Posts by Joey Cochran:
Concise biographies are an incredible resource for busy pastors who are looking for a kindred spirit to learn from. I’ve had the joy of spending the last week with David Beaty’s study, An All-Surpassing Fellowship, which details Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s life and communion with God. Over at Lifeway’s Pastors Today web-blog, you may read my review of An All-Surpassing Fellowship.
Here I thought I’d share ten insights for pastors from Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s approach to ministry and his fellowship with God:
1. Pastors need kindred friends.
In addition to learning under the influence of books and professors, M’Cheyne experienced the joy of fellowship with like-minded friends during his preparation for ministry. These included his childhood friend, Alexander Somerville, and Andrew and Horatius Bonar. (14)
2. Preachers should preach with gratitude and humility for the honor to exposit the Word.
His sense of gratitude for the privilege of preaching the gospel was joined with an awareness of the need for deep humility on the part of those who preach. (15)
3. God leaves no room for competition in pastoral ministry. He wins it all for his glory, so pastors shouldn’t compete with one another. This is learned from M’Cheyne’s response to the Holy Spirit’s work of revival through the preaching of W. C. Burns interim ministry at St. Peter’s Church in Dundee, while M’Cheyne was away on a mission to Jerusalem.
Remarkably, there seems to have been no jealousy whatsoever between M’Cheyne and Burns…Andrew Bonar writes of M’Cheyne’s attitude during this time: “But Mr. M’Cheyne had received from the Lord a holy disinteredness that suppressed every feeling of envy. Many wondered at the single-heartedness he was able to exhibit. He could sincerely say, ‘I have no desire but the salvation of my people, by whatever instrument.'”…W. C. Burns continued to preach throughout Scotland, and the revival seen in Kilsyth and Dundee spread to other towns. (45)
4. Personal communion with God is of first importance for a pastor as he prepares to do God’s work.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne believed there was no greater privilege in life than communion with God. His desire for all-surpassing fellowship with the Lord determined how he spent his time during his few years on earth. (55)
People seek discipline in their devotional lives for varied reasons. Some want more biblical knowledge. Others seek peace for the day ahead. But for M’Cheyne, it was love for God that compelled him to spend time with his Lord. (56)
5. The communion with God through the Word should pour over into the lives of a pastor’s congregation.
M’Cheyne’s love for God was expressed in love for His Word, and he viewed God’s Word as an instrument that conveyed God’s love to him. (59)
But M’Cheyne’s greatest hope for his church was that they would come to know the benefits of God’s Word as he had. (61).
6. Prayer is a pastoral privilege to fellowship with God as he appeals for the Lord to be at work amongst God’s people.
But if we focus only on the need for answers to prayer, we will miss much of the privilege God has given us in prayer. (65)
While M’Cheyne understood the privilege of prayer as fellowship with God, he did not underestimate its immense value in furthering the work of God’s kingdom. In fact, M’Cheyne viewed prayer as the first and most important work in advancing God’s purposes. (66-67)
7. Personal holiness is not only a necessary pursuit but a joyful pursuit for communion with God.
An essential part of Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s communion with God was his ongoing pursuit of holiness. His desire to be made more holy was not a legalistic quest to be assured of his salvation. Rather, knowing that he had been freely justified by faith in Christ resulted in love that led to holiness. (75)
M’Cheyne himself made what we might call “resolutions,” but he termed his quest for greater sanctification “Reformation.” (76)
In his Reformation he wrote, “I am persuaded that God’s happiness is inseperably linked in with his holiness. Holiness and happiness are like light and heat…” (79)
8. Pastors should live every day with eternal perspective that fuels evangelistic urgency.
His motto accompanied the seal with the simple words: “The night cometh.” … M’Cheyne’s eternal perspective gave an urgency to his work for the Lord. (85)
To those who were bothered by his urgency, he said, “You will not thank us in eternity for rocking your cradle and lulling you asleep over the pit of hell.” (91)
9. The Holy Spirit is the power of the mission and none other.
A notable result of Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s close communion with God was the power of the Holy Spirit that was evident in his life. (95)
M’Cheyne was able to speak to his members about the role of the Holy Spirit with an authority born of his own experience. (97)
10. Pastors should be passionate about communing with God.
Communion with God was not an obligation for M’Cheyne. It was a passion. He believe that fellowship with his Lord was a gift, and one to be cherished. He said “…Covet earnestly the best gifts.” (101)
These ten insights are gleaned from the first two parts of David Beaty’s, An-All Surpassing Fellowship. I didn’t say this in my review but part three is a wonderful integration of application and theological exploration about a pastor’s communion with God. Beaty leverages observations from present day theologians like J. I. Packer, D. A. Carson, and others.
