“O Come, All You Faithful, to Him” – A 2022 Advent Hymn

This November 2022, I wrote an advent hymn called “O Come, All You Faithful, to Him.” It’s set to the melody of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”

VERSE 1

O come, all you faithful, to him,
Lord of heaven, born on earth,
resting now inside a manger,
upholding the universe.

He, the one whom prophets spoke of
in the ancient words of life,
is the Word incarnate with us,
spoken in the silent night.

VERSE 2

Run, you shepherds, to the little
town of Bethlehem and see
Christ, the bringer of salvation.
Hark! the herald angels sing.

Come adore and bow before him,
let your praises fill the night,
then go tell it on the mountain:
to the darkness came the Light!

VERSE 3

Come, O come, Immanuel, and
bring your promises to pass.
Hear the groanings of your people,
conquer sin and death at last.

Glory in the highest heaven,
and joy to the world below!
Let the nations bring to you their myrrh
and frankincense and gold.

VERSE 4

Let us all with jubilation
shout good tidings far and wide.
Deck the halls and set the tables,
ring the bells and hang the lights.

Christ has overcome the darkness,
sing his name in one accord.
Tell the world there is a Savior,
and he reigns forevermore.

“Crown Him the Father’s Word” – A 2021 Advent Hymn

In November 21, I wrote the following Christmas hymn “Crown Him the Father’s Word.” It’s set to the melody of “Crown Him With Many Crowns.”

VERSE 1

Crown Him the Father’s Word,
Ever-begotten Son.
The one in whom all things are held
Is held in Mary’s love.

His glory veiled in flesh,
He in our likeness came.
So hail Incarnate Deity,
O come adore his name!

VERSE 2

Crown Him the promised Seed,
Whom prophets had foretold,
The one from Judah’s tribe, whose hand
The scepter e’er would hold.

From age to age, the hope
Now dawned with holy light,
And voices of the heav’nly host
Sing praises in the night.

VERSE 3

Crown Him the newborn King,
Whom shepherds run to see,
The spotless lamb of God was born,
Immanuel is he.

Rejoice and spread the news,
Go tell it on the mount
That all may know what God has done:
Salvation has come down.

VERSE 4

Crown Him the Lord of life,
Whose birth was for the cross.
The babe in Bethlehem had come
To seek and save the lost.

Awake, my soul, and sing!
The Savior died for me!
And now my hope is life with him
Through all eternity.

My Complete Exposition of the New Testament

My favorite method of preaching Scripture is to walk through a book of the Bible with my congregation. And many years ago I set out on a journey to preach all of the New Testament. (I haven’t only preached from the New. I have loved preaching from the Old Testament too!)

My exposition of the entire New Testament took place at two churches where I have served as pastor: the First Baptist Church in Santo, Texas (where I pastored from 2006-2010) and Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky (where I have pastored since 2012).

The journey began with 1 Corinthians on March 5, 2006. And it concluded with Luke’s Gospel on May 22, 2022. If I add up these years of exposition (2006-2010 and 2012-2022), then preaching through the New Testament took fourteen years. (From 2010-2012, I wasn’t in pastoral ministry doing book exposition, because I was in Louisville completing my doctoral course work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.) 

My exposition of the New Testament took a total of 1,106 sermons at two churches during fourteen years of pastoral ministry. 

One major reason I was able to complete the exposition of the New Testament is multiple services in the churches I have pastored. In Texas, the First Baptist Church of Santo had Sunday morning and evening services, as well as a Wednesday evening service. And for most of my years at that church, I studied for and preached at least two different expositions each week, sometimes three expositions. In Kentucky, Kosmosdale Baptist Church has Sunday morning and evening services, and I prepare a different exposition for each service there as well. You get through a lot of Bible this way! 

Sometimes as I preached through a longer book, I would divide it into chunks, do a series through one chunk, move on to something else for a while, and come back to the longer book for another chunk. Occasionally I would preach morning and evening sermons from the same book.

The following breakdown identifies the New Testament book, the number of sermons I preached through it, the church where I exposited it, and the length of time that passed from the beginning to the end of that exposition. The length of time includes not just weekly exposition but also any temporary breaks that I took from that series. I didn’t rush through books. Some longer books took more than fifty sermons, and some of the longest books took more than a hundred! 

The 1,106 sermons through the New Testament break down like this:

Matthew – 123 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from June 13, 2013 to April 10, 2016.

