Reading about Martyn Lloyd-Jones during lockdown

Lloyd-Jones on the Christian Life: Doctrine and Life as Fuel and Fire
By Jason Meyer
Crossway, 2018, 274 pp.

4 Stars

During the COVID-19 lockdown, I was determined to read something written by or about Martyn Lloyd-Jones so I downloaded this book to my Kindle.

Welsh-English pastor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981), is still widely admired as one of the most influential evangelical ministers of the 20th century. Pastor and author, Jason Meyer, does a nice job of summarizing MLJ’s teaching in regards to the major doctrines of Christianity and their significance and practical application in the life of a believer. The Doctor (MLJ was a licensed physician prior to becoming a pastor) was an exponent of strong, solid doctrine, but also believed that right doctrine and belief should lead to obedience to the Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit and to subjective love, joy, and peace in the Lord. Loyd-Jones asked, what good is it having a head full of doctrine, but not knowing the joy of the Lord?

MLJ was involved in some controversy. In the first appendice, the author briefly touches upon Loyd-Jones’ teaching on a baptism of the Holy Spirit after conversion, which some mistakenly assume was akin to Pentecostal practices, but was actually a type of subjective experience from the Spirit whereby the believer understood/experienced the assurance of salvation. Author, Jason Meyer, presents his objections to MLJ’s teaching on this point. In the second appendice, Meyer briefly examines the Secession Controversy of 1966 in which MLJ challenged evangelical pastors in Great Britain to separate from ecumenical compromise. As an ex-Catholic who observes many of today’s evangelical theologians, pastors, and para-church leaders bending the knee to Rome, I admire Lloyd-Jones for his strong stand in defense of the Gospel of grace and against ecumenism.

It’s ironic that respected evangelical theologian and pastor, Sinclair Ferguson, in the introduction to this book, inappropriately included a very complimentary reference to Roman Catholic author and apologist, G.K. Chesterton, and his “Father Brown” series. Also, I noticed that the editor of this “Theologians on the Christian Life” series for Crossway Publishing is Stephen J. Nichols who wrote a children’s book, which included Jesuit co-founder and counter-Reformer, Francis Xavier, as one of “heroes of the Christian faith” (see here). MLJ would not have been pleased with either of those accommodations to error.

Contents:

Part 1 – The Doctor

  • The Life and Times of Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Part 2 – The Doctor’s Doctrine

  • God the Father Almighty: The Person and Work of the Father
  • Christ and Him Crucified: The Person and Work of Christ
  • Power from on High: The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
  • Redemption Applied: Justification and Sanctification
  • The Church: The Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ
  • The Last Thing: Death and the Glory

Part 3 – The Christian Life

  • The Word
  • Prayer
  • Faith Working through Love
  • Life in the Spirit at Home and Work
  • Why Are You So Downcast? Spiritual Depression
  • The Acid Test: The Hope of Glory

Part 4 – The Doctor’s Legacy

  • The Legacy of Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Appendix 1: The Charismatic Controversy

Appendix 2: The Secession Controversy

Poland from the perspective of a young, goofball Brit

I dug deep into my Polish ethnic heritage during my prodigal “season” away from the Lord, which I documented here, and I like to occasionally read something about the “old country,” which recently led me to…

A Chip Shop in Poznań: My Unlikely Year in Poland
By Ben Aitken
Icon Books Ltd, 2019, 306 pages.

4 Stars

Few people think of Poland as a vacation destination, hence the dearth of travelogues devoted to that country. The idea for this book came about due to some unique circumstances. First, some background:

Poland and the U.K. have a unique relationship. When Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia invaded and co-partitioned Poland in 1939 at the start of World War II, the Polish government established itself in-exile, first in Paris and then in London. Polish expatriates and refugees continued to flock to England throughout the war and also afterwards when Poland was trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Poland regained its independence in 1989, but the transformation to a market economy was arduous. Poland joined the European Union in 2004 and thousands of Poles immediately began flocking to the U.K. for economic opportunities not available in their own country. There were 90,000 Poles living in the U.K. in 2004, but by 2016 the Polish immigrant population had skyrocketed to 900,000. This heavy influx of Poles sparked resentment among the Brits, contributing to demands by a sizable percentage of the citizenry for the U.K. to exit the E.U.

At the height of the controversy, young British writer, Ben Aitken, wanted to get some perspective on these Polish immigrants so he journeyed to Poland in early-2016 for a one-year stay to acquaint himself with the country and its people. His home-base was the city of Poznań, but during his stay he also made expeditionary trips to Katowice, Gdańsk, Wrocław, Oswiecim, Sopot, Łódź, Lublin, Jelenia Gora-Karpacz, Konin, Krakow, Piwniczna-Zdrój, and Ełk.

Shortly after his arrival, Aitken took an entry-level job peeling potatoes at an English-themed fish and chips restaurant in Poznań and gradually learned some basic language skills and acquired some Polish friends, including a romantic relationship that never quite got off the ground. In describing his journeys throughout Poland, the author makes many interesting observations in regards to the country’s cuisine, history, politics, geography, economy, customs, religion, language, traditions, etc., all told with a good degree of extra-dry British humor. The description of his challenging stay in the mountain town of Piwniczna-Zdrój is especially comical. One criticism is that Aitken devotes an inordinate amount of attention to his frequent visits to the local Polish pubs. While some of Aitken’s youthful antics are funny, I would have preferred a more mature perspective. Ultimately, any non-Christian worldview is going to be unsatisfying for a believer.

During the course of Aitken’s stay, the Brits voted to leave the EU and the Brexit disentanglement continues to drag on. In response to the political uncertainty of the situation, about 100,000 Poles have returned to Poland from the U.K. since this book was written.

I enjoyed “A Chip Shop in Poznań” and I’m glad I stumbled across it, but I’m hoping for a better Poland travelogue in the future.

TIP: The Google Earth app is very helpful while reading a book like this to get a bird’s-eye view of the locations that are mentioned.

 

Throwback Thursday: Leaving Catholicism for Christ “down under”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on December 28, 2015 and has been revised.

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Stepping Out in Faith: Former Catholics Tell Their Stories
Edited by Mark Gilbert
Matthias Media, 2012, 124 pp.

5 Stars

This is a short, very readable collection of testimonies from eleven people who left Roman Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone.

There’s not a lot of heavy-duty theology here. Most of the folks have a similar, short testimony of growing up within legalistic, cultural Catholicism, being invited to a Bible study, and noticing the differences between God’s Word and their works religion, and responding to the Gospel.

All of the contributors note that Catholicism teaches salvation by sacramental grace and merit, which left them exasperated. Through God’s Word and the work of the Holy Spirit, they came to understand the GOOD NEWS! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone and repented of their sin and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone.

Gilbert and the ten other writers are Australians so there’s an interesting “down under” twist to the stories. Also, most of the writers heard the Gospel for the first time in Bible studies sponsored by the Anglican church in Australia. Gilbert is an Anglican minister. I had assumed the Anglican/Episcopal church was completely spiritually dead, but evidently there are pockets within Anglicanism, like down under in Australia, where the genuine Gospel is still preached. Surprise!

Below are a couple of other books from Matthias Media dealing with Roman Catholicism:

  • The Road Once Travelled: Fresh Thoughts on Catholicism (2010) by Mark Gilbert
  • Nothing In My Hand I Bring: Understanding the differences between Roman Catholic and Protestant beliefs (2007) by Ray Gallea

See Matthias Media’s online catalog here.

Throwback Thursday: Pilgrimage from Rome: The True Story of a Roman Catholic Priest’s Search for the Truth

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on December 30, 2015 and has been revised.

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Pilgrimage from Rome: The True Story of a Roman Catholic Priest’s Search for the
Truth
By Bartholomew F. Brewer
Bob Jones University Press, 1982, 164 pp.

5 Stars

The years tend to blend together at this stage of my life, but I stopped attending Catholic mass around 1981 and I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone in 1983. Very shortly after my conversion, I discovered the Mission to Catholics ministry led by ex-Carmelite Catholic priest, Bart Brewer.

Mission to Catholics was the type of “old-school” ministry that’s becoming increasingly hard to find these days. Bart and his wife traveled the country speaking in churches and debating Catholic apologists. He offered a very large assortment of tracts, pamphlets, and books dealing with Roman Catholicism and its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. In my early years as an ex-Catholic Christian, I was very grateful to have a resource like Mission to Catholics available.

In “Pilgrimage from Rome,” Bart gives an informative and heartfelt account of why he left Roman Catholicism. Bart was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1953, but began to struggle with the doctrines of the church in comparison to what he read in the Bible. He left the church in 1963 and eventually trusted in Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Bart founded Mission to Catholics in 1973 and faithfully delivered God’s Good News! to Roman Catholics until he went home to be with the Lord in 2005.

Inexpensive used copies of “Pilgrimage from Rome” are available from Amazon.com here.

The Mission to Catholics website has recently been updated and is a good resource. See here.

Postscript: I wonder what ecumenical evangelical Judases would say to an ex-Catholic priest like Bart Brewer or Richard Bennett who knew the Roman Catholic church intimately and knew that it does not teach the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone? What would they do with the testimony of a Brewer or a Bennett? The Gospel betrayers cannot allow inconvenient truth to derail their march towards unity with Rome.

Throwback Thursday: Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on November 14, 2015 and has been revised.

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Letters Between a Catholic and an Evangelical
By Fr. John R. Waiss and James G. McCarthy
Harvest House Publishers, 2003, 432 pages.

5 Stars

In this intriguing book, Catholic priest, John Waiss, and evangelical minister, James McCarthy, discuss the major differences between Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity. The topics examined include God’s Word, authority, justification, the Lord’s Supper, and Mary and the saints. Both authors present their viewpoints clearly, fairly, and charitably. Waiss and McCarthy are personal friends and the exchange is marked by mutual respect and irenicity.

Most books, films, and television programs that we consume end with some type of resolution. Good defeats evil. An agreement or understanding between parties is reached. But not with this book. At the end of the dialogue, Waiss and McCarthy remain firmly divided in their understanding of the Gospel. For evangelicals, the Gospel is the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. For Catholics, the gospel is the sacramental grace administered by the church, which allegedly wipes away the stain of sin and helps the participant to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) so that they can avoid sin and hopefully merit salvation.

There is no bridging the two positions. Only one can be right. Evangelicals wonder, “Why don’t Catholics understand the Gospel of grace? Saving faith in Christ is so simple even a child can understand.” But the unsaved cannot understand salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone on their own. It’s the Holy Spirit Who opens blind eyes and reveals the Gospel.

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14

I strongly recommend this book to evangelicals for a clarification of Catholic doctrine. There are far too many evangelicals walking around these days saying, “Oh, Catholics love Jesus, too. Close enough!” This book clarifies the vitally important differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity.

The subtitle of this book is “From Debate to Dialogue on the Issues That Separate Us.” I would caution that “dialogue” with error can easily lead to accommodation and compromise. My approach to Roman Catholicism in this blog is mainly that of confrontation and debate, but I also realize that in our Gospel outreach to Catholic family, friends, and acquaintances, we’re more apt to use dialogue than theological debate.

McCarthy has authored several publications which examine Catholicism including, “The Gospel According to Rome,” “Roman Catholicism: What You Need to Know,” “What Every Catholic Should Ask,” and “Talking With Catholic Friends and Family.” All are available from Amazon.com. See here.

School’s out! Superboy finally completes his Legion orientation

Yup, we’re all allowed a little frivolity, even amidst a pandemic.

Last month, LSH #4 concluded with Superboy’s orientation being interrupted by the theft of Aquaman’s trident and the Science Police arriving at Metropolis to shut down the Legion under orders of the United Planets’ Madame President Brande. Let’s pick up the action in…

Legion of Super-Heroes #5
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencillers: Ryan Sook and Scott Godlewski, Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics,  March, 2020

5 Stars

Plot

As the Science Police surround Legion headquarters and a conflict appears inevitable, Brainiac 5 is able to talk down the S.P. commander. Brainy then instructs Superboy to complete his orientation and sends out a contingent of Legionnaires led by Ultra Boy to search for the stolen trident. Back in orientation-mode (coordinated by Computo, the Legion’s AI control system), Superboy experiences Madame President’s former appearance before the U.P. Council calling for the creation of the Legion based upon the revered heroes of the 21st century, the Justice League. In the next revisited scene, Superboy experiences Brande in conference with Rokk Krinn/Cosmic Boy, Imra Ardeen/Saturn Girl, and Garth Ranzz/Lightning Lad, requesting that they form the Legion. After Brande leaves, the trio agrees to organize the Legion, but are wary of Madame President’s motives. The three founders immediately seek to enlist Brainiac 5 of the planet Colu, who is already renowned throughout the galaxy for his intellectual prowess. Brainiac 5 surprises the trio by not only enthusiastically accepting the offer of membership, but then delivering a soapbox soliloquy by which he asserts the need to bring Jon Kent/Superboy to the 31st century in order that the heroes of both ages are aligned in the effort to defend the galaxy. As Superboy’s orientation ends, we learn that Aquaman’s trident has been found. In the final panel, an alarm sounds for the entire populace to evacuate New Earth immediately.

Comments

Bendis is doing a nice job of introducing the reader to the Legion’s origins while simultaneously interweaving the plotlines involving the Legion’s increasingly antagonistic relationship with Brande and Aquaman’s trident. A few interesting sidebars in this issue were 1) the introduction of Dr. Fate and Monster Boy to the Legion roster, 2) Invisible Kid resigning from the Legion in a huff, and 3) Chameleon Boy revealing Madame President Brande is his mother. There are also references to Sir Oliver Queen the Eleventh (aka Green Arrow) and the Watchmen that only DC Universe nerds* are going to pick up on. I’m definitely enjoying all of the plot twists of this inaugural epic. I’ve seen several Legion relaunches/reboots over the decades, but Bendis’s dialogue and characterizations are the best yet. Penciller, Scott Godlewski, decently spells Ryan Sook in the Superboy orientation frames, although Sook is definitely the master.

Personal sidebar: Our local comic shop is in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so I was forced to download the LSH #5 e-comic to my Kindle, which has a screen size of only 7.25″x 4.75.” I’m glad to have it, but it’s definitely not an ideal way to read a comic book.

*I’m definitely not a DC Universe expert (like Sheldon Cooper). I initially glossed over the aforementioned references, but later learned their significance via some internet articles.

The Keys to Spiritual Growth

The Keys to Spiritual Growth
By John MacArthur
Crossway, 2001, 196 pp.

5 Stars

You’ve just accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and have been spiritually reborn as a child of God! Now what? It’s very helpful for new believers to read a good book on the basics of spiritual growth. It’s also helpful (and needful) for “seasoned saints” to periodically “go back to Bethel” for personal reexamination and encouragement. This book on the keys/basics to spiritual growth by Pastor John MacArthur is an excellent resource. If you’re one of those “seasoned saints,” pass it along to a new believer after reading it yourself.

Chapters

  1. The Master Key – A Presupposition
  2. The Master Purpose   – The Glory of God
  3. The Master Plan – How to Glorify God
  4. Obedience – Unlocking the Servants’ Quarters
  5. The Filling of the Spirit – Unlocking the Power Plant
  6. Confession – Unlocking the Chamber of Horrors
  7. Love – Unlocking the Bridal Suite
  8. Prayer – Unlocking the Inner Sanctum
  9. Hope – Unlocking the Hope Chest
  10. Bible Study – Unlocking the Library
  11. Fellowship – Unlocking the Family Room
  12. Witnessing – Unlocking the Nursery
  13. Discernment – Locking the Security Gate

Thanks to Pastor Jimmy at The Domain for Truth for alerting us to free downloads of this book from Crossway Publishing here.

Say it ain’t so!

Suspend the New York Knicks’ season? Fine. Cancel the NCAA Division I hockey playoffs and end the season for the RIT Tigers? Okay. Cancel Spring Training for the San Diego Padres? Sure. Stock market plunging like rock? Life goes on. A frenzied run on toilet paper countrywide? We’ll handle it. Shut down the county library system? SAY WHAT?!?!?!

Introducing the Legion’s Founding Trio, Redux

Last month’s LSH tale ended with General Nah’s incarceration, Aquaman’s trident being stolen, and a thoroughly confused Superboy FINALLY on his way to his Legion orientation. Let’s pick up the action in…

Legion of Super-Heroes #4
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Pencillers: Ryan Sook and Mikel Janin, Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger and Mikel Janin, Colors: Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics,  February, 2020

5 Stars

Plot

Superboy begins his orientation courtesy of Computo, the Legion’s AI (artificial intelligence) system. He is able to experience the memories of the founding members immediately prior to the establishment of the Legion:

  • Imra Ardeen/Saturn Girl (super power – telepathy) of Titan, a moon of Saturn, is discontented with her life, yearning for greater adventure, and successfully applies to the new Young United Planets (YUP) intergalactic youth organization.
  • Garth Ranzz/Lightning Lad (super power – electrical manipulation) of Winath comes to the attention of U.P. President, R.J. Brande, because of his and sister Ayla’s activism on behalf of persecuted minorities on their planet. Both are invited to join YUP, but only Garth accepts.
  • Rokk Krinn/Cosmic Boy (super power – magnetism manipulation) of Braal is a planetary champion and is chosen by Braal’s congress to to be that world’s representative at YUP.

As the three travel together to the Young United Planets headquarters on Earth, the U.P. President, R.J. Brande, appears and informs the trio she envisions a special role for them as personal counselors. However, an abrupt attack by Horrazian pirates ends the meeting – the Legion’s inauguration – and Computo also ends Superboy’s orientation because of pressing business; the remaining Legionnaires learn of the theft of Aquaman’s trident from one of the team’s vaults. As the contingent debates whether to allow Superboy to finish his orientation or to begin the hunt for the trident, the U.P. Science Police abruptly arrive and place the Legionnaires under arrest by orders of Madame President, Brande. When Superboy questions why the Legion’s former patron and benefactor is now opposing the team, Cosmic Boy informs him that the answer was in the second-half of the orientation.

Comments

Cosmic Boy, Saturn Girl, and Lightning Lad were the Legion’s founding members in the Silver Age, making their first appearance in the inaugural Legion tale in Adventure Comics #247 way back in April 1958. Bendis pays his respects to Legion tradition by presenting the same trio as founders in this latest LSH permutation. I’m anxious to find out what soured the Legion’s relationship with Madam President and where this Aquaman’s trident-storyline will end up. Great story with snappy dialogue. Great pencils and colors. Bendis, Sook, and Co. have done an excellent job to this point.

Contending for the Gospel (in an era when MOST Christians would rather “get along” with false teachers than contend with them)

Contending for the Gospel: For the Glory of Christ and the Sanctity of His Church
By Mike Gendron
Proclaiming the Gospel, 2019, 288 pp.

5 Stars

In this recently published book, evangelist Mike Gendron compares the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone with Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Gendron leads a Gospel outreach ministry to Roman Catholics called Proclaiming the Gospel (see here). While this book is not as well-structured as “The Gospel According to Rome” by James. G. McCarthy (see here), it is still, overall, a very good analysis of the irreconcilable theological differences between the Gospel of grace and Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. In this book, Gendron also addresses the accommodation, compromise, and betrayal of the Gospel by ecumenical “evangelical” Judases who eagerly accommodate and embrace Rome and its false gospel.

Chapters are as follows:

  1. The Foundation for the Gospel
  2. The Message of the Gospel
  3. The Person of the Gospel
  4. The Exclusivity of the Gospel
  5. The Promise of the Gospel
  6. The Compromise of the Gospel
  7. The Opposition to the Gospel
  8. The Departure from the Gospel
  9. The Catholic church and the Gospel
  10. The Urgency of the Gospel
  11. The Proclamation of the Gospel
  12. The Response to the Gospel

I’m very grateful for this new book and for Mike Gendron and his ministry to Roman Catholics. However, I do have a few minor qualifications: 1) As in the later editions of Gendron’s previous book, “Preparing for Eternity,” there’s nothing in the title or the cover graphics of this new book that would indicate that it’s a rebuttal of Rome’s false gospel. That’s obviously by design, but I’m not in favor of that kind of roundabout stratagem. 2) Gendron warns his readers to be cautious of Roman influences seeping into the evangelical church, yet favorably quotes A. W. Tozer on multiple pages. Huh? It was Tozer who introduced Catholic mysticism into the modern evangelical church, and now hipster, mega-church pastors are offering “contemplative, centering prayer” and “spiritual direction” classes to their congregations. In a book that warns about accommodation with Rome, why was Tozer chosen as an oft-cited favorable reference? Gendron should know better. 3) As in other materials I’ve read from Gendron, he scolds those who exhort lost souls to “accept” Jesus as their Savior, something that I do quite regularly. He objects to the word because he sees it as promoting Arminian free-will. However, it’s abundantly clear from Scripture that in order to appropriate the free gift of salvation in Christ Jesus, a person MUST receive/accept it!!! Check your concordance. Receiving/accepting (Greek, λαμβάνω, lambánō) Christ is a thoroughly Biblical doctrine.

“I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept (lambánō) me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.” – John 5:43 (NIV)

“But to all who did receive (lambánō) him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” – John 1:12 (ESV)

Gendron admonishes his readers to use only “believe in Christ” in Gospel outreach, but I don’t choose to use “believe” because every Catholic argues that they certainly “believe” in Jesus. An argument over this kind of tertiary preference doesn’t belong in a book like this.

Those minor qualifications aside, this is an excellent book that would benefit both Roman Catholics who are curious about Gospel Christianity and believers who are interested to know the basics of Rome’s false gospel. Mike Gendron is generally not well-received within today’s mega-church “evangelicalism” where pastors would rather teach theological cotton candy than warn and equip the sheep regarding false teachers and false gospels. Order from Amazon here.