Order We Believe: Creeds, Confessions, & Catechism for Worship + Bonus Content

I want to thank everyone involved with the We Believe launch including but not limited to my wife LeAnn, Joshua Torrey, the endorsers, and everyone who pre-ordered it and/or shared it on social media. 

We Believe has over 350 pages of invaluable and timeless resources for your personal worship. The kindle version is available right now for $2.99. That's special pricing that will be available until Reformation Sunday—after that pricing goes up to $4.99. The paperback is $8.99 during pre-order. That's only $0.22 over physical cost of printing the book. After release, the paperback will be $12.99. 

Also, if you've purchased either format of We Believe, please fill out the form below (bottom) to receive a free bonus ebook by the end of November.

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New Book: We Believe: Creeds, Confessions, & Catechisms for Worship

I have some exciting news. My next book will be releasing September 25, 2015. We Believe: Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms for Worship will be a straightforward resource for ordinary Christians wanting a handsome and easy to use volume with all the must have creeds, confessions, and catechisms for worship. The current structure is:

  • Foreword (Surprise Writer!)
  • Introduction by Mathew B. Sims
  • Chapter 1: The Catholic Creeds
    • Apostles' Creed
    • Nicene Creed
    • Athanasian Creed
  • Chapter 2: The Dutch Reformed Tradition
    • Belgic Confession
    • Heidelberg Catechisms
    • Canons of Dort
  • Chapter 3: The Scottish-English Tradition
    • Thomas Manton's Epistle to the Reader
    • The Westminster Confession
    • The Westminster Shorter Catechism
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Essential Christian Classics: The Canons of Dort

The Church has produced many great confessions across many of her traditions. One stands out as being valuable presently and for the future of the Reformed tradition, Calvinism, and evangelicals discussions on sovereignty.

From 1618-1619 a synod of Dutch Reformed men wrote The Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands as a response to the followers of Jacobus Arminius. More commonly called The Canons of Dort; these “five main points” are the first historical refutation of what is presently called Arminianism. Although The Canons of Dort are not formally the foundation for the acronym TULIP (more on this to come), it expresses the major five points of Calvinism early in the history of the Reformation. Making up part of the Three Forms of Unity, The Canons of Dort are essential reading as a historical confession, an early form of TULIP, and a pastoral reflection on infant death.

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Calvin’s Institutes: The Ten Commandments

Are the ten commandments relevant today? Are they something we only pay lips service to? Or do they still guide and order the moral imperative for Christian living? Calvin says, “[M]an is so wrapped in darkest ignorance that, through natural law, he is scarcely able to savour what it means to serve God acceptably” (110). And that’s the bottom line isn’t it? Without God’s law we would remain in “darkest ignorance” and we would not know (not just sipping kind of know, but the drinking deeply kind of know) that we need the mercy of God. Calvin again, “[W]hen we compare the righteousness of the law with the life we lead and when we see how little we comply with God’s will, we recognize that we do not deserve to keep our place and position among his creatures, still less to be reckoned as his children” (111).

Some might say that this is whole of the law. It shows that we need the mercy of God, but Calvin goes on to make an important point. “The Lord, however, is not content to teach us only to revere his righteousness. He seeks to train our hears to love it and to hate iniquity, and thus adds both promises and threats” (ibid). The law does not exist solely to inspire fear of punishment and despair without the gospel. It does that, but, after it does its first work, God then trains our hearts to love him through loving his law. As David so regularly said in the Psalms, he delighted in the law of God.

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Culture Creators: An Interview with Jonathan K. Dodson

One of my favorite ongoing blog series is LifeHackers' How I Work. Simple questions about how people in a variety of workplaces get stuff done. As I read more and more of these, I kept thinking about wondering about creative people I know and what their answers might be. That got me thinking. Why not host an interview series at my own blog with Christians who are working with excellence, who I admire, and who do creative stuff? I was concerned about getting enough people to host a meaningful series, but the yeses kept rolling in. So here we are.

Who is Jonathan Dodson? Jonathan K. Dodson (MDiv; ThM) serves as a pastor of City Life Church in Austin, Texas. He is the author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship, The Unbelievable Gospel, and Raised? He has discipled men and women abroad and at home for almost two decades, taking great delight in communicating the gospel and seeing Christ formed in others. Twitter: @Jonathan_Dodson


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Review: Timothy Keller’s Prayer

I confess. I struggle with daily, personal prayer . When I do prayer, I fight to concentrate and when I do concentrate I often feel like my prayers are rote. It was encouraging to hear Tim Keller share his own struggle with prayer and the way he now has experienced God through a daily prayer life. “The greatness of prayer is nothing but an extension of the greatness and glory of God in our lives” (26). So prayer for Keller and many before him in the Reformed tradition is a reflection of who God is (see 45).

Prayer begins by examining two major streams of prayer in the broad Christian tradition—mystical and prophetic. I’ve heard murmurs for years about Keller and mysticism, but regularly in Prayer Keller is critical of mysticism (see 43, 59, and 150). I also wanted to point out that when discussing meditation Keller centers the practice on Jesus. “Meditate on Jesus, who is the ultimate meditation of God” (164 see also 177)—a clear blow to the kind of mindless meditation in some mysticism. He argues prophetic prayer is closer to what we see in Scripture, but also doesn’t reject mystical experiences.

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Tell All Your (YRR) Friends

I have a confession to make. My generation is the generation that made the Young, Restless, and Reformed (YRR) possible. We connected with movies like Fight Club and The Boondock Saints. We listened to "edgy" music as an act of defiance. Basically, young and restless long before reformed. Recently, a popular name said that the serious problem with the YRR was their minimization of the "Reformed" part of the slogan. He alluded to many being only 3 to 4 point Calvinists (gasp!). I'm going to respectfully disagree. The issue is not with the doctrine. I am convinced the real issue is, hopefully now was, an uncontrollable restlessness.

I won't hide behind my decisions growing up. I've been restless for a long time. That restlessness was inappropriately centered and focused on many worldly things. Bands likes Taking Back Sunday and Brand New made my restless soul happy but not in any Christian way. (I will confess I still enjoy the "real rebels" of the music world: Cash, Nelson & Dylan but I do so now from a different starting paradigm.) In the cinema world, movies like Fight Club told me there is an evil called privilege in the world. Resentment became a foundational element in restlessness. It taught me there are things worth rebelling against. It taught me this permeating evil of privilege can only be beaten by reckless abandon and backwards views of society. I loved it. In a nostalgic way I still do. 

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Winning the Culture Wars

The last two weeks I’ve been reading James D. Bratt’s Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat—which I highly recommend (review coming this weekend). One of Kuyper’s well known contributions to Reformed Theology was his exploration of common grace and culture. Bratt makes an observation that struck me for how relevant it is to what happened in American at the end of Kuyper’s life and our current cultural climate. Bratts says,

“With the wounds of the church struggle still raw, [Kuyper] admitted that it was tempting to give up on the nation, ‘our fatherland here below,’ and he indulged his audience with the myth of a seventeenth-century golden age when pure Reformed religion ‘defined the direction of [our] public life.’ Yet he reminded them that God remained the Sovereign Lord over all history, including the present place and time. If it was manifestly so thatsecularization is the stamp’ of the age, then the Lord must have also provided the means for believers to sound the claims of faith in that context” (195-96).

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Review: Reformation Commentary on Scripture John 1-12

John 1-12 is one the latest entries into IVP Academic’s Reformation Commentary on Scripture (RCS). It’s series you should be familiar with. Owning the thousands upon thousand of robust books produced during the Reformation and mining those would require hours you may not have. RCS does the work for you and provides context for the Reformation conversations and the Scripture text.

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Review: Michael Horton’s Calvin on the Christian Life

Jean Calvin. Perhaps instead: John Calvin. The man behind the soteriology that bears his name. Author of commentaries on a majority of the Bible. Author of one of the most important systematic theologies in Christian history, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. Despite the impact he has had his history has been lost amidst theological debates that often occur over coffee and beer.

If it sounds like this review is a little more personal than my normal work that’s because it is. John Calvin is a hero to me. Reading his Institutes brought to life for me the full wealth of Christian theology. I can say with no deceit that I would not be where I am right now except for the life changing thought of this man. Because of this, it has pained me to his theology boiled down to TULIP.

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Advancing a Christian Work Ethic

A lot of hot air has been flooding the atmosphere since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. Two common complaints I’ve heard are “Business are people? Ha!” snide remarks and “Christian businesses? How can a business be Christian?” I dislike the adjectival use of the word Christian in front of nouns ad nausea as much as the next guy. Christian bookstores. Christian gift stores. Christian pinterest (this is a thing Godinterest.com). Christian movies. To the Christianizing of normal things there is no end.

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Review: Daniel R. Hyde’s Jesus Loves the Little Children

Because of the size of the book, there are some assertions that might make those who read the Bible from a completely different paradigm scratch their heads, but that cannot be avoided in such a small book. However, all the pieces are there for someone to pick up this book become interested and do further research.

I found his explanation of the covenant of grace helpful (12, 13)--which is foundational for understanding covenant baptism. I also found the chapter on circumcision and baptism essential especially in the way he demonstrates why circumcision ended (Jesus’ “bloody circumcision on the cross” 18) and why we now baptize children and new believers outside of the covenant (connecting it back to the first exodus and Paul’s usage of new Exodus language 23).

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We Wrestle with God

The name Israel means those who wrestle with God. Do you remember how Jacob got the name? He had left his wives’ homeland with their father hot on their trails. He was afraid he would force him to stay, but God commanded Laban not to touch Jacob. Then his brother Esau intercepted him on his journey home and Jacob feared for his life and the life of his family. The last time he saw Esau their father Isaac had died and Esau was plotting to kill Jacob. He put some space between his family and Esau.

[Jacob] took [his family] and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Gen. 32:23-28

This angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. The Father is not flesh and blood and so in the Old Testament the angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ, comes and often inserts himself in the story of Israel. This is an important moment for the church. Jacob is returning to the promised land. He is returning blessed by the Lord despite his sinfulness, despite his doubts, despite his fears. This community of faith is marked by its wrestling.

The New Testament church is a wild olive branch grafted into the root of Israel, and so we are those who wrestle with God as well. It’s always been a collective wrestling. We wrestle together as a community. We wrestle with the doubts and fears of our covenant family. We wrestle with our lack of faith. We wrestle for the fatherless and the widows. We wrestle for the weak and abused. We wrestle for our families.

During my most intense wrestling with the difficult questions about the faith, I recall that, although my faith seemed dangerously close to shipwrecking, the faith of my family, the faith of the Church, and, most foundational, the faith of Jesus Christ anchored me as it felt as though I was alone. The waves of doubt were billowing but my Anchor held fast.

Shortly after that experience, an immediate family member also had a similar struggle with doubt and depression. I regularly told them that, although their faith was weak, it didn’t need to be strong. I would believe the promises of God for them. I would call out to God on their behalf. I would plead with God that nothing would separate them from Him. He was faithful to me and He would be faithful to them. He was. And isn’t He always faithful? Without a doubt. That’s the strength found in a community of faith that wrestles with God together.

But the wrestling doesn’t begin or end with us now. Centuries of Christians have wrestled with God before us. They strove with God. They asked Him tough questions. They doubted. They feared. They felt alone. That’s the beauty of being grafted into this ancient olive tree called the Church. We do not wrestle alone. We do not wrestle just in the now. We wrestle with the saints of yesterday. We wrestle as a collective Church united with Jesus Christ.

Mathew Sims is the author of A Household Gospel Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and also writes for CBMW Men’s blog, Gospel Centered Discipleship, and Servants of Grace. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel Centered Discipleship. They attend Downtown Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, SC.

Get Your Copy of A Household Gospel Today: Paperback or Digital

Social Media Ain’t a Covenant Community (or Why Social Media Shouldn’t be a Spectator’s Sports)

Count me as a friend of technology and social media. In fact, I recently wrote a piece for the CBMW Manual blog argue for the God glorifying benefits of technology and social media. God created all things and said, “This is good.” As Christians, we start there. He also gave us the command to create, work, and have dominion. The good includes these endeavors, and, therefore, includes our work as sub-creators (a quip borrowed from J. R. R. Tolkien). Of course, many people take beautiful, good, God glorifying things and turn them into ugly, perverted orcs. We must use discernment anchored to Scripture. I say all that as a preface for my post today.

I want to now pushback on social media. Some use social media as a stand in for flesh and blood covenant community. Social media and technology can never replace the living Church. You see it’s easy to defriend, unfollow, block, or not pin someone who you disagree with on social media. It’s easy to anonymously criticize someone. It’s easy to sub-tweet. It’s easy to make generalizations. It’s easy to slander someone when you don’t have to look them in the face.

