Monday, July 14, 2014

For Those Who Don't Like to Read but Want to Learn

Let me begin by admitting my bias. I believe reading is essential to learning. Personally, reading is a critical component of both my spiritual and professional life (which are intertwined). Furthermore, reading doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. If you read 10 pages a day, you can read a book per month. If you drop down to 5 pages a day, you can still read six books a year. For some suggestions on what to read, please see some of my previous posts.

Yet, I understand that some people either do not like to read or find it very difficult. Thankfully, there are many, many resources available where people can learn through listening rather than reading. What follows are 1) places to go to find good listening materials, and 2) some specific MP3’s that I have enjoyed and/or found beneficial.
Where to Find Good Materials

The Gospel Coalition has a treasure trove of sermons and lectures. You can search by speaker, topic, or Scripture text. Some of my favorite speakers on this site are Jerry Bridges, D. A. Carson, Bryan Chapell, Sinclair Ferguson, Tim Keller, John Piper, and Richard Pratt.

Gospel in Life contains sermons, lectures and other materials by Tim Keller. You have to pay for these, but they are worth it. Many would argue that Dr. Keller is the best preacher of our day.

Desiring God contains the sermons of John Piper. Nobody preaches with passion like Piper.

Covenant Seminary has put many of their classes online for free. You have to create a login, but don’t let that stop you. These resources really are free.

You can also access classes from Reformed Theological Seminary and Westminster Theological Seminary online for free through ITunesU. You need to have ITunes installed on your computer to get these.

Third Millennium Ministries is the ministry of Dr. Richard Pratt. You can get nearly a complete seminary education on this site for free. The site also has some highly interactive videos. Dr. Pratt is not the only speaker. The older videos are not as high quality as the newer ones, but the content is good.

Mars Hill Audio is sort of like a Christian NPR. It examines a wide range of cultural issues from a Christian perspective. You probably will not find all of the content appealing. My main problem with it is, every time I listen to an issue, I end up buying more books to learn more. This service requires a subscription, but I find it well worth it.
Some Specific MP3 Recommendations

A Beautiful Orthodoxy by Ray Cortese. This was the opening sermon at the 2014 General Assembly of the PCA. It is well worth the $3.
Culture as Liturgy by James K. A. Smith – I confess, I read the book instead of listening to the lecture, but I think he has some very valuable insights.

Communicating Christ – Every Bible teacher should listen to this 3 part series. Seriously. However, for some reason, this is no longer on the Covenant Seminary website except in Korean!?! However, you should be able to find it on the Gospel Coalition site. The three lectures are The Heart of a Christ-Centered Message, The Hope of a Christ-Centered Message, and the Hands of a Christ-Centered Message.

New Perspective on Paul by D. A. Carson. If you have never heard of  “The New Perspective on Paul,” I doubt this will hold much interest. Even though N. T. Wright fans will say that Carson doesn’t “get it,” I think this is a very helpful analysis.
Ancient and Medieval Church History and Reformation and Modern Church History by David Calhoun. While I loved the education I received at RTS, my church history courses were a bit lacking. These lecture series helped fill in some gaps.
Preaching Christ in a Modern World by Tim Keller and Ed Clowney. I was in this class when these men taught it. Skip the Q & A recordings. Also, Keller is more interesting than Clowney, but both are helpful.
The Calvin I Never Knew by Frank James. Since I knew very little about John Calvin’s life, I found this fascinating.
Conservative Christianity After the Christian Right by Tim Keller. For those concerned about the cultural shifts in our country, this is a fascinating lecture.
Your Walk with God is a Community Project by Paul Tripp. This is for purchase. The title sums it up. It is a good corrective to our individualistic approach to Christian growth.
2007 Global Missions Conference by Richard Pratt. This will expand your vision. Also, check out his lecture series on the Kingdom of God.
I recently listened to Phil Ryken and Ligon Duncan’s lectures on Thomas Boston and the Marrow Men. This is not for everybody, but I found them interesting. Beware that there is about 5 minutes of chitchat in the Ryken recording before you get to his lecture. You will want to fast-forward through all of that. I don’t know why it was not edited out.
Some Video Recommendations

