Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp. Crossway. 384 pages. 2004
****

Each morning, Paul Tripp tweets three gospel thoughts about the Christian faith on Twitter. His goal with the tweets is to confront and comfort people with the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He wants people to see that the grace of the gospel is not so much about changing the religious aspect of their lives, but about everything in life that defines, identifies, and motivates them. Through his daily tweets, he is calling people to see the gospel as a window through which they are to look at everything in life.
Those daily tweets inspired this book of 365 daily devotional readings, a book I am using as a part of my daily readings this year. Each day’s reading opens with one of his gospel tweets, lightly edited, and then a meditation that expands on the tweet. The reading ends with a passage of scripture included under “For Further Study and Encouragement”.
The author writes that the devotional is a call for us to remember…

  • The horrible disaster of sin
  • Jesus, who stood in our place.
  • The transforming power of the grace we couldn’t have earned.
  • The destiny that is guaranteed to all of God’s blood-purchased children.
  • His sovereignty and his glory.
  • The remembering is spiritual war, and for this we need grace.

The title of the book is not only a reference to the way the Bible talks about grace, but also an allusion to the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, lyrics written by Thomas Chisholm and music by William M. Runyan:
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
I look forward to reading through the daily readings in this book this coming year.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World by Rosaria Butterfield and Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief by Matt Chandler
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading

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What is Biblical Hospitality?


I should title this article as “Do as I say, not as a I do”, because biblical hospitality is an area that I need to demonstrate some growth in. Every Christian is called to practice hospitality, but not everyone practices it the same way. Hospitality is so important that the Apostle Paul listed it as a requirement of the office of an elder in a local church:
“Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” 1 Timothy 3:2
I’ve recently read two books that have challenged me in the area of hospitality –Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Area of Unbelief by Matt Chandler and The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield. Let me share what I have learned about biblical hospitality from these two books.
Pastor and author Matt Chandler tells us that when we talk about what it means to be courageous and faithful in the age of unbelief, we have to talk about the Great Commission, which is our mission. He believes it’s more true than ever to say that evangelism is going to look like hospitality. He states that hospitality means to give loving welcome to those outside our normal circle of friends. It is opening our life and our house to those who believe differently than we do.
Why would the Bible be so serious about hospitality? Chandler tell us that it’s because God has been hospitable to us, saving us as sinners and inviting us to eat at his table in his eternal home. He tells us that we demonstrate that we truly appreciate the divine hospitality we have received as we extend our own hospitality to those around us.
He offers four helpful suggestions regarding hospitality:
1. Welcome everyone we meet. He means literally to greet everyone you see. That may be easy for Chandler, an extrovert, but it will be harder for introverts like me.
2. Engage people. He tells us to care about and take an interest in those we run across.
3. Make dinner a priority. Here he’s not talking about dinner with friends, but going back to his definition of hospitality, he’s talking about give loving welcome to those outside your normal circle of friends.
4. Love the outsider. In every setting, work, neighborhood, etc., there are people who for whatever reason are kind of outliers. Chandler tells us that we tend to run away from differences and from being around people who think differently and look differently than we do. Chandler tells us that Jesus would have moved toward those people, and because God extends radical hospitality to us, we should as well.
Chandler tells us that missional hospitality is costly. It costs our time, our money and comfort. It requires trust in God instead of ourselves and demands courage. He tells us that the extent of our courage will be shown by who sits around our table.
Rosaria Butterfield is a pastor’s wife and has an incredible story that she tells in her first book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. In her new book she writes about “radical, ordinary hospitality”. She defines this as using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers into neighbors, and neighbors into the family of God. It brings glory to God, serves others, and lives out the gospel in word and deed. Its purpose is to build, focus, deepen, and strengthen the family of God, pointing others to the Bible-believing local church, and being earthly and spiritually good to everyone we know. She tells us that daily hospitality, gathering church and neighbors, is a daily grace.
But, Rosaria states, daily hospitality can be expensive and even inconvenient. It compels us to care more for our church family and neighbors than our personal status in this world.
Radical ordinary hospitality creates an intimacy among people that allows for genuine differences to be discussed. It cares for the things that our neighbors care about. It means esteeming others more highly than ourselves.
And like Chandler, Butterfield addresses the issue of our personality type in her discussion of hospitality. She writes that knowing your personality and sensitivities does not excuse us from ministry. It just means that we will need to prepare for it differently.
I learned a great deal about hospitality and was challenged in this area by these two books.
What would you add to this discussion of biblical hospitality?


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8 Upcoming Books That I’m Excited About

Here are 8 upcoming books, and a brief description of them, that I’m looking forward to:

The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes by Mark Dever
To be published March 1.
From Amazon’s description:
“In a time of political turmoil and religious upheaval, Richard Sibbes sought to consistently apply the riches of Reformation theology to his hearers’ lives. He emphasized the security of God’s covenant, the call for assurance of salvation, and the place of the heart in the Christian life. In The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes, Dr. Mark Dever gives readers a penetrating look into the life and theology of this fascinating figure.”
This book is a part of the Long Line of Godly Men series, edited by Steven Lawson.

