Friday, October 20, 2017

Thursday, October 19, 2017

What Is Wrong With Jesus Calling?

If you have been to a Christian bookstore or the Christian section at Wal-Mart, you might have seen a devotional book by Sarah Young called, Jesus Calling. Many have read the book. Some love it and others are saying stay away from it.

Now I have not read the book myself, but there are people in the blog community I trust that take time to read books and give their assessment of them. Tim Challes is one them. He has read many books over the years and has given his honest opinion about them. When it came to Jesus Calling, not only did he give his honest opinion, but he also stated what is wrong with the book. He lists 10 problems the book has:

1. She speaks for God. Far and away the most troubling aspect of the book is its very premise—that Sarah Young hears from Jesus and then dutifully brings his messages to her readers. Jesus Calling makes the boldest, gutsiest, and, to my mind, most arrogant claim of any book ever to be considered Christian. The publisher describes the book in this way: “After many years of writing her own words in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to be more attentive to the Savior’s voice and begin listening for what He was saying. So with pen in hand, she embarked on a journey that forever changed her—and many others around the world. In these powerful pages are the words and Scriptures Jesus lovingly laid on her heart. Words of reassurance, comfort, and hope. Words that have made her increasingly aware of His presence and allowed her to enjoy His peace (italics mine).” There is no way to avoid her claim that she is communicating divine revelation, a claim that raises a host of questions and concerns, not the least of which is the doctrine of Scripture alone which assures us that the Bible and the Bible alone is sufficient to guide us in all matters of faith and practice.

2. She proclaims the insufficiency of the Bible. Jesus Calling only exists because Sarah Young had a deep desire to hear from God outside of the Bible. In the introduction she describes the book’s genesis: “I began to wonder if I … could receive messages during my times of communing with God. I had been writing in prayer journals for years, but that was one-way communication: I did all the talking. I knew that God communicated with me through the Bible, but I yearned for more. Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day.” In those few sentences she sets up unnecessary competition between her revelation and what we are told of the Bible in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Biblically, there is no category for what she provides as the heart and soul of her book. Biblically, there is no need for it and no reason we should expect or heed it.

3. Her deepest experience of God comes through a practice God does not endorse. Young does not only endorse her practice of listening, but goes so far as to elevate it as the chief spiritual discipline. “This practice of listening to God has increased my intimacy with Him more than any other spiritual discipline, so I want to share some of the messages I have received. In many parts of the world, Christians seem to be searching for a deeper experience of Jesus’ Presence and Peace. The messages that follow address that felt need.” Notice that her solution to addressing the desire for Jesus’ Presence and Peace is not Scripture or any other means of grace, but the very messages she provides in her book.

4. She is inspired by untrustworthy models. In early versions of Jesus Calling, Young tells of her discovery of the book God Calling and the way she modeled her practice of listening on it. She describes it as “a devotional book written by two anonymous ‘listeners.’ These women practiced waiting quietly in God’s Presence, pencils and paper in hand, recording the messages they received from Him. This little paperback became a treasure to me. It dove-tailed remarkably well with my longing to live in Jesus’ Presence.” It is worth noting that recent versions of Jesus Calling have been scrubbed of this information. God Calling is an equally troubling book that saw much success beginning in the 1930s and has seen a revival of interest in the wake of Jesus Calling. It is at times subbiblical and at other times patently unbiblical. And yet it is a book she regards as a treasure and a model for her own work.

5. She provides lesser revelation. Young admits that her revelation is different from the Bible’s (“The Bible is, of course, the only inerrant Word of God; my writings must be consistent with that unchanging standard”), but does not explain how her writings are different. Jesse Johnson says, “She does grant that the content of Jesus Calling should be measured against Scripture—but that is true of Scripture as well. In the end, there is no substantial difference in how Young expects us to view Jesus’ words to her, than how we are to view the Bible. I mean, Jesus’ words to Sarah are literally packaged into a devotional, so that we can do our devotionals from them every day.” If her words are actually from Jesus, how can they be any less authoritative or less binding than any word of Scripture?

6. She mimics occult practices. The way in which Young receives her revelation from Jesus smacks of the occult. “I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believe He was saying. I felt awkward the first time I tried this, but I received a message. It was short, biblical, and appropriate. It addressed topics that were current in my life: trust, fear, and closeness to God. I responded by writing in my prayer journal.” This is not a far cry from a practice known as “automatic writing” which Wikipedia describes as “an alleged psychic ability allowing a person to produce written words without consciously writing. The words are claimed to arise from a subconscious, spiritual or supernatural source.” Her inspiration was God Calling where it is even clearer that the authors allowed their minds to go blank at which point they supposedly received messages from God. This practice is very different from the giving of biblical revelation where God worked through the thoughts, personalities, and even research of the authors.

