An Interview with Rob Ventura about his co-authored book Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical & Balanced Perspective

Brother, congratulations on your new co-authored book which I enjoyed reading.        Biblical_Warfare_front_2_2__55272.1378573386.315.315

Here are some of my questions for you about your discourse:

 

1. Given the numerous volumes written on the subject of spiritual warfare, what do you think is the unique contribution of your book to this subject?  

Dear brother, thank you for taking the time to read the book. I am glad you enjoyed it. Regarding your first question I would say that the unique contribution of this work is that it is a contemporary, concise, and scriptural treatment of this subject written by two Reformed authors. If you were to Google the stated topic you would find that there are dozens of books that treat this theme in a downright nutty way. However, what we have done is open up the central New Testament passage that addresses this issue (Ephesians 6:10-20) dealing with it historically, contextually, exegetically, and practically. As we have done this we have kept Christ our great champion central in all things since at the cross he defeated Satan, our great foe.

Brian, one reason why I am particularly excited about this new book is that it gives Christians from all different theological backgrounds a solid treatment of this subject in just 124 pages. Typically I would recommend to people who want to learn about this topic William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armour but due to the sheer size of that volume, unfortunately many do not make their way through it. However our book can be read in a just few hours and the reader would be able to get the gist of the matter and be helped to stand strong in this great fight of all fights.

 

2. In Steven J. Lawson’s foreword to your book, he mentions that the flesh, our old nature, is one of our enemies, because it is “opposed to God and can do nothing to please Him” (vii). Lawson’s statement seems to imply that a believer in Christ has two natures: old & new. Does a believer have two natures: one that is opposed to God and one that is not?

Concerning your question, and I believe Dr. Lawson would agree, regeneration is an act of God whereby He quickens a dead sinner and implants a new nature in the believer so that he or she is now a new creation in Christ Jesus our Lord (2 Cor. 5:17). The Christian does not have two natures per se so that there is a kind of Yin and Yang, Jekyll and Hyde dualism going on in them. No, rather the old man has been crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6). Nonetheless as Spurgeon rightly said; “though the old man was crucified he sure is a slow dying.” To state the matter another way, although Paul says in Colossians 3:9, “you have put off the old man with his deeds,” he could also say in Colossians 3:5 “put to death your members which are on the earth.” See also Ephesians 4:22-24.

 

3. Your book addresses Satan as our great foe in spiritual warfare. Is Satan present everywhere at the same time? If he is not, does it mean that he tempts us indirectly through his demons? Also, can Satan read all our thoughts and foretell what we are going to do?

Satan is a great foe and according to the Apostle Peter he walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8b). We must never minimize this fact. We must be balanced in our perspective concerning our great opponent. However having said this, Satan is absolutely not omnipresent nor is he omnipotent as God alone is. Satan can tempt us through a variety of means, yes, even through his cohorts the demons and this is why it is vital that according to Paul we give no opportunity to him (Eph. 4.27).

Concerning our thought life, since Satan is not God he cannot read our minds or foretell what we are going to do. However we must never forget that the mind is a major battlefield in spiritual warfare and such passages as 2 Cor. 4:4; 10:1-6; and 11:3 highlight this truth. This being so, Paul calls us to “take up the helmet of salvation” for in doing this we will be greatly protected in this regard.

 

4. It is said that without Christ you cannot resist Satan. Does an unbeliever have the power to resist the Devil? Please answer this question in light of two men, one who is a Christian and one who is not. Both were tempted to commit adultery. The Christian husband yielded to the temptation, whereas the unbelieving husband did not.

Without Christ we are the devil’s spiritual property. He is our spiritual father (John 8:44), we walk according to his power (Eph. 2.2) and are part of his kingdom (Col. 1:13). When God makes us spiritually alive all of these things change — praise God for this! Because of our spiritual condition before we are converted we absolutely cannot resist the devil. However regarding the scenario you stated above, regardless of who did what, the devil is never to blame for our sin because he cannot make us sin. As Christians we sin because our hearts are not yet perfected and so in the case of the believer falling into adultery and the unbeliever not falling, it seems that the one had less self-control than the other (sadly).

 

5. What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently editing a new book entitled Going Beyond the Five Points: Perusing a More Comprehensive Reformation that I am excited about. I am also hoping to start writing a new booklet with my co-elder Jack Buckley in a series entitled Cultivating Biblical Godliness for Reformation Heritage Books, the Lord willing.

 

Note: To read or print this interview in a PDF file, click here. To purchase the book, click here.

 

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Interview Satan Spiritual Warfare

An Interview with Brian Croft about his book The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family Through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013, 171 pp., paperback.

It was a joy to meet you at the 2013 Puritan Reformed Conference. I enjoyed reading your practical and gospel-centered book. I especially appreciated its humble and honest tone.

Here are some of my questions for you about your book:9780310495093_30

1. How would you respond to a pastor who says that his ministry is his priority over his family? You may also want to comment on William Carey’s conviction that ministry work must come first before family responsibility.

I would tell him that he is disobeying the Word of God and the biblical calling of a pastor.  A pastor’s calling in 1 Timothy 3 is to first manage his household before the church.  I would also say that a pastor will give an account for souls (Heb. 13:17) not just in the church, but those in his family.  I would argue the account will be given first to those in his household.  A pastor’s first ministry is to his family, then the church.  Lose your family, you will lose your ministry.  

2. On page 41 you state, “Being a pastor and the wife of a pastor can indeed be a very lonely position.” Can you please elaborate your thoughts on this statement?

Most think the pastor and his wife would be the ones with the most friends in the church.  The opposite is usually the case.  Because of the position of the pastor in a church, it is hard to be transparent and open with certain folks not knowing what might later be used against him.  Many relationships are based upon those wanting to get close to the pastor for personal gain, not simply friendship.  This makes it hard for the pastor and his wife to find meaningful friendships and most pastors do not make the effort to find them outside their church.

3. What do you think is a pastor’s main problem as far as balancing his family and ministry responsibility is concerned?

The pastor’s main problem is not what he thinks it is.  It is not the demands and pressures put upon him.  The pastor’s main problem that causes an imbalance is his own sinful heart.  It is his heart that makes him desire things that would cause the ministry to become an idol to him, thus neglecting his family.  The pastor has to apply the power of the gospel to his heart struggles in the ministry to prevent family neglect.

4. What is the biblical solution to the problem mentioned in question # 3?

The power of the gospel not only saves us from our sins, but it also empowers us to overcome the sins of our hearts that affect our daily lives.  The pastor must identify the sinful struggles in his heart that pull him away from his family, and repent.  Then, he must turn to the Scriptures as the guide to how a pastor must conduct his life.  Scripture gives us the blueprint to the calling of a pastor (1 Timothy 3:4-5), what the pastor should be doing with his time (Heb. 13:17; 1 Peter 5:1-4), and how essential it is for a pastor to care for his wife (Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Peter 3:1-7) and shepherd his children (Eph. 6:1-4) in the midst of his life and ministry.  As the pastor ministers God’s Word, he must himself walk in it to counter the sinful temptations that lead to neglect of the family.

5. This question is for your wife Cara: In what way can a pastor’s wife best help her husband in the ministry?  

Each ministry is different, therefore what each husband needs will be different.  I can not give you a specific answer except this, ask them.  If you really want to know what your husband needs for you to do, ask him, and then be willing to hear whatever his answer may be.  I know it sounds simple, but we as women tend to think we know what our husbands need and how they need us to serve.  The truth is there may be a way that they are desiring for us to serve and we have never taken the time to ask them.

The second answer I would give is to pray for husbands.  Our husbands need our prayers.  And we need to not only pray for them but we need to tell them we are praying for them and ask in what specific ways we can pray for them better.  This does two things.  First it encourages our husbands by letting them know that we are thinking and interceding on their behalf.  Second, it allows us to see into our husbands’ hearts a bit deeper and to know more of the burdens they are carrying.  We need to be lifting them before God daily and seeking ways to encourage them as they labor both for the church and for our families.  Notice I said “we”.  That is because this is a lesson I am still learning.

