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April 2012

April 26, 2012

I don’t just read, you know. I also listen to music and always love it when a new CD shows up in my post office box or, more commonly, when a new set of MP3s arrives in my inbox. Here are just a few of the albums I have been enjoying in recent days.

Open  Your DoorsOpen Your Doors by Jenny & Tyler - I had several people email me to say that I needed to give this one a listen. I’m glad I did and, in fact, I’ve been listening to it a lot. It is very stripped-down, melodic music that focuses on praise. I only wish I had the lyrics somewhere so I could follow along. Favorite tracks include “Little Balloon” and “See the Conquerer.”

The Good LifeThe Good Life by Trip Lee - I recently interviewed Trip Lee about this album but thought I’d mention it again. The Good Life is an album I’ve listened to again and again in the weeks I’ve owned it and I don’t think I’m done with it yet. Trip focuses on lies about what the good life is and celebrates a life of humble obedience. My favorite tracks include “Robot” and “War.” My kids love “One Sixteen.”

From Age to AgeFrom Age to Age by Sovereign Grace Music - “Inspired and influenced by hymn writers of the past like Martin Luther, Augustus Toplady, and Charles Wesley, From Age to Age contains 14 new hymns that combine rich, theologically driven lyrics with singable melodies for the glory of the Savior whose praises know no end.” The songs are uniform in their sound theology and vary a little bit in their suitability for congregational worship.

The Last MissionaryThe Last Missionary by Stephen the Levite - For those not familiar with the artist, Stephen the Levite is a rapper who, like many others in Christian rap, infuses the genre with sound theology. Here’s a description of the album: “God is quite clear on how His mission is to be carried out. Burdened by this, and with great affection for Christ’s glory, Stephen the Levite, has drafted up and presented his latest musical offering featuring: Timothy Brindle, Hazakim, Leah Smith, muzeONE, and more! Join us on the journey to explore and answer the question at hand, ‘Who is the Last Missionary?’”

April 26, 2012

Reading Classics Together
Today we continue to read through John Bunyan’s classic work The Pilgrim’s Progress, and we arrive at the eighth stage of his journey. This week Christian and Hopeful journey on and come to the Delectable Mountains. This is a chapter that required me to re-read it (or really to listen to it and then to read it).

Discussion

If my understanding is correct, Bunyan uses the Delectable Mountains to point to the place and the power of the local church in the life of the Christian. It is a place of rest, a place of feeding and a place to be warned of error, all under the care and oversight of loving shepherds. In this case the shepherds are called Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere.

You can see the care Bunyan used in welcoming people into his own church. He was obviously a man who highly valued church membership and sought to extend it only to those who were truly converted.

I saw also in my dream, that when the shepherds perceived that they were wayfaring men, they also put questions to them, (to which they made answer as in other places,) as, Whence came you? and, How got you into the way? and, By what means have you so persevered therein? for but few of them that begin to come hither, do show their face on these mountains. But when the shepherds heard their answers, being pleased therewith, they looked very lovingly upon them, and said, Welcome to the Delectable Mountains.

You can also see a plurality of elders here, with different character qualities of an elder displayed in each of these men. Having concluded that Christian and Hopeful are genuine in their pilgrimage, they now act in unity: “Then said the shepherds one to another, Shall we show these pilgrims some wonders? So when they had concluded to do it, they had them first to the top of a hill called Error, which was very steep on the farthest side, and bid them look down to the bottom.” They proceed to teach them about error, to caution them about going astray, to give them a glance into hell, and to provide them with a glimpse of the Celestial City. 

April 26, 2012

Consistent Complementarianism - Merely being complementarian is not enough. Michael McKinley says “I see a lot of men who assert their headship in their home, but who do not take a consistent approach to the authorities set over them by God (or God himself).”

A Beautiful, Dirty Mind - Someone sent me this article, which talks about the man who may be the most intelligent person on the planet. Yet he is consumed with lust and envy and jealousy. Luke 12:48 comes to mind: To whom much is given, much will be required.

Slow Mastery - This is a simple article that lists ten examples of great achievements (granted they’re not all quite so great) that took time.

Doubting Darwin - Marvin Olasky: “The sky is falling! Many interest groups and journalists raced to tell that to the public when a modest but important bill became law in Tennessee early in April.”

Make that Digital Elephant Disappear - Nathan Bingham has some good things to say about ministries in a digital age. The heart of it is this simple statement: “Quality online resources often take a team of people with great skill, at great cost, with a great investment of time.”

That Idol Doesn’t Love You Back - It’s always true: the idol that you love doesn’t love you back.

It is right that our hearts should be on God, when the heart of God is so much on us. —Richard Baxter

April 25, 2012

About a month ago I announced the start of a new series of posts in which I will attempt to define theological terms succinctly and simply (as much as this is possible). I began with a definition of the category itself—theology—and am now finally getting around to the second term.

Trinity is a word that, like theology, we do not find in the Bible itself. Nevertheless, like theology, it is no less biblical, because the concept that it summarizes is clearly evident in Scripture, from the first page to the last.

Trinity refers to the nature of God’s existence and is a theological description that distinguishes genuine, biblical Christianity from so many cults and frauds. The name itself could be understood as the combination of the words “triple” and “unity,” and that would just about capture the main idea. 

In very basic terms, Trinity refers to God’s three-fold being—the fact that he has always been and forever will be one God who consists, simultaneously and distinctly, in three Persons (Father, Son and Spirit), who are each fully God.

Any definition of Trinity warrants additional explanation of all that it does (and doesn’t) mean. For a next step in understanding the doctrine, I recommend checking out the infographic I put together recently. Here is how I defined the term in that graphic:

God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.

If you haven’t ever read a book on the Trinity, you would do well to read one as soon as possible! I recommend James White’s The Forgotten Trinity or Bruce Ware’s Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; both are excellent places to go for an introduction or refresher.

April 25, 2012

I have a love-hate relationship with e-books. Among the issues I’ve grappled with most is that of ownership: Which option offers the greater sense or reality of ownership? Is there greater ownership in having a physical copy of a book I can hold in my hand and file on my bookcase, or in having that book available to me anywhere in the world in electronic format? There is a kind of trade-off here.

My brain has not yet been able to fully adjust to digital versus physical ownership. I realized this a couple of weeks ago when I bought a novel in Kindle format. I loved that novel and enjoyed reading it on my Kindle, but at the end of it all I found myself wanting to visit the bookstore to buy a printed version of it, something I could put in my office and add to my bookcase almost like a kind of trophy, a relic that says something about me, about what I’ve loved. I found it interesting that somewhere beyond conscious thought and reason, my brain registers a difference between these things. My brain tells me that I don’t fully own something until I own it physically. Somehow my mind registers owning a Kindle book as something less than owning a book printed in ink on dead trees.

Mortimer Adler points out that there are two ways of owning a book. “The first is the property right you establish by paying for it, just as you pay for clothes and furniture. But this act of purchase is only the prelude to possession. Full ownership comes only when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it is by writing in it.” E-books allow you to have some kind of a property right, though this is still very different from owning a book. In reality it is more like owning insurance than owning furniture. In one case the ownership is virtual and even revocable. In the other case the ownership is physical and irrevocable. You can own an e-book, but it seems a lesser form of ownership than owning a book (as Kindle users discovered when one day their copies of 1984 suddenly disappeared). Owning the rights to read the contents of a digital file is far, far different than owning the book that sits on the desk beside me. Then again, those digital files are available anywhere at any time.

April 25, 2012

3 Ways to Encourage Your Pastor - R.C. Sproul Jr. offers up three really good ways to encourage your pastor. As I read these, I realized that though I am a pastor, I ought to be more deliberate in encouraging the other pastors at my church!

Building Healthy Churches - 9Marks has just released a helpful new series of study guides along with some new books on church discipline and church membership. Westminster Books has it all on sale; now’s the time to stock up!

