A New Prized Possession

I am just about impossible to surprise.  For instance, I usually always manage to figure out, even when I am not trying, what my Christmas presents are.  However, I was had this past week.  The wily Buz Graham and the small group leaders at Christ Presbyterian were in cahoots to keep me in the dark on a most wonderful scheme.

This past year we have been making our way with Christian in John Bunyan’s classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, as a united small group effort involving the whole congregation.  It was a thrilling, sanctifying journey together to the celestial city.  I created a curriculum based on Crossway’s beautifully crafted edition and lectured regularly to the small group leaders on the life of Bunyan and the theology of Pilgrim’s Progress.  Every other Sunday night we met in one another’s homes and studied together.  We called our season together An Ancient Journey to a New City.

Well, last Wednesday night, as Buz had gathered the small group leaders to orient them to our new united small group study of Dr. Philip Ryken’s King Solomon: The Temptations of Money, Sex, and Power, he insisted I attend.  At the end of the meeting, he kindly mentioned that he and the small group leaders were grateful for the work I had done over the past year in Pilgrim’s Progress.

I had no idea what awaited me.

It was glorious!

You see, a few months ago, I mentioned that a particular illustration in the Crossway edition was my favorite.  All the paintings by Mike Wimmer in that book are marvelous.  But, there is one that touched me in a unique way, as it spoke to my own heart’s desire to be a shepherd after God’s own heart (Jer 3:15).  You can see the picture on p. 168 in the Crossway edition.  Christian and Hopeful are in the delectable mountains, which represents the church.  They stop for while to be comforted by the shepherds, the pastors, who are pictured holding the sheep and watching over them at pasture.  That’s what we do as shepherds – we comfort the sheep and the battle weary soldiers of Christ.

As Buz expressed his and the whole team of small group leaders’ appreciation, he presented me with a  large present, wrapped in plain brown paper.  I could tell by its shape, it was a picture frame.

I bet you can see where this is going.

I didn’t.

I tore the paper away, to find a one-of-a-kind framed and matted Giclee of the original.

I wept.

I wept over the beauty of the gift.  I wept because of the people giving it to me.  I wept because of the privilege of being a shepherd among Christ’s flock.

I can’t take my eyes off of it.

Thanks you to all who contributed and worked with me on this remarkable journey with Bunyan.  Thanks to Buz for pulling one over on me and so thoughtfully and creatively contacting the artist to obtain a reproduction of this painting.  Pray that, by God’s grace alone, I would be a faithful shepherd as long as the Lord gives me breath.

Looking for a way…

I have lately been thinking about my less-than-consistent blogging.  Well, my pathetically inconsistent blogging, that is.  Any way, I have been looking for a good reason and a good way to re-enter and see if I could regularly post between now and the end of the year.  Y’all may not agree that this is a good way to hit “restart”.  Y’all may also completely write me off as utterly dorked.  But, here goes.  I read an article on Justin Taylor’s always wonderful blog.  I love this story!  I love the subject matter.  I especially loved the surprise at the end of the story.  So, start at the top and don’t let your eyes drift down to the end of the story too soon (no spoilers!).

Now, go grab your Greek!

 

Why Kevin DeYoung’s Church Uses ESV

Here is the link to the booklet I recommended this morning at the women’s Bible study, Why Our Church Switched to the ESV.  You will also want to check out Kevin’s blog.  Enjoy!

a tattered treasure

In my last post I made mention of a tattered little commentary that got me started on Stott, as well as, theological book buying.  Here is a picture of it.  It really is in pretty good shape, considering the time I spent with it some twenty-two years ago.

I pulled it off the shelf and “flicked through it,” as the British would say.  I saw no end of multi-colored highlighting and underlining.  My eyes fell on this characteristically pithy and pregnant statement as only Stott could say it (writing on 1Jn 2:2):

“Thus, the Father’s provision for the sinning Christian is in his Son, who possesses a threefold qualification: his righteous character, his propitiatory death and his heavenly advocacy.  Each depends on the others.  He could not be our advocate in heaven today if he had not died to be the propitiation for our sins; and his propitiation would not have been effective if in his life an character he had not been Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.”

Precious in the sight of the LORD…

John R.W. Stott (1921-2011)

Around 9:15am CST on Wednesday morning, John R.W. Stott’s great faith became sight.  The psalmist says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Ps 116:15, ESV).  How precious, indeed, must be the Lord’s sight of his servant, John Stott.  How precious, indeed, must be John Stott’s sight of his Lord.

Who knows the number of Stott quotations that have salted my sermons over the years.  I’ll never forget the impact of, “The symbol of the religion of Jesus is the cross, not the scales” (from Authentic Christianity).  I still remember the looks on the faces of many in my flock the first time I quoted that pearl in a sermon.

Would you believe me if I told you that my print library of some 4,500 volumes, in a sense, has at its root a tattered little Tenderly series NT commentary by Stott on the Letters of John?  I purchased that little volume, devoured it, and the fuse was lit.

Honor Stott’s memory by reading one of my favorites, The Cross of Christ.

I appreciate this story from the NY Times:

NY Times

I love how the Times made much of his humility and unassuming simplicity of life.

You can also check out the following tributes at Justin Taylor’s and Tim Challies’ always excellent blogs:

Justin Taylor

 Tim Challies

Preaching the People’s Book

As I have earlier stated, I love books on homiletics.  Resting on the shelves is a rather plain, unassuming volume chock full of great essays on preaching.  The Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century, ed. by Samuel T. Logan.  Is it the most recent, cutting-edge manual on homiletics?  No.  Is it full of the cream of solid Reformed, biblical thought on preaching?  Absolutely!

I love Dr. Sinclair Ferguson’s assessment from his chapter, “Preaching and Systematic Theology”:

“The Bible is the people’s book, and all its doctrines, from the Trinity to the beatific vision, belong to the individuals, learned and unlearned, who constitute the community of faith.”

This sets me to thinking of a remark he made in a doctoral course I took from him at WTS several years ago on the Westminster Standards about how, in too many congregations, there is no appetite for strong, doctrinal preaching precisely because they have not been given a catechetical grid upon which they can appropriate our preaching.

So, the solution? Preach and catechize… and pray that our appetites grow.

A Twofold Christ

Sunday School lesson for the beautiful words class is finished for tomorrow.  So, I sat down in my study to do a little devotional reading to prepare my heart for the Lord’s Day tomorrow.  While we are not in the Easter season, every Lord’s Day is, in a sense, a resurrection Sunday.  The resurrection of Jesus on the first day of the week (Mt 28:1; Mk 16:2; Lk 24:1; Jn 20:1) is why the early Church gathered on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1Co 16:2; Rev 1:10).

Sitting in my chair (the one that has the certain power to make me fall asleep), nestled in among the shelves, I came across this bit from Church of Scotland pastor, William Still (1911-97).  It has to do with Christ – his death and resurrection.

“Who is this Christ who is within us?  Think of him as a twofold Christ.  He is Christ crucified and Christ risen.  What is the necessity of this ‘dual’ Christ in our hearts?  One aspect is to deal with the old, the other with the new.  The one is to deal with the old Adam and the sinful nature, the other to give us the new; the one is to clear the old out, and the other to take its place.  They belong together and are one seed.  The death and resurrection of Jesus are not two events, spiritually speaking.  Given the death of this man, the resurrection was certain and inevitable.  He had to be raised on the third day because he died sinlessly with our sins, not his own.  There was nothing in the world so sure as the resurrection.  Christ’s death and resurrection are two sides of a penny.  Just as from the seed which rots comes, by germination, the fresh shoot that grows up to be the flower and the fruit, so the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ belong together” ~ What It Is to Be a Christian, The Collected Writings of William Still, Vol II, 165. 

So, I will meditate on my twofold Christ today, and as I come to church tomorrow.

BTW, I think you can still purchase Vol. III of Still’s collected writings new.  All three vols. are well worth your search on the used market, if they are out of print.  Dr. Sinclair Ferguson said of Still, “He remains the person whose ministry has made the deepest impression on me.”