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The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Wherever He Leads We’ll Go: The Word of God and the Worship of the Church

Mar 5th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

This is the first in a series of blog articles from Pastor Cade titled “Essentials of Ecclesiology,” which will examine crucial issues and practices for the life of the local church.

open bible”…devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” – 1 Timothy 4:13

The first non-negotiable, absolutely essential, fundamentally necessary truth for the local church is the primacy of the Bible for the community of believers. The Bible, the living Word of God gives life to the church, the church does not give it life. The Bible creates the church, the church does not create the Bible. The Bible does not receive its authority from the church, instead the church lives under the authority of the Bible.

The Bible, and the pulpit from which it is proclaimed and taught, is the earthly throne from which God rules his people.

Everything we say, do, and believe is to flow from the truth of Scripture. In all things we are to be wholly devoted to what God is saying to his people through its pages. The Bible sets the agenda for our mission and ministry. The Bible establishes the parameters and the directions of our mission. The Bible exercises absolute authority over all things in the life of the local church. Where this truth is upended or ignored, chaos, confusion, and ultimately catastrophe lies waiting.

The Jews of Berea, spoken of in Acts 17:10-15, still remain an example for our life in this regard. Paul and Silas had been evicted from Thessalonica by an angry mob, and so continuing their mission they journeyed to the next town, Berea. As always, they gathered with the local Jewish community at their synagogue for worship on the Sabbath, and as a visiting rabbi Paul was given the opportunity to teach. So Paul proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ.

And notice how the Bereans responded:

1. “They received the word with all eagerness.” (v. 11)

2. “…examining the Scriptures daily…” (v. 11)

3. “…Many of them therefore believed.” (v. 12)

Notice how the Bereans responded to the Bible at the birth of the local church in their city:

First, they received the word eagerly. The Bible (at the time for them, The Old Testament) was not a burden. It was not an inconvenience. It was not just one portion or aspect of their worship time together; it was the defining heart of their worship together! They were eager, longing, desirous to hear the Bible. They wanted it taught and explained and proclaimed. They gathered together to hear Paul not just because they were longing for relationships in community, or enjoyed really cool programs, or thought the song styles and service ambiance was to their liking. They gathered together because they wanted the Bible! They wanted to know it. They wanted to understand it. They wanted to live in the light of it.

Second, they examined the Scriptures daily. The Bible was not regulated to being opened for only one hour a week. Not only was the Bible the heart of their corporate worship, but it was the essential lifeblood of their life throughout the week. They understood the truth that Jesus had quoted to Satan in the dusty desert east of the Jordan, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Far more than hungering for their daily bread, the Bereans knew that true nourishment existed only by digesting the Bible daily.

And third, they therefore believed. Notice the progression and the wording here. It does not merely say that “many of them believed.” That is true, and that in itself is a glorious truth. But don’t ignore the connections that the words are bound together with. It says, “many of them thereforebelieved.” The Bible, the Word of God, proclaimed and studied was powerful to open blind eyes and transform those who encountered it. The Bible is not a dead and dust-soaked book. It is living. As Spurgeon said, it is a living lion that’s on the loose. Many believed in response and as a result to being eager for the Word and diligent in reading and studying the Word. The Word of God spoke life into a vast void of nothingness at the creation, and in Berea it spoke life into the vast void of nothing and created a community of believers, a local church, living and breathing under the life-giving authority of the Scriptures.

The reading, preaching, teaching, and studying of the Bible is the heart and soul of everything we are and hope to be. Everything else that we do flows out of this passion to obey the Bible, know the Bible, and believe the Bible. Why do we feed the hungry? Because the Bible tells us to. Why do we gather weekly for corporate worship? Because the Bible tells us to. Why do we preach the gospel? Because the Bible tells us to. Why do we disciple believers? Because the Bible tells us to.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, takes the place of or precedence over the Bible for the life of the church. At First Baptist we begin our Sunday morning worship gatherings with a public reading from the Bible. Why do we do that? Is it just a tradition? Is it just a way to get people to quiet down so the worship service can start? No. It is not merely the means by which our service starts, it is the first and agenda-forming act for our worship service. We begin by hearing the Bible read and placing ourselves under its authority. Everything we do flows from that.

Let me be very clear, where the Bible is not preeminent, worship is not practiced.

No matter how entertaining or engaging the service may be, no matter how moving or impactful the music may be, no matter how gifted the musicians may be, no matter how engaging the “preacher” may be, no matter how welcoming the congregation may be, where the Bible is not joyfully proclaimed and taught, believers are not worshipping. Literally everything we do in a corporate service is under the authority of God’s Word.

Why do we pray in our services? The Bible tells us to. (1 Timothy 2:1)

Why do we sing in our services? The Bible tells us to. (Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16)

Why do we give offerings of money for the work of the ministry? The Bible tells us to. (1 Corinthians 16:2)

Why do we preach and teach? The Bible tells us to. (1 Timothy 4:13)

What do all of these regular and regulative components of an ordinary service have in common? They all exist under the authority of and in obedience to the Bible.

I can remember singing as a child the old hymn, “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go.” It was usually one of the songs that was a part of the ongoing cycle of invitation times at the end of the service. We would stand and sing and respond to the preaching of the Word by singing those words, “Wherever he leads I’ll go, Wherever he leads I’ll go, I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so, Wherever he leads I’ll go.” The point is this. However loudly we might sing those words, a church that is not committed first and foremost to treasuring, hearing, teaching, proclaiming, and obeying the Bible is not willing to follow Jesus wherever he goes. Jesus leads his church through the power and authority of his word. It tells us where to go, and if we are ever to be faithful to him, we must live and follow obediently in response to it.

