A Daily Pursuit

There are many things we pursue. Some of us pursue advancement in education or career. Others pursue financial security. Some also spend time and energy pursuing relationships. These are all worthy pursuits but we get off track when our pursuit of those things comes before our pursuit of an intimate relationship with Jesus.

Our pursuit of a relationship with Jesus is a direct result of his pursuit of us. The Triune God does not need us to accomplish his purposes in the world, yet he wants us. God’s mission to restore and renew all things began many years ago. Just after Adam and Eve chose rebellion over relationship, God is described as searching for the first family. He asked the question, “Where are you?” (Gen.3:9) God’s mission is to bless all peoples through a covenant relationship with himself. Throughout the Bible, we read of God’s relentless pursuit of rebels like you and me. Consider for example God’s pursuit of the pagan people of Nineveh in Jonah. Even though God’s prophet wanted to hoard the covenant promises for himself and his people, God reached out to a people who had no desire to reach out to him. God reaches out to us even when we don’t reach out to him.

This is what Christians mean when we refer to the Gospel. The news about Jesus is considered Good News because rebels are not left to fend for themselves. No matter how hard we try we cannot save ourselves. We need a rescuer and that’s why the Messiah was sent. In most world religions people are searching for God through empty religiosity or observance of religious practices. The Christian faith is different though because it affirms a God who lovingly pursues broken humans and encourages humans to pursue Him. Consider how Paul discusses the Triune God in Acts 17:24-28. (CSB)

‘The God who made the world and everything in it — he is Lord of heaven and earth — does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also his offspring.’ ‘ Acts 17:24-28

Paul used culture to teach the people about the true God. He is not fashioned by human hands as idols are. He is the only being that has always existed and is not created. He must be the only self-existent being otherwise he cannot be God. God created us to pursue him. He is pursuing us yet we are so concerned with other pursuits that we miss his pursuit of us. The Triune God is a pursuing God and that is the motivation for our pursuit of Him.

We all lose our way. We all sometimes need a reminder that our joy comes from Jesus and a pursuit of his kingdom and righteousness. When we lose our way we must confess and repent. When our pursuits are misdirected we live in fear and worry. On the other hand, when our pursuits line up with God’s plan we live in courage and faith. Christian, God wants your heart. Pursue Jesus’s kingdom and righteousness because only in him can we have real joy, purpose, vision, and direction.

It’s not enough to pursue Jesus only on Sundays or during the week when you gather for your small group. Pursue him daily. Confess and repent when you lose your way. Spend time with God daily. Walk with Christ through every commitment and responsibility.

Sometimes my daily pursuit becomes occasional. I know that the I need to abide deeply in Jesus or everything else falls apart. When my daily walk with Christ becomes sporadic, I am missing out on His best and so do you. Will you join me in obeying Jesus’s words today? Will you join me in walking by faith? Will you join me in humbly confessing you have neglected your first love? Jesus is pursuing a relationship with you. Are you pursuing a relationship with him? He’s not as far as you might think.

‘But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. ‘ Matthew 6:33

 

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Living on Mission

Just before Jesus ascended back to the Father he spoke his last words to the disciples. These words are known as the Great Commission and can be found in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus reminded his disciples that he had equal authority with the Father so they would exchange doubt for faith. Belief always affects action. Jesus commanded the early disciples to make disciples of all nations, people groups, and demographic areas, to teach people about Jesus by modeling his life. Jesus commissioned his disciples to embody his teaching so others might also be baptized and become disciples. The Great Commission ends with the promise that Jesus would not abandon the disciples as they went about sharing him in a world that rejected them, just as they had rejected him.

It’s one thing for Christians to read through the Commision and offer verbally agree with the global need for Kingdom expansion. It’s something else to personalize the Commission and intentionally live in a way that clearly reflects Jesus to broken people. You see, I have read through the Great Commission and even memorized it, yet I do not always follow my orders. Soldiers receive orders from commanders. Disciples receive orders from Jesus. Jesus provided clear direction for his disciples and provides clear direction for us.

The disconnect between our lives and our mission happens when we neglect our time with the King through prayer, fasting, and Bible intake. The heart of our King is that all persons will repent and have personal faith in Jesus the Messiah. As we grow in relationship to the Triune God and others we will be compelled to live intentionally for His purposes. Like many other believers, I too get distracted.

I get distracted by my own plans and agendas. I get distracted by other good priorities and ignore the most important priorities. I lose focus and live for myself rather than for God and His glory. Distractions are all around us and plead for our attention yet we must get back on mission and live on mission.

Living on mission means that we embody the Good News of Jesus wherever we go. It means that we embrace our communities and cities with Christlike compassion. Missional living does not happen by accident. It is an intentional decision to prioritize Jesus and his mission above all other tasks. Jesus actively pursues relationships with lost people and so should we.

A close friend recently shared the City Collective Podcast. This podcast arose out of a church planting movement in New York City by Trinity Grace Church. I listened to all sixteen episodes of this podcast and was challenged by the need to live on mission, right where I am in New Orleans. Church planters and revitalizers across the globe live on mission and reach their cities for Christ. They fight complacency in their own hearts and in their churches. We should fight complacency so that we might be more effective and live on mission. Complacency in our Christian life deters us from our mission to be and make disciples.  By listening to this podcast and talking with other believers I am reminded of the need to live on mission.

I am renewing my commitment to live incarnationally on mission. I am praying that God will show me his heart for the world and for New Orleans. I am praying that God will continue to challenge me to live missionally so those in my sphere of influence will know Jesus.

The Apostle Paul said, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs. He seeks to please the commanding officer.” (2 Timothy 2:4)   Fellow Christians, let us repent of our entanglement with non-kingdom affairs. Let us live on mission as disciples who seek the glory of God in our cities. Let us seek to bring the hope of the Gospel to where we live, work, play, and eat.

The North American Mission Board offers ten practical tips for living on mission. Readers are encouraged to read through these tips and begin living on mission for Jesus today.

Evangelical churches are in decline across many denominations. Perhaps one reason many churches are in decline is that they have stopped living on mission or have forgotten it altogether. Our mission is to be a disciple who makes disciples. It’s time to see a movement of God in our time that is birthed in prayer and intentional living. The prophet Habakkuk offers timely words for us today.

“Lord, I have heard the report about you; Lord, I stand in awe of your deeds. Revive your work in these years; make it known in these years. In your wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2, CSB)

I’m still figuring out what it means to live on mission. Maybe you are too.

Christian Hope: More than a Feeling

Hello, readers!

I know you haven’t heard from me in a while and for that, I apologize. My focus has been on completing the semester in seminary and transitioning to my relatively new ministry role as a youth pastor. This semester has been one of my more difficult seasons of life due to the many transitions I have experienced. For some time now I have been reading and meditating on Ephesians. A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a student about Thirteen Reasons Why (Netflix series) and we discussed the hope that Christian teenagers have contrasted with  Hannah Baker’s  perceived lack of hope. This post is the result of a conversation with one of my students and my own need to be reminded of the hope found in Jesus.

In 2016 Tenth Avenue North released the song, I have this hope”The song is based on Isaiah 43:1-3 wherein God reminded His people that He redeemed them and would not leave them. Jesus made a similar promise to his disciples and gave us the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:18-19)  Religion is not the “opium of the people” as Karl Marx claimed. All of us were created to worship and for relationships with God and others. Christian hope is based on the objectivity of Jesus’s resurrection.

The Apostle Paul prayed that Ephesian Christians would “be enlightened and know the hope of His calling and the riches of His grace.” (Ephesians 1:18)  Paul’s rich prayer and confident trust in God should challenge the way we pray today. I will focus specifically on Paul’s prayer that the Ephesian Christians would know the hope of Jesus’s call.

Defining Terms

Reflection upon Paul’s prayer demands that we must consider how the terms know, hope, and calling are used in this passage. I am providing you with the lexical definitions from the original language.

Know: To grasp the meaning of something, understand, recognize, come to know, experience. (BDAG, οἶδα) More research is needed to determine why Paul used this term rather than other options. Hope is one aspect of the new reality inaugurated by Christ. Contrary to the view that nothing can be known I posit that there are some things that can be known and true. (See F. Leroy Forlines in The Quest For Truth, 1-2. Forlines states, “The culture which denies that Truth exists or is accessible is in desperate need of truth.”) Paul wanted his readers to comprehend and experience the reality of Jesus’s resurrection so they might experience hope.

Hope: This term has been overused and has taken on a completely different meaning in the English language than it was used in Paul’s time. We often say things like, “I hope you have a great day” or “I hope you do well on your exam” or “I hope things will all work out”. When we use the term hope we are referring to a feeling or expectation that something will happen. Paul has a different usage in mind.

Hope refers to Christian expectation rooted in the Gospel and promise of the resurrection. (BDAG, ἐλπὶς) Weeks could be spent examining each passage in the Old and New Testaments to better understand the believer’s hope but that will be reserved for another time. Paul’s desire is that the Ephesian Christians and we will comprehend with our total persons the certainty and result of God’s calling.

Calling: In contemporary language, this term has also been misused. Generally, God calls or elects disciples to make disciples. God’s appears mysterious at times but it doesn’t have to be. Paul’s prayer was that the Ephesian saints would know the hopeful implications of Jesus’s call.

BDAG defines call for verse 18 as “an invitation to an experience of special privilege and responsibility.” (BDAG,κλῆσις) What is the special privilege, you may be wondering? There are many special privileges reserved for those who have applied Jesus’s righteousness through faith, one being free access to the Father. Another privilege is that disciples are given the same authority Jesus had to effect God’s kingdom in the world.

Having defined the terms know, hope, and call we proceed to consider what makes Christian hope distinct from other forms of hope.

What makes Christian hope distinct?

Christian hope is grounded in the Gospel, the person and work of Jesus, and the promise of future resurrection. Whereas earthly “hope” relies upon feelings, Christian hope depends upon objective truth. As Christians, we must remember the difference between joy and happiness. Our hope is not grounded in our feelings but in God’s sovereignty and character.

Suffering is depicted throughout the Biblical narrative but we sometimes forget that it is a normal part of life for the believer. When we suffer we are quick to blame God while ignoring the countless promises that suffering is a natural part of our lives as disciples. (Read 1 Peter in its entirety.) We forget that when “Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.” (Bonhoeffer) When doubt feels bigger than faith we must remind ourselves of God’s promises revealed in His Word. Feelings let us down but objective truth grounded in Jesus and the Gospel never will.

Paul expressed that Jesus’s resurrection is the foundation for Christian hope. (1 Corinthians 15)  This makes our hope distinct. I am convinced there is more evidence that Jesus existed, was crucified, and risen than there is to support that he did not. If all of God’s promises find their yes in Jesus we should look no further than the Gospel as a source of hope.

Now that I have defined key terms and briefly discussed elements that distinguish Christian hope, I will conclude with some ways we can overcome despair or hopelessness today.

Overcoming Hopelessness through the Gospel

I don’t know about you but I can become discouraged and forget the hope found in Jesus. Multiple situations challenge our hope including cancer, unsaved family members, addictions, or even church conflict. Our hope is found God’s word, the Bible. It is living and active and does not put us to shame. (Romans 8:24-25)  I too struggle to remember the hope of Jesus’s calling but I have found the following steps helpful in transforming hopelessness.

  1. Commit to daily prayer even you have been slacking. You are God’s child through faith in Jesus. Prayer changes us and further molds us into the image of Christ.
  2. Find a local church to invest in. We were not meant to be Christians alone. There are NO lone ranger Christians. We need each other. Joining a local body of believers enables us to give and receive grace.
  3. Be transparent with safe people in your life. Not all persons are safe people and we cannot share our deepest thoughts and feelings with everyone. Even so, we all need accountability. Depression vanishes in the context of vulnerable and transparent people who give and receive grace regularly.
  4. Reject that the lie that you cannot be depressed and Christian at the same time. As Protestants, we do a poor job of meeting people where they are even if they are in the “dark night of the soul”. Sometimes we can pray the paint off the walls and do all the spiritual disciplines but still have despair. It’s okay to not be okay, brothers and sisters. Your problem may be spiritual but it could also be a mind problem. Thankfully God has given us tools such as Christian counseling to strengthen our total personhood.

I am praying that all of you will know the love of Jesus and will be reminded of the hope found in his Gospel. Thank you for reading!

 

 

Choosing the Kingdom: Between Two Worlds

Every day we choose whether we will focus on Christ and his kingdom or on the temporary people, places, and events of this world. Sometimes we overemphasize one or the other in a single day. As Christians you and I must seek balance-we are to prioritize Christ and his kingdom, while not neglecting earthly responsibilities.

Luke 10:38-42 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. This is the New Testament passage I chose to write my first exegetical paper on, as a freshman at Welch College. I have preached sermons on this passage multiple times. God is continuing to use this passage to mold me into his image.

The Text

In this passage we read about two sisters who were uniquely a part of Jesus’ ministry. Martha and Mary were friends of Jesus and were sisters of Lazarus. (John 12) You are all likely familiar with the text, but let’s take a closer look.

38Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” 41But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Martha invited Jesus and his disciples into her home. We first consider her motive-why did she invite Jesus over for lunch? Was she simply being kind or was she in some way trying to impress Jesus? The latter option seems highly probable given the nature of her humanity. We don’t want to read into the text but it seems natural to question Martha’s motives.

Mary listened intently to Jesus’ teaching. This is one example of Jesus’ redefining culture. Culturally women were not permitted to sit at the feet of a teacher, especially a rabbi. Jesus did not stop Mary from listening to his teaching, though. While Martha was busy in the kitchen, her sister Mary simply sat at Jesus’ feet.

Martha asked Jesus to call her sister out. She was serving alone and wanted everyone to know it.

Do we ever serve simply to draw attention to ourselves? We don’t usually admit it, but in our pride we want everyone to know all the good deeds we do. Jesus reminds us that we should not do good deeds for the praise of man. 

Jesus did not scold Mary as Martha expected. He did not condemn Martha’s actions either. He simply said, “Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (good part=good portion in Greek, merida) Our deeds and service are important from a kingdom perspective but we must ensure that we balance service (earthly in nature) and reflection/mediation (spiritual in nature).

Some Dangers

It can be easy for us to read a passage like this and walk away with false interpretations. As Christians we do not advocate for a strict dichotomy between the material and spiritual world. We believe Christ is Lord of both. Michael Horton articulates it this way,

“But we need not choose between these two kingdoms. Citizens of both, we carry out our vocations in the church and the world in distinct ways through distinct means. We need not “Christianize” culture in order to appreciate it and participate in it with the gifts that God has given us as well as our non-Christian neighbors. Though called to be faithful in our callings until Christ returns, with Abraham, we are “looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10, hcsb).”

We do not want to neglect earthly responsibilities, but we do want to prioritize the Kingdom. That seems to be Luke’s purpose in including the Mary/Martha narrative in his gospel.

We must make God’s Kingdom a priority.

You and I are a people of the Kingdom. We have been delivered from the Kingdom of darkness (even though we still feel its presence!) and have been transferred to the Kingdom of God through Christ. (Colossians 1:13-14) We must become a people who set our minds on thinks above, while not neglecting things below. (Colossians 3:1-2)

In some sense we are between two worlds. There is present aspect to Christ’s reign but there is also a “not yet” aspect. The whole creation does not willingly submit to his lordship. As we await Christ’s return and consumption of the Kingdom, let us not neglect earthly responsibilities such as homework, work, and getting tasks done, but let us also prioritize God’s kingdom.

Becoming Kingdom Minded: Some Practical Steps

  1. Prioritize God’s word, prayer, meditation, and discipleship.
  2. Intentionally pursue and develop relationships with others. (Some we will share the Gospel with and others we will encourage in their sanctification.)
  3. Be obedient to the task God has appointed. Whatever you do do all to God’s glory. Stop viewing your earthly responsibilities as a curse. (I’m preaching to myself as well.)
  4. Prayerfully ask Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit to build the kingdom. “Our Father in heaven..let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6)
  5. Seek community through local church and relationship building.

These are just a few thoughts on making God’s kingdom a priority. My prayer is that my life will be centered around Christ and his kingdom. Peter reminds us that while we are between two worlds there is significant reason to have hope-Christ is building his kingdom and we are given an opportunity to join him in Kingdom building.

11Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:11-13, NASB)

To my readers,

Thank you for reading my posts with patience and consistency. I hope to be posting with more regularity in the future but for now, I’ll just post when I can. Your support of my ministry is an encouragement to me!

Let It Be Said of Us

There she stands in ragged clothes and pleads for money. People pass her by. People ridicule and mock her for living on the streets. Very few passers by asked her about her story. They simply walked away in scorn. But you see, everyone has a story.

She was a single mother and victim of domestic abuse. She only wanted enough money to feed her children and pay for a cheap hotel room. She just wanted to get by. She just wanted to make it through another day. After she became the victim of domestic violence she became homeless. She reached out to her church and asked for help and didn’t get any. She reached out to her family as well but they responded similarly to the church.

Her life was characterized by brokenness. She just needed some help. She needed Christ to set her free from the chains of abuse, prostitution, and fear. Her story is real and must not be ignored.

My room mate and I met her outside our local Wal-Mart. We were simply returning a Red Box when God put her in our path. My room mate obeyed the Holy Spirit and began engaging S. in conversation and ministry. God appointed this encounter for sure. She was at her wits end and we were able to be messengers of grace.

She still needs your prayer. She needs your support. She needs your love. Most of all, she needs to see Christ in you.

Helpless people are all around us. It can be easy for us to look on the least of these with scorn because of our perception of them. Let it not be said that Christians do not genuinely love others. Let it not be said of us that we ignore God’s leading to help others.

Helping others requires action, not merely words. She had been attending a mega church in the city since 2008. When she tried to get out of her domestic violence situation she became homeless. She asked the church for help but was given none. My heart breaks for a church whose congregants can’t meet with the pastor because he’s too booked up. My heart breaks for a church who fails to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Let it be said of us as believers that we love others just as Christ loved us. (Mark 10:45, John 3:17) Let it be said of us that Christ shines through us.  Steve Fry has articulated this well in his song, “Let it be said of us”.

Let it be said of us
We were marked by forgiveness
We were known by our love
And delighted in meekness
We were ruled by his peace
Heeding unity’s call
Joined as one body
That Christ would be seen by all

Fellow Christians, it is our duty to reflect Christ to a broken world. Let us come before His throne pleading for mercy. Brothers and sisters let your light shine so others will see Jesus and glorify the father.

Puritan Spirituality in The Valley of Vision

In my last post I shared who influenced me to read and enjoy Puritan writings. In this post I will share why I enjoy reading the Puritans. Arthur Bennett provides us with a helpful glance into Puritan prayers and devotion in his work The Valley of Vision.

Who is Arthur Bennett?

Arthur Bennet was born on May 15, 1915 in Southern Rotherham, England. He left school at the age of fourteen to assist his father at a local barber shop. During his teenage years he reportedly head singing as he passed by the Citadel. At the end of the service the “call” was given and Arthur was saved. He eventually sensed God calling him into pastoral ministry. Brother Bennett developed a deep love for the Puritans and their spirituality as he studied. His study on Puritan spirituality soon became a part of his own spirituality. The more he studied Puritan spirituality, the more he sought to employ it into his own Christian walk. Tony Reinke has written a helpful biographical essay which can be found here.

Puritans included in The Valley of Vision (VoV, hereafter)

This work is a compilation of Puritan prayers and devotions. Bennett includes works from the following:

  • Thomas Shepherd
  • Thomas Watson
  • Richard Baxter
  • John Bunyan
  • Isaac Watts
  • William Williams
  • Philip Doddridge
  • Charles Haddon Spurgeon
  • Augustus Toplady
  • and others (see viii in VoV for a complete listing)

Puritan Spirituality Depicted in VoV

Bennett opens the work with the following prayer, which powerfully demonstrates what Puritan spirituality is all about. The VoV is based on Isaiah 22:1, which states, “The burden of the valley of vision. What aileth thee now, that thou art wholly gone up to the housetops?” (KJV)

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

Where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;

Hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive,

that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,

and the deeper the wells the brighter thy starts shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,

thy life in my death,

thy joy in my sorrow,

thy grace in my sin,

thy riches in my poverty

thy glory in my valley.

Whole posts can be devoted to unpacking the theological truth contained within the stanzas of this prayer. My purpose here, however, is to give you a glimpse of Puritan spirituality. So here are some characteristics, as demonstrated above and in most Puritan writings.

Puritan spirituality humbly considers who God is. 

Authentic spirituality begins with a proper understanding of God. Culture can attempt to define who God is but it will fall miserably short. Scripture provides us with ample descriptions of Yahweh and what makes him distinct from false gods. Jesus, the God-Man, is the perfect reflection or as the writer of Hebrews says, “The exact imprint of the divine nature.” Spirituality is worship. Our worship, love, and obedience to God only increases when we behold his glory. (Go back and read the opening lines of the prayer. It’s similar to the Lord’s prayer, which begins in adoration.)

Puritan spirituality honestly reflects who we are.

When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, he fell down at Yahweh’s feet because of his unholiness. (Isaiah 6) Puritans often emphasized the importance of mortification (dying to sin) and vivification (coming to life in Christ). Some people (New Agers and others) have bought into the lies that we are basically good. Puritan spirituality takes interest in self-assessment. Oh how we need this kind of self-assessment in our own lives!

Puritan spirituality demonstrates the purity of God’s word. 

Personal experience is important but should be tested against God’s word. Puritans relied on the Bible for faith and practice. They were ordinary means of grace people. They didn’t base their spirituality on the latest fad but on the liberating truth found within the pages of Holy Scripture. Puritans saw God’s word as sufficient for their own spirituality. You and I can be encouraged by this. (To have more of the Spirit we must have more of the word.) Puritans trusted the Bible as sufficient for their Christian pilgrimage. We should too.

Puritan spirituality warms the heart and challenges the mind. 

There’s a lot of attention give to spirituality in our culture. For more on that, check out this article in ONE magazine. We read of people dying, going to heaven or hell and returning to tell the world about it. We do not need all of that to validate our spirituality. Puritans understood the substance of spirituality, namely Christ.

When it comes to spirituality people tend to pick and choose what they want. Frankly, I get tired of seeing fake spirituality in the culture around me when I know there’s something better. I find encouragement by reading the Puritan writings. Puritan writings take us back to our roots-namely to Christ and to Scripture. When I read these works my heart is warmed and my mind is challenged.

I love reading the Puritans. I’m sure my post hasn’t done justice to the vast treasures found within Puritan spirituality, but I hope to have wet your appetite a bit.

Lord, teach us to love, obey, and worship you as we go through the Valley of Vision. Confirm us to the image of Christ. Plant in our hearts a desire to worship you in Spirit and in Truth. Teach us to worship through your word, just as the Puritans did. 

 

Who influenced me to read the Puritans?

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Within the past year I have developed an appreciation for Puritan spirituality, due to its emphasis on Christ and the Word. I began reading Puritan writings in Dr. Barry Raper’s course Reading the Pastoral Classics at Welch College. Several other mentors have encouraged my reading of the Puritans. In this post I will briefly highly my exposure to the Puritans. In the next post I will highlight some commendable characteristics of Puritan Spirituality. I hope you will begin to appreciate Puritan spirituality as much as I do!

Key Influencers

Dr. Barry Raper receives credit for first exposing me to Puritan writings. He required us to read The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. This short book references Isaiah 42:1-3, which finds fulfillment in Jesus in Matthew 12:18-20 according to Sibbes. You  would benefit by stopping to read those passages before you read further. Sibbes reminds his reader that Christ does not quench the bruised reed, nor does he quench the smoking flax. This truth encourages the believer and challenges the minister. Christ doesn’t give up on those who are at their wits end. Faithfulness to Christ requires us to love people and not give up on them even when they are at their wits end. We were there before Christ rescued us. This alone compels me to read Sibbes’ writings.

Dr. Matthew Pinson, president of Welch College, also exposed me to Puritan writings throughout my studies in Free Will Baptist History. As Free Will Baptists we trace our heritage to both the Palmer movement in the South and the Randall movement in the north. Palmer had been influenced by the General Baptists (the first baptists), who were directly influenced by the Puritans. One prominent General Baptist Theologian, Thomas Grantham, has been studied extensively by Pinson, along with Thomas Helwys and others. Anyway, my course readings exposed me broadly to Puritan writings. Here are three influential selections from our required reading list: (focusing on the Puritans) 1. History of the English General Baptists by Adam Taylor, 2. The Worship of the English Puritans by Horton Davies, and 3. Renaissance and Reformation by William Estep.

Brother Eric Brown also encouraged my reading of the Puritans. He pastors Pine Level Free Will Baptist in Alma, Georgia. During the summer of 2015 I was privileged to serve as an intern at Pine Level. Pastor Eric shared The Valley of Vision with me. We used this resource during our weekly meetings and we incorporated Puritan prayers into our services.(It’s okay to read prayers from the Pulpit. Especially when they are as biblical as Puritan prayers!) The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions. If you do not own this helpful resource, go to the link above and buy it. You will not regret making this purchase! We also read The Reformed Pastor together. Brother Eric has an entire section devoted to Puritan writings, which he made available to me while I served alongside him. While in Grand Rapids, MI for the National Convention, we visited Puritan Reformed Seminary and bookstore. (I’m not confessing how much I spent at the bookstore.)

Other honorable mentions: Each week I listen to some helpful podcasts including Mortification of Spin, Christ the Center, and Truth for Life (Alistair Begg). Various Puritan references abound in these podcasts.

My love for the Puritans and their writings continues to grow. I have several new primary source writings on my “to read” list. In this post I wanted to acknowledge those who have exposed me to the Puritans. In my next post I will explore some commendable characteristics of Puritan spirituality.