Kami Mueller, in response to encouragements that our entire church body memorize Romans 6, wrote 5 excellent songs containing only the text of Romans 6 from the English Standard Version. She performed the songs at a recent Grace Bible Church service. Hopefully soon we'll get studio recordings of them (please, Kami :-)). You can download the tracks here:
Excellent gospel-informed advice from John Newton that I must read, consider, and live by whenever in controversy:
As to your opponent, I wish, that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord's teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write.
If you account him a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab, concerning Absalom, are very applicable: "Deal gently with him for my sake." The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should shew tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself.
In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ for ever.
But if you look upon him as an unconverted person, in a state of enmity against God and his grace, (a supposition which, without good evidence, you should be very unwilling to admit,)
he is a more proper object of your compassion than your anger. Alas! "he knows not what he does." But you know who has made you to differ. If God, in his sovereign good pleasure, had so appointed, you might have been as he is now; and he, instead of you, might have been set for the defence of the Gospel. You were both equally blind by nature. If you attend to this, you will not reproach or hate him, because the Lord has been pleased to open your eyes, and not his.
Gnostic Empire Strikes Back by Peter Jones - A Review
Peter Jones claims in The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age that the seemingly divergent modern phenomena/movements are really related. They are related to each other and all have common themes found in one of the first heresies to attack the church from within: gnosticism. The seemingly divergent modern phenomena include: 1. skewing of gender roles (militant feminism, homosexuality, etc), 2. increase of new age religion (eastern religions, mysticism, yoga, goddess worship, all in one, you are god, spirituality), 3. environmentalism (nature worship, deification of mother nature and natural selection, militant environmentalism), and 4. political correctness (tolerance of all religions/viewpoints except orthodox Christianity). Written in 1992, I am amazed at many of the insights that have proven themselves to be even more true over the last 16 years.
The book reads like a call to arms. Jones uses urgent, apocalyptic, the sky-is-falling language that can, I found, at times make the book difficult to get through. However, that language is consistent with his thesis: "[T]he New Age has a coherent agenda, orchestrated from a diabolical center, moving and reproducing ineluctably, like algae in a lake." (p. 97). He cites example after example of how these seemingly disconnected New Age/gnostic positions have begun quietly and subversively to enter the church. He writes to Christians who claim to believe that the Bible is God's true word, to Christians who view Jesus as Creator God who came physically to earth to die for the sins of His people and who rose from the dead. He writes to alert them that this orthodox position is being attacked from within, from multiple disparate groups that when analyzed with an eye to history (understanding long-'dead' gnosticism), we realize are remarkably related.
This 112-page book is well-documented with about 200 reference footnotes in six chapters. This book will serve well those who believe in the basic tenets that unite conservative "Christendom," both evangelical and catholic. It will alert those who may have been unaware of just how large and influence the New-Age-culture has had even on their own thinking to the danger.
Jones uses the example of frogs who don't jump out of a pot if it is heated slowly to a boil. For those who were unaware of the heating water, this may be the impetus needed to make them jump out and be alert, guarding their heart and doctrine from this threat. This has certainly been the book's effect on me; I have an increased awareness of just how pervasive this new gnosticism has become. However, The Gnostic Empire Strikes Back: An Old Heresy for the New Age is certainly not an exhaustive treatment of the subject, nor is it designed to persuade those who have already bought into the lies of the New-Age movement to see the error of their ways. It may very well do this, but the tone of the book will probably turn adherents off to Jones, making them unable to hear his words. Nevertheless, for Christians living in the United States, I echo the recommendations from the back cover: "I recommend this work" - RC Sproul. "These findings throw a flood of light on a dark subject" -Jay Adams. "Jones demonstrates in a thorough and engaging way that the New Age is not new at all...the church desperately needs to hear Professor Jones's call for a clearer comprehension of truth."
It's eerie to watch what Peter Jones was talking about prove just how mainstream it has become as evidenced in this excerpt from Oprah. So much of what Jones talks about is demonstrated right here. It is for this reason I recommend that Christians read this short book:
"You Cannot Minister Well to Someone You Do Not Know" -Tripp
"[T]he most personal and important parts of our lives fly under the radar of our typical relationships in the body of Christ. We live frenetically busy lives with activity-based friendships, punctuated only be brief conversations with each other...
"...We tend to have permanently casual relationship that never grow into real intimacy. There are things we know about each other, but they fool us into thinking that we know the human beings who live within the borders of those details...Think about it. Most of the conversations you had today were mundane and rather self-protective...We are skilled at newsy but personally protective conversations...
"...We must not let ourselves become comfortable with the casual, where ministry is limited to offering general principles that would fit anyone's story. The genius of personal ministry is that it is personal. It can take the grand themes of the Great Story and apply them with utter specificity to the particulars of an individual's life. Personal ministry is not preaching to a very small congregation. It is the careful ministry of Christ and his Word to the struggles of heart that have been uncovered by good questions from a committed friend. This means that effective, God-honoring, heart-changing personal ministry is dependent on a rich base of personal information. You cannot minister well to someone you do not know."
Puritan John Flavel (1630-1691) in
Keeping the Heart (originally
titled: A Saint Indeed
or The Great Work of a Christian Opened and Pressed)
has proven to be a steady and timely friend to me over the last year.
