Matthew R. Perry

Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

Book Review: “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller (Part I)

In Book Review, Culture on February 28, 2008 at 2:54 pm

When news came out that Tim Keller was writing another book, excitement shot around the reformed blogosphere.  When news came out that Keller’s book would be published by Penguin Books, we were thrilled that his voice would be heard (read) on a wider landscape than just among Christian evangelicals. When we heard that his book would address the secular humanists’ skepticism of all things theistic, we were thankful that such a balanced and well-spoken voice would represent us in such a wonderful way.

Now, his book is out. Westminster Theological Seminary’s online bookstore noted that Keller’s book is the fastest selling book in their storied history (high praise, since they have the best book deals online, bar none).  This book, along with his corresponding online site , provide a welcome understanding of the role of Christ, the Gospel, and the Christian church in our culture and world.

This book is a smooth read — as if you were sitting down and having a conversation with Keller himself.  Keller starts off by disarming critics and disturbing conservative theists.  When the introduction is titled, “The Enemies Are Both Right,” theists looking for an ally may have been taken aback by his apparent concession of room to the atheists.  But notice this rather insightful paragraph:

We have an impasse between the strengthening forces of doubt and belief, and this won’t be solved simply by calling for more civility and dialogue.  Arguments depend on having commonly held reference points that both side can hold each other to.  When fundamental understandings of reality conflict, it is hard to find anything to which to appeal.  … I want to make a proposal that I have seen bear much fruit in the lives of young New Yorkers over the years.  I recommend that each side look at doubt in a radically new way (xvi).

Keller introduces this radical new way of seeing doubt as a way to educate and explore rather than something to be avoided.  Atheists have doubts about Christianity — but they should not avoid it, but honestly explore those doubts to see if they have any credibility.  Theists should look at the arguments made by the atheists to strengthen their own understanding of the Scriptures.

The core of the book is for each side to examine their beliefs and the “leaps of faith” to which each side holds.  Keller says:

This … book is a distillation of the many conversations I’ve had with doubters over the years.  I’ve tried to respectfully help skeptics look at their own faith-foundations while at the same time laying bare my own to their strongest criticisms.  … Respectful dialogue between entreached traditional conservative and secular liberal people is a great good, and I hope this book will promote it (xix).

This book does just that!  In the next part of this review, I will examine Part One, entitled “The Leap of Doubt.”  In this section, Keller fleshes out what he calls “defeater beliefs” that many secular folks levy toward Christians to apparently show why Christianity is not viable in our contemporary age.

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Book Review: “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller (Part I)

In Book Review, Culture on February 28, 2008 at 2:54 pm

When news came out that Tim Keller was writing another book, excitement shot around the reformed blogosphere.  When news came out that Keller’s book would be published by Penguin Books, we were thrilled that his voice would be heard (read) on a wider landscape than just among Christian evangelicals. When we heard that his book would address the secular humanists’ skepticism of all things theistic, we were thankful that such a balanced and well-spoken voice would represent us in such a wonderful way.

Now, his book is out. Westminster Theological Seminary’s online bookstore noted that Keller’s book is the fastest selling book in their storied history (high praise, since they have the best book deals online, bar none).  This book, along with his corresponding online site , provide a welcome understanding of the role of Christ, the Gospel, and the Christian church in our culture and world.

This book is a smooth read — as if you were sitting down and having a conversation with Keller himself.  Keller starts off by disarming critics and disturbing conservative theists.  When the introduction is titled, “The Enemies Are Both Right,” theists looking for an ally may have been taken aback by his apparent concession of room to the atheists.  But notice this rather insightful paragraph:

We have an impasse between the strengthening forces of doubt and belief, and this won’t be solved simply by calling for more civility and dialogue.  Arguments depend on having commonly held reference points that both side can hold each other to.  When fundamental understandings of reality conflict, it is hard to find anything to which to appeal.  … I want to make a proposal that I have seen bear much fruit in the lives of young New Yorkers over the years.  I recommend that each side look at doubt in a radically new way (xvi).

