Books in the Hopper for 2017

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Hello friends,

This is the first year an a long time that professors won’t be dictating my reading. Therefore, I’ve put together a reading list that I hope isn’t too audacious for me. I have no clue if I will get to all of these. Pray for me.

Theology:
1. Christ and Culture Revisited- D. A. Carson
2. Christianity and Culture- J. G. Machen
3. Onward- Russell Moore
4. The Holy Trinity- Robert Letham
5. Theology of the Reformers- Timothy George
6. Spiritual Depression- M. D. Lloyd-Jones
7. Making Sense of God- Timothy Keller
8. Political Church- Jonathan Leeman
Marriage and Parenting:
9. Give them Grace- Elyse Fitzpatrick
10. Parenting- Paul Tripp
11. What Did You Expect?- Paul Tripp
Pastoral Ministry/Leadership:
12. The Reformed Pastor- Richard Baxter
13. Between Two Worlds- John Stott
Non-Fiction:
14. The Story of WWII- Donald Miller
15. Hillbilly Elegy- J. D. Vance. (This book was on the top 10 lists of basically everyone I respect.)
Fiction:
16. King Solomon’s Mines- H. Rider Haggard
17. Nathan Coulter- Wendell Berry
Great Books:
I graduated from the History of Ideas program at The College at Southeastern. The Great books list represents many of the most influential books of Western Civilization. This section includes one book from each general epoch of Western thought.
18. The Symposium- Plato
19. Nicomachean Ethics- Aristotle
20. City of God (Abridged)- Augustine
21. Novum Organum- Francis Bacon
22. Pensées- Blaise Pascal
23. Second Treatise of Government (Abridged)- John Locke
24. The Social Contract- Jean Jacques Rousseau
25. Works of Love- Søren Kierkegaard
26. The Stranger- Albert Camus
27. The Brothers Karamazov- Dostoyevsky
28. Frank Copleston vol. 1
Also, this year I’m going to try out this Bible Reading Plan I heard of from Melissa Kruger. She’s a Women’s Ministry Director in a church in my city and I’ve loved everything I’ve read by her so far.
I have some other personal goals for 2017, and regardless of what I do or do not accomplish this year I’m grateful for the ability to share anything that may help you out. If you have thoughts, or questions, or would like to maybe read one of these along with me shoot me a message.
God bless, and Happy New Year!
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What is Baptism?

The following post is written to help facilitate a discussion with baptism candidates of Lake Wylie Baptist church. It is by no means an exhaustive document on baptism.

Ordained by Jesus:

The final chapter of Matthew’s gospel records Jesus commissioning his disciples following the resurrection. Read Matthew 28:16-20

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 28:16–20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

We recognize baptism as one of two special rites, or ordinances, given from Jesus to his church. The other ordinance being the Lord’s Supper, or Communion. The first reason that we take baptism seriously is because the church received the rite of baptism from her Savior. Jesus himself was baptized by John (Matthew 3:13-17)

Meaning of Baptism:

Baptism is a means of outwardly identifying oneself with Jesus. It’s a physical proclamation that by God’s grace and your profession of faith in Christ you have been joined to Christ, washed of your sin, and empowered to live for Christ.

Read Colossians 2:8-15

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 2:8–15). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Going down into the waters of baptism symbolizes that, just as Christ died, your old life has been crucified and buried with Christ. Here’s what that means. You used to live for yourself. There are two ways we used to live for ourselves:

  • Perhaps you did this by trying to gain the approval of God and others through obeying rules. This is a religious way of living for yourself. You don’t love God for God’s sake, but only for what he can give you.
  • Others of you have lived for yourself by ignoring God and others. You tried to please yourself by throwing off authority and living by your own standard. This is an irreligious way of living for yourself.

Going down into baptism symbolizes that in Christ you have died to these old ways of living and you have trusted Christ’s life and death as your only hope before God.

Coming up out of the water demonstrates that, in Christ, you have been raised to life. Whereas you were spiritually dead to God, now you have been regenerated. You’ve been born again (1 Peter 1:3). You’ve been called out of darkness into God’s light (1 Peter 2:9).

Who is a Proper Candidate for Baptism?

Baptists read the New Testament and understand baptism to be the first act of obedience for those who have received the new birth. You may have heard the term “believer’s baptism”. Here’s are two prominent baptisms in the New Testament. In both cases, baptism follows conversion.

