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May 21, 2015

Testimony is a good Christian word, isn’t it? It is a word we use to describe a person’s account of their conversion. At Grace Fellowship Church we ask people to share their testimony aloud before they are baptized, and to send it in printed form to the members of the church as they apply for church membership. Sometimes at an evening service we will invite someone to come to the front and to tell us how the Lord saved her. We even keep a big binder full of these testimonies for anyone who would like to read through them—an amazing collection of stories that are so very different and yet all tell the same story.

Do you talk about your conversion? Do you find yourself thinking back to it and recounting its circumstances? Do you remember and share your testimony? John Flavel considers this one of the great joys and responsibilities of the Christian life saying, “This is a subject which every gracious heart loves to steep its thoughts in. It is certainly the sweetest history that ever they repeated; they love to think and talk of it.” Do you?

In chapter 3 of Flavel’s book The Mystery of Providence, Flavel instructs his reader in the importance of considering and recounting God’s providence in our salvation.

In nothing does Providence shine forth more gloriously in this world than in ordering the occasions, instruments and means of conversion of the people of God. However skilfully its hand had moulded your bodies, however tenderly it had preserved them and however bountifully it had provided for them; if it had not also ordered some means or other for your conversion, all the former favours and benefits it had done for you had meant little. This, O this, is the most excellent benefit you ever received from its hand. You are more indebted to it for this, than for all your other mercies. And in explaining this performance of Providence, I cannot but think your hearts must be deeply affected.

But with all the emphasis we place on testimony, there is one kind of person that can sometimes feel a little bit inadequate—the person who grew up in a Christian home, who put his faith in Christ at a very young age and through circumstances that may have long since been lost to the mists of time.

Flavel acknowledges this person, stating that not every Christian can recount the circumstances of their salvation in quite the same way. While for some people salvation was “wrought in person of riper years, who in their youthful days were more profane and vile,” for others salvation came to “persons in their tender years, into whose hearts grace was more imperceptibly and indiscernibly instilled by God’s blessing upon pious education.”

In the former sort, the distinct acts of the Spirit, illuminating, convincing, humbling, drawing them to Christ and sealing them are more evident and discernible. In the latter, these are more obscure and confused. They can remember that God gave them an esteem and liking of godly persons, care of duty and conscience of sin; but as to the time, place, instruments and manner of the work, they can give but a slender account of them.

There is a clear difference between these people, but it is not the difference between genuine and false salvation. Rather, God has simply chosen to bring about the miracle of conversion in a different way.

However, if the work is savingly wrought in them, there is no reason they should be troubled because the circumstances of it are not so evident to them as they are to others. Let the substance and reality of the work appear and there is no reason to afflict yourselves because of the lack of evidence of such circumstance.

In other words, salvation is no more genuine to those who can clearly remember and recount the circumstances that led to their conversion. And I would go so far as to say that the “boring” testimonies of childhood conversions are the most blessed of all. After all, aren’t these exactly the testimonies we wish for our children?

Next Week

We will continue our reading next week with chapter 4: “God’s Providence in Our Work.” Read it by next Thursday and check in to see what I (and others) have to say about it.

Your Turn

The purpose of this project is to read classics together. So do feel free to leave a comment if you have something you would like to say. Alternatively, you may leave a link to your blog or Facebook or anywhere else you have reflected on what you have read.

If you would like to read along with us, we have only just begun, so there is lots of time to get caught up. Simply get a copy of the book and start reading…

Image credit: Shutterstock

May 21, 2015

Here are some Kindle deals that may interest you. New from GLH Publishing is the classic The Glory of Christ by John Owen ($0.99). Other deals include Exploring the Unexplained by Trent Butler ($2.99); The Big Idea of Biblical Preaching ($1.99); I Am a Church Member by Thom Rainer ($2.99). There are lots of other general market deals here. Free today is When Your Husband Is Addicted to Pornography by Vicki Tiede and A Quest for More by Paul Tripp.

Not the Unforgivable Sin - “Divorce is not the unforgivable sin. As a Christian, the only scarlet God sees on you is the blood of Christ, which covers your sins and presents you before God as his blameless child.”

The Financial Ruin of a Christian Family - Denny Burk reports on the latest news about Aaron and Melissa Klein. 

Running From a Bad Church - Trevin Wax urges caution toward those who are running from a bad church situation. 

Voddie Baucham’s Big Move to Africa - WORLD magazine interviews Voddie Baucham, and eventually asks him about his forthcoming move to Africa.

