Book Review: Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson

gospel-deeps

Is the gospel the start of the Christian life? Something you “get” and eventually move on from? Or is the work of Christ and all its entailments—is our union with Christ something that you graduate from or delve deeper into?

Jared Wilson, like a lot of evangelicals, grew up unintentionally believing that the gospel was the starting point of the Christian faith; it was “for the evangelizing of unbelievers only, not for the already convinced” (Gospel Deeps, Kindle location 186). He missed the depths because of a truncated gospel that treated Christ’s work on the cross as a transaction—a one-time event, rather than a life-time pursuit.

But this ought never be our mindset as Christians. The depths of the gospel ought to overwhelm us with awe even as it challenges us in how we live in the day-to-day. Gospel Deeps is an attempt to capture and pass on that sense of wonder as Wilson examines the many facets of the gospel and the “infinite excellencies”of Jesus.

A Matter of First Importance

Wilson argues with passion and conviction that this kind of dwelling in the gospel isn’t a nice-to-have; it’s not something that’s good for some and not for others. No, standing in awe of Christ is of first importance:

We must get this. And we have to understand that not getting it is not just an informational “miss.” Venturing into the depths of the gospel—seeing Christ’s accomplishment (the gospel’s content) and what is accomplished by his accomplishment (the gospel’s implications)—is vital to better knowing and loving God. When we miss the depths of the gospel, we hinder our worship. In reflecting on how the good news of Jesus creates the people of God, Paul cries out, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33). (Kindle Location 254)

This truly is essential to grasp when reading this book or else you’ll be incredibly frustrated. In fact, those who prefer books offering ten steps, four keys, or three principles of being more gospel-centered will be infuriated by Gospel Deeps. Wilson just doesn’t go there. Not once.

Instead, he examines the many facets of Christ’s work in a way that (ought to) stir your heart. He wants you to be excited about the unceasing depths of Jesus; to see every aspect with renewed wonder and joy.

Which, if you want to get technical, is the ultimate in application.

The Sin of Boredom

Perhaps the most shocking quotable (and one that we desperately need to hear in our attention-span-of-a-gnat-on-a-sugar-rush culture) is the truth about boredom with the faith: “If Christ is true, then boredom is a sin” (Kindle Location, 1335). Wilson continues:

When we are bored, it can be only because we have stopped looking at Jesus. He can’t be boring. If we find him boring, it’s because we are boring. The deficiency is ours, not his. (Kindle location 1338)

You know how it’s tempting to look at a book like Leviticus or Numbers and assume because they’re legislative and filled with censuses, they’re skippable.

But reading both with an eye fixed on Jesus opens them up–you see the wonder of God’s grace in offering us Christ’s righteousness and the sheer amazingness of that same righteousness when you realize that Jesus kept every single rule recorded there.

Perfectly.

Shouldn’t that blow all our minds?

And yet it seems like so many of us continue in this pattern unabated. We leave our Bibles untouched for days, weeks, even months, seemingly never realizing all that we’re missing out on. We treat reading of all God has done and continues to do as a “have to” and thus become inoculated to the wonderousness of the fact that we get to. Our affections and our expectations are too small.

We worship a God whose wonders we will marvel at for eternity, because eternity cannot exhaust his wonders. We’ve got a ten-dimensional Jesus in a heaven so heavy our thin space can’t conceal it much longer; it must crash into this world. Maranatha! (Kindle Location 3363)

With unrestrained excitement about the gospel, Wilson offers readers a challenging, engaging and provocative look at the myriad excellencies of Christ. Read this book and let it stir up your affections for Jesus.


Title: Gospel Deeps: Reveling in the Excellencies of Jesus
Author: Jared C. Wilson
Publisher: Crossway (2012)

Purchase: Amazon | WTS Books

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Introducing New City Catechism

…the practice of catechesis, particularly among adults, has been almost completely lost today. It seems so medieval to have children memorizing catechisms, much less doing it as adults. So why did The Gospel Coalition team up with Redeemer Presbyterian Church to develop New City Catechism?

