Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: Stepping Out in Faith

Stepping Out in Faith:  Former Catholics Tell Their Stories is a compilation of 11 stories edited by Mark Gilbert.  This book is written to people who are questioning the Catholic Church, and the contributors "want to help you think through these questions."  The introduction written by Mr. Gilbert lists the practices of the Catholic Church that may be questioned by some, but he gives no biblical support to show why the practices should be rejected as heterodox.  It should be noted that the goal of this book is extremely vague as seen in the concluding sentence to the introduction:  "Whether you are considering a path that may take you away from the Catholic Church or not, I hope these stories will be an encouragement for you to take the path that will lead you to peace with God."  The Bible clearly states that without the remission of sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, no one can find peace with God.  We are saved by grace through faith; it is a free gift of God and not of works.

The ecumenism prevalent in today's evangelical world undermines the sacrificial work done by the reformers who broke from Roman Catholicism during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.  Even though this book is about those who have "come out" of the Catholic Church, there is not clear reasoning as to why the "change in churches" is needed to begin with.  By implication, the individuals move from one form of Christianity to another.  The Introduction does not give a clear presentation of the Gospel, which is critical in a book of compilations, and does not give clear guidance or biblical wisdom to anyone who is thinking of leaving the Catholic Church.

It is difficult to review this compilation as one book without seeming to single out the individual writers.  Therefore, I may not mention each story specifically, but I will highlight the problems as I encounter them and will not list every instance even though the problems may be apparent in subsequent stories.

In the first story, Ms. Morbelli relates her personal experience with no biblical references.  Her view of conversion (from the Catholic Church to the Anglican Church) is synergistic when she writes:  "I learned from God's word that the first thing I needed to do was recognize that I am essentially sinful...All God asks is that we recognize that we have rejected him, and the we trust that Jesus has done this for us."  Her vague writing also indicates a somewhat universalistic view of salvation:  "His plan for humanity began to make sense...He knows us well and knows that we cannot do this by our own merit.  This is why Jesus died on the cross.  It was for each one of us personally."  Finally, she relates that "One of the first things that struck me in this new church was the lack of religious icons and rituals, and so this was one of the first issues I had to confront.  I had to let 'religion' go."  Turning from icons, rituals, and relics is not "letting religion go", but it's following the biblical command found in Exodus 20:3-4 not to have other gods before God and not to make any graven image.

In the second story, Mr. O'Brien describes his move from the Catholic Church to the Anglican Church in ecumenical terms:  "I remember not so much becoming a Christian as realizing that I was a Christian."  To further illustrate this point, he writes, "I never viewed my conversion as an explicit rejection of Catholicism, but rather as an embracing of Jesus as my Lord and saviour [sic]."

The most helpful part of the compilation is the third story by Mr. Schmucker.  He clearly outlines his move from the works-based salvation of the Catholic Church to the grace-based salvation of Christianity.  He presents the Gospel and provides biblical references throughout his narrative.  Similar Bible references would be helpful in the Introduction.  In summary, he writes:  "Salvation does not come from works.  It is not by my good deeds that I gain heaven.  It is not by my baptism, my first holy communion, or my confirmation.  Those are all 'works'.  Instead, salvation comes by faith.  By believing that Jesus is Christ who died in my place, for my sins, and has risen from the dead to bring new life--this is how salvation comes."

Like Mr. Schmucker, the 5th story written by Mr. Coffey does a better job of presenting the Gospel; however, since Mr. Coffey is now a Christian pastor, I expected more biblical support to his story.  Throughout the stories in this book, the acceptance of the Gospel has been man-centered rather than the work of the Holy Spirit, and Mr. Coffey's story is no different.  He writes: "I couldn't understand why people were not hungering for this message of grace and hope...Salvation by grace and not by works of merit has been the doctrine that has appealed most to those I've led to Christ," (emphasis mine).  But the Bible states that salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit and does not appeal to anyone because all are dead in trespasses and sins, (Eph. 2:1).  Further in his testimony he contradicts himself:  "Think about this.  If we could, by our good works, contribute to our own salvation, then the death of the Lord Jesus Christ would not have been necessary.  It is because none of us can make any contributions towards our salvation that God had to become man, dwell among us and give his life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."  He is trying to align his view of salvation to the Bible, but his Arminian belief that man has the power to accept or reject Christ is not biblical, so at times, his comments are inconsistent.

