Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Future of Protestantism: A Discussion

A discussion between Drs. Carl Trueman, Fred Sanders, and Peter Leithart at Biola University. It was moderated by Peter Escalante.

HT: Reformation 21

From Lewis' Pen: Follow Aslan

From Prince Caspian:
“‘If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all go up at once and follow me—what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.’

'Do you mean that is what you want me to do?' gasped Lucy.

 'Yes, little one,' said Aslan.

'Will the others see you too?' asked Lucy.

'Certainly not at first,' said Aslan. 'Later on, it depends.'

'But they won't believe me!' said Lucy.

'It doesn't matter,' said Aslan….

Lucy buried her head in his mane to hide from his face. But there must have been magic in his mane. She could feel lion-strength going into her. Quite suddenly she sat up.

'I'm sorry, Aslan,' she said. 'I'm ready now.'

'Now you are a lioness,' said Aslan. 'And now all Narnia will be renewed. But come. We have no time to lose.'

He got up and walked with stately, noiseless paces back to the belt of dancing trees through which she had just come: and Lucy went with him, laying a rather tremulous hand on his mane….

'Now, child,' said Aslan, when they had left the trees behind them, 'I will wait here. Go and wake the others and tell them to follow. If they will not, then you at least must follow me alone.'”

From Lewis' Pen Series:
From Lewis' Pen: Joy is the Serious Business of Heaven
From Lewis' Pen: Not Idealistic Gas
From Lewis' Pen: But He's Good
From Lewis' Pen: Read Old Books
From Lewis' Pen: When Love Becomes a Demon
From Lewis' Pen: Until You Fully Love God
From Lewis' Pen: As the Ruin Falls
From Lewis' Pen: Screwtape on Marriage
From Lewis' Pen: Lay Down Your Arms
From Lewis' Pen: Aslan is on the Move
From Lewis' Pen: Lead us, Evolution, Lead us
From Lewis' Pen: Lead us, Evolution, Lead us
From Lewis' Pen: An Exaggerated Feminine Type
From Lewis' Pen: Theology as a Map
From Lewis' Pen: A Lot of Wrong Ideas
From Lewis' Pen: Children Know Better Than Grownups
From Lewis' Pen: The Historical Jesus
From Lewis' Pen: Aim at Heaven
From Lewis' Pen: Satan Speaks

For more:
"CS Lewis: A Life" by Alister McGrath: A Review
"If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis" by Alister McGrath: A Review 
McGrath on the Memory of Lewis
"Letters to Malcom" by CS Lewis: A Review
"Screwtape Letters" by CS Lewis: A Review  
"A Mixture of Fool and Knave": CS Lewis on Theological Liberalism
Lewis on Practical Theology
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics 
Theology As a Map: Lewis, Practical Theology, and the Trinity
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 1
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 2
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 3 
"Willing Slaves of the Welfare State": CS Lewis on Freedom, Science, and Society - Part 1
"Willing Slaves of the Welfare State": CS Lewis on Freedom, Science, and Society - Part 2
He is Not a Tame Lion: Aslan, Jesus, and the Limits of Postmodern Inclusivism  
To Be Undragoned: Aslan, Christ, and the Gift of Regeneration 
Lewis on Practical Theology  
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics      
Theologians I Have Been Influenced By - The Dead
"The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism" Full Documentary

Hump Day Humor: Your Pregnant

All Around the Web - April 30, 2014

Eric Metaxas - Like Seagulls to Trash Piles
In October 2012, I told BreakPoint listeners about a Smithsonian Channel documentary that examined a fourth-century papyrus fragment in which Jesus purportedly refers to His “wife.”
At the time, I noted that even if it weren’t a blatant forgery, there was ample reason to be skeptical about what the fragment purported to tell us.

Well, now the fragment is back in the news, and not only is skepticism about the fragment itself still warranted, but we should also ask ourselves what lies behind the continuing interest in the fragment and similar documents.

When the discovery of the document was announced, scholars pointed to “grammatical errors,” its “resemblance to other gospels” and even “inconsistencies with traditional Egyptian Coptic script” which called the fragment’s authenticity into question.

Earlier this month, the Harvard Theological Review published a series of articles claiming that the fragment wasn’t a forgery, and instead, “probably dated from between the sixth and ninth centuries and might be even older,” the mostly likely date being around 859 A.D.

The Gospel Coalition - On My Shelf: Life and Books with Russell Moore
What are some books you regularly re-read and why?

I find that I regularly re-read almost the entire C. S. Lewis corpus, and I'm often surprised by how much of his thought I've absorbed while forgetting he was the one who taught me. I regularly re-read Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, and his essays, especially those in Signposts in a Strange Land. I also return often to Irenaeus's On the Apostolic Preaching and Augustine's Confessions and The City of God. I re-read J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism rather often, and always find it prophetic and timely.

What biographies or autobiographies have most influenced you and why?

John Leland's biography is very influential on my view of the relationship between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this age. Other influential biographies or autobiographies for me include Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain, Brad Gooch's biography of Flannery O'Connor, Willie Morris's North Toward Home and New York Days, and Peter Brown's Augustine of Hippo. I like biographies and memoirs of musicians, too: Terry Teachout's Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, David Cantwell's biography/cultural analysis of Merle Haggard, and Michael Streissguth's Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville are some I've enjoyed in recent days. For whatever reason, I'm drawn to the biographies or autobiographies of losing presidential candidates, whether I like those candidates or not, ranging from William Jennings Bryan to Henry Wallace to Barry Goldwater to Hubert Humphrey to George Wallace to Walter Mondale. This isn't technically a biography or autobiography, but I return often to the correspondence between Walker Percy and Shelby Foote.

Marty Duren - How churches can help prevent pastor suicides
Deal quickly, firmly and biblically with unfounded criticism and the critics that promote it.
Give your pastor a minimum of three weeks paid vacation.
Give your pastor a paid 4-week sabbatical every five years.
Provide counseling options for members other than the pastor.
Make church wedding costs official church policy.
Allow your pastor two ministry weeks a year minimum to be used for revivals, teaching opportunities, mission trips and the like.
Stop acting as if your pastor and his family will never do any wrong, and stop judging them if they do.
Build solid walls around his glass house to ensure a measure of privacy.
Provide for your pastor’s emotional health.

