Sunday, December 4, 2011

It is finished

Some of you know that I've been finishing up my theology degree at Reformed Theological Seminary.

I spent this past Friday on the RTS campus in Charlotte, North Carolina defending my thesis and I'm glad to say that I passed. I am done!

The virtual program at RTS has been outstanding - with lectures from some great professors on topics from Christian theology, to apologetics and Church history. The staff, as well, have been great to work with. When I have some time, I'll try to write a description of some of the things I've learned.

I've mentioned before that the school posts many of its lectures free of charge on iTunes U and I would highly recommend a listen.

I'll also post a link to my thesis when I have a chance.

Special thanks to John Arns for proctoring many of my exams and Malcolm McLellan for serving as a mentor for my classes. I'm also grateful to the many people who have encouraged me over these years as I've worked to complete my degree - in particular my parents. Thank you!


Update on Advent Resource

Last week I wrote about a great resource for Advent from All Saints Church in North Carolina.

At the time, I just had the link to Week #1 of their Advent devotional.

They have now posted the devotional for each day in Advent.

Here is the link:


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Scripture and Authority

Last week I finished J.I. Packer's 1996 book called Truth and Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life. It is such a good resource, I’m going to devote a few posts to the content.

Chapter 1 in the book is called God’s Freedom Trail and covers the Christian belief that the Bible is authoritative. Early in the chapter, Dr. Packer notes that holding this view can be difficult for those who have had negative experiences with people who have misused their authority. Packer explains that this can “leave a bad taste and prompt skepticism about authority in all its forms.” Yet the Bible being authoritative, Dr. Packer argues “is not necessarily authoritarian." Dr. Packer explains,

“When Christians affirm the authority of the Bible, meaning that biblical teaching reveals God’s will and is the instrument his rule over our lives, part of what they are claiming is that Scripture sets before us the factual and moral nature of things.” (pg. 15)

He explains that Christians do not hold this view for some arbitrary or random reason, but rather it is rooted in our view of God’s character:

“When historic Christianity receives the Bible as an absolute authority for creed and conduct, it does so on the basis that since God is a God of truth and righteousness, the instruction that he lays before us in writing must have the same qualities.” (pg. 14)

Dr. Packer also explains that this belief in the Bible's authority is also rooted in our belief in Christ - who we believe has been given all authority in heaven and earth. Jesus Christ, we believe, is "God incarnate, the risen, reigning Son of God to whom all authority has been given."

Thus, he explains that the only authority-principle which imparts the blessings of God that brings "satisfaction and salvation", "is the personal divine authority of ‘the man Christ Jesus’ (I Tim. 2:5), mediated by the Holy Spirit in and through the Bible.” (pg. 25).

Dr. Packer next addresses the issue of human freedom, explaining that Christ is both the source and the model for freedom. According to Dr. Packer, because of Christ, Christians can experience "real" freedom. He explains that, “real freedom is freedom from sin, which brings with it a place in God’s family, which is the place of permanent external security. Jesus tells them that only those whom he himself has freed…are free in this full sense. If you read the whole passage (John 8:31-36) you will see this at once.” (pg. 24)

This freedom Dr. Packer explains comes not from ourselves, but from God, “We cannot have the freedom we want until we receive it on God’s terms, that is, by giving up our rebellious independence and letting God be God to us. Real freedom is only ever found under authority – God’s authority in Christ, authority which reaches us via God’s written word.” (pg. 26)

His other point in this first section of his book is that Scripture is unique. It is not merely a book that bears a textual witness to God and His works, but it is also an instrument that God will use, to help us discern His will. Thus Scripture, “is not just a witness to Christ’s universal reign but is actually the instrument of it so far as humankind are concerned.” (p. 25)

"How is this possible?" You might wonder. "How can a book be an instrument of God?" It is possible, as Dr. Packer explains, through the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who, “opens and applies Scripture to our hearts that we discern Christ’s will and are enabled to do it.”

....a helpful perspective on the authority of Scripture and its importance in a Christian's life.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Advent Resource

Tomorrow, Sunday (11/27/11) we began the season of Advent (which is celebrated by the Church during the four weeks prior to Christmas).

The word Advent comes from the Latin word adventus which means "arrival" or "coming". During this time, the Church focuses on waiting on the Lord and preparing ones' hearts for Christ as we remember those who waited for Jesus' arrival 2000+ years ago.

As they've done for several years, All Saints Church in North Carolina has produced a devotional resource for the advent season.

Here is a link to an overview of Advent:

And here is the link to Week 1 of the Advent resource:

I've found these devotionals helpful during this time for preparing our hearts. I appreciate the commitment that All Saints Church has made to create these resources.

Blessings during this season,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Truth and Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life

This week I finished reading a book by J.I. Packer called Truth & Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life.

Dr. Packer's books have played an important role in my life. Reading his book Knowing God during my college years was an important introduction to God's character and attributes and very helpful for my spiritual growth.

Then, when I was 24, I read his book called A Quest for Godliness - a great book that provides a wonderfully detailed description on the theology of the Puritans. In more recent years I read his books Keep in Step with the Spirit (a book on the Holy Spirit) and God's Words: Studies of Key Bible Themes.

Over the years I've found it helpful to re-read these books, reminding me again and again of God's faithful through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Recently, I heard Rev. Ligon Duncan recommend Dr. Packer's Truth & Power at a workshop hosted by the Gospel Coalition. The context for his recommendation was for pastors to clearly understand the role of preaching and teaching in the local church. Interestingly, not only does Dr. Packer cover this topic in detail in the book, but also covers a number of other helpful issues as well.

I'll plan on posting a summary of the book's chapters in future posts.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Alan Jacobs on Reading in an Age of Distraction

I've mentioned before that I am a big fan of the audio series called the Mars Hills Audio Journal, a bi-monthly resource hosted by Ken Myers.

One of my favorite contributors to the journal is Alan Jacobs, professor of English at Wheaton College.

He recently delivered a lecture on the "pleasures of reading in an age of distraction." Here's the link:


Friday, September 30, 2011

Ministry Resources - Handouts for Seven Steps Groups

In my last several posts, I've explained that I uploaded the resources that I've written to our website. Here's the link to these free ministry resources:

The third resource listed on the site is a file for handouts for a group called "Seven Steps to Growth and Healing." Here's a link just to that document:

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been able to lead three or so groups through the "Seven Steps" materials, while my friend Gary Spears has also led two or three groups through the material as well. The results were very positive as people learned more about important Biblical truths, including the person of Jesus Christ, His work and the importance of His work in their lives.

Why use the handouts?
While planning to lead my first group that went through these concepts, I had initially planned to simply distribute the Seven Steps booklet. Here's a link to the booklet:

As I was thinking about the format and my plan to distribute the entire booklet at once, I soon realized that we would not have time to read through an entire chapter of the booklet during each week's group. In addition, I really wanted people to focus on each week's topic without jumping ahead.

Thus, I put together the handouts. They contain the Scripture passages, major concepts and discussion questions for each chapter in the booklet, but avoid the stories and some additional materials that I'd included in the booklet.

A few notes on logistics....
When leading this material in a group setting, I found it helpful to meet over seven consecutive weeks.

As I noted above, I have also found it helpful to wait to distribute the entire Seven Steps booklet until the final week - as people are likely to skip topics if they have the booklet with them in their small group. Instead, I provide copies of the handouts for participants to use - but only distribute one week at a time.

At the end of the seven weeks I distribute the entire booklet for participants to read on their own for further spiritual growth.

Some final thoughts about the Seven Steps...
My prayer is that you will find the Seven Steps booklet not only a helpful resource for those in your group, but also for you personally. Each time I review these I find areas where I need to grow deeper in my understanding of God and His purposes.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ministry Resources - Seven Steps of Growth and Healing

In my last post I mentioned that I have uploaded all of my resources to our website. Here is the link to these free ministry resources:

The second resource listed on the site is a booklet that I wrote in May, 2007 called "Seven Steps to Growth and Healing: A Guide to Recovery and Wholeness." Here's a link just to that booklet:

The Seven Steps booklet is designed for either individual or small group study.

Over the years, I've wondered if I should change the title because of the questions I've received from some people when they've seen the title. Some, when they see the word "healing" immediately assume that I have written something about physical healing (which I haven't). Others, when they see the words "seven steps" assume that I've written some demanding kind of self-help book that doesn't rely on God's grace....I haven't tried to do that either.

Origins of the booklet
To understand what is in the booklet, let me first explain its origin.

The writing came about after having helped out with several recovery oriented groups at the Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, OH. My wife, Sue, is an assistant director in the ministry, and over the years she's asked me to fill in from time to time.