This book has been a near constant companion during that time and I
have made my way through it a number of times. I suppose that I am
familiar enough with the book now to write a review so that others
may be encouraged to spend time with this heart-shepherding work as
well; however, I in no way do I feel that I have mastered its
contents or the practice of them. I am convinced though that this
book will prove to me to be a lifelong companion whose true worth I
could only underestimate.
Proverbs 4:23 (“Keep your heart with all vigilance for from it flow
the springs of life.”), Flavel creates a treatise designed for all
professing Christians. The aim is that the contents of the heart be
laid bare, so that sin which is present is seen as sin and dealt with
as a believer should and that the heart be guided to be pure in its
devotion and affection for God. He does this, not with law, but by
constantly pointing the believer to God's grace as the grounds and
means for his sanctification. Flavel is not content to merely convey
information, rather, with each point he carefully takes aim at your
very soul and deftly fires shot after gospel-saturated,
God-glorifying shot. Make sure you read this book slowly and
prayerfully, allowing each purifying blow to have its full affect on
treatise is basically broken down into four sections:
keeping the heart presupposes” (Six statements describing what is
basic in keeping the heart).
keeping the heart is a great business” (Six statements and their
exposition explaining why the life of a Christian should be
described as a life of “keeping their heart”)
seasons for keeping the heart” (104 specific pieces of advice
particularly tailored for 12 seasons of life in which special
diligence is necessary to guard the heart)
of means in keeping the heart (Examples and guidelines on using
information, exhortation, direction, and consolation in the keeping
of the heart).
Keeping the Heartis a work that is difficult to navigate without seeing the “big
picture” of what Flavel is setting out to do. I therefore recommend
you acquire a copy that includes the “Outline” by Maureen Bradley
(The Soli Deo Gloria edition includes this). Each of the statements,
seasons, or uses alluded to in describing the structure of the work
has many subpoints underneath it. I would recommend in your reading
that you decide to either read one statement/season/use at a time
(roughly 10 pages a piece, although they vary dramatically), or to
use it devotionally in much smaller chunks by reading one subpoint at
a time. After your first time through the work, you will then be able
to quickly navigate to the heart-shepherding help that is particular
to your struggle or circumstance.
will be well-served to read Keeping the Heart,
working through the 17th
century language (Flavel is not nearly as difficult as many other
Puritans and the Soli Deo Gloria edition has helpfully modernized
spelling, formatting, and grammar) and work diligently to guard your heart with the help of this proven guide.
More than anything else I could ever
do, the gospel enables me to embrace my tribulations and thereby
position myself to gain full benefit from them. For the gospel is the
one great permanent circumstance in which I live and move; and every
hardship in my life is allowed by God only because it serves His
gospel purposes in me. When I view my circumstances in this light, I
realize that the gospel is not just one piece of good news that fits
into my life somewhere among all the bad. I realize instead that the
gospel makes genuinely good news out of every other aspect of my
life, including my severest trials. The good news about my trials is
that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good
unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the
image of Christ.
Preaching the gospel to myself each
day provides a lens through which I can view my trials in this way
and see the true cause for rejoicing that exists in them. I can
embrace trials as friends and allow them to do God's good work in me.
God Doesn't Keep a Facebook Page: Multi-tasking & Inattentiveness
Al Mohler writes a great piece, "The Challenge of Attention in the Digital Age," in which he observes that our attention is so diluted in this digital age that we may be missing the truly important and resulting in intellectual neglect. He writes,
Join the revolution and refuse the seductions of the mind-numbing allure of all things digital -- at least long enough to think a great thought, hear a great lecture, enjoy a quality conversation (with a real, live face-to-face human being), listen to a great sermon, visit a museum, read a good book, or take in a beautiful sunset.
People who cannot maintain mental attention cannot know the intimacy of prayer, and God does not maintain a Facebook page. Our ability to focus attention is not just about the mind, for it is also a reflection of the soul. Our Christian discipleship demands that we give attention to our attention.
As I write this, I have iTunes on (music has been playing continuously all day), I stumbled upon the article taking a quick break from John Frame on Apologetics, the NBA Finals are on a small screen in the corner of my second monitor, I just received a text message on my cell phone, a notification letting me know that 3 new emails are in my inbox, I have 5 tabs open on Firefox including Google Reader and Facebook, and Libronix is open on the 2nd monitor to offer quick reference for verses and books referenced in my apologetics texts.
I often feel what Al Mohler is talking about. The very technology that allows me to quickly gather information on many topics and facilitates my studies so that I spend more time reading and thinking and less time flipping through books, can be the very thing that keeps me from thinking deeply about anything. In order to combat this, I have found that at night before I go to bed, I must open Libronix on the screen, close all my other windows on the computer, and even sometimes disable my wireless adapter in order to offer me uninterupted time reading God's word, meditating, and praying.
Back to my multi-tasked studies...I should probably close some windows.
After a couple days of server issues, it looks like my hosting company has restored the files which were accidentally deleted in a server change. A few blog posts are missing, but nothing too drastic. So if you deleted my rss feed from your blog reader you can put it back.
And finally, to make this test post nice to look at, here's a recent pic of my daughter: