My Daily MLJ: January 31, 2022

Chapter 20of Volume 1 of Marten Lloyd-Jones’ exposition of Romans is probably the most powerful chapter I’ve encountered so far. In it, he asks the question implied from Romans 1:16: “Why is Paul not ashamed of the Gospel?”

To be honest, I highlighted so many things in this chapter that I had a hard time trying to isolate just one quote. But here goes:

Our reason for not being ashamed of the gospel must always be special to the gospel. It must always be unique, and that means, of necessity, that it must not simply end with us and what has happened to us. “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” Why?

Romans, Vol 1, chapter 20, p. 268.

MLJ talks about how it’s not enough to talk about the fact that you have more happiness because of the gospel, or more peace. Or that you sleep better at night. An unbeliever can go to the Christian Science church and hear the same testimony.

No. The only thing we have to offer to an unbelieving world is that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation. Jones concludes the sermon with this statement:

That is Paul’s reason for not being ashamed. And I do not hesitate to assert that it is the only true reason; it is the only reason that really glorifies God and the Lord Jesus Christ, because all other reasons can be counterfeited by the other things. The reason for not being ashamed of the Gospel… God Glorified! Christ glorified! Glorying in the Spirit! Something no one can say, save he who has been called by God’s grace, born again, given a new nature, and an understanding of how God has done it all!

Ibid, p 269.

MLJ’s preaching has been described as “logic on fire.” This is the clearest example yet.

This year I’m trying to read through Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ 14 volume exposition of Romans. Lloyd-Jones began teaching through Romans on Friday nights at Westminster Chapel in London on October 7, 1955. Thirteen years later, at the end of chapter 14, he was forced to retire from the pulpit ministry because of illness. He spent the rest of his life editing the manuscripts of his sermons. All his sermons were recorded on tape, and are available at https://www.mljtrust.org/free-sermons/book-of-romans/

Day 031: Honey, I Shrunk the LORD (Exodus 4-6)

Scene from DreamWorks The Prince of Egypt
2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” 3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”  Exodus 5:2-3

Update: please don’t read this unless you also read the retraction post I wrote after someone pointed out the errors in this one.

In Exodus 3, Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13).

In response, God revealed to Moses His personal, covenant Name:

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14). 

In Hebrew, the Name is the Hebrew characters YHVH, called the Tetragrammaton by scholars. Hebrews considered the Name so holy that they literally made it unpronounceable. The vowels attached to these consonants in Masoretic texts can’t be read. When rabbis and cantors got to these consonants in their reading, they would substitute either “Adonai” (Lord) or Ha Shem (The Name).

God continued: “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (Exodus 3:15).

Powerful stuff. The kind of Name that mountains would bow down and seas would roar at the sound of.

Notice that Moses anticipated this question coming from the Israelites. However, the one who actually asks the question is Pharaoh. But I don’t think the response was supposed to change. Moses was supposed to say, “I AM sent me to you.”

Instead, he told Pharaoh, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days journey into the wilderness.” (Exodus 5:3).

Hmmm. There seems to be a big difference between “I AM WHO I AM” and “the God of the Hebrews.” The first speaks of power and authority. Mystery and transcendence. It’s a Name that offers no further explanation, fosters no discussion, allows for no negotiation, and absolutely does not have to say “please.”

I AM WHAT I AM does not require the permission of a Pharaoh to do what He desires to do.

But this is not the name with which Moses answers Pharaoh. Instead, Moses responds, “the God of the Hebrews.” You can almost hear the stammer in his voice: “th-th-the God of the Hebrews. N-n-now, please let us go. We’ll only be gone three days. “

Three days? This is the first we’ve heard anything about three days. This wasn’t what God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. I AM WHAT I AM intends to set His people free forever, not offer them a weekend pass from slavery.

This is what happens when we don’t take God at His word. We feel like we have to present Him to the world as smaller. Less demanding. More reasonable. We try to explain the unexplainable, to name the Unnameable, and to tame the One who is untameable.

So of course Pharaoh says no. Moses hasn’t introduced Pharaoh to the Great I Am. Instead, he’s described him as a regional God. The God of the Hebrews. Pharaoh feels no obligation to this God. No reverence before Him. I AM WHAT I AM should make him fall to his knees. “The God of the Hebrews” makes him suppress a yawn.

In time, Pharaoh and all his household will tremble at the Name. God’s purposes will not be thwarted. But I have to wonder how the story would have played out if Moses had responded to Pharaoh the way God had instructed him to.

Beloved, God is revealing Himself to you every single day you are in His Word. Do not diminish Him. Do not apologize for Him. And do not look for the world’s permission to obey Him.