Servant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results. Edited by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell.
To be published March 6.
From Amazon’s description:
“We’ve all seen the negative impact of self-serving leaders in every sector of our society. Not infrequently, they end up bringing down their entire organization. But there is another way: servant leadership. Servant leaders lead by serving their people, not by exalting themselves. This collection features forty-four renowned servant leadership experts and practitioners–prominent business executives, bestselling authors, and respected spiritual leaders–who offer advice and tools for implementing this proven, but for some still radical, leadership model. Edited by legendary business author and lifelong servant leader Ken Blanchard and his longtime editor Renee Broadwell, this is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging guide ever published for what is, in every sense, a better way to lead.” I’m reading an advance copy of this book now. It includes contributions from some of my favorite leadership authors such as Ken Blanchard, Patrick Lencioni, Dave Ramsey, Mark Miller, Henry Cloud, Stephen M.R. Covey, Simon Sinek. It’s a wonderful book for those who want to lead like Jesus did.

Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief by Matt Chandler
To be published March 20.
From Amazon’s description:
“The Christian culture that has underpinned Western society for centuries has been eroded. We’re now at the point where to disagree with people on issues such as marriage and sexuality, is seen as hateful. Christians are no longer seen as honorable, but as bigots. But history testifies that the more people try to destroy Christianity, the more it grows. So, we are entering an exciting period of time because we’re back in the place where Christ’s church can thrive – at the margins of society. In this stirring, passionate book, Matt Chandler shows us we need Christian courage like never before, and how to live with compassion and conviction, able to look around positively and reach out confidently. It encourages us not to be thwarted by fear, but to depend on God and have confidence that Christ will build his church, despite continual marginalization. A must-read for any Christian who wants to understand how to stand firm and walk forwards in an increasingly secular culture.” Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Ben Carson One NationOne Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future by Ben Carson, M.D. with Candy Carson. Sentinel. 256 pages. 2014
****

When Dr. Ben Carson was asked to speak at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast he was a little surprised. He had already spoken at the event once, and the only other person who had spoken there twice was Billy Graham. Carson includes the text of his speech in the book. Immediately after completing the speech he was told that he had offended President Obama with his comments and needed to apologize.

Carson didn’t feel that he had said anything that would have offended the President and thus he saw no need to apologize. Many people positively responded to the speech and Carson was asked to appear on several news programs. Some encouraged him to run for president. From that time, he became the candidate that I wanted to support. Of course now we know that he is running.

This book outlines Carson’s vision for America, which is one of common sense. He first writes about what is wrong with America (political correctness; special interest groups; our country’s debt; bullying; voters voting along straight party lines instead of informing themselves on the issues and candidates, etc.) and then offers solutions. He discusses the importance of education, which he states will affect your entire life; things we agree on, and things we can compromise on. He calls for Americans to work together, regardless of their political party affiliation. He shares his ideas on how to reform health care in America and on taxation, using the tithe model from the Bible. He writes about the importance of humility, taking care of our family members when they can’t and the importance of positive role models. In discussing morality, he asks how we determine what is right and wrong. For Christians, we get that from the Bible. He then looks at current issues such as abortion, homosexuality and evolution, and the position that Christians tend to take on those issues.

Throughout the book he quotes several passages from the book of Proverbs. The book includes helpful “Action Steps” at the end of each chapter, for the reader to build on what had been covered in that chapter.

Here are a few helpful quotes from the book:

