Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Eucatastrophe101 Has Moved To Wordpress

I'm now using Wordpress for my blog.

"I'm sorry, Blogger. It really was you, not me."

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Pastor's Library

If you're a pastor, you need books. Good books. But if you're going to build a library of good books you need to know at least two things.
  1. What good books should I buy?
  2. With what good bucks may I buy these good books?
Believe or not, The Pastor's Library.Com will help you with both! If you're pastor of any sort, I think you'll find this website very helpful. There's a bunch of helpful hints about setting up (or requesting!) a library budget, the pros and cons of software, and boatload of links for recommended resources and books.

"When I get a little money I buy books: and if any is left I buy food and clothes." Erasmus

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Family Vacation

My family and I are going on vacation for two weeks! Thank God that most of the snow is finally gone now and my friend's camp is no longer snowbound.

Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, work or vacation...do all to the glory of God!

Friday, April 18, 2008

The ESV Study Bible

If you're thinking about buying a study Bible...WAIT! The ESV Study Bible is due out October 2008 and, from the looks of it, will stand to be one of the most important possessions a Christian could ever own. Why?
  1. Because it's the Bible, God's Word, Holy-Spirit inspired truth. That's enough right there.
  2. Because it's the ESV, the best English translation available for both serious study and daily reading.
  3. Because the mammoth amount and stellar quality of all of the study notes available at your finger tips.
  4. Because the contributors are some of the most oustanding, truth-saturated scholars, pastors, and teachers alive today (J.I. Packer, Wayne Grudem, T. Desmond Alexander, Tom Schreiner, Scott Hafemann, John Piper...)
  5. Because of the trust-worthy endorsements:
“The ESV Study Bible is the most important resource that has been given to the emerging generation of Bible students and teachers. The ESV Study Bible is the best. Period.”
Mark Driscoll, Preaching Pastor, Mars Hill Church; President of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network

“The ESV Study Bible is the finest study tool I have seen in fifty years of Bible teaching. The notes, articles, maps, and illustrations are all of the highest quality. It is a great achievement!”
Jerry Bridges, speaker, bestselling author of The Pursuit of Holiness
So what are you going to do until October? Keep reading the Bible you've got!

Or...you can begin to read or listen to the ESV online, too.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Need a Christ-Centered Song?

I encouraged my church over at our blog to check out the story out behind a song we sing often in gathered worship. It's one of my favorites. You should check it out too!

"The Story Behind the Song: "The First Place" by Matthew Westerholm.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Value of Gathered Worship: an Outline

The following is an outline of the presentation I delivered at New England Bible College's faculty conference "How Then Shall We Worship." If you were able to attend it'd be great to continue some dialogue or if you had any questions I'd be more than pleased to help answer them!

The Value of Gathered Worship:

Why God’s People Must Worship Together

Gathered worship strengthens and informs scattered worship (and vice versa).

  • “Worship is a subject that should dominate our lives seven days a week. Vitality and meaning will not be restored to Christian gatherings until those who lead and those who participate can recover a biblical perspective on their meetings, seeing them in relation to God’s total plan and purpose for his people.” [1]
  • By gathering for encouragement. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  • By scattering for mission. (Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 10:31)

Gathered worship fuels a God-glorifying passion in all things.

  • By sharing God’s passion for His glory. (Romans 11:33, 36)
  • By exposing God’s competitors—our idols.

Gathered worship shapes a Christ-centered, gospel-driven community.

  • By knowing the gospel.
  • We never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something more “advanced.” The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the kingdom. The main problem, then, in the Christian life is that we have not thought out the deep implications of the gospel, we have not “used” the gospel in and on all parts of our life. [2]
  • By reading the gospel. (1 Corinthians 15; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-20)
  • By singing the gospel.
  • By praying the gospel. (Colossians 1:9-14)
  • By studying the gospel.
  • By celebrating the gospel. (1 Corinthians 11:26)

Gathered worship motivates a Spirit-empowered mission.

  • By being the church instead of merely going to church.
  • By seeing our mission as a call to worship.
  • “There can only be one call to worship, and this comes at conversion, when in complete repentance we admit to worshipping falsely, trapped by the inversion and enslaved to false gods before whom we have been dying sacrifices.”[3]

[1] David Peterson, Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship, p. 21.
[2] Tim Keller, “The Centrality of the Gospel”, p. 1-2.
[3] Harold Best, Music through the Eyes of Faith, p. 147.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

5 Tips for Clear Writing and Talking

Thank you C.S. Lewis for showing us how to write and talk clearly. Thank you Pastor John Piper for the reminder.

C. S. Lewis’ advice to children on writing is good advice to pastors on preaching, or anybody on talking.

  1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn't mean anything else.
  2. Always prefer the clean direct word to the long, vague one. Don't implement promises, but keep them.
  3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean "More people died" don't say "Mortality rose."
  4. In writing, don't use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the things you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us the thing is "terrible," describe it so that we'll be terrified. Don't say it was "delightful"; make us say "delightful" when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers "Please, will you do my job for me."
  5. Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

(Originally published in Letters to Children, letter from June 26, 1956. Quoted in Wayne Martindale and Jerry Root in The Quotable Lewis, p. 623.)

From Desiring God Blog: "5 Tips for Clear Writing and Talking"

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why don't we sing the good old hymns anymore?

In all my short years upon this earth, I'm actually astonished how often I've heard these words, "Why don't we sing the good, old hymns anymore?!"

If you're ever blessed to hear someone voice a question like that be sure to follow up with a question like this, "What do you mean by good, old hymns? What songs do you have in mind?"

The responses I usually get are..."You know, songs like...'The Old Rugged Cross', 'Living for Jesus', 'In the Garden', 'Because He Lives'."

Most often, the majority of these old songs turn out to be not quite that old after all. In my experience when people complain about the church not singing the good old songs anymore they usually are referring the songs that they grew up singing and they usually date from about 1880-1980. Hardly old.

My point in this post is not to debate the merits of the so-called "Gospel-Hymn" movement, but to just simply remind ourselves that this is not a new struggle. (I love hymns!!! I just find these not quite as God-centered, Christ-exalting, and truth saturated as some of the OLDER hymns of Watts, Newton, and Wesley.)

117 years ago, Basil Manly, argued that we can't afford to lose the old hymns. Here's a quote from an 1891 hymnal in which he says,

For some years it has been apparent that the rage for novelties in singing, especially in our Sunday-schools has been driving out of use the old, precious, standard hymns. They are not memorized as of old. They are scarcely sung at all. They are not even contained in the undenominational song-books which in many churches have usurped the place of our hymn books.

We cannot afford to lose these old hymns. They are full of the Gospel; they breathe the deepest emotions of pious hearts in the noblest strains of poetry; they have been tested and approved by successive generations of those that loved the Lord; they are the surviving fittest ones from thousands of inferior productions; they are hallowed by abundant usefulness and tenderest memories. But the young people of to-day are unfamiliar with them, and will seldom hear many of them, if the present tendency goes on unchecked.

Thanks to Chip Stam, over at Worship Quote of the Week for this fantastic quote yesterday. Basil is right on, "the young people of to-day are unfamiliar with [old hymns], and will seldom hear many of them, if the present tendency goes on unchecked." But surely this generation needs to much further back than merely the hymns of the previous generation, and much further back than the songs of Bill Gaither (please!!!!). That's why I thank God for Indelible Grace Music. If you're not familiar with this ministry, check their website out. Their newly arranged hymns have been a great tool in reviving many old (and even unknown and forgotten) songs.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

How Now Shall We Worship?

This coming April 6 New England Bible College is sponsoring a worship conference called "How Now Shall We Worship?" The outstanding Gordon-Conwell professor, Gary Parrett, is going to be teaching on "The 9.5 Theses on Worship", a potently condensed overview of the theology and practice of worship. It's a must read for every Christian! It's definitely my "go-to" article for introducing people to what biblical worship looks like. And I'm incredibly honored to be teaching the second session on "The Value of Gathered Worship: Why God's People Need to Worship Together." Some of my thoughts about that can be read here. If you're in the neighborhood, I hope you can make it out. Gary has been, without a doubt, the single most impactive person in my life who challenged and equipped me to think biblically and serve lovingly in the ministry of gathered worship. I hope to see you at the conference!

