Friday, March 27, 2015

Book Review: Think, Act, Be Like Jesus by Randy Frazee

When a person becomes a new believe one of the first things Christians must do is to give him/her resources to help them to begin in their walk with Jesus. Think, Act, Be Like Jesus by Randy Frazee, which is a companion to the Believe Bible, which is also edited by Frazee, is set to be a book for new Christians to look at as they begin the Christian life. This book is set up to where the reader can be equip to know what they believe (Think), how they should live (Act), and what they are to become (Be Like Jesus).

The book is very basic and simple to read. Filled with passages from the Bible in the updated New International Version. This book does have some positives. It gives the importance of Bible reading, prayer, giving, and being involved in a Christian community. When writing about acting like Jesus, Frazee used the Fruit of the Spirit and went each one a chapter a piece. That is important because the Fruit of the Spirit is the mark of Christian growth and the working of the Spirit in the believer's life.

This book also had a few negative things. There is one that I want to point out that just cannot be avoided. In the chapter on salvation, Frazee asked the question, what must someone do to have a relationship with God. He said, "Do good works" and he uses Jesus' encounter with Rich Young Ruler as his main text. He tried to go back on his statement saying that our relation to God is based on grace and not what we do. To me this can seem very confusing especially for the new Christian. So which is it? The Bible says we are saved by grace through faith and not our own doing (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus even said the work of God is to believe in the One He has sent (John 6:29).

Frazee's confusing statement has led me to believe this is not a book that any Christian should a new Christian because it may lead them to think Salvation is based on their merit. Frazee does reassure the reader that God is the one who saves us by grace but it just seem he is saving face after making a statement like that.

Thanks Booklook Bloggers for letting me review this book.

Think About This on Palm Sunday

This Sunday is Palm Sunday. This is the day we remember Jesus coming into Jerusalem riding a donkey while the people spread palm leaves and their cloaks. This is also the day we kick off Passion week as we begin to remember what God did through Jesus on the cross in our place.

Here is what I want to think about whether you are sitting in a Sunday School class, small group gathering, corporate worship gathering, or even at the table with your family;

The one and only Son of God came to a city where some people loved Him and some hated Him. He came knowing He was going to be betrayed. He came knowing His disciples would desert Him and one of them would even deny knowing Him. He came knowing people would lie about Him. He came knowing He was going to put on a cross between two thieves. He came knowing He was going to suffer the wrath of His Father for the sins of the world. He came knowing He was going to die. He came knowing this has been the Father's plan since the beginning of time. He also knew that that the Father would raise Him up from the dead to seal our justification.

That's the gospel. That's the good news of Palm Sunday. Jesus came knowing what was coming His way. He did it to honor His Father, demonstrate the Father's love toward us, and to being us near to the Father.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Storms and DeYoung on Their View of Baptism

As I began studying Reformed Theology almost seven years ago, one thing that flew under the radar was the area of baptism. I am not sure why that happened but it did. I assumed that every believer in the protestant church believed in credo baptism a.k.a. credo baptism. For the past few months, I now know some protestant denominations including those in the reformed communities believe in paedo baptism a.k.a. infant baptism. Some of my favorite theologians such as R.C. Sproul, John Calvin, and Sinclair Ferguson all embrace paedo baptism while others such as John Piper, Albert Mohler, and John MacArthur embrace credo baptism.

So who is right and who is wrong? While I hold the credo baptism, because I see more Biblical evidence supporting credo, I am not saying that credo Baptists are right and paedo Baptists are wrong and vice versa. I am going to share two posts from both sides. One giving a Biblical defense of paedo baptism and the other giving a defense of credo baptism. The purpose of this post is not to say who is right and who is wrong. The purpose of this post to help those who do not understand the difference between the two and why certain church leaders hold their beliefs in whatever baptism position they have taken.

The first Kevin DeYoung who wrote a defense of paedo baptism:

It sounds like the beginning of a joke or a support group introduction, but it’s true: some of my best friends are Baptists. I speak at conferences with and to Baptists. I read books by Baptists (both the dead and the living). I love the Baptist brothers I know–near and far–who preach God’s word and minister faithfully in Christ’s church. I went to a Baptist church while in college and know that there are many folks of more credobaptist persuasion in my own church. I imagine the majority of my blog readers are Baptist. You get the picture. I have thousands of reasons to be thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ who do not believe in baptizing infants.

And yet, I do. Gladly. Wholeheartedly. Because of what I see in Scripture.

One of the best things I get to do as a pastor is to administer the sacrament of infant baptism to the covenant children in my congregation. Before each baptism, I take a few minutes to explain why we practice infant baptism in our church. My explanation always includes some–but rarely is there time for all–of the following:

It our great privilege this morning to administer that sacrament of baptism to one of our little infants. We do not believe that there is anything magical about the water we apply to the child. The water does not wash away original sin or save the child. We do not presume that this child is regenerate (though he may be), nor do we believe that every child who gets baptized will automatically go to heaven. We baptize infants not out of superstition or tradition or because we like cute babies. We baptize infants because they are covenant children and should receive the sign of the covenant.

Read the entire post here.

A week after Kevin DeYoung wrote this post, Sam Storms wrote a defense of credo baptism:

Last week my good friend Kevin DeYoung posted an article on his blog titled, A Brief Defense of Infant Baptism. I thought it might help everyone to hear a brief defense of believer’s baptism, or what we typically refer to as credo baptism. What follows is not a response to Kevin’s arguments, but simply an outline of the reasons why I remain a credo-baptist.

Why do I believe that only believers should be baptized in water? Why am I a "credo-baptist" rather than a "paedo-baptist" (the term "credo" comes from the Latin which means "I believe," hence baptism for believers only; the term "paedo" comes from the Greek word for infant).

Before I answer that question, it may be helpful to briefly explain why some Christians baptize their infants. The primary reason comes from their understanding of the relationship between Old Testament circumcision and New Testament baptism.

In the Old Testament, male infants were circumcised as the outward sign of entrance into the covenant community of Israel. This did not guarantee their salvation, but marked them out as recipients of the external blessings of a national covenant into which they were introduced by physical birth.

Read the entire post here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Cross Was Never About Us

The cross is not primarily a shout-out to our worth, but a shout-out to God's worth and righteousness, that he might be exalted as the "just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26)...The cross is primarily about God's glory. It is about his holiness and righteousness and justice being upheld and vindicated in the forgiveness of sinners...The cross was Jesus' finest hour because it was the hour when he preserved the Father's glory and put it on display, which was the greatest longing in the human heart.

J.R. Vassar, Glory Hunger

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Gospel-Centered Church is Living Proof

By the power of God, the gospel contains something new in the world today...Gospel-centered churches are living proof the good news is true, that Jesus is not a theory but is real, as he gives back to our humanness. In its doctrine and culture, words and deeds, such a church visible the restored humanity only Christ can give.

Ray Ortlund, The Gospel: How The Church Portrays The Beauty of Christ

Monday, March 23, 2015

Am I Still Involved in the Church Plant?

I know I have not written a lot for the past few days. A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks that we not really what I have expected. I have even wrestled with sharing with you on something very personal. I know sharing something like this will leave me vulnerable to attacks and even criticism, but I hope you read my words with humility and understanding.

First, my health is okay. Most of you know I went through cancer in 2007. In fact, this Thursday will mark seven years since my last chemo treatment and I praise God for the good health He has given me. Second, family is good. Kids are doing well in school and my wife is doing well.

Now for the big question, Am I still involved with the church plant? The answer is no. I would like to share why I am no longer involved in planting a church, however, I will not go into great detail, but keep it simple.

Back in August, I left the church where I was Youth Pastor to help replant a church with a friend who started one a few years ago. We were the only two leaders. About a month later, an older gentleman came on board who has been involved in a PCA plant in Wichita Falls that no longer exist, he was not an elder at that time. My first thoughts was he was coming on as an mentor for me and my friend, which seem to be the idea my friend had at the time. It was not until a few months later, the older gentleman became more of a dictator than a mentor. He started dictated where my family and I should attend church on Sunday morning and other issues where it felt like I could not even breathe without his approval.

During one of our leadership meetings, I voiced my frustrations over the lack of tasks being done in the church plant. Then out of no where, the older gentleman and my friend attacked me and my family. After a four hour meeting which I defended myself and my family, I decided with prompting from the Spirit to leave the church plant.

Last week, I met with the two men to reconcile. We did. My friend, who I originally joined to plant the church, apologized. We hugged each other. We are still friends. The older gentleman said sorry but was trying to make me feel bad about leaving which I had none of it. The next day I was an emotional wreck. I questioned if I made the right decision. My wife recommended going to bed early which was a blessing from God. I had a clear head the following day. After praying and reflecting on all that happened, I believe I made the right decision.

What I am doing now, I have taken refuge at Wichita Falls Baptist Church, where a friend of mine is the pastor. The church has been loving toward us and my family. We have loved the gospel-centered preaching, teaching, and worship. We have not officially joined the church yet, but we are thinking very strongly that this is the church where we want to heal, grow, and serve. As far as me becoming a church leader or on staff any time soon, I am going to let the Lord lead and when the right opportunity comes, I will let Him lead. Will I plant a church again? I would love to do so again. Not sure when. I believe there is a gospel work that needs to be done in our city.

Pray for my family and I as we seek the Lord in the direction He wants us to go. Pray for healing and growth during this time. As I close, I would like to leave you with a lyric video of a song we sang in worship yesterday. You might be going through a rough time right now, may not be what I went through, but you are suffering. I want to leave you with this song saying, as long as God is glorified, we will give you all that we are.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

John Piper on 2 Corinthians 4:4-6

This was one of the first Bible passages I learned as a young Christian. Reason I learned it was because I was a devout Carman fan (I am not anymore) who read verses 3-4 before introducing the song "Witch's Invitation" in one of his videos. About a year later, I attended Super Summer which is a week of Bible study with students all over Texas. The theme was "Shine Out" which was based on 2 Corinthians 4:6 and a song by Al Denson which was called, "Shine Out The Light."

I am grateful that John Piper does a more in depth study of this passage than what was giving to me during my early days as a Christian.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

R.C. Sproul on Grace

Grace has been defined as God's unmerited favor. There is even the popular acrostic, God's Riches At Christ's Expense, which I has used myself in teaching the Bible. What exactly is grace? To answer that question, let us read what R.C. Sproul wrote:

A number of decades ago at the Ligonier Valley Study Center, we sent out a Thanksgiving card with this simple statement: “The essence of theology is grace; the essence of Christian ethics is gratitude.” In all the debates about our role versus God’s role in sanctification—our growth in holiness—we’d stay on the right track if we’d remember this grace-gratitude dynamic. The more we understand how kind God has been to us and the more we are overcome by His mercy, the more we are inclined to love Him and to serve Him.

Yet we can’t get the grace-gratitude dynamic right if we aren’t clear on what grace means. What is grace? The catechisms many of us learned as children give us the answer: “Grace is the unmerited favor of God.” The first thing that we understand about grace is what it’s not—it’s not something we merit. In fact, if that is all we ever understand about grace, I’m sure God will rejoice that we know His grace is unmerited. So, here’s our working definition of grace—it is unmerit.

Paul’s epistle to the Romans sheds light on what we mean when we say that grace is unmerit. In 1:18–3:20, the Apostle explains that on the final day, for the first time in our lives, we will be judged in total perfection, in total fairness, in absolute righteousness. Thus, every mouth will be stopped when we stand before the tribunal of God. This should provoke fear in the hearts of fallen people, as condemnation is the only possible sentence for sinful men and women: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23).

But those who trust in Christ Jesus have hope, for if we are in Him by faith, we have been “justified freely by His grace.” Note that justification is accomplished not by obligation, but freely through grace on account of the redemption purchased by Jesus alone. There’s no room for boasting, for we are justified not by our works but by grace alone through faith alone. Paul goes on to cite Abraham as the preeminent example of one who was justified by faith alone and therefore free from God’s sentence of condemnation. If the basis for Abraham’s salvation, his justification, was something that Abraham did—some good deed, some meritorious service that he performed, some obligation that he performed—if it were on the basis of works, Paul says, he would have had something about which to boast. But Abraham had no such merit. All he had was faith, and that faith itself was a gift: “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (4:3; see Eph. 2:8–10).

Romans 4:4–8 is a key passage here:

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

That’s grace. Paul couldn’t say it any other way. To him who works, it’s debt; if you merit something, it means that someone is obligated to pay you. If I hire you as an employee and promise to pay you one hundred dollars if you work eight hours, I must pay you for working the eight hours. I’m not doing you a favor or giving you grace. You’ve earned your pay. You’ve fulfilled the contract, and I’m morally obliged to give you your wages.

With respect to the Lord, we are debtors who cannot pay. That’s why the Bible speaks of redemption in economic language—we were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:20). Only someone else—Christ—can pay our debt. That’s grace. It’s not our good works that secure our rescue but only the works of Christ. It’s His merit, not ours. We don’t merit anything. He grants us His merit by grace, and we receive it only by faith. The essence of grace is its voluntary free bestowal. As soon as it’s a requirement, it’s no longer grace.

Grace should never cease to amaze us. God has an absolute, pure, holy standard of justice. That’s why we cling with all our might to the merit of Jesus Christ. He alone has the merit to satisfy the demands of God’s justice, and He gives it freely to us. We haven’t merited it. There’s nothing in us that elicits the Lord’s favor that leads to our justification. It’s pure grace.

And the more we understand what God has done for us as sinners, the more willing we are to do whatever He requires. The great teachers of the church say the first point of genuine sanctification is an increasing awareness of our own sinfulness. With that comes, at the same time, an increasing awareness of God’s grace. And with that, again, increasing love and increasing willingness to obey Him.

When we truly understand grace—when we see that God only owes us wrath but has provided Christ’s merit to cover our demerit—then everything changes. The Christian motivation for ethics is not merely to obey some abstract law or a list of rules; rather, our response is provoked by gratitude. Jesus understood that when He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” If I may have the liberty to paraphrase: “Keep My commandments not because you want to be just, but because you love Me.” A true understanding of grace—of God’s unmerited favor—always provokes a life of gratitude and obedience.

Source: What is Grace?

Recommended Reading:

Prepared by Grace, for Grace

Salvation by Grace by Matthew Barrett

Proof by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones

On the Grace of God by Justin Holcomb

Generous Justice by Tim Keller

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What are the Marks of an Unhealthy Church?

Mark Dever has written a wonderful book called, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, which has been a gift to the body of Christ seeking to becoming a growing congregation. Kevin DeYoung has written in a recent post, 9 Marks of an Unhealthy Church. Those 9 marks are:

1. The more peripheral the sermon topic, the more excited the people become.

2. The church staff does not enjoy coming to work.

3. The pastor and his wife do not get along.

4. Almost no one knows where the money goes.

5. The leadership team never changes or always changes.

6. No one is ever raised up from the church for pastoral ministry or sent from the church into missionary service.

7. There is a bottle neck in decision making.

8. The preaching has become erratic.

9. There are issues everyone knows about but no one talks about openly.

I am sure you can identify one of these areas to a church you have been involved with or currently attending. I know for me, I can identify a few.

Click here to read the entire post.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mark Dever Interviews Tim Keller on Life, Ministry, and Books

I am grateful that 9 Marks has released this interview that Mark Dever did with Tim Keller. This interview is divided into three parts. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Part 1: Life

Part 2: Ministry

Part 3: Books

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Review: God's Battle Plan for the Mind by David W. Saxton

Most Pastors in churches today, encourage their congregations in spiritual disciplines. The most you will hear in a sermon are prayer, memorizing a verse or two, and even journaling. One discipline that seems to be neglected is meditation. Biblical meditation is a lost art in the modern church.

Some have this idea that meditation is some new age thing where you try to empty your mind, which Biblical meditation is the exact opposite. Back in the days of the Puritans, they strongly encourage their congregations in the discipline of Biblical meditation. David W. Saxton takes a look at what Biblical meditation is as the Puritans taught in his book, God's Battle Plan for the Mind.The book begins with the purpose of rediscovering the joy of Biblical meditation. When Christians talks about meditating on the Bible, we mean fill your minds with God's Word unlike some mysticism that says empty your mind.

Saxton also give the definition of meditation from the Puritans such as Thomas Watson and John Ball. Saxton goes to explain what are the reasons and benefits for Biblical meditation. There is one chapter that I found a little odd at first, which is meditating on certain subjects. Saxton talks such things to meditate on the glories of heaven and overcoming sin. All of these things keep pointing us to the Bible which is where gives us a glimpse of heaven and the power to overcome sin.

Some of you might think this is a book that might be over your heads, however, this is book is not for super educated. It is simple and easy to read for those who want a better understanding. There are not many resources on Biblical meditation. I am now thankful there is one where it points to the Bible and teachings from the past that will help Christians understand the appropriate way to meditate on the Bible.

Thanks Reformation Heritage Books for letting me review this book.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Music Monday: Come and Make Us Free by Coral Ridge Music

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Purity in a Digital Age

Tim Challies delivers a much needed sermon in our day and time. This video is from session of the 2015 Ligonier National Conference.