Posted in church, encouragement, sermons

Shepherd’s Conference 2016 begins tomorrow

My friend Craig wrote the following and I agree. I am SO looking forward to the Shepherd’s Conference! It’s live streamed, then archived. It’s especially poignant to see 4,500 pastors gather to be ministered TO. The impact of such numbers of mature, loving, leading shepherds makes one realize that churches across America and other nations are blessed with God-raised men who labor for His name. It’s very encouraging simply to see so many of them. Also please be sure to listen to the 4,000 gathered men sing hymns, it will stir your soul and overwhelm your emotions. Now to Craig’s comment-

“If I was forced to choose only one event each year which I could attend or watch, John MacArthur’s Shepherd’s Conference would win hands down. It is specifically geared to minister to the pastors, elders and leaders of the local church. 

“And as such it is very meaty due to the spiritual maturity of those in attendance. I say this not to discourage those who might not consider themselves to be theological scholars but simply for them to know in advance that many things might be discussed without the benefit of filling in some of the gaps you might usually expect to hear with a less Biblically educated audience. Not a less Christian gathering, just one that might need to hear some of the gaps filled in so as not to be confused or worse feel misinformed.”

“This particular gathering of attendees do not require that level of detail so expect that to be the case as you listen. It might even be a catalyst for many of you to do some research on your own since “spoon feeding” will not be the order of the day as we have become so accustomed to hearing and expecting.”

All times (GMT-08:00) Pacific Time.
Shepherds’ Conference 2016 – March 9 – 13

To give you a foretaste, here are thousands of shepherds whose voices are lifted up in praise of the Lamb. Pray for them! Each one of the heads you see and each of the voices you hear are from men God has enabled to shepherd people like you. For many of them, this is the only R&R these warriors receive all year. Grizzled solders persevering during the long war, new and naive soldiers fresh to the battlefield, overwhelmed by the heated warfare, stagger or sprint to this lone battlefield station where they are refreshed and nurtured for a few short days before leaving to take up arms once again.

Posted in elmer gantry, lists, movies, sermons

List-o-mania: best books, journalists, movies, sermons, and cancelled tv shows

EPrata photo

From I Die Daily (IDD)

This person did a yeoman’s job, but a pleasant and edifying one, listening to over 650 MacArthur sermons in order to make his determination.


A friend asked me to tell him the best MacArthur sermons of all time, and since it took me a while to put it together, I figure I’ll share with everyone! I have listened to over 650 different MacArthur sermons, and these are “the best” imho.
“The best” depends on what you want to know. For instance, for doctrine there are essential sermons on regeneration, absolute inability, Scripture, premillennialism, perseverance of the saints, saving faith, atonement, salvation assurance, inspiration, repentance, election, effectual call, deliverance, … you name it. Those are CORE and all very, very nice. 

But if you’re looking for the rare-jewels, the KABOOM sermons that you gotta dig out and find through long hours of listening…if you wanna know the sermons that I particularly hold dear… well, I can only hope they also trigger something within you as well! Here they are…

IDD made his list in 2013 but I’d add several recent ones to it, plus my own older favorites.

The first two sermons were a response to cultural goings-on during the US Election cycle in 2012. These sermons made a deep impression on me. It was by then obvious that God was rendering wrath on this nation in terms of lifting His hand and allowing sin to flood in unrestrained.

Abortion and the Campaign for Immorality

Homosexuality and the Campaign for Immorality

These next two are similar tot he above. They were delivered this summer 2015 and the first was a going-away address MacArthur preached in advance of his long summer vacation. He provided his flock with a biblical template for dealing with whatever events occur while he was away. The events that did unfold were shocking and upsetting in the extreme, giving his going-away address an almost prescient or prophetic aura. The Supreme Court decided that homosexuals in all the land have a right to marry, there were shootings on military bases, churches, and movie theaters, and the Planned Parenthood videos were released.

Hope for a Doomed Nation

As a result, when MacArthur returned from vacation, he preached this sermon, which has become a battlecry:

We Will Not Bow

My personal favorite sermons are from a series preached in 1999, a Creation Series from Genesis 1. These sermons astounded and thrilled me. They also made me love the Creator all the more. This first sermon in the series has a code of 90-208 and the series continues with sermon code 90-209 through to 221.

Creation: Believe it or Not Part 1

Tony Reinke lists the The 50 Best Books of 2015 (So Far)

2015 is 60% over, and that means all the books for the year have either been released or announced. In the summer months I begin to compile a rough list of about 50 of the potentially best Christian (non-fiction) books of the year into a list that I will use to pick my top choices in November.

On his list are the solid authors from whom we have come to expect good scholarship, Mark Dever, Iain Murray, Os Guinness, Donald Whitney, Douglas Moo, etc. Check it out.

Of my own favorite books, I strongly recommend:

John MacArthur’s ESV Study Bible,
Pilgrim’s Progress,
Valley Of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers.

Every Christian should have those on their shelves.