It’s much harder when you are committed, hands calloused, to a living, local church. You can’t defriend, unfollow, block, or ignore someone, when you’re face to face with them week in and week out. It’s much harder to take pot shots and snipe in this context. (Notice I didn’t say impossible. It happens. We’ve all seen it.)

There are some in the Christian blog-o-sphere who are known for being shall we say prickly. I’ve heard more than once though, “So and so is a great guy [or gal], when you talk to them face to face or on the phone.” God forbid that our online persona is different than our true life person.

Where it has, social media devolves into a spectator sport on the level of WWE’s Monday Night Raw. We all have our favorite Christian wrestler...errrr I mean blogger, pastor, ministry leader. They don their two size too small spandex costume and strut out to their rockin’ theme song to the tune of three weekly blog posts. Many of us sit in the stands and cheer them on. We jeer their opponents. We mock and slur the other side. We are entertained.

All of this is just sad. This kind of social media spectacle only survives where anemic ecclesiology thrives. Where a robust eccelsiology is alive and well. This kind of spectacle will be on the fringe and shortly extinct. Where churches are rehearsing the gospel weekly and sending the Church out to rehearse the gospel in their daily lives, social media becomes an opportunity to rehearse the gospel in a small sliver of life. It doesn’t become the Monday night main event.

So let’s use technology and social media for the glory of God, but let’s not make it a spectator sport. Let’s always prioritize our local covenant communities. Let’s always prioritize our families. Let’s always prioritize soaking our lives in the gospel over watching our favorite online persona drop their finishing move on the opposition.

Servants of Grace Guest Post: “God So Loved”

Today I’m contributing at Servants of Grace, a blog collective run by Dave Jenkins. SOG has a series on love running and I tackle God’s covenant love and its implications in a fallen world.

In December, my third daughter was born. The birth of a child is such a surreal experience. I’m amazed every time I witness the birth of one of my children. You would think it might become ordinary, but it never has for me. On the one hand, I know what to expect, but, on the other hand, the exertion required to care for a new baby always feels like joining the Polar Bear Club. What makes it all worth it–the late nights, the crying, the potty training, the exhaustion–is the love between father and child. It’s a love that children grow to understand more as they marry and have their own children.

As a first time father, I wondered what having two children would be like. How could this expansive, deep love I felt for this child be duplicated toward another child? My heart felt so full. It felt like there was no room to grow. But now onto my third and inexplicably I feel that same love for each of my children. The heart it seems is a flexible muscle.

Read the entire article here.

The Church with Sandals On

The Passover

In Exodus 12:7-13, Moses says,

“Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord's Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.

Moses here is describing the Lord’s instructions to Israel on the eve of their redemption from slavery. The Lord had worked miracles in Egypt which had hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh refused to let Israel go. So God had one final judgement. He would kill all the first born from least to greatest in the land of Egypt except where blood was on the doorpost. This blood servers as a substitute for the first born inside each home where it was painted onto the door frame.

To the Romans, Paul says,

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (3:21-26)

Notice verse twenty-five, “[Jesus] whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” In the new covenant, God put forth Jesus as the propitiation for the sins of his people and where his blood is painted onto our hearts, there is no final death. The old covenant meal is replaced with the new covenant meal, the body and blood of Jesus Christ. All of that sets the stage for my main point.

On Mission

During this judgement in Exodus twelve, families were instructed to cook and eat the sacrifice with their bags packed and sandals on. An odd detail to include. An odd detail to command. Why would they need to pack their bags and have their sandals on? The judgement and meal prepared them to be redeemed. It was after they had eaten they were brought from death to life.

How does this fit within the liturgy of our church? When we eat the covenant meal at my church, we end with a hymn, a benediction (a blessing from God), and our pastor sends out into our city on mission. We see from the earliest rehearsals of the gospel, God redeems us to send us out on mission. We, like the church before us, eat and drink with our sandals on and bags packed. We are ready to go into the world. We are sent out in the name of Jesus Christ--the one who has authority to rule all nations.

It’s interesting to note that Paul describing the armor of God includes this: “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (Eph 6:14-15). We are commanded to have our shoes ready with the gospel of peace.

Where there is no mission, there is no church. Where we are not foot soldiers for the gospel of peace, there is no church. The church is always ready and prepared for mission. We eat and drink in our churches in preparation for this. We taste and see then we hear the marching orders--a blessing from God and a sending out into our community.