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Archive for February, 2010

5 Good Books by Puritans

Here are five good books written by Puritans – not about them but by them.

  1. The Book of Martyrs by John Foxe. It’s better known as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. It includes the stories of scores of Christians who gave their lives for the Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. The fictional story of “Christian” making his journey to the Celestial City.
  3. Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks. A book-length treatment of 2 Corinthians 2:11b – “we are not ignorant of Satan’s devices.”
  4. Holiness by J.C. Ryle. A tremendous study of our being set apart by God, for God, and to God.
  5. The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen. The results of the death of Jesus Christ.
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It can be a daunting task to pray for a group of people – or a list of people. Where do you begin? What should you pray for? What if you don’t know what to pray for? How long should you spend on each person?

The format I use when I’m praying through our church’s directory or my class lists is easy to remember and to apply. It’s worked well for me and I want to pass it along.

Start with the first person (or family, if its applicable in the case of the church directory) and include three specific items.

First, thank God for them. Express your thanks to the Lord for bringing them into your life.

Second, pray the same thing for everyone. For example, pray that they would know their purpose in life – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I determine what the one “big thing” will be  before I start praying.

Third, pray for something specific to each person. If you’re aware of a need, by all means bring it before the throne of God and intercede on their behalf.

After you’ve done those three things, go to the next family or person on the list. You might take several minutes with each person or family, or maybe less than a minute, but the time doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you’re spending productive time expressing your thoughts and feelings to God on behalf of others (and that’s pleasing to Him!).

Praying for a list of people doesn’t have to be daunting. It can be productive and effective if you have a practical plan for how to do it. I hope this helps!

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Just Do Something, by Kevin DeYoung has become my “go-to” book when the issue is God’s will.

The subtitle just about says it all: “A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will – or – How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random Bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.” That’s one of the longest subtitles I’ve seen in a while, but it summarizes DeYoung’s purpose – making sense of the will of God.

DeYoung, pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, presents a better way – the way of wisdom – than the conventional approach which seems to be the majority (and default) opinion in today’s church. If we would have wisdom and live the way God wants us to live, we must do three things: study God’s Word (drink deeply of it); get the advice and counsel of godly people; and pray continually.

DeYoung applies these principles to work (the question of “what job should I take?”) and marriage (the question of “whom should I marry?”) in an excellent chapter which was most likely directed to some of those he regularly ministers to in a university town. Pastors can attest that these two questions make up the majority of discussion regarding God’s will, especially with younger people.

I heartily recommend this book. It’s well-written, clear, and most importantly, consistent with Scripture. It also meets my criteria of a good book these days – it’s under 200 pages (128 including notes).

Tolle Lege!

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Book Review

 

Education in America is in ruins. Doug Wilson is trying to repair those ruins. In his book Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, he makes a strong case for “distinctively Christian education” (which is part of the subtitle).

After diagnosing the problem, Wilson develops the idea of Christian education that is truly Christian, not simply a copy of government/public schools with prayer and a Bible class added. Several points were powerful in this section: Christian parents have the ultimate responsibility and accountability for the education of their children; and the necessity of taking into account the sinfulness of our students as well as ourselves.

Wilson compares and contrasts the different educational options in a fair and balanced way. While he obviously supports private Christian schools, he recognizes their weaknesses as well as the strengths of the others. while he is straightforward, Wilson isn’t a bomb-thrower. I like that.

Classical education (which involves teaching every subject based on the categories of grammar, logic, and rhetoric) is a model that should be considered seriously by parents, teachers, and churches alike. Logos School in Moscow, Idaho, which was started by Wilson and several other families, follows this model and has since it’s inception.

In my opinion, his most important point is that God is sovereign over all and His Word speaks to every area of life – including education. Christian parents, to whom the book was written, should take note of that. Education is not neutral. Someone’s worldview is going to be promoted – which one will it be?

If you want to know what a Christian view of education looks like, and a lot of clear thinking besides, read this book.

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It didn’t take long for me to discover that being a Christian wasn’t easy.  In fact, there were (and still are) times when it was downright hard. The initial “glow” of putting my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior gave way to the reality of the discipline, effort, and struggle required to be a faithful follower of Christ. There’s still joy – don’t get me wrong – but the Christian life is a struggle.

The reality of the struggle is found in Scripture. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 says, “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Training for anything takes effort – we have to work at it. According to God’s Word, godliness is no different – effort and hard work is required to attain it. In 1 Timothy 4:10, Paul explains the kind of effort we need: “For to this end we labor and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all  people, especially of those who believe.” He uses the word agonizomai to describe our labor and strife – it refers to working, laboring, striving, and straining to the point of agony and exhaustion. Godliness and maturity in Christ require that kind of effort.

While living as a Christian is hard, there is help, hope, and joy available.

We have help in our walk with Jesus Christ. First, God gives us the ability, power, and strength we need through His Holy Spirit. Philippians 2:13-14 says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but much more in my absence, 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.” We don’t have to muster up the strength to be faithful to the Lord on our own (that’s good news!) because He is at work in us to bring it about. Yes, we work, but only because He is at work in us.

We have hope in our life as a Christian. While it can be agonizing and hard work to be a follower of Jesus Christ, we have a great promise in 1 John 3:2-3: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we will be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” As those whom God has made part of His family, we’re painfully aware that we are not what we should be, but we will be like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when we are with Him in eternity. As the hymn says, “It will be worth it all,” when we see Him.

Even though the Christian life is hard, we have joy in our labor. “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand  of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Heb. 12:2-3). Everything Christ endured for us on the cross, as well as before it, was with a view to the joy that would be His. I can’t help but think that His joy had to do not only with the future, but even with the excruciating pain of the crucifixion. There is joy in the destination, to be sure, but also in the journey.

Living as a Christian is hard, but we’re not without help, hope, and joy. Praise God for that!

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It is a melancholy fact, that constant temporal prosperity, as a general rule, is injurious to a believer’s soul. (J.C. Ryle)

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