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Disrupt Yourself

Darryl Dash:

If you asked me if I struggled with fear just three years ago, I would have told you no. But then I began to notice traces of fear in my life: fear of confronting people, fear of taking a bold stand, fear of putting everything on the line when needed. One day a colleague who’s not noted for his tact asked me, “When did you become such a chicken?” I was stunned by his question, but I realized he was right.

Dear Moms, Jesus Wants You To Chill Out

Stephen Altrogge:

Moms, Jesus wants you to chill out about being a mom. You don’t have to make homemade bread to be a faithful mom. You don’t have to sew you children’s clothing to be a faithful mom. You don’t have to coupon, buy all organic produce, keep a journal, scrapbook, plant a garden, or make your own babyfood to be a faithful mom. There’s nothing wrong with these things, but they’re also not in your biblical job description.

Why Contend?

My new book, Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World, is now available. In the following video, I explain why contending matters and what I hope readers will get from this book:

Thanks to Red Rubber Studios for the top notch production work on the trailer.

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The Purpose of Work

Gene Edward Veith:

“We work to have leisure, on which happiness depends.” So said Aristotle, quoted by Notre Dame philosopher Gary Gutting to explain “What Work Is For” in a recent article for The New York Times. Luther countered this medieval view of work—which is coming back into style in our consumerist culture—with his doctrine of vocation.

Does Grace Lead To Apathy?

Sell All That You Have

R.C. Sproul Jr.:

Jesus told the rich young fool that he must sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and follow him. Is this true for all who would follow Jesus?

Yes. This, of course, is not what we typically hear about this text. We are told, for instance, that Jesus was tapping into the first use of the law rather than the third here, that rather than telling the young man what he must do to inherit eternal life He was demonstrating that despite the man’s claims, he had not in fact kept the ten commandments. Jesus here is saying, “Well, let’s look at commandment one. Do you have any gods before me? Money perhaps?” This is all true and good exegesis of the text.

Proverbs and Rule

Douglas Wilson:

In the great work of restoration that is gospel ministry, God is preparing us for maturity. He wants us to grow up into an ability to rule. We must rule, first ourselves, and then after that the vocation that God has given to us. It must be done, all of it, under the Lordship of Christ.

This is why the book of Proverbs is key.

Before We Can Say Our Maker is Our Husband

George_Whitefield_preaching

Before we are actually married or united to [Jesus] by faith or… before we assuredly can say, that ‘our Maker is our husband’, we must be made willing people in the day of God’s power, we must be sweetly and effectually persuaded by the Holy Spirit of God, that the glorious Emmanuel is willing to accept of us just as we are and also that we are willing to accept of him upon his own terms, yea, upon any terms.

And when once it comes to this, the spiritual marriage goes on apace and there is but one thing lacking to make it complete. And what is that? An actual union. This is absolutely necessary in every lawful marriage among men. There must be a joining of hands before witnesses, ere they can be deemed lawfully joined together. Some men indeed of corrupt minds, are apt to look upon this as a needless ceremony and think it sufficient to be married, as they term it, in the sight of God. But whence men get such divinity, I know not. I am positive, not from the Bible. For we there read that even at the first marriage in paradise, there was something of outward solemnity. God himself (if I may speak) being there the priest. For we are told, Gen. 2:22 that, after God had made the woman, ‘he brought her unto the man.’ And indeed, to lay aside all manner of outward ceremony in marriage, would be to turn the world into a den of brute beasts. Men would then take or forsake as many wives as they pleased and we should soon sink into as bad and brutal a state as those nations are amongst whom such practices are allowed and who are utterly destitute of the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

George Whitefield, “Christ the Believer’s Husband,” The Sermons of George Whitefield (Kindle Edition)

A Terribly Wrong Belief

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

There is a terribly wrong belief that is a kind of fatalism, very often a misunderstanding of the teaching of the sovereignty of God, a belief that says, “Oh, this is a time of declension. This is not a time to expect blessing either individually or for the church, so don’t ask for it. You must just wait until times will improve.” But that is a blatant contradiction of the teaching of the psalmists. At such times the psalmists pleaded with God to come back. They said, “Why are You like a stranger? Why don’t You come back?” And that is the inevitable attitude of a child. But the other view is sheer fatalism and has nothing to do with the teaching of Scripture.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms

Book Review: Embracing Obscurity

embracing-obscurity

There’s a funny thing that happens to people whenever they get a bit of notoriety (perceived or otherwise): They tend to get really excited about it. It starts out innocently enough—honest surprise that people are paying attention to what they’re saying or doing. But eventually, we can too easily slip into thinking we’re a kind of a big deal.

