Monthly Archives: September 2013

Physical Therapy and Friendship

In April, I tore my ACL playing basketball. I had surgery in May, and I have been going through physical therapy. One of the guys who does my physical therapy is really good, and I mentioned this to my wife. She asked, “Why?” After thinking about it, I gave the following three reasons:

1. He Challenges Me – The exercises that he gives me are always challenging. They test my knee and push me to my physical limit.

2. He Corrects Me – When I do not do an exercise right, he corrects me. He tells me what I am doing wrong and how to fix it.

3. He Encourages Me – When I do something right, he lets me know. He encourages me and tells me that I am doing well.

Each of these characteristics make him a good physical therapist, but they are also characteristics that godly friends should display. Christians need friends who challenge them to become better Christians, correct them when they stumble or sin, and encourage them when they are doing well. Surround yourself with people who do these things, and seek to be a friend who challenges, corrects, and encourages others.

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To Live is Christ by Matt Chandler

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To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain

by Matt Chandler

Matt Chandler is the pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. He is an excellent communicator and has a great sense of humor, and both of these things come through in this book. This book is basically a study of the book of Philippians. Each chapter examines a different theme and section of the book. Chandler discusses the main idea of each section, challenges his readers to respond, and usually includes stories and illustrations to clarify his ideas.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book. The emphasis on the gospel and God’s grace was encouraging. It was also an easy read; the writing style was simple, and it was relatively brief. The book challenged me personally and reminded me of the importance of striving to become more like Jesus Christ. My main problem with the book was the structure/organization. The titles of the chapters in the table of contents only revealed the theme of the chapter, not the section of Scripture. This would be extremely frustrating for someone looking for comments on a specific section. Additionally, the chapter itself only included one verse from the passage being discussed. It would have been helpful if the entire passage was at least identified at the beginning of the chapter. These issues are relatively minor, though. The content of the book was good, and I would recommend this book to others who want to study the book during their quiet time or with a group.

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Finally Free by Heath Lambert

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Finally Free

by Heath Lambert

As a student pastor, I have counseled numerous students (and adults) who struggle with pornography. It is a billion dollar industry and traps many young men in its destructive web. Heath Lambert’s book addresses the issue head on, encouraging those who are addicted to pornography to depend on God’ grace and providing practical steps to help them overcome the temptation to look at pornography. One of my favorite parts about this book is the balanced approach that Lambert presents. Some books simply focus on God’s grace but fail to provide practical tools to overcome pornography. Other books provide practical tools to overcome pornography but do not ground those tools in God’s transforming grace. Lambert avoids both of those extremes by providing grace-based tools to overcome temptation.

After discussing God’s forgiving and transforming grace, Lambert provides eight tools to help those who are addicted to pornography. He encourages his readers to use sorrow, accountability, radial measures, confession, your spouse (or singleness), humility, gratitude, and a dynamic relationship with Jesus to fight pornography. He devotes a chapter to each of these tools, and he ties them all to the power of God’s grace. Each chapter actually includes a section at the end with questions and steps to take in order to implement the tool into your life. One of the most unique aspects of the book was the appendix, which contains encouragement to family and friends of those struggling with pornography. Wives who know about their husband’s struggle with pornography will greatly benefit from the chapter, as will other family members and close friends.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with pornography or anyone who counsels people who are struggling with pornography. It will remind you of the transforming power of God’s grace, and it will provide practical steps to overcome addiction to pornography and become “finally free.”

*I received this book free from the Blogging for Books review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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The Importance of Application

I recently did a series with my students on biblical interpretation. I finished with a lesson on the importance of application. In James 1:22, James warns against failing to obey the Word of God. He wrote, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22, ESV). Unfortunately, one of the neglected areas in personal Bible study is often application. There can be a tendency to read the Bible and understand what it is saying without actually taking the meaning and personally applying it. When we do this, we are “hearers only” and are “deceiving” ourselves. We rob Scripture of its power when we fail to apply its message to our lives, allowing it to change the way we think and act.

