Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of Springsteen on Broadway

Springsteen on Broadway, not rated (would be rated R for language)
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The film Springsteen on Broadway, showing on Netflix, is a powerful and emotional mostly one man show, featuring the storytelling and music of Bruce Springsteen. The audio version album of the same name debuted at #1 on the iTunes top albums chart. The two-and-a-half-hour show was a part of his Tony Award winning sold-out run at the Walter Kerr Theatre, that began in October 2017 and wrapped up December 15, with its 236th and final performance. Springsteen on Broadway is Springsteen telling us about key moments and people in his life through extended song introductions and sixteen of his songs. If you have read his excellent autobiography Born to Run (see my review here), you’ll be familiar with some of the stories he tells. Continue reading


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My Review of U2’s The Joshua Tree Tour and Album

 Last Friday, U2, my favorite band, marked the 30th anniversary of their 5th studio album, 1987’s The Joshua Tree, with the release of a reissue, available in several formats. I picked up the digital version of the Super Deluxe edition, containing 49 tracks. Incredibly, The Joshua Tree was listed as the top album of 1987 by two publications as diverse as CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) magazine, and Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone ranked it #27 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.
The following evening on Saturday, June 3, we attended The Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary Tour, my 8th U2 concert; a sold-out show in Chicago at Soldier Field along Lake Michigan with 60,000 of our closest friends. The average age of the crowd was about 45.  My nephew saw the Houston show on an earlier tour stop and called it, “a religious experience”. U2 has always been so much more than just a band. After all, it was how U2 brought their faith to their music that attracted me to them in the first place. And of course the band, particularly front man Bono, is very active and outspoken on social and political issues.
My love affair with the band began when as a new believer, I bought their 1983 War album, featuring songs such as “New Year’s Day”, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “40”, a musical version of Psalm 40. The first time I saw U2 in concert was on their 1992 Zoo TV Tour at the then World Music Theatre in Tinley Park, Illinois. Fast forward 25 years on a beautiful warm June evening in downtown Chicago, the band played The Joshua Tree in its entirety, bookended by some of the most beloved songs, for a total set of 21 songs.

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

There were many highlights for me, beginning with Larry Mullen Jr. pounding out the first beats to the opening song “Sunday Bloody Sunday” on a small stage at the end of a runway built in the shape of a Joshua tree. Watch them perform the song here.  After the opening set, they moved to the main stage to perform The Joshua Tree album in song sequence order, beginning with “Where The Streets Have No Name”. Watch them perform the song here.  Throughout the concert, video images would be projected on the large screen behind the band, with the band occasionally portrayed on the screen as well. I was surprised that, given the large stadium that the concert was being held in, the band didn’t provide constant video of the band.
After completing The Joshua Tree, the band came back for a six-song encore. Here is the complete setlist. My two favorite songs were “Elevation” and the closing “I Will Follow”.
The band is still going strong more than 37 years since their 1980 album Boy. Incredibly, they have had no band member changes in all that time. Bono is still an incredible performer, on vocals, harmonica and band spokesman, at age 57, and he is backed by perhaps the world’s tightest band, with Edge on guitar and keyboards, Adam Clayton on bass and Larry Mullen on drums.
Throughout the evening Bono, sensing the divide in our country, tried to bring people together, saying it didn’t matter who you voted for, all were welcome at the show. The band took a not so funny shot at President Trump, using what looked like an old western film. After all, it was U2, who after completing their Songs of Experience album, said in January that they were delaying it and reconsidering it in light of Trump’s election.
During the encore, Bono used the song “Miss Sarajevo” to highlight the Syrian refugee crisis and dedicated “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)” to women, with images of many women portrayed on the large screen behind the main stage. Why Angela Davis was among those women I can’t tell you. During this time Bono asked pastors not to be judgmental, perhaps due to his open support of two women he recognized that had just gotten married. It was about that time that I heard someone say, “Just shut up and sing Bono”. But that’s just what you get from Bono. He’s not just a rock star, but an activist. You may not agree with all of his views, and I don’t, but that’s who he is, love him or not.
This wasn’t the best of the eight U2 shows I’ve seen, and it wasn’t the worst. After a very strong start, the show lost some momentum during the performance of “side two” of The Joshua Tree, and in my opinion when Bono “got political”. But it was still an excellent concert. And a nice unexpected addition to the evening was seeing a long fireworks show from nearby Navy Pier near the end of U2’s main set.
I’ve read Greg Kot’s music reviews in the Chicago Tribune for many years. Check out his review of the concert.
The show was opened by the Lumineers, who came on stage more than a half an hour late. I wasn’t familiar with their music, which reminded me a bit of NEEDTOBREATHE, but I enjoyed their set, especially their more upbeat songs. My favorites were “Ho Hey” and “Stubborn Love”. Here is their setlist.
For U2 fans who already have the 2007 remastered Deluxe edition of The Joshua Tree (which I do), purchasing the 2017 Super Deluxe edition will present a decision. Knowing that we would be going to the concert the following day, I decided to purchase it.
The Super Deluxe edition contains the original 11-song 1987 album, outtakes and B-sides, using the same versions from the 2007 Deluxe edition. Of the 49 tracks on the Super Deluxe edition, the only thing that will be “new” for those who have the 2007 Deluxe edition will be an excellent 17-song 1987 concert recorded at Madison Square Garden, six new remixes and two previously unreleased songs – Steve Lillywhite’s alternate version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and Brian Eno’s 2017 “One Tree Hill Reprise”. The other 24 tracks have been previously available. 
Now, I’m not a huge fan of remixes, or live albums for that matter. To me they are kind of like seeing a movie in 3D; usually not worth the cost. The six songs here are new mixes by producers familiar to U2 fans, such as Daniel Lanois, Steve Lillywhite and Flood. One remix that really stood out for me was Lillywhite’s “Red Hill Mining Town”, which I thought was outstanding in how it effectively brings horns into the mix. The band used that version in their June 3 concert in Chicago.
Picking up The Joshua Tree in one of these available formats and catching them on this tour is a great way to celebrate one of the greatest rock bands and their timeless album.


