Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Awe and intimacy in forgiveness

We've taken a little hiatus from posting, and reading, about Tim Keller book on prayer called Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. So, here we go again, hopefully keeping on track until the book is finished.

In the thirteenth chapter, Keller perhaps discusses the area of Christianity where the experiencing of the intimacy and awe of God comes into play and does so with a whole whack of tension. This area is the area of forgiveness of sins. The experiencing of intimacy is profoundly experienced in the free forgiveness of our sins. But the experiencing of the awe of God is also experienced when we contemplate the infinite cost this free forgiveness required.

Keller desires to keep this biblically informed tension in the forefront in this chapter. He writes,
Only against the background of the Old Testament, and the great mystery of how God could fulfill his covenant with us, can we see the freeness of forgiveness and its astounding cost. It means that no sin can now bring us into condemnation, because of Christ's atoning sacrifice. It also means that sin is so serious and grievous to God that Jesus had to die. We must recognize both of these aspects of God's grace or we will lapse into one or the other of two fatal errors. Either we will think forgiveness is easy for God to give, or we will doubt the reality and thoroughness of our pardon.  (207)
Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. Even in earthly relationships, one would be hard pressed to find a sweeter, more intimate and affecting idea than forgiveness. And yet, when forgiveness comes from the infinite and perfectly holy Creator of the universe, and the cost of his infinite and perfectly holy Son, the glory of forgiveness starts to be seen in its massively majestic splendour. Keller continues,
All those who are in Christ must and will be forgiven Why? He has taken the punishment and paid the debt for all their sins. It would be unjust of God--and unfaithful to his covenant with us to receive two payments on the same debt, so it would be unjust for him not to forgive us. This profound assurance and security transforms repentance from being a means of atoning for sin into a means of honoring God and realigning our lives with him.  (209)
The debt-paying sacrifice of our glorious Saviour assures our forgiveness which also assures the almost unbelievable reality of an intimate relationship with God! And the awe-inducing reality of what this actually cost, and what Christ actually did to secure this blessing, should leave us in a state of reverence beyond normal experience. Such is the nature of grace; forgiveness that is free and infinitely costly.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Book Review – 40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

The first 40 Questions book I read pertained to the Law and how Christians should understand it. I found it very helpful. This book by John S. Hammett is equally beneficial and useful. The strengths of this book which shape its helpfulness are the form it employs, the style of its writing, the tone of the author, and the content of its answers.

The form of the book shapes its usefulness for laypeople and clergy alike. The book is, as the title suggests, a compilation of questions and answers in regards to the sacraments, or ordinances, of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This format makes it very easy for the inquisitive to quickly find an answer to questions they may have. In fact, Hammett’s book deals with every question I had in regards to these topics; I cannot think of anything it does not deal with that is relevant to me. The books divisions also aid the reader. The book is divided into general questions, questions about baptism, questions about the Lord’s Supper, and concluding questions. The sections on each of the sacraments is further divided into introductory questions, denominational views, theological issues, and practical aspects. The very structure of this book bolsters its helpfulness.

The style of the writing greatly enhances its value to the reader looking for answers about these two issues. How many millions of words have been written about baptism and the Lord’s Supper? One could spend a lifetime reading about them. But Hammett’s writing is concise and clear. He is easy to follow and his answers are succinct. The reader will not get bogged down in this book, particularly when the option of just reading the answers to the questions one is concerned with is an option.

I appreciated the author’s irenic tone while dealing with the alternative views on many issues. Though the author clearly states his own opinion, he fairly represents other perspectives and presents them without negativity. He does not hesitate to state his disagreement, but he does so winsomely. This approach makes the book easy to read and helps the reader see other viewpoints which adds to the value of this book.

Finally, the actual of content of the answers is the main benefit of this book. Though I have read several books and many articles on these two controversial topics, this one book has helped me more than those combined. In particular, Hammett addresses historical topics throughout the book and I found these discussions very enlightening. I will add, the chapter entitled What Can You Do to Improve Your Worship through the Lord’s Supper? is worth the price of the book alone. Though one might not agree with all of the author’s answers, their helpfulness cannot be questioned.

