Book Review – Absolute Surrender

Andrew Murray was a South African Pastor and wrote “Absolute Surrender” in 1897…so yeah…a long time ago.  It’s a good practice to be reading a balanced diet, so yes…picking one from 120 years ago is a good stretch.  [For a super intentional reading plan look at Challies’ 2017 Reading Plan…]

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This is also part of B&H’s “Read and Reflect with the Classics” series which provides helpful questions and things to pray through at the end of each chapter.  The chapters are based on a series of sermons that Murray gave and they are good for a morning devotional read.

It usually amazes me how the issues that we face as believers in 2017 were very similar to those faced in 1897.  We still struggle with issues of surrendering all of our hearts to Jesus, the rightful owner. Murray provides a balanced perspective on this, yet doesn’t hold back from the truth – “God expects our surrender, God accomplishes our surrender, God accepts our surrender, God maintains our surrender and God blesses us when we surrender.”

Soon after we talk about the topic of surrender, the topic of love shouldn’t be far behind – again all to the goal of our growth. Murray writes “When God gives the Holy Spirit, His great object is the formation of a holy character…because nothing but love can expel and conquer selfishness.”

However…sprinkled throughout the book and towards the end especially, are comments about the “Higher Life” and Keswick movement…which I would strongly disagree with.  This movement teaches that there is a way to become a “higher level” Christian where you can sin less often or even not at all.  Nonsense.  See Romans 7.  I think the idea is that we are just supposed to know this is false, but still…not sure why it’s not pointed out more clearly as unsound doctrine.

Where this book shines is in it’s uncompromising call for us to surrender all of our lives to God, yet understanding the undeniable fact that this is HARD.  Murray, even in 1897, gets this – “When you thought of absolute surrender to God were you not brought to an end of yourself? Fall down and learn that when you are utterly helpless, God will come to work in you not only to will, but also to do…that which is impossible with men are possible with God.” [73]

This leads rather naturally into a discussion on Romans 7, one of my favorite places in all of Scripture.  The Apostle Paul is wrestling with himself and his utter sinfulness.  Many theologians claim this is a pre-Christian Paul…I can’t disagree strong enough.  The Christian life is one of constantly battling sin, thru God’s enabling of course, but it’s a cage fight to the death, and sometimes I wonder if academic scholars feel this.  We all need to get to a point, regularly, where we are feeling the weight of our sinfulness, which then leads us to feel the glory of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”  (Romans 7:24–25 ESV)

Murray writes – “Blessed be God when a man learns to say “O wretched man that I am!” from the depths of his heart. He is on the way to the eighth chapter of Romans! When a man is brought to this confession…deliverance is at hand.” [88-89] Indeed, then we can stand with Christ and proclaim – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 7:25–8:2 ESV)

This is all done by his gracious empowering of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the believer.  “Nothing will help you unless you come to understand that you must live every day under the power of the Holy Ghost.” [99] What the Spirit begins in us when we surrender to Christ initially, let us not add in our idolatry by claiming our growth is up to us.  Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”  (Galatians 3:3 ESV)

The Christian life is one of dependance and abiding in Christ for His power to bring about the fruits of the Spirit.  God empowers us to do what he requires from us.  Treasures from the past, like this work from Murray, inspire us, encourage us and challenge us to live in worshipful surrender to our loving Heavenly Father.

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The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

For parents, the “It’s Not All About You” speech we give to our children is a familiar one. Yet…if we were being brutally honest, how often due us parents then go and live our lives like it is, in fact, all about us.  [or maybe that’s just me?]

Enter “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness” [Tim Keller, 2012, 10Publishing]

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I’ve heard about this tiny book from Keller for a while now and when I was at the Gospel Coalition MidAtlantic conference a few weeks ago they had it in the bookstore, so I grabbed it.  It will be one that I refer back to many times in the future, whenever I need to give myself a solid spiritual metaphorical punch in the face.

Keller bases this mini book on 1 Corinthians 3:21-4:7

Keller points out the direct opposition of the world view vs the biblical view of ourselves.  Yet the world’s view has actually changed.  Up until the 20th century, traditional cultures always believed that too high a view of yourself was the root cause of all evil in the world.  IOW – pride caused misbehavior.

But our modern world culture flipped that and the over-arching reason for misbehavior because they lack self-esteem and have too low a view of themselves.  This is why we have drug-addiction, crime, marriages in trouble and so on.

Indeed, we have become the center of [our] the universe and the Apostle Paul writes in our passage in verse 6 that we are “puffed up one against each other” – the Bible saying the problem is we are thinking too highly of ourselves.  Our egos are out of control and Keller gives us 4 things specifically about them that are the problem.  First, they are empty, we live under the illusion that we are competent to run our own lives, to find a purpose in something other than God.  Second, they are painful. A distended overinflated ego is painful. Our feelings are so easily hurt. Thirdly, our egos are busy always trying to draw attention to itself. We are only proud of being more successful than whoever we are comparing ourselves to. [Hence my usual bouts of depression on the golf course.] Lastly, our egos are fragile – always in imminent danger of being deflated.

The solution?  A transformed view of self, rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the passage, Paul essentially says – ‘I don’t care what others think – but I don’t care what I think either.’  His justification doesn’t come from others, nor does it come from self-validation.  It comes from God through repentance, faith, and perseverance in Jesus.

This is gospel-humility.  “It means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”  This is an ongoing process because as Keller notes “the more we understand the gospel, the more we want to change.”

When we get the gospel we flip the self-soaked view on it’s head.  We don’t live then for approval, we are approved by repentance and faith in Christ and so we live. Our basis for acceptance and approval by God Almighty is not in ourselves, but because of what Christ has done for us.

Let us forget about ourselves and live each day in the grace that he alone can give!

Book Review – Divided We Fall

Being a church planter the most frequently asked question is “What kind of church are  you?”  [READ:  “Are you a legit church or a cult?”]  Being a Non-Denom in the overwhelmingly Catholic Northeast US, people are naturally suspicious.  I get it.  Even within our small town there are several other churches, mainline denominations that, to be blunt, are preaching a false gospel.  How are we to relate to each other?  What does the unbelieving world see in all that?

As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the reformation this month we are forever thankful for the return to biblical doctrine over church corruption, the inescapable question is “To what extent has unity suffered?”

Luder Whitlock tries to address all of these questions in “Divided We Fall – Overcoming a History of Christian Disunity.”  [P&R Publishing, 2017]

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I’m very thankful for this book, and in reading this was encouraged by the way God works in our hearts to grow us, as this topic has been something that I’ve been wrestling with.

As one might expect, Luder starts with a solid foundation of what the Bible has to say, as does church history, and then moves towards more practical application.

In the perfect unity of the Trinity, God is completely harmonious.  When we draw near to this God, and our relationship with him is restored in Christ, our relationships with people will inevitably be transformed. [7]

I echo Luder’s concerns that unity has been been considered less important in the church to our shame.  “Given such an undeniably clear emphasis by Jesus on the importance of unity, how can his people afford to neglect it or treat is lightly?” [15] Hence the need for a book like this.

The author traces church history, again focusing on the Protestant Reformation, but notes that as the Reformers may have the reputation for division, they actually worked much harder in the spirit of unity.  Nevertheless, the unfortunate result of separation from Rome was a splintering of the church into many denominations, which unfortunately continues to this day.  Can’t we all just get along?

There has been some cries for cross-denominational unity and ecumenicalism and yet there is still a backlash on the protestant side against anything ‘ecumenical.’ I have had personal experience with this in my own setting. I do need to show love and grace to other churches, I will happily serve alongside them to feed the hungry or help the homeless, but I cannot participate in a worship service with people to differ on salvation.

I perceived a shift in the author’s tone to be one of “us” who are for unity and “them” that are not.  The immediate question I have is “Yes, but what about those things that are negotiable? Like justification by faith? Substitutionary atonement?”  I mean…I agree Protestants disagree on the dumbest and smallest of things [worship music? carpet colors??] and this is sin and to our shame, but there are things that we just can’t go along with – not because we have convictions, but because the Word of God says so.  Wasn’t that the reason for the Reformation in the first place?

The author writes “Here is the sobering thought that must not be avoided: If the unity of the church is as important as the Bible says it is, aren’t we obligated to attempt to surmount all impediments to it’s achievement to the greatest degree possible?” [130]

To which I say a hearty and loud YES and AMEN…but they key is “…to the greatest degree possible.”  In that, it appears the author and I differ as to what is the “greatest degree” – although I completely concur that unity in the church is sinfully neglected.  Still there are boundaries, set in God’s Word.  We cannot unify if we are preaching a different gospel.  [Galatians 1:8-9] Differences in substitutionary atonement cannot be resolved with unity…what are we unifying? [His unfortunate recounting of a conversation between Piper and Pagitt on that subject for example, p. 175.] Can we communicate better, yes?  With more love? Yes, but the challenge is doing this while not softening core doctrines, and weakening the very church we are trying to unify.

I also want to be very clear – Luder does hold firm to that which is of first importance – “Believers today are justified, as were the Reformers, in separating from those who deny the gospel and refuse to place themselves under the authority of God’s Word.”  My only wish is that this note would have been sounded louder, more frequently, and more clearly.

Even still, I’m thankful for his clarity in this and for the work of this book, it is surely needed.  Let us press on in unity for glorious gospel of God in Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

Processing the Las Vegas Shooting

I have the chance to speak to the students at Veritas Christian Academy at their chapel service this week.  Here’s what I plan to share and how I’m trying to process the Las Vegas shooting in my own spirit.

 The worst mass shooting in US History.  You can’t even wrap your mind around it. As expected there is no shortage of anger, sorrow, confusion and online venting.  There has also been several public responses by well-known figures – one well known televangelist even said that this was God’s punishment for athletes not showing proper respect for the flag.

I’d like to humbly suggest a few things to keep in mind as we process horrific, seemingly random, tragic events such as these. 

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First, humans cannot speak for God, apart from His Word.  God has given us his Word, the Bible, as his final and authoritative revelation about himself and how we are to relate to him. [2 Timothy 3:16-17;  Romans 15:4; 2 Peter 1:20-21] Russell Moore was right to quickly point out John 9:1-3a where the disciples were positive that a man born blind had sinned [or his parents sinned] in order to deserve his disability. Jesus tells them point blank “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents…”  If anyone starts any statement with “God says…” or “God told me…” there’d better be a Scripture verse immediately following.   On a more practical level, we can’t speak for God because we aren’t God and we aren’t able to understand God.  His ways are above ours and his wisdom is unsearchable.  [Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33] We try to give God human qualities to understand him better, but the reality is that he is not like us, he is completely “other” and like no one else.  [Psalm 50:21]

Second, ultimately God never stops working for his glory.  This is the second part of the text in John 9:3b. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him…” This is NOT a cheesy empty platitude that says there is always a silver lining, and that good will somehow come out of any tragedy.  Rather, it is an understanding of God’s sovereign control over all things based on a hard fought trust in the character of God — even when we can’t understand or remotely process what is happening and why.  Even though it might feel like God has abandoned us, or we are being punished, Scripture assures us that he has not and he is still at work in all things.   [Romans 8:28-30; Hebrews 13:5]  There is never a place or situation he cannot work in to transform and heal.

Third, people don’t need theological lectures in tragedy, they need comfort that flows from good theology.   What can do for those who are walking thru horrific tragedy?  Weep with those who weep.  [Romans 12:15]  There is enormous pressure to make sense of a situation.  It’s part of how God created the wonder of human beings.  We are questioners.  We are fixers.  Especially us men.  We want to just make sense of something and when emotions and pain are in the mix we want to say anything to make it all better and the reality is that we can’t. There is nothing you can say to someone to fix the pain of losing a loved one in a mass shooting – resist the urge for simple, empty platitudes, or theological lectures.  I commented to my wife after the news had broken of this terrible event that “there will be a lot of people who will never be the same again.” These things will forever change people. Forget trying to fix things, just flat out be there for someone.  Be present with them.  BUT…all of this must be grounded in the hard reality of the sovereignty of God.  No matter how it seems, the truth is that God is still in control and we need to trust him, despite what we see going on around us.  Evil will not have the last word and will not get away with anything.  God will enable us to get through this. Pray for them and with them for God to strengthen them, heal them, help them. Pray for the churches in the area to be refuges for the broken, read them the many Psalms that refer to our God as our strong tower, refuge, rock, strength. [Psalm 18; 61; 91; 144…]

Fourth, the ultimate comfort comes from the gospel.  There is one and only one reason why that gunman carefully planned to kill a lot of people and then did it:  sin.  There is one and only one answer to sin:  the gospel of Jesus Christ. There was sin and evil lodged deep within his heart and he acted on it.  Evil will be punished by a just and terrifying God.  But, we have to recognize that this isn’t the way that God created the world – he created the world perfect and good and he created us to serve him as our gracious King.  We rejected him.  We placed ourselves in the position of king of our lives.  In so doing, we fractured our relationship with God, incurred God’s wrath,  and unleashed sin into the world.  It has grown into a full blown monster and is consuming this world.  [Galatians 5:15]  However, God has provided the answer for sin.  He condescended and came to earth in the form of a human while still being God to both represent man and yet be perfect and sinless to be the perfect once for all sacrifice to reconcile us to God.  The problem man created,  God fixed.  We now live in that period where Jesus has already finished the work completely by living the perfect life, dying on the cross, and being raised from the dead,  and now we await his return where he will finally judge sin, punish evil, and banish it forever.  Those who have trusted him by faith will be reunited with him to enjoy him forever without cancer, chronic illness, racial injustice, or mass shootings.   As we see these tragedies and walk through them, we are reminded of the reality of sin and the future hope.

This is the ultimate comfort that this world cannot provide – God has done something.  God has provided the answer for sin.  Turn to Jesus for the forgiveness of sin, reconciliation of our souls, and hope for eternity.  This world is still broken and evil, though we have already seen many acts of goodness and kindness in the wake of this tragedy already, there will be more evil, more brokenness and our hope is not from this world.

God’s word reminds us of the comfort –  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” [2 Corinthians 1:3-4]

 

Book Review – Conversion: How God Creates a People

The topic of genuine Biblical conversion has been on my mind lately.  In transparency, sometimes in moments of frustration where we see people stuck in patterns of sin, brokenness and unfruitfulness.  Sometimes the reason why is because maybe they never really never truly understood and submitted to Christ, and therefore they aren’t converted, regenerated, made new.

I’m also fresh off of a 9Marks Weekender and this topic is always discussed when you are spending time reflecting on what is a Biblical church.

Enter Conversion:  How God Creates a People by Michael Lawrence.  I was excited to read this as I usually am with anything from 9Marks.  I have come to value their Biblical faithfulness and clarity.

download-1Hinson clearly states the solid reasoning why a book like this is needed right in the introduction.  “There is a problem with our theology – specifically our theology of conversion. Second, there is a problem with how we apply that theology to our church.  Too often our confessional theology says one thing, while our practical theology says something else. We say that regeneration makes us new creatures in Christ, but then we teach our kids a moralism that atheists could duplicate.” [14]  I think I’m gonna like this guy.

This problem, as I alluded to above, has then tremendous snowball effects in the body life and health of the local church.

This book targets then not the symptoms, but the underlying disease.

What do we think conversion actually looks like on the outside? It should be nothing short of complete regeneration – being made new, not just being made “nice.”  This means Godly new appetites and desires, not about just becoming a better you.  Hinson makes a great point as to the tragic effect of this on our youth in the church “I fear this is why so many of my friends’ children have walked away from Christianity. They haven’t given up on being nice. They’ve simply discovered that they don’t need Jesus to be  nice.” [23]  Exactly.

This regeneration then not only is person, it is corporate – the new person is now part of the church where God’s new creation people glorify God by living how he has called them to live.  This has big impacts on church membership and church leaders.  Are we sure that the people we are accepting as church members and allowing to lead or worse yet…teach…are actually converted believers?  This is of paramount importance.

Hinson faithfully lays down a biblical foundation of conversion.  We are saved…but saved from what and saved for what?  First, we are saved from God’s wrath for sin.  We need to preach and teach this hard topic because the Bible does.  It’s not “come to Jesus; he’ll give you purpose and meaning. The trouble is, subjective problems can be solved through subjective solutions.” [35]   If we are saved from God’s wrath, then we are saved by God’s grace, saved because of God’s love, saved into God’s people, and saved for God’s glory.  The Christian life is not about our happiness or fulfillment, it’s about God’s glory.  Otherwise when those things don’t materialize we are tempted to abandon Jesus…all the while we were believing in a different gospel. [44] Amen!

What then should conversion look like?  It should include repentance…real repentance. “An exchanging of our idols for God. Before it’s a change in behavior, it must be a change in worship.” [51] It should also include faith…again real faith, not just a intellectual acceptance of a set of ideas.   What faith do we teach, model, and give our people assurance of?

Contrasting pop psych-theology, the author challenges the therapeutic gospel – we need Jesus to make us OK.  “We don’t just need to accept ourselves. We need God to accept us.”  [66] Hinson continues “Being healed then is not at all about coming to peace with ourselves. It’s about having our guild and shame and ultimately the curse removed and being restored to a right relationship with God. In other words, to be healed in Scripture is to be made holy.” [67] This is much needed perspective on this and again has a direct result in how we live.  Going back to where I began, maybe the people we are expecting to live as Christians aren’t because they aren’t actually Christians?  I underlined and highlighted this next part – “…it is not burdensome to live according to the new nature if you have it. What’s burdensome is to live according to a nature that you don’t have. In fact, its worse than burdensome. It’s impossible. Could it be that you don’t live as if you’ve been set apart because you haven’t been set apart?” [72]  #MicDropMoment

The author then diligently turns to the church itself and how a Biblical theology of conversion affects our ecclesiology.  If the church is a community of converted believers, then who are we targeting with how we “do” church?  Are we seeking to make it as comfortable as possible for those seeking?  I just read a great Spurgeon quote in a Challies post today –  “I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church.”  Thanks, Spurg.

This also effects how we do evangelism.  It shouldn’t be a pragmatic, sales pitchy monologue. “Successful evangelism is not about getting people to respond.” [91] What we win them with we win them to.  Is what we are saying in our witnessing reflective of a Biblically grounded conversion?  How many times does our [in transparency maybe my…] evangelism get reduced to “God loves you” or “Jesus will give you purpose.”  We need to communicate plainly, honestly, urgently,  and confidently.

When we talk then about church membership, perhaps the most important thing we can do is diligently assess whether someone is truly converted.  I’m convinced this is why so many churches are in poor health.  We’ve see the implications on a personal level – how much more so on a church level!

Hinson wraps things up with a great summary chapter on why it all matters – It matters for God, it maters for us, and it matters for the world.  The doctrine of conversion is too important to be lead astray to a weaker, non-Biblical position.  I’m grateful for the reminder and foundation set here.

 

 

Book Review – Burning Hearts – Preaching to the Affections

Let’s face it – Pastors have a reputation for loving books, and I guess that is well-deserved and a good thing.  Pastors, and all Christians for that matter, should be readers.  We should be seeking to grow and be challenged.  So, my not-so-little-kids got me Burning Hearts – Preaching to the Affections815AD6kR4LL.jpg for Father’s Day off of my Amazon list…and yes…it’s September and I’m just now getting around to doing the review.  Hey – it’s been a busy Summer!

As a regular preacher of God’s word, I’m always wrestling with the challenge of not being just a conveyor of information, but God’s word being living and active has to impact hearts and affect how we live.  I’m not up there to just summarize and explain Scripture.  It has to be made applicable, and a big part of that is how it affects me, before I bring it to the church.

I can’t remember how I heard about this book, but that’s the beauty of the Amazon wish list, when I hear someone recommend a book I put it on and then I won’t forget.  [Sometimes…I’m smart…]  Moody and Weekes approach this very important topic in a logical and accessible way.

Logically, that would with a definition of terms.  They define affections as “the movement of our thoughts, feelings and will towards a desired object, person or event. An affection is what inclines us to something (whereas as effect is what results from something). Affections are what move us toward action.”  It’s also important to define what this therefore does NOT mean as related to preaching.  It is not “sentimental, touchy-feely, or lacking in intellectual rigor or content.”  AMEN.    Preaching to the affections means preaching that targets the heart – where emotion and reason come together – the core of the person.  [14-15]

That leads to more important general observations – affections are part of the brains response to data and they are necessary for rational functioning. However, reason and emotion are both fallen due to sin and therefore we need to wrestle them to be inline with God’s Word. Affections are oriented towards godly desires in the godly person, however affections are not proof in themselves that someone is spiritual.  I think we’ve all probably known a few very emotional Christians who aren’t spiritual and rather superficial.  As the authors wisely point out – salvation is evidenced by sanctification, gradually growing as a Christian.  What causes this growth is the power of the gospel – the pure Word of God, which produces faith in our hearts, gradually producing the fruit of increasing Christlikeness as the believer perseveres in the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.

Now that the foundations of affections have been set, the authors move on to setting the foundation for preaching.  They define preaching as “the God-ordained means by which He meets with His people through His Word and by his Spirit in such a way that His people’s eyes are opened to see Jesus and be captivated by Him.” [25]  They immediately refine this mean that this is done best through the systematic, continuous exposition of the Scriptures.  AMEN!  I’m not hating on topical preaching, sometimes it is necessary to address any issues in detail for church health, but the default setting for preaching should be the expositional teaching of God’s Word!

Bringing both affections and preaching together then – the authors rightly surmise that we use preaching to raise the affections of the supremacy of Jesus Christ.  [with an appropriate nod to Jonathan Edwards on that – as one would expect, he is quoted heavily.]  Practically this means that “one of the ways that we can do this is by remembering that we are preaching a person, not just teaching a passage.  What we are doing is presenting Christ.” [31]

Why would we preach to the affections?  The authors provide a few reasons (1) because of biblical precedent [Acts 2:37…they were ‘cut to the heart.]; (2) because of biblical warning [‘these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me…’]; (3) because of biblical promise. [God promises to transform in the gospel, and preaching the gospel softens hearts and changes lives by the power of the Holy Spirit.]; (4) because of historical examples. [ex. Edwards “Religious Affections”; (5) because of global examples [this was their weakest reason IMHO, I didn’t connect with this one, the church is global and not sure how this helped the point.]; (6) because of evangelistic effectiveness [though they didn’t articulate it as such, people must get the feeling that we passionately believe in what we are preaching!]; (7) because of pastoral winsomeness [as we preach to engage the affections, our heart is open wide and gives the congregation a sense of our affection.]; (8) because of missional opportunity [conveying not only an agenda, but sacrificial service to the community.]; (9) because of the purity of the church [‘it is insufficient simply to tell people that a certain behavior or attitude is wrong. We need to know why it is wrong and see affectionally how other behaviors and attitudes are better, sweeter, more wonderful, of more value.’];(10) because of the glory of God. [ultimately, because heart change honors God and glorifies Him.]

How do you preach to the affections? As a precursor, and something I’m glad it was drilled into me in seminary, we can’t expect someone to be moved by a passage that hasn’t already moved us.  We need to be personally affected by the text before we can affect anyone else.  The truth has to be “massaged into our hearts so that God’s Word does not inform us, but transforms us.” [52].  The authors then give well thought out considerations of how to accomplish this.  (1) Look out for the affections in the text. [what affection words are there?]; (2) Think Christ, live Christ, apply Christ. [we should be looking for Christ in whatever part of the Bible we are in.]; (3) Probe the workings of the heart [expose deep-rooted idols, again by pointing to the supremacy of Christ.  Nod to Chalmers here and the ‘expulsive power of a new affection.’]; (4) Preach the pathos as well as the logos of the passage. [the logic as well as the resulting emotion of it]; (5) Learn from those who preach to the affections. [Again – Edwards…Puritans for example]; (6) Raise the affections with the truth. [it’s not enough to get the text right, we must go to the next step and ask “In what way to do the truths of this text raise my affections and those to whom I am preaching?”]; (7) Prayer. [infuse our preparation with prayer]; (8) Preach with an awakened heart [this becomes a challenge for us regular preachers…]

The authors wrap up the book with an appeal to preach boldly the Word of God and engage the affections…in the changing culture we live in and will live in.  Bring the unchanging Word of god to bear on a changing culture and be in tune with both.

Moody and Weekes also give us a few examples of sermons with running commentary.  Oddly enough, I found this less helpful than the first part of the book, perhaps I was distracted by the commentary or I’m more of a linear thinker.  Nevertheless, they provide solid practical examples which are still valuable.

Preachers and aspiring preachers – READ THIS BOOK.  It is definitely helpful for growth in this very important area.  So many sermons are either one extreme or the other – dry lifeless presentation of information or overly emotional shallow pragmatism.  The authors diligently define and balance the two necessary aspects of logos and pathos and hopefully will encourage many to savor the supremacy of preaching God’s word with knowledge and passion.

 

 

 

 

#ChesterBennington and The Fight

The 90s-early 2000’s were my jam.  I was a musician playing clubs and I connected with many of the artists and their music.  Today, many of the lead singers of these bands are no longer with us.  Lane Staley, Scott Weiland, Chris Cornell, and the one that hit the hardest for me – Chester Bennington of Linkin Park.

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I identified strongly with the music of LP and Chester’s raw cutting lyrics – not because I was performing them, but because I was living them.  Hybrid Theory came out in 2000 and Meteora came out in 2003.  I had them both on CD and ripped them to my first generation iPod [remember the one with the wheel?!] and listened to them continuously.  In my office, at the gym, in my car.  I knew every word.  I felt Chester’s pain because he was transparent and vulnerable to let it out.

It was a time of deep personal and spiritual struggle for me.  I was coming out of a decade of self-destructive, self-centered, sin-soaked behavior and I was angry about it.  Angry about the things I’ve done, that I can’t get back the years lost, and that how I couldn’t get past any of it. Life. Was. Hard. Here…take a sample…

Crawling in my skin, These wounds they will not heal
Fear is how I fall, Confusing what is real.  [“Crawling” – Hybrid Theory]

I wanna run away, Never say goodbye
I wanna know the truth, Instead of wondering why
I wanna know the answers, No more lies
I wanna shut the door, And open up my mind  [“Runaway” – Hybrid Theory]

Don’t Stay” – Meteora…pretty much the whole thing.  Yeah. Great angry song.

I wanna heal, I wanna feel like I’m close to something real
I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along – 
Somewhere I belong [“Somewhere I Belong” – Meteora]

ta0ERGeu

It’s easier to run, replacing this pain with something numb
It’s so much easier to go, Than face all this pain here all alone

Something has been taken from deep inside of me
A secret I’ve kept locked away no one can ever see
Wounds so deep they never show, they never go away
Like moving pictures in my head, for years and years they’ve played

If I could change, I would, take back the pain, I would
Retrace every wrong move that I made, I would
If I could stand up and take the blame, I would
If I could take all the shame to the grave, I would [“Easier to Run” – Meteora]

You get the idea.

Chester had a way of crafting and delivering lyrics that reflected the darkness and evil that is sin…although he may not have realized it was sin.

I came to Christ after an epic battle with sin that nearly killed me.  Even still today, I don’t consider battling sin to be a neat and tidy sniper shot from half a mile away.  It’s more like a gory, dirty, blood bath, cage fight/guerrilla war where the enemy never really dies.

But the reality is that the power of sin really is dead and one day, it’s presence will be gone too.  It’s dead because someone killed it and died in the process.  Except his death is the road to life for anyone who comes to an end of themselves and throws themselves on his mercy for healing and restoration.

Here are some “lyrics” from another author who was very blunt about the battle with sin – the Apostle Paul…

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:15–20 ESV)

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:23–25 ESV)

We all have to get to that point in the fight with the darkness, “our demons”, evil, sin…call it what you want where we say “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?!”  There is only one hope and one answer – “Jesus Christ our Lord” who became sin for us so that we become what our souls are crying and starving to be – whole, complete, healed, righteous…reconciled to God.

I still like angry music.  I like tattoos. I despise Christian Contemporary Music and plastic Ned Flanders Hellmans on Wonder Bread churchianity. I sometimes just really want/need to be alone.  Some parts of life are still really hard.  Sin is always there, but so is Jesus and he is greater.

I don’t know if Chester ever put those pieces together before the darkness deceived him completely – but I pray that others will be transparent and vulnerable about the ugliness of sin and seek refuge in the one true answer – Jesus Christ.