This book is a worthy addition to your library and a quick read. I encourage you to get it!
Mocking Prolife Marchers, Types of Fundies & Evang., Election, When We’re Prayerless.
The “Director of Civil and Human Rights” for the United Methodist Church, Bill Mefford, posted a picture to Twitter yesterday mocking the pro-life marchers. Mefford, who works for the Church’s lobby arm, the General Board of Church and Society, ridiculed the marchers by posting a picture of himself standing before them with a sign saying “I march for sandwiches.”
Deal of the Day
J. A. Medders. Gospel Formed. Reviewed by Mike Boling. (SoG)
Yesterday I linked to an address by David Dockery on the state of evangelicalism in the 21st century.
On Twitter, I highlighted the somewhat tongue-in-cheek definitions from Dr. Dockery:
In its most simple terms,
an evangelical is someone who likes Billy Graham;
a liberal is someone who thinks Billy Graham is a fundamentalist; and
a fundamentalist is someone who thinks Billy Graham is apostate.
To understand election is to see it as the act of a sovereign, gracious, eternally loving God. It is a demonstration of His desire to be in a faithful covenantal relationship with a people. Though knowing these people to be disobedient, sinful, and wayward, He chooses to set His affection on them so as to show and exalt His love and mercy throughout eternity. Consequently, divine election has three important elements…
Prayerlessness is not fundamentally a discipline problem. At root it’s a faith problem.
1 Corinthians 15:26 “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
“The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering and the most comfortable way of dying.” John Flavel
Hint: Yesterdays article focused on daughters. Todays focuses on sons. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take all this stuff here and apply it to your daughter. Everything below I’ve done with my two daughters as well.
Hammers, saws, guitars, drums, stethoscopes, and Bibles are all things my son sneaks into his backpack to take to preschool. They are his go to pay items: I mean, besides Iron Man, Captain America, Spiderman, Tigger, and Pluto.
And almost every day he tells me one of three things. I want to be at Grandpa and Grandmas. I want to be at Disney World. Or I want to be…Handy Manny, a doctor, a guitar player, or a pastor.
I guess this could go any number of ways. He could do a combo of doctor and handy man and be a surgeon. I’ve suggested that. He’s got a really steady hand, but he doesn’t like the idea of cutting into flesh. I’ve suggested a worship pastor. He’s still trying to wrap his brain around what that is. He is only three after all.
No matter what he does, I’m going to be super proud of him. Why? Because he’s my son. You know what I mean.
As I think about helping your son figure out his vocation — I can’t help but think that it doesn’t matter how young they are — they’re never too young to coach them and help think through what they love to do and what they might do for a lifetime.
Here’s a few things I’ve done with my three year old boy.
1. Take him to work.
Remember take your kid to work day. I do. I loved doing this with my dad. A couple times a year, I’ve taken Asher with me on a road trip of meetings. Last year we went to Evanston to meet our churches church planter there. This year I took him on a tour of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and to meet a friend of mine in Libertyville that also is interested in church planting. Both times were a lot of fun for the two of us. He loved being with dad for a day, and everyone we met loved seeing him. It was fun.
2. Encourage him with his interests.
Is your son interested in tools, musical instrument, books, planes? Whatever he is interested in make sure to reinforce it by giving him access to play, imagine, create with those things. Let his excitement grow and see what stuff he holds interest and what stuff he loses interest in. It’s entertaining to see the cycles, to see what enflames their interests, and help them manage the feeling when interest wanes.
3. Show him the opportunities.
When your son develops interest in a new hobby or has a new idea about a vocation, find ways to open up his world to that hobby or vocation. Look for YouTube videos or shows that talk about that vocation or hobby. Take him to see and meet real people doing that work. When you’re driving and he sees a firetruck, dump truck, train, or plane, go vocation chasing with him. And if he wants to be a storm chaser, use caution my friend. Don’t get too close to a twister.
And don’t forget to expand his world on vocations. Show him about space because we’re going to Mars now and we need more pilots to get us all there. Help him see the power of computers, engineering, the sciences, and the arts. Take him to museums, the zoo, amusement parks, and sporting venues. A lot of these things you might already be doing. Just do them and plant seeds as you do. Ask questions about his interest or what he thinks about the profession or event. Find out what sparks his interest more.
Proverbs 22:6 and Vocation
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Your role as a dad is helping your children in the way that they should go. Yes, altogether too often this text is compartmentalized to the aspect of vocation. That is grievous. This verse is about so much more than vocation. It’s about being a son of God, a husband, a father, and a worker. It’s a holistic verse that covers all of life.
Nonetheless, it is not that it has nothing to do with vocation either. This verse critically point to the role of a parent to love his or her children and raise them to honor God and his or her family. That includes finding a vocation and following the call of that vocation.
Gay Marriage, Ammo Against Porn, Cinema & the American Dream, Giving to God.
Deal of the Day
N. T. Wright. Simply Good News. Reviewed by Andrew Wilson. (CT)
Paul’s two-fold imperative for the Church is to flee sexual immorality and glorify God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:18–20). Paul gives us seven theological ammunitions that empower us to obey these commands and kill porn.
I‘m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
Our country lives and dies by this line—politically, socially, and morally. If there’s one quality that seems to embody the American spirit, it’s freedom. That freedom is often symbolized, at least intrinsically anyway, in what we call the “American Dream,” the belief that everyone within our nation’s borders has an equal chance to make something of his or her life, to achieve personal success in whatever form desired—whether wealth, riches, power, fame, or something else.
Ricky Alcantar. How Much Money/Time/Stuff Do I Need to Give to God. (Blazing Center)
In America we’re all about “balance.” We want a “work/life” balance. We want to balance our role in our family, with our hobbies. And we, especially, love us some “me time” – our time to unwind and shop, or watch an uninterrupted football game, or take in a movie, or play a game with our amateur sports club. We look at our calendar, or our budget, and divide our calendar into “My time” and “Family time” and “Exercise time” and perhaps “God time.” In general we see our time as, well, our time, and try to decide how best we should use it.
To pull us out of this mindset I’d suggest asking three questions…
Romans 15:2 “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.”
“We must never edit God.” A. W. Tozer
“Daddy, how do I look?”
This is a common refrain of any little girl. She’ll say this after dressing up in her favorite princess dress, putting as many bows in her hair as possible, and all of the costume jewelry she can find. After having completed her adornment she’ll traipse up to you and sweetly but inquisitively ask this question.
You’ll experience a whole cycle of princess dresses from Snow White to Elsa. Those early times of inquisition you’ll be delighted, attentive, affirming.
“Oh my, what a beautiful princess!”
You’ll hem and haw over her. You’ll fill that much needed tank of approval. She’ll squeal with delight and go back off to her room for another wardrobe change, just to play it all over again for you.
Over time, over the years, the scenario begins to play out even more. But both of you will see it differently. It’s possible that she’ll notice you’ve become less enthusiastic, less attentive. You didn’t mean for it to be this way. You’re not any less affirming then you’ve always been. You’re simply distracted.
You’ll probably be sitting at the kitchen table some morning, scarfing down a quick bowl of cereal and burning your throat as you chug down a hot cup of coffee.
You’ll likely be thinking, “I need to get out this door and get to work. I’ve got a long day ahead.”
And then here she comes. But now she’s not in a princess dress. She’s in a blouse with a cardigan, a very cute and ruffly color-coordinated skirt, a pair of tights, her most recent size of winter boots, all accented with an infinity scarf. She’s dressed both smart and modest, sophisticated and stylish.
She might be 5, 5th grade, or fifteen. Regardless, what you say and how you give her attention in this moment matters. If you’re fortunate, in the moment of your distracted breakfast when all this takes place, you’ll have an equally loving wife in the background to remind you:
“Honey, always remember, always remember, how you respond to her when she asks that is crucial.”
And it is crucial! Your daughter craves your approval. Not because that’s where she gets her significance, but because it is a storehouse for honor. She brings honor to you and your family when she models modesty and beauty in tandem. She reflects your family’s values. She reflects her desire to honor her King.
You dad, are given these opportunities, not just to approve your daughter, but to approve and applaud God for the beauty found in one of his precious creatures.
She’s not a distraction; she’s an attraction.
And if you, dad, have emphasized noble character, including modesty and beauty, internal and external, then she will not attract to herself. She’ll attract others to God.
Approve and applaud loudly, enthusiastically, and with gusto every day of your life. She’ll keep returning to this well for water and will not seek after another.
Niger Protests, Drive-By Discipleship, Selma & Christ’s Suffering, “Dad, Look!”.
Less than a week after Niger’s president marched alongside dozens of world leaders in Paris following the Charlie Hebdo shooting, Muslim protests in Niger have claimed the lives of 10 people and destroyed more than 70 Christian churches in the desert nation’s two largest cities.
Deal of the Day
Matt Chandler with Jared C Wilson. The Mingling of Souls. Reviewed by Aaron Armstrong.
I fear that much our discipleship is didactic in nature. We’re trying to make a point. So we think that discipleship means writing another blog or sending another tweet to people we barely know. But real discipleship happens off-screen, in private conversations, over a period of many years. It springs from natural friendships.
I went to go see the movie Selma with my wife yesterday and, as I predicted, I was wrecked. I do not cry often, nor especially in films, but along with the stories of the martyrs, the history of the struggle against slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation move on my heart. I wept as I have not wept in years. The kind of tears that wrench your gut and stick in your throat for hours. As I went home that evening, just thinking of the various injustices and degradations depicted threaten to bring on another torrent. I was exhausted with the grief and, yes, the heaviness of hope.
“Dad, listen!” and “Mom, look!”
Due to the busyness of our lifestyles, I hate to admit that sometimes I’ve treated ”look at this!” or “look what I made!” like a distraction, an intrusion into my adult world. I’ve gotten away with giving my kids a passing glance, a quick word (“That’s neat!”), before going back to whatever it was I was focused on.
I’ve been missing out. Our kids aren’t intruding. They’re inviting.
1 Corinthians 4:20 “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”
“God writes with a pen that never blots, speaks with a tongue that never slips, acts with a hand that never fails.” C. H. Spurgeon
This review first appeared at Lifeway’s Pastors Today web-blog.
J. A. Medders. Gospel Formed: Living a Grace-Addicted, Truth-Filled, Jesus-Exalting Life. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2014. 200 pp. $14.99.
Are you still looking for a devotional read to set the pace for 2015? Is spiritual formation an emphasis that you wish to foster during this coming year? Would you like a stimulus for gospel-rich reflection?
Redeemer Church Tomball pastor, J. A. Medders, provides a meditative tonic for the gospel thirsty entitled Gospel Formed. It’s a two-hundred page work that garners thought provoking and potent word pictures of the gospel. In five parts, Medders encourages readers to reflect on the core of the Christian faith – the gospel. Why? Pointing to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 he submits, “God says the gospel is the most important truth in his word…it’s the head of the pack, the alpha truth, all other truths fall in line behind it.” (34).
This being the case, Christians should be centered on the gospel. It is the focal point of Christian living. Spiritual formation originates and terminates with the gospel. Elsewhere, Medders writes: “We don’t graduate from the gospel. Moving toward gospel-centered living means we never move on from the gospel; rather, its force moves further into our heart” (16). Our worship (part two), identity (part three), community (part four), and mission (part five) ought to find themselves rooted in the mineral rich soil of the gospel. This, then, is why each of the four parts of Gospel Formed, following the gospel starting block (part one), pivot upon the gospel.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
In recent years, a new wave of writing has found its central theme and motif in the gospel. The emergence of this grace-fueled writing is often credited to Jerry Bridges and his book, The Discipline of Grace. Others well known for championing gospel-centrality include Jared Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness; Paul David Tripp, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional; Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything; and many more. Gospel Formed is a welcomed addition to this litany of gospel-centered studies.
One enriching aspect of Gospel Formed is its unwavering commitment to see this movement prosper. Jared Wilson, a forerunner in this new wave of gospel-centered writing, graciously commends this book, saying in the foreword: “We need more and more resources that show us the gospel in its multitudinous glory. This is what we need, now and ever! This is why I am grateful for the growing gospel-centered body of literary work in evangelicalism, and why I am grateful for Jeff Medders’s contribution to it” (10).
Throughout Gospel Formed, Medders conveys that deep, ever-blossoming affection for the gospel – one that he wishes would foster in others – is only through God’s grace. This is yet another commendable quality of Gospel Formed. This book prevailingly points out that heart renovations are accomplished through the Carpenter’s handiwork alone.
Like I said above, Gospel Formed brims with stout and provocative images that engross readers. You can tell that when Medders says, “Be engrossed by grace. Be engulfed in grace. Nothing deserves our obsession like the gospel,” he means it (41). I mean, how else could one look at a bottle of Drano and see a gospel word picture or likewise with high-voltage cables, punch cards, and bunker-busting missiles? What do I mean? Read these quotes:
“Keep dropping the high-voltage cable of the gospel on your heart and it will spark soon enough. It’s the power of God” (66).
“The gospel is like Drano for all that clogs up glad hearts” (88).
“Jesus smashed sin’s scepter, and now he reigns forever” (108).
“Grace isn’t a punch card; it’s a cross” (137).
“Every truth from the gospel is like a bunker-busting missile” (151).
These punchy, picturesque statements are reminiscent of the Puritans, who often artfully crafted arresting images of the Word, sin, or the gospel. It’s evident that, like the Puritans, the gospel has so captivated Medders’s attention that he looks at the world through gospel-tinted glasses. Everything he observes is potentially a vibrant and fresh expression of the gospel.
As I said at the beginning of this section, gospel-centeredness is a trending subject in recent years. Yet, if you poll champions of this movement, you might receive a plethora of definitions for gospel-centeredness. Just glance at pages 18-21 of Gospel Formed to see what I mean; Medders offers a fellowship of such definitions. One beneficial component of Gospel Formed is that Medders distills these definitions into a solitary coherent one:
“Gospel-centeredness means that the person and work of Jesus is the central message in all things; he is our model for all of life and ministry; the Son of God is our motivation in obedience to God’s Word; and Jesus of Nazareth is the means to carry out all that God commands.” (22)
Essential Recommended Helpful Pass It By
Gospel Formed by J. A. Medders contains all the kindling necessary to ignite your heart with gospel affection.
1st Cent. Markan Fragment, Home Births, Reinke on Holiness, God’s Tapestry.
Owen Jarus. Mummy Mask May Reveal Oldest Known Gospel. (Live Science) HT Denny Burk
This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy. Although the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs wore masks made of gold, ordinary people had to settle for masks made out of papyrus (or linen), paint and glue. Given how expensive papyrus was, people often had to reuse sheets that already had writing on them.
Deal of the Day
Jim Wallis. The (Un)Common Good. Reviewed by Aaron Menikoff. (TGC)
Idol factories are fired up and working overtime; altars are adorned with people or things or (perhaps especially for women) “experience.” The devotion of some home-birth mavens gives them away: They don’t “trust birth,” they worship it. And like all idolmakers, they’re really worshipping themselves.
I find it tragically easy to dislocate my pursuit of daily holiness (spiritual disciplines and progressive sanctification) from the broader picture of God’s redemptive plan over my life in Christ. Our hope of future resurrection must not negate the value of our daily progress, just as our daily progress must not diminish our hope for the incredible transformation that must happen to us in resurrection.
Most of our good deeds go unnoticed and unmarked by others. I suspect that even we ourselves fail to notice or remember the majority of the good deeds we do. But not God. God sees them all, knows them all, remembers them all, and uses them all.
Psalm 119:160 “The same of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.”
“We have the truth and we need not be afraid to say so.” J. C. Ryle