David Helm – Why Good Works Are Crucial for the Christian Life

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Living As Worthy Citizens

What is required of us to live in this world as citizens worthy of all the wonders and relationships belonging to the next?

The Apostle Peter gives us his answer in two simple words in 1 Peter 2: abstain (v. 11) and keep (v. 12).

Abstain from the Passions of the Flesh

Peter’s first admonition comes in verse 11: “Beloved . . . abstain from the passions of the flesh.” To live in this world as citizens worthy of all the wonders and relationships belonging to the next, we must refrain from acting upon the impulses and desires of the flesh.

To understand what Peter has in mind when he exhorts us to “abstain from the passions of the flesh” we must reach all the way back to what he wrote in 1:14:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.

Peter then went on to define what those passions were. He listed them as “malice,” “deceit,” “hypocrisy,” “envy,” and “slander” (2:1). These are the things a person in Christ puts away. These are the vices from which we abstain. They are the attitudes, actions, and way of life in which we once walked. They speak of the season when we were tethered to this world without God’s indwelling power to resist.

To put it simply, if Peter was alive and preaching today, each of us would sense the angst in his appeal and the emotion in his voice. We must abstain from the malicious desires of our mind that would feast on others as carcasses to be devoured, and we must renounce our tongue when it brings forth the dead wood of slander (2:1).

Further, we must learn to cover ourselves when tempted to go nakedly into the presence of the illusion that physical pleasure is the end of all things. To “abstain from the passions of the flesh” requires us to live with a renewed mind, a disciplined tongue, and a controlled body.

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Book Review – Christ or Chaos

Christ or Chaos

Fundamentally, all worldviews are based on a set of assumptions. When it comes to atheism and its backbone theory of evolution as compared to Christianity and its backbone of a belief in the truth of Scripture, those aforementioned assumptions are vital in assessing the validity of the claims made by each position. In his book Christ or Chaos, Dan DeWitt presents a conversation taking place between two fictional yet true to life individuals, an individual named Thomas one who affirms a belief in Scripture but is finding his faith challenged by his friend Zach who once affirmed a belief in God but is increasingly moving towards an atheistic worldview. This conversation serves as the springboard by which DeWitt examines which position deals best with the realities of life.

Despite its relatively short nature, this book packs a giant punch in the information department. I have read a number of books, many of great length that address issues such as origins, the problem of evil, and how we address issues of morality. While many of those books were quite scholarly in nature and did an admirable job of dealing with the issues, I found DeWitt’s effort to be just as impactful. He does not spend a lot of time beating around the proverbial bush as he discusses how atheism and Christianity deal with matters of life.

The chapter in particular stood out to me was DeWitt’s discussion of the problem of evil. The problem of evil is an especially thorny topic and DeWitt readily admits he does not have the silver bullet answer to dispel all arguments against the theistic worldview. His focus is simply to note that subsumed within the biblical perspective on evil is the entire construct of how things were in the beginning, what went wrong, and arguably the most important element, the solution to the problem of evil. DeWitt aptly notes that all the naturalistic perspective can provide is that chance is all there is and at some point, death will come and it will all be over. This is not exactly a comforting perspective. He saliently declares “the Christian narrative is big enough to fit in the problem of evil. The atheistic story, guided by chance, will forever be incapable of doing so.”

Furthermore, when it comes to how we approach evil, if chance is all there is to offer as a “solution”, then it is somewhat disingenuous to describe for instance the actions of terrorists as evil. What is evil and how is it defined within the naturalistic construct? The resounding silence to such a question is rather telling. The biblical worldview understands that sin is the cause of evil, specifically man’s penchant to disobey God’s commands to love Him and others which results in man’s inhumanity to man. We understand the reality of suffering, knowing that God has declared there will one day be an end to this madness. This provides hope in the midst of chaos. As DeWitt rightly avers, all naturalism has to offer is chaos with no semblance of hope for its adherents.

Christ or Chaos. It really is a simplistic profundity to suggest there are only two viable options. DeWitt does a marvelous job of laying out the landscape and engaging the relevant questions. If I were Thomas and were able to get my hands on this book, I know I would be very well prepared to discuss with my friend Zach that Christ is the only answer. Thus, I highly recommend this book for all believers as we all have a friend or someone we will run into in life who is like Zach.

This book is available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Crossway Books and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Kevin DeYoung – Desiring Knowledge and Maturity

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All else being equal, I’d rather have a mature Christian with simple theological knowledge than an extremely knowledgeable, well-read Christian without a lot of maturity. But, of course, neither situation is desirable. Let me explain.

