Author Archives: Pooka

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.

water-of-the-word-2nd

prayers-of-an-excellent-wife

setting-their-hope-in-god

 


Theology That Deepens Our Christianity

peanuts-theology

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.

Religion:

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

Heretics

Orthodoxy

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

Augustine

On Grace and Free Will ($0.99)

Aquinas

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.


Jesus Christ Is Lord

Believe this and you’ll make it. You’ll make it to the end. You’ll make it better than any returning warrior in a ticker-tape parade. You’ll have a precious savior, a magnificent Lord, a brother and father and you’ll be standing on the only Rock that remains through all the ages.

Sure, you’ve heard all this before. You get it. It’s so cliché by now that you probably cringed when you saw the post title. 

Guess what? I don’t think you get it. I know I don’t get it. No matter how long I’ve pondered this truth above all truths, I’ve not come a smidge close enough to really get it. I’m still working on that. I get it better than five minutes ago. I get it far better than ten years ago. 

Christian, turn to him. Don’t just study him. Turn to him. Pray. Pray that you don’t get it. Tell him you don’t see enough. Plead with your God, “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.” Keep turning around to him. Read His word for this purpose – to discover his absolute involvement in your whole life. To discover how he rules every inch of it. Every speck of dust, every little misery, every majestic joy, every devastating sin, every hard-hearted person, every single one of your hangups. All of these are his realm. 

Turn to him, for judgement is over for you. There was a trial and the verdict was guilty. You were there, and Jesus was too. And he got the sentence instead of you. Can you see that this sentence was for all time? You aren’t getting a retrial every time you blow it. The pain today is not your latest condemnation from heaven. 

Suffering is for dragging you back to Christ. 

Trust Him. 

Amen.


Why Yet Another Try To Reach You?

We’re all dying. We’re all incomplete and unfulfilled until we find the one thing that restores us to our original design. That one thing is the Lord Jesus Christ whose entire purpose in history was to reunite us with our Maker and Master. We cannot reach Him on our own. We, ourselves, are inadequate from the beginning and will not choose, are not capable of choosing to come to Him.

He reaches to us through this message: We are broken and evil at our core. We cannot escape that curse except that we find someone to lift us from it.

Since we are dead, dead because of our sin, a payment must be made to give us the life we need. That payment is death. A life for a life is an idea that is as old as time for this reason. Christ gave His life for ours to lift the penalty that must be paid to our Maker. He was and is human, but was born without sin, without the broken, evil heart of men because He was also God – the Son of God.

All that was needed to meet the requirements of our Maker was for just one man to live as he was designed to live – in full fellowship, trust and obedience. The catch was, that someone had to die in the process. Not only was a law broken that needed to be followed, but a fee was assessed for breaking the law. So Jesus did that. He did it for us as he was directed by God, keeping an agreement that was made long before man was first created.

If this makes no sense to you, there are many reasons why it fails. I may not have worded it well enough, of course. You may not be able to bear the words for it is foolishness to you. You might be so entrenched in the suffering or material or thoughts of this world that nothing can intrude. Whatever the reason, you have the declaration of your condition and the answer available at all times. It is in every media source in the world. Paper, audio, web, it’s everywhere.

If you suffer so much that it has become unreasonable for there to be a God – He cannot be because no worthwhile god could countenance such an evil world – turn to Christ, for this God has never countenanced suffering and evil. The world has lied to you, told you that evil is proof that God is not real. Bull. Evil indicates that there must be a God. How can we know the difference without such a standard that gives the contrast? And if there is a standard, how can the evil possibly win in the end? Not possible. Good triumphs, and the Bible explains perfectly not only the situation but the particulars of how the problem is resolved. We are miserable, both by heritage and choice. God knows it and has made provision for us to be freed from our state. 

Turn to Christ, who is the sole answer to our condition. He suffered, for you and everyone else who suffers. And it was to rescue you. Most who suffer know all too well that they need rescuing. But turning to the world’s offers to rescue is simply treating symptoms. A cure is from outside. If the heart is broken, patching it up doesn’t fix anything, it’s still broken at the source.

If you are too happy in your current condition, without any reason for rescue, you are in sore shape. You’re missing the world as it spins wildly toward destruction. The truth is that misery and brokenness are the watchwords of all history. People always lean to evil and darkness, which is their curse and at the same time deepest desire. To be content as you are is to be so far from reality that it’s going to be an incredible revelation to you if you really open your eyes to the truth.

Turn to Christ, who tells you the truth – that it  ain’t “all good” and it’s worse than you could possibly think. But He’s offering you something that is all good and better than anything you can imagine. You need rescuing. Think things are fine? You’ve seen nothing, but you need Him, now, or things will not stay fine.  Wake up and smell the rotting darkness – you’re blind and miss the horrors all around you!