Jason Allen - A Conversation with Russell Moore about Religous Liberty
Dr. Allen: I want to talk with you today about the topic of religious liberty. I know you are speaking to this on a daily basis. You write on it with great frequency. You have to rally attention to it and you have to give proportionality to it so that we are not over-torqueing the case, over-torqueing the urgency, and not creating drama in little contexts and sub-scenarios where it should not be. At the same time, you are crying, “wolf,” because there is a wolf there at times. You are trying to bring balance to that. I have to tell you, it is a daunting task to me as I watch you, because it is a big-picture, principial issue that is perennial and needed. The different applications of it, the different potentialities of, and the apparent occurrences of it are often deeply nuanced. Then, you get the talking voices coming into the social media. Sifting through what is a legitimate religious liberty concern and what is just someone trying to drum up attention to their cause can be very difficult to watch in the world. You have to do that on an hour-by-hour basis, so this is a timely conversation for us. Let’s hop in here. Tell us, at the broad level, what are some principles our listeners and readers participating in this conversation should have in mind under the topic of religious liberty?

Dr. Moore: Religious liberty is simply an application of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and render unto God that which is God’s,” which is saying there are some things that belong to God that do not belong to the government; they do not belong to Caesar. One of those things is the simple fact that the gospel is addressing every person personally, saying, “You will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account.” If the government cannot come in and stand for you, then that means you have an allegiance that is higher than the government when it comes to your soul and your conscience.

So, when we are saying we are standing for religious liberty, we are not just standing for religious liberty for ourselves. It is not as though we are saying, “Let’s try to get enough votes so that conservative evangelicals have liberty or Southern Baptists have liberty, and we take that away from everyone else.” We are saying, “No, no, if we are gospel people, then that means you cannot impose your religion on anyone else, because religion is not something you can have issued to you by the state; it has to happen by the power of the Holy Spirit.” So, we do not want Muslims pretending to be Christians; we do not want secularists pretending to be Christians; we do not want Hindus pretending to be Christians. We want Muslims, Hindus, everyone else, who are genuinely expressing what they believe, so that we can seek to persuade them, through the power of the Spirit, to come to Christ.

In the American Constitution, sometimes people will talk about the establishment clause that says the government cannot set up a church or religion, and the free exercise clause that the government cannot restrict the free exercise of religion. Really, those are not two separate clauses; they are the same thing. Whenever the government comes in and says, “You cannot freely practice and exercise your religion,” the government is setting up a religion of some sort or another. They are saying, “This is what the religion is that we are giving you from the government.” So, we are standing for religious liberty for everybody precisely because we do believe the gospel.

Kevin DeYoung - But What About Gluttony?!
Why do conservative Christians make such a fuss about homosexuality and give everyone a free pass—most notably themselves—when it comes to gluttony?

That's a question you hear a lot of us these days and one you should expect to hear again and again, posed in a hundred different ways, in the years ahead.

Why are we asking about gays in heaven when we should be asking if there will be fat people in heaven? How can we say "their" sin of homosexuality is terrible while "our" sin of gluttony is no big deal? Everyone's a biblical literalist until you bring up gluttony. Besides, the Bible contains three times as many exhortations against gluttony than against homosexuality.

How should Christians think about these claims? Well, the operative word in that question is "think." We can't settle for gotcha headlines and arguments that are more slogan than substance. We have to be open to reason, open our Bibles, and think this through.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Free eBook: "One Way Love" by Tullian Tchividjian

It just so happens I am currently reading Tullian Tchividjian's most recent book One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World and it is excellent. I discovered recently that it is, for a time, available as a free digital download through NoiseTrade Books. Do not miss this opportunity and be sure to read the book carefully.

Here's the description:
Real life is long on law and short on grace—the demands never stop, the failures pile up, and fear sets in. Life requires many things from us—a stable marriage, successful children, a certain quality of life. Anyone living inside the guilt, anxiety, and uncertainty of daily life knows that the weight of life is heavy. We are all in need of some relief.

Bestselling author Tullian Tchividjian is convinced our exhausted world needs a fresh encounter with God's inexhaustible grace—His one-way love. Sadly, however, Christianity is perceived as being a vehicle for good behavior and clean living—and the judgments that result from them—rather than the only recourse for those who have failed over and over and over again. Tchividjian convincingly shows that Christianity is not about good people getting better. If anything, it is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good.

In this "manifesto," Tchividjian calls the church back to the heart of the Christian faith—grace. It is time for us to abandon our play-it-safe religion, and to get drunk on grace. Two hundred-proof, unflinching grace. It’s shocking and scary, unnatural and undomesticated … but it is also the only thing that can set us free and light the church—and the world—on fire.

Download the book here.

Download Propaganda's New Album "Crimson Cord" for Free

For more:
Listen to & Download Propoganda's Album "Excellent"
"Be Present" by Propaganda 
"Lofty" by Propaganda, Beautiful Euology & Joel 
"The Cup & the Crucifixion" Spoken Word
Odd Thomas on the Reality of the Resurrection
Odd Thomas - The Incarnation (Spoken Word)
A Beautiful Eulogy  
Hip Hop Theology: I am a Robot
Hip-Hop Theology: Creation
"The Good Life" by Trip Lee: A Review 
Listen to & Download Trip Lee's "One Hundred Sixteens" For Free
Trip Lee - "War"
Listen To & Download Lecrae's "Church Clothes" For Free
Flame- The Great Deception
FLAME - Power [with Rap-Along lyrics]
Shai Linne: Triune Praise   
The Gospel Illustrated 
Some of Their Best: DC Talk

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 7

"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 1
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 2
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 3
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 4-5
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 6
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 7

One of the reasons why I have enjoyed Dr. Richard Bauckham's book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses so far is because it is like an investigation. It looks into the story behind the story. We all know the story of the Gospels well, but how did they come to be? How did each author compile and compose their material? Bauckham's book investigates what source, form, and historic criticism and scholarship has to say about the Four Evangelists.

With that said, Bauckham turns to the Gospel Mark which many believe was the first written and become a major source for the other Synoptics. Bauckham's main argument in chapter 7 is simply that behind the Gospel of Mark is a clear Petrine influence. Though a number of recent scholars reject this conclusion, Bauckham makes his case. His argument is based on several evidences. First, to review his argument of chapter 6, Mark's Gospel has the highest frequency of reference to Peter among the Gospels, and that it uses the inclusio of eyewitness testimony to indicate that Peter was its main eyewitness source (155).

From here, Bauckham dives deeper into the Marcan text. His first major point is what he calls the Plural-to-Singuular Narrative Device and admittedly I struggled to follow his argument here. By this, Bauckham highlights Mark's unique tendency to use a plural verb (or more than one plural verb), without an explicit subject to describe the movements of Jesus and his disciples, followed immediately by a singular verb or pronoun referring to Jesus alone (156). Matthew and Luke, for the most part avoid this phenomena. They have a clear tendency to prefer a singular verb to Mark's plurals encompassing both Jesus and the disciples (157).

Perhaps a few examples would be helpful. First, compare Mark 5:38 with its parallels in the Synoptics:
Mark 5:38 - They *came to the house of the synagogue official; and He *saw a commotion, and people loudly weeping and wailing

Luke 8:51 - When He came to the house, He did not allow anyone to enter with Him, except Peter and John and James, and the girl’s father and mother.
Also, compare Mark 14:32 with its parallels:
Mark 14:32 - They *came to a place named Gethsemane; and He *said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He *took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled

Matthew 26:36 - Then Jesus *came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
Immediately, one ought to notice Mark's use of the plural "they" while the Synoptics prefer in the parallel passage "he." Although his argument longer and more complicated than I can reproduce here, Bauckham concludes that this unique method of Mark is his way of deliberately reproducing in his narrative the first-person perspective - the "we" perspective - from which Peter naturally told his stories. (164)

He then goes on to show the role Peter plays in Mark. He ultimately concludes that Peter is an individual throughout, but not isolated from the community either of the broader Twelve or the inner circle of disciples. Again, his argument cannot be reproduced in full here.

In the end, however, consider Bauckham's conclusion:
Thus, in deliberately preserving the perspective of his main eyewitness source through much of the Gospel, Mark is no less a real author creating his own Gospel out of the traditions he had from Peter (as well as, some others).

The perspective is that of Peter among the disciples, whether the inner group of three or more generally the Twelve. The perspective is Peter's "we" perspective, the perspective of Peter qua member of the group of disciples, rather than an "I" perspective, that of an individual relating to Jesus without reference to the others . . . Therefore there are no "private" reminiscences of Jesus, such as modern readers might expect in aw or closely based on Peter's eyewitness testimony. such expectations are inappropriate because it is Peter's teaching, not his autobiographical reminiscence, that lies behind Mark's Gospel. (179-180)
Overall, of all of the chapters in this book thus far, chapter 7 is the most difficult to follow and the least convincing. If it were not for the final two sentences of the above quote, I'm not sure I would adopt his conclusion. The distinction between Peter's testimony (almost dictating the Gospel itself) and Peter's teaching is important. His discussion of the Plural-to-Singuular Narrative Device needs time to sink in and I would love to see what other scholars have to say about it.

I am surprised, though, that Bauckham does not mention the Petrine epistles which include a reference to the Transfiguration nor to non-canonical evidence. The early church clearly connected Mark's Gospel with Peter's testimony. Consider, for example, what Eusebius said regarding Mark
For information on these points, we can merely refer our readers to the books themselves; but now, to the extracts already made, we shall add, as being a matter of primary importance, a tradition regarding Mark who wrote the Gospel, which he [Papias] has given in the following words: "And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements." This is what is related by Papias regarding Mark.
Eusebius makes a similar argument as Bauckham here and includes one of his references to Papias in whom Bauckham uses throughout this book. Clearly from the perspective of the early church, there was a connection between Peter and Mark.

For more:
"The Historical Jesus": A Lecture by Ben Witherington
"The Story of Jesus" Documentary
We've All Heard This Before: "Zealot" and the Same Search For the Missing Jesus  
12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels
Ravi Zacharias' 12 Arguments For the Historicity of the Resurrection
"The Case For Christianity" Documentaries
"Raised With Christ" by Adrian Warnock: A Review
NT Wright: Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead?
"The Jesus Inquest" by Charles Foster: A Review
"The Case for Easter"
"The Case For the Real Jesus" by Lee Strobel
"The Case For Christianity" Documentaries
The Quest For the Historical Satan: The Entire Series  

All Around the Web - April 29, 2014

Matt Capps - Free Theology Books for Kindle
Martin Luther

Tim Challies - The False Teachers: Benny Hinn
Critiques of Benny Hinn can span a multitude of areas—his Word-Faith theology, his “little god” theology, his claim that each person of the Trinity is actually his own trinity, his outright lies about his accomplishments, and much more besides. But for our purposes, we will recognize him as the world’s most recognized faith healer.

Hinn teaches that God intends for everyone to be healed of all of their diseases. If people simply have the faith to believe they can be healed, God will heal them through the agency of a healer like himself.

Hinn’s crusades are carefully constructed to lead and manipulate those in attendance, with singing and repetitive music that build a particular atmosphere and sense of anticipation. These crusades crescendo in a time where he announces that God has begun to heal people and he then invites those people to come to the stage to tell what God has done, a technique that was mastered by Kathryn Kuhlman and has since become a staple of faith healing. Hinn claims that God is working powerfully through him to heal others and begins to list those miracles, usually starting with ones that are invisible and unverifiable at the moment—diabetes, depression, and the like. As the healings begin, many people come forward, hoping for their own miracle. Generally, though, only people who claim to have already been healed are showcased on the stage where Benny speaks to them and then often “slays” them in the Spirit.

In this way he has manipulated countless people to give money to his cause, believing that giving money will be key to activating their miracle. Not a single one of Hinn’s miracles has ever been verified, though many have been proven to be temporary or false.

Liberate - Better Know a Theologian: Louis Berkhof
Louis Berkhof was born in Emmen, in the Netherlands, in 1873. His parents, Jan and Gessje, were members of the Christian Reformed Church, a denomination that came into existence out of a split from the Netherlands Reformed Church in 1834. In 1882, the Berkhof family emigrated to Grand Rapids, Michigan, when Louis was 8 years old.

While a teenager, Louis was the secretary of the Reformed Young Men’s Society in Grand Rapids, an organization whose purpose was“to study Reformed doctrine and the principles of Calvinism for all areas of human life.” Through Berkhof’s influence in this local society, it was organized on a denominational scale and became known as the American Federation of Reformed Young Men’s Societies.

Berkhof professed faith in Christ in 1893. This same year, at age 19, he enrolled in the Theological School of the Christian Reformed Church, which included a four-year literary course of study and a three-year theological course. The literary program was expanded into Calvin College, and the theological department became Calvin Theological Seminary. There Berkhof studied dogmatics with Hendericus Beuker, an admirer of the work of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck.

George Will - George Will To Steven Colbert: Liberals Want Everything To Stay The Same

The Atlantic - A Majority of Americans Still Aren't Sure About the Big Bang
A majority of Americans don't believe in even the most fundamental discovery of 20th century physics, which 99.9 percent of members of the National Academies of Sciences do: that our universe began with an enormous explosion, the Big Bang.

51 percent of people in a new AP/GFK poll said they were "not too confident" or "not at all confident" that the statement "the universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang" was correct. 
In fact, fewer Americans were confident in that statement that any other on the list, which covered topics like vaccines, evolution, and the Earth’s age.

The battle between cells and virus's

Monday, April 28, 2014

"Is God Anti-Gay" by Sam Allberry: A Review

And as someone in this situation, what Jesus calls me to do is exactly what he calls anyone to do. Take another well-known saying of Jesus:

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." Mark 8 v 34

 It is the same for us all - "whoever". I am to deny myself, take up my cross and follow him. Every Christian is called to costly sacrifice. Denying yourself does not mean tweaking your behaviour here and there. It is saying "no" to your deepest sense of who you are, for the sake of Christ. To take up a  cross is to declare your life (as you have known it) forfeit. It is laying down your life for the very reason that your life, it turns out, is not yours at all. it belongs to Jesus. He made it. And through his death he has bought it.

The moral universe is shifting rapidly beneath our feet. Everytime we turn on the news or read an article on our digital devices we feels the violence of this sexual, moral revolution. Who could have imagined just a few years ago, the rapid change in the polls regarding the nation's view on homosexuality, gay marriage, and other sexual lifestyles and choices? Who could have predicted how many Christians would abandon ship in order to save their brand?

Recently I was given a free digital download from Christian Audio of the wonderful book Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Allberry and I cannot recommend it enough. The book is short, taking the author only about two hours to read, and yet is full of biblical and practical insight that it has become the most important book on the subject of homosexuality and Christianity I have read.

The author openly gives testimony to his own struggle with same-sex attraction. I appreciate his honesty here. His personal struggle allows him to write in a winsome way that is honest, open, and clear. This insight into the personal struggles of homosexuality and the community along with his understanding of Scripture makes this a unique book in Christian circles. The author repeatedly offers clarity that I must admit forced me to repent.

Each chapter deals progressively with another serious issue regarding homosexuality and the gospel. For example, the author dedicates one chapter on what the bible says on the subject of sexuality in general and then follows it with a chapter on what Scripture says about homosexuality in particular. In these two chapters alone, the author provides real exegetical depth and clarity in such a short space that he manages to destroy often used liberal arguments while exhorting more conservative readers against fundamentalist interpretations.

The one chapter I appreciated the most regarded the church. It is clear that the author loves the local church and believes in her. Here the author provides the reader with biblical and gospel insight in how we, as Christians, are called to serve fellow image bearers who struggled with same-sex attraction.

Overall, I cannot, as I said above, recommend this book enough. I appreciate the free audiobook provided to me by Christianaudio. The book is read by the author (a personal preference of mine) and as always the quality is top notched. Every pastor, church leader, and Christian serious about the gospel in a post-sexual revolution, post-Christian world needs to read this book.

Christianaudio was kind enough to allow me a free digital download of this book. The quality, as always, was great

For more:
God and the Gay Christian?: A New Book by Albert Mohler and SBTS
Negotiating Our Surrender: Douthat and the Lordship of Caesar

All Around the Web - April 28, 2014

Trevin Wax - News Release: John the Baptist’s Beheading | Love this from Wax.
In other news today, a popular prophet who had a longstanding ministry by the Jordan River where he baptized the repentant was executed by beheading, under the orders of King Herod.

John, whose nickname was “the Baptizer,” was known for his unusual clothing and eating habits, along with a fiery style of preaching reminiscent of Israel’s prophetic tradition.

In recent months, John’s ministry had taken an unusual turn. His message focused more and more upon the arrival of a Messiah-King who he believed would usher in the kingdom of God. He spent the last months of his life in prison due to his vocal criticism of King Herod’s marriage arrangements.
Here is how people in Galilee and Jerusalem responded to the death of this controversial prophet.

Koinonia - What's the Difference Between Creeds, Confessions, Catechisms, and Councils?
1) Creeds: Basic Beliefs
2) Confessions: Denominational Distinctives
3) Catechisms: Practical and Understandable
4) Councils: Diverse Preservers 

John Stonestreet - Nothing-Buttery is Toast
It’s one of the dominant myths of our time. But scientism, as frequent BreakPoint listeners will know, isn’t science. Instead, it’s the ideology that science offers answers not just about the physical world, but about ultimate meaning, morality, or even the lack thereof. George Gilder at The Intercollegiate Review, calls this “the materialist superstition,” and BreakPoint online columnist Tom Gilson dubs it “science gone imperialist.”

C. S. Lewis inspired an even better name for it: “Nothing-buttery.” Christians, he said, are frequently confronted by the claim that experiences like love and joy are “nothing but” illusions created by evolution or chemical reactions in our grey matter. Advocates of scientism dismiss consciousness, mind and soul as “nothing but” the working of our material brains just as they dismiss life itself as “nothing but” accidental collisions and mutations in an only material universe.

The problem is that neither mind nor matter wants to be explained away. These things keep insistently drawing us into what NASA physicist Robert Jastrow once called “the supernatural.” But that doesn’t stop proponents of scientism from trying anyway.

With advances in brain scanning technology emerging almost daily, scientists and journalists are asking with ever greater urgency: where, inside our heads, do we live? What part of the brain is essentially “us”?

Tim Challies - Four Blood Moons
Four Blood Moons is a disappointment. Books like this will always prove a disappointment. At the end of it all Hagee won’t say what we should expect or exactly when we should expect it. He merely says that something big is going to happen in the near future. Vague predictions based on misused Scripture have a way of coming about.
I suppose we have already read this book, or others like it, a thousand times. It is, of course, based on endless speculation (and, as many have pointed out, another person’s research). What do we do with a book like Four Blood Moons? I say we ignore it. Let me give four reasons.

Hagee misuses Scripture. Hagee routinely misuses Scripture as he draws out his prophecies. He appears to read the Bible literally or metaphorically entirely on the basis of whether doing so suits his purposes. He approaches the Bible with his mind made up and then goes looking for proof of his assertion. Not surprisingly, he finds it wherever he needs to find it.

Hagee reads history conveniently. Four Blood Moons reminds me of the infamous book The Bible Code in its ability to predict the past and complete inability to say anything meaningful about the future. Hagee picks and chooses the historical events he will pronounce as significant while simply ignoring the ones that do not fit his point. He does not say, for example, that three of the four eclipses in this tetrad will not even be visible from Jerusalem, rather an odd fact if they are meant as a sign to and about Jerusalem. (An excellent article at AiG explains more about the lunar calendar and the occurrence of eclipses.)

