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List of Good Expository Book Sermon Series

February 1, 2012 1 comment

Almost two years ago I posted a list of Bible Books and Sermon Series.  Now it’s time to update the list with a few more names and sermon series.

Since the last post I have listened to all of S. Lewis Johnson’s Old Testament book series (except for his second series in 1984 on Zechariah), and a few more of his New Testament series. Along the way I’ve enjoyed a few other books and series as well, such as Dan Duncan’s church history, and Librivox’s audio recording of “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  Ahead, after finishing the John Bunyan Conference lectures, I hope to go through SLJ’s “Romans” series.

The updated list includes a few additional recent series from Believers Chapel, as well as teachings from two additional church sites:  Twin City Fellowship (pastors Bob DeWaay and Eric Douma), and Richard Mayhue’s sermon series available at his website.

Twin City Fellowship and Richard Mayhue’s material fill in some of the NT book gaps, such as coverage of 1 and 2 Thessalonians and 1 Peter, books not taught by SLJ.  The Twin City Fellowship series are all fairly recent ones, and listed together on a page titled “Bible Studies.”  Richard Mayhue is more known for the several books he has published in recent years, and his work on the staff of The Masters Seminary since 1989.  His available online sermons come from earlier preaching years at Grace Brethren Church of Long Beach, California (1984 to 1989).  After listening to a sampling of these, including introductory messages for 1 Thessalonians, I think I prefer Bob DeWaay’s teaching: fewer overall messages than Mayhue’s, but more in-depth “Bible Study” with PowerPoint presentations to accompany the teachings and the overall study outlines.

Here is the updated list.

Revisiting the So-Called “Spiritual Disciplines”

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

Several months back I posted about the problem with spiritual disciplines, including excerpts from Bob DeWaay and links to his articles about it.  More and more I see the term “spiritual disciplines” showing up, even in local churches that supposedly hold to the Reformers’ beliefs — such as a Sunday School class in which “spiritual disciplines” is being taught — perhaps from a more biblical view than the extent to which some take the idea, yet the term is still being used.

Last week the Sunday School topic was about meditation, and “is meditation a spiritual discipline?”  A handout included several Bible verses about people who meditated, and a “checklist” for people to look through, counting up how many hours per week they spend on various activities, of which work/business, sleeping, eating, reading, doing laundry, and even Facebook and texting, were on the list — and the suggestion to look at one’s priorities and what they spend time on.  Again I am reminded of Bob DeWaay’s point, that the problem with spiritual disciplines is that it conveys the idea that we can become holy by “doing” these things, rather than focusing on what God has promised and using “the means of grace.”  The checklist and verses (just single verses, not passages) certainly promotes that attitude.

From the biblical view, this is the wrong approach.  Instead we recognize the “means of grace,” and the public and private “means of grace” spoken of by the great preachers of the last few centuries:  the things through which God gives grace, as promised in His word.  Meditation is not an end in itself, something we do to become more holy, in which we decide to spend a certain amount of time “meditating” and looking up specific Bible verses and thinking, “what does this mean to me?”  Meditation always has as its object God’s word; in reading and understanding God’s word we are promised blessings, as specifically mentioned in Revelation 1:3 as well as in the book of Proverbs.  We spend time in God’s word, reading it and studying it, pondering what it means — not just certain verses (often out of context), and not according to some set scheduled discipline, but throughout our daily lives as we read, pray and listen to or read sermons.  Meditation is part of that overall studying process, as we think upon the things that God has revealed to us in His word — rather than something forced and planned.

FInally, some observations from J.C. Ryle, concerning the “means of grace” (not “spiritual disciplines”):

From Holiness, chapter 6

One thing essential to growth in grace is diligence in the use of private means of grace. By these I understand such means as a man must use by himself alone, and no one can use for him. I include under this head private prayer, private reading of the Scriptures, and private meditation and self–examination. The man who does not take pains about these three things must never expect to grow. Here are the roots of true Christianity. Wrong here, a man is wrong all the way through! Here is the whole reason why many professing Christians never seem to get on. They are careless and slovenly about their private prayers. They read their Bibles but little and with very little heartiness of spirit. They give themselves no time for self–inquiry and quiet thought about the state of their souls.

and (from Holiness, chapter 2):

The “means of grace” are such as Bible reading, private prayer, and regularly worshiping God in Church, wherein one hears the Word taught and participates in the Lord’s Supper. …They are appointed channels through which the Holy Spirit conveys fresh supplies of grace to the soul and strengthens the work which He has begun in the inward man.

The Problem With “Spiritual Disciplines”

March 21, 2011 1 comment

Several months ago I briefly looked at the terms “means of grace” and “spiritual disciplines,” mainly to understand the definition of the expression “means of grace.”  Now for a follow-up and more detailed look at the trendy idea of “spiritual disciplines” and what it’s really about.
A friend recently sent a link to a “Bible meditation” plan, asking what I thought of it.  The plan referenced “spiritual disciplines” and suggested specific ways to meditate on God’s word, including “relax your body” and “use your imagination to picture the truth when appropriate.”  (I explained what I thought of this, and the friend noted that I had confirmed the doubts she had about it.)
Bob DeWaay’s “Critical Issues Commentary” has been helpful for further research, as with these two articles:

The proponents of “spiritual disciplines,” such as Don Whitney, go beyond what the Bible itself defines.  Bob DeWaay said it well, that the “Means of grace are defined by the Bible and attached to God’s promises.  If we come to God in faith according to the means He has defined, He has promised to graciously meet us.”

However, the “spiritual disciplines” add many specific things to “do” in a subtle type of works-religion:

To summarize the directives in the chapters of Whitney’s book: spend more time reading the Bible, memorize more scripture, have a Bible reading plan, obey the Bible more, apply the Bible more, pray more, do more evangelism, make more plans for evangelism, serve more, use your gifts more, work harder at serving, use more time for spiritual things and less for wasteful things like entertainment, give more, fast often and regularly, spend time daily in silence and solitude, learn to hear the inward voice of God and then obey that inward voice, keep a journal, discipline yourself to write in a journal daily, study more, persevere more, and so forth. In fact, one could summarize, “think of whatever appears to be spiritual and godly and then do more and try harder.”

Many of these things are harmless in themselves, but with the teaching of “spiritual disciplines” they have become associated with the idea of becoming holy through disciplining oneself, as though by doing these things we could become more spiritual, more like Jesus.  For instance, “keeping a journal” is based on an idea only loosely connected to scripture, that since David penned the Psalms (inspired writings), our journal-keeping of thoughts and feelings is on the same level.  But back to the definition of “means of grace,” such a “blessing” for keeping a journal is not something that God promises — and inevitably sets us up for disappointment when such measures fail to give that extra blessing.

Bob DeWaay’s remarks about keeping a journal reminded me of something I remember reading years ago from C.S. Lewis, that keeping a journal was something he quit doing after becoming a Christian:  journal keeping was too self-focused, a very selfish activity that detracts from making us useful for God.  If by journal keeping we mean, keep notes about new things we discover in God’s word, fine — and I do that in fair measure, notes from certain Bible verses I read, or notes from various sermon series with commentary opinions.  But the “spiritual discipline” of journal keeping is the very thing C.S. Lewis also rejected, as too much self-centeredness.

But back to the idea of the grace that God gives to us as we partake of His means:  can I actually observe the blessings/benefits I receive from the “means of grace?”  Being honest with myself, I must admit, frequently I’m unaware of such — the process is gradual, and too often even when I engage in regular activity such as Bible reading, my mind is easily distracted or otherwise dulled and not as attentive as it should be.  Yet God has even told us that the reading of His word is a “blessing”  (Revelation 1:3), and that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”  (2 Timothy 3:16).  Often enough, I find at least daily encouragement to continue living the Christian life — as in recent readings in Hebrews, Psalm 119, and other parts of God’s word.

Calvinist Dispensational Study Resources: Bob DeWaay

March 10, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m always interested in finding and exploring good Calvinist Dispensational Resources, and tend to concentrate for a while on certain sites, such as Believer’s Chapel Dallas with its many online sermons.  Another site I’ve known about, but hadn’t explored as much, is Bob DeWaay’s church, Twin City Fellowship.  I’ve now added it to the “Church Listings” page, and have spent more time looking at their Bible Study section.

The sermon and Sunday School recordings are fairly recent, so it doesn’t have as much content from the many years past (Believers Chapel has material going back to the 1960s and 1970s), but what it has is well organized with book names listed along the left side panel, and a good selection including several series through Old Testament books.  Among the minor prophets, which I’ve been studying recently, this site has many good audio files covering Daniel, Joel, Zechariah, Malachi, and Habakkuk (still in progress).    Other offerings include Genesis and Exodus, as well as several of the New Testament books, and a ten-part series on basic Hermeneutics.

I’ve listened to the first few messages in Joel, which was done as a Sunday School class with some classroom  interaction; the sessions are longer, at about 1 1/4 hours.  It provides a good supplement to the S. Lewis Johnson series I recently completed.  Among a few interesting highlights, the teacher of this series holds to a later date for Joel — while admitting that some of the arguments, from silence, are not by themselves the strongest reasons.  After I complete all the SLJ minor prophets sessions, I would like to go back and listen to more of Twin City’s classes.