Monday, May 31, 2010

I Just Follow The Golden Rule

Luke 6:31 - “Do to others as you wold have them do to you.” This verse is commonly called the Golden Rule. I cannot say how often I’ve heard people say that they don’t believe in organized religion or need the church. That all they try to do is live a good life by following the best teachings of the Bible like the Golden Rule. When I hear this kind of statement, I often wonder just how much of the Bible the speaker knows and rightly understands. After all, the Scripture is not given to us as a random collection of pithy sayings for us to pick and choose the path we want to travel. Taking verses out of context is a dangerous path to travel. Sometimes it can lead people to follow a road that is diametrically opposed to what the Scripture teaches. For instance how many people claim the Golden Rule without truly understanding what Jesus was teaching when he spoke?

The Golden Rule appears in two places in the Gospels. One is Matthew 7:12 as Jesus brings the Sermon on the Mount to its conclusion. The other place is in Luke 6 as mentioned above. It is the Luke 6 teaching that intrigues me today. Here Jesus applies the Golden Rule in the midst of a teaching on ethics (the proper treatment of our fellow human beings). In the verses leading up to the Golden Rule, Jesus instructs his followers to: 1 - Love your enemies; 2 - Do good to those who hate you; 3- Bless those who curse you; and 4 - Pray for those who mistreat you. He then launches into some illustrations of how we do those things (IE: Turn the other cheek, give to those who take from you, do not expect repayment).

He then states the Golden Rule and continues this instruction by demanding that his followers have a higher, nobler ethic than that of the world around us. Loving those who love us, giving to those who will repay, being kind to those we know will be kind to us is easy to do. In many ways, its merely a convenient, self-satisfying barter-based ethical system. But to base one’s ethic on Christ is to do so on the basis of mercy and grace with the full knowledge that kindness will not always bring a kind return.

How many who say they live by the Golden Rule understand the context in which the golden rule was given? It is not in the context of family, friends, and decent civil behavior. This clear teaching from Jesus on the Golden Rule comes to us in the context of hatred, anger, and belligerence.

Next time someone says to you that they live according to the Golden Rule in an attempt to justify their lifestyle, consider the not only the words of their lips, but the testimony of their lives. But before you do, check yourself out first.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

T4G Book Winner

Congratulations to Jeremy (aka Jeremy-n-Elizabeth) who won our first T4G Book Giveaway.  If you are not Jeremy do not frown.  I will be giving away two more books next week, so stay tuned. 

Note to Jeremy—Email me your mailing address so I can ship this book out to you. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

From the Pen of Newton: Knowing the Will of God

Apparently the question of “how do I know God’s will for my life” is not confined to our modern era.  John Newton dealt with this same question.  I was encouraged that his answer is similar to what mine often is.  After showing the danger of subjective experiences Newton offers this advice:

In general, God guides and directs His people, by affording them, in answer to prayer, the light of his Holy Spirit, who enables them to understand and to love the Scriptures. The word of God furnishes us with just principles, and right apprehensions, to regulate our judgments and affections, and thereby to influence and direct our conduct. Those who study the Scriptures, in a humble dependence upon Divine teaching, are taught to make a true estimate of everything around them, and are gradually formed into a spirit of submission to the will of God. They thereby discover the nature and duties of their several situations and relations in life, and the snares and temptations to which they are exposed.

You may want to read this entire letter, it will be well worth your time.  But most of probably will not click that link, so allow me to summarize.  Newton begins the letter by discouraging such subjective things as “casting lots”, “opening the bible at a venture”, “a sudden strong impression of a text”, “freedom in prayer”, and “a remarkable dream”.  I think Newton would be quick to add—some of our modern devices; such as a feeling of peace, a word of knowledge, circumstances, or signs. 

Newton’s advice is simple.  Really get to know the revealed will of God and you will have no trouble walking after the Lord.  He is following in the stream of Augustine, “Love God and do what you want”.  Spend your time being transformed by the written Word and you will be more apt to follow after the Lord’s steps.  Do away with all this subjective, crystal-ball searching, mumbo-jumbo! 

If you are interested in an excellent little book on this topic check out Kevin DeYoung’s book: Just Do Something.  Read my review, here, and if you are interested click on the $8.79 and buy yourself a copy. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Review of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney

Author: Donald Whitney

Pages: 266 pages

Publisher: NavPress

Price: 15.99

Genre: Christian Living

Quick Summary:

I have had the privilege to sit under the teaching of Dr. Whitney in seminary. I jokingly tell people that he “wrote the book on Spiritual Disciplines”. I am actually only partially joking; this is perhaps the best and most God-centered book on the spiritual disciplines. The back cover sums up the book well, “by illustrating why the disciplines are important, showing how each one will help you grow in godliness, and offering practical suggestions for cultivating them on a long-term basis, [this book] will provide you with a refreshing opportunity to embrace life’s greatest pursuit—the pursuit of holiness—through a lifelong delight in the Disciplines”.

What I Liked:

This book is different from many other books on the Spiritual Disciplines. This book is different because it flows from a deep gospel center. Dr. Whitney truly believes that enjoyment is found in Christ alone. The disciplines are simply ways for us to experience more of Jesus and thereby experience more joy.

Sometimes when you read books on the spiritual disciplines you come away from each chapter feeling as if you have little oxygen and now you are being called upon to climb Mt. Everest. After leaving each chapter of this book you feel as if you have been supplied with an endless supply of oxygen and Mt. Everest looks like a climbable hill. This is the case because each chapter is gospel-saturated. Whitney writes in a compelling fashion and draws from the depths of the rich heritage left before us.

What I Disliked:

There are some places in this book that need updated. A second edition would be phenomenal. After sitting in his class I know that Dr. Whitney has much more for us to learn about the spiritual disciplines than what is included in this book. I wish that every lecture was made available for you free online. I think Dr. Whitney teaches better than he writes. This is not to say that this book is not compelling and a great read, it is to say that he is a phenomenal teacher. (By the way I’ve already received my grade for the class).

Should You Buy It?

Yes. It’s a pretty easy read and I believe God will use it to change your life. Even if you only read the chapter on praying through the Scriptures your walk with Christ will deepen.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

T4G Book Giveaway: Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

You have probably heard the name J.I. Packer.  I am guessing you have also heard of Evangelism.  And you may have even wondered how that fits with a robust doctrine of the sovereignty of God.  Put those three together and you get this amazing book.  It’s only 135 pages and it is jam-packed with awesomeness.  And I am giving it away.
To be entered in the drawing is simple.  If you subscribe to this blog on Google Reader or some other feed reader just leave your name and indicate in what way you subscribe to this blog.  You will be given two chances to win.  If you want to be a loser and not subscribe then all you have to do is leave your name and I will be forgiving and still enter you into the drawing. 
Your chance to win will end this Friday at 11:59 pm.  I will be drawing a winner and announcing it on Saturday.  Even if you do not win you can buy this gem for under 10 bucks.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Jeremy!  If you are not Jeremy do not fear you will have another chance to win next week.  Stay Tuned!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Why I Study Theology

I read a ton.  Even when I am not in class I study.  Some may call this nerdery.  I may be inclined to agree.  But something I read today by Dietrich Bonhoeffer help me to understand why I so vigorously study theology.  It helps me to remember the reason why I am in seminary and the reason that I read and write.  When this stops being true I should stop what I am doing:

…their call to study theology consists of the fact that the subject has simply enthralled them and refuses to let them go.  Of course, it must really be theology that has captivated them.  There must be a genuine readiness to meditate on God, his word and his will; ‘their delight is in the law of the Lord day and night’. 

That is why I do what I do.  Jesus has captivated my heart.  I study theology, read old books, write, struggle through hard texts because…I like to do it. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review of George Müller: Delighted in God by Roger Steer

Author: Roger Steer

Pages: 256 pages

Publisher: Christian Focus

Price: 11.89

Genre: Biography

Quick Summary:

If you have not heard of George Müller then you need to. As described on the back of this work Müller’s name is a “by-word for faith throughout the world”. Müller built orphanages on nothing more than faith. He did not accept a salary from preaching. He refused to ask individuals for money or materials. He simply sought God in prayer. Through Müller thousands of orphans were provided for, Bibles and tracts were distributed, and the faith of England was strengthened. This book is the story of what happens when somebody sets out to show “visible proof that our God and Father is the same faithful creator as he ever was.”

What I Liked:

I have always been deeply challenged by the life of George Müller, this book was no exception. I appreciated Roger Steer’s writing style as well. He is a very apt biographer. He was not blindly defensive of Müller nor was he needlessly skeptical. The book is put together well and draws richly from Müller’s own journals. But what I like most about Steer’s writing is that he adds story and flesh to the journals of Müller.

The life of George Müller does indeed strengthen my faith. It also causes me to think and ask questions. Should you “fundraise” how he did (only on your knees) or should you be more like Hudson Taylor who made his requests known but not to specific people? Even more bold still was D.L. Moody who would ask specific people for specific things. As my seminary professor pointed out all three of these men were blessed by God. Is one means better than the others? But more than this I had to ask myself at the end of the day—do I have faith like George Müller? If I do not have such a faith I have to ask myself, why. I serve the same God; why should I not have the same faith?

What I Disliked:

I spilt water on my book. Other than that I loved everything. Perhaps it would have been nice to have a little bit of commentary on Müller’s life interspersed throughout. I tend to like Iain Murray for that reason, but Steer did a wonderful job of simply telling it like it was.

Should You Buy It?

If you are not familiar with Müller then this book and/or his autobiography would be a great place to start. Müller’s faith strengthened Charles Spurgeon—certainly it will do the same for you.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Arizona Immigration Law…Phil Jackson…I Don’t Understand

I dislike Phil Jackson just as much as any Bulls fan, but I really do not understand the uproar over his statements  concerning the Arizona Immigration Law.  Take what this guy had to say for example:

"Phil Jackson went political and that's not his job," said Jose Maldonado from Montclair. "His job is not governor, his job is not president, his job is not political, his job is to be a coach. When he said what he did he went political and that's the reason I'm standing here, to protest his involvement."

What?!?!  The whole point of the protest is that Jackson did not want to be political.  He did not want the Lakers wearing Los Lakers on their jersey.  His argument is that they are a basketball team and not a political entity.  So, because he did not take a stance—or the stance that they wanted him to take “he went political”. 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we will soon find out that this way of thinking is far more than just a sports issue.  This is the mindset of the people that we are to share the glorious gospel of Jesus to.  You can say anything religious or spiritual until you take an unfavorable stance and then you are being bigoted, narrow-minded, etc.  But the claims of Jesus are exclusive and proclaim them we must. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Purity Principle by Randy Alcorn

Author: Randy Alcorn

Pages: 93 pages

Publisher: Multnomah

Price: Used for about $1.50

Genre: Christian Living/Relationships

Quick Summary:

Randy Alcorn has written a few great booklets that are around 100 pages long. The Purity Principle is one of them. The Purity Principle is quite simple: “Purity is always smart, impurity is always stupid”. If we know what is best for us then we will passionately pursue purity. The first part of this book attempts to prove the purity principle. The second part of the book gets practical and puts into place wise strategies for pursuing purity.

What I Liked:

This book is well written, it is short, it is to the point, it is deeply biblical, and greatly convicting. Even if you think you are passionately pursuing purity this book will challenge you to go a step further. Alcorn speaks boldly and wisely throughout. The strategies in this book are not legalistic tips or merely unhelpful theories, they are real and they are practical. But there is only one caveat…

What I Disliked:

I wish Alcorn would have inserted a chapter about the resurrection power of Jesus in our lives. Because of what Christ has done we have the power within us to conquer this battle. I know that Alcorn would agree with that, I just wish he would have laid a foundation towards the beginning. He starts towards that when he says, “when my thirst for joy is satisfied by Christ, sin becomes unattractive”. But, I wish he would have taken it a step further and dedicated a chapter to encouraging those that feel ridiculously defeated by this particular sin. Again, he says these things in a few places (see page 60)—I just think the reader would be better served having a deliberate chapter. Nonetheless…

Should You Buy It?

Absolutely. If you have a heartbeat, you are a guy, you are a girl, you know a guy, you know a girl, then you need to buy this book and read it. There is a helpful chapter for singles. There is a helpful chapter for parents. For a mere $1.50 and only 100 pages this book is well worth it. Apply it and read it and you will be even more blessed.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, May 13, 2010

John Newton=Not a Fan of Monks

Newton responded to a young man concerning conformity to the world.  It is a very wise letter where he counsels against “renouncing the society of the world” as well as those that try to “serve both God and Mammon”.  Concerning renouncing society Newton says:
But unless we could flee from ourselves likewise, this would afford us no advantage; so long as we carry our own wicked hearts with us, we shall be exposed to temptation go where we will…A man may almost starve his body to feed his pride: but to those who fear and serve the Lord, every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 
And to those that make their home in this world, Newton opines:
By their conduct, as far as in them lies, they declare, that they do not find the religion of the Gospel answer their expectations; that it does not afford them the satisfaction they once hoped for from it; and that therefore they are forced to seek relief from the world.
The entire letter is worth reading.  You can do so here

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review of A Quest for Godliness by J.I. Packer

Author: J.I. Packer

Pages: 368

Publisher: Crossway

Price: 16.50

Genre: Christian Living/History/Puritans

Quick Summary:

A Quest for Godliness is a compilation of forty years of Packer’s study of the Puritans. Packer lays out his aim early on when he states, “The essays are not just history and historical theology; they are themselves, in aim at least, spirituality, as much as anything else I have written; they focus on ways in which as I see it, the Puritans are giants compared with us, giants who help we need if ever we are to grow.”

The book is divided up into six main sections: The Puritans in Profile, The Puritans and the Bible, The Puritans and the Gospel, The Puritans and The Holy Spirit, The Puritan Christian Life, and The Puritans and Ministry. There are numerous Puritans outlined throughout this book but most attention is given to John Owen, Richard Baxter, and Jonathan Edwards.

What I Liked:

I love the Puritans. I typically love J.I. Packer’s writings. So of course this will be a great combination. Packer is an able historian that brings out helpful points in the life of the Puritans. Reading this book caused a passion for the Puritans to be rekindled in my heart. There are numerous quotable sections and mention is made of many of the lesser known giants of Puritanism.

What I Disliked:

Because of the format of the book (a compilation of essays) some of the chapters can be redundant. This book would be best served to be about 75 pages less. This is a helpful book but would perhaps be more helpful if written for a more popular audience and more tightly woven together.

Should You Buy It?

If you like Packer and the Puritans then you probably will. If you know very little about the Puritans this may be a decent place to start. Packer does accomplish his goal of proving that the Puritans were giants and we are ants, if you are not convinced of this and think the Puritans have little to offer then you should buy this book.  You may want to wait until the end of July for the new edition. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Where Did _______ Come From?

I am going to start a new series here at Borrowed Light and I need your help.

Do you ever wonder where certain practices within Christianity comes from?  Perhaps you are Protestant and wonder why Catholics seem to worship the Virgin Mary.  When did that begin?  Where did the Pope come from?  Or maybe you wonder when we began doing certain practices such as altar calls or preaching behind a pulpit.  If you have any of these questions please either email them to me, leave them in the comment section, or leave a comment on Facebook.

Don’t be shy…

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday’s Ministry Musing:Empty Handed or Not?

If I accidentally leave my checkbook at home on a Sunday morning is God upset with me? 

DirtyHandsI heard it said the other day from Deuteronomy 16:16 that we are never to appear before the Lord empty-handed.  This, it was said, is why we are not to tithe once per month but we should have something to give every week.  So, if I forget my checkbook do I receive a frown from God? 

Maybe what God wants is my heart.  I forgot my checkbook but I brought my heart.  After all, I’ve heard that quite a few times before too.  I have heard from Romans 12:1-2 that what God really wants is my life and my heart.  So, what it means for the New Testament Christian is that we do not have to appear before God with a goat, or ram, or maybe not even an offering.  We appear before God with our spiritual offering—ourselves.  But, still we do not appear empty-handed.  So, if I forget my checkbook but bring my heart then God is cool with me?

But then again I’ve also heard things like this, “You can't please God if you don't come to him empty handed and longing for the Reward - and he himself is the final Reward” (Piper).  So, wait I don’t necessarily have to bring my checkbook, or my heart, just desperation, then God is cool with me? 

So, how do we apply passages like Deuteronomy 16:16?  This little exercise shows the absolute importance of having a Christ-centered hermeneutic (fancy word for Bible interpretation).  I do not think that you apply Dt. 16 by saying bring your checkbook to church every Sunday.  Nor do I think it is merely saying, bring your heart on Sunday morning.  The offerings that are given in the Old Testament are a shadow of the finished work of Jesus Christ.  The OT saint had to appear before God with offerings (a symbol of their faith/hope).  But the NT saint has to appear before God by the finished work of Jesus Christ.  So, you apply Deuteronomy 16:16 by saying, you better not appear before God empty-handed (without being covered by the blood of Jesus Christ). 

Do you come Sunday morning empty-handed?  Yes and no.  You grab hold of Christ empty-handed (this is what Piper is saying).  But as you grab hold of Christ you do not appear before God on a Sunday morning (or any other time for that matter) based on your own merits or de-merits.  You appear before God based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ, and therefore, you appear before God not with empty-hands but with hands filled with the blood of Jesus. 

I’ll let you answer the initial question on your own…


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