Keller introduces this radical new way of seeing doubt as a way to educate and explore rather than something to be avoided.  Atheists have doubts about Christianity — but they should not avoid it, but honestly explore those doubts to see if they have any credibility.  Theists should look at the arguments made by the atheists to strengthen their own understanding of the Scriptures.

The core of the book is for each side to examine their beliefs and the “leaps of faith” to which each side holds.  Keller says:

This … book is a distillation of the many conversations I’ve had with doubters over the years.  I’ve tried to respectfully help skeptics look at their own faith-foundations while at the same time laying bare my own to their strongest criticisms.  … Respectful dialogue between entreached traditional conservative and secular liberal people is a great good, and I hope this book will promote it (xix).

This book does just that!  In the next part of this review, I will examine Part One, entitled “The Leap of Doubt.”  In this section, Keller fleshes out what he calls “defeater beliefs” that many secular folks levy toward Christians to apparently show why Christianity is not viable in our contemporary age.

How To Pray For Next Sunday’s Preacher

In Church Life, For Preachers/Pastors, Preaching on February 23, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Unashamed Workman gave this quote found on the Reformation Theology Blog:

Our gracious God and Father. I approach Your throne
today, knowing that it is only through the name of Jesus that I can
stand before You. I thank and praise You for Your goodness in allowing
me to do so. I recognize very well that I am unworthy of this honor,
this privilege, apart from Your unmerited favor and grace. I come
before You to seek Your blessing on the service on Sunday.

Grant that the Word will come to us with power and with great
freedom. Be near to our Pastor and his family. Keep the family close as
they serve You together. Protect them from dangers both seen and
unseen. May our pastor know great wisdom as he plans his day and his
week around the priorities You lay before him. May his schedule allow
him much time to study Your word and to pray. May he know that he is
serving You and all of us very well as he makes these a high priority.
May our pastor’s family time also be protected. Grant that he would be
free from all unnecessary busy-ness in ministry. Also grant our pastor
sufficient rest and sleep.

Grant our pastor humility before Your Word as he finishes his
preparations and grant that he may be filled with a holy dread and
gravity as he stands before Your people. May he know what it is to be
filled afresh with the Holy Spirit. May we truly know what it is to sit
under the preaching of the Word. Speak to us, we pray. Speak to our
hearts through the words we hear. May we never be the same.

Be with those who will lead us in worship. Be near to those who will
sing or play instruments. Grant that in all things they may seek to
serve You. May songs be selected that will bring glory and honor to
Your name. May they lead us in singing songs that celebrate the beauty
of the Savior and sing of Your wonders, Your glory, Your triumphs, Your
holiness, Your majesty and Your great gospel. Let everything that has
breath in that place praise the Lord together. May our worship be a
sweet and fragrant offering to You. Accept it Lord, though we know it
is poor and imperfect. Accept it through Your grace.

Be with the men and women who will be serving this week – those who
are responsible for hospitality, greeting and ushering; those who will
work in the sound booth, in the bookstall, in administration, and with
those who will minister to our precious children and youth. Even now
Lord, please fill all of these people afresh with Your Spirit. We thank
you for the servant’s hearts You have given to them. I ask that You
will allow them to be a blessing to many this week, even to those who
do not yet know You. May the service run smoothly and may Your hand be
evident in all that transpires. May Your love truly flow amongst us.
May each of us be sensitive to the needs of others.

Bless our church’s outreach this week, through the words we speak,
the love we show and the help we give to others. Bless the proclamation
of Your gospel both by word and by life. In Your goodness, bring many
to repentance. Direct our conversations, and help each of us to be bold
in sharing the good news of Christ with others. Use me and all of our
church in outreach this week I pray.

