Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bracket Busters, no. 2

I obviously didn't do too well. Of my eight (Louisville, West Virginia; UConn, Mizzou; Pitt, Duke; UNC, Syracuse), I only had five right; of my four, I only got two. The Louisville-MSU game was particularly frustrating; it was like the Notre Dame game when the Cards got blown out by 30. Once they started losing, they got bad body language and couldn't do anything right.

But give Izzo credit: afterward, he said the three keys were getting it to Sutton in the middle of the zone; not turning the ball over against the press; and bottling up Terrence Williams. And he was right--those three things killed the Cards.

On a separate matter, I hope Calipari goes to Kentucky; that will ensure that UK will never win another championship. He is this generation's Dean Smith--more talent, no titles.

Start Spreading the News

Big news about us here. And this went out to staff and students yesterday and today:

Dear Covenant Seminary community:

On behalf of the entire Seminary family, we want to congratulate Dr. Sean Lucas, who was elected senior minister at First Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, this past Sunday. While it is sad for us to lose the Lucases, we rejoice that one of our pastor-scholars is returning to pastoral ministry in a congregational context. We are grateful for Sean’s service over the past five years as a teacher, scholar, and administrator and for the knowledge that our association with him will continue even after he transitions south.

As we look toward the Lucases’ move in June, Sean and I will be working closely on a transition plan. As the spring continues, I will be letting the community know what those steps are, who will be taking on Sean’s responsibilities, and what our plans are for his permanent replacement. Until then, please pray for Sean, Sara, and their children, for FPC, Hattiesburg, and for the Seminary as we all experience the joy and challenge of transition in the days ahead.

Bryan Chapell

Needless to say, we are very, very excited and eager to see what God is going to do for his glory at FPC, Hattiesburg, MS, in the days to come.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New American Reformed Biography

Very excited that the new ARB is coming out this June: Tom Nettles' James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman. Founder of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Boyce studied at Princeton Seminary under Charles Hodge and embodied the evangelical Calvinism that characterized the seminary's founding and its Abstract of Principles. Nettles' biography, all 600+ pages of it, will be the definitive biography of this Southern Baptist founder.  

Jeopardy no. 5

Category: Reformed authors

$200 answer: John Piper, Finally Alive; Mark Dever and Sinclair Ferguson, Westminster Directory of Public Worship; Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to my students (Banner of Truth edition).

Question: What did Sean buy today at the Covenant Seminary bookstore?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Springsteen on Jon Stewart

Don't care much for Jon Stewart's Daily Show. But Springsteen's appearance (second and third segments) is really good and his acoustic version of "Working on a Dream" is worth hearing. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cardinal Commercials

These are very funny commerical spots for the St. Louis Cardinals. I especially like the Bruce Sutter beards.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bracket Busters

Actually, my bracket is pretty boring. I'm a little ashamed to have three #1 seeds making it to the Final Four, but part of that is the way I think the brackets play out in the earlier rounds, making their pathways a little easier. I also have the Big East in a big way in the round of 8. Here is what I have:

Elite eight: Louisville, West Virginia; UConn, Mizzou; Pitt, Duke; UNC, Syracuse. [Five from Big East; two ACC; one Big 12]
Final four: Louisville; UConn; Duke; UNC
Championship game: Louisville v. UNC
Champion: Louisville

There are some problematic or questionable games in my bracket (most notably, I have Maryland beating Memphis; Mizzou beating Marquette; West Virginia beating Michigan State; and I don't feel good about a potential Louisville-Wake Forest match-up depending on which WFU team shows up). I don't feel good about UNC if Lawson is really truly hurt (he looked okay against Duke in the final game of the season). And I do feel like a bit of a homer picking Louisville (although not as bad as my Duke friends, who pick the Dookies every year).

However, I feel good about Louisville because they play the most tenacious defense of anyone and that defense does not depend upon one key player (like UConn). I think Thabeet will get in real foul trouble in a game (as he did against Pitt and as he did in the overtime against Syracuse); because UConn's defense relies on him protecting the rim, when he goes out, a team like Louisville can really attack the basket. Louisville, on the other hand, plays eleven guys and their team doesn't rely on one, not even Terrance Williams. Hence, my pick. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Just nuts

I just finished watching the highlights of the Syracuse-UConn six overtime game. That's just nuts. The game took three hours and forty-six minutes to play--they didn't get done until 1:30am! I have no idea how Syracuse is going to be able to play a very tough West Virginia team tonight...

Brief Thoughts on the Goal of Preaching, no. 3

Wednesday, I started reflecting on the goal of preaching. I said first that the goal is to enter into the work that the triune God is already doing in the midst of his people--it is his work, not mine. I said yesterday that I also aimed for people to delight and hope in God as their greatest good as a result of the preaching of God's Word. 

The way these things are accomplished are through the exposition of God's Word. And so, at a very basic level, I have a three-fold goal: to explain the biblical text, to apply the biblical text to our world, our calling in that world, and our hearts, and to model a sincere passion for God's glory that results from the biblical text. 

These things go together--like a three-legged stool. Leave out the explanation of the text and all that remains is passionate exhortation that feeds a moralism that burns God's people out. Leave out the application of the text and all that remains is passionate teaching that feeds people's minds but doesn't transform their hearts. Leave out passion for God's glory and all that remains is a fairly dry Bible study which fails to demonstrate the life-and-death nature of encountering God and his word.  

What that means is that though my preaching explains the text, it is not meant to be an in-depth technical treatment of a particular text. I can do that and I do that when I teach a Bible class; but preaching is not that kind of thing. That is not to say that I don't teach or do my homework when I preach--I do and am constantly pointing people to what the Bible says (often you'll hear me say, "Look at verse 4; see what it says there..."). 

But preaching is ultimately about persuasion--I'm holding a brief for the great King who has sent me as his ambassador. I am before the congregation to persuade them that God is the greatest being in the universe, the only one who can truly satisfy their deepest longings and desires. One of the means that he has given me to persuade his people is his Word and he calls me to explain it and apply it with great passion for the King's glory. 

And my hope is that people will move from the preaching of God's Word so persuaded and live with great joy, great hope, and great faith--great delight--in this King who loved us, died and rose for us, lives and intercedes for us, and will return again for us.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Brief Thoughts on the Goal of Preaching, no. 2

Yesterday, I started reflecting on what is the goal of preaching. I tried to say there that the goal was to enter into the work that the triune God is already doing in the midst of his people. That is to say, the work belongs to God and our sufficiency for that work, as ministers, is from God (2 Cor 3:5).

A second angle on this question, though, could be put this way: one of my key goals in every sermon is that people leave with a greater delight in the God who has come near to them in Jesus Christ. And so, 1 Peter 1:8-9 is very important: "Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not ow see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."

If people truly meet with the triune God in their midst in corporate worship and hear his word of grace; if they truly understand the depths of the riches of the grace of God in Jesus; if their affections are stirred by the Spirit to savor this grace and the God of this grace; and if they are taught to hope in God as that one being of surpassing worth....

then they will delight in God. They will serve God with passion and excitement because such a God is worth serving and glorifying. The root attraction of sin will be severed because such a God is far better and his pleasures (Psa 16:11) are far more satisfying than sin's pleasures. They will delight in each other and in God's world (Psa 16:2) because God is their greatest good. 

And so, my prayer Sunday by Sunday is that God's people will leave the sanctuary of God having tasted and seen that God is that good (Psa 34:8).

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Brief Thoughts on the Goal of Preaching, no. 1

These brief thoughts from Tullian Tchividjian were excellent and made me think a little bit about how would answer that question: "What is the goal of preaching?" I think the overarching goal of preaching (quoting from Tim Keller) is "to make Jesus look good." But it is a bit more than that or at least, there is a different angle on it.

I think I'd say that in preaching, the preacher enters into the work that God the Father is doing through the Spirit of Jesus in the midst of the congregation. In fact, my only confidence in preaching comes from the fact that "as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, the sight of God we speak in Christ" (2 Cor 2:17). United to Christ by the Spirit, entering into the apostolic and priestly work that Christ is already doing, sent by God to a particular people to proclaim his Word in his presence, I preach.

