Posted by: Billy Marsh | November 8, 2011

The Devlish Danger of False Security

Wow, I can’t believe I’m actually submitting a new post. I haven’t even looked to see when was the last time I published one. I’m just sitting here by my computer doing some research, and decided that I wanted to share this quote from Luther on my blog as I did in the olden days.

Upon reflection of the biblical truth that Satan is the “prince of the world, god of this age, ” Luther observes that most “children of men” do not believe this fact. Instead, Luther intimates,

For everyone thinks he knows best and hopes that the devil is beyond the ocean and God is tucked in our pocket.

~ Martin Luther, Against the Antinomians (1539), Luther’s Works, Vol. 47, pg. 114.

All too often, we live our lives as if the above quip were what we held theologically about the locus of God and the devil in this world; however, neither are true at any point, and both false suppositions place us in great spiritual danger. For the one, Satan is not on the other side of the ocean, but rather is crouching at our door, while God is definitely not in our pocket, and instead, stands over and above us, ready with a sharp-two edged sword in his mouth to bring low the haughty.

Posted by: Billy Marsh | April 9, 2011

On Being a Pastor-Scholar and a Scholar-Pastor

When I first heard John Piper speak, my life changed immediately. I was sitting on the old, probably environmentally dangerous, little couch that Eric and I took off the hands of North Greenville’s admissions director, as I was encountered with a level of preaching that turned my world upside down. My first exposure was on the Passion One-Day dvd where Piper preached his famous message, “Boast Only in the Cross“. I was overwhelmed by his intensity, as many are. But even more so, I was severely challenged by the incredible intersection of theology and pastoral care which Piper exhibited before thousands of young people. Just a 50 something yr. old man, standing virtually still behind a skinny, little music stand, declaring the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit over a mass of youth. He wasn’t up there jumping around, telling cute stories, or using some kind of clever prop or movie clip. He was mining out precious gems and treasure from the storehouse of Scripture, explaining in detail how to understand Galatians 6:14 and make it come to bear on your life. The theological depth of his exposition and application awakened my heart to the realization I had not been doing the same thing. Using Piper as a mirror of sorts, I realized how much entertaining I had done as a preacher of God’s Word, and in the middle of Bible College, I came face-to-face with how little regard I had for theology. It wasn’t that I didn’t think theology was useful. I just didn’t know how it was useful. I knew that as a Christian you had to believe or affirm certain doctrinal truths, but beyond that, I was ignorant of how theology was applicable to the particulars of my daily life. Part of this dilemma had to do with what I believed “theologically” about many other areas such as spirituality, Scripture, salvation, and the doctrine of God. All of this to say, my encounter with Piper through the TV screen was the event that God used dramatically in my life to set my feet upon a path towards fostering a conviction and desire in my heart to shape my studies and education in the direction of recovering the pastor-theologian role. From there on out, as people asked me, “Why do you need an MDiv or a Ph. d. to be a pastor?” “Isn’t that overkill?” I would respond, “I want to be certain kind of pastor. A pastor-theologian.”

Once you’re acquainted with Church history, you quickly recognize that the pastor-theologian role was standard in the Church. It wasn’t until the Enlightenment that theology became more a scientific endeavor and was progressively housed in the universities. On the flip side, most of your well known figures in Church history, those who are regarded as the great theologians of the past, were pastors. Just to name a few: Athanasius, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. The same goes for most of the Puritans, and even Jonathan Edwards. Lest we also forget “the prince of preachers”, Charles H. Spurgeon. When you go back and read sermons from this long list of Christian stalwarts, you immediately see a difference between their conception of a sermon in comparison to contemporary models. I’m not going to get into a critique of modern preaching or current notions of the “sermon”, however, I commend you to these men and to read their sermons, and see how they pastored and then do some serious reflection on what we consider the norms for today in the pastorate.

