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June 2012

June 24, 2012

I caught this over at the Desiring God blog, and it was too good not to share. This is D.A. Carson’s summary of the Bible in 221 words. It has been excerpted from For Such a Time as This: Perspectives on Evangelicalism, Past, Present and Future.

God is the sovereign, transcendent and personal God who has made the universe, including us, his image-bearers. Our misery lies in our rebellion, our alienation from God, which, despite his forbearance, attracts his implacable wrath.

But God, precisely because love is of the very essence of his character, takes the initiative and prepared for the coming of his own Son by raising up a people who, by covenantal stipulations, temple worship, systems of sacrifice and of priesthood, by kings and by prophets, are taught something of what God is planning and what he expects.

In the fullness of time his Son comes and takes on human nature. He comes not, in the first instance, to judge but to save: he dies the death of his people, rises from the grave and, in returning to his heavenly Father, bequeaths the Holy Spirit as the down payment and guarantee of the ultimate gift he has secured for them—an eternity of bliss in the presence of God himself, in a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The only alternative is to be shut out from the presence of this God forever, in the torments of hell. What men and women must do, before it is too late, is repent and trust Christ; the alternative is to disobey the gospel (Romans 10:16;2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).

June 23, 2012

In The Big Fight, a new book from The Christian Book Company (edited by Richard Perkins and Tim Thornborough), Richard Coekin has a helpful section on guilt. Writing specifically to men, he highlights four different kinds of guilt men (or women) may experience.

1. Many men don’t feel guilty before God when they should!

The Psalmist observed:

An announcement is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: there is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin. (Psalm 36: 1-2)

Many men don’t seek the Saviour because they don’t fear God as they should because they don’t feel guilty enough about their sin.

2. Many religious men feel guilty before God about things that aren’t wrong!

The Apostle Paul also warns us about false teachers who:

forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving. (1 Timothy 4: 3)

Many men are taught by human religions to feel guilty about thoroughly good things like getting married or eating certain food or other blessings from God eg: the food laws of Judaism, the fasting laws of Islam or the vows of Roman Catholic monks.

3. Many men rightly feel guilty before God when His Spirit is convicting them of their need for the Saviour!

Jesus said:

When he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment… (John 16: 8)

This means that Jesus’ Holy Spirit continues to convict us through the Scriptures of our guilt under God’s law, to show us our need of Him. This is our experience when we’re becoming Christians and throughout our lives as Christians. Our awareness of guilt is an encouraging sign of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in our lives. But His ministry doesn’t end with guilt.

4. Christian men shouldn’t keep feeling guilty because we are cleansed from our guilt by Jesus’ blood!

The letter to the Hebrews says:

let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience. (Hebrews 10: 22)

He’s been explaining that, like a high priest entering God’s presence with the blood of a sacrifice for the sins of his people, Jesus has permanently entered God’s presence in heaven as our High Priest with the sacrifice of His own blood shed for our sins on the cross. This means that the way is now open for us to live for ever in the presence of God without guilt, if we are “sprinkled” with Jesus’ blood through trusting in His death for our sins.

June 22, 2012

I love writing book reviews and I love reading them. Since I cannot possibly read and review all of the interesting books out there, I publish occasional round-ups of reviews written by other writers. Here are a few notable links I’ve collected over the past few weeks.

Subversive Kingdom by Ed Stetzer. Reviewed by Mark Tubbs. “An unrelenting manifesto for sold-out allegiance to, and activity on behalf of, the one true King of kings and Lord of lords. … Using a selection of Jesus’ parables as source texts, Stetzer shows just how subversive Jesus’ teachings were…and are, for they remain eminently applicable to twenty-first century Christian life.” (Learn more and shop at Amazon)

Killing Calvinism by Greg Dutcher. Reviewed by Mike Leake. “Every Calvinist needs to read this book, whether you’re a new member to club Calvin or you’ve been a Calvinist longer than Charlton Heston has been Moses.  Even those that are non-Calvinist ought to read this book and see the heart of many within the Reformed/Calvinistic movement.  We truly do want to live out the doctrines of grace as Greg Dutcher describes in this book.  When we don’t it’s not a fault of the “system” but of our own hearts.” (Learn more and shop at Amazon

Equipping Counselors for Your Church by Robert Kellemen. Reviewed by Aaron Armstrong. “A much-needed book. It’s practical, helpful and thorough advice offers a strong vision for every-member, one-another ministry—one where every member of the church really is a disciple maker. I’d encourage any church leader to read this book if you’re at all considering incorporating biblical counseling into your ministry—it will take some time, but it will be a blessing to you and your congregation.” (Learn more and shop at Amazon or Westminster Books)

June 22, 2012

Free Stuff Fridays
This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Eternal Perspective Ministries, the ministry of Randy Alcorn. They are offering five great prize packages, each of which contains hardcover editions of three of Randy’s books:

  • Heaven - In the most comprehensive and definitive book on Heaven to date, Randy invites you to picture Heaven the way Scripture describes it.
  • We Shall See God - Alcorn has compiled the most profound spiritual insights on the topic of eternity from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and arranged them into an easily-accessible, highly inspirational format.
  • Eternal Perspectives - A comprehensive collection of quotations intended to stir your soul with a myriad of thoughts and imaginings on the wonderful world that awaits us. 

Eternal PerspectivesHere’s a little bit more about Eternal Perspectives, Alcorn’s most recent book:

Brimming with more than 1500 verses, quotes, and selected reflections on the topic of Heaven, the New Earth, and life after death, Eternal Perspectives is the most comprehensive collection of quotations about Heaven ever compiled. Filled with inspirational passages and insights from such noted authors, scholars, and theologians as Augustine, Aquinas, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, C.S. Lewis, A. W. Tozer, Alister McGrath, John Piper, N. T. Wright, Joni Eareckson Tada, and many others, Eternal Perspectives is the ultimate resource for anyone looking for inspirational quotes and passages on the topic of Heaven.

Whether you choose to skip from section to section or read the entire volume straight through, these profound and enlightening insights will help you draw closer to the one who made you for himself, deepen your desire for the place he is making for you, and provide you with a multitude of life changing eternal perspectives.

Also, EPM is offering you 20% off the already discounted prices in the EPM online store when you use the discount code challies at checkout. Offer expires June 29, 2012. For example, Randy’s book Heaven (retail $24.99, EPM everyday low price $14.99) is $11.99 with the discount. When you purchase Randy’s books from the EPM online store, the profits go directly to support the work of the ministry and fund their operating expenses. This frees them up to continue giving away 100% of the author book royalties to missions, famine relief, pro-life work, and other worthy ministries.

If you’d like to connect with EPM and learn about other specials and promotions for Randy Alcorn’s books, like them on Facebook.

Giveaway Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.

Note: If you are reading via RSS, you may need to visit my blog to see the form.

June 22, 2012

St. Andrews Hymns - I’ve been enjoying this new album of reimagined hymns. You can listen to the whole thing at the site. There are a few well-known ones, and a few that you may not have sung before. (lyrics are here)

Is Obama a Christian? - Owen Strachan writes about how Christians might think about the Gospel and the President, suggesting that there is little evidence that he is a Christian. Another writer responds and disagrees.

$5 Friday - This week’s $5 Friday at Ligonier is a good one. There’s a Sinclair Ferguson book for $5 (in hardcover, even) and several R.C. Sproul teaching series.

The 2012 SBC Convention - Al Mohler shares some reflections on the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention. From what I’ve been reading, it seems like it was a particularly noteworthy event.

Acknowledging Daily Mercies - Part of the joy of doing Reading Classics Together is in seeing how other people respond to the books we read. Here’s a reflection I enjoyed on a chapter in The Hidden Life of Prayer.

Aging Biblically - Here’s a word from Francis Chan on aging biblically. This is an urgent issue when you consider that the people who watch the most television (something like 7.5 hours a day!) are those 65 and older. Too few people use their later years well.

Stop Stealing from Your Children - “There’s a crime wave going on in your neighborhood—possibly even in your own home. It’s a crime wave that won’t make it to the nightly news, but not because it isn’t serious, for it scars generations and teaches them to commit the same crime.”

Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world. —Francis Schaeffer

June 21, 2012

This is the sixth installment in a series on theological terms. See previous posts on the terms theology, Trinity, creation, man, and Fall.

Why is it that after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden and incurred the just penalty of death, they did not immediately die? What enabled them to go on living to enjoy the many of the benefits of life for years afterward (food, marriage, sex, children, etc.)? And why do so many sinners today enjoy those same benefits, even those who will never believe?

In general, we can answer by pointing to grace—a fitting description for every one of God’s blessing, each of which is, by very definition, undeserved. However, because the grace we are talking about here is poured out “on the just and on the unjust” (that is, on both believers and unbelievers—see Matthew 5:45), and since it is of a different kind than the other manifestations of grace we read about in Scripture (e. g. forgiveness of sin, adoption into the family of God, eternal life in heaven—that is, special grace, or graces related to redemption), theologians have found it helpful to distinguish this as common grace. It is common in that it extends to all people without distinction just as the common room at a university is accessible to every student.

As Wayne Grudem succintly defines it in his excellent Systematic Theology, “Common grace is the grace of God by which he gives people innumerable blessings that are not part of salvation.” Berkhof tells us what such grace accomplishes: “[It] curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art, and showers untold blessings upon the children of men.” Thus common grace encompasses not only physical blessings like rain and food and health, but also blessings in the areas of intellect, morality, creativity, society, and religion. Like all grace, all undeserved favor, it is meant to point us to our kind, loving Creator.

June 21, 2012

The sexual relationship within marriage is powerful and beautiful, but it can only be described to a certain extent; eventually it must be experienced to be understood. The young soon-to-be-married man imagining the sexual relationship with his wife-to-be can really only guess at what it will be like; the bit he understands about it brings about a good and pure longing in his heart to actually experience it. The same is true of so many of the beautiful things in life; beauty calls to be experienced.

Worship is much the same. I love reading about worship, but it is always ultimately dissatisfying because it stirs up the desire to experience worship. This longing to experience beauty is part of the great hope of every Christian—the desire to experience the beauty of worshipping God face-to-face. While we love worship in this world, it is always stained by sin and it is always mediated, and for these reasons we long for the real thing, the fullest thing.

I thought about beauty and the beauty of worship as I read this week’s chapter in The Hidden Life of Prayer. When I was a child I was taught the ACTS acronym to help me distinguish between the different kinds of prayer: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Christians use different terms for these things; some combine them into fewer categories and some add a couple. What is consistent, though, is that there are different ways to pray. At times prayer is full of praise and thanksgiving, at times prayer focuses on confession of sin, while at other times it is full of pleas for the Lord’s help and guidance.

In The Hidden Life of Prayer, David McIntyre speaks of worship, confession and request as the three components of prayer. This week’s Reading Classics Together brought us to his chapter titled “The Engagement: Worship.” Here he gives three ways in which “the tribute of praise which the saints are instructed to render to the Lord may arise,” which is to say, three reasons for which we ought to express worship in prayer: in acknowledgement of daily mercies; in thanksgiving for the great redemption; and in contemplation of the Divine perfection.

Returning to my earlier analogy, I wonder if we are approaching the point in these discussions of prayer where there is really only so much that can be said without simply turning to prayer. As much as I enjoyed this chapter, it felt like something that would be far better experienced than described. I am glad to hear of how a man offers prayers of thanksgiving for his redemption, but I would far rather offer prayer for my own redemption. I suppose that is the ultimate purpose of any book on prayer—to make us pray. Later on in the book McIntyre will quote John Laidlaw who says this: “The main lesson about prayer is just this: Do it! Do it! Do it!” In good Baptist style I’ll add an “amen!” to that.

June 21, 2012

Why I Love Marilynne Robinson - In The New Yorker, Mark O’Connell writes about his love for Marilynne Robinson’s novels. “When I say that I love Marilynne Robinson’s work, I’m not talking about half of it; I’m talking about every word of it.” (Here’s my review of Gilead)

McDonald’s Photo Shoot - Why does the picture of a Big Mac always look so much better than the Big Mac you get from the store? This short video explains it all.

The Curse of Motivational Speaking - Conrad Mbewe, speaking of an occasional visitor to his church, says, “On this visit, he asked that I help him to overcome a failure in his life, and it was a failure to progress. He said that his greatest problem is that he does not believe in himself. Could I help him believe in himself so that he could become successful?”

Data Per Minute - This infographic shows just how much data we are creating every minute of every day. Example: in one minute there are 2,000,000 Google searches, 48 hours worth of YouTube uploads, and 204,000,000 email sent.

Bible Memorization - Here is a veritable smorgasbord of tips about how to memorize Scripture, whether long or short passages.

West Coast Conference - “On June 8–9, more than 3,000 saints gathered in Seattle to stand firm for the central doctrines of the Christian faith. Drs. Steven Lawson, John MacArthur, and R.C. Sproul boldly proclaimed the authority of the Bible, the Trinity, the resurrection of Jesus, the exclusivity of Christ, justification by faith alone, the mortification of sin, and the existence of God.” The messages are now available online.

I tell you our strength, whenever we have any, is our greatest weakness, and our fancied wisdom is our real folly. —C.H. Spurgeon