BibleMesh - So England Is Populated by the Lost Tribe of Ephraim?
One afternoon in a Chicago used bookstore, I ran across a booklet with the intriguing title, Britain in Prophecy.1 I’d heard about something called “British Israelism” and of some connections with Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God. I was curious, so I plunked down my $6.00.

The author, Brian Williams, told this story: The southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin were allowed to return to the Promised Land from their captivity in Babylon. The 10 northern tribes—“Israel”—failed to make it home from Assyria and were dispersed among the nations. But prophecy demands that, in the end, they will be part of the Kingdom, so they must still exist. In this connection, Ephraim and Manasseh made their way to England and America, where they have been a blessing. (The general notion has appealed to some pretty famous people, including Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy, New Zealand Prime Minister William Massey, and Yale professor C. A. L. Totten.) As for Williams’s rationale, here are some items of his so-called “proof”:

Radical - Book Recommendations from Secret Church 14
Here’s Pastor David’s list of recommended resources  from Secret Church 14. These books can be a great way to dig deeper into some of the topics discussed during our recent simulcast. Since this year’s topic, “The Cross and Everyday Life,” covers a whole host of issues, we’ve listed these resources by category.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Live at the Masquerade

One of my favorite bands.

All Around the Web - April 26, 2014

Joe Carter - China on Course to Become 'World's Most Christian Nation'
Why It Matters:  In his book The Rise of Christianity, sociologist Rodney Stark estimates that during the first 350 years of Christianity, the religion grew at a rate of 40 percent per decade. During the 61 year period from 1949 to 2010, Christianity grew at a rate of 78.7 percent per year.

Part of the reason for the exponential growth is attributable to the sheer size of the population of China. With 1.351 billion people in the country, Christians comprise only 5 percent of the country. If current trends hold, in 2030 Christians in China will make up almost 9 percent of the total population. While the ratio of Christians to population would still be small, the total numbers are astounding. By mid-century, China may have more citizens who identify as Christians than the United States has citizens.

Christians in America often find reasons to be pessimistic about our religion's waning influence on our country. But we should remember that our land is not the last bastion of hope for the faith. The remarkable growth in global Christianity -- particularly in Asia and Africa -- should give us reason to be optimistic. The Holy Spirit is changing hearts and minds around the globe in a way that has not been seen since the first century after Christ's Ascension. For this we should be eternally grateful.
Those of us in the West should continue to support our Chinese brothers and sisters with finances, missionaries, theological resources, and -- most importantly -- prayer. In the latter half of this century, assuming the Lord tarries, we may need them to do the same for the American church.

Bill Mounce -  Ransom and Redemption (Heb 9:15) - Mondays with Mounce 225
Steve asked me about the NIV’s use of “ransom” in Heb 9:15. He wrote, “I've always been confused by the ransom concept, because it leads to thinking God paid a ransom to Satan or some such craziness, which is obviously wrong.”

As far as the ransom of Satan theory, it is obviously wrong; check out Wayne Grudem’s discussion in his theology. The price paid was paid to God. But here is the NIV: “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom (θανάτου γενομένου εἰς πολτρωσιν) to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

I was not on the committee at this time, so I have to respond as an outsider. The textbook definition of πολτρωσις is “price paid for freedom secured.” The price was Jesus’ life; the freedom was freedom from sin. The trick in translation is to see whether the focus of the verse is on the price paid or the freedom secured. My guess is that in Heb 9:15, since the emphasis is so clearly on the price paid (θανάτου), the word “ransom” best fits the context.

πολτρωσις occurs ten times in the New Testament. The NIV uses “redemption” in 8, “ransom” in our verse, at “released” in Heb 11:35 (which emphasizes the second half of the meaning). In other words, the NIV’s default translation is “redemption,” but you can’t really say in English “died as a redemption.”

Thabiti Anyabwile - Spoken Word Monday: “Forever and Ever” by Miss Terious Janette… ikz

LA Times - Moving in with parents becomes more common for the middle-aged
Debbie Rohr lives with her husband and twin teenage sons in a well-tended three-bedroom home in Salinas.

The ranch-style house has a spacious kitchen that looks out on a yard filled with rosebushes. It's a modest but comfortable house, the type that Rohr, 52, pictured for herself at this stage of life.
She just never imagined that it would be her childhood home, a return to a bedroom where she once hung posters of Olivia Newton-John and curled up with her beloved Mrs. Beasley doll.

Driven by economic necessity — Rohr has been chronically unemployed and her husband lost his job last year — she moved her family back home with her 77-year-old mother.

Financial Times - From Noah to Moses, why the renewed interest in Bible films? | Albert Mohler discusses this article here.
As far back as I can remember, Easter weekend in my Toronto household has involved Mass, new white shoes for first my little sisters and now my little daughters, and a burnished, eyebrow-rippling Charlton Heston on our TV, solemnly hamming it up as Moses for hours on end. My wife, who grew up hundreds of miles away in Milwaukee, likewise remembers Mass, ham, and Bible movies as Eastertime staples. For the Bible has been a source for movies since the earliest days of cinema – adaptations of Christ’s passion, and of the stories of Salome and of the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter were made in the early 1900s, while the earliest movies about the Ten Commandments and the Great Flood came out in the 1920s.

This year, however, Hollywood seems unusually interested in the Bible, and is offering several biblical releases during 2014. Son of God, released in February in the US, won endorsements from evangelical Christians and negative reviews from most film critics. And Darren Aronofsky’s Noah made its debut last month as the number one movie in America, winning both at the box office and in the (non-religious-conservative) review pages.

Friday, April 25, 2014

An Encouraging Thought: Gandalf on Providence

The doctrine of providence is a fitting one to study as one begins a new year. Since the release of The Hobbit, I have began re-reading the Fellowship of the Ring. I have learned that it is best to read the book that was turned into a movie after watching the movie. The reason for this is it allows me to enjoy the movie as is. I read The Hobbit years ago in college and thus will not re-read it until the third and final film is released.

With that said, while I am reading through The Fellowship of the Ring I came across the following dialogue between the wizard Gandalf the Gray and the hobbit Frodo. Frodo has inherited the Ring of Power from his uncle Bilbo (whose story is told in The Hobbit) and is learning from the wizard that he must destroy it. How Gandalf, through the Catholic J. R. R. Tolkien, describes the nature of the ring and the "chance" that Gollum, Bilbo, and now Frodo has possessed it is interesting and illustrates what Christians mean when they speak of providence.
"A Ring of Power looks after itself, Frodo. It may slip off treacherously, but its keeper never abandons it. At most he plays with the idea of handing it on to someone else’s care – and that only at an early stage, when it first begins to grip. But as far as I know Bilbo alone in history has ever gone beyond playing, and really done it. He needed all my help, too. And even so he would never have just forsaken it, or cast it aside. It was not Gollum, Frodo, but the Ring itself that decided things. The ring left him."

"What, just in time to meet Bilbo?" said Frodo. "Wouldn’t an Orc have suited it better?"

"It is no laughing matter," said Gandalf. "Not for you. It was the strangest event in the whole history of the Ring so far: Bilbo's arrival just at that time, and putting his hand on it, blindly, in the dark.

There was more than one power at work, Frodo. The Ring was trying to get back to its master. It had slipped from Isildur’s hand and betrayed him; then when a chance came it caught poor Deagol, and he was murdered; and after that Gollum, and it had devoured him. It could make no further use of him: he was too small and mean; and as long as it stayed with him he would never leave his deep pool again. So now, when its master was awake once more and sending out his dark thought from Mirkwood, it abandoned Gollum. Only to be picked up by the most unlikely person imaginable: Bilbo from the Shire!

Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought."

Encouraging indeed! The doctrine of God's Divine Providence is an encouraging one. You were meant to be where you are, with the family you have, with the job you enjoy, and the church you worship and serve at. If it were mere chance, as both atheist and Pelagians suggest, then fight! Providence reminds us that all that we are and have is a gift to be enjoyed from our Maker. To deny such providence turns us towards ourselves. We will always have enemies to fight and entitlements to demand.

So as we begin this new year rejoice that God is in absolute control and like in the Triology, God wins in the end. We are participating in a story much bigger than us, like Frodo and Sam. A story that ends in God's greater glory. Now that is an encouraing thought!

For more on Creation and Providence:
All Aspects of Our Lives Are Preordained: Grudem on Providence & God's Plan Calvinism on Providence
Providence and Prayer: Carson Response
Repost | "A Sweet & Bitter Providence" by John Piper
Tony Evans on God and Purpose
September 19, 2010 - God is Provident
April 29, 2012 | Ruth 1:1-22 - Better or Bitter: When Providence Means Suffering
May 6, 2012 | Ruth 2:1-13 - And It Just So Happened ...: When God's Invisible Hand Becomes Visible 
May 20, 2012 | Ruth 2:14-23 - Grace in Abundance: That's Why Its So Amazing
May 27, 2012 | Ruth 3:1-9 - Resting in the Providence of God - Part 1
June 10, 2012 | Ruth 4:1-15 - When Providence and Grace Kiss
May 29, 2011 | Habakkuk 2:2-20
August 1, 2010 - Matthew 6:25-34 - Worry and the Providence of God: What Our Anxiety Says About What We Believe About God

Creation and Providence from Millard Erickson:
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 9
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 10
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 11
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 12
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 13
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 14
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 15
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 16

All Around the Web - April 25, 2014

Denny Burk - Russell Moore, Franklin Graham, and Ralph Reed on ABC News

ABC US News | ABC Business News

Erik RaymondAre We Expecting Too Much or Too Little from the Church?
What I have found is that most people do not filter what they looking for in a church through the Bible as much as through their previous experiences or personal ideals. Some of the most common things that I’ve seen in the last 10 years of pastoral ministry include the following:

  • Besties: People are looking for other people that they have a lot of common with.
  • Youth Ministry: People are looking for the church to provide a Christian network of friends for their kids.
  • Children’s programs: People often look for the church to be the catalyst for family discipleship.
  • Mercy Ministry: Some people want to be a part of a ministry to meet the physical needs of the community.
  • Music: People look for a musical experience during the singing time of service.
But what if none of these things were actually the church’s job? What if we are expecting far too and far too little from the church?

The church’s job is to preach, teach, and apply the Bible. We are to be faithful in preaching, discipleship, evangelism, and service. There are not directives in the Bible for various programs for children or certain types of music. None of these things are bad, however, we should be careful to place the same level of emphasis on these things as the Scriptures.

The Gospel Coalition - How Can We Increase Ethnic Diversity in Our Churches?
Q: What can Christians do to increase the ethnic diversity in their congregation?

E: I've seen a lot of churches that have had communities that have changed in terms of ethnic and racial demographic around them, but those churches haven't changed for all sorts of reasons. That is a sign of some deep sickness going on in the congregation. I think one of the things that is necessary is saying it has got to be about more than saying whatever ethnic group is the majority group within that congregation. Your people can't have the mindset of, "We are going to minister to the other ethnic groups around us." Especially when your people have the mindset of, "We are here in this primarily Latino community­­­—or it is becoming more Latino­—so let's minister to the Hispanic people in our community." That is a mindset that I think needs to change, especially among majority ethnic groups of white people of America.

White people in America are really a tiny minority in the body of Christ. We are part of a cloud of witnesses, the Scripture says, in heaven. There aren't many white people there. Abraham is not a white guy, and neither is Jesus. These are Middle Eastern, Jewish people. Augustine is an African. You go through the whole list of everyone in the history of the church and that great cloud around us. We are not the people that God has given—whoever the majority race is or ethnic group in that church is­—to bless the nations. The nations are being blessed through the seed of Abraham, which is Christ. Which means we need to change that mindset.

Gene Veith - Even secular humanism depends on Christianity
Theo Hobson, in the British Spectator, critiques the New Atheist insistence that we can have morality–indeed, a better morality–apart from religion.  In doing so, he shows that even today’s secular humanist morality, which the atheists take as axiomatic, actually derives from Christianity.

A truly atheist, Darwinistic morality would look more like Nietzsche’s nihilistic will to power.  In contrast, today’s egalitarian benevolence would be impossible without the Christian teachings of creation and grace. 

Monday Tease - The iPad is a Tease
As Apple is about to release its latest quarterly numbers, new questions arise about the iPad’s “anemic” growth. The answer is simple – but the remedies are not.
The iPad isn’t growing anymore. What happened? 

In anticipation of Apple’s latest quarterly numbers – they’ll be announced on April 23rd – the usual prerelease estimates swirl around the Web. You can find Yahoo’s summary of analysts’ estimates here; Paul Leitao’s Posts At Eventide provides a detailed and tightly reasoned history and forecast for the March 2014 quarter.

The consensus is that for the company as a whole, there won’t be any surprises: Apple will meet the guidance stated in its January 27th earnings call. Revenue will be down, as befits the quarter following the Christmas shopping frenzy, but profit per share (EPS) will be up a bit.

Boring. With one glaring exception:

How Frozen should have ended.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

How Divine Immutability Shapes Our Theology

One of the most important, yet often overlooked attributes of God, is the doctrine of God's immutability which asserts that God does not change in essence or character. Although it has seen a small resurgence in Reformed circles, it remains obscure even among defenders of God's sovereignty. Even the Great Reformers themselves, apart from John Knox, though defended, did not see how central it is.

I have written on this doctrine in great detail before and those links are available at the bottom of this post. Here, however, I want to highlight how this fundamental attribute of God informs all other central doctrines of the Christian faith.

Theology Proper - We can never speak with any certainty regarding God's character or nature - from his benevolence to his wrath, from his transcendence to his immanence - if He is not constant. God is perfect and eternal benevolent and always will be. He is perfect and eternally just, provident, simple, and holy and always will be.

Bibliology - If God is mutable, then Scripture is either an ancient record of a progressing God, and thus no longer reliable, or is simply a myth. The line between those two is thin. Instead, if God is constant, then so are His promises and His revelation remains as relevant today as it was when ink first hit ancient papyri. 

Canon - The canon is closed. It is finished. God has perfectly revealed His work of redemption in Christ. There is no need for new revelations because neither God nor His message has changed.

Truth - Truth originates with God and is defined by Him. Truth, then, is nonnegotiable and knowable, because God has revealed Himself.

Marriage - What God creates, let no man redefine.

Christology - Athanasius rightly argued that since God is eternally Father, Jesus must be eternally, and thus immutably, Son. Down goes Arianism.

Pneumatology - The Holy Spirit continues to direct the church to look upon and adore Christ.

Soteriology - The way of salvation remains the same. Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.

Evangelism - The means of salvation are the same: the Persona and Work of Christ. Methods and technology might change, but we are still called to preach the same message.

Ecclesiology - Christ remains the Head and Lord over His church. The church's mission remains the same since its birth.

Preaching - Preaching remains God's primary means of reaching the lost and exhorting the redeemed.

Eschatology - God's promises remain. Jesus is returning to set up His eternal Kingdom.

Hell - It's still there regardless of man's feelings about it.

For more:
Did God Repent?: Jonah 3:10 and the Immutability of God - Part 1
Did God Repent?: Jonah 3:10 and the Immutability of God - Part 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 5 
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Introduction (Part 1)
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Scriptural Foundation (Part 2)
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Scriptural Challenges (Part 3)
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Theological Challenges (Part 4)
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Practical Implications (Part 5) 
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Theological Applications (Part 6)
The Immutability of God:  Its Truth and Relevancy - Theodicy & God's Sovereignty (Part 7)
Does God Suffer?: Aquinas on Divine Impassibility
Repost | Will the Two Become One?: Emergents Turn to Process Theology
Sermon Podcast - April 26, 2010 - The Immutability of God 

Jesus is the Rose!: Matt Chandler on Imputation

From Matt Chandler's book Explicit Gospel:
The preacher took the stage, and disaster ensued. I don't know how else to describe the sermon. There was very little Bible in it. He gave us a lot of statistics about STDs. There was a lot, "you don't want syphilis, do you?" and, "It's all fun and games until you have herpes on your lip." And in the middle of all this moralistic fearmongering, his big illustration was to take out a single red rose. He smelled the rose dramatically on stage, caressed its petals, and talked about how beautiful this rose was and how it had been fresh cut that day. In fact, he said, it was such a beautiful rose that he wanted all of us to see and smell it. So he threw the rose out into the crowd, and he encouraged everyone to pass it around.... As he neared the end of his message, he asked for the rose back. And, of course, when he got it back in his hands, it was broken and drooping, and the petals were falling off. He held up this now-ugly rose for all to see. And his big finish was this: "Now who in the world would want this? Who would want this rose now? Would you be proud of this rose? Is this rose lovely?" His words and his tone were merciless.

I was such and idiot, because during all that, I'd been praying that Kim was listening. I was praying that Kim would really hear what the preacher was saying about this dirty rose. But there was no real climax to the message. His essential message, which was supposed to represent Jesus's message to a world of sinners, was this: "Hey, don't be a dirty rose."

He then explains:

This approach was dramatically effective in producing shame but not really effective in producing hope. On the way home, Kim was quiet, even though we talked about the concert and what had gone on. I asked her on multiple occasions if everything was okay, if she was all right, and what she thought of the message. Throughout our drive she was quiet, which wasn't like her, but I just thought, naively, that maybe the Holy Spirit was convicting her and that we'd talk about it later and she would tell me she was a new creation.

Kim continued to act strangely around me for a while. About a week or two later, Kim didn't show up for class. She didn't show up for class for a week. I called and left several messages but couldn't get hold of her. After about three weeks, I began to get nervous. I wondered if she had dropped out of school. She had a dark past, and I wondered if she had fallen back into some of her old habits. Then I got a phone call from a woman who claimed to be Kim's mum. Kim had been in an accident and had been in the hospital right across the street from the university. So I hung up the phone with her mum, and I walked over to her hospital room. She was all bandaged up, and her face was still swollen. She had fallen out of a car that was going 70 MPH and had struck her head on the concrete and fractured her skull. The swelling wasn't so extensive as to cause long-term damage, but it did cause enough damage to keep her hospitalized for several weeks.

In the middle of our conversation, seemingly out of nowhere, she asked me, "Do you think I'm a dirty rose?" My heart sank inside of me, and I began to explain to her that the whole weight of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that Jesus wants the rose! It's Jesus's desire to save, redeem, and restore the dirty rose.
Chandler included this same parable in a sermon. Here's a clip of it.

Jesus is the rose. Praise God.

For more:
We are Supernaturalits First: What John 1 Has to Say About Creation
"Explicit Gospel": A Sermon Preached by Matt Chandler
Matt Chandler on the Idol of March Madness
Colossians 1:13-23: A Sermon Preached by Matt Chandler

All Around the Web - April 24, 2014

Owen Strachan - The Moral Majority Is No More: Millennials and a New Social Witness
They are born after 1980. They don’t know much about Thatcher, but they do know about Bieber. They take “selfies.” Much discussed, oft-misunderstood, they are the Millennials.

A December 2013 poll of this much-fretted-over demographic offered fresh light on their political views. Harvard University’s Institute of Politics conducted the poll and found that 35 percent of Millennials approve of Democratic congressmen and just 19 percent of Republican congressmen.

