Audio Food For The Soul- Part 2

In my last post I began to couimagesnt down my favorite podcasts.  As I mentioned previously, listening to Christian programs has been an important part of my personal discipleship and growth.  While listening to podcasts should not replace spiritual growth through Bible reading, prayer, and real flesh and blood relationships, these types of programs can be a very beneficial supplement for your spiritual diet.

Being an ex disc-jockey, we’re counting down these podcasts backwards.  Last time I shared with you #10-#6.  This time I’ll share my top 5.  All of these are available through itunes.

images#5. Renewing Your Mind- R.C. Sproul.  R.C. is a masterful teacher of theology.  He has an uncanny ability to take some of the most difficult questions you could think of (Predestination, Free Will and God’s sovereignty, God’s attributes, and more) and engage common folks like us on a level we can understand.  R.C. also has some excellent lectures on figures from church history including Polycarp, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others.  He is a great story-teller and my oldest kids were in rapt attention      over R.C.’s telling of Martin Luther’s story.

images#4. Bethlehem Baptist Church Sermons – If some of you are thinking, “John Piper”, think again.  Piper has retired from the pulpit of Bethlehem and in his place stands one of the best kept secrets in preaching podcasts, Jason Meyer.  While I haven’t listened to Jason a lot yet, from what I’ve heard he appears to be a worthy heir to fill Piper’s shoes.

images#3. The Whitehorse Inn – Every show opens with this brief introduction which sums up what the podcast is all about: Five centuries ago in taverns and public houses across Europe, the masses would gather for discussion and debate over the latest ideas sweeping the land.  From one such meeting place, a small Cambridge inn called the “White Horse”, the Reformation came to the English-speaking world.  Carrying on the tradition of the early Reformers, welcome to the White Horse Inn!  This is a wonderful program with incredible discussions centered on the Scriptures, theology, and current issues and challenges in the modern church, all from an intentionally Reformed perspective.

images#2. Ask Pastor John– I’ll be honest and say I don’t know if I’ve ranked this too high.  I suspect part of the high-ranking has to do simply with my love and appreciation for the ministry of John Piper.  Regardless, you’ll                                                                                   find a lot of wisdom packed into this short podcast.  Piper draws from decades of walking with Christ and immersing himself in the Scriptures to answer listener questions on a whole range of topics of interest to practically any believer.  For years I’ve considered Piper a “mentor from afar”, and though his preaching ministry at Bethlehem has ended, I’m glad we can still benefit from his godly wisdom and contagious passion for Christ.images

#1. Family Life Today– While not the deepest show, it’s one of the most practical.  If you’re looking to get an engrossing theological education, try R.C. Sproul instead.  If you’re looking for some “rubber hits the road” conversation, this show is for you.  While specializing on topics such as marriage, you’ll also find discussions on parenting, discipleship, sexuality, suffering, biblical manhood and womanhood, and more.  The guests are usually very engaging, and the hosts clearly love families and want to strengthen yours.  Twenty years ago “Focus on the Family” was the “go to” program in this genre.  In my opinion, “Family Life Today” is superior.

imagesIn closing, let me give you a few “honorable mentions.”

The Briefing-Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary, hosts this daily short program.  Mohler possesses one of the sharpest theological minds on the planet.  But this is not a show that teaches doctrine.  At least not directly.  This is more like a news program tackling current events.  Mohler brings his keen mind to bear on the latest headlines and helps us to think about current events from a Biblical perspective.

imagesRevive Our Hearts- Nancy Leigh Demoss.  If I was a female, she might have been in my top 10.  But I’m not a female, so I hardly listen to her program.  But what I’ve heard is great. And what I know about Nancy is that she is wise and godly.  Nancy provides sound biblical wisdom for women.  Ladies, I’d highly advise subscribing to her podcast.

imagesThe Plugged in Podcast- Whenever I’m not sure whether I should rent a movie or not, I often check the “Plugged In” website for help.  Some of you do too.  Well, they also have a podcast.  Produced by Focus on the Family, this program reviews the latest movies, music, and even video games from a Christian perspective.

imagesWretched Radio– I’ve recently starting listening to Todd Friel’s program.  Apparently he has a TV show too.  Here’s how he describes it: Take a dollop of sarcasm, mix it in with conservative theology and voila, you have Wretched TV. Think of it this way.  Take John Stewart, remove the potty language and change all of the wordly topics to Christian.  That is Wretched.  Depending on your style of humor, you may or may not appreciate the sarcasm.  I haven’t listened to that many episodes yet so I’m not sure if he ever pushes too far with the sarcasm.  I’ll let you be the judge.  But that aside, Todd’s show is very entertaining and theologically solid based on what I’ve heard so far.  I’ve also enjoyed the programs where he will go to college campuses and engage with unbelievers in interesting conversations.  As an ex-radio guy, I’m also impressed with the show’s production sensibilities and presentation.

Finally, I should probably alimagesso mention that my appreciation of all of these podcasts does not necessarily mean I will agree with or endorse 100% of what is said, done or taught on them.  All of these shows are run by fallible people.  Obviously I think they all have something important to offer, else I wouldn’t be listening to them and I wouldn’t bring them to your attention!  But in the end, judge all things you hear, whether from the iPod, or from the pulpit, in light of the perfect and infallible Word of God. Happy listening!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

Audio food for the soul

imagesWhile I believe the best way for Christians to be discipled is through believers being personally involved in the lives of other believers in a local congregation, there are some excellent means available for us to supplement our discipleship that can greatly encourage us, stimulate us intellectually and spiritually, and help us grow closer to the Lord.

One of those means is discipleship through audio.images

Over the years God has grown me in great ways through the encouraging and helpful teaching of wise pastors and leaders in the faith through audio broadcasts.  From as early as my pre-Christian teenage years, I remember listening to Christian radio and hearing the preaching of John MacArthur and others.  Such teaching, even before I was a Christian, stirred my heart and increased my interest and sensitivity to the things of God.  In time, I came to Christ, and Christian broadcasting was a huge part of what the Lord used to bring me to faith.

In the early days of my faith, without a Christian father and lacking older Christian men to mentor me, I continued to find guidance through Christian broadcasts that supplemented and reinforced what I was learning in my local church.

imagesOver 20 years later, such audio broadcasts are still a part of my regular diet of spiritual nourishment.  Nowadays, however, thanks to technology, you don’t need to live in the radius of a Christian radio station to benefit from all the great teaching that is available.  Today, I am an avid listener to podcasts.  I’ll listen at home, when I’m driving, when I’m running errands, cleaning the house, etc.  And the great thing about podcasts is that, unlike radio, you can listen to a program at your convenience and even save programs if you wish.

In this post and the next I’d like to share with you my top ten podcasts.  These are programs that greatly help and benefit me.  And the style of these ten programs are diverse enough that if you aren’t into one, you are bound to find something else on the list that resonates with you.  If you never listen to podcasts, I’d encourage you to try it out.  You just might like it, and if so, I think you’ll greatly benefit from regularly listening to any or all of my top picks.  There are many ways you can receive these shows including subscribing via itunes, listening directly off the web, subscribing to the RSS feeds, or you can save them as mp3’s for later.  Since I’m an ex-disc jockey, I like countdowns.  So I’ll do this countdown style.  Herimagese’s #10-6.  Enjoy!

#10. The Cross and the Jukebox- Russell Moore  Probably the most unique Christian podcast out there.  If you love country music you will love this show.  If you don’t love country music, I promise you that you will still find this podcast incredibly fascinating, stimulating, and informative.  You can always skip the featured song and just enjoy his commentary.  This podcast by Russell Moore discusses religious and cultural themes in country music.  Every once in awhile he’ll even look at hip-hop!  Check out this show to see how the cross and the Gospel intersect with American music.

images#9. Stand to Reason.  A weekly three hour radio program hosted by Greg Koukl.  Greg is brilliant and tackles subjects in the realm of apologetics.  You’ll hear topics such as evolutionary theory, ethics, and philosophy dealt with among other things.  His ministry is interested in equipping Christians to discuss their faith in our pluralistic and increasingly anti-Christian society.  He has great monologues, takes phone calls, and sometimes has excellent special guests.

images#8. Grace to You-John Macarthur.  One of the grandfathers of Christian broadcasting, John Macarthur has been faithfully teaching and proclaiming God’s truth, one verse at a time, for decades.  Even when John occasionally takes a position I disagree with, I still learn so much and can trust him to strive to ground everything he does in what the Bible says.  In spite of the small handful of minor disagreements I may have with him, Macarthur is one of the most solid and trustworthy Bible expositors out there.

images#7 Let my people think-Ravi Zacharias. Ravi is one of the most brilliant apologists and philosophers of our day.  He is keen minded and sharp witted.  He provides especially helpful thoughts in demonstrating the superiority of Jesus Christ and Christianity above other worldviews.  He has also provided devestating crtiques of Athiestic philosophy.

images#6 Listener’s Bible Audio Devotional- Max Mclean. Have you ever listened to an audio Bible and been bored?  Not because the Bible is boring but because the reader is?  You won’t have that problem with Max Mclean.  Max is an incredible reader of the Bible.  He is able to draw you into the Scriptures without being over the top.  His presentation is simple but nuanced.  Through Max I learned that reading the Bible out loud is not just reading, but it is an interpretation.  How you read the Bible and where you put the emphasis can either bring out or obscure the meaning of the text.  Mclean offers a daily, one minute devotional of him reading a certain section of Scripture that addresses a particular topic or question.  There are also longer podcasts from Max available as well where he will take you through the whole Bible in a year.  Great stuff, and helpful for memorizing the Scriptures.  If you really like Max, you can purchase his entire audio Bible online.

imagesI hope one, if not all of these podcasts will be a source of help, encouragement, and learning for you.  In a future post I will share my top five podcasts.  In the meantime, if you have any favorites, I’d love to hear them.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

Is God all you need? Yes…and no.

imagesIn the movie Castaway, a plane crash survivor named Chuck is stranded on a deserted island in the South Pacific for several years.  As Chuck learns survival skills and becomes more physically adept for life alone on an island, mentally he begins to deteriorate.  His biggest obstacle is not finding food or building fires, his biggest obstacle is loneliness.  He becomes so desperate for companionship that he ends up creating a “friend.”  This friend turns out to be a volleyball.  With his own blood he draws a face on the volleyball and names him Wilson.

Wilson becomes Chuck’s constant companion.  He talks with Wilson, looks after Wilson, and even has arguments with Wilson.  Chuck is clearly becoming emotionally unhinged.

imagesOne of the reasons why Castaway was such a powerful film was that it was believable.  There are real life scenarios where isolated and lonely people begin to breakdown emotionally, suffer depression, and even converse with inanimate objects.  So it’s not a stretch by any means for us to think that a man alone for years on an island would develop a relationship with a volleyball and begin to mentally lose it due to isolation.  The creators of the film and us intuitively know something that the Scriptures told us a long time ago: “It is not good that the man should be alone…” (Gen 2:18)

imagesWhen you consider the context of Genesis 2:18, this statement is remarkable.  Adam seemingly has everything he needs in the garden. Adam is given a purpose, he is given work, he is given incredible foods, a safe home, and animal companions.  Yet God declares Adam’s situation as “not good.”  What’s more remarkable about this is that not only did Adam have all the things I just mentioned, he had something even greater.  Was Adam truly alone?  Was there not another in the garden with him that he could communion with and enjoy and relate to?  Yes!  There was God!  Adam had God!  Yet God looks at this situation and He says it is “not good” and that Adam is “alone.”

If anyone other than God said something like this we’d perhaps accuse them of blasphemy.  Yet this diagnosis is from God.  In Genesis 2 we learn something fundamental about human beings.  We were created for community.  Not only were we created for community with God, but also with one another.

imagesEvery human is wired to be in community with others who are equal to him, yet distinct from him.  That should not be shocking, because we are made in the image of a heavenly Father who Himself has eternally lived in existence with persons who are equal to Him, yet distinct from Him, with different roles and functions.  The Bible is clear there is only one God, but He exists in three persons.  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

For this reason it’s not shocking that God’s divine image-bearers are expected to live in a community that reflects Trinitarian love, harmony, and diversity in the midst of unity.  And it’s not shocking when humans stray from God’s design they may find that life doesn’t work quite as well for them and there may be consequences such as loneliness, depression, or even having arguments with a volleyball.

imagesIn Genesis chapter 2, God creates one man and one woman.  Two people that are equal in personhood and value but yet distinct in other ways.  Scripture shows us clearly how the husband and the wife, different by design, have different and unique roles and functions in marriage.  For example, the design of the husband to be the leader of the home and the wife to be His helper and the child-bearer.  Just because God hasn’t designed the husband to bear children doesn’t mean he’s inferior to the wife.  And just because God hasn’t designed the wife to lead her husband doesn’t mean she’s inferior to him.  They are two persons, distinct, yet equal, and so united that they are called “one flesh.”

imagesThis reflects the Godhead.  The members of the Trinity have different roles and functions but just because the Father didn’t die on the cross that doesn’t mean He’s inferior to the Son.  And just because the Son submits to the will of the Father, it doesn’t mean He’s inferior.  They are distinct yet equal persons with differing roles and functions and they are so united that they are “one.”

The most important human community the Bible talks about is the Church.  The Bible says that marriage will not exist in heaven, but the Church will exist not just in this age but in the age to come.

imagesAnd what do we have in the Church?  Unity in the midst of diversity.  The Church is a collection of people from every tribe, nation, and tongue who have been all saved from their sins through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  The apostle Paul compares the Church to the human body which is diverse in its parts and roles and functions yet they are all nevertheless part of one body.  This large, global, universal church is expressed in local congregations all over the world.  The idea of a Christian who is part of the global, universal Church but refuses to connect with a local church is totally foreign in the New Testament.

One of the most mind blowing descriptions of the Church’s purpose is that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:10, ESV)

The Church is meant to be a display to the Satanic powers that they are defeated and undone.  The separation and alienation between man and God and man and fellow man due to sin has now been bridged through the cross of Jesus Christ.  For a Christian to resist involvement in a local congregation is to resist being a part of displaying God’s wisdom to the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”

Some Christians are very independent and individualistic.  They are not interested in being deeply involved in the life of the Church as expressed in a local congregation.  I know people who profess to be Christians yet resist being part of a church.  They say, “I don’t need the church.  I can worship God in the woods and on a mountaintop.  Just give me my Bible and leave me out in the wilderness and I’m good to go!  God is all I need!”

But time and again the Scriptures remind us that it is not good for man to be alone.  If it wasn’t good enough for Adam in the garden before he sinned, it’s certainly not good enough for us sinners.  And the local church is meant to be the believers’ main source for community and fellowship.  This is why the author of Hebrews admonishes us to,

…consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV)

The “stirring” up of one another to love and good works happens in Christian community when believers regularly “meet together” beyond just 90 minutes on a Sunday morning.

imagesAnd Paul in Ephesians shows us that the church community is to be a Spirit-filled community commending God to one another by addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:19-21, ESV)

This can’t happen by yourself on a mountaintop or watching religious television.  You may be able to have a nice worship experience in isolation, but you won’t fully experience all that God has for you that can only be found in the context of Christian community.

The kind of beautiful, loving, and thriving church community the Bible wants us to shoot for is exemplified in the Jerusalem church in the book of Acts as the believers,

…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God… (Acts 2:42-47, ESV)

imagesIn the New Testament, a Christian who is content with isolating himself from the church is just as odd as the man on the island yelling at his volleyball.  It’s a sign that all is not well and as it should be.  It’s a sign that something unhealthy and detrimental is happening.

The irony is that the lone ranger Christian who says all he needs is Jesus is actually cutting himself off from Jesus.  The church is the Body of Christ, and much of what Jesus has to offer you will be through His church.  We all know that churches are not perfect and people have been hurt in the local church.  But it is also through the church that Jesus shows His love for us in a real and tangible way through others who have Jesus’ heart.  It is through the church where we receive helpful accountability through our brothers and sisters in Christ, where we are “stirred up” to love and good works, where pastors can shepherd us and guide us in a manner that will draw us closer to Jesus.

imagesEven when the church does hurt us or let us down, that is an opportunity for us to learn how to exercise the love, mercy, grace, and patience of Jesus, thereby helping us to better know and identify with the One who knows how to love the unlovable. If you join my church there’s a pretty good chance I’ll let you down eventually.  There’s also a good chance you’ll let me down.  But what we stand to gain from each other far outweighs whatever trials we might have to endure together.  It’s not that Jesus can’t work apart from the local church, it’s just that much of the work He does will take place within it.

Lastly, not only does the church have something to give to you, but you have something to offer the church.  There is no part of the Body of Christ that is unimportant.  Paul teaches us that the different members of the Body “have the same care for one another” and “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:25-26, ESV)

imagesSo yes, God is all you need.  He will surely supply His people with everything they need.  But much of what you need will be given to you by God through the community of faith.  If you’re not involved in a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving congregation, there’s no need or benefit to you being a spiritual castaway.  Come off the island and join the rest of us.  Not only do you need us, but we need you.

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer