Sunday’s Hymn

This past Lord’s Day we sang a song right out of the Scottish Psalter, 1650. It was actually in our hymnal, but the tune was from that Psalter. I was thrilled about this. I wish we’d do more psalms from the psalter… and try them a capella. That’s how the Scots would have done it.

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

Words: Scottish Psalter, 1650
Music: Hugh Wilson, 1764-1824

O thou my soul, bless God the Lord
And all that in me is
Be stirred up His holy name
To magnify and bless.

Bless, O my soul, the Lord thy God,
And not forgetful be
Of all His gracious benefits
He hath bestowed on thee:

All thine iniquities who doth
Most graciously forgive,
Who thy diseases and and pains
Doth heal, and thee relieve:

Who doth redeem thy life, that thou
To death may not go down,
Who thee with loving kindess doth
and tender mercies crown

Who with abundance of good things
Doth satisfy thy mouth;
So that, even as the eagle's age,
Renewed is thy youth.

This is the hymn tune, “Martyrdom,” to which we sang this marvelous psalm:

Martyrdom (also, “Alas, And Did My Savior Bleed?”

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Spiritual Maturity: The Road to Wonderland – a book review

About the Book –

For decades, Chafer’s He That is Spiritual guided the Christian in spiritual growth, but it remains out of reach for many modern believers who struggle with the 1918 text or no longer have the general Bible knowledge that the book assumes.

Now, Spiritual Maturity: The Road to Wonderland brings those same critical lessons prefaced by quotes and illustrations from Lewis Carroll’s timeless tales. Interwoven throughout the text is Christine, a fictional character, whose life and questions mirror those of today’s reader.

We need to be sure we are walking in the direction and in the manner God would choose. And on any journey, a map-correctly understood-can be enormously helpful. Thankfully, God has provided us one. Designed for individual or classroom use.

bruce baker.jpg
About the Author –

Bruce Baker is Senior Pastor of Jenison Bible Church, Hudsonville, MI. Before he entered the ministry he served in the Navy for over 11 years. He then moved on to work at a Christian television station as an engineer. It was during this he felt the call of God to enter the ministry. He enrolled at Calvary Bible College graduating with a BS in Christian Ministries. He continued on to Calvary Theological Seminary, where he graduated with a Master’s of Divinity (Pastoral Studies) degree with highest honors. He is currently pursuing his PhD at Baptist Bible Seminary.

Before accepting the call to his current church, he was Senior Pastor of Open Door Bible Church in Belton, MO, and Adjunct Professor of Bible and Theology at Calvary Bible College.

Pastor Baker has no hobbies because his life is one pathetic cycle of trying to complete overdue projects while accepting new ones. He seldom sleeps. He has been acquitted of all charges for which he as ever been indicted.

He is the author of numerous journal and magazine articles, and a contributing author to the book Progressive Dispensationalism. Spiritual Maturity is his first full-length book. Pastor Baker and his wife, Bonnie, have been married 27 years and have three grown children. They are praying that their married children get a clue, get down to business and give them grandchildren before they die.

Sample from the book –

Of all my memories, though, it is the hours we spent in the car, with Dad as the pilot and me as the navigator, that I remember most. Before we left, Dad provided a quick education on how to read a map. I remember his instruction on the importance of knowing where we were, where we were going, and how we were going to get there. “If we keep our eye on those three things on the map,” Dad explained, “we won’t get lost.”

It felt very grown-up to be entrusted with such an important responsibility. As we clicked off the miles, I kept my finger on that maze of colored lines, solemnly announcing the next town we should see or how far it was to the next rest area.

It sounds so simple now, but knowing where we are, where we want to be, and how to get there is still essential for any journey. Yet, it is this basic information, particularly in the realm of a spiritual journey (a journey that seeks and requires spiritual truth), that sometimes seems the hardest to find. It is clear (or at least it should be to anyone who has even a casual understanding of the Bible) that God wants us to grow spiritually-but how is that accomplished? What is the goal? How do we determine how far along we are now? How do we know when we have arrived? This assumes, of course, that one can arrive (and by the way, what exactly does “arriving” mean?). Why is it that some people seem to intuitively understand God’s will when others of us seem to struggle so much?