40 Questions About Baptism and the Lord’s Supper by John S. Hammett is another book in the 40 Questions series that helpfully deals with issues of great importance to the church. It is particularly helpful because of its question and answer format, its clear and concise writing, its irenic tone, and the actual answers the author provides. I recommend this book as a valuable resource for the church and her people.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Book Review - The Son of God and the New Creation

If Graeme Goldsworthy’s The Son of God and the New Creation is indicative of what readers can expect from the new Crossway series Short Studies in Biblical Theology, then I suggest the books are going to be a tremendous gift to the church and her people. This first volume from the series delivers an edifying and intriguing look at a central theme of the Bible in a refreshingly accessible manner.

The renaissance of biblical theology over the past decade has surely been a positive thing. Even as a layperson, I am aware of the increasing number of books in this genre that have been and are being published. I have even read a few of them myself. The Short Studies in Biblical Theology promises more biblical theology in the coming years. Series editors Dane C. Ortlund and Miles V. Van Pelt intend for these books to “magnify the Savior and to build up his church.” The Son of God and the New Creation thoroughly accomplishes both of these goals.

In this volume the author, Goldsworthy, traces the theme of “Son of God” through the Bible and considers how God’s Son connects to the new creation. The study follows an outline which is clearly laid out in the first chapter. This volume will begin not in the Old Testament, but rather in the New Testament. Goldsworthy writes: “Since we begin our Christian journey by coming to faith in the person and work of Jesus, it makes sense to begin with him.” From there the author wants to identify how the New Testament authors relate this theme to the Old Testament which sets up a survey of the theme in the Old Testament itself. The author finishes with a consideration of New Testament application. Though the author recognizes that this method is not “the only way a biblical-theological investigation can be carried out,” I found it very helpful as well as easy to follow.

I found that the theme in question and how the author conveyed his research both exalting to Jesus and edifying to me. With clear explanations and concise writing, Goldsworthy explains and expounds the theme “Son of God” and in doing so paints a picture of a glorious Saviour. In following this golden thread through the New and Old Testament, I found myself not only educated, but also enraptured; what a wonderful Saviour this God-man is. As has been my experience, following different thematic concepts through all of Scripture leads to some edifying discoveries. For instance, Goldsworthy’s study conveyed to me the surprising emphasis the Bible places on an actual location when dealing with God’s work in creation. In fact, the author suggests God’s redemptive plan can be explained simply: “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule.” It was only through this investigation of the “Son of God” in Scripture that I became aware of this important detail. So, I found in this book, as I have found in other biblical theologies, a very helpful and God-honouring teaching.

The series in general, and this book in particular, are intended to build up the church. The Son of God and the New Creation will build up the church, even the less-than-intellectual types as well as the I-have-an-aversion-to-reading types. Before getting this book in my hands, if you asked me to picture a book on biblical theology I would have envisioned a massive tome of at least 700 pages. The works on biblical theology that I have read are exactly that; large books that trace a theme through every book of the Bible, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation. They were incredibly impactful books that I am very grateful to have read. But they are not for everyone. The length alone would eliminate most people. That is where a book like the one in consideration succeeds; it is accessible to every level of reader and it will be helpful to every level of reader. In my opinion, putting biblical theology within the reach of the average church member is a significant contribution to the body of Christ.

With the aim of writing a biblical-theological study of the “Son of God” that is edifying to the church and exalting to the church’s Saviour, I can say with conviction that The Son of God and the New Creation is a brilliant success. I recommend this book and am looking forward to the next in the series.

A copy of this book was given to me from the publisher for the purpose of review.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


As Jude wrote about in his post on chapter 11, finding a balance between doctrine and experience was the main topic. I struggled with this chapter. Keller uses a lot of John Owen's work to support his points on experience and doctrine. Throughout reading the chapter Keller wrote about Owen's interest in the Catholic mystics but how his understanding of "experience" differed from theirs. I found both explanations to be very similar but to Keller's credit he states near the end of the chapter that he believed the two points of view to be more similar then perhaps Owen would have admitted.

I did appreciate Keller working through at length how doctrine and experience go together. Christian mediatation needs to be deeply rooted in the Word. If we have alone time where we just sit and contemplate the things of God we need to understand what he's already told us about himself if we're to think correctly about him.

Keller wraps up the chapter with a quote from Augustine explaining where proper meditation of the Word can lead us.

