Friday, May 27, 2011

Pastor's Bookshelf: Before God: The Biblical Doctrine of Prayer by Mike Sarkissian

I realized that I never posted a review on this book after I had written the review of Paul Miller's work on prayer.  I actually completed this book months ago and most recently our church just completed a 17 week Bible study on prayer using this book to guide us through what Scripture teaches on the matter.  

Let me be on record and state that I feel that Mike's book is possibly one of the most important books written on prayer within our generation.  This book is very theological, very sound, and drives the reader back to the Bible to better understand what Jesus taught in the aptly called "Lord's Prayer".  

Mike does a very thorough job of exegeting the Lord's Prayer and unpacking the implications of each petition contained in it.  He also takes on the issues of how we pray, why we pray, and the reason why we should pray 'In Jesus Name'.  If you have not yet read this book, please put it on your list.  I would go into detail about how extensively God has used this book to shape up my own feeble prayer life, but I do not want to drift into an area of boasting as I still have much room for improvement though, by God's grace, my prayer life has improved significantly.

You can pick this up from Mike's Website or Amazon.com.

I am actually such a fan of Mike's work that I would like to get a copy of this book into someone's hands.  I am giving away a copy of this book.  To enter, comment on this post and answer the following question:  What is your largest struggle in maintaining a healthy prayer life and why do you feel that deficiency exists?

To increase your chances of winning you can:
- Re-post this review by posting it to your facebook or creating a link to this blog using the feature below.
- Follow this blog either using Google or Networked Blogs.
- Tweet this link and mention @brojasonh
 
Drawing will be held on July 1, 2011.  Please be sure that I have a way to contact you and that I know you've posted this to facebook or your blog.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pastor's Bookshelf: A Taste of Heaven by R.C Sproul

What is God's intention for worship in the New Testament church?  We know of course that we are under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ and we no longer are required to practice the sacrifices and rituals as the Jews living under the Old Covenant would have.  However, does that mean that God's design for the reverence and meaning of worship have changed too?  Sproul argues that, while we obviously want to be very careful to consider the context and usage of anything from the Old Covenant before bringing it into the Church today, we can glean much deeper insight to how serious God takes the worship of His Name and how specific He was about the way we approach Him.

Though we don't go to the temple or burn incense on the altar, or take a lamb to the priest once a year to be slaughtered... the importance of those symbols (and others) hasn't simply gone away.  They serve to teach us that God expects us to approach Him with reverence and not flippantly.  That He desires sincere worship and that self-righteousness or works-boasting has no place in His courts.

This is important to consider because we live in a church culture that says pretty much anything goes.  We see so much irreverence in so many so-called churches these days.  Everything from using carnal means to get people through the doors to dumbing down the Gospel so much so that it becomes no Gospel at all (Galatians 1:6-10). 

But we must exercise careful prudence in planning how worship is structured in our church.  I'm not calling us back to a strict liturgy that would resemble the old-traditional Roman Catholic, rather saying that we need to approach everything we sing, do, and say in worship by asking the question.  Does this glorify God and point sinful man towards the Savior OR does this point sinful man towards a carnal world and excuse his sinful behavior?  

Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 10:31, that we should do all things to the glory of God.  This does not mean that we take a carnal thing (such as a secular song) and Christianize it for use in the church or on our local family friendly radio stations.  On the contrary it means that we need to consider all we do and filter it through whether or not this thing brings glory to God.  How we intend it isn't what determines what brings glory to God, whether or not it glorifies God is what determines whether or not it glorifies God.  We don't assign that meaning.  To get a better understanding of this, we look to Christ's words in Matthew 6:33, He said to seek first the Kingdom of God and HIS Righteousness... 

So that's the focus, seeking first that which glorifies God and that which strives after HIS righteousness... and not that which pleases us and to clear our consciences we tag God's name to it...

Lastly, He brings up the importance of the sacraments that have been ordained for the church today.  Baptism and the Lord's Supper.  Sproul presents the popular views on each and makes his case for which he ascribes to.  He and I fall pretty well in line with our belief on the Lord's Supper and it being only for a believer.  On the issue of Baptism we depart in view because, as a Presbyterian, Sproul teaches the practice of infant baptism.  Let me be clear that he absolutely rejects the idea that paedo-baptism (infant baptism) saves.  He believes infant baptism to merely be a sign of the New Covenant and not salvific.  On that we agree, it is a sign of the covenant.  But I would make the case that the New Testament teaches that Baptism, just like the observance of the Lord's Supper, is for the Believer only.