6. What projects are you currently working on?

I have several books I am working on.  There is a companion with the Pastor’s Family that will be about, “The Pastor’s Ministry” which will be focused on the top 10 biblical priorities of every pastor’s ministry.  Then I am writing, co-writing, and editing 6 more books for our Practical Shepherding series, all to be published in the next two years.  Practical books on administration, caring for widows, planning and leading worship, praying for the flock, and how to comfort the grieving are some of the topics of these books.  We are very excited about all the Lord is doing with Practical Shepherding and the books that will be the foundation for our ministry for year to come, Lord willing.

Note: You can buy the book here.

Family Interview Ministry Pastor

An Interview with Joel R. Beeke about his book Friends and Lovers: Cultivating Companionship and Intimacy in Marriage. Cruciform Press, 2012, 96 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed about your book that is filled with godly wisdom. As a newly married husband, I read this volume with great profit. I especially liked the biblical, pastoral, practical, honest, and balanced tone of your book.

Here are some of my questions for you about your work:

  1. Can you please briefly explain why friendship and sexual intimacy are “two key ingredients in a vital marriage” (p. 8)?

From the beginning God designed marriage to be a bond of personal and sexual unity. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Cleaving (or clinging) expresses the commitment or bond of a shared life. One flesh expresses sexual intimacy. It is interesting that the desires of women tend to major on the bond of friendship, and the desires of men on the sexual bond. In reality we need both to make a vibrant marriage. There is something inexpressibly beautiful about making love with your spouse as your best friend, and sharing life with your lover.

 

  1. You say that “[f]ew books on marriage include even one chapter on friendship” (p. 13). Why do you think this is so?    

That’s a hard question to answer with certainty. Perhaps part of the reason is that we have become a culture obsessed with skills, but awkward about relationships. There are lots of books about how to find your dream mate, how to communicate well, how to make love well, how to avoid tragedy well, etc. But as a culture North Americans don’t seem to know how to “be together” well.

Another factor may be the negative influence of communications media. We have traded real friendships for superficial forms of intimacy flashing on screens both large and small. Social media allow people to network and share information at an unprecedented rate. These are useful tools for work and business. But they are no substitute to eating dinner together every night, talking about what’s going on in your hearts and lives, reading and discussing the Bible, and praying hand-in-hand in the presence of the living triune God.

 

To continue reading the interview, click here

Note: Friends and Lovers can be obtained from Reformation Heritage Books for the discount price of $7.00 plus postage.

Interview Marriage Piety Puritan

An Interview with Gerald M. Bilkes about his book Glory Veiled and Unveiled: A Heart-Searching Look at Christ’s Parables. Reformation Heritage Books, 2012, 229 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed about your Christ-centered book which I enjoyed reading. I especially liked your writing style—clear, concise, and practical.

Here are some of my questions for you about your work:

  1. Can you please briefly define the word parable? And, what is the unique contribution of your book to the study of Christ’s parables?

A parable is a shorter or longer word-picture to zero in on a certain truth and affect hearts with it. The prophet Nathan told the parable of the rich man who took a poor man’s only lamb to uncover David to his adultery with Bathsheba. In my book I am looking not only at what the parables of Christ mean, but how they search our hearts.

  1. You say that “[i]n the parables, Christ is intentionally veiling or concealing His glory and the glory of His kingdom” (p. 10). Can you please explain more to us what you mean by this thought-provoking assertion?   

When the disciples asked Christ why he taught in parables, Christ made clear that he had a dual aim in his parables. For example, in Matthew 13:10-17 he showed that people will respond to the parables either in a way that shows that they have faith, and thus understand (at least in principle) the significance of the parable; others, however, will not truly receive the parable, because of unbelief. It is not just so that this is an unfortunate result of the parables, but the intended purpose of the parable.

Many people have difficulty with this idea that God would actually hide his truth from someone. Some scholars have done some theological gymnastics to get around this point. There is a problem if we decide upfront that the parables are different than what Christ has said that they are. Should it surprise us that the parables of the kingdom should be spoken in a way that has all the hallmarks of glorious sovereignty?

I give the example in my book of a force infiltrating enemy territory like the allied forces did at the end of World War II in Western Europe. They dropped messages “in-code” in order to communicate with their allies and win over others, all the while concealing their true purposes to their enemies. This may help us understand why the parables are like messages “in-code,” both concealing and revealing.