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States, Scents, and Sehnsucht: An Exploration in Loss, Longing, and Eternal Life

Mar 2nd, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Cape JasmineSome of you may have heard that I dearly and deeply love Mississippi. And some of you may be curious as to why that is.

Is it because I think Mississippi is better than anywhere else on earth?

Not necessarily. I’m sure there are lots of places all over the globe that would make just as good a place as any to call home.

Is it because I think it’s the best state in the Union?

No, certainly not in many areas. Mississippi has a tragic history of trailing last in many areas of ranking. So it’s not a case of “my state is better than your state.”

Is it because I don’t love my adopted state that has been my home for five years?

Absolutely not. I fall more in love with Indiana every day, and am constantly thankful for the people here who have welcome me as one of their own.

So why do I so openly and expressively love Mississippi?

Well, to put it simply, because it’s home. It’s where I’m from. It’s where I grew up. It’s where all my formative childhood memories were made. It made me who I am, and by “it” I mean the history, culture, family, friends, and neighbors who make up the little dots on the map that are the communities where my roots have deep anchors. It’s where I met Jesus. It’s where I spent time with my grandparents. It’s where my parents loved me and taught me and raised me. It’s where I fell in love with my wife and married her. As Sophie Hudson might say, “It’s where my people are.” And so it’s not so much that I love an “it,” or a “place,” but it’s certainly true that I love them. And I miss them. And that’s okay.

We all have that in common, don’t we? We find within ourselves this deep longing for people and places. Sometimes we call it nostalgia. Sometimes we just call it memories or dreams, but we all have within us this deep desire to go back to where we once were, or go forward to something we desperately want but do not have. It’s not necessarily to a place, but maybe to a time, and certainly to people. We recognize this if we’ve lost family members who have died. Every Christmas we look at pictures, talk about yesterdays, and feel a very real vacancy, a loss, a knowing that someone who should be here is no longer here. And it makes us hurt, and yet it creates within us a joyful yearning, a longing.

And like I said, sometimes it’s not even a longing for someone or something in our past. Maybe it’s something that we have a deep yearning for in our present or future. Maybe it’s for a spouse. Maybe we are single and we desperately want the touch and intimacy and relationship with another person. Maybe it’s for a child. Infertility is itself a type of future-focused grieving. It is always longing for the hold of a little hand that is not there to hold, and always straining to hear the soft sound of tiny feet that cannot be heard no matter how hard we try to listen. Maybe that’s how longing manifests itself to us. However it comes, it comes nonetheless.

There’s a German word that describes that experience. It’s called sehnsucht. Sometimes the word is translated as “longing” or “desire,” although that doesn’t really do it justice. It’s far deeper than that, and there isn’t any one corresponding English word that really gets down to the heart of it. This one little word may best be described as that intense stab of joy mingled with sorrow that you experience when a sight, or smell, or sound makes you think of your grandparents or parents (or spouse) who have died, and all at once memories flood back, and all at once you feel intense pleasure at their memory, and intense sadness at their absence, and intense longing for their presence.

That’s sehnsucht, and that’s why I love Yankee Candles. For me, scents are some of the most powerful triggers for those stabs of joy. If I smell a Cape Jasmine then I can close my eyes and be back on my Memaw and Pepaw’s porch. If I smell pipe tobacco then instantly I’m transported to my grandfather’s house where my Uncle would smoke a pipe, or I think of my wife’s grandfather who smoked a pipe daily. There’s a candle I was given recently called “Barbershop.” If I light it in my study, then I can too easily trick myself into believing that I’m seven years old again on a Saturday morning and my Papa just walked into the room after shaving. It has the fresh scent of shaving cream, water, aftershave, and grandfathers. And it sure makes me miss him.

I love it because I loved him. And still do.

That experience, that “stab of sorrowful joy” is a gift, and I believe it’s a gift from God that serves three primary purposes. There are three great gifts for sinful men and women like you and me in having those moments of loss and longings: They make us cherish God’s blessings, they make us hurt for the world’s curse, and they make us crave a future with Christ in the new creation.

First, they make us cherish God’s blessings. They daily convince us that the moments we have now with the people we love so much are fleeting. Both are passing away, the moments and the people. In response we are called to honor them, be thankful for them, and to enjoy them. We are reminded to live in gratitude for this day’s blessings, for as Etienne de Grellet wrote, “I shall not pass this way again.”

Second, the losing and the longing make us hurt for the world’s curse. We simultaneously experience both joy and sorrow in our memories because deep down inside of us there remains the trace, the faint echo that reminds us that all of this is not natural. We were not made for temporary joys and relationships that have an expiration date. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God “has put eternity into man’s heart.” We know, deep down we know, that death is an enemy. It is an intruder. It does not belong here. The world is not as it should be. On some level we revolt against the loss of family members, friends, and our youth because we still have this sense that it shouldn’t be this way.

Ever since our first parents stumbled out of Eden there has been an emptiness in all of us that desperately wants to go back. No wonder God placed a fiery angel at the garden’s gate to prevent us from returning. He knew we would long to, and the longing is part of the curse itself. We are overcome with the fracturing of everything, the fallenness of the universe. J.R.R. Tolkien was on to something when he wrote, ““We all long for Eden, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most human, is still soaked with the sense of exile.”

As powerful as that sense of exile is, there is a third gift in these longings that is a gracious mercy. These gifts do not merely remind us of our mortality and make us miss the world as it was before it was spoiled by sin. There is a greater purpose that these experiences all serve. They make us long for Home, Home with a Capital H. As much as they convince us of creation’s curse, they also birth within us a deep longing for redemption, reunion, for renovation, for re-creation, for the renewal of all things. Yes, they make us miss Eden, but these moments also make us sweetly long for the source, the fountain of all joys, the presence of Christ in the New Heavens and the New Earth. Surely this comes mysteriously close to hinting at what Paul says is the sehnsucht of all that has been and is when he writes in Romans 8:18-23:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

That’s the truth. We all groan inwardly. We wait eagerly. All of our longings. All of our losses. All of our missing and being missed is ultimately and intimately bound up in the deeper desire of all things, the culmination of history as it is swallowed up by eternity in the unending reign of Christ.

We long for what we do not have as a faint echo of a longing for what we only have in Jesus. He is the reality. He is the source and substance. He is the spring of all pleasure. He is Eden personified. He is the new and better garden, and it is only in his presence that, to reference Tolkien again, “everything sad will come untrue.” And in everything sad coming untrue in Christ everything lost will suddenly be found. Everything missed will be unmissed. Everything dead will be made undead.

Herein lies the great and glorious reality glimpsed that sad morning at Lazarus’s tomb. His sisters were missing him. They were overcome with longing. They were heartsick with sehnsucht and then Jesus walked into town. And he said something strange. He said, “You will see your brother again.” Martha, with more than a bit of subtle sarcasm and biting bitterness replied, “I know. In the resurrection on the last day.”

Poor Martha, already consigned to living with longing, not realizing the most unbelievable truth in all the world, that eternal life was quite literally blinking back at her behind squinting and sweat-beaded eyelids. And Jesus simply whispers, “I am the resurrection…and the life…”

That, my friends, is gloriously good news. Jesus isn’t merely the resurrection on the last day. He is the resurrection today and every day, and all of our longings ultimately find there “yes, amen,” and fulfillment only in his presence. All of our longings are meant to make us love him more and long for his appearance.

That’s a truth that C.S. Lewis knew well. He understood that as prevalent and pervasive as sehnsucht could be, it could also be deceptive. It could trick us into believing that the source of our longings could be found in a created thing, the serpentine lie that we could be happy if only we could have those things or those people back in our lives once more. Lewis knew that even if we had those times back, our youth back, our lost loved ones back, then we would still be left with the sense of longing. We’d still need something more. We’d still be humming the words of U2 that say, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” because ultimately our hearts weren’t made to be fulfilled by them, but only by Him.

No, our deepest longings can never be satisfied in anything and in any person past, present, or future, other than Jesus Christ. He alone is the one whom the hymn writer spoke when she sang, “Hallelujah! I have found Him, Whom my soul so long has craved! Jesus satisfies my longings; through his blood I now am saved!”

That’s the heart of what Lewis meant when he wrote these words in, “The Weight of Glory:”

“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

And so I invite you to join me in longing for the thing itself, not Mississippi, and not our loved ones, and not some gift that we deeply desire, but the thing itself, the country that we have not yet visited, the full and unending presence of Christ who alone makes all things new.

In Him, waiting eagerly…

Pastor Cade

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Better Know (and Read) an Author: John Calvin

Mar 2nd, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

This is part of an ongoing blog series that attempts to introduce you to key authors and theologians by recommending a seven-step reading plan to “better know (and read)” these important figures in the history of the church.

Other Articles in this Series:

“Better Know (and Read) an Author: C.S. Lewis”

John_Calvin_022John Calvin (1509-1564) is a mythic giant, and mythic giants oftentimes exist in some shadowy lands of mysticism or only in the imagination of children (or severely troubled adults). Seen by some as a bogey man and by others as a hero, Calvin is both idealized as a saint or demonized as a deranged dictator. Either way, he is far too often misunderstood. Many of his “followers” claim his name but do not spend considerable time actually reading his words or trying to understand his theology, worldview, or world. His detractors blindly attack him while largely doing the same.

As Taylor Swift might say, “Players gonna play, play,play, play play, and haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate…”

Regardless, Calvin’s shadow still stands over all of history since his meteoric life. A French lawyer turned theologian, Calvin was a second generation reformer, working to clarify the gospel and to cultivate the Protestant movement from Geneva in the wake of the world-shifting revolution that had been sparked by the German monk Martin Luther when Calvin was still a young boy. Since then, the stream of thought flowing from Calvin’s pen and echoing from his pulpit have left governments tilted and Christian communities transformed. He is a giant (mythic or not) whose impact cannot be overestimated.

And he’s been hugely influential in my own life, and has greatly encouraged my own discipleship. Granted, just like all the authors profiled in this series, I have many points of disagreement with Calvin. He was but a man. He was not infallible. And yet his life following Christ, his magnificent project to glorify God, and his continual centering of all things on the gospel of Christ has made him a key figure in my own life and ministry. And I’d love for you to get to know him like I have. Whether you’re not familiar with him, are tempted to idolize him, or confusingly think of him as a dangerous dementor, there are seven steps you can take to know him better. And I want to help you begin that journey. So here’s what I would suggest you read to get to know the man and the writings of John Calvin:

CalvinTheater
1. With Calvin in the Theater of God: The Glory of Christ and Everyday Life, edited by John Piper and David Mathis

This short little paperback book provides a very basic introduction to Calvin’s life, theology, and importance for the history of Christianity from the pens of John Piper and David Mathis.