I understand the vulnerability that each writer has risked by writing his or her story.  It takes courage to open up your life for all to see.  If the purpose of this book is to convince people to leave the Catholic Church, then I don't believe it accomplishes this goal.  The stories in the compilation are not always clear on the differences between the Catholic Church and Christianity and why leaving is necessary for a true believer.  If the intent of this book is just to encourage those leaving or thinking of leaving the Catholic Church, then I don't believe it met this goal either. Generally, the stories have a pragmatic tone based mostly on personal experience, which limits the application of the content.  Instead of being helpful, I believe that, at best, this book will confuse the reader and, at worst, it will keep him in bondage to a works-based salvation.  Therefore, I cannot recommend this book.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

NB:  The formatting for the Kindle version does not include an interactive table of contents which makes is very difficult to navigate through the book.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Honoring Your Parents

At the FamilyLife website, Dennis Rainey posted an article** titled 'Honoring Your Parents: Are You Helping or Hindering Your Spouse?'  It begins with a story of a father who has a controlling personality and a son-in-law who does not help his wife honor her father, but expresses his frustration and avoids conflict.  The father is further described as "opinionated, blunt, and bossy.  When they failed to meet his standards, he belittled them with cruel and sarcastic remarks."  However, the husband is identified as the main problem in his wife's life:  "He [the husband] brought confusion and tension into her [the wife's] life because he was encouraging her to alienate herself from a man [her father] who, despite his faults, she loved deeply."  Mr. Rainey goes on to exhort Christian couples to examine their focus.  He writes:
"One of the 10 Commandments is "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord you God is giving you." For those who have difficult relationships with parents, obeying this commandment is a big challenge.

So it's important for you to remember the power you have in your spouse's life. Make a commitment to help your spouse honor his or her parents.

Tensions with parents and in-laws are inevitable in a marriage. But a married couple needs to make a mutual commitment early in their relationship to avoid focusing on the negative. Give parents a lot of grace. Talk about the things parents are doing right.

Look for way to spend time with parents, doing the things they like to do. Ask their advice. Thank them for help they give you.

I know of some adults who have been so hurt by their in-laws that they actually discouraged their spouse from honoring their parents. If this is your situation, this may be a crucial step of faith for you; do everything you can to help your spouse honor his or her parents, no matter how difficult that is. It may mean holding your tongue sometimes at family gatherings. And afterward as well."

Mr. Rainey correctly cites the Ten Commandments because the moral law is forever binding (see LBCF Chap. 19 par. 5).  The fifth commandment in Exodus 20:12 commands us to honor our parents.  But what does it mean to honor your parents?  Let's look at what the Bible says.

In his commentary on Exodus 20:12, Matthew Henry tells us the honoring your parents includes "a decent respect to their persons, an inward esteem of them outwardly expressed upon all occasions in our conduct towards them.  Fear them (Lev. 19:3), give them reverence, Heb. 12:9.  The contrary to this is mocking them and despising them, Prov. 30:17."  Mr. Henry lays out five duties that children owe to parents:  respect, obedience, submission, disposing of themselves to advice, and endeavoring to be a comfort.  I completely agree with this view of Exodus 20:12, but Scripture shows that the scope slightly changes when the children get married and become parents themselves (physically or spiritually).

When the Pharisees came to Jesus to tempt him, they asked him whether or not divorce was lawful.  Rather than talking about the effects of sin on marriage, Jesus gives us a glimpse of the original design for marriage:  "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female.  And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.  What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," (Matt. 19:4-6).