I also recommend John MacArthur’s Because the Time is Near, (exposition of Revelation) and Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis, a fictional and devastating portrayal of hypocrisy and opportunism among the Evangelical clergy of the early 20th Century.


Oy, what can we say about the state of the media. In America where I live, it is deplorable, no other word can describe what passes for alerting and educating the American public tot he news and events of the day. It’s biased, sloppy, inaccurate, and on broadcasts, loud. All sturm and no drang. With the opening of the US election cycle for voting in November 2016, it’s more important than ever to find media one can trust. Twitter helps here.

I trust Steve Herman, @W7VOA Voice Of America correspondent in Asia, where he has lived for 25 years.

I enjoy Jake Tapper, @jaketapper, CNN Anchor and Chief Washington Correspondent.

Uh, that’s it.

List of most under-appreciated/underrated ‘Christian’ movies. It’s from Relevant Magazine and I have not seen any of these except End of the Spear, which I already recommended in another blog essay movie review. Take note that oftentimes when a magazine recommends a Christian movie it also includes Catholic movies as part of faith, and this list is no exception. There is one immediately identifiable Catholic film, a documentary about monks in the French Alps. Anyway, several of these look intriguing, especially Believe Me, which reminds me of the book Elmer Gantry.

I’ll list them here but the link contains synopses plus trailers.

8 Underrated ‘Christian Movies

Believe Me
Amazing Grace
Blue Like Jazz
Into Great Silence
The Mission
End of the Spear
Book of Eli

List of best shows ever (in my opinion) that were cancelled after one season. This list burns my bacon every time I look at it.

Hope Island
The Finder
The Cafe (two seasons, but being British, the seasons were short)

OK this is all I can manage today. I threw out my back somehow and it hurts to sit for to long. Till next time!

Posted in aliens and strangers, encouragement, heaven tourism, macarthur, prayer, sermons

The RIGHT kind of Heaven Tourism

Mike Riccardi at The Cripplegate began an excellent essay on the times in which we live this way:

The last few months have been emotionally tiring for Christians in America.

You can say that again.

The last few months have been emotionally tiring for Christians in America.

Weary with burdens? Climbing an endless mountain?
Let the Lord refresh you. (EPrata photo)

I don’t need to go over it all, we know what Pastor Riccardi means. We all know we are living in a sinful world, we all know we contribute to the sins that are piling up to heaven (though thank the Lord we are forgiven for them.) We are tired and we are weary. ANd it has only just begun.

The love of Jesus is a mystery in its depth and breadth and height and width and its eternality since before time began. This love given to us from heaven is incomprehensible and would overflow us if we received it openly in unglorified bodies.

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge…(Ephesians 3:17-19a)

Similarly, the hatred of satan is a mystery to us. We are unable to fully comprehend its evilness. We all know that the depths of sin and its ugliness is still a mystery to us, until some heinous acts are then exposed and we very nearly succumb to the shock. Remember, these heinous acts have been ongoing since the beginning of the world. Yet Christ in His mercy doesn’t reveal them all to us at once, else we wold veritably collapse from emotional exhaustion and spiritual despair. The last month has been hard enough.

the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. (Matthew 12:35a)

But it’s still difficult to deal with when we see previously unrevealed depths of depravity.

So what can we do when faced with incomprehensible evil? We can remember we are missionaries, aliens and strangers and this is not our home.

Our home is over yonder. EPrata photo

 For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding. (1 Chronicles 29:15)

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; (Philippians 3:20)

We all know the summary of the verse at John 17:16, ‘we are in the world but not of it.’ In practical terms, I heard it explained best by Alistair Begg, “The boat is supposed to be in the water, but the water isn’t supposed to be in the boat.” ~Alistair Begg.

What can we do to get the water out of our boat?

Take a missionary leave to heaven. Yes, enjoy some heaven tourism. All missionaries get leave to go home once in a while. We all need a vacation from our daily grind. So go home to heaven. Here is how to do it:

First, pray. The Lord will call us home bodily in His good timing. But every day we can visit our home through prayer. When your kids go on mission, or go to college, or move a distance away, don’t they Skype with you? Don’t they call? They are not in their in body to be with their father but they communicate with home base. Who doesn’t remember being a shaky, tearful kid alone at college, or on the Army base, and calling home to receive some love from Dad or comfort from Mom?

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26)

Stuck on this planet, our friends and colleagues perhaps have made it back home before us, lonely, shaky, tearful wanderer, pray. It is the “ET phone home” of Christianity.

Next, read the Bible. It is the security blanket the alien and stranger on this planet needs to stay warm, stay energized, stay effective. It is the energy pill, immunization shot, protein drink we need as we go out and complete our missionary tasks on planet Earth. When we are overcome with darkness because of the world, then overcome darkness with Light! The light is reading God’s word and seeing the face of Jesus. We can’t actually go to heaven and see Him yet, but we can behold His countenance by reading His words and having the Spirit point us toward Him. Behold His glory through the Word.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Third, wash yourself, wrap yourself in the Word by listening to a good sermon. Stay away from secular radio, avoid even Christian radio. Most times even Christian radio with its sad news coupled with songs that are only doctrine-light will not uplift you but bring you down. There is no better refreshment than the Living water to enliven the weary traveler, as we are.

