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Preaching? Simple Teaching on Simple Preaching by Alec Motyer ($3.99)

Systematic Theology: The Complete Three Volumes by Charles Hodge ($2.99)

Introducing the New Testament: A Short Guide to Its History and Message by D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo ($0.99)

Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics by Moisés Silva ($0.99)

Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon ($0.99)

How to Be a Christian in a Brave New World by Joni Eareckson Tada and Nigel M. de S. Cameron ($0.99)

There Is a Plan by Ravi Zacharias ($0.99)

Does God Exist? by William Lane Craig ($0.99)

Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? by William Lane Craig ($1.99)

Is Jesus the Only Savior? by Ronald H. Nash ($0.99)

Raised?: Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection by Jonathan K. Dodson and Brad Watson ($0.99)

Best New Books and DVDs


The Pastor’s Ministry: Biblical Priorities for Faithful Shepherds by Brian Croft

In the Pastor’s Ministry, pastor and author Brian Croft looks to the Scriptures to determine the top ten priorities for a faithful pastoral ministry. These biblically rooted responsibilities help pastors determine how to spend their time and with greater discernment respond to the demands of the church. 


Compassion without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth by Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau

In their role as pastors, Adam Barr and Ron Citlau have seen how this issue can tear apart families, friendships, and even churches. In this book they combine biblical answers with practical, real-world advice on how to think about and discuss this issue with those you care about. They also tell the story of Ron’s personal journey from same-sex attraction and sexual brokenness to healing. 


The Daring Mission of William Tyndale by Steven J. Lawson

In The Daring Mission of William Tyndale, the latest addition to the Long Line of Godly Men series, Dr. Steven J. Lawson traces this daring mission, which was ultimately used by God to ignite the English Reformation and would cost Tyndale his life. From one man’s labor, we’re reminded of God’s faithfulness to preserve His Word and equip His people.


The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen by Sinclair B. Ferguson

In this addition to the A Long Line of Godly Men Profile series, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson offers careful reflection and insight for Christians today as he highlights Owen’s faith in the triune God of Scripture. We re reminded that regardless of our circumstances we can know God, enjoy Him, and encourage others.


A Survey of Church History, Part 4 A. D. 1600-1800

Join Dr. W. Robert Godfrey as he surveys the history of the Reformed church in the English-speaking world. You will study the Puritans from England to New England. You will also meet such notable figures as John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards, all of whom played major roles in the First Great Awakening.

See the first message for free at Ligonier.org


The English Reformation and the Puritans

In this 12-part series, Dr. Michael Reeves surveys Puritan theology and the work of the Holy Spirit when the Reformation flourished in England. Major milestones of this movement underscore the Puritan’s special place in history, as they displayed spiritual wisdom and discernment still benefiting pulpits and believers today.

Watch the first message for free at Ligonier.org


Lessons from the Upper Room from Sinclair Ferguson

In this new 12-part teaching series, Lessons from the Upper Room, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson paints a vivid picture of the disciples’ final moments with their Savior. Carefully walking through John 13-17, Dr. Ferguson reminds us of the centrality of Christ in all of life.

See the first message for free:

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Spiritual Joy v Worldly Joy

Vintage

“The gleanings of Christian joy are better than the world’s vintage.” Thomas Watson

What’s the difference between Christian joy and the joy of the world? How do I know I have the former and not the latter? The Puritan Thomas Watson outlined eight important differences summarized below:

1. Spiritual joys help to make us better, worldly joys often make us worse. Christian joy cleanses our hearts, turns us against sin, and infuses strength to do and to suffer.

2. Spiritual joys are inward, they are heart joys. Worldly joy is superficial, lying on the outside, like the dew on a leaf. But spiritual joy lies most within. “Divine joy is like a spring of water which runs underground!”

3. Spiritual joys are sweeter than others, they are better than wine. They are so sweet, that they make everything else sweet and also give us a distaste for earthly delights.

4. Spiritual joys are more pure, they are not tempered with any bitter ingredients. A sinner’s joy is mixed with the dregs of fear and guilt. Spiritual joy is not muddied with guilt, but like a crystal stream, runs pure. It is joy and nothing but joy.

5. They are satisfying joys:  There is as much difference between spiritual joys and earthly, as between a banquet that is eaten and one that is painted on the wall.

6. They are stronger joys than worldly. They are strong enough to bear up a Christian’s heart in the heaviest affliction.

7. They are unwearied joys. Unlike other joys, the joys of God, though they satisfy, yet they never sicken us. A drop of joy is sweet, but the more of this wine the better.

8. They are abiding joys. Worldly joys are soon gone. They seem to be sweet, but they are swift. The joys which believers have are abiding.

“In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19)

*Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1960), 188.

A Child Wiser Than Most Adults

When the nine-year-old Matthew Henry received news that one of his relatives was sick he wrote a letter in response:

“By this providence we may see that sin is the worst of evils, for sickness came with sin. Christ is the chief good; therefore let us love him. Sin is the worst of evils, therefore let us hate that with perfect hatred.”

Nine years old!

Wouldn’t you love to hear your children say such things? May God give them (and us) such deep and Christ-centered spirituality.


Holiness and Honor: A Reformed View of Sex And Marriage

PCRT2015

If you’re anywhere in the Grand Rapids area why not consider the Philadelphia Conference of Reformed Theology (PCRT) on March 20-22 where the topic will be Holiness and Honor: A Reformed View of Sex And Marriage. You can find out more here and pre-register here. The schedule is as follows:

Friday

8:00–9:00 a.m. Pre-Conference Registration

9:00 a.m.–3:45 p.m. Pre-Conference: The Gospel and the Song of Songs, Iain Duguid

6:00 p.m. Conference Registration

7:00 p.m. Opening of the 2015 PCRT

First Address: The Goodness of God’s Design for Marriage, Iain Duguid

Saturday

8:00 a.m. Late Registration

9:00 a.m. Second Address: Gender and the Image of God, David Garner

10:30 a.m. Third Address: The Honorable Institution of Marriage, David Murray

11:30 a.m. Question & Answer Session

12:30 p.m. Lunch

2:00 p.m.  Fourth Address: The Beauty of God’s Design for Sex, David Garner

3:15–4:30 p.m. Seminars

4:30 p.m. Dinner (at local restaurants)

6:30 p.m. Sacred Concert (MI)

7:00 p.m. Fifth Address: Sexual Sanctification, Richard Phillips

Sunday PCRT joins host church worship for final address.

Sixth Address: The Marriage of Christ and His Church, Richard Phillips

8:30 a.m. & 10:45 a.m. PCRT worships with Byron Center First Christian

Reformed Church, Grand Rapids


A Bright Song From A Deep Darkness

A week or so ago, I received an email from Brad Hansen with the lyrics of a song he had composed while in a recent dark spell with depression. I was deeply touched by the words, and asked if I could share his song and story on the blog. He replied: “I would be glad to share my story. I decided long ago that I would open my life and struggles to others, with the hope that people could know that they’re not alone.” So here’s a little of Brad’s testimony to God’s grace followed by the song.

Even an old dog can learn new tricks; and even a depressed dog can be found smiling for reasons which elude the wisest of masters. This is the story of such a dog – old (which I know to be true because my sons say so) and well acquainted  with depression, now for about 40 years.

The onset of depression was, for me, like a moment from Jurassic Park – the moment when a distant “thud” creates rings in a nearby puddle. You think it’s nothing, until it happens again, a bit more pronounced. Soon you realize that there is something present more mysterious and threatening than you realized.

The Bottom Drops Out

All this began taking place in my late teens, when I noticed that my mood, my energy, and my enjoyment of life would take a tumble for a few days. It was a bit unpleasant, but it wasn’t long before I was my usual self. But over the next 3-5 years the tumbles became falls hurtling deeper. What once affected my life for a few days here and there began extending to a few weeks, and later still months on end. I had graduated from college, was married, on my way through seminary, and all the while living in a fog from which I had only a few periods of relief. Somehow I muddled through. I graduated from seminary, received a call to a church, and was ordained. It was then that the bottom dropped out.

My memories of that period are (blessedly!) few. But I still remember the pattern. I would begin my day getting up, eating breakfast, showering, getting dressed, and then immobilized in bed for hours. Within a year of beginning this pastorate I found myself hospitalized in a psychiatric unit. I was experiencing what medical people would later call “Bipolar II” – a depression with varying mood swings, most of which are experienced below the water line. In those days the medical arsenal for depression was relatively slim, but I was fortunate to find relief through lithium. After two months hospitalization I was released and returned home.

Burned Out Shell

But I knew that as a person I was mostly a shell, and my inner being was burned out. It’s quite common for people to misunderstand what medication can and cannot do. In my case lithium served to level the playing field, but I had a lot of recovery to do before I began to believe “I got game.” It’s been a journey of 35-40 years with many ups and downs, which continues to this day, when the old dog learned a new trick.