"But what do I love when I love you? Not the beauty of any body or rhythm of time in its movement; not the radiance of light, so dear to our eyes; not the sweet melodies in the world of manifold sounds; not the perfume of flowers, ointments and spices; not manna and not honey; not the limbs so delightful to the body's embrace: it isnone of these things that I love when I love my God.
And yet when I love my God I do indeed love a light and a sound and a perfume and a food and an embrace - a light and sound and perfume and food and embrace in my inward self. There my soul is flooded with a radiance which no space can contain; there a music sounds which time never bears away; there I smell a perfume which no wind disperses; there I taste a food that no surfeit embitters; there is an embrace which no satiety severs. It is this that I love when I love my God"

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Struggling with Focus

In the tenth chapter of Keller's work on prayer he addresses how to meditate on the Word. A common struggle with a time of meditation is getting distracted. Suddenly all the worries of the day come flying back to the forefront of our mind and any hope of getting some studying done is over before it even began. Keller addresses this and uses some quotes from John Owen to explain his thoughts.
Like Martin Luther - who knew that sometimes the Holy Spirit begins immediately to "preach to you" and sometimes he does not - Owen is quite realistic. He admits that sometimes, no matter what we do, we simply cannot concentrate, or we find our thoughts do not become big and affecting, but rather we feel bored, hard, and distracted. Then, Owen says, simply turn to God and make brief, intense appeals for help. Sometimes that is all you will do the rest of your scheduled time, and sometimes the very cries for help serve to concentrate the mind and soften the heart. He writes: "When, after this preparation, you find yourselves yet perplexed and entangled, not able comfortably to persist in spiritual thoughts unto your refreshment . . . cry and sigh to God for help and relief." Even if your meditations give you only a "renewed gracious sense of your own weakness and insufficiency," that is by no means a waste of time. It is bringing you into greater touch with spiritual reality. Then, he adds, our expressions of grief at the sense of God's absence are themselves ways to show love to God, and they will not go unappreciated by him.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

175 Tweetable Quotes from The Prodigal Church by Jared Wilson

So, yeah, this sort of got out of hand. I got started and it was a slippery slope sort of deal.

Nevertheless, I really found The Prodigal Church by Jared C. Wilson very helpful and informative. I like doing these "so-many Tweetable Quote" posts as a way to review a book. These posts also end being a resource for use in the future. And the issues Wilson raises in this book are worth pondering and re-pondering and re-re-pondering. So I hope you also find this helpful.

I am a pretty weak typist, and so there could be some errors; I'm also not great at pronouncing my words and since I used Dragon Dictation to do some of this work there may be more errors. I tried to catch them, but if they still exist than the fault is all mine. Enjoy.