The First 21 Days - This is some remarkable footage of the first 21 days of a bee’s life.

16 Secrets of One Happy Marriage - There is always something to learn from articles like this one.

Sisters, Let’s Become Cheerleaders - Elisha has a good word to herself and other women.

It is a greater mercy to descend from praying parents than from nobles. —John Flavel

Flavel

 

May 20, 2015

WTS Commentaries
Westminster Books is having a great sale on commentaries—the Tyndale Commentary series that spans both the Old Testament and the New. For the next few days you can buy single volumes at $12 each. (The list price is closer to $18.) If you buy 5 or more volumes the price drops to $10 each, which represents quite a bargain. These are reader-friendly commentaries ideal for layperson or pastor alike. I get excited about sales like these because I love great commentaries!

While I am not aware of any of these volumes being bad, there are quite a few that are especially good. Some time ago I compiled a list of the top-5 commentaries for each book of the Bible (though I still need to finish out the Minor Prophets). This top-5 was not based on my assessment but on a group of experts who have written commentaries on the commentaries. Here is a list of each of the Tyndale commentaries that is considered among the best on that book of the Bible.

Old Testament

New Testament

Happy shopping! And even better, happy reading!

May 20, 2015

Imagine if you could go back. Imagine if you could race back through time and see all of your Google searches plotted out with the date and location of each one. In that unusual way, you would have compiled a short biography of your life. You would have compiled a short narrative of your marriage and parenting.

You would see the time your child was going through those temper tantrums and you searched for ideas on how to make it stop. You would see the time you and your spouse were struggling with satisfaction and you went looking for some tips to spice things up. You would see the time you decided to start paying your children an allowance and you headed to the blogs to see what others do. There would be all these searches, and countless thousands more; assembled together they would form a fascinating portrait of your life. Google may know you better than you know yourself. Google remembers things about you that you’ve long since forgotten.

Google has become such a part of our lives that we tend to forget its newness and its historical uniqueness. Just a generation ago parents and spouses had to find answers in an entirely different way. And I wonder what we’ve lost along the way.

God has got his own version of Google and, until recently, it was the one Christians relied on. God’s version of Google is called the local church. When we have questions about life and marriage and parenting and so much else, there is rarely a better place to go than the local church. When we want to see marriage and parenting modeled for us, there is no more natural place to turn. “I want kids like your kids, so let me spend time with you. I want a marriage like your marriage, so let me observe and ask you questions.”

The beauty of the local church is that it allows us to receive truth filtered through people we actually know. We know the people giving us counsel and are able to gauge their skill and credibility. We get to see real marriages and real parenting, and we learn who is worthy of imitation. And then we simply observe and ask questions. Why do you do things that way? How do you deal with this situation? Where do you go when struggling? What are some of your most formative books?

There is something so deeply and helpfully humbling about having to approach another person rather than simply typing a few sentences into the search engine. But there is something so rewarding about telling the other person, about meeting together, about receiving counsel, about being prayed for. The relationship is so much deeper, the reward so much greater.

On the other hand, there can be something concerningly proud about going online first. You head straight to Google and go looking for answers to your questions and problems. You collect information that sounds so correct and so fresh. (It’s from the Internet, after all, and from a pretty site plastered with well-composed photos of a happy family) What you learn from a peer on the Web may seem like the new thing, whereas it is easy to write off what you learn from that grandmother in the church as hopelessly outdated. But here’s what you forget: It is not just the answers you are looking for, but the wisdom, the relationship, and the prayer.

Now look, the Internet is awesome. Google is awesome. There are many reasons to use them every day. But only one of these things is God’s ordained means for our sanctification and only one of these things will last forever. Go ahead and Google, but don’t neglect the beauty and wisdom of the people who worship right beside you each Sunday.

It is so easy and so natural to go online to look for answers, that we may just pass over the most obvious means of help. It is here, in the local church, that we have people who are deeply invested in us and specifically called and gifted to assist us. Church first, Google later.

Image credit: Shutterstock

May 20, 2015

Commentary Sale - Westminster Books is having a fantastic commentary sale, offering paperback volumes in the solid Tyndale Commentary series for just $10 each (which is very, very low). Stay tuned and I’ll post an article suggesting which are the best in the series.

Does R.C. Sproul Believe in Miracles? - “If you want me to give the simple answer, the answer is no. [I]f you expect a miracle—if miracles are expectable—there’s nothing miraculous about them.” However…

The Well-Gifted Grad - Here are some solid ideas for books to gift to grads.