7. Her emphasis does not match the Bible’s. Young’s emphasis in Jesus Calling is markedly different from the emphases of the Bible. For example, she speaks seldom of sin and repentance and even less of Christ’s work on the cross. Michael Horton says, “In terms of content, the message is reducible to one point: Trust me more in daily dependence and you’ll enjoy my presence.” While this is not necessarily an unbiblical or inappropriate message, it hardly matches the thrust of the Bible which always pushes toward or flows from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Horton adds, “The first mention of Christ even dying for our sins appears on February 28 (page 61). The next reference (to wearing Christ’s robe) is August 9 (p. 232). Even the December readings focus on a general presence of Jesus in our hearts and daily lives, without anchoring it in Jesus’s person and work in history.”

8. Her tone does not match the Bible’s. It can’t be denied: The Jesus of Sarah Young sounds suspiciously like a twenty-first century, Western, middle-aged woman. If this is, indeed, Jesus speaking, we need to explain why he sounds so markedly different from the Jesus of the gospels or the Jesus of the book of Revelation. Nowhere in Scripture do we find Jesus (or his Father) speaking like this: “When your Joy in Me meets My Joy in you, there are fireworks of heavenly ecstasy.” Or again, “Wear my Love like a cloak of Light, covering you from head to toe.” And, “Bring me the sacrifice of your precious time. This creates sacred space around you—space permeated with My Presence and My Peace.” Why does Jesus suddenly speak in such different language?

9. She generates confusion. By fabricating the spiritual discipline of listening and elevating it to the first place, she generates confusion about the disciplines that God does prescribe for Christians. Michael Horton addresses this one well: “According to the Reformation stream of evangelicalism, God speaks to us in his Word (the arrow pointing down from God to us) and we speak to him in prayer (the arrow directed up to God). However, Jesus Calling confuses the direction of these arrows, blurring the distinction between God’s speech and our response.” What she models and endorses is both confusing and unhelpful.

10. Her book has been corrected. Most people don’t know that Jesus Calling has undergone revisions, not only in the introduction where she removed references to God Calling, but also in the words she claims to have received from Jesus. This, of course, casts even further doubt on the trustworthiness of the revelation she receives. After all, why would words from Jesus need to be revised? Did God lie? Did he change? Did she mis-hear him? There is no good option here, other than to doubt all she has ever claimed to receive.

If you want to know more about what Tim thinks of the book, check out his review here.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: Enjoying God by R.C. Sproul

For those in a relationship with someone, one of the most essential things is getting to more about that person. You want to know what makes them tick. You want to know their likes and dislikes. As you spend time with that person and get know him/her, the more you get to enjoy that person. For married couples, this is a continual ongoing process. For my wife and I, there are still things we are learning about each other which makes it all the more enjoyable of being with her and getting to know her more rather than knowing just facts about her.

Many Christians know things about God, but they don't really know God. They hear sermons about the Lord, but they don't take time to read the Bible for themselves to see what He is like. There is nothing wrong with knowing things about God, but there is a problem when you know things about Him and have no fellowship with Him. R.C Sproul has written a book, which was first published in 1989, where he writes about the attributes of God called, Enjoying God.

If we are to know more about God and enjoy the fellowship we have with Him, we first must know who He is. Sproul says that not only must we get to know God, but our response would be service to Him. Often times, people will ask if God made everything who made Him, which Sproul has a chapter dedicated to answer that. To put in simple ways, no one made God. He is self-sustaining and self-sufficient. He has been here since the beginning and will be here at the end.

Throughout the remainder of the book, Sproul goes on to write about the attributes of God. He addresses that God is the holder of all truth. God is immutable, which means He never changes. God is also One who loves us unconditionally, who is a Just Judge, and the One is all powerful that He holds us in the palm of His hand.

This book maybe labeled a theology book, but Sproul's intended purpose was for all people, no matter how educated they were, would read this book and understand more about who God is. This is a delightful book to added among the other books on the attributes of God.

Thanks Baker Books for letting me review this book.

