Monday, September 30, 2013

A Biblical Theology of Revival

Good stuff from Carl Trueman

Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico hosts an excellent annual conference called Clarus. I have never attended but I have listened to quite a bit of the audio. Carl Trueman has been a guest and has presented a number of helpful addresses.

I encourage you to take time to listen to the following:
The Pastoral Heart of the Reformation

Knowing God: The Importance of Grace

Knowing God: The Importance of Scripture

The Theology of the Cross: The Forgotten Heart of the Reformation

Apparently they really love Carl out at Desert Springs because they keep inviting him back to Clarus. As a result, he has a lot of messages recorded there, all of which are well worth the listen. But don't tell him I said that. I don't want his ego to get inflated.

Sunday's Sermon

On Sunday I preached part 4 of our series through Jonah. It is entitled, "Repentance, Anger, and the Mercy of God" and can be listened to HERE.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bully Pulpit

A new feature at Mortification Of Spin is a shorter, high impact broadcast called "Bully Pulpit." It's our way of responding to calls for weekly rather than bi-weekly editions. Our goal is to hit one topic rather quickly but thoughtfully in a way that will be helpful for the listener. Given the title, it is not our goal to tread lightly. Today's Bully Pulpit is a response to some confusing and troubling remarks made about preaching by a few well known mega-church pastors.
Listen in as Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt take to the Bully Pulpit.  On this week’s Pulpit they discuss the means and goals of preaching.  What role does evangelism play in preaching?  How do Jesus and the Apostles teach men to preach?  Today, many preachers give their congregations gobbledygook instead of solid, biblical meat each week.  The Bible confronts us in our sinful state before God, and preachers need to bring that confrontation in through their sermons by turning their own pulpits into Bully Pulpits.

The High Stakes of Ordination

On Saturday (Sept 21, 2013) I took vows to be a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). I was, at that time received into the Blue Ridge Presbytery and formally accepted the call to be Lead Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church. As I stood before my brothers and took the vows that so many have taken before me I was struck both by the sobriety and privilege of that moment. It was the culmination of a months long process of study, the level of which I had not experienced since completing seminary in 1994.

The process of transferring my ordination as a Southern Baptist to the PCA consisted of six exams covering my knowledge of the Bible, theology, Presbyterian church polity, the sacraments, church history, and PCA history. There was also an exam addressing my conversion, call to ministry, and Christian maturity. The completed exams totaled over 100 pages.

In addition, a committee of the Presbytery administered an oral exam over the material covered in the written exams. At the recommendation of that committee I stood before the Blue Ridge Presbytery for yet another oral exam. For a man who tends toward anxiety, this was exhausting in every conceivable way. After one-and-a-half hours on the floor my back was killing me and my nerves were fried. But, by God's grace, I had good recall and my brothers in the Presbytery affirmed my call.

The high point of the entire process was the taking of vows. I was asked to make 8 promises before the Presbytery. Those promises are as follows:

1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as originally given, to be the inerrant Word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures: and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?
3. Do you approve of the form of government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in America, in conformity with the general principles of Biblical polity?
4. Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?
5. Have you been induced, as far as you know your own heart, to seek the office of the holy ministry from love to God and a sincere desire to promote His glory in the Gospel of His Son?
6. Do you promise to be zealous and faithful in maintaining the truths of the Gospel and the purity and peace and unity of the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?
7. Do you engage to be faithful and diligent in the exercise of all your duties as a Christian and a minister of the Gospel, whether personal or relational, private or public; and to endeavor by the grace of God to adorn the profession of the Gospel in your manner of life, and to walk with exemplary piety before the flock of which God shall make you overseer?
8. Are you now willing to take the charge of this church, agreeable to your declaration when accepting their call? And do you, relying upon God for strength, promise to discharge to it the duties of a pastor?
It was a moving experience to stand before my brothers in the Presbytery and take those vows. After months of study, stress, and exhaustion I was certainly relieved. But I was also grateful to have had the experience. I knew I was participating in something very important, the origins of which stretch back to the days of Moses.
In Exodus 32, Moses records the events surrounding the people's worship of the golden calf. It is at that time that the first ordination service is recorded. And it is, literally, a matter of life and death:
 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD's side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”
(Exodus 32:25-29 ESV)

After responding affirmatively to Moses' question, "Who is on the Lord's side?" the Levites are instructed to take their swords and kill those involved in the gross act of rebellion. After killing some 3,000 fellow Israelites, the Levites are informed that they have just been ordained in the service of the Lord. Ordination is no small thing. And while I am thankful for living in this particular period of redemptive history, ordination, while practiced differently, is no less serious.

How grateful I am to be a part of a body that treats ordination as a matter of life and death. The stakes are that high.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Constant Reader

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on Dr. Tom Nettles new biography of Charles Spurgeon: Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

New Mortification of Spin

The latest Mortification of Spin is up and running.
If you get heartburn over the mention of the word "liturgy," you may find some proverbial antacid in the thoughtful conversation between our hosts on this episode of The Mortification of Spin. In fact, Carl and Todd remind us that our churches are all liturgical in one way or another - the question is whether we are basing the order and structure of our worship on Scripture or whether we're simply, shall we say, flying by the seat of our pants. Can the seat of our pants sufficiently guide us in corporate worship that is Christ-centered? If you've never opened The Book of Common Prayer, buckle up and listen're bound to learn quite a bit from this helpful podcast.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Behold Your God

Behold Your God looks like a very helpful resource for churches to use in Sunday School, small groups, session meetings, etc.

What I'm learning about ordination in the PCA

As many of you know I am in the process of swimming across Lake Geneva. Actually, I have already made that trip theologically. Now I'm in the process of making it official with the proper authorities in the PCA. I am the newly elected Lead Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in beautiful Harrisonburg, VA and I am in the process of completing my exams for ordination. It has been an exhausting few months. We had to sell a house in Pennsylvania, move, find lodgings in H'burg, get kids enrolled in school, and everything else that goes along with moving to another state. All during this time I have been trying to study, take seven (very thorough!) exams, preach, and try to be a pastor to a wonderful staff and congregation. I don't recommend doing it this way but there really was not other option for me. Fortunately, leadership in the Blue Ridge Presbytery has been quite gracious in helping me figure out what exactly the term "briefly describe" means on their exams.

Recently I took the English Bible exam which took me around nine hours to complete. The finished product was 35 pages long. I have felt the distance of having completed my M.Div. 19 years ago. During that time, believe it or not, some of the key dates and outlines of books have faded in my memory. So the preparation time has been significant. If all goes well I will complete, successfully, my final exams next week and then appear before the presbytery for questioning on Saturday the 21st. I must confess that the idea of being questioned by learned men about anything concerning the Bible, doctrine, the Book of Church Order, and church history leaves me a bit terrified.

However, the thought has occurred to me numerous times in these weeks that it is a good thing that the PCA sets the bar quite high for its ministers. And while no process is perfect, this particular one helps to keep the standard high for who may fill the pulpits of PCA churches. Yes, I know, there are exceptions.

Along the way I have learned a few things about preparing for the licensure and ordination exams. So, I would like to offer some advice to those who are considering ordination in the PCA. If you are in that boat, here are the most helpful resources I have found in preparing for the exams:

The Westminster Standards
Ryken's Bible Handbook
New Dictionary of Biblical Theology
ESV Study Bible
Book of Church Order

If you make heavy (and I mean HEAVY) use of these resources you should be able to pass the exams.