Thursday, August 4, 2016

My Big Recommended Reading List

“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas,
also the books,
and above all the parchments.”
2 Timothy 4:13

A famous C. H. Spurgeon quote dovetails from this verse:

Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read. … We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure time, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, “Bring the books” — join in the cry.

This list represents books that I’ve read and recommend for the Body of Christ on a variety of subjects.  Many of them were required reading in college and seminary, so some are header than others (see “Ten[ish] Books Every Christian Should Read” for an introductory list).   This list will grow and change as I find other commendable resources.  I hope this will be useful in your studies.

Apologetics and Polemics

  • Bahnsen, Dr. Greg L. Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith, Covenant Media Press, 2006
  • Coleman, Robert E. The Master Plan of Evangelism, Revell, 1993
  • Cowan, Steven, B., ed. Five Views on Apologetics, Zondervan, 2000.
  • Frame, John M. Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction, P&R Publishing, 1994
  • Gundry, Stanley & Steven Cowan. Five Views on Apologetics, Zondervan Publishing, 2000
  • Jones, Peter. Gospel Truth Pagan Lies: Can You Tell the Difference?, Winepress Publishing, 1999
  • MacArthur, John. The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007
  • Pratt Jr., Richard L. Every Thought Captive: A Study Manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1979
  • Sire, James W. Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept, IVP, 2004
  • Van Til, Cornelius. The Defense of the Faith, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1955

 

Christian Denominations and Sects

Jehovah’s Witnesses

  • Bowman, Robert M. Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses: Why The Read the Bible the Way They Do, Baker Books, 1991
  • Martin, Walter. The Kingdom of the Cults, Bethany House Publishers, 1992
  • Harris, Murray J. Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus, Baker Books, 1992

Presbyterian, Reformed, Congregational

  • Beeke, Joel R. & Randall J. Pederson. Meet the Puritans: With A Guide to Modern Reprints, Reformation Heritage Books, 2008
  • Hyde, Daniel. Welcome to a Reformed Church, Reformation Trust Publishing, 2010
  • Murray, Iain. Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2003
  • Ryken, Leland. Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Were, Zondervan Publishing, 1990

Roman Catholicism

  • Boettner, Loraine. Roman Catholicism, P & R Publishing, 1962
  • Geisler, Norman L. and Joshua M. Betancourt. Is Rome the True Church?: A Consideration of the Roman Catholic Claim, Crossway Books, 2008

Seeker-Friendly and Emergent/Emerging

  • Carson, D. A. Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications, Zondervan Publishing, 2005
  • Prichard, G. A. Willow Creek Seeker Services: Evaluating a New Way of Doing Church, Baker Books, 1996

 

Christian Experience

Evangelism

  • Coleman, Robert E. The Master Plan of Evangelism, Revell, 1993
  • Packer, J. I. Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, IVP, 1961
  • Vincent, Milton. A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God's Love, Focus Publishing, 2008

Building The Christian Life and Mind

  • Adams, Jay E. How to Overcome Evil: A Practical Exposition of Romans 12:14-21, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1977
  • Bridges, Jerry. Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts, NavPress, 2008.
  • Bunyan, John. The Pilgrim’s Progress, Dover Publications, 2003.
  • Edwards, Jonathan. The Religious Affections, Dover Publications, 2013
  • Edwards, Jonathan. The Experience that Counts, Grace Publications, 1991.
  • Horton, Michael. Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, Baker Books, 2008
  • Hughes, Kent. Disciplines of a Godly Man, Crossway, 2006.
  • Hughes, Barbara. Disciplines of a Godly Woman, Crossway, 2006.
  • Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letters: A Devil's Diabolical Advice for the Capturing of the Human Heart, Bantam Books, 1982
  • MacArthur, John. Our Sufficiency in Christ: Three Deadly influences that Undermine Your Spiritual Life, Word Publishing, 1991
  • MacArthur, John. Think Biblically! Recovering a Christian Worldview, Crossway Books, 2003
  • Packer, J. I. Knowing God, IVP, 1993
  • Vincent, Milton. A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God's Love, Focus Publishing, 2008

Marriage and Family

  • Adams, Jay E. Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible, P & R Publishing, 1980
  • Adams, Jay E. Solving marriage problems: biblical solutions for Christian counselors, Zondervan Publishing, 1983
  • Barnett, John S. Word-Filled Families: Walk in Truth, Müllerhaus, 2009
  • Hughes, Kent and Barbara. Disciplines of a Godly Family, Crossway, 2007
  • Köstenberger, Andreas. God, Marriage, and Family, Crossway, 2010
  • MacArthur, John. Biblical parenting for life: nine session, Bible-based study on rearing godly children from preschool to high school, Word Pubilshing, 2000
  • MacArthur, John. What the Bible Says About Parenting, Word, 2000
  • Mack, Wayne A. Your family, God's way: developing and sustaining relationships in the home, P & R Publishing, 1991
  • Mack, Wayne A. and Carol Mack, Sweethearts for a lifetime: making the most of your marriage, P & R Publishing, 2006
  • Mack, Wayne. Strengthening your marriage, P & R Publishing, 1999
  • Piper, John and Wayne Grudem, ed., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Crossway, 1991
  • Scott, Staurt. The exemplary husband: a Biblical perspective, Focus Publishing, 2002

Prayer

  • Bennett, Arthur. The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Banner of Truth Trust, 1973.
  • Eastman, Dick. The Hour That Charges the World: A Practical Plan for Personal Prayer, Chosen Books, 2002
  • Harris, Greg. The Cup and the Glory: Lessons on the Suffering and the Glory of God, Kress Christian, 2006
  • Ryle, J. C. A Call to Prayer, Audubon Press
  • Sproul, R.C. The Prayer of the Lord, Reformation Trust Publishing, 2009

 

Knowledge (Epistemology)

Modern Western Philosophy

  • Nash, Ronald H. Life's Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy, Zondervan Publishing, 1999

Research

  • Badke, William B. Research Strategies: Finding Your Way Through the Information Fog, Writer's Club, 2000
  • Barber, Cyril J. & Robert M. Krauss Jr. An Introduction to Theological Research: A Guide for College and Seminary Students, University Press of America, 2000

 

Philosophy and Psychology

  • Nash, Ronald H. Life's Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy, Zondervan Publishing, 1999
  • Sire, James W. Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept, IVP, 2004
  • Szasz, Thomas. The myth of psychotherapy: mental healing as religion, rhetoric, and repression, Syracuse University Press, 1988
  • Welch, Edward T. Blame it on the Brain? Distinguishing Chemical Imbalances, Brain Disorders, and Disobedience, Resources for Changing Lives, P & R Publishing, 1998

 

Modern Israel and Middle East

  • Bard, Mitchell G. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Middle East Conflict, Pearson, 2003
  • DeYoung, Jimmy. Sound the Trumpets, Shofar Communications, 2000

 

Pastoral Office

  • Baxter, Richard. The Reformed Pastor, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974
  • Hegg, David W. Appointed to Preach: Assessing a Call to the Minstry, Mentor, 1999
  • Jefferson, Charles. The Minister as Shepherd: The Minister as Shepherd, CLC Publications, 2006
  • Lutzer, Erwin. Pastor to Pastor: Tackling the Problems of Ministry, Kregel Publications, 1998
  • MacArthur, John. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005
  • Roberts, Maurice. The Thought of God, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001
  • Ryken, Leland. Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Were, Zondervan Publishing, 1990
  • Strauch Alexander. Biblical Eldership: an Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership, Lewis & Roth Publishers, 1997

Counseling
(See also Philosophy and Psychology)

  • Adams, Jay E. The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love and Self-Image, Harvest House, 1986
  • Adams, Jay E. The Christian counselor's casebook, Zondervan Publishing, 1974
  • Adams, Jay E. The Christian Counselor's Manual: The Practice of Nouthetic Counseling, Zondervan Publishing, 1973
  • Adams, Jay E. Christ and Your Problems, P & R Publishing, 1983
  • Adams, Jay E. Critical stages of biblical counseling, Timeless Texts, 2004
  • Adams, Jay E. How to help people change: the four-step Biblical process, Zondervan Publishing, 1986
  • Adams, Jay E. How to Overcome Evil: A Practical Exposition of Romans 12:14-21, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1977
  • Adams, Jay E. Solving marriage problems: biblical solutions for Christian counselors, Zondervan Publishing, 1983
  • Adams, Jay E. A Theology of Christian Counseling: More than Redemption, The Jay Adams Library, Zondervan Publishing, 1979
  • Ganz, Richard. PsychoBabble: The failure of Modern Psychology-and the Biblical Alternative, Crossway Books, 1993
  • MacArthur, John. Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005
  • MacArthur, John. The Vanishing Conscience: Drawing the Line in a No-Fault, Guilt-Free World, Word Publishing, 1994
  • Mack, Wayne A. A homework manual for Biblical living - Vol 1 Personal and Interpersonal Problems, P & R Publishing, 1979
  • Mack, Wayne A. A homework manual for Biblical living - Vol 2 Family and Marital Problems, P & R Publishing, 1980
  • Sande, Ken. The Peace Maker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, Baker Books, 2004
  • Smith, Robert D. Medical Desk Reference, Timeless Texts, 2000
  • Tripp, Paul David. Instruments in the Redeemer's hands: people in need of change helping people in need of change, Resources for Changing Lives, P & R Publishing, 2002

