Why We Need Doctrine

A good quote from an article by R.C. Sproul:

I like the point he makes in general, and also how the italicized sentence (my italics) speaks to the Osteen fad.

Sound theology is what drives the practical, the nitty gritty of how to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. A theology which treats God as a means to the end of personal peace and affluence will give rise to viewing others as means to the end of personal peace and affluence. A theology which views God as a spectator in history will not allow me to offer the comfort of Christ in times of sorrow. It is because we have done our theological homework, because we have striven for theological integrity, that we can say to those that suffer, 'The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.'

The distinction then between theology and practical theology is a false one. We must and will always preach what we practice. I labor as an editor to help people understand who God is so that they can better love Him, and those whom He has effectually called. And I labor as a pastor to help people obey these two great commands. I pray that my teaching, my practice, indeed all of my life would reflect the truth of who God is. My integrity is what is on the line with theological integrity, and the integrity of those under my care. Theology is not a parlor game, nor an academic exercise. Rather it is the study of the God who is, the source and sustainer of all things, and He who calls dead men like me to life. How can I, or anyone, play fast and loose in such a holy endeavor? 'Theology doesn't matter' is a lie, straight from the Father of Lies. Don't believe it.

Anyone else think this is sad?

Tickets to see the Rev. Joel Osteen this weekend in Dallas are going for as much as 10 times their face value," the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reports. Dallas' American Airlines Center has only about half the seats of Osteen's Lakewood Church in Houston, and now the $10 tickets—long since sold out—are selling for more than $100. (seems like it would be cheaper to make the four-hour drive to Houston).

"Joel Osteen is now to the Christian religion what Michael Jordan was to the NBA," Perfectseats.com's Gary McBride told the newspaper. "When Michael Jordan played for the Chicago Bulls, game tickets sold out months in advance. In Christianity, Joel Osteen is that much of a superstar."

It's All About Me?

notes from the front lines has a short article called "The Big Book of Me." It is worth your time to read and contemplate.

Thinking about this article from a Pastor's point of view made me think about what I want to happen when I preach each Sunday.

Have you ever had people come to you after a service and say, "I enjoyed that?" We'd like to think that we understand what they mean, but then again, is it possible that they really mean that they enjoyed the service?

A man-centered view of the Bible, of church, and of preaching will lead to a focus on all kinds of life lessons that can easily be detached from God. Music can be chosen (regardless of genre - some of the goofiest songs that were ever written are in our hymnals) because people like the melody, even if the words stink.

Semantics? Maybe. But I'd rather people come to me with words like, "That challenged me." "I learned something today." "You made me think about . . ."

Those kinds of responses give me hope that people are actually enagaged, and if I am being faithful in preaching Scripture in a God-centered way, my sermons will be something God can use to change people.

Remember: God's Spirit uses God's Word to grow God's People.

Have the Courage to Preach and Teach Doctrine

After Easter, I'm going to embark on a study of Romans. Not sure how I'll do it yet - whether I'll work through the whole book or whether I'll split it into the logical four sections and take brief breaks. I'm leaning toward the former.

One of the main reasons for deciding to preach through Romans is that we are in a day when almost every major historical doctrine of the faith is being attacked in some way - sometimes even from the "inside." I want, through the series, to affirm biblical Evangelical faith and also to help our people develop a more biblically based worldview. I choose to believe that doctrine, presented correctly, can be lifechanging.

John Piper has a great article that encourages me in this way of thinking. Enjoy!

Sometimes An Article Just Hits the Nail on the Head

Michael Spencer, who runs a web journal called The Internet Monk, has what I think is a fantastic article on the issue of abandoning our heritage. It's entitled "Fighting Words - What Happens When We Abandon the Vocabulary of Faith?" In the face of the fluff that we find in Evangelicalism today, I am so blessed by men and women who have chosen to call a time out and ask what on earth we are doing. Go Mark!

Translation Vexation

I've made a decision to move from the NIV to the ESV (English Standard Version), but this has nothing to do with gender issues. My main reason was that in doing exposition, I wanted a translation that was more "formal equivalent" than "dynamic equivalent" in style.

I've always wondered how you could preach expositorily from a version such as the New Living Translation. I personally enjoy reading it, but you can't focus on the words, at least without making numerous "actually in the original Greek/Hebrews, the word means . . ." which is what led me to stop using the King James Version.

So far, after about two months, I like it and will probably stick with it. If you want info about the ESV, take a look at the publisher's site.

A lot of ink is being spilled over the TNIV. This is one of those hard issues. Many evangelical scholars have spoken out against it. Others, like D.A. Carson and Greg Blomberg, have spoken out in favor of it. What is behind the debate, and what is the issue with the translation style.?