It’s not that influence is wrong, but for the Christian especially, being a “somebody” may be more dangerous than we realize.

The author of Embracing Obscurity gets this. Choosing to remain anonymous, the author confronts the dangers of pursuing notoriety while challenging readers to regain a right perspective of who we are in light of who God is.

Regardless of who we are and what we’re capable of, most of us are going to obscure, unknown… we’re not going to be “somebodies” (whatever that means). Anonymous wants us to be okay with that. Rather that continuing to perpetuate our cultural addiction to self-importance, we must embrace the kind of humility that Christ modelled (cf. Phil 2:6-8).

Indeed, Anonymous reminds us that Jesus Himself, for the majority of His earthly life was, by all accounts, kind of a nobody.

Have you ever wondered what might have filled the space between the apostle’s narratives? What transpired between Jesus’ birth and His first miracle at Cana? Apparently nothing worth the gospel writers’ ink. We are left to assume the details of His early life based on the details of our own, normal lives. Jesus got taller. His voice deepened. He probably learned to work at his father’s business. He became a man, a wise man who found favor with the people who knew Him, and favor with God. But to most He was just Yeshua, Mary and Joseph’s oldest kid—a small-town boy with a love for God. With such a common name, He could have been any Yosef, Loukas or Yohanan! Nothing to raise the suspicion of his fellow Jews that He might be the long-awaited Christ, hidden in plain sight. It was all just the way God wanted it.

This is very helpful for us to remember—an average life isn’t less glorifying to God. In the years between His birth and public ministry, Jesus perfectly glorified God in all he said and did, yet he was pretty normal. Nothing to write home about. He wasn’t living an audacious-world-changer-rock-your-socks kind of life.

He worked with His dad. He did chores. He went to Synagogue.

He was, more or less, like us. And if that was good enough for the God of the universe for the better part of 30 years, it ought to be good enough for us, shouldn’t it?

To be clear, Anonymous isn’t advocating that Christians shun public influence. He’s not suggesting that those whom God allows to receive wider appreciation and/or acclaim hide under a basket. Instead, he calls them to embrace the spotlight as Christ did—giving glory to God and pointing others to Him, rather than succumbing to our pride. We must remember that such “success” isn’t due to our accomplishments, ultimately, but to the grace and purposes of God:

We don’t deserve special privileges, luxury living or a higher level of respect from others because of our talents or bank accounts. We can’t excuse snobbiness, hoarding or passive-aggressive pride because we won the popular vote or appeared in Adventure magazine. Some privileges and accolades may come in our lives, but if we start feeling entitled to them, we’re already flirting with the Saul Syndrome [a deadly combination of pride and the fear of man]. All our successes, and all the earthly rewards that come with them are from God. It’s all from God. We can’t pretend we’re ultimately responsible for our success any more than a homeless man can ultimately blame society for his homelessness.

Is Embracing Obscurity the final say on the matter? Not remotely. But it’s an important opening to a necessary conversation. We all, regardless of the level of public influence afforded to us, need to wrestle with what it means for us to decrease so that Jesus’ renown would increase (cf. John 3:30). I trust Embracing Obscurity will give you a great deal to consider and might challenge you to discover where you need to become less in others’ eyes (and your own) in light of Christ.


Title: Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God’s Everything
Author: Anonymous
Publisher: B&H Publishing (2012)

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The Unsurpassed Glory of the Lord

Chris Poblete:

Isaiah 55 reminds us that the thoughts of the Lord are much higher than our thoughts, His ways more wise than our own. God is complete “other” than us, utterly transcendent and unsurpassed in all His ways… Here are seven ways in which the glory of the Lord goes unsurpassed.