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Music Review, Book Reviews and Recommended Resource

 Music Review

Lead Us Back - Third DayLead Us Back: Songs of Worship – Third Day
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This is Third Day’s fourth Offerings album, comprised of three worship music albums and Christmas Offerings, released in 2006. While the previous Offerings albums were a mixture of live tracks, new songs and covers, the standard release contains all new worship music written specifically for this album (the Deluxe edition contains at least one cover).

One of my favorite songs of the year – “Soul on Fire” featuring All Sons and Daughters – is the first single. Third Day is an excellent live band that we have seen in concert a few times. I purchased the Deluxe edition of Lead Us Back, which features three additional new songs and eight songs, including “Soul on Fire” recorded in concert, for a total of 22 songs, well worth the extra few dollars.

Any discussion of a Third Day album starts with the powerful voice of lead singer Mac Powell, and his voice is in top shape on this release. The album also features excellent backing vocals from guest artists including not only All Sons and Daughters, but also Michael Tait (formerly of DC Talk and now the lead singer of the Newsboys), Michael W. Smith, Natalie Grant, David Crowder, Sarah MacIntosh, Daniel Bashta and others.

Here are a few comments about and lyrics from each of the new songs:
Spirit a song that could be used as a call to worship in church, with Powell and background singers pleading for the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Oh, Lord, fill us with Your Spirit
Guide us by Your presence
How we need You, God

Soul on Fire – the first single, co-written with Matt Maher, is an upbeat catchy song that you’ll have stuck in your mind, featuring the vocals of All Sons and Daughters. The song had its origins with South African worship leader/songwriter Brenton Brown who allowed the band to change the arrangement and add a verse. The band performed a great version of the song live on Fox and Friends on March 7.

God, I’m running for Your heart
I’m running for Your heart
Till I am a soul on fire
Lord, I’m longing for Your ways
I’m waiting for the day
When I am a soul on fire
Till I am a soul on fire

Your Words – a song about God’s Word that features female worship artist Harvest Parker and begins with a hammered dulcimer.

Let me hear Your words
Above all other voices
Above all the distractions in this world

Your words give us life that’s never ending
Your words bring us love that never fails
Everything else will fade away
But what will remain
Are Your words

Our Deliverer – one of the songs that was released early if you pre-ordered the album. The song looks forward to the second coming of Christ.

Our Deliverer is coming
With salvation in His wings
Our Deliverer is coming
Here to set His people free
Our Deliverer is coming
Coming back for you and me
Our Deliverer is coming

He is Alive – this would be an excellent song for churches to sing this Easter:

He is alive
Death is defeated
Sin has retreated
From the power of the Son
And He is alive
The enemy is faded
The battle still rages
But the war has been won

In Jesus’ Name – features vocals from Michael W. Smith, Natalie Grant and Michael Tait.

Name above all names
Savior and our Lord
Every knee will bow
And every tongue confess
No other name is given
By which we can be saved
Let us find our life and love
In Jesus name

Lead Us Back – a short song that contains the following lyrics:

Lead us back where we belong
Call us as Your very own
Lead us back
Safe into to Your arms

Maker – an easy-going acoustic song about the creator of all things.

Maker, there is none like You
Savior, no one else will do
Lord, there is no other God
Lord, there is no other God
Maker, there is none like You

Victorious – another of the songs that was released early if you pre-ordered the album. A piano driven song that will sound great in worship services.

Victorious, You reign victorious
Over sin, over death, over all, over us
Victorious, You reign victorious
In Your mighty name we trust
Let all proclaim You reign victorious
You reign victorious

I Know You Can – a song about trusting completing in our sovereign God that has a modern country sound to it.

Give me the words to say
Bring me the strength to stand
Take all the doubt away
Jesus, I know You can
For if I’m to follow You
It’s only by Your hand
Help me to make it through
Jesus, I know You can

Father of Lights – this song has very much a Crowder feel to it.

Father of truth, Father of grace
Be with us now fill this place

The One I Love – available only on the Deluxe edition. An acoustic guitar driven song.