When you listen to a good expositor plumb the beauteous depths of God’s word it washes over you like a flood of love and light. When you do this you are wrapping yourself in liquid sunlight, chasing away the vaporous darkness and illuminating the corners of your soul with heavenly love. Choose sermons that exegete verse on the beauty of heaven, or the strength of Jesus’ love, or the promises of things to come.

I can heartily recommend John MacArthur for this purpose. Phil Johnson on the Psalms is a wonderfully encouraging resource. Or choose another expositor who preaches verse by verse the word only. We do not want to hear some silly personal story from the pulpit when we’re faced with depths of sadness and are crying out to God. We don’t need practical tips for living, or topical studies. We want THE WORD, for that is the only ticket us expatriates require when it’s necessary to go on temporary leave to heaven.

Another good resource is just listening to an audio book that speaks the word. I listen to RefNet and at times they read aloud huge segments of the Bible. The word fills me and its vapors stream from the radio to my ears to my mind and glide along my veins and fill my innermost parts. It is His word that encourages, uplifts, transforms. When you want to visit heaven on a missionary reprieve, listen to a narrator read His eternal word. It is a living and active word, thus you WILL be refreshed.

Listen to hymns. Let strong, doctrinal music flood your soul, cleaning out the leaves and twigs that have accumulated in the corners of our our soul. Let good music wash away the despair and cleanse our mind. What a balm to bask in pure words from heaven! Choose your music carefully, and make a playlist that encompasses encouraging lyrics which include verses as straight from the Bible as you can. Again it is communication with heaven that we are after in order to visit heaven, they have to be His words, not man’s. Here is a list of good, doctrinal hymns from Religious Affections Ministries. They are grouped by category.

EPrata photo

So pray, read the Bible, listen to the Word, and enjoy good, doctrinal music. We are aliens on this planet. Taking time each day to temporarily visit home will please the Father, who sent us abroad. It will liven our heart, to further Jesus’ kingdom. It will allow us to partake of the peace, that Jesus gave us.

Be encouraged, Brother, be heartened Sister, be strong Pastor…

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. (Proverbs 18:10)

Posted in annise parker, hope, houston, mayor, persecution, sermons

Lesbian mayor of Houston demands Houston pastors’ sermons

In this piece of news,

61st Mayor of Houston,
Assumed office 1/2/2010. Wikipedia.

City of Houston demands pastors turn over sermons

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.

The subpoenas are just the latest twist in an ongoing saga over the Houston’s new non-discrimination ordinance. The law, among other things, would allow men to use the ladies room and vice versa. The city council approved the law in June.

The Houston Chronicle reported opponents of the ordinance launched a petition drive that generated more than 50,000 signatures – far more than the 17,269 needed to put a referendum on the ballot.

However, the city threw out the petition in August over alleged irregularities. After opponents of the bathroom bill filed a lawsuit the city’s attorneys responded by issuing the subpoenas against the pastors. Mayor Parker will not explain why she wants to inspect the sermons. I contacted City Hall for a comment and received a terse reply from the mayor’s director of communications. “We don’t comment on litigation,” said Janice Evans.

Among those slapped with a subpoena is Steve Riggle, the senior pastor of Grace Community Church. He was ordered to produce all speeches and sermons related to Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity. The mega-church pastor was also ordered to hand over “all communications with members of your congregation” regarding the non-discrimination law.

[Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said] This is the moment I wrote about in my book, “God Less America.” I predicted that the government would one day try to silence American pastors. I warned that under the guise of “tolerance and diversity” elected officials would attempt to deconstruct religious liberty. Sadly, that day arrived sooner than even I expected

We know that the way that society is going here in America that this day would arrive. I believe we have all seen a dramatic acceleration in soft hostility against Western Christianity in just the last few years. That the State would begin to bully Christians in a harder persecution would not be long in coming. I personally believe this act from the Houston Mayor is a kind of bridge step in going from soft pressure to hard persecution.

Russell Moore, speaking on behalf of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote yesterday,

Houston, We Have a Constitution

Reports coming out of Houston today indicate that city attorneys have issued subpoenas to pastors who have been vocal in opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a measure which deals with gender identity and sexuality in public accommodations. The subpoenas, issued to several pastors, seek “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”

I am simply stunned by the sheer audacity of this.

The preaching of sermons in the pulpits of churches is of no concern to any government bureaucrat at all. This country settled, a long time ago, with a First Amendment that the government would not supervise, license, or bully religious institutions. That right wasn’t handed out by the government, as a kind of temporary restraining order. It was recognition of a self-evident truth.

The churches, and pastors, of Houston ought to respond to this sort of government order with the same kind of defiance the Apostle Paul showed the magistrates in Philippi…

MORE AT LINK, please read. It is good and it’s not long.

Dr Steve Riggle

Dr. Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church of Houston was mentioned by name in the article. Here is Dr Riggle speaking two years ago of the need for pastors to be the moral, prophetic voice in their communities and about the reason pastors need to continue speaking of these cultural issues. The excerpt below is from the 6-minute clip below:

If I don’t speak up for the people at Grace, then who are they listening to? Because what other voice is out there? And the voices that they’re being inundated by all around them are not the voices of righteousness nor are of a stance that adheres to biblical fidelity. It’s imperative for me because I’m trying to to shape their worldview in a biblical sense. If I don’t speak out on issues like homosexuality – what the bible really says – in a way where why God said ‘no’ is seasoned with mercy and grace for the person, but not countenancing the sin, then how do they know that? Because who else is going to say it? … We raise up authentic followers of Christ who walk in righteousness and see themselves as salt in the culture. And to do that, they have to have a solid biblical foundation.

He speaks on the need for pastors to stand with each other. In seminary, regardless of the degree level a seminarian is at, the legal complexities are not taught, Riggle said. It can be overwhelming for a shepherd to be confronted with legal complexities and legal pressure from the worldly culture.

He also speaks of the difference between pastors who respond to their work as a calling and pastors who see their job as a vocation. Pastors who are in a calling will do anything to further the cause. The difference is that one is a leader and another is not. One will speak up and the other will not.

In an interesting turnabout, two years ago during an earlier contretemps with Dr Riggle, Mayor Parker said,

“…it’s her duty “to uphold the state Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. I swore an oath to that. I take that oath very seriously, but I have my First Amendment rights to free speech. We all have the right to do that and I’m sorry that they [Riggle and his supporters] don’t understand the Constitution. I’m going to continue to follow my oath of office, lead the city well but speak out on issues that I care about.”

It might be wise for Ms Parker to remember that freedom of speech to promote ‘issues that she cares about’ goes both ways in this Constitution she cited two years ago when it suited her.

Pastors need prayer. Even if the Houston Mayor backs down, this shot across the bow has opened the Pandora’s Box for all manner of evil to come flying out. Once the demand has been made, it cannot be unmade. Other towns and cities will follow suit in Houston’s precedent, and quickly too. One of those times, the demand will stick. Pastors, are you prepared to go to jail? THE QUESTION IS NOT RHETORICAL in the US any longer!

However, in the mythological Pandora’s Box, when all the other evil had flooded the world after being released, what remained behind? Hope. In real life, not myths, Jesus tells us that we always have His hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

He IS hope. He gives us His hope AND His power so that we may overflow in it. In John 16:32 Jesus said the hour was coming when all will scatter and He will be left alone. He concluded by saying,

Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.

The Father is with us all. Unite in prayer and like-mindedness so that the Houston pastors are emboldened, energized by the Spirit as they abound in hope. The Houston Mayor is not the enemy. We all have a common enemy and he is satan. But this enemy has already been defeated. Let’s pray for the Mayor, her cohorts, as we should be praying for our leaders. And always remember that against the Father, who can stand?


Further reading

Joel Osteen gives blessing prayer at Annise Parker’s Inauguration

Posted in charles spurgeon, encouragement, phil johnson, providence, sermons

Preaching Divine Providence: A pair of timeless and wonderful sermons, one old and one new, to bookend your weekend

In 1857, Charles Haddon Spurgeon ascended the pulpit at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, and delivered a wonderful sermon called God’s Providence.

Charles Spurgeon was an absolutely amazing pastor. His very life defines both submission, and workhorse. Of Spurgeon, Justin Taylor sums up Spurgeon’s prodigious output,

He often worked 18 hours a day. His collected sermons fill 63 volumes (the largest set by a single author in church history). He read six books a week and could recall their contents. He read through The Pilgrim’s Progress more than 100 times. 14,460 people were added to his church’s membership, and he did most of the membership interviews himself. He trained 900 men to the pastorate. He founded an orphanage, edited a magazine, produced more than 140 books, and is said to have received 500 letters a week to respond to. More than 25,000 copies of his sermons were printed each week. He often preached 10 times a week in various churches. He did all this while suffering from gout, rheumatism, and Bright’s disease—living only to the age of 57. And I think his wife was sick most of that time.

One of Spurgeon’s early sermons was called “God’s Providence.” Spurgeon set his reasoning forth at the beginning of his text.

I am constantly talking about providence in my preaching, and I thought it quite as well to devote a whole sermon to explain what I believe are God’s great wonder-working processes which we call Providence.

I love God’s providence because I love God’s sovereignty. The doctrine of Providence is a favorite doctrine of mine, as regular readers know. Providence of God is defined

The providence of God may be defined as His guardianship and care for His creatures and creation. Also, any manifestation of such care may be described as providence. “There is probably no point at which the Christian doctrine of God comes more into conflict with contemporary worldviews than in the matter of God’s providence. Providence means that God has not abandoned the world that he created, but rather works within that creation to manage all things according to the “immutable counsel of His own will” (Westminster Confession of Faith, V, i).

It’s a comfort to ponder how involved God is in the affairs of men, His care of the saved, and His working all things together for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28).

In Spurgeon’s exposition of a passage from Ezekiel, he used the biblical remarkable imagery of the wheels within wheels and the cherubim who are unique and distinct from all other creatures to illustrate Providence.

The sermon was delivered in 1857 but published October 15th, 1908. Spurgeon opened with comforting words:

WHILE READING THE SCRIPTURES, we tried to hint at the practical benefits of the doctrine of Providence. We attempted to explain that portion of Scripture which teaches us to “take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow will take thought for the things of itself.” Our blessed Lord had there uttered very precious words to drive away our fears, to keep us from distrust and from distress, and to enable us so to rely upon Providence that we may say, he that feeds the ravens, and clothes the lilies, will never suffer me to famish nor to be naked.

He is a good God. Spurgeon’s sermons are a blessing and this one in particular is a favorite of mine. I hope you like it too.


In October 2013, Pastor Phil Johnson delivered a sermon as part of the Strange Fire conference at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church. It is called Providence IS Remarkable. The Conference was a direct rebuttal to the Charismatic movement, which is polluting the minds and hearts of Christians and false Christians all over the world. In this sermon, Johnson relates the true reasons for the miracles of times past and points to the miracle of today, God’s providence. In his sermon, Johnson explained:

Verse 29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground, apart from your Father.” That doesn’t merely mean that God watches and observes that. It means without His expressed decree and permission, even a sparrow doesn’t die. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. “Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows. Really He gives them miraculous power and He tells them, “I’m sending you out in the midst of wolves, you’re going to be attacked,” and instead of saying use that power to silence your opposition, He says, “Just bear in mind God’s there and He’s involved with you.”

I cannot stress this enough. When the Lord wants to reassure the Apostles that Almighty God is directly and personally and lovingly involved in their experience, and not only in their triumphs and successes, but also in their trials and sufferings. Jesus doesn’t point them to the miracles. He doesn’t talk about dreams and visions, or other mystical phenomena. He doesn’t tell them to listen for a still small voice inside their own heads, and He certainly doesn’t tell them that their words have creative power, so, you know, when you encounter opposition, just go ahead and make a positive confession.

Instead, Jesus teaches them a truth we know as the doctrine of providence. He stresses the fact that God is intimately involved in all the details of our lives, even when we can’t consciously sense His presence, even when we don’t understand what He’s doing or why He’s doing it.

Thinking about providence from heaven is remarkable in that it reduces us to a puddle of love in knowing our Great God is intimately involved with His people. No remote, uncaring, or unaware sovereign is He, but a Shepherd actively caring for the most lowly of His lambs. It’s uplifting to ponder these things. (Philippians 4:8).

Here is the Grace To You video with transcript

Here is the stand-alone sermon on Youtube:

Whether old or new, there are sermons out there, and books, and essays, from men the Lord has raised up in truth to convict us, edify us, and comfort us. God’s word is uniquely worth pondering. He has left no generation alone and has always used His people as vessels for this work. And He always will, until the Day He calls us home and we are with Him personally!

Posted in encouragement, jonathan edwards, sermons, sinners in the hands of an angry god

Preaching divine wrath: A pair of timeless and wonderful sermons, one old and one new, to bookend your weekend

I have four favorite sermons. In thinking about them, I realized they were two pairs, one old and one modern. Each pair was of the same subject. Of course each of the two pairs of sermons are edifying. Let me share the first pair now, and the second pair tomorrow.

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead; …
and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink
and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf,
…and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you
and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web
would have to stop a falling rock. Sinners

On July 8th, 1741, pastor Jonathan Edwards ascended the pulpit and preached one of the most famous and convicting sermons in the last 270 years, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“.

Edwards first preached an outline of it to his own congregation, then preached it fully as a guest pastor to the Enfield CT people. Sinners is part of the First Great Awakening.

The Spirit’s work in the First Great Awakening, unlike the Second Great Awakening which reached the unchurched and unconverted, was to shake complacent, church-going Christians to the core and revive their somnolent Christianity to one of fervor for personal holiness and prayer under a loving but wrathful eye of God.

First Great Awakening. Edwards’ use of vivid imagery combined with the powerful concepts of personal responsibility for sin in the face of a holy and sovereign God, crushed the hearts of listeners everywhere- because Edwards was asked to re-preach it often.

Edwards “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologians,” and one of America’s greatest intellectuals. The only son in a family of eleven children, he entered Yale in September, 1716 when he was not yet thirteen and graduated four years later (1720) as valedictorian. He received his Masters three years later. (Source)

On July 8, 1741, in Enfield CT (where a small stone marker marks the spot) Edwards delivered this great, theologically convicting sermon. Though Puritan congregations were well used to fire and brimstone teaching and preaching, the fact of hell and wrath unquestioned, the Spirit’s desire to spark an awakening by using this gifted preacher and his powerful sermon with vivid imagery stands still today as one of the great sermons.

Here is JD Wetterling’s foreword to the sermon, a concise recounting of the sermon’s history and impact.

If you live at the turn of the third millennium after Christ walked this earth, you’ve probably never heard a sermon like this one. Jonathan Edwards was a renowned Puritan preacher, philosopher, theologian, and the leading intellectual figure of colonial America. He graduated from Yale at age 17, became a preacher like his father and grandfather, and is today considered one of the theological titans, along with Augustine, Luther and Calvin, of the Reformed faith.

SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD was delivered during a time called the Great Awakening, when revival was sweeping the continent and thousands were daily coming to Christ. Two-hundred-fifty years later it is generally recognized as the greatest sermon ever preached on the North American continent, and one of the prime manifestations of the Holy Spirit that brought about the first Great Awakening. While Edwards was equally fervent and eloquent in his preaching on all of God‟s infinite attributes, especially His love and mercy, he is remembered most for this powerful portrayal of God‟s infinite hatred of sin. Edwards was not considered a charismatic orator. He read his sermons, and when he looked up at all it was to stare at the rope for the church bell on the back wall. He knew that in order for lost sinners to come to Christ, their only hope for salvation, they must first be brought to the realization of the desperate state they were in and the horrendous eternal consequences of it. He brought many of his listeners to that realization this day with “remarkable effect.” Such was the power and passion of his words that moans and groans filled the sanctuary and people fainted as he spoke.

The “h-word” is used more often here than I have heard in 52 years of church attendance—it sets the standard for “fire and brimstone.” Jesus himself talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible, and Edward‟s biblical support for his awesomely graphic metaphors is correct,complete and convicting, and elicits a sense of urgency rarely heard in church pulpits today.

To read in original form-
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

To hear on Youtube:
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God


Edwards was concerned with sin, complacency, and the wrath of God. His biblical exposition used vivid imagery and is the hallmark woven through the entire sermon. In this next sermon from today’s times, the vivid imagery is also a powerful vehicle to bring the concepts of the devastation of sin to the listener.

The title of this sermon that has three times now brought me to a place of utter conviction, is called “Hacking Agag to Pieces.” Many people consider this sermon as MacArthur’s best. Its content is as vivid as the title, which is a literal event from 1 Samuel 15:33.

John MacArthur’s bio from Wikipedia,

John Fullerton MacArthur, Jr. (born June 19, 1939) is an American Calvinist, Baptist pastor and author known for his internationally syndicated radio program Grace to You. A popular author and conference speaker, he has served as the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California since February 9, 1969 and also currently serves as the president of The Master’s College in Newhall, California and The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California. MacArthur has authored or edited more than 150 books.

MacArthur is … a strong proponent of expository preaching. He has been acknowledged by Christianity Today as one of the most influential preachers of his time, and was a frequent guest on Larry King Live as a representative of an evangelical Christian perspective.

The sermon is paired with the verses from 2 Corinthians 1:12, Romans 6:14-17, both about sin and how it devastates a life, unless it is hacked to pieces. MacArthur exposition of the context of Saul’s disobedience set the stage for the doctrinal explanations of the verses in Corinthians and Romans.

Both sermons bring to the listener how important it is not to give quarter to sin. We must not give the enemy any opportunity to weave his way into our hearts nor to nestle there. When we find sin in us we must deal with it immediately and vividly. Jonathan Edwards reminded his audience that it is only the pleasure of God that we draw the next breath. If you are unsaved, and your breath is taken away and death befalls you, an eternity of unutterable torment awaits. Those living a deluded life in false assurance of their salvation are at most risk.

And in MacArthur’s sermon, Agag lived a pagan, rebellious life before God and until the first sword stroke never thought it would be his last breath. As for Saul, God pronounced a curse upon him for his disobedience in not killing Agag in the first place, another sin before God, because disobedience is always sin.

Both sermons remind us that sin has profound and eternal consequences.

In tomorrow’s blog essay, a pair of sermons that uplift the listener, one old and one new. Prepare to be awed by His providence and His sovereignty.

The preaching of divine wrath serves as a black velvet backdrop that causes the diamond of God’s mercy to shine brighter than ten thousand suns. It is upon the dark canvas of divine wrath that the splendor of His saving grace most fully radiates. Preaching the wrath of God most brilliantly showcases His gracious mercy toward sinners. ~Steven J. Lawson

Posted in news, prophecy, pulpit, sermons, signs

Should pastors do news-prophecy updates?

I’ve been thinking a lot about pastors who do prophecy updates. This is when pastors speak from the pulpit regarding current events of the day, such as the Syrian civil war, or a major earthquake, or the eclipses coming up, or Egypt’s coups, etc. The speak about this news from the pulpit during service and relate the news back to the bible.

Should pastors do this? Should they refrain from updating their parishioners on the news?? It is a difficult question. As with all hard questions (and easy ones too) let’s look at the bible first. The role of pastor is to include:

–Care to those whom he has been entrusted (1 Peter 5:2-3).
–A pastor is a shepherd of God’s flock who is to instruct, teach, and protect the people under his charge. In John 21:15-17, Jesus said to Peter, feed My sheep, tend My sheep, feed My sheep.
–Acts 6:4 those who lead the church are charged to give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word.
–Acts 20:27 declare the whole counsel of God
–2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

Though pastors have many duties as defined by the bible, teaching and preaching the word of God to the flock is number one. It is the major way they tend the sheep, and feed the sheep. They also protect the sheep from wolves, by guarding the congregation from false doctrine and the people who bring it. Feeding the lambs with the bread of life is uniquely given to elders/overseers.

Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Mark 13:31. The only enduring thing in this world are the words of Jesus, and shepherds are entrusted to pass them to the people, to explain, to use as encouragement and rebuke, for training in righteousness.

Prophecy is part of that general mandate. Too few pastors preach the prophetic passages or even mention them in passing. Somehow prophecy has gotten a bad reputation. This is likely because so many crazy people have set dates and brought shame onto Christianity by being a fringe element. Others are too shamefully gleeful at the wrath parts of judgment in prophecy and do not demonstrate the love of Christ by counterbalancing His wrath with talk of His grace and mercy. Or, many pastors don’t want the ‘taint’ that has besmirched prophecy in general to taint them, so they shy away. Oftentimes, it is also because seminaries do not teach pastoral students the importance of prophecy or preaching the prophetic passages, calling them unknowable, or controversial, and they ignore them altogether. Thus, new pastors don’t feel equipped to preach on them and they never do, even as they mature.

Frontspiece to “America A Prophecy”
William Blake 1793

As for the sheep, us, many have gotten discouraged by the hype that too many eager pastors have promoted with prophecy. Or, they have picked up on the general taint and they frown meanly from the pews when or if a pastor preaches it.

Yet the bible says to preach the whole counsel of God. Preaching the prophetic is encouraging because it shows God’s sovereignty, His careful attention to detail, and His everlasting covenants. When was the last time you heard a good sermon from, say, Obadiah? I listened to Phil Johnson preach from Nahum last weekend, and I loved every minute of it.

However that said, there is a difference in preaching prophecy and preaching secular news. As an example, John MacArthur has been preaching for 46 years, 44 of them at one church. All of his sermons he’s preached since 1969 are online. I’ve listened to a healthy sampling of them from each decade, including the ones from 1969, from the 70s, and 80s and 90s and 00s and beyond. In a bare few, he mentions current events. For the most part, he simply does what the bible says, preach the word. The word is always fresh. When he expounds on it, I literally cannot detect which era the sermon is from. It is as fresh as if he delivered it today than when he did 45 years ago. It is all edifying.

I applaud and honor those pastors who occasionally relate something happening in the culture or the world to the bible. John MacArthur did this in 2012 when he preached two sermons pointedly on America’s downward slide into immorality. They were “sermons on the spiritual and moral decline being championed by our country’s leaders.” The introduction to that two-part series states,

If you’ve followed John MacArthur’s teaching for any length of time, you know he rarely says much about politics, culture, or society. It’s not that he’s uninformed on those topics. It’s that they’re often an intrusion upon the teaching of God’s Word. Evangelical Christians are already too easily distracted from the Great Commission in order to engage in partisan politics.

However, sometimes mixing the current news and the bible is called for. Dr MacArthur stated

I’m not one to talk about politics as such, but I was essentially amazed that one of the historic parties here in the United States adopted the sins of Romans 1 as their platform. This is a new day in our country. Parties which used to differ on economics now differ dramatically on issues that invade the realm of God’s law and morality.”

Even at that, the bulk of those two sermons were mainly focused on the Word of God and not the news of culture. And the rest of his sermons are focused totally on the word of God.

In the few cases if a secular news event is mentioned in an older sermon I am listening to, it’s jarring. It dates the sermon and makes it seem old and creaky. It kind of ruins the whole thing. Tying news into preaching is a bad mix, kind of like the iron and clay toes in the statue of Nebuchadnezzar that will not stay together.

There are some pastors who choose to speak a prophecy update each week, or quarterly. I have more concerns about these. I truly thank these preachers for doing weekly prophecy updates, I know their heart is in the right place. I know they love the Lord. But to work news back into the bible and claim meaning from it regularly is a dangerous activity, in my opinion. When a pastor has committed to a weekly prophecy update that includes the news of the world, their attention is necessarily divided.

I believe pastors should walk a fine line when it comes to preaching the news. They spend time reading newspapers instead of reading the bible. Tying news articles to the word means we think we can see what the Lord is doing or that we know his ways. But His ways are far above our ways. The pulpit is for God’s word.

