On The Desert

Web-4-Rocky-section-of-trailThe sand, the wind, the desolate places, the hidden oases, are all secrets that draw a frontier. A frontier that draws me.

It’s like a black-and-white sort of canvas that has all the places in one place.

I can draw misery and abundance from one broad space, creating a word-image of darkness or of fulfillment in just a blink of perspective.

I love that I can turn from the dunes to the springs, the canyons to grottoes with nothing more than a short jump of view. It’s just like literally walking the desert to cross a ridge from the impossibility of survival in wilderness to the luxury of pausing forever in a hidden paradise. God has not abandoned the sun-battered emptiness of the sands and spines to this world and its curse.

This, the desert, presents stark emptiness, invisible heartache and hopelessness alongside redemption, lush beauty and survival in a way that no other place can compare. One can lose self in either place and be not a mile apart from one or the other.

Liken this to sin and forgiveness, holiness and blatant unrepentance just next door to each other. Fantastic, fascinating, luring and repellant all in one. It is amazing and horrid all at once.

See the needle-sharp threats of the flora, the vicious, survival-killing virility of the breathing creatures. These are glimpses of hell. But they congregate on the borders of paradise, shady stones and spring-fed life that deny their very banners of death and destruction.

Do I love the desert? Obviously. Not as a representation of paradise, the earth and heavens to come. I see the paradoxical dichotomy of life and death therein, with a turn that can kill or one that can save life. Why walk the desert? Why course those old, forgotten paths that may have been created by wind, or beasts, or real men? I think to follow them is to follow a theology, a line of belief that will reveal the End.

I hope to end there, in the sand, as I have written before, perhaps only for my own selfish sentimental silliness. But it means to me, the desert, the narrow and broad road of sin and holiness. It is a painting, beautiful and grand, that God has painted which can kill or save, cast into eternity just in the looking. It represents our short-lived travel through this life, following rabbit trails of folly and faith.

There is the Desert.

On The Way


Finally. Waited 10 years. God be praised.

Prayer Warrior

Water of the WordSomething I’m not. But I’m always drawn to it, despite my recalcitrance. 

Here are some resources I’ve found very helpful. They are by Andrew Case, a musician who really does good things. Here is his website: His Magnificence

The .pdf documents below are books for husbands, wives and parents, respectively.

They are primarily scriptural. Meaning they are right out of God’s Word, crafted into prayers.





Theology That Deepens Our Christianity


I wrote how theology builds our theology. I want to flesh that out some more, but needed a cool title for a second post.

Michael Horton says this about theology,

“…when it comes to God, people often imagine that it is possible to have a personal relationship with God apart from theology. In fact, some Christians assume that knowing doctrine and practical living are competing interests.”1

Honestly, there’s a lot that we pick up, maybe just about everything we really need, just from being in front of the pulpit on Sunday (provided we have a pastor who preaches the whole counsel of God). We can work through that preaching and our own Bibles throughout the week for all 52 weeks in a year and not miss a beat.

But give the pastor a break here, he sure does spend an awful lot of time doing much more than preaching. Think of all the private counseling sessions with his flock (maybe even you at some point). Think of all the conferences or books he goes through to get set for his preaching career. Maybe that’s a hint that we could be sort of going along with him, supporting him. Ever had that amazing Christian brother who is a layman come along side you to mentor and help you through a rough patch? Think of the hours this person has saved the elders of your church.

We could be one of those laymen. Remember C.S. Lewis? He wasn’t a pastor. He was just a regular layman schmo in a regular church.

The depth of Christianity is not dependent solely on the administration of testing and trials by the Lord. In my life, theology has actually played the part of tutor, and when things have come up that challenge or sorely threaten to break me, all that Christian mumbo-jumbo I’ve been reading and studying comes right back on me. Though I’m hardly quality theologian material in my writing here, I look back on my early days as a Christian and sort of cringe. The doctrines of our Christian faith are not particularly simple. Yeah, coming to Christ’s house (church) can be fairly simple. Sinner + Gospel = Repentance = Salvation (roughly), but the implications of all that we tie to our salvation and then our life thereafter go all the way to the root of our being.

Ever think much about the fruit in Eden? I read today that it was such a small sin, tiny and almost superficial in conception and act. I thought about that idea for about 2.5 seconds before I said to myself “Nah, this guy missed it.” Adam’s “little” sin was huge in every way. If we don’t think about the concepts the Bible has given us to work with, we’re going to go astray pretty quick (check out Joel Osteen).

If we do find that pondering Biblical truth is important, we should step right into the next big thing. “Don’t reinvent the wheel!” So many people go for ordination as ministers today and are asked about a particular aspect of Christianity and are told to “explain this in your own words.” Perhaps the fact is missed that somebody, most every time, has said it better, thought longer on it, and had a real reason to write about that particular doctrine way before the hopeful minister’s time. Maybe it’s a good test to be able to “use your own words,” but wouldn’t it be really helpful if you knew what others, bigger, smarter, older, tested-by-time-er than you said? To directly challenge the “reinventing the wheel” sort of Christianity that’s out there, maybe it might even be safer to quote and agree with what that source said.

If you are convinced that baptism should be by immersion and profession of faith only, wouldn’t it be pretty helpful when arguing from Scripture to have an army of agreement behind you? (I’m just picking one of the big hot points of the last century or two, that’s all).

Give your growth some fertilizer. Get what the other guys said over two thousand years of hard study and application and work it into your own life. You will definitely find some garbage in there. You’ll also find some awesome truths that bring you closer to the truth than you imagined possible.

1 Horton, Michael S. (2010-12-21). The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Kindle Locations 124-126). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.


Electronic Books I’ve Found

This is a list of Ebooks I’ve found from various sites on the Web. You’ll find Amazon, Monergism and several others below. Most are free. Just click on the underlined links to travel to the book or the site with listings. Some sites offer various formats. Kindle uses .MOBI format, .AZW or one that says Kindle Compatible. If you don’t have the Kindle App, select the version for the device you are using on Kindle’s Free Reading App Page. Note: I’ll try to keep this updated, but some listed items may be for limited times only.

Note about Amazon: To search through their vast library of free books, shop in Kindle Store for the author or title or genre you want then sort by price, lowest to highest. You will find a lot of bizarre items, even when being specific about your search, but there are treasures in there. Also, some books may sound good but are not well formatted, which ends up frustrating. Look for “enhanced” versions (usually cost a buck or two) and for multiple free versions so you can try out the one you like. Here is Amazon’s own page on different sites offering a massive feast for your brains: Amazon Free Book Collections.

Here is the Just type in your search terms and you’ll get results. Select “Free Only” so you see the free books they offer. Here’s an example of what that looks like: Free John Murray Books

One place you can go (there you’ll need the converter tool found below) is Free eBooks. They have a great collection of .PDF documents. Something for everyone.

Another is eBooks@Adelaide. They have .mobi format versions.

And another new one: Free Kindle Books

ALSO: Here’s a tool you’ll love. If you can’t use the .mobi format or other ebook files, you can always convert them. Also, if you have a file that you’d like to make into a Kindle .Mobi or other format, you can upload and convert it too! Here are the instructions:

1. Go to this site: convertfiles
AND ALSO (have ‘em both open at the same time)
2. Go to (for example) Monergism:
3. Right click the kindle.mobi link for the book you want and copy shortcut.
4. On the Convertfiles site, in the green box, there’s a “download it from” field. Paste your copied shortcut into that field. Or you can upload files from your own computer.
5. On the right of the green box, there’s an output format pulldown. Select .pdf and hit convert.

This will work for almost any file type you want to use. You can make a .pdf of your own documents or whatever you find.


Hot NEW stuff:

Northwestern Theological Seminary Library

The Chapel Library

Bible Research

Puritan Library

Prayers of John Calvin

If you don’t have this one, go get it: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version [Kindle Edition] Yes, it’s free too.

And if you have an iPhone or iPad, you’ll like this one:App Store – ESV Bible

From Monergism (If you don’t know about Monergism, this is a good time to discover the awesomeness that can be found all over the site. LOOK.) Another way to get in on the good deals from Monergism is to create an account and get their emails which get you in on huge discounts and occasional free e-books that don’t make the official list.

Monergism Free E-Books List

From ManyBooks.net

Religion (just one section, there’s more)

From Online Library of Liberty (note: these may not stay free forever)

Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and the Ephesians

Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Romans

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Puritanism and Liberty, being the Army Debates (1647-9) from the Clarke Manuscripts with Supplementary Documents

From Bring the Books website: (This page is dedicated to finding and connecting you to decent books – not all stay free. There are other resources at this site as well. Take a look.)

Free Kindle Book List

A.W. Tozer

The Pursuit of God

G.K. Chesterton



Martin Luther

Free AUDIO BOOK of Martin Luther works from Christian Audio

The Epistles of St. Peter and St. Jude Preached and Explained

Commentary on Genesis, Vol. II Luther on Sin and the Flood

Concerning Christian Liberty

The Bondage of the Will (Annotated) ($0.99)

Works of Martin Luther With Introductions and Notes (Volume I)

Works of Martin Luther With Introductions and Notes (Volume II)

The Smalcald Articles

Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, translated by R. Smith

Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Selections from the Table Talk of Martin Luther

A Treatise on Good Works

John Bunyan

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

Works of John Bunyan – Volume 01

Works of John Bunyan – Volume 02

Works of John Bunyan – Volume 03

Works of John Bunyan – Complete

The Pilgrim’s Progress from this world to that which is to come, delivered under the similitude of a dream, by John Bunyan


On Grace and Free Will ($0.99)


Summa Theologica, Part I-II (Pars Prima Secundae) From the Complete American Edition

Theology That Deepens Our Theology

I’m an addict. I have to admit it. Reading theology is almost as awesome as just reading the Scriptures. In fact, I don’t think I’d do too well without the constantly running commentary of theologians to accompany my forays into God’s word.

I can’t say enough about how powerful the writings of great Bible scholars have impacted my life. Since my conversion, I’ve been exposed to heady doctrinal tomes like Alister E. McGrath’s Iustitia Dei, Calvin’s Institutes and commentaries, Luther’s commentaries, systematic theologies by Hodge, Horton, Berkhof and many others, and dozens of other resources. I’ve encountered The Cost Of Discipleship, Pilgrim’s Progress, Mere Christianity, each deep it its own way even if not specifically doctrinal.

While some folks will prefer to drive us to one particular strain of Christian theology, I have, intentionally at times, taken broad swaths of traditions and systems into my library. This holistic sort of survey of Christianity has been most valuable (though care has to be taken to be critical).

If I could wish one thing for my fellow Christians, it’s definitely that we all read and read well. Scripture alone is not what we’ve been told to reference. Throughout history, Christians have written literally tons of books and papers on Scripture and the life that flows from it. This alone, without explicit teaching that we should read referential material along with the Bible, is testament to how important it is to get deep in what has been developed from  Scripture.

I find it rather silly that people will say “no creed but the Bible” or “nothing but the Word for me” when they will gobble up any book on the shelf at the Xtian bookstore. Worse, that so many of us consume popular self-help literature like it’s water in the desert. But people shun the good stuff. We’re repulsed by terms like systematicdoctrine, commentary, puritan, theologian, survey, and many other indicators of work that hints of thorough thinking on what the Bible says. But that sort of approach to being a better Christian, growing in faith, or even just being a better person really falls flat.

Here’s an example: reading “Left Behind” is not only horrible for your theology, but it’s also decidedly not worth putting on your list of Bible helps for any reason. I read most of that series. It was sort of exciting and fun for a while, but ultimately I tossed it for two reasons. First, the beliefs offered in the books are about as far from Biblical prophecy and eschatology as possible. Second, I realized that, though I’d started reading “Left Behind” as a resource for growing in Christ, there was nothing in there to lead me in studying the Scriptures at all!

In sharp contrast, I ran into Mere Christianity and discovered a wealth of serious thinking about the Christian faith and Scripture. C.S. Lewis talked to me about what I believed and what the Word said. Though I disagree with some of what Lewis thought, I found that his work was filled with foundational help that got me going in the right direction. Find a Joel Osteen book that can do that!

If you’re a Christian, you need to explore the depths of what you believe. I’m not saying you need to pull off a Horton or a Hodge or a Machen or Calvin – those are Big Names who all had or have big shoes to fill. They’re the ones who feed us. So yeah, you might be inclined to take the atonement at a sort of face value. But wouldn’t it be nice to find out for sure if maybe you can grow, be able to answer some of those heavy questions you have? That others around you have?  I can buy that many are inclined to a simple faith that goes into Church, receives grace and tries to go about it all from there. No sweat, no condemnation, no doubt. But it ain’t for everybody. Just like we need the quietly peaceful simple folk, we need the wranglers, the hard hitter types who will bang away at difficult concepts for us.


Mother Church

If you are in a mighty trial, if it is one that fills your heart with grief or worry, anger or hopelessness, you must turn to your best resource. Turn to God’s people. They are the ones who brought you into God’s church. They are that fellowship through which God carries you in the midst of suffering.

They will pray with you. They will pray for you. They will open the Word of God for you and preach to your soul. They represent that God who so often seems so distant, so hard to reach. This is why we’ve been told to gather. It’s not just a party. You are part of a holy people, the one people God himself has made for himself.

Many will say the Scriptures are all we need. Read and pray, self-discipline and exercise faith. Bull. The Scriptures don’t show us people who could pull it off on their own. Everywhere in the story God has given to us, his people have declared and demonstrated how we are to turn to each other and be with each other for all our lives.

“He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother; . . . he who gathers elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ” (vi.); “nor is there any other home to believers but the one Church” (ix.) Cyprian – De unitate ecclesiae

Brothers, if you cannot find this refuge in your dark hours, something is entirely wrong. You must look hard at your people. Are they a living church? Are you a living lamp among them? Maybe it is time to start asking hard questions and maybe changes are worth considering.

We are none of us perfected, sinless. We have not arrived, nor do we need help no longer. Christ has not redeemed us in this life into a security that makes us complete and safe from all trials. Instead, Christ has made his church, her people to be our sanctuary. If we cannot turn to the people of God in our hours of shadow and weakness, how can we come forward to celebrate with them? One condition cannot abide without the other.


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