Tag: John MacArthur

Tolle Lege and Spectare, too

Anyone else find themselves with extra time on their hands?  In my last post I put up a Bible reading and memorization calendar for the month of April.  Click April 2020 Printable for a link to the printable version. It’s never too late to come to the table and feast on the Living Word.  Already filling up on Scripture and have even more time to spare?  I not only have some suggestions to “take up and read” but some “sit down and watch” ones as well.

The first book was highly recommended by John MacArthur at the G3 Conference I attended back in January when such goings-on were still perfectly normal and legal. “Delighting In The Trinity” by Michael Reeves is perfectly suited to it’s title.  I had never thought of the doctrine of the Trinity as something to be delighted in.  Mainly it just seemed vague and confusing. This book truly is a must read for every Christian and anyone else seeking to educate themselves about this foundational element of our faith.

I happened to be reading this book by my Dad’s bedside the week before he died (you can read more about that by clicking here). One of the things he kept saying while he was “journeying” (the Hospice term for the time of transition between life and death) was “Wow!” It’s like he was getting glimpses of the glories to come. I found my own heart echoing my Dad’s rapturous exclamations with each turn of the page.  Wow! “Since God is, before all things, a Father, and not primarily Creator or Ruler, all his ways are beautifully fatherly (23).”  Wow! “Because the Father’s love for the Son has burst out to be shared with us, the Son’s inheritance is also (extraordinarily!) shared with us (50).”  Wow! “While the Son establishes and upholds all things (Heb. 1:3), the Spirit perfects or completes the work of creation…the Spirit garnishes and beautifies the heavens and the earth… And so, while the Nicene Creed speaks of the Father as the ‘Maker of heaven and earth,’ it speaks of the Spirit as ‘the Lord and giver of life’ (51).”

Maybe this crazy time of social isolation is the perfect time to understand the relational aspect of God’s character. He is a God all-together “together.” And moreover, we were created to be in fellowship with that perfect Triune fellowship of the One True God, the Great I AM.  Any loneliness you might be feeling during this pandemic will vanish as you get to know God better through this book. As the introduction states,

“To know and grow to enjoy him is what we are saved for–and that is what we are going to press into here.  Nonetheless, getting to know God better does actually make for far more profound and practical change as well.  Knowing the love of God is the very thing that makes us loving.  Sense the desirability of God alters our preferences and inclinations, the things that drive our behavior: we begin to want God more than anything else.  Thus, to read this book is not to play an intellectual game. In fact, we will see that the triune nature of this God affects everything… (10)”

The second book was brought home by my husband from The Shepherds Conference right before the world shut down.  “Gentle and Lowly” by Dane Ortlund zeroes in on the second Person of the Trinity and His heart for “sinners and sufferers.” I haven’t finished reading this one yet but I’m recommending it anyway because I like it so much already and because I think it is such a timely read. Consider this description from the introduction:

“This book is written for the discouraged, the frustrated, the weary, the disenchanted, the cynical, the empty.  Those running on fumes.  Those whose Christian lives feel like constantly running up a descending escalator.  Those of us who find ourselves thinking: “How could I mess up that bad–again?”  It is for that increasing suspicion that God’s patience with us is wearing thin.  For those of us who know God loves us but suspect we have deeply disappointed him.  Who have told others of the love of Christ yet wonder if–as for us–he harbors mild resentment.  Who wonder if we have shipwrecked our lives beyond what can be repaired.  Who are convinced we’ve permanently diminished our usefulness to the Lord.  Who have been swept off our feet by perplexing pain and are wondering how we can keep living under such numbing darkness.  Who look at our lives and know how to interpret the data only by concluding that God is fundamentally parsimonious.  It is written, in other words, for normal Christians (13).”

But here’s the clincher, “Gentle And Lowly” totally builds right off of “Delighting In The Trinity.” It addresses key questions like “How does the heart of Christ relate to the doctrine of the Trinity–does Christ relate to us differently than the Father or the Spirit relates to us?…How does his heart related to his wrath? Yet again, how does Christ’s heart fit with what we find in the Old Testament and its portrait of God (14)?”

The book takes its title from the one passage in all four gospels where Jesus gives us a description of His own heart–Matthew 11:28:30, which reads, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (18).” Ortlund builds heavily on this description, but with the following important qualifier:  “This is not who he is to everyone, indiscriminately. This is who he is for those who come to him, who take his yoke upon them, who cry out to him for help.  The paragraph before these words from Jesus gives us a picture of how Jesus handles the impenitent: ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!… I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Matt. 11:21.24). ‘Gentle and lowly’ does not mean ‘mushy and frothy.”

Go get on Amazon and buy these books. And I’m not even getting paid to say that.              I should be getting paid to say that.

And while you’re over at Amazon, might as well check out these watch recommendations:

  1. Tomorrow is April 9, the 75th anniversary of the execution of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by the Nazis.  My first recommendation would be to read his “Letters and Papers From Prison.” But if you happen to have Prime Video check out “Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace.”
  2. While we’re on the theme of martyrdom, my boys all gave two thumbs up to “Poycarp.”  This film was really well done and gave a beautiful portrayal of life in the early church, highlighting the faith of not just everyday Christians of the time but of such well known heroes of the faith like Justin Martyr and the Apostle John’s disciple, Polycarp.
  3. Another biographical film we enjoyed was “Charles Spurgeon: the People’s Preacher.”  Again, I always recommend books first, but this is a great introduction into this unparalleled pastor’s life for members of the family who aren’t quite ready for his “Complete Sermons.”
  4.  Now, hands down the absolute most thumbs up goes to “The Riot and the Dance.” Prime Video only has the first one up for free but we can’t wait to see the sequel to this stellar nature documentary from a creationist’s perspective. It is truly stunning.
  5. Finally, here’s one (actually two, wait.  three) just for mature teens and adults. I recommend “American Gospel: Christ Alone” and its sequel, “American Gospel: Christ Crucified” to every one but kids. The only reason I don’t recommend this series for children is not because of content but because of format. Because the interviews switch so quickly between false teachers and theological sound teaching, its really hard for a younger person to distinguish between “the good guys and bad guys” and they could walk away really confused about what is the truth. Those are the only two films on my whole list that you have to rent ($2.99 and $4.99 respectively). The rest are free, including my final recommendation, again, for mature teens and adults only and that is “Babies Are Still Murdered Here.”  Just watch it.  That’s all I’m gonna say.

Well, that oughta keep y’all busy for a while.

 

Screen Time and Sound Waves: Utilizing Technology During Quarantine and ALL the Links You Could Ever Want

I’m almost embarrassed to say how little this “shelter-in-place” mandate has altered our lifestyle. Other than not going down the mountain every one or two weeks for church, music lessons, shopping and appointments, the only real change has been the increased screen time. Church, lessons and shopping are now all on-line. Plus we’ve been taking advantage of some of the great on-line learning resources that have now been made temporarily available for free.  We just started The Great American Story course through Hillsdale College. Next will be the World War II course taught by Victor Davis Hanson. How cool to have my own kids able to learn from one of the same instructors that I sat under while studying philosophy at Fresno State! Downside is that it’s more screen time.

Ditto for Ligonier Ministries who has just made all their on-line resources available for free through June, including their interactive group Bible studies! We’re talking about a monumental amount of sound Biblical teaching now just a click away. For example, you can take Elisabeth Elliot’s video course “Suffering Is Not for Nothing” with over 1000 other participants and invite a bunch of friends to be apart of your on-line study group. Downside is that its more screen time.

Not all of Ligonier’s resources require a screen. One of my favorite freebies is their internet radio app called RefNet.  We discovered this audio resource when Tom’s Mom was sick with cancer. We even added it to her Alexa so all she had to do was say “Alexa, play RefNet” and a 24/7 line up of her favorite teachers–Piper, MacArthur, Sproul, Nancy Guthrie, and dozens of others–would play at her command. The messages are interspersed with quality traditional Christian music, Bible readings, devotional readings, and even news breaks from a Christian perspective. At a time when our elderly are now even more isolated than ever, this could be a life changing gift for someone you know.  They even play the Lamplighter Theatre’s audio series in the evenings for the kiddos. My younger boys love these action packed stories and I love that they don’t need a screen to enjoy it. Last night we blasted “Escape From the Eagle’s Nest” from the front porch while they sledded and built a line of snowmen down the middle of the road (fewer than 10 and they were all at least 6 feet apart, of course).

