My daughter, Abigail, frequently announces that our pastor at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church (OPC), Rev. Joe Troutman, is her favorite preacher. Mine, too, Abigail! I think I’ll begin posting links to his sermons so his exposition and application of God’s Word can build you up in your faith, or grant saving faith to those of you who may not already have it. I’ll include my notes of his remarks and sometimes will include a few of my own. Sunday, October 2, 2011, the text was Matthew 20:29-34 and the sermon was entitled, “Walking By Faith, Not By Sight.” (Listen here)
The Son of David, our Lord Jesus Christ, opens the eyes of the blind and sets his people free.
Blind Men Who Could See “And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, ’Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’” (Matthew 20:29-30 ESV)
- “Lord, have mercy!” This phrase was adapted and sung as Kyrie Eleison in Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican liturgies, but according to church historian, Philip Schaff, “The Reformed liturgies dropped it altogether” (The New Schaff-Hertzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, “Liturgics,” page 503).
- Jesus approaches Jerusalem in military procession in anticipation of his triumphal entry. Blind men are bold to call out for him to stop. We are given such boldness by in faith in Christ, to call on God with our requests.
Lord Have Mercy “The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’ And stopping, Jesus called them and said, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, let our eyes be opened’” (Matthew 20:31-33 ESV).
- How persistent are you in your prayers? If God will listen to a couple of blind beggars, he will certainly listen to his children who believe, worship and glorify him. These blind men have literally “walked by faith, not by sight.”
Mercy “And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him” (Matthew 20:34 ESV).
- “Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18 ESV).
- Healing these blind men was part of Christ’s mission; he was not sidetracked by their bold request.
- Christ’s touching the blind men to heal them was not necessary, but rather a benedictory laying on of hand.
- “[T]he LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous” (Psalm 146:8 ESV).
- Their calling Christ the Son of David indicates their confession of faith in him as the Messiah who has come to save them. Healing is a sign of the deity of Christ who came so sinners who believe will have eternal life.
- The Lord Jesus Christ, the true King of Israel, does what we cannot: he gives spiritual sight to us who are spiritually blind, that we may see him as the coming Messiah who was born to die for our sins. May your eyes be opened, and may the Lord graciously grant you such saving faith!
Dig my latest comment at Darryl G. Hart’s Old Life Theological Society. His post is titled, “Young, Restless and Lutheran?” He questions whether the broad approach of the Young, Restless and Reformed movement isn’t so broad that it might be more accurate to call it “Young, Restless and Lutheran,” given that, in Hart’s view, it’s less about Reformed theology in general or the five points of Calvinism in particular (no pun intended), and more about having been inspired by a bigger vision of God at the hands of John Piper channeling Jonathan Edwards, and generally begins reminding us all how much less Reformed they are than he and his Truly Reformed OPC brethren are (among whom I eagerly anticipate numbering me and mine). This is my summary, anyway, be it accurate or not.
I found the post and some of the resultant comments engaging enough that I just had to share my own experience at moving from Fundamentalism, through Evangelicalism and into Reformed Confessionalism. Although I write with tongue-in-cheek, the experiences are all very real (and they’re just the tip of the iceberg).
Confessions of a Restlessly Reforming Evangelical Fundamentalist:
Fortunately, I bypassed the whole Piper YRR movement (Piper’s creative and independent streak is waaay too Baptist for my taste) and swallowed the whole TR thing hook, line and sinker…Or so I thought. The further one goes, the more one discovers which exaggerates the differences between what it means to be Evangelical (in modern Western Christianity, that is) and what it means to be Reformed.
First, you fall for the 5 points; then you get over the hump about baptism (my logic was, “if the seventeenth century Baptists agreed with Presbyterians on so much,” as I was then coming to perceive, “then what makes them think Presbyterians are so wrong about baptism?”)…
…then you deal with stuff like exclusive “Acapulco” psalmody, and, for me living in a region where there is no glut of Reformed churches, I take the lazy man’s approach and say this isn’t an issue I have the luxury of standing for, even if I were persuaded of it. And some of their arguments I do find attractively compelling. If it weren’t for those of the advocates of instrumental hymnody.
Now that I’m preparing to join an OPC church, and begin reading all this vast literature about this “splinter group” of a denomination, I feel I’ve come full circle in some ways back to a Presbyterian version of my separatistic IFB background (even the local church planting missions emphasis is reminiscent of the IFB, without the Faith Promise giving campaigns), if you consider some of you more outspoken OPC guys’ position and attitude about TGC and T4G.
Yes, growing up among separatistic fundamentalists, yet consuming my fair share of big tent Evangelical media, it is quite a process in coming to a point where you can confidently call yourself “Reformed” without crossing your fingers behind your back.
“J. Frank Norris Week” continues! Last night I joined David R. Stokes, author of The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America at the Fort Worth Sundance Square Barnes & Noble Bookstore, where he spoke for a few minutes before sitting down to sign books. The pictures in this post are from last night’s signing. The text is my semi-formal, though concise, review of the book, which has also been posted at the book’s Amazon.com page. As emotionally dependent as I have become on this book, it was hard for me to step back and write an objective review that is comparable to a professional, or at least experienced, reviewer’s work until I decided to recommend the book in an email to another writer, who shall remain nameless. I gave him the following summary, and decided that this is about as good a review as anyone’s ever going to get out of me. Hope you find it helpful, and feel free to help us spread the word about this story that has been gratefully recovered from historical obscurity.
David R. Stokes is a columnist for Townhall.com. He is also a pastor of a non-denominational church in Fairfax, VA. He studied for the ministry at the same Missouri Bible College from which the late Jerry Falwell got his Bachelors degree before he moved on to bigger and better things. This Bible College, Baptist Bible College, to be precise, has its roots in the ministry of the man who is the subject of the book he is now promoting, The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial That Captivated America (2011 Steerforth Press).
Norris was the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth Texas between the years 1909 and 1952 (the year of his death). In the early years of his ministry, he ditched the tame, sane, responsible approach to ministry in which one makes an effort to get along with everyone, for an approach that would generate so much heat it would draw huge crowds to him so he could introduce them to the Light, if you know what I mean. In the process, he was a self-appointed thorn in the side of the underground liquor and gambling interests in Texas, the budding theological liberalism in his alma mater, Baylor, the mayor of Ft. Worth and Star-Telegram founder and all-around entrepreneur Amon G. Carter. This got Norris in hot water with one of the mayor’s friends, another Ft. Worth business leader, Dexter Elliot Chipps, who stormed into Norris’ office one day, threatened to kill him, then walked out. Chipps’ mistake was that he didn’t keep going. He turned for some unknown reason and attempted to reenter the pastor’s office and was met with three or four bullets in the chest. The resulting 1926 murder trial was as big of a media circus as Norris’ hero, William Jennings Bryan’s, recent Skopes Monkey Trial had been, or for those of us in the 21st century, Casey Anthony’s.
The book is a narrative non-fiction work. It reads somewhat like a novel, but all the dialogue, and much of the narration, even, is directly lifted from his sources which include not only older bios of Norris (pro and con), but much of the most prominent journalistic accounts, legal transcripts and records, as well as personal archives of Norris, Meacham and Carter. The outrageous tactics of Norris in his early ministry make for quite a train wreck, and the history is fascinating, but for folks like myself who grew up in Fort Worth, it gives a lot of new information to an old legend that has lingered in the background of all of our lives, and provides quite a bit of closure as well. I’d like to share with you this fascinating tale that we could only wish were nothing more than a “Texas Tall Tale.”
I have an unbelieving friend with whom I’ve discussed much about the Christian faith. I admit that, having thoroughly proclaimed the fact of God’s holiness, my friend’s personal sinfulness for which he is accountable to that holy God, and the good news that God’s Son has volunteered to represent sinners like him on the cross so that those who would believe in him would have eternal life, and my friend’s subsequent and persistent resistance of that message in favor of his own relativistic and pluralistic form of non-Christian universalism, I have taken the liberty to go on discussing other matters of “religion and politics,” knowing that many of you would advise against such a practice. I’ve even discussed this point with him as well.