• “Disagreement is part of being a person who has choices. One of those choices is to respect others and engage in intelligent conversation about differences of opinion without becoming enemies, eventually allowing us to move forward to compromise.”
• “Compassion, however, should mean providing a mechanism to escape poverty rather than simply maintaining people in an impoverished state by supplying handouts. By doing this we give them an opportunity to elevate their personal situations, which eventually decreases our need to take care of them and empowers them to be able to exercise compassion toward others.”
• “While wisdom dictates the need for education, education does not necessarily make one wise.”
• “If Americans simply choose to vote for the person who has a D or an R by their name, we will get what we deserve, which is what we have now.”
• “Our founders did not believe that our society could thrive without this kind of moral social structure. In fact, it was our second president, John Adams, who said of our thoroughly researched and developed governing document, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
• “Many well-meaning Americans have bought into the PC speech code, thinking that by being extra careful not to offend anyone we will achieve unity. What they fail to realize is that this is a false unity that prevents us from talking about important issues and is a Far Left strategy to paralyze us while they change our nation. People have been led to become so sensitive that fault can be found in almost anything anyone says because somewhere, somehow, someone will be offended by it.”
• “We all have choices in the way we react to the words we hear. Our lives and the lives of all those around us will be significantly improved if we choose to react positively rather than negatively.”
• “There is no freedom without bravery.”
• “When the vision of the U.S. government included guarding the rights of people but staying out of their way, America was an economic engine more powerful than anything the world had ever witnessed.”
• “Sometimes one has to be humble enough to start at the bottom with a minimum-wage job even if you have a college degree. Once you get your foot in the door, you can prove your worth and rapidly move up the ladder. If you never get in the door, it is unlikely that you will rise to the top.”
• “Wisdom is essentially the same thing as common sense, the slight difference is that common sense provides the ability to react appropriately, while wisdom is frequently more proactive and additionally encourages the shaping of the environment.”
• “The human brain has billions of neurons and hundreds of billions of interconnections. It can process more than two million bits of information per second and can remember everything you have ever seen or heard.”
• “If we are to put an end to division, people from all political persuasions will have to stop fighting one another and seek true unity, not just a consensus that benefits one party.”
• “Saul Alinsky advised his followers to level sharp attacks against their opponents with the goal of goading them into rash counterattacks that would then discredit them. To avoid falling into this trap, those of us who are interested in civil discussion should prepare ourselves to refrain from reacting in fear or anger to those who disagree with us or even attack us.”
• “If most of the people in the country believe that America is generally fair and decent, it becomes more difficult for Saul Alinsky types to recruit change agents and for those on the Far Left to undermine our Constitution. Hence the constant bad-mouthing of our nation to impressionable young people, preparing them to be ripe for manipulation at the appropriate time.”

Carson’s next book, A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties, will be published October 6.

Openness Unhindered by Rosaria ButterfieldOpenness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. Crown & Covenant Publications. 2015. 206 pages  
****

The title of the book comes from the last verse of the book of Acts. The author begins the book by briefly telling her story, which she describes as messy, for those not familiar with her, or who hadn’t read her first book, 2012’s Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith.

She writes that sin and sex go together like peanut butter and chocolate, and that sexual sin is a fruit of pride and lust. One of the audiences she writes the book for are those Christians with unwanted homosexual desires. She writes that she is willing to offend someone for the sake of their soul.

As she writes the book Rosaria is a 52 year- old pastor’s wife who homeschools their younger children. She writes with kindness, grace and humility, indicating that she has more questions than answers to share. The book is theologically sound, as she quotes from respected authors and theologians throughout.

Rosaria includes many topics in this book including our union with Christ, pride, repentance, our identity in Christ and sexual orientation, sanctification, original sin and temptation. She writes that temptation is not a sin in itself. Christ was tempted, but did not sin. We cross the line from temptation to sin. She offers some helpful thoughts from John Owen’s book on indwelling sin, that we should:

  • Starve sin
  • Call sin what it is.
  • Extinguish indwelling sin.
  • Vivify righteousness and walk in the Spirit.

In discussing the concept of sexual orientation, she writes that it is unstable, changing, and harmful to believers who struggle with unwanted homosexual desires. The concept was developed by Freud to separate sexuality from its biblical view. Freud was influenced by romanticism, which saw experience as truth. He rejected the concept of original sin.

Rosaria writes that her view is that marriage by God’s design is between a man and a woman. In discussing what it means to be gay, she states that the meaning of the word has changed over time. She addresses what it means to say that you are a gay Christian given that gay is a term of identity. She helps to clarify terms that we hear all the time such as sexual attraction, sexual affection, sexual orientation and sexual identity. She asks whether sexual sin is a moral or physical problem.

In a particularly interesting part of the book she shares correspondence between her and Rebecca, a friend who identifies themselves as a gay Christian. Rosaria believes using the word gay to modify Christian dishonors God. She writes that using wording such as “living chastity with unwanted homosexual desires” is a better way of describing Rebecca than is gay Christian.

Toward the end of the book Rosaria has a helpful discussion on hospitality and neighboring. I particularly took interest in her discussion about the art of neighboring, where she and her husband placed picnic tables and chairs in their front yard to encourage hospitality. Thursday nights at their home is a prayer open house and a neighborhood prayer walk. She also addresses the importance of church membership vows.

The Epilogue allows her to provide an update on her life since the time Secret Thoughts was written, including the national attention that same-sex marriage has received in the United States. This is an important book on issues that are important in our culture today, and I highly recommend it. I also recommend Rosaria’s first book Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith.

If you are not familiar with Rosaria’s story, watch her message “Repentance and Renewal” from the 2015 Ligonier Ministries National Conference here.

Listen to Carl Trueman, Aimee Byrd and Todd Pruitt discuss the book on their Mortification of Spin podcast.

Thanks to Matt Smethurst of the Gospel Coalition for compiling these helpful 20 quotes from the book.

One Thousand WellsBook News:

One Thousand Wells: How an Audacious Goal Taught Me to Love the World Instead of Save It. This new book by Jena Nardella, cofounder of Blood:Water, releases this week. It’s a book I plan to read soon.

BOOK CLUBS – Won’t you read along with us?

Tim Keller's New Book on PrayerPrayer BOOK CLUB

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act. Won’t you read along with Tammy and me? This week we look at:

Chapter 4: Conversing with God

  • We have learned that prayer is both an instinct and a spiritual gift. As an instinct, prayer is a response to our innate but fragmentary knowledge of God.
  • As a gift of the Spirit, however, prayer becomes the continuation of a conversation God has started.
  • Christian prayer is fellowship with the personal God who befriends us through speech. The biblical pattern entails meditating on the words of Scripture until we respond to God with our entire being, saying, “Give me an undivided heart, that . . . I may praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart” (Ps 86:11–12).
  • Timothy Ward’s book Words of Life argues that God’s words are identical with his actions. He quotes Genesis 1:3, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
  • God’s words, however, cannot fail their purposes because, for God, speaking and acting are the same thing.
  • When the Bible talks of God’s Word, then, it is talking of “God’s active presence in the world.”
  • “Thus (we may say) God has invested himself with his words, or we could say that God has so identified himself with his words that whatever someone does to God’s words . . . they do to God himself. . . . God’s . . . verbal actions are a kind of extension of himself.
  • If God’s words are his personal, active presence, then to put your trust in God’s words is to put your trust in God. “Communication from God is therefore communion with God, when met with a response of trust from us.”
  • The conclusion is clear. God acts through his words, the Word is “alive and active” (Heb 4:12), and therefore the way to have God dynamically active in our lives is through the Bible. To understand the Scripture is not simply to get information about God. If attended to with trust and faith, the Bible is the way to actually hear God speaking and also to meet God himself.
  • We know who we are praying to only if we first learn it in the Bible. And we know how we should be praying only by getting our vocabulary from the Bible.
  • Our prayers should arise out of immersion in the Scripture. We should “plunge ourselves into the sea” of God’s language, the Bible. We should listen, study, think, reflect, and ponder the Scriptures until there is an answering response in our hearts and minds.
  • That response to God’s speech is then truly prayer and should be given to God.
  • Your prayer must be firmly connected to and grounded in your reading of the Word. This wedding of the Bible and prayer anchors your life down in the real God.
  • The Psalms reveal a great range in the modes of prayer.
  • We would never produce the full range of biblical prayer if we were initiating prayer according to our own inner needs and psychology. It can only be produced if we are responding in prayer according to who God is as revealed in the Scripture.
  • In every case the nature of the prayer is determined by the character of God, who is at once our friend, father, lover, shepherd, and king.
  • We must not decide how to pray based on what types of prayer are the most effective for producing the experiences and feelings we want. We pray in response to God himself. God’s Word to us contains this range of discourse—and only if we respond to his Word will our own prayer life be as rich and varied.
  • We should not decide how to pray based on the experiences and feelings we want. Instead, we should do everything possible to behold our God as he is, and prayer will follow. The more clearly we grasp who God is, the more our prayer is shaped and determined accordingly.
  • The lesson here is not that God never guides our thoughts or prompts us to choose wise courses of action, but that we cannot be sure he is speaking to us unless we read it in the Scripture.
  • David wanted to build God a house, but God said, “No, I will build you a house.”
  • David wanted to build God a place that displayed his glory. God said, in effect, that he had a counterproposal. He would establish David’s royal family line and it would ultimately reveal God’s glory in a more permanent, far-reaching, and universal way.
  • The Word of God created within David the desire, drive, and strength to pray. The principle: God speaks to us in his Word, and we respond in prayer, entering into the divine conversation, into communion with God.
  • One of David’s descendants will take up a kingdom and never relinquish it, because of the divine power of his indestructible life
  • We who believe in him will ourselves become God’s “house”—a temple of living stones indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
  • God’s Word of power “dwells richly” in all believers, giving them hearts to praise, sing, and pray to God with a joy and reality that neither David nor John the Baptist could know
  • David found the heart to pray when he received God’s Word of promise—that he would establish his throne and build him a house. Christians, however, have an infinitely greater Word of promise. God will not merely build us a house, he will make us his house. He will fill us with his presence, beauty, and glory. Every time Christians merely remember who they are in Christ, that great word comes home to us and we will find, over and over again, a heart to pray.

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we’re reviewing:

Chapter 2: General Views and Analysis

  • No part of this Sermon can be understood truly except in the light of the whole. The whole is greater than a collection of the parts, and we must never lose sight of this wholeness. Unless we have understood and grasped the Sermon on the Mount as a whole, we cannot understand properly any one of its particular injunctions.
  • Everything in this Sermon, if we treat it rightly, and if we are to derive benefit from considering it, must be taken in its setting; and, as I have just been emphasizing, the order in which the statements come in the Sermon is really of supreme importance. The Beatitudes do not come at the end, they come at the beginning, and I do not hesitate to say that unless we are perfectly clear about them we should go no further.
  • There is a kind of logical sequence in this Sermon. Not only that, there is certainly a spiritual order and sequence. Our Lord does not say these things accidentally; the whole thing is deliberate. Certain postulates are laid down, and on the basis of those, certain other things follow.
  • Never discuss any particular injunction of the Sermon with a person until I am perfectly happy and clear in my mind that that person is a Christian. It is wrong to ask anybody who is not first a Christian to try to live or practice the Sermon on the Mount. To expect Christian conduct from a person who is not born again is heresy.
  • We always tend to forget that every New Testament letter was written to Christians and not to non-Christians; and the appeals in terms of ethics in every Epistle are always addressed only to those who are believers, to those who are new men and women in Christ Jesus. This Sermon on the Mount is exactly the same.
  • The Sermon is divided up into general and particular. The general part of the Sermon occupies v. 3 to v. 16. There you have certain broad statements with regard to the Christian. Then the remainder of the Sermon is concerned with particular aspects of his life and conduct. First the general theme, and then an illustration of this theme in particular.
  • But we can sub-divide it a little further for the sake of convenience. In V. 3-10 you have the character of the Christian described in and of itself.
  • Then v. ii, 12, I would say, show us the character of the Christian as proved by the reaction of the world to him.
  • v. 13-I6 is an account of the relationship of the Christian to the world, or, if you prefer it, these verses are descriptive of the function of the Christian in society and in the world. There, then, is a general account of the Christian.
  • From there on, I suggest, we come to what I may call the particular examples and illustrations of how such a man lives in a world like this. Here we can sub-divide like this. In v. 17-48 we have the Christian facing the law of God and its demands.
  • Then we are told of his relationship towards such matters as murder, adultery and divorce; then how he should speak and then his position with regard to the whole question of retaliation and self-defense, and his attitude towards his neighbor.
  • The whole of chapter vi, I suggest,’ relates to the Christian as living his life in the presence of God, in active submission to Him, and in entire dependence upon Him.
  • Chapter vii can be regarded in general as an account of the Christian as one who lives always under the judgment of God, and in the fear of God.
  • Certain things always characterize the Christian, and these are certainly the three most important principles. The Christian is a man who of necessity must be concerned about keeping God’s law.
  • Again one of the essential and most obvious things about a Christian is that he is a man who lives always realizing he is in the presence of God. The world does not live in this way; that is the big difference between the Christian and the non-Christian.
  • The third thing is equally true and fundamental. The Christian is a man who always walks in the fear of God-not craven fear, because `perfect love casteth out’ that fear. Not only does he approach God in terms of the Epistle to the Hebrews, `with reverence and godly fear’, but he lives his whole life like that.
  • Let me now lay down a number of controlling principles which should govern the interpretation of this Sermon.
  • What is of supreme importance is that we must always remember that the Sermon on the Mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or of morals.
  • The Christian, while he puts his emphasis upon the spirit, is also concerned about the letter. But he is not concerned only about the letter, and he must never consider the letter apart from the spirit.
  • If you find yourself arguing with the Sermon on the Mount at any point, it means either that there is something wrong with you or else that your interpretation of the Sermon is wrong.
  • If you criticize this Sermon at any point you are really saying a great deal about yourself.
  • Finally, if you regard any particular injunction in this Sermon as impossible, once more your interpretation and understanding of it must be wrong.
  • There was a time when the designation applied to the Christian was that he was a `God-fearing’ man. I do not think you can ever improve on that-a `God-fearing’ man. It is a wonderful description of the true Christian.
  • So we must not only take the injunctions of the Sermon seriously. We must also check our particular interpretation in the light of the principles I have given.
  • I maintain again that if only every Christian in the Church today were living the Sermon on the Mount, the great revival for which we are praying and longing would already have started.

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This and That, Favorite Quotes and Books

This and That

CHRISTIAN LIVING:

  • What is Your Greatest Fear? Marshall Segal of Desiring God writes “But the Bible brings the good news that if we truly knew the depths of our desperation in sin and the heights of God’s delivering love for us through the cross, we’d never have to be afraid of anything. That is a solid, secure place to stand when your circumstances feel anything but safe.”
  • Can We Really Be Free From our Excessive Fears? Jon Bloom of Desiring God writes “Living free from our excessive fear is not only possible for you; it’s available to you. All it requires is faith. And it doesn’t require heroic faith. It requires only a child’s faith. All you need to do, according to Jesus, is, “do not fear, only believe” (Mark 5:36).
  • Mindful of Our Busyness: Notes on Another Epidemic (and Its Relief). David Zahl writes “We are hearing more and more about the busyness epidemic, and I’m glad of that. If only the root issue could be fixed by analyzing or understanding it deeply enough! Alas, the most effective means of relief right now seems to have little if anything to do with information or even self-knowledge. Instead it has to do with finding the space/time to stop and just be.”
  • Lazy Busy. Tony Reinke of Desiring God writes “The most common species of slothfulness is “lazy busy” — a full schedule endured in a spiritual haze, begrudging interruptions, resenting needy people, driven by a craving for the next comfort. It is epidemic in our day.”
  • Looking Forward to a Heaven We Can Imagine. Gavin Ortlund of The Gospel Coalition interviews Randy Alcorn about Heaven.
  • What is a Kind Husband? Using Boaz as an example, Douglas Wilson provides five characteristics of a kind husband.
  • Too Busy to Lead Family Worship? Don Whitney writes “You may know of no one as busy or as burdened as yourself, but can you honestly say you have more responsibilities than Charles Spurgeon? Despite his innumerable and important responsibilities, Spurgeon made the privileges and delights of family worship a priority. How about you?
  • Spiritual Joy vs. Worldly Joy. David Murray uses the writings of the Puritan Thomas Watson to outline eight important differences between Christian joy and the joy of the world.
  • In Bondage to Pornography. Carl Trueman writes “The ethics, and increasingly the laws, surrounding sexual behavior are coming to rest exclusively on the idea of consent”
  • Parenting Well in a Digital World. Tim Challies offers some tips on parenting well. He looks at 3 things you need to put off or reject, and 3 things you need to put on or embrace. Watch Tim’s message “Purity in a Digital Age” from the recent Ligonier National Conference.
  • Don’t Follow Your Heart. Jon Bloom of Desiring God writes “Our hearts were never designed to be followed, but to be led. Our hearts were never designed to be gods in whom we believe; they were designed to believe in God.”
  • What Makes a Man a Hero? R.C. Sproul Jr. writes “In our day you become a hero by becoming the best in your field. The high virtues of the Christian hero, by contrast, have precious little to do with accomplishment.
  • “And such were some of you.” Jonathan writes “This gospel testimony, true of all believers, is clearly seen in the life of Christopher Yuan. Christopher lived as a promiscuous gay man until he met Jesus in prison, where he was serving time for dealing drugs. Listen to the story of God’s great mercy in his life and be encouraged by God’s amazing grace.”
  • Should I Attend the Wedding of a Gay Friend or Family Member? Denny Burke writes “…attendance at a wedding is not like attending a concert, where attendance suggests nothing about your own views on the proceedings. A wedding is a public recognition of a union, and those in attendance are there to help celebrate and add their assent to the union.”

CHURCH LIFE:

IN THE NEWS:

  • New York City Adds Two Muslim Holy Days to Public School Calendar. New York will become the nation’s first major metropolis to close its public schools in observance of the two most sacred Muslim holy days.
  • An Evangelical Church ‘Comes Out’ for LGBT Rights. Heidi Halls writes “Pastor Stan Mitchell’s announcement that his evangelical GracePointe Church would fully affirm gay members met with a standing ovation from some, stunned silence from others, but everybody prayed together quietly at the end of it.”
  • Congratulating Wesleyan. Carl Trueman, after hearing that Wesleyan University had “taken the ever-expanding list of initials used to refer to sexual identities to new heights of absurdity or sensitivity, depending on one’s perspective. We are now apparently up to fifteen letters: LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM”, writes “Wesleyan University is not to be criticized but congratulated, at least in terms of the transparency and consistency of its vision. It is simply an honest and consistent example of the moralizing amorality of this present age.”
  • Franklin Graham: Obama, Holder guilty of ‘anti-Christian bias’. Franklin Graham states ““There is an anti-Christian bias that is now in our government, has permeated our government, that’s also permeated Washington but [also] at the state and local level.”
  • The Kids are not All Right. Daniel James Devine of World Magazine writes “Many children raised by gay parents are now young or middle-aged adults. Some say their upbringing was positive, but a growing number are beginning to speak out against what they feel is a dysfunctional parenting model.”
  • Florist Rejects Washington Attorney General’s Offer and Risks Everything. Denny Burk writes about Barronelle Stutzman, a 70-year old grandmother. She is a florist being sued by the state Attorney General for the state of Washington for refusing to participate in a gay wedding. The attorney general is trying to compel her to ignore her Christian faith and to participate in gay weddings. If she refuses, he is threatening the full coercive power of the state to force her to do it. She stands to lose everything—her home, her savings, her business, her livelihood—if she does not comply.
  • Making a New Argument for Marriage. In the new issue of ByFaith magazine is an interesting article, “Making A New Argument for Marriage” by Susan Fikse.  Fikse writes “In his late-June dissent to the Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Justice Samuel Alito described the debate in this case as a battle between two views of marriage. As Alito describes, the real issue at stake is not expanding the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, but redefining the very core of the institution.”
  • Wedding Costs. The average cost of a wedding excluding a honeymoon was $31,213 in 2014. Wow.

MUSIC:

  • FOX News Radio’s Tonya J. Powers Interviews Third Day. In this interview, Mac, David and Mark sit down with FOX News Radio’s Tonya J. Powers to talk about their new worship album “Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship,” which is the first Worship album they’ve released in 12 years.
  • Passion - Even So ComePassion 2015 Live Album. Featuring some of this generation’s most acclaimed worship leaders – Chris Tomlin, Crowder, Matt Redman, Christy Nockels, Kristian Stanfill and Brett Younker – the new live Passion album Passion: Even So Come is set to release on March 17. The album was recorded in front of over 30,000 college students at three separate Passion gatherings in Atlanta and Houston. The standard edition will feature twelve songs, while the deluxe edition will feature eighteen songs, including two videos.
  • Anomaly Tour 2015. Are you going to see Lecrae and Andy Mineo in St. Louis. Check out this short tour promo video.
  • NEEDTOBREATHE “Brother” Video, Featuring Gavin DeGraw. The video was directed by Jared Hogan.
  • Will Smith and Jimmy Fallon Beatbox. Did you see them recently on The Tonight Show?

BOOKS AND RESOURCES:

  • Five Books Christians Should Read on Islam. Aaron Armstrong offers these five books we need to read to give us a better idea of what Muslims actually believe, the questions they are really asking, and the objections they hold about Christianity.
  • Finding Truth. Tim Challies writes “Nancy Pearcey’s bestselling and award-winning book Total Truth made quite a mark on my life. It was, to my memory, the first book I had ever read on worldview, and its explanation of the way our world divides the sacred and the secular has not only stuck with me, but has helped me better understand and explain the culture around me.”
  • Pass Down the Truth. Check out this promotional video for the newly revised and updated Reformation Study Bible.
  • Review of the NIV Proclamation Bible. Our friend Kevin Halloran writes “The NIV Proclamation Bible from Zondervan was made to give readers the most relevant information they need to teach and/or preach through each book of the Bible.”
  • Why Jerram Barrs Read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Six Times in Six Months. I had the pleasure of taking a class from Dr. Barrs at Covenant Seminary. Watch this video to hear why explains below why he deeply loves the book.
  • Shepherds’ Conference 2015. The video from all of the messages from the recent Shepherds’ Conference Inerrancy Summit, hosted by John MacArthur, are now available.
  • Liberate 2015 Conference Messages. You can watch all of the conference messages, featuring Tullian Tchividjian, Scotty Smith, Paul Tripp, Steve Brown and more.
  • Andy Crouch: The Return of Shame. Check out this article from the author of Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. See our review of the book here.
  • 7 Women by Eric Metaxas7 Women by Eric Metaxas. One of my favorite authors follows up his 7 Men book with 7 Women: And Their Secret of Their Greatness, to be published September 8.
  • Living Well in a Digital World. Tim Challies writes “Zondervan has just released a second edition of my book The Next Story and it comes complete with a few updates, an added chapter, and a new subtitle: Faith, Friends, Family, and the Digital World. It covers some of this material, plus a whole lot more.”
  • Heaven, How I Got Here. Our friend Kevin Halloran reviews the new book by Colin Smith Heaven, How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross.
  • Beauty for Ashes. Tim Challies looks at Iain Murray’s new biography of Amy Carmichael. I’m reading the book now and will run a review soon.
  • New Book from Ashley Cleveland. Ashley, one of the best and most honest singer/songwriters you are going to find, is working on her second book. She writes that this one on loss—and the unexpected life that fills the open spaces. You can find our review of her first book Little Black Sheep, here (just page down until you find it).
  • New Book Addresses the Growing Problem within Youth Sports. Andy Andrews discusses The Matheny Manifesto with Mike Matheny’s co-author Jerry Jenkins.

MOVIES:

THEOLOGY:

Beyond the Ark by Doug Michael

Beyond the Ark by Doug Michael

Favorite QuotesFavorite Quotes of the Week 3.15.2015

Here’s a sample:

  • No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. C.S. Lewis
  • If the depths of everyone’s sin was made public, we would all be much more gracious to each other. Tullian Tchividjian

Currently Reading

 

Check out what I’m Currently Reading

 

book reviews

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely ConvertThe Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. Crown & Covenant Publications. 128 pages. 2012. Audiobook read by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
****

I first started hearing the name Rosaria Butterfield a few months ago, and then got to hear her tell her story last month at the 2015 Ligonier National Conference. You can watch her conference message “Repentance & Renewal” here.

This is not your typical Christian testimony/autobiography. For one, it is very well written. Rosaria is a very intelligent and opinionated individual, earning a PhD at Ohio State and then serving as a tenured English professor at Syracuse University, where she taught courses in Women’s Studies, specializing in Queer Theory and was a popular conference speaker. She gives insights – often painful – about how gays and lesbians perceive evangelical Christians.   Read the entire book review on the blog….

Reading Together Week 2

Counter Culture by David PlattCounter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans and Pornography by David Platt.

David Platt, author of Radical, has written an important new book. So important, I believe, that rather than doing one book review, I’m going to review the content chapter by chapter. Note, all of Platt’s royalties from this book will go toward promoting the glory of Christ in all nations.

Each chapter concludes by offering some initial suggestions for practical requests you can pray in light of these issues, potential ways you might engage culture with the gospel, and biblical truths we must proclaim regarding every one of these issues. These suggestions will also direct you to a website www.counterculturebook.com/resources, where you can explore more specific steps you might take.

This week we look at Chapter 2: Where Rich and Poor Collide: The Gospel and Poverty

 


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2015 Ligonier Ministries National Conference

coronado-springs-resort2.jpg

Nearly every year since 1997, my wife Tammy and I have experienced a taste of Heaven each February or March as we make the trek from the frigid Midwest to sunny Orlando, Florida to attend the Ligonier Ministries National Conference. It is the home of the “Happiest Place on Earth” after all. For the second year in a row we enjoyed the conference with fellow elder Don Lusk and his wife Angela.

First Baptist Church of Orlando, the usual host of the conference, was not available due to renovation work (though the 2016 conference will return there February 25-27). As a result, the conference was held this year at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, a beautiful location, where we enjoyed the beauty of the lakes, landscaping, wildlife and several walks during the five days we stayed there.Reformation Study Bible

The conference was highlighted by the release of the newly revised and updated Reformation Study Bible, which R. C. Sproul served as the General Editor. Go to http://reformationstudybible.com/ to find out more about this important new resource.

Glory to the Holy OneAnother highlight of the conference was the release of the new album of sacred hymns Glory to the Holy One from Jeff Lippencott (music) and R.C. Sproul (lyrics). Lippencott is an Emmy-nominated composer. See http://www.scphilharmonic.org/aboutjeff.html to find out more about Jeff and his accomplishments.

The album was presented in full at Saint Andrews Chapel the night before the conference with full orchestra and choir. In addition, four songs from the album were performed at the conference on Friday evening. Go to http://www.ligonier.org/blog/glory-holy-one-announcing-rc-sprouls-new-sacred-hymns-project/ to find out more about this powerful new release. The album includes R.C.’s song “Clothed in Righteousness”, which has become one of my favorite hymns sung at Ligonier National Conferences and Saint Andrews Chapel the past few years.  The hymn singing with such a huge crowd of believers is a highlight for my wife, only topped by the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah at the end of the conference.

This year’s conference began with a pre-conference event, kicked off by Tim Challies, who spoke on “Purity in the Digital Age”, a very helpful message that everyone needs to listen to. All conference messages can be watched free at http://www.ligonier.org/learn/conferences/after-darkness-light-2015-national-conference/.

Tim’s message was followed by the inspirational story of Rosaria Butterfield, as she detailed her journey as a lesbian professor in the English Department and Women Studies Program at Syracuse University. Her academic interest was focused on feminist theory, queer theory and 19th century British literature. She achieved tenure in 1999, the same year that she converted to Christianity and ultimately became a pastor’s wife. I picked up Rosaria’s book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, and will be reading it shortly. She recommended the book, The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door by Jay Pathak. She said that the GLBT community values hospitality and applies it with skill, sacrifice, and integrity; something the Christian community could learn from. Peter Jones gave the final message in the pre-conference, and a “Question and Answer” session (always among my favorite sessions) closed out the pre-conference.

Sinclair Ferguson, one of today’s most respected Reformed theologians, opened the formal conference with “Christ’s Message to the Church”, from Revelation 2:1-7, the message that most impacted me. This is a message that all church leaders should listen to. This was such a powerful message, Tammy and I listened to it again on the way to Saint Andrews for worship the day after the conference ended.

Other highlights for me were Alistair Begg’s “No Place for Truth”, “Whatever Happened to Sin?” from Russell Moore and Do Not Love the World” from Kevin DeYoung. Other conference speakers were Steven Lawson, R.C. Sproul Jr., Robert Godfrey, Stephen Nichols and R.C. Sproul. Another highlight was a session we attended Friday night in the conference bookstore in which Sinclair Ferguson described a number of books that he recommended we read.

All of the messages were strong. The messages and the question and answer sessions challenged and encouraged me. I left the conference with a greater desire to read and study the Bible and to pray.

Below are the daily recaps of the conference from Ligonier.org:

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2015-national-conference-day-1/
http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2015-national-conference-day-2/
http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2015-national-conference-day-3/Saint Andrew's Chapel

We ended our conference experience by attending Sunday worship at Saint Andrews Chapel in Sanford, where we sang hymns accompanied by their beautiful pipe organ.  Sinclair Ferguson filled the pulpit and preached (in his Scottish brogue) on “The Gospel in Four Propositions” from Galatians 2:20 in the morning and evening services.
Aaaahhh…. Another taste of Heaven.

If you get an opportunity to attend the 2016 Ligonier National Conference I would highly recommend it.