And so, to begin to answer the question about what is preaching's goal, we have to say that the goal is to enter into the work that God is already doing in the midst of his people for his glory and for the extension of his reign in their midst and in their place. Only in this way will the Gospel come not merely as word, but as Spirit and power (1 Thess 1:4).

Not sure what this says about me

Apparently, a recent survey suggests that Utah, Hawaii, and Wyoming are the "happiest" places to live; at the bottom of the 50 states are Mississippi (48), Kentucky (49), and West Virginia (50). 

In light of the fact that my family hails from Giles Co., Virginia, and Mercer County, West Virginia (all the way back to 1750) and that we lived in Kentucky for six years and loved it, I wonder what this says about me? That I struggle with happiness? I kind of liked living in Kentucky...  

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Coming Evangelical Collapse

You can read what I have to say about the "coming evangelical collapse" over at Ref21.

Old Life

It is hard to believe that someone who used to have his voicemail say, "Hi, this is Darryl Hart, technophobe," would have an internet presence. But thankfully, Darryl Hart and John Muether have taken their Old Life Theological Society online. You won't agree with everything (or anything??) they say; but I'm thankful for the conversations they start and the witness they bear.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Ministry Values

As I think about the ministry values that animate my ministry, three things come to mind. Not coincidentally, these are the things about which we talk a lot at Covenant Seminary.

First, the Word of God. All of our ministry must be centered on God's Word--and especially, we must have confidence in the ordinary means of grace in which, during corporate worship on the Lord's Day, the Spirit uses his Word to transform our hearts. All our praying and preaching, our singing and use of the sacraments, are biblical and "bibline." This is not because the Bible itself is a talisman; rather, because it is God's Word--in coming to God's Word, we come to hear and respond to God himself.

Next, the Grace of God. As we come to God's Word, we hear the King speak, telling us that there is nothing we have that we did not receive; that his steadfast love is undeserved and freely given; that it is all of grace from the beginning of our lives to the end. The same grace that drew us to Christ is the same grace that justifies us which is the same grace that sanctifies, adopts, and preserves us to the end.

Such love frees us from fear--the King, who knows us completely, who knows us by name, loves us, sings over us, and delights in us for his glory's sake and for his name's sake! What a king this is! How it should enliven our worship--the King we serve loves us despite ourselves! How it is should enliven our service--what we wouldn't sacrifice for such a King and for such love! In fact, the grace of God should produce hope and joy in our hearts: hope--that earnest expectation that our King will care for us to the end; joy--the strength of God and delight in God that severs the root of sin and frees us to serve him all our days.

So, finally, the Kingdom of God. Because the King, by his Word, bids us to come into his presence and sustains us by his means of grace, and because he showers us with grace upon grace, we are freed to enter into his world as agents of the new creation, signs of what the new heavens and new earth will look like. We are freed to serve in our callings as pointers to the mercies and kindness of God and freed to serve our communities as agents of what God is doing in his world.

Only as we keep these three linked together--God's Word, grace, and kingdom--will we reflect Jesus' priorities for ministry and sustain the work of God in our generation: by his grace and for his glory!

First Calvin Post

You can read what I have to say about Calvin's Institutes, 2.218-2.2.21, here. I'm posting all this week at Ref21.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Sabbatical Update

Well, I've not gotten very far. Thus far, I have had five dedicated writing days since February 1. I did spend a week doing research last week at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Right now, For a Continuing Church has most of the first four chapters in draft form now and portions of two others (out of ten chapters). The other projects are yet to be begun.

Part of the problem is that I haven't been home much in February. I went to the Evangelical Seminary Dean's Council in Dallas (where I was elected vice-chair); preached at Independent Presbyterian Church in Memphis; and then went to Richmond. Today, I'm heading to All Souls Presbyterian Church in Champaign, IL.  And in between, I preached at Grace Presbyterian Church in St. Charles, MO, and Covenant Presbyterian Church in St. Louis. So, it has been a busy month. 

Next week, it is my turn at the Ref21 "Blogging the Institutes" site. I had messed up trying to post using the scheduler feature and for a few minutes discovered that my blog posts actually debuted early. Jeremy Smith rescued me and now the posts will appear in their proper order and time.