Posts Tagged ‘John Piper’

Learn How to Be Mentored by Books

December 3, 2008

books1

I believe a means a grace God has given us has been the preservation of the thoughts of His saints in the form of books.  I bless God for books.  I bless God for the printing press.  I bless God for Amazon. Within the pages of books there are many treasures to find and friends to meet—freinds that will tell you how they understood a certain passage or how they dealt with a certain trial, or how they lived a certain life despite the seemingly unbearable hardship.  I love books.  Books are an endless resource to a Timothy in training . . . if he is wise enough to foresee it and use it.  And the more books he stacks on his shelf better he can equip himself for the preparation of becoming an elder—whether he’s in seminary or not.

1. Learn how to become a Reader

I cannot tell you how many grown men say to me, “Well, I’m just not a reader.” You should be rebuked. God has preserved a storehouse of wisdom for you in books, and you should be a good steward of the vast resources that has been made available to you. There simply is no excuse to be ignorant regarding any aspect of theology.  300 years ago, most library’s consisted of 200 books at the most—I have that many if not more.  Here in the West, we’ve become inoculated to the amount of resources that are available to us.  There’s books on-line, books on CD, books on i-pods . . .oh yea, and books on paper.

But my first caution to you would be this: Don’t read just any book. As the author of Ecclesiastes has noted, “Of the writing of books there is no end”. There may be many books that are popular at the moment but they will not stand the test of time.  Why?  Because most are absent of the aroma of Scripture and merely contain random, Bible-less babble—men trying to think thoughts after God without consulting the Book He wrote about Himself.  Sometimes the best books are those which have been around for 300 years! On the other hand, there is a remnant even in our day of men who are pumping out at accelerated rates wonderfull books.  Men like Piper, Mahaney, MacArthur, Sproul, Dever, Keller and a host of others are worth your money and time.


Spend your money on tools, not toys.


You should have all kinds of books in your library:

–books on philosophy: how do we think and how to we know truth and which source of truth should we read.

–books on theology: how do we understand that truth;

–biographies: how has that truth been proclaimed and maintained throughout the centuries;

–and finally, apologetics: how is that truth to be delivered.

Read for pleasure; if you’re not enjoying these books you’re not reading them correctly.

2. Learn How to Be Mentored by Dead Men

Believe it or not, but I have close to over 100 mentors who live in my own house. They live on my bookshelf. I cannot tell you how many authors have walked beside me during many dark valleys in my life, and I have found the best medicine for a storm-tossed soul is old books—especially biographies of old saints. When I am discouraged and downcast of soul, I rarely go to the country to get a spiritual breath of fresh air; I always go to the years prior to the 19th Century.


Luther, Richard Sibbs, Richard Baxter, John Owen, John Bunyan, Jonathon Edwards, David Brainard, Charles Spurgeon,


There are literally thousands of men who are very qualified to shed light on any situation in which you may find yourself in.  You just need to learn how to read and what to read.

C.S. Lewis once said:

“If you don’t read the older books you starve yourself.”

As I have just mentioned there are many authors to choose from . . . and I would recommend reading them all! But if that sounds like a little too much, my advice to you would be to pick someone from the past and read all you can about that person. Read their biography; read their works; begin to think like them; begin to talk like them; imitate their faith, and eventually you may find yourself loving the Word and Cherishing Christ like they did.

We often become like the friends we hang out with. I dress like the friends I hang out with; I talk like the friends I hang out with. When you pick wise, godly friends in books you begin to become like them. Become like your friends.

3. Learn how to Use Church History as a Mentor

Biographies help you to know men of the past; Church History helps you to know events of the past—both of which are able to keep you from error. Many Christians today suffer from historical amnesia. In their minds the gap between Jesus’ ascension to their own day is usually a giant blank. It is my opinion that every believer should have in their hands at least one good, church history book. Church history informs you of the past, encourages you for the present, and gives you hope for the future.

Become a consumer of books and you can give yourself a glorious education even if you’re never been able to attend seminary.  You’ll learn doctrine; you’ll meet new friends.

4. The Importance of Reading Other Material

I used to be a Puritan in the area of reading, meaning this: I have never read anything other than theology books.  But I have come to learn the importance of giving my mind a break, especially since I’m in seminary.  The mind needs a break, not from God, but from the same type of books that require the same type of thinking.  The brain needs to think on many different levels, not just one.  I often find that my mind simply cannot function as well by always reading one type of genre (i.e. theolgoy books/philosophy books).  Don’t get me wrong, I would like it if I only could read theology books, but I’ve learned that if I read other genres than it helps me to think better and think clearer when I pick up my theology book.

