Archive for April, 2009


I’m a fan, especially of finding new, soul-stirring stuff that points me to Jesus’ sufficient and all-worthy sacrifice. Take this one:

At first I am afraid but not because of fear
But the Holy of Holies is drawing me near
Your voice like thunder shakes the ground I’m on

So hide my face in the shadow of Your wings, oh Lord
Hide my sin from the beauty here before Your throne
Your throne

Hallelujah for the blood of the Lamb that was slain
Hallelujah for the blood of the Lamb that was slain
And so we enter in to see Your face
We enter in to see Your face, oh God

Well I’m falling to my knees. I feel the earth beneath
With the weight of my sin, and this crushing unbelief
Could You really love me with all that I’ve done, oh Lord

You spread Your hands
And made a refuge for the weak and blessed
The weary, bruised, and broken
Took our sin. Inside Your wounds we hide away
Inside Your wounds we hide

– Tenth Avenue North, Hallelujah on Over and Underneath


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The Big Picture

Many thoughts have been stirred up recently concerning the Big Picture of the Bible. Essentially, this post will be a series of resources I recommend. The first is, appropriately enough, the Big Picture Story Bible:

On Sunday, one of our pastors at Timberland gave this to my buddy Scott who blogs with me over at Better Beards. My wife flipped through it and read it to us on the way back to my place. In short, it’s awesome. It deliberately traces the covenant of God from the beginning to the end, all for children 12 and under. And honestly, even though I’m in my mid-twenties, this is a book I would want to read for myself. 450+ pages, Crossway, 5/5 stars. Get one at Amazon or Crossway

The next set of books have served me well thus far in sermon preparation and keeping my eyes on the big picture:


Mark Dever’s overviews of the Old and New Testaments take the form of a series of sermons manuscripted and adapted into book format. Each chapter is one sermon, overviewing a book of the Bible. The strength here is in the Old Testament pointing forward to the New, and Christ being expounded upon in the New. Each is interpreted according to standard hermenutics, but the overarching theme is wonderfully New Testament priority. Jesus is indeed exalted in all of these, and it helps deepen the essential story that’s found in the above story book. New Testament: 560 pages, Crossway, 5/5 stars. Old Testament, 960 pages, Crossway, 5/5 stars. 

New Testament can be bought at Amazon, Crossway, or 9 Marks.

Old Testament can also be bought at Amazon, Crossway, or 9 Marks

The two-tiered approach (one as an overview for children, another as an overview for adults) is supplemented further by another resource I’ve just been made aware of. 

I’ve heard good things about the book, although I haven’t gotten a chance to read it myself. It presents the major Biblical stories that relate to the central story of Christ, from beginning to end. 416 pages, Zondervan. But it at Amazon or at Zondervan

Finally, for those who want to be equipped to communicate Christ-centered truth, I can’t recommend a better resource than Bryan Chapell’s Christ Centered Preaching.

This is currently my textbook for Expository Preaching at Northland. I wish it was a little less technical and somewhat more affectional, but it almost strikes a perfect balance of those two. If this weren’t coming so late in my education, I probably would give it five stars. As it stands, Chapell spends a lot of time getting into understanding the redemptive nature of the Scriuptures. The technical aspects have somewhat of a learning curve to them. Despite this, it’s a great book. 400 pages, Baker, 4.5/5 stars. Buy it from Amazon or from Baker.

An additional note: while one might be tempted to simply pull the trigger on whichever retailer is cheapest, it’s worth noting that Crossway gives away a .pdf copy of all their books when you purchase it through their site. This may not matter much in many instances, but I can see this being extremely useful for the Big Picture Story Bible. Possibly worth incorporating into slideshows for children’s Sunday School.

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The Gospel Coalition (5)

Now back home, spending some time trying to overcome the amount of school I have to do. My final week of undergrad classes… wow. This previous week was great. Ligon Duncan has me thinking about who I’ll see when I cross the finish line. If I’ll cross the finish line. And this is healthy… spiritually. Far from the dead spirituality that many claim that certain theological traditions produce, I find these preachers to be robustly well-rounded. The Gospel has demands on our lives that God graciously provides the resources and power to complete in us and through us. Superlatives can’t do that justice. 

Just pondering… Paul seems to use the same allusion in 4:7 that he does in 2:3-7. Paul tells Timothy to fight, run, and keep, and then seems to say that Paul has been the example of this, and has now completed it.  This is entrusting… being willing to fight for the Gospel, run the race of the Gospel, and to keep the Gospel. The one hiccup with this connection may be the third metaphor… connecting farming in 2:7 with tereo in 4:7 may be a stretch. At very least the mindset is in 2:3-7 is the same as the mindset in 4:7. The soldier abstains from civilian life so he can fight and please the one who enlisted him. The runner obeys the rules so he can run the course and obtain the prize. And the farmer works hard so he can preserve and keep the crop and reap a harvest. This three-fold connection isn’t as full as I’d like it to be… but I can’t help but ponder those three pictures.

Fighting for the sake of the Gospel, running for the sake of the Gospel, guarding for the sake of the Gospel.

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Live Blogging the Scholar as Pastor

8:51 – Carson is up, and I’m back online (internet is hit-and-miss up in the auditorium). “It’s not wise to say that every pastor has the gifts and scholarly training… do do major works.” However, he gives a couple of exceptions. For instance, J.I. Packer wrote “Knowing God” in the womb of pastoral ministry… so it’s possible. 

8:53 – Picking up on introduction… there is an evangelical tradition that tells us that we are to love God with our “mind”, with our intellect. Argument goes like this: “love the Lord with all your mind, soul, and strength.” Carson doesn’t think this is entirely valid. In the OT, the gut is the place of emotion. In the OT, the heart is the whole being. Dominant in all that is what you think.

8:57 – What this means is that using our minds in a lazy ways (in relation to God) borders on the blasphemous.  

8:59 – Love of God should never degenerate into mere emotion; it is holistic. There’s plenty of references to mind and 

9:00 – Biblical warnings about how knowledge puffs up doesn’t mean we are to avoid intellectualism. Conversely, saying that loving God with our minds doesn’t not absolve or delude the Biblical mandate of passion. 

9:01 – A word about his own pilgrimage. As an undergrad, he went to Mcgill university. Wanted to pursue Organic Synthesis at Cornell. At this time, he began to observe two kinds of people in chemistry. Those who approached retirement and hated what they did, and those who loved it. He fell in the middle, and wanted out. Entered ministry.

9:15 – Internet was out, back up now. Main sermon: scholar as frustrated pastor. Twelve points for them:

9:16 – Point 1: Take steps to avoid becoming a mere quartermaster. They’re the ones that supply the front lines. 

9:20 – Point 2: Beware the seduction of applause… from one of two directions. An academic direction, or a religious direction. This was tempting for him in his training while in England. 

9:29 – Relates a story about how scholars may not get the Gospel at all. You can assent to it and not really know it in the affectional sense.

9:30 – The second direction of applause is your own conservative constituency.

9:31 – Point 3: Fight with every fiber of your being the common dichotomy between objective study of Scripture and devotional reading of Scripture. Don’t stop thinking in devotion, and be passionate and loving towards God in your exegesis.

9:35 – Point 4:  Never forget that it’s about the souls of people who are outside your studies.  

9:37 – Back with the internet, now in the cafe’ downstairs. Took notes on points 3 and 4 during the downtime; will post notes above in a minute.

9:38 – Point 5: Happily recognize that God distributes gifts among scholar-pastors. Some have popularizing skills, some churn out stuff, some have precise skills. We shouldn’t think that we all must be similarly endowed.

9:41 – Point 6: Recognize that students don’t learn everything you teach them. In terms of life long commitment, your students learn what you’re excited about. That’s pretty profound for pastors too. Be excited about that which is of the most fundamental importance. Otherwise, you teach people to undermine that which is most important if you emphasize the wrong thing.

9:43 – First generation assumes the Gospel, second generation marginalizes the Gospel, third generation denies the Gospel. 

9:44 – Point 7: Make the main thing the main thing. Don’t teach people to master the NT, teach them to be mastered by the NT. Don’t just teach them what the passage says, teach them how to find what’s in the passage. 

9:46 – Point 8: Pray and work for a scholarly vision that is beyond the publisher’s. 

9:48 – Point 9: Love the church. The seminaries won’t exist in eternity.

9:49 – Point 10: Avoid lone ranger scholarships. “Reading makes a full man, speaking makes a quick man, writing makes a exact man.”

9:50 – Point 11: Be quick to be interested in the works of others more than your own work.

9:50 – Point 12: Take the work seriously, but not too seriously. Laugh at yourself.


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Live Blogging the Pastor as Scholar

John Piper at the Pastor as Scholar, Scholar as Pastor event.


7:07 – 60 second warning… John Fieck and I arrived less than 5 minutes ago. Got two stray seats, this place is packed. Text to 24625 for questions.

7:10 – Introductory comments. This place is amazingly loaded. Owen Strand is coming up now, managing director of the Henry Center.

7:15 – Video with an overview of the Biblical story from BibleMesh. Looked at this program quite a bit at Gospel Coalition… a guy named Matthew at their booth was very helpful. Maybe include this at Timberland sometime.

7:18 – Alistair Begg is one of the people narrating. Need to get him at one of these conferences.

7:22 – Dr. Piper is up first. His approach will be to “tell his story… so you can decide whether I’m a scholar or a pastor.” Quoting FF Bruce, “While some readers have observed that in these chapters I have said little about my domestic life… I do not care to speak much about the things that mean most to me. Others do care more to speak about these things… and enrich others with the Lord’s dealings with them. It calls for quite exceptional qualities to be able do this without self-consciousness or self-deceit.”

7:24 – Piper didn’t really like FF Bruce’s comment… he wonders what does it matter if we aren’t sharing? It’s the scholarly way to be more reticant. Piper, on the other hand, is constantly bursting with things (really? No way!). 

7:26 – Quoting Edwards… it is his duty to raise the affections of the people that listen to him as high as they possibly can. When the pastor seeks to do that, it’s assumed that they’ve already done so for themselves. FF Bruce’s comment is deadly. 

7:28 – Paul does it Piper’s way… or Piper does it Paul’s way. Quoting 2 Corinthians 1. 

7:29 – Piper is going to distill his talk in chapters of his life.

Chapter 1: Early Childhood

7:30 – Six years old at a motel in Florida, on vacation with his family, he put his faith in Christ. However, as he grew up, he had a inhibition to speak out loud in front of a group. People would ask him if he wanted to be a preacher like his dad… he would resoundingly say “no!”

7:32 – Neither his dad nor his home were enviroments for intellectual cultivation. Nevertheless, the affections were there. The realities in his life were Biblical realities.

Chapter 2: High School

7:33 – In high school, he had a a double awakening. On the intellectual side there was a biological class. On the emotional expressive side, there was an English class. He loved geometry as well; he loved reasoning from premises to create conclusions. He has an eye for non-sequitors.

7:35 – Geometry gave his a passion for right reasoning, biology gave him a passion for right observation. Both are essential; you cannot do one without the other!  

7:36 – This worked in seminary. “Just see what’s there!” Tons of German too; knew he was at Munich, didn’t know he spoke it. He watched front line, world class scholars miss it while he saw it because he observed. Good advice.

7:38 – Back to high school, he was falling in love with writing, especially with poetry. Every day of his life since then he’s written. Thus, writing became the lever for his thinking. He cannot sustain a line of thinking for 30 seconds without writing. He can’t keep it in his head. I’m very much the same way. It’s a discipline. 

7:40 – The inability to speak in high school made his life difficult. Cs in civics, didn’t interact well with others socially. Another thing… he couldn’t read any faster then he could talk. Still can’t. These two disabilities… what can you do? This was high school.

