old, unclouded by sin, mighty in power and great in knowledge — what couldn't they study, if they wished to and God permitted? Planets, suns, comets, meteors, processes we can scarce imagine; all these are tomes available at the angelic library for their casual checkout.

But what draws angels and holds them is the drama of redemption.

And here we can't but tarry one moment longer to wonder if there isn't even a greater mystery to the angels — an absolute bafflement, in this case?

We know what fascinates them. But as they observe us (1 Corinthians 11:10; 1 Timothy 5:21), what do they see fascinating us? As we gather together, ostensibly in the name of Christ, what is it that occupies us, that draws us, that fascinates us? Is it the truths of redemption: its Author, its plan, its unfolding, its implications, its consummation, its celebration, its communication? Is it the Word that ALONE reveals these truths?

Or is it games, pageantry, frippery, triviality, entertainment, froth, foam, and inanity?

We must be much smarter than the angels, mustn't we, to yawn and shrug at what so absorbs their vast attention?

Yeah. Right.

Dan Phillips's signature

26 January 2009

Carpe diem, preacherdude

by Dan Phillips

I can't tell you how many times I've sat in an assembly and thought this, in the past 35+ years since my conversion: Dude, this critical moment, with these assembled people, on this your one shot — and you do that with it?

Let me unpack.

To me, as a preacher, one of the most stirring, throat-grabbing-and-shaking passages in the Bible is the one that starts this way:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom... (2 Timothy 4:1)
What? You charge me what? I'm sitting up, wide-awake, alert, holding my breath. With an attention-getter like that, what is the apostle going to say? Next verse:
...PREACH THE WORD!
There it is. That is our defining task. That is what we must do.

There may be pastoral activities that are nice, and even complementary — but this is not one of them. This is a must. This is definitional. This is non-negotiable. Fail at this, and you fail at pastoral ministry.

So. This guy gets up in the pulpit, right? He's got all these people, these immortal souls, literally one heartbeat away from an irreversible eternity, and he... does what?

This is the critical moment. These people have re-arranged their calendars. They've altered their schedules. They've said "No" to every activity but this. They're just sitting there. Most or all of them are quiet. You've got a minute to grab their attention, and fix it on something. What do you do?

Maybe there are 5 people, maybe there are 500 or 5000. Maybe you've got 5 minutes, maybe you've got 50. Doesn't matter. What do you do?

This may be the only time they've been in a church, about to hear someone who claims to believe the Word, the Gospel. Maybe they're there because a friend or relative has prayed for them for months, for years, for decades. Finally, they're in a (professedly) Christian church, intending to listen to whatever a (professedly) Christian preacher is about to say. It is literally a critical moment, a moment of crisis, of judgment. Angels attend! The Triune God is there! Endless ages will reverberate with the impact of what happens next. These people are accountable, you are accountable. All eyes are on you.

What do you do? What do you do with that priceless, pivotal, unbearably freighted opportunity?

I can tell you what some do.

This one guy — he tells jokes. Now, anyone who's heard me preach knows I've no problem with humor in the service of a Biblical message. The Bible does it, Spurgeon did it, I do it.

But that isn't the aim here. That isn't the purpose. No, these are jokes with the sole purpose of making the joker look cute and clever and witty. "Oh, pleaselike me," these jokes wail. "Love me. Think I'm cool!" The audience chuckles, and has a good time. Some of them go off to Hell chuckling. Others become a reproach to their professed Lord as they do what sheep characteristically do, without a shepherd.

Then there's this other guy, who gets up and chats. He shares, he randomly free-associates. Word flow, unfiltered, from imagination to mouth. He poses questions to which he offers no answer. Then he shrugs and wanders on. People leave with never a "Thus says the Lord" to challenge their thinking and point them to Christ.

Yet a third fellow tells stories, as if Garrison Keillor were his model for preaching rather than Isaiah or Paul, Wesley, Whitfield, Spurgeon, or Ryle. They are stories of which the only point is the story itself, or the cleverness of the storyteller. They serve the end of entertaining the audience, or provoking its admiration, or filling time inoffensively. They'll go off to Hell, or to shame Christ, with a nice story in their ears.