I’m excited to see that these messages which were delivered back in 2009 during The Gospel Coalition conference have made their way into book form. You can listen to the audio for Piper’s and Carson’s at the links I’ve provided below. They are both dense with great insight, biblical wisdom, and worthy charges in steps forward towards rejoining theology and pastoral care whether in the pulpit or in the classroom. Even if you’re not considering being a pastor or a professional scholar, these messages will be of benefit as you weigh your own thoughts on the relationship between theology and daily living as well as you own expectations for your pastor and the work of your Church. And hopefully, it will even help you understand academic work and academic reading in a better, more appealing light. The book is set to be released in May, 2011. It will be, in my opinion, a “must-have” resource and constant reminder for all pastors and theologians.

  • Click here to check the book out at the WTS bookstore.
  • Click here to listen to John Piper’s, “The Pastor as Scholar”. His talk is mainly autobiographical.
  • Click here to listen to D. A. Carson’s, “The Scholar as Pastor”. His message is partially autobiographical, but more pointedly instructive. He gives a list of things to consider for all scholar-pastors/pastor-scholars.
  • Click here to listen to the time of Q & A with both of them.
  • See also another related post I wrote called “Theological Education: The Academy, the Bible, and the Church“.
Posted by: Billy Marsh | March 22, 2011

The Hobbit is Under Way!

I read yesterday that filming for The Hobbit movies has finally begun! The project has suffered major setbacks over the years, but now has come full circle. Thankfully, though I’m sure Del Toro would have done a great job putting his own spin on Middle Earth, no one should be directing these films other than Peter Jackson, especially if many of the original cast and screenwriters are returning. It would be like someone other than George Lucas making a Star Wars movie (regardless of whether or not the new ones are good or bad, it’s his territory).

The Hobbit is to be a two-movie production which, obviously, covers Tolkien’s book The Hobbit, and in addition, includes a lot of background and transitional story-telling setting the stage for The Fellowship of the Ring. I’m anxious to see how Jackson plans to pull this off and the two movies still feel connected since The Hobbit is a very self-contained story that technically was not meant to be a “prequel” per se to The Lord of the Rings. If anything’s meant to be a “prequel” to The Lord of the Rings it’s The Silmarillion. Nevertheless, I know it’s going to be great, mainly because the people who are leading it have already proven three times over their excellence, and the source material (Tolkien’s writings) that they have to work with is some of history’s greatest literary contributions.

Click here to visit (or stay in touch with) the official blog for The Hobbit movies.

These on-set photos were officially released by Jackson in promotion of the beginning of the production of the new movies. Check out the one at the bottom which is from the beginning of The Lord of the Rings franchise. Jackson is barely recognizable from his old self.

Posted by: Billy Marsh | March 17, 2011

Luther Said It: The Extreme Good of the Law of God

Every law of God is good and right [Rom 7:7-16]. even if it only bids men to carry dung or to gather straw.

~ Martin Luther, “Prefaces to the Old Testament,” Luther’s Works: Word and Sacrament I, 244. ~

Posted by: Billy Marsh | March 14, 2011

A Prayer for Japan from the Psalms

I’m reading through the Psalms during my morning times with the Lord, and today I made it to Psalm 46. As I read over the first part of the chapter I could not help but stop and make this a prayer for our neighbors in Japan. It is my prayer for the lost and the saved. For those who know the Lord, that they would find that even in this disaster the Word of God proven true, that the Lord is a very present help in trouble. That he is our fortress, and that he is with us always. And for those who are lost and without hope in this world, that many would come to know in the midst of utter destruction and ruin the eternal peace and comfort of their souls in God through Christ alone. That they would awaken to and experience the only true God as their immovable fortress and inexhaustible strength.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

~ Psalm 46:1-7 ~

If you’ll notice in this passage, there is an encouraging word of hope for all who have suffered as Japan is suffering. For in the sin-scarred world, waters will roar and foam, and mountains will be tremble at its swelling. But do not despair. For there is a “better” river, one whose streams do not wreak havoc and wash lives away without warning. It is a river that makes glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. And for those who repent and believe upon Jesus Christ for eternal salvation, they will one day sit by this river, in such safety and tranquility that words cannot describe while their hearts are forever over-flooded with the peace, joy, and satisfaction of God.

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