Chapter 3: Wheaton College

7:42 – Wheaton College. In his mind, forms began to take place. Ways of thinking exploded onto the scene, but God and the Bible were not the same focus. Two profs, Holmes and Hackitt had a profound effect on him.

7:44 – Holmes helped him with his worldview. “Think for a living, and write a little bit about it.” Wow. Hackitt was also a philosopher. It wasn’t just what he thought, but the way he thought. “Any system of thinking that denies truth denies itself.” Profound… the law of non-contradiction saves anyone a lot of time. “If you say there is no truth, you have just opened something that doesn’t count. 

7:46 – Francis Schaffeur showed up and turned their world upside down. There were people who he went to college with that influenced him. Mark Noll was his RA, had a sign up that said “to love is to stop comparing.” 

7:48 – Piper was a B student at Wheaton. He worked hard, but couldn’t get it. He reads slow, he can’t remember what he reads, he can’t make As at Wheaton, and he can’t talk. This was his mind at Wheaton.

7:49 – His heart at Wheaton was also helped. His writing flourished to a degree, but didn’t take a single novel class although he was a lit major. Loved poetry, didn’t like novels. “I’ve read one or two in recent decades.” His emotions ran deep. A writer named Kilby helped him in his writings to be affectional. “Mental health is seeing and enjoing them for what they are.

7:51 – Clyde Kilby’s resolutions. 1) Once every day, I will stare at a tree, or a could, or a person. 2) I will joyfully allow them the mystery of life. He was alive to wonder, and helped Piper awaken to that wonder. 

7:54 – Noel came into his life at Wheaton, and everything changed. They were talking marriage in three weeks. Basically, Piper wanted to sleep with her. 

7:55 – Lewis became for Piper in his college days what Edwards became for his in the seminary. There was a book called “The Romantic Rationalist” that at first sight Piper fell in love with. Rational poetry. Pastor scholar. “Cool logic is not foreign to warm feeling.” 

7:57 – Smash an argument, hug a friend. That’s great! Both/and instead of either/or. 

7:58 – Had a teacher who told them never to buy an illustration book. Instead, he told them to “just listen” and was was silent for a minute. When no one had anything to say after a minute, the prof said “did you hear the siren? Someone is dying or injured now, and you don’t feel anything?” Amen to that! As Keller said, you won’t touch a life until you have a life! 

8:00 – Piper started cracking jokes about thinking about being a veterinarian because it wasn’t a big deal to him if a patient died in surgery…..especially if it was a cat.

8:01 – Was asked to give the invocation at summer school; about 500 people. Piper said “how long do you have to talk?” and said “yes”. He promised God that if he got through it, he would never turn down another opportunity to speak for Him. He believes he’s kept the vow for 43 years. God showed up and broke him. 

8:03 – Harold Ockenga came and preached and Piper missed it and two weeks of classes. This was impetus for him to change direction and go to seminary. 

8:05 – He says that at seminary he felt no allegiance to the local church, but when he got married 3 months later, he matured and realized he needed to be involved in a church. He found a church where the pastor “loved his people through preaching.” What an idea. 

Chapter 4: Fuller Seminary

8:07 – At Fuller, these were the years when New Evangelicalism was wanting to gain intellectual respectability. This wasn’t always good. For instance, George Ladd was destroyed by a bad review of “Jesus and the Kingdom”… absolutely crushed. Later in his life, he ran through the hallway when his NT Theology was published, waving the royalty check. It was both good and sad. There would never be a Don Carson and all his books without these years of rigorous academic development in evangelicalism.

8:10 – Wasn’t happy about the sophomoric profs who would bash fundamentalism. 

8:12 – Dan Fuller was a HUGE impact on his life. He taught Piper what true scholarship was. He introduced to him the idea of “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in HIm.” This is how it went down. Fuller was in a class, and said “why can’t we be like Edwards?” Both warming hearts and crafting rational arguments that challenged minds.

