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I am not a prolific reader. In fact, I really didn’t read much growing up. I avoided reading books I was assigned in school other than the rare exception. I usually just got by on class discussions about the books. That usually gave me enough information to get by without actually reading the books.

As Christians we are called to read. It is part of our spiritual growth and discipleship. This is one reason that most old institutions of higher learning started out as Christian schools. But, I am a slow reader and not a very good one so it takes me forever to get through a book. Consequently I have not read a great number of books.

Through my studies, I have learned that there a particular books that have been especially influential in the lives of many Christians over the years. Many of them I have not read but some I have. I have heard of many missionaries talk about how they treasured The Life and Diary of David Brainerd or Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. I have heard others mention books such as Mere Christianity or Pilgrim’s Progress as being foundational in their spiritual growth.

Since I’m not much of a reader, I don’t have a list of books that have so greatly influenced me. But, if I had to list some books that I loved and I would like to read again due to their impact on me as a Christian, here are a few.

1. Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand

3. Let the Nations Be Glad, by John Piper

2. Missionary Patriarch: True Story of John Paton

4. Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, by John Bunyan

I have heard of several great Christians throughout history speak in the same way of Luther’s commentary on Galatians. I am working my way through it right now and I must say it is every bit as good as advertised.

So, what about you? What books have influenced you? What are some of your favorites? I would love to hear your list.

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It is that time of year again. It is time to come up with resolutions for the new year. One of mine is always to read, study, and memorize Scripture in the new year. As far as reading the Bible, there are a three approaches you could take to that resolution.

1. Read through the entire Bible. There are a few strategies to do this.

You could use the old fashioned method of just picking up the Bible and start reading in Genesis 1:1 and read 4 chapters or so every day until you get to Revelation 22:21. Some people may call this approach “radical” but it may work for some.

You could also read the Bible chronologically. There are Bibles and Bible reading plans that have the chapters of the Bible organized in chronological order. Here is an example of a such a Bible reading plan. Most chronological Bibles are study Bibles so I would just use a free reading plan.

There are also plans to guide you through the entire Bible in other ways. One such reading plan is Book at a Time Reading Plan. This is the plan I used in 2019. You can read about it here. There are many plan out there if you just search online or even check your favorite Bible app. Another one to consider is Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s plan from the nineteenth century. It is free and you can find it here. It has four readings per day–two to read privately and two to read as a family.

2. Read through part of the Bible

For some, reading through the entire Bible is overwhelming and feels like too big of a task to tackle. If you are one of those people, a plan that covers part of the Bible may be for you. One such reading plan is called F260. This reading plan is broken down into 260 days of readings. You will have 5 days of readings per week with only 2 chapters per day to read. It also includes two memory passages every week.

3. Focused reading on smaller portion of the Bible

Another idea to consider is to follow a plan to have a more focused approach. By that i mean to focus on fewer passages but to become more familiar with them. Quality rather than quantity. Sean McDowell suggests this approach here. This is a very valuable approach and has its benefits. You can more about it on Sean’s blog but the drawback is that you will be missing out on large portions of God’s Word and only studying passages you choose.

What plan will you choose?

What plan will you use is 2020? Are you still on the fence about reading your Bible or are you just looking for a plan for next year? If you need convincing or want to know how to develop a Bible reading habit, read this post over at the Gospel Coalition. I don’t know which plan I’ll use yet but I’m leaning towards the M’Cheyne plan supplemented by some of Sean McDowell’s suggestions. I’d love to hear your plan for 2020.

Soli Deo Gloria

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I start out every year with some sort of Bible reading plan. Sometimes it is a plan to read through the entire Bible in a year. In other years I have just read through portions of the Bible with more targeted reading. Some plans have you read the Old Testament and New Testament every daily with some Psalms and Proverbs.

In 2019, I used a plan from the Navigators. The Navigators offer three Bible reading plans that you can read about and download here. The plan that I used was called the Book-at-a-Time Bible Reading Plan. I enjoyed this reading plan for a couple of reasons.

