Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review: Invitation to Philippians by Donald R Sunukjian

The Book of Philippians is one of my favorite books in the Bible. Earlier this year, I decided to study for my own soul and found it very fulfilling. I had a few commentaries and study Bibles to assist me in my studies.

In having commentaries, you have many that take the book and break it down verse by verse while you have other that take a introductory approach to the book especially first time readers of the Bible. Donald R. Sunukjian has a series of commentaries entitled, "Biblical Preaching for the Contemporary Church." I have decided to review his commentary in the book of Philippians called, Invitations to Philippians.

Sunukjian does a great job writing about what Philippians is all about and goes through the entire book. However this commentary served more as a devotional rather than a commentary. Granted he uses illustrations to get the point across to his readers than goes to the Biblical text and teaches from them. The chapters are no relatively longer chapters but very easy to read which could be a plus for some pastors when reading commentaries.

While I will be going to this commentary from time to time in my study of Philippians whether personal or for church, I cannot say it will be the first commentary I pick up. When it says, Biblical Preaching for the Contemporary Church, it truly means a commentary for short sermons since that is what most contemporary churches do. There were some strengths to this commentary but also some weaknesses.

Thanks Weaver Book Company for letting me review this book.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Book Review: A Theology for the Church edited by Daniel Akin

Theology is the study of God. Every Christian is a theologian in some form or another whether they know it or not. In most Baptist churches, theology is not that highly valued. Yes, the Bible is taught, but an emphasis on theology is always pushed aside.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of understanding theology due to the fact that many Christians do not know what they believe and have been bombarded with false teachers in the media. Daniel Akin has edited a book for such a time as this called, A Theology for the Church. In this book, you have many Baptist pastors and scholars writing about theology that the church needs to know.

This is a revised edition which contains some new elements that were not in the previous edition, which I have not read. This book talks about salvation, the doctrine of the Trinity, the work of Christ, and the doctrine of the church. This book has chapters written from Baptist pastors and scholars from both sides of the Reformed and non-Reformed spectrum. Where else can you find a book that has Mark Dever, Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, and Paige Patterson in one volume? You could probably find one but not in a volume of this size.

This book is written very well. With such precision and theological depth that anyone could want in a book of this magnitude. Granted it is written with men from the Baptist denomination, but everyone, whether you are Calvinist or not, will benefit from this book. While the men who have written this book may not agree on issues such as predestination, they are agree that theology is important.

Thanks Broadman & Holman for letting me review this book.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Favorite Blogs, Podcasts, and Websites - Part 1

If you are a frequent visitor to Keeping The Main Thing, you know from time to time, I post articles or link from other websites. In fact on the right side on the site, you will see links that I recommend. Granted some of them have become out of date due to varying circumstances. So I decided to write about a few of my favorite websites/blogs that I recommend for everyone to go to every once in while.

Now I am not planning to write about every website in this one post. I do plan from write about these websites periodically. This is not a top 15 websites list but a list of sites that I encourage Christians to go to. I am not in competition with these sites, but view these sites are great tools that the Lord has given to the church.

So, here we go. Let me begin with two podcasts on the Internet that I go to.

The Gospel Friends. It is a few minister serving a church talking about topics that affect Christians as well as funny stuff. Their name is a spin-off from "The Super Friends," which is a TV show I grew up watching. Every episode starts off with an introduction like it is a trailer from a movie:

In a world where heresy blankets the airwaves, religious stuffed-shirts suck the life out of Sunday morning, and prosperity teacher rob grandmothers of their pensions, three unassuming ministers endeavor to shine the light of Biblical theology and put the fun back in fundamentalism.

Next we got The Reformed Pubcast. If you are a lover of beer and theology, this is the podcast for you. I will confess I am not a big beer drinker and it is not because I have been part of Southern Baptist churches for most of my life. I do enjoy listening to this because they discuss tough theological topics with Biblical conviction while discussing what they are currently drinking. From time to time, they will have a special guest on the show such as Tullian Tchividjian, James White, and R.C.Sproul, Jr.

Now you maybe thinking that I don't listen to sermons online. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do listen to them I just don't count them as podcast. Yes, I know that I weird.

Hope you enjoy these podcasts as much as I do. For more podcasts you can check out Aaron Armstrong's recent post on his five favorite podcasts.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Book Review: Storm by Jim Cymbala

Jesus told us in this world, we would have tribulation (John 16:33). Many Christians are surprised when times of hardship and testing come our way yet James tells us that they will (see James 1:2-4). Trials can come in many ways. Whether it is physical illness, oppression from the government, or a rebellious child.

Jim Cymbala, senior pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, has written a book called Storm: Hearing Jesus for the Times We Live In, which talk about the hard times Christians experience as well share stories from people who have gone through storms themselves. Unfortunately, that is the make of the majority of the book. While it is important to talk about storms Christians will go through, whether corporately or individually, it is more important to stay Bible-centered. I am not stating this is a bad book to say the least.

I do affirm Cymbala's teaching on embracing the New Covenant which all Christians are under thanks to Jesus. Many Christians parallel America with Israel in the Old Testament which is not healthy theology. I also affirm Cymbala for writing that our lives are to be centered on Jesus who promises to give us new life through the Holy Spirit.

This serves as a practical book for Christians to read on fellow believers who going through storms which may be similar to what they are going through. Pastors can use this as a reference.

Thanks BookLook Bloggers for letting mew review this book.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Practical Helps for Bible Reading

Every Christian in one way or another struggles with consistent Bible reading. Ben Stuart shares some practical ways one can have a continual reading of the Bible.



Recommended Reading:

Hearing and Reading the Bible by Dave Jenkins

How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart

How To Read The Bible Through The Jesus Lens by Michael Williams

Friday, November 7, 2014

Around The Web-November 7, 2014

Dave Harvey reviews Rob Bell's latest book, The Zimzum of Love

If you are or know someone who is a college student, please read this: College Students and Church Membership

What Is The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology? by Jason Helopoulos

Dave Jenkins reviews Tim Keller's new book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God

Speaking of Tim Keller's new book, it is available at Westminster Bookstore

What's Better Than Jesus Beside You by J.D. Greear

Trillia Newbell, author of United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity, and her husband, Thern, talk about living in an interracial marriage.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dangers in Church Planting

Ever since I responded to the leadership of the Holy Spirit to join in planting a gospel-centered in Wichita Falls, I have been reading a lot of material on church planting and church leadership. It has all been very encouraging while at the same time, there is also some danger in church planting. Tim Chester has written a post on the five dangers of church planting that all church planters must avoid:

1. Planting a replica church

This church plant is a clone of your sending church or your own previous experience. This tends to be what happens if you don’t think much about the culture and values of the new church. You default to your past experience. This, of course, may not be an altogether bad thing. But it is a missed opportunity. Church planting is an opportunity to rethink church, creating patterns of church life that are more faithful to Scripture and more relevant to the culture. The other danger is that you try to be a large church with a small church planting team instead of seizing the advantages of being a small church.

What’s good about this: You’re a fool if you disregard 2,000 years of church history. So we need learn for Christian tradition and appreciate the Spirit’s work through the church in the past.

Constructive principle: Be creative.

2. Planting a reactionary church

This, in some ways, is the opposite of a replica church. This is what happens when people have had a bad experience of church. Church planting for some people is a way of running away for church rather than resolving issues or reconciling broken relationships. For other people the church plant is defined primarily in terms of what it’s not. People know exactly what they don’t want church to be like. But without a positive vision, the resulting church tends to have a negative culture or a culture that’s suspicious of other churches or which feels superior to them.

What’s good about this: We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past and church planting is a opportunity to create something fresh – as long as you have a positive, biblical vision for what you want to be.

Constructive principle: Be positive.

3. Planting a romantic church

Remember all those conversations over a drink on a Sunday evening as you dreamed with your friends of your ideal church? Perhaps you dreamed of meeting in a coffee shop with some mellow jazz music in the background while you discussed faith with your friends over a latte. Perhaps you dreamed of rocking out the Christian classics you grew up with. Perhaps you dreamed of hour-long sermons rich with theology. And now your church plant is a chance to create this church of which you and your friends always dreamed. The problem is that, while you might create a church ideally suited to you, the chances are it will not be missional. Your personal set of favourite features won’t necessarily create an ideal context to invite unbelievers (which also means it won’t be an ideal church for Christians either for healthy Christian living must be missional).

What’s good about this: Church planters are often idealists driven by a vision of what could be. This will help you push towards creating a church that continually attempts to be more biblical and more relevant.

Constructive principle: Be missional.

4. Planting a restorationist church

This church plant is an attempt accurately to recreate what the church was like in the first century, to restore apostolic Christianity. Churches like this tend to spend a lot of time trying to identify precisely the patterns of New Testament practice. Of course it’s vital to be biblical. But replicating apostolic norms can be a futile exercise, not least because there seems to have been quite of bit of diversity within the New Testament. And that diversity existed because the apostolic churches were adapting to their contexts, both to the people within the church and the people they were trying to reach. The real danger with the restorationist mind-set is that you become inward-looking.

You end up having long debates over how exactly the New Testament churches celebrated the Lord’s Supper rather than throwing yourself into evangelism. You become like the people described in 1 Timothy 1 who are more interested in winning converts from within the church than winning converts to Christ.

