This Spring 2016 I hope to be at Together for the Gospel. That is, I hope to be worshiping and being equipped with my Presbyterian, Anglican, Bible church, and Baptist brothers and sisters in Christ (among others). I am glad that we can rejoice in and come together for the gospel that is of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). But just because a matter is of secondary importance, does not relegate it to the status of unimportance. Such is church polity. And I confess that I have often ignored and dismissed church governance as being unimportant (and maybe even unspiritual!). Thankfully, Bobby Jamieson’s Why New Testament Polity is Prescriptive gives a helpful corrective to such anti-authoritarian and post-modern thought by bringing us back to the Bible.
In general, I think Tim Keller is pretty good. I think he is great at engaging with skeptics and seekers, but I don’t agree entirely with his philosophy of ministry. I like Dever’s The Church more than Keller’s Center Church. He’s good, but I don’t think he is great. That is, until I read his recent work Prayer! I confess that this is one of the best books…that I have ever read. Yup. I was probably just as stunned by this admission as you are now! As I review my notes I am hard-pressed to choose what to highlight and what to leave aside.
Because I have already ready a Mueller biography, I was not expecting to learn much more by Piper’s efforts. And in some sense, much of what Piper expounded was review for me. Mueller was a great man of prayer, he was ultimately concerned with God’s glory as seen in His provision, and the Lord graciously blessed Mueller’s labors. But! I was surprised to see how Christian hedonism seemed so apparent in Mueller’s life. Of course, that is not how he would have put it. But Piper has a knack for finding these things.
If one’s philosophy is ministry is like a building, then you might consider Mark Dever’s previous work The Church to be the foundation and The Deliberate Church to be the framing, drywall and plaster, with even some tips on painting and decor. Poor illustrations aside, this book is by far the most practical that I have read in the 9Marks series on healthy churches. And if there was any one 9Marks book to give to a pastor, it would be this one.
Broadly put, the Church is the invisible body of elect Christians that have ever existed. And while the universal Church may be relatively easy to define, it starts to get a bit more tricky when one attempts to define the local church. Nevertheless since the Jerusalem Church in Acts 2 to the mega-church of the late twentieth century, I believe the Bible presents a standard pattern: a local church is a group of Christians that regularly gather together for the right preaching of God’s word and the right administration of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This definition begs for explanation and what follows is such an unpacking.
It must be noted that a true Christian local church is composed of Christians.
Ryle is concerned with the spiritual state of the universal Church. That is plainly evident from this tract on prayer. And Ryle’s concern is primarily directed at a perceived (private) prayerlessness among most church members and Christians. Of course, private prayer is a hard thing to measure, but I think Ryle’s accurate rebuke is just as fitting today as it was a century ago.
Today I made a new friend in Panera Bread and over his lunch break we had an extended conversation on the nature of God, theology, and religion. Nicknamed RC, and from Western Europe, he had some pretty interesting beliefs.
In a few weeks my wife and I expecting our first child. Lord willing, we’ll be having a baby girl about 14 months after we first got married. As we were reflecting on what has happened in the last year or so, my wife and I marveled at ‘how much better’ we know each other now. It feels like we must have been strangers when we married! Let alone when we got engaged. Or started dating.
Its hard to find news that isn’t new. Of course, you can be late to the party and hear second (or third) hand. But to find news that isn’t new? By definition, the news—in all its contemporary forms and features—declares something that has recently happened. Something new has occurred. Life used to exist in reality A, but now life exists in reality B. Rarely will you find a CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News article stating “Everything is the exact same”. And even when polls come out, describing today’s situation as the same as last year’s situation, that is still ‘new’ news. It is news that a certain occasion has persevered for another year.