Pastors should be excited about His appearing though, and talk much of our new home based on what the bible says, and look forward to the era to come. But they throw ALL prophecy out with the bathwater and never mention that this earth isn’t our home! Instead of preaching news stories from the pulpit, they go too far in the other direction and never preach the bible’s prophetic passages, either.

As far as news goes, we have come to the prophetic brink so often since 2008 and then the Lord saw fit to retreat the world from the prophetic brink. Russia is rising, Middle East is inflamed, the world economy is tanking, Damascus is dying, Egypt is failing, we can see the prophetic indicators.

The pastor’s role is to preach the word in season and out, ALL of the word, and this is on them- when

St Bernard preaching from a pulpit,
G. Martini, 1470

they do not preach prophecy passages from the bible they are not fulfilling the command to feed His sheep the whole counsel of God. But the word does not command shepherds to feed us news. So many pastors unwittingly get drawn away when they include secular news to their sermons from the pulpit. They start looking at the news and not expending their precious time on learning the word. Satan will take anything, even something good, and make it bad. If they feed us the word then we will understand and see the times. Jesus chastised the Pharisees for being able to tell the weather from signs but not His appearing from the fact of His appearing! (Mt 16:3). And Paul said –

“But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.” (1 Thess 5:4-5)

So the pastors preach the word, the whole word, and the Spirit illuminates the times for us.

It is a shame that so few are excited about His appearing. Paul mentioned it constantly! I talk about it a lot at church. I think He is coming soon. Not because the news indicates He is coming back soon but the bible says His return for His bride is imminent. It is something to get excited about! Not the news but simply the eagerness of going to our new home or the fact of His coming to get us. It is a sad thing that too few Christians look eagerly to that moment. If Paul and the early Christians did, how much closer is it today! Every NT book except Philemon mentions the prophetic future of our being raptured to Him and the new era. Christians who long for His appearing even earn a crown! And that is a shame, that so many brethren won’t share the joy of anticipation. I speak it from the bible, though, not from the news.

I do believe that the Lord is returning soon. I believe the rapture will be any day. I have believed this since I read it in the bible. The events today look to me like they are pointing to our last moments on earth under the Age of Grace. But, it’s been 7 years since I first thought that and it could be two years from now or another ten or I could die tomorrow and go to heaven anyway. We just don’t know. We look at the seasons and we look for His appearing and this should give us urgency to witness. But when I go to church I want to hear His word explained, there is no better way to spend time than hear the word. It is the only enduring thing on this earth.

What’s your opinion on the matter?

Posted in old testament, preaching, sermons

Satan blurs lines, rubs the sharp edges off Christianity, hates distinctions

“Thus Saith the Lord” sermon on Jeremiah 17:5-8
Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“I sometimes imagine that the supreme achievement of the devil is to blur essential distinctions. He is interested in gray always. He doesn’t like black or white. And he has taught mankind to listen to him. ‘We don’t like these either-ors,’ they say. ‘We don’t like these stark, striking contrasts’. But those, my dear friends, are the very essence of the subtlety of sin and the devil. … the great lie of the present century is to have blurred the distinct edges of Christianity and the Christian faith. The Christian is distinct, stands apart. It is a lie to say you cannot ultimately define a Christian at all.”

MLloyd-Jones sermons here

Posted in jeremiah, judgment, sermons

A great sermon

I listen to several preachers but most often I listen to John MacArthur. I quote him a lot, as you know if you are a regular reader of this blog. MacArthur is one of only a handful of preachers, if that many, who preach through the bible verse by verse. He doesn’t speak topically and apply or overlay a few verses to make a point. He takes a verse or two or maybe three, and he spends 50 minutes teaching it.

He is the only preacher in the world now, I believe, who has preached through the entire New Testament, verse by verse. He started 43 years ago, and he finished in June. It was a poignant moment and I watched and celebrated with him and with his congregation via internet.

He isn’t going to go verse by verse through the Old Testament, he said. But he did do a wonderful series on the 7 days of Creation, here. You can listen or read the sermon. It is a fantastic and very uplifting series. He is now beginning some Old Testament sermons by using the verse from Luke 24:27, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” This means that in all the books from Moses and all the books where the Prophets spoke, Jesus is present. He is in the Old Testament, everywhere from beginning to end, in actuality. Jesus is in Genesis 1:1 and He is in the last book of the OT, Malachi. But MacArthur is beginning his series limited to Jesus through the Old Testament akin to the Road To Emmaus, the place where He said he “expounded on these [Old Testament] things concerning Himself.” MacArthur’s begins with Jeremiah, here.

His aim is to show the parallels of Jeremiah the man and Prophet in his time amid an ungodly nation to our time here in this ungodly nation. Judgment came in Jeremiah’s life, and we who are burdened with the spiritual pregnancy of imminent labor feel judgment will come in ours too. Knowing that and listening to MacArthur’s preaching that won’t mean it’ll be a feel-good moment but it does give context and meaning to why and how God worked through this very human man, so sorrowful, and the doomed nation, but preserved in a remnant! Just as it is today.

I recommend the series to one and all.