Quick Hits (7/16/08)

There is more pleasure in God than sin.

This first link is just fantastic. It’s well worth a few minutes of your time. I’ve wanted to read Charnock’s Existence and Attributes of God for some time; in the past I’ve merely referenced it when studying a particular topic. Beyond that, I’m very aware that my reading is dominated by modern writers; I’m neglecting the worthy works of dead men. Well, last night I started into Charnock’s classic by reading the brief preface, and I was delighted by what I read. The publishers (Edw. Veel and Ri. Adams) speak highly of Charnock and his work, but they also wax eloquent about the pleasure and sanctifying effect of meditating upon God. You can read the entire preface here if you don’t have the book. I recommend it. Here are a few nuggets:

“Enough, assure thyself, thou wilt find here for thy entertainment and delight, as well as profit.”

“A mere contemplation of the Divine excellencies may afford much pleasure to any man that loves to exercise his reason, and is addicted to speculation: but what incomparable sweetness, then, will holy souls find in viewing and considering those perfections now, which they are more fully to behold hereafter; and seeing what manner of God, how wise and powerful, how great, and good, and holy is he, in whom the covenant interests them, and in the enjoyment of whom their happiness consists!”

Meditating on God through these discourses will “clear thy eyes, and prepare them for future sight, as well as turn them away from the contemptible vanities of this present life.”

“This ‘excellent glory’ [quoting 2 Cor 3:10] is the subject of this book, to which all created beauty is but mere shadow and duskiness. If thy eyes be well fixed on this, they will not be easily drawn to wander after other objects: if thy heart is taken with God, it will be mortified to everything that is not God.”

Powerful thoughts. Gazing on our God is an “entertainment,” a “delight,” a “profit.” It supplies us with “incomparable sweetness.” It provides us with the very source of “happiness.” And it simultaneously turns our eyes away from sin by giving to us the One who is all-satisfying. Think on that for a bit! Again, give the brief preface to Charnock’s book a read (here). And for more on the sanctifying effect of rejoicing in God, check out two previous MTC posts (here and here).

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Expect your pastor to be Superman?

Get used to disappointment. He’s not, nor should he be. This post is right on the money. The pastor’s job is to equip the entire body for ministry—what we at TCBC often call “decentralized ministry” and “every member ministry.” The pastor who busies himself by making every visit and meeting every need (or at least trying to) may look impressive and feel important, at least for a time, but he’s failing in his God-given task (see Acts 6:4; Eph 4:11-12; 2 Tim 2:2). He’s making the body dependent upon himself, not on Christ and not on each other, and that failure will eventually yield tragic fruits, whether while he is there or when he departs.

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The “I’ve been raptured and you haven’t” email.

No kidding. The only thing more shocking than this is that it’s probably making somebody plenty of cash. And all this time I thought email was a poor way of communicating important information…

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Kauflin downplays the importance of music.

This bit from Bob Kauflin on the priority of message over music, truth over tune, is just excellent:

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Like a rose trampled on the ground…

Lastly, the song “Above All” is sung beautifully by Kevin Inafuku on his CD entitled “He Is.” I’ve meditated on it much during the last week. The tune is moving, and the text is glorious—it speaks of Christ’s incomparable majesty, the phrase “laid behind a stone” is a beautiful way of depicting Christ’s burial, and “like a rose trampled on the ground” is the most powerful imagery of Christ’s rejection and crucifixion I’ve considered for some time. Beautiful.

Here’s the thing: the last line of the song has me scratching my head. “You took the fall; You thought of me above all.” Hmmm. I’m not sure what I think of that. At first glance, it strikes me as a bit…self-absorbed. To say that Christ’s primary thought during the crucifixion was “me” makes me a bit uncomfortable. Of course, there’s no question that dying for sinners was the point of Christ’s coming to earth (Luke 19:10; 1 Tim 1:15), and to express gratitude for my personal benefit from Christ’s death is commendable. It’s the sort of thing we mean when we sing (with Clayton) “died He for me who caused His pain” or (with Wesley) “for me He died, for me He lives” or (with Newton) “My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled to think He died for me” or (with Cowper) “I do believe, I will believe, that Jesus died for me.” Yet, it still comes off as a bit presumptuous to me—perhaps because it ends with “me above all.”

It’s a beautiful, Christ-exalting song. It’s been very useful in pointing me Christ-ward. That said, were I to use the song (and I plan to), I think I’d probably turn the last phrase upward, highlighting the exaltation that followed the crucifixion: “You took the fall, and yet You’re still (or ‘but now You’re high’) above all.” Something like that. Thoughts?

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12 Responses

  1. Re: “you took the fall…”

    I don’t care for the first part of that line, either. It is such a hip-type expression…But I”m with you, I think it’s clear that God’s glory in the plan of redemption would be on Christ’s mind “above all” during that time.

  2. Re the “Superman” quick hit.

    I appreciated your comments about “decentralized ministry” and “every member ministry’. Re the linked to post: While I believe the mulitiple elders are best, I don’t view them as required. Not to debate that point but to make this one: One can have a “every member ministry” w/o a plurality of elders. Eg I’m not an elder in my church (nor is my wife), but we work with the youth ministry.

    Appreciate your blog, by the way! It’s on my Google reader and is always worthwhile.

  3. I’m going to link to this post for my gals. There is an ongoing discourse going on on my blog about “chick lit”, and your comments on Charnock might help re-define what is “delightful” and “entertaining” …for some. Thanks for this. ~D

  4. Re: “I’ve been raptured and you haven’t email”

    So, my question is…how does this get sent? Is it run by some people that are going to be getting the emails? It’s not like when the rapture comes you will have time to log on to the internet and send an email or two before you go! :)

    These scams keep getting better and better!

  5. Re: Above All

    I agree with your thoughts and appreciate the discerning attitude and the public accountability. I don’t think we can be too careful in guarding our song texts.

  6. Been thinking through alternate texts for that phrase and came up with this possibility:

    “You took my place, to show Your grace, above all.”

  7. […] HT: Chris Anderson who adds these thoughts: […]

  8. Hi Chris – regarding pastors as supermen:

    I am posting here so as not to hijack the Pyro post where you responded to my comment. I think you missed two things in that comment. First – I said it was a bit off-topic. And second, I agreed with what Dan had written there. My issue is somewhat peripheral but absolutely intimately related. What I was trying to say in that comment was that I don’t think Dan’s post is as important or deserves as high a priority as a topic that would call pastors to do what they ought to do during an era of pastors being very concerned with their flock getting involved while placing roadblocks to that involvement in their way and while shirking their own duties.

    To directly address the link you gave:

    Howard Davis said: Those of us who are not pastors are prone to want the pastor to do everything! We expect him to be in charge of everything from moving tables for the ladies’ meeting to being the chief administrative officer.

    You’ll note from my comment at Pyro that I am not expecting the pastor to move tables for the ladies meeting or to be the CEO. In fact, I specifically addressed the things I think a pastor should be doing (not doing by himself, but doing nevertheless). The things I addressed were: “studying, praying, counseling, evangelizing, visiting the sick, providing for the needy, [and] mentoring the brethren.” I would love to see a pastor do a couple of these things. Over the past almost three decades I have not found a single pastor in eight churches who does these things. I have not found a single pastor that does just a couple of the seven things I listed. Half of our pastors have done one of the things listed (not the same one with each pastor) and the other half have done none of these things unless their arms was twisted and then they complained loudly about it – sometimes from the pulpit the next Sunday. If I found our current pastor at the church building on a day other than Sunday, I would be shocked beyond belief. I live across the street from the church and can count the non-Sunday times he has been at the church this year on the fingers of one hand. I mean at the church at all.

    He went on to quote John MacArthur: They are to devote themselves first of all to prayer and to the ministry of the Word, and to select others to handle lesser matters.

    Wow! Would I love to see a pastor who devotes himself first of all to prayer and to the ministry of the Word. I’m assuming that there would be a second after that first. I would hope that it would have something to do with counseling, evangelizing, and mentoring since all of those things are addressed in other portions of scripture as pastoral duties. But I’d be willing to accept just the “first” – prayer and ministry of the Word.

    The reason for my comment at Pyro was simply that I think this is epidemic now and rather than trying to figure out how to get the pew sitters involved, we need pastors to call pastors to a high personal standard. I truly believe that when pastors go hard after their calling, the congregants will more consistently fall in line with their responsibilities as well.

  9. Thanks for commenting, Uncle Buck. Quickly…

    The kicker here is that equipping people for every-member ministry is “what pastors ought to do,” to use your phrase. And frankly, I think it would be easier to just do everything, at least for a time. Shaking people out of a “hired gun” mentality can be difficult—even dangerous.

