Archives for September 2009

what should fundamentalism look like?

One commenter offers an observation and a question:

Perhaps I’m wrong here, but I attribute much of fundamentalism’s current weakness to the secondhand lions now heading up its institutions and fellowships. Are there any fundamentalist institutions that currently model what fundamentalism should be?

Here’s the question I would like to ask you, Don, since I believe you’ll answer it partisanly but fairly. Fundamentalism as an idea is chic enough, but at some point it must take on a concrete expression. What in your opinion should a fully-dressed fundamentalism look like?

I agree with the observation.

But what should fundamentalism look like?

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Christmas sermons

Many pastors find Special Occasions like Christmas a difficult time for preaching. The reason is that we are so familiar with the Christmas story that it can seem a chore to find something fresh each year.

I think one reason for this is we think of preaching only one sermon for Christmas. We fail to make much of the incarnation, a vital part of our redemption, by only taking one sermon in December and telling the same story year after year.

Since at least 1994 I have almost always made the month of December a month to emphasize the incarnation by a whole series of messages from all over the Scripture highlighting various threads or themes connected with the Christmas story.

We have done many different themes: the “Los Angeles” Christmas – all about angels; the Barren Woman theme from Isaiah 54, tying in with the barren woman theme in the Bible and culminating with Mary; the “Roots” Christmas, where I preached from the genealogies and taught the descent of Christ from Adam; and last year “The Bright and Morning Star” where we looked at Balaam’s prophecy and traced the theme of the star through the Scriptures (and taught some church history of the Moravian missions movement, using their Moravian star ornament as a tie-in). There have been many other themes as well.

Well, a friend was bemoaning the common problem recently and I took a look at my summary file of our past Christmas series. I found I hadn’t updated it for a few years. Tonight I took the time to catch it up and send it to him. This has an added benefit: it is getting me fired up for this coming December!

Our theme this year will be “The Word became Flesh” with messages from Psalm 19 as a prelude on the Word’s value to men, culminating with the Jn 1 passage and concluding with a New Years message on the ‘engrafted word’ from Jas 1.21.

You can find a copy of my updated file here. Perhaps this file might be an inspiration to some other preacher. Feel free to use as you see fit!


9.27.09 gbcvic sermons

God’s Gospel [Romans]

Rm 4.25

The focus of this message is on what God did to Christ in order to accomplish our justification. The words of our text present a dramatic picture. God delivered over the Son [same word as ‘betrayed’ when used of Judas] because of our offenses [a word describing sin as a fall beside the road – but not just a little stumble, a collapse off the cliff]. God, in essence, threw his Son off the cliff because man threw God off the cliff long ago. And God raised his son because of our justification – to show that he was satisfied with the sacrifice and to enable the Son to intercede on our behalf.

What a God! What a Saviour!

Christ’s Teaching Concerning Sin (4) [Basic Theology]

In this lesson we conclude looking at some categories of sin and some sources of sin as taught by our Lord. The Lord’s teaching concerning sin is comprehensive and certainly mirrors all the apostle’s taught. The teaching of the apostle’s is not inferior and no less inspired since they were chosen by God to be God’s mouthpiece in the world after the Lord departed. But the knowledge that the Lord himself teaches in concert with the apostles bolsters our confidence in the entire Biblical theology of sin.

25 Surprising Marriages and Will Medicine Stop the Pain? [Book Reviews]

Another pastor mentioned to our pastor that he used one evening service a month for book reviews, in order to help his people find disciple-building material for themselves. Taking that suggestion to heart, this is our first attempt.

25 Surprising Marriages is a book that looks at 25 well-known Christians and their marriages. The focus is on the biography of the men and women as a couple. The benefit of this book is seen in its cumulative effect rather than in any one biographical sketch found in the book. Well worth reading and making some mental notes concerning what it took for these men and women to succeed (if they did) and then to make comparisons with one’s own marriage.

Will Medicine Stop the Pain? is a book that deals with problems in the inner man like depression, anxiety, brain disorders and cognitive problems resulting from head injury and the like. The book emphasizes that man is a two part being. We need to be sure that we are thinking right in our hearts. We need to be cautious about the use of psychiatric medicine because it can only deal with the emotional symptoms and can’t deal with the root spiritual causes of emotional pain.

Read the reviews in manuscript form.

Also published on oxgoad here and here.

Book Review: Will Medicine Stop the Pain?

Will Medicine Stop the Pain?, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Laura Hendrickson, Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2006.

This book, subtitled Finding God’s healing for depression, anxiety, & other troubling emotions, is written by two women who are certified by NANC, the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors. This is the organization whose philosophy and literature we tend to recommend and attempt to follow in the area of counseling. It is opposed to integrating secular psychology with the Bible in counseling.

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Book review: 25 Surprising Marriages

25 Surprising Marriages, by William J. Petersen, Timothy Press, 1997, 2006 rpt.

This book, subtitled How Great Christians Struggled to Make Their Marriages Work, is one that my brother describes as being helpful for its cumulative effect rather than any one of the particular biographies it sketches for you.

[Read more…]

9.20.09 gbcvic sermons

Our Faith Compared [Romans]

Rm 4.23-24

As Paul draws to the conclusion of his lengthy discussion of Abraham as the model of justifying faith, he underscores the fact that Christian faith corresponds exactly to Abraham’s faith in its effect (imputation) and its object (life from death). If we believe like Abraham, we will be justified like Abraham.

Christ’s Teaching Concerning Sin (3) [Basic Theology]

In this lesson we continue our look at our Lord’s teaching concerning sin. Our object in this chapter is to show Christ’s view of sin and to encourage the hearer to adopt the same view.

Charge Certain Men [1 Timothy]

1 Tim 1.3-4

Our second message in the Pastoral epistles looks at Paul’s first instructions to Timothy. In these instructions, Paul authorizes Timothy to command the teachers of the church concerning both ‘other-doctrine’ and ‘foolish doctrine’. These prohibited activities are at best distractions of the Christian faith and at worst distortions of the Christian faith. Their presence can utterly debilitate a local church.

first among equals?

In a comment in an earlier thread, Dan offers these observations and questions:

My question has to do with the definitions (as are popularly understood or employed) of authority, leadership, and decision-making. You stated in your example that “someone who is an expert has more authority in the area he has gained expertise.” Then you state that the theologian presumably has more knowledge and that should “carry weight,” but you backed off from authority. The congregation, you say, should make the decisions. But certain people have “spiritual leadership.” I’m probably pretty much on board with your ideas, but I think a little more definitive explanation should accompany words like authority, leadership, and decision-making if we are using them to distinguish activity or degree of control. Okay, I guess I have not yet formed a question. My question is how do you definitively distinguish between authority and leadership in the above areas. More precisely, what does it mean for a pastor, for example, to have responsibility of spiritual leadership, but not of a decision-making form? (especially in view of some verses that mention obeying your leaders.) Expound, if you will.

As I said in my initial response, this is an excellent question. It gets at the heart of church life and government.

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populism fails!

The popular crowd is missing the point about elitism! Maybe Bauder is right, after all. See the discussion at SI regarding Bauder’s article #4. You have to start about here for the pertinent discussion.

And in the discussion from my revised article, it appears that at least one of my readers is missing the point also. (I am going to use some material from one of my comments on that post for the content of this one.)

What is NOT elitism?

Elitism isn’t about the possession of fine art, fine clothes, fine cars, fine educations, or even a fine vocabulary. Elitism isn’t about having expertise. Elitism isn’t about one’s opinions carrying extra weight in an area where you have expertise.

OF COURSE someone who is an expert has more authority in the area he has gained expertise! A doctor simply knows more about medicine, a trained musician simply knows more about music, a theologian (in theory) simply knows more about theology. That knowledge tends to carry weight, and it should.

I am not arguing against differences in authority, expertise, taste, what have you, when I am arguing against elitism.

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c’est finis!

I woke up this morning to the realization I didn’t have to get up and spend all day at the church building painting! Praise the Lord!

Here is the finished product:


What a blessing to be done!


9.13.09 gbcvic sermons

Abraham’s Faith Described [Romans]

Rm 4.18-22

Our passage describes in very careful detail what made up Abraham’s faith, both in how it looked beyond the reality of Abraham’s physical circumstance and how it relied unwaveringly on the promise and word of the Living God. Saving faith parallels Abraham’s faith exactly, and it is this faith that is counted as righteousness by the One who Judges all souls.

Christ’s Teaching Concerning Sin (2) [Basic Theology]

Our lesson today continues our look at our Lord’s teaching concerning sin. In this section, we are going passage by passage through examples of specific sins our Lord condemns.

My Son Timothy [1 Timothy]

1 Tim 1.1-2

This afternoon we begin a look at the Pastoral Epistles with a biographical message about Timothy, Paul’s son in the faith. We consider the apostolic concern for the coming generation and apply it to our need to be concerned about the growth of our coming generations in the local church.


We had a good day in the services, but I was visited by a man before anyone else got there. He is going through some very deep waters and is a new believer. If you think of it, I would appreciate your prayers for him. He didn’t stay for the services and didn’t answer the door when I called after our afternoon service. I’ll be going back for another try later today.