(In the meantime, be sure to read his article, here!)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

WorshipGod 08 Conference

I am super-encouraged that I'll finally be able to make it to Sovereign Grace's WorshipGod Conference this year!!

Planning and leading gathered worship every week is one of the highest privileges in my life, but I find that I am not often enough lead by others in gathered worship. So this will be a refreshing, equipping weekend for sure. With speakers like Bob Kauflin, Mark Dever, Thabiti Anyabwile, David Powlison, and Donald Whitney I know that my soul will be fed, my hands equipped, my heart challenged, and my mind renewed.

So...will I see you there?

Here's the "press release":

WorshipGod08—Rediscovering the Psalms

July 30–August 2, 2008 Gaithersburg, Maryland

Worship leaders and planners are always on the lookout for ways to serve their churches more effectively. Thank God, we have an increasing number of tools, websites, and books we can turn to. But the most important teaching on modern worship wasn’t written in our lifetime. Thousands of years ago, God gave us the Psalms to inform, inspire, and direct our worship. Every generation has the opportunity to rediscover what he’s said.

That’s what we’ll be doing at WorshipGod08, a conference for anyone who wants to grow in understanding and leading biblical worship. Six main sessions will explore how the Psalms model worship that is God-glorifying, Christ-centered, emotionally engaging, full of faith, relevant, and lived out every day. You’ll also be able to choose five practical seminars that will sharpen your thinking, improve your skills, and refresh your soul. As in past WorshipGod conferences, one of the highlights will simply be meeting and interacting with like-minded Christians who share your passion to glorify God.

Whether you come alone or with your whole team, I hope you’ll join us at WorshipGod08 as we rediscover how the ancient Psalms can transform our worship today.

Bob Kauflin
Sovereign Grace Ministries
Worship Matters

Friday, February 15, 2008

"Rambo 4" Viewers Face 10 Years 20 Lashes

"Rambo 4" viewers face 10 years 20 lashes for watching Rambo 4...that is of course if you watch it in Myanmar!

Because Stallone's last installment of the adventures of John Rambo reveals the darker and truer side of the practically genocidal treatment of Karen and other tribes at the hands of the Burmese army, the tyrannical military regime is cracking down hard on anyone caught watching or in possession of "Rambo 4."

The word on the street about the movie is that the violence is gratuitous. But having been to Myanmar and having heard stories from refugees who fled the country because of the atrocities done to them and their families, it's probably not that far from reality. At least the violence perpetrated by the junta, not the Hollywood-ized shock-action of Rambo.

While Rambo 4 may help get the word out about the plight of Karen tribes and the horrific conditions in Myanmar, John Rambo and his relentless bloodshed is not the answer. Rather, the blood shed by the true Rescuer is the only hope for the dark land of the Golden Triangle. May the faithful lives of men and women who trust in and follow Jesus shine brightly there.

And may their testimonies, in life and in death, bear fruit in a church that overcomes evil with good. And may men and women risk their lives for that which is infinitely more valuable than than 90 minute of cinema. May it be said of them...

And they have conquered [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they loved not their lives even unto death.

Revelation 12:11

Watch Video at CNN.com

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sovereign Grace CDs for Six Bucks

During the whole month of February you'll be able to buy all the incredible music of Sovereign Grace Ministries for only $6 a CD! Books, too, will be severely discounted. Not to mention free shipping!

Bob Kauflin fills us in on why they've decided to be so ridiculously generous...
Why are we doing this? A few reasons. The primary mission of Sovereign Grace Ministries is to serve Sovereign Grace pastors who are giving their lives to build Gospel-centered local churches. We want to do everything we can to help them serve the people they lead. Providing Christ-exalting, biblically faithful music and books in one of the ways we can do that. We also want to make it as easy as possible for other churches and individuals to have access to what we produce. We figured that lowering the price of everything we’ve done is a step in that direction. We also want more people to hear our music and read our books because we produced them to encourage God-glorifying, Gospel-centered, Spirit-empowered living.Basically, it makes us happy to get our materials out for the lowest price possible.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Zechariah's First Birthday

Zechariah turned 1 year old, today--January 14, 2008!!! We've had a wonderful time celebrating with family and friends and playing with some of his new toys and in the freshly fallen snow. We can hardly believe it's been a year already since Zeke was born, and we are constantly amazed by how much joy God has brought into our life through our son. He's almost walking and is curious about absolutely everything.