Many writers have provided questions to help students of the Bible apply passages to their own life. In his book Rediscovering Expository Preaching, John MacArthur provided a list of questions intended to help those who read God’s Word apply it to their own lives. I thought I would share those questions here to help those of you who read your Bible take the step from meaning to application.

1. Are there examples to follow?

2. Are there commands to obey?

3.Are there errors to avoid?

4. Are there sins to forsake?

5. Are there promises to claim?

6. Are there new thoughts about God?

7. Are there principles to live by?

Other writers have produced similar lists. The bottom line is this: don’t just be a hearer of God’s Word. When you read Scripture, make sure you understand what it is saying (the meaning), but also make sure you obey it (application).

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The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon

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The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon

by Steven Lawson

This book is part of a series of books called A Long Line of Godly Men, which profiles famous Christians from the Reformed tradition. This particular book focuses on the preaching ministry of Charles Spurgeon. Steven Lawson, the author, stated that he wrote the book “to introduce you to the revered British preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon” (xiv). Lawson acknowledges the impact that Spurgeon had on his own life, and he encourages readers to listen and learn from the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon.

The organization of the book was excellent. In the first chapter (Spurgeon’s Life and Legacy), Lawson described the birth, new birth, lifelong ministry, death, and enduring impact of Charles Spurgeon. It was a good introduction to the famous preacher and his ministry, although I wished it had been a little longer. The second chapter (Unshakable Foundations) addressed Spurgeon’s belief in the divine authorship, divine inerrancy, divine authority, and divine truth of Scripture (23-34). Spurgeon strongly embraced the inspiration and authority of Scripture, and his preaching bears that out. The third chapter (Sovereign Grace) deals with Spurgeon’s doctrinal and theological commitments. Spurgeon was a 5-point Calvinist, and Lawson uses quotes from Spurgeon’s sermons to demonstrate this. In the fourth chapter (Evangelistic Fervor), Lawson addressed Spurgeon’s passion for the gospel and his willingness to extend the gospel offer to all. Spurgeon did not view God’s sovereignty and human responsibility as incompatible, and he extended the gospel invitation to everyone. Lawson said that Spurgeon was “persuaded that it is the duty of all preachers to proclaim the free gift of salvation to all men (63). In the fifth chapter (The Heart of the Gospel), Lawson pointed out that Spurgeon’s preaching was Christocentric. Lawson claimed that Spurgeon “believed that the heart of the gospel is Christ” (89). His sermons contained information about the person, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus Christ (90-101). The sixth chapter (Spirit-Empowered Witness) focused on Spurgeon’s dependence on the Holy Spirit throughout his ministry. He believed the Holy Spirit provided supernatural enlightenment, divine wisdom, fiery passion, compelling delivery, intense focus, and deep convictions (108-121). The concluding chapter (We Want Again Spurgeons) was a short challenge for pastors to model their ministry after Charles Spurgeon.

This book was a very interesting and encouraging book. Charles Spurgeon is often referred to as “the Prince of Preachers,” and he is certainly worthy of this title. There were only two things about the book that bothered me. First, Lawson repeatedly emphasized that Spurgeon was a Calvinist. This is certainly true, but Lawson stated this so many times it became redundant. There were several times where it seemed like he randomly inserted a sentence about Spurgeon’s Calvinistic views, which made the writing seem choppy. Second, Lawson did not address any negative aspects of Spurgeon’s life or ministry. The book essentially portrayed Spurgeon as the perfect preacher, failing to reference any negative aspects of his life or ministry. These are minor qualms, though. Overall, the book provided an insightful look into the ministry of Charles Spurgeon, and preachers and those studying preaching would benefit greatly from reading it.

*I received this book free from Reformation Trust Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Swift to speak, slow to hear?