Rome, Her Saints, and the Gospel - “What is a saint? How does one become a saint? And what is Rome doing when they canonize someone?”

4 Principles for Finishing Well - This one is for students who can just about smell the summer coming.

Five Things Every Christian Should be Doing with God’s Word - In Psalm 119 we find “David interacting with the Word of God in five ways that should be paradigmatic for all believers…”

Ten Unforgettable Lessons - Ray Ortlund shares 10 unforgettable lessons on fatherhood that he learned from his own father.

Maybe the reason we’re not humbled by the holiness of God is we’ve fashioned a God who is just like us. —Ryan Huguley

Huguley

 

May 19, 2015

When I was a kid I loved to collect things, though, in retrospect, rarely for very long. For a while it was stamps, then coins, then model airplanes, then this, then that, then the other thing. Somehow, though, I always had some little collection on the go.

I have long since given up collecting much of anything except for this: quotes. I am a collector of quotes. I am not as organized as I would like to be, and not as committed as I ought to be, but I am still building a pretty good collection. Every week I send a batch of favorites to a graphic designer so that 6 days a week I can share one of them through various social channels. (You can find the definitive collection of these quote graphics at Pinterest.)

Now it all sounds very simple, and it really should be. But I have found, rather to my surprise, that many people do not know how to enjoy a quote. To the contrary, too many people ruin a perfectly good quote because they just don’t know how to make the most of it. Within 10 minutes of posting a quote, no matter what it says or who said it, someone will object. It is inevitable. No sooner do I post the quote than someone replies to tell me why they disagree with it (and, very possibly, why I am a rank heretic for ever sharing it in the first place).

The most common objection is that the quote does not contain the entire truth. The quote may be true, but not always true or not wholly true. John Flavel says, “A twig is brought to any form, but grown trees will not bow. How few are converted in old age!” But someone objects to say that his grandmother was saved at the age of 72. “The true test of our worldview is what we find entertaining,” says Al Mohler. But that person’s conscience is clear and she says she can thank God for the entertainment another person might find objectionable.

The very thing these people are objecting to is the beauty and value of the quotes: They provide a dimension of truth and give us the opportunity to reflect on what is true. Few single sentences contain exhaustive truth—that is too great a burden for 20 words or 140 characters. I can say, “Christ died for our sins and was raised” as a summary of the gospel, or I can write a 10-volume series exploring every nuance of the gospel. Both are true, but one far more completely true. In that way the quotes I share are much like Solomon’s Proverbs—rarely exhaustively true, but always true to at least some degree. This is why Solomon could share contradictory proverbs, because neither one is true all the time and in every situation (see Proverbs 26:4-5). The benefit of a good quote is in pondering it, in considering the extent to which it is true and the situations in which it is true. The joy of a quote is in thinking about it, yet without over-thinking it.

Quotes are like lozenges, great for savoring but terrible for just straight-out swallowing. Learn how to savor good quotes.

Havner

Spurgeon

Gembola

Ryle

Image credit: Shutterstock

May 19, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Rise by Trip Lee ($1.99); The Hardest Peace by Kara Tippetts ($0.99); Seven Men by Eric Metaxas ($1.99); Coffee with Calvin by Donald McKim ($1.99); The White Horse King by Benjamin Merkle ($0.99); Mere Apologetics by Alistair McGrath ($2.51); A City Upon a Hill by Larry Witham ($1.99); 

Adding Stars - Don’t miss this one! “So, we send off the ones we love and we go forth ourselves—over oceans and just across the street, into hostile regions of foreign countries and into the familiar comfort of a culturally Christian Bible Belt. Each is as full of wandering and wondering souls as the other.”

Students! Seize the Summer! - Here’s some good counsel for students.

What is Marriage to Evangelical Millennials? - “The one promise I make to my students at the beginning of the course is that they are guaranteed to read something they will find disagreeable, probably even offensive. That promise used to be easier to keep.”

A Goodbye to Youth Ministry - As Mike Leake says farewell to youth ministry, he lays out a simple, helpful philosophy of youth ministry.

The Benefits of an Annual Study Group - I’ve always loved what Darryl models here: An annual study group with a bunch of like-minded people.

Family Ministry - Writing primarily to pastors, Timothy Paul Jones offers three truths and three tips to engage with families in your church.

Wolf Hall and the Protestant Reformation - [Especially] If you watched the PBS series Wolf Hall, you may be interested in this article on the main characters and what became of them.

We must meditate, brothers. These grapes will yield no wine till we tread upon them. —C.H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon