Archive for April, 2010

Two New Reviews

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

I’ve published two new book reviews in the latest issue of Themelios. One is in the area of New Testament studies entitled Approaches to Paul: A Student’s Guide to Recent Scholarship. The other is of a book by the Reformer, Martin Bucer, Concerning the True Care of Souls.

I hope you find both reviews helpful.

Happy Tartan Day!

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

It has been a hectic week so far, and I almost forgot to wish everyone a happy Tartan Day! Today marks the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. It’s a day for Scots everywhere to celebrate their heritage. And, just as everyone is a little bit Irish on March 17, everyone is a bit of Scots on April 6. I love my Scottish heritage, thanks to the Dodds, the Pattersons, the Moores, and the Thomases! But one of the aspects dearest to me is the heritage of Scottish Presbyterianism. This year we celebrate the 450th anniversary of the establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland. Hopefully you’ll hear more about this later. Scots wha hae!

HPIM1256

Peter’s Denial and Memory–A Good Friday Message

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

“And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus” (Matt. 26:75). Not as a dispassionate scholar, interested but distant from his subject. Not as an absent-minded professor, forgetful but finally recalling. Not as a religious person, observant but perfunctory in his devotions. Not as an unbeliever, knowing but discounting the things that matter most. But as a believer, to whom the word came with wounding power. “And he went out and wept bitterly.” The words of Jesus wound and heal. They break and bless. But to do their work they must be remembered.

An entire biblical theology of remembering runs throughout the Scriptures. “Remember the Sabbath day” (Exod. 20:8). “Remember all the commandments of the Lord” (Num. 15:39). “Remember the wondrous works that he has done” (1 Chron. 16:12). “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome” (Neh. 4:14). Pile up these stones as “a memorial forever” (Josh. 4:7). “Keep your soul diligently, lest you forget” (Deut. 4:9; cf. 4:23; 6:12; 8:11). “Remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you” (Rom. 11:18). “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24). “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8).

Remembering and believing are not cousins. They are twins. To remember biblically is to believe. And to believe, you must remember. Spiritual amnesia is fatal, not like a dose of fast-acting poison, but like cancer. Perhaps it’s best to say, “Spiritual amnesia is terminal.” It slowly takes its toll. But in the end, death is death.

The story of Peter turns out to be, in the classic sense, a comedy. Not because it makes us laugh, but because it ends happily. Remembering led to weeping. Weeping led to repenting. Repenting led to loving. Loving led to following the risen Christ (John 21:15-19).

The cancer of spiritual forgetfulness has a cure. Unlike radiation and chemotherapy that deplete the body, this cure replenishes the soul. Take a large dose of remembering. Take as needed. Take often. Overdosing is not a concern. Underdosing is.

Originally written on Good Friday 2008

Dwell and Rule

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

A meditation on Colossians 3:15-17

Let my peace rule in your heart–
Calming doubt with peaceful rest,
Winning bout o’er Satan’s best,
Binding members a united throng.

Let my Word dwell in your heart–
Taking root as living seed,
Bearing fruit in word and deed,
Bubbling forth a psalm and song.

And through me let thanks be given
To the Father, filling heaven
With my name, Jesus the Lord,
Ever praised through deed and word.

What is preaching?

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

What is preaching? There are probably as many answers to that question as there are preachers. What is good preaching? There are as many answers to that as there are congregants.

I won’t attempt here to give a comprehensive definition of preaching, but it seems to me that a good sermon should contain at least two elements. First, it should communicate with individuals. Each person should feel that he or she is being spoken to directly. In that sense, preaching should be conversational. Second, this conversation, while based explicitly upon a text of Scripture, should come from the heart. In her novel, Gilead, Marilynne Robinson describes a good sermon as “one side of a passionate conversation.” That’s not everything that goes into a good sermon, but without those aspects one is left with a dry, religious essay.

To write about preaching is a dangerous craft. When you write about such an important and holy subject, people may get the impression that you know what you’re talking about. Or worse, that you think you know what you’re talking about. But theory can be sound when practice is weak, and in light of that, I have written.