We are often introduced to the Puritans through the lens of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. However, if your view of the Puritans is centered on a group of religious people who were hunting down witches—you don’t know the Puritans at all.
In the documentary PURITAN: All of Life to the Glory of Godyou will walk through the hallways of history to discover this group of people who sought to purify the Church of England and would eventually flee for religious freedom. You will learn names like John Bunyan, Thomas Goodwin, Richard Sibbes, John Owen, Richard Baxter, William Perkins, John Flavel, Jonathan Edwards, and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
What you will come to appreciate about the Puritans is there unflinching and bold resolve in the face of persecution. They had an immense love for God’s Word, not just because they perceived it to be a special book—but because they understood that through the pages of sacred Scripture they would come to know God intimately. It was their firm commitment to the Word of God that distinguishes them from other groups throughout church history.
The Puritans were willing to risk it all—including the suffering of imprisonment and martyrdom for the sake of the gospel. While we may remember many things about them such as their strict adherence to the text of Scripture—such commitment to the Word resulted in a rich devotion and biblically grounded worship of God. In the documentary, Sinclair Ferguson observes:
The principle of the Puritans, how does God want to be worshiped?—would be like a cold shower in the middle of the night to many churches in our day. It has just simply never crossed their minds.
The Puritans were not only shaped by the Word of God, but they labored to make sure the whole world had access to the Scriptures. Among the Puritans you will find bold preachers like John Bunyan and towering intellectuals like John Owen. The Puritans were both highly educated and uneducated common folk—but in all cases they were deeply devoted to their God and believed that their lives should orient around God and his Word.
You will learn about how the Puritans lived, suffered, worshiped, and what they believed about the doctrines of grace, the church, and other important theological truths. You will trace their commitment to reaching their culture with the good news of Jesus as well. We are commanded to do everything to the glory of God, and that includes the production of documentaries like this one which exemplifies that Christian commitment. The flow of the documentary is easy to follow and doesn’t require a degree in church history to grasp the big picture of the storyline of the Puritans. Furthermore, the graphics and illustrations that are used in the film are of the highest caliber and result in an appealing story that you will want to see more than once.
I do think the film would be great for a family to have in their library, but it’s a necessity for every church to have it in their library as well. Beyond the documentary, there are workbooks and other resources if you want to go deeper into knowing the Puritans.
You can learn more about this engaging documentary at Media Gratiae
Now that Christmas is over, we look on toward the quickly approaching new year—2018. As I look back at 2017, I find that my time spent in writing articles has helped me to study, think, read, and wrestle with some good issues that we all deal with as Christians and that some of us deal with as pastors. Writing, like anything else, is a discipline that one has to work on and practice in order to get better. I can see progress through 2017, and I’m grateful for God’s grace in my life.
Thank you for taking time to read the DBG blog each week. What you will see below is a list of the top 10 articles from 2017. If you missed one, you can take time to catch up by reading it below. I hope you have a happy ending to 2017 and a wonderful New Year.
9. Why Discipleship Works with a Plurality of Elders — Pastors are called to equip the saints for the work of ministry. How can one single pastor disciple the entire church in the most biblical pattern? That’s why when you connect the dots to the calling of a pastor and the government structure of a local church as identified in the pattern of the early church—it’s obvious that a plurality of elders will be far more capable of cultivating a culture of discipleship than a single pastor model.
7. “I Fear You Will Die and Go to Hell” — In this article, I recount a conversation I had with a man who was trying to pursue a divorce from his wife without any biblical grounds for such a decision. What I told him I pray sticks with him as a reminder of his need to repent.
6. 3 Errors of “Word of Faith” Preaching — “True biblical preaching points people to God’s Word where they will be led to submit to God and His will. We are led to pray as Jesus taught us, and to trust in the supernatural power of our God to accomplish His will.”
2. Passion Without Knowledge Is Deadly — Only the second article of 2017 was almost the most popular article of 2017, but beyond the popularity of the article it turned some heads too. Rightly so. We don’t need to further confuse impressionable college students by inviting celebrities to sing a confusing message about the gospel.
1. Please Stop Saying—”God Told Me” — In this article, I addressed the continual problem of our day where people claim to be hearing directly from God rather than directly from God’s Word.
In recent years, it has been my joy to serve as pastor to a wonderful and gifted young lady named Lita Cosner. It has also been my joy to read her new book—From Creation to Salvation: What Jesus and the New Testament authors believed about Genesis. I must admit that her dedication line caused me to get a bit choked up when I first opened her book. She writes, “Dedicated in memory of my great-grandmother Lois Brown (1916-2011) in the hope of the resurrection which will reunite us in the presence of Christ.
The foreword is written by Dr. Kenneth Gentry and in his opening words, he writes the following:
Christian once cleverly complained: “If God through that creation was so important, why didn’t he put it closer to the front of the Bible?” This amusing query speaks powerfully to the significance of creation in Scripture: the Bible actually opens with this doctrine…In this insightful, practical, and compelling book, Lita Cosner demonstrates why it is impossible for the truly Bible-believing Christian to deny recent, six-day creation (7).
The book itself is arranged into two main sections. The first section is centered on the doctrine of creation in the New Testament and the second section is focused upon Adam in the New Testament, which as you can imagine, begins with the historic Adam and ends with the Last Adam—Jesus Christ.
All through the book, Lita connects the dots from creation to salvation. In her opening line, she writes, “If you don’t understand the doctrine of creation, you can’t properly understand the doctrine of salvation” (11). Interestingly enough, Lita begins with an emphasis upon the Son’s role in the work of creation as revealed to us in the pages of the New Testament. This is a theme she picks back up in full in the fourth chapter. What was somewhat veiled in the Old Testament has become unveiled in the New Testament.
This book also begins with a focus on the connection of other key doctrines to the doctrine of creation. Lita writes, “Creation was also used to ground practical doctrines as well. Question so marriage (Matthew 19:1-9) and order within the church (1 Corinthians 11:2-12; 1 Timothy 2:8-14) were decided based on details of creation” (20). This is a critical point of consideration, especially for those who minimize or seek to deny the doctrine of creation.
In the second section, Lita begins with an important focus on the historical Adam. Unfortunately, over the years many liberal interpretations have been accepted which denigrate the authenticity of the progenitor of the human race. Not only does this view do violence to the real human named Adam—it does violence to the Word of God. Lita writes:
This is transparently an attempt to salvage Christianity in the face of what they view as the ‘fact’ of evolution and its obvious discord with the book of Genesis. But Christianity, unlike many other religions, is built on events which are claimed to be historical (115).
In her final section, she covers a great deal of ground in a short number of pages. However, without being rushed, she deals with important themes such as Jesus as the promised offspring who would contend with the serpent’s offspring, the ability or inability of Jesus to sin, the defeat of the serpent at the cross, Jesus as the Last Adam, and how the last enemy—death itself is defeated by Christ.
As a form of conclusion, Lita writes the following:
There are many views of Genesis that are considered to be within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy today; some take Genesis to be almost entirely mythical, while biblical (‘young earth’) creationists take it as entirely historical, and there are many views in between. But the ‘gold standard’ for a Christian view on anything should begin with the question, ‘What did Jesus believe?” We have seen that Jesus believed Adam and Eve were created in the image of God at the beginning of history, and they were the first married couple. Jesus believed righteous Abel was the first martyr, and He believed Noah’s Flood was a global catastrophe that killed all outside the Ark.
Not only do I believe this is a good book for the local church, I believe it’s a great resource for the home. Is your group looking for a good book to read over coffee on Saturday mornings? You need to consider Lita Cosner’s book. It’s not academic and non-practical. In fact, she does a great job of condensing rich biblical truths into a theologically accurate and practical book. The church needs more ladies like Lita who have a passion for truth.
In 2008, Collin Hansen published a book titled: Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinistsand in doing so, coined the phrase Young, Restless, Reformed. Today, that same group is no longer so young and restless. Although the movement is largely populated by a younger demographic, there are many older people who identify as New Calvinist in their persuasion and remain active online and in various para-church ministry settings.
Not only did authors, theologians, and media outlets such as Time Magazine pick up on this doctrinal resurgence in the last several years, but so did Les Lanphere, a film maker who has recently unveiled a project that charts the explosive boom of the New Calvinist movement in recent years. The film is well researched, graphically appealing, and accurately documents the modern day resurgence of historic biblical theology.
One of the points that the film drives home is the necessity of the local church—which happens to be a passion of mine and it just so happens that Les Lanphere interviewed me on that subject and included a portion of that interview as a loving critique of the New Calvinism movement within his film. I was grateful that he pointed out the areas that deserve praise as well as some of the deficiencies among the movement—such as an unhealthy fascination with celebrity icons and personalities that often have a greater voice in the ears of local church members than their local pastors.
I highly recommend this film and believe that it can be used to do more than chart a movement. It can point out the need for solid biblical preaching that places a big God before people on a weekly basis. What are some of the shortcomings of the film? Every book, article, sermon, and song will have some area of deficiency and perhaps this film does as well. While it charts the movement from various angles and documents the use of media outlets, technology, and conferences—there were some noticeable voices missing from the film such as Voddie Baucham, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, and Mark Dever.
It was Mark Dever who asked a very important question in an article titled “Where’d All These Calvinists Come From?” where he documented the resurgence of Calvinism in our present day. Mark Dever along with several other voices have been a large catalyst among the Calvinistic resurgence in evangelicalism and especially within the Southern Baptist Convention—a Convention founded by Calvinists in the mid 1800s.
Aside from lacking a few additional key players in the movement—the film is an excellent documentary and one that you will want to add to your library of resources. Remember, this film does more than document a movement—it actually teaches truth at the same time.
Several years ago as I was finishing my days on the seminary campus, I was introduced to a great Bible study tool by the name – Logos. From that point until today, I’ve been convinced that Logos is the real deal. Much has changed since those days when I was first introduced to Logos, and I want you to know about the most recent innovations with Logos Bible software. Meet – Logos Cloud. Below is a personal review of the Logos Cloud software. I was not required to provide a positive review of the software, but I want you to know that it was not a disappointment. I highly recommend it.
Logos Cloud is a subscription based tool that’s available in different levels depending on where you are and what you want to accomplish with the software. Furthermore, Logos Cloud is the most advanced Bible study software available today and is always working to stay at the forefront to harness the possibilities of technology to make your Bible study more efficient.
How Does Logos Cloud Work?
First, you choose from three different levels, depending on how you will use the software. For instance, you may be a student in seminary or Bible college and you will use the software differently than the parent who simply wants to have a good software for personal and family Bible study options.
Logos Cloud Essentials
Logos Cloud Plus
Logos Cloud Premium
Because Logos Cloud works on the cloud and is a subscription based software, every six weeks you’ll get new updates, features, tools, and more. And every month new titles will be added to your library, so it grows with you.
Logos Cloud Giveaway
I’m pleased to announce that one reader of this blog will receive a FREE Logos Cloud Premium subscription for one full year.
As I read and prepare for my weekly sermons, Logos has been a huge blessing. When I travel, I can literally take my entire library with me on the go without bulky bags full of books tethered to me. In fact, I can take thousands of volumes with me on my iPad since Logos Cloud works seamlessly across all platforms.
Desktop Software – This is downloadable software installed on a computer (PC or Mac). This is the best way to experience the full power of Logos Cloud. Logos Mobile App – The Logos Mobile App is available on Android and iOS so Logos Cloud can truly go anywhere. Logos Web App (Beta) – The Logos Web App is still in development. All Logos Cloud members get exclusive beta access as we bring the power of the desktop to the web.
Perhaps one of the best ideas Logos has implemented recently is the Logos Web App (Beta). Although it’s still in development, I was able to test drive it over the past couple of weeks and I’m impressed. Although all of the features aren’t available at this time, you can imagine what’s on the horizon.
If you’re working on a computer where Logos isn’t installed and you don’t have access to your mobile app, you can login to your account and bring up the web app version and access your library and resources. The web app is fast and runs through your computer without running a software program. This is one more way in which Logos Cloud makes your Bible study more efficient.
I’ve been convinced of the power of Logos Bible software for years. Logos Cloud is the next level in Bible study software. Logos Cloud gives you a digital, biblical library whenever, and wherever, you are. From the church member who’s looking for a good study tool to the expert scholar – Logos Cloud provides the solution on every level. Pastors and church members will all benefit from this great Bible study tool. I encourage you to register for the giveaway and sign up for a free trial today.
Tim Challies has broken the mold! As a self-employed web designer, he has taken up a large task in writing a book that is both practical and thorough. Writing is not an easy thing to accomplish, and not many web designers are writing books that edify the Church! Therefore, as I discovered the book through Tim Challies’ blog, I immediately decided to purchase it and take part in the study on discernment. Below is the result of my personal review of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies.
The purpose of the book
The purpose of the book seems clear from the title. Without even opening the book, Tim Challies has provided us with the subject matter that will be discussed in each chapter – spiritual discernment. As Tim begins his book, he states, “As you no doubt have surmised from its title, this is a book about discernment – about the skill of thinking biblically about life. To be more precise, it is a book about a particular kind of discernment: spiritual discernment. In this book I hope to show that discernment is a discipline, and like other disciplines such as prayer and reading the Bible, it is one that all Christians should seek to practice and should seek to practice deliberately. If we are to be a people who show our love for the Lord by faithfully serving him, it is a discipline we must practice (15).”
Brief summary of books content
The book itself spans 205 pages with ten main chapter divisions and an appendix, acknowledgments section, study guide, general index, and scripture index. From chapter one, titled A Call to Discernment, until the last chapter, titled The Practice of Discernment, Challies seeks to bring about a clear understanding of the Christian’s responsibility to be discerning, a clear definition of spiritual discernment, and practical aspects of the discipline in the Christian life.
Calling to Discernment: Tim Challies puts aside the famous (and often lazy) notion that discernment is for “somebody” else. He says, “Unlike Solomon, I have not been called by God to govern a nation, but even in the humble ways God has called me to lead, I feel the desire of Solomon. Even when I look at my family and think of how I must lead my wife and teach my children, I feel like a little child, uncertain of what to do and how to act (21).” He goes further to state, “Far too many people are just like the audience to whom Hebrews is addressed. This letter draws a clear link connecting a lack of discernment with spiritual immaturity so that those who lack discernment are those who are spiritually immature. Scripture makes it plain: if you are not a person who exhibits and exercises discernment you are not a mature Christian (23).”
Tim Challies makes it very clear – as a Christian – we are all called to be exercising our ability of spiritual discernment. This should be very obvious as God provides us all leadership responsibilities in our homes and often in our churches. There is no room for laziness in the Christian life – and Tim Challies makes this abundantly clear.
Working Definition of Spiritual Discernment: In chapter three, after speaking about the importance of definitions and then looking at the original languages to unpack the meanings of the words, Tim Challies provides us with his definition of discernment.
Discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.
Challies goes beyond this foundational definition to describe it in more detail through the chapter as he unpacks his own definition into component parts. After describing the definition in full detail, he then goes on to speak about the source, the power, and process whereby he describes spiritual discernment.
Tim Challies leaves no room for error. He rightly identifies the source as God and the power as that of the Holy Spirit. In our present day, people are more likely to believe things based upon their emotions, feelings, or because of some person’s testimony of a vision or voice in the night. Challies provides clarity on the source of true spiritual discernment when he points back to God as the ultimate source. He ends his chapter on the defining of discernment by saying, “People who are discerning have a heightened ability to see and understand issues from God’s perspective. Empowered by his Spirit, they strive for and are given an understanding of what is pleasing to God and what is not (71).”
How it [spiritual discernment] Works: After outlining the foundational calling to be discerning and the working definition of the discipline, Tim Challies moves forward for the remaining part of the book describing how spiritual discernment works in the life of the Christian. From proper judgment (chapter 4) to a commitment to the truth (chapter 5) – Challies continually builds upon the foundation of our calling to be discerning into the “how to” aspects of the discipline.
In chapter six, Challies connects the dots of God’s will of command (AKA – God’s preceptive will) and the Christian’s calling to be spiritually discerning. Tim Challies says, “If we are to discern God’s will, we must dedicate ourselves to knowing and understanding his Word as it is given to us in the Bible (119).”
In chapter seven, Challies speaks about the gift of spiritual discernment. Although in the foundational part of his study, Tim Challies claims that all Christians are called to exercise spiritual discernment, he now identifies the actual spiritual gift of discernment. However, before opening up an opportunity to evade the exercise or creating a loop hole [for all attorneys who may read his book] – Challies points to our continued responsibility to exercise spiritual discernment even if we are not explicitly gifted with spiritual discernment. He says, “Just as the existence of a gift of evangelism does not preclude those who have not been given this gift from the task of evangelizing, in the same way, even those who do not have the spiritual gift of discernment are expected to be discerning (127).” Challies then moves on to discuss the gift that is given by God for the purpose of using it in the local church and the life of a Christian for the glory of God.
