Sunday, July 27, 2014

Our Eternal & Unchangeable God

An excellent quote to think on this Lord's Day from John L. Dagg's Manual of Theology:
"When we contemplate the shortness of human life, and the incessant change of everything with which we have to do on earth, and of ourselves, as we pass from the cradle to the grave, we may well exclaim, as we look up to the eternal and unchangeable God, "Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him."  A sense of our comparative nothingness is eminently conducive to humility.  A view of God's eternity and unchangeableness is necessary to the due exercise of confidence in him.  It is folly to trust in uncertain riches, and in the things which perish in the using of them; but we wisely put our trust in the living God."

***
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting," (Micah 5:2). 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Earthly-Mindedness -- Chapter 2

I'm continuing my look at Jeremiah Burroughs' Earthly-Mindedness.  Please see my introduction and Chapter 1 summary here.

In Chapter 2 Jeremiah Burroughs further expounds about what it means to 'mind earthly things.'  He answers the important question:  When does a man or woman mind earthly things in sinful ways?

Earthly-Mindedness is discovered in nine particulars:
  1. When men look upon earthly things as the greatest things
  2. When men's choicest thoughts are busied about earthly things
  3. When men's hearts cleave to the earth
  4. When men's hearts are filled with distracted cares about the earth
  5. When men's greatest endeavors of their lives are about things of the earth
  6. When men seek any earthly thing for itself, and not in subordination of some higher good
  7. When men are earthly in spiritual things
  8. When men pass by great difficulties about earthly matters and they seem little to them
  9. When men conceive of the most heavenly truth in an earthly way
Under point #2, Mr. Burroughs asks if we know our own hearts.  His discourse convicted me of my unfocused, earthly-minded thoughts:
"Can you say when you are alone, 'O the very thoughts of God are sweet to me, I meditate in His law day and night."  Can you suck out sweetness there as from a honeycomb?  But an unclean wretch will suck sweetness out of his unclean thoughts when he is alone.  The earthly-minded man will suck sweetness out of his earthly thoughts, and the ambitious man the sweetness of his pride when he is alone, and these are the most contentful thoughts to him.  He can run two or three hours and take delight and pleasure in them, that's earthly-mindedness."
As I continued to rationalize my need for earthly-minded thoughts, Mr. Burroughs fully exposed the carnal nature of my heart:
"The watch over the heart is a very difficult thing...Resolve just one Sabbath to rise early in the morning, and to have your thoughts spiritual and heavenly as much as you can.  Then get up and pray alone in your closet.  Then read, and hear, and meditate, and mark what you hear.  And when you go home, think of it, and confer about it.  And when you come again to attend on the Word, and so spend the whole day in hearing, reading, meditating, and conferencing about good things, calling your family to account and praying again. See how tiresome this will be to your hearts if they are carnal.

However, the spiritual heart will call the Sabbath a delight.  And the Sabbath unto such a one is no other than a type and forerunner of that eternal day of rest it shall enjoy in the kingdom of heaven.  One that is spiritual counts the Sabbath to be a day of rest, but an earthly man is quickly tired in spiritual things."
In my next post for this series, we will look at the six evils of earthly-mindedness found in Chapter 3.

***
"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ," (2 Cor. 10:5).

Monday, July 14, 2014

Book Review: God's Story

In God's Story:  A Student's Guide to Church History by Brian Cosby the author's goal is to give a "brief overview of the history of the Christian church" by addressing the "poignant people, councils, events, revival, and movements throughout the history of the church."

Mr. Cosby starts his review of the Christian church with a quick synopsis of the Old Testament, followed by a brief summary of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.  Using the book of Acts as a springboard, he explains the beginning of the early Christian church and highlights the Apostolic Fathers.  The author also includes a look at the Creeds and Councils, as well as the Roman Catholic Church and the rise of Islam.  The heroes of the Reformation are highlighted with just a passing mention of the Puritans.  Starting at the 18th century, Mr. Cosby rounds out his whirlwind tour by examining some of the different worldviews, denominations, and revivals.

Based upon the author's intended goal, he did a decent job of highlighting the main topics of the Christian church in the last 2,000 years.  However, because of the vast span of history the author covers, there are areas where Mr. Cosby does more damage than good by his brevity.

The first area of concern is his very limited remarks on mysticism.  Mysticism is making a comeback into Christianity today via the Emergent Church.  This practice is not biblically based and should not be a part of the worship of God.  The author touches on this subject by describing different types of mysticism and concludes:  "Both of these types of mysticism  tended to discredit the hierarchy of the church.  Moreover, church leaders seemed too worldly, too man-centered," (Kindle location 599).  Mr. Cosby gives no indication that mysticism was not good for the Christian church then or now.