CalvinPortraitCalvinIntroduction
2. Portrait of Calvin, and Calvin: An Introduction to His Thought, by T.H.L. Parker

Both of these short paperbacks are concise introductions to Calvin’s life and thought. Like the recent book edited by Piper and Mathis, they offer the beginner a helpful overview of the most important aspects of Calvin’s theology.

CalvinInstitutes
3. The Institutes of the Christian Religion: One Volume 1541 Edition, by John Calvin, translated and edited by Robert White.

The best way to know Calvin is to read Calvin, and the best thing to ready by Calvin his his monumental work The Institutes of the Christian Religion. That may sound daunting, but maybe you’d be surprised to learn that this isn’t nearly as hard as you may think. Even though he was a wholly sixteenth-century man, his writing is amazingly modern and fresh. Unlike many theological minds from the distant past, Calvin is actually really easy to read, assuming you have a good translation, and I think this edition (recently released from Banner of Truth) is the best (especially for the beginner). It’s a 0ne-volume, new translation of Calvin’s 1541 edition of his magnum opus. It’s not the massive 2-volume 1559 edition, but neither is it an edited abridgement. It is Calvin’s own “essential” edition to his landmark work of Reformation theology.

CalvinonChristianLife
4. Calvin on the Christian Life by Michael Horton

This is a great, helpful, encouraging, and practical meditation on Calvin’s understanding of the Christian life. It’s part biography, part theology, part devotional, part Christian living application. It’s great.

HeartforDevotionDoctrineDoxology
5. John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology, edited by Burk Parsons

This book includes essays/chapters written by authors like John MacArthur, Jerry Bridges, Thabiti Anyabwile, Steve Lawson, and many others explaining the heart of Calvin’s life, theology, and continuing influence.

BruceGordonBiography
6. Calvin by Bruce Gordon

This is my favorite biography of Calvin. It isn’t the shortest (nor longest), and it’s fairly recent (having been written in the last five years), but it is really good. If you’re only going to read one substantive biography of Calvin, read this one.

HeartAflame
7. Heart Aflame: Daily Readings from Calvin on the Psalms by John Calvin

After reading Calvin’s Institutes, there is still a lot of reading from Calvin himself that you still have available. There are hundreds of sermons, his commentaries, letters, and other shorter theological works and tracts. This devotional which collects some of his writings on the Psalms is a good book to ease you into reading more of Calvin beyond the Institutes in a way that isn’t too overwhelming. It’s very helpful and encouraging.

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The Forgetful Church: The Heart of the Gospel in Ephesus (Revelation Listening Guide #6)

Mar 2nd, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Overcome: The Hope of the Christian in the Revelation of the Lamb
February 25, 2015
The Forgetful Church: The Heart of the Gospel in Ephesus
Revelation 2:1-7

A Waning Candle in the Darkness

Jesus begins his seven messages (chapters 2-3) with the church in the largest city and with the most well-known background, history, and reputation. He starts with Ephesus. The church there had existed for over forty years when John wrote Revelation, and in all that time it had been identified with some of the key leaders of the early Christian movement: Apollos, Priscilla and Aquilla, Timothy, and most famously Paul had all ministered there. Timothy had even served as a leading elder, overseeing the pastoral ministry in the city. Then sometime around 70 AD tradition also states that John, already at that time the last of Jesus’ original disciples still living, arrived in the city, spending the remaining decades of his life as one of the pastors there, in much the same way as Paul and Timothy had in the decades before him. From Ephesus John wrote his gospel. For Ephesus he wrote his letters. Tradition also states that after being released from Patmos, John would return, die, and be buried in Ephesus. It was an important city with an amazing heritage, a key light in the darkness of the pagan empire.

No wonder Jesus begins here. It was the economic, cultural, and religious center of the region. It was a key city. And the church there was reverent, respectful, and renowned. But it was also regrettably sick. It was suffering from a distinct form of gospel amnesia, a forgetfulness that maintains outward faithfulness to the gospel that is disconnected from the very mission of the gospel, the passionate fuel of the gospel which is love, love for others and love for God. When the very heart of the gospel is lost, all that is left is a shell, a hollow cast of emptiness. The tragedy of Ephesus was that in this city of light, the light of forgetfulness had dimmed and their lovelessness was turning them into the very antipathy of a church. Jesus calls them to remember.

A Remembrance of Things Past

In calling them to remember, repent, and return, Jesus outlines for Ephesians and for us what the heartbeat of a church is to look like. He shows us the gospel’s circulatory system, its lifeblood for the body of believers. Jesus reminds them (and us) the things a church must never forget:


1. The church must remember to maintain its commitment to gospel truth, gospel ministry, and gospel living. (vv. 2-3)

2. The church must remember to rekindle its passion for a living, gospel-saturated love. (vv. 4-5)

3. The church must remember to heed the warnings of the dual dangers to discipleship from both faithfulness without love and love without faithfulness. (vv. 5-6)

4. The church must remember to treasure the words of promise for those who obediently persevere. (vv. 1, 7)

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Better Know (And Read) an Author: C.S. Lewis

Feb 20th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

LewisIt seems like we’re in the darkest days of winter. It’s cold. It’s really cold. And I’ve found that when I’m kept inside from the brutal freezing temperatures, I like to spend some time with a good book, usually a book from an author that I love and trust. I’m all about reading new books and new authors, but there’s nothing like returning to a well-read book. It’s like having an old friend drop by and spend the winter hours in encouraging and stimulating conversation.

Maybe you’d like to take some time to get to know some of my friends that keep me company. Maybe you’d like that, but don’t know where to start. If that’s you, then I’d like to introduce you to these authors that have had (and continue to have) such a profound influence on my life as a Christian and my life as a pastor. This is the first post in a blog series that will introduce you to my closest circle of “friends,” authors that have had the biggest impact on me personally. In the coming weeks, as we hopefully begin to thaw out, I’ll introduce you to authors like John Piper, J.I. Packer, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, and many others. I want to help you get to know them, and so I’ll be highlighting what I think you should read and in what order I think you should read them.

I want to start with a writer that is never far away. Even though he died over fifty years ago, I’ve been reading his works since college, and I’m almost always reading or rereading something from him or about him. He was an English teacher, more specifically he was one of the world’s foremost experts on English Literature, a subject that he taught as a tutor and professor at Oxford and Cambridge. He was a former atheist turned believer whose writings on the truth of Christianity and the life of the believer continue to have an impact. With that said, the scope of his literary output can be a bit intimidating, and some of his books are far harder to read than others. So here’s a seven-step introduction to what (and in what order) you should read to get to know this author:

1. First, begin with a very short work. Read his essay/sermon/chapter titled, “The Weight of Glory.” You can probably find it online, or you can find it as the first chapter in his book by the same name.

the weight

2. Read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This is the first (and most famous of his Narnia series. It’s a classic and is great for children or adults to read. You may want to begin reading through the other books in this series, but this is the one book that is absolutely essential reading. If you’re a parent with kids, this is a great book to read with your kids at bedtime. In the process you’ll be introducing yourself and them to the heart of Lewis’ thought.

lion

3. Read the biography Jack by George Sayers. Lewis was known to his friends as Jack, and this book by one of his former students is a great portrait of Lewis as a man, teacher, friend, husband, Christian, and author. There are other biographies that are more thorough or academic, but I think this is the best place to start.

jack

4. Read Mere Christianity. This is the most well-known book outside of his Narnia series. This is a great and simple overview of the heart of Christianity, the reasonableness of Christianity, and the life of the Christian.

mere christianity

5. Read The Screwtape Letters. This little book contains the fictional correspondence of a senior and supervisor demon to his young nephew who is just learning the task of tempting his “clients.” This satirical masterpiece is filled with great insight into the life of the Christian, the nature of temptation, and much more.

the screwtape letters

6. If you’ve made it through that top five, I’d next recommend two additional secondary works about Lewis and his work. The book The Romantic Rationalist is a good collection of essays about Lewis’ life, writings, and theology edited by John Piper and David Mathis. The literary biography by A.J. Jacobs titled The Narnian is also a good resource to firm up your understanding of Lewis and his works.

romanticthe narnian

7. Finally, read The Problem of Pain. The book tackles what continues to be one of the biggest obstacles that many people claim to face in believing the claims that Christians make about God. What’s the deal with suffering? Lewis has some helpful thoughts.

problem

So, if I hadn’t read anything by C.S. Lewis and wanted to get to know this author, this is how I would do it. Once you’ve made it through these seven introductory steps, don’t hesitate to branch out and try some of his other works like his “Space Trilogy” or The Abolition of Man among others. I hope you’ll take my encouragement and begin to get to know him a little better. I think I’ll go pick up something by him right now.

Happy reading,

Pastor Cade

NEXT IN THE SERIES: Better Know (And Read) an Author: John Calvin

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Hearing the Spirit Speak: The Letter(s) to the Seven Churches (Revelation Listening Guide #5)

Feb 11th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Overcome: The Hope of the Christian in the Revelation of the Lamb
February 11, 2015
Hearing the Spirit Speak: The Letter(s) to the Seven Churches
Revelation 1:9-11; 2-3

I. Into the Wardrobe

In C.S. Lewis’s book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the Pevensie children find themselves in a strange and enchanted land of kings, queens, witches, talking animals, and the great Lion Aslan, after stumbling through a magical wardrobe which is a hidden portal from their world in England to the world of Narnia. All of their adventures unfold after they’ve passed through the wardrobe and into the great story that they find themselves caught up in.

Revelation is a little like Narnia. It’s a strange world. There are really bizarre and unexpected dangers around every turn. Chapters and verses seem to plunge headlong into frightening chasms. There are perplexing labyrinths that lie shrouded in mystery. There are kings, beasts, armies, battles, a curse, and an evil dragon. And yes, there is even a majestic Lion who is a mighty king, a Lion whose eternity thundering roar sounds strangely similar to the soft bleating of a Lamb.

With that being said, readers face a perplexing question: How do we get into the world of Revelation? If we simply parachute in to the middle of the book we’re going to be as lost and as exposed to danger as if we had been dropped into the middle of a WWI battlefield. If we just jump into the thick of it, we’re going to lose our way in an instant. We need a wardrobe. And that’s what we have in chapters 2-3. The first chapter states John’s purpose and summarizes the book in the prologue. The last chapter (22) ends the book with an epilogue. Chapters 4-21 are the heart of the book, that foreign land of apocalyptic visions. And chapters 2-3, the short summary messages from Christ to seven local churches, are the wardrobe, the portal and passage through which we must enter the world of Revelation.