$5 Friday at Ligonier

Today is $5 Friday at Ligonier.org. This week’s offerings include:

  • By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson (Hardcover)
  • The Promise Keeper: God of the Covenants teaching series by R.C. Sproul (Audio & Video Download)
  • Gospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson(eBook Download)

By Grace You Can

Joe Thorn:

I find that some Christians have a good understanding of the extent of our human depravity, but an underdeveloped view of God’s vivifying grace. Many seem to believe that because sin continues to cling to and corrupt all our works this side of the resurrection that even as believers we remain fruitless in godliness–incapable of obeying God. But man’s total depravity doesn’t leave us pessimistic in piety because God’s sovereign grace in salvation gives us life, overcomes our weaknesses, and produces a transformed character. By grace we can obey God. I was reading Sibbes today (as we all should), and he said it better than I can.

Why Catechesis Now?

Tim Keller:

The church in Western culture today is experiencing a crisis of holiness. To be holy is to be “set apart,” different, living life according to God’s Word and story, not according to the stories that the world tells us are the meaning of life. The more the culture around us becomes post- and anti-Christian the more we discover church members in our midst, sitting under sound preaching, yet nonetheless holding half-pagan views of God, truth, and human nature, and in their daily lives using sex, money, and power in very worldly ways.

Creatures of the Word and The Centerpiece of Ministry

creature-of-the-word

I’ve just started to crack into Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson and Eric Geiger’s new book, Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church (B&H Publishing) and it looks to be nothing if not challenging.

The Church cannot have anything but the gospel at its center—if it does, it’s not the Church:

Our churches must be fully centered on Jesus and His work, or else death and emptiness is certain, regardless of the worship style or sermon series. Without the gospel, everything in a church is meaningless. And dead.

Creature of the Word looks at the gospel as the centerpiece of the Church—what every aspect of our ministry must be consumed by—and outlines practically how church leaders can maintain the centrality of the gospel. Check out the trailer:

[tentblogger-youtube 90PTFJZs6rM]

I’m pretty excited to see how this book impacts its readers—and I want to give you a chance to read it.

Courtesy of my friends at LIfeway, I’ve got three copies of the book to give away, and each copy comes with a bonus:

Winners will receive one copy of Creature of the Word and an individual registration for the Creature of the Word simulcast on October 23rd at 8-11 am CT (9-12 ET).

Chandler, Patterson and Geiger will each teach on a different topic from the book and will answer viewer questions at the end of the simulcast.

So here’s what we’re going to do:

I want to know how you and/or your church is striving to make everything it does about Jesus. What’s something that’s happened in your context that’s been really encouraging in this area?

To enter, use the handy-dandy PunchTab widget on the page:

Contest ends on Saturday, October 13 at 5 pm (ET). Hope you enjoy the book!

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I Hope You’re Taking Notes

Barnabas Piper:

When I think back on the fluorescent lit classrooms of high school and the lecture halls of college I get bored. I think of the filled up notebooks of doodles and pictures and scribbles and, well, not notes. I didn’t take notes because note taking was boring. It was tedious and laborious, but knowing what I know now I wish I had. And so does my GPA.

Triperspectivalism in the Psalms

Tim Brister:

While working through the Psalms devotionally, I began to see a triperspectival pattern (to no one’s surprise) worth mentioning. A great example of this would be Psalm 71.

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Culture Warts or Faithful Servants?

Peter Jones:

The most satisfactory answer, in my opinion, is the documented fact that influential segments of the culture have recently converted in one form or another to religious paganism and have thus abandoned the fundamental worldview notions of orthodox Christianity. The younger Christian generation faces the enormous danger of allowing the culture to throw out our baby with their “baggage.”

What Does Nicea Have to Do with Geneva?

Thaddeus Williams:

When it comes to the debate about God’s sovereignty, there is a common caricature that goes something like this: Calvinists are all about God’s power while non-Calvinists are all about God’s love. Some scholars have even branded their non-Calvinism “relational theism” to set their loving God apart from the relationally challenged power-God of Calvinism. Sure Calvinists will also talk about God’s love, and non-Calvinists about God’s power, but wedged between them seems to be the question of which attribute of God is more ultimate—power or love?