8:15 – Freedom of the Will crushed his Arminianism. The End for Which God Created the World set up a love for His sovereignty. He came out of seminary firmly Reformed. 

8:16 – The focus of romance and of rational labor become the Word of God. In Wheaton he was given form, and at Fuller he was given substance that the form could interact with.

Chapter 5: Univeristy of Munich

8:17 – After Fuller, he sought more education. Ended up in Germany, and didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Went to a little Baptist Church that had life in it, wrote a dissertation on loving Jesus. “The global king of Biblical scholarship had no clothes on.” 

8:19 – How did you get from probability to certainty in German Biblical scholarship? “The wand of consensus… *insert incredulous look by Piper* Tenth grade defeats that!” His understanding of rationalism and passion innoculated him against their postmodern thought. 

Chapter 6: Bethel College

Got his degree from the University of Munich and never looked at it again. Went to Bethel College in Minnesota. Was great except for one thing. Something changed inside of him… he became very restless in grading and the day in-and-out of teaching.

8:21 – Wrote the Justification of God while he was there at Bethel, and realized that God had to be proclaimed and not simply analyzed. This is when he said he needed to get out and proclaim the Word. He moved from his scholarly pursuits to pastoral pursuits. 

Chapter 7: Bethlehem Baptist Church

8:23 – In June 1980 he accepted the call to Bethlehem Baptist. Went to the text so that people would argue with Paul and not with him. Doesn’t get to read much, and only gets to write because he’s converting sermons.

8:25 – Is Piper scholarly? Tries not to stay on the cutting edge of anything… way too slow for that. What scholarly would mean for him is that the greatest object of knowledge in the universe is God, and He has revealed Himself in a book. It behooves us to spend everything we have to get to know Him in that book.


Update 4/24: The transcript for Piper’s talk can be found here. Thanks to Park Community Church (@ParkChurch) for hosting and Andrew Randazzo (@Dazzo88) for liveblogging with me.

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The Gospel Coalition (4)

Sitting in the hotel room, soaking in the day. Jesus is good to provide us preaching.

Dr. Chapell preached today: in the Word we find the voice, hand, and heart of God… and those three elements together comprise a perfect portrait of Jesus Christ. Wow. Reading through Chapell’s book this semester for class, I kept thinking what a perfect vision for preaching. Christ. Always. And yet, in the Old Testament, He’s not there explicitely all the time. And so, in our hermaneutics class, we learned that Christ was not always in the text, and so we should teach according to what the original intent was. Context is King. 

But Chapell in his preaching emphasizes that the reference point in Scripture is always the Cross. This is second nature to most of us, but isn’t so obvious with certain theological viewpoints. This undermines the Gospel, brothers! The Cross is central to redemptive history, both corporate and individual. In it, we see the full expression of Christ’s character in all His passion. That’s just cool. Christ is the context of all of Scripture.

In Dr. Chapell’s message, he beautifully painted the picture of God calling out to us with His voice, reaching out to us with His hand, and thus showing us His heart. “It is not that the child holds tightly to the parent, but that the parent holds tightly to the child.” God reaches to us in the darkness; we don’t grope for Him! Our salvation is graciously, wonderously, overwhelmingly provided for us from the first call of His voice until His hand draws us to His side eternally. 

And in the midst of all this, we are entrusted with His voice. Chapell pointed out that we speak as Christ, not merely for Christ. God has entrusted us with His voice. Wow. The Word of God is ours, in our lap. And we don’t treat it as such. If we really understood the Word, and spoke it as it was meant to be spoken…

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Which Edition of Calvin’s Institutes?

I’m considering purchasing Calvin’s Institutes. The question is, which edition? My two options:

The 1541 edition – The newest translation, done by Eerdman’s. I’m told it reflects more of a pastoral viewpoint, rather than the heavier systematic theology apparent in later editions.

The 1559 edition – Supposedly the definitive edition, containing both an excellent translation and all the theological content. 

What are the pros and cons of each?

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