Hey, even the Bible contains three different genres, so I think I’m safe in saying we as seminary students need also to have a trilogy, biography, or historical narrative close by to give our minds the mental breaks they need.  But remember to supplement them in moderate proportions.  Read enough of other books in order to read theology books with greater care and thought.

5. The Danger of Stuffing Your Shelf Full of Books You Never Read

Be honest, how many books are on your shelf that have never been read?  I bear the guilt of this myself.  Countless of times I have entered a book sale or attended a conference that provides books for a ridiculously-low-price only to greedily buy several books that are “oh so good” . . . and then they sit on my shelf and condemn me.  I have one shelf simply devoted to “Books to read”.  This can become a problem.  There is nothing worse than having a great book in which you’ve never read.  Oh that we would buy good books; and oh that we would read them!

Set goals for yourself.  If you’ve bought several books, discipline yourself not to buy any more until you’ve finished them . . . unless it’s a really good deal!

6. Don’t Neglect the Word

Finally, while there are many books that are worth our time, we must not fail to read that book in which all others are written.  Let the Scriptures be your true source of joy and study, for there is truly only one book worth reading . . . and reading again . . . and again . . . and again . . .

:: Prepare for Battle ::

Is formal theological education good or bad? PART 2

November 18, 2008

I have always had difficulty when academic institutions acknowledge that they are not a local church (no church polity, no church discipline, etc. ) yet claim to be accomplishing a task that only the church is given the authority to do; namely, the work of preparing the saints for the work of the ministry. As I understand it, the Church is the only institution that is given the authority to prepare the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). However, it is difficult to undergo the necessary theological studies in a local church context. As a result of this, there have been some attempts to integrate rigorous theological study done at a seminary, with practical apprenticeship done at a local church. Almost all of these experiments fail to properly integrate the two. These programs often end up lacking a genuine apprenticeship or fail to offer a theological education that is academically rigorous.  However, there are a few churches/schools/apprenticeships that have made significant contributions to the reform of ministerial training.  Here are three: 

1.  Bethlehem Seminary (www.thebethleheminstitute.org) is currently the only Seminary of its kind because both the apprenticeship and the theological study are governed by a local church, in which they can be properly integrated.  The new M.Div. program is a 4 year commitment and involves rigorous theological studies, including extensive Greek and Hebrew studies.  Bethlehem Seminary will only accept 12-14 M.Div “apprentices” every year into their program.  Each of these students is mentored by a Pastor and progressively becomes more involved in ministry at the local Church level throughout the 4 years of the program. 

2.  Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College (www.sovereigngraceministries.org/PC/Overview.aspx) is a one year program, ranges from 15-25 students at a time, and is restricted to those who are commited to ministering within the Sovereign Grace network of churches.  It is only one year, and because of this, it is not academically as rigorous as a typical seminary.  It does include a limited amount of Greek study and there is a special focus on the spiritual life of the potential pastor.  The goal of this Pastor’s college is not only to impart a general theological framework and practical study skills, but to give opportunity for hands on ministry within a local church context and to promote growth in Christ like character.  This is a great opportunity for those who can fit into the ministry ethos of Sovereign Grace, and are in a season of life where a 3 or 4 year seminary commitment is not reasonable. 

3.  Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church has an internship (www.capitolhillbaptist.org/we-provide/internships/description/) is 5 months long, and is for those who sense a call to the pastorate.  It is not intended to be a seminary replacement, but rather to compliment a seminary education with an internship experience.  Throughout the program, an intern writes about 100 papers and reads over 5000 pages of text.  The 6 interns attend elders meetings, are involved in ministry at the local church, and spend weekly time with one of the elders at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  If you are currently are planning to attend a run-of-the-mill seminary, or have already attended one, I would highly recommend taking a look into this program as a supplement to those studies.


This might be a good time to pitch an interactive web forum we attempted to launch some time ago, and are hoping to resurrect.  It is our desire that it would be an effective tool for those seeking to be trained for the ministry.  www.bibleschooldiscussion.com  Write anything you know about a school, post questions about a school you are considering, add a school to the discussion.  Our goal is that it would be a place where potential students can see what is available for those looking to train for the ministry, and can have an idea of what is really being taught at various institutions.