This book isn’t intended to be our map. Only God’s inspired Word can fulfill that function. Instead, this book is meant to help us discover, by reading the map, where we are now, where God wants us to go, and how we get there.

My Review –

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I was reading this book and enjoying it a great deal. I’ve completed the book and did enjoy it, but there was a huge bump in the road of this journey (to use Baker’s own analogy) and I hit my head on the ceiling of the car so hard, it took a bit for the swelling to go down. More on that later.

Baker is seeking to help us read the “map” of God’s Word in order to get to the destination “Spiritual Maturity.” He readily admits that we’ll never arrive until God the Father sends Christ the Son to bring us to our final rest in His presence. However, on the way there, we need help and encouragement and this is what he seeks to offer.

He does so using three means: 1) a “story” of a Christian woman whose faith has been rocked hard, and thus starts her journey of recognition and realization that she was so spiritually immature at first and has great need to grow; 2) short excerpts from Lewis Carroll’s tale, Alice in Wonderland, by which Baker sets the stage for each chapter; and 3) each chapter which seeks to help us recognize where we are, where we need to go, and how to start taking the steps necessary to make the journey toward spiritual maturity.

The story, I think, adds some touch of realism to the direct teaching mode of the various chapters. Entitled, “Living in Canaan,” the author follows a portion of the life of Christine, a believer who learns that the path to maturity can be very harsh, very grueling, yet very rewarding also. Segments of this story occur over seven different places, each showing the progress and trials of the maturing process. I found this part of the book helpful, kind of like a mini-novel in the middle of a “technical book” on Christian living.

Using some of the old line art drawing templates and snippets from Carroll’s classic, Baker introduces each chapter and seeks to make us think about life as a follower of Christ. He does not attempt to spiritualize Alice and her adventures. Thank goodness for that. Yet each piece does help you realize where he might be headed with each chapter. For instance, there is the classic dialogue between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to walk from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where,” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you walk,” said the Cat.

From there, Baker’s chapter helps us understand that there is a destination in our Christian life, that there is direction and purpose. We don’t just wander through this world until we get to heaven. I enjoyed these little forays a great deal.

Overall, I found this book a good read, full of good reminders of things I’ve learned in the past and need prodding on once in a while in order to stay the course. I think just about any Christian, from relatively new believer to a more experienced Christian would find this helpful. I could recommend it to anyone from my congregation with only one proviso: skip chapters 5, 6 & 7, then be careful with chapters 8 & 9. Before and after this major section, you’ll be fine. Baker is right in introducing the “Jabberwock” here, but for reasons that I strongly disagreed with.

I should have seen it coming, when a partial description of the book informs me that Baker is seeking to put Lewis Sperry Chafer’s He That Is Spiritual on a lower, more accessible shelf for Christian’s, alarms should have gone off. Chafer, and hence, Baker, takes a passage from 1 Corinthians 2.14–3.3 and makes this the cornerstone of their understanding for spiritual maturity. That’s fine, except they introduce a teaching that, I’m convinced undermines the very process they hope to enhance: “the carnal Christian.” I’ll need to post more on this through the course of the next two weeks, but suffice it for now that this is a dangerous teaching. I believe it opens the “antinomian door” for far too many “professing, but unbelieving” people of faith. That is to say, it allows for a person to say, “Yes, I’m a Christian” and then never mature, never move off “Square One” and basically live an unconverted life, yet still enter heaven.

I realize Baker is seeking to loving and graciously “push” these “carnal” people toward greater maturity. And through the beginning and remainder of his book, he does a fine job of that. However, I disagree with this teaching so much, it did make the final portion of the book a far greater chore to read than I initially thought. I usually try to exercise discernment whenever I read, but this was a “cardio workout” like I haven’t had in a while.

Again, I’m favorable to this book. It could actually have been written without chapters 5-9 and still have been coherent and very helpful. If you’d like to purchase this book, you may do so through Grace Acres Press. Just make sure you put a binder around those middle chapters and then continue on.

This book was provided for review purposes by Grace Acres Press.

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Still Wandering… And Wondering on Wednesday

Justin Taylor (via Jeff Brewer via Vimeo via like who knows, ya know?) ran this today:

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

(Via .)

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Wednesday Wanderings

I’ve two pressing matters uppermost on my mind today. The first derives from a book I’m reading. I posted earlier that I was enjoying this book. Now, all of a sudden, I’m not enjoying it anywhere near as much. The problem? Carnal Christianity versus Spiritual Christianity.

The passage of Scripture usually cited regarding this dilemma is 1 Corinthians 2.14–3.4, more specifically, verse 1-3 of chapter 3.

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1Corinthians 2:15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 1Corinthians 2:16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

1Corinthians 3:1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 1Corinthians 3:2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 1Corinthians 3:3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 1Corinthians 3:4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?” (1 Corinthians 2:14–3:4 ESV)

The author of the book takes these verse to imply that there are three types of people: non-Christians, carnal Christians and spiritual Christians. Obviously, the non-Christians are the ones more accurately described in 2.14 – “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to undestand them because they are spiritually discerned.” This one is relatively easy: a person without the Spirit of God is an unbeliever. No debate here.

The problem arises in 3.1-3, where Paul speaks of those who are fleshly, or “of the flesh.” Clearly, they are believers. Paul addresses them as “brothers” and he never does this for non-believers. Yet his concern for these “believers” is that they are acting like babies, “infants in Christ.” They’re not ready for solid teaching, but still “drinking milk,” even thought by now they should be well past that (that’s the tone of his remarks in 3.2).
My question for Mr. Baker (who is very clearly a student of L. S. Chafer and his “He Who Is Spiritual” teaching is this: how long can one be considered a “carnal Christian”? Does he ever “grow up?” And what if he doesn’t? What if a “carnal Christian” dies in this state of “carnality?”

In order to preserve your attention on this matter and not get lengthy here, I’ll keep a running post on this matter. I’ll also be posting a review of the book, Spiritual Maturity early next week (most likely on Monday; that’s my book review day).

Let me return to my opening: I stated that I had two problems that were uppermost on my mind. The second is a more pragmatic matter – How does the leadership of a church motivate said church to pray together? On the one hand, I’m sure some would simply say, “Lay out the commands that we should pray. Let them feel and sense their disobedience.”

I could do that, but my elders and I knew we’d appear like Moses descending from Mt. Sinai, with tablets in hand and a new 11th commandment inscribed upon them, “Thou Shalt Pray Together or your prayers won’t count.” That might work for a few people and it might work for a short time, but it hardly creates genuine pray-ers with a heart’s passion for seeking God.

On the other hand, we could just let grace rule and hope for the best. However, the struggle I have with that approach is this: that’s where we’re at now and I don’t think it’s biblical or helpful.

So there must be another hand here somewhere. I’ll leave you with this quote and address this issue at another time very soon:

Francis Schaeffer once asked his wife:

“Edith, I wonder what would happen to most churches and Christian work if we awakened tomorrow, and everything concerning the reality and work of the Holy Spirit, and everything concerning prayer, were removed from the Bible. I don’t mean just ignored, but actually cut out—disappeared. I wonder how much difference it would make?” We concluded it would not make much difference in many board meetings, committee meetings, decisions and activities.

—Edith Schaeffer, The Tapestry: The Life and Times of Francis and Edith Schaeffer (Waco: Word, 1981), 356.

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Several Things On My Mind

There probably isn’t a Sunday that goes by where I don’t enter the pulpit to preach without some trepidation. Think about it: it’s not that I’m scared to speak in front of a crowd of people. It’s not that I have nothing to say. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; I do have something to say and it is from God.

No, I don’t claim ecstatic revelations and secret prophetic messages. I simply know that when I open up God’s Word and preach from it, it is God who is speaking and it is His Word that is being heard.

This means I take James 3.1 very seriously: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” Join that with 2 Corinthians 5.10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” and Hebrews 13.17 “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” and you’ll understand why I might experience a measure of “holy anxiety” when preparing to preach.

But I wonder if those who sit under preaching (not just mine, but any true proclamation of God’s Word) take their role as listeners as seriously? Do they enter into the sanctuary with any fear at all? Do they sense the gravity this situation calls for? How well do they prepare themselves before they come to listen to the preaching of God’s Word?

Tim Challies had a post a while back in which he listed three quotes from some good, ol’ Puritan preachers regarding how a person should listen to sermons. Here are the quotes:

Richard Baxter:
Remember that all these…sermons must be reviewed, and you must answer for all that you have heard, whether you heard it…with diligent attention or with carelessness; and the word which you hear shall judge you at the last day. Hear therefore as those that are going to judgment to give account of their hearing and obeying.

Thomas Watson:
You must give an account for every sermon you hear….The judge to whom we must give an account is God…how should we observe every word preached, remembering the account! Let all this make us shake off distraction and drowsiness in hearing, and have our ears chained to the word.

David Clarkson:
At the day of judgment, an account of every sermon will be required, and of every truth in each sermon….The books will be opened, all the sermons mentioned which you have heard, and a particular account required, why you imprisoned such a truth revealed, why you committed such a sin threatened, why neglected such duties enjoined….Oh what a fearful account!

I pray you’ll come well prepared on each Lord’s Day, prayed up for your pastor and prayed up for yourself.


Yet I don’t wish that any believer would read this and think, “I can’t do it. I can’t listen like that. I’ll never be prepared enough. How can I go on?” I’m not Moses, coming down off Sinai with the tablets in my arms, ready to club you over the head with Law. There is no “no more… or else” here. Read this, from Of First Importance:

“What is the curse of the law [Gal. 3:13]? It is the or-else-ness of the law: ‘Do this, or else.’ Christ took the or-else-ness of the law onto himself at the cross, so that there is no more or-else for anyone in Christ, as God looks upon us now. Or-else is gone forever from your relationship with God.”

– Ray Ortlund “Christ is Deeper Still” blog post Jan. 13, 2010

Rejoice that God is gracious to let us hear His Word proclaimed. Then prepare yourself well to hear it and receive it.

(HT: Of First Importance)

I’m really hoping this is a perspicuous post for I’d be very disappointed to learn otherwise. And, just in case you’re wondering, this word is apposite to the situation*

And finally, here’s why I believe preaching to be up such great importance (not necessarily mine, of course; although I pray that our congregation finds the preaching absolutely necessary to their lives):

* I wonder who got a Word-A-Day calendar this year?

Dug Down Deep – a book review

Dug Down Deep.jpgAbout the Book –

What will you build your life on?

With startling transparency, Joshua Harris shares how we can rediscover the relevance and power of Christian truth. This is book shows a young man who rose quickly to success in the Christian evangelical world before he realized his spirituality lacked a foundation—it rested more on tradition and morality than on an informed knowledge of God.

For the indifferent or spiritually numb, Harris’s humorous and engaging reflections on Christian beliefs show that orthodoxy isn’t just for scholars—it is for anyone who longs to know the living Jesus Christ. As Harris writes, “I’ve come to learn that theology matters. It matters not because we want to impress people, but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live. Theology matters because if we get it wrong then our whole life will be wrong.”

Whether you are just exploring Christianity or you are a veteran believer finding yourself overly familiar and cold-hearted, Dug Down Deep will help you rediscover the timeless truths of Scripture. As Harris challenges you to root your faith and feelings about God in the person, work, and words of Jesus, he answers questions such as:

What is God like and how does he speak to me?What difference does it make that Jesus was both human and divine?How does Jesus’s death on the cross pay for my sins?Who is the Holy Spirit and how does he work in my life?

With grace and wisdom, Harris will inspire you to revel in the truth that has captured his own mind and heart. He will ask you to dig deep into a faith so solid you can build your life on it. He will point you to something to believe in again.

About the Author – joshua harris.gif

Joshua Harris is senior pastor of Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which belongs to the Sovereign Grace network of local churches. A passionate speaker with a gift for making theological truth easy to understand, Joshua is perhaps best known for his runaway bestseller, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which he wrote at the age of twenty-one. His later books include Boy Meets Girl, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is), and Stop Dating the Church. The founder of the NEXT conferences for young adults, Joshua is committed to seeing the gospel transferred to a new generation of Christians. He and his wife, Shannon, have three children.

My Review –

It seems like I’m always just a bit too late with getting my ideas out into the real world. If I were going to write a book about theology, a book about the basic essentials of the Christian faith, a book that would be readable my anybody in my congregation – this would be that book. Josh Harris has taken the core beliefs of the faith and put them into a very readable form. I don’t believe he’s “dumbed down” these doctrines. Rather, he’s put them into the language of most of the people of my congregation.

Harris also does a very good job of incorporating these key doctrinal concepts into real life, something for which I am very thankful. When I first began my “trek” into discovering the doctrines of grace, I’m sure I made my theology seem very academic. I’m hoping that over the years, I’ve softened the seminary approach and developed a much more pastoral approach to helping people see that we “do” theology every day of our lives. This is what Josh Harris has done in this book. He takes you along with him as he reminisces about this same process of discovery. Having served as a pastor for several years now, he too has learned that pastoral aspect of making sure what you preach moves into the realm of real living. I especially enjoyed the chapters, “Ripping, Burning and Eating” (a chapter all about the doctrine of Scripture) and “God With A Bellybutton” (solid, plain teaching on the reality of the incarnation).

Out of this entire book, I think the final chapter, “Humble Orthodoxy,” defines what Harris is doing here. He could have written (or been aided by another author) a book that lays out the doctrines of grace from a Calvinistic point of view, thumbed his nose at everyone and said, “There, this is the truth. Take it or leave it.” But that’s not Harris (at least, as I know him through all I’ve read of him and from him). I think Jesus would be pleased with this effort – Josh has captured the truth, presented it well, done it all the while conveying a sense of love that he wants you to experience as you follow Christ, and he’s done it humbly. Well done, Pastor Harris. Well done.

This book may be purchased online at:

Waterbrook Multnomah

or, their parent company,

Random House

This book was provided for review by Waterbrook Multnomah.

Apparent and real importance

Apparent and real importance « Of First Importance: “Real importance is one thing, apparent importance another. The events which move the world are not always those which men think most noteworthy. The men who most deeply influence their fellows are not those of whom everybody is talking. The currents of thought and feeling which will shape the future are not those which are welcomed by the organs and interpreters of current opinion.

When Christ appeared, the palace of the Caesar seemed to be more likely to govern the destinies of mankind than the manger of Bethlehem. No, brethren, depend on it, the apparent is not always, or even generally, the real.”

—H. P. Liddon, Christmastide at St. Paul’s (London, 1889), 101-102.”

(Via Of First Importance.)

Watching the headlines the past few days has certainly proven this. I’m going to post five of the leading headlines over at Yahoo! News and you tell me which is of real importance and which might only be apparent:

1. First Lady Gets a New “Do”

2. What Clothes to Keep

3. Conan & Leno’s Late Night Wars Heat Up

4. Credit Card Companies Taking Big Cut Through Haiti Donations

5. Haiti Earthquake Woes

Yahoo, if you’re not familiar with it, gives a list of some of the top stories in the news in an encapsulated form. These are five of the top 23.

Yesterday, I was directed over to The Big Picture once again for the second day’s photos from Haiti. Even with the pictures, it is difficult to get the mind to grasp the nearly complete devastation of such a vast area. There is much that can be done. There are many very worthy agencies to which you can use to send donations (Samaritan’s Purse, the EFCA, Sovereign Grace Ministries, the list goes on and on). The EFCA had a church plant near Port-au-Prince, but no word has been received from Absolan Joseph, the church planter there.

May God have mercy.