Mark – 60 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from January 14, 2018 to April 28, 2019. 

Luke – 116 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from November 10, 2019 to May 22, 2022. 

John – 104 sermons at First Baptist Church in Santo, TX, from December 3, 2006 to April 11, 2010.

Acts – 110 sermons at First Baptist Church in Santo, TX, from January 6, 2008 to July 25, 2010.

Romans – 77 sermons at First Baptist Church in Santo, TX, from June 25, 2006 to May 27, 2009.

1 Corinthians – 61 sermons at First Baptist Church in Santo, TX from March 5, 2006 to June 22, 2008.

2 Corinthians – 43 sermons at First Baptist Church in Santo, TX, from October 5, 2008 to August 1, 2010.

Galatians – 28 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from April 16, 2017 to October 22, 2017.

Ephesians – 41 sermons at First Baptist Church in Santo, TX, from November 1, 2006 to November 25, 2007.

Philippians – 24 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from October 18, 2020 to March 28, 2021.

Colossians – 20 sermons at First Baptist Church in Santo, TX, from June 3, 2009 to April 14, 2010.

1 Thessalonians – 22 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from July 3, 2016 to November 27, 2016.

2 Thessalonians – 11 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from January 15, 2017 to April 23, 2017.

1 Timothy – 24 sermons at First Baptist Church in Santo, TX, from October 1, 2006 to April 1, 2007.

2 Timothy – 19 sermons at First Baptist Church in Santo, TX, from July 15, 2007 to November 25, 2007.

Titus – 11 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from August 25, 2019 to November 3, 2019. 

Philemon – 3 sermons at First Baptist Church in Santo, TX, from December 2, 2007 to December 23, 2007.

Hebrews – 66 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from June 9, 2013 to August 27, 2014.

James –  23 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from May 16, 2021 to January 16, 2022.

1 Peter – 26 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from April 1, 2012 to November 18, 2012.

2 Peter – 14 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from January 13, 2013 to May 26, 2013.

1 John – 21 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from April 12, 2020 to August 30, 2020.

2 John – 3 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from August 13, 2017 to August 27, 2017.

3 John – 3 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from September 10, 2017 to September 24, 2017.

Jude – 10 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from September 9, 2012 to November 25, 2012.

Revelation – 43 sermons at Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, from June 8, 2014 to May 24, 2015.

39 Years and 39 Quotes

Today I turn 39 years old. So I thought I’d share 39 of my favorite quotes:

  1. Leadership doesn’t begin with title or position. It begins the moment you’re concerned more about others’ flourishing than your own. – Andy Crouch
  2. All of us would be wiser if we would resolve never to put people down, except on our prayer lists. – D. A. Carson
  3. A weak faith may lay hold on a strong Christ. – Thomas Watson
  4. I’m not suffering from anything that a good resurrection can’t fix. – D. A. Carson
  5. The early church didn’t say, “Look what the world is coming to!” They said, “Look what has come into the world!” – Carl F. H. Henry
  6. Interpretation is not just about reading carefully, but reading submissively. We are not there to master the text, the text is there to master us. Obedience is part of right-interpretation. – Peter Leithart
  7. Followers of Christ should adopt his hermeneutic. – Luke Stamps
  8. “Christ died”-that is history; “Christ died for our sins”-that is doctrine. – J. Gresham Machen
  9. Our future is as permanent as the love of God and as bright as the future of the glorified Christ. – John Starke
  10. What is the difference between courage and recklessness? Courage is guided by the light of prudence, which must consider the debt of love owed to God and neighbor. Recklessness plunges ahead into danger, unguided by the light of prudence, untrammeled by the bonds of love. – Scott Swain
  11. Preaching is allowing the living Christ to walk among his people. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  12. My church has got a gigantic worship team. It’s called the congregation. – Jared Wilson
  13. Gratitude is not only the greatest, but also the parent of all the other virtues. – Cicero
  14. Spiritual disciplines are not how you earn God’s love; they are how you enjoy it. – Matt Smethurst
  15. Parenting is so revealing because God calls me to act just like Him with someone who is just like me. -Gunner Gundersen
  16. When Nathan confronted him, David didn’t say “What about Saul?” Instead we got Psalm 51. – Dan Darling
  17. It is no more narrow to claim that one religion is right than to claim that one way to think about all religions is right. -Tim Keller
  18. God is not a killjoy. He just opposes what kills joy. – John Piper
  19. The conclusion to the Old Testament is what we call Christianity. – Richard Barcellos
  20. Always reforming > always deconstructing. – Rhyne Putman
  21. Have you finally become sick and tired of your own righteousness and taken a deep breath of the righteousness of Christ and learned to trust in in? – Martin Luther
  22. The secret of contentment is a deep, personal, doctrinal, experiential embrace of God’s providence. – Ligon Duncan
  23. All shall work together for good; everything is needful that He sends; nothing can be needful that He withholds. – John Newton
  24. Tradition is not to preserve the ashes but to pass on the fire. – Gustav Mahler.
  25. Humility won’t solve every problem. But pride will hinder every solution. – Gunner Gundersen
  26. Theology is the science of living blessedly forever. – William Perkins
  27. When I find something in my faith difficult to believe, it often helps to consider how the alternative is more difficult to believe. – Gavin Ortlund
  28. The most pressing task of the church is not to proclaim the gospel, but first to hear it, in all its disruptive force. – John Webster
  29. The gospel is not that God accepts you as you are. The gospel is that God accepts you as Christ is. – Matt Smethurst
  30. Theology is learning how to speak well of God and live before God. -Oren Martin
  31. The resurrection means not merely that Christians have a hope for the future but that they have hope that comes from the future. – Tim Keller
  32. The sermon is the best frontal assault on imaginations held captive by other stories.- Kevin Vanhoozer
  33. The most important thing you can do today is to read the gospel, meditate on the Jesus you meet there, pray to him, sit in silence with him, and then rise to follow him. – Luke Stamps
  34. I pray, O God, that I may know thee, that I may love thee, so that I may rejoice in thee. And if I cannot do this to the full in this life, at least let me go forward from day to day until that joy comes to fullness. – Anselm
  35. The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home. -Augustine
  36. Discipling is just a bunch of church members taking responsibility to prepare one another for glory. – Mark Dever
  37. The Christian life is one long struggle to love what God loves, to fix our minds and souls and desires on the truth and beauty that is God. – John Webster
  38. The Trinity is not simply one of the things about which the Bible speaks. The Trinity is the speaker from whom the Bible and all things proceed. – Scott Swain
  39. Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world. – Francis Shaeffer

My Five Favorite Reads in 2021

These are my top-five favorite books, in no particular order, that I read in 2021.

Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice, by Thaddeus J. Williams

Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption, by L. Michael Morales

The Trinity: An Introduction, by Scott Swain

God of All Things: Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World, by Andrew Wilson

The God of the Garden: Thoughts on Creation, Culture, and the Kingdom, by Andrew Peterson

Videos to Introduce the New Testament

Our church in Louisville has begun a reading plan that takes us through the New Testament in thirteen weeks. The PDF of that guide is at the end of this post.

Supplementing the guide will be a series of videos introducing the New Testament books. I’ll will update this post with the latest video when it’s released. The goal of these videos is to orient the Bible reader to some basic information about each NT book. The videos will be approximately 10-11 minutes long and will be uploaded to YouTube.

Introduction to the New Testament

Introduction to Matthew

Introduction to Mark

Introduction to Luke

Introduction to John

Introduction to Acts

Introduction to Romans

Reading Through the New Testament (August-October 2021)

Beginning Monday August 2, 2021, our church (Kosmosdale Baptist in Louisville) is going to follow a reading plan through the whole New Testament. It’s a 13-week trek, from August through October.

Would you like to join us?

The PDF of the guide we will use is at the end of this post. In a series of short videos, I will introduce and explain how to approach each New Testament book. A video for each NT book will be uploaded to social media (and to this blog) on the day that the readings for that NT book begin.

Here are seven reasons you should consider reading through the New Testament from August through October:

(1) Maybe you’ve never read through the New Testament before. This will be a great milestone, then, as you expose your eyes and heart to the truth of the Four Gospels, the Book of Acts, the twenty-one Letters, and the Book of Revelation.

(2) Maybe you’ve wanted to read through the New Testament before, but you need a guide and some guidance to keep you accountable. Well, let us serve you by providing the guide (see the attached file) and the guidance (videos that will introduce each NT book).

(3) Maybe you started 2021 with a Bible reading plan to go through the whole Bible, yet you fell off along the way. Don’t sweat it. Why not pick up a shorter plan that goes through the New Testament before this year is over?