Still another gent weaves a blurry tapestry of vague, gauzy religious sentiments that could equally have been preached by a Unitarian, a pantheist, a New Ager, a Mormon, a Christian Scientist, a Roman Catholic, or a secular motivational speaker. Nobody's offended. Nobody. People like him, they think he's clever. Well, good. Because that was his goal: to be liked. Mission Accomplished. He has his reward. They like him... until eternity dawns, and they see how miserably he failed them. But for now, nobody's offended or upset.

Well, not everybody is not offended or upset. If I'm sitting there, you can lay good money I'm offended. (It isn't gambling when it's a sure thing.)

You can bet I'm sitting there fuming, and internally shouting these words: "You had that pulpit, these people, this opportunity — and you did that with it? What, in the name of all that's holy, were you thinking? You may never see these people again! Nobody may ever see them again! That may have been your one opportunity — and you do that with it? Why did you even get up there? Why are you even a pastor?"

Once again: it is a crucial moment. Vast ages of eternity hold their breath.

What do you do with it?

Preacherdude: best to ask yourself that question now, before it is asked of you on that Day.

We've already got a peek at the Teacher's Guide. We know the answer we'd better be able to give. What is it? Say it with me:

Preach the Word.

Now do it.

Dan Phillips's signature

25 January 2009

To Fetch Me Home

posted by Frank Turk

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. It's a double-dose this weekend. The following excerpt is from "The Death of the Christian," a sermon on Job 5:26, delivered Sunday morning, 9 Sept 1855, at New Park Chapel, Southwark.
This morning, we shall consider the death of Christians in general; not of the aged Christian merely, for we shall show you that while this text does seem to bear upon the aged Christian, in reality it speaks with a loud voice to every man who is a believer. "Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season."

There are four things we shall mark in the text. First, we shall consider that death is inevitable, because it says, "Thou shalt come." Secondly, that death is acceptable, because it does not read, "I will make thee go to thy grave," but "thou shalt come there." Thirdly, that death is always timely: "Thou shalt come to thy grave in full age." Fourthly, that death to the Christian is always honourable, for the promise declareth to him, "Thou shalt go to thy grave in full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season."

I. The first remark, namely, that death, even to the Christian, is INEVITABLE, is very trite, simple and common, and we need scarcely have made it, but we found it necessary, in order to introduce one or two remarks upon it. How hackneyed is the thought, that all men must die, and therefore, what can we say upon it? And yet we blush not to repeat it, for while it is a truth so well known, there is none so much forgotten; while we all believe it in the theory and receive it in the brain, how seldom it is impressed on the heart? The sight of death makes us remember it. The tolling of the solemn bell speaks to us of it. We hear the deep-tongued voice of time as the bell tolls the hours and preaches our mortality. But very usually we forget it. ...

II. And now comes a sweet thought, that death to the Christian is always ACCEPTABLE—"Thou shalt come to thy grave." Old Caryl makes this remark on this verse—"A willingness and a cheerfulness to die. Thou shalt come, thou shalt not be dragged or hurried to thy grave, as it is said of the foolish rich man, Luke 12. This night shall thy soul be taken from thee. But thou shalt come to thy grave, thou shalt die quietly and smilingly, as it were; thou shalt go to thy grave, as it were upon thine own feet, and rather walk than be carried to thy sepulchre." The wicked man, when he dies, is driven to his grave, but the Christian comes to his grave. Let me tell you a parable. Behold two men sat together in the same house: when Death came to each of them. He said to one, "Thou shalt die."

The man looked at him—tears suffused his eyes, and tremblingly he said, "O Death, I cannot, I will not die." He sought out a physician, and said to him, "I am sick, for Death hath looked upon me. His eyes have paled my cheeks, and I fear I must depart. Physician, there is my wealth, give me health and let me live." The physician took his wealth, but gave him not his health with all his skill. The man changed his physician and tried another, and thought that perhaps he might spin out the thread of life a little longer. But, alas! Death came and said, "I have given thee time to try thy varied excuses, come with me; thou shalt die." And he bound him hand and foot, and made him go to that dark land of shades. As the man went, he clutched at every side post by the way; but Death, with iron hands, still pulled him on. There was not a tree that grew along the way but he tried to grasp it, but Death said, "Come on! thou art my captive, and thou shalt die." And unwillingly as the laggard schoolboy, who goeth slowly to school, so did be trace the road with Death. He did not come to his grave, but Death fetched him to it—the grave came to him.