I was recently translating French for a class and came across this sentence: “On ne donne rien si liberalement que ses conseils,” Maximes, 100. It essentially translates to “Nothing is given as liberally as advice.” As I thought about this, I was initially amused. People really are quick to give advice. As a new parent, I have had numerous people give me advice and suggestions about being a parent. In general, people are not bashful about giving advice and counsel to others.

Then, I thought about this from a biblical perspective. Should we be quick to give others advice and counsel? I think the answer to this question is “no.” Now, I am not saying that Christians should never give advice to others, but I am saying that we should be cautious about frivolously tossing our opinions around. The Bible warns against quick and careless speech.

QUICK SPEECH

James said, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). James warns about speaking quickly here. Instead, we should listen first and speak after we have thought about the situation.

CARELESS SPEECH

Jesus warned against careless speech in Matthew’s gospel. He said, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). Since we will be held accountable for every word we say, we should be cautious about what we say and avoid careless speech.

In short, Christians should not throw advice around liberally. Instead, they should think and pray about what to say and when to say it. There is certainly a time and a place for Christians to advise and counsel others, but there are also times for Christians to remain silent. Let me close with Proverbs 10:19: “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”

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Unity in the Church

In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul warns against divisions in the church and encourages the Corinthian believers to pursue unity. He wrote,

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Corinthians 1:10-17, ESV).

This is a great reminder to Christians to pursue unity in the church. This unity is only possible when we focus on Christ, though. Focusing on and elevating individuals within the church (or even outside the church) inevitably leads to division, as demonstrated by the Corinthian division over Paul, Apollos, and Peter. This is especially true in the digital age in which we live, where easy access to a multitude of teachers and pastors is readily available.

The key to avoiding divisions and maintaining unity is staying focused on Jesus. Paul reminded the Corinthians that Christ was crucified for them, not himself or Apollos or Peter. He reminded them that they were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, not himself or Apollos or Peter. When every member of a church (and every Christian for that matter) focuses on Jesus Christ, the natural result is unity. It will also lead to a love for others and a humble attitude that places others above oneself. So, here is the question: who are you focusing on?

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Technology Tools for Bible Study.

Christians can become attached to technology or tempted by technology, but they can also use technology to deepen their knowledge of God’s Word. There are many websites and apps that can be used to help Christians become better students of God’s Word. In this post, I would like to point out the websites and apps that I believe are the most helpful.

Websites

1. Precept Austin – This page contains introductions to each book of the Bible (Bible Commentaries tab), dictionaries and encyclopedias (Bible Dictionaries tab), and commentaries (Commentaries by Verse and Bible Commentaries tab). The website also contains sermons by different preachers and a section on addressing cults (Bible Dictionaries tab, heading “Cult Apologetics”).

2. My Study Bible – This page has several different Holman resources. It provides free access to the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the Holman Christian Standard Study Bible notes, and the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.

3. Bible Hub – This page has a lot of different resources (Bibles, concordances, dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, etc.). This is not my favorite website, but it does have a substantial number of tools.

Apps

1. Holy Bible (You Version) – This app is perfect for devotional reading. It has a large number of translations and devotions, even age-specific devotions. For my students, I recommend Josh McDowell’s devotional book; he has 365 devotions, one for each day.

2. Bible.is – This app is a great audio option. It doesn’t have a huge number of translations, but the KJV and ESV drama versions are pretty good.

3. Blue Letter Bible – This app is good for simply reading Scripture. It contains a bunch of different translations, and you can view the translations side-by-side.

4. Bible Gateway – This app contains different translations, dictionaries and encyclopedias, and commentaries. The IVP New Testament Commentary series is pretty good, and the Matthew Henry commentary is a classic.

5. Bible Study – This app has translations, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and commentaries. The Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology is good, and the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia is a classic.

These websites and apps should not take the place of reading Scripture, but they should help Christians understand Scripture and go deeper into their Bible study. So, open your Bible and dig in. When you need help, just remember that these resources are available!