Perhaps I ought to wipe the dust from my feet, but for good or ill, in all the discussions in which we engage on the Bible, occasionally I’ll use the word “interpretation” in a sentence, to which my friend will object in so many words: “You’re not supposed to have to interpret the Bible!” I don’t know if this statement is based on some skeptical school of thought. My Googling has not helped me discover if the current trends in anti-Christian philosophizing and rhetoric, a la Hitchens, Dawkins, Maher, etc., make assertions like this (if any of you know, please comment!), but here are a couple of findings related to this question.
About five years ago, the blog Reformation Theology posted on the distinctive method of interpreting the Bible. In a post called “The Reformers’ Hermeneutic,” we read:
The exegesis and interpretation of the bible was the one great means by which the war against Roman corruption was waged; which is almost the same thing as saying that the battle was basically a hermeneutical struggle. In light of these observations, one could say that the key event marking the beginning of the Reformation occurred, not in 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his theses to the church door in Wittenberg; but two years prior to that, when he rejected Origin’s four-layered hermeneutic in favor of what he called the grammatical-historical sense. This one interpretive decision was the seed-idea from which would soon spring up all the fruits of the most massive recovery of doctrinal purity in the history of the Church. (read more)
Then the Lord, through Google, directed me to this Power Point presentation on “Exegetical Skepticism.” Here’s a bit of what it has to say:
There are so many different ways of interpreting the Bible, how can we be confident that our interpretation is correct?Skeptical Answer: We cannot be confident of our ability to interpret. There probably is one correct interpretation, but we won’t know it even if we have it. . . .So, if we can’t be for sure regarding interpretation, we must deal with probabilities rather than certainty.What kind of interpretation is more likely to represent the text’s original meaning?Answer: The most probable interpretation is the one that is consistent with language and literary genre similar to the ways that people typically used and understood them at the time the texts were written. . . .What are some ways to ‘break-out’ of our own cultural and psychological restraints?a.Ways to ‘breakout’ of our limitationsi.Discussion with other Christiansii.Church Historyiii.Approach the scriptures with humility.iv.Learn more about the history surrounding the Biblical texts.Conclusion:Although interpreting the Bible can be, at times, difficult (just as math, psychology, etc. can be difficult), this doesn’t mean we need to be skeptical about interpretation as a whole. Rather, interpretative difficulties should simply encourage humility and hard work.
The folks at the Full Confidence Conference didn’t know they had a representative from the shallow end of the Refomred blogosphere covering them until I stuck my camera in their faces. When the audio of the messages are made available, I’ll provide summaries and links, but for now, here are a few photos of some of the folks involved:
Here’s a blooper I just can’t resist sharing with you. Here are Pastor Kyle Oliphint and Dr. David Garner losing focus and starting to chat and look around just as I snap their picture…Hey Kyle! I’m over here!
Next is a look at the “emerging” Westminster generation–Jonathan Brack with Dean of Admissions and son of Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, Jared Oliphint. I hope they enjoyed their little family reunion.
And finally, I took the opportunity to get a snapshot with one of my heroes of the faith, a man who successfully lead his family out of fundamentalism and into the Reformed faith intact, Dr. Thomas R. Browning (Hey, Bob Hayton! Here’s a real, live “Fundamentalist Reformer” for you!). He is the Assistant Pastor of Grace Community Presbyterian Church, and can be found teaching the adult Bible study in the sanctuary most Sunday mornings. In many ways, I am indirectly a product of his influence, in that he taught the guys who, after years of on-again, off-again considering of the doctrines of grace, lovingly latched onto my ankle (like the Calvinist bulldogs they are) and didn’t let up until I said “Uncle!” Every time I think of this guy, I recall the touching tribute once spoken by his son, Gage (a former co-worker): “My dad is my favorite preacher.” Learn more about Dr. Browning and his ministry of preaching and teaching here and here.