What’s good about this: We do need to be biblical. One of the joys of church planting is the opportunity to rethink the way we do church to ensure it is faithful to Scripture and relevant to the culture.

Constructive principle: Be contextual.

5. Planting a reductionist church

In some ways this is the opposite of a restorationist church. Here the desire is to plant a church which is ‘incarnational’ or ‘missional’ or ‘contextualized’ (or whatever is your favoured buzz word). But you understand these terms to mean creating a church which closely resembles the surrounding culture. This concern can too easily lead to attempts to minimize the differences and therefore to minimize the confrontation the gospel brings. True contextualization includes identifying what repentance means in a culture. So it’s not about reducing the challenge of the gospel, but understanding the culture well enough so that we heighten or focus the challenge of the gospel. The danger facing such churches is that they reduce the gospel and assimilate to the wider culture. In the end they have nothing to offer. If we’re so like the culture that the differences are marginal, why should the culture bother with us? We will have nothing to add to what they already believe. Beside which, it’s a fool’s errand: we will never be as a ‘cool’ at MTV! What will be attractive to a lost world is the gospel we proclaim and the distinctive community life it creates (remembering that ‘distinctive’ is another word for ‘holy’).

What’s good about this: The desire to be contextual is good. We should try to minimise anything off-putting that is part of our church culture, but not part of the gospel.

Constructive principle: Be biblical.


Books by Tim Chester

1 Samuel for You

Titus for You

Everyday Church with Steve Timmis

Total Church with Steve Timmis

You Can Change

Delighting in the Trinity

Good News to the Poor

A Meal with Jesus

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book Review: The Foundation of Communion with God

Ever since I read The Glory of Christ, John Owen has been one of my favorite writers. He has such a passion for God and theology that you sense as you read his words that were written nearly 400 years ago. I have to confess I have not read many biographies on Owen, so I feel I have not been properly introduced to the man himself.

Ryan M. McGraw has edited a wonderful book that gives fans of Owen as well as newcomers to Reformed Theology an introduction to not only John Owen himself, but his writings. The Foundation of Communion with God beings with a brief overview into what is means to be reformed then goes into how John Owen taught it as well as giving us a biographical sketch into who he is and what shaped his theology.

The rest of book contains short writings of John Owen from various books he has written covering a variety of topics divided into three sections. Those sections are knowing God as Triune, Heavenly-mindedness & Apostasy, and covenant & church. The book has three appendixes that talking about how to read John Owen, the listing of his work in sequential order, and more books on Owen.

This book is great for new believers wanting to know more about men who have gone before us. This book is also good for those new to reformed theology. As I mentioned, John Owen is one of my favorite writers so I could not pass up this book.

Thanks Refomation Heritage Books for letting me review this book.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Review: Be The Message by Kerry & Chris Shook

Kerry & Chris Shook are the founders of Woodlands Church formerly known as Fellowship in the Woodlands in The Woodlands, Tx, which is just outside Houston. There church is one of the fastest growing church in America which now has a television ministry. Together they have written a book called, Be The Message, which is about living for God more and talking about him less.

The idea of this book is to communicate that "You are the gospel." Meaning God has giving you a life message to live out among those who do not know him. Shook begins the first chapter by stating, "I am sick of sermons." Coming from a pastor this is disturbing. Continuing on, Shook says, "I am tired of talking about God. I am tired of hearing about God." This is starting to sound like the confession of one who has turned away from God not someone who loves Jesus and proclaiming the Word. What Shook is communicating in this book is we need to let our actions speak louder than words and even uses the infamous quote (more like misquote) from St. Francis of Assisi, "Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words."

The rest of book continues to share that our lives are the gospel and how God will give us a life message. Last time I checked, no where in the Bible does it say God will give us a life message. He gives us a gospel to proclaim. Also, since did we become the gospel? The message of this book seems like another attempt to make people feel they do not have to speak when witnessing which is nothing short of laziness and cowardness.

Should our lives reflect the gospel? Absolutely but nothing should replace words. Our demonstrating the gospel follows our proclamation not the other way around. We are not evangelistic mimes using our bodies to communicate the gospel without the use of words. I feel this book is trying to get us to do that. As I mentioned earlier, what Shook said about getting tired of sermons, hearing about God, and talking about God really concerns me. What does this communicate to his church where he preaches? What does this say to the readers that read this book or any of the other books he and his wife have written?

In conclusion, Be The Message is not a book on evangelism. It is a book only to appease what itching ears want to hear. I cannot recommend this book to anyone.

Thanks Waterbrook Press for letting me review this book.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What Is The Big Deal About Reformation Day?

This Friday is not only Halloween, although most of our culture will be celebrating it. It is also Reformation Day, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints' Church, Wittenburg.

Why is this day so important for Christians? Robert Rothwell recently posted a summary of what Reformation Day is all about:

On Friday, much of the culture will be focused on candy and things that go bump in the night. Protestants, however, have something far more significant to celebrate on October 31. Friday is Reformation day, which commemorates what was perhaps the greatest move of God’s Spirit since the days of the Apostles. But what is the significance of Reformation Day, and how should we consider the events it commemorates?

At the time, few would have suspected that the sound of a hammer striking the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, would soon be heard around the world and lead ultimately to the greatest transformation of Western society since the apostles first preached the Gospel throughout the Roman empire. Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to the church door on October 31, 1517, provoked a debate that culminated finally in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

An heir of Bishop Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther is one of the most significant figures God has raised up since that time. This law student turned Augustinian monk became the center of a great controversy after his theses were copied and distributed throughout Europe. Initially protesting the pope’s attempt to sell salvation, Luther’s study of Scripture soon led him to oppose the church of Rome on issues including the primacy of the Bible over church tradition and the means by which we are found righteous in the sight of God.

This last issue is probably Luther’s most significant contribution to Christian theology. Though preached clearly in the New Testament and found in the writings of many of the church fathers, the medieval bishops and priests had largely forgotten the truth that our own good works can by no means merit God’s favor. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and good works result from our faith, they are not added to it as the grounds for our right standing in the Lord’s eyes (Eph. 2:8-10). Justification, God’s declaration that we are not guilty, forgiven of sin, and righteous in His sight comes because through our faith alone the Father imputes, or reckons to our account, the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).

Martin Luther’s rediscovery of this truth led to a whole host of other church and societal reforms and much of what we take for granted in the West would have likely been impossible had he never graced the scene. Luther’s translation of the Bible into German put the Word of God in the hands of the people, and today Scripture is available in the vernacular language of many countries, enabling lay people to study it with profit. He reformed the Latin mass by putting the liturgy in the common tongue so that non-scholars could hear and understand the preached word of God and worship the Lord with clarity. Luther lifted the unbiblical ban on marriage for the clergy and by his own teaching and example radically transformed the institution itself. He recaptured the biblical view of the priesthood of all believers, showing all people that their work had purpose and dignity because in it they can serve their Creator.

Today, Luther’s legacy lives on in the creeds and confessions of Protestant bodies worldwide. As we consider his importance this Reformation Day, let us equip ourselves to be knowledgeable proclaimers and defenders of biblical truth. May we be eager to preach the Gospel of God to the world and thereby spark a new reformation of church and culture.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why Do People Have a Problem With Grace?

Grace is God's unmerited favor to sinners who do not deserve it. Sounds like good news to those who are lost yet it is so offensive. Why? The answer varies between people. Most Christians do not have a problem with grace yet some do. Lost people may not have a problem with grace depending on the circumstance.

Why do people have a problem with grace if it is the gift of God not based on works? Why do some Christians want to hear what they can do for God instead of resting in his grace? When I say do for God, I mean do to earn his love and his forgiveness. Here are my opinions on why people have a problem with grace:

1. People are not in control of their salvation. People want to make their own destiny so they think their salvation is in their hands which, clearly, it is not.

2. People have a problem with grace because they do not take God at His Word. The Bible says we are saved by grace not works yet people have a hard time because we work hard for that promotion or get the house the way we want it. Taking God at His Word means that we can rest in his grace without worrying about our future meaning our eternity is secured.

3. People want satisfaction. Mick Jagger is the one who sings "I get no satisfaction" and for a lot of people that is true. Christians are not satisfied with grace because it is out of their hands. That is why you hear sermons on doing more and being moral superior than others. They want the feeling of being saved. Salvation was never backed by feelings although sometimes it can come across that way, but we when we walk with Jesus sometimes their is no feeling. That is where faith comes in.

4. People, especially Christians, want to make sure God still loves them. The Bible says nothing can separate us from the love of God, but that is not enough. I remember one lady in church praying that she will try to keep Jesus in her heart. I have heard from a pastor that some people in his congregation think God loves them in the evening and damns them in the morning. Christian, God will always love you even when he disciplines you because those who go through God's discipline are true sons (Hebrews 12:4-11). Lost person God loves you and extends His hand of free grace that you will never worry about losing once you have received it.

Recommended Reading:

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God's Way of Leading Sinners to Christ

Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration by Matthew Barrett

What's So Great About The Doctrines of Grace by Richard D. Phillips

Grace: God's Unmerited Favor by Charles Spurgeon

All of Grace by Charles Spurgeon

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