The second area of concern is Mr. Cosby's comment on the cults of Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses.  The author states that Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses both "have their own 'translation' of the Bible, which obviously doesn't come from the original Greek and Hebrew languages," (Kindle location 1094).  I point this out as an area of concern because no Bible is translated from the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.  All current translations are based on copies.  According to the official Jehovah Witnesses website (JW.org), the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (2013 revision) uses the same underlying texts as other modern Bible translations.  This information is readily available on the Internet:
From JW.org:  "Both Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and Biblia Hebraica Quinta were consulted when preparing the present revision of the New World Translation...In addition, master texts such as those by Nestle and Aland and by the United Bible Societies reflect recent scholarly studies.  Some of the findings of this research were incorporated into this present revision."

From ESV.org:  "The ESV is based on the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible as found in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (2nd ed., 1983), and on the Greek text in the 1993 edition of the Greek New Testament (4th corrected ed.), published by the United Bible Societies (UBS), and Novum Testamentum Graece (27th ed.), edited by Nestle and Aland."
A third area that I found concerning was the author's statement about evangelicalism:  "Today evangelicalism -- despite its manifold stripes and diversity -- generally holds to conservative, historic, orthodox, and biblical doctrines," (Kindle location 1143).  Again, due to the brevity of the book, he positively cites denominations (PC USA & Pentecostal) and people (Billy Graham & Rick Warren) in this chapter that do not hold to conservative, orthodox, and biblical doctrines.  The Evangelicals and Catholics Together document of 1994, which called for a need to deliver a common witness to the modern world, is clear evidence that evangelicalism is not aligned with historic Christianity.
 
In addition, I am disappointed with the number of editing mistakes in this book.  Mr. Cosby overuses the exclamation point to the point of distraction.  He also overuses parentheses and dashes as he tries to relay too much information into a short amount of space.  The abbreviations A.D. (anno Domini) and B.C. (Before Christ) are not capitalized throughout the book.  Apostrophes are not used to denote plural numbers.   Surprisingly, hyphens are inappropriately used; with the advent of word processors, the hyphen used to divide words between syllables at the end of a line are no longer needed; even though, these hyphens (within words) appear sporadically throughout this book.  I also think that the chapter numbers should be included with the chapter headings at the beginning of each chapter and not just in the table of contents.  Here's an example which includes some of the mistakes I've cited:
"In 597, Pope Gregory the Great sent August-ine [sic] of Canterbury (not St. Augustine of Hippo!) to Christianize the Kingdom of Kent and convert the people from Anglo-Saxon paganism (the Anglo-Saxons were a group of Germanic tribes who had migrated there in the 5th century)," (Kindle location 794).
Overall, God's Story provides a brief, but adequate, time-line of the Christian church.  It gives the reader a framework to build on with additional study of the time periods highlighted by Mr. Cosby.  I recommend this book to the Christian who is just beginning to delve into church history with the caveat that the accuracy has been compromised due to its brevity and the poor editing can be distracting at times.

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

Friday, July 4, 2014

Proper Bible Knowledge

On June 1, 2014, Pastor Mark Fitzpatrick of Arann Reformed Baptist Church in Dublin, Ireland, preached a sermon called "Christ the End of the Law" from Rom. 10:1-4.  In this sermon, he explained what proper Bible knowledge should produce in a Christian's life:

"The Jews spent their time searching the Scriptures, but they never came to know God in the Scriptures.  Christians should not think it's all about just learning the Bible.  It's not about becoming proficient in our Bible knowledge; it's about knowing God through the Bible.  We can impress other Christians with knowing where a verse is, but that's not spiritual; that's not growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ.  Is the knowledge of the Word of God enabling you to defeat sin in your life, to obey God, to walk humbly with Him, to repent daily, and to love Christ more and more?  This is what the knowledge of the Word of God must bring to you; otherwise, your knowledge is doing more damage than good."

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Earthly-Mindedness -- Chapter 1

I've decided to re-read Earthly-Mindedness by Jeremiah Burroughs and discuss his points chapter-by-chapter.  This book was reprinted in 1991 by Soli Deo Gloria Publications and contains "A Treatise of Earthly-Mindedness" (first published in 1649) and "The Second Treatise on a Heavenly Conversation."

The Scripture verses underlying both of Mr. Burroughs' treatises are found in Paul's epistle to the Philippians:  "Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.  (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)  For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ," (Phil. 3:17-20).

The disposition of the wicked (those who set themselves up against the gospel) is to mind earthly things.  The disposition of the godly is to converse in heaven.  Therefore, the doctrine set forth in this book is that "This is the great difference between a wicked man and a godly man:  One minds earthly things, and the other has his conversation in heaven."

In the first treatise on earthly-mindedness, Mr. Burroughs will set forth:
  1. What it is to mind earthly things in a sinful way
  2. The great evil that there is in minding earthly things
  3. Proof whereby those who think that they are clear of this sin may have it revealed in their conscience that they do mind earthly things
  4. The reason why the hearts of men and women are after earthly things
  5. Ways to take your hearts off of earthly things
It is not a mark of evil to have, use, or enjoy earthly things.  Therefore, Chapter 2 will further define the meaning of 'minding earthly things.'

 ***
"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit," (Rom. 8:5).