Autonomous Christianity Never Works

dangerous-calling

I know it sounds strange, but sometimes the best thing a book can do is hit you square between the eyes. Paul Tripp’s new book, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, is like that. I’ll be doing a comprehensive review soon, but I wanted to take a moment to share one of the most helpful passages of the book.

Too often those of us in any form of church leadership—whether formal or informal—can feel a temptation to hide how we’re really doing. We feel like we need to put on a brave face, or we need to be super-shiny-perfect Christians.

But what does this reveal about us? Tripp explains:

First, when people are your substitute messiah (you need their respect and support in order to continue), it’s hard to be honest with them about your sins, weaknesses, and failures. There is a second thing that kicks in as well: fear. The more separation and discontinuity there is between the real details of my personal life and my public confession and image, the more I will tend to fear being known. I will fear how people would think of and respond to me if they really knew what was going on in my life. I may even fear the loss of my job. So my responses to the concerns and inquiries of others become structured by fear rather than faith. So I do not make the regular, healthy confessions of struggle to my ministry co-partners, I do not ask candidly and humbly for prayer in places where I clearly need it, and I am very careful with how I answer personal questions when they come my way.

This all means that I am no longer benefitting from the insight-giving, protecting, encouraging, warning, preventative, and restoring ministries of the body of Christ. I am trying to do what none of us is able to do—spiritually make it on my own. Autonomous Christianity never works, because our spiritual life was designed by God to be a community project. (Dangerous Calling, p. 38)

If the Christian life is a “community project” as Tripp says, we must resist the temptation to withdraw and hide our problems, not in the played “authentic” sense, but simply making sure we’re all in intentional community. Pastors need those around them to whom they can confess their sins—and not just their wives (for that is a burden to great to carry). Pastors’ wives need safe women to be in intentional community with, who don’t expect them to be “just so.” Same goes for leaders at every level.

Leader, if you feel like ministry “has” to be a lonely thing—if you consistently pull away from any form of community—you need to ask yourself:

Is the problem that there’s no one I can trust—or is it me?

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Toward a Theology of Church Unity

Kevin DeYoung:

For the past hundred years, church unity has largely been a liberal concern. At times the concern has been an admirable reminder, or a necessary rebuke, that our unity cannot be merely “spiritual.”  At other times, unity has been a blunt instrument with which to bludgeon conservatives who don’t share the same doctrinal latitudinarianism and ecumenical pipe dreams. “Unity” has become a byword among evangelicals, especially those in mixed denominations who can be shamed into silence by the mere whisper of the word.

But no matter the abuse, we must conclude from Scripture that the union and happy communion of the saints are precious to God.

Form 17

New short film from Seth Worley (maker of Plot Device). The description:

A bomb technician faces his most hazardous situation yet: Take Your Daughter To Work Day.

[tentblogger-vimeo 48853502]

(Note there are three instances where the Lord’s name is taken in vain [but corrected on screen].)

If You Think You’ve Arrived

Paul Tripp:

I didn’t see it at the time, but I enjoyed the ministry celebrity that I experienced my early days in coal country. I was the center of a little growing church and a rapidly growing Christian school, and I loved it. We were seeing fruit in a place where there hadn’t been much fruit, and people were excited. Thankful people seem to be everywhere, and they expressed their thanks often. But, in ways I didn’t see then, I took a lot of the credit.

Soul Care Garage: Rest & Recreation

David Murray:

Bodily exercise is profitable (1 Tim. 4:8). Moderate physical exercise helps to expel unhelpful chemicals from our system and stimulates the production of helpful chemicals. Outdoor exercise has the added benefit of the sun’s healing rays. Spurgeon said: “The next best thing to the grace of God for a preacher is oxygen.”

Book Review: Old Story New by Marty Machowski

OSN-3D

Family devotions are a tricky thing for a lot of families:

Where do you start? What are the best resources to use? 

When we were looking for something to for our family to use, we were recommended Marty Machowski’s Long Story Shortten-minute devotionals taking families through the Old Testament and connecting it all to Jesus.

For the better part of a year now, we’ve been working our way through this devotional and it’s been a fantastic experience (aside from, unfortunately, learning that some of the imagination exercises make our oldest daughter cry). But as we’ve been trekking through the Old Testament, in the back of my mind, I’ve been wondering what resources are available to look a little more in-depth at the New.

That’s one of the many reasons I’m excited about Machowski’s follow-up, Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God.

Those familiar with Long Story Short will find Old Story New very comfortable. Each 5-day lesson looks at a particular portion of the New Testament (from Matthew through Revelation), with two days of initial examination, day three connecting it to the gospel, day four completing the lesson, and day five taking you to one of the Psalms or the Prophets to see what we can learn about Jesus.

This lesson plan is hugely helpful because, while it should be obvious that the gospel is about Jesus, it leads to some tremendously helpful conversations. For example, recently, we were looking at Matthew 2:7-21, where we read that Herod planned to kill Jesus as a toddler, but an angel of the Lord warned Joseph to flee until Herod’s death (and fulfilling multiple Old Testament prophecies in the process).

The question that gave us pause as we read as “Why did God prevent Jesus being killed as a baby, but allow it when he was a man?”

Think about it:

Theoretically, Jesus could have been killed when he was two. In fact, he could have died at any number of points in his earthly life. But he didn’t until the exact moment appointed for him. Why?

Because he had to fulfill all righteousness. In order for Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice we require to pay for our sins, he needed to live under the Law. He needed to keep the Law perfectly. This would have required him living well into adulthood. Our sin could not have been atoned for by baby Jesus, toddler Jesus or preteen Jesus—it had to be the man, Jesus Christ, who would bear the punishment for our sins.

This is dinner conversation at the Armstrong house.

(Yeah, we’re kinda weird.)

One of the things families will need to consider when looking at a resource like Old Story New is how much time they want to devote to using one book or series of books. Combined, Long Story Short and Old Story New represent a three-year long journey through Genesis all the way to Revelation. Think about it this way: When we started these devotionals, Abigail was four-years-old; when we’re done, she’ll be seven. This is a little less than half her life we’re talking about!

It’s a big commitment, but it’s one we’re all-in for.

We want our kids to have a solid understanding of the Scriptures—not to just know stories or good moral lessons, but to know how everything connects to Jesus. We’re glad to have Old Story New be a part of that process. I hope it’ll be a part of it for your family, too.


Title: Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God

Title: Marty Machowski
Publisher: New Growth Press (2012)

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Freedom In Smallness

Tullian Tchividjian:

The world tells us in a thousand different ways that the bigger we become, the freer we will be. The richer, the more beautiful, and the more powerful we grow, the more security, liberty, and happiness we will experience. And yet, the gospel tells us just the opposite, that the smaller we become, the freer we will be. This may sound at first like bad news, but it could not be better news!

What the Prosperity Gospel Does to the Gospel

Brandon Smith:

I was reminded recently by a local TV preacher (asking for money in exchange for prayers, of course) how badly the “prosperity gospel” distorts the gospel of Christ. Here are three major things that I think the prosperity gospel does.

 Two Rival Religions? Christianity and Post-Christianity

Albert Mohler:

The conception of our current cultural conflict as a struggle between two rival religions is instructive and humbling. At the political level, this assessment should serve as a warning that our current ideological divides are not likely to disappear anytime soon. At the far deeper level of theological analysis, this argument serves to remind Christians that evangelism remains central to our mission and purpose. Those who aim at the merely political are missing the forest for the trees, and confusing the temporal for the eternal.

Why New Churches Should Sing Old Songs

Stephen Miller:

As a church musician, I’m not trying to downplay the formative importance of preaching. But I couldn’t tell you the take-home point of two sermons I heard growing up, no matter how clever the preacher’s alliteration. But I still sing “Holy Holy Holy” word for word. I know “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by heart. “The Solid Rock” is an ever-present companion for me in difficult times. Those songs have given me a vocabulary to express myself. I have learned the truth of God in a way that will stay with me for a lifetime.