I must admit, I am not one to watch videos. I listen to sermons and lectures while I run, but have a hard time sitting in front of a TV or computer screen to watch a video. However, if this is your cup of tea, here are a few recommendations.
Center Church – While not as complete as his book, these videos by Tim Keller give a good overview on how a church can develop a biblical philosophy of ministry.
I mentioned this above under MP3’s. Third Millennium Ministries is the ministry of Dr. Richard Pratt. You can get nearly a complete seminary education on this site for free. The site also has some highly interactive videos. Dr. Pratt is not the only speaker. The older videos are not as high quality as the newer ones, but the content is good.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Developing a Spiritual Renewal Plan

We can safely say that if one does nothing to cultivate his soul, his soul will not flourish. As has often been noted, people do not drift into holiness. At the same time, we can also say that there is no set, biblically prescribed program that everyone should follow in order to grow. However, that does not mean we are left to our own devices. The Bible outlines certain "means of grace," that is, means by which we might apprehend and comprehend more of the grace of God. These are often referred to as spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines include things such as corporate worship, private worship, prayer, meditating on Scripture, and fellowship.

While the Bible teaches the importance of these disciplines (or means of grace), the Bible does not outline a specific program for all believers. That is, no where in the Bible are we commanded to spend 30 minutes a day in our quiet times or personal devotions. Therefore, it seems there is some flexibility in how believers put these disciplines into practice. Doing this requires intentionality. Passivity will not do.

Because the spiritual disciplines are necessary and yet no particular "system" or method is prescribed in Scripture, at Village Seven, we encourage our staff and officers to develop their own “Spiritual Renewal Plans”, or SRP. What follows are some suggestions on how you might develop your own Spiritual Renewal Plan

What Your Plan Should Include

Spiritual Disciplines

While the Bible does not outline a program for us, the Bible is clear that there are certain “means of grace” that should be a regular part of every Christian’s life. These include:
·        Corporate Worship (church)
·        Prayer
·        Bible reading/study/preaching
·        Fellowship
·        The Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper)

In addition to these, there are other disciplines that the Bible tells us are helpful to our spiritual growth. These include: serving, fasting, giving, evangelism, meditation, singing, solitude, etc… Your SRP should include these activities. You might also think about the things that you do or have done that you have found to be spiritually refreshing. It could be that reading certain books or attending a particular conference, or even listening to certain music stirs your soul. Include these things in your spiritual plan as well.

Constructing the Plan

Be Realistic

As you develop your SRP, I encourage you to be both challenging and realistic. If you haven’t been reading your Bible at all, then it is unrealistic to set a goal of reading it for one hour every day. Try 10 minutes of Bible reading and 5 minutes of prayer. Set small goals that you can achieve
Be Challenging

While you do not want to set unrealistic goals, you also do not want to settle for mediocrity. The spiritual disciplines need to become a regular part of your daily life.

Add Variety

Do some things daily, some things weekly, some things monthly, quarterly or yearly. There are some wonderful spiritual disciplines that you cannot do every day or even every week (like fasting or solitude), but if you do not put them in your plan, then you will never do them. Also, you may not want to do the same thing everyday. For example, you might decide to read the Bible for 15 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and listen to a sermon or message in the car on the way to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Don’t Let Failure Stop You

If you set a goal to read your Bible everyday and then go a week without reading it, it is easy to get discouraged. Don’t. Just keep at it. Just because you fail for a time, that doesn’t mean you have to quit or that you are a failure. Just start again. You are going to mess up some, maybe even a lot, but, if you keep after it, you will begin to see solid, steady spiritual growth. At any time that you discover that your plan is not working, then simply take to time to revise it and make it a more realistic plan that you will actually do.
Build It Into Your Calendar

Once you have decided what you are going to do, enter it into your calendar. If you do not put it into your calendar, you probably won’t do it. This is particularly important for things that you do not do every day or every week.
If you are planning a weekend away with your wife, even if it is not for another 6 months, put it on your calendar. If a conflict comes up, you can move it, but you cannot delete it. Putting it on your calendar forces you to think about it and increases your chances of following through. So, everything in your plan must be entered into your calendar.

Don't Measure Your Spirituality by Your Success/Failure at Your SRP

Practicing the spiritual disciplines is not a means by which you earn God's favor or blessing. It is a means by which you meditate on the fact that, if you are in Christ, you already have God's favor. We are prone to forget the gospel. The Spiritual Disciplines are a way of reminding ourselves of the truth of the gospel. Also, the spiritual disciplines are a means by which we abide in Christ and abide in His love. Be careful not to reverse this. We do not practice the disciplines to earn God's love. We practice the disciplines in order to walk in His love.

Constructing Your Plan

Below is a sampling of things you might include in your plan. Of course, there are many other ideas, but these are a few that can help you think about what you might do.


·        Read the Bible for 10 minutes
·        Pray for 10 minutes
·        Listen to an MP3 of a sermon while exercising
·        Pray with my wife every night
·        Read a devotional (there are many good ones available today)
·        Read 1 chapter of the Bible
·        Read or sing a hymn or inspirational song
·        Read a Bible story and pray with the kids


·        Family Devotions twice a week
·        Attend church
·        Prepare for and Participate in Small Group Bible Study
·        1 hour of in-depth Bible study
·        Meet with men’s group or friend for accountability
·        Work out three times a week and listen to spiritually edifying sermons, lectures, or music
·        Listen to sermon MP3’s twice a week in car on the way to work
·        Tithe
·        Journal twice a week
·        Try to have one spiritual significant conversation with an unbeliever each week
·        Pray for the pastors each week

Monthly or Quarterly

·        Read one spiritual refreshing book
·        Spend half day alone in prayer
·        Meet with a friend for real accountability once a month


·        Spend one day in prayer and fasting
·        Attend a retreat or conference
·        Read two spiritually refreshing books
·        Take one day alone for a personal spiritual retreat

Below is  sample of what your Spiritual Renewal Plan might look like. Again, this is just a suggestion. Create yours so that it helps you grow in grace.


I will pray for personal, family, church leadership, and church renewal every day.
I will commit to reading my Bible at least five times a week.
I will seek to have family devotions at least five times a week.


I will meet with a Christian friend once a week for accountability and spiritual encouragement.
I will actively participate in worship every Lord’s Day
I will attend Community or a small group


I will spend a half-day in prayer and spiritual reflection once every three months.


I will read three spiritually nourishing books this year
I will go on some sort of spiritual retreat this year
Go on a mission trip

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Mission of the Church - Some Key Tactics

In several previous posts, I mentioned that Village Seven's mission is:

To make, equip and deploy disciples who live out and proclaim the gospel through word and deed in Colorado Springs, the West and the World.

In these posts, I talked about our strategy for accomplishing this mission. Beyond this strategy, the elders believe that there are other key tactics which we must do if we are to be faithful to God's call. Below is outline of these tactics.

1)  Make prayer a mission priority – Unite God’s people in prayer so that they are empowered for God’s mission.

2)  Train leaders to be equippers and shepherds.

3)  Neighborhood Impact- minister in the immediate area surrounding the church in word and deed to meet needs and make disciples.

4)  Assess children and youth ministries to see if we are properly preparing our children to live as disciples in a post-Christian culture.

5)  Continue to address reaching 20’s and 30’s.

6)  Seek to Strengthen Marriages and Families. 

1)  Cultivate, recruit, and train ministry leaders.

2)  Improve and clarify officer apprenticeship program.

3)  Continue/improve monthly elder and deacon development.

4)  Work with staff on improvement plans.

5)  Train staff in leadership.

6)  Develop alternative method for training pastors.

7)  Develop a church planting apprentice program.

8)  Develop a Fellows Program.

9)  Develop Long Term Financial Plan.

10)      Ongoing Stewardship Development that includes any capital campaigns.

11)      Determine personnel needs.

12)      Improve Communications.

13)      Assess what needs to be done to our facility to make it effective for the long haul.