(4) Maybe you’ve been trying to incorporate more Bible reading and discussion in your family and friendships. Why not do this reading plan with some others with you and near you? Get your roommates or spouse or children involved. Touch base with a friend during the week. Get a Zoom group together across state lines. There are so many possibilities! You don’t have to read it alone. Read some chapters as the guide directs you, and then what a joy it would be to discuss it with others along the way.

(5) Maybe you find it difficult to sustain many months of a goal. Eventually things in life can crowd out good endeavors that we once began. So would you consider 13 weeks? In light of a whole year, 13 weeks isn’t long. You can do this. You’d start in the summer, and you’d be done in the fall.

(6) Maybe the guide’s blank days (or “miss days”) will help you see how doable the reading plan is. The guide doesn’t give readings seven days a week. The readings cover five days a week (with the exception of one week when readings are only four days). These “cushion” days will help you get ahead if you’d like, or you can catch up if you fell behind.

(7) Maybe the shortness of the readings will work with your schedule. The guide assigns five or less chapters per reading day. You could do the chapters all in one sitting. You could do some in the morning and some in the evening. You could read during your lunch break. You could use an audio Bible app while you’re driving. You can do this. I hope you’ll consider this post’s invitation and look carefully at the attached guide. This is the last full week of July. Sunday is August 1. After that we begin.

Discussion Questions for The Gospel Is for Christians (2nd ed.)

Part of my goal for The Gospel Is for Christians (2nd ed.) is that it would benefit groups as well as individuals. One of the requests I’ve received is for reflection questions to benefit group discussion. I’m happy to oblige! The PDF below this paragraph contains a series of discussion questions, five for each of the book’s ten chapters. If you’ve read the book, perhaps you’d consider taking someone through it as part of a mentoring relationship. Or if you lead a small group and are looking for discipleship curriculum, perhaps a book on gospel-shaped discipleship would benefit your crew. At any rate, I offer these discussion questions to you.

The Flight to Egypt – a poem

In Matthew 2:13-15, the holy family flees to Egypt. Joseph had received a dream that Herod was seeking to kill the Christ, and an angel instructed them to travel to Egypt. The following poem is an imaginative reflection on these verses.

“The Flight to Egypt”
December 23, 2020

Joseph woke and grabbed the arm
of Mary at his side.
“We must go, my dear, for harm
will come unless we hide.”

“Harm to whom?” she asked and looked
where Jesus lay asleep.
“To him,” her husband whispered low
and felt that he could weep.

“How can you be so sure, my love?”
she asked and rose from bed.
“An angel spoke within my dream
that Herod wants him dead.”

Mary heard those words and pondered
what her husband meant.
“When? How Long? And where shall be
the place this time is spent?

Joseph moved with haste to gather
what few things were there.
“We leave for Egypt now, tonight,
there is no time to spare.

“My dear, I do not know the length
of days we shall be gone.
The angel may appear again
when God will call his Son.

“But until then we must flee to
that land of ancient grief,
where Hebrews once had been enslaved
and where God set them free.

“Let us be strong and full of hope
for God will make a way.
We will see his faithfulness,
and night will turn to day.”

From Bethlehem the couple fled
and rushed along the path,
when suddenly they saw the flames
of those who rode with wrath.

“Soldiers!” Joseph gasped and rushed
with Mary through a field.
“We must run where they won’t see,
and God will be our shield.”

Hours passed beneath the moon,
and dawn at last arrived.
They walked and rested, slept and prayed,
they talked and sang and cried.

Through the promised land they went
as Joseph held the son.
They neared the wilderness and saw
the day was nearly done.

They slept that night and many more
beneath the stars above,
while o’er them watched the Maker of
all things who led with love.

Storms they faced, and bandits too,
but God preserved through dangers.
Many meals came from the hands
and hearts of caring strangers.

Weeks more passed before they saw
the land of Egypt near.
Joseph said, “The Lord will keep us
safe while we are here.”

Mary said, “I trust he will. I know
that God is with us.”
Then Joseph’s eyes met Mary’s, and
they both looked down at Jesus.

How to Read Philippians 2:6-8 Without Becoming a Heretic

Philippians 2:6-8 is a major passage not just in Paul’s letters but in all of Scripture. There the apostle is talking about the incarnation of God’s Son. Every phrase, every assertion, is momentous–and fraught with interpretive difficulty. If we get the person of Christ wrong, we’re heretics. So as the Bible reader approaches Philippians 2:6-8, there are misunderstandings to avoid. Let’s get the verses in front of us, and then we will note four possible misunderstandings of Paul’s words.

