July 30, 2007

Looking for a Few Good Books?

Every now and again, I get to recommend a book to someone. I always enjoy that. It’s like being able to tell someone where to get really good sweet tea, or recommending a really great vacation spot…but better! Christian books (good ones anyway) contain a wealth of help as we journey with the Lord. One of my hopes for this little blog community is that we will take advantage of the blessing God has afforded us in the printed page. To jump-start you, here are a few books that have been a great help to me through the years...

The Cross-Centered Life by CJ Mahaney. A fresh and brief reminder of how focusing on the cross of Jesus Christ, and what it means for us, can (and must) transform our everyday living. Maybe the most influential book I have read in the last 5 years!

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Piper calls the next generation (and the current ones!) not to blow the seventy or so years of breath God affords us on the American Dream. There is so much more to live for!

The Art of Manfishing by Thomas Boston. Boston is my historical hero. This book was written, originally, as a sermon to himself…reminding him of the character and prayer-life that will make as effective witness for Jesus.

The Crown and Covenant Series by Douglas Bond. A trio of historical fictional novels, based in times of great persecution in 17th century Scotland. The novels follow the story of a faithful Christian family and how they dealt with the trials. There is much adventure…and much to learn about Christian family life. These are technically kids books…but compelling enough to bring out the kid in this thirty-year-old!

Revival by Brian Edwards. This book probably ranks, along with The Cross Centered Life, at the top of the list of books I am most thankful to God for. A survey of biblical revival—as we find it in the kingship of Hezekiah in Judah; and as God has done it again and again over the last 2000 years!

Anything by Iain Murray. Murray is, by far, my favorite author. He writes mostly historical and biographical books…but always with a devotional flair.

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. A collection of letters between the author and CS Lewis…detailing how God’s chastisements for our idolatry are sometimes severe, but always merciful. Have a box of Kleenex ready as you read this one!

The Pathway to Freedom by Alistair Begg. Had to include this one since I am currently preaching on the Ten Commandments! The best material I know of on the subject,

I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Josh Harris. A book on courtship (as an alternative to modern dating). One I didn’t read 15 yrs. ago…but wish I had!

The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges. In the same vein as The Cross-Centered Life, but more in depth. Wonderful, wonderful reminders of all that Jesus accomplished for us…and how joyful it is to cling to those truths…and preach the gospel to yourself every day.

July 24, 2007

Gathered Lilies from Solomon's Song

This week, in my yearly journey through the Bible, I have been “feeding among the lilies” in The Song of Solomon. As you may know, the entire book is a love song, presumably between a young Solomon and his beautiful bride. Let me share with you a few of the blossoms that I have picked:

1. It is funny (and merciful) how God often, through a pre-planned reading schedule, brings you right to the passage you need to hear most. That has happened with me this week in The Song. If you would have asked me, on Monday morning: ‘In what area do you need the most sanctification right now?’ there is no question I would have answered: I need to be a better husband and father. It is sad how, for almost all of us (and maybe minister’s especially), it is so easy to neglect to minister to our family. It is easier to sin against our family than anyone else. It is easy to take our spouse’s love for granted instead of working at love and companionship every day. And this Monday morning I was feeling the guilt of those statements more than I have in quite a while. And low and behold, what was my daily reading for that day? The Song of Solomon, chapters 1-2! God moves in a mysterious way!

2. Love is a pursuit. As I said above, many of us tend to take our marriages for granted after a while. After eight years, it can start to feel like: ‘Of course we love each other.’ And part of that is normal and healthy, I suppose. Things cannot and will not be the same for a thirty-year-old couple with two children as they were when we were 22 and newly married! However…The Song gives us no indication that the intoxication of romance and wooing is only confined to newlyweds. Most of us need that reminder. We need to pursue our spouses with demonstrations of our affection. The Song of Solomon is a great book for helping rekindle those flames.

3. Christ loves his church more than any husband ever loved his beautiful bride! In generations gone by, many well-meaning and godly Christians read this song, not as a manifesto on marital love, but as an allegory about Christ’s love for the church. In other words, they saw every description of a lily, a bed, or a handsome lover as symbolic of some aspect of Christ and Christianity. Let me give an example. In verse 1.13 the bride says: “My beloved is to me a pouch of myrrh which lies all night between my breasts.” Certain older commentators said this was a reference to Jesus (the pouch of myrrh) appearing just between the Old and New Testaments (the breasts)! To quote CJ Mahaney: “I don’t know what you think about when you read verse 1.13, but I don’t think about the Old and New Testaments!”

And I don’t think we were intended to. This really is, mainly, a song about marriage and romance. However, you cannot fault these older commentators for their desire to let every passage of Scripture speak to them of Christ, our beloved! For Paul did say that marriage is meant to be a picture of Christ’s love for His church. So, though it may be stretching it to see every aspect of The Song as an allegorical reference to Jesus…it is completely appropriate to see, in this marital bliss, a lovely reminder of our Bridegroom, and his deep, deep love for us. For one “greater than Solomon” (Mt 12.42) has appeared—loving, not a beautiful maiden, but an adulterous, sin-stained wreck of a bride; and loving us not simply with poems and perfumes, but by laying down His life for us in bloody shame. And that is even more beautiful than lilies and pomegranates!

July 19, 2007

Perfect 10...and a One-Year Anniversary

A few of you may know that I began this blog approximately one year ago with a series of articles on the Ten Commandments. Starting this coming Sunday, I plan to preach through that same perfect 10.

If you are a PRBC attender who wants to brush up, search the archives from July-October last year and read away. And if you aren't a PRBC attender, I'd still appreciate your prayers as I undertake this task. Pray especially that the Law would weekly remind us of our need for, and the sufficiency of, Jesus.

And, if you want to do more than pray, check the Audio folder in the sidebar each week.

July 18, 2007

Too Much Honey

It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory. Proverbs 25.27

That’s a great proverb, isn’t it? Some of us (myself included) would learn a lot if we just got the first eight words down pat! But the rest of the verse has something to say to us, too! In the same way that too much honey (or sugar, ice cream, pizza, pop, etc.) is not such a good thing…it is equally lethargizing (yes I made that word up) to spend too long surveying your own successes. It is not glorious, or even helpful, to “search out one’s own glory.” It is not helpful to sit on the deck, admiring your perfectly manicured lawn. It is not helpful to sit at your desk, like Ebenezer Scrooge, counting and recounting your money. It is not helpful, young people, to look to long in the mirror. And it is not helpful to constantly check and recheck your webstats to see how many people are reading your blog (ouch)!

Now, as we saw last week in Habakkuk, it is appropriate to remember the victories God has won in and through you. A good memory of the mighty deeds of God in the past goes a long way toward giving hope that He will do it again in the future. So a healthy memory is good. But that is not what Solomon is speaking of here.

Solomon is warning against searching out one’s own glory. There is a big difference between searching out one’s own glory…and remembering the goodness of God. One leads to pride, the other to thankfulness. One produces complacency, the other energy to keep walking with Christ. So yes, remember victories that have been won…but remember that the Lord is the one who won them, not you!

Furthermore, Solomon’s warning is against searching out one’s own glory. There is appropriateness in enjoying a job well-done. There is a time to look at the flower-box you just built and be happy about a project completed. But the problem, for some of us, is that we linger in that realm of self-satisfaction. We don’t simply notice our glory. We revel in it. We point it out to others (or at least put them in the way to point it out to us!). And, when a little time has passed, we are tempted to “search out” our glory—to rehash it, to re-admire it, to remind ourselves of how well we did, or how smart we are, or how hard we worked. This continual self-congratulation is what Solomon says weighs down the soul—like eating too much for lunch on a hot day.

David knew what it was like to “search out one’s own glory” (1 Chronicles 21.1-3). God had made him king of Israel. He knew he was a great man. And he knew that Israel was a great nation. But it wasn’t enough for him to simply notice these things. He had to search them out, to rehash. So, in his pride, he ordered a census…a little reminder of just how much he had accomplished. And he paid dearly for it (21.14).

So, when things are going well, remember: It is “not glory to search out one’s own glory.” For “I am the LORD” says our God. “I will not give My glory to another” (Isaiah 42.8).


leth·ar·gize /leth-er-jahyz/

1. to take energy from; to burden to inactivity.
2. to make into a lazy, good-for-nothing couch potato (colloquial).

Ex: Too much honey lethargizes the body.
Ex: Searching out one's own glory lethargizes the soul.

Root: Lethargic. See also: lethargizing, lethargized, lethargizer.

Also, especially British, leth·ar·gise.

July 16, 2007

Vacation Bible School

This week is Vacation Bible School week at Pleasant Ridge. We hope to have 50 or so kids from the surrounding neighborhood participate. Please be praying for us, that the Lord would:

  • Give us a good testimony before the children and parents (Matthew 5.16)
  • Help us teach the word of Christ faithfully and passionately (1 Thess. 1.5)
  • Produce much fruit in the lives of children and parents (Luke 8.4-15)
  • Give us His strength and endurance through a long week (1 Peter 4.11)

Thank you!

P.S. Here's a plug for the folks that write our VBS curriculum. This year's curriculum is called Things Hidden. I highly recommend these materials to any church (or individual) wanting to do a simple VBS (or Backyard Bible Club) where the focus is on God, His word, and His Son!

July 12, 2007

Southern Baptists at Sardis

This message by Voddie Baucham is a must listen! It will take you about an hour (which you PRBC folks should be used to!), but it will be well worth the time.

Next week, I'll make it the featured audio in the sidebar.

And no, for my friends in North Mississippi, this is not an ad for a church picnic at our beloved Resevoir!

July 9, 2007

'Tickets to the Garden of Eden'

Got to see the new Creation Museum (in the southeastern 'burbs of Cincinnati) this Saturday. It really is a wonderful place. The crowds were big (hint: try going during the week)...so we didn't get as up-close a look as we would have liked. But what we saw was really splendid. At every turn, the Bible is being taught, read to you in multimedia productions, and explained scientifically (yea, whoda thunk it!).

Best of all. This museum is not just about Genesis 1-11! It was VERY clear that the main goal was to spread the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They defend Genesis mainly to help visitors see the very real difference in the world before the fall...and after the fall; and to demonstrate our need for, and God's provision of the Savior. The tour is laid-out as follows:

*Creation (Gen. 1-2)
*Corruption (Gen 3-5)
*Catastrophe (Gen 6-8)
*Confusion (Gen 9-11 + confusion in our modern day)

The last three phases aren't given in museum-style, but in a tasteful and moving video presentation in which an archeologist tells the story of Jesus...and how His life, death, resurrection, and return provide God's answers to sin and degredation.

Overall museum highlights include:

*A state of the art planetarium, glorying in the Creator God by taking you on a tour of the universe. Special effects-wise, this is, in my opinion, one of the most amazing presentations I have ever seen.

*A life sized rendering of a section of Noah's ark - demonstrating just how possible it was for such a magnificent structure to be built using only primitive tools; and showing how the ark is a type of Christ.

*The book store. They actually sell Christian books! Really! No Jesus clocks. No angel figurines. No prayers of Jabez on canvas. But great stuff on creation (obviously), good homeschool materials, and a whole bunch of Edwards, Murray, Lloyd-Jones, and the Puritans.

So check it out. And if you're an out-of-towner, you have a place to stay!

An Exciting New Way to Share the Gospel!!!

Check this out. Hilarious, but perhaps effective!

July 2, 2007

Jesus goes Green?

There is a pretty important election coming up next year, and it has had me thinking. One of the political issues among people of my generation has been (and will continue to be) the environment…and not without warrant. All of us would do well to take good care of this green earth God has placed in our temporary care (Genesis 1.27-30). Perhaps my children will grow up as the generation of hybrid cars and windmill power. That would be a step forward, in my book.

So I have been thinking lately about this planet of ours—specifically in Romans 8. Do you know what God says is the environment’s biggest problem? Pollution? Global warming? Shrinking fuel deposits? None of the above. So what is the biggest problem that faces our environment? Humanity (Romans 8.19-22)! Human sin has brought a curse on the very ground (Genesis 3.17-19). So much so that Paul says that the earth groans beneath the weight of the sinners that occupy its soil (Romans 8.22)!

I think that happens in two ways…

1. Because of Adam’s sin, God put a direct and immediate curse upon the ground way back in Genesis 3. So things just don’t work like they should. That’s why we have droughts in some places and floods in others—and why we have earthquakes and tornadoes, etc.

2. It also seems to me that the curse on the ground extends to the fact that, since Adam’s day, mankind has continued in selfishness and greed…thus, continuing to degrade and devalue God’s creation. And all of us should, as the greens are reminding us, find ways to do better.

So what will be the breakthrough answer to our environmental concerns? Biodiesel? Nuclear energy? Recycling? They all have their place. But what does the Bible say is the ultimate solution to our green issues? Resurrection! Listen to Romans 8.20-21: “For the creation was subjected to futility…in hope that the creation itself will also be set free from its slavery to corruption into (HERE IT IS!) the freedom of the glory of the children of God!”

When will the creation be “set free from its slavery to corruption”—from its pollution, its famine, its shrinking natural resources, its wildfires, and its hurricanes? When Jesus returns, and the children of God are glorified! When Jesus returns, he will create a new heaven and a new earth—a new created order without the curse of sin. And those who inhabit that new earth will no longer be sinful! So God’s direct curse will be removed from the ground…and so will man’s continued degredation! The return of Christ and the glorification of His people is God’s final solution to global warming, to the oil crisis, and to pollution!

So…let’s be good stewards of the earth here and now. But let’s also pray and witness toward the return of Christ. That is, in the end, the best thing we can do for the environment!