    Now, I’m not arguing for pastors who are negligent. Not at all. I preached last week that the elders of the church should be active in work days, visits, ministries of mercy, etc. Pastors certainly shouldn’t communicate that they’re “above” such things. However, I am arguing that very primary in their responsibilities is engaging in prayer and the ministry of the Word to mature and equip believers to serve the Lord and His church. That’s not a peripheral part of the pastor’s job, but is very central to it.

    BTW, the church I pastor has 4 excellent deacons who delight to take things off of the plate of the elders and thereby free them up for prayer and ministry of the Word. I thank the Lord for them, and for the other elders with whom I serve. I may be prejudiced by my good experience. On the other hand, you may be prejudiced, as well. I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience with pastors. I’ve met those who are more devoted to the work to which they’re called and those who are less—but eight in a row that are all bad eggs? That’s bad! Maybe you’ve had bad luck. Maybe you need to be more careful in your selection of churches. Or maybe you need to reconsider your expectations. “Before you conclude that the whole world stinks you might check your own mustache for Limburger cheese.” :) Seriously, I’ve had people so negative and suspicious regarding pastoral ministry that if I’d walked on water I’m convinced that they’d have complained that I caused too many ripples.

    Last thing: it sounds like your pastor was quoting Acts 6, not John MacArthur. :)

  10. I completely understand your response and would probably have the same response were I in your shoes speaking to someone I don’t know.

    But to give you some context on this – My father is a pastor and perhaps that is what gives me the toughtest time with this. He was an outstanding pastor who worked very hard. He is my image of what a pastor should be, although I believe my standard for a pastor is what I see in scripture.

    My pastors have not been as bad as possible, but they have been progressively worse. We began to really notice the problem when my wife was the church secretary and found that the pastor was hardly ever doing what he said he was doing. Eventually she learned that the best way to contact him, no matter where he said he was going to be, was to call him at home. That’s where he could usually be found. (In Independent Fundamental Baptist Church)

    The next church we went to had a pastor who was much better. He studied (as evidenced by his preaching) and was a man of prayer. But out of 9 elders in this church, it was essentially impossible to get one of them to show up at the hospital when the need arose. When I was in the hospital and the pastor of another church came to visit me because he had met my father at a preachers conference, the discrepancy was made quite obvious to me and I was embarrassed for having defended our elders to family members who were wondering why even the elders who had promised to visit never showed up. (An independent Bible church)

    We moved and now attend a Southern Baptist church. Our current church’s pastor has dropped as many services and fellowship times as he has been able to since he was called as the pastor about a year and a half ago. He attempted to eliminate all of the worship services except for the Sunday morning services but the congregation put up a fuss and finally he agreed to have Sunday evenings services every other week during the summer, but not at all the rest of the year. He tried to dump the Wednesday evening services and succeeded for a year but then the people begged him enough and he reinstituted them this past May.

    He has complained that with three children he does not have time to prepare a separate message for three different services. Maybe my expectations are too high, but my father preached four times every week and taught a Sunday school class every week. He discipled a group of men every Thursday evening. He taught an evangelism class every Tuesday. He visited people every day, took phone calls all hours of the night from those in need, took us as a family at least once a week to visit shut-ins, took us as a family to the local homeless shelter at least twice a month.

    I work an average of 70 hours per week in my job. I play an instrument in our church’s worship team. I assist the music minister with hymn/song choices, organize the sheet music, lead the choir when the music minister is out of town or sick. I do the church’s web site. I co-teach a Sunday school class.

    I’m sorry if I am expecting too much, but I just think pastors should be working at least as hard as the volunteers. But when I have brought this topic up to my family members who are involved in pastoral ministry (other than my father), I get intense defensive stances – even of folks they don’t know. I hear such responses as, “what? do you expect the church leaders to be holier than the rest of the congregation?”

    Well, frankly, yes. But I’d settle for as holy.

    I’m not accusing any other pastors of the things I have seen. But I think this is a widespread enough problem that it needs to be addressed at the pastor-level. And I just don’t see that happening. There are some books out there that speak to a pastor’s need to pastor, but I just don’t see these things being discussed anywhere else. I do, however, read about how the congregation needs to be more involved regularly – from my pastor, who, I’m sorry to say, probably does no more than about 3 hours worth of actual work per week, including his preaching.

  11. I do understand your frustrations. Let’s just agree that pastors should be better pastors, deacons better deacons, and all Christians better Christians…and that each of us should especially focus on ourselves. I’m certainly not the pastor or Christian I wish I were.

    May the Lord bless you.

  12. Chris – I would definitely agree with you there. And you’re right. We all need to work on our own issues. None of us has arrived. Thanks for allowing me to vent.

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