Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Experiencing God

I am reading Rick Holland’s book Uneclipsing the Son and enjoying it immensely. In it he urges us to remove any and all hindrances/sin to us experiencing Christ, to being transformed into His image and as this takes place he shows us that we will experience Christ in ways beyond description. This is a goal that all followers of Christ should strive to achieve.

In the chapter “Staring at the Son,” Rick gives us a concise description of this idea:
Looking for and seeing and gazing at the excellencies, the glories of Jesus leads to greater vision, sharper focus, deeper awareness of Jesus and His permanent abiding presence. It elevates the soul to a higher vantage point of worship.

We must learn to stare at the Son of God such that we are blinded to all the allurements of the world! All encumbrances aside, all slack-heartedness aside, everything aside but…

Him.

If we would know the fullness of this disclosure of Himself that Christ described at that supper table, our lives would be wholly and enduringly different.
The reason we don’t experience God in amazing ways is that we have placed obstacles in the way. We look to other things to fill only what Christ can fill. We also have become complacent in the experiences that we regular experience and don’t strive for more. Yet Christ wants us to experience Him abundantly (John 10:10). And as we experience Christ we will be transformed into His image (II Corinthians 3:18).

This book filled me with excitement and anticipation for the regular experiences that God wants to have with me while He makes me more like Him. What an awesome God we serve!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review - John MacArthur Servant of the Word and Flock

It is no secret that one of my biggest heroes of the faith is John MacArthur. I’ve read many of his books and listen to him preach often. As I prepare to teach/preach I turn to him for research more than anyone or anything else outside of God’s Word.

Upon hearing that Iain Murray was writing a biography of MacArthur I was excited yet puzzled because biographies are usually written about people who have died. Since Murray was writing this biography I knew that it would be handled well (I sat in a conference in which Murray was teaching and was amazed at his knowledge, particularly on the lives of saints that have gone on before us).

I know some of the man that MacArthur is. I know his ministry very well. I admire the way he runs his church. I love even more the way he handles God’s Word. So as I read I was looking for some new insights on the man and his ministry. I was also looking forward to learning more about the leadership he provides his church and I did just that.

Concerning John as a man, Murray gives us a quick but insightful background on John’s parents and grandparents. It is clear that John’s path to ministry began with them (many of John’s ancestors were pastors). We follow him through high school then into college. We learn from Murray that John was an exceptional athlete and during college but somewhat ran from the calling God has for John until he was in a horrific car accident that almost cost him his life. That was the turning point in John’s life.
Murray gives insight into John as a family man. It is clear that he loves his wife and children. He traveled with them, trained them in God’s way, and always takes time for his wife Patricia. It is great to know that all of his kids and grandkids are in church and most involved in ministry of some kind.

Murray spends most of the book on John’s ministry. We see a man whose objective is to have his flock understand God’s Word so that they are equipped to do the work of the ministry. The slogan of his ministry is “Unleashing God’s truth one verse at a time.” Obviously this will require time to prepare each sermon. That’s why he told the elders when he accepted the job at Grace Community Church that he wanted 30 hours a week for sermon prep. In his 40 years at Grace he has spent 30 of them preaching through the four gospels. He just finished the gospel of Mark and when he writes that commentary he will have written commentaries on every book of the New Testament (31 books in the set). It is a colossal achievement.

And he hasn’t changed his preaching style in those 40 years. Each sermon is 45 minutes to an hour in length, or longer. This may make some wonder if he can connect with a younger audience that is used to short sermons that are relevant to their needs. To put that idea to rest - John has well over 6000 members in his church with over three-fourths of them being 35 years old or younger.

I knew some of the way John ran his church before reading this book but I didn’t truly grasp the dedication he had to it. Murray points out that as John was reviewing chapters of his commentaries, he would keep a chapter or two with him in case he found a moment or two to proof them. In the busyness of the day he isn’t trying to fit in a break but time to proof a book. Amazing!

Murray also covers some of the controversy that has occurred in John’s time at Grace. During the 80’s his church was sued because a man they were counseling committed suicide. Not only did the church win the suit but the plaintiffs were required to pay attorney fees.

Perhaps the biggest controversy dealt with John’s book, “The Gospel According to Jesus.” The premise of the book is that one must accept Christ as Lord in order to be saved (the many that disagreed called John’s belief Lordship-Salvation which it is still called by both sides today). The controversy over the book spread to works versus faith and repentance just to name a few. John in his typical style didn’t back down but handled discussions and debates with tenderness and grace, a character trait that shows up throughout the book and John’s life.

Other controversies that he has been involved in are how revivals come and with charismatic theology (this is about the only issue I disagree with John on).

Throughout the book when Murray disagrees with John on a particular point of theology he says so, but never to show up John or make the book about himself, and never in an antagonistic way.

As I read the book I loved the simplistic way Murray wrote. He keeps our attention throughout. He flows through each point. As one chapter ended I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. I appreciate how Murray shows us a great man of God, flaws and all, in a way that makes him like you and me. He is a guy with a family and a love for God, His Word and His Church.

If you want a peek into the mind of a man wholly dedicated to his family and his ministry then you need to read this book. Or if you are just looking for a good read, this is it. You won’t be disappointed.

You can purchase this book from Christianbook, Amazon or Grace to You.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Our Greatest Freedom

Our country provides us amazing freedoms. Freedoms that we tend to take for granted. The freedom our country gives us is the freedom to worship as we wish. We can worship without fear of being arrested or killed in our place of worship. We are free to hold Bible studies in our homes or in public for however long we wish.

As great as the freedoms are that we have in America the greatest freedom comes from above. Paul tells us in Romans 6:22-23, But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The greatest freedom a Christian has is freedom from sin. Sin no longer has dominion over us (Romans 6:14). We have been set free from the bondage of sin and have become slaves of God and of righteousness (Romans 6:18). And as a result we have obtained the free gift of eternal life. What a glorious truth!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Review - Radical Together by David Platt

If you and I want our lives to count for God’s purpose in the world, we need to begin with a commitment to God’s people in the church. God has called us to lock arms with one another in single-minded, death-defying obedience to one objective: the declaration of his gospel for the demonstration of his glory to all nations.

This is the reason for David Platt writing Radical Together, the extension of his first book Radical (my review here). In this first book Platt urges the believer to live a radical life for God. He teaches that we are to live our lives in service to others and in ways that we are not accustomed to. Most of us have never been overseas ministering the gospel in a third world country nor have we spent much time doing that in our communities outside of our church buildings. We need to be willing to sacrifice all to accomplish that end.

As he did in Radical he confronts the selfishness of contemporary Christianity head on. Most people today try to make the gospel fit their wants yet our wants should fit the gospel. He points out on page 48 that the design of God’s Word is “not to provide practical guidelines, parenting tips, leadership advice, and financial counsel that Americans are looking for in the twenty-first century. Instead, the purpose of God’s Word is to transform people in every country and every century into the image of Jesus.

Throughout the book he asks us to evaluate every program we have in our churches, even those that are considered “sacred.” Many of us would say that what we do in our churches is good but he points out that isn’t enough. We should be doing what is best. That cuts me to the bone. I can get complacent when things are going good and not give much thought to them. Yet when we do we may see that even though a particular program is good it may not be the best. As a leader in my church I will apply this to everything we do.

The major complaint I had with Radical becomes even a bigger issue in Radical Together - that in Platt’s understanding taking the gospel to the world means somewhere outside of the U.S. In Radical he didn’t devote much time to local ministry and seems to spend even less time in Radical Together on it. And I couldn’t get past that.

As I said in my review of Radical we have to look at a lost soul in Africa like we do our lost neighbor. We can’t say that one is more important than the other and I believe Platt does (see pages 87-90). He does try to clarify himself on this (Not Either/Or But Both/And page 90-93) but I believe he fails. He says at the end of the section that the purpose of ministry in his community is to reach those outside of the U.S. In the very next section he moves again to missions outside of our local communities and to the world. Platt carries this idea throughout the book. And it seems to become a bigger issue with each page.

Please don’t believe that we don’t need to go out to the world and evangelize every person we can. We do. But we can’t do it at the sake of those around us.

If the book were to handle this better I would be able to give it a better review but I can’t, nor should I want to.

Disclaimer- I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.