But Death said to the other man, "I am come for thee." He smilingly replied, "Ah, Death! I know thee, I have seen thee many a time. I have held communion with thee. Thou art my Master's servant, thou hast come to fetch me home. Go, tell my Master I am ready; whene'er he pleases, Death, I am ready to go with thee.

A Christian has nothing to lose by death. You say he has to lose his friends. I am not so sure of that. Many of you have may more friends in heaven than on earth; some Christians have more dearly beloved ones above than below. You often count your family circle, but do you do as that little girl of whom Wordsworth speaks, when she said, "Master, we are seven." Some of them were dead and gone to heaven, but she would have it that they were all brothers and sisters still. Oh I how many brothers and sisters we have up stairs in the upper room in our Father's house; how many dear ones, linked with us in the ties of relationship, for they are as much our relations now as they were then! Though in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, yet in that great world, who has said that the ties of affection shall be severed, so that we shall not even there claim kindred with one another, as well as kindred with Jesus Christ? What have we to lose by death? ...

III. Then thirdly, the Christian's death is always TIMELY—"Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age." "Ah!" says one, "that is not true. Good people do not live longer than others. The most pious man may die in the prime of his youth." But look at my text. It does not say, thou shalt come to thy grave in old age—but in a "full age." Well, who knows what a "full age" is? A "full age" is whenever God likes to take his children home. There are some fruits you know that are late in coming to perfection, and we do not think their flavour is good till Christmas, or till they have gone through the frost; while some are fit for table now. All fruit: do not get ripe and mellow at the same season. So with Christians. They are at a "full age" when God chooses to take them home. They are at "full age" if they die at twenty one; they are not more if they live to be ninety. Some wines can be drunk very soon after the vintage. Others need to be kept. But what does this matter, if when the liquor is broached it is found to have its full flavour? God never broaches his cask till the wine has prefected itself. ...

IV. Now the last thing is, that a Christian will die with HONOUR: "Thou shalt come to thy grave like a shock of corn cometh in in his season." You hear men speak against funeral honours, and I certainly do enter my protest against the awful extravagance with which many funerals are conducted, and the absurdly stupid fashions that are often introduced. It would be a happy thing if some persons could break through them, and if widows were not obliged to spend the money which they need so much themselves, upon a needless ceremony, which makes death not honourable, but rather despicable. But, methinks that while death should not be flaunted out with gaudy plumes, there is such a thing as an honourable funeral which every one of us may desire to have.

... Your burial shall not be that prophesied for Jehoiakim—the burial of an ass, with none to weep over him; but devout men will assemble and say, "Here lies the deacon who for years served his Master so faithfully." "Here lies the Sunday-school teacher" will the child say "who early taught me the Saviour's name;" and if the minister should fall, methinks a crowd of people following him to the tomb would well give him such a funeral as a shock of corn hath when "it cometh in in his season." I believe we ought to pay great respect to the departed saints' bodies. "The memory of the just is blessed." And even ye little saints in the church, don't think you will be forgotten when you die. You may have no grave-stone; but the angels will know where you are as well without a grave-stone as with it. There will be some who will weep over you; you will not be hurried away, but will be carried with tears to your grave. ...

In a few years more you and I shall be carried through the ether on the wings of angels. Methinks I die, and the angels approach. I am on the wings of cherubs. Oh, how they bear me up—how swiftly and yet how softly. I have left mortality with all its pains. Oh, how rapid is my flight! Just now I passed the morning star. Far behind me now the planets shine. Oh, how swiftly do I fly, and how sweetly! Cherubs! what sweet flight is yours, and what kind arms are these I lean upon. And on my way ye kiss me with the kisses of love and affection. Ye call me brother. Cherubs; am I your brother? I who just now was captive in a tenement of clay—am I your brother? "Yes!" they say. Oh, hark! I hear music strangely harmonious! What sweet sounds come to my ears! I am nearing Paradise. 'Tis e'en so. Do not spirits approach with songs of joy? "Yes!" they say. And ere they can answer, behold they come—a glorious convoy! I catch a sight of them as they are holding a great review at the gates of Paradise. And, ah! there is the golden gate. I enter in; and I see my blessed Lord. I can tell you no more. All else were things unlawful for flesh to utter. My Lord! I am with thee—plunged into thee—lost in thee just as a drop is swallowed in the ocean—as one single tint is lost in the glorious rainbow! Am I lost in thee, thou glorious Jesus? And is my bliss consummated? Is the wedding-day come at last? Have I really put on the marriage garments? And am I thine? Yes! I am. There is nought else now for me. In vain your harps, ye angels. In vain all else. Leave me a little while. I will know your heaven by-and-bye. Give me some years, yea give me some ages to lean here on this sweet bosom of my Lord; give me half eternity, and let me bask myself in the sunshine of that one smile. Yes; give me this. Didst speak, Jesus? "Yes, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, and now thou art mine! thou art with me." Is not this heaven? I want nought else. I tell you once again, ye blessed spirits, I will see you by-and-bye. But with my Lord I will now take my feast of loves. Oh, Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Thou art heaven! I want nought else. I am lost in thee!

