Wine and Wineskins

In the preface to his masterful book on revivals, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Richard Lovelace says the following:

Concentration on reformation without revival leads to skins without wine; concentration on revival without reformation soon loses the wine for want of skins.

He’s dead on. Spiritual vigor (revival) apart from the truth (reformation) isn’t spiritual. Truth (reformation) apart from spiritual vigor (revival) is dead. Even the demons believe and they tremble. (James 2:19)

I came across this quote as I was thumbing through my notes on his book while searching for sermon material, and I want to add something to the quote: reformation must precede revival. The altar must be built according to God’s commands before he will honor the altar with his fire. By reformation, I don’t mean you need to hold to the specifics or Reformed theology. No, I simply mean that you need to preach what was the central doctrine of the reformation– justification by faith. This is one of the common threads through all true revivals. Regardless of the denomination (pentecostal, presbyterian, baptist). True revival is built on justification by faith– a focus on faith in what God accomplished in the cross of Christ.

If there is to be any wine of the spirit it will only be contained in the wineskin of a true understanding of justification.

Also, buy Lovelace’s book. It’s hefty but rich.


Our Own Tools

My dad loves working on engines. And, by extension, he loves his tools. I never once saw my dad put a tool away without wiping it off and storing it in its proper place.

In Lectures to My Students, C.H. Spurgeon wrote of ministers:

We are, in a certain sense, our own tools, and therefore must keep ourselves in order.

Ministers can only preach with their own voice. They can only reason with their own brain. They can only feel with their own heart. As much as I love my books, my fountain pens, my Logos study software, the greatest natural resource God has given me is my body.

Pastors, are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well? Are you reading books, or are you training your mind? There is a difference. Ministry isn’t made for the body, but the body for ministry.

7 Quotes from You Who? by Rachel Jankovic

Rachel Jankovic is a wife and mother who serves at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. She’s written You Who? to combat the slitheringly subtle philosophy of existentialism. Put simply, existentialism (defined by Sarte) is the philosophy that your identity and meaning are what you make them. You exist, then you determine  what you are/who you are. Jankovic’s goal is to unveil the soft, and often undetectable inroads existentialism has made into the lives of Christians. While primarily written for a female audience, the book should be read by men as well. Jankovic’s book is bound to offend you for all the right reasons. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. Here are 7 favorite quotes:

Buy it Here

  • In Christianity, the self is always a tool and never a destination.
  • If your essence is in your choices, anything that takes away your own free will and choices is obviously the enemy.
  • A unique human life has unique human value. It does not need to do anything to have value. The value is found in what God did in creating it.
  • “Let go and let God.” Let him? Who exactly do you think he is?
  • Friends, there is no hope for you that is not Jesus. There is nothing interesting about you if it is not resurrected in him.
  • The longing to do something importantthat would just matter is just another form of unbelief. Every Christian is always in the middle of spiritual action.
  • For the world, “Who am I?” Is actually a much bigger question because it is the question of “Who is my god?”… For the Christian, the question of “Who am I?” Is actually just another way of asking, “Who is He?”

7 Quotes from The Pastor and Counseling by Jeremy Pierre & Deepak Reju

Counseling is not a strength of mine. But, as a pastor it’s a part of the job and so I want to grow into the counseling ministry. This year I’ll be reading three books on the subject. I just finished this short into by Jeremy Pierre and Deepak Reju: The Pastor and Counseling. The book divides into three sections: Concepts, Process, and Context. I explain those three here but I bring them up to highlight part of section three: Context.

The real strength of books from the 9Marks organization is their focus on the local congregation. No pastoral counseling can be separated out of the church context in which it occurs. Your church culture either encourages gospel-centered counseling or it discourages it. Pierre and Reju offer helpful ideas on cultivating a church discipleship culture that supports the pastor/member counseling relationship.

Buy the Book Here

Here are 7 of my favorite quotes:

Loving someone means showing concern for his well-being, even if you are unable to fix his particular troubles.

The scent of superiority rather than humility is a stench to Jesus, since it is the opposite of his example.

A pastor should commend anyone who seeks help. Even if you later discover that the presenting trouble has little to do with the actual problem, you can celebrate the God-given humility the person is demonstrating in recognizing his or her need for help.

Be sure to open you Bible during the first meeting. If God’s Word really matters to the process of change. you need to show it.

Don’t be easy or simplistic in labeling what a person’s heart is worshipping. You are not on an idol hunt, as if these things could be easily labeled.

For your people’s sake, don’t accept their starting points or conclusions. Help them to consider other frames, other angles, other lighting that better draw attention to the redemptive hope in the picture.

We should strive to make church a place where being anonymous or nominal is difficult to pull off.

Members who seek counseling should understand from the beginning that as a ministry of discipleship, counseling is a part of a broader accountability to the church. Counseling is therefore a safe place for those struggling against sin, even if they fall often in that struggle. But counseling is not a safe place for those who willfully continue patterns of clear and unrepentant sin.

Have a Biblical counseling book your enjoy? Recommend it in the comments.


7 Quotes from “Just Do Something” by Kevin DeYoung

The first book I have read in 2019 may very well be the best book I read all year. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung is a no-holds-barred argument for the sufficiency of Scripture as the source for understanding God’s will for your life. For too long evangelical Christians have been mired in the confusing and endless bog of “finding the center of God’s will for my life,” and DeYoung apparently had enough of it. (I’ve had enough of it as well.

His central argument is that God has revealed everything you need to live your life and make decision in his Word, and therefore your main task is to bring his Word to bear upon your decision making. Fair warning: little in this book is nuanced or qualified. DeYoung’s exhortations and rebukes are distilled and potent.

Buy the book here.

Here are 7 of my favorite quotes from the book, and I high recommend you read this if you haven’t already.

  • God micromanages our lives, he doesn’t just plan out a few of the big ticket items.
  • Many of us— men and women are extremely passive and cowardly. We don’t take risks for God because we are obsessed with safety, security, and most of all with the future.
  • Obsessing over the future is not how God wants us to live, because showing us the future is not God’s way.
  • Passivity is a plague among Christians. It’s not just that we don’t do anything; it’s that we feel spiritual for not doing anything.
  • Apart from the Spirit working through the Scripture, God does not promise to use any other means to guide us, nor should we expect him to.
  • The whole “fleece approach” to life is dangerously close to violating Jesus admonition, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Have you read this book? Let me know what you thought. Have a book on the will of God to recommend? Let me know.

Book Thoughts: Theology of the Reformers

51sk2znqgl-_sx342_bo1204203200_A while back a friend and I began sharing the best quotes and thoughts we had from our personal reading. The idea was to give one another greater access to books without having to read as many. If I read a book, my friend could benefit from reading the quotes I pulled out and any thoughts I shared. For 2017, when ever I read a book I’ll share quotes I like, as well as any major thoughts I have about the book.

I just finished reading Dr. Timothy George’s Theology of the Reformers. This year marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church. George’s goal is to set forth the distinguishing theological contributions of 5 reformers: Martin Luther, Hulrych Zwingli, John Calvin, Menno Simons, and William Tyndale. I highly recommend this book. It’s like getting 5 75 page biographies in 1 volume.

A few quotes:

Luther’s new insight was that the imputation of Christ’s alien righteousness was based not on the gradual curing of sun but rather on the complete victory of Christ on the cross.

Another aspect of Zwingli’s doctrine of election deserves some special attention: his postulation of the salvation of the so-called “pious heathen.” Zwingli held that even among those who had never heard the gospel, those who lived outside the chronological or geographical bounds of salvation history, God chose some.

On Calvin- The knowledge of God in the natural realm had only a negative function— to render humans inexcusable for their idolatry.

For Menno, following rather than faith was the great word of the Christian life. Or, perhaps more accurately, faith that did not issue in following was ipso facto barren and false.
Tyndale’s 1526 New Testament entered England as contraband and began to circulate in this way. Literacy was on the rise but still not common. Those who did not know how to read gathered eagerly  around others who did to hear for the first time the words of the New Testament read aloud in English.

Book Thoughts: Christ and Culture Revisited- D.A. Carson

A new series for this blog in 2017 will be Book Thoughts. A while back a friend and I began sharing the best quotes and thoughts we had from our personal reading. The idea was to give one another greater access to books without having to read as many. If I read a book, my friend could benefit from reading the quotes I pulled out and any thoughts I shared. For 2017, when ever I read a book I’ll share quotes I like, as well as any major thoughts I have about the book.

The first book is Christ and Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson. In 1951 Richard Niebuhr wrote what has become a Christian classic, Christ and Culture. The book plotted 5 different viewpoints on how Christianity relates to the world (culture). Carson gives Niebuhr an update and advances Niebuhr’s original thought, slightly.

The greatest contribution I took from this book was Carson’s admonition to balance my view of the relationship of Christ and Culture across the great turning points of salvation history (Creation, the Fall, Call of Abraham, the Exile, the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Church Age, Second Coming and Restoration/Consummation). For example, a view that focuses too heavily on the Fall without also focusing on the Resurrection will tend to hate the world as an evil/irredeemable annoyance. This results in isolationist Christians.

Two other insights I found helpful are these:

  • The church can be so involved in the political process that it ceases to be a prophetic voice challenging the process.
  • Pastors must work hard to distinguish between the mission of the church and the individual commands given to Christians who are citizens of human cities/nations.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

Niebuhr is not so much talking about the relationship between Christ and culture, as between two sources of authority as they compete within culture.
First, an evaluation of a culture depends on a set of values— even as that set of values is in turn shaped by the culture that informs the evaluation… Second, from a Christian perspective, everything that is detached from the sheer centrality of God is an evil… But third, equally from a Christian perspective, God in his “common grace” pours out countless good things on all people everywhere… Fourth, as Christian revelation certainly insists that there are degrees of punishment meted out by a good God, we must assume that some cultural stances are more reprehensible than others.
The worst abuses of Christians against the broader culture have taken place when Christians have enjoyed too much power.
that stance is most likely to be deeply Christian which attempts to integrate all the major biblically determined turning points in the history of redemption.
Romans 13 does not so much tell believers how to govern well as how to be governed.
As for democracy, if we promote it, we do so not because we take it to be an absolute good, still less as the solution to all political problems, and not even because it is an ideal form of government, but because, granted that the world is fallen and all of us are prone to the most grotesque evils, it appears to be the least objectionable option.
It would be more realistic to acknowledge that the founding of the nation was borne along by adherence to some Christian principles and not others. 
Let me know if you’ve read the book, or Niebuhr’s original. I’d love to discuss the topic in the comments.