My Daily MLJ: January 30, 2022

This year I’m trying to read through Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ 14 volume exposition of Romans. Lloyd-Jones began teaching through Romans on Friday nights at Westminster Chapel in London on October 7, 1955. Thirteen years later, at the end of chapter 14, he was forced to retire from the pulpit ministry because of illness. He spent the rest of his life editing the manuscripts of his sermons. All his sermons were recorded on tape, and are available at https://www.mljtrust.org/free-sermons/book-of-romans/

In Chapter 19 of Volume 1, Martyn Lloyd-Jones did something relatively unusual for him (at least so far as I’ve gotten into this reading project): he told a personal story. He talked about one year in which he went on vacation right after preaching the Sunday service at Westminster Chapel, which seats 1,500 people. He and his wife were out in the country, and attended church where an aging preacher had announced he was due to preach three times. “It was a very hot day,” wrote Lloyd-Jones, and out of compassion for this faithful elderly preacher, he volunteered to fill in for him that afternoon. He writes:

I went into the pulplit and looked at my congregation. Including my wife, the congregation consisted of five people! Let me afmit it quite frankly and honestly, the devil came to me and tempted me, and he did so in this way. ‘Well, of course, with only five people– just give them a little talk!’ Quite apart from the fact that I am not good at that kind of thing, I recovered myself, and this is what I said to myself: If you cannot preach to these five people in exactly the same was as you preached last Sunday in Westminster Chapel, the sooner you get out of the pulpit the better! By the grace of God I was enabled to do so, and I have never enjoyed a service more in the whole of my life! The preacher who is dependent upon [the size of] his congregation is unfit to enter the pulpit.

Romans, vol. 1, Chapter 19, p. 253

We all dream of filling huge auditoriums, preaching multiple weekend services, maybe even going multi-site with video feeds. But if we aren’t willing to give the same gospel to five people in a nursing home, we aren’t fit for the ministry. Oh, Lord, have mercy.

My Daily MLJ: January 29, 2022

What is the first thing we look for in anybody we meet? It is quite clear that the first thing that Paul looked for in them was the Spirit that was in them… Remember how, when he arrived at Ephesus, he found certain people who were called disciples and … he said to them: Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? … That was what he looked for in everybody. He was not interested in the colour of their skin or in their nationality; he was not interested in their social status or standing; he was not interested in the school or university that they had attended. The thing he looked for was this: Is there a brother with the Spirit of God in him? Is there a man with who I can have fellowship because he is in Christ as I am in Christ?

Romans, vol. 1, Chapter 18, p. 233-234

What a word for our divisive times. How I need to be reminded that I have more in common with an African believer living in a hut in Kenya than I do with my non-Christian next door neighbor who votes for the same politicians, cheers for the same football team, and drives the same model car as I do.

This year I’m trying to read through Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ 14 volume exposition of Romans. Lloyd-Jones began teaching through Romans on Friday nights at Westminster Chapel in London on October 7, 1955. Thirteen years later, at the end of chapter 14, he was forced to retire from the pulpit ministry because of illness. He spent the rest of his life editing the manuscripts of his sermons. All his sermons were recorded on tape, and are available at https://www.mljtrust.org/free-sermons/book-of-romans/

My Daily MLJ, January 28, 2022

Congregations rather like a preacher to talk about himself. They always sit up and show a fresh interest if he starts doing so. ‘Ah!’, they say, ‘how interesting!’ when he has told them what happened to him!…

Congregations often spoil preachers; they encourage them to do certain wrong things. If the preacher starts speaking to their flesh they will respond, and they will show an interest which they were not showing in his doctrine, and the temptation to him is to give them more of the flesh, and to talk more about himself, and they will like it. They will smile, and they will enjoy it, and they will say, ‘It’s wonderful, and we have had a great time!’ And in the meantime, Christ has been forgotten, and the spiritual message has not been emphasized and has not been stressed.

Romans, vol 1; Chapter 16, p 211-212

I used to preach for a Christian youth camp. I was on staff for ten weeks, and would preach the same messages every week for the kids that were at camp that week.

I discovered as the summer went on that if a group had laughed at a story the week before, I would embellish the story a little more the following week. The illustrations would get longer and the Bible teaching would get shorter week after week.

I wish I could say I’ve matured and grown up since then. But the only real difference is that I don’t preach the same sermons every week. The temptation to talk more about me than about Jesus is just as real for me as a father and grandfather as it was when I was a single college student. It’s what congregations give the most positive feedback on.