Would you help all who attend to come to the Sunday service as true
worshippers–as those who worship You in spirit and in truth. Remind us
that the gathering of Your people to worship is something You have
ordained for us. It is a holy and sacred time. Help us to take the
Lord’s day seriously. Prepare my heart and each of our hearts even now
for what You will say to us then. Grant that we may not come before you
as frauds, standing in Your presence filled with unconfessed sin. Give
us the strength and wisdom to reconcile ourselves to our brothers and
sisters before we come before You in worship. Give us discerning hearts
that we may see and confess our sin before You. Open our eyes to see
and to know You in a new way. Help us to worship You, not only with our
lips, but with our hearts, our souls, and all that we are. Accept the
gift of worship we will bring to You. May it please You.

Be with our pastor as he prepares to preach Your Word on Sunday.
Grant that his time of preparation will be fruitful and that You will
stir His heart with the great news of the gospel, of the precious truth
of justification by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, all to
the glory of God alone. May all of us at our Church live in the power
of this gospel always. Protect us from the devil’s lies and help us to
never be bored by the wonderful doctrines of grace, but grant that they
may be the joy and delight of our hearts. Open our eyes Lord to see
just how Your glorious gospel affects each and every area of our lives.
Grant that our pastor or any guest minister may preach with great power
and passion on Sunday morning. May the preaching be God centered, cross
centered and gospel centered.

Be with me Lord. Prepare my own heart for Sunday morning when You
speak to us as Your people. I confess that already my heart is polluted
with sin. As I think about worshipping You, already I wonder how other
men may perceive me. Already I sin against you. Extend Your gracious
forgiveness to me that I may come before You with a clean heart. Renew
a right spirit within me. Keep the truth ever before me that to obey is
better than sacrifice. Help me to be obedient to You in all things.
Fill me with Your Spirit. Grant that I may serve You by serving others.

Grant traveling mercies as men and women, boys and girls come to our
Church on Sunday. Keep us safe this week and as we gather together in
Your name.

We pray for peace and unity while we gather together. We ask that
there will be mercy and understanding. We ask that there will be a
great outpouring of your Spirit. We ask that you will bless us for the
sake of the glory of Your great name.

I ask these things humbly and in the name that is above all names,
the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that I may be expectant and observant in
seeking answers to this prayer so that I may praise You for Your
goodness. May we all seek Your presence and glory in it together as we
worship You this week.

How To Pray For Next Sunday’s Preacher

In Church Life, For Preachers/Pastors, Preaching on February 23, 2008 at 2:25 pm

Unashamed Workman gave this quote found on the Reformation Theology Blog:

Our gracious God and Father. I approach Your throne
today, knowing that it is only through the name of Jesus that I can
stand before You. I thank and praise You for Your goodness in allowing
me to do so. I recognize very well that I am unworthy of this honor,
this privilege, apart from Your unmerited favor and grace. I come
before You to seek Your blessing on the service on Sunday.

Grant that the Word will come to us with power and with great
freedom. Be near to our Pastor and his family. Keep the family close as
they serve You together. Protect them from dangers both seen and
unseen. May our pastor know great wisdom as he plans his day and his
week around the priorities You lay before him. May his schedule allow
him much time to study Your word and to pray. May he know that he is
serving You and all of us very well as he makes these a high priority.
May our pastor’s family time also be protected. Grant that he would be
free from all unnecessary busy-ness in ministry. Also grant our pastor
sufficient rest and sleep.

Grant our pastor humility before Your Word as he finishes his
preparations and grant that he may be filled with a holy dread and
gravity as he stands before Your people. May he know what it is to be
filled afresh with the Holy Spirit. May we truly know what it is to sit
under the preaching of the Word. Speak to us, we pray. Speak to our
hearts through the words we hear. May we never be the same.

Be with those who will lead us in worship. Be near to those who will
sing or play instruments. Grant that in all things they may seek to
serve You. May songs be selected that will bring glory and honor to
Your name. May they lead us in singing songs that celebrate the beauty
of the Savior and sing of Your wonders, Your glory, Your triumphs, Your
holiness, Your majesty and Your great gospel. Let everything that has
breath in that place praise the Lord together. May our worship be a
sweet and fragrant offering to You. Accept it Lord, though we know it
is poor and imperfect. Accept it through Your grace.

Be with the men and women who will be serving this week – those who
are responsible for hospitality, greeting and ushering; those who will
work in the sound booth, in the bookstall, in administration, and with
those who will minister to our precious children and youth. Even now
Lord, please fill all of these people afresh with Your Spirit. We thank
you for the servant’s hearts You have given to them. I ask that You
will allow them to be a blessing to many this week, even to those who
do not yet know You. May the service run smoothly and may Your hand be
evident in all that transpires. May Your love truly flow amongst us.
May each of us be sensitive to the needs of others.

Bless our church’s outreach this week, through the words we speak,
the love we show and the help we give to others. Bless the proclamation
of Your gospel both by word and by life. In Your goodness, bring many
to repentance. Direct our conversations, and help each of us to be bold
in sharing the good news of Christ with others. Use me and all of our
church in outreach this week I pray.

Would you help all who attend to come to the Sunday service as true
worshippers–as those who worship You in spirit and in truth. Remind us
that the gathering of Your people to worship is something You have
ordained for us. It is a holy and sacred time. Help us to take the
Lord’s day seriously. Prepare my heart and each of our hearts even now
for what You will say to us then. Grant that we may not come before you
as frauds, standing in Your presence filled with unconfessed sin. Give
us the strength and wisdom to reconcile ourselves to our brothers and
sisters before we come before You in worship. Give us discerning hearts
that we may see and confess our sin before You. Open our eyes to see
and to know You in a new way. Help us to worship You, not only with our
lips, but with our hearts, our souls, and all that we are. Accept the
gift of worship we will bring to You. May it please You.

Be with our pastor as he prepares to preach Your Word on Sunday.
Grant that his time of preparation will be fruitful and that You will
stir His heart with the great news of the gospel, of the precious truth
of justification by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, all to
the glory of God alone. May all of us at our Church live in the power
of this gospel always. Protect us from the devil’s lies and help us to
never be bored by the wonderful doctrines of grace, but grant that they
may be the joy and delight of our hearts. Open our eyes Lord to see
just how Your glorious gospel affects each and every area of our lives.
Grant that our pastor or any guest minister may preach with great power
and passion on Sunday morning. May the preaching be God centered, cross
centered and gospel centered.

Be with me Lord. Prepare my own heart for Sunday morning when You
speak to us as Your people. I confess that already my heart is polluted
with sin. As I think about worshipping You, already I wonder how other
men may perceive me. Already I sin against you. Extend Your gracious
forgiveness to me that I may come before You with a clean heart. Renew
a right spirit within me. Keep the truth ever before me that to obey is
better than sacrifice. Help me to be obedient to You in all things.
Fill me with Your Spirit. Grant that I may serve You by serving others.

Grant traveling mercies as men and women, boys and girls come to our
Church on Sunday. Keep us safe this week and as we gather together in
Your name.

We pray for peace and unity while we gather together. We ask that
there will be mercy and understanding. We ask that there will be a
great outpouring of your Spirit. We ask that you will bless us for the
sake of the glory of Your great name.

I ask these things humbly and in the name that is above all names,
the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that I may be expectant and observant in
seeking answers to this prayer so that I may praise You for Your
goodness. May we all seek Your presence and glory in it together as we
worship You this week.

Friday Jazz: Dave Brubeck Quartet, 1961

In Jazz on February 22, 2008 at 4:23 pm


Dave Brubeck is by far my favorite jazz pianist. Here he is with his great Dave Brubeck playing “St. Louis Blues.” Paul Desmond on the alto sax, Eugene Wright on the bass, Joe Morrello on drums. Enjoy!

