Sunday, November 30, 2008

John Owen's Echo

As I mentioned in one of my responses recently, I have been reading quite a bit of John Owen lately. I have adopted him as my "witness" from among the great cloud of witnesses to learn from. In this, I am following the advice of John Piper which I heard him offer at a conference of the Jonathan Edwards Institute several years ago. He recommended that we find one theologian/pastor/missionary from church history to study, and to learn all that we can from that person. Of course, it must be someone who is exemplary in conduct and orthodox in teaching. The person must also have enough published writings available to make a thorough study possible. Piper had chosen Jonathan Edwards. At this conference, he held up the two volume copy of Edwards' works published by Banner of Truth and said, "If you can't buy any other book on the book tables, you need to buy these. Don't buy a Piper book. If you've read one Piper book you've read them all. I only have one message that I repeat over and over in every book. Besides, I'm only an echo of Jonathan Edwards." I'll add that having read both men there is no denying the profound influence Edwards has had on Piper, for the glory of God and the splendor of Christ's Bride, the church. After reading several of Owen's works, though my heart's desire is ultimately to be conformed to Jesus Christ, I believe it would honor God if I were but an echo of John Owen. I came across this statement of Richard Daniel's from his book The Christology of John Owen on
…there is one motif so important to John Owen, so often and so broadly cited by him, that the writer would go so far as to call it the focal point of Owen’s theology…. namely, the doctrine that in the gospel we behold, by the Christ-given Holy Spirit, the glory of God "in the face of Christ" and are thereby changed into his image…. (92)

Jamie, I can't think of anything more in line with the vision of this blog: Convinced of the truth that we will become what we focus on. Therefore we focus on beholding Christ in the hope that we will become like Him.

Expect to hear many echos of John Owen in the days ahead.

Josh Owen

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I want to say Happy Thanksgiving to everybody (both of our readers), I hope that you get to spend the day with family stuffing your face with Turkey and Ham and enjoying some great football (doesn't it seem wrong that we're stuck with the winless Lions on Thanksgiving). But I want to give you a challenge and ask you a question.

First I want to challenge you to take advantage of this opportunity, most of have lost people in our families and this is a guaranteed opportunity to spend an extended amount of time with them. So I think that we should take of this day and seek to share the Gospel.

Second I want to ask a question, in the new polling spirit of the blog (thanks John) I want to ask you who and what you are thankful for. First is there a particular person in church history that you are thankful for, is there a certain family member that you are thankful for, and tell me one thing that you are thankful for in regards to your spouse. Share anything you like those are just a few ideas.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


The last post I put up asked for readers to tell us their favorite book of the Bible and why it is meaningful. In honor of the week of Thanksgiving, I would like to post another question for you to respond to: What person recorded in the biblical narrative has special significance in your life and why? This is an opportunity to express gratitude to God for the inspired Scriptures that narrated the lives of everyday men and women like you and me to declare the revelation of God. Now once again, I have to lay down some ground rules for a few individuals (i.e. Josh). First, you cannot say "Jesus," and then respond "because he saved me." Every blood-bought believer claims Jesus as the King of our hearts, so with that stated up front you can explore other avenues of gratitude in the narrative of Scripture. Also, if you choose the Apostle Paul, please go into some depth on the explanation as he will most likely be a fan-favorite. Otherwise, have fun and give us two or three heroes of Scripture you are thankful for.

Kung Fu Panda - A Reflection

Last night my family watched Kung Fu Panda. My Dad could and probably should be the president of the Bruce Lee fan club so I kind of have a soft spot for Kung Fu flicks (I grew up convinced that Enter the Dragon was the greatest movie ever made), and the movie was enjoyable, nothing offensive to the kiddo. But there was one hitch that left a bad taste in my mouth. No there wasn't any foul language or nudity or anything like that, but sometimes it is the more subtle things that trip off the radar. And this was one of those moments for me.

It came near the end of the movie when the Panda has really become the Dragon Warrior and has earned the right to see the Dragon Scroll, he opens the scroll that is supposed to give limitless Kung Fu power (pretty cool for any kid under 13) and what he discovers in the scroll is the problem for me, the scroll is simply a blank reflective surface. What the Panda learns is that all the power that he needs is simply to believe in himself. And when he does this he easily beats up the bad guy.

Why is that a problem, don't we want our kids to believe in themselves. To have a healthy self-esteem and self-awareness. Well sure, but part of a truly healthy self-awareness is that we are not truly independent people. I depend on people everyday. I need other people. But the deeper and more troubling angle is that I don't want my kid or yours to be convinced that they have in themselves all they need because the truth is that our kids and everyone of us are desperately dependent on God. We need His strength, we need His Wisdom, we need His forgiveness, we need His daily guidance, we need to experience His love, and the deeper fact is that all we have has been given directly from His kind hand. When we look at the source of hope it is not an inward look. When I look inward I am frightened by what I see, by what I'm capable of. But the true look of hope is an outward look into the face of God, because we see there love and power perfectly mingled. In His kindness He perfectly cares for His covenant people, and in His power He is able to care for them without ever a worry of failure. So lets keep our kids and ourselves from looking at our reflections and instead gaze into the face of God.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Ok, it seems life as usual is kinda slow for the B&B bloggers, and the 2 of you who actually read us are probably wondering why. Ministry and life seem to be extremely busy now for everybody, so I am going to do something a little different for the next few posts to get involvement back up.

For this post, I would like you to respond in the comments and tell me what is your favorite book of the Bible and why? (NOTE: please do not use the cliche 'I love them all.' I am stating up front that every believer loves the whole of Scripture, but some portions have deeper significance and minister to us more than others. Josh this especially goes for you!).

Pick your favorite book (or passage if that suits you) and tell us why it benefits your soul. I hope to see many comments, and I will put my favorite in shortly, and add another post like this next week.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My Favorite Philosopher

My favorite philosopher once said this,

The only reason I need these gloves is cause of my hands.


The other teams could make trouble for us if they win.


We made too many wrong mistakes.


90% of short putts don't go in.


Why buy good luggage you only use it when you travel.

Give a big round of applause for the unrivaled use of the English language by your favorite and mine, Yogi Berra.

I needed a laugh today and thought I would share.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


As I am reading through E. M. Bounds' wonderful works on prayer, he says this to men (not to exclude women from prayer but to show how pitiful we men are at the discipline):

It is man's business to pray, and it takes manly men to do it. It is godly business to pray, and it takes godly men to do it. And it is godly men who give over themselves entirely to prayer. Prayer is far-reaching in its influence and in its gracious effects. It is intense and profound business which deals with God and His plans and purposes, and it takes whole-hearted men to do it. No half-hearted, half-brained, half-spirited effort will do for this serious, all important, heavenly business.

May God give me and other men out there a burden to be "manly men" who are on our knees in battle for King Jesus!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Spurgeon: An Honest Man

Laying on my desk right now is a copy of James Taylor's "Pastors Under Pressure." The book is published by Day One and the Forward is written by Derek Prime. Without reservation, I call it a most solid and helpful book. The table of contents lists the following chapter titles: Identity, Discouragement, Criticism, Loneliness, Dryness, Failure, Temptations, and Moving On...Or Out. Do any or all of these works speak to you? Initially, I wanted to crack a joke about the nature of the book, thinking that every pastor who took the time to read this would laugh at least a little. However, it's Monday morning. Most pastors are not in laughing moods on Mondays...including myself. The issues are too painful for jokes, especially those of the Monday morning variety. Thus, I've decided to simply let the chapter titles speak for themselves.

In talking to pastors on a weekly basis for a number of years, I have come to believe that books like Taylor's are much-needed tools for those in service to God, especially pastors. The chapter titles, while eloquently presented, are sad in that most folks would never think of "their" pastor having to deal with any of the issues listed above. While the pastor's heart is deceitful like everyone else's, it remains sensitive to the high calling we've been give and the natures and struggles of those around us...epecially those under our care. The weight of this is tremendous and can certainly weigh the heart down...even to the point of depression.

I once had the "privilege" of sitting next to a group of about 7 men at a local restaurant. (I recognized a couple of their faces, but they clearly did not know me) My wife was with me and our dinner was supposed to be a night out for a little R and R. Instead, my wife and I got to listen to the men describe the recent departure of the pastor at their church. The discussion was lengthy and mean. It included the following: how easy the job was, how he "wasn't really that good in the pulpit," we paid him more than enough money, he had alot of free time, he'll miss us because we were good to him, and the ever-popular "I wish the Lord would call me to do it so I could show others how to do it." (No, I'm not kidding)

In all fairness, the observance of the ministry and the minister uses at least two different sets of lenses: those in the pew and those behind the pulpit. At the restaurant that particular evening, both sets were present, but only one was clearly represented. My wife gave me the "eye" that clearly said I was to not say anything. I spent my dinner in a crouched position hoping my wife would give me the "go ahead"...but it was never granted. Thus, my dinner and evening were all but ruined.

It's sad, isn't it? Most folks have no idea what pastors and those involved in Christian service go through in the course of the day. I've yet to meet a pastor who cannot identify with the "weight" of the office. I've yet to meet one who hasn't experienced loneliness, criticisms, etc. Some well-meaning folks claim they can understand what the ole pastor is going through...but I'm not sure it's possible for those on the outside. I'm reminded of a quote from a former pastor of mine, "It takes another pastor to truly understand another pastor."

Like many of you, I hold up Spurgeon as one my heroes of the faith. We've all been blessed to feed on the sermons he prepared over a century ago. A blog is not the place to discuss his vast ministry...for there is simply not enough room to cover it all. Many of us have read of his amazing ministry and we probably all have books bearing his name with scores of sentences underlined and highlighted. His sermons are filled with passion, conviction, urgency, However, in reading his "Causes and Cure of Fainting," a sermon he preached in June of 1877, I came across a paragraph where Spurgeon opens his own heart about the painful reality of wanting to "faint" in service to God and the depression that can overtake us all if we're not careful. Pay particular attention to his honesty, hence the title of the blog.

He says,

Yet another frequent cause of faintness is the spirit itself sinking. There is a certain condition, in which the heart seems to go down, down, down, down; I know not how to describe it, but everybody who has ever had that painful experience knows what it is. You can hardly tell why you are so depressed; if you could give a reason for your despondency, you might more easily get over it; but, like David, you cry to your own heart, 'Why are thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?' You try to argue with yourself to find out the reason why you are so despondent, and why you look at the black side of everything, and imagine that things will go amiss which will turn out right after all. Your friends tell you that you are nervous, and there is no doubt you are, but that does not alter the case. I will not blame you; I will, however, say to myself, and urge you to say to yourself, 'Hope thou in God: for thou shalt yet praise him, who is the health of thy countenance, and thy God.' Better still, I pray our sympathizing Saviour to say to you, 'Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me;' and on his loving bosom leave all your sorrows and your cares.

I read this particular part as though he was speaking directly to me...pastor to pastor. I, for one, appreciate his straightforwardness and honesty. Too many books have been written that tell us if we would just love Jesus enough, we'd never have a bad day, bad mood, or bad anything. Today, I entered the office with a heavy heart. Yet, I am encouraged by what I find here. Spurgeon and Taylor have both "been there." And while I'm grateful for plethora of "nuggets" I've gleaned from Spurgeon over the years...I'm particularly grateful for this one I discovered this morning. I'm glad he was honest about it.

Spurgeon's words are timely. I firmly believe the load pastors are bearing will only become heavier. As our nation drifts from her foundation, as churches become increasingly secular, as more and more members fall away from the church, as the Bible is viewed with increasing skepticism, as doctrine is replaced with experiential emotion, and as postmodern thought dismisses truth on virtually every level...the outcome is all but predictable. The truly called pastor sees this...and feels this. The weight is real. To make it through these times, we need to be clinging to God as never before. In the same sermon, Spurgeon warns of trying to stand in our own strength. It will eventually give out, regardless of our giftedness. Let us be honest about what's before us and do all that we can to prepare for our times.