A Tale of Two Corners

In this corner, we see Mr. Bookworm. He’s not quite thirty years old. He’s very intelligent. He’s read Calvin, Edwards, Luther, and Bavinck. He knows Warfield and Hodge, Piper and Carson, too. Since coming to the Lord in college, Mr. Bookworm has been on fire for learning. He listens to a dozen sermons each week on his iPod. He has a better grasp of current theological debates than most pastors. He loves Christian conferences—the good, meaty ones. Mr. Bookworm knows all about hermeneutics, propitiation, covenant theology, the regulative principle, and the ordo salutis. He’s even teaching himself a little Greek. Hebrew and Latin are around the corner, and then Ugaritic, if he’s got time.

Mr. Bookworm is smart, serious about his faith, and wants to serve the Lord. But he’s twentysomething and not all that mature. In terms of knowledge, he’s playing in the Major Leagues, but as far as wisdom he’s batting below .200 in Class-A ball. He does’t have gross sins, just some annoying ones. On the truth-grace scale, he’s all truth. He’s obnoxious, bordering on abrasive. He lacks all sense of proportion. He can’t see that a debate over presuppositional and evidentialist apologetics is not as serious as Athanasius versus Arianism. Everything is a first-order issue because there are no other kinds of issues.

To make matters worse, Mr. Bookworm talks too much. He sees every conversation as a forensics match waiting to happen. He’s opinionated. He doesn’t ask questions. People are scared of him and he doesn’t know why. Except for those in complete agreement with him, Mr. Bookworm doesn’t have many friends. He’s not trying to be rude or arrogant. In fact, when push comes to shove, he can be a winsome fellow. The problem is he has all this knowledge and doesn’t know how to use it wisely or winsomely.

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Michael Boling – Thoughts from The Theocratic Kingdom: Proposition 49

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In Proposition 49, George Peters states:

“The covenants being in Revelation, the foundation of the Kingdom, must first be received and appreciated.”

Now by the word “Revelation”, Peters is not referring to the Revelation of John found at the conclusion of Scripture. Conversely, Peters is noting that the covenants are found in the revealed Word of God and thus are a foundational element for understanding, receiving, and appreciated the doctrine of the Kingdom. He spends some time discussing the Abrahamic Covenant, the Sinaitic (or Mosaic) Covenant, and the Davidic Covenant, providing observations for each.

The most notable observation Peters presents in Proposition 49 is the following:

“The Sinaitic Covenant is an outgrowth of the Abrahamic covenant , and embraces an offer to the Jews nationally of a complete verification of the blessings tendered under the original promises. This procedure of erecting a Theocracy indicates that it was contemplated in teh covenant with Abraham, as preparatory to the future realization of the promises. Its provisionary and initiatory character has already (Prop. 25) been noticed, while its conditional nature (Prop. 26) is evident from the blessings and curses pronounced by Moses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and also by the language of Paul in Hebrews, who, among other things illustrative of this, refers to God as saying: “Because they continued not in my covenant and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.” This covenant, as the result shows, was designed both to test the nation and to separate a seed to whom, at some future time, the Kingdom could be safely entrusted. It was the inauguration of means by which a suitable preparation could be made for the ultimate fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. While it was the bond under the Kingdom of God, as an earnest, was bestowed, it embraced many things which were only temporary and provisionary, looking forward to a period when the contained and the contemplated blessings in the former covenant could be realized in the spirit and manner indicated. So that, in the very nature of the case, the Mosaic covenant being also a legitimate, but yet inferior, resultant of the previous covenant, it must itself, when the original covenant is to be fully fulfilled, give place to its superior. How it does this will appear, e.g. in our next Proposition.”

Peters aptly defines the Sinaitic Covenant as “an outgrowth of the Abrahamic Covenant, and embraces an offer to the Jews nationally of a complete verification of the blessings tendered under the original promises. This procedure of erecting a Theocracy indicates that it was contemplated in the covenant with Abraham, as preparatory to the future realization of the promises.” While I do not wish to get into a discussion in this type of a post as to the relevance of aspects or the entirety of the Mosaic covenant, let’s just say there are many who believe it to be completely annulled based on a false premise of God’s law being replaced by grace. Peters rightly notes that while the Mosaic covenant is a temporary construct, its temporary nature is based on the fact it established guidelines that extend from the former covenant, namely the Abrahamic covenant. When the Abrahamic covenant comes to its full realization, all the nations of the earth will indeed be blessed. Of course the blessing is rooted in the work of the Messiah and his atonement for our sin. With that said, another aspect of the promised blessing to Abraham made by God in that covenant was the blessing of the Theocratic Kingdom when the Messiah returns. The provisions of the Mosaic covenant help us as God’s people understand how to be obedient as we look forward to that day when sin is no more and the law of God is written forever and completely on our hearts. I am sure Peters will elaborate more on the full aspects of how this fulfillment will come about.

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Donald Whitney – Husbands, It’s Time to Start Leading Family Worship

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8 Reasons to Start

The worthiness of God to receive your family’s worship each day is reason enough to start practicing family worship today. But in addition to that, consider these other good motivations:

1. What better way to speak the gospel into your children’s lives every day?
2. What better way to provide a regular time for your children to learn the things of God from you?
3. What better way to provide your children with an ongoing opportunity to ask about the things of God in a comfortable context?
4. What better way for you to transmit your core beliefs to your children?
5. What better way for your children to see the ongoing, positive spiritual example of their parents in real life?
6. What better way to provide workable, reproducible examples to your children of how to have a distinctively Christian home when they start a home of their own?
7. What better way for getting your family together on a daily basis?
8. Isn’t this what you really want to do?

Why Do We Struggle?

Despite the desire that many men have to begin family worship, some simply lack the resolve. In his Thoughts on Family Worship, J. W. Alexander answers eight common objections to starting family worship, but then says that a “single reason operates with more force than all the others put together.” It is when a man says—most likely only to himself—“The truth is, I am ashamed to begin.” [1]

This happens when a man awakens to his spiritual responsibilities in the home, but because he has failed to lead family worship for so long he feels embarrassed to begin now. Or he fears the sneer of some member of his family when he says he wants to begin daily family worship. Or he is afraid that he is not capable of leading in family worship. Or he is ashamed because, even though he has tried something like this before, he did not stick with it. For some men their reluctance may be nothing more than the embarrassment of not knowing what to say to their wives and children to get family worship started.

Men, all you have to say is something like this: “I have come to believe that the Bible teaches I should be leading us in family worship, and I want to start today. I have a lot to learn about it, but I want to do what I believe God wants me to do. Will you join me?”

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Book Review – Family Worship

Family Worship

As a father and a husband, I recognize both the need to lead my family in the things of God as well as the daily grind that demands so much of my attention and that of my wife and daughter. The command is quite clear in Scripture – husbands and fathers are to instruct their family about the things of God. This command is repeated throughout Scripture so there really is no excuse for being unaware of this requirement from God. But my oh my how things of life get in the way of doing what is aptly termed as family worship. How does one do family worship and is it really that important?

In his helpful book titled Family Worship, Donald Whitney answers those important questions, clearly demonstrating the importance of family worship as outlined in Scripture while providing biblical and historical examples of godly men who obeyed this important command. As noted, the Bible is full of examples of men who led their family in discussing and pondering the things of God. One might not find the exact phrase “family worship” in Scripture; however, as Whitney saliently reminds the reader, “the Bible clearly implies that God deserves to be worshiped daily in our homes by our families.” We see men like Abraham and Joseph as well as Paul and Peter doing this very thing and exhorting others to follow suit. In church history, men such as Martin Luther and John Knox and more recent individuals such as Don Carson and John Piper have noted the value and importance of family worship.

So how does one go about doing family worship? Is there some secret formula? Whitney suggests three important activities – read, pray, and sing. In other words, read the Bible together in a purposeful manner, pray together either with the father leading the prayer time or having others take turns leading or joining in, and finally, singing praises to God be it classic hymns or even more modern day choices. The point is to be purposeful and consistent in this activity. Whitney suggests defining a specific time of day during which family worship will take place. This will look different for families depending on their schedules. Regardless whether it is in the morning, noon, or evening, find a time and a place where all can gather and go for it.

Whitney also addresses some unique situations that may arise such as the husband not being a believer or the unfortunate reality of no father/husband being in the home. In such cases, the wife/mother can lead the charge. Families with young children should not feel they are off the hook from doing family worship. Whitney aptly suggests some ways to do family worship that is age appropriate. I appreciated his statement that starting at a young age will often result in the child “believing that family worship is a normal part of life in the home, and as an adult won’t need a book like this one to teach him or her about the priority of family worship or how to conduct it.” It will be a natural and habitual part of life.

If you have neglected doing family worship, now is the perfect time to start. Don’t delay another day. Use this helpful book by Whitney to help you get started. Be encouraged that great men of God who have come before you have spent the time doing family worship. Don’t be discouraged should you miss a few days. As a husband and a father, I realize the importance of this family activity in my own home and Whitney’s book was just the kick start I needed to reinstitute this practice.

This book is available for purchase from Crossway Books by clicking here.

I received this book for free from Crossway Books and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Derek Thomas – Finding God in the Darkness

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Four times in Genesis 39 we read that God was with Joseph (39:2-3, 21, 23). The statements form a set of pillars at either end of the story of Joseph’s initial experience of Egypt. On the one end, they come at the beginning of the story after Joseph has been sold by the Ishmaelites to Potiphar, the pharaoh’s “captain of the guard” (39:1). The point of the description is to show to us that God’s presence “prospered” Joseph (39:2). He was a “successful man” (39:2) because “the Lord was with him” (39:3). William Tyndale translated it, “the Lord was with Joseph and he was a lucky fellow!” The point is that the presence of God in the life of Joseph prospered him. He was put in charge of Potiphar’s entire house entrusting everything that he had to Joseph. God was there, in the good times. True, he was a slave, but life was good.

It is relatively easy to reason that when things are going well that this represents blessings of God. Most of us fall into it by default: things are going well and we thank God for “every good and perfect gift that comes from above.” We count our blessings and name them one by one. In the abundance of provision and security of a life where things are going well for us, it is reasonable to conclude that God is in the midst of all of this.

But Moses, in writing the account of Joseph, has a more profound theology than this. As the story develops, things suddenly, and without warning, turn bad. Joseph finds himself the victim of a false accusation of sexual assault—rape, if you will. It is a nightmare scenario where we are told unequivocally that he is utterly innocent. But accuse someone of rape, and some are bound to believe it no matter how loud the protest. Joseph has no recourse to law. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” wrote William Congreve in The Mourning Bride (1697), and Potiphar’s wife, a jilted woman to be sure, cries foul, and, understandably, the husband has only one course of action at his disposal: Joseph is imprisoned. The fact he was put in the “King’s prison” (39:20), certainly not the worst Egyptian penitentiary, probably indicates that Potiphar may well have doubted his wife’s integrity.

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Tim Challies – Before the Birds and the Bees

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Somebody thinks I ought to begin my day with porn. On Sunday I opened my inbox early in the day and found an image of a naked woman waiting for me there — not exactly how I wanted to begin my Lord’s Day. It was in an email that looked perfectly fine, but when I clicked on it, well, there she was. A millisecond later the email was in the spam folder and that was that. A very similar email was in my inbox on Monday and again the day after, though these times I clicked the spam button without opening them. There was nothing today, so I assume the spam filter has now begun to do its job. But, sadly, this is not unusual on the Internet. With all the benefits that come through it, we also face certain unwanted drawbacks.

A few years ago, I wrote a book on technology and since then have traveled around the world to speak on the subject. I’ve spoken personally with hundreds of people and have heard from many more through email and social media. The stories I hear are chilling. I can’t tell how many times I’ve heard of porn addictions, or at least porn struggles, that began with an email just like the one I received. It wasn’t that people were out looking for bad stuff, but that the bad stuff came looking for them. Once they saw it they became intrigued by it and once they became intrigued they found themselves captivated. I have heard of young children — very young children — who developed interests in dark things from dark places all because of something they stumbled upon when they were online. The sad fact is, as we use the Internet we will, at times, be faced with such things. So, too, will our children.

As parents, we know the importance of having the infamous birds and bees talk with our children. This is, and has always been, a parent’s responsibility. Today, before it’s time for the birds and bees talk, it’s time for the tech talk. As soon as our children begin to go online, we need to open an ongoing conversation about the dangers they may experience there, and to instruct them on how to react when they encounter those dangers.

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Book Review – The 30-Day Faith Detox: Renew Your Mind, Cleanse Your Body, Heal Your Spirit

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Let’s face it. We all want to lose weight unless of course you were born with six pack abs and burn every calorie you take in on a daily basis. One thing is also certain. There are a plethora and I mean plethora of dieting fads, self-help books, infomercials with celebrities declaring that if you just eat this brand of meal you will look like them in a jiffy. Certainly some of those approaches might work and on the other hand, many will not or at least they will not have a lasting total body impact on your life. I have long thumbed my nose at such things for a variety of reasons, foremost being I recognized the faddish nature they were built upon.

I recently became aware of a much different approach to health by watching a good friend of mine begin a 30 day journey towards better overall health – physical, mental, and spiritual health. After watching his results, I decided to embark on this journey myself. What journey is this you might ask? It is one that is found in Laura Harris Smith’s book The 30-Day Faith Detox: Renew Your Mind, Cleanse Your Body, Heal Your Spirit.
If you are concerned this is some new age approach to life or just another fad, let me ease your worries. Smith’s approach is rooted in sound biblical teaching, lasting nutritional well-being, and with a distinct focus on not just being some 30 day “thing” you do and then return to your previous negative eating, spiritual, and emotional habits. Smith’s desire is to show the reader how to make a change, a lasting impactful change towards total body health.

She does this by providing a daily regimen of food choices and devotions that address specific parts of your body and your spiritual health. If you are worried that you will be eating cardboard tasting foods for 30 days (believe me I was worried about that), rest assured that the food choices and meal plans, while definitely healthy, are absolutely delicious. Who knew that a simple meal consisting of colorful vegetables and brown rice would be something you looked forward to eating.

Tasty smoothies to kick off your day are followed by a variety of juicing options, healthy snacks, soups and salads, and the aforementioned colorful array of fruits and vegetables with rice, quinoa, or other options constitutes each day’s meal plan. Smith steadily adds different colors of fruits and vegetables along the way resulting in a rainbow of colors and flavors to choose from as you begin to conclude your 30 day journey.

The devotions she provides are valuable in that they are designed to rid your emotional, spiritual, and even relational life of the toxins that build up over time. Hence this is a full body approach to health. It is one thing to have a toned stomach and to have lost some weight. But if you continue to carry toxins in other parts of your life, those toxins will have an impact on your physical health as well. Smith addresses the full panoply of issues we all encounter such as doubt, issues with finances, and anger just to name a few.

I believe what you will find after completing this journey is the desire to continue implementing the healthy food choices and life choices Smith guides you through in this book. It truly is a fun and exciting road to health that is much different from what you will encounter by just eating a Weight Watcher’s dinner. Do this journey as a family. Invite some friends to join you. Share your successes and your failures on social media as a means of encouragement to keep you going. In the end, you will not just have found you have shed a few pounds and that some clothes you thought would never be worn again are now part of your weekly attire. You will also find more importantly that a positive change, a whole body change has taken place. That alone is worth embarking on this 30 day journey and besides, fitting into some long lost clothes isn’t a bad deal either. To date by the way, I have lost around 6 pounds and counting so I can attest to fitting into some old clothes I thought I would never see again.

This book is available for purchase from Chosen Books clicking here.

I received this book for free from Chosen Books and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Joy Knight – Do Not Procrastinate in Killing Sin

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We’re all familiar with the aftershock. Those precious seconds after sinning (whether it’s a thought, an action, or a habit). It feels as though the whole universe could fit in the cavity of our guilt, and it would still be hungry. Then busyness quickly begins collapsing the cavity. A syllabi stares at you from your computer, exams loom like a cloud in the distance, and the assignments sit in a pile on your desk. When will I deal with this sin?

When sin creeps in and pounces during the school year, it’s so easy to feel like there’s not time to address it properly. What do we do? We push away the guilt, submerge ourselves in the semester’s demands, and keep trudging along, all in an attempt to wander back to God and the gospel. But the guilty feelings don’t go away. They interrupt our productivity, like push notifications.

I tried just about everything. I gave myself the silent treatment. The shun. The time-out. I took away toys, and even tried punishming myself and paying my penance, like denying myself proper care with sleep and food. Nothing worked. My flesh and guilt felt like this stubborn-willed child that just would not obey; and I, therefore, did not want to have to drag around in public.

How do we find grace in the midst of a semester that’s filled with benchmarks and deadlines?

Consider Your Needs

It’s a basic truth: God not only knows all our needs, but has created them inside of us as a metaphor for our deeper need for him (Matthew 5:27–32). Sin is one manifestation of our need for God’s grace. When our guilty conscience keeps us awake at night, stabbing our self-worth and leading us away from God in fear, those are invitations to come again to his throne of grace, to stay our hand from practicing surgery on ourselves, so that the true Physician can work (Luke 5:31–32).

Eventually I learned that my late-night Netflix and/or Facebook sessions had much more to do with my lack of peace than they did about my need for rest. I didn’t need recuperation of strength to get out there and single-handedly beat my sin. I needed (and need) repentance.

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