The Christian Life Apart from The Church?

Sermons on Ephesians Calvin, John cover image

Scripture is quite clear that God’s people are part of his household (Eph. 2:19). Those who trust in Christ are family. They are an essential part of his body. God has gifted them in various ways to serve one another in love (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12, etc.). They are called to love each other deeply and actively (John 13:34, 1 John 4:7-12, etc). However, sometimes Christians refuse to be a living part of a local church fellowship. Or sometimes Christians think it’s not a big deal so they don’t become involved in the life of a church. This type of thinking is unbiblical to say the least.

Speaking of this, John Calvin had some helpful remarks in his sermon on Ephesians 4:6-8. Notice his mention of pride (self-conceit) and rottenness:

…See what reciprocal communication there is among the members of a body. And now God has so called us to himself that he will have us to become one in Christ Jesus…. Does it then follow that each of us should be a whole body by himself? No, for we see on the contrary how God has so dealt to every man his portion, and to all in general, that it is like a bond to hold us together in concord, in order that we should not be puffed up with such foolish self-conceit as to say, ‘I have enough of my own, I do not trouble myself about anyone else.’

God’s will, then, is not that every man should be a whole and perfect body by himself, but that one should be a hand, another a finger, another as an arm, another as a leg, another as a shoulder, and another as a foot.  In short, God has so dealt out His gifts among us that we must perceive that, if each of us withdraws into his own solitude, he will soon be like a rotten member, for he can have no firm continuance in the whole body if he insists on being separate from the rest of the members.  And what will follow from it?  It is bound to perish.  Even so it is with us.  That, therefore, is Paul’s meaning when he says that God’s grace is given to each one of us [Eph. 4:7].

John Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians, p. 337.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

My Thoughts on The New Logos 9 Bible Software

Today Logos Bible Software released the newest version: Logos 9. I’ve been using Logos for around eight years and I’m very impressed with this software in almost every way. Most of the time I’ve been pleased with the updates and new features that are added. The same goes for Logos 9. This truly is a major upgrade that has quite a few brand new features and many helpful updates. I don’t have time or space to list all the new and updated features of Logos 9 here. However, I do want to mention a few aspects of Logos 9 that I’ve found helpful. As a Logos Partner, I was able to utilize early versions of Logos 9 for my own studies. Here are my thoughts after giving Logos 9 a very extensive test run.

Dark Mode: I really like this feature! I’m one of those people who does not like bright computer screens. I use blue-light blocking glasses to help fight eye strain. Dark mode in Logos 9 is great since I’m using it for around 6-8 hours a day. The only thing to note is that it makes some of my highlights look funny – no big deal though. Summary: Dark Mode really is helpful.

Sermon Builder and Sermon Manager: I have to admit I have not really used the sermon writing feature on Logos before Logos 9. However, since these features have been updated I’ve been using Logos 9 to write sermons. In fact, for my sermon studies the last few weeks I’ve only used Logos 9 to do every part of my study. I do my text translation and study comments/notes using Logos’ Notes feature. I write my sermon outline using Logos’ Sermon Builder. It automatically syncs to the Logos app on my iPad. I then preach my sermon on my iPad using the Logos app which has an excellent presentation mode. All the sermons and notes are easily accessible in the Sermon Manager. Summary: Logos 9 makes it possible to do all your sermon study, prep, and presentation in one place.

Factbook: The updated Factbook is a very powerful Bible study tool. Let me give an example. If I want to learn more about Nineveh, I type it in the Factbook and all sorts of information pops up very quickly. Right there I get Bible dictionary articles about Nineveh, maps, key Bible passages about Nineveh, Hebrew/Greek terms/definitions, major Bible events at Nineveh, a timeline, and so on. This is super helpful whether I need a just a little info about a topic or a lot of info about a topic. Summary: Factbook is a quick, powerful, and excellent resource for studying Scripture.

Charts: With the Charts feature on Logos 9 you can pick and word in Scripture and make a visual chart showing where and how often the word appears. In fact, you can pick which type of chart to use: bar, column, pie, donut, etc. This is great for visual learners! Summary: the Charts feature is a great help for visualizing where terms are found in Scripture.

There are more things worth mentioning for sure! If you want to read more about the features of Logos 9, go HERE. I do have to mention that there are a few aspects of Logos 9 that could use improvements. For example, the word processing part of Notes and the Sermon Builder could be a bit more robust. Organizing notebooks is somewhat complicated. I wish I could edit sermons from the Sermon Builder on the iPad Logos app. Thankfully the Logos team works super hard to fix glitches and send out helpful updates. Perhaps these things will be addressed in the future.

I realize Logos can be expensive if you get some of the bigger packages. I understand! It might be a little outdated, but in 2019 I did give some money saving ways to build a Logos library. Here’s the link. At the same time, once you start learning all the features and shortcuts of Logos, it really is an awesome tool for studying the Word. I love doing word studies and cross references with Logos. I also love digging into the Hebrew and Greek nuances with the lexicons and grammars I have on Logos. And I believe Logos has helped me write better sermons because it pushes me further into Scripture.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments. For a total disclosure, since I am a Logos Partner I do receive a commission when my links are used. At the same time, I would not promote Logos Bible Software if I did not use it myself and highly recommend it. It truly is excellent Bible software. And yes, Logos 9 hits it out of the park!

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Persecution: Why Doesn’t God Do Something? (Stott)

The Christians who were part of the new church plant in Thessalonica around 50AD knew quite a bit about persecution and suffering. Not only did they receive the Word with much affliction, they also had to deal with ongoing persecution (1 Thes. 1:6; 2 Thes. 1:5, etc.). And it was serious enough that Paul, Timothy, and Silas (the church planters) were very worried about them (1 Thes. 3:1-5). So in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 the Missionary Team reminds the Christians in Thessalonica about God’s justice and perfect judgment. Here are John Stott’s helpful comments on these verses. These comments are helpful for us to think about as followers of Jesus today:

Of course it takes spiritual discernment to see in a situation of injustice (like the persecution of the innocent) evidence of the just judgment of God. Our habit is to see only the surface appearance, and so make only superficial comments. We see the malice, cruelty, power and arrogance of the evil men who persecute. We see also the sufferings of the people of God, who are opposed, ridiculed, boycotted, harassed, imprisoned, tortured and killed. In other words, what we see is injustice—the wicked flourishing and the righteous suffering. It seems completely topsy-turvy. We are tempted to inveigh against God and against the miscarriage of justice. ‘Why doesn’t God do something?’ we complain indignantly. And the answer is that he is doing something and will go on doing it. He is allowing his people to suffer, in order to qualify them for his heavenly kingdom. He is allowing the wicked to triumph temporarily, but his just judgment will fall upon them in the end.

 John R. W. Stott, The Message of Thessalonians: The Gospel & the End of Time, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 147.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 45015

The “Inner Courtroom” of Anger (Powlison)

Good and Angry: Letting Go of Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness - Powlison, David 9781942572978

I’m in the middle of studying the fascinating story in 1 Samuel 20. In this story, King Saul goes into rage mode against Jonathan because Jonathan is protecting David. Jonathan, in turn, is angry with Saul because Saul tried to kill him, because Saul shamed David, and because Saul was trying to kill David. I’d argue that Saul’s anger is totally sinful while Jonathan’s anger is in some ways righteous anger. That’s a bigger discussion!

Speaking of anger, I appreciate David Powlison’s book, Good and Angry. I’ve mentioned it here before so I won’t go into it all. But below is a good section about how an angry person typically has an “inner courtroom.”

…A microcosm of the criminal justice system plays out in the courtroom of your mind. You play all the prosecuting roles simulating the jealous investegator, the sherriff serving summons to the offender, the D.A. pressing home irrefutable charges. You provide eyewitness testimony to the crimes, and you are the stern judge ready to mete out just punishment. You are the unanimous jury disposing of every thin alibi and extenuating circumstance, finding the accused ‘guilty as charged.’ You are the jailer of the convicted felons, and the hangman ready to administer capital punishment to evildoers.

But there’s usually something else distinctive about this courtroom. The trial is rigged. It’s a kangaroo court and the verdict is predetermined. The punishment is vigilante justice. With rare exceptions, in this private courtroom of the mind the accused is allowed no defense attorney, no character witnesses, no due process, no extenuating circumstances, no evidence to the contrary, no second chances, no plea of innocent, no possibility that the accuser got it wrong, no possibility of mercy for the guilty.

The judicial mental attitude is written deeply into the nature of anger. One goal of this book is that you will think more carefully about how you think when angry, so that your inner courtroom will grow more just. Anger is the attitude of judgment, legal condemnation, and moral displeasure….

David Powlison, Good and Angry, p. 51.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Cult(ure) of Safety and Overprotecting Our Kids

“Overprotective parents” is a term and concept that many of us have seen or been part of. As parents, we want to protect our kids for sure. We don’t want them to get hurt! But sometimes even the best parental intentions lead to the overprotection of kids. This can actually backfire and be more harmful to our kids in the long run.

“Overprotection” is one of the topics of the book, The Coddling of The American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. In this book the authors discuss these three “untruths”: 1) The Untruth of Fragility (are we all so fragile?), 2) The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning (should we always trust our feelings?), and 3) The Untruth of Us Verses Them (is everyone who disagrees with us our enemy?).

I don’t have time to summarize it all here now so I’ll have to come back to this book later. But I’ll hopefully gain your interest with these quotes I marked up in my copy. (Note: thinking from a Christian perspective, safety can become one’s idol!)

Safety is good, of course, and keeping others safe from harm is virtuous, but virtues can become vices when carried to extremes. ‘Safetyism’ refers to a culture or belief system in which safety has become a sacred value, which means that people become unwilling to make trade-offs demanded by other practical and moral concerns. ‘Safety’ trumps everything else, no matter how unlikely or trivial the potential danger.

When children are raised in a culture of safetyism, which teaches them to stay ’emotionally safe’ while protecting them from every imaginable danger, it may set up a feedback loop: kids become more fragile and less resilient, which signals to adults that they need more protection, which then makes them even more fragile and less resilient.

Safetyism deprives young people of the experiences that their antifragile* minds need, thereby making them more fragile, anxious, and prone to seeing themselves as victims.

* “Antifragile” means the need for life challenges, pain, and problems in order to learn, adapt, and grow in life.

The Coddling of the American Mind, p. 29, 30, 31.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015