Around The Web-October 18, 2017

The Reformation Today, and Then with James White

The Art of Godliness (a podcast from Tim Challies) on Music in the Church

Batman, Superman, and a Rebirth for the Family by Russell Moore

Marks of a Crusty Christian from Wretched.TV

The Reformation: a Visual Timeline from the Village Church

Four Implications of Martin Luther’s Theology by Sinclair Ferguson

Infographic: What Does the Church Mean to You? from Crossway

John Piper reminding us that before there was time, before there was matter, Jesus was

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Five Kinds of Calvinists

Recently, the guys over at Doctrine and Devotion put together a five part segment called, "Five Kinds of Calvinists." I encourage you to listen to each one prayerfully along with having a good sense of humor in the process:

The New Calvinist

The Bad Calvinist

The Half-Caf Calvinist

The Straw Calvinist

The Good Calvinist

Monday, October 16, 2017

Music Monday: Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor by Matt Boswell and the Boyce College Choir


(Verse 1)
Christ the sure and steady anchor, in the fury of the storm
When the winds of doubt blow through me and my sails have all been torn
In the suffering, in the sorrow, when my sinking hopes are few
I will hold fast to the anchor, it shall never be removed

(Verse 2)
Christ the sure and steady anchor, while the tempest rages on
When temptation claims the battle, and it seems the night has won
Deeper still then goes the anchor, though I justly stand accused
I will hold fast to the anchor, it shall never be removed

(Verse 3)
Christ the sure and steady anchor, through the floods of unbelief
Hopeless somehow, o my soul, now, lift your eyes to Calvary
This my ballast of assurance, see his love forever proved
I will hold fast to the anchor, it shall never be removed

(Verse 4)
Christ the sure and steady anchor, as we face the wave of death
When these trials give way to glory, as we draw our final breath
We will cross that great horizon, clouds behind and life secure
And the calm will be the better, for the storms that we endure

Christ the shore of our salvation, ever faithful ever true
We will hold fast to the anchor it shall never be removed

Friday, October 13, 2017

Around The Web-October 13, 2017

Pastor's Talk On the Conscience & Christian Freedom

Young, Restless, Reformed: An Interview with Collin Hansen from Founders

Popcorn Theology celebrates their 100th episode as they speak with Tim Challies on cultural engagement and if Christians should watch content with nudity and hyper sexuality

8 Questions to Help You Understand and Apply the Bible by Matthew Harmon

If you are planning or have already purchased a copy of the new ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible, Crossway has a 30 day reading plan for you

Why We Protest by Albert Mohler

God Is Bigger Than Our Immaturity by Adam Kareus

Mark Dever on God's faithfulness in his weakness

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Pray In Accordance With God's Will

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us (1 John 5;14).

To ask God according to his will does not mean that, before Christians can pray effectively, they need somehow to discover God’s secret plans for the future (sometimes called his “hidden will” or “will of decree”; cf. Deut. 29:29). Rather, it means they should ask according to what the Bible teaches about God’s will for his people (sometimes called God’s “revealed will” or “will of precept”). If Christians are praying in accordance with what pleases God as found in the teaching of Scripture, then they are praying according to his will (cf. Matt. 6:10; Eph. 5:17).

Adapted from the ESV Study Bible

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Book Review: The KJV Know The Word Study Bible

The KJV Know The Word Study Bible seeks to aid its readers in breaking the books of the Bible down in easy to understand study notes and articles. What the publishers want to do is take those who just read the Bible to becomes better students of the Word. They seek to assist the reader in three areas. The first is book by book, which is notes seeking to get the main points of each book of the Bible across to its readers.

Second, we have verse by verse, which is basically study notes at the bottom of the page like a majority of Study Bibles. However, when I think of verse by verse, I thought they were going to have a note for each verse of every book of the Bible which they did not so the verse by verse concept seems a little misleading. Finally, there is topic by topic. There are various articles that are addressed in this Study Bible as it relates to the particular verses that topic is being addressed.

Like other Study Bibles, this one does contain a book introduction for each book of the Bible. However, they are not a very detailed nor in depth as to authorship and dates of the book. Of course there is a concordance and maps in the back of the Bible. Since it is a KJV Bible, the words of Jesus are red-lettered, which I think that might be some kind of rule.

For a Study Bible that says "Gain a greater understanding of the Bible," I felt it was lacking a lot. There were fewer study notes than I expected and I was hoping for a more detailed Study Bible. While there are a few, which is not a lot good qualities to this Study Bible, I won't be recommending it.

Thanks Booklook Bloggers for letting me review this Bible.

Around The Web-October 11, 2017

Ten Lasting Fruits of the Reformation by Joel Beeke

Three Marks of a True Christian by Josh Buice

116 Been Real: Lecrae, “White Evangelicalism,” and Hope by John Piper

When We Understand The Text on The Man of Lawlessness from 2 Thessalonians

Mortification: Seven Phases Along the Sin-Killing Continuum by Thaddeus Williams

The Incomparable Benefit of Faith in Christ by Sinclair Ferguson

Another post from Josh Buice as he shares his thoughts on the Calvinist documentary

Joe Thorn answers an e-mail addressing a believer's struggle with sin.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

We Must Pray God's Will

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us (1 John 5:14).