This is a great read, I give it 5 out of 5 stars for sure.  You can pick it up from Ligonier.org.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Reformation Trust <http://Ligonier.org > book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pastor's Bookshelf: A Praying Life by Paul E Miller

Well, I must admit I did not enjoy this book as much as I had hoped.  The book started very strongly, Miller does a great job of just being real and admitting to struggles that we all feel with prayer.  After all, we are a broken and sinful people and for Christians we hate the sin that dwells within us that constantly gets at us to sin, even in the neglect of prayer.

Then he moved into the way in which we ought to pray.  It was here that I would have to, at least partially, disagree with him.  He makes a point about how we are to pray humbly, and how we are to have faith like that of a child.  I completely agree with that 100%.  However, he then continues driving that point on to infer that there is no real structure that is necessarily important in our prayers.

Now, let me say that in principle I agree with this.  In principle, there are no exact words or special phrases that we can pray that bring a miracle.  Rather it is the heart behind the prayer that God is most concerned with.  After all, Paul does say that we don't know how to pray as we ought but that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27).  Further we know that what God desires is not empty sacrifice or empty words (Isaiah 1:10-15) but rather a broken heart and contrite spirit (Psalm 34:18; Psalm 51:17).  So in that respect I completely agree with Paul.  Please hear me, we don't have to have big fancy words or methods in our prayers. 

However, I reject the idea that there is no guidelines or prescriptions for prayer offered in Scripture.  Case in point would of course be the aptly named, Lord's prayer in Matthew 6:6-14.  Now, in fairness, Miller doesn't outright suggest that there is no guideline, however, in my opinion (whatever that is worth) he pushes the issue of a childlike prayer too far and in doing so implies what I've suggested as the problem with this part of the book.

For a more thorough handling of the subject of prayer, there are several books I would sooner recommend to you (and would be glad too if you wish to email me and request those titles).  Having said that, it is a good read and probably worth your time, just be discerning about it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Pastor's Bookshelf: The Grace of Repentance by Sinclair Ferguson

I first became tuned in to Sinclair Ferguson's work through a children's bible study book that we have been using with our kids during family devotion times.  I amazon searched his name and found many other titles. After reading (and reviewing) By Grace Alone, another of Ferguson's titles, I became a fan.

I recently read "The Grace of Repentance" by Ferguson and it did not disappoint.  I definitely give it 5 out of 5 stars.  This book is an easy read and very convicting.  We take God's grace for granted in so many ways.  We fail to realize that it is only by God's grace that we are even able to repent and turn to God.  

Sinclair does a great job of bringing that out and bringing to light the scriptural truth behind our sin, God's mercy in offering Christ, and God's grace in forbearing our sin and granting the grace of repentance to the Christian so that they continue to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).  

It seems to have been lost in the last generations, but this book is a fresh Biblical reminder that repentance is not just a one time thing we do when God saves us, it is a lifestyle.  Well said by Ferguson,  "A life of repentance is ongoing, dogged, persistent refusal to compromise with sin." (p.25).  Praise God for His grace and mercy in granting us repentance and allowing us the empowering of His Holy Spirit to continually turn from sin.

Available from Ligonier Ministries.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pastor's Bookshelf: What's So Great About the Doctrines of Grace by Richard Phillips

What's so great about the Doctrines of Grace?  That's the question that Richard Phillips asks in his book, which also bears the title.  So many misconceptions exist concerning what the true Doctrines of Grace teach.  Strawman arguments from those who have encountered Hyper-Calvinists have fueled much of the problem.  (as an aside, Hyper-Calvinism= false doctrine).  

Richard Phillips sets out to answer this question by examining the claims of each Doctrine against scripture to see if it is truly founded there.  I believe he does this very well.  Note, this is not an overly scholarly book.  What I mean by that is that Phillips seems to go to great lengths to bring the arguments into understandable terms.  If you are unclear on exactly what is meant by Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement (I prefer Particular Redemption or Definite Atonement to be more accurate), Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints this is a great book for you to check out.  It offers a thorough but concise and easy to understand approach to the Doctrines of Grace.

Available from Ligonier Ministries.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Reformation Trust <http://Ligonier.org > book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thoughts on Harold Camping

So I was asked my thoughts on Harold Camping.  Typically I just give the quick answer on something like this.  That answer being that the views of Harold Camping or any of his counterparts who have gone years before or who will come in the future are not worth the effort to comment on.  ((Just to be clear, I am not saying that they themselves aren't worth anything, just that their views aren't.))  That said, here are my thoughts.  I pray they are helpful to you.

First, we want to avoid saying things like 'those guys are wackos!'.  While they may or may not be of a sound mind, that really doesn't play into the discussion of their "end of the world" claims.  Harold Camping and his followers are either correct or incorrect in their assertion.  Being "wacko" wouldn't automatically mean they are incorrect.  Plus, we want to speak the truth, in all situations, in love.  (Ephesians 4:15).

Our goal in discerning the validity of any claim should always be three fold. 

1.) To defend the glorious truth of the Gospel. (Jude 3)
2.) To protect our minds from false doctrine. (Romans 12:1-3; 2 Timothy 1:14)
3.) To warn others with the intent to (a.) spare them from deception  (b.) pull the erring one from harm.  (James 5:19-20)

In other words, we sound the warning because we want to see God glorified and to love people and NOT just to be "right" in an argument.

So, Harold Camping claims that he knows that God is going to end the world on May 21, 2011... He believes this because he has supposedly "developed a system" that uses mathematics to interpret prophecies hidden in it.  By the way, our first red flag should be that HE developed this system.  Camping says the world will end on May 21, 2011 because that will be 722,500 days since, what he believes was, the crucifixion on April 1, AD33.  He gets the figure 722,500 by multiplying three hold numbers (5, 10, and 17) together, twice.

That's the claim, let's do the work of a Berean here (Acts 17:11) and examine this claim by Scripture.

Mark 13:32 - But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

Not even the Son (Jesus) knows the day nor the hour.  Only God the Father knows when He will end the world.  We know a fair amount about how it will end (2 Peter 3:10).  So it stands to reason that if God Himself only knows the day and the hour, then Harold Camping does not.

It's really that simple folks.  Now, we have to understand that the canon of Scripture is closed.  No new revelation is being added to the Bible.  Further, if anyone comes speaking something contradictory or altering to Scripture then the Bible wins the argument and the person making the claim is wrong. (2 Timothy 3:16)

Camping's claims deny Biblical inerrancy because he is claiming to have received an extra-biblical revelation/divine knowledge.  He asserts that since Noah knew about the flood, we can know about the end of the world too.  But that doesn't fly because God's purpose is not the same.  God's goal with Noah wasn't to end the world, just man.  God's purpose in the flood, among other things, was judgment on man for their sin and restoration of the covenant that God had made with man now to be kept through Noah and his descendants.  The "end" will be permanent restoration through the glorification of all who have believed on Christ and final judgment on the wicked who have rejected Him in unrighteousness.

So what should Christians think about the end of the world, be it Harold Camping's claims or just the fact that it one day will end.  Well, let's look at three texts.

2 Peter 3:11-18 - Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,  12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!  13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.  14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless,  15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,  16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.  17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness,  18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish at peace.  Take care that you are not carried away like the ignorant and unstable lawless people. (emphasis mine) Growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them.  11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”  

The Angels said, basically, don't just sit around thinking on things too much that you aren't meant to know, rather, GO fulfill what you've been told!  Which is to be His witnesses, to spread the Gospel, to the world. (Acts 1:7-8)

Ezekiel 33:1-9 - And the word of the Lord came to me, saying,  2 “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman,  3 and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people,  4 then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head.  5 ‘He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life.  6 ‘But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’  7 “Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a  message from My mouth and give them warning from Me.  8 “When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand.  9 “But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life.

Sound the warning!  Not about the end of the world so much, but rather about God's pending judgment on them for their sin and need for forgiveness.  And how God has provided that means in Jesus Christ the only Savior!  The reason to repent and trust Christ isn't because you are afraid of the end of the world or even of going to Hell.  That CERTAINLY is a part of the whole equation for sure, but that's not the reason that we should try and convince others to repent and trust in Christ.  The real reason that anyone should trust in Christ is because they have sinned and God's judgment resides on them... BUT GOD (Ephesians 2:1-9), in His kindness and goodness chose to show mercy on mankind through the willing substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, His Only Son!

Christ, who stood in our place and took God's wrath for our sin so that we who are guilty could be justified before God.  (Romans 2:3-5)

Let me, in keeping with good conscience to the truth of God's Word, avoid Harold Camping and his cult of lies.  With his deceptions he proves himself to be, in fact, NOT a brother in Christ but rather one of the antichrists that John spoke of. (1 John 4:1-6)  I would submit that in claiming to have this supposed knowledge of the end, Harold Camping is in fact NOT confessing the Biblical Christ.

In the literal sense of the word he is an anti-christ (anti=against) Christ.  He and his followers are enemies of the Gospel.  they are enemies of God and this should cause us not to be arrogant or haughty... but rather to weep for them and charge such a one by the mercies of the Living God, to repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15) that they might be saved!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Hey Ladies and Gentlemen!

Ladies, you cannot control the lustful thoughts of a man, BUT you can do your part to help protect him from stumbling.  When dressing, please consider the following things:

1.) Are you dressing to frame your face or your body?  An important question... one shows you respect yourself and care about the purity of others... the other could be sending some very wrong signals...

2.) Does your attire draw attention to you and your body or does it fit with the fact that you are a Christian young lady who is concerned chiefly with glorifying Christ and not self?

3.) Think forward to the day when you have children of your own... do want the young women who are around your son to be stumbling blocks to him by the way they dress?  The thoughts you are enticing from young men, would you want your son thinking them about young ladies?  Just a thought...

Men, you obviously cannot control what the ladies around you are wearing.  But please consider these questions for self-examination:  

1.) Are you, for your part, engaging in all out war against the sin of lust?  Are you pleading with God in prayer to lead you in paths of righteousness and not in the ways of the wicked?  

2.) Are you guarding your heart and seeking to honor God with your every action and taking every thought captive, or are you allowing Satan a foothold over you with lusts of the flesh?  Don't buy the lie, straight from Satan himself, that just because "all guys do it" that it's ok... it's not.

3.) Are you preparing yourself for the day you will marry and begin leading your family by loving and demonstrating for them Christ?

4.) Would you want a young man thinking the same lustful thoughts about your daughter that you are catching yourself thinking?

5.) Would you feel comfortable one day explaining to your wife, one day, about the things you thought about others without delay OR would it be better if you were able to be honest that it was a struggle but you loved her enough to fight against it even though you didn't know her at that time?

At the end of the day, both Christian men and Christian women must keep in mind that Christ died to pay for that sin as well as all the others we struggle with.  Purity rings, "Silver Ring Things", abstinence til marriage vows and all the like are no good if they aren't motivated a love for the Savior and a desire to live your life in a Christ-exalting way.  A list of rules and such about it aren't going to fix it, but focusing more and more on understanding that Christ stood in your place and took God's wrath for even that sin will most definitely move a Christian to pursue the mortification of any sin!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fight the Good Fight! - Tribute to Rev. Gary McCaleb

Today I had the privilege to attend the retirement reception for a man who has been a mentor to me and who will always be a great friend.  Rev. Gary McCaleb retires this May after 20+ years of ministry at the same church.  Through three years serving under Rev. McCaleb as Youth Pastor and 5 years of friendship I have watched (and learned from) him what it means to be a faithful Shepherd. 

If I had to single out just one thing, amongst many, that he taught me it was what the heart of a Pastor who loves his flock looks like.  He didn't have to sit me down and explain it, he demonstrated it with the way he lead the church and loved the people there. 

Today as I was speaking with him at the reception, I asked him what came next for him.  I expected to hear of plans to travel or a hobby or project that he might want to take up.  None of that was even mentioned, instead he spoke very deeply of a new ministry that he will now have the opportunity to be a part of.  He will now be a part of a ministry that encourages and lifts up Pastors and teaches them how not to neglect the watch-care of their own soul while striving to Shepherd their people.

Once again I am encouraged by the work that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has done in Bro. Gary's heart.  I pray that his example will always be a reminder to me, I pray that God bless him and his wife in this new ministry venture as he seeks to remain faithful to the call to ministry, and I pray that God would continue to work mightily through him to bring the Good News of the Gospel to a lost and dying world.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NASB) - I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;  8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. 

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