Beloved, is not this to go to "the grave in full age, like as a shock of corn," fully ripe? The sooner the day shall come, the more we shall rejoice. Oh, tardy wheels of time! speed on your flight. Oh, angels, wherefore come ye on with laggard wings? Oh! fly through the ether and outstrip the lightning's flash! Why may I not die? Why do I tarry here? Impatient heart, be quiet a little while. Thou art not fit for heaven yet, else thou wouldst not be here. Thou hast not done thy work, else thou wouldst have thy rest. Toil on a little longer; there is rest enough in the grave. Thou shalt have it there. On! on!


24 January 2009

Memento Mori

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The excerpt at the end of this week's entry is from "Memento Mori," a sermon Spurgeon preached Sunday morning, 18 March 1860.

But first, the background of the sermon from which this paragraph was excerpted is described by Susannah Spurgeon in her husband's autobiography:


[Special] week-day services at the Tabernacle, Moorfields. . . were among the fixed engagements [Mr. Spurgeon devoted himself to] each year. Dr. John Campbell, who had long stood forth as the friend and advocate of the young Pastor, thus spoke of this annual visit:—"Every 365 days, Mr. Spurgeon and his dear companion and the two little Princes Imperial honour my family with their presence for a whole day. We count on it; it is a high day with us. By two sermons, on that occasion, Mr. Spurgeon almost entirely supports our City Mission at the Tabernacle."

. . . Mr. Spurgeon referred to this happy compact in the following terms:—"It was always a great pleasure to me to have been associated with good old Dr. Campbell, the Editor of The British Banner. He was a very dear friend of mine. I used to preach for him every year, and it was understood that, when I went, I must take my dear wife and our two little boys with me.

The day before we were to go, that great stern strong man, who had no mercy upon heretics, but would beat them black and blue,—I mean in a literary sense, not literally,—used to visit a toy-shop, and buy horses and carts or other playthings for the children. One time, when he sent the invitation for us all to go to his house, he wrote:—"Our cat has had some kittens on purpose that the boys may have something fresh to play with.' It showed what a kind heart the old man had when he took such pains to give pleasure to the little ones."

One of the most memorable of these annual visits was paid on Wednesday, March 14, 1860. There had been, near that time, a great many serious accidents and notable sudden deaths. A mill in America had fallen, and buried hundreds of persons in the ruins. A train had left the rails, and great numbers of the passengers were in consequence killed. The captain of the largest vessel then afloat, who had been brought safely through many a storm, had just said farewell to his family when he fell into the water, and was drowned. A judge, after delivering his charge to the grand jury with his usual wisdom, calmness, and deliberation, paused, fell back, and was carried away lifeless. Mr. Corderoy, a well-known generous Christian gentleman, was suddenly called away, leaving a whole denomination mourning for him.

Mr. Spurgeon's sermon—"Memento Mori"—at Exeter Hall, the following Lord's-day morning, contained a reference to these occurrences, and also to another which more directly affected Dr. Campbell. Preaching from the words, "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!" Mr. Spurgeon said:—
It was but last Wednesday that I sat in the house of that mighty servant of God, that great defender of the faith, the Luther of his age,—Dr. Campbell; we were talking then about these sudden deaths, little thinking that the like calamity would invade his very family; but, alas! we observed, in the next day's paper, that his second son had been swept overboard while returning from one of his voyages to America. A bold brave youth has found a liquid grave.