Here it is in selections from Scripture, namely from John 1 and Romans 1-6 in the New Testament:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Look, Lord And Hearth is hardly worth calling an “Evangelistic” blog. I’m not often overt in writing apologetics, rather I prefer to discuss doctrine that probably only appeals to Christians who are in church and are relatively well versed in the Scriptures and theological issues of our times. Not that I’m even claiming any expertise or lending much critical worth to these matters, it’s just that this is where my heart is. And though I’m pleased with this, I’m not particularly proud of it, nor am I satisfied. There are many who I sadly cannot engage this way.

That being said, I’m looking back on a little over 10 years and still there is a burning spot in my heart. I want my best friends, my oldest sources of joy and sorrow, to know the true joy of salvation.

The barrier I continue to face is my woeful inadequacy to meet the task. My own sin, my past reputation and history of wrong ideas and choices, and my reluctance to speak in the face of these things all combine to ruin my eloquence. My conviction remains, but it is shadowed by guilt, fear of alienating others (more than has already been accomplished), and my wholly imperfect love for Christ and the Gospel that, though I’ve grown immensely in a decade, remains sadly incomplete. The fact that I’m still a sinner is always going to be a stumbling block to reaching out to you, to you, who don’t believe what I believe. Wish it was easier, but it’s not; won’t be, because being saved doesn’t include instant perfection – that’s later.

I find a great weakness in my aversion to sounding like a bible-thumper, or “one of those look-down-their-nose Christians” which is at the same time ridiculous, since I’m fairly comfortably fluent in my Christian circles. It’s often like I’m talking gibberish when I want to communicate the Gospel. It’s probably just a lack of confidence and my well-developed inferiority complex that make communication so hard.

Lately, I’ve been reading more carefully in the New Testament, focusing on Paul’s words, and I have found some encouragement in his wonderful approach to explaining the Gospel. He consistently displays Christ and Him crucified. That’s all Paul claims to know from the start. Everything seems to work outward from there. And that is where I should be as well. If I start from a position that tries to relate the Gospel to some other thing in the minds of men, I’m on shaky ground at best. When Paul reasons, he takes men and drags them to the Gospel. Relevance seems to come afterward – because belief enables relevance. Someone who does not “get” the Gospel, who does not believe in Christ and His purpose, can’t relate.

So with that, all I can do is try to call others with the only resource there really is, which is the Gospel.  People I know, who are precious to me, with whom I would love to share the Joy of the Lord cannot engage. For now I am here, praying for these friends and family who do not believe in Christ and His life, death and resurrection. One day, I hope the Lord will call all of my beloved to His flock. That would be the greatest blessing in this life-time that I could ask for, especially because it will be eternally enjoyed.


Resources For Understanding the Christian Religion

I’ve dug up just a few things to which you can turn for a real look at Christianity. Read through some of these. Take the different angles. Just like when studying economics, history or any other complex discipline, multiple views are essential. If you’ve only looked at the arguments against, you haven’t scratched the surface of the truth. And some sources that claim to be for Christianity are dubious at best. The references below are representative of what the faith is really all about.Give Christianity at least a fair listen. I highly recommend the two Bible books followed (or simultaneously) with the Nathan Pitchford book.

The Bible itself:
Romans, in the New Testament. There’s a great start. Online: Romans
John’s Gospel, also in the New Testament. Online: John

Other books about it:
Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis. Amazon: Mere Christianity
The Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin. Online: Institutes
Theology Proper, by Charles Hodge. Online: Theology Proper
If I Could Tell You Just One Thing, By Nathan Pitchford. Online: Here or the first 4 chapters below:
If I Could Tell You Just One Thing ch1
If I Could Tell You Just One Thing ch2
If I Could Tell You Just One Thing ch3
If I Could Tell You Just One Thing ch4

On the Web:
Ligonier Ministries

Reformation Theology

What Is The Gospel?

Intro To The Christian Faith

You can easily guess that this isn’t even snow-dust on the tip of the iceberg. But if you give these few resources serious attention, you’ll at least have valid information about the Christian Religion.


A Request

I’m stuck at work today. Stuck and missing the most important part of the week. Here is what’s on my heart.

Some of my readers are also missing something, and though I’m rarely vocal enough about it, I hope and pray for you constantly. Here, read this:

Should you be one who hates Christians, or considers them fools; or you find there is nothing worthy in the history of Christianity, I ask you this: have you ever honestly read the source of the Christian religion, mainly the Bible, or listened carefully to an explanation of that book? If you have not, your voice has no place in condemning Christians or their book. Your voice, though louder than theirs, must fall on deaf ears, and your words cannot endure.

Read and listen. Ponder Christianity with care, for if you are right you will have your victory. But if you ponder and discover you were wrong, how much greater the victory.

Come in humility to the words reputed to be God’s and see for certain whether they are true. Take out your soul, look at it for a while and see if what is said about it truly demands saving belief. I can only ask that you try with an honest effort to consider my request.

Tomorrow, I will post some resources that I hope will be of service to this end: that you will have enough to see what is declared and offered.


Give Them The Gospel

Bean Needs The Gospel

I’m going to jump on a horse here and pretend I know something .

There are a lot of books out these days regarding how we need the Gospel. I’m not talking about books that were around when I was growing up – the ones that told Christians they need to be able to communicate the Gospel in order to win others to Christ. These books are claiming everyone needs the Gospel, including (and especially) Christians! Two books in particular, which I’ve read in the past year, stand out, “Give Them Grace,” by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and “Glorious Ruin,” by Tullian Tchividjian. But Michael Horton and a score of other big names have said the same thing. And it’s all been in the past couple of years that I’ve heard all this. Not saying it’s not been around long, because as long as there have been Christians, this message has to have followed (that Christians need the Gospel too).

Why is this call getting louder?

Well, for one thing, I’ve observed over nearly 30 years of awareness that churches tend to focus on their individual distinctives and orthodoxy more than anything else. Yes, I’m claiming that the Gospel has taken second seat to denominations and orthodoxy. People need to be right. All the time. This means that what makes a particular church or brand of church is going to tend to be the primary focus of that church. If it’s “winning souls,” liturgy, increasing membership, increasing Biblical savvy or ministering to the community that sets a church apart, then the Gospel will come after. Every time.

People need to stop being right and switch to what is right. I hope to write a review of Tchividjian’s book in the near future, but the synopsis could go like this: Any time we rationalize our condition in any way, without that rationale beginning and ending with the condition of man before and after Christ did what He did, is dead wrong.

Unless we think about this deliberately, carefully and coldly, throwing our need to be distinctive out the window and realize what the church is here for.

Qualification: I’m not saying the above list of priorities are not important. Nope, the Bible is pretty clear on these things – from membership to ministry, milk to meat, the Church is responsible for the upkeep of the sheep and the gathering of the lost. But the point is that, generally speaking, these things miss the main mark.

Let me put this a little differently.

If a given church can say it is:

not the famed pastor
not the old tradition
not the hip/old-fashioned/moving/reverent music
not the building
not the fantastic liturgy
not the generational family church
not the politically positioned

and instead say that the gospel is faithfully preached.

Then we might be in business.

The gospel is the center and the point. Nothing will change without it. Everything will change with it

You know how so many churches out there have their various seasons and themes? Things like 40 days of purpose, or the (shudder) sex series, or even (heretical statement warning) the historical church calendar?

Why not this one: Preach the gospel every Sunday AS THE MESSAGE for a year. Wrap the whole service around the Gospel. Gospel songs, Gospel readings, Law that points to the Gospel, followed by the Gospel. Drive home the Sinner-Saint thing until it hurts.

Take all the “distinctives” and orthodoxy-tuning and teach it in Sunday School. Take the distractions off the playing field and give the people what they need without the frills. Maybe it will “get boring” after the first few sermons, and harder to find a “fresh” presentation every week. but THINK of the impact after 52 Home Run sermons! Seriously, there is plenty of time and there are more than enough extra-curricular forums to go into the weeds. Go to the whitehorseinn.org or ligonier.org  or any number of other resources and see what’s out there. Turn post-service church into a university for goodness sake. It’s all good and certainly equips the saints for whatever ministry they can possibly fit into. But make the cross the centerpiece.

Instead of a hackneyed altar call that barely fits with the barely scriptural sermon, preach the Gospel straight-no-chaser. Instead of trying to score a tidy tie-in to Communion, or manufacture a convenient segue into the Sacraments (depending on your distinctives), incorporate the sacraments as a natural component of the sermon because the Supper is the Gospel. Sending Christians home without the solid teaching that is a reminder (read: declaration) of who they are and what they need is just as bad as sending the lost away with nothing but a lackluster lecture on what they have to do or be or (sorry, technical speakers) what God Hath Said.

This lack of the Gospel may well be a contributing factor to why it is so hard to bring the supper to a more frequent observance than quarterly or once-a-month (I’ve heard some churches only go for once a year). And this may be why the church wonders why new converts are so scarce. No Gospel in service, why have the supper? No Gospel in service, why have non-Christians?

Books and papers are regularly released concerning the death of the church, how she is in transition to another form; that nobody even goes or cares anymore. Maybe that’s because this denominational/distinctives/orthodoxy driven system has reached its zenith and there’s nothing to keep it in the sky anymore. I hear story after story about folks being bored or tired with the church they’re at or disconnected from the people or mission of the church. Is this because the relevancy that is inherent in the Gospel just isn’t there anymore?

This might sound like a variant on the seeker-sensitive brand of churches. I wonder if they actually had half a clue in their heyday just a few years ago. Not that we need to give the people what they think they want, rather give them what they need!

Give me what I need!


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