 

To keep reading the interview, click here.

Christ's Parables Interview

An Interview with Roger D. Duke about his co-edited book Venture All for God: Piety in the Writings of John Bunyan. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011, 194 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed. As an admirer of John Bunyan, I am pleased to see a new book on Bunyan that especially highlights his spirituality.

Here are some of my questions for you about your co-edited work:

 

  1. The book focuses on the piety of Bunyan. What do you exactly mean by the word piety, especially since the term is rarely used today? Is this term different from the word spirituality? Also, what is central to Bunyan’s piety?    

Piety– We mean by piety, something very similar to the Free Merriam-Webster (online) Dictionary meanings: 1) The quality or state of being pious: a) fidelity to natural obligations (as to religions or God), b) dutifulness in religion, i.e. devotion to a religion or religious ideals, 2) an act of inspired by piety, 3) a conventional belief or standard such as orthodoxy.

Truly it is our belief that Bunyan was an orthodox Christian who was a totally devoted follower of our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the main purposes of our contribution to this Reformation Heritage Books series was the belief that Bunyan was one who demonstrated true piety towards God because of persecution in such a politically turbulent time. This is demonstrated by the extracted works in the second half of the volume.

Spirituality-Please allow me an anecdotal observation on this concept of spirituality. I have been in the classroom teaching World Religions for about fourteen years. There is spirituality in all of the major world religions. That is, there is a sense that most devotees have a sense of the “other” or the “divine” or a sense in which there is a spiritual realm or world beyond ours.

What I talk about in my classes, for I teach classes with person from all of the world religions in them, is that we are all spiritual.  We have a sense that there is a higher and better in humanity than the animal kingdom. This entire discussion is “teased out” under the Image of God Christian concept. Then I bring to the discussion that we are all made intrinsically to worship. And that we all do worship something or someone. But generally the object of our affection ends up looking like us, or something that can be seen with the eyes, or fashioned with our hands, or can be held in our hands. There is a sense in which “spirituality” has seen a recent revival. But it is not a Christian spirituality. This small Bunyan contribution, we believe, speaks to that.

What is central to Bunyan’s piety: Here I am speaking for myself alone. It seems to me that Bunyan was overwhelmingly concerned with being “right with God” and then “having an assurance” of that right standing with God. When one does just a cursory reading of his Grace Abounding this is so very easily seen. Secondly, the persecution of the non-conformist of his day put him in a position where he had to decide personally whether or not to pay the price for his convictions even to the point of spending years in imprison. This time of persecution defined and deepened, from my perspective, his deeply pious commitment to Christ and to preach his Gospel at whatever it might cost him.

 

Note: Roger D. Duke, a professor at Union University, would like to inform his readers that his answers do not necessarily speak for his co-editor Dr. Phil A. Newton.

To continue reading the interview, click here.

 

Interview John Bunyan Piety Puritan Puritan piety Spirituality Suffering

An Interview with Albert N. Martin about his book Preaching in the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011, 67 pp., paperback.

Thank you so much for your willingness to be interviewed about your much needed book on preaching in the Holy Spirit. As a pastor, I found this volume a blessing to my soul.

Here are some of my questions for you about your work:

  1. In the preface of your book, you mention that you were only about 18 years old when you started preaching the gospel (vii). Obviously, at that time you were not yet an ordained preacher of the gospel. How would you then respond to people who say that the ministry of preaching is only for ordained ministers?

It is indeed true that I make reference in the preface of my book to my experience of street preaching when I was not quite yet 18 years of age. However, I did not engage in that act of witness bearing with any thought that I was a proven gift of the ascended Christ to serve within his church as a pastor and teacher. Rather, at the encouragement of some older mature Christian men, I and several others were simply doing what is recorded in Acts chapter 2.

