Monday, February 17, 2014

Review - Spiritual Warfare

In their book Spiritual Warfare, Brian Borgman and Rob Venture guide us through Ephesians 6:10-20, the famous passage on spiritual warfare. There seems to be two extremes concerning the war all Christians are in. One side says that every spiritual battle needs to have an exorcism performed, rebuking the devil and the like. The other side will say that our battles have nothing to do with those things and isn’t real. In this book you will find a thought out, balanced approach based on a clear exegesis of the Ephesians passage mentioned earlier.

They make it clear that we are in a battle against Satan and that we need to be equipped to fight that war. Fortunately we are not able to fight it on our own. We need help. That help is found in Christ. He equips us with the armor of God. He strengthens us, arms us and guides us in this daily battle. Throughout the book the authors bring us back to that glorious fact. In the first chapter they remind us that Christ is higher and more powerful than any force that comes against us.

What also struck me about the book is how easy it is to read. When “big” words are used they explain them clearly so anyone can understand. Also it is a quick read.

We need books like this today. Even though you can find a plethora of books on spiritual warfare none approach it from a Biblical viewpoint like this.

You can purchase it at Christianbook, Amazon or Reformation Heritage Books.

Disclaimer - I received this resource free from Reformation Heritage Books through CrossFocused Reviews as part of their book review blogger program. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Living Out Our Faith as Slaves of Christ, Pt. 6

This is that last post on a short series on being slaves of Christ. Here are the links for part one, two, three, four and five. In the fifth post we looked at the discipline the master gives to his slaves that disobey. And because God loves us and desires us to live holy lives He disciplines us, His slaves, to lead us to repentance. Now we will look at the reward for those slaves who live obediently to God’s Word.

One passage the gives many of us hope when life gets tough is Matthew 25:21 where we read:
His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
Notice the word servant? In the Greek it is the word doulos which means slave, not servant. So we should read the passage like this, Well done, good and faithful slave. Christ is speaking to those who identify themselves as His slaves, not His servants. Adds a different dimension, doesn’t it?

Remember we are called as slaves of Christ and only slaves of Christ will reap the benefit mentioned by Him in this passage. We must be completely sold out to Him, completely obedient to Scripture, to enter into this joy Christ is speaking of.

So what is this reward Christ is promising to those who are His slaves. Simply put, it is heaven. How glorious is that! When we live lives as His slave He gives us heaven as our reward. Denying ourselves, taking up our crosses daily and following Him will take us on the narrow road that leads to paradise (Matthew 7:13-14). What a wonderful truth and promise that He gives us. As long as we live as His slaves.

Too often though we live as though we can pick and choose when to serve Christ; when it is convenient. We will pick and choose the parts of the Bible to obey. We have no problem doing the easy things the Bible asks us to do but the hard things, well, that’s a different story. Being His slave is a 24/7/365 responsibility. But the reward is better than we could ever hope or imagine.

I want to end with this - if you don’t live as Christ’s slave, what is stopping you? He will
equip you with all the strength you need to do what He asks. He will give you His Spirit to guide you along the way. He has given you the Bible to be your light in this dark world. And heaven awaits you on the other side. Romans 10:9 says the following:
(I)f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (He is your Master, you are His slave) and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Time is short. Tomorrow is promised to no one. Don’t wait. Respond to His call today and know that when you do and devote yourself to live as His slave you will enter into the joy of your Master when you depart from this world and pass onto the next.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Confronting Others Online

We live in a time where everyone is connected online. Most have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Pinterest boards and the like. We are in touch with each other more than ever. Yet we truly converse with people less now than we ever have. And this has created something that I believe has become problematic.

I joined Facebook some 5 years ago. Initially I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. What won me over was getting in touch with people that I hadn’t heard from in years. It also allowed me to stay in touch with people more regularly. I believe most users feel the same way. We get to see pictures of other’s families. We get to see the joys and struggles others are going through. We get to see the humor and pain in the lives of others. We also share the same about ourselves; all the while never leaving the comfort of our homes.