Acts 8:36-38

Acts 16:31-33

Beyond the apparent pattern we see in Scripture, another issue is at stake. In the Old Testament God gave Abraham circumcision as a physical sign that one was a member of the covenant community (Genesis 17). If baptism is to be the New Testament sign of the New Covenant in Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Luke 22:20), then baptism must certainly follow conversion because only those who are converted by grace through faith in Christ are partakers in the New Covenant.

Have you professed faith in Christ? Then you are a proper candidate for baptism.

Why do Baptist Immerse People Instead of Sprinkling or Pouring Water?

The short answer to this question is that the Greek word for baptism (baptiz0) was a word that means “to immerse.”

Read Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 3:13–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

John was baptizing in a river, and Matthew tells us that Jesus “came up out of the water.”

Read Acts 8:26-40

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: 

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter 

and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, 

so he opens not his mouth. 

33  In his humiliation justice was denied him. 

Who can describe his generation? 

For his life is taken away from the earth.” 

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. 

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 8:26–40). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

If pouring was the proper mode of baptism why did they wait until they approached a body of water? The answer is that baptism is to be understood as an immersive event. While sprinkling or pouring may convey the idea of purification or washing, nothing fully pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord as being immersed and raise from the waters of baptism.

Why Require Baptism for Church Membership?

Here’s a bold question for you. Why would a church accept into full membership someone who was unwilling to obey the first command of Jesus to a new believer? Ok, I know that might make you wince, but I think it reveals an important issue. We live in a post-denominational age where church membership doesn’t feel important to many. We also live in a consumer driven society. We buy what we want and leave the rest. We pick and choose. Jesus’ command for the church to baptize believers into local churches challenges our apathy to church membership. It preaches a gospel against our consumer goals. Baptism is a small, yet significant, way we bow the knee to Jesus. We want membership in a local church and baptism to have rich meaning and deep significance.

One More Thought:

Baptism isn’t a first order doctrine like the atonement or the Trinity. We experience wonderful fellowship with brothers and sisters who disagree with us on the finer points of baptism. Christians don’t primarily unify around baptism. We unify around the gospel. While our local churches must organize around a single interpretation of baptism, we never want to be a church where baptism takes precedence over Jesus.

Once you’ve worked through these passages and feel like you understand our church’s position on baptism get back in touch with Pastor Jonathan for some follow up discussion.

Another Favorite Christmas Poem

T.S. Eliot was awarded the 1948 Nobel Prize for Literature and remains one of the most beloved poets of the 20th century. Below is his poem “The Journey of the Magi.” I pray it evokes the same wonder at the birth of Christ in you that it does in me.

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

I’d love to discuss any thoughts you have about this magnificent poem below in the comments.

Handwriting Gift Ideas

This time of year most of the people who know I love fountain pens and handwriting (see the pictures below) are asking me loads of questions about gift ideas. Having been in the fountain pen and stationery world for over three years I forget how intimidating it can be to select a pen, ink, or paper. Here’s my humble attempt to offer you some gift ideas for those interested in fine handwriting, fountain pens, inks, and stationery.

 

Shops:

Goulet Pens– I occasionally buy pens from Goulet because:

  • They are a Christian family business and I like that.
  • They go the extra mile when it comes to educating and serving customers.

Keep in mind they are a retailer and their prices reflect that reality.

Amazon- This is the cheapest place to buy pens, inks, and paper.

Pens:

Fountain pens come in different “nib” sizes which reflect different line widths (relatively). If you’ve never wrote with a fountain pen before I would recommend either an extra fine nibbed Lamy or a fine nibbed Pilot or TWSBI. These finer nib sizes will be gentle on a variety of papers without bleeding/feathering.

Entry-Level ($10-30)

Pilot Metropolitan- The #1 recommended beginner pen. Great quality. Great price.

Lamy Safari- My first fountain pen was a black Safari. This pen will encourage proper grip (some people don’t care for it, I love it).

TWSBI ECO– Pronounced “twizbee”, the ECO is a cool demonstrator pen (translucent) so you can enjoy watching the ink slosh around inside.

Mid-Range ($50-$150)

A mid-range pen costs $150?!?!?! Are you NUTS?!?! Yes, I realize that I just took someone’s breath away, but please understand that we are talking about heirloom quality tools here. And, except for the TWSBI, all these pens have a 14K gold nib. These nibs glide. Material cost, craftsmanship and rarity of these items make the price reasonable in my opinion.

TWSBI Diamond 580- Steel-nibbed, but a gorgeous and sturdy pen. I currently have mine inked with Sailer Apricot.

