Over at PastoralEpistles.com I have posted a brief overview of the Pastoral Epistles group meeting at the Evangelical Theological Society and an update on our work.
Carl Trueman has helpfully challenged the common discussion of how hard pastoral ministry is. I encourage you to read his post. Is pastoral ministry difficult? Of course. Life is difficult as a sinner in a fallen world. But the problem comes when anyone begins to talk about their life, their setting, their calling as the most difficult.
Here’s my take. When you are talking to young men who want to be pastors, tell them that hardship awaits them. Make sure that reality doesn’t blindside them (though even here some overdo it, such that I have heard young men come out of sessions asking, “Is there any joy in such ministry?” or “Why then does he continue in such a wretched life?”). Be upfront about challenges, but never tell your people or the world in general that pastors have the toughest job. This sounds like “humble brag’ or even an invitation to a pity party. It suggests our eyes are too much on ourselves and not enough on the challenges of those we serve.
Furthermore, saying that any of us have the toughest jobs distracts us from real suffering of fellow believers in other parts of the world- like what is shown in this video below. This gives some perspective.
Let us be real about the challenges we face and the challenges other brothers and sisters face. And, then, let us be even more real about the hope of the gospel which sustains us all.
Kenneth Berding’s new book, Workbook in Romans: Arranged According to the History of Redemption, has just been released. It is the inaugural volume in a new series, Workbooks in the History of Redemption, and is published by Weaver Book Company
I had the privilege of seeing the book before publication and wrote the following commendation for it:
“This is a very fine Bible study resource as it helps readers grasp the details of the biblical text and how those details tie into the overall storyline of the Scriptures. A significant problem in the church is that people have diverse pieces of biblical information but are not able to see how all these pieces fit together. Berding’s workbook is a wonderful way to solve this problem. It will help open the fullness of the biblical message to readers in a fresh way. I heartily commend it.”
The book is spiral bound and arranged in workbook format to guide someone through a study of the letter. If you are looking for a way to study Romans while catching the big picture of the story of Redemption this is a great way to do it.
Yesterday was the 290th anniversary of the birth of Samuel Davies (1723-1761), a powerful preacher during the Great Awakening in colonial America. Davies was a skilled orator whose rhetorical style influenced a young Patrick Henry. He eventually succeeded Jonathan Edwards as president of the College of New Jersey (later renamed Princeton). On one fundraising trip for the College, King George II of England invited him to preach at the royal chapel. Reportedly, when the king whispered during the sermon, Davies stopped and directly addressing the king, said, “When the lion roars, all the animals in the jungle fall silent; and when the Lord speaks, the kings of the earth shut their mouths.”
Davies also wrote poems and was one of the first hymn writers in colonial America. My hymn of the week is this poem which beautifully describes the call and free offer of the gospel.
(The Invitations of the Gospel)
Today the living streams of grace
Flow to refresh the thirsty soul;
Pardon and life and boundless bliss
In plenteous rivers round us roll.
Ho, ye that pine away and die,
Come, and your raging thrist allay;
Come all that will, here’s rich supply,
A fountain that shall ne’er decay.
“Come all,” the blessed Jesus cries,
“Freely My blessings I will give.”
The Spirit echoes back the voice,
And bids us freely drink and live.
The saints below, that do but taste,
And saints above, who drink at will,
Cry jointly, “Thirsty sinners! haste,
And drink, the spring’s exhaustless still.”
Let all that hear the joyful sound,
To spread it through the world unite;
From house to house proclaim it round,
Each man his fellow man invite.
Like thirsty flocks, come let us go;
Come every color, every age;
And while the living waters flow,
Let all their parching thirst assuage
“the reformation had to undo the untold damage caused by the decision made by leaders of the Roman Catholic Church that the Bible was too difficult for ordinary people, and was reserved for scholars; and that instead of the Bible, the ordinary people would have statues and paintings; ‘the bibles of the uneducated.’ This policy produced generations of people who knew Bible images, but had no idea what they meant.”
This statement helps us understand the world before the Reformation and how we have benefitted from the Reformation. It is also a challenge to our current setting. Here in the West people aren’t forbidden to read the Bible, just very often though don’t bother. The idea that the Bible is too difficult for “ordinary people” is common in our churches and people rely on “images” gathered from pop Christian songs and films or simply from the culture at large. As a result we have returned to a setting in which many people know some basic Bible images or concepts but know very little of what it all means. We are in need of a great renewal in the church directing us once more to the Scripture, so that we might properly grasp the Gospel and its implications.
 Peter Adam, “Calvin’s School of Christ for Preachers,” in Aspects of Reforming: Theology and Practice in Sixteenth Century Europe, ed. Michael Parsons (Paternoster, 2013), p. 119.
Happy Reformation Day!
Halloween just has no draw for me when we have the opportunity to celebrate the recovery of the gospel and its implications for life. We celebrate the recovery of God’s word, which points us to the gospel which brings life and the certain hope of resurrection.
This year my family has been singing the great little hymn, “God’s Word is Our Great Heritage” as we prepared for and celebrate Reformation Day. It is set to the tune of “A Mighty Fortress” and captures an essential element of the Reformation.
God’s Word is our great heritage
And shall be ours forever;
To spread its light from age to age
Shall be our chief endeavor.
Through life it guides our way,
In death it is our stay.
Lord, grant while time shall last,
Your Church may hold it fast
Throughout all generations.
What a heritage we have in God’s Word! Spreading the light of this Word is indeed our chief endeavor, as we seek to remind believers of its truths and take those truths to those who’ve yet to believe or never heard. And this Word is our guide and strength in life and in death. I want to be reminded of these truths and to instill them in my children from their earliest days. I want them to see their father rejoicing in and seeking to live out these truths. In this way we labor for the church to hold fast to Scripture throughout the ages.
Here is another hymn related to the Reformation. A key aspect of the Reformation story concerns the people who died for the faith, seeking to being the Scriptures and the gospel to their people. This hymn written by martin Luther captures this reality. The story is that Luther wrote these words after getting word that two young men had been burned at the stake in Brussels.
Flung to the heedless winds,
Or on the waters cast,
The martyrs’ ashes, watched,
Shall gathered be at last.
And from that scattered dust,
Around us and abroad,
Shall spring a plenteous seed,
Of witnesses for God.
The Father hath received,
Their latest living breath,
And vain is Satan’s boast,
Of victory in their death.
Still, still, though dead, they speak,
And, trumpet tongued, proclaim,
To many a wakening land,
The one availing Name.
Words: Martin Luther, 1523 (Ein neues Lied wir heben an); translated from German to English by John A. Messenger.
At my children’s literature site I have listed some recommended books for children and families on the Reformation (some pictured in this photo). I hope they are helpful for families to make much of this important event together.
This week’s poem comes from Paul Speratus, who helped Martin Luther assemble the first Lutheran hymnal. It is long, but it nicely lays out the futility of works, the place of the Law, justification by faith alone and how works result from faith.
SALVATION UNTO US HAS COME
Salvation unto us has come
By God’s free grace and favor;
Good works cannot avert our doom,
They help and save us never.
Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,
Who did for all the world atone;
He is our one Redeemer.
What God did in His law demand
And none to Him could render
Caused wrath and woe on every hand
For man, the vile offender.
Our flesh has not those pure desires
The spirit of the Law requires,
And lost is our condition.
It was a false, misleading dream
That God His Law had given
So sinners could themselves redeem
And by their works gain Heaven.
The Law is but a mirror bright
To bring the inbred sin to light
That lurks within our nature.
From sin our flesh could not abstain
Sin held its sway unceasing;
The task was useless and in vain,
Our guilt was e’er increasing.
None can remove sin’s poisoned dart
Or purify our guileful heart—
So deep is our corruption.
Yet as the Law must be fulfilled
Or we must die despairing,
Christ came and hath God’s anger stilled,
Our human nature sharing.
He hath for us the Law obeyed
And thus the Father’s vengeance stayed
Which over us impended.
Since Christ hath full atonement made
And brought us to salvation,
Each Christian therefore may be glad
And build on this foundation.
Thy grace alone, dear Lord, I plead,
Thy death is now my life indeed,
For Thou hast paid my ransom.
Let me not doubt, but trust in Thee,
Thy Word cannot be broken;
Thy call rings out, “Come unto Me!”
No falsehood hast Thou spoken.
Baptized into Thy precious Name,
My faith cannot be put to shame,
And I shall never perish.
The Law reveals the guilt of sin
And makes men conscience-stricken;
The Gospel then doth enter in
The sinful soul to quicken.
Come to the cross, trust Christ, and live;
The Law no peace can ever give,
No comfort and no blessing.
Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
And rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
Yet faith alone doth justify,
Works serve thy neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.
All blessing, honor, thanks, and praise
To Father, Son, and Spirit,
The God that saved us by His grace—
All glory to His merit!
O Triune God in Heav’n above,
Who hast revealed Thy saving love,
Thy blessèd Name be hallowed.
- - Paul Speratus, 1523
Here is C. S. Lewis dealing, parenthetically, with an issue which parents often ask about. I think he is exactly right.
“The question whether the disputed pencil belongs to Tommy or Charles is quite distinct from the question which is the nicer little boy, and the parents who allowed the one to influence their decision about the other would be very unfair. (It would be still worse if they said Tommy ought to let Charles have the pencil whether it belonged to him or not, because this would show he had a nice disposition. That may be true, but it is an untimely truth. An exhortation to charity should not come as rider to a refusal of justice. It is likely to give Tommy a lifelong conviction that charity is a sanctimonious dodge for condoning theft and whitewashing favouritism.)”
- C. S. Lewis, Reflectionson the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1958), 17-18.
[Also posted at The Children's Hour]