And this is the root of what I believe is a serious problem amongst users of these social network sights. The problem - taking disputes and disagreements online instead of to the person in private.

If you have been on Facebook for any amount of time you will have someone post/comment to you about a behavior they believe you are doing wrong. They will comment on a post you have made or post to your page directly; people have become so very bold out there in cyber space. The problem is that they took to Facebook before they went to you privately. To put it plainly this is a direct violation of Scripture.

We read in Matthew 18:15 the following from Christ:
If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. (Emphasis added)
The first thing I want to point out is that correcting someone is a command from Christ. He tells us that if we see someone in sin to go to that person and point out the offense. This isn’t a problem on Facebook. So many people will call out people on Facebook for the wrong they are doing. But we must notice something else Christ tells us here and that is we are to go to them privately. Let’s make sure we understand, privately does not mean on the World Wide Web. Privately does not mean to post it on Facebook for all of your and their friends to see. This means that you go to that person and meet with them in private to discuss the issue.

As a side note, most of the “sin” that people confront online is more of a personal preference, which they consider to be sin, when in reality it isn’t. That is what the Pharisees did. And Christ rebuked them for that.

The worst offenders are those who write posts about people(s) but not mention the name(s) of the one(s) they are posting about. Another habit I have seen from people is that they will name a group of people but not the individual names of the people in that group. They will say something like, “well I didn’t use their name so it is ok to post this about them.” Yet by naming or describing the group they make it easy for others to know the specific individuals they are addressing about that sin, so in effect they have called them out by name. If we are honest with ourselves do we really believe that Christ, with His command in Matthew 18:15 to go that person individually, will be ok with that type of confrontation? I believe not.

I also feel like I need to clarify the difference between stating opinions and calling out people in their sins. Stating opinions is a good thing to do, even opinions about sin in general. Matthew 18:15 doesn’t apply to stating opinions. But to say a person or a group is in sin isn’t an opinion, it is calling out sin. And to do that without going to that person first is a violation of Matthew 18:15.

I understand why many of us go to Facebook first - it feels good. Don’t be shocked that I typed that. If you are honest with yourself you will agree. We do it to get things off of our chest. Blow off some steam. It makes us feel better to tell people off. And when we click “post” we feel like we have accomplished something. Yet all that we have actually done is to feed our flesh. And that isn’t a valid Biblical reason to do anything.

So why do we need to go to the person in private instead of on social media? Christ tells us why in the last part of Matthew 18:15 - to win that person back. This means that we have helped them to see the error of their ways, to repent and relationships are restored. This will only happen when we go to them in person, not when we take it online. Going online first normally leads to strife, anger, and broken relationships; the exact opposite of what Christ desires.

As I type this I see the irony of this post. Me saying that it is wrong to post about people without going to them first, yet it seems like I am doing that very thing. Honestly, I am posting this as much for me as for anyone else. Maybe I am confronting myself on social media. I’m sure that if I looked back over the history of my posts I would be guilty of going to social media before I went to people about things in their life they needed to change. I was wrong. I should have taken the time to visit with them in person about the issue. I am posting this not as a way to confront someone or get back at anyone in particular because they have done this to me. My goal with this post is to help us all, me included, to go to others before we go to social media (if even at all). That is the Godly way. That is the way that brings Him glory. That is the way to get the best, and should I say, desired, results.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Review - Why Christ Came

The Christian book market is flooded with devotionals of every kind. Whatever topic or encouragement you are looking for you more than likely can find. In the new devotional by Joel R. Beeke and William Boekestein you will be challenged every day for a month on the glorious topic of the incarnation. The devotional is appropriately called Why Christ Came.

From the first day to the last you will cover almost every reason why Christ as God came to earth in the form of man. This isn't your usual fluff devotional. I felt like I was getting a mini lecture on theology each morning yet written in a way that isn't too academic. Each day’s topic is flooded with Scripture references to validate what they are teaching us.

