Monday, January 17, 2011

e-Sword Updated to Version 9.8.2

e-Sword, what I recommend as the best free Bible study software program, has been updated to version 9.8.2. Here is the description of the update from the e-Sword website:
A new Module Downloader is now built into the program. With it you can view all available resources and download any of them directly into e-Sword. You can see which ones you currently have installed and which ones you have yet to install. You can also see if any of the installed modules have been updated.

All of the Search routines have been enhanced, providing even more information for study.
If you haven't already tried e-Sword, I suggest you check it out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Church-Integrated Families Rather Than Family-Integrated Churches?

This is the issue with which Matthew Kingsbury, pastor of Park Hill Presbyterian Church in Denver, Colorado, deals in an article entitled The Church-Integrated Family. He begins the article by setting forth what he perceives to be the central Scriptural issue:
We are at the beginning of the end of the American family as it has been known for generations and generations. As I've discussed this over the years with other pastors, we can no longer assume husbands and wives know the duties they owe one another, let alone how the Bible defines those duties. Parents do not teach their children basic manners, let alone the catechism. Hence, it seems to me churches and pastors will be increasingly obliged to teach congregation members what they never learned at home (that is, how to be families), or they will never find men who rule their households well to serve as elders (1 Tim. 3:4).

Some have responded to this crisis by moving toward "family-integrated churches," whose purpose is to organize the local congregation so as to inculcate and support healthy families. By implication (and sometimes by flat-out statement), the church exists to support the family. While I share the heartfelt grief over the consequences of cultural sin in the lives of Christian families and the sincere desire to see covenant children grow up in our holy faith, this perspective gets the relationship between the church and family exactly backward. Instead, as I seek to demonstrate in what follows, the Christian family exists to support the Christian church.
The article then goes on to argue from Scripture that the Church is indeed the eternal family that supersedes in priority the temporary earthly families of which we are all a part. The conclusion serves to drive home the point:
Here, then, is the proper relationship of the family to the church: because the church is eternal, the temporary family must work to make its members better church members.

While fathers have authority to rule their families, they do not have spiritual authority over them the way elders of churches do. A father is qualified to rule his family by virtue of impregnating his wife and by the covenant of marriage. An elder is qualified to rule in the church by virtue of possessing spiritual gifts recognized and tested by the congregation and other elders. Thus, families are not, technically speaking, small churches, but gatherings of believers who can either help or hinder one another's Christian walk.

Husbands and wives, parents and children are bound to certain duties within their families by God, but each of these relationships is informed by and subsumed into their eternal Christian-to-Christian relationships. When the Apostle Paul enumerates family duties in Ephesians 5-6, he begins with "[submit] to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph. 5:21; he does something similar in Col. 3-4). With all its particularities, the family is just like every other sort of Christian relationship: an opportunity for mutual exhortation and encouragement so that through our labors the Holy Spirit might prepare each of us for the glorious wedding of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, with his bride, the church.

Rather than family-integrated churches, the Scriptures call us to have church-integrated families, in which service to our Lord and faithfulness to his bride are modeled and taught daily. Such families, I believe, will not simply produce elders, but, please God, generations of believers who rejoice in their heavenly citizenship.
I recommend reading the entire article, because I think Kingsbury does a good job of highlighting what is a central point of difference between those in the Family-Integrated Church Movement and those of us who hold to a more traditional view.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Free Audio Download of Jerry Bridges' The Pursuit of Holiness

This month's free audio book from ChristianAudio.com is The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. Here is the description from the ChristianAudio.com product page:

"Be holy, for I am holy," commands God to His people. But holiness is something that is often missed in the Christian’s daily life. According to Jerry Bridges, that’s because we’re not exactly sure what our part in holiness is.
In The Pursuit of Holiness, he helps us see clearly just what we should rely on God to do-and what we should accept responsibility for ourselves. Whether you’re continuing your pursuit of holiness or just beginning, the principles and guidelines in The Pursuit of Holiness will challenge you to obey God’s command of holiness.
If you want more information about the book, here is a review by Tim Challies:
It took me twenty five years to read Jerry Bridge's book The Pursuit of Holiness. A short while ago I received the "25th Anniversary Edition" and devoted much of this weekend to reading and absorbing the book. This book has become something of a modern day classic. Having read it, I know why! It is a deeply challenging book and one I'm sure I will read again before another twenty five years have elapsed.

The premise of Bridge's book is that holiness, like almost everything else in life, is something that we must strive for. Holiness is a gift of God and is something that can never be accomplished apart from the work of the Spirit. Yet it is our responsibility to strive for it and to work towards this goal. Bridges illustrates this by writing of a farmer.

A farmer plows his field, sows the seed, and fertilizes and cultivates - all the while knowing that in the final analysis he is utterly dependent on forces outside himself. He knows he cannot cause the seed to germinate, nor can he produce the rain and sunshine for growing and harvesting the crop. For a successful harvest, he is dependent on these things from God.

Yet the farmer knows that unless he diligently pursues his responsibilities to plow, plant, fertilize, and cultivate, he cannot expect a harvest at the end of the season. In a sense he is in a partnership with God, and he will reap its benefits only when he has fulfilled his responsibilities.

Just as farming is a joint venture between man and God, in which man cannot do what God must do and God will not do what the farmer should do, so too is the pursuit of holiness. God will not bestow a life of holiness upon us the day we are saved. He requires that we pursue holiness with the confidence that He will work with us and empower us to achieve the desire of our hearts. He gives us the power to do what he requires and expects of us.

The rest of the book is, then, an exhortation to holiness and practical advice on how to attain the holiness God requires of us. On one hand we face an impossible task, for we shall never be perfectly holy in his life. Yet on the other hand we face a task that brings great benefit, for God rewards those who diligently seek after Him. Holiness brings great joy.

There were a couple of areas in which this book challenged me in a way that was unexpected. First, I came to see that much of my pursuit of holiness has been on a macro level. I have looked at my life and seen progress on a grand scale. I have seen areas where I have made much progress and have seen certain sinful habits and desires fall away. For this I am very thankful and acknowledge the Spirit's work. But the book helped me understand the importance of examining my life on the micro level. While I have certainly made great strides in some big areas, I continue to be amazed at my propensity for sin in small areas. There were several times that I was led to stare my sin directly in the face and react with amazement at just how polluted my heart has become. Perhaps one of my greatest sins, and the greatest sins of all humans, is to trivialize sin. But, and this has been on my heart many times in the past months, I have come to see that to trivialize sin is to trivialize the love of God. For several months I have had a slip of paper on my desk on which I wrote, "When we make light of sin, we make light of the love that saved us. The greater our appreciation of our sin, the greater our appreciation of God's love." The Pursuit of Holiness helped me understand just how true this is. When I examine the Scripture and understand what God demands of me, I also understand how far I fall short and how great a Savior was required to save a sinner like me.

The second area this book challenged me was in understanding the relationship of desire and reason. I know from my experience in life that, while God works primarily through reason, Satan focuses his attacks primarily through my desires. I can think of hundreds of times where my desires have been opposed to what I knew was right. There have been countless times when I have fallen into sin because I allowed my desires to have their way over reason. Truly Satan has a powerful weapon at his disposal! Yet how often has my reason had to overcome my desires? How often do I have to interrupt a truly sweet time of fellowship with the Lord because I know I have work that must be done. Certainly not nearly as often as the times I have decided to forsake my time with the Lord because I have desired to do something (anything!) else. While I have always known this to be true, this book has helped me understand the necessity of realigning and training my desires so that I desire what is good. When my heart truly desires obedience I will remove a sword from Satan's hand.

And so I commend this book to you. You will not have to look far to find testimonies of the power of The Pursuit of Holiness. It has endorsed by, among others, John MacArthur, John Piper, J.I. Packer and R.C. Sproul. And perhaps more importantly, it has been endorsed by hundreds of thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ who have been challenged by it to live lives of holiness. This book is a classic and, to echo John MacArthur, is well deserving of the honor.
Enjoy!