Author and Pastor Mark Roberts has a series of articles on the translation issue that are very helpful. I'm not sure what position he will take on the TNIV just yet, but his comments are worth reading.

Which Commentaries, continued

From Jeremy Pierce (thanks, Jeremy): There are two other books that I've found somewhat useful. John Glynn's doesn't say much about each one he lists, but he has some pretty comprehensive lists, including forthcoming volumes. David Bauer's includes more content about the ones he highlights, though he often leaves out important ones, and I don't as often agree with the ones he picks as best.

I've not seen either of these before. Glynn's is published by Kregel and Bauer's by Hendrickson. The links are for Amazon. You can also try Booksamillion and compare prices.

Piper on Preaching & Grudem on the TNIV

Check out this great quote by John Piper on a blog from across the pond and this article from World Magazine by Wayne Grudem on the TNIV.

Great reading.

Your Thoughts About God

I've been preaching through Proverbs 1-9 since the beginning of the year. I've not tried to cover each chapter, but have focused more on either the familiar theme or familiar verses out of the particular chapter on tap for the week. This week's sermon on Proverbs 6:16-19 allows me to try to help our folks understand the nature of God in addition to identifying some things that he hates.

I hear it said so often that a person's view of God is shaped by their relationship with their father. It's repeated so much that it seems to be regarded as gospel truth. But I wonder about that.

While God is our Father, He is also Creator, Judge, Ruler, etc. I think we're missing something if we emphasize God's paternal role over the other aspects of His nature. Our dealing with sin has a lot more to do with our understanding of God as the Sovereign Lord than our view of God as our Father. I realize that these cannot always be separated, but is it possible that our evangelical culture's soft view of God is the result of focusing on trying to understand God in the wrong way? In Psalm 50:21, God tells a wicked person (I'm paraphrasing) "You thought that I was just like you." I suspect that even our people - and us along with them - fall into that trap. What think ye?

More Resources

The SmartChristian blog has a link to some Internet materials that would be helpful for Bible study and research. Many of these types of lists end up duplicating each other in a lot of ways, but there are some things that I've not seen in other places.

The Challies Dot Com blog had a review of Donald Whitney's book on assurance of salvation, with forward by John MacArthur. It sounds like a good resource to share with people who are struggling with this issue.

Which Commentaries?

Whenever I preach or teach a new series, I look for two or three new commentaries on the book I'm going to be working in. There are so many commentaries available, that it is often hard to know which ones are worth investing in. Thankfully, I live close to Westminster Theological Seminary, so I can browse through many of the better commentaries in their excellent bookstore.

There are two books I would highly recommend:

  • Old Testament Commentary Survey by Tremper Longman III (Baker)
  • New Testament Commentary Survey by D.A. Carson (Baker)

In addition, Denver Seminary has a link to recommended books

Anyone know any others from a Conservative Evangelical perspective?

Updated 2/17/05:

I also found this link at the Parableman blog that provides recommended commentaries on several levesls.

More Resources

I need to keep track of where I get some of this information so that I give proper credit.

I discovered that the Evangelical Theological Society journal from 1995 through 2004 is online. Some good stuff here.

A resource site that I check often is Mark Dever's 9 Marks. If you haven't read 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, I recommend it highly. I think he's caught what makes a church healthy and strong a lot better than some of the other stuff written today. This site has some good resources for download. Look around, read the reviews, and download some of Mark's lectures. He is a fine speaker.

Love Them There Cool Resources

I used to enjoy going to a few local music stores in hopes of finding a new release by a favorite artist (back in the pre-Internet days when we did not have access to new release lists). It was a lot of fun to discover the LP or cassette (ok, or the 8-track) of one of my favorite musicians. The "find" was almost as much fun as the first listen.

I've been on the web for a long time - since the days of DOS (the pre-Windows operating system for you neophytes). I still find myself occasionally surprised by a neat discovery, such as the one I stumbled across tonight at http://www.biblicaltraining.org/. I hope you have broadband, or you're gonna be online for a few days .

About Preaching

Some great thoughts about being an effective preacher. Good reading: http://blogotional.blogspot.com/2005/02/preach-on-preach-on.html

About Preaching

I've been reading Bryan Chapell's Christ Centered Preaching (which apparently is coming out in a second edition in March. He advocates two practices that I think are helpful in keeping a sermon from being theoretical and moralistic. One is the identification of the "FCF" or Fallen Condition Focus. This step involves asking what the passage says, what concerns the text addresses, and what the intended audience shares in common with either the original readers and/or the biblical author. The second practice relates to discovering the Redemptive Message in the text. While this is not necessarily easy, it forces the preacher to focus on how the text relates to God's redemptive plan. Recommended reading.