Oh, you of little faith
Oh, how quickly and how often you have forgotten
Oh, you of little faith
Aren’t you tired of all the wars and battles you have fought in
And when all your world is gone
And you cannot sing your song
I will help you carry on
The one I love

Praise the Invisible – a cover of the Daniel Bashta song available only on the Deluxe edition.

Praise the Invisible, praise the Immortal One
Praise God Incarnate, praise Father, Spirit, Son
For He is God, for He is holy
For He holds the keys to the grave
And forever He will reign

Arise – the closing song is available only on the Deluxe edition.

Arise O God, lift up Your hand
Bring freedom and forgiveness
Arise O God, Help us to stand
For mercy and for justice

I’m a long-time Third Day fan. I look forward to hearing these songs on the radio and hopefully in concert.

Book Review

The Evangelistic Zeal of George WhitefieldThe Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield by Steven Lawson. Reformation Trust Publishing. 178 pages. 2013
****

I’ve enjoyed reading a few of the books in the Long Line of Godly Men series – books on Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, John Owen and now George Whitefield. I look forward to reading Steven Lawson’s books on John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards in the future. About the series, the series editor Lawson writes:

This Long Line of Godly Men Profile series highlights key figures in the age-long procession of sovereign-grace men. The purpose of this series is to explore how these figures used their God-given gifts and abilities to impact their times and further the kingdom of heaven.”

This book focuses on the great English evangelist George Whitefield. Lawson writes: “In the eighteenth century, a day plagued by lifeless orthodoxy, Whitefield burst onto the scene with power and passion. In a day marked by great spiritual decline, Whitefield preached with a supernatural unction and intense boldness that became the primary catalyst in ushering in two major revivals simultaneously, one in the British Isles and the other in the American colonies.”

Lawson indicates that if he could be anyone in church history it would be Whitefield, because of his consuming evangelistic zeal. Whitefield has instilled within him a passion for preaching.

Lawson begins with a brief biography of Whitefield. A few highlights of which are:

  • Whitefield was the force behind the British Evangelical movement and the First Great Awakening. Not since the first-century missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul had such evangelistic preaching been taken so directly to the masses of the world.
  • In his thirty-four years of ministry, Whitefield preached some eighteen thousand sermons, often to multiplied thousands. If informal messages are included, such as in private homes, this number easily increases to thirty thousand sermons, perhaps more. Three sermons a day were common; four were not uncommon. Conservative estimates are that he spoke a thousand times every year for more than thirty years. In America alone, it is estimated that eighty percent of the colonists heard him preach. This means Whitefield was seen by far more American settlers than was George Washington. Whitefield’s name was more widely recognized by colonial Americans than any living person’s except for those of British royalty. It is believed that Whitefield preached to more than ten million people over the course of his ministry, a staggering number.
  • Making seven demanding trips to America, Whitefield crossed the Atlantic Ocean thirteen times for the express purpose of preaching the gospel. He spent almost three years of his life on a ship en route to preach. In all, about eight years of his life were spent in America. He made fifteen trips to Scotland, two to Ireland, and one each to Gibraltar, Bermuda, and the Netherlands.
  • Near the end of Whitefield’s first year at Oxford, Charles Wesley (1707–1788), the future hymn writer, introduced him to a small group of students known as the “Oxford Holy Club.” Included in this group was Charles’ brother, John Wesley (1703–1791), and ten others who met to pursue religiously moral lives. Despite their rigid discipline in Bible reading, study, prayer, fasting, and service, not one of these young students was converted. So stringent was Whitefield in his self-righteous efforts to earn salvation that his severe discipline caused him to suffer a lifelong physical weakness.
  • At age twenty-one, Whitefield was regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and placed his faith in Christ.