Jane Goodall and Worshipping Chimps - This is truly an odd article to find at Christianity Today. They interview Jane Goodall who says that chimps have souls and that they worship.

2012 Band of Bloggers - Just prior to T4G, I and a bunch of other bloggers got together to discuss the state of modern Christian blogging. The audio is now available if you want to listen in.

Joel Osteen and Mormonism - Joel Osteen continues to lead astray: “When I hear Mitt Romney say that he believes that Jesus is the Son of God–that he’s the Christ, raised from the dead, that he’s his Savior—that’s good enough for me.” And, “Mormonism is a little different, but I still see them as brothers in Christ.”

The Ugly American - Dr. Mohler writes about a blight on America: “By the end of the last decade, American officials were aware that sex trafficking was taking place in cities large and small. Women, along with boys and girls, were being kidnapped in far parts of the world and on the streets of American cities, to be sold into what could only be considered as sexual slavery.”

The man who tries to do something and fails is infinitely better than the man who tries to do nothing and succeeds. —Martyn Lloyd-Jones

April 24, 2012

This week’s Connected Kingdom podcast discusses with seminary, whether it is good and necessary and wise and all the rest. You won’t be surprised to learn that David Murray does the bulk of the speaking! You’ve got two options: You can read the transcript below or you can listen in by clicking on the audio player. If you listen in, you’ll be able to hear the two of us interact a little bit.


CKI have a hate-love relationship with Seminary.

When I was converted in my early twenties, and sensed an almost immediate sense of call to the ministry, I was looking at six years of training before I got near a congregation. (I’d gone straight from High School into Finance, because, I mean, who needs a degree to make a million dollars? Right!)

Six years? Three years at University, then three at Seminary? The world needs me,  the Church needs me, lost souls need me! Why do I need books, lectures, professors, etc?

I was ready to jump on to MV Logos and save the world. Yet, despite trying hard to find someone to confirm my vital stop-the-clock mission, every voice, without exception, told me to get some education and some theological training first. 

So with much reluctance and considerable resistance, I started the long, weary six-year plod through Glasgow University, then Seminary in Edinburgh.

Seminary Misery

Glasgow University taught me how to learn, and Seminary taught me what I needed to learn. At least, that was the theory. I’m afraid my Seminary years were a fairly miserable experience. Some of that was my own fault; but most of it wasn’t.

April 24, 2012

Charles ColsonI don’t mean to be a curmudgeon and I don’t mean to be insensitive, truly. Perhaps there are rules that govern these things, and I am violating them, or maybe I am just missing some vital piece of information. I don’t know. But I have been to a wide variety of Christian blogs and news sites reading the obituaries and memorials and remembrances of Charles Colson and have been surprised to note that they are have been very nearly uniformly, unabashedly positive. 

I am not convinced that we are doing right here. I suppose I would rather wait a little while to say this, but then the opportunity will be gone. At least to my understanding, Colson’s legacy was both more and less than people are making it out to be. I didn’t really understand the man in all his inconsistencies and complexities while he lived—the combination of good and bad baffled me—and I certainly don’t understand him now that he has died.

Don’t hear me say that Colson was a complete villain, but do hear me when I say that he leaves behind a legacy that is far more multi-faceted, far more multi-dimensional, than most people have been saying. It is a legacy that includes some dark chapters, and not only prior to his conversion.

Charles Colson leaves behind a testimony of a man who encountered grace at his darkest hour. He leaves behind a legacy of a ministry that seeks to extend grace to those who are likewise in their darkest hour. He sought to teach Christians how to think—to describe and define a biblical worldview. And then he sought to lead in the application of that biblical worldview, and this is where things become hazy, where a positive legacy collides with a woeful one, where his work for the Lord encounters his work against the Lord’s church.

The fact is that as we remember this man, we remember someone who labored to strike a significant blow against the gospel, and who time and again called on the church to do the same. And this is what is absent in so many remembrances. He labored for good and positive causes, but he also labored for outright sinful causes.