Oh, Lord, let me preach only and always to please you, and magnify you, and bring glory to you. Let self be abased.

This year I’m trying to read through Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ 14 volume exposition of Romans. Lloyd-Jones began teaching through Romans on Friday nights at Westminster Chapel in London on October 7, 1955. Thirteen years later, at the end of chapter 14, he was forced to retire from the pulpit ministry because of illness. He spent the rest of his life editing the manuscripts of his sermons. All his sermons were recorded on tape, and are available at https://www.mljtrust.org/free-sermons/book-of-romans/

Review of “Putting it Together: How Stephen Sondheim and I Created Sunday in the Park With George” by James Lapine

I was a theater minor in college, and in one of my classes we watched the musical “Sunday in the Park With George,” about Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. I had never heard of the musical or the painting. The most I knew was that Mandy Patinkin (who played Seurat) was Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, and the painting was featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

I got obsessed with the musical, and with the painting. When my creative writing class assignment was to write a poem about a piece of art, I wrote about Seurat’s painting, choosing the most complicated form and rhyme scheme I could think of (an Italian sonnet in trochaic hexameter or something) because I wanted to capture what a precise and technical painter Seurat was. The poem was awful, by the way, and I deserved the “pretentious and lifeless” comment from my professor when I turned it in.

When I went to Chicago, I made a pilgrimage to the Art Institute to see La Grand Jatte in person. I swear to you, my breath caught in my chest when I entered the gallery where it hangs, huge and beautiful and brilliant.

So when I was looking for something to read on Scrib’d, this one caught my eye. It is an oral history by James Lapine, who collaborated with Sondheim on Sunday, and would later team with him again on Into the Woods.

Lapine’s writing flows easily between exposition and interviews with the various actors, producers, and designers he worked with, as well as conversations with Sondheim himself. The audiobook does a great job of using various voice actors to read the interview bits. An extra treat for fans of the TV show Blue Bloods is that the voice actor who reads Sondheim is Len Cariou, who plays the patriarch of the Reagan clan. Of course, if the audiobook had actually had Sondheim, Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Kelsey Grammar, Christina Baranski, and all the others that had a hand in the development of Sunday it would be priceless.

As it is, this is still a pretty incredible history of the making of this particular musical, and it’s a fascinating glimpse into the whole process of collaboration and development for any creative work. Lapine doesn’t shy away from talking with the people he didn’t get along with on the set, and enough time has passed that no one comes across as still having an axe to grind.

If you ever saw Sunday in the Park With George, have ever listened to the music, or if you just like French Impressionism, this book is essential reading/listening. But even if you are just interested in the creative process, what it takes to put on a Broadway show, or are looking for some insight into how to work with creatives, you will enjoy this book.

My Daily MLJ, January 27, 2022

You can, if you like, draw up a profit and loss account; here are the things in favour; here are the things against. You arrive at your total. You work it out. You use reason, common sense, understanding. You may consult other people. You can take other opinions. All that is perfectly legitimate.


Yet I am asserting strongly that… the most important and the most crucial of all is this
‘witness of the Holy Spirit’ in our spirits. I sometimes put it like this: even though you may be satisfied in your mind about a course of action; even though, in general, circumstances may be
agreeing with what you have decided in your mind, if there is a sense of uncertainty or of unhappiness within, then do not move, do not act. There I think is the prohibition of the Spirit.

Romans, vol 1, ch 15, p 200

This jumped out to me because it is so in line with what we are learning together in Experiencing God. Henry Blackaby says that “God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.”

As Martyn Lloyd-Jones reflected on Romans 1:13, where Paul says he had “thus far been prevented” from going to Rome, he essentially lays out the same pattern Blackaby does. The Holy Spirit interprets Scripture for us. He helps us pray. He leads us to evaluate circumstances and the advice of others in accordance with God’s will. And following God is really about tuning your spirit to be more sensitive to God’s Holy Spirit.

This year I’m trying to read through Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ 14 volume exposition of Romans. Lloyd-Jones began teaching through Romans on Friday nights at Westminster Chapel in London on October 7, 1955. Thirteen years later, at the end of chapter 14, he was forced to retire from the pulpit ministry because of illness. He spent the rest of his life editing the manuscripts of his sermons.

The Martyn Lloyd-Jonas Trust has every one of the audio recordings of the sermons available on their podcast. Here is the one I listened to this morning.

Romans, Part 3: The Power of the Gospel and the Wrath of God (Romans 1:16-25)

In order to truly understand the good news of the Gospel, we have to understand the bad news of the human condition.

Download sermon manuscript from sermoncentral.com

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