In chapter eight, Challies speaks about the dangers of discernment. He says, “There is a danger inherent in the practice of discernment. Those who seek to draw clear distinctions between what is good and what is evil can spend undue time and attention on the evil. Once of the greatest dangers of discernment is that we will become so interested in what is evil and ungodly that we allow ourselves to become immersed in it and inadvertently oppressed by the evil we encounter (144).”
In chapter nine, Challies speaks about developing discernment. After opening his chapter (as is his style) with a great illustration on Matt Halladay (a Toronto Blue Jays baseball player) and his preparation regimen for the field – Challies ties it to the life of a Christian and how we should be constantly in pursuit of becoming better. In order to become a better Christian and a more mature Christian, we must become a more discerning Christian. Although many Christians are on a different level of discernment (spiritually) – Challies argues that we must all work at developing it along the Christian journey. He speaks of pursuit, desire, prayer, and seeking discernment in the opening part of the chapter. Challies says, “Discernment is not a pursuit that stand on its own in the life of the Christian. Rather, it is inexorably connected to others. Those who wish to be discerning must have a posture of discernment. They must commit to reading and studying the Bible, to participating in the local church, and to pursuing the charater traits of a Christian (162).”
In his final chapter, Tim Challies discusses the practice of discernment. He says, “While the Bible provides a framework for the method of discernment, we will not find a verse or passage that explicitly instructs us point-by-point (164).” Challies then moves to a very practical (and yet very biblical) process of practicing spiritual discernment. His points are as follows:
Action 1: Verify
Action 2: Clarify
Action 3: Assess The Issues
Action 4: Pray
Action 5: Assess Your Instinct
Action 6: Assess Your Conscience
Action 7: Search The Scriptures
Action 8: Observe The Scriptures
Action 9: Compare And Contrast
Action 10: Research
Action 11: Summarize
Action 12: Expand Your Research
Action 13: Conclude
Action 14: Make a List
Action 15: Judge
Action 16: Hold Fast
Action 17: Apply
After completing his list and describing each part, Challies says, “The practice of discernment, then, is given to us in the Bible. We test by using God’s Word as our standard. And having done that either we hold fast to what is true or abstain from what is false and substitute what is good and true and consistent with God’s character for error (182).”
Impressive ideas contained in the book
Several impressive ideas are contained in the book. I have outlined them below:
All Christians are called to be spiritually discerning.
A lack of spiritual discernment is the evidence of spiritual immaturity.
A Lack of giftedness in the area of spiritual discernment does not exempt a person from the exercise of spiritual discernment in their Christian life.
Application drawn from the counterfeit money example in Canada: all Christians should be so well acquainted with what is right and good that anything less will become easily identifiable.
All Christians should work hard to become more discerning in our Christian life.
Things that I disagree with in the book
I found Tim Challies’ book very well written and researched. However, in his chapter on the gift of spiritual discernment, he takes the position that all spiritual gifts may not be given at the very moment of conversion. He goes on to suggest that we can pray and ask God to “gift” us with a specific gift for the glory of God. While I do see his position and I do understand that the listing in scripture regarding spiritual gifts may not be intended to identify all gifts – I do question the notion that we as Christians are given gifts at various points in our Christian lives – after praying and requesting them.
As I survey the scriptures, I see Jeremiah being called to be a prophet unto the nations before he even left his mother’s womb. Furthermore, the sovereignty of God over all events and giftedness of persons would indicate that God intends to use specific people in specific ways. Therefore, the question must be asked – does the gift already exist in the person as God intends them to be gifted from the time of their conversion? Is the gift manifested or revealed to the individual in accordance with God’s divine time table? It may be that we actually agree with one another, but I simply found this part in Tim’s book difficult to reconcile with the scripture.
Assessment of the value of the book
As I survey the world of Christian literature today, I find myself very discouraged. Not only do we find people writing on various subjects that are not biblically accurate, but we find countless thousands of people purchasing this literature and consuming it at speeds that are unimaginable. I found The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment to be a book that not only addressed the subject of spiritual discernment from a biblical standpoint, but I also found it well researched and personally challenging.
I am well aware of the criticisms that have been put forth regarding Tim Challies’ ability to write a book regarding a theological exercise and doctrine without a formal theological degree. As a pastor, I not only see this as a breath of fresh air, but I also long for the day when people that I pastor can take on such a grand task with such passion and accuracy as Tim Challies has done.
Therefore, I encourage any Christian to purchase his book and read it. It is well written so that both the theologically trained and the average layperson can both benefit. Below is information about where you can purchase a copy for yourself: