Want a 10-Part Course from John Piper on God’s Providence?

At this link, you’ll find a 10-part series on “The Providence of God.”  The series is 16 years old, and is as relevant now as then.

Why “Preach Like an Arminian and Pray Like a Calvinist” is a Misleading Phrase

Joe Thorn offers a necessary correction to the oft-repeated “We should preach like Arminians and pray like Calvinists” statement.  Though those using the phrase are probably well-intended, Thorn shows why its words are confusing and unhelpful.

Psalm 24, Part 5/10: “The Blessing of Righteousness”

After declaring that God is the owner and maker of creation (Psalm 24:1-2), David addressed the question of who can meet with God for worship (Psalm 24:3).  Only the person who entrusts himself to God can be assured of fellowship with him.

Of the person who trusts Yahweh, David says:

“He will receive blessing from the LORD
and righteousness from the God of his salvation”

The parallelism identifies the “blessing” as “righteousness.”  David is describing justification!  In Psalm 24:4, the sinner believes in God instead of idols, so God counts his faith as righteousness.

God is called the God “of his salvation,” and he alone rightly fits such a phrase.  As the God who saves, he gives what only he can give–righteousness.  In fact, to receive righteousness from the God of salvation is to receive salvation.

Because our sin separates us from the holy Creator God whom we should worship, righteousness is what we need.  And since sinful man could never earn such righteousness through futile moral striving, the declaration of righteousness is a gift we receive.  Grace!

Those who trust in God don’t wait until the last day to be declared right with him.   “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  Now.

20 Helpful Christian Books

Looking for some great books to read?  Mind if I make some recommendations?

To those who know me well, it’s no surprise that I love to read.  And in recent years, I’ve seen so many helpful books become available to the Church that I decided to list some of my favorites.  Many more could certainly be added, and the following ones aren’t listed in any particular order within each category.

Speaking of categories, I’ve chosen five.  There are important reasons why I like each of these books, and I could write long paragraphs describing their influence on me over the years (and some over the last few months).  But to avoid a ridiculously long blog post, you’ll see only the titles and author of each.

One other note: these are modern Christian books, some of them recent classics.  This list is not meant to exclude the many great works by the Puritans or even the Church Fathers for that matter.  I intentionally fashioned a list of books published from the mid-1900’s onward.

I hope you’ll consider buying some (many? all?) of what you see below.  You might not agree with every conclusion the authors make (just as I don’t), but I’m confident that their great contribution far outweighs their weaknesses.  Happy reading!

Understanding the Bible
(1) From Eden to the New Jerusalem, by T. D. Alexander
(2) God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, by James M. Hamilton

General Discipleship
(3) Desiring God, by John Piper
(4) Don’t Waste Your Life, by John Piper
(5) Tempted and Tried, by Russell Moore
(6) Knowing God, by J. I. Packer
(7) The Prodigal God, by Tim Keller
(8) God Is the Gospel, by John Piper
(9) The Gospel Is For Christians, by Mitchell Chase

The Church and Its Mission
(10) Let the Nations Be Glad, by John Piper
(11) Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, by J. I. Packer
(12) Why We Love the Church, by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

Systematic Theology
(13) Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem
(14) Election and Free Will, by Robert Peterson
(15) The Holiness of God, by R. C. Sproul
(16) The Person of Christ, by Donald Macleod
(17) Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, by Bruce Ware
(18) The End Times Made Simple, by Samuel Waldron

(19) Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis
(20) The Reason For God, by Tim Keller

One Year in Louisville: Faith, Fear, Family, and our Faithful Father

The Events of August 1-2, 2010

Today, August 2, marks one year since Stacie, Jensen, and I traveled the 1000 miles from Santo, Texas to Louisville, Kentucky.  In one sense, it seems like yesterday that we were packing up the parsonage of the church I pastored, loading the U-Haul, and preparing our hearts for a huge transition.

Through restrained tears, I preached my last sermon at Santo’s First Baptist Church on August 1, 2o10, and we pulled out that afternoon.  Four years of spiritual and emotional investment weighed heavily upon us, and we miss that church family very much.

My parents caravanned behind us, having agreed to help us move and stay to help for a couple weeks.  After staying overnight in Tennessee, we arrived the next day, August 2, at our townhome near I-71 and the Ohio River.  At first, the apartment didn’t feel like home at all.  It felt awkward, uncertain, strange.  But there we were and still are.

One Year Without A Full-Time Job

We moved so that I could begin PhD work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS).  It’s amazing what we knew and didn’t know: I knew the classes on my fall schedule, but I didn’t know where I’d work for employment!  Before we moved, we had saved money for months, in anticipation of not finding a full-time job upon arrival.  Sure enough, I didn’t–and I still don’t have one.

Being without a full-time job for a year hasn’t been easy.  We’ve seen our finances dwindle.  We’ve had moments of real worry and anxiety.  We’ve penny-pinched like never before.  We believed a year ago that we were moving on faith–but in my weaker moments I’ve wondered whether it was foolishness.

Despite our occasional doubts, we are firmly committed to the biblical truths of God’s total sovereignty, gracious providence, and fatherly care.  Over this year, as with all previous ones, God has shown himself faithful, awesome, amazing, and trustworthy.  There is an anchor for our souls!

Seven Incredible Blessings

We have been immeasurably blessed in the span of these 12 months.  Such blessings are difficult to remember fully, but here are 7 huge ones:

(1) A Church Family.  Shortly after arriving in Louisville, we began attending (and eventually joined) Kenwood Baptist Church, pastored by my friend and PhD supervisor Jim Hamilton.  We love KBC!  Its members have been sources of great fellowship and encouragement to our family.  Stacie, especially, has forged strong bonds with other wives and mothers in our stage of life.  The calling of a stay-at-home mom is tough (some say the toughest job in the world), so these relationships are priceless.

(2) Our Second Son.  In October 2010, a pregnancy test confirmed what we suspected, and a doctor’s appointment projected a summer birth of our next child.  This summer our family of 3 became 4.  Logan Samuel Chase was born June 16 and is almost 7 weeks old now.  Jensen loves his new brother, and we love God’s gift of another child.  We’re reacquainting ourselves with spit-up, fragile limbs, exploding diapers, little sleep, and sustained periods of fussiness.  At times having a newborn seems inconvenient (like while I’m trying to write this blog post), even frustrating, but that’s only because we’re selfish people who easily forget the astounding mercies of our great God!

(3) My First Book.  Before moving to Louisville, I wrote The Gospel Is For Christians over a period of four months, and it was published in November 2010 by Lucid Books.  Over Thanksgiving, the publisher mailed me the first copy.  Holding a copy of your first book for the first time is a thrilling moment!  But then the question enters your mind, Who’s going to buy this book when there are so many books out there?  I’m still stunned and deeply grateful that people are buying it.

(4) Financial Provisions.  This past year has consisted of numerous financial miracles, all of which were needed.  Book sales, a part-time job at the SBTS Lifeway, and several preaching opportunities have all generated vital income.  We should have literally run out of money months ago, but the Lord has miraculously sustained us with this faithful provision.  Furthermore, we were and are the happy and humbled recipients of many unexpected blessings.  For example, when our only vehicle experienced car trouble, our tax return covered the mechanic bill exactly.  Later, when the car’s timing chain began making noise (which, I was told, is a really bad sign), some family members actually gave us one of their vans!  Over the months, various friends and family have mailed us checks and gift cards, telling us that the Lord placed us on their minds.  Amazing!  God has been so faithful through the generosity of others.  What mercy!

(5) More Time At Home.  While I won’t share here the various details, we are confident that God has a ministry position in store for us at some point.  Over this last year, I’ve eagerly pursued both ministry and non-ministry jobs, but his timing is everything.  When something hasn’t worked out, we know his will is leading us to something else.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying spending more time with my family.  Stacie and I just celebrated 6 years of marriage, and in this last year we’ve spent more time together than in any previous one.  As a blessing in disguise, my lack of a full-time job also allowed me to help Stacie throughout a tougher-than-last-time pregnancy.  I was even able to devote more undivided attention to the first year of doctoral studies.  And I’ve been able to be at home most of the time during the two months after Logan was born.  What blessings!  I wish I would have treasured those months even more.

(6) Lengthier Family Visits.  We like when family members come to stay for a long time, and Louisville facilitates such circumstances because of its distance from Texas.  Sometimes visitors have stayed a few days, other times three weeks!  But never before have we had such concentrated quality time with our families.  And as you might imagine, the grandparents love soaking up the grandkids for many, many days.  We love hosting guests, and we love it even more when they stay for awhile!

(7) Seasons That Live Up To Their Names.  Louisville takes its seasons seriously.  When we arrived exactly a year ago, we unloaded the U-Haul in over 100-degree heat.  Summer in Louisville is hot!  Moreover, fall, winter, and spring are beautiful with their respective features: the falling and changing leaves of fall, the snow and ice of winter, and the fresh green and warmth of spring are fantastic to experience.  Sometimes summer feels as hot as Texas, but the windchill of winter often took us into single digits.  True, the threat of flood sometimes looms over nearby areas, and the city has also had its occasional major ice-storm that wipes out power for days.  But don’t misinterpret my statements as a dislike of Louisville weather.  I love that we have 4 real seasons!

Forward in Faith

I don’t know what the months ahead hold, but I want to approach them with faith and confidence in our trustworthy God.  He is good and does good, even working all things for our good.

In truth, the previous paragraphs don’t scratch the surface of what the last year has been like.  But they do represent our yearlong concerns which were far outweighed and outnumbered by heavenly blessings.

This is definitely true: our worries didn’t add a single hour to our lives (Matt 6:27).  If you’ve read Jesus’ words “O ye of little faith,” have you ever had the sneaking suspicion he was talking directly to you?

The children of God are more valuable than birds (Matt 6:26) and more important to him than beautiful lilies (Matt 6:28-30).  God knows our needs (Matt 6:32).  We should still live wisely and in prayerful dependence on him, but we need not fear that he will neglect, forget about, or abandon us.

Above all else, we should seek his kingdom (Matt 6:33) as we long for the return of the King.