So that here, there, everywhere, O Death! I see thy doings. At home, abroad, on the sea, and across the sea, thou art at work. O thou mower! how long ere thy scythe shall be quiet? O thou destroyer of men, wilt thou never rest, wilt thou ne'er be still? O Death! must thy Juggernaut-car go crashing on for ever, and must the skulls and blood of human beings continue to mark thy track? Yes, it must be so till He comes who is the King of life and immortality; then the saints shall die no more, but be as the angels of God.


On Death

AN IS UNWILLING to consider the subject of death. The shroud, the mattock and the grave, he labors to keep continually out of sight. He would live here always if he could; and since he cannot, he at least will put away every emblem of death as far as possible from his sight. Perhaps there is no subject so important, which is so little thought of. Our common proverb that we use is just the expression of our thoughts, "We must live." But if we were wiser we should alter it and say, "We must die." Necessity for life there is not; life is a prolonged miracle. Necessity for death there certainly is, it is the end of all things. Oh that the living would lay it to heart!
C. H. Spurgeon


23 January 2009

What Phil is doing

by Dan Phillips

— Be sure to read the UPDATE at the bottom of the post —

Phil said we could share with you:

Earlier this week Phil and Darlene went to be with Phil's parents in Oklahoma. His mother had been suffering from increasing pain, and was taken to the emergency room. They discovered cancer. It is in an advanced stage.

So Phil and family are caring for her, and seeing to it that she is kept comfortable and given all the loving care she needs as she prepares to depart and be with Christ, which is far better (Philippians 1:23). Donna knows the Lord, and is ready and eager to see His face.

God's word is sustaining Phil. He is realizing the bittersweet nature of death for the Christian, how it can be that the death of His own is precious in the Lord's eyes (Psalm 116:15), and yet death is the "last enemy" (1 Corinthians 15:26). He wrote, "In the midst of this experience, I understand perfectly how death can be such a terrible enemy, and yet at the same time be precious for believers." Only God's word can give that insight and hope.

Frank and I had the great joy and privilege of meeting Phil's parents, Ray and Donna, when we joined him for the Founder's Conference in 2007. They spoiled us absolutely shamefully, fed us like sultans, treated us far better than we — total strangers — deserved, and were a sheer pleasure to be around. We saw instantly where Phil got his quick wit and sense of humor. Dear, good people.

I know he and Darlene — and Ray and Donna — will appreciate the prayers of their Christian family.

UPDATE: Phil just let me know that Donna Johnson now rejoices and beholds the face of her Savior, never again to know sorrow, or pain, or tears. Pray for her husband, and all those touched by her joyous heart, and now deprived of her for a time. We miss her, and we do grieve; but we do "not grieve as others do who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Pastor Chris Anderson touched me abidingly in the way he spoke of a dear friend who was taken by cancer nearly two years ago, and I now say it of Donna Johnson: she battled cancer, valiantly and selflessly. This morning, Donna Johnson won the battle: the cancer is dead and Donna Johnson is alive forever, in the presence of the Lord whom she loved, proclaimed and served. She enjoyed gazing on Christ from afar, and now she is doing so face to face. Victory!

22 January 2009

I'm the only one who would say anything

by Frank "stats" Turk

Click to enlarge; click here to see what I'm talking about.

BTW, we didn't make that happen -- you, the readers did, and God was gracious enough for you to find us. Thanks for reading.


21 January 2009

Short and Sweet

by Frank Turk



Because I think there is a certain degree of crassness involved in doing the post-game wrap up on someone's prayer (because all prayers we make are defective, and are thereby interpreted by the Holy Spirit to the Father into something more sublime, a la Rom 8), let me only say this about the much-discussed prayer by Rick Warren at the inauguration yesterday:

It started out OK, ended on a classic note, and caused me to ask a single question in the middle.

The single question is this: is it a legitimate thing to pray to God that we as a nation be united by anything other than the cross of Christ (a la Eph 2)? It's legitimate and totally understandable to recognize that we are when we think about the things of this world. But when we pray to God, who uniquely reveals Himself in Christ, and by whom enmity between God and man and between the various superficially-different types of men is taken away and knocked down, should we pray that the unity of our nation be based on a merely-temporal civic good?

I don't know. I'd be willing to hear the reasonable exhortations of anyone who thinks "yes", as well as what often happens in the meta.

Play on.







20 January 2009

Inauguration Day Prayer #5: Nobody Of Any Consequence

by Dan Phillips

[See the series introduction/explanation]

I offer this truly apologetically. I've been holding spot #5 open for a particular Invitee. If you knew who the fifth person I asked really was, you'd hate me even worse. But I failed to give him enough notice, so you're stuck with me. Sorry! Put the blame on me.

(If he provides something later, I'll share it, because I know we would all profit by it. I wanted to have all of these up well before the inauguration, or before Warren's prayer might be published, so that they cannot be seen as a reaction to it.)

At least I'll spare you the customary introduction to the guest poster.

But first, please, a round of applause for the four gents who participated and shared their thoughts with us. Let's give it up for Prof. Frame, and Pastors Anyabwile, Brauns, and Johnson!

{ thunderous applause, whistling, lighters in air }

HSAT, I add three more observations before the prayer:
  1. I'm totally cheating in that I, unlike the other four, have read them all. But...
  2. ...believe me or don't, this is the prayer that began forming in my mind when I started thinking about this a month ago.
  3. Would I accept the invitation? I still think what I thought at that point: I would take the opportunity, if they attempted no censorship. I can only recall one opportunity for the Word that I ever turned down on principle, and that decision was reached reluctantly and painfully. Basically my stance is: give me an opportunity to get in the Word, don't try to censor me, and if I can be there, I'm there.
And so, without further eloquence, a very small figure stands among his betters and offers this, which comes in at about three minutes (not allowing for boo's, riots, and a hail of gunfire).



Oh God, our Creator, Sustainer, and Judge, You have blessed America most extraordinarily. No other nation has ever enjoyed such resources, opportunities and freedoms.

Even so, we call to mind what Your only Son, God incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ, told us: "Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required" (Luke 12:48). You have given us much — and what have we done with it?

No other nation in history, since your Son walked the earth, has had such access to Your inerrant Word, the Bible; nor such liberty to preach it and teach it. Against the backdrop of world history, our freedoms are simply staggering. Yet the moral corruption in Washington is rivaled by the spiritual corruption in our pulpits, and in our pews.

Preachers twist and compromise Your truth, selling out on their calling so that they can be loved by those who hate You. People who name Your name choose to ignore Your words, and love the world, love to be stylish. Oh God, grant repentance to us who claim to know You. Inflame preachers with love for you that cannot be bridled nor tamed, love that shows in fearless and uncompromising proclamation of your Word. Inflame believers with love for Christ that cannot be overlooked nor misunderstood, love that shows in lives that reflect the character and revealed wisdom of God.

And God, we confess with shame that, though we are the richest nation on earth, we are among the cruelest when it comes to our most helpless and needy. Thousands of unborn children are killed each day, oh Lord, slain on the altar of our selfishness and lusts. If they are inconvenient or imperfect, we kill them. Our hands are bloody. We are deeply guilty, yet do not even blush. I cannot ask that You forgive us, much less that You bless us with further prosperity to squander. I ask, instead, that You grant us to feel our shame, that You grant us repentance, so that You might forgive us.

Lord, we have sinned. I have sinned. President Obama has sinned. All who hear me have sinned. We know better. Knowing Your Word is not above our pay-grade. We can offer no excuse.

But thank You that You, the God who is holy and just, and loving and merciful, sent Your only Son to give Himself a ransom-price to secure freedom and forgiveness for all who would believe in Him with repentant faith. Thank You for Jesus, born of the virgin Mary, crucified for sinners, dead, buried, and risen to life on the third day. Thank You that He is at your right hand, ever living to grant forgiveness and life to all who call on His name in faith. Thank You for that glorious promise.

And so, our God, we pray that President Obama will know that transforming faith in Jesus. We pray that he will humble himself at the cross of Christ, and know You as Savior and Lord. We pray that Your word will transform his thinking, that Your word will be his law. The king's heart is in Your hands, oh God — and so, surely, is the president's. We pray You grant him this saving grace.

America has been called a shining city on a hill. If that was ever true, the light is guttering, dark and dim now. Oh God, grant repentance to this land, that our spiritual prosperity might outstrip our material prosperity, to the glory of the living, triune God of Scripture.

We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the only name given under heaven among men by which we must be saved.

Amen.



The previous rule about not dissing the guest is suspended, in this case. Have at it, within the normal rules.

Dan Phillips's signature

19 January 2009

Inauguration Day Prayer #4: Phil Johnson

posted by Dan Phillips

[See the series introduction/explanation]

Phil Johnson really really needs no introduction here, but let's give it a bit of a go.

I'd say Phil's a Renaissance man, but he's more of a Reformation man. Personally, I'd trade a list of doctorates in the ETS for one Phil Johnson, with his earnest love for God and His word, and the extraordinary diligence he's applied in studying, learning, applying, doing, and communicating.

Phil is the Executive Director of Grace to You, and is a pastor at Grace Community Church. He's also the original Pyromaniac, the founder of this team blog and, to my great blessing, my friend.

Hysterically funny, deep, thoughtful, articulate, energetic, forceful, eater of strange food, wearer of strange sunglasses. That's Phil.

When he's not preaching or serving on various boards or editing books by John MacArthur or running around the country attending conferences, holding them, or guest-preaching, Phil blogs here.

So naturally, he's one of the well-known, faithful pastors I asked to offer his thoughts on praying at Obama's inauguration. Like the previous three, Phil has seen none of the other responses. This is Phil's response, which I received last Thursday:


I would decline.

Not because it’s a political event, or because I don’t agree with Obama’s foreign or domestic policies, but because Obama’s own stated intention is to make his inauguration “the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history,” and I would not want to affirm that goal, even tacitly. His passion for being “the most inclusive” is the sole reason he has involved both Rick Warren and Bishop Vicki Gene Robinson—not because he agrees or disagrees with either one of them. (Obama is clearly his own god.)

The central message he intends to give through his inaugural ceremony, then, is that truth doesn’t really matter. And I would not want to help him send that message, especially in the context of a prayer offered to God.

I had to think about my answer for awhile, because frankly I would be tempted to say yes and then use the occasion to pray a strong imprecation against the idolatry, unbelief, and pluralistic approach to truth that have drawn our culture so far away from our ancestors’ faith. But it would take a special revelation from God for me to aspire to being that kind of prophet.

-- Phil Johnson



Thank you for more solid fodder for thought, Phil.

And for a post tagged both "guest posts" and "Phil Johnson."

One more invitation is out in the ether; if that good brother's unable to submit a prayer, a very poor-substitute pinch-hitter is warming up.

Remember the Special Rule for all these posts: diss me as you see fit, but nobody disses my guests.

Dan Phillips's signature


Inauguration Day Prayer #3: Pastor Chris Brauns

posted by Dan Phillips

[See the series introduction/explanation]

Pyro readers know Pastor Chris Brauns from the review of his fine book Unpacking Forgiveness. Pastor Brauns has a blog, and is pastor of The Red Brick Church in Stillman, Illinois. He has a Master of Divinity degree from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree with a Preaching Emphasis from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Here was Pastor Brauns' "hurried draft" in response to my invitation:
Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your Name.

We stand today to ask you to bless our country and this president. Father, would you guide President Obama and the United States of America through the night with a light from above?

Our petition for light LORD God recognizes that you and your Word are the sum and source of wisdom. We confess that we have oft asked you to bless us with the sunlight of prosperity, but we have been so audacious as to ask on our own terms. So, Lord, we plead today that you would bless us not by endorsing our choices, but rather, that you, God only wise, would guide and direct our paths.

Lord, our request that you would bless with a light from above recognizes that apart from your word and truth, we can only grope in a dark world. While, we see much that is true, noble, lovely, and pure, we are also reminded that the dark night of evil twists, perverts, and destroys whenever given the chance. Lord, God, deliver us from evil, even as we wait for your Kingdom to come.

Lord, we pray that you would protect President Obama from temptation, that you would keep him from situations where he might make mistakes and do that which is displeasing to you. We ask rather that you would give him wisdom with each choice he makes. Lead him to make the right appointment. Give him eyes to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly.

Thank you, Father, for the bounty you have poured out on our country. Give President Obama the wisdom of your word as he leads us through uncertain economic times. We pray that all in our country would have daily bread.

Our Father in Heaven, we know that you are a gracious God, so we ask that you would shed your grace on President Obama and our country; forgive us our trespasses, which are many. But, even in making this request, we remind ourselves that our request for your forgiveness is a pledge to be a country that shows grace domestically and abroad.

Thank you, Father, for answered prayer. We praise you that in electing our first African American president, we have in this instance, ratified a foundational tenet of our country: that all are created equal, whatever their age or race, and that you have endowed all with inalienable rights.

We pray for Mrs. Obama. Would you grant her wisdom and courage as she partners with her husband? We pray that you would strengthen President and Mrs. Obama’s marriage.

We pray for Natasha and Malia Ann. Thank you Father for these lovely little girls. They are already a source of delight to our country, not only for who they are but for all they represent. We pray that you would keep them safe and encourage their hearts, even as we pray collectively for all children of the world who we know are infinitely precious in your sight.

God, on our knees, we ask again, that you would bless our president. Guide Him through the night, with your light from above.

In the name of the only King, your only begotten Son, the Risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.
My thanks to Pastor Brauns for taking the time to share this with us. I have one more "on tap," and am waiting hopefully — because who hopes for what he sees? — for a fifth.

Remember the Special Rule for all these posts: diss me as you see fit, but nobody disses my guests.

Dan Phillips's signature

18 January 2009

Keep me near the cross

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Death and Life in Christ," a sermon on Romans 6:8-11, delivered Sunday morning, 5 April 1863, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London.


HE apostles never traveled far from the simple facts of Christ's life, death, resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and second advent. These things, of which they were the witnesses, constituted the staple of all their discourses.

Newton has very properly said that the two pillars of our religion are, the work of Christ for us, and his work in us by the Holy Spirit. If you want to find the apostles, you will surely discover them standing between these two pillars; they are either discoursing upon the effect of the passion in our justification, or its equally delightful consequence in our death to the world and our newness of life.

What a rebuke this should be to those in modern times who are ever straining after novelties. There may be much of the Athenian spirit among congregations, but that should be no excuse for its being tolerated among ministers; we, of all men, should be the last to spend our time in seeking something new.

Our business, my brethren, is the old labor of apostolic tongues, to declare that Jesus, who is the same yesterday to-day and for ever. We are mirrors reflecting the transactions of Calvary, telescopes manifesting the distant glories of an exalted Redeemer. The nearer we keep to the cross, the nearer, I think, we keep to our true vocation. When the Lord shall be pleased to restore to his Church once more a fervent love to Christ, and when once again we shall have a ministry that is not only flavoured with Christ, but of which Jesus constitutes the sum and substance, then shall the Churches revive—then shall the set time to favor Zion come.

The goodly cedar which was planted by the rivers of old, and stretched out her branches far and wide, has become in these modern days like a tree dwarfed by Chinese art; it is planted by the rivers as aforetime, but it does not flourish, only let God the Holy Spirit give to us once again the bold and clear preaching of Christ crucified in all simplicity and earnestness, and the dwarf shall swell into a forest giant, each expanding bud shall burst into foliage, and the cedar shall tower aloft again, until the birds of the air shall lodge in the branches thereof.

I need offer you no apology, then, for preaching on those matters which engrossed all the time of the apostles, and which shall shower unnumbered blessings on generations yet to come.

C. H. Spurgeon


16 January 2009

Inauguration Day Prayer #2: Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile

posted by Dan Phillips

[See the series introduction/explanation]

Everyone who went to T4G 2008 was informed and challenged by Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile's talk on "race" (and how it isn't a Biblical concept). He also joined Phil for the band of Bloggers meeting, where I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with him. A gracious, thoughtful man, Thabiti is Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman, is a blogger and a published author, and I want to trade his voice for my whiny, nasal one.

Here is Pastor Anyabwile's contribution.



I would be torn as to whether to participate or not.

On the one hand, I wouldn’t want the inevitable public clamor that usually surrounds Bible-believing folks who participate in these sorts of things. I’m not sure the witness potential matches the negative runoff that comes with the invitation.

On the other hand, I believe that having the public’s (any public’s) attention riveted to a prayer for a few short minutes could be effectively used in the hands of the Lord.

So, I would be inclined to simply pray through the gospel of our Lord, as the highest possible blessing upon the individuals listening, the country as a whole, and the world in need of a Savior.

The other reason to accept would be to fill the space with an orthodox commitment to the Lord and His gospel instead of having another secular or even anti-Christian voice heard.

But, as I said, I would be torn.

Grace and peace, my friend.

T-



Many thanks to Pastor Anyabwile for challenging our thinking. He raises the issue: view the opportunity as an opportunity, period, and grab it? Or factor in the counter-weight of the likely impact and repercussions?


NOTE: Special Rule for all these posts: diss me as you see fit, but nobody disses my guests.

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