Preaching

  • Arthurs, Jeffery D. Preaching with variety: how to re-create the dynamics of biblical genres, Kregel Academic & Professional, 2007
  • Chapell, Bryan. Christ -Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, Baker Academic, 2005
  • Fabarez, Michael. Preaching that Changes Lives, Wipf & Stock Pub, 2005
  • Kaiser, Walter. Toward an exegetical theology: biblical exegesis for preaching and teaching, Baker Books, 1981
  • Kaiser Jr., Walter C. Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament, Baker Academic, 2003
  • MacArthur, John. Rediscovering Expository Preaching, Thomas Nelson, 1992
  • Montoya, Alex. Preaching With Passion, Kregel Publications, 2007
  • Spurgeon, C. H. Lectures to My Students, Christian Focus, 2005
  • Shaddix, Jim. The Passion-Driven Sermon: Changing the Way Pastors Preach and Congregations Listen, B & H Publishing, 2003

 

Science
(See also “God in Relation to the World”)

Historical Geology

  • Morris, John. The Young Earth: The Real History of the Earth: Past, Present, Future, Master Books, 2006.
  • Wise, Kurt. Faith Form and Time, Broadman Holman Publishers, 1st edition, 2002

Social Theology

  • Godawa, Brian. Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment, Intervarsity Press, 2002
  • Nash, Ronald H. Life's Ultimate Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy, Zondervan Publishing, 1999
  • Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity, Association of Christian Schools Int'l, 2005
  • Romanowski, William. Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2004.
  • Ryken, Philip Graham. Art for God's Sake, P & R Publishing
  • Schaeffer, Francis. Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy: The Three Essential Books in One Volume, Crossway Books, 1990.
  • Sire, James W. Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept, IVP, 2004

 

Theology

  • George, Timothy. Theology of the Reformers, Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1988
  • Grenz, Stanley J. and Roger E. Olson. 20th Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age, IVP, 1992
  • Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan Publishing, 2000
  • Lewis, Gordon L. Decide for Yourself: A Theological Workbook [for people who are tired of being told what to believe], IVP, 1977
  • Litfin, Bryan M. Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction, Brazos Press, 2007
  • MacArthur, John. Think Biblically! Recovering a Christian Worldview, Crossway Books, 2003
  • Olson, Roger E. The Story of Christian Theology, Intervarsity Press, 1999
  • Schaeffer, Francis. Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy: The Three Essential Books in One Volume, Crossway Books, 1990.

Angelology (Doctrine of Angels and Demons)

  • Konya, Alex. Demons: A Biblical Perspective, Regular Baptist Press, 1990

Bibliology (Doctrine of Scripture)

Modern versions and translations

  • Brake, Donald L. Visual History of the English Bible, A: The Tumultuous Tale of the World's Bestselling Book, Baker Books, 2008
  • Ryken, Leland. The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation, Crossway Books, 2002
  • Ryken, Leland. Understanding English Bible Translation: The Case for an Essentially Literal Approach, Crossway Books, 2009
  • White, James R. The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations?, Bethany House Publishers, 1995

Interpretation and criticism (Exegesis)

  • Carson, D. A. Exegetical Fallacies, Baker Books, 2005
  • Couch, Mal. An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics: A Guide to the History and Practice of Biblical Interpretation, Kregel Publications, 2000
  • Geisler, Norman L and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible, Moody Press, 1986
  • Kaiser, Walter. Toward an exegetical theology: biblical exegesis for preaching and teaching, Baker Books, 1981
  • Krol, Peter. Knowable Word: Helping Ordinary People Learn to Study the Bible, Cruciform Press, 2014.
  • Lewis, Gordon L. Decide for Yourself: A Theological Workbook [for people who are tired of being told what to believe], IVP, 1977
  • Rosscup, Dr. James E. Commentaries for Biblical Expositors, Grace Books International, 2004
  • MacArthur, John. MacArthur Bible Handbook, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003.

Old Testament

  • Benware, Paul N. Survey of the Old Testament, Moody Press, 2003.
  • Chrisholm Jr., Robert B. From Exegesis to Exposition: A Practical Guide to Using Biblical Hebrew, Baker Books, 1998.
  • King, Philip J., and Lawrence E. Stager. Life in Biblical Israel, Westminster John Knox, 2001
  • Longman III, Tremper. Making Sense of the Old Testament: Three Crucial Questions, Baker Books, 1998
  • Sandy, D. Brent and Ronald L. Giese. Cracking Old Testament codes : a guide to interpreting literary genres of the Old Testament, Broadman & Holman, 1995
  • Hill, Andrew E. & John H. Walton. A Survey of the Old Testament, Zondervan Publishing, 2009
  • Howard Jr., David M. and Michael A Grisanti. Giving the Sense: Understanding and Using Old Testament Historical Texts, Kregel Academic & Professional, 2004
  • Kaiser, Walter. A History of Israel, Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1998
  • Merrill, Eugene H., Mark F. Rooker, and Michael A. Grisanti. The Word and the World: An Introduction to the Old Testament, B&H Academic; 2011

New Testament

  • Benware, Paul N. Survey of the New Testament, Moody Press, 1990
  • Bruce, F. F. New Testament History, Anchor Books, 1972
  • Donald, Guthrie. New Testament Introduction, Intervarsity Press, 1990
  • Metzger, Bruce M. The Canon of the New Testament, Its Origin, Development, and Significance, Clarendon, 1987.
  • Thomas, Robert L. and Stanley N. Gundry. A Harmony of the Gospels: New American Standard Version, HarperSanFrancisco, 1978
  • Thomas, Robert L. and F. David Farnell. The Jesus Crisis, Kregel, 1978
  • Thomas, Robert L. ed. Three Views on Origins of the Synoptic Gospels, Kregel, 2002

Christology (Doctrine of Christ)

  • Bowman, Robert M. and J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, Kregel Publications, 2007
  • Harris, Murray J. Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus, Baker Books, 1992

Ecclesiology (Doctrine of the Church)

Administration and General Structure

  • Dever, Mark. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Crossway, 2013.
  • Horton, Michael. Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, Baker Books, 2008
  • Powers, Bruce P., ed. Church Administration Handbook, Broadman & Holman Pub., 1997
  • Strauch Alexander. Biblical Eldership: an Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership, Lewis & Roth Publishers, 1997
  • Saucy, Robert L. The church in God's program, Moody Press, 1972
  • MacArthur, John. The Master's Plan for the Church, Moody Press, 2008
  • Welch, Robert H. Church Administration: Creating Efficiency for Effective Ministry, Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2005.

Education

  • Coleman, Robert E. The Master Plan of Evangelism, Revell, 1993
  • Lawson, Michael S. and Robert J. Choun. Directing Christian Education: The Changing Role of the Christian Education Specialist, Moody Press, 1992

Church History

  • Cairns, Earle E. Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church, Zondervan Publishing, 1993
  • Noll, Mark A. A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, W.B. Eerdmans, 1992
  • Ryken, Leland. Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Were, Zondervan Publishing, 1990
  • Tracy, Joseph. The Great Awakening, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989.

Public Worship

  • Baptist Hymnal, Convention Press, 1975
  • Hymns of Grace , The Master's Seminary Press, 2016
  • Tada, Joni Eareckson and John MacArthur. When Morning Gilds the Skies: Hymns of Heaven and Our Eternal Hope, Great Hymns of our faith, Crossway Books, 2002
  • Tada, Joni Eareckson and John MacArthur. O Come, All Ye Faithful: Hymns of Adoration and Joy to Celebrate His Birth, Great Hymns of our faith, Crossway Books, 2001
  • Whaley Vernon M. Understanding Music and Worship in the Local Church, Evangelical Training Association, 2002

Missions

  • Piper, John. Let the Nations be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions, Baker Books, 2003
  • Priolo, Neal. Serving as Senders: How to care for your missionaries…, Emmaus Road Int'l, 1991

Eschatology (Doctrine of the End Times)

  • Benware, Paul. Understanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach, Moody, 2006
  • Bock, Darrell, L. ed. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond, Zondervan, 1999
  • Couch, Mal. An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics: A Guide to the History and Practice of Biblical Interpretation, Kregel Publications, 2000
  • Feinberg, John S., ed. Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Testaments. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1988.
  • Vlach, Michael J. Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths, Theological Studies Press, 2008
  • Vlach, Michael J. Premillennialism: Why There Must Be a Future Earthly Kingdom of Jesus, Theological Studies Press, 2015

Pneumatology (Doctrine of the Holy Spirit)

  • Cole, Graham A. He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Crossway, 2007.
  • Edgar, Thomas. Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit, Kregel, 1996

Spiritual Gifts

  • Beasley, Michael John. The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism, The Armoury Ministries, 2013.
  • Edgar, Thomas R. Miraculous Gifts: Are they for today?, Loizeaux Brothers, 1983
  • Hanegraaff, Hank. Counterfeit Revival: Looking for God in all the Wrong Places, W Publishing Group, 2001
  • MacArthur, John. Charismatic chaos, Zondervan Publishing, 1992
  • MacArthur, John. Strange fire : the danger of offending the Holy Spirit with counterfeit worship, Thomas Nelson, 2013
  • Mayhue, Richard. The healing promise, Christian Focus, 2001
  • Napier, John. Charismatic Challenge: Four Key Questions, Providence House, 1995
  • Thomas, Robert. Understanding Spiritual Gifts, Kregel, 1999.
  • Waldron, Samuel. To be continued? : are the miraculous gifts for today?, Calvary Press Pub., 2005

Soteriology (Doctrine of Salvation)

  • Demarest, Bruce. The Cross and Salvation. Crossway, 1997.
  • MacArthur, John. The Gospel According to Jesus: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, "Follow Me"?, Zondervan Publishing, 1994
  • MacArthur, John. Fatih Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles, Word Publishing, 1993
  • Sproul, R. C. Chosen by God: Know God's Perfect Plan for His Glory and His Children, Tyndale, 1986
  • White, James. Justification by Faith, Crown Publications, 1990.
  • Zemek, George J. A Biblical Theology of the Doctrines of Sovereign Grace. Wipf & Stock, 2002.

Theology Proper (Doctrine of God)

  • Clark, David K. To Know and Love God, Crossway, 2003
  • Feinberg, John. No One Like Him, Crossway, 2006
  • Packer, J. I. Knowing God, IVP, 1993

God in Relation to the World
(See also Science)

  • Ashton, Dr. John F. In Six Days: Why Fifty Scientists choose to Believe in Creation, Master Books, 2001
  • Harris, Greg. The Cup and the Glory: Lessons on the Suffering and the Glory of God, Kress Christian, 2006
  • MacArthur, John. The Battle for the Beginning: Creation, Evolution, and the Bible, W Publishing Group, 2001
  • Morris, John D. The Young Earth: The Real History of the Earth: Past, Present, Future, Master Books, 2005

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sermon Series on 2 John

In case you missed it, here's the sermon series I preached on 2 John back when we were still meeting at the YMCA.

  • Truth, the Basis for Christian Fellowship
    2 John 1-3
    Video
    Audio
  • Love, the Bearing of Christian Fellowship
    2 John 4-6
    Video
    Audio
  • The Boundaries of Christian Fellowship
    2 John 7-13
    Video
    Audio

As an aside, you can see a few of the little things that God blessed our church with in these videos.  First, we have video for each of these messages: we didn't have it for the entire length of the previous sermon series.  We also now have a pulpit provided from another church for free.  We were still using the old Cornerstone "C" to cover the mounting holes until we got the cross.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Justin Peters on False Teaching and False Teachers

At the 2015 Bible Conference  at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Globe, AZ, Justin Peters highlights how the Word-Faith movement is anti-gospel and antichrist.  He shows clips from Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Paul Crouch, etc.  This is an adaptation of Peter’s presentation, “Clouds Without Water.”

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Question: What About Stigmata?

Someone wrote to ask about stigma or stigmata.  Here was my response:

Stigma or stigmata, in Catholic tradition, refers to marks on a person's body that allegedly correspond to the marks of Christ's crucifixion.  It's based on apocryphal tradition, not God's Word, and it distracts us from the unique and paramount event that was Christ's crucifixion.  Always be careful when someone comes claiming a sign or wonder.  Jesus warns in Matthew 16:4, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign."  He also warned in Mark 13:22, "For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect." The Apostle Paul said, "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

Always hold fast to the Christ of Scripture, believing in what He taught and in what He did --- not in the imaginations of others.

The gentleman followed up that he really believes these experiences to be from God, and that he has personally experiencing them.  Considering his urgency that someone needed to see his marks, and that he indicated that he was having other spiritual encounters, here’s my follow-up.

Hmm... It may be that God is allowing some experiences in your life to keep you thinking about spiritual realities.  But, God would want you to repent of your sins and place your faith fully in  Christ to pay for those sins.  He would then want you to turn to His Word for His grace.

Consider this: even the Apostle Peter places the Word of God over the experiences he had in Christ.  In 2 Peter 1:16-21, he talks about seeing the transfiguration of Christ and hearing the voice of God.  Even so, in verse 19, he says, "And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed," meaning that the Bible is a more reliable guide than what Peter personally experienced. 

The Holy Spirit, Who inspired the Bible, will protect you and solidify your mind and will in Christ.  One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control (Gal 5:23), which means He wouldn't bring experiences to cause you to lose control physically, intellectually, or in any other way. 

As an aside, I feel it's also important to note that  mysterious marks appearing on your body warrant an examination from medical professionals, as it could be indicative of a disease or malady.

Friday, July 1, 2016

My Thoughts on Independence Day in the Church

As Michael Horton observed, we suffer from a Christless Christianity in this country.  We have moving church services flag_organ[1]that honor veterans, sing stirring renditions of “God Bless the USA,” and sometimes even recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag to stage-right of the pulpit.  Yet, while we feel sufficiently patriotic after such a service, can we honestly say that we have corporately worshipped in Spirit and in truth?
There are reasons why such a celebration in the middle of church makes Christians uncomfortable.  Here are a few:
  1. The disjunctive purpose of the service.  As one veteran told me yesterday, he doesn’t want the recognition, period, especially not at a time when people’s eyes are supposed to be on Jesus.  The question is whether the service is meant to honor the country and possibly even our servicemen, or the Lord of Hosts.  Another way of phrasing it would be: why would we take the Lord’s Day service and conflate it with other purposes?  One possible solution might be to have a special recognition ceremony before or after the service, or on a different day when it doesn’t get confused with Sunday worship.
  2. The song selection is not consistent.  Some of the tunes in our American songbook are true hymns (especially if more than the first verse is sung).  Others, not so much.  I recently attended the swearing in of new officers where one young lady sang a beautiful “Star-Spangled Banner.”  That was an appropriate venue for that song.  However, music in church must be biblical and Christ-honoring.  Again, if the purpose of the service is not for honoring the country, but to preach the Word, then the song selection should reflect that.  By way of example, consider this with the song selection in this Southern Baptist worship service: https://vimeo.com/260905951
  3. The country’s flag in the worship service also distracts. I know this isn’t a popular position, but it needs to be said… err., written.  It used to be that churches thought about everything that was to be part of the worship service.   The pulpit was not only meant to hold a preacher’s Bible and notes, but also hide him from view while the Word was exposited.  A congregation Bible appeared front and center to emphasize the centrality it has in our lives.  Lights are for reading, the chairs are for sitting, and any decorations such as stained-glass windows or banners pointed us to biblical realities.  The American flag doesn’t serve a purpose in the worship of our Lord and, thus, would be better suited to a foyer, if anywhere.  Why? 
  4. Because the gospel is to all nations.  A better image of the gospel would be to display all flags, as some churches do during their missions weeks.  American patriotism in church can tempt us to forget that we are all awaiting a better country, and it can cause us to forget that Jesus is at work in other nations with other people groups.
Dovetailing off that last point, we Americans should remember this Independence Day that we live in a country affording unique freedoms.  Thus, it wouldn’t be untoward to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the Almighty this Sunday for keeping us the home of the free as well as a prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters.  So, none of this is to anyway denigrate the pride American citizens should feel in this country. 
It’s obviously not a sin to sing patriotic songs or wave an American flag.  Let me say it again: there’s nothing wrong with honoring one’s country for the good things that happen in it.  Eat a burger and set off a few firecrackers to the glory of God.  Just not in California.
The issue is this: Our churches cannot encourage the continuation of civil religion in this country.  This is a false religion especially prevalent in the South.  The false idea most people have is that if you have a “God bless America” bumper sticker and pay your taxes, you’re a Christian.  When they come to church and hear nothing to challenge that notion, they continue to live in the myth that they are okay with God.  When they come to church, they should hear the consistent rhythm of Christ-honoring music and biblical exposition.  Only then will they hear the true gospel, repent, and believe.0