The best part of this devotional is that you spend 31 days looking deeply into the life of our Savior. You begin your day with your thought’s squarely on the most important person in your life - Christ. Can’t go wrong with that.

You can purchase the book at Christianbook, Amazon or Reformation Heritage Books.

Here is a video trailer for the book.

Disclaimer - I received this resource free from Reformation Heritage Books through CrossFocused Reviews as part of their book review blogger program. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Living Out Our Faith as Slaves of Christ, Pt. 5

One of the aspect of a father that we don’t like is his authority to discipline his children when they disobey. I haven’t heard of any kid who begs to be disciplined when they do wrong. They do everything they can to get out of any punishment. But as any loving father knows discipline helps his children correct their behavior and live the life they should be living.

Our Heavenly Father is no different. We as His children should expect to be disciplined when we disobey His statues.

This is the fifth of a six part look at being slaves of Christ (the first four posts can be found here, here, here and here). In this post we will look specifically at how we as slaves of God are punished when we don’t obey His Word.

Scripture shows us that God disciplining us when we are disobedient is one of the most loving things he can do for us:
  • Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.
  • Proverbs 3:11, 12 My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.
  • Revelation 3:19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Let’s understand that God doesn’t discipline us for the fun of it; like He is seeking ways to be mean. As these passages point out God disciplines us because He loves us and desires for us to live in obedience to His life giving Word. When we stray He corrects us so that we will be zealous and repent (Revelation 3:19). That is the goal of all correction from God - our repentance.

God didn’t send His Son into the world to die for our sins only to have us continue to live in them (Romans 6:11-16). And if necessary God will discipline us to get us back on the path that leads to life.

How does God discipline us? In whatever ways that will get our attention. I have heard stories of siblings where for one of them spankings worked but for the other they did nothing to change their behavior. The parents had to find other ways to get that child to do what was asked of them. God is that way with us. He will do what it takes to bring about repentance in our lives.

In closing, think about these questions; is it your desire to obey God’s Word? Do you long to make let the world know that you love God by your obedience to Him (John 14:15)? Or do you only obey God when it is convenient, easy to do?

For the true Christian, being a slave of Christ, they will long to obey God every moment of their life in every way He asks.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Living Out Our Faith as Slaves of Christ, Pt. 4

As we continue our look into the epistle of James we are in our fourth of a six part study on being slaves of Christ (you can read the first three posts here, here and here). We have discussed what the Bible means by being a slave of Christ, the difference between being a servant and a slave and how slaves are owned. We move our attention on slaves being obedient to their master.

This would seem to be self-evident, slaves obeying their masters. Yet many in the church how call God their Master don’t obey Him unconditionally as slaves should. I think it is important to understand how obedient slaves were in the time that James wrote this letter. Simply put, slaves obeyed their master; never questioning the commands they were given. The chore they were given wasn’t up for discussion. Slaves didn’t get a say in the matter. They didn’t delay in fulfilling the task they were given and gave all of themselves to that task.

This parallels our relationship with God perfectly. At least it should. God is our Master (we saw that in the second post in this series) and He has given us commands that we are to obey. And we find these commands in His Holy Word - the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation we are given one command after another that God expects us, His slaves, to obey. As we saw in the previous paragraph with earthly slaves, God expects us to obey His Word with that kind of devotion and dedication. God expects that when we read a command in the Bible not to question it but to say “yes sir.” God expects that when we read a command in the Bible not to wait to do it but put it into practice it immediately (we don’t need to wait until the new year to make changes in our lives; now is a good of a time as any). God expects that when we read a command in the Bible that we give all of ourselves to making it become a reality.

What most people think is that the Bible is a joy-kill. That it isn’t fun. They want to live a little first then obey the Bible. Unfortunately what they don’t understand is that Christ came to give use abundant life (John 10:10). Obeying Christ gives use so much joy that we can express it with words (I Peter 1:8). Satisfaction and gladness are found in Him (Psalm 81:16). In Christ is life. In the world is death. The choice is clear.

Why don’t most live for Christ as His slave? I believe it is because we are control freaks. We want to be in control of our lives. We don’t like anyone telling us what to do. We sing songs, pray prayers and amen when the pastor says that we must be Christ’s slave but when it comes time to live as His slaves, well… the excuses start pouring in.

So what is holding you back? Why haven’t you given yourself over to Christ as His slave? As I pointed out earlier, there is so much blessing in being His slave why be anything else?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Reflections on Being Installed as Associate Pastor

God works in mysterious ways. He uses the most unlikely people to fulfill His mission. One of those people is me. This past August God did something in my life that I in no way could ever thank Him enough for. Before I get to what it is here is some background on how God orchestrated it becoming a reality.

Katrina and I talk about everything. We have not secrets. What we talk about most is our boys. Next is our church. Everyday Open Door is talked and prayed about in our home. God has given us responsibilities there that bring us so much joy - Katrina as one of our worship leaders and me as an elder. Over the past few years God has placed in me a desire to serve more. I wasn’t sure it this desire was from God or some wild dream that I had. What made it clear that I was hearing from God was over a year ago Katrina and I were talking and she mentioned that she believed that God had bigger things in store for me, namely becoming a pastor. She mentioned that without any knowledge that God had already put that very desire in my heart a few years earlier. We both began to pray about this and felt that God was pushing us into this together.

Four years ago James Douglas became pastor of our church and he wanted to be obedient to Scripture and install elders (previously we had a Pastor’s Council) as the leaders in our church. By the grace of God I was elected to that position (I wrote my reflections on that here). Shortly after that was when this desire to become a pastor began to become more prevalent. Katrina and I discussed this with our pastor and he encouraged us to pursue that desire. So Katrina and I enrolled in the CAMS courses our denomination offers for people desiring to become ministers. We started that program in February 2013 and completed it the following August. Again by God’s grace I passed my exam to become a licensed minister in the Church of God. Then in September we enrolled in the MIP program to become an ordained minister.

During our August elder’s meeting my father-in-law recommended to the other elders that I be installed as associate pastor of our church. The vote was unanimous. I was blown away. The desire He had put into my heart some years earlier was finally becoming real. So on September 22, 2013 I was installed as associate pastor of Open Door.

I am in awe of God’s goodness and grace. I can’t fathom why He would want to use a sinner like me to do His work. I am humbled that He first chose to save me and then to use me to pastor His flock.

My heart is at Open Door. I have no desire to go anywhere else. I love the people of this great church. God is doing wonderful things and I am excited to be part of what He is doing. It’s a privilege to serve there in this new capacity. We have the best elders a church could have. They put God first in their life which is a wonderful example to me and our church.

It is an immense privilege to serve our lead pastor James Douglas. He is sold out as a slave of Christ. He loves making disciples who love God and love people. He and Holly bless me and Katrina more than they ever will know. We love you both like family.

Being associate pastor is a responsibility I take on with all that I am. At times I will feel like a fish out of water but I trust that God will guide me by His Spirit and show me how I am to fulfill the desire He placed in me years ago. All that I do is for Him.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review - The Gospel Call & True Conversion

Today there is much confusion on what constitutes the gospel. That is of major concern since the gospel is of utmost importance (I Corinthians 15:1-3). Some pastors have been accused of preaching “gospel lite.” While I understand what that means I believe it is misleading. You are either preaching the gospel or nothing at all. There is no middle ground. So we need to have a Biblical understanding of what the gospel message is. In Paul Washer’s book The Gospel Call & True Conversion he clarifies what it means for us to proclaim the gospel to a lost and dying world. This is part of a series on the gospel that Washer is writing. It is from a series of sermons he preached.

In this book you will learn more about what is the gospel call, having new hearts, and being new people. In a systematic way Washer takes us through the many aspects of the gospel, clearly articulating his points and giving the reader a fuller understanding of what God desires to do in the life of new and even mature believers. For those who have been a child of God for years will be reassured by Washer’s writing, reassured that God has changed their life radically and will make them into what He wants them to be. In other words, even the most veteran believer will benefit from reading this book.

What struck me is how easy this book is to read. You won’t find yourself stumbling over difficult words and when some are used they are explained so this won’t be intimidating to the average reader. Also he uses an extensive amount of Scripture references to validate his points. This is important. The gospel isn’t a human invention. It comes straight from the Word. And to the Word we should go for what it means.

If you are looking for a book to give you a better understanding of the gospel message then this is for you. You won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer- I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books through CrossFocused Reviews for this review. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review - NIV Leadership Bible

Being a in the leadership team of my church I look for teaching to help me be a better leader. I don’t want to settle for being good, I want to excel. In the NIV Leadership Bible there are Biblical leadership principles that accompany the Biblical text. A great combination.

Each of the features of this Bible deal with leadership. There is a 52 week study that deals with different “Leadership Principles” - personal development, relationships, and skills. Each week is broken down into five days that give the reader Biblical guidance in leadership. These are scattered throughout the Bible showing us that leadership is a topic that God incorporated throughout His Word and how important it is to the life of His church.

There are profiles of leaders found in Scripture. These are short, to the point but very helpful in understanding how these saints lead God’s people. It would do the church some good to look at Godly leaders instead of those from the secular world as examples on leadership.

All throughout the Bible are insights that cover a myriad of topics. These are very short but powerful.

As with other study Bibles there are book introductions but these focus more on the leadership that can be found in that particular book.

To make finding the leadership topics discussed easier to find there is a chart in the beginning of the Bible and an index in the back. So very easy to look up an area of leadership and find wonderful helps.

I believe that this is a resource that I will turn to often as I lead the church God has given to me. Any church leader will benefit from this resource. It won’t disappoint.

You can purchase it at Christianbook or Amazon.

Disclaimer - I received this resource free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Sneeze book review blogger program. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Review - Prepared by Grace, for Grace

Before one comes to a saving faith in Christ the Holy Spirit is doing a work in that person. The Spirit of God is softening the persons heart so that when the gospel is presented to them they will not only be receptive to hear the message but to respond appropriately. The grace one needs to be saved is applied to the believer before the moment they are saved. The Puritans called this preparatory grace which is the subject of the new book Prepared by Grace, for Grace by Joel R. Beeke and Paul Smalley.

In this book Beeke and Smalley point us to the Puritans and how many of them believed and wrote that God was working grace in our lives before we accepted the call of salvation. They write that, Complacency in sin, conviction of sin, and conversion to Christ constituted the Puritan process of personal salvation, going on to say that, Most Puritans believed that God uses the law to prepare the way for the gospel in men’s souls. In other words God gives us His Spirit and uses the law to prepare our hearts to be converted to Christ.

The law plays an important role in this book because the Puritans rightly believed that the law reveals and convicts the person of sin. But the law is powerless to save. That is where the Holy Spirit comes into the picture. When a person is convicted by the law of their sin the Holy Spirit saves us by grace.

The Puritans come from a reformed perspective which the authors write doesn’t contradict a person being prepared by grace for grace. They believed that both God and man have a work in the salvation of their soul (Philippians 2:12-13).

This book is full of many quotes from the Puritans so the English is different than what we are used to. Also this book is written more along academic lines, although I believe anyone would benefit from reading it. You will have a better understanding of how the Holy Spirit was working in your life even before you made a decision to make Christ your Lord.

You can purchase it at Reformation Heritage Books, Christianbook or Amazon.

Disclaimer- I received this book for free from Reformation Heritage Books through CrossFocused Reviews for this review. All that was required of me is that I review it, positively or negatively, on my site.