As I was interacting with the group members, the thought struck me to put into writing the recommendations that I was giving to people to encourage their relationship with God.

As I began to write the booklet, I was stuck with the thought that each of the seven Biblical truths that I identified have a corresponding lie or myth that many people believe. These "lies" are so commonplace that as I began to talk to people about them in small groups, it was evident that people were struggling with one or more of them on a very frequent basis.

What's in the "Seven Steps" booklet?

After a brief introduction, Chapter 1 encourages readers to "look for God's presence in your life", noting that the Bible explains that God is actively involved in our lives as our creator and sustainer and is very interested in each of us.

Chapter 2 of the booklet examines the myth of "I can do this on my own" and encourages readers to accept God's offer of salvation for the forgiveness of sins by trusting in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Contrasting the myth "I'll never change", Chapter 3 of the booklet explores the mystery of new life in Christ, looking at the blessings of knowing God, bearing "the fruit" of being connected with Him, being free from the bonds of sin, being incorporated into the body of Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Next, Chapter 4 encourages an exploration of the broken places in our lives (such as our fears, feelings, our actions and our history) by asking God to help us recognize these areas...instead of denying that we have no problems.

Chapter 5 encourages readers (or group members) to turn these broken areas over to God. In so doing, we seek His truth and healing touch, acknowledging that He is faithful and good.

After seeking God's provision with our difficulties, Chapter 6 encourages readers (or group members) to "respond to God's direction". These responses, as explained in Scripture, are specific actions that God desires (based on our circumstances) such as confession/repentance, forgiveness, waiting, trusting, renewing our mind and taking other steps toward health.

Finally, Chapter 7 looks at "giving away what you have learned" contrast to the myth that "nobody is interested" or could benefit from what you have learned.

After writing the booklet in 2007, I had a chance to lead several groups through this material....the results were very positive, as people explored truths about Christianity, learned more about the person and work of Christ and His leading in their lives.

My friend Gary Spears also led a few groups with this material and saw some positive my next post I'll share a few things about what we learned and give a few tips for leading groups through the "Seven Steps".


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ministry Resources - Life's Ups and Downs

In my last post, I noted that I had recently uploaded all of my Christian resources to our website. Here's the link:

The first resource listed is a Bible Study I wrote during the summer of 2010, called "Life's Ups and Downs: Charting God's Truth for Your Life."

Here's the link to just that document:

The study uses a number of charts and graphs to help understand the Christian faith and a Christian's "life in Christ". The content comes from thoughts and reflections from some seminary classes I was taking at the time.

Here's a chapter outline:

Part One
Ch. 1 - Life's Circumstances
Ch. 2 - Life as we want it to be

Part Two
Ch. 3 - The Lord of Life
Ch. 4 - Our Authority in Life
Ch. 5 - An Eternally Living God
Ch. 6 - A Living God in Three Persons
Ch. 7 - Life as it deserves to be
Ch. 8 - The Life and Work of Christ

Part Three
Ch. 9 - Life in Christ
Ch. 10 - Life in the Kingdom
Ch. 11 - A Life of Rest
Ch. 12 - A Life of Becoming

You may notice that all of the chapters have the word "life" in the title....that wasn't by mistake. Jesus' favorite word to describe salvation was "life." (Read John 10:10, 14:6 and 17:3 to see some examples).

Whether you are new to Christianity or a seasoned believer, I hope you find some encouragement in this resource.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ministry Resources

This week I uploaded the Christian resources that I've written to our website.

I'll plan on doing a few additional blog posts on each of the resources to explain them in more detail, but in general there are materials on:

- the essentials of the Christian faith
- Christian leadership
- prayer

...and a few other topics.

Here's the link:

Hope you find something helpful!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Some really good news...

Some of you know that I've been travelling alot for work during the past six months....which has not been the easiest thing for the family. This week I accepted a new job with another software consulting firm and the work will be local! I'm looking forward to spending more time with Sue and the boys. -d.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Quick Update

Haven't blogged for awhile....I've been writing my master's thesis for Reformed Theological Seminary.

Last night I turned in the final draft. Writing it has been one of the most challenging things I have done, so I'm quite relieved that it is finished. Completing it has definitely been an answer to prayer.

I'll post a link as soon as I can.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Francis Schaeffer Lectures

I discovered this week that Wheaton College has posted a number of lectures delivered by Francis Schaeffer.

Here's a link to a list of some of lectures compiled by Justin Taylor at the Gospel Coaliton.