  • The Wesleys, still unconverted, departed for the mission field in the American colony of Georgia, leaving Whitefield the leader of the Holy Club. With flaming zeal in his soul, he evangelized his fellow students and placed new believers into small-group Bible studies. This strict discipline in Bible study led many to label the members of the Holy Club with the derisive term “Methodists.”
  • Unexpectedly, correspondence came from John and Charles Wesley in Georgia, urging Whitefield to help in their new missionary work.
  • Whitefield at last arrived in Savannah, Georgia, on May 7, 1738, only to discover that John Wesley had left the colony under indictment by a grand jury. The mission work was in complete shambles. As Whitefield surveyed the scene, he saw a great number of orphans and felt compelled to build an orphanage.
  • Upon his return, Whitefield discovered the Wesleys had been converted and had assumed the leadership of this new, emerging movement known as Methodism.
  • Vicious pamphlets were circulated in opposition to them and rumors spread, smearing Whitefield’s name. Church doors were closed to him, forcing a bold new strategy. He would bypass church buildings altogether and preach in the open air. This first success in open-air preaching proved to be the turning point not only for Whitefield’s ministry but, in many ways, for evangelicalism in general.
  • During this one summer, it is estimated that in London and the surrounding counties Whitefield preached to as many as one million people. Astonishingly, this success occurred while Whitefield was but a mere twenty-four years old.
  • But at the very height of this ministry, Whitefield made a daring decision. Rather than ride this wave of popularity, he determined in August 1739 to board a ship and sail for America. This young evangelist was determined to enter the large cities of the colonies and bring this same evangelistic preaching and revivalist spirit to the New World.
  • After a two-month voyage, Whitefield landed at Lewes, Delaware, ready to launch a new preaching campaign. This evangelistic tour through the colonies is considered by many the greatest preaching campaign ever undertaken.
  • Benjamin Franklin was a close friend of Whitefield. Franklin set out to make Whitefield famous in the colonies. He printed ten editions of Whitefield’s Journals, and secured the assistance of eleven printers in making them bestsellers. During 1739–1741, more than half the books published by Franklin were by or about Whitefield.
  • Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), the recognized leader of the first wave of the Great Awakening, invited Whitefield to Northampton, Massachusetts, where he preached four times in October 1740. This would be the only time that the leaders of this powerful movement would meet.
  • Not since New Testament times had the world witnessed such explosive energy and extensive outreach in evangelistic preaching.
  • Having left England at the height of his popularity, he returned a year later to dwindling support. This decline was due to a crisis created by John Wesley over Whitefield’s belief in the sovereignty of God in salvation. Before Whitefield’s return, Wesley had distributed a tract titled Free Grace, a bitter condemnation of the doctrines of grace aimed directly at his old friend. Whitefield responded by defending the biblical teaching of God’s election and predestination. However, the damage was done. The painful separation of these spiritual leaders resulted in a division that affected countless people.
  • En route, four-month-old John was overtaken by the cold and died. In strange providence, Whitefield’s son died in the very home in which George himself had been born, and as he confided, “laid in the church where I was baptized, first communicated, and first preached.”
  • Further difficulty came when Whitefield survived a well-orchestrated assassination plot in which he was attacked while in bed at night.
  • Sorrow came in 1768 when his wife, Elizabeth, unexpectedly died.
  • On September 16, 1769, Whitefield preached his final London sermon from John 10:27–28. Soon afterward, he sailed for America in what would be his last trip across the Atlantic.
  • Whitefield preached his last sermon in Exeter, New Hampshire, on September 29, 1770. It was a soul-searching exposition that would last two hours, and was titled “Examine Yourself,” from 2 Corinthians 13:5. On Sunday morning, September 30, 1770, at approximately six o’clock a.m., George Whitefield breathed his last and entered into the presence of Him whom he had so faithfully proclaimed. As per his instruction, Whitefield was buried under the next pulpit in which he was to preach. Appropriately, his body was laid in a subterranean crypt under the pulpit of the Old South Presbyterian Church. In London, John Wesley preached Whitefield’s memorial service at one of Whitefield’s churches, Tottenham Court Road Chapel.

I highlighted a number of passages in this short book and would like to share some of them with you below:

  • His unparalleled effectiveness as an evangelist cannot be grasped until one sees the depth of his close communion with the Lord.
  • He was consumed with a fervent desire to know God Himself, which ignited a contagious fire within his soul to lead others to a saving knowledge of Christ.
  • Whitefield was, as Lloyd-Jones identified, “a pietist, that is, one who saw practical personal devotion to the Father and the Son through the Spirit as always the Christian’s top priority.”
  • Whitefield’s spiritual devotion was established upon his immovable commitment to the Bible.
  • The Word of God became so all-consuming in Whitefield’s daily life that he confessed to having little time to read anything else: “I got more true knowledge from reading the Book of God in one month, than I could ever have acquired from all the writings of men.”
  • As Whitefield lived for Christ, the Word of God became the ruling authority over his life.
  • Moreover, Whitefield was devoted to God in earnest prayer. Whitefield understood that prayer was a necessary spiritual discipline for the grounding and growth of his soul.
  • Further, Whitefield’s devotion meant he maintained a singular focus upon Jesus Christ.
  • The magnifying lens through which Whitefield saw Christ was Scripture. Above all, Whitefield’s desire was to know Jesus Christ.   In addition, Whitefield’s piety was evidenced in his remarkable humility.   Whitefield never lost sight of the fact that he was a wretched sinner saved by grace.
  • This gifted preacher would not allow a Christian institution to be named after him. The more he looked upon Christ’s holiness, the more he became aware of his own sin. He was willing to concede the error of his ways whenever he discovered he was wrong.
  • But perhaps the supreme example of Whitefield’s humility concerned his theological differences and strained relationships with the Wesley brothers. For the sake of peace, he chose to resign his leadership role in the Methodist movement, which he had helped to start.
  • Finally, Whitefield’s godliness was witnessed in his constant pursuit of personal holiness.
  • Moral perfection, he contended, was not ultimately attainable until he entered the heavenly realm. This understanding was diametrically opposed to the perfectionism taught by the Wesleys, who asserted that a believer could cease sinning. Whitefield countered that perfect holiness could never be fully realized upon this earth.
  • George Whitefield was arguably the most prolific evangelist since the time of the Apostles. Yet, at the same time, he was also a staunch Calvinist. Undergirding his passionate gospel preaching was an unwavering belief in God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation.
  • Some argue that these two realities—sovereign grace and evangelistic zeal—cannot co-exist. But nothing could be further from the truth. They meet perfectly in Scripture, and they existed side-by-side in Whitefield’s ministry.
  • “I embrace the Calvinistic scheme, not because of Calvin, but Jesus Christ has taught it to me,” Whitefield said.
  • Whitefield drank deeply from the well of the doctrines of grace, and it proved to be the spring of all he believed and preached. Each tenet of Calvinism shaped and molded him into a zealous evangelist.
  • Whitefield held to the biblical doctrine of total depravity. This is the scriptural teaching that the original sin of Adam was imputed to the entire human race, condemning all subsequent generations. Likewise, the sin nature of Adam was transmitted to every person at the moment of their conception.
  • Every faculty of every person—mind, affections, and will—is fatally plagued by sin. The entire fallen race cannot, by its own moral efforts, save itself. Neither does any sinful creature have faith to believe in Christ. Whitefield believed that man is utterly dead in sin, and his will is held captive in bondage.
  • Whitefield believed that man rejects the teachings of original sin and total depravity due to inherent pride.
  • Whitefield’s understanding of total depravity indelibly marked his preaching. Virtually every sermon Whitefield preached pointed man to his desperate condition in sin.
  • Whitefield likewise embraced the biblical doctrine of sovereign election. He maintained that before time began, God the Father freely chose those whom He would save out of the whole of the fallen race. These chosen ones were elected not on the basis of anything good foreseen in them, and certainly not for any foreseen faith in Christ. God chose to set His sovereign love upon certain individuals for reasons known only to Himself.
  • Whitefield firmly held to the Reformed position on predestination. In this biblical view, from all eternity God decrees some to election and intervenes in their lives to work regeneration and faith by a divine act of grace, bringing them all to Himself in eternity future.
  • Whitefield was also convinced that the doctrine of election has great converting power.
  • God withholds from the non-elect this work of saving grace, passing them by and leaving them to themselves, a biblical truth known as reprobation.
  • Whitefield also championed the doctrine of definite atonement, also known as particular redemption.
  • This is the teaching that the Father’s election, the Son’s redemption, and the Spirit’s application of salvation are all coextensive; that God planned to save a certain people, His sheep…and sent His Son explicitly to achieve this goal.” God the Father designed the death of the Lord Jesus Christ with the specific purpose of saving His elect.
  • Definite atonement was an essential element in Whitefield’s explanation of the gospel.
  • Whitefield further preached that all those chosen by the Father and redeemed by the Son would be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. The saving work of Christ on the cross is applied by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit. He held that the third person of the Trinity would convict the elect sinner, efficaciously draw him to Christ, and grant the gifts of true repentance and faith.
  • Whitefield believed that regeneration is monergistic, an exclusive work of God in the human heart that both precedes and produces saving faith.
  • Finally, Whitefield upheld the biblical doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Whitefield was convinced that God brings all His chosen ones to future glory. Those whom God elects and brings to salvation will be preserved by grace, both in time and eternity. Those whom God saves, He saves forever. They will never fall away. They will never perish. This doctrine brought great joy to Whitefield throughout his Christian life and ministry.
  • The focus of his extraordinary ministry was the simple proclamation of the gospel and the appeal to the unconverted to enter through the narrow gate.
  • He purposed not to be with anyone for more than fifteen minutes without confronting them with the claims of Christ.
  • Whitefield was convinced that any presentation of the gospel must begin by exposing the listener’s sin and his dire need for salvation.
  • Only when confronted with their sinfulness, Whitefield insisted, would unbelievers seek to embrace Christ as their Savior and Lord.
  • Whitefield’s sermons were filled with vivid warnings of the horrific dangers of remaining in a state of sin.
  • Whitefield understood that gospel preaching must include the threat of hell, which is intended to drive men to flee to Christ and escape His terrors.
  • Whitefield next proceeded to the saving death of the Lord Jesus Christ. The message of sin is dark, but by it the truth of salvation through the cross shines that much brighter.
  • Whitefield set before sinners Christ’s death and His atoning blood as the only means of salvation.
  • Whitefield preached best, he perceived, when he proclaimed the glories of the cross.
  • Whitefield, moreover, was continually expounding upon the necessity of regeneration, as a “great theme” in his preaching, according to Lloyd-Jones.
  • At the heart of Whitefield’s preaching was this doctrine of the new birth. Regeneration had not been a central focus for the Reformers, but Whitefield made it a dominant emphasis in his preaching. Standing behind the truth on regeneration is the doctrine of election.
  • Whitefield pressed the hearts of his listeners for an immediate response. It was not enough for him that people knew the truth of the gospel. They must fully commit themselves to Jesus Christ.
  • It could be argued that Whitefield’s favorite word in preaching was the word come. He repeatedly urged his listeners to come to Christ by faith.
  • It is quite clear that Whitefield believed an invitation must be offered to the lost to come to Christ. Still, he did not practice an “altar call,” nor did he encourage emotional excitement among his congregation.
  • Whitefield further impressed upon his listeners the certain reality of eternity that lay before them.
  • In nearly every sermon, Whitefield affirmed that the day of eternity was close at hand.
  • With graphic words and an arresting voice, Whitefield had the keen ability to dramatically represent the horrors of hell. His vivid language in describing the lake of fire caused people to feel as if they might drop into the bottomless pit at any moment.
  • The evangelistic zeal of George Whitefield flowed out of his love for the glorious gospel of grace. It was this supreme love and devotion that drove him to pursue the lost, expose sin, exalt the cross, summon the will, and point to eternity.
  • Arnold Dallimore wrote, “His ministry presents an unparalleled example of declaring the sovereignty of God combined with the free offer of salvation to all who would believe on Christ.”
  • Whitefield provides the quintessential example of one who held the doctrines of grace in one hand and the free offer of the gospel in the other hand.
  • In a day when pulpit delivery had degenerated into dry ritual, involving nothing more than a monotone reading of a sermon manuscript, Whitefield burst onto the scene with intense preaching.
  • Whitefield’s passion arose from the depth of his biblical convictions. Whenever he stood behind an open Bible, Whitefield was thoroughly convinced that he was delivering divine truth.
  • Whitefield so elevated the importance of preaching that he stated, “May I die preaching.” Again, “I hope yet to die in the pulpit, or soon after I come out of it.” In God’s providence, Whitefield realized this very desire. On a balcony not far from his deathbed, he preached his last sermon to a large crowd that had filled the street in front of the parsonage. He died within hours of extending the invitation for all to embrace Christ.
  • Whitefield’s soul was ignited with fiery zeal in his preaching. Whitefield’s intense passion was kindled by his own deepening love for God and Jesus Christ, which in turn ignited his compassion for lost sinners.
  • Whitefield’s affection for God was stoked by reflection upon the greatness of His character. Moreover, his heart of love was fueled by his personal communion with Jesus Christ. This intimate knowledge of Christ was the consistent theme that filled his soul and increased his affections.
  • Whitefield often wept as he preached. Deep compassion for unbelievers moved Whitefield in his preaching.
  • An understanding of Whitefield’s ministry must recognize his relentless pursuit of the lost.
  • Whitefield is remembered as one of the first to preach to African slaves in the colonies.
  • Whitefield believed God had sovereignly called him to preach the gospel.
  • The relentless drive of Whitefield’s herculean effort was fueled by power from on high. Consider the unparalleled pace of Whitefield’s itinerant ministry.
  • He founded three churches and one school, and founded and assumed responsibility for an orphanage in Savannah, Georgia, often preaching five or six times a day, for as much as forty hours a week.
  • The only way Whitefield could endure all he did, travel as much as he did, preach as much as he did, and exert the energy that he did, was through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
  • Whitefield’s deep love for the souls of men and women did not originate in himself. It was God who gave him an uncommon love for those to whom he preached.
  • Time and again, Whitefield attributed his effectiveness, influence, and scope in ministry to the quickening effect of the Holy Spirit.
  • The Spirit also gave Whitefield resilience in the face of opposition to the message he preached.
  • Whitefield was inwardly consoled in the midst of many demanding circumstances in his life and ministry.
  • At times, Whitefield felt abandoned by the Lord. It was then that the Lord came in great power to shore up his weakness.
  • As he faced these many trials in his life and ministry—the conflict with the Wesleys, the financial burden of the Bethesda Orphanage, the long ocean voyages, the premature death of his newborn son, the loss of his wife, and the growing hecklers in the crowd—this valiant soldier of the cross found supernatural solace in the Lord, mediated by the Holy Spirit.
  • Whitefield understood that the effects of his preaching were sovereignly determined by God. His responsibility was to deliver the message and leave the results entirely with God.
  • The same Spirit who indwelled Whitefield has taken up His royal residence within the heart of every believer in Christ. The same Spirit who called Whitefield from obscurity to worldwide influence has placed the same call upon every Christian’s heart to bear gospel witness. The same Spirit who empowered Whitefield in his numerous endeavors will propel every follower of Christ to service in His name. The same Spirit who energized Whitefield will give divine energy and supernatural power today to accomplish all He wills.
  • Among his many qualities worth emulating, we see the primacy of the gospel in his preaching. He lived to proclaim the saving message of Jesus Christ.

Lawson concludes by writing:

“May the Lord raise up a new generation of zealous evangelists who will never lose sight of the need to preach the gospel with urgency and passion.”

Reading Together ~ Week 1

Counter Culture by David PlattCounter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography by David Platt.

David Platt, author of Radical, has written an important new book. So important, I believe, that rather than doing one book review, I’m going to review the content chapter by chapter. Here’s our first installment, covering the material through chapter 1 of the book. Note, all of Platt’s royalties from this book will go toward promoting the glory of Christ in all nations.

Each chapter concludes by offering some initial suggestions for practical requests you can pray in light of these issues, potential ways you might engage culture with the gospel, and biblical truths we must proclaim regarding every one of these issues. These suggestions will also direct you to a website (CounterCultureBook.com) where you can explore more specific steps you might take.

Platt starts out by talking about the Gospel. If someone asked you to clearly describe the Gospel would you be able to do it? Platt writes: “The good news that the just and gracious Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful men and women and has sent his Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin on the cross and to show his power over sin in the resurrection, so that everyone who turns from their sin and themselves and trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be reconciled to God forever.

In the Introduction, Platt writes:

  • On popular issues like poverty and slavery, where Christians are likely to be applauded for our social action, we are quick to stand up and speak out. Yet on controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion, where Christians are likely to be criticized for our involvement, we are content to sit down and stay quiet. It’s as if we’ve decided to pick and choose which social issues we’ll contest and which we’ll concede. And our picking and choosing normally revolves around what is most comfortable—and least costly—for us in our culture.
  • And what if Christ’s call in our lives is not to comfort in our culture? What if Christ in us actually compels us to counter our culture? Not to quietly sit and watch evolving cultural trends and not to subtly shift our views amid changing cultural tides, but to courageously share and show our convictions through what we say and how we live, even (or especially) when these convictions contradict the popular positions of our day.

Chapter 1: The Greatest Offense: The Gospel and Culture

Platt writes:

  • The gospel is the lifeblood of Christianity, and it provides the foundation for countering culture. For when we truly believe the gospel, we begin to realize that the gospel not only compels Christians to confront social issues in the culture around us. The gospel actually creates confrontation with the culture around—and within—us.
  • One of the core truths of the gospel is that God will judge every person, and he will be just. This puts us in a position where we desperately need his grace.
  • Tell any modern person that there is a God who sustains, owns, defines, rules, and one day will judge him or her, and that person will balk in offense.
  • Do you see the role reversal here? It all begins when the command of God is reduced to questions about God. Is God really holy? Does he really know what is right? Is God really good? Does he really want what is best for me? Amid such questions, man and woman subtly assert themselves not as the ones to be judged by God but as the ones who sit in judgment of him.
  • Godless worldviews thus leave us with a hopeless subjectivity concerning good and evil that is wholly dependent on social constructs. Whatever a culture deems right is right, and whatever a culture deems wrong is wrong. This is precisely the worldview that prevails in American culture today, where rapid shifts in the moral landscape clearly communicate that we no longer believe certain things are inherently right or wrong. Instead, rightness and wrongness is determined by social developments around us.
  • For even as the gospel grounds the definition of good and evil in the character of God, it also claims that evil is not limited to certain types of sin and select groups of sinners. Evil is unfortunately inherent in all of us and therefore unavoidably a part of any culture we create.
  • The essence of what the Bible calls sin is the exaltation of self. God has designed us to put him first in our lives, others next, and ourselves last. Yet sin reverses that order: we put ourselves first, others next (many times in an attempt to use them for ourselves), and God somewhere (if anywhere) in the distant background. We turn from worshiping God to worshiping self.
  • When you put all these truths in the gospel together, you realize that the most offensive and countercultural claim in Christianity is not what Christians believe about homosexuality or abortion, marriage or religious liberty. Instead, the most offensive claim in Christianity is that God is the Creator, Owner, and Judge of every person on the planet. Every one of us stands before him guilty of sin, and the only way to be reconciled to him is through faith in Jesus, the crucified Savior and risen King. All who trust in his love will experience everlasting life while all who turn from his lordship will suffer everlasting death.
  • I envision three categories of readers for this book. The first category includes readers who don’t believe the gospel. You don’t currently profess to be a Christian, yet for any number of reasons you’re reading this book.
  • The second category of reader is similar to the first in that you don’t believe the gospel. The difference, however, is that you currently profess to be a Christian.
  • The final category of reader includes those who do believe the gospel. I assume this comprises many of those reading this book, and this is certainly the main audience for whom I am writing.
  • In addressing each of these issues, I want to call Christians to conviction. Ultimately, may it be said of us that we not only held firm to the gospel, but that we spoke clearly with the gospel to the most pressing issues of our day. In addition to calling us to conviction, I want to call us to compassion. Based upon his love, I want to call us to action.
  • The goal of this book is not information about the gospel and social issues; it is application of the gospel to social issues.

Next week we’ll look at Chapter 2: Where Rich and Poor Collide: The Gospel and Poverty. I recommend that you purchase this book and read along with us.

Recommended Resource

 Reformation Study BibleReformation Study Bible – R.C. Sproul, General Editor

In April 1995 I first saw the New Geneva Study Bible (later renamed The Reformation Study Bible) at the book table. We were in Springfield to hear Dr. John Gerstner (R.C. Sproul’s mentor), speak near the end of his life (he would die less than a year later on March 24, 1996). I had my copy on order so couldn’t purchase a copy that day.

I am so excited that The Reformation Study Bible has been thoroughly revised and carefully crafted under the editorial leadership of R.C. Sproul and the contributions of 75 distinguished theologians and pastors from around the world. It was released at the recent 2015 Ligonier National Conference, and will be available publicly this month.

Over 1.1 million words of new, expanded, or revised commentary represent 40% more content faithfully presented to emphasize the need for the grace of God to lead out of darkness and into the light of Scripture.

Trustworthy Scholars & Commentary

  • New theological notes from general editor, R.C. Sproul
  • Commentary from 75 faithful theologians from around the world
  • New topical articles to enrich additional study of Scripture

Thoroughly Revised & Expanded Study Aids

  • Over 1.1 million words of verse-by-verse and topical explanations
  • Over 20,000 new, revised, or expanded study notes
  • Historical creeds and confessions from 2,000 years of church history

New Study Tools & Visual Helps

  • Includes over $400 of digital resources (eBooks, videos) from Ligonier Ministries and 6 months of Tabletalk Magazine
  • 16 pages of high-resolution full color maps at back of Bible
  • Embedded maps provide quick references as you read
  • Concordance, table of weights and measures, and more

I was told at the conference that the e-book edition of The Reformation Study Bible would be released (for the first time) in about a month from now, and that when you buy the physical copy you will also receive the e-book version.

There are many excellent study Bibles available – I used the ESV Study Bible, Gospel Transformation Study Bible, MacArthur Study Bible for example. However, once the updated Reformation Study Bible is released in e-book format, it will be the Bible I’ll use each day.


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Music Review: Glory to the Holy One: Sacred Music for the People of God – Jeff Lippencott and R.C. Sproul

Glory to the Holy OneGlory to the Holy One: Sacred Music for the People of God – Jeff Lippencott and R.C. Sproul
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This is an exciting new sacred hymns project for the church from theologian R.C. Sproul and award-winning composer Jeff Lippencott (to find out more about Jeff to go to http://www.scphilharmonic.org/aboutjeff.html).

The music was premiered at Saint Andrews Chapel in Sanford, Florida, where Dr. Sproul serves as Co-Pastor, the night before the 2015 Ligonier National Conference. In addition, four songs were performed in a mini-concert on Friday evening at the conference.

For the most part, Dr. Sproul wrote the lyrics to the hymns and Jeff Lippencott wrote the music. Lippencott also arranged, orchestrated and conducted the music, as well as producing the album (and did not take any compensation for his work; when hearing him speak about it, it was clear that it was a labor of love). Dr. Sproul writes in the liner notes: “I have poured a lifetime of biblical study and reflection into this theologically rich music in order to encourage and equip the church”. The project was recorded during 2014 in Washington, Arizona, Saint Andrews Chapel, Canterbury, U.K. and the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. Below are a few comments about the project:

1517 is a spoken word piece by Dr. Sproul about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. He ends with:

“In every generation the gospel must be published anew with the same boldness, and the same clarity, and the same urgency that came forth in the 16th century Reformation. The church has always done this in both the spoken word and in song – producing hymns that tell us of the great salvation that has been wrought by God alone through Christ alone. These hymns that you hear today are sacred music for the church giving glory to the Holy One”.

Glory to the Holy One
“Holy, Holy, Holy”
Cried the seraph throng
Glory to the Holy One
Join in heaven’s song

Heavy is Our Savior’s Cross is a somber hymn about the beating and crucifixion of Christ.
Heavy is our Savior’s cross
Weighed down by human sin
His blood so pure, no earthly dross
Is borne by only Him

Highland Hymn. In one of the Ligonier National Conference “Question and Answer” sessions, R.C. Sproul Jr. became emotional about this song, saying as he listened to it he envisioned being united with his wife and daughter in Heaven. This song features musicians on Uilleann Pipes and Hammered Dulcimer that played on the scores for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films.
Above the mists of Highland hills
E’en far above the clear blue skies
The end of pain and earthly ills
When we shall see His eyes
Lutes will sing
Pipers play
When we see Him face to face
On that day

Watch this behind-the-scenes glimpse into the making of “Highland Hymn”.

Viam Dei is an instrumental by Jeff Lippencott. Here’s how he explains the song:
“Viam Dei – a Latin title meaning “Way of God” – is a work that tries to express musically the struggles, the push and pull, the pain and peace that the Christian encounters on the road on which God has placed each of his beloved – the path toward sanctification”.

No More the Grave. This is a wonderful hymn that we sang at the conference and I’d like to sing at my church:
No more the grave can yield its sting
No more is death our foe
Our souls can now with gladness sing
Now gone all curse and woe He once was dead but now He lives
A groom now fit to wed
The Alpha and Omega reigns
Beginning to the end

Clothed in Righteousness. This is a hymn that we have sung at the past few National Conferences and at Saint Andrews Chapel:
Clothe us in Your righteousness
Hide filthy rags of sin
Dress us in Your Perfect garb
Both outside and within
No work of ours is good enough
For evil to atone
Your merit, Lord, is all we have
It saves, and it alone

These Great Things
What shall we say to these great things?
Of mystery sublime
That if He is for us we can sing
Now and for all time

Worthy is the Lamb – taken from the book of Revelation:
Ten thousand times, ten thousand more
The host of heaven cried
All blessing, honor, glory, and pow’r
To Christ, the Lamb that died

At the end of the album is a bonus conversation with Dr. Sproul and Jeff Lippencott talking about the project. Also included is a hymn Jeff wrote, “This Hymn, My Simple Gift”, which was inspired by the project.

The album is available on iTunes, Amazon.com and Ligonier.org. Read more about the new project here http://www.ligonier.org/blog/glory-holy-one-announcing-rc-sprouls-new-sacred-hymns-project/