My Cents Are Spent. Almost.

Well, this is it. I’m “breaking the bank” at MyTwoCents. I started this blog over 7 years ago at the urging of my friend, Greg Linscott. (Thanks for the push, Greg. Sincerely.) It’s been fun, and occasionally, profitable. Sure, I’ve said some stupid things here. (If you’re wondering, blogging gives a Pulpit Committee plenty to consider during the vetting process.) But I’ve also grown as a writer and as a Christian. And along the way, I’ve made many friends here. Thanks for reading and interacting!

I’m turning my online attention to ChurchWorksMedia.com, the ministry resource site that actually grew out of MTC a few years ago. We’re re-launching the site soon. (I’ll announce the re-launch with a final post here.) The new site has a lot going on, including a just-finished CD, a not-quite-finished Gospel Meditations installment, and all the hymns and books from the current site. I’m also excited to announce that it will also include a blog, where I’ll team with several likeminded friends to discuss Christian living and ministry from a doxological, gospel-centered perspective. So I’m not retiring from blogging—just moving, and getting some help.

The blog team at the new CWM site will include the following: pastors Joe Tyrpak, Matt Hoskinson, and Danny Brooks; educators Jim Newcomer, Sam Horn, and Paul Williams; and music ministers Greg Habegger and Marc Rattray. A few others (including friends involved in missions and ladies’ ministries) are still praying about participating. It’s a tremendous group, and I’m honored to work with them.

I can’t wait. See you there, Lord willing. Grace!

Deadline for Christmas Orders

ChurchWorksMedia.com’s Gospel Meditations books are ideal for Christmas and the New Year. Many individuals and churches have used the books (MenWomenMissionsCombo) as affordable, faith-building gifts. Be sure to take advantage of quantity discounts, and avoid the rush by ordering soon.

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Important: Orders not received by Saturday, December 15th will not be shipped until early 2013. 

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Many thanks to Pastor Rob Campbell for this kind endorsement:

As a pastor I am so grateful for a series like Gospel Meditations that lifts our eyes to see Christ! On different special occasions at church we have given out the men’s, women’s, and missions devotionals as gifts to every family. Gospel Meditations have helped us as a church to gradually grow Gospel thinking into our daily lives. Bethel is growing in grace and God has used Gospel Meditations in our journey.”

(Rob Campbell is the Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Sellersville, PA)

What I’m Reading: REFORMATION by Carl Trueman


Using blog space to say “Trueman nailed it” is the e-equivalent of using cup space to say “Coffee is hot.” Obviously. Nevertheless, I’m glad to say that Carl Trueman’s collection of essays published as Reformation is a very worthwhile read. I expected it to be a helpful reminder of Reformation history and its relevance to ministry today, and it was. But it’s more practical and devotional than I expected. Trueman connects the dots between Reformation theology and modern pastoral ministry under three basic themes:

  • First, (especially in chapter 2, “Meeting the Man of Sorrows”) Trueman writes with conviction and warmth about the centrality of the cross. “God-centered sermons must by definition be Christ-centered sermons if they are to contain even a drop of grace,” he writes (p. 27). It is in the cross where we see God’s glory, and love, and holiness. But it’s also in the cross where we see God use  weakness and suffering for His glory. “Suffering and weakness are not just the way in which Christ triumphs and conquers; they are the way in which we are to triumph and conquer too” (p. 49). Trueman writes elsewhere, often, against the triumphalism of the modern church and the need for a godly view of suffering and lamentation. This is significant for a church that is comprised of weak, suffering people and is called to reach weak, suffering people.
  • Second (in chapter 3, “The Oracles of God”), Trueman gives a theological and practical discussion on the pastor’s responsibility to preach the Word. There is power in God’s inspired Word, both when it is printed and when it is preached. Thus, Trueman calls preachers to fervent, expository preaching which demonstrates a grasp of systematic and biblical theology. Such text-based preaching is vital in its own right, but also because it teaches people how to read their Bibles (as Dr. Mark Minnick consistently reminded us when I was in school). “As he preaches the Bible week by week,” Trueman writes, “[the pastor] is not simply bringing home the message of salvation on a Sunday but is equipping his people for reading, studying, and appropriating that message of salvation during the week” (pp. 96-97).
  • Finally (and unexpectedly, in chapter 4, “Blessed Assurance”), Trueman unpacks the Reformers’ understanding of assurance. I say this chapter was unexpected because it’s fairly obvious that the Reformers dealt with Christ (part 1) and the Word (part 2). But the issue of assurance was and continues to be a central difference between biblical Christianity and Roman Catholicism—the idea that based on Christ’s finished work we can know that our peace with God is certain and eternal (1 John 5:13). This is a vital doctrine. But it’s also extremely practical, for Bible preaching churches are filled with people who struggle with the issue of assurance of salvation. If you haven’t noticed, you’re either not approachable or not listening. It’s an excruciating struggle, and one for which shepherds must be equipped to help sheep. Trueman addresses the issue by pointing people away from subjective experience and toward objective truth about God and Christ. I do wish he had addressed the experiential “fruit” motif that is prominent in biblical discussions on assurance, as in 1 John. But his pointing us away from ourselves and to God is helpful. Pastors, listen to this challenge regarding the whole tenor of our pulpit ministries:

“In making preaching centre on God, on his saving acts and supremely on Christ, the preacher will automatically be creating an environment where the eyes of the congregation are drawn away from themselves, whether they be preoccupied with a morbid introspection or with an unhealthy excitement concerning their own experiences.”

The church needs leaders who will be relentless in biblical, God-exalting, Christ-centered preaching, and will thus “create an environment” in which people are more mindful of what God has done than what they have done.

This little book is an easy read (just over 100 pages), but very rewarding. It will be a huge help and encouragement to my pastor friends. It will engage your heart, your head, and your humor. Classic Trueman. I commend it to you.

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Related Tweet: “Theory: There is no Carl Trueman. D. A. Carson and Patrick McManus write articles together then use CT as a pseudonym.”

New Palm Sunday Hymn, with a Majestic MP3

I’m glad to introduce another new hymn from ChurchWorksMedia.comHosanna to the King is a collaboration with my friend Rick Nichols. It’s a Palm Sunday hymn, but one which we hope will be useful to the church throughout the year. Rick approached me with his regal arrangement of Alexander Reinagle’s tune and asked if I could come up with a suitable text for it, preferably for Palm Sunday or Easter. Once I heard it, the text practically wrote itself. Lord willing, each line will point you to an aspect of the Triumphal Entry and the glories of Christ, the promised King and Deliverer. (You can read about the meaning of each line here.) On a side note, the location that most moved me doing my visit to The Holy Land in 2010 was The Mount of Olives. It’s not a beautiful place. But what an important place—home to the Triumphal Entry, to the Olivet Discourse, to Gethsemane, to the Ascension, and in the future, to the Second Coming. I’m so glad to have been able to write of that sacred place in this hymn.

You can download the files for the hymn below, and you can order Rick’s majestic arrangement here. The octavo is being published this fall by Fred Bock Music and was recently honored by JW Pepper as an “Editor’s Choice.” You’ll understand why when you hear it. Turn up your speakers a bit and rejoice in the majesty of our Savior. Grace!

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LINKS FOR HOSANNA TO THE KING

Choral Demo (published by Fred Bock Music)

Single PDF / Double PDF / Text / Notes / MP3 / Octavo MP3

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New CWM Hymn by Faye Lopez

Secured by Sovereign Love is Faye Lopez‘s lovely new adaptation of a classic Isaac Watts text on Psalm 139.  Watts reminds us of God’s omnipresence and omniscience. To hide from Him is impossible. Yet, the God who is all-seeing and all-knowing is also all-loving. The believer in Christ is secure in God’s sovereign, unbreakable love.

Thank you, Faye! I’ve admired your work in the past, and it’s a privilege to work with you at ChurchWorksMedia! I trust that this new piece will be an encouragement to many. Grace.

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LINKS FOR SECURED BY SOVEREIGN LOVE

Single PDF / Text / MP3

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Gospel Meditations for Voters

I wrote the following article for TCBC’s bulletins this Sunday. I thought it might be helpful for other churches, as well. It’s written with the feel of the Gospel Meditations books (which you can obtain here). Feel free to download and duplicate the PDF, but please don’t alter it in any way. Grace!

Gospel Meditations for Voters PDF

(If you find the article helpful, please share a link via Twitter, Facebook, or your blog. Thank you!)

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Election day is upon us. I hope you will vote. (I already did, taking my wife on a coffee-and-ballots date last week.) It’s proper for Christian citizens to exercise the rights of citizenship (as Paul in did in Acts 16:37-39; 21:39; 22:25-29; and 25:10-11). So vote! And vote in a Christian manner. What should you be thinking when you pull the curtain on your booth?

1. Christians should vote with thanksgiving.

Think of how few people throughout human history have had the right to influence their government with their vote. We’re not under the boot of a dictator. We’re not inheriting a king who has inherited his throne. We’re not in the middle of civil war. We’re voting. What a great blessing God has given us to live in such a country at such a time! As you vote, offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the Giver of this gift (James 1:17).

2. Christians should vote for righteousness.

Scripture doesn’t contain the names of candidates or parties. But it does tell us what our leaders are supposed to do:

  • Protect the innocent and punish the guilty (1 Peter 2:14; Romans 13:3-4)
  • Lead in a way that shows the fear of God, guards the peace of citizens, and allows the advance of the gospel (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
  • Pursue righteousness, not wickedness (Proverbs 14:34)

Christians should pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1) and submit to our leaders (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). In America, we should also help choose our leaders. As we do, we should prioritize issues on which the Bible speaks with clarity (such as the sanctity of life and marriage).

3. Christians should vote in faith.

Tensions are high. People will stay up late to see which states go “blue” or “red” and who gets 270 electoral votes. As Christians, we must watch in faith, without anxiety, knowing that whoever rules in Washington, there is a Greater who rules in heaven. The future of our country will be affected by this election, but not the future of the church or of God’s Kingdom. In the words of one of my favorite hymns, “There is a Higher Throne.” So vote. Then rest in the sovereignty and goodness of the only perfect Ruler. He ordains our leaders (Romans 13:1). He controls our leaders (Proverbs 21:1). And He will one day replace our leaders (Revelation 11:15). Hallelujah! “Come, Lord Jesus.”

© Copyright 2012 churchworksmedia.com. All rights reserved.

The greatest of these is “Sola Scriptura”

Today Protestants around the world give thanks to God for the Reformation, the 16th-century movement which reclaimed the glorious doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone from the obscuring veils of Roman traditions. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther symbolized the heart of the Reformation by posting his 95 Theses in protest at the sale of indulgences by the Church. We summarize the Reformers’ convictions with 5 Solas: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria. All of them are precious, but I’d argue that the greatest of them is the first: Sola Scriptura. I elevate it not because it is inherently more significant than the others, but because it is the source of the others (and thus is referred to as “the formal principle of the Reformation”). If we don’t acknowledge the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God, we have no basis to determine the doctrine of salvation—or anything else.

I was struck again by this from an unlikely source a few years ago. Victor Hugo wrote the following historical commentary during one of the (rather frustrating) plot lapses in The Hunchback of Notre Dame:

“The sixteenth century shattered religious unity. Before printing, the Reformation would just have been a schism; printing made it a revolution. Take away the printing press and heresy is enervated [weakened, destroyed]. Be it fate or providence, Gutenberg was Luther’s precursor.”

What Hugo is highlighting is the importance of the printed word—indeed, of the printed Word! In God’s providence, the Reformation took place in a time when thought and religion had been freed by Gutenberg’s press. This was no coincidence. An unbending commitment to the Word started, informed, and spread the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s main contribution to the Reformation was his commitment to Scripture, stated often, but never more beautifully or boldly than in his defense at the Diet of Worms:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

“I am bound by the Scriptures.” Yes. “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” Amen. That’s the Reformation in a nutshell. Indeed, it’s Christianity in a nutshell. Luther and the Reformers didn’t get everything right. They couldn’t have. But their role was like that of a good teacher—not to teach students every fact they will ever need to know, but to teach them how to learn. The Reformers reminded the church how to learn—how to think—by pointing us to the Scriptures and away from human authorities. That was their genius, built upon the genius of pre-Reformers like Wycliffe and Huss. Sola Scriptura!

There is no question that the great doctrines of the Reformation are under attack again today. Much of evangelicalism is “slouching towards Rome.” Our response, as ever, must be to tenaciously hold to the authority of the Scriptures. That’s not as simple as it seems, for there is ever the temptation to amend to the Word our own ideas. When the ideas are old, we call them “tradition.” When the ideas are new, we call them “contextualization.” Regardless of what extra-biblical ideas are called, we must not yield to them. We have a more sure word. We have an inspired Word. We have a sufficient Word. May we truly embrace it as our “only rule of faith and practice” as our creeds require. We can do no other. God help us.

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