John addressed prayer in 1 John 3:22. There he informed us that God answers our prayers when we are (1) keeping His commands and (2) doing those things that please Him. John now adds a third requirement: (3) we must ask "according to his will" (v. 14). With these three keys in place, John says we can be confident toward God as we pray. Indeed we can know He hears us as we ask, and we can "know that we have what we have asked Him for" (vv. 14-15).

George Mueller (1805-1898) was a great man of prayer who refused a regular salary and financial support for himself or the ministries he led. A leader of the Christian Brethren movement, Mueller said, "Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness" (quoted in Be Real, 179). Therefore nothing we ask for lies beyond the power of God except that which lies beyond His will, His purpose, His plan.

We might ask why anyone would want something contrary to God's will. It is right to pray according to God's will, and it is wise to pray according to God's will. He knows what is best, and He wants what is best: His glory and our good. God wants to give you what you would want God to give you if you were wise enough to want it.

Now, God's will may be different from what you want, but I believe this: it will always be better than what you want. Romans 12:2 tells us God's will is "good, pleasing, and perfect." I want what God wants for me. I want God's will.

Adapted from Exalting Jesus in 1,2,3 John by Daniel Akin

Monday, October 9, 2017

Music Monday: And Can It Be? by Enfield

Jesus Gives Life To His Redeemed

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Jesus’ promise of abundant life, which begins already in the here and now, brings to mind OT prophecies about abundant blessing (e.g., Ezek. 34:12–15, 25–31). Jesus calls his followers, not to a dour, lifeless, miserable existence that squashes human potential, but to a rich, full, joyful life, one overflowing with meaningful activities under the personal favor and blessing of God and in continual fellowship with his people.

The life that Jesus gives is unique because it is eternal, and He gives this life in ever-growing abundance to His redeemed.

Adapted from The ESV Study Bible and The Reformation Study Bible

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Human Responsibility in Light of God's Sovereignty

As Christians, we believe in the sovereignty of God. The sovereignty of God means that He has all authority over the whole earth. God is sovereign ever since the beginning of time. The Bible even says that God is sovereign over our salvation, which can be hard for some Christians to grasp. Some Christians think that human free will trumps God sovereignty. Not sure where they get this idea, but it is out there.

The Bible does tell us God is sovereign, but humans still have a responsibility. What is our human responsibility in light of the sovereignty of God? Derek Thomas wrote:

The assertion of divine sovereignty is not without further questions that should be addressed.

First, there is the question of evangelism. If God is sovereign in all matters of providence, what is the point of exerting human effort in evangelism and missions? God’s will is sure to be fulfilled whether we evangelize or not. But we dare not reason this way. Apart from the fact that God commands us to evange-lize—“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19)—such reasoning ignores the fact that God fulfills His sovereign plan through human means and instrumentality. Nowhere in the Bible are we encouraged to be passive and inert. Paul commands his Philippian readers to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12–13).

Second, there is the question of ethics. We are held responsible for our actions and behavior. We are culpable in transgression and praiseworthy in obedience.

Third, in relation to civic power and authority, there is the question of God’s sovereignty in the determination of rulers and government. God has raised up civil governments to be systems of equity and good and peace, for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of them who do well (Rom. 13:3; 1 Peter 2:14). But this is also true of evil powers and corrupt regimes that violate the very principles of government itself; these are also under the sovereign government of Almighty God.

Fourth, in the question of both the origin and continued existence of evil, the sovereignty of God meets its most acute problem. That God does not prevent evil from existing seems to call into question His omnipotence or His benevolence. Some non-Christian religions try to solve this problem by positing that evil is imaginary (Christian Science) or an illusion (Hinduism). Augustine and many medieval thinkers believed part of the mystery could be solved by identifying evil as a privation of the good, suggesting that evil is something without existence in and of itself. Evil is a matter of ontology (being). Reformed thought on this issue is summarized by the Westminster Confession of Faith:

God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain what-soever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the crea-tures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (3:1)

God is the “first cause” of all things, but evil is a product of “second causes.” In the words of John Calvin, “First, it must be observed that the will of God is the cause of all things that happen in the world: and yet God is not the author of evil,” adding, “for the proximate cause is one thing, and the remote cause another.” In other words, God Himself cannot do evil and cannot be blamed for evil even though it is part of His sovereign decree.

God is sovereign, and in His sovereignty He displays His majestic glory. With out it, we would have no being, no salvation, and no hope. Soli Deo gloria.