According to Acts 1:12, 14, and Acts 2:1-4, when the Spirit of God came upon the 120 in the upper room, they were “all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak…” This description applies to all 120 – including the women who were in that company. Therefore, when Peter explains to the multitudes what has happened, he directs their attention to the promise in the book of Joel concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit. In that passage we are told that as a result of the coming of the Holy Spirit both “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” That is, they would all speak forth the saving truth of God. There is no indication that one needs formal ecclesiastical ordination to engage in this witness bearing to God’s saving action in Christ. Prophesying (preaching) and teaching by women are clearly out of bounds in the context of the gathered church under its God appointed male leadership. However, the kind of witness bearing “to the mighty works of God” recorded in Acts 2, describes a totally different activity and setting. I placed my experience of street preaching at age 18 in the context of this biblical perspective.

Likewise, Acts 8:1 along with Acts 11:19-21 clearly indicates that the “non-ordained believers” who were scattered upon the persecution of Saul of Tarsus, spoke forth the truth of God’s word in all of the places to which they were scattered by God’s providence. It is clear that these “non-ordained preachers” were even instrumental in the establishment of the church in Antioch.

In the London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689, there is a very helpful statement in Chapter 26, paragraph 11 addressing this very concern. It reads as follows:

Although it be incumbent on the bishops or pastors of the churches, to be instant in preaching the Word, by way of office, yet the work of preaching the word is not so peculiarly confined to them, but that others also gifted and fitted by the Holy Spirit for it, and approved then called by the church, may and ought to perform it (my emphasis).

Even though I was very deficient in my understanding of biblical ecclesiology at that age, we were not engaged in a “free lance” activity. In the Mission Hall which I and my friends attended, there were two old men who functioned as our de facto elders. They were the ones who both encouraged our street preaching, our preaching in the Mission Hall, and carefully monitored the content and the manner of our preaching and our Christian lives.

 

To keep reading my interview, click here.

Holy Spirit Interview Preaching

An Interview with Brian G. Najapfour about his co-edited book Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer

  1. How has your prayer life grown since writing/editing this book and fleshing out all of the doctrines taught by these reformers and puritans?

Before answering your question, allow me to first express my heart-felt gratitude for this privilege of being interviewed by you. By God’s grace, since I started this project, I have noticed a growth in my prayer life. However, I realize that the more I study the subject of prayer, the more I see my own prayerlessness. And the more I see my prayerlessness, the more I realize my great need of the Holy Spirit in prayer.

Indeed, my study of the subject has made me more aware of two basic truths: first, because of my indwelling sin, my soul acts unfriendly toward prayer; and second, because of my indwelling sin, I need the Holy Spirit’s assistance. For me to be able to pray, therefore, I have to constantly remind my soul that prayer is not a foe but a friend. Prayer is such a difficult work that it requires strong discipline. Martin Luther (1483-1546) is not exaggerating when he declares, prayer is “the hardest work of all” (p. 9). I am not embarrassed to admit that sometimes I find it more enjoyable to play basketball than to pray to God. Sometimes prayer becomes boring to me. Writing in his treatise I Will Pray with the Spirit (1662), John Bunyan (1628-1688) understands what I mean here when he says:

May I but speak my own experience, and from that tell you the difficulty of praying to God as I ought; it is enough to make you poor, blind, carnal men, to entertain strange thoughts of me. For, as for my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so loath to go to God, and when it is with him, so loath to stay with him, that many times I am forced in my prayers; first to beg of God that he would take mine heart, and set it on himself in Christ, and when it is there, that he would keep it there (Psalm 86:11). Nay, many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind, nor how to pray, I am so ignorant; only (blessed be grace) the Spirit helps our infirmities [Rom. 8:26] (cited in p. 116).    

Dr. Michael A. G. Haykin, commenting on this quote, notes, “From personal experience, Bunyan well knew the allergic reaction of the old nature to the presence of God. So were it not for the Spirit, none would be able to persevere in prayer” (p. 117). Since my indwelling sin makes me unfriendly and even ignorant towards the necessity of prayer, I need the assistance of the Spirit. Why? Because in the words of Bunyan, a “man without the help of the Spirit cannot so much as pray once; much less, continue…in a sweet praying frame” (cited in p. 118). O my blessed Holy Spirit give me more grace to pray!

 

This interview is by Chadd M. Sheffield, a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. To continue reading the interview, click here.

Book Interview Prayer Puritan Reformer