From the beginning, the wife is created as a help meet to her husband, (Gen. 2:18), and is submissive to him as to the Lord, (Eph. 5:22, Col. 3:18).  The husband loves the wife as Christ loved the church, (Eph. 5:25, Col. 3:19).  Children are commanded to obey their parents, (Eph. 6:1, Col. 3:20), just as servants are commanded to obey their masters, (Eph. 6:5, Titus 2:9).  Christians are to be subject to authorities put over them, (Rom. 13:1-7), but "we ought to obey God rather than men," (Acts 5:29).  Therefore, we must consider the proper hierarchy of obedience in areas of submission and obedience.  For example, when parents mettle or encourage strife in their children's marriage, then the couple may have to disregard input or advice from their parents because their marriage is a higher order of submission than the parental relationship.

Matthew Henry expounds on the fundamental law of marriage found in Matt. 19:5, which states that a man shall leave his parents and cleave to his wife:  "The relation between husband and wife is nearer than that between parents and children; now, if the filial relation may not easily be violated, much less may the marriage union be broken."  Based on the scriptural duty that man should leave his parents and cleave to his wife, the way of honoring parents changes when the child marries.  The command to honor is still there, but a new relationship has been established.  We see a picture of this when Jesus reproves the traditions of the Pharisees that kept them from honoring their parents, (Mark 7:9-13).  These verses show that honoring parents includes not cursing your father or mother and helping them in times of need. The respect and comforting of parents remain, but the obedience and submission has changed because of the change in relationship.

God is sovereign; it is the will of God when a couple marries, otherwise they would not be married.  Parents who overstep their authority by pitting their adult married children against each other should heed the advice of Gamaliel:  "But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God," (Acts 5:39).

Therefore, I believe that Mr. Rainey's article is severely flawed and is reminiscent of the unsound Patriarchy Movement in the Christian world today.  His over-arching message that parents have authority over their married children is not biblical.  The married couple should honor their parents with respect and help them in times of need, but parents should not undermine the marital relationship of their married children and should not put asunder what God has joined together.  The advice in this article is dangerous to the Christian couple because it potentially sabotages their marriage relationship and distorts the authority of the parents.

"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ," (Col. 2:8).

**NB: This article is no longer available at familylife.com.  The title itself shows up in the website's search engine; however, the article has been removed.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Taking Exception with R.C. Sproul

I'm reading and studying Acts by R.C. Sproul with a close friend.  This book is part of the St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary series and contains adaptations of Dr. Sproul's sermons at St. Andrews.

In chapter 10 'Peter's Second Speech', Dr. Sproul looks at Acts 3 verse 13 and makes the following comment on page 81:
"Notice that Peter did not say that God glorified His Son Jesus or His prophet Jesus, though He was that, or His Prince of Peace.  The language that Peter used here took them squarely back to the Old Testament.  This miracle was done by the One who "glorified His Servant Jesus," identifying Christ with the promised Messiah of the latter portion of the book of Isaiah, the "ebed Yahweh,"--the "Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (v.3), the One who would bear the sins of His people.  That this servant of the Lord that every Jew expected to appear on the scene of history, and now Peter was saying, "don't look at me.  Don't look at John.  Look at the God of our fathers, who in this act glorifies His servant, the servant of the Lord."
Now, when I read Acts 3:13 from my Bible, I find:  "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go,"  (emphasis mine).

Dr. Sproul indicates that this verse does not say "His Son Jesus," but my Bible clearly says "his Son Jesus."  Therefore, I decided to do a little research on my own.  It is true that verse 13 does not use the normal Greek word Uios for Son, but it also does not use the normal Greek word Doulos for Servant.  According to Strong's Comprehensive Concordance of the Bible, the Greek root word is Pais (3816) and means "a boy (as often beaten with impunity), or (by analogy) a girl, and (gen.) a child; spec. a slave or servant (espec. a minister a minister to a king; and by eminence to God); --child, maid (-en), (man) servant, son, young man."  Pais is also used in Acts 13:26, and the King James Bible translates that word as Son there as well.  Therefore, since the Greek word Pais in Acts 3 is not the normal word for Servant or Son, then both translations are adequate since the word can have both meanings.

I found Dr. Sproul's comment extremely biased because he is the editor of the Reformation Study Bible - ESV  which uses the translation of Servant in this verse.  Since the Greek form of Pais is used, it is intentionally misleading to say that "Peter did not say that God glorified His Son Jesus."  This dogmatic statement is made so that Peter's sermon can be connected to Isaiah's allusion of the Suffering Servant.  Dr. Sproul could have expanded this section and done a more thorough analysis of the word Pais to include both meanings of the word:  Servant and Son.  His point would have still been made without the conclusion that the translation of Son is wrong.  This conclusion undermines the authority of the King James Bible by implying that it is fallible when the translation used is perfectly acceptable.

Dr. Sproul is also committing the fallacy of Chronological Snobbery to indicate that he knows better than all of the translators as to the exact meaning of the Greek word.  The Christian men who translated the King James Bible over 400 years were well-educated and knew many languages including Hebrew and Greek.  To dismiss their knowledge is a common error that many Christian leaders make today when they "look at the original Greek."

"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation," (1 Peter 1:20).

Monday, January 20, 2014

Book Review: Life in Christ

Life in Christ by Jeremy Walker was written to believers so that they would "consider something of the Christian's experience of God's lovingkindness, his sense of God's tender mercies and great goodness, and his relationships with Christ in them and responses to them."  Even though Pastor Walker writes to professing Christians, he still includes a clear Gospel presentation in his book.  He cites a plethora of biblical references to support his points, from the Old Testament as well as New, and unashamedly writes from a Reformed perspective.
Although this book is devotional in nature, I still found the writing style pleasantly precise and somewhat scholarly.  Like many devotional books, each chapter includes a list of questions for further reflection.  I'm usually not a fan of study questions, but these questions are thought-provoking and provide guidance for personal and/or family devotions.  Reading through the questions at the end of Chapter 7 - 'A Work in Progress' prompted me to think more deeply about my desire for godliness and my ongoing battle for holiness.
Life in Christ is a great aide to help new believers understand what it means to belong to Jesus Christ and follow Him:  "This is the proof that God is at work in our hearts, when, with newly opened eyes, we gaze with repenting faith upon the Son of God in all His saving glory, and --believing-- enter into the family of God.  This is life in Christ."   It's also good for the seasoned Christian to know Christ more fully and understand the reality of being united to Him as Pastor Walker reminds us that "there is a real sense in which conversion is not so much the end of our battles as their beginning."  Regardless of where you are in your Christian walk, this book is a great resource for studying the doctrines of sanctification and perseverance.
Life in Christ encouraged me to reflect on my level of gratefulness for the spiritual blessings and unsearchable treasures of being in Christ.  Pastor Walker reminded me that "These riches are deposited in the incarnate Son so that they might be found and obtained by sinners like us."  I was also challenged by his warning:  "If you clutch solely at the sand of this world you will always be dissatisfied and -- what is far worse -- you will be lost forever.  This is the folly and misery of those who seek their blessings outside of and apart from Christ."
The only critique that I have of this book was the inclusion of a quote by D.A. Carson.  While Dr. Carson is a well-known professor of the New Testament, he has been identified by some Reformed leaders as a proponent of New Covenant Theology.  However, New Covenant Theology does not align with Pastor Walker's Reformed covenantal view.  Since this book is geared toward new believers, I believe that the inclusion of a quote by D.A. Carson could lead some to assume that Dr. Carson's books can be read without heightened discernment.
Overall, I highly recommend this book for the individual believer and/or family.
Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
NB:  Jeremy Walker was interviewed by Janet Mefferd on 01/16/14 about his new book Life in Christ; if you are interested, you can listen to the interview here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dispensationalism

Last month I finished the free audit of the Baptist Covenant Theology course at the Founders Study Center.  I found the lecture on Dispensationalism by Pastor Steve Garrick in Session 8 very helpful, so I thought I would share my notes.  He gave a brief overview of the history, tenets, and implications of Dispensationalism.

I. History of Dispensationalism

John Nelson Darby (1800-1882) is known as the father of Dispensationalism.  He formed the movement of the Plymouth Brethren and believed that Jesus' second coming was near.  Darby's views were denounced by Charles Spurgeon.

Darby influenced C.I. Scofield.  Scofield produced a study Bible that included dispensational tenets in 1909 (completely finished with both testaments in 1917).

Scofield influenced Lewis Sperry Chafer.  Chafer founded Dallas Theological Seminary in 1924.  He wrote an 8-volume Systematic Theology in 1928.  His work is very tedious because the dispensational movement in America wedded itself to the scientific method of biblical exegesis (but not in a liberal way).

II. Major Tenets of Dispensationalism

A dispensation is a period of time in which man is given a particular test, man always fails the test, and God always brings judgment and ushers in a new dispensation with a new test.  There are 7 Dispensations:
  1. Innocence (Adam & Eve -- judgment was the removal from Eden)
  2. Conscience (judgment was the Flood)
  3. Human government (judgment was the Tower of Babel)
  4. Promise (judgment was the Mosaic Law because their failure was the acceptance of the law!)
  5. Law
  6. Grace
  7. Millennium (the kingdom of heaven on earth in Matt. 1-12 rejected by the Jews)
The Dispensation of Grace, which includes the church, is a parenthesis or insertion in God's plan.  God was going along with His plan to bring about the Millennial kingdom, but He stops and brings in the church age (Matt. 13) until the rapture occurs; then He picks back up with His goal of bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth.

Dispensational requirements:
  • A literal interpretation of the Bible where a word always means the same thing (it cannot be figurative); however, the Bible does not always use normative language; it can be apocalyptic, poetic, hyperbolic, etc.
  • The church and Israel are completely separate and have nothing to do with each other; God's goal in history is the manifestation of His glory on earth.
III. Applications and Implications for Church Practice

Grace is a dispensation; therefore, it is a test.  At the end of the age, we will fail (just like the law at Mt. Sinai). This leads to the following Gospel presentation:  "God has a plan called the Gospel or grace...Do you accept it or not?"  For the dispensationalist, the Gospel is a test; and therefore, it is human response oriented (similar to, but not based on Arminianism).  Salvation is by faith, but the object of the faith is different in every dispensation (Law = sacrifices; Grace = cross of Christ).

Implications:
  1. Every dispensation is unconditional with the exception of the passing of the test.  Once the test is passed, God is obligated, no matter what, to bring in the promised blessing.  The Gospel is a test.  If you pass the test by accepting the Gospel, God is obligated to save you regardless of your actions.  This supports the carnal Christian theory.
  2. All of God's plans on earth end in failure.  The Gospel will end in failure; the Millennium will end in failure.  This leads to a pessimistic view of Scripture that undermines the optimism found there.
  3. Law and grace cannot coexist; therefore, the law is not enforced in this age.  This leads to antinominianism where Christians rule themselves based on man-made laws or they are "Spirit led".
  4. The New Covenant has nothing to do with the Church (Jer. 31:31).  The restoration of the land to the nation of Israel is vitally linked to the New Covenant because it is the guarantee that Israel will get back to their land in the Millennium.  Therefore, the church is not the fulfillment of God's plan on earth, which leads to a disregard for God's church today.
Observations:
  1. Dispensationalism is a new scheme to interpret covenant theology, but its interpretation is not based on God's pursuing a plan of salvation for His people, but on God's pursuing a political entity on earth based on His desire to glorify Himself on earth.
  2. Dispensationalism leads to an Arminian mindset; Covenantalism leads to a Calvinistic mindset.  It is difficult for a believer steeped in Dispensationalism to embrace the Doctrines of Grace.  (In my opinion, this is why some SBC members are hostile toward Calvinism and why there's still an on-going debate within the SBC.  See my blog post here.)
  3. New Covenant Theology is a slight form of dispensationalism because it has a different ethic according to the Old verses the New Testament (a different law).

Monday, January 13, 2014

Canonicity

On January 7, 2014, Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries interviewed Dr. Michael Kruger from Reformed Theological Seminary about the canonicity of Scripture.  This interview was set up in response to a segment from Catholic Answers Live on October 31, 2013, regarding the Roman Catholic rejection of Sola Scriptura.  I'm quoting an exchange between Dr. White and Dr. Kruger that happened around the 1:17:00 mark in the interview:
Dr. James White:  "So much of the issue that comes up from people looking at the canon is from a simple, naturalistic perspective, which makes no sense.  Canon is irrelevant.  It is a historical thing to talk about unless there is something supernatural going on that provides a consistency upon which you can even talk about the subject of the canon.  The biggest problem in academia today is that so much of what is done is done by pulling apart Scripture and treating Scripture as completely separate from others rather than what theologians use to do and that is being constrained by the entire body of God's revelation and that it provides light upon itself."

Dr. Michael Kruger:  "You can't authenticate the Bible like any other book because it claims to not be [sic] like every other book, so if you claim that you can authenticate it on naturalistic terms that the unbeliever can agree to, then you are denying what you are setting out to prove which is that the Bible is from God.  If the Bible is from God, constituted by God, and constituted by Spirit, then it is a living book; you actually meet God in this book, so when you talk about authenticating and recognizing which books are from God, you are actually talking about recognizing the divine or God Himself, which means you got a whole theological category that you have to have in order to talk about what constitutes the recognition of God...You can't recognize God without having the Spirit rightly working in your heart to do so.  If the Bible is living and powerful and active and God is in it, then it is able to authenticate itself.  The Bible has the marks and the qualities about it to show that God is speaking in it.  This makes the Bible unique; it is self-authenticating because of its power and the Spirit working in it."

Dr. James White:  "A low view of Scripture predominates most of academia today...When the Spirit of God recreates us and makes us live, that recreated person will have a respect for and an obedience to the word of God."
I completely agree with the comments made here and that the Bible is self-authenticating, but I found this conversation quite ironic.  Dr. James White is a proponent of textual criticism, which seeks to reconstruct the original text of the Bible.  If Christians are to have a high view of the Bible because God's word is living and powerful and active, how could the "oldest and most reliable" manuscripts lie dormant for centuries until they were found by a 19th century scholar?  I believe that God's word is living and powerful and active, but I also believe that God has preserved His word for all Christians from the moment the holy men of God were moved by the Holy Spirit to write Scripture, (1 Peter 1: 20-21).  I find Dr. White's view on the King James Bible (which he discounts because it is not based on the "oldest and most reliable" manuscripts) and his view on the canonicity of Scripture reflected in this interview highly inconsistent; you cannot have the Bible hidden and active at the same time.

"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever," (Isa. 40:8).

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Koine Greek Anyone?

During the elementary and junior high years of our homeschool, our boys study Koine Greek and Latin (with a sigh of relief, they transition to Spanish in high school).  Neither my husband nor I knew Latin or Greek when we started our home education journey in 2003, so we decided to divide the languages between us and teach them to our boys.  I studied and taught Latin, and my husband studied and taught Koine Greek.

Lately, I've realized the benefit of knowing Greek as I participate in Sunday School, listen to sermons, and read on-line resources.  Undoubtedly, there's usually a reference to the "underlying Greek" of the New Testament verse and what it "really means".  Therefore, I've decided to attain a working knowledge of Koine Greek.

To accomplish my goal of reading and writing, I'm working through A Greek Alphabetarion and A Greek Hupogrammon: A Beginner's Copybook for the Greek Alphabet with Pronunciations, both by Harvey Bluedorn.  If I decide to tackle Greek grammar, then I'll study New Testament Greek for Beginners by Machen with the accompanying workbook by David Thompson.

Of course, as a reader of the King James Bible, I have Scrivener's Greek New Testament on my Olive Tree app and The Interlinear Literal Translation of The Greek New Testament with the Authorized Version by George R. Berry to use as reading resources.

My waning ability to memorize may not be up to the challenge, but nevertheless, I was encouraged to continue my pursuit after reading the following excerpt from the 'Introduction to the Student' in A Greek Alphabetarion; Mr. Bluedorn writes:
"...The early Christians all knew and studied the Greek Scriptures.  

However,  as the knowledge of Greek diminished among the common people, a darkness crept over professed Christianity.  The people became more and more dependent upon religious professionals, and those professionals became less and less accountable to the people.

In the sixteenth century this trend was reversed.  After the fall of the capital of the Greek empire (Constantinople), Greek scholars fled with their manuscripts to western Europe. A revival of Greek studies followed, and this marvelous old book--which hadn't been seen for a thousand years--was unearthed. It was called "The Greek New Testament." The republication of the Greek New Testament by Erasmus in 1516 was immediately followed by the greatest period of the spread of the Gospel since the first century.

However, once again we have allowed the Scriptures to be covered over with the speculations of men. In the recent past, Christians in general and ministers in particular were competent students of the Scriptures in their original languages. But we have lost the tools with which to personally examine the actual Word of God. A genuine renewal of the Gospel in our day awaits a renewal of the study of the Greek Scriptures. Those who pursue the study of the Greek New Testament will become God's vessels for the recovery of His truth."
I don't agree with everything in Mr. Bluedorn's assessment, but I do believe that every Christian is responsible for letting "the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom," (Col. 3:16).

"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ,"
(1 Peter 1:13).

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

An Honest Question

As part of my daily devotional time, I read Morning & Evening by Charles Spurgeon.  I found the entry for this morning, January 7th, very thought-provoking:
"Can you honestly say that for you to live is Christ?  Your business--are you doing it for Christ?  Is it not done for self-aggrandizement and for family advantage?  Do you ask, "Is that a mean reason?"  For the Christian it is.  He professes to live for Christ; how can he live for another object without committing a spiritual adultery?  Many there are who carry out this principle in some measure; but who is there that dare say that he hath lived wholly for Christ as the apostle did?  Yet, this alone is the true life of a Christian--its source, its sustenance, its fashion, its end, all gathered up in one word--Christ Jesus."
"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain," (Phil. 1:21).

Friday, January 3, 2014

2013 Reading List

Here is a list of the books I read last year:
  1. The Path of True Godliness by Willem Teellinck
  2. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
  3. Crowned with Glory by Thomas Holland
  4. 1 Timothy (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Philip Ryken
  5. In Remembrance of Him:  Profiting from the Lord's Supper by Saldenus & Brakel
  6. Covenant Theology:  A Reformed Baptistic Perspective on God's Covenants by Greg Nichols
  7. Gospel Worship by Jeremiah Burroughs
  8. Gospel Fear by Jeremiah Burroughs
  9. A Treatise of Earthly-Mindedness by Jeremiah Burroughs
  10. A Treatise of Conversing in Heaven and Walking with God by Jeremiah Burroughs
  11. Woman Her Mission and Her Life by Adolphe Monod
  12. The Evil of Evils by Jeremiah Burroughs
  13. The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology by Pascal Denault
  14. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R.C. Sproul
  15. Growing in the Spirit by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  16. Spurgeon on the Holy Spirit by Charles Spurgeon
  17. The Doctrine of Sanctification  by A.W. Pink
I would like to be more purposeful and scheduled in my reading for 2014, but I'm not sure what that looks like yet.