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You NEED to Read This Book

AlcornWhat if God gives you more money so that you can increase your standard of giving not your standard of living? Not only does this sound like a cliché but to most people this sounds ridiculous.  When we get more money we assume we should spend it on ourselves.  Maybe…possibly…we might…sometimes ask God if He has other purposes…for a small percentage of it.  What if we started with the assumption that God gave us that money to pass on to someone else?  What if it was our impulse to ask God if we might use it on ourselves?

These are some of the basic questions asked by Randy Alcorn in his book Money, Possessions and Eternity. Alcorn confronts the consumeristic spirit of our age and dares to question how we use our money.  The scriptures couldn’t be clearer: all of our money belongs to God.  He gives it and we are His managers.  We are to use His money in a way that brings Him pleasure.  In so doing, we are laying up treasure in heaven.

You will not automatically embrace everything he says.  You will find yourself squirming on most pages.  But I believe that Alcorn presents a thoroughly biblical perspective.  In fact, I don’t think you can argue with him without falling back on worldly financial principles.

It is a shame that discussions about money, even in very Christian gatherings often result in tension.  Some of the most tense small group discussions I’ve ever been involved in had to do with money. Discussing money is like discussing parenting.  People take their financial decisions very personally.  But we shouldn’t let that tension keep us from asking hard questions about things we take for granted. For instance:

  • Is retirement a biblical concept?
  • Is there ever a time when we should choose to go into debt?
  • Is it wise to leave a large inheritance to our children?
  • Should individuals or churches hoard large amounts of cash?
  • Is it true that people with lots of money have fewer problems than those with little money?

This is not a short book.  Alcorn is exhaustive in dealing with biblical texts and practical issues.  But it certainly held my attention and has left me with a lot to think about.

Almost 7 years ago the Lord opened our eyes to His way of handling money.  Since then we have been on a journey of getting out of debt and learning to use God’s money God’s way. I have no regrets.  After reading this book I’ve seen that we still have a long way to go.  But Alcorn presents the blessings of obedience in such a way that I can’t wait to get started.


The Glory of the Insignificant

“Out of all the suns and stars of the universe God has chosen this tiny earth, and on it the small land of Canaan, and in it the people of Israel, the ‘smallest’ of all peoples (Deut. 7:7); and in Israel the town of Bethlehem, that was too small to be reckoned among the thousands of Judah (Micah 5:2), and in Bethlehem itself – a manger. And from the manger it went on to the cross! Thus God chooses the insignificant…But the whole results in the revelation of the divine greatness.  It is the ‘foolish’ measure of His holy jealousy (I Cor. 1:21,25,27).  The very choice of the insignificant is the very method of divine honor.” Erich Sauer, The Dawn of World Redemption, pp. 91-21.

Good Doctrine leads to Holiness

“Christian Bible doctrine ever remains the same, and can only be authoritatively changed by God Himself.  It is God’s truth and not man’s.  If man could add to it, modify it or alter it, or even bend it in accommodation, what infallible standard or guide would there be to protect us against error and unbelief?  The motive power to virtue and holiness embraced in the doctrines of the Bible, is deteriorated just in proportion as changes are introduced.  The more scriptural our faith, the more pious and devoted the life, seeing that the purest influence for good comes from Gods own gracious words.” Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom.

“You have ordained Your precepts that we should keep them diligently.” Psalm 119:4

Are You Faking Biblical Literacy?

I’ve had a little fascination with the life of George Mueller for about the last 5 years.  His biography written by A.T. Pierson is a treasure.  The snippet below is actually taken from the back of Murray’s With Christ in the School of Prayer. This is Mueller describing his “discovery of how the true place of the Word of God…was the commencement of a new era in his spiritual life.”

His reasoning went like this: “God Himself has condescended to become an author, and I am ignorant of that precious book which His Holy Spirit has caused to be written through the instrumentality of His servants, and it contains that which I ought to know, and the knowledge of which will lead me to true happiness; therefore I ought to read again and again this most precious book, this book of books, most earnestly, most prayerfully, and with much meditation; and in this practice ought to continue all the days of my life. For I was aware, though I read it but little, that I knew scarcely anything of it.  But instead of acting thus, and being led by my ignorance of the Word of God to study it more, my difficulty in understanding it, and the little enjoyment I had in it, made me careless of reading it (for much prayerful reading of the Word gives not merely more knowledge, but increases the delight we have in reading it); and thus, like many believers,  I practically preferred, for the first four years of my divine life, the works of uninspired men to the oracles of the living God.  The consequence was that I remained a babe, both in knowledge and grace.”

A few weeks ago an article called “Faking Cultural Literacy” was making the rounds.  The author says, “It’s never been so easy to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything.”  We read what other people think about books, movies, and television shows so that we can discuss even if we haven’t had time to read or watch for ourselves.  We expect someone else to tell us what we need to know.  As I read the article I kept thinking, are we doing the same thing with the Word of God?  Could it be said that there is a whole generation of Christians who are faking biblical literacy?  Do we actually read the Word or do we just expect others to tell us what we need to know?  If so, like Mueller, many are choosing to remain babes, both in knowledge and grace.

Back to Mueller: “As I neglected the Word, I was, for nearly four years, so ignorant that I did not clearly know even the fundamental points of our holy faith.  And this lack of  knowledge most sadly kept me back from walking steadily in the ways of God.  For when it pleased the Lord in August 1829, to bring me really to the Scriptures, my life and walk became very different.  And though ever since I have very much fallen short of what I might and ought to be, yet by the grace of God I have been enabled to live much nearer to Him than before.  If any believers read this who practically prefer other books to the Holy Scriptures, and who enjoy the writings of men much more than the Word of God, may they be warned by my loss.”

I am a lover of books.  I enjoy using  social media.  I appreciate the vast resources that are now available to us through the internet.  But the danger of this tsunami of information is that we can all pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything.  Do you clearly know the fundamental points of our holy faith in such a way that you can give a basis explanation from the Scriptures? Can you go directly to God’s Word to find help in times of trouble or do you turn to what others have written about God’s Word?  Are you fearful of telling others the good news of Jesus because you are afraid you’ll get it wrong?  You should read your bible and stop faking it.  Preachers and writers are great tools for understanding.  But there is no substitute for the pure milk of the Word.

One more testimony from Mueller:  “Before I leave this subject I would only add: If, the reader understands very little of the Word of God, he ought to read it very much; for the Spirit explains it word by word. And if he enjoys the reading of the word little, that is just the reason why he should read it much; for the frequent reading of the Scriptures creates a delight in them, so that the more we read them, the more we desire to do so.  Above all, he should seek to ave it settled in his own mind that God alone by His Spirit can teach him, and that therefore, as God will be inquired of for blessings, it becomes him to seek God’s blessing previous to reading and while reading it.”

Christians who speak in vague terms about the Scriptures will not be able to provide the world with a convincing defense of their faith.  If it’s clear that we don’t really read the Bible how are we going to convince a non-believer to read it?  You don’t have to be smart.  “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Ps. 19:7)  Just come and ask for wisdom because God gives it generously and without reproach. (James 1:5)  Or just pray with the psalmist: “Deal bountifully with You servant that I may live and keep Your Word. Open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from Your Law.” (Ps. 119:17-18)

September 15, 2007

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What were your parents doing the day you were born?  This is what we were doing the day Harry was born.  I was out in the backyard teaching Lucy to play golf (she really hasn’t improved a bit since then.)  It was some time later that we looked at the date on the picture and discovered that is was taken on September 15, 2007.  We had no idea our little Harry was coming into the world just a few miles away.  6 years ago today I had no idea that a huge blessing was about to come into my life.

What is Expository Preaching?

It’s not enough these days to say that we are committed to biblical preaching.  Few self-respecting evangelical pastors would say, “At our church we don’t preach the Word.” And yet, in many worship services, the Word of God is sprinkled onto the sermon like sprinkles on an Ice Cream Sundae.  You may choose to add them in but the ice cream is the star of the show. We need to be clear about how and what we preach.  At Cornerstone Church we are committed to expository preaching.

What is expository preaching?  Mark Dever, in his little book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church says, “Expository preaching has as its goal to expound what is said in a particular passage of scripture, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation.”  We believe that the faithful ministry of the Word of God changes lives.  Week by week we work verse by verse through books of the Bible. The scripture drives our services and not the felt-needs of the congregation.  The Holy Spirit uses the Word to convict, encourage and admonish.  He moves the affections and emotions of the hearers, not some well placed punch-line or visual aid.

Expository preaching does not have to be boring.  It should not be a running commentary on a book of the Bible or an opportunity for a well-read pastor to show off his knowledge of biblical languages. Expository preaching does not have to consist of just a few words of scripture per week.  A good expository preacher should be able to preach larger sections of scripture so that his hearers can understand the context and flow of a book.  He will add helpful illustrations and may even be funny.  But the primary goal of expository preaching should not be to entertain.

It is not uncommon for pastors to think of the people in the pews as consumers.  From this perspective, they must be kept happy so that they’ll keep coming back.  We see the church as the household of God.   The church is both a body and a family.  We are saints and the goal of preaching is that the saints be encouraged, edified, and equipped for ministry.



Are you a “Gifted” Speaker?

“We have all heard preachers like this, preachers who are clearly gifted speakers but who have failed to work hard at the study of their text, or neglected the necessary time for reflection on how to present their material in a manner that will communicate the truth well.  Such preachers will one day have to give an account to the Lord for their failure to acknowledge their gift as a call to be good stewards of what has been bestowed on them.” Jerram Barrs, Echoes of Eden, p. 56