“who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8)

Misunderstanding #1: Being in the “form of God” means the appearance of something that isn’t actually the case. Why could this misunderstanding happen? Because sometimes in English we use the word “form” to mean something that is exclusively external. A rope might be coiled in the form of a snake without actually being a snake. Christmas lights in a front yard might be in the form of a deer without actually being a deer.

The Correction: Paul is using the word “form” to denote the state of the Son’s existence and its accompanying characteristics. He is asserting the Son’s divinity. It is appropriate to say that the Son is God, and Paul’s words should not be understood as a denial of that fact. Soon Paul will make a statement about Christ’s remarkable humility, and that lowly status is a stark contrast to the divine status that Paul identified in 2:6. Jesus’ own words refer to his preincarnate state: “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5).

Misunderstanding #2: The notion of grasping at equality with God implies that Christ lacked equality with God. This conclusion would, like the first misunderstanding, deny the Son’s deity. Why could this misunderstanding happen? Because a person might “grasp” at something they don’t already possess. If Christ did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, perhaps that’s because he didn’t possess equality with God to begin with.

The Correction: Grasping a thing can be done by someone who already possesses that thing. In context, the language is about holding firmly to something, pulling it close selfishly. The action is the opposite of 2:4 where Paul called his readers to look to the interests of others. Paul is teaching that Christ did not view his status as something solely for his own advantage, something to exploit at the expense of others. Instead, while in the form of God and having equality with God, the Son acted on behalf of sinful creatures and considered their helpless estate. He did not grasp at his high position as a reason to say, “I will not attend to others. I will not consider their interests.” The incarnation happened not because Christ had a tight first but because he had an open heart.

Misunderstanding #3: Jesus emptied himself of his divine attributes. Paul teaches in 2:7 that Jesus made himself nothing or emptied himself. But how did he become nothing? What was emptied? The text doesn’t identify what Christ emptied, but some Bible readers have suspected that Christ emptied divine attributes like omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.

The Correction: The subsequent language about “taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” explains what it means for the Son to make himself nothing. He emptied himself by adopting the low position of a slave. He made himself nothing by humbling himself at the incarnation. When Paul says that Christ “made himself nothing,” Paul is not making an ontological claim about Christ’s divine nature. The divine nature does not consist of parts that could be subtracted or switches that could be turned off. If the Son emptied himself of divine attributes, he would no longer be divine. And a merely human person cannot accomplish full and forever atonement for us. Jesus emptied himself in the sense that he became like a servant, born to share our humanity. The Son, for whom and through whom and by whom all things were made, is born in flesh from the womb of Mary–a humble estate indeed! But Paul is most certainly not teaching that Jesus exchanged deity for humanity. Rather, the Son added to himself a human nature. One person, two natures, truly divine and truly human.

Misunderstanding #4: Jesus only possessed a human likeness but not true humanity. The reason a reader might think this is because the text says that Jesus was “born in the likeness of men.” Could “likeness” mean the mere appearance of humanity without the true status beneath? Was the Son a spirit-being who lacked real flesh and blood on earth?

The Correction: Paul is using the word “likeness” in the way we read it in Genesis 5:3, where Adam had a son in his own likeness. Adam was a person, and so was his son. Jesus shared our likeness in the sense that he shared our humanity. Paul begins 2:8 by saying that Jesus was “found in human form,” and this confirms that “likeness” in 2:7 was not a superficial kind. Jesus possessed true humanity in a real human nature, and this humanity did not negate, contradict, or compromise his deity. The word “born” also confirms his true humanity, since mothers give birth to embodied image bearers. In 2:8 Paul mentions Jesus’ “death on a cross,” and only real bodies can die. So the word “likeness” in 2:7 is not about a semblance void of fact. The eternal Son of God became flesh, taking to himself true humanity.

We need to avoid the preceding misunderstandings when we read Philippians 2:6-8. These verses teach the Son’s preexistence, his true deity, and his true humanity. The Son did not–and could not–undivine himself. God cannot cease being who he is in his divine nature. Through the miraculous incarnation, the divine Son of God is also God with us, made flesh in a human nature for our salvation.