  1. As the name of the plan suggests, you read through a book of the Bible at a time. You are not only reading through a book of the Bible at a time but you supplement that reading with a portion of wisdom literature and Isaiah. The significance of reading through a book at a time is that you are reading through larger portions of the same book everyday. You get a bigger chunk of the same book every day and you get more of the continuity of the story that is being told in each book of the Bible. I also find it easier to complete readings when you are reading large portions of the same book daily.
  2. This reading plan also has what is calls “reflection.” Reflection days are days where there is no assigned reading. On reflection days you can meditate of previous readings or work of Scripture memory or catch up on the reading if you have fallen behind. I need to be more disciplined so I inevitably find myself getting behind. These days of reflection have given me the time to either catch up on my reading or even get ahead. You read enough on the other days that the plan is able to give you these reflection days. I find myself struggling to be faithful in my reading especially during the holidays when we have house guests or when we go visit family.

We are a getting close to the end of the year so it is time to select a Bible study plan for next year. Do you have Bible reading plans that have worked well for you? What has worked for you? I think the important part of being faithful to spend time in the Scripture daily is that it needs to be a priority and become part of your daily habit. If it is not part of your daily life, I urge you to make it a priority in your life. To be able to read and hear from the Lord every day is an honor, privilege, and a time to be treasured.

Let me know your thoughts on what works for you and your daily Bible reading.

Soli Deo Gloria

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This is a letter not to a specific worship leader but to any and all worships leaders who do the things listed below. It seems that worship leaders in many, or even perhaps most, evangelical churches have bought into the lie that they have to conduct worship in a certain way in order to attract people or get more attenders in the worship service.

The first area of confusion is this: Worship leaders think that the singing and music are the main part of worship. In fact, this fallacy is so ubiquitous that some people use the words “worship” and “music” interchangeably. But, in reality the main part of worship is the preaching of the Word and rightly dividing and applying Scripture. The music prepares our hearts for worship and helps us to corporately lift up the name of Christ and focus on His attributes and give Him praise, but the central part of worship is the preaching of the Word.

Getting to the music, I urge you to stop doing these things if you are the worship leader.

STOP leading us in music that that repeats lines over and over in order to work us up into a state of emotion. Stop trying to manipulate my emotions with the music. Stop making us sing the same lines over and over while building in volume and tempo and drums in order musically manipulate my emotions. Don’t try to work me up into a state where I will “Amen” anything you have to say just because I am all emotional (rather than actually engaging my mind) due to the music and manipulation.

STOP making the music so loud that I have to yell at people when I greet them. The music does not have to be over 100dB for us to hear it. It doesn’t have to be that loud for us to praise God. Do you have the music so loud because the congregational singing is horrible or because you are trying to simulate a music concert? Please don’t feel the need to simulate a music concert in order to attract people to church. It is a service of worship. The point is to praise and lift up the name of Christ. We worship in Spirit and in Truth, not in overwhelming loudness and in the dark.

STOP turning the lights down during worship. Again, it is not a concert. We are there to worship Christ. It doesn’t need to be dark in order to attract me to come. Worship is for the believer. Evangelism is done for the unbeliever. Please stop focusing on the environment to draw people in.

STOP singing about fluff and emotional psychobabble. We don’t need any more Hillsong or Bethel Redding music. Honestly, the music we sing from Hillsong could be sung by nearly any theological liberal or universalist church because it just lacks substance. It lacks doctrine. It lacks specific biblical truth that nourishes the Christians’ soul. One thing that this music doesn’t lack is musical emotional manipulation.

I urge you, the worship leaders, to start doing the things listed below.

START engaging my mind with your music selection. You must go through my mind to reach my heart to reach my emotions. My emotions won’t be stirred or manipulated by music. Engage my mind with doctrinally sound lyrics. Christ communicates to us through words. Words communicate truth. Emotions do not.

START reminding me of Christ and the Gospel when we are singing during worship. Remind me about how I was an enemy of Christ but He made a way for me to be reconciled to Him. Remind me of how I was under God’s wrath but Christ took the punishment for me so God’s justice could be satisfied. I don’t need any more of the “God’s presence is sweeping me off my feet because He loves me” music. It is not wrong. It is incomplete and a steady diet of it creates a church of theologically illiterate people.

START signing songs that do not have theologically inaccurate statements. You can say I’m being picky. I say words carry meaning so choose words carefully to communicate an accurate meaning. People sing songs throughout the week in their heads. Don’t pick songs that have bad theology. People will be repeating bad theology in their heads all week.

Jesus said, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers. God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24 NASB) I know that the worship leaders truly want to lead us into worship. I know they take their job seriously and want us to worship in spirit and truth. However, in most evangelical churches that I have visited worship in spirit, emotion, and very shallow truth and with very little doctrinally informed truth. May our worship leaders use their influence to teach Christians solid doctrine through the music selection.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Week after week, Christians return to their local church for fellowship and to be fed the by the preaching of the Word in worship. The church members trust the pastor to handle the Word rightly and to expose their hearts from the truths of the Word. How do you, as a Christian, know that the preaching you are hearing every week is good or even right? David Mathis at Desiring God has an article on this. You can read it here.

It is important that you are getting sound doctrine in the preaching you are receiving which is “in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God.” (1 Timothy 1:10-11) How do you know if you are getting good preaching at your church? Maybe David Mathis’ article will shed some light on it for you. In my experience, here are some things to be on the lookout for to know if you are getting good preaching.

  1. Is the sermon gospel-focused? Is the scarlet thread of Christ and his finished work on the cross weaving through the message? The Bible is God’s story so any sermon should be about God and should be gospel focused. It should not just be part of an invitation at the end. It should be a major theme of the sermon.
  2. Are you getting a to-do list? The Bible is not a to-do list or a list of rule to follow in order for God to accept us. The sermon should be about what God has done and not about what we need to be doing. What we need to be doing is casting ourselves on Christ and His grace at the foot of the cross. It should not be a list of thing we need to do in order for God to accomplish His work in our lives.
  3. Are you getting the same points every week? Are you always being told what to do or how to live in order to be made right before God? If so, RUN! Go find a church that preaches the gospel and the biblical doctrine of grace.
  4. Do you have a hard time telling how he got his sermon from the text he read at the outset? If so, it is probably not because you are dumb. The sermon is probably not derived from the text. This is a common practice today in evangelical churches. We need pastors who rightly divide the Word and derive their points from the grammar, structure, and words of the text. The message should be dealing with the text and it should be clear how the sermon comes from the text.
  5. Does the sermon have anything to do with living your best life now? If so, RUN! The Christian life is not about being happy or comfortable. In fact, Jesus teaches that the opposite is true. We should expect opposition and persecution. We should embrace the suffering God sovereignly ordains in our lives to become more like Christ and to glorify Him.

These are just a few points that come to mind when I think about whether or not you are getting good preaching. If you are not getting good solid biblical preaching, please go somewhere that the pastor serves up the meat of the Word week after week. The main part of worship is the preaching of the Word. May we worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.

Soli Deo Gloria

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The Excogitating Engineer spent many years in Japan. One of the unique things about Japan which tourists readily notice is that many restaurants have display windows at the entrance facing the street with plastic food so people can see what food the restaurants serve and how much it costs. They look like the picture shown.

screen shot 2019-01-21 at 1.24.34 pm

As you can see, the window display shows a vivid reproduction of the food choices on the menu. This is great for tourists because you get an idea of what they serve even if you can’t read the menu. It includes prices also which is quite handy. This plastic fake food has long been a part of Japanese culture and there are artisans that make much of it by hand. Some of it very realistic. You might even want to eat it. But don’t try to eat it because it is made of plastic. More specifically, most of them are made of PVC.

Switching gears now, think about the fact that the writer of Hebrews uses a food analogy in Hebrews 5 when he refers to the “elementary principles of the oracles of God” (Heb. 5:12).  He writes in the same verse, “you have come to need milk and not solid food.” I do not wish to make a comparison between Japanese food and meat or plastic food and milk but I would like to make an observation about what many contemporary preachers are giving to their congregations today in their sermons. Many times the sermons are not derived from the text and they end up just being steps on how to live a happy life. The sermons are not driven by the Scriptures and are just steps to a wonderful life or things to do to become a better person. They are not really sermons. They are more like inspirational Ted Talks with a little god sprinkled in here and there.

When I hear these kinds of “sermons” or inspirational talks, I feel like I’ve gone into a Japanese restaurant and instead of them bringing out my food, they have served me fake food that you can’t really eat. If a restaurant brought me fake food, I would immediately send it back and ask for the real thing, as any other sane person would. Attempting to eat fake food would leave me unsatisfied and feeling sick. This is exactly how I feel when I hear some of these sermons in contemporary evangelicalism. They make me feel sick and unsatisfied and still longing for some real food.

To preachers who are giving their congregations plastic food instead of meat, or even milk for that matter, please STOP! Stop telling your church how to have a happy life or how to deal with difficult co-workers or how to be a person God can use. Start opening the Bible and explaining it, as Phillip did with the Ethiopian eunuch. Stop talking about what we have to do to be a good Christian and start talking about what God has already accomplished on our behalf. Start talking about what the Scripture actually means and how it applies to our lives. Start talking about the God that the Bible is actually about. Talk about the the comfort that we have in our position in Christ, if we are indeed in Christ. Talk about that fact that we cannot outrun the outstretched loving arm of God if we are in Him. Talk about how God’s love is not wreckless but that Jesus paid a calculated price, His very life, in order to secure our salvation. Please, start preaching the  Word. No more fake food!

If you go to one of these churches that serves up fake food, send it back. Don’t let the preacher get away with continuing to give you the same plastic food each week. Send the fake food back and ask for some real food. If they still don’t give you real food, find another church where they will give you some sustenance and nourish you with the living Word of God.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Did it happen by chance?

I have written a couple of times on the issue of biomimicry.  That is, scientists and engineers are finding phenomenon in nature that they they wish to copy and ideas which they wish to harness for the good and benefit of humankind.  I have said that this copying that we are doing through biomimicry shows that there is a designer behind our world.  We find ideas or designs that are so complex in our world that the existence of such things point to a creator, not millions of years of evolving by chance.  This particular article talks about how German engineers attempted make more energy efficient plane wings by making them flap like a bird.  Take a look at the article and let me know what you think?  Are these engineers copying the design of the Master Engineer, or Creator, or are they just copying what happened by chance or millions and millions of years of evolution?

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There is a ebook published by SBTS Press which is a biblical response to the book God and the Gay Christian.  The author of the book, God and the Gay Christian, claims that a Christian can live in a same sex relationship and attempts to overthrow biblical morality.

The response to God and the Gay Christian has four contributors: Albert Mohler, James Hamilton, Jr, Denny Burk, Owen Strachan, and Heath Lambert.  You can download the ebook, God and the Gay Christian: A Response to Matthew Vines, here.

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Have you ever wondered if God has Liberterian Free will or not? Some recent things I’ve been reading have made me think about this. Greg Koukl says that God has Liberterian Free will within limits of what would not go against God’s nature. If this is the case, would you not say that God’s Free Will is compatibilistic rather than Liberterian or is it both? What are your thoughts? Watch the video and let me know.

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I just recently saw the movie “Ender’s Game.”  “What did you think of that movie?” my family asked.  I thought it was pretty ludicrous.  A couple of days after seeing the movie I ran across this review of it by Brian Godawa.  He describes it much better than I can.  Read his review of the movie here.  My recommendation is this: don’t watch it.

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