 


PART 1


 

Media and The Glory of God–Why I Have Facebook

November 12, 2008

facebook2

I have always been skeptical about technology. Some have compared it to the young tiger that is very cute and cuddly, but when it grows up, it turns and eats you. While this certainly can be true about anything, I have come to reject this idea for several reasons. I would like to try and convince you that all sources of media use can be used for the glory of God, as well as to show you that men you and I admire and want to be like used the media of their day to spread the gospel. I guess you could call this “my defense of why I joined the static noise of Facebook”. Whenever I get a new gadget (an ipod), join a social network (facebook), I always make sure there is precision and purpose for what I do. Below are some thoughts for you to think about.

1. All Things are Under the Lordship of Christ

It is my theological conviction that all things are under the lordship of Christ. As Abraham Kuyper has said,

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”

Therefore, everything that is created is good, because it comes from a good Father; it is what man does with those resources that are bad. Christ rules over all things. That is the logical argument and conclusion Paul makes in Ephesians and Colossians. Not only is Christ Lord over everything, but as His ambassadors in His Kingdom under His rule, we have the authority and the calling to redeem and take back that which has been used for evil. Don’t despise the technology that is being polluted. Instead, show how to properly use them for the glory of God. You should be thinking Kingdom governance and oversight. Show how a citizen of God’s Kingdom stewards and manages properly resources He has made available. You are a manager of many resources that can be used as a tool. Redeem technology. If your excuse is, “Well, so many people have used it for ill” then for Christ’s and the gospel’s sake get out there and use it for good. Don’t let pagans use for evil the things your King has created. Show them how to use it properly.

2. Every Media Tool is a Vehicle to Spread the Gospel of Christ

Your main objection and the responsibility you have as a steward of God’s gifts is to use it for the purpose of spreading the gospel. To be honest, I am technologically illiterate . . . but I’m learning. More honestly, I used to be a puritan/fundamentalist (. . . well, I still am in many ways) when it came to anything new in technology. I only saw the evil in it. I saw ipods were only used to waste time listening to music that mushed your brain. And Facebook? Well, don’t get me started on Facebook.

But I have been convicted that we as believers have a unique opportunity to reach and evangelize the world . . . from our desk. Don’t get me wrong, this is not negating or excusing you from the responsibility to physically get in the presence of non-believers and preach the gospel. But while you are preaching, evangelizing, fellowshipping and spreading the gospel to your sphere of influence, you can also be impacting those around the world. You should be active in all types of media . . . no matter what your eschatology. Blogs. Facebook. Websites. The gospel of Christ can be used in any media. Picture these as an extension of your voice. When I use a microphone, it is acting as merely an extension of my voice to reach a larger group of people. Blogs, Facebook, ipods and websites can all be tools in which God uses as an extension of spreading the gospel. So the only question that remains is, “Why aren’t you involved?”

3. Everything You Own is for One Purpose Only . . .

Why have I chosen to spend X amount of dollars on a car? To spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. That car is an extension of my legs. It takes me to Western Seminary where I listen to influential men who prepare me to prepare. Why do I own a home? To house my family and other weary sojourners who need refreshment. Why do I own an ipod? To listen to men that are present day Spurgeons. If I lived in Spurgeon’s day and was even 100 miles from him, I might not even know he exists. And how many people didn’t! Now, I can listen to Piper, Macarthur and Mark Driscoll all because of the gracious, good gift from God expressed in an ipod.

4. Spread the Gospel, Not Yourself

I can’t tell you how sick I am of updates on Facebook that tell me how great my friend’s mocha was, or what euphoric experience they had the other day. As Christians, our primary task is to spread the vision of Jesus Christ and His glory. Take a look at your facebook and answer this question:


Do your posts, updates, links, pictures and videos reflect the aroma of the spreading of Christ, or do you contribute to the world’s static chatter that numbs our minds to thinking after Christ?


Answer the question. Make the changes.

5. Those Before Us . . .

If Paul would have shunned the stadium, men of Athens would not have heard him. If Luther would have despised the printing press, no Reformation. Period. Because he took advantage of the media of the time, there was a Reformation that exploded throughout the world. If Billy Graham would have despised the microphone, the some odd million people would never have heard him. If Piper would have neglected the tape recorder, we would not have any of his sermons from the past.

6. Final Exhortations And Some Ideas

  • Redeem your ipod. Don’t just fill your 80 gig ipod with music, fill it with sermons! We live in a unique day and age where we can listen to a sermon given thousands of miles away, all while jogging! Redeem your ipod.
  • Start a blog. There is no greater way to influence a great amount of people than by blogging your opinions . . . but blog the opinions of the Apostles. Pick something you are passionate about in regards to the gospel—a need you see not being fulfilled—and begin to rally around you fellow enthusiasts for the cause of Christ
  • Start a Facebook. Spread the message of Jesus Christ. Don’t just tell your friends pointless updates, encourage them in the faith, challenge them in their beliefs, and call them to join you in the spreading of the gospel, not yourself.

What do you think? How and what do you see is the purpose of social networks like Facebook? According to what you’ve heard me say, how do you think they should be used and why.


Spread the gospel. Preach the Word. Get Facebook.

Every second counts…

November 7, 2008

Good is the enemy of best. There are tons of good things that come along. We could fill our day with things that are good and never end up doing what is best.

As the older we get and the more influence we have, more opportunities will present themselves. It’s a responsibility to learn to manage our time and influences well.

This is a struggle that I deal will constantly. I have a pregnant wife, two babies, I am a small business owner, an operations manager for non-profit ministry, on the preaching rotation at church, and a student taking 16 units (3 of which are Greek)…oh yeah, and I do this Paul and Timothy stuff. I say all this to illustrate the potential over-busyness of my life.

My wife has asked me before if I think we will ever be less busy. I am always trying to gently let her down with my answer. But the truth is, being entrusted with more is a blessing and a gift. After the two servants were faithful with their talents, their master said to them, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much,” (Matthew 25:21, 23). They were given more to steward. God is using our season of life to prepare us for the next one. The household is an incubator for church leadership. Managing a local church well comes from managing a household well (being faithful with a household leads to the opportunity to be faithful as an elder).

So what do we do? Many successful, honorable, godly, older man have told me about the value of planning. Gregg Harris calls it the Noble Planner (an MP3 of his teaching on planning can be found here). Gregg spends every Sunday afternoon planning his week. He sits down with his family after church and they plan what is best for them to do in a given week. Gregg plans on spending alone time with every member of his family every week.

CJ Mahaney talks about it in the Sovereign Grace leadership series. Mahaney is very protective over his time. He says that he will not flex his schedule, save an emergency. Mahaney plans time into his schedule to free up his wife to study, and then he creates reading lists for her.

John Piper has said that he purposely only goes to the church office once a week. He knows that his home office study is the “safest” place to get the most work done with his time.

As pastors, the nature of their job requires that they be flexible to deal with crisis in the lives of the Saints. When those crisis’ arise, they become the best thing they can do with their time.

Begin to view time as something that you have to invest. Invest your time in the place that is going to yield the greatest return. Or to use another analogy, plant your time where it will bring forth the most fruit.

Here are some practical suggestions:

      1. Begin planning out your week. Sit down on Sunday afternoon and in light of worship, fellowship, and the ministry of the Word, plan out what is best to do with your time the coming week.

      2. Start using a calendar. Whether it’s a physical paper planner or something on your computer, use something to help manage your time. I use Google calendar, because it is internet based (I can access it anywhere), I can share it with owther Google users, my wife can easily add items to it, and I can receive email or text message alerts.

      3. Help your wife to find time to read and study. Free her up and make her reading lists.

       4. Learn to say no while still being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit to “walk in the good works that have been prepared beforehand.”

       5. View the importance of the different areas that you have been given stewardship over. Your children and wife are way more important than Greek paradigms.

Is formal theological education good or bad? PART 1

November 1, 2008

Years ago, I would have never imagined that I would ever be pursuing a formal seminary education.  The Christian community/tradition I was in was pretty anti-institutional in many respects.  We called seminary “cemetery”, and it was only for stuffy, proud, rich young men who had turned Christianity into an intellectual pursuit, much like the other sciences.  Formal theological education was only for the “hireling” who was seeking to make merchandise of the saints by applying for the CEO (pastor) position at a local hymn singing country club (typical church) so he could hear himself give speeches (sermons) to as large crowd a crowd as he could muster (congregation), hoping to make his name great. 

And now, years later, after many paradigm shifts, here I am, with seminary applications in hand.  And I need to ask myself honestly, ‘have I sold out?  What has changed?’

Some things have indeed changed, and some have not.  I would still extend a critique to the way many of us in America (and around the world) ‘do church’, as many of our gatherings reflect the ways of the world rather than the pattern entrusted to us in the Scriptures.  I am still grieved by the way that many are making merchandise of God’s people, and the way we perpetuate this problem by handling church leadership like a corporate office over a business venture.