  1. “…guilt can be a powerful motivator…But guilt is not a very enduring motivator.” (9)
  2. “This is not an argument for a more traditional church so much as it is an argument for a more biblical one.” (18)
  3. “…I invested in the attractional church because I shared its heart for the lost. I still have not rejected its primary aims.” (20)
  4. “How we “do church” shapes the way people see God and his Son and his ways in the world.” (21)
  5. “If we give either legalism or license an inch, they will take a mile.” (23)
  6. “What if the way we communicate Jesus actually works against people trusting him?” (24)
  7. “‘What if what we’re doing isn’t really what we’re supposed to be doing?’ We should ask that. All of us.” (24)
  8. “A definition of attractional…a way of ministry that derives from the primary purpose of making Christianity appealing.” (25)
  9. “…too often the message of Christ’s death has become assumed, the thing you build up to rather than focus on.” (27)
  10. “To hear a lengthy appeal to our abilities, culminating in an appeal to our utter inability, can cause spiritual whiplash.” (27)
  11. “…the idea that the attractional church is having its doors beaten down by lost people is a myth.” (35)
  12. “…the kind of growth the attractional church experiences the most of is in reality the kind of growth they often claim they don’t want… ‘transfer growth.’” (35)
  13. “The family has not been won to a church. They’ve been won to a menu of attractive goods and services.” (36)
  14. “God will use anything to bring people to him. But just because he is no snob, that doesn’t mean ‘anything’ is normative for our use.” (38)
  15. “The ends don’t justify the means.” (38)
  16. “It is a customary mantra of ministry that healthy things grow. And yet sometimes healthy things shrink.” (40)
  17. “‘Healthy things grow’ sounds right. But cancer grows too.” (40)
  18. “So it’s possible to look big, to look successful, and to not actually be big or successful in the ways that matter.” (40)
  19. “Sometimes unhealthy things grow.” (41)
  20. “It would see, actually, that for some churches, bigger inadvertently becomes the point …” (41)
  21. “”…in the attractional model, all too often members are not contributing to the life of their church body but to the church’s programming…” (45)
  22. “Shouldn’t we measure our models against the means and methods found in the Scriptures?” (46)
  23. The Bible is frustratingly vague on ‘how to do church.’” (47)”
  24. “…as we seek to do the good work of missionary contextualization, we have to make sure that we have not crossed lines into cultural accommodation…” (48)
  25. “Beneath the exercise of liberty in methodology is always a functional ideology driving our decisions.” (48)
  26. “A ‘functional ideology’ is the belief…in a church that…drives the methods and practices of the church.” (49)
  27. “In short, just because we think we can do something doesn’t mean we should.” (49)
  28. “I think the evangelical church in the West is particularly susceptible to two primary ideologies…pragmatism and consumerism.” (49)
  29. “…I think the attractional model is fundamentally built on these functional ideologies…pragmatism and consumerism.” (49)
  30. “We need to be careful, however, not to confuse pragmatism with simply being practical.” (50)
  31. “I would suggest that pragmatism runs counter to the functional ideology of Scripture.” (50)
  32. “It [pragmatism] assumes a method’s value is based on the demonstration of our desired results.” (50)
  33. “Those verses are instead a reminder that we can do our work but we cannot do God’s. Nor is his work contingent upon ours.” (51)
  34. “The sower [in Luke 8:5-8] appears to be scattering the seed somewhat indiscriminately.” (51)
  35. “In the pragmatic way of thinking, faithful church ministry always results in growth. And it does! But not always in the ways we expect and desire.” (52)
  36. “Pragmatism has a utilitarian ethos to it. It is by nature unspiritual.” (52)
  37. “Pragmatism is anti-gospel because it treats evangelism as a kind of pyramid scheme…” (53)
  38. “Pragmatism reasons that God’s ability to use anything means our freedom to use everything.” (53)
  39. “The way the church wins its people shapes its people.” (54)
  40. “…the most effective way to turn your church into a collection of consumers and customers is to treat them like that’s what they are.” (54)
  41. “But in my dad’s mind-in the world of logic and realism and fairness-the customer is sometimes pretty stupid.” (56)
  42. “No human’s desires are value-neutral.” (56)
  43. “We can and should address some felt needs, but not all felt needs are created equal.” (56)
  44. “…the attractional church model necessarily gives rise to competition among churches…” (57)
  45. “…the target audience of the ‘worship experience’ is not any mortal in the congregation. The target audience is God himself.” (58)
  46. “The purpose of the worship service is not what we get out of it but the God who has drawn us into it.” (59)
  47. “…the functional ideologies…of pragmatism and consumerism are disastrous, because they make the individual person the center of the religious universe.” (60)
  48. “The worship service, biblically, is never seen…as a place where individuals go to enjoy a particular experience nor as the central place of evangelism.” (62)
  49. “The worship service, biblically, is a gathering of Christians to enjoy God in communion with him and each other.” (62)
  50. “The attractional church follows a trajectory away from what makes the church the church.” (63)
  51. “The worship service must be conducted with the unbeliever in mind, but it doesn’t need to be conducted with the unbeliever in focus.” (63)
  52. “…in the biblical picture of the earliest church, we don’t get any indication that the worship gathering is meant to be an event oriented around the unbeliever’s presence.” (63)
  53. “…designing your service specifically for the [unbeliever] is neither biblical nor wise.” (65)
  54. “What the Bible seems to express is that unbelievers in the service are best served not by having their tastes catered to…” (66)
  55. “What you win them with is what you win them to.” (66)
  56. “What we do in church shapes us. It doesn’t just inform us or entertain us. It makes us who we are.” (67)
  57. “The worship service…doesn’t just cater to certain tastes; it develops certain tastes.” (67)
  58. “We will eventually become conformed to the pattern of our behaviors.” (67)
  59. “Habits come from character, but it works the other way too-character is shaped by habits.” (67)
  60. “The Bible’s ‘functional ideology’…is that ‘what works’ is the Holy Spirit through the message of the gospel of Jesus.” (70)
  61. “…neither the Spirit nor the gospel needs help from our production values.” (70)
  62. “The wider evangelical church is suffering terribly from theological bankruptcy.” (74)
  63. “We [evangelicals] have tended to favor the practical half truth rather than the impractical (allegedly) whole truth.” (74)
  64. “Our shepherds are increasingly hired for their…laboring in the increase in attendance rather than the increase of gospel proclamation.” (75)
  65. “The dilution of understanding of worship is a direct result of the dilution of theology in the church.” (75)
  66. “Fortune-Cookie preaching will make brittle, hollow, syrupy Christians.” (77)
  67. “We fill our buildings with scores and scores of people, but we’ve reduced the basic message to fit the size of an individualistic faith.” (77)
  68. “The typical application message tends to overemphasize our good works while a good proclamation message will emphasize God’s finished work.” (82)
  69. “The essential difference between applicational preaching and proclamational preaching ultimately depends on how much the preacher wishes to make of Jesus.” (83)
  70. “The applicational preacher either presupposes the gospel or relegates it to the conclusion of his message.” (83)
  71. “…just because you dress casually, play edgy music, and talk a lot about grace, it doesn’t mean you aren’t a legalist.” (84)
  72. “…it’s my belief that the self-professed ‘culturally relevant’ churches are the chief proponents of legalism in Christianity today.” (84)
  73. “But ‘do’ isn’t any less law-minded than ‘don’t.’” (84)
  74. “The gospel isn’t ‘don’t,’ but it also isn’t ‘do’; both are merely religion.” (84)
  75. “They [unbelievers] don’t need the church to act like good people, really; they need the church to point to Jesus as the only truly good person.” (84)
  76. “”Pharisaical legalism was just self-help without the cool clothes.” (84)
  77. “…we must never teach the practical points as the main points.” (85)
  78. “The [good] news is so much better than the instructions! It is better because the news actually saves us.” (86)
  79. “But what will really save the lost world? Let me tell you: none of our complaints against it.” (87)
  80. “It is possible, actually, that all of our emphasis on the practical has only served to make things impossible.” (87)
  81. “Preaching even a ‘positive’ practical message with no gospel-centrality amounts to preaching the law,” (88)
  82. “…when we preach ‘how to’ law sermons instead of the gospel, we may end up with a bunch of well-behaved spiritual corpses.” (89)
  83. “,,,what the Christian church needs today in its imperfect fumbling back to the beauty of gospel-centrality is a stubborn unmuddling of law and grace.” (90)
  84. “It seemed as though authenticity was a style we were going for, which is, surely, the exact opposite of authenticity.” (93)
  85. “…emotionalism is dangerous.” (94)
  86. “The danger in this [emotionalism] is that we end up craving the emotions associated with emotional worship, not necessarily the spirit of worship itself.” (94)
  87. “It’s not the charismata that are offensive to me; it is the complete lunacy that claims Spiritual authenticity.” (95)
  88. “We are in very real danger of divorcing our styles and preferences from our object.” (95)
  89. “Worship must really be worship, which is to say worship of God, the triune God.” (96)
  90. “The problem in these emotionalistic, faddish, trendy times is that worship becomes more about us than God.” (96)
  91. “The danger we face when we worship is coming into the experience assuming we are summoning God.” (97)
  92. “If you worship God in a less-than-clear or in a doctrine-less sense, you end up worshipping another god.” (99)
  93. “When we divorce theology from worship…we compromise our worship. It may look great but it is hollow and shallow.” (99)
  94. “The center of worship is the perfect and eternal God…not the achievements of the created.” (99)
  95. “Self-celebratory worship music is the result of self-celebratory teaching and discipleship.” (100)
  96. “Worship is a way of life, a quality of the believing heart.” (100)
  97. “Modern church worship is characterized by an exaltation of the self, but authentic worship is marked by an emptying of ourselves.” (101)
  98. “Authentic worship doesn’t just focus on the fullness of who God is, but it glories in the beauty of what God has done.” (102)
  99. “It [real worship] is basking in the warm glow of eternity.” (102)
  100. “The gospel is a blinding light interrupting our minding our own business on a lonely road.” (102)
  101. “When we gather, are gathering a watchers or as beholders?” (103)
  102. “When we gather…Are we gathering to see a performance or to see the passing by of the glory of God?” (103)
  103. “The gospel must be central because nothing else even comes close to filling the eternal gap.” (104)
  104. “The way the attractional church worships produces the kind of worshipper it gets.” (111)
  105. “I’m only saying that we should use these things after asking deeper questions about them than ‘Will this work?’” (112)
  106. “But the uncritical use of media and technology can stunt our church's spiritual growth, even if in the short-term it entertains and pleases the people.” (112)
  107. “The uncritical co-opting of the cultures need for media might actually feed inside the church the negative qualities they feed outside the church... ” (113)
  108. “All churches should be seeker sensitive in the best sense of the phrase…” (116)
  109. “At what point do we look at cultural trends not as things to mirror and copy but as things to challenge and subvert?” (116)
  110. “I am afraid many churches have moved from leveraging technology to merely co-opting whatever they think the world finds appealing or slick.” (116)
  111. “We cannot expect our people to grow in God's glory if we do not put God's glory for their faces.” (119)
  112. “We cannot settle for success. Our people need real glory, and only the gospel "of first importance" reveals it. ” (120)
  113. “In other words, the bigger and the attractional church becomes, the more programs and ministries it thinks it must offer.” (121)
  114. “The drive to provide an array of goods and services prevents a church from exercising missional nimbleness.” (122)
  115. “Churches passionate about simplicity will pursue a simple vision.” (128)
  116. “The attractional of church often reasons according to available resources, not according to actual spiritual value.” (128)
  117. “But it isn't more entrepreneurial visionaries we really need more cross-focused visionaries.” (131)
  118. “If the church is people, then the organizational machine and a local congregation should be considered expendable.” (132)
  119. “When an attractional church multiplies, the results more resemble franchises then church plants.” (133)
  120. “As the attractional church accumulates more complexity, it becomes more rigid, despite all its claims to innovation and cultural relevance.” (133)
  121. “… the simple church adopts an approach to church growth that is more reflective of farming, of cultivation.” (134)
  122. “… the simple church focuses simply on the long-term investments in growth and trusts the “Spirit produce growth in his time.” (134)
  123. “The simple church follows the direction not of the shifting winds of the culture but the surprising currents of the Spirit.” (134)
  124. “The simple churches mission waiting much more nimble than the attraction church. (134)
  125. “Similarly, the church needs to stick to what the Bible actually tells us to do, and what the Bible actually tells us to do is not very complicated.” (134)
  126. “Over programming create an illusion of fruitfulness just be busyness.” (134)
  127. “Here's a good test: take a look at a typical over-programmed church's calendar and see how many of the activities resemble things seen New Testament.” (136)
  128. “Always ask 'should we?' before you ask 'Can we?'” (137)
  129. “Somewhere between the poles of attachment to church programs and 'self-feeding' lies the real stuff of covenant community.” (143)
  130. “Systems may aid the discipleship process, but discipleship is not a system.” (144)
  131. “Underneath our felt needs is an entire industry of idols emerging from the foundation of sin and longing for glory.” (144)
  132. “Are we trusting our programs, or are we trusting God?” (145)
  133. “Whatever our programs, our churches' leaders need to take seriously the command of Christ – in as many ways as possible – to feed his sheep.” (145)
  134. “But if we want to Christ–exalting, Christ–loving, Christ–following people, we have to get more personal and go deeper.” (145)
  135. “Pragmatism, on the other hand, is the mind-set that says that whatever "works" can and should be used.” (147)
  136. “A pragmatic mind-set treats spiritual matters along the lines of mathematics.” (147)
  137. "We must remember that pastoral ministry, like Christianity itself, is not a matter of formulas but of faith.” (147)
  138. “Or maybe we've taken the biblical sheep metaphor a bit too far, and we're looking at how best to herd the sheep instead of how to best feed them.” (148)
  139. “But when all is said and done, we are not managers of spiritual enterprises: we are shepherds.” (148) 
  140. “Jesus neither sulks nor sighs about us. He ministers to us willingly, eagerly. ” (149)
  141. “Therefore, personal presence is so important. And I'd say you're not really a pastor if you're not present. ” (149)
  142. “Only the Gospel goes deep enough to effect real hard change. Everything else is just behavior modification. ” (150)
  143. “But in order to reveal someone's functional ideology… we have to employ the only tool adequate for that job, and that is the gospel of Jesus…” (150)
  144. “The way we are typically programmed to measure the success of our ministries sets us up for hollow victory in desperate failure.” (151)
  145. “It is only to say that what we measure and how we measure shows where our confidence lies.” (151)
  146. “Clearly, accumulating numbers cannot be our primary measure of success.” (151)
  147. “… in the attractional church, growth in numbers is often seen just as a measure of success but as a justification for any methodology used to get them.” (151)
  148. “Biblical credibility is not found in big stats.” (152)
  149. “… We are responsible mainly for the care of the souls, not the accumulation of them. ” (152)
  150. “When we pastors cling to the gospel ourselves, it will shape us, giving us the mind and heart of Christ for our people.” (153)
  151. “The central idea of the church should be the Gospel.” (156)
  152. “Numbers don't account for everything. In some cases, they don't account for anything. ” (157)
  153. “What God will require of us is not ministry quantity but ministry quality.” (157)
  154. “...but in a church centered on the gospel, things like inspiration and good feelings are seen as byproducts of the experiences, not the aim of the experience. ” (158)
  155. “What is emphasized and valued the churches media correlates to what the church is measuring success.” (159)
  156. “The attractional church, which places a huge emphasis on numbers, science, and raw data, highly prices statistics.” (159)
  157. “The gospel-centered church highly prizes stories. Rather than prizing bigness, it prizes relationality. ” (159)
  158. “The gospel is not made more powerful by a dynamic preacher or a rockin' band… The gospel cannot be improved. ” (163)
  159. “You cannot program salvation.” (165)
  160. “The Spirit doesn't where the church’s wristwatch. You cannot control him." (166)
  161. “That's what prayer is, essentially: acknowledged helplessness.” (166)
  162. “But we do not worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ingenuity.” (167)
  163. “Everything good and valuable must come from the Spirit's sovereign working, not from our ministerial machinations.” (167)
  164. “The Evangelical church's search for the magic bullet is insatiable.” (169)
  165. “The nurturing of your congregation's desire for experiential community begins with you.” (169)
  166. “Reject the tyranny of results.” (172)
  167. “Preach hard on the importance of discipleship, on the call to community…” (173)
  168. “… the church does not exist to facilitate all our good ideas.” (176)
  169. “Good intentions and strong giftedness do not baptize on biblical methods.” (176)
  170. “If all of life is repentance, then all of ministry is too.” (184)
  171. “The very nature of Grace throws off all measurements of balance.” (185)
  172. “In reality, both irreligion and religion are fundamentally self-salvation projects.” (185)
  173. “… in the New Testament, you never find application on exhortation disconnected from gospel proclamation.” (187)
  174. “It’s about letting the gospel direct the methods.” (199)
  175. “If you treat your church like a business, you will see other churches as your competition.” (219)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Truth and Experience in Keller's book on prayer

The eleventh chapter in Keller's book on prayer is entitled As Encounter: Seeking his Face. In the opening paragraphs of this chapter Keller reminds the reader that prayer "is a conversation that leads to encounter with God" (165). He also refers back to the tenth chapter by recounting John Owen's contention that meditation "anticipates a character-forming experience of God's presence" (165).

The chapter goes on to discuss how Christians can fail to experience God in the heart. The Christian can understand intellectually truths about God and the gospel and yet fail to "grasp" them with the heart. Keller proceeds to explain and elaborate on what it means to experience God with the "inner being."

This is followed by the author persuading the necessity keeping truth and experience together. Keller returns to Owen to make this point. He suggests that "Owen promotes what could be called a radically biblical mysticism. It comes through meditation on Scripture, on theological truth, on the gospel-but it must break through to real experience with God" (179)."

a little farther on in the chapter I was startled by an unexpected conclusion of Owen's. forgive the longish quote but it is worth it:
Nevertheless, despite his deep concerns, in the end Owen concludes: "It is better that our affections exceed our light from the defect of our understandings, than that our light exceeds our affections from the corruption of our wills." That's a remarkable thing for a Puritan to say. If we are going to be imbalanced, better that we be doctrinally weak and have a vital prayer life and a real sense of God on the heart than that we get all our doctrine straight and be cold and spiritually hard.
This indeed was unexpected. I certainly am no expert on Owen, but I would not have anticipated him saying this. Interesting.

The chapter finishes with some thoughts on being cautious in excessively pursuing experience but also in admiration of those who truly seek God in the inner being.