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Technology: Blessing or Curse?

There is no doubt that great technological advancements have been made in recent decades. From the smartphone to laptops, technology has advanced at an incredible rate. Along with these advancements have come many dangers. Many people are addicted to their phone or e-mail or video games, causing them to withdraw and isolate themselves. According to the USA today, 3,092 people were killed in car crashes as a result of talking on their phone or texting while driving. Nearly 1/5 of American men admit to being tempted to view pornography online (Barna study). Other examples could be cited, but these two demonstrate the physical and moral/spiritual dangers represented by technology. If people are not careful, they can become consumed or injured or corrupted by technology.

On the other hand, technology can be positive. It helps people stay connected (though some may argue that those “connections” are not genuine). It gives people access to large amounts of information. It helps many people be more productive. It can even help Christians become more knowledgeable about God’s Word. There are a number of good websites and apps to help people understand God’s Word. I am actually going to show my students some of these websites and apps tomorrow night at church in an attempt to assist them in their study of God’s Word (I will provide a list of some of my favorite sites and apps tomorrow). In this regard, technology is beneficial.

So, technology can cause harm, but it can also be used for good. It really depends on how you use it. If you allow it to enslave you or lead you into temptation, it can be a curse. Recognize your tendency to become consumed with technology or the great temptation that technology provides, and take the necessary precautions to avoid falling into sin. If you use it to develop solid relationships and deepen your understanding of God’s Word, it can be a blessing. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do (including technology), do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV).

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Wisdom from Jonathan Edwards.

I recently read “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God” by Jonathan Edwards, and I was extremely impressed with his intellect and his ability to communicate. His sermon was connected to the Great Awakening, of which he played a large role. The Great Awakening was criticized by many, and Edwards felt compelled to defend the Great Awakening as a work of God. In doing so, he provided some solid guidance for determining whether God is responsible for what is happening. Of the things that Edwards mentioned, two things stuck out: the importance of Scripture and the supremacy of Christ.

 

First, Edwards’ sermon emphasized the sufficiency of Scripture. He said:

And here I would observe that we are to take the Scriptures as our guide in such cases. This is the great and standing rule which God has given to his church in order to guide them in things relating to the great concerns of their souls, and it is an infallible and sufficient rule.

Ultimately, the Scripture is infallible and sufficient to direct the church and to help us determine whether or not a work is actually from God. If the work aligns with Scripture, it is from God. If the work contradicts Scripture, it should not be considered a work of God. This goes beyond the church, though. Every Christian should ultimately evaluate what they do by using the Scriptures, not just churches. The Scripture is authoritative and should guide and direct all we do.

 

Second, Edwards’ sermon emphasized the supremacy of Christ. According to Edwards, every true work of God lifts up Jesus Christ. He said:

When the operation is such as to raise their esteem of that Jesus who was horn of the virgin and was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem, and seems more to confirm and establish their minds in the truth of what the gospel declares to us of his being the Son of God and the Savior of men, that is a sure sign that it is from the Spirit of God.

If a church or movement lifts up the name of Jesus Christ, it should be commended. If it doesn’t, however, it should not be considered a work of God. Churches and movements that focus on emotions or secondary teachings instead of Christ are missing it. The central character of Scripture is Jesus Christ; the central story of the Bible is God’s redemption of mankind through the Person of Jesus Christ; and the central mission of the church is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world. Every true work of God will “esteem” Jesus and lift Him up. Again, this can also be personalized. Every individual Christian should attempt to exalt Jesus Christ with their life. Their words and their actions should “make much of Jesus.”

 

So, do you actively embrace the sufficiency of Scripture? Does the Scripture guide and direct all you do? And, do you currently demonstrate the supremacy of Christ in your life? Is He magnified by what you say and do? If the answer to any of these question is no, you need to make some changes!

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