Lamy 2000- This is my current daily writer. This pen was designed in the 60’s out of the bauhaus school in Germany. I can’t speak highly enough of it.

Pilot Custom 72- My first gold-nibbed pen. A fine nib 74 does wonderfully on thin Bible papers.

Jonathan, I see an entry-level and mid-range section, how expensive can pens be? Well, I’ve seen hand lacquered Japanese pens that cost over $5,000. Those are obviously one-of-a-kind collector’s pieces. I would consider $300 to be the starting point of high-end pens. A $300 pen isn’t likely twice as good a writer as a $150 pen. The price difference represents materials and design.  Why would anyone pay $300 for a pen? I’d consider buying a pen in this range to mark an important achievement: graduation, an anniversary, or a business milestone. I haven’t listen any here because I doubt the average person reading this isn’t looking in this strata. If you are I can make some recommendations.

Ink:

When it comes to inks there are a couple things you need to know. 1. If you buy someone a pen and a bottle of ink check to see if their pen comes with a converter to be able to use bottled ink. Ink quality is important, and I get better performance out of more expensive inks.

Sailor Ink– As a general rule I will like any Sailor ink. The performance for the price can’t be beat. While some colors aren’t my favorite, I haven’t tried a Sailor I disliked yet. Sei Boku is my standard blue ink and has superior performance on thin Bible papers.

Iroshizuku- Pilot’s premium inks. The bottles are gorgeous.

Stationery:

Paper matters more than you ever thought. Ball point pens have a viscous gooey ink that sits on top of our modern, cheap, thin paper. Fountain pen ink is water-based bleeds and feathers into cheap paper. Even Moleskine isn’t that great (gasp). Here are two wonderful selections:

Rhodia– Offered mostly in notebooks and pads Rhodia papers are renowned for their smoothness. Their Web Notebook is most similar to a Moleskine, if that’s your thing.

Apica- My personal favorite. Apica makes a variety of notebook sizes to meet every demand. I use their whopping A4 Premium CD notebook for my sermon prep each week. If you follow me on Instagram that’s the one you see most often.

Anyways, I hope this post helps. I’d love to answer any questions you might have. Over the last 3 years I’ve benefited from the knowledge of others in this little world and I’ll help you make the write decision. (Dear, Lord. Forgive me for making pen puns. Amen.)

Merry Christmas!

A Favorite Christmas Poem

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Adrian Plass has been a favorite Christian poet and humorist of mine for the last 15 years. I found him on an album I bought before a family vacation years ago. A portion of the following poem was read by Adrian on the album, and I go back to it every Christmas. Perhaps you’ll be blessed by it as well. Merry Christmas.

 

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be kites to fly,
The kind they say you can control,
Although I never did for long.
The kind that spin and spin and spin and spin,
Then sulk and dive and die,
And rise again and spin again,
And dive and die and rise up yet again.
I love those kites.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be friends to meet
In ancient oak-beamed Sussex pubs
Enfolded by the wanton Downs,
And summer evenings lapping lazily against the shore
Of sweet, familiar little lands
Inhabited by silence or by nonsenses,
The things you cannot safely say in any other place.
I love those times.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be seasons when the colors fly,
Poppies splashing flame
Through dying yellow, living green,
And autumn’s burning sadness that has always made me cry
For things that have to end.
For winter fires that blaze like captive suns,
But look so cold when morning comes.
I love the way the seasons change.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be peace at last,
That in some meadow filled with sunshine,
Filled with buttercups and filled with friends,
You’ll chew a straw and fill us in on how things really are.
And if there is some harm at laying earthly hope at heaven’s door,
Or in this saying so,
Have mercy on my foolishness, dear Lord.
I love this world you made—it’s all I know.

When I’m in heaven
Tell me there’ll be Christmases without the pain,
No memories that will not fade,
No chilled and sullen sense of loss
That cannot face the festive flame
Nor breathe excitement from the ice-cream air.
Tell me how the things that Christmas should have been
Will be there for eternity in one long, shining dawn
For all of us to share.
I love the promises of Christmas.

 

Sermon Manuscript: Luke 2.1-7

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This past Sunday we look at Luke 2:1-7. Luke shows us that the birth of Christ is a historical event. He links the birth of our Lord to historical facts. Christ’s birth was also a prophetic event. Luke highlights Bethlehem as the city of David pointing us back to Micah 5 and 2 Samuel 7. Finally, Luke shows us that the birth of Christ is an offer of peace. Christ humbled himself to redeem us.

Here’s the manuscript for the sermon: Luke 2:1-7