Sunday, November 4, 2007

Books on How to Read the Bible

My sister Diana asked me to point her towards helpful resources on how to read the Bible. We as Christians are very far removed from the world in which the Bible was written. The last canonical book was probably written as late as 90 A.D. That's old.

Also, because of the fact that "what Scripture says, God says," it seems clear that Almighty God intends to tell us something through this Bible. So here are my top 3 choices, in order, of books helping you get the "Big Picture" of Scripture:

1. According to Plan by Graeme (pronounced like Graham) Goldsworthy
2. God's Big Picture by Vaughn Roberts
3. How to Read the Bible Book by Book by Stuart and Fee (a bit different from the other two books; helpful for getting more details)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Are you "crammed with filth?"

The Christian life, according to John Calvin (1509-1594) is to be one marked by holiness. Indeed, for a Christian to continue on and on in a life of impurity is simply unChristian. Calvin says the one who dwells before God in his Sanctuary (which is done only through the blood of Jesus!) must strive to do so with increasing growth in holiness. Here is the great quote with which Calvin summarizes this idea:

"For it is highly unfitting that the sanctuary in which [God] dwells should like a stable be crammed with filth."

With the Spirit's help, rooted in the Scriptures, let us strive towards ever-increasing Christ-likeness. In other words, don't be crammed with filth!

By the way: in case it's not clear, "Sanctuary" doesn't refer to the place where we gather on Sunday mornings. Rather, Calvin is speaking of the very throne room of God into which Christ brings us when we repent and believe in Christ. The book of Hebrews especially unpacks this.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wonderfully Dependent

Well another busy month has passed without a post. Now that I am flat on my back with some kind of flu-like bug I actually have the time and opportunity to post something! But I am worn out from being sick, so I have very little to say. In fact, all I will say is that being sick is a helpful, humbling reminder of humanity. I truly am a dependent, not independent, being. I am grateful to read in Hebrews 1 of Jesus, "the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature" who "upholds the universe by the word of his power." I am wonderfully dependent on him.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Truly, but Never Exhaustively

God is utterly incomprehensible. To "comprehend" literally means to wrap your mind around something, to the point that you fully understand it. Without a doubt, then, it is impossible for us to fully comprehend God.

But this does not mean he is unknowable.

Deuteronomy 29:29 reads, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we might do all the words of this law." Among other things, Moses here tells us that we can know some things about God, just not everything. We can know God truly, but never exhaustively.

I thought of this as I read a quote from a wonderful Christian thinker of the past who spoke of the goal of the Christian when he or she sits down to study the Bible. We should "reverently embrace what it pleases God there to witness of himself." God has graciously made himself known to us in the Bible. It is not everything that might be known about him, but it is more than enough for our feeble minds! God was pleased to leave a witness of himself. We can trust this Bible to be an acurate witness. Praise him for such kindness!

More on that "wonderful Christian thinker of the past" later on...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

M. Scott Daniel, Esquire

My good buddy Michael Scott Daniel (that's right, 3 first names) has started a blog. He hopes to post at least occasionally. I guess that's sort of like me...

He is sharp and thoughtful, and he truly desires to please the Lord. I would recommend checking it out from time to time to get your wheels turning.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ideas Have Consequences

The title of this post is taken from a book by R.C. Sproul. I have not read but a few excerpts from the book, but the title alone is convincing. We don't live in a world surrounded by tall buildings, cable modems, and microwaves that sprung up from the ground. We know instinctively that ideas have consequences: Either for good or for ill.

As we watch TV, search on Google, read newsmagazines, or even casually glance at billboards, let's be alert! We are surrounded by competing ideas. With the Holy Spirit's help, let's root ourselves deeply in the truth of Scripture so that we may take every thought captive to obey our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are in Nashville with Liz's parents and sister. This week is Steve and Judy's last week in Greenville. Lord willing, they will make their way to Avon, Connecticut this coming Friday to begin a new phase of ministry at Valley Community Baptist Church. Enjoy Labor Day weekend!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sundays and Jerry Bridges

Lizzie and I are about to walk out the door to our church's Sunday evening service. We are truly blessed by the loving fellowship, the sound teaching, and the Christ-centered life exemplified by our church. Our gratefulness for this place returns each Sunday, even as we are reminded throughout the week how good a place it is for us. I hope you can say something similar about your church.

Also, I just finished a very approachable, very excellent book for a class called Trusting God. Read it when you are or when you aren't. Blessings to all.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

First Things First

To catch up on the last few weeks, I have several bits of information that are important to note. Today I will mention one...Liz and I are expecting our first child! The due date is February 1, 2008, and we will find out the baby's gender in about 3 weeks, Lord willing. Needless to say, we are overjoyed. We have seen anew the kindness of the Lord. Indeed his mercies are new every morning. More to come...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Back to School...


I am back from my (unplanned/unwarned) summer hiatus. Perhaps I will update in the next couple of days on the many happenings in the last couple of months. Until then..

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Christian Ministry

Another helpful quote, this one on Jeremiah 15, from D.A. Carson's For the Love of God, Vol. 2:
"The deep tension between faithfulness to God and alienation from one's own people is an unvarying constant in the ministry of faithful preachers assigned to a declining culture."

I assume that this quote summarizes the kind of ministry I will do as a preacher of the gospel.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Simple-ish Question: What is the Gospel?

I say "simple-ish" because it should be pretty simple for a Christian, but often it is not. Let me explain both propositions, and then I'll conclude with a quick Starbucks story (I have many of them from my career as a barista).

First, it should be simple for a Christian to answer the question "What is the gospel?" The epistles (there are about 20 in the New Testament) contain numerous references to a certain message. A careful reading of these books of the Bible will lead to the conclusion that that message is the one true, biblical gospel. This gospel is true. It is rooted in historical facts. It is supernatural. It is real and life-changing. So when Peter tells his Christian friends to be always prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3:15) I assume that he at least is alluding to the message of the gospel. This is the good news that guilty sinners may be forgiven and made righteous before God (the one they've offended!) through the sacrificial death of God the Son. So it would seem that the New Testament assumes that Christians can easily answer the aforementioned question.

But sadly it is often not simple. Christians often are not ready with an answer. Why is this the case? Is it lack of understanding? Poor teaching? Laziness? Fear? Lack of confidence? The unpreparedness may be any of these, and this is not the place to tease out all the possibilities. It just seems to me that if I have been told the most important message ever, I'm convinced that it is true, and I've been told to spread it far and wide I should know what the message is!

What's my point? Brothers and sisters (and John): preach this good news to yourself! Know it so well that you can explain it in less than 90 seconds. Much more could be said. The preaching stops.......now!

The story: there is a large gathering of Pentecostals taking place in Louisville right now. Many of them are staying at the hotel where my Starbucks is located. I decided to ask one of these friends, who had just said that he is a preacher, how he would explain the gospel. His response was discouraging. Nothing about sin and the Savior, nothing about forgiveness, nothing about the great debt we owed God that Christ paid for his own, dying in their place. Alas, we must know and believe this message.

Monday, July 2, 2007

D.C. Trip and Evangelism

Lizzie and I arrived home late last night from an encouraging 5 days in our nation's capital. We spent absolutely no time whatsoever doing anything one normally does in D.C. Instead we enjoyed the company and fellowship of the wonderful brothers and sisters of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, and, in particular, our dear friends the Gilbart-Smiths. Mike and Hannah were exceedingly gracious to host Liz and me for the week. This entailed: a lot of British/American jokes; loads of questions thrown at Mike from me; observation of two patient, godly parents doing their best to bring up Abigail, Joshua and Daniel in the fear and admonition of the Lord; and some good eats (i.e. Wimbledon cake - very light!). We are so encouraged by our time, and we praise God for such Christ-exalting friends.

Mike exhorted me to work on my personal evangelism and discipleship efforts. He also helped me think through some things. For example, as a seminary student I have a quick and easy road to take conversations towards the Gospel. I had certainly attempted to use this in the past, but I realized that I have been too heavy on "periods" instead of "question marks." So instead of: "I'm training to be a preacher of the gospel" (which requires no response whatsoever), I should say, "I'm training to be a preacher of the gospel. What about you? Are you a religious person? Why do you believe that?" and so on. And the conversation could go anywhere from there. Here's the point: seize opportunities to ask "why" questions. Steer the ship towards the glory of Christ in the gospel.

Okay, off to watch an episode of Planet Earth with the one whom my soul loves...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Thabiti on Mark Dever

Mark Dever is someone who has a great deal of influence in my life. One of Mark's former Associate Pastors, now Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church Grand Cayman, has posted on his blog why he is grateful for Mark. Thabiti is a very thoughtful person, so these points are the fruit of some careful thinking and observation, and I am glad to jump right on board! Some are obviously specific to Thabiti, but I could certainly provide similar illustrations of the same concepts. Check it out!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Friends Who Make me Laugh

These are two of my "best buddies." I feel that this picture accurately represents their respective senses of humor, as well as their respective abilities to entertain. Scott is theologically gifted, thoughtful, and a faithful friend. Zach is generous, genuinely loving, and gentle (I had to continue the alliteration). I am grateful to the Lord for godly friends who challenge me in my faith and make me laugh till I cry and scream.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Annhilation of the Caananites

I just read a very helpful thought from D.A. Carson's For the Love of God, Vol. 1 concerning God's judgment of the Canaanites through the slashing attacks of the people of Israel. I hope it is helpful for your own thinking about this difficult truth:
"Although the annhilation of the Canaanites fills us with embarrassed horror, there is a sense in which (dare I say it?) we had better get used to it. It is of a piece with the Flood, with the destruction of several empires, with hell itself. The proper response is Luke 13:1-5: unless we repent, we shall all likewise perish" (From the entry for June 5th).

Friday, June 1, 2007

Free Books for John! Happy!

Hey, friend(s). I would be deeply honored and grateful if you would help me earn money for free books. Anytime you see a link to a book, will you click it for Johnny? Pretty please? I can earn reward points from the Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore (<--feel free to click that link!) every time someone links to their website from my blog. All you gotta do is click the link...and maybe even buy the book! I appreciate the help. Thanks, pal(s).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

So your mama told you not get in fights...


Well your mama was right. Fist fights, push fights, spit fights, hair-pulling fights - those are bad things. But there is a good kind of fight. It's the fight of faith, or, rather, the fight for faith. I read the entire book of Jude today (it's only 25 verses), and I spent some time meditating on verse 3: "Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."

What really struck me today as I read this is that Jude was not simply giving an appeal to pastors to be careful to teach the right things to their people. As far as I can tell Jude is speaking generally to all Christians. The letter is addressed simply to those who are "called" and are "beloved in God the father and kept for Jesus Christ" (v 1). So everyone claiming the name of Jesus is to contend or fight for the faith. Every Christian, from 8 to 80, is to stand boldly for truth. (But don't forget truth-speaking is always done in love, see Ephesians 4).

What does Jude mean by "the faith"? I'm not certain because I didn't spend a great deal of time on it. However, I am sure he doesn't mean by "faith" simply the kind of faith that saves us. Otherwise he wouldn't have said that he originally wanted to write to them about salvation, but is instead writing to them to contend for the faith (3a). So I think he is probably referring to the things that Christians believe broadly speaking. In other words, the phrase "the faith" alludes to the questions of theology: Who is God? What is he like? Who is Jesus?

Last thing: I think one application from this is that all Christians must know some basic theology, and they should help each other to fight for it. One simple thing to do to think about some basic theology would be to read through a "confession of faith" like the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Read an article a day and look at some of the verses. Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you and help you believe God's Word. Or if you have more time on your hands read a book like Concise Theology by J.I. Packer or Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. Or a good website with tons of free, helpful stuff is Monergism.com.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Summer Summer Summer Time

Pardon the absence, please...both of you. My hectic semester is over, and I am quite grateful for that. It was exceedingly busy. I've never had a class harder than Advanced Greek Grammar. I assume I never will have one harder than it. I used to think I knew some Greek, but then I took that class. However, it was good for me, and I'm grateful for the opportunity and the valuable tools I gained. The task now is to keep the tools sharpened.



Now that the summer has begun I am having to fill in 20ish hours a week with something to do! When you factor in 9 hours a week for class time, and at least 10 or more for studying...that's a lot to fill in. I aspire to exercise (minimally at least) and do some pre-Fall semester studying. I also aspire to eat watermelon, corn on the cob, and ice cream. I also have high aspirations to be a luchador:
This should be a splendid summer.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Whew!

See how tired this poor panda is? Poor little guy.

Well that's how I feel, too! I've got a good bit of reading left, 3 finals, and then I'm home free...eventually (a loose reference to Wayne Watson). I am very excited to see my lovely family next weekend, Lord willing.


Pray that I will persevere and be faithful with all that the Lord places before me these next few days.


And pray for that poor panda.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Final Stretch

Wow! Last week just flew by. I'm sure this week will be no different. It is the end of the semester, and, as one might imagine, I've got more things to do than I have time to do them. But it is always a labor of love and I have no reason to complain. In fact, I never have a reason to complain, do I? Last night one of our elders (pastors) preached on Romans 5:1-5 on one of those bizarre things that Christians believe: We consider it joy when we go through life trials. Read that last line again. Joy...in trials. We do this, according to Paul, the author of the letter, because of what God has done, is doing, and will do. Those who have turned from their sin-lifestyle and are trusting Christ have been declared totally righteous in God's sight. How is that possible? It is because Jesus the sinless God-Man was executed on a cross in their place. As a result of this act where the holy God declares us to be righteous, we now have access to God through Jesus Christ for daily help. And this gives us a real hope for the future. Not a hope-so, but a solid steel hope that God will preserve us and bring us into his presence when we die. He will not cast us away.

I don't know about you, but this fuels me! This gives me such confidence in a great Savior who will carry me along. Have a great week, one and all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Clarification of "Helplessness" - Thanks, Dad

This is why I'm going to enjoy blogging: If I say something misleading, one of the 4 people reading will most likely see it and point it out.

In "Helplessness" I almost made it sound like we as human beings cannot know what it means to do what is right, to do what is pleasing to the Lord. That is false. We know the truth and we supress it; we know what is right and we don't do it; we know what is wrong and we do it (see the book of Romans). I think that this is at least one thing dad was pointing out to me (see his comment). Thanks, poppy.

I must add, however, that it is because of our utter depravity that the sinless Lord Jesus Christ was executed on a cross. He died in our place, bearing the wrath that we deserve. He proved his power over death and the efficacy of his death by being raised from the dead, which we just celebrated on Easter Sunday (and we honor it every Sunday when we gather with the church because Christ was raised on Sunday). The blessings of forgiveness and right standing with God are ours if and only if we repent (turn fully) of our sins and place our trust in Jesus Christ. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Why are things like this so funny?

I don't know why this stuff is so funny, but it just is. Please rebuke me if I should not laugh at things like this. I probably still will laugh at them, but I will appreciate your timely words. Click here for funny things.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Helpless

Psalm 19:14 "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer"

Doesn't a verse like this ring with helplessness? Beginning with the very first word (in the English at least; I don't know Hebrew), the whole verse concedes inability: I can't decide on my own what is acceptable to the Lord. I wonder then what David is thinking when he calls the Lord "my rock and my redeemer." What does this mean for the New Covenant believer who is enabled by the Holy Spirit to be acceptable in the sight of the Lord because of the substitutionary death of Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 2:24)?

Does this make sense? One of you two people reading this should let me know...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Fun Easter Weekend

Lizzie and I got back last night from a lovely long Easter weekend with her family in Greenville. We ate too much, got some new duds, talked about what the Bible says about the church, and enjoyed friends and family.



We rented a car to go down there because our cars would have keeled over. Thanks Steve and Judy for being delightful hosts as always!

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Good News

Click here for an online version of an excellent gospel tract. This is the most thorough, concise presentation of the facts of the gospel I have ever seen. Some of these elements are too easily neglected in other explanations of the gospel.

Good Quote: God is in control of history

"Because God is the Lord of history, history has meaning and direction. We may not always be able to discern God's purpose in history, but that there is such a purpose is a cardinal aspect of our faith." Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future.

Are you a Christian?

This is a question many Christians would never think to ask someone else. But is that a good thing? Is this question really so unkind as some may think? If it sounds so unkind to ask this question, why do Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John all talk about the difference between a true brother and a false brother (Matt. 18; 1 Cor. 5; all of Galatians; 1 Pet. 2 and 3; Rev. 1-3)? So if a professing Christian consistently does things and says things that are out of step with the characteristics of a Christian, what are we to think?


Having recently read the 18th century theological (giant) Jonathan Edwards on a similar topic, my thinking has been helped here. Check out what President Edwards says,
"I know there is a great aptness in men who suppose they have had some experience of the power of religion, to think themselves sufficient to discern and determine the state of others by a little conversation with them; and experience has taught me that this is an error. I once did not imagine that the heart of man had been so unsearchable as it is. I am less charitable, and less uncharitable than once I was." (Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, emphasis added)


This is instructive for me because I am very quick to label an inconsistent Christian as a non-Christian. I think this is often arrogant and uncharitable on my part. Edwards seems to indicate in the context that we should truly leave to God what is his in determining someone's spiritual state. In other words, the Living God is the one who sees the heart; we do not decide on their heart. (However, as a baptist I would say much care should be taken with this sort of question in a church membership process.) Pray that I will be charitable and kind!


Any thoughts? Things to add? Am I just plain crazy?

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.

I am a young'n. And just like Marty McFly naively thought there would be roads in the future, I apparently think I am worthy to enter the sphere of the blog.
Nevertheless, I think what I will probably do on this blog is twofold:

1. Keep my family and/or friend(s) updated on what is going on in my corner of the Clifton Heights Neighborhood of Louisville, KY.
and

2. Occasionally write about a variety of biblical and theological things I am thinking through at any given time. These things will particularly require comments from people who can helpfully guide me towards truth, so I welcome any such comments like: "JP, you're crazy," or "John, read your Bible more." Things like that...
So here goes nothin'!