Book Review: Worship: The Ultimate Priority by John MacArthur
Thursday February 21, 2013 20:29
MacArthur, John. (2012) Worship: The Ultimate Priority. Chicago, IL: Moody. 211p
Reviewed by Stephen Smith
John MacArthur has been a faithful minister of Christ’s church for many years. Hence, when he writes a book on an important subject such as worship one knows it will be spiritually edifying! Indeed, this is a very helpful book. This book was originally published in 1983 but has been recently revised with an extra chapter and an appendix added.
The major theme that runs through this book is that God must be worshipped in the way prescribed by Holy Scripture. Idolatry is an ever present danger. Scripture alone determines the way and manner in which a sinner should approach God, and worship Him. MacArthur argues that this is why a church should have a Biblical expository preaching ministry. The scriptures must be preached (2 Timothy 4:2). Genuine worship is a response to divine truth that God has revealed about Himself.
An important aspect of worshipping God correctly is understanding His attributes. God is unchanging and all-powerful. He has infinite wisdom. God also is holy. MacArthur helpfully applies the teaching on God’s holiness to worship by stating that one “needs to return to the biblical teaching on God’s utter and awesome holiness in order to be filled with the gratitude and humility that characterises true worship.” (p121)
This book also contains some helpful insights on how to worship the members of the Trinity itself. MacArthur writes “Trinitarian doctrine is essential to true worship. Within the Trinity each member has a unique ministry. The Holy Spirit calls us to the Son, and the Son calls us to the Father. Thus in a sense our worship involves all members of the trinity and all are worthy to be worshipped.” (p151)
The book includes with some insights on how to glorify God. Psalm 100 reminds us that God has made us and we are His. God made everything to give Him glory.
The appendix is a plea to promote content, truth-focused Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in the church.
There is a study guide for this book at http://images.moodypublishers.com/Marketing/WEB%20Resources/PDFs/Study%20Guides%20and%20Leaders%20Guides/Worship_StudyGuide.pdf
All in all this is a very helpful book. It reminds us that we cannot worship God on our own devices but God is to be worshipped as He commands – as revealed in the Scriptures. May this book help to that end.
Book review:Authority by Dr D Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Thursday February 21, 2013 20:27
Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. (1997) Authority. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth. 94p
Reviewed by Stephen Smith
Dr Lloyd-Jones is widely regarded as one of the twentieth century’s greatest expository preachers. All his books are transcripts of his sermons or lectures. This book, Authority, is based on three lectures he gave to a student conference in Canada in 1957.
This issue of authority is important because man is constantly searching for ultimate truth – ultimate authority. Humans do this through various religions and cults, and philosophy and reason. However, one cannot arrive at this ultimate knowledge by ones own efforts. The apostle Paul stated that the world did not know God through wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:21). Lloyd-Jones adds “the world by wisdom still does not know God!” (P12 Emphasis by Lloyd-Jones).
The three lectures cover the following topics:
- The Authority of Jesus Christ
- The Authority of the Scriptures
- The Authority of the Holy Spirit
The New Testament shows a clear witness to Christ’s authority. The gospels show the authority of our Lord in His baptism where the Holy Spirit descends upon Christ and a voice from heaven says “This is my beloved Son”. (Matthew 3:17). Similar words are uttered at the Transfiguration, but an extra note of authority is sounded “listen to Him” (Matthew 17:5). Christ claims to be “the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Christ also demonstrated His authority in His death, resurrection and ascension.
The Scriptures themselves attest to their own authority. Our Lord accepted the authority of the Old Testament and testified that they spoke of Him (Luke 24:44). Although there are many arguments that verify the authority of the scriptures, in the final analysis the truths of the Scripture are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14). It is the preached word and the work of the Spirit that ultimately convinces a person of the authority of Holy Scripture.
Dr Lloyd-Jones explains how the authority of the Holy Spirit shows itself in the life of our Lord. God gave Christ the Spirit in complete fullness for the task (John 3:34). Next, Dr Lloyd-Jones explains how the Holy Spirit shows authority in the life of the believer. The Holy Spirit alone can open the heart and enable one to receive truth. He then gives understanding and assurance to the true believer. Finally, Dr Lloyd-Jones teaches on the work of the Spirit in the church and especially the importance of revival.
This is a very helpful small book. It is especially helpful as an aid to defend the faith while evangelising or to strengthen the faith of a believer.
Orders for Easter tracts need to be submitted by 28 February 2013
Sunday February 10, 2013 15:34
A changed life in China
Saturday February 9, 2013 11:40
In a recent New Zealand Bible Society newletter, we read the following story (reproduced with permission from the Bible Society):
Xiong Jing was once a member of a triad gang. His life was full of criminal activity. But all that changed on the day he was handed a Gospel pamphlet on the street.
Even though Xiong Jing didn't understand what he was reading about, he began asking around his neighbours to see if any of them could help him. An elderly neighbour offered to take him to church the next Sunday. He agreed to go, and there he was given a Bible, which he took home to read. He began reading the Bible at the Gospel of Matthew. At first, Xiong Jing found it difficult to understand, but he persevered until he got as far as the Sermon on the Mount. At that moment he felt as if a lightning bolt had struck deep into his soul. It was almost as if he heard the voice of jesus. He read on and on, late into the night.
it was from that point on that Xiong Jing's life began to change in dramatic ways that soon became noticeable in his home and neighbourhood. He began attending church regularly, and it soon became clear that his life had been transformed from gang-centred to Christ-centred.
So, from the tiny seed of a Gospel tract sown on the street that day, there blossomed an interest in knowing about God, Jesus Christ and the way of salvation.This then led to a life transformed through the saving power of the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.
Who knows what effect simply giving a tract to someone may have in your neighbourhood!
Book review: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian life by Donald Whitney
Thursday February 7, 2013 22:08
Here is another book review by our friend, Stephen Smith
Whitney, Donald S. (1991) Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress. 266p
Reviewed by Stephen Smith
This classic work is all about implementing wise spiritual disciplines into ones Christian life. It is based around the teaching of 1 Tim 4:7 “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” [NASB]. Each chapter is devoted to a specific spiritual discipline and includes biblical teaching on that discipline as well as practical application.
Two chapters are devoted to Bible intake. These include bible reading (including advice on a good Bible reading plan), memorisation of scripture and meditation. The section on meditation is especially helpful as this is an area often not addressed in modern Christian churches. Whitney states that Meditation involves deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities of scripture.
The book goes on to explain the importance of prayer for the Christian life. Just as scripture memorisation enhances meditation, so meditation enhances prayer. Letting scriptural principles flow through the mind helps one to pray effectively.
Next, worship is discussed. Worship is focusing on and responding to God. John 4 emphasises that it must be done in spirit and in truth.
Other spiritual disciplines discussed include evangelism, serving others, stewardship of time and money, fasting, silence and solitude, and journaling (to record thoughts on your personal walk with God). Whitney emphasises the fact that these disciplines are to help with spiritual growth – thus they should not be seen as legalistic duties.
Whitney has written a sequel to this book “Simplify your Spiritual Life” (also published by NavPress). This book includes some of the above disciplines but often discusses them from a slightly different angle. For example, it gives some new insights and tools for scriptural meditation.
Simplify your Spiritual Life also contains new material. This includes advice on singing hymns, getting a spiritually wise person to help in your Christian walk, using the Lord ’s Day to enhance your spiritual life and how to use modern technology wisely.
This reviewer suggests that, because of the complementary nature of both books, they should be read together. May they be a helpful tool to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” 1 Tim 4:7.
The author has a website with useful material http://biblicalspirituality.org.
Reviews of books we recommend
Thursday February 7, 2013 21:56
We have a friend who reads lots of good books on a variety of Christian subjects, and we have asked him to write reviews of some of these books so that we can share them with you..
The first one is a review of a Francis Shaeffer Trilogy - a combination of three of Shaeffer's most important writings.
Schaeffer, Francis. (1990) Francis Schaeffer Trilogy. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 368p
Reviewed by Stephen Smith
The Francis Schaeffer Trilogy is a combination of Schaeffer’s three key books:
- The God who is there
- Escape from reason
- He is there and He is not silent.
Schaeffer starts this work off by explaining that the thinking of mankind went on a significant change about the turn of the twentieth century – first in Europe, then in the USA. Prior to the twentieth century the dominant thinking was that absolute truth existed but it could be found apart from the Scriptures. The humanists of the time mocked the bible as being inconsistent with absolute truth. However the problem was that this optimistic humanism had no foundations to build on and ultimately collapsed.
As a result a new worldview developed – the idea that there is no absolute truth. Schaeffer calls it “going beyond the line of despair” because this modern view is irrational and cannot build a solid foundation for anything. To give an obvious example – if I said there was no absolute truth, obviously that statement is self-refuting because I have made a truth statement.
Schaeffer explains how this modern thinking has affected many key aspects of life including:
- Language and literature
The rest of this book (3 books combined) develops this theme. Book 2 demonstrates how modern man has become irrational because of this modern thinking. Book three ties all the themes together by showing from the scriptures that modern man need not be in despair because God is not silent – God indeed does exist and has revealed Himself. He has spoken through the pages of Holy Scripture and therefore there is hope – both spiritually and philosophically – for modern man.
There are a number of things I appreciate about this book:
- Schaeffer gives a very clear description of the gospel. He points out that the gospel is the way that man is reconciled with God and that he comes to God not on his own righteousness, but on the righteousness of Christ.
- Some very helpful guidelines are given on how to reach people in our post-modern society. Schaeffer suggests we “find the point of tension”. For example, if you are witnessing to a person concerned with social justice, you would challenge them as to the foundations for social justices on a humanistic foundation. Schaeffer calls this the “point of tension” because this person obviously believes in ultimate standards (in this case social justice) and yet is unable to find a foundation for this apart from biblical foundations. This is a helpful tool to challenge and reach people.
- It is quite clear through the book that Schaffer has a great love for people because they are made in the image of God. This sets us a high standard as we witness.
- One of Schaeffer’s unique gifts was effective communication. Some of the concepts in this book grapple with serious issues in philosophy. Yet Schaeffer explains his terms well and uses helpful diagrams to help the reader understand the key concepts. Further, there is a glossary included in the book.
I highly recommend this book. It is a helpful tool for witnessing to non-Christians, and can help people think through the issues of their faith.
On the streets
Monday May 21, 2012 19:31
Recently, Trevor went to one of our local shopping centres to talk to people and hand out tracts. He had a blessed time.
Stock take and reprints
Monday May 21, 2012 19:15
We've just done a stock take, and find that we are low on some of our most popular tracts, including "Four Things You Need To Know" and "What Really Counts". We're planning to do another print run in the next couple of weeks so that stocks are replenished. We are so thankful to the Lord that we are able to provide tracts to so many countries worldwide. We would also like to thank those who request and use the tracts, as well as those who have supported us financially, in prayer and with words of encouragement - we are partners together in evangelism!
Some of our tracts are now on an iPhone app
Wednesday April 4, 2012 20:56
Some of our tracts are included in a free iPhone app called mobitract.
Here is the url for the app and the mobitract website:
New Easter tract now available
Sunday March 18, 2012 14:25
Our new Easter tract has been printed and can be ordered. For people from countries outside New Zealand, we need to have orders within the next week as it will take 7-10 days for mail to reach you.
New tract for Easter
Thursday March 8, 2012 22:48
Yesterday we finalised the content and layout of a new tract about the meaning of Easter. We should have it on the website soon, so watch this space!
84-year-old Brazilian lady evangelizing in New York
Friday November 11, 2011 20:47
See this story on Christian World News about an elderly Brazilian lady who has been evangelising in New York for the last 40 years by handing out tracts and talking to people.
A good conference here in Auckland New Zealand
Friday November 11, 2011 20:06
On 18-20 November 2011, Austin Walker, pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley, Sussex, England will be speaking at a conference, which has as its theme “Solid Joys and Lasting Treasures” (Romans 8:31-39)". The conference venue for Friday, 18 November 2011 and Saturday, 19 November 2011 is Trinity Methodist Church Hall, 474 Pakuranga Road, Highland Park, Auckland, and for Sunday, 20 November 2011 is Sovereign Grace Church (Reformed Baptist), 3 Lunn Avenue, Mt. Wellington, Auckland. To check out the conference details, go to the Sovereign Grace church website.
Yeah, but what is life really about?
Tuesday November 8, 2011 20:14
"Yeah, but what is life really about?" is the title of our latest tract. It challenges those reading it to think about the Bible and what it teaches about God, creation,why we are here and where we are going, about sin and about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Check it out!
Brazilian Portuguese translations
Tuesday July 12, 2011 16:25
We will soon have Brazilian Portuguese translations of some of our tracts available on line.
A Helpful Resource in Ghana
Sunday July 10, 2011 20:00
For several years we have been corresponding with our friends Ferguson & Tina Kcofie. Ferguson is pastor of a Reformed Baptist church in Dansoman Estates, Accra Ghana and is one of the driving forces behind "The Reformed Project, Ghana", a website aimed primarily at proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it was proclaimed in the Protestant Reformation. Central in this proclamation are the Doctrines of Grace and the 5 Solas of salvation (see our tract, The Five Foundations, for a short summary of these statements). We would recommend this website (http://reformedproject.org) to anyone in Ghana, and to those elsewhere in the world who are looking for biblical teaching, or who want to know more about what is happening in that part of Africa.
Burmese translation of tracts
Wednesday June 1, 2011 08:39
We have just uploaded an online Burmese translation of our tract "Four Things You Need To Know". Many thanks to Ivan Edwards, who kindly provided the translation for us. This version is not available in print format. Click here to view.
Kenyan Swahili translation
Wednesday May 11, 2011 14:05
Planned new translations, new tracts
Monday March 28, 2011 18:02
We've recently received a German translation of three of our tracts, and we are looking into Swahili, Urdu and Burmese translations, as well. This is based on requests for such tracts. In addition, we're working on an Easter tract. We just praise God for the encouragements we've received in the past few weeks.
A great encouragement
Monday March 28, 2011 17:58
A couple of days ago we received this really encouraging email, and we wanted to share it, so that others might be encouraged too...
Just wanted you to know I received the gospel tracts yesterday. They were wonderful and I loved the message that was in each one. The first one I gave was to my grandaughter who is 12. Her favorite scripture has always been John 3:16 "For God so Loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life". The tracts will be such a blessing. My husband and I are going to the assisted living home for people who can not live by themselves but still have some independence. We went on March 19th and sang to the people there and were hoping to give them the gospel tracts. I'm not sure how many live at the Fairview home but I would guess about 30. My grandaughter and 2 other young kids are going to give the tracts out. Last time we went they went to the rooms and gave them Bibles. If you would be willing to send more tracts we will gladly help spread the gospel of our Lord. We've been serving the Lord all of our life. I can't imagine my world without God in it. Please keep us in prayer and again I thank you so much. Receiving the gospel tracts was my greatest blessing of the day.
I prayer God will continue to bless you in your wonderful ministry.
Welcome to our new-look website
Friday March 18, 2011 21:38
Our website has been revamped and expanded and we are very pleased with the new look. We hope that you find the site easy to navigate. Please check regularly for the latest news, and if you would like to receive regular updates, just click onto the feeds symbol (the orange symbol just below the tracts4u.org logo on the newsletters page).