II. Through the Looking Glass

This cannot be overstated: We will never get Revelation right if we fail to understand Revelation 2-3. Everything else flows out of these chapters, speaks their language, and is tuned to their pitch. They are not unnecessary preliminaries getting us ready for the start of the book. They are the only way for us to come to terms with what the book is actually saying. In these letters the Spirit of God gives us five ironclad commitments that are to be the bedrock that our lives are built on. These five commitments are the foundation for a gospel-fueled life, and the entire book of Revelation is unfolding to bring you “further up and further in” to their life-transforming power:

1. Live in the light of the greatness and glory of Jesus Christ.

2. Live knowing the terrible and beautiful truth, that nothing is hidden from the holy gaze of Jesus Christ.

3. Live obediently to the commending and correcting Word of God.

4. Live in the confidence that your overcoming triumph in Christ is the eternity-strong commitment of each Person of the triune God.

5. Live triumphantly through tribulation, treasuring the promise of eternal, Jesus-fueled joy as the prize for persevering to the end.

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A Seminary on Your Shelves: A Guide for Theological Learning and Reading

Jan 30th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Being a disciple is all about being taught and being trained (Matthew 28:19-20). That’s why being a believer demands that we be lifelong learners of the Bible and its truth. Being a Christian (and living the Christian life) is not about being smart, being an intellectual, getting good grades, or having academic degrees just for the sake of having them, but it is about having a passion to know Jesus and to know his Word. Loving Jesus implies learning about and learning from Jesus.

That’s why it’s such a good thing for pastors to attend a seminary. Seminaries don’t make pastors, but they are a valuable and important part of what being a pastor is all about. Pastors are called to be the primary teachers and preachers of the Bible in a local church, and a seminary education provides a significant training that can’t be overestimated. A seminary education is a great privilege for pastors and church leaders who are able to receive a formal theological education and training for ministry in and through the local church. As someone who will soon graduate from seminary, I cannot say how grateful I am for the professors, donors, and millions of believers in SBC churches who have made my education possible. It is a gift of grace.

At the same time, we recognize that most Christians are neither called to nor able to devote the time, money, and effort that goes into an actual degree program at a seminary. So if most Christians aren’t going to go to seminary, what can they do to assist them in growing in their knowledge and understanding of the Bible, theology, and ministry? In other words, what are some basic steps that laypersons, members of local churches, can take to further their own theological and biblical education without dropping everything and enrolling in classes? Well, here are three things that you can do:

1. Be plugged-in to and involved in a Bible-believing and Bible-preaching local church. The local church is ground-zero for discipleship. There is no discipleship divorced from a local church. The local church is the training ground and lifelong school for the believer. Participate in Bible studies through the local church, take advantage of any small groups, mentoring groups, or one-on-one accountability. This is the one non-negotiable for the growing life of discipleship.

2. Take advantage of resources and opportunities that you can participate in. This may include local workshops, conferences, or free online lectures that are so easily accessible for those with access to the internet.

3. Slowly begin to build-up your own theological library and read some valuable secondary sources that will help to increase your own understanding of the Bible, theology, and ministry. What books should you read? Well that’s what the rest of this article is all about. Here are 100 books that taken together will help strengthen your own journey in theological education.

So here is my recommended reading list for a “seminary on your shelves.” For pastors and seminary students this would be a list I would characterize as my “must have” essential resources for ministry and a pastor’s library. For laypeople who are members of a local church it can provide a jumping-off point for personal reading and study. It’s not comprehensive. The different categories are somewhat arbitrary and are those that I chose myself and reflect my own views, understandings of the Bible, and theological commitments. There are some areas that I didn’t cover and many great books that I didn’t include. Additionally, not every category will be equally valuable to every reader. I’ve included a section on preaching, for example, and not everyone will want to read a book on developing and growing as a preacher. With all that said, however, this list provides some helpful starting points for anyone who would like to begin to read, study, and grow in their understanding of the Bible and what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ:

I. The Old Testament

1. Old Testament Theology, Paul House
2. Kingdom of Priests, Eugene Merrill
3. Everlasting Dominion, Eugene Merrill
4. Promises Made: The Message of the Old Testament, Mark Dever
5. The Biblical and Historical Background of the Jewish Holy Days, by Abraham Bloch

II. The New Testament

1. The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament, by Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles
2. New Testament Theology, by Tom Schreiner
3. New Testament Biblical Theology , by G.K. Beale
4. Promises Kept: The Message of the New Testamen t, by Mark Dever
5. Jesus and the Rise of Early Christianity, by Paul Barnett

III. Biblical Theology

1. God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, by James Hamilton
2. The King in His Beauty, by Tom Schreiner
3. From Eden to the New Jerusalem, by T. Desmond Alexander
4. According to Plan, by Graeme Goldsworthy
5. The Drama of Scripture, by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen

IV. Hermeneutics (Biblical Interpretation)

1. 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible, by Robert Plummer
2. Gospel Centered Hermeneutics, by Graeme Goldsworthy
3. Is There Meaning in This Text? , by Kevin Vanhoozer
4. The Unity of the Bible, by Daniel Fuller
5. A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, by Robert Stein

V. Systematic Theology

1. Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem
2. Evangelical Theology, by Michael Bird
3. Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin
4. Systematic Theology, by John Frame
5. A Theology for the Church, Edited by Danny Akin

VI. Church History/Historical Theology

1. Church History in Plain Language, Bruce Shelly
2. Historical Theology, Greg Allison
3. Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, Mark Noll
4. Christian History Made Easy, by Timothy Paul Jones
5. God Has Spoken: A History of Christian Theology, by Gerald Bray

VII. The Doctrine of God

1. The Doctrine of God, by John Frame
2. Knowing God, by J.I. Packer
3. The Holiness of God, by R.C. Sproul
4. The Holy Trinity, by Robert Letham
5. God’s Passion For His Glory, by Jonathan Edwards, edited by John Piper

VIII. Philosophy and Worldview

1. Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis
2. The Consequences of Ideas, by R.C. Sproul
3. Rediscovering Classic Evangelicalism, by Greg Thornbury
4. The Universe Next Door, by James Sire
5. How Not to Be Secular, by J.K. Smith

IX. The Bible

1. The Journey From Texts to Translation, by Paul Wegner
2. The Doctrine of the Word of God, by John Frame
3. Inerrancy and Worldview, by Vern Poythress
4. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, by B.B. Warfield
5. Engaging the Written Word of God, by J.I. Packer

X. Baptists

1. Why I Am a Baptist, edited by Russell More and Tom Nettles
2. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, by John Hammett
3. Baptists and the Bible, by Tom Nettles
4. Baptist Theologians, by David Dockery and Timothy George
5. By His Grace and For His Glory, by Tom Nettles

XI. The Atonement / Work of Christ

1. The Cross of Christ, by John Stott
2. Christ Crucified: Understanding the Atonement, by Donald Macleod
3. In My Place Condemned He Stood, by J.I. Packer and Mark Dever
4. It is Well, by Mark Dever
5. The Crucified King, Jeremy Treat

XII. The Doctrine of Salvation

1. Revelations of the Cross, by J.I. Packer
2. Justification by Grace Through Faith, by Brian Vickers
3. One With Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation, by Marcus Johnson
4. Finally Alive, edited by John Piper
5. The Cross and Salvation, by Bruce Demarest

XIII. Reformed Theology

1. Living for God’s Glory, by Joel Beeke
2. Still Sovereign, by Bruce Ware and Tom Schreiner
3. Whomever He Wills, Edited by Matthew Barrett and Tom Nettles
4.
The Doctrines of Grace, by James Boice and Philip Ryken
5. Proof, by Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones

XIV. The Protestant Reformation

1. European Reformations, by Carter Lindberg
2. A Reformation Reader, edited by Dennis Janz
3. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, by Roland Bainton
4. Reformation Thought, by Alister McGrath
5. Theology of the Reformers, by Timothy George

XV. Puritans and Puritanism

1. A Quest for Godliness, by J.I. Packer
2. A Puritan Theology, by Joel Beeke and Mark Jones
3. Meet the Puritans, by Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson
4. Worldly Saints: The Puritans As They Really Were, by Leland Ryken
5. English Puritanism: 1603-1689, by John Spurr

XVI. The Doctrine of the Church

1. The Church, Edmund Clowney
2. The Church, Mark Dever
3. 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever
4. What is the Mission of the Church? , by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert
5. Membership Matters, by Chuck Lawless

XVII. Evangelism and Missions

1. Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper
2. Evangelism, by Mack Stiles
3. Tell the Truth, by Will Metzger
4. The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, by Mark Dever
5. The Underestimated Gospel, edited by Jonathan Leeman

XVIII. Biblical Counseling

1. Counseling the Hard Cases, edited by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert
2. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, by Paul David Tripp
3. Seeing With New Eyes, by David Powlison
4. A Theology of Christian Counseling, by Jay Adams
5. Counseling, edited by John Macarthur

XIX. Preaching

1. The Supremacy of God in Preaching, by John Piper
2. Preaching, by H.B. Charles
3. Expository Preaching, by David Helm
4. Preaching and Preachers, by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
5. Between Two Worlds, by John Stott

XX. Christian Living / Spiritual Disciplines

1. Holiness, by J.I. Packer
2. The Hole in Our Holiness, by Kevin DeYoung
3. Holiness, by J.C. Ryle
4. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald Whitney
5. The Discipline of Grace, by Jerry Bridges

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Seeing the Son: Living in Paradise When You’re Stuck on Patmos (Listening Guide #4)

Jan 28th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Overcome: The Hope of the Christian in the Revelation of the Lamb
January 28, 2015
Seeing the Son: Living in Paradise When You’re Stuck on Patmos
Revelation 1:9-20
I. Of Exile and Eschatology

God’s people are kingdom citizens in a world that is in rebellion against God. In some ways, to use C.S. Lewis’s imagery from Mere Christianity, we are co-conspirators for the gospel who live in a world that is behind enemy lines in “enemy-occupied territory.” We are resident aliens, at once at home in the world and at the same time very much not at home. We are exiles on earth, and that exilic life can be really tough. We are surrounded by the pressures of temptation, persecution, and despair. The thick cloud of the curse hangs heavy over all the land.

That’s why God has given his people confident hope in the midst of all their troubles. He sent them a deliverer and mighty signs during their sojourn in Egypt. He revealed his glory to Ezekiel during the exilic imprisonment in Babylon, and now through John he sends his beleaguered churches communications of his presence, plan, promises, and ultimate victory over everything that is now bent low under the illegitimate reign of Satan. Because we live in a world full of pain and pressure, God in his grace sends us a booming announcement that paradise is still to come, will come, and will be ushered in by the triumphant victory of Christ.

That’s really good news. It is a great mercy that God gives his people what they so desperately need. The churches of Asia Minor needed to hear from God. John, the old apostle alone on the island needed to hear it to. In a world that seems like one giant Patmos, they all needed one thing, to see and to hear from the Son.

II. The Way to Paradise in the World of Patmos

And because that’s what God’s people need(ed), that’s what God has given. At just the right time he sent the battered believers a love letter unveiled in the cosmic drama of an apocalyptic climax to history, a love letter that showed believers the presence of paradise in the world of Patmos. He did this by showing believers himself, and in doing so he showed them (and us) what we are to be characterized by, united in, strengthened through, and called to:

1. Believers are characterized by their faithful endurance in suffering, sorrow, and sanctification.

2. Believers are united in their ongoing enjoyment of God through worshipping by the Spirit.

3. Believers are strengthened through encountering the risen, glorified, and sovereign Son of God.

4. Believers are called to live in obedience to God by being entrusted with the Word of Christ, the Scriptures.

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Jesus From A to Z: The Gospel According to Revelation (Revelation Listening Guide #3)

Jan 21st, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Overcome: The Hope of the Christian in the Revelation of the Lamb
January 21, 2015
Jesus from A to Z: The Gospel According to Revelation
Revelation 1:4-8

I. The Entrance Into Eschatology

Sometimes the biggest truths can be summarized very simply. We can condense an email message to a subject line. Corporations can communicate who they are with a logo. Wives can send a clear message to their husbands with one focused look! And think of the tremendous truth that is spoken when an elderly couple looks into each other’s face and says, “I love you more now than I ever have before,” or the whisper of a new father peering into the face of his newborn daughter and saying, “You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.” Those are all very simple words, and yet they are loaded with a weight, depth, and meaning as big as the universe itself.

John understood this truth, so it should come as no surprise that in the prologue of his letter he has summarized the entire apocalypse into a single paragraph. Everything that the book of Revelation says to the churches, to believers, is packed into these sentences. It is the doorway into John’s vision. It is the entrance into his eschatology. If we want to come to terms with the full length and breadth of this book’s message, we must start here. It is the portal through which the Lamb’s revelation becomes clear. If we’re ever going to come to terms with parts of the book that may seem a bit more bizarre, we had better grasp the totality of what John wants to communicate that is so very basic.

II. Grounded on the Gospel

So how does John both introduce and summarize his letter? What does he want the beleaguered churches of Asia Minor to have ringing in their ears as the letter’s imagery and hope are unfolded to them? At its simplest John wants to remind them that everything is ultimately centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. In order to be rooted for endurance in the trying days of the future one must be grounded on the gospel. Never forget, far more than merely unveiling the culmination of God’s actions in history, the book of Revelation shows us the glory of God in the face of Christ as the all encompassing center for all reality. In direct opposition to everything the world sets its hope in, John wants the churches to remember that history is all about the victory of God in Christ. He shows us this by showing us five gospel truths that we must never forget:

1. The gospel according to Revelation COMES from the unity of Persons who is the triune God.

2. The gospel according to Revelation PROCLAIMS the unique supremacy of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

3. The gospel according to Revelation ANNOUNCES the completed atonement that has been accomplished by the loving and gracious God.

4. The gospel according to Revelation WARNS of the certain danger of the righteous wrath of the holy God.

5. The gospel according to Revelation DISPLAYS the certain and total triumph of the sovereign God.

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Apocalypse Now: Rejoicing in the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation Listening Guide #2)

Jan 14th, 2015 | By | Category: The Inkwell: A (Gospel) Blog

Overcome: The Hope of the Christian in the Revelation of the Lamb
January 14, 2015
Apocalypse Now: Rejoicing in the Revelation of Jesus Christ
Revelation 1:1-3

I. The End of the World As We Know It…

What you believe about the future greatly influences how you will face your life in the present. That’s true both locally, in the short-term, and globally over the long-term (even the very long-term). One of the building blocks to your worldview is your own particular perspective on what the future holds, what this world is coming to. No matter who you are, or where you are, your today is fueled by how you view tomorrow. So what do you think about the future? Do you think your future is looking good? Are things getting better? Do you see a forecast of progress? Or maybe you’re not quite sure. Maybe you’re a bit uneasy about what your future might bring. Maybe instead of progress, you look into the future and see only pessimism.

What about the really big picture? What do you think about when you think about the end of the world? What comes to mind when you hear words like doomsday or apocalypse? Chances are those words don’t make you want to party. For most people they conjure up thoughts of nuclear holocausts, WWIII, global pandemics, extinction, fear, uncertainty, and chaos. None of those things sound like things that might make you want to get up and dance! They’re all pretty depressing, aren’t they?

Maybe that’s how you feel about the book of Revelation too. After all, it’s confusing, graphic, violent, and seems to be filled with a whole lot of scary stuff. If any book of the Bible were to be voted “most terrifying,” surely Revelation would be it! So would it surprise you if I told you that the book of Revelation isn’t a horror story at all, that instead it’s written to increase your delight and joy in God forever? The book of Revelation is meant to be reveled in! It is the fountain for the future’s happiness.

II. “Celebrate End Times, Come On!”

So why do I think Revelation is all about rejoicing? Well, the first few verses tell me that. It begins with a literal three-pronged blessing, and the word “blessed,” can be translated here, “happy, joyful, and glad.” In other words, we’re immediately told that this book is no mere prophecy. It’s not a physic prediction. The book of Revelation is gospel. It’s really, really good news! And to make that truth clear, the first three verses give us four reasons why this is true. The book starts by giving us four reasons we can and should rejoice in the book of Revelation:

1. It is faithfully WRITTEN by a trustworthy and authoritative apostolic eyewitness.

2. It is ultimately FROM and ABOUT Jesus Christ.

3. It is sovereignly GIVEN to believers by the gracious and wise will of God.

4. It is powerfully SUFFICIENT to strengthen believers to live faithfully in a fallen world, now and into the future.

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