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We Travel an Appointed Way: Making Spiritual Progress

Ray Ortlund:

“Malice needs nothing to live on; it can feed on itself.  A contentious spirit will find something to quarrel about.  A faultfinder will find occasion to accuse a Christian even if his life is as chaste as an icicle and pure as snow.  A man of ill will does not hesitate to attack, even if the object of his hatred be a prophet or the very Son of God Himself.  If John comes fasting, he says he has a devil; if Christ comes eating and drinking, he says He is a winebibber and a glutton.  Good men are made to appear evil by the simple trick of dredging up from his own heart the evil that is there and attributing it to them.”

A. W. Tozer, We Travel An Appointed Way

Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision

Justin Taylor:

In his book Losing Our Virtue David Wells described worldliness as

that system of values, in any given age, which has at its center our fallen human perspective, which displaces God and his truth from the world, and which makes sin look normal and righteousness seem strange. It thus gives great plausibility to what is morally wrong and, for that reason, makes what is wrong seem normal. (p. 4)

In an interview he elaborated on worldliness in connection with fundamentalism (of yesterday) and evangelicalism (of today):

We have just come out of a period within the evangelical world where worldliness was treated as a very trivial matter. I actually remember the time (this dates me significantly) when Mrs. Billy Graham came to England at the very beginning of Graham’s crusades, and the newspapers carried all kinds of articles about the fact that she was a Christian woman and she wore makeup. There were many Christian women in England, in those olden days, who did not wear makeup — they thought it was worldly.

But it wasn’t only makeup. There was a time when Christians didn’t go to most movies. There were all kinds of worldly things that, within fundamentalism in particular, people didn’t do.

The problem with this was that they identified really quite trivial things as worldly.

If you look in the New Testament, worldliness is not trivial at all. What you have, in fact, is a competing loyalty: anybody who loves the world cannot be a friend of God. That is how profound is the choice that we are making.

So the question is, where and in what ways have these antithetical, competing loyalties intruded into our souls unwittingly?

Should Christians Embrace Evolution: Biblical & Scientific Responses

Tim Challies:

What the book demonstrates above all, and what it demonstrates especially in the first half, is that there is far more to the issue of creation than merely whether the world was created in six days or six billion years. This doctrine of creation provides a foundation for many others. As we let go of a literal six-day creation, we find many other critical doctrines are in danger of falling with it. For example:

  • Was Adam truly a historical person who truly fathered the entire human race?
  • Did death exist before man’s fall into sin? What kind of death came with the Fall?
  • Did God create a world in which death was, in fact, a necessary (and good!) part of the created order?
  • Can one join Darwinianism and the Bible without inadvertently (but necessarily) slipping into Gnostic errors which downplay the physical in favor of the spiritual?

This is merely a sampling. The fact is that creation does not stand alone within the Bible; there is much that hinges upon it.

The book’s second half turns to questions related to science and looks to homology; the nature of the fossil record; chromosomal fusion and common ancestry; information and thermodynamics; and other topics. Essentially, this portion of the book shows that those who hold to a young earth do not have to check their brains at the door. It is possible to be an intellectually-fulfilled six-day creationist (something Al Mohler has also demonstrated in this conference talk).

Putting the two halves together, we have a book that can be read through or that can be used for reference, to address specific concerns. It is a book to be read by six-day creationists who are eager to confirm what they believe and it is a book to be read by those who doubt six-day creationism or who have turned from it all together. Even if such people are not convinced by the arguments, at the very least they will find the debate framed in an honest and compelling way. It will show them the questions they need to be willing and able to answer if they are to remain faithful to Scripture.

Perhaps the golden quote in the book is this one: “Every generation of Christianity has its own stigma by which the believer’s faith is severly tested.” It seems increasingly clear that evolution is the great test of the early twenty-first century. We are being tested to see if we will capitulate, if we will feel shame, if we will allow the world to transform the church. Really, this is a test to see whether we will allow the Bible to be the norming norm, the ultimate source of truth that takes precedent over all others, or whether we will prioritize our own understanding of God’s natural revelation. This book asks all the right questions and, as far as I can see, answers them faithfully. I highly recommend you keep a copy of it handy.

The Nomadic Church: Growing Your Congregation Without Owning the Building

Ed Stetzer:

Churches without buildings are in the news– on the front page of USA Today, no less.

The phenomenon is increasingly common– On Sunday, I humorously blogged on our own experience this week. There is even a book called, The Nomadic Church.

The USA Today story cites some fast facts including:

  •  A USA TODAY look at the five largest and five fastest-growing school districts in the continental USA found that all 10 had granted permits for religious congregations to hold weekend worship.
  • New York City, the largest, is typical: Christian churches are the primary clients because Muslims and Jews worship on Fridays and Saturdays, when school spaces usually are being used for student activities.
  • •Acts 29 Network, an inter-denominational, Seattle-based evangelical coalition that has started 350 churches across the nation in the past five years, estimates about 16% of these meet in school spaces.

“We don’t have a hidden agenda. Our heart is to serve the community just like schools serve the community. … They’re designed for large groups, and they’ve got parking,” says Scott Thomas, Acts 29 president.

• A 2007 national survey of newly established Protestant churches found that 12% met in schools, according to LifeWay, a Nashville-based Christian research agency.

Be sure to read the whole article in USA Today.

Faith on Trial: Psalm 73

Kevin DeYoung:

You might want to check out his new old book from Martyn Lloyd-Jones. It’s a series of expositions on Psalm 73 called Faith on Trial.

I wrote the foreword (a harder task than you might think) and have pasted it below. I tried to keep things interesting.

*****

Writing a foreword is funny business. Even though I’ve asked plenty of people to write a foreword for my books, now that I’m writing one for someone else I have to stop and think what they’re for. I suppose a foreword is kind of like a big endorsement, a really long one that gets put at the front of the book instead of the back. The prospective reader is meant to think, “Hey, would you look at that—someone I know really likes this book written by someone I’ve never heard of.” The foreword grabs your attention and makes you say, “I’ll give this book a try.”

Herein lies my dilemma with the book in your hands: I should not be writing a foreword for Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I mean, he never even asked for one! Okay, so the fact he died when I was three years old makes a personal invitation from the great Welsh preacher a bit unlikely. But that’s precisely my point. By standard foreword protocol, the good Doctor should be writing for me. He’s is my elder, my example, my teacher, one of my heroes. It was kind of Christian Focus to ask me to supply a foreword, but there’s a chance this could backfire for them. I can hear it now: “Lloyd-Jones I know, but who is DeYoung?” This is one work where we must hope the foreword writer doesn’t distract the reader from noticing the real author of the book.

Having said all that, let’s imagine by some strange (and most unfortunate) fluke that you’ve read something by Kevin DeYoung and nothing by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. So here you are, reading this foreword, looking for a push over the edge into the canyon of consumer spending. I know the feeling. Let me try to give you a nudge.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the medically trained doctor and famous pastor at London’s Westminster Chapel, has been one of the biggest influences on my Christian life and pastoral ministry. Here’s how it went: First I read The Puritans, a collection of his addresses from Puritan and Westminster Conferences. I loved the history and was quickly enthralled with Lloyd-Jones theological acumen. I then poured over his early evangelistic sermons at Aberavon. Then I plowed through his most famous work, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (a book my wife was reading when we first met—a strong indication I had found the right woman!). Later I read and rereadSpiritual Depression. Ditto for Preaching and Preachers. Several other books from the best English-speaking expositor of twentieth century also sit on my shelves.

And I’ll never forget getting Iain Murray’s two volume biography of Lloyd-Jones as a Christmas present while I was still in college. I read it day and night during my break and whenever I got a chance into the spring semester. It was an exhilarating experience, which is saying something for a work that tops out over a thousand pages. Reading about Lloyd-Jones I knew I wanted to preach, and I wanted to preach the same gospel he preached with the same precision, the same fearless passion, and the same unequivocal commitment to the truth of Scripture.

I agreed to write this foreword because it gives me great pleasure to think of a new generation of Christians and ministers finding the same spiritual treasures I’ve found in Lloyd-Jones. If I can lead anyone to Lloyd-Jones I’m glad to have done my part.

A stubborn Welshman, Lloyd-Jones was far from perfect. He too quickly slipped into superlatives and could be too opinionated at times. But anyone who has read his books or heard his sermons (and his books are more or less typed up sermons) will testify that this man was anointed by God to preach the word. His writing is theologically precise, without being arid. His prose is conversational, yet without being cloying and colloquial. His exegesis is slow and plodding, but never boring. His ability to take a phrase of Scripture and hold it up the light so we can see all the angles and refractions, all the implications and applications, was Piperesque before there was John Piper. His books are spiritual in the best sense of the word.

This particular book is a searching exposition of Psalm 73, that great chapter that starts with doubt, ends in delight, and has God everywhere in between. In the first chapter, Lloyd-Jones hints that this is a book for “battered and beaten,” for the one who can no longer “give the impression that he or she is always walking on the mountain top.” For anyone who has ever wondered if life is fair, or if God is fair, these sermons will speak to your predicament. The Doctor will apply the balm of Scripture to soothe your soul and strengthen your faith.

And yet, like a good doctor, Lloyd-Jones will also expose our real condition. He had little patience for those who used the fine sounding phrases of Scripture “like drugs” to dull our senses and mask the real problems in our hearts. He always pressed home the hard parts of the Bible, so that by an honest assessment of ourselves we could find grace to help in our time of need. This book is no different. Lloyd-Jones challenges us on everything from thinking spiritually to accepting God’s sovereign discipline in our lives. He calls the Christian away from self-pity and introspection. He rebukes the Christian, on the one hand, for believing he has a right to God’s mercy, and on the other hand, for fearing that God’s mercy will ever let him go. This book has the right mix of affliction for the comfortable and comfort for the afflicted.

So by all means, take advantage of this new book of old sermons. If you haven’t read Martyn Lloyd-Jones before, this is as a good place to start as any. Faith on Trial makes for wonderful devotional reading. It can also be a supplement to your study of Psalm 73. It’s also an engaging, honest look at Christianity perfect for an inquiring non-Christian. The truths are deep, but the approach is accessible. Lloyd-Jones gives you meat, but he cuts it up first.

And yes, the book is better than the foreword. Trust me.

Freedom From the Seven Deadly Sins

Jared Wilson:

After a minister had spoken strongly against sin one morning, one of his members said, “We don’t want you to talk so plainly about sin because if our boys and girls hear you mention it, they will more easily become sinners. Call it a mistake if you will, but do not speak so bluntly about sin.”

The minister went to the medicine shelf and brought back a bottle of strychnine marked POISON. He said, “I see what you want me to do. You want me to change the label. Suppose I take off this ‘poison’ label and put on some mild label such as ‘peppermint candy.’ Can’t you see the danger? The milder you make the label, the more deadly the poison.”

During the last few years we have been putting a mild label on sin. We’ve called it “error,” “negative action,” and “inherent fault.” But it is high time that we put a POISON label back on the poison bottle and not be afraid to be as plain as the Bible is about the tragic consequences of sin.

— Billy Graham, Introduction to Freedom From the Seven Deadly Sins (Zondervan, 1966).

King Solomon: The Temptations of Money, Sex, and Power

Justin Taylor recently interviewed Philip Ryken about his new book, King Solomon.  You can see the interview here.

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