The Book of Psalms has a long history in the life of the Church. Whenever I’m super down in the dumps I turn to the Psalms to find comfort and help. I love the cries of the Psalmist for God to help him in the midst of difficulty. The Psalms are raw honest and emotional appeals to the Lord God. Many people struggle with a vocabulary to deal with difficult situations. The Psalms provide the vocabulary for those struggling to articulate how they feel. This is why when I read Dale Ralph Davis book Slogging Along In the Paths of Righteousness I was deeply blessed and helped.
The book considers Psalm 13-24 Psalms that speak to a wide range of issues from anguish, assurance, worship, prayer, and of course, one of the most famous chapters in the Bible Psalm 23. The author engages in sound, helpful, and thoughtful exegesis. As he writes, he helps readers to have language to articulate what the Lord is doing in their lives. Often times in my experience people struggle to articulate what the Lord is doing in their lives when asked. While often times I myself have that problem as well when asked, the more I read the Psalms, the more I see David transparency and honesty. Not that there is anything wrong with saying you don’t know with what the Lord is doing in one’s life. At various times as I noted when asked that question I will say I don’t know. Sometimes this happens when I get discouraged and one of my close friends will ask me what’s going on. I simply tell them I don’t know because I may not know at that time. With that said as I’ve noted already the Psalms give Christians a God-given vocabulary to help have language to use when speaking about God’s work in our lives.
Whether you’re struggling to articulate what the Lord is doing in your life or you’re interested in studying Psalm 13-24 this book has something for you. This excellent book will help you to understand the Psalms better and what they mean for your own life. I highly recommend this commentary on the Psalms and believe it will help every Christian at every stage of their growth in grace to grow in their knowledge of the Word of God.
I received this book for free from Christian Focus for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
When I got my first job in ministry right out of high school, the internet was just starting to be a thing. I remember how excited I was when we installed our first broadband access at this growing church. Broadband back then meant “anything faster dial-up.”
It was a major accomplishment to simply have a website, with pictures, even! Social media wasn’t a concept, much less a job description. Most of the online conversations we had with colleagues and friends happened over email. A few of us rebels used instant messaging.
It is quite different now. The web has matured and is now at the epicenter of the marketplace. Not only do we have better broadband, we can watch five-minute cat videos (not that there’s anything wrong with that). We also gather around a digital water cool on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other networks the kids tell me about.
Mostly this is fun and useful. Has there ever been a time in history where celebrities are as close to the people? In the old days, if I wanted to ask Tim Keller a question, I’d have to look up his church in the phone book (yes, a phone book). Today I can tweet him a question and get an answer.
Social media allows us to join tribes based on common interests. It can be leveraged for social good. And often drives conversation around important issues.
But social media can also bring out the crazy in all of us. Somehow even the best of us throw off restraint behind the keyboard and find a strange new hubris. We say things about people or even to people that we’d never say if the conversation was happening in flesh and blood. The most clever and the manipulative among us are able to form critical narratives about people with whom we disagree. Sometimes with a creative hashtag.
Followers of Christ need to continually think and rethink their social media engagement. We are presented with both opportunity and danger, peril and potential. Platforms can be powerful vehicles for delivering the timeless message of the gospel story, with all of it’s radical, paradigm-shifting impact. They can also fan the flames of self-righteousness and nurture the worst lusts: pride, anger, and self-importance.
If you are active on social media, you’ll find it difficult to always pinpoint, exactly, where that line is between winsome and prophetic engagement on the one hand and snarky, flesh-building arguments on the other hand. Often what seems reasonable to the one tapping the keyboard comes like a cold slap to the recipient. We know our own blind spots and we’re often defensive when they are pointed out. But we can do better than we are doing.
Two things are true about Christians and social media:
If we love our neighbors and care about the shape of our cities, we cannot afford to withdraw from the conversations in the digital public square.
We must work hard to engage our ideological opponents gracefully, even if it means enduring insult and withholding rhetorical retribution.
You’ll find no verse in the Bible about Twitter. But Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:15, written to a marginalized Christian minority, might be a good guide:
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.
To a people misunderstood for their radical devotion to a crucified Jew from Galilee, Peter presents two competing ideas: A willingness to unflinchingly articulate gospel-shaped arguments and a commitment to a tone of civility and grace. Because we believe each human bears the image of God, we cannot consider any person, regardless of what they believe, to be undeserving of respect. We also must love enough to share the truth, even, truth that pings the conscience.
If someone who had never encountered Christianity before wandered into your church or your home, what would be the greatest impression made upon him? If he had to sum up in one word the mood of the worship, prayers, and sermons of your church or the conversation at your family meal table, what would that word be? What if he was asked to describe your church or faith with either a negative or a positive symbol? (Murray, xxiii)
If you are like the majority of believers Murray believes we’d have to confess that most would give our church and our faith a negative symbol. For Murray, the problem is that believers aren’t exuding joy as we should.
After reading this quote from Murray my mind immediately went to one of my favorite Christopher Wright quotes:
…the language of lament is seriously neglected in the church. Many Christians seem to feel that somehow it can’t be right to complain to God in the context of corporate worship when we should all feel happy. There is an implicit pressure to stifle our real feelings because we are urged, by pious merchants of emotional denial, that we ought to have “faith” (as if the moaning psalmists didn’t). So we end up giving external voice to pretended emotions we do not really feel, while hiding the real emotions we are struggling with deep inside. Going to worship can become an exercise in pretence and concealment, neither of which can possibly be conducive for a real encounter with God. So, in reaction to some appalling disaster or tragedy, rather than cry out our true feelings to God, we prefer other ways of responding to it. –(Christopher J.H. Wright, The God I Don’t Understand, 52)
For Wright, the problem is that we do not have an authentic language of lament. If Wright were answering Murray’s question I wonder how he would respond? Would he disagree with Murray’s assessment? Would he say that the problem isn’t that we have too little happiness in church but that we don’t have enough lament?
I don’t know Wright’s answer, but I know my own. I believe both Murray and Wright are correct. When we lose the language of lament and happiness it is because we have lost a depth to our relationship with God.
Lament is not godless bickering. Neither is happiness a godless smile. True lament and true happiness are God-centered. It is out of the depths of my relationship with a loving God that the voice of lament rises up when things are not as they ought to be. And it is out of that same place where true happiness rises above our sorrowful circumstances.
When we move away from the God-centeredness of the Psalmists we also move away from their ability to experience the full range of healthy emotions. If you don’t have a place for lament in your Christianity then you are missing something in your understanding of the Lord. Likewise, if you don’t have a place for legit Christian happiness there is a hole in your gospel.
Therefore, let us draw near to God where we’ll find the confidence in Christ to lament and to smile.
Join Dave as he continues the study of the Gospel of John by looking at John 4:1-10 with the men at his local church. In this study, Dave looks at the hard work gospel ministry requires, how Jesus connects and ministers to people, and evangelism.
Houston, we have a problem. Ours is a world consumed with sex, in particular, matters of sexuality far from the manner in which God desires for such things to take place. This all consuming passion is not just taking place in secular society. Whether parents realize it or whether they care to admit it, even within our churches and the supposed safe environs of church youth groups, kids are obsessed with, confused about, and participating in sexually related activities that are not God-honoring. This self-centered approach is damaging to them as young people, damaging to society as a whole, and it does nothing to lead to godly marriages. The dating model is absolutely flawed. Eric and Leslie Ludy address this important issue in their excellent book titled Teaching True Love to a Sex at 13 Generation.
If the title of the book startles you, it should. The statistics the Ludy’s share are shocking. Kids, even kids in our churches, are walking a razor thin wire regarding matters of sex with many completely giving in to all manner of temptation. Those who toe the line, while maintaining their “technical virginity”, are nevertheless giving away a little piece of themselves each time they move from relationship to relationship.
In this book, Eric and Leslie Ludy share sound biblical advice to parents who have a desire to train up their children in a way that will yield great dividends down the road. I am big fan of the ministry of Eric and Leslie Ludy as their approach rejects the modern dating model with its “follow your heart” mentality in favor or urging parents to be parents in the life of their children. I also appreciated the urging of youth to allow God, the author of love, to write their love story. This is hard stuff, especially in an age where selfishness in relationships is the norm and when fitting into the world’s mold is such a pervasive allure in the lives of young people.
What makes Teaching True Love such a powerful tool for parents is the practical nature by which the Ludy’s approach this subject matter. They do not just share a bunch of relevant and helpful stories (which they do) nor do they spout off a bunch of Bible verses (which they do). What makes this book so helpful is the stories demonstrate that teaching your children the ways of God when it comes to relationships is doable and necessary. Furthermore, by rooting their discussion in God’s way, the mess that is the world’s way becomes ever more visible.
As a parent of a 13-year-old, I am keenly aware of the sexual morass that is all around us. I am aware of what takes place in schools and when kids get together. For that matter, I was a teenager once and the pressures of life to conform to the world’s standards were quite high 30 years ago and those intense pressures have only increased over the years. The Ludy’s do an excellent job of encouraging parents to be godly parents, to take up the mantle of responsibility in teaching their children God’s ways when it comes to sex, relationships, and marriage.
They provide wonderfully practical tools in each chapter to implement the concepts they discuss. The various challenges they present are followed by an answer and an action plan consisting of two or three recommendations for a variety of situations. Helping your son or daughter understand the importance of purity is a challenge in our day and age. With that said, it is absolutely vital to teach our sons and daughters to focus on God first and foremost and to live a life of purity not just for themselves or because the rules say that is the godly thing to do. As the Ludy’s stress over and over in this book, we should be training out sons and daughters to stay pure for the future husband or wife God has for them and to rest in the sovereignty of God in this area of their life.
Sorry, folks. The Russian roulette that is the modern dating model is not the answer for finding a mate. The trial and error method, while it has some measure of success, is not what can be labeled as a biblical approach to relationships or to finding our way to the marriage altar. The pattern we find in Scripture and the message driven home by the Ludy’s in this book is the need for parents to teach, for kids to be pure, and for the constant focus to be on God. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things (including your future spouse) will be added to you. I am thankful for the Ludy’s writing this book and I highly recommend it to all parents to not just read themselves, but to also read with their children, starting at an age that is appropriate for their child. If you are the parent of an older child, the time is now to implement the principles presented in this book. While the truths noted in this book may seem old-fashioned, that is simply because the world has gone so far off course, namely the course of godly relationship building provided in God’s Word.
This book is available for purchase from Thomas Nelson by clicking here.
Disclaimer: This works for me. It might not work for you. If you flunk out of seminary after taking my advice, I’m sorry.
I came to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the fall of 2009. I was excited to be able to learn from some of the world’s greatest professors. I figured I would learn so much and that I would grow in my relationship with the Lord in ways I didn’t imagine. My first semesters didn’t disappoint.
After awhile, though, my soul started to ache a bit. The greatest impact was on my Bible reading. I started reading less devotionally and more as a seminary student. To use the words of Paul Tripp I was becoming more concerned with mastering the text (at least in the eyes of my professors and fellow students) than being mastered by the text.
Then my passion for theology books and studying started to dwindle. That might not seem like a big deal, but it was. We strive to become like what we most admire. Before seminary, when I so passionately devoured theology books it wasn’t for head-knowledge. It was because I loved God and wanted to be more like Him. I wanted to learn how to be a better minister.
Then I started having to read. And having to write papers on the Bible. My heart changed. I became a student of SBTS and no longer a student of the LORD.
So, I started taking fewer classes and threw myself into other stuff and promised myself I’d finish seminary eventually. I took it very slow. Now I’ve amped up my schedule again. I’m working my tail off to graduate as soon as possible.
I’m getting busy with seminary classes again but as of now my heart hasn’t changed with it. One thing is different. And here is my tip:
If you are a seminary student forget that you are a seminary student; Live as though you aren’t.
You still have papers due.
You still have books to read.
You still have quizzes and tests to take.
But by all means don’t let yourself be a student of your school and forsake being a student of the Lord. Always keep it in front of you that the reason you read a book is not because the professor tells you to—it is because you are trying to know the Lord more. You aren’t writing a paper because a professor tells you to—you aren’t writing to please men—you are writing to get out on paper what the Lord is showing you. You are writing to tell of the excellencies of Jesus.
I’ll close with a blunt statement that I believe is true. If you can’t do this…if you become a student of a school more than a student of Jesus…I don’t think you’ll make a good pastor/minister. You’ll get eaten up. If you sacrifice your relationship with Jesus on the altar of a theological education then you’ll do the same thing when the heat of ministry gets turned up.
So make that commitment now. You’ll get an F in Systematic Theology before you let your heart grow numb. The sooner you do this—and the sooner you forget you are in seminary—the more fun you’ll have and the more you’ll actually learn.