But now I look at many of these churches, and in them, I see many of God’s beloved people, struggling to see the Kingdom of God while keeping one foot in the world.  People gathering with other believers to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, worship God, and to be exhorted by means of His Word.  They are looking for encouragement, discipleship, and others to walk with on this calvary road, and all too often they come to the church only to hear, see, and be surrounded by the same things they are seeking refuge from.  They hear contradictory messages from different corners of the congregation, and being untrained in the scriptures, many of them choose to follow whoever is speaking the loudest.

I want God’s Word to be what is loudest in those churches.  I want them to hear things, that by the Holy Spirit, will fight back the flesh and encourage the Spirit.  I want them to be encouraged to trust a Holy and Perfect God, even when everything in their life seems amiss.  I want to grow with them in discipleship and discerning the will of God, cherishing the one who rescues us through His own shed blood on the cross.  I feel called to shepherd, and I want to learn, I want to study, I want to be mentored.  Certainly, not all the training (or even most of the training) needed for tomorrows elders takes place within the four walls of a Seminary.  However, I would argue that in our present day, Seminary is one of the best places to:

1. Study the heritage of the faith passed down and entrusted to us, and to learn from  the lives of Godly men and women who have gone before us.  

2.  Acknowledging the mistakes of the past so that we might avoid them as a church in the future.

3.  Consider the struggles of those who are in our churches today and considering how to care for them in light of God’s Word. 

4.  Develop and practice rhetorical skills to be used in defending right doctrine and proclaiming the truth in a winsome manner.

5.  Grow in critical thought as it relates to theology and the church.

6.  Study God’s word on a daily basis in a community that is thinking critically and pastorally.

7.  Learn to read the Bible in the languages it was originally written in.   This may help us grow to understand the underlying misconceptions in many modern day controversies, and walk in the awareness of any assumptions translators may have made while translating the texts into English.

8.  Spend time listening to older people who have spent dozens of years pouring over the Scriptures.

9.  Spend more time reading.  

10.  Spend time learning to communicate well through writing.

These are all important skills that are invaluable to our next generation of church leaders.  There are indeed many dangerous things that Seminary may bring before us.  Many Seminaries are steeped in bad doctrine and are unhelpful all together.  Many things about our current conceptions of Seminary itself are  just plain unbiblical.  However, God is still using many Seminaries as a key component in the training of tomorrow’s church leaders.  

All this to say, we should work towards reform in our Seminaries… more on this to come.  But just as a teaser, here is the way one Church/Seminary is reforming the way Seminary is done: The Bethlehem Institute.

On John Piper’s Blog, “What if you like the preaching, but not the truth?”

September 6, 2008

One of John Piper’s most recent blog enteries on Desiring God, entitled What if you like the preaching, but not the truth?, really got my gears turning.

In it, John Piper illudes to the danger of being so eloquent in preaching, that someone could enjoy the masterful delivery without taking hold of the content. Because there is not open commenting on the Desiring God blog, I’m really hoping that we can begin discussing it here. Piper seems to be reserving his final verdict for the upcoming Pastor’s and National Conferences.

I wonder, is it even possible to preach “Unless you repent, You too will perish!” in such a ‘masterful way’ that people refusing to repent can enjoy the delivery? This seems dangerous. Should we be worried about avoiding this pitfall? How should we deal with this as preachers?

Passion for God Before Passion for Preaching

September 3, 2008

On the desiring God blog, there is a new post by Abraham Piper called Dear God, Keep Me Saved concerning a recent book project John Piper was involved in called, Stand: A Call for the Endurance of the Saints.

Abraham’s comments, and the subject of the book, reminded me of 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (ESV)

If this Scripture hits us as it should, it should evoke a healthy fear. There are indeed those that “after preaching to others” are “disqualified” themselves.

As we seek to care for, feed and protect the flock, let us not forget to guard our own souls… or rather, let us continually and purposefully entrust our souls to the master guardian and Shephard, Jesus Christ. One can so busy themselves with preaching to others, that they become in danger of losing their first love.

I was struck by a perpherial statement in C.J. Mahaney’s, Living the Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing. In talking about the passion we should have for the gospel of God that saved us, he says:

And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others; I mean passionate in thinking about the gospel, reflecting up it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world and all of life.

Let us strive to cultivate this kind of passion for the gospel, in our lives. Not only a passion for preaching it to others, but a reveling in the beauty of it ourselves, lest we, after preaching to others, should be disqualified.

God saved me, a wicked, God hating, hell bound person. This is my meditation, this is my song, and I will sing it into eternity! May He keep us until that glorious day!