This data leads to rumination both sociological and theological. How, exactly, will Millennial Christians—in a jaded generation but not of it—engage with politics, with the public square? The way Millennials answer this question will play a vital role in the public prospects of Christianity in America and the West.

ERLC - VIDEO: Teaching children about sexuality

Tim ChalliesThe Bestsellers: 90 Minutes in Heaven
It is not often that a book races to the top of the bestseller charts and opens up the way for a whole new genre of Christian literature. But such is the case with Don Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven, a book that spurred an entire genre of what I refer to as “Heaven Tourism” books.

Don Piper was involved in radio and television ministry when he determined that he had been called to be a pastor. In 1985 he was ordained as a Baptist minister and was soon serving in Houston as a minister of education and single adults. It was shortly thereafter, in 1989, that he had an experience that would forever change his life and ministry. Fifteen years later, in 2004, he would team with Cecil Murphey and Baker Publishers to release 90 Minutes in Heaven, the book in which he described his experience.

On January 18, 1989, Piper was driving through rural Texas, returning from a Christian conference that had ended a little bit earlier than expected. As he was crossing a long bridge with water on either side, an 18-wheeler owned by the Texas Department of Corrections swerved over the center line and hit his Ford Escort head-on. Piper was killed instantly. The steering wheel impaled his chest and the roof collapsed on his head. Emergency medical technicians responded and pronounced him dead, laying him on the road and covering his body with a tarp.

Randy Alcorn - Walking through Depression: God Is With You
I have known depression first-hand at different times in my life. Several years ago, for no apparent reason, a cloud of depression descended on me. Day after day, it was my constant companion. God used it in my life, teaching me to trust Him, and giving me some intimate times with Him. I studied the life of Charles Spurgeon who battled depression, and found comfort in the fact that godly men and women had walked the same path I was walking.

I saw this experience as part of living under the Curse, and it made me appreciate more deeply the promise of God, “No longer will there be any more curse” (Revelation 22:3). Though I had written a number of books about the world to come, including Heaven, I came to long for it more deeply than ever, clinging to God’s promise for the resurrection and the New Earth.

I blogged about my depression, and in particular about Spurgeon’s experience, and many people wrote me and told their own stories. One morning, after four months of daily depression, I woke up, no longer depressed. I don’t know why it came or went, but I am certain God was involved in both its coming and going.

TelegraphChina on course to become 'world's most Christian nation' within 15 years
It is said to be China's biggest church and on Easter Sunday thousands of worshippers will flock to this Asian mega-temple to pledge their allegiance – not to the Communist Party, but to the Cross.
The 5,000-capacity Liushi church, which boasts more than twice as many seats as Westminster Abbey and a 206ft crucifix that can be seen for miles around, opened last year with one theologian declaring it a "miracle that such a small town was able to build such a grand church".
The £8 million building is also one of the most visible symbols of Communist China's breakneck conversion as it evolves into one of the largest Christian congregations on earth.
"It is a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It gives us great confidence," beamed Jin Hongxin, a 40-year-old visitor who was admiring the golden cross above Liushi's altar in the lead up to Holy Week.
"If everyone in China believed in Jesus then we would have no more need for police stations. There would be no more bad people and therefore no more crime," she added.

Want to feel old?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

From Lewis' Pen: Joy is the Serious Business of Heaven

From Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer:
I do not think that the life of Heaven bears any analogy to play or dance in respect of frivolity. I do think that while we are in this “valley of tears,” cursed with labor, hemmed round with necessities, tripped up with frustrations, doomed to perpetual plannings, puzzlings, and anxieties, certain qualities that must belong to the celestial condition have no chance to get through, can project no image of themselves, except in activities which, for us here and now, are frivolous. For surely we must suppose the life of the blessed to be an end in itself, indeed The End: to be utterly spontaneous; to be the complete reconciliation of boundless freedom with order – with the most delicately adjusted, supple, intricate, and beautiful order? How can you find any image of this in the “serious” activities either of our natural or of our (present) spiritual life? Either in our precarious and heart-broken affections or in the Way which is always, in some degree, a via crucis [way of the cross]? No, Malcolm. It is only in our “hours-off,” only in our moments of permitted festivity, that we find an analogy. Dance and game are frivolous, unimportant down here; for “down here” is not their natural place. Here, they are a moment’s rest from the life we were placed here to live. But in this world everything is upside down. That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is most like that which in a better country is the End of ends. Joy is the serious business of Heaven. (92-93)

From Lewis' Pen Series:
From Lewis' Pen: Not Idealistic Gas
From Lewis' Pen: But He's Good
From Lewis' Pen: Read Old Books
From Lewis' Pen: When Love Becomes a Demon
From Lewis' Pen: Until You Fully Love God
From Lewis' Pen: As the Ruin Falls
From Lewis' Pen: Screwtape on Marriage
From Lewis' Pen: Lay Down Your Arms
From Lewis' Pen: Aslan is on the Move
From Lewis' Pen: Lead us, Evolution, Lead us
From Lewis' Pen: Lead us, Evolution, Lead us
From Lewis' Pen: An Exaggerated Feminine Type
From Lewis' Pen: Theology as a Map
From Lewis' Pen: A Lot of Wrong Ideas
From Lewis' Pen: Children Know Better Than Grownups
From Lewis' Pen: The Historical Jesus
From Lewis' Pen: Aim at Heaven
From Lewis' Pen: Satan Speaks

For more:
"CS Lewis: A Life" by Alister McGrath: A Review
"If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis" by Alister McGrath: A Review 
McGrath on the Memory of Lewis
"Letters to Malcom" by CS Lewis: A Review
"Screwtape Letters" by CS Lewis: A Review  
"A Mixture of Fool and Knave": CS Lewis on Theological Liberalism
Lewis on Practical Theology
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics 
Theology As a Map: Lewis, Practical Theology, and the Trinity
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 1
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 2
The Most Unpopular of Christian Virtues: Lewis on Chasity - Part 3 
"Willing Slaves of the Welfare State": CS Lewis on Freedom, Science, and Society - Part 1
"Willing Slaves of the Welfare State": CS Lewis on Freedom, Science, and Society - Part 2
He is Not a Tame Lion: Aslan, Jesus, and the Limits of Postmodern Inclusivism  
To Be Undragoned: Aslan, Christ, and the Gift of Regeneration 
Lewis on Practical Theology  
Lewis on the Why of Democracy
From Uncle Screwtape:  Christianity and Politics      
Theologians I Have Been Influenced By - The Dead
"The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism" Full Documentary