Here are some picture that I know will brighten your day. Enjoy!

"This is my first time playing in the snow."

"Me and daddy!"

"Literally, just chillin'."

"Help, I can't get out!"

"That's a beautiful tree...too bad I can't touch it."

"A family portrait. I make them look good."

"Once again, I got in here myself, but I can't get out!"

"Walking...it's not as easy as it looks."

"Mommy's helping open my birthday presents."

"This is so much fun. I like birthdays."

"If i smile, do I get some cake?"


"I've got to pace myself."

"Who needs a fork when you've got fingers?!"

"Indeed this was finger-licking good."

"Driver, bring me around the house one more time. It's my birthday!"

Monday, January 07, 2008

What I Never Want to Do in 2008

Bob Kauflin shares what he never wants to do in 2008, here. Here's a small taste:

This morning, as I often do, I read two of the prayers from The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett. I’ve found these prayers help focus my thoughts on the most important issues in life: the greatness of my sin, the sovereignty of God, the saving work of Christ, the needs of the world, and my eternal destination. The first prayer this morning was “The ‘Nevers’ of the Gospel.” The commitments the author expressed offered a wise perspective as we enter a new year.

For my own understanding, I’ve divided the prayer into three sections. I call the first, “Using Truth Rightly.” It has to do with never seeking to know God’s Word in a way that doesn’t affect my life. Biblical knowledge, doctrine, and theology are all vital to my life. But unless my heart changes as a result, I’m only becoming deceived. I’ve updated the language to make it easier to read.

O Lord, may I never fail to come to the knowledge of the truth,
never rest in a system of doctrine, however scriptural,
that does not bring or further salvation,
or teach me to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts,
or help me to live soberly, righteously, godly;

Read the whole thing, here.

Friday, January 04, 2008

John Owen and Gollum: Puritan vs. Hobbit

Gollum personifies how evil takes hold of you, enslaving and devouring you. And the genius of Tolkien's Gollum is that the evil that destroys the once kind, playful hobbit does not come in an ugly, obvious form of evil. Instead, it seems beautiful and lovely; it is precious! Outwardly, Gollum's "Precious" does not look as dangerous as Saruman's pride, treachery, and manipulation or Sauron's destroy-anything-that-gets-in-my-way-of-absolute-power. And yet, I know of no other literary or cinematic character that so graphically portrays how sin begins so craftily, but ends in destruction.

Well, the other day I came across the most unlikely pairing. Reading through John Owen's Overcoming Sin and Temptation, I found something that made me think that Tolkien just might have ripped off the Puritan when he came up with Gollum and his beloved "Precious." Check this out...
"[Unmortified sin] untunes and unframes the heart itself by entangling its affections. It diverts the heart from the spiritual frame that is required for vigorous communion with God; it lays hold on the affections, rendering its object beloved and desirable, so expelling the love of the Father (1 John 2:15; 3:17); so that the soul cannot say uprightly and truly to God, "You are my portion," having something else it loves. Fear, desire, hope, which are the choice affections of the soul, that should be full of God, will be one way or other entangled with it."

John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, eds., Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor, 64-65.

Notice how Owen describes sin: "it lays hold on the affections, rendering its object beloved and desirable." Sin is ultimately calling something other than God, "My Precioussss!" It's not merely doing bad things; more fundamentally, it is making good things into god things, as Tim Keller states. And when this happens we become incapable of experiencing or enjoying the love of God because our affections are diverted away from him. Something else has taken his place, and to it we say "You are my portion; you are my Precious!" That something is to us a substitute savior, a damning idol.

And sin, like the ring is not content to be just an add-on in our life: it's desire is to enslave. Remember when Gollum, then Smeagol, acquired the ring? His servitude began right away! It lead him to murder his own cousin. It drove him from the ones he loved. It reduced him to living like an animal, eating raw fish and dwelling in caves. It owned him! It destroyed him.

Together, Owen and Gollum remind us of this central truth: whatever we love, whatever we worship...we will serve. You've got to serve somebody, may you take Jesus at his word and serve him!

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10