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I’m a serious podcast junky and being home 24/7 has only fed that appetite. Growing up  in a house without TV meant the height of electronic entertainment was listening to Family Radio. The voices of J. Vernon McGee and Charles Swindoll were as familiar to me as the sound of the furnace clicking on in the morning or the crunch of the gravel as my Dad’s car pulled into the driveway every evening. I love it that my boys already know by name the voices of Steve Lawson, Doug Wilson, Paul Washer, James White, Alistair Begg, the Apologia guys, the Cultish guys, the G3 guys, the Just Thinking guys, and even the gals from Sheologians, What Have You, Relatable and my favorite Mama Bear apologist, Alisa Childers.

But even the voices of the best teachers can become a distraction and like Saul, we need some music to soothe the soul. I used to be a hymns and classical-only kind of gal so Bach was my go-to method of relaxation. The whole world of classical music is available for streaming on-line. Now I get the even greater privilege of hearing Joel practicing my favorite hymns on the piano, or Nathan doing the same on his violin or cello, or Titus rearranging some Bach for his mandolin. But Titus has also broadened my musical horizons with other genres and now I’m enjoying listening to him play things like “Take Me Home West Virginia” or “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” or even his original “A Blues 65” on his Youtube channel. If you all aren’t subscribed to it yet, you should be.

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The boys have also figured out other ways to utilize the airwaves during this time of social distancing. A while back I bought a cheapo 4-pack of walky-talkies which they managed to rig discarded radio antennae onto. From the top of our ridge they’ve been in communication with their good friends who live in another town about 30 miles away. These friends also own a weekend cabin up here so they’re sheltering in place less than 1/2 mile away but no one can get together. So out come the walky-talkies. They’ve even been playing games over them by drawing out each-others’ moves. Radio Jenga anyone?

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With all these sounds and lit-up screens around me, I’m left wondering what a pandemic would have looked like before the age of wifi.  For us that was just last summer.  Until then our only option up here was very costly satellite internet. We had to walk down the road to a friend’s house to catch a signal or to the camp office to plug in. Then Tom signed up to get his Mdiv through the distance learning program at Master’s Seminary. That’s when we realized just how much of a pain it was going to be to get all his work done at the office and just how impossibly expensive it would be to pay for satellite ourselves. So we prayed about it. We prayed that if seminary was really God’s will for Tom that He would provide the way to get it done. THE NEXT DAY Kingsburg Media Foundation was at the camp, scouting it out to see if we were a possible candidate for their reduced-cost internet services.  What a timely provision!  And even more so when I think of how difficult it would have been to shelter-in-place without being able to access our church service live-stream, shopping, classes, music lessons, and more on-line.

I guess there’s never really a good time for a pandemic but it amazes me how the advent internet has changed the face of this one.

 

 

 

 

Tolle Lege: “Growing In Holiness” and “Sanctification”

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I was super excited to get a copy of “Growing in Holiness” by the late R.C. Sproul and saved it as my flight read to the recent G3Conference in Atlanta.  Not only was I expecting it to be the perfect appetizer to all the teaching on worship I was about to receive but I fully expected it to fill in the lonely airport hours like an old friend would. Yes, the subject of holiness is EXACTLY where my heart needed to be planted in preparation for that conference. But no, I never found that friendly, familiar voice within those pages.  “Growing in Holiness” might well be taken from Sproul’s lectures on the same subject, and the information is well organized, easily digestible, and theologically sound, but it wasn’t Sproul doing the telling.  If you, like me, were impacted for life by “The Holiness of God” do not expect the same kind of force from “Growing in Holiness.” It’s good, but it’s not the knock-you-off-your-feet-never-view-God-in-the-same-way-again-buy-a-copy-for-every-one-you-know kind of good that “The Holiness of God” was.  Therefore, I was disappointed.

Interestingly, another book just came out by Sproul’s good friend, John MacArthur on holiness’ twin subject.  “Sanctification” packs a powerful 64 page punch.  The tone is very pastoral, recognizing first “The Good Shepherd’s” goal for His flock. This was the perfect place to start for me.  For some reason, hearing the “why” of our sanctification made me desire that which Christ desires for me more than I ever had before.  MacArthur then turns his attention to pastors, including the apostles own interactions with the the early church. Wo to pastors who don’t have the same goal for the flock as our Good Shepherd!

Because MacArthur’s book is so short and really lays the ground work for Sproul’s, I recommend reading “Sanctification” first, then fleshing out the practical details with “Growing in Holiness.”  Together, you have a well-rounded read on a subject that is far too neglected by evangelicals today.

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