Fundamental to the Gospel of Salvation

In Devotional on February 20, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Fundamental to the gospel of salvation is the truth that the saving initiative from beginning to end belongs to God the Father.  No formulation of the gospel is biblical which removes the initiative from God and attributes it either to us or even to Christ.  It is certain that we did not take the initiative, for we were sinful, guilty and condemned, helpless and hopeless.  Nor was the initiative taken by Jesus Christ in the sense that he did something which the Father was reluctant or unwilling to do.  To be sure, Christ came voluntarily and gave himself freely.  Yet he did it in submissive response to the Father’s initiative.  ‘Here I am … I have come to do your will, O God’ (Hebrews 10:7).  So the first move was GOd the Father’s, and our justification is freely by his grace, his absolutely free and utterly undeserved favour.  Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.

— John Stott, Romans, p. 112

Tribute to Ronald Reagan

In Politics on February 18, 2008 at 4:23 pm


I confess — I miss Ronald Reagan and found this to be a very appropriate tribute to a great president!

(HT: Derick Dickens)

The Effectiveness of an Answering Machine Message

In Church Life, Evangelism on February 14, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Kevin and Julie joined our church this past Sunday — praise God!  Whenever someone joins our church, I always enjoy hearing how they came across us.  They were members of a rather large church in town, but wanted a smaller church where they could know everyone and be involved with a close knit Christian family.  For months they were searching — and almost joined a church — when they finally decided to check out a couple more. 

After hours, they called our church.  Most other churches’ answering machine messages would simply say, “You’ve reached ________________ Church.  Our offices are closed.  Please leave a message and we’ll get back to you.”  I tend to be wordy and have been told on occasion that my answering machine messages are a bit verbose.  But in this instance, they felt that this church was friendly, cared about them, and truly wanted them to join them for worship.  Here is the message we leave:

You’ve reached the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church at 859-263-5466.  We are located at 185 N. Cleveland Road in the Village of Athens and we hope that one Sunday you will join us for one of our worship services.  If you’d like to reach our pastor, Matthew Perry; our Minister of Music and Youth, Ronnie Chaffins, or our secretary, Jennifer Hamilton, please leave your name and a brief message and one of us will get back to you.  If you would like more information about our website, you can log on at http://www.boonescreekchurch.com.  May God richly bless you.  Hope to see you Sunday.  *Beep!*

Anything magical about that? Absolutely not. And granted, this is a 30 second message — so for every one person who likes this, there may be five who think, “Man, does this message ever end?” But my point is this: even with an answering machine message, this may be the first encounter someone may have with your church, so err on the side of being informative and friendly. Act like your church is worth coming to!

What think ye?

A Biblical Case Against Gambling

In Gambling on February 11, 2008 at 10:47 pm

I’m so thankful for the accessibility of my former seminary professors. I sent an e-mail to Dr. Hershael York of Southern Seminary for some help in developing a theology of gambling — either to post something on his blog or to point me to some other posts. The reason being is that many of our Kentucky Baptists have launched a crusade against casino gambling, the lottery, and other forms — yet the crusades are high on rhetoric, but low on biblical references.

Today, Dr. York posted “A Biblical Case Against Gambling.” Thanks, Dr. York — you have no idea how helpful this post was!

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Has God Called You? Discerning the Call to Preach (Mohler)

In For Preachers/Pastors, For Seminary Students, Preaching on February 11, 2008 at 9:53 pm

Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, gives a great post on how to discern God’s call to preach. Below is an excerpt:

Has God called you to ministry? Though all Christians are called to serve the cause of Christ, God calls certain persons to serve the Church as pastors and other ministers. Writing to young Timothy, the Apostle Paul confirmed that if a man aspires to be a pastor, “it is a fine work he aspires to do.” [I Timothy 3:1, NASB] Likewise, it is a high honor to be called of God into the ministry of the Church. How do you know if God is calling you?

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