September Resource of the Month

orlando grace church 002 300x168 August Resource of the Month

With the establishment of our sweet and newly-stocked resource center at our new building, the options overflow these first few months for choosing a book to feature for our reading and study enjoyment.

When I thought about this month’s offering, I didn’t have to linger long over the choice. I went with Richard Philllips’ terrific little read (110 pages) entitled What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace? Here’s why.

Scott Devor begins teaching a new equipping hour on this subject tomorrow morning during the 9:30 hour. This would make an excellent introductory volume for anyone desiring to do additional study. Don’t worry Greg and Joe, I have you covered in the October resource of the month – God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts. Your turn is coming!

But another reason compelled me to start with Phillips’ book. With the opening of our facility we have a number of new folks in the mix. Some may very well be knew to reformed theology and not acquainted with TULIP as a way of summarizing these biblical truths as our spiritual forefathers have done. My hope is a resource like this will help answer a number of questions our newcomers may have about this important aspect of our teaching at OGC.

Indeed Phillips organizes his book largely around the TULIP acronym. After an opening chapter treating the greatness of God’s sovereignty in Scripture overall, he then proceeds to unpack, all with the same heading, What’s So Great About . . .

  • Total Depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perseverance of the Saints

The author states his aim in writing this way:

This book has two purposes. The first is to explain the doctrines of grace, also known as the “Five Points of Calvinism,” through the exposition of Scripture. In this, my aim is not to exhaust the biblical data or to engage in heavy biblical polemics with differing theological views. Instead, I seek to exposit definitive passages as they pertain to the respective doctrines. My approach is to present and explain the doctrines as plainly as possible by drawing out both the clear teaching of the Bible’s text and the necessary implications thereof. The second purpose is one that I find often neglected in treatments of distinctive Reformed doctrines, though to my mind is equally important. This purpose is to help believers feel the power of these precious truths in their lives. In other words, I aim not merely to teach the doctrines of grace, but to show what is so great about them. And how great they are! If we really believe the Bible’s teaching on the sovereign, mighty, and effectual grace of God, these doctrines not only will be dearly beloved, they will exercise a radical influence on our entire attitude toward God, ourselves, the present life, and the life to come (pp. xi-xii).

The book may lack for its omission of the historical background behind the formulation of these doctrines, but given the author’s agenda and desire to stay concise, we may forgive that. Especially helpful in each chapter is the answering of key objections to the teachings and a fleshing out of the implications of these truths in our lives.

I am happy to be able to offer copies of this work at only a donation of $8 thanks to our good friends at Reformation Trust. Pick up your copy tomorrow or some Sunday soon!

The Finer Art of How to Walk Into Church

What better time to consider this concept than having opened a new building?

As we all attempt to carve out our particular spots in the auditorium, perhaps we could take a g0spel-shaped tack in determining our seats from week to week.

How so? Here’s a thought.

Pray about where you sit. This is called the “Pew Prayer’ or in our case the “Seat Prayer,” since we don’t have any pews.

The idea is not original with me. I came across it recently while reading through a great little book on ministry called The Trellis & the Vine. Copies, by the way, are available in our resource center for only $8.

I borrowed it from an article referenced in the footnotes for chapter four entitled The Ministry of the Pew.

Here is the thrust of the idea from the article:

Church is a gathering of God’s people to hear his word and respond in faith and obedience. In this gathering, we are in fellowship with each other, through the blood of Jesus, and, because of our fellowship, we seek to serve each other. We use our gifts and abilities to strengthen one another and build Christ’s Church—‘edification’ is the word often used to describe what goes on in church. All believers are involved in building the church, not just clergy or preachers. The New Testament consistently teaches that in the growth of the body of Christ each part must do its work (see Eph 4; 1 Cor 12-14). Because of this, we aren’t to see ourselves merely as part of an organization called ‘St Hubert’s Church’, but as servants of God’s people, eager to meet the needs of others even if it means sacrificing our own. . . . If at church we are working to strengthen our fellow believers, where we sit becomes important since part of our work will be talking to our neighbor in the pew, welcoming people, helping each other understand God’s word and praying with each other. The ‘Pew Prayer’ was a significant turning point in my understanding of what church is all about. It changed my reasons for going to church. The shift was made from being the ‘helpee’ to the helper, the served to the servant (emphasis added). Church is where we seek spiritual food and encouragement in order to become more godly; but church is also where we go in order to feed other people and encourage them. In God’s mercy, we become more Christ-like in the process, as like him we deny ourselves for the sake of others. But our purpose in gathering with God’s people is to strengthen them and build the body of Christ. We look for opportunities to assist the growth of the church in practical ways.

Good stuff. I commend the notion to us all.

Beginning this Sunday why not walk into church (on time, sorry, couldn’t resist) praying the pew prayer: “Lord, where would you have me sit and help me engage with the word in the power of the Spirit as led?”

August Resource of the Month

Now that we have occupied our new facility and now that we have a lovely dedicated space for displaying resources for sale to our people, I want to introduce a new feature of the blog beginning this month and I hope recurring every month from here on.

Welcome to the resource of the month!

We currently stock approximately forty different titles covering a wide range of subjects on the shelves in the middle of our entryway .

When I thought about which title would get top billing here in August, I immediately considered the fact that this month is missions month at OGC (hope to see you at 9:30 AM on Sundays this month in the auditorium for interviews with various ones of our missionaries). That would have made John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad an easy selection for promotion. However, I opted not to go that direction. I landed on J. D. Greear’s book Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. Why is that?

I do see a connection between missions month and Greear’s book. Only those held fast in the grip of the gospel will likely engage in Jesus’ mission to reach the world in global missions and the city in local outreach. It’s just too tough a sell otherwise. In getting a bunch of our folks to invest in a copy of Greear’s book, I hope to fan the flame of our church’s passion for both from a supernatural motivational perspective.

The author states his aim in the book quite plainly:

Over the next several chapters, I want to reacquaint you with the gospel. Not just with the doctrines, but with its power. The gospel is the announcement that God has reconciled us to Himself by sending His Son Jesus to die as a substitute for our sins, and that all who repent and believe have eternal life in Him. I want you to see the gospel not only as the means by which you get into heaven, but as the driving force behind every single moment of your life. I want to help, in some small way, your eyes to be opened (again) to the beauty and greatness of God. I want you to see how the gospel, and it alone, can make you genuinely passionate for God, free you from captivity to sin, and move you outward to joyful sacrifice on behalf of others (p. 5, emphasis mine).

Obviously J. D. Greear writes with a mission to believers in churches like ours . He wants to show us the vital importance of seeing the gospel as not just something we believed in the past but as something in which we stand and are being saved moment-by-moment in the present (1 Cor. 15:1-2).

He goes about that in a most practical way. He introduces in Part 2, the bulk of the book, what he calls the Gospel Prayer. I blogged on that elsewhere in the past so won’t repeat the concepts here. This feature and the practical application it offers in the challenge to pray this prayer daily as an antidote to gospel amnesia makes Greear’s book my choice for putting before us when, in fact, a good number of other books out there focus on the gospel as well – Matt Chandler’s The Explicit Gospel and Greg Gilbert’s What Is the Gospel also excellent options just to name two.

May I encourage you to invest in a copy of Pastor J D’s book? A number of copies are available on the shelves of our resource center for $10 each. You can put your cash or check in the payment box supplied on one of the shelves for your convenience.

Imagine with me, if you will, a church full of people who embrace this thought with which Greear closes on p. 248:

The gospel is not merely the diving board off of which you jumped into the pool of Christianity; the gospel is the pool itself. So keep going deeper into it. You’ll never find the bottom.

Fancy a swim in this particular part of the pool? You won’t regret it as you plumb further the depths of the glorious gospel of our blessed God (1 Tim. 1:11).

Resource Center Upgrade

I’ve been putting our summer intern, Jacob Yarborough, (What a HUGE blessing he has been to us!) through a variety of paces so he can experience the range of responsibilities that come with pastoral ministry.

Today I challenged him to write a blog post on our new facility’s version of the resource center, something I’ve wanted to blog about for a while now. I post it here today with a few tweaks of my own.

With the new building comes change in many ways.

One of the things that underwent a change was the Resource Center. Before it consisted of a small bookrack on a table in the hallway of the SDA, now we have four great shelving units with many titles on display smack dab in the middle of our gathering space/entry way.

The purpose of the Recourse Center is to be just that, a resource for the spiritual life and well being of the flock at OGC. Our staff selected these titles specifically with the our congregation in mind. This collection of books and booklets is meant to educate, encourage, and equip the people of OGC by giving them a reliable source for quality reads without the trouble of researching authors or titles. Many of these books will help to establish a Christ-centered worldview that will serve to shape our everyday lives.

Please make the effort to stop by the Resource Center Book area in the main lobby sometime soon. There are over 30 different titles on display from authors like: John Piper, J.I. Packer, Ted Tripp, Francis Chan, and Mark Dever. There is a price chart on one of the shelves to let you know what the cost of the books is as well as a collection box to place payment in for any book that you might want. The money made from book sales will go back into restocking the shelves with more great books.

Some new titles just added to the shelves are: Welcome to a Reformed Church by Daniel Hyde and What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips. Both of these books are especially helpful to members and regular attendees of OGC, not to say newcomers unfamiliar with our tradition, who might want to expand their understanding of what it means to be reformed.

In the future we will be featuring a resource of the month to draw attention to strategic books that change people’s lives. Watch the announcement slides and blog posts in the future for more information.

Reading quality spiritual books makes a difference in our lives. Why not pick up one of these excellent titles this Sunday and dive in at your first available reading opportunity?

What Kind of Reader Are You?

Hopefully you and I are readers, period.

That assumed, it remains to examine one’s approach to reading.

Unlike TV or movies, you can’t really go passive in the discipline of reading, especially works of nonfiction. You have to engage.

Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren argue in their book How to Read a Book: the Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading that reading more actively vs. less actively makes for the better reader who actually demands something of himself as he reads. Therefore he earns a higher return on his investment as opposed to the more passive type that coasts through a book or article.

Nowhere does this show itself more plainly than in tackling the work of a more demanding author. Case in point? William Wilberforce and his Practical View of Christianity. I saw that deer-in-the-headlights look from some of our men at Saturday’s Oxford Club meeting as we tried to make sense of the introduction. I likened the book to treasure to be mined, not at six feet under, but more like 600 feet under. It won’t give way to its rewards without a lot of digging.

In the interest of warding off attrition in our club meetings and in promoting the virtue of reading in a demanding kind of way, I pulled Adler and Van Doren’s book from the shelf looking for help.

Perhaps more insight will come in further posts, but let me start here with their simple prescription for active reading: Ask questions while you read–questions that you yourself must try to answer in the course of reading. What questions, you may ask? They suggest the following:

There are four main questions you must ask about any book.
1. What is the book about as a whole? You must try to discover the leading theme of the book, and how the author develops this theme in an orderly way by subdividing it into its essential subordinate themes or topics.
2. What is being said in detail, and how? You must try to discover the main ideas, assertions, and arguments that constitute the author’s particular message.
3. Is the book true, in whole or part? You cannot answer this question until you have answered the first two. You have to know what is being said before you can decide whether it is true or not When you understand a book, however, you are obligated, if you are reading seriously, to make up your own mind. Knowing the author’s mind is not enough.
4. What of it? If the book has given you information, you must ask about its significance. Why does the author think it is important to know these things? Is it important to you to know them? And if the book has not only informed you, but also enlightened you, it is necessary to seek further enlightenment by asking what else follows, what is further implied or suggested.

You don’t have to participate in the Oxford Club for Men to aspire toward becoming a demanding reader.

As for me and my house, the more demanding readers in our church, the better.

Why Read Old Books & How Often

This Saturday our Oxford Club for Men dives into the introduction and first chapter of A Practical View of Christianity by William Wilberforce. For information on the meeting click here.

I confess I am eager to tackle such a challenging manuscript by someone long since gone to his heavenly reward for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is this counsel from another voice from the past, C. S. Lewis:

There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books…. Now this seems topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old…. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light…. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between…. The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books (“Introduction” in On the Incarnation by Athanasisus, 3-5).

I can smell the salt air already. Hope to see many of the brothers on Saturday at 7.

New Oxford Book Now in Stock!

I managed recently to secure fourteen copies of the Hendriksen Classics version of our new read for the Oxford Club for Men. I am talking about William Wilberforce’s classic, A Practical View of Christianity.

Copies will be available this Sunday at the SDA resource table for a donation of $10 or whatever you can afford. While the study guide below will not conform to the pdf version of the book available free on line, and keeping in mind that this ebook version is not updated to modern English, you can still read it here if you prefer. For a previous post introducing this history-shaping resource click here.

We had to push back our first meeting to begin discussing this book to March 31 at the church office. We are on schedule to meet at 7 AM that day at the church office (bring your own breakfast) and a discussion of the preface.
For help in your prep here is Study Guide #1 – Preface.

May the Lord use this book that helped catalyze the Second Great Awakening to stir our hearts for pursuing great satisfaction in Jesus and passion to influence our culture for Him.

The Cross Centered Life

Lately the Lord has seen fit to slap me around a bit about my lack of attention to the gospel as the main thing in my ministry. Believe me, not even someone as thick-headed as me could miss the many messages from on high.

As a consequence I’ve made it my mission the last couple of months to get my hands on as many reading materials as possible to help recalibrate my pastoral trajectory.

Someone lent me C. J. Mahaney’s little jewel The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing to take on our recent trip to Idaho. Nancy and I read through it for our family worship devotions.

The founder of Sovereign Grace Ministries explains his purpose this way: to restate the obvious, yet oft-neglected, truth of the gospel, to bring it before you one more time (p. 16). Actually he means to bring the reader to the gospel one more time with a view to keeping it everlastingly at the forefront for all time! Mahaney doesn’t say a lot in terms of volume (it’s only 89 pages, small pages at that) but he says an awful lot in those pages just the same.

Candidates for reading included those who often lack joy, aren’t consistently growing in spiritual maturity, their love lacks passion for God, and are always looking for some new technique, some “new truth” or new experience that will pull all the pieces of their faith together.

He tempts the reader right out of the chute with these enticements about learning to live the cross centered life:

  • breaking free from joy-robbing, legalistic thinking and living
  • leaving behind the crippling effects of guilt and condemnation
  • stopping basing your faith on your emotions and circumstances
  • growing in gratefulness, joy, and holiness

Particularly helpful was his chapter entitled The Cross Centered Day – Practical Ways to Center Every Day around the Cross. He calls these ways to preach the gospel to yourself on a daily basis. They include

  • memorizing the gospel
  • praying the gospel
  • singing the gospel
  • reviewing how the gospel has changed your life
  • studying the gospel

Pick up a copy for your own library, read it, and you may end of feeling like Martin Luther who said, I feel as if Jesus had died only yesterday.

Radical Review

At least twice now I have referenced in a message David Platt’s book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.

Today I received an email from someone with a link to a Gospel Coalition review of Platt’s book by Kevin DeYoung.

DeYoung expresses some helpful push back to some of the potentially more extreme aspects of Radical or at least they way certain things might be taken along the way by the less mature, more emotionally stirred, less critically insightful reader.

Uniquely it includes a response in turn from Platt, something you don’t see/read every day. It’s worth the read. Here’s a sample from DeYoung’s critique:

We must do more to plant the plea for sacrificial living more solidly in the soil of gospel grace. Several times David talks about the love of Christ as our motivation for radical discipleship or the power of God and the means for radical discipleship. But I didn’t sense the strong call to obedience was slowly marinated in God’s lavish mercy. I wanted to see sanctification more clearly flowing out of justification.

I commend this interchange to the reader as an example of redemptive debate. Would that more of God’s people engaged in this kind of critique/response with such gospel grace. You can read the entire piece here.

In the end result, risks notwithstanding to some of Platt’s bold and passionate pleas, I personally want to embrace the five-fold practical challenge of application with which Platt leaves his readers and pray for a church full of folks who will do the same.

The Awe Factor of God

Just started reading Francis Chan’s Crazy Love.

Over a million copies sold already. I picked up a copy at the Desiring God Pastor’s Conference in Minneapolis last week. Figured I needed to see what all the ruckus was about.

He begins in a rather unorthodox way with chapter one entitled Stop Praying. He wants us to step back and take a look at the awesomeness of God. He directs the reader to a website to view this:

Have to admit. That perspective will definitely fuel your awe tank. Amazing.

Later in the chapter, Chan quotes A. W. Tozer:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. . . . Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.

Will you pray with me that God gives us a fresh and accurate view of Himself tomorrow as we gather to worship His awesome name?