Only a few weeks ago, I sat at a prayer meeting at our church on a Sunday evening. Shortly before prayer began, I felt the darkness descending on me. The best description of what this is like is to remember your last visit to the optometrist. She sets before your face a contraption with any number of lenses, and, with the eye chart out ahead of you, begins the questions: “Which is clearer – 1 or 2? Which is clearer – 3 or 4?” In between those verbal choices, of course, is a moment when the optometrist flips a lens from one side to another. One side (in theory!) is clearer than the other, and becomes so in the wink of an eye. That is what my mood swings are like. One moment, I’m fine; the next moment everything is cloudy or even dark. On that evening I wasn’t able to pray out loud; I prayed silently knowing what was happening to me, and thanking God that he was with me. I attended to some of the spoken prayers as they were spoken. But I knew that I might be in for a dark spell.

Songs From The Darkness

The following morning proved that to be the case. I was down and heavy, and my prayer to God was “Help me to do what I can today.” What happened next is a bit hard to describe. I found myself going to my table with my Bible open to Psalm 42-43, with a sudden urge to write a hymn, and retell the story of the psalmist and his God in my own words, out of my own human condition. Within a half hour I had the result: a hymn which I entitled, “Here, Lord, I Kneel to Pray.” And with hymn in hand, and John Ireland’s music (“Love Unknown”) in my head, the old dog smiled a bit, and contentment (though certainly not euphoria) reigned. My world, and welcome to it.

Since that time, I’ve turned my attention to other texts and theology, both biblical and systematic, to ply this new trade. I’ve discovered that God entrusts to his oft-depressed servants the very songs he has given to them in the darkness, for the building up of the body, to the praise of his glory. And it’s not bad work if you can find it. Cheers!

“Here, Lord, I Kneel to Pray”
Psalm 42
Tune: Love Unknown (John Ireland)

Here, Lord, I kneel to pray;
Yet deep within my heart
There is no joy and darkness clouds its ev’ry part.
The memory of worship sweet
Stands far away while I must weep.

So my soul longs for you,
My Lord, who truly lives,
Whose presence like the flowing streams he richly gives
For thirst do I, and thus I cry.
My tears for food won’t satisfy.

Yet my Lord sings to me
His steadfast love by day,
And through the night his song is with me ‘ere I pray.
Shall he forget the cruel threat
That bids my soul my life regret?

So to myself I speak.
To my soul would I preach,
“Be not cast down, let hope become your heart’s relief.
God shall you save, begetting praise;
His light and truth are yours always.”

If you don’t know the tune, here’s a video to help you learn it.


A Catalogue of Mercies

When I grew up, Catalogues were the Internet. We waited every quarter for 2-3 inch thick tomes in the mail, packed with thousands of color pictures of every possible kind of item. I can still smell the paper as we kids rushed to the toy pages in the Christmas issues. I suppose it was Amazon in paper form – an innumerable number of goods for sale, organized and presented in such a way to ensure as big a spend as possible.

Some younger readers probably have no idea what I’m talking about. But even my fellow-oldies might never have heard of a Catalogue of Mercies. Neither had I, until I read about it in J B Williams biography of Matthew Henry.

Henry wrote this detailed catalogue in 1675, aged 13, a couple of years after his conversion to Christ, to record the progress of religion in his soul together with what he believed were the three evidences of this being a genuine work of God’s grace. These were:

1. Covenant transactions between God and the soul

Henry was confident that there had been such covenanting, but to be sure, said:

“If I never did this before, I do it now; for I take God in Christ to be mine. I give up myself to be his in the bond of an everlasting covenant never-to-be-forgotten….I do this every day.”

What’s interesting here is that although the Puritans have been accused of being overly introspective, the first evidence that Henry focused on was “I have looked to Christ and given myself away to Him.”

2. True repentance for sin, and grief, and shame, and sorrow for it

Again, Henry found evidence of this, “though not in that measure that I could desire.”

“I have been heartily sorry for what is past. I judge myself before the Lord, blushing for shame that I should ever affront him as I have done.”

This evidence of repentance assured him that God had pardoned him, an assurance he based on several Scriptures (e.g. Prov. 28:13; Isa. 1:18; Matt. 5:4, etc.)

3. True love of God

Henry was convinced that he loved God on two grounds – he loved the people of God and he loved the Word of God.

Just like the catalogues of my youth, Henry’s Catalogue of Mercies were skillfully and persuasively organized, all with the great and glorious aim of commending the mercies of God.

Many, O Lord my God, are your wonderful works
Which you have done;
And your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to you in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered (Psalm 40:5).