Sunday, June 30, 2013

John Piper Interviews Matt Chandler, part 3 & 4

A couple months ago, I posted the first two videos of John Piper interviewing Matt Chandler. It mostly consisted of Chandler's personal history. It is well worth watching. But the interview was not finished. In the third video, Chandler describes his theological journey into reformed and complementary theology. And then in the fourth video, he gives some advice to pastors. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Two-Minute Drill to Manhood by John Groyle

I love sports for many reasons, from wanting to be active in life to the thrill of competition. But there is one reason I love them more than any other. Sports tend to show character. The true person often comes out when I am participating or watching sports. Sports tend to reveal the real "me." Because of that, I have been able to use sports to learn many lessons about my own heart and I have been able to use them to teach many life lessons to my children. Lessons being taught to others is what we find in a new book by John Croyle called, The Two-Minute Drill to Manhood.

As you can probably tell from the title, he is a football player. Croyle played football for the University of Alabama (I won't let that national championship game against my Irish affect my review). His son played football at the University of Alabama. They are a sports family. The premise of this book is that in order to have an effective two-minute drill at the end of a half of football, there must be much preparation. He takes that concept and applies it to parenting, particularly parenting boys.

His experience with parenting boys stems not just from his own son. In 1974, Croyle started Big Oak Boys Ranch for troubled or abandoned boys. Over the years he has seen thousands of boys come through this camp as "adopted" sons and taught them the meaning of becoming a man. This is where he gets much of the content of this book, which is divided into chapters corresponding to the acronym "Manhood."

M = Master
A = Ask & Listen
N = Never Compromise
H = Handle Your Business
O = One Purpose
O = One Body
D = Don't Ever, Ever, Ever Give Up

I really did enjoy most of the book. While the writing style was not polished, it came across very genuine. I could tell as I read this book that Croyle really loves helping boys become men. One example of this is how he encourages a strong work ethic to the boys at the camp. He says,
"In today's society work ethic is crucial. We're almost emasculating our boys because we're raising them not to know what a hard day's work is. They don't know what it's like to lie down at night, exhausted from hard, physical or mental work" (91).
The strengths of the book are his illustrations or personal examples along with very practical advice for parents. If you are looking for advice on what percentage of money a kid should save when he finally gets a job, its in this book. If you are curious as to questions to ask your kids to help identify their master in life, its in this book. If you need encouragement on how to parent when you feel like giving up, its in this book. The closing pages of each chapter give several practical steps to take in application of the contents of the main thought of that chapter. That is helpful.

This is a book about raising sons. But it is more than that. Much of what is written is applicable to raising daughters as well, especially when we raise them with a view of finding a man. I know the acronym is geared towards men, but I wish the publisher would not have isolated half of the audiences by saying it is "a proven game plan for raising sons." I think many with young girls could benefit from this book.

One more thing. Croyle does claim to be a Christian. There are several parts of this book where he asks parents about their relationship with God. There are a few sections on developing a relationship with Jesus Christ. I just wish the gospel would have been a little more visible through the pages of this book. It's not anti-gospel. I wouldn't even describe it as absent of the gospel. It is just not written through the grid of the gospel, which would make this book even stronger. In the end, it is a decent book and will be worth the few hours it will take for you to read.

I received a copy of The Two-Minute Drill to Manhood from B&H Publishing Group in exchange for this review.

Friday, June 28, 2013

What does it mean to Glorify God?

My wife and I are slowing reading together No Ordinary Marriage by Tim Savage. I am sure in due time, I will post a longer review of this book that I am really starting to enjoy. But there was one part of the book, towards the beginning, that was so good I needed to share it. Savage seeks to identify what it means that we are called to glorify God in our marriage. It almost seems like a cliche, doesn't it? You can or should glorify God in your marriage. 

Let's be honest. We tend to say this all the time in almost every aspect of our life. I tell my kids to play their sports to the glory of God. We are told to eat or drink to the glory of God. So, what does that mean? His words, although directed at marriage, help create a picture of what that phrase really means. 
"From the unspeakable riches of equality with God to the most impoverished death in antiquity, from heights unsearchable to depths unimaginable, from one polar extreme to another--this is the measure of the self-emptying of Jesus Christ. His death on a cross is history's most perfect expression of sacrificial love. And according to Paul, it is also the clearest revelation of what it means to be in the likeness of God. In Jesus, we see an image of the heavenly Father. On the cross, we behold a picture of infinite love. 
We began with a simple question: What does it mean to glorify God? Many answers are suggested in the Bible. We glorify God when we praise Him, when we delight in him, when we obey him. But we have seen there is a more dramatic answer: we glorify God when we produce a likeness of who he is. We now know what that likeness entails. More than any other person in history, Jesus presented a picture of God, and nowhere more clearly than in the event which crowned his earthly existence--his death on a cross. It was on that brutal and ignominious tree that we see the splendor of God's glory. Pointing to the cross, Jesus cried out: 'That hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" (John 12:23). 
Here is the monumental truth. The glory of God receives its fullest expression in the self-emptying love of the crucified Christ." (34)
What does this mean for your life? It should mean that for you to glorify God today, you are to empty yourself and pour out your love. It means that today should not be about you. If you are married, you can pour out your love towards your spouse. It might mean that glorifying God is self-emptying yourself towards your brother or sister. It might mean that you empty yourself of the glory and self-promotion at your office.

How Can You Apply This To Your Situation Today?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Supreme Court Decision on DOMA

If you happened to have been buried under a rock yesterday, you might have missed that the Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This major victory for gay-rights advocates means that same-sex partners can now be eligible for federal benefits from the government (plus a whole host of other issues). This is really not a surprise. I would be shocked to hear of many Christians who did not see this coming. 

In light of this ruling, I decided to check out what some other people are saying on the issue. Here are a few articles that have impacted me. Check them out.

This is a helpful piece from World Magazine on the specifics of what this ruling might just bring to the Christian in our nation. He makes the obvious statement: "Churches and schools . . . should immediately start planning for the time they'll either have to give up those connections or give up the Bible. Pastors and teachers who say anything negative about homosexuality should think through how they'll react if hauled into court."

A Sweeing Decision in the DOMA Case by Denny Burk
Burk seems to think that this "decision on DOMA is a watershed on the order of Roe v. Wade. It will have religious liberty implications that I'm guessing most folks have not even begun to ponder."

2 Lies Behind the Prop 8 Challenge by Jesse Johnson
This is a very good article showing the history of Proposition 8 in the state of California that has led us to the DOMA case.

Why Gay Marriage is Good (and Bad) for the Church by Trevin Wax
I am guessing that many will not like the title of this blog post, but you should still go on over and read it. He says, "The absence of a marriage culture will make biblical marriage stand out all the more. We'll be ordinary oddballs. So let's not waste the opportunity."

"Waiting for the Other Shoe"--The Supreme Court Rules on Same-Sex Marriage by Albert Mohler
I often say that when it comes to cultural issues thought through a biblical lens, there is no one I appreciate more than Mohler. He says, "The Christian church does not ask the U. S. Supreme Court, or any other human court, what marriage is. Marriage is a pre-political institution defined by our Creator--for His glory and for human flourishing. Today's decisions will create serious religious liberty challenges for all churches, Christian institutions, and Christian citizens in this nation. But the greatest impact of these decisions is the further marginalization and subversion of marriage. The destruction of marriage did not start recently, and it did not start with same-sex marriage, but its effects will be devastating."

Marriage and the Future of Religious Liberty by Russell Moore
I really appreciate what Moore has to say here. He says that the "real problem with gay marriage is that the nature of the marriage union is inherently entwined in the future of the first line of the Bill of Rights: our right to religious liberty."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Letter from Dad

This is a very powerful letter written from a dad with a special needs child who passed away. As I have had friends go through this in the past few months, I was greatly moved through it. I'm sure you will be as well.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Puritans on Emotion

Over the past several months, I have been working my way through A Puritan Golden Treasury. It is a collection of Puritan Quotes that have captured my heart. The way these men thought was deep and profound. I find myself wishing I would have spent as much time thinking as deeply on these subjects as them.

I am trying to share a few thoughts each week on the blog. I have already shared thoughts on Unity, Idleness, Excess, Parenting, the Church, and Eternity. Today, I wanted to share a few of their thoughts on emotions. Emotions can be a very good thing. Certainly God uses them and even displays emotions in the Scriptures. But our emotions can also be deceptive. We can learn to depend on them instead of the truth of God's Word. Some of these thoughts helped me wade through the difficult subject. I hope they might help you as well.
"Measure not God's love and favour by your own feeling. The sun shines as clearly in the darkest day as it does in the brightest. The difference is not in the sun, but in some clouds which hinder the manifestation of the light thereof." (Richard Sibbes) 
"A man must first love that he would be, before he can be that which he loveth." (Andrew Willet) 
"Zeal is like fire; in the chimney it is one of the best servants; but out of the chimney it is one of the worst masters." (Thomas Brooks)
"Grace comes not to take away a man's affections, but to take them up." (William Fenner) 
"Christianity doth not abrogate affections, but regulates them." (Thomas Manton)

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Morning After: Jesus' Authority over Loyalty (Matthew 10:34-42)

I truly believe that there is an authority issue in our culture today. Most people do not naturally like to submit to authority. There is something inside of them that resents being told what to do or what not to do. On the other hand, most people enjoy being in charge.

This problem is something that can be traced back through our parents to our first parents: Adam and Eve. Remember, they were placed into the garden and told they could eat of any tree but one. God had given them incredible freedom. They only had one rule. And so they hung out by the tree and succumbed to the temptations by the Serpent and revolted against the authority of God. They wanted to be in charge.

Yesterday, I finished a preaching series on the Authority of Jesus from Matthew 8-10. What we have seen in this series is that Jesus is authoritative over sickness. He is authoritative over nature. He is authoritative over diseases. He is authoritative over the spiritual world of demons. He is authoritative over sin. But there is still one question remaining: 

Is He My Authority?

Jesus says that He did not come to bring peace, but a sword. He came to confront and wage war with the evil that opposed His loyalty. He came to cut out, remove, separate, eliminate, and put to death anything that competes with His authority as the ultimate One to worship. He is not going to stop until He has your undivided loyalty. He will seek to remove or divide anything from keeping Him first place in all things. This might even include your family.

The Christian is called to love Jesus more than their family. They are called to love God more than their parents. They are called to love Jesus more than their children. But this is not exclusive. His point is that if there is any relationship that takes a priority in your life other than Jesus, you are not worthy of being in a relationship with Him.

And so, what are we to do? He tells us to take up our cross and follow Him. He tells us to realize that the Kingdom is upside down from what we normally think. We tend to do things our own way and do everything we can to hold onto our life. But Jesus says that if we want to find our life, we will lose it. That's backwards. I think what Jesus is saying is that if we live our life with ourselves at the steering wheel, we die. But if we die to ourselves and let Jesus take control, we will live. Submitting to the authority of Jesus in all things in our life is the only way we find ultimate fulfillment of freedom int his life. 

And so the question remains: Is Jesus Your Authority?

If you want to listen to the sermon or read my notes, you can find them HERE (audio usually posted by Tuesday night).

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Puritans on Eternity

The past few weeks, I have been sharing some thoughts from different Puritans on a variety of topics. Most of these quotes have come from A Puritan Golden Treasury. I have shared their thoughts on Unity, Idleness, Excess, Parenting, and the Church. Today, I want to share just three quotes on Eternity. Thinking of forever is very difficult for us temporal humans. But having the right perspective of eternity will greatly help the Christian live the life that Jesus calls us to live. I hope these thoughts will help focus you today as you think, not just for the here and now, but forever.
"Eternity to the godly is a day that has no sunset; eternity to the wicked is a night that has no sunrise." (Thomas Watson)
"A man's greatest care should be for that place where he lives longest; therefore eternity should be his scope." (Thomas Manton)
"Men that believe not another world, are the ready actors of any imaginable mischiefs and tragedies in this." (John Howe)

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Morning After: Jesus' Authority over Persecution (Matthew 10:16-33)

Every Christian is on a mission for Jesus. There are some who are doing great things for the Kingdom and some who are doing horrific things on the mission. But the reality is that if you are a Christian, you are a witness of Jesus. The question is not whether you are a witness; the question is, "Are you a good one?" 

The more I contemplate this reality, there is one thing that keeps me (probably you as well) from being a good witness for Jesus. If our desire is to live the safest Christian life possible with the least amount of conflict and persecution, then we will probably fall on the wrong side of being a good witness for Jesus. We cannot manage our safety. We cannot make decisions on our Christianity on whether it will cost us significantly. It will. We need to just realize it. But the great blessing that Jesus shares often in the NT is that while it costs us significantly, those sacrifices pale in comparison to the great blessings He offers. 

In this section of Scripture, we looked at Three Potential Dangers and Four Guaranteed Blessings of Following Jesus. I am not going to detail each of them in this short blog post. You will have to check out my notes or listen to the message to see how I articulate each one. But let me share them.
  • Danger #1: We Will Experience Persecution (vs. 16-18)
  • Blessing #1: We Will Never Be Alone (vs. 19-20)
  • Danger #2: We Will Become the Object of Hate (vs. 21-23)
  • Blessing #2: We Receive Assurance that We Are Following the Footsteps of Jesus (vs. 24-25)
  • Danger #3: We Might Even Be Killed (vs. 26-28)
  • Blessing #3: We Will Experience God's Sovereign Care in Our Life (vs. 29-31)
  • Blessing #4: Jesus Will Confess Us Before the Father (vs. 32-33)

As I went through each of these, I had to ask myself the question: "Is it worth it?" Is living a Christian life worth the persecution that will come from it? Are the blessings worth the risk? And as I ask these questions of my own heart, I find myself once again breaking out the scales trying to rationalize my life in following Jesus. These things might not seem rational, but then again, who ever said it would. Following Jesus is often not about the rational. It is about the eternal, which can't often be explained in human terms.

And so today, I choose to be His missionary anywhere I find myself. I choose to be His witness to a dying world. And whatever He might have for me, I gladly will take it. For His glory and my good, knowing that He cares deeply for me.

If you want to listen to the message or read my notes, you can find them HERE (audio usually posted Tuesday night).

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Prayer for Happiness

Every now and then, I enjoy reading the prayers of the Puritans that are written in The Valley of Vision. I love this book. But whenever I read this book, I am conflicted. On the one hand, I love the old English terminologies. It makes these prayers seem so formal and pious. But on the other hand, it makes prayer so formal and pious. I know, that's the same thing. I love the wording because it sounds like it flows from hearts that were deep and passionate. But honestly, sometimes it can be difficult to fully grasp what they are saying. And so, sometimes when I read them, I sometimes try to reword them to be more relevant to our culture. 

Yesterday, I shared a few thoughts about treasures and how we often overvalue the treasures of this world by undervaluing Jesus. As I was meditating on that thought a little deeper, I came across the prayer called "Happiness." This prayer helped me as I cried out to the Lord. And yes, I have taken the liberty to reword this prayer into a more modern English. But I hope the message is the same.


O Lord,
Help me never to expect any happiness from the world. 
Help me to find it only in You.
Let me not think that I will be more happy living for myself,
     for I can only be happy living for You,
     and if I desire to live in this world
     only to do and suffer what you bring my way.
Teach me
     that if I do not live a life that satisfies You,
     I shall not live a life that will satisfy me.
Help me to desire the spirit and attitude of angels
     who willingly come down to this lower world to perform Your will,
          though their desires are heavenly.
Help me to not think of living for You on my own strength,
     but always to look to and rely on You for assistance.
Team me that there is no greater truth than this,
     that I can do nothing by myself.
Lord, this is the life that no unconverted man can live,
     yet, it is an end that every godly soul strives after;
Let it be my concern to devote myself and all to You.
Make me more fruitful and spiritual,
     for emptiness is my daily affliction.
How precious is time and how painful to see it go
     with little done for good purposes!
I need Your help:
O may my soul sensibly depend upon You
     for all sanctification,
     and every accomplishment of Your purposes
          for me,
          for the world,
          and for Your Kingdom. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

One Problem About Treasures

Last week, I reviewed Paul Tripp's new book, Sex and Money. In his section on money, he very clearly identified one of the major problems with money and treasures. He writes, 
"Our problem with money doesn't begin with overvaluing the physical created world. No, our problem with money is rooted in a dramatic undervaluing of the gift of Jesus and his grace. It is only when King Christ is given the proper value in our hearts that King Money will have neither the power nor the room to rule us. It seems that often in the church' money discussions we forget this, and because we do, we ask the law to do what only grace can accomplish. A budget can expose what your heart truly values, but a budget has no power to make you worship the right king. A budget can give you useful spending guidelines, but it has no power to restrain your fickle and wandering heart. A budget can make you more money aware, but it will not deliver you from temptation" (169).
I was struck by this thought as it is so easy to not only overvalue our treasures on this earth, but also to undervalue the treasure of Jesus and the gospel. I suppose that is why Jesus told these parables:
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it." (Matthew 13:44-46)
I know my heart often settles for shallow treasures. It is my prayer that God would open my eyes to understand the deep well of the riches that are found in Jesus. My prayer is to fully understand what Jesus said to the church in Smyrna, that though they suffered in tribulation and poverty, they were rich (Rev. 2:9).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Standing Before the Judge

The other day, I was watching Pardon the Interruption (PTI), a show on ESPN where two guys discuss sports news events. One of the stories they talked about caught my eye for more than sports information. It was the account of former NFL player, Chad Ochocinco, who was standing before a judge on accounts of marital abuse. ABCNews does a good job of explaining what happened as he was about to be released.

The judge thought that slapping his attorney on the backside (something all football players do for some reason) was not respectful. He was not taking things seriously. She is probably right. And so instead of releasing him, she tore up the agreement and is making him spend the next 30 days in jail.

Now, on one hand, many people will argue as to whether the judge was a bit sensitive. Was she too harsh? By my estimations, it doesn't really matter. She is the judge and has the right to do whatever she wants to do in her courtroom, as long as it abides by the Law.

Listening to this story made me think about how people treat the ultimate Judge of this world. There are people in the world right now that are tweeting, writing, and speaking all sorts of negative things about Him. But that will change one day. There will come a day when everyone will stand before God as their judge. And at that time, I guarantee you, there will be no sarcasm. There will be no slapping someone on the behind. There will be no goofing off. There will only be humble submission!
"Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.' So then each of us will give an account of himself to God." (Romans 14:10-12)
When we witness Isaiah standing before the throne of God, he doesn't goof off, but falls on his face in humility (Isa. 6). When the Apostle John has that vision of Jesus on the Island of Patmos, he fell down at His feet as a dead man (Rev. 1) In every Biblical occurrence where we are told about people standing before God, it is a very serious event. It is not something to take lightly. 

Question: What would your life look like today if you lived as if you knew you were to stand before God as your judge?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Puritans on the Church

The past several weeks, I have been sharing thoughts from different Puritans on selective topics. Most of these quotes have come from A Puritan's Golden Treasury. I have shared thoughts on Unity, Idleness, Excess, and Parenting. Today, I wanted to share some thoughts on the Church.

I love the church. If you have read much of anything I have written on here, you would know that I love the gospel and the church. I love the people of God, in spite of all of our weaknesses. And while the summer is a time of much relaxation and time away with the family, I pray it never becomes a time off of church. May these thoughts from the Puritans help you as you contemplate your involvement with the church.
"Though we have sins too many, yet the better part gives the name. Corn-fields we see have many weeds, yet we call them corn-fields, not fields of weeds." (Paul Bayne) 
"God speaks by the Church (the true Church we mean); but He speaks nothing by her but what He speaks in the Scriptures, which she does only ministerially declare to us; and therefore the authority of God and His law is above hers, who, though she publish, yet did not make it, but is herself subject to it." (John Owen) 
"Objection: I can profit as much by staying at home and reading the Scripture or some good book; it is the word of God which they preach, and it is that which I read at home. The books that are written by learned men are better than the sermons that are preached by our ministers. Answer: What foolish pretences are these against the plain command of God and our own necessary duty! When God hath appointed you your duty, will He allow you to forsake it upon your own reason, as if you were wiser than God, and knew what will profit you better than He?....Is it not horrible pride in you to think that you are able to understand the word of God as well without a teacher as with one? if your children that go to school should say, 'We have the same books at home, and therefore we will not go to school; our master doth but teach us grammar, and other books, and these we can read at home.'" (Richard Baxter) 
"O be not too quick to bury the Church before she is dead." (John Flavel)

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Morning After: Jesus' Authority over His Followers, pt. 2 (Matt. 9:35-10:15)

I shared last Monday that the mission of Jesus is to reach the world through ordinary men who are compassionate, prayerful, and obedient. As I continue my preaching series through the book of Matthew, I have reached a section where we see Jesus sending out His men for ministry. While there are some aspects of this commissioning that applied only to these men, there are others that certainly do apply to all followers of Jesus. 

As I walked through this passage, there are many things that impacted me personally. For one thing, I am fairly sure that I do not always come across compassionate for others. But there is something in my heart that moves me to relationship and service of other people. Jesus' compassion is generally thought of as warm and fuzzy. But I'm not sure it was. His compassion was seen towards those that were sheep without a shepherd. His heart broke over the people that were being condemned by the religious community by rules and regulations not taught by God. My heart is continually moved by those that do not hear the teaching of God's truth for their life. And that moves me to ministry.

In this passage, I could also talk about how I was impacted by the principles Jesus teaches when He sends the twelve men out. He teaches them to be dependent upon God. That is something I need to learn more and more. 

But there was one aspect of this that came as a great wake up call for my life. Jesus tells His followers that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. I'm sure most of us have heard that before. There is a great harvest waiting to be gathered in, but there are few people to do it. When He says that, what is your natural reaction? Mine is to say, "Let's go. Let's get busy for the work of the Kingdom. Let's enlist more and more people to go out into the field and start harvesting." And at some level, each of those things are needed for the mission. It's just, that's not what Jesus says we are to do.

Because the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, our response should be to first and foremost . . . PRAY! Jesus doesn't say that the harvest is huge and the workers are few, so go! He says the harvest is plentiful and the workers are needed, so pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out the laborers into His harvest. That is something that I fail to do. Maybe it is because I am too self-reliant or dependent upon my own gifts and calling, but I fail to pray for the harvest like I should.

Why pray? I think for two reasons. For one, God blesses the prayers of the righteous. He takes our prayers and answers them. But for another reason, God often changes the hearts of those that pray. I wonder what would happen if someone spent serious time crying out to the Lord each day for the salvation of those in their community and around the world? My guess is that if you cried out to the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers into His harvest, you might just find God moving in your heart to be the answer to your own prayers.

There were many other things I talked about on Sunday. If you want to listen to the sermon or read my notes, you can find them HERE.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Is College Worth It? by William J. Bennett and David Wilezol

I often find myself reading the same type of books, Christian non-fiction. Occasionally, I will read a biographical book. Every now and then I might grab a fiction book. When I discover I am in this rut, I try to grab a book that is outside of my normal circle. Is College Worth It? by Bennett and Wilezol is one of those books. 

I have been trying to think of how I would summarize this book. One approach is to give the author's summary. Bennett and Wilezol answer their own book title with a few additional questions:

"Is this product worth the risk of thousands of dollars of debt? Is this worth investing four years of my life and finances?" (156)

That is helpful. Is your college piece of paper going to pay for itself in the future? What is the return on your investment of your education? This book attempts to point out the positives and negatives of the current higher education situation going on in America.  

This sort of approach of summarizing the book doesn't speak to how it impacted me. As I read this book, these thoughts kept going through my mind: "This book is going to affect the way I give advice to  my kids about their college choices." I hope that sounds like a good endorsement, for it is meant to be. You see, I read this book through two different lenses. 

For one, I have lived the "higher education is very important" mentality. I finished my bachelors degree in 1997 from Moody Bible Institute. It might not be Harvard or Stanford, but it is to this day a difficult school to get into. Then after several years, I finished my Masters of Arts and Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Trinity is one of the more recognized seminaries in the country (and at the time, one of the most expensive). Then, in 2010, I completed my Doctorate of Ministries degree from Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA. I have spent well over a decade in higher education. I have also spent a whole lot of money towards that education.

The second lens that impacted me is that I now have a son entering 8th grade. In just five years, we will be dealing with the question of college for him. That scares me tremendously. It is hard for me to think of him as old enough to go to college. But what schools will I direct him towards? What kind of major will he pursue? How much money should he borrow? Those are many of the thoughts that impacted me as I read this book.

Bennett & Wilezol do a wonderful job showing how "The Borrowing Binge" for college just might well be the next bubble to burst. There seems to be no accountability and so the government or other institutions loan out as much money as someone needs for school. The schools realize this and so they increase their costs because they know people will simply get more loans. On and on it has gone the last couple decades. It has created a financial monster for our nation.

If you want to find out what schools they say are can't miss (don't fear taking loans to go to these schools) or what majors will provide the best jobs in the future years, you are going to have to purchase the book. In the end, they are simply trying to help people make wiser decisions when it comes to college and money.
"Is this learning environment worth the investment of $50,000, $100,000, or $200,000? Consumers make highly informed decisions when they're buying a home: Is the neighborhood safe? Are the schools good? Where are home prices headed for this area? Can I get a better deal somewhere else? If students and parents are investing almost as much money into a college education as a home, they should make equally informed and careful decisions." (159-160).
If you are close to making a decision about college for yourself or your children, I would encourage you to take a closer look at this book. The only negative thing about this book is that I assumed that since a Christian publisher published this book, it would contain more insight on these issues from a Christian perspective. Other than a small section on some private Christian colleges, that seemed to be lacking.

I received a copy of Is College Worth It? by Bennett and Wilezol from Thomas Nelson for a review.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

That's How You Forgive by Shane & Shane

Shane & Shane released a new album a couple weeks ago. By far, one of my favorite songs is That's How You Forgive. Check it out and make sure to pay close attention to the lyrics as they epitomize the gospel!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sex & Money by Paul David Tripp

There may be no author I appreciate more these days than Paul David Tripp. He has this ability to diagnose the heart issues of our day while showing the hope the gospel brings to those issues. There may be no greater example of this ability than his latest book, Sex & Money.

Is there any doubt that these are issues we all face these days? Our culture is obsessed with sex and money. We are infatuated with these things. We are told by the world that these things will bring us happiness; things that will fulfill us. And when they don't, we are left crippled and unsatisfied just like the last time.

In response to this obsession of these things in our world today, Tripp says, "the church of Jesus Christ has been strangely silent and reticent in both areas" (17). In addition, he says, "Christian parents don't seem to do a very good job in discipling their children in either area" (17). I couldn't agree more. We have stayed too quiet on both of these subjects. For sex, because it is taboo. For money, because it is none of our business. Maybe it is time the church and parents stand up and speak the truth of God that these idols are killing people. But there is hope.

Ultimately, this book is a book on the gospel. It is a diagnostic book that shows how these things are worship disorders that remove God from His rightful place on the throne. He says,
"In the midst of the madness there's only one window through which we can look at the world's of sex and money and see with candor, clarity, and wisdom. This window is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And there is only one thing that can free us from the insanity that somehow, someway seems at some point to grip us all. It's the grace of that very same gospel. You see, the humbling truth is that when it comes to sex and money we don't have a thing problem; the things (sex and money) are not evil in themselves. We don't have an environment problem, as if our surroundings cause the difficulty. No, we are the problem" (21).
And he goes on to say . . .
"The wars of sex and money are never just a battle with the temptations of the surrounding culture; they're never just about behavior or about what we do with our bodies. Christ is saying that our behavior is more directed by what's inside us than the people and situations outside us. He's saying that sexual struggles are inescapably struggles of the heart" (45).
And the same can be said of money. Our problem with money is not that we are inundated with advertisement of greed everyday. Our ultimate problem is that in our heart, we are never satisfied outside of Christ and the gospel. We want more and more and more until . . . well, we don't know.

Let me stress this as strongly as I can. This book is not just for someone who "has a problem with sex or money." Well, it is. But it is not just for someone who thinks they have some sort of sexual or financial addiction. It is a book for all people, for all people have a sex and money problem. We just have different degrees of those problems. There are numerous ways the idols of our heart affect the way we view sex and money. In this book, Tripp attempts to expose many of them.

One of the strengths of the book are the numerous storied examples of people who struggled. These stories brought many of the teachings into real life for me. In fact, there were several times I thought, "And I've never counseled with Dr. Tripp, how did he tell my story?" I would be surprised if you didn't see yourself in them as well. Tripp ends the book with these thoughtful, powerful words:
"Yes, we do live in a world that has gone sex-and-money insane. And, yes, that insanity still lives in some way in all of our hearts. But we needn't panic; we needn't succumb; we needn't think that our battles are leading nowhere. We must not give way to assessments of poverty, aloneness, and impossibility, because the insanity has been invaded by the Messiah, Jesus. He faced every insane thing we face, and he defeated it all on our behalf. He did all this so that you and I would have the grace we need to face the sex-and-money struggles that we will continue to face until eternity is our home and the insanity has been quieted forever" (213).
I would highly recommend this book!

I received a copy of Sex & Money by Paul David Tripp from Crossway Publishers for this review.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Puritans on Parenting

The past several weeks, I have been sharing some thoughts from different Puritans on different topics. Most of the quotes I have shared have been coming from A Puritan's Golden Treasury. I have shared some thoughts on Unity, Idleness, and Excess

Since summer is upon us and for many people, the children will be spending much more time at home with their parents, I thought it would be helpful to share a few thoughts about Parenting from the heart of the Puritans. But I warn you, these are tough to hear; harder to follow.
"If parents would have their children blessed at church and at school, let them beware they give their children no corrupt examples at home by any carelessness, profaneness, or ungodliness. Otherwise, parents will do them more harm at home than both pastors and schoolmasters can do them good abroad. For the corrupt example of the one fighteth with the good instruction of the other, which is so much the more dangerous because that corrupt walking is armed with nature, and therefore more forcibly inclineth the affections of the children to that side." (Richard Greenham) 
"As for those parents who will not use the rod upon their children, I pray God He useth not their children as a rod for them." (Thomas Fuller) 
"If you neglect to instruct them in the way of holiness, will the devil neglect to instruct them in the way of wickedness? No; if you will not teach them to pray, he will to curse, swear, and lie; if ground be uncultivated, weeds will spring." (John Flavel)
Parents, let us use our time wisely this summer with our children. Let us set the standard for them well. Let us shepherd them well. Let us use our time to point them and instruct them in the ways of God.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Morning After: Jesus' Authority over His Followers, pt. 1 (Matthew 10:1-4)

I have been working my way through the gospel of Matthew in my Sunday morning sermon series. I have been looking at how Jesus shows Himself authoritative over all types of disease, nature, and people. Starting in Matthew 9:35, we are introduced to the mission of Jesus. What is His plan to take the message of Himself to the world? How is His authority seen in His mission to reach the world?

The Mission of Jesus is to reach the world through ordinary men who are compassionate, prayerful, and obedient.

That is the main thought we explored on Sunday and will continue to explore next week. Jesus uses ordinary men. He uses the average Joe. He is more concerned with the attitude of the man than He is how popular or successful that man might be for Him. That is what we see in the life of the twelve men that Jesus called to Himself, to be His closest followers He would train for the mission. 

These twelve men were of all shapes and sizes. They were of all different occupations. They came from all walks of life. It reminds me that it is not my profession that makes me useful to God, it is my willingness to follow Him. He can and does use the schoolteacher, the construction worker, the engineer, the political figure, and the scientist. He continues to use people from all walks of life. 

He doesn't need the sports athlete who has a high profile in order to reach the masses. He can use the insignificant person nobody knows about. After the beginning of the church, the religious leaders had this to say about Peter and John, two of the Apostles of Jesus:
"Now when they say the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)
That's the issue. It is not about your education. It is about whether or not you are spending time with Jesus. And think about it, God uses this as His plan because when He moves through them, people will not boast in them, but in God (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). God isn't looking for the extraordinary who will boast in themselves. He is looking for the faithful, ordinary, common person who will stay connected to Him.

That is what we see in the twelve Disciples. Over the course of this week, I plan on sharing some more information about these twelve men that God used to change the world.

If you want to listen to the message or read my notes, you can find that information HERE (audio is usually posted Tuesday evening).