Wednesday, September 30, 2015

From Spurgeon's Pulpit: Providence Has Eyes

From his sermon Providence (#187):
I hear one say, "Well, sir, you seem to be a fatalist!" No, far from it. There is just this difference between fate and providence. Fate is blind; providence has eyes. Fate is blind, a thing that must be; it is just an arrow shot from a bow, that must fly onward, but hath no target. Not so, providence; providence is full of eyes. There is a design in everything, and an end to be answered; all things are working together, and working together for good. They are not done because they must be done, but they are done because there is some reason for it. It is not only that the thing is, because it must be; but the thing is, because it is right it should be. God hath not arbitrarily marked out the world's history; he had an eye to the great architecture of perfection, when he marked all the aisles of history, and placed all the pillars of events in the building of time.

All Around the Web - September 30, 2015

Ross Douthat - Springtime for Liberal Christianity

Eric Mtaxas - Screwtape Proposes A Divorce

Eric Metaxas - Soul Mates?

Thom Rainer - Eight Reasons Many Pastors Lack Confidence

Atlas Obscura - Photos of European Churches Left in Holy Ruin

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the Johannine Writings

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introducing a New Series
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introduction
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus Today
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the OT
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in John's Gospel
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the Apostolic Witness
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the Johannine Writings

As was established in the chapter on the deity of Christ and the fourth Gospel, the nature of Jesus is an important (and even central) theme in the other writings of John. In the sixth chapter of the book The Deity of Christ, Dr. Andreas Kostenberger returns to highlight what the epistles of John and the book of Revelation have to say regarding the deity of Christ.

In regards to the epistles, Kostenberger shows their relationship with the Gospel. He writes:
However, it may be preferable to see John's first letter as standing in essential continuity with John's Gospel, whose purpose was bound up with the demonstration that "Jesus is the Christ, the son of God" (20:31).

If so, John's concern in 1 and 2 John would likewise have been to affirm that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God (1 John 2:22; 4:15; 5:1, 5, 10, 13), assuring believers of their possession of eternal life in Jesus. References to confessing - or denying - Jesus as "having come int he flesh," for their part, would then constitute a mere shorthand for confessing Jesus and the totality of his earthly, messianic ministry as narrated in the Gospel. If this reading of the evidence is at least approximately on target, John's letters should be understood as calling believers back to the essential message of the Gospel regarding Jesus. (152-153) 
What follows, then, is his defense of that thesis. I have always felt that 1 John mirrored closely the argument laid out in the Gospel.

Dr. Kostenberger then turns his attention to Revelation which clearly teaches the deity of Jesus. The evidence of this is numerous. The Alpha and Omega language is applied to both God and Jesus, Jesus is worshipped, doxologies are directed to Jesus, etc.

This leads Kostenberger to conclude:
Not only is Christ presented in terms of deity in John's Gospel, but also the same characterization continues in John's letters and int he book of Revelation. John's first letter was essentially written to defend the apostolic message as set forth in John's gospel against misrepresentation, reaffirming that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God. similar to the Gospel, John's first letter contains a startling concluding reference to Jesus in terms of deity (1 John 5:20; cf. John 20:28). Also similar to the Gospel, 1 John ties Jesus to God by using the language of "Father" and "Son" and identifies Jesus as the preexistent Word. (166)
In short, one cannot read Revelation without being confronted with the reality that Jesus is no mere teacher of morals. He is divine. To deny that the writer of Revelation believes that Jesus is to completely ignore the message of the apocalypse.

All Around the Web - September 29, 2015

Albert Mohler - Some Thoughts on the Reading of Books

Heterodox Academy - How Marcuse made today’s students less tolerant than their parents

Crossway - Is the Pope Really the Appointed Successor to the Apostle Peter?

Preachers and Preaching - Blood Moons and Biblical Discernment

Doug Wilson - Why Ministers Must Be Men

Monday, September 28, 2015

"Did Jesus Exist?" by Bart Ehrman: A Review

In my view humanists, agnostics, atheists, mythicists, and anyone else who does not advocate belief in Jesus would be better served to stress that the Jesus of history is not the Jesus of modern Christianity than to insists - wrongly and counterproductively - that Jesus never existed. Jesus did exist. he simply was not the person that most modern believers today think he was. (336)

Every movement has its extremes that gives them a bad name. The left, for example, has those that promote in the extinction of the human race. Libertarians have anarchists. Conspiracy theorists have to deal with those who believe the royal family are reptiles. Christians must deal with pastors who think burning Korans will advance the Kingdom of God. Every group has such fringe members.

Humanists have their fringe group to. There are plenty on that side who really believe that Jesus of Nazareth - the man behind the world's largest religion - did not exist. He was never born. He never lived. He never taught. He never died. The story that lies at the root of Christianity is a complete myth free from any historic context.

I picked up Bart Ehrman's book Did Jesus Exist? the Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth not because I was intrigued by a new issue. I was already aware of the mythicist argument. Rather, what drew me to this particular book was the author's take on the subject. Ehrman and I agree on little theologically. I am the sort of Christian that Ehrman has made a name for himself mocking and discrediting. Ehrman repeatedly tells the reader he is an agnostic and concludes he is sympathetic to the humanist cause.

In this book, Ehrman is not criticizing believers like me, but those in his own camp. That is what I found so interesting about this book. It is a fascinating work defending the historicity of a man worshiped by millions (if not billions) around the world Ehrman rejects as divine. Ehrman seeks to stand in the middle - neither docetic (if I can use that word here) nor orthodox.

Briefly, let us consider the arguments for the historicity of Jesus. Ehrman walks the reader through the available evidence: Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, etc. I appreciate much of what he says here and am actually sympathetic to some that he says. I was pleased to see what he had to say about Josephus. The two mentions of Jesus in Josephus are problematic, but I agree with Ehrman that though they were likely doctored later, he likely did say something about the founder of Christianity.

I especially appreciate what he had to say regarding the New Testament in general and the Gospels in particular from a historical perspective. It has been my experience that skeptics are quick to give credence to the Gnostic Gospels (which are clearly written much later) yet will at the same time,reject any and every claim in the New Testament. The Gnostic Gospels are clearly ahistorical and mythical, the Four Gospels at least present a historical narrative and were written much earlier (even with liberal dating). Ehrman, though rejecting both inerrancy and inspiration, argues otherwise.

Yet it seems the clearest "proof" of the existence of Jesus is the cross itself. It is simply undeniable. Every early document (from Q all the way through the Middle Ages) affirms that Jesus died. This is significant. No one would have made up this story unless there were some historical precedent. Christians ran around telling a story that both Jews and Gentiles would have rejected (see 1 Corinthians 1:18ff).

The author also tackles the most common arguments against I will not rehash them here. Most are outlandish and easily rejected. Ehrman takes them seriously but holds nothing back. In essence, he treats the mythicists as he would conservative Christianity.

Theologically, I agree with little with the author and this book. His specific conclusions are not mine. He rejects the deity of Jesus, the inspiration of Scripture, Pauline authoriship, etc. Obviously I affirm his main thesis: Jesus of Nazareth was a real human being. Yet what interests me is not Ehrman's theology (or lack there-of), but reading Ehrman address those in his own camp. He is at least intellectually honest enough to know that in all camps are cranks. His are mythicists and they should be called out as much.

For more:
Is the Original NT Lost?: Ehrman vs. Wallace

All Around the Web - September 28, 2015

Russell Moore - The Difference Between Being Offended and Being Persecuted

DA Carson - How to Read the Bible and Do Theology Well

Joe Carter - Know Your Rights as a Christian in a Public School

Trevin Wax - 3 Strands of Your Church’s History — And Why They Matter

Thom Rainer - 10 Reasons to Send a Weekly Email to Your Church or Group

Friday, September 25, 2015

All Around the Web - September 25, 2015

Denny Burk - 3801 Lancaster: American Tragedy

Tim Challies - Eve

Trevin Wax - Tips on Reading Better While Retaining More

Zondervan - Did the Early Church Teach ‘Faith Alone’?

John Stonestreet - Sensationalist Science

Washington Post - A statue of Billy Graham will likely replace a white supremacist’s statue in the U.S. Capitol

AW Pink on Revivals

Though I have preached many revivals, I have never held a revival at a church I served as pastor at. This does not mean I am against revivals per se but believe that a church must reconsider the purpose of revival.

It used to be that revivals were to both evangelize the lost and to revive the church. Such a system is practical in a predominately Christianized society. In a post-Christian society, however, I am not convinced such an approach is as effective. It is not an accident that the age of the crusade (from DL Moody to Billy Graham) seems to be waning. People don't come to church anymore. They are perfectly content to stay on the outside.

What the solution is, other than meeting the people where they are, I don't know. Revivals have there place (I have no doubt about that), but it is time we reconsider and re-strategize the revival in our efforts to fulfill our ministries.

This came to mind recently when I came across the following from A. W. Pink:
General religious conditions here are very similar to those which obtain in the U.S.A. The vast majority of the churches are in a sorry state. Those that are out-and-out worldly are at their wits’ end to invent new devices for drawing a crowd. Others which still preserve an outward form of godliness provide nothing substantial for the soul; there is little ministering of Christ to the heart and little preaching of ‘sound doctrine’, without which souls cannot be built up and established in the faith. The great majority of the ‘pastors’ summon to their aid some professional ‘evangelist’, who, for two to four weeks, puts on a high-pressure campaign and secures sufficient new ‘converts’ to take the place of those who have ‘lapsed’ since he was last with them. What a farce it all is! What an acknowledgement of their own failure! Imagine C.H. Spurgeon needing some evangelist to preach the gospel for him for a month each year! Why do not these well-paid ‘pastors’ heed 2 Timothy 4:5 and themselves ‘do the work of an evangelist’, and thus ‘make full proof of their ministry’? -As quoted in Iain Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink

Thursday, September 24, 2015

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 3

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Introduction
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Why Beowulf Matters
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 1  
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 2
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 3

Following the death of both Grendel and his mother, Beowulf and his warriors return to their homeland forever leaving the Danes behind. They are blessed with great wealth and gold for their war against the monsters.

The Danish monsters are dead. One Geatish monster remains to be defeated.

The Battle Against the Dragon

Shortly after his arrival in Scandinavia, the Geatish King dies eventually replaced by Beowulf himself. The narrative suddenly moves forward fifty years with Beowulf still on his throne. His rule has been a positive one but is about to face its greatest challenge.

A local dragon is awoken when he discovers that a gold cup is stolen. The hoarding dragon responds as only a dragon can. He kills, burns, and destroys. Once again Beowulf is called into action.

We see Beowulf in a similar situation as Hrothgar fifty years prior: well past his prime. His legacy is sealed and he has proven to be an effective leader. We would expect a hero from a new generation to come to Beowulf's aide, like Beowulf did for Hrothgar. But none is found. Beowulf must, once again, rise to the occasion and defeat the monster on his own.

Like before, Beowulf gathers a band of warriors to join him. Before challenging the dragon, he orders his men to wait while he fights the dragon alone. This creates a serious dilemma for the warriors. Will they follow their kings demand or follow the command of their post? It is their job to protect the king. If he is in danger, they must fight by his side.

As the battle rages, Beowulf is in serious danger. His men become frightened and flea into the woods. One warrior, named Wiglaf, joins his king and together they slay the dragon. In the fight, however, Beowulf is mortally wounded and slowly dies with some of the dragons hoard around him.
From his neck that prince of valiant heart undid a golden circlet and gave it to his knight, young wielder of the spear, and his helm, gleaming with gold, his corslet and a ring, bidding him use them well. 'Thou art the end and latest of our house of Waegmund's line. All hat fate swept away of my kinsfolk to their appointed doom, good men of valour - I must follow them!' That was the latest word that issued from the aged heart and breast, ere he betook him to the pyre and the hot surge of warring flames. From his bosom did the soul depart to seek the judgment of the just. (2358-2367, page 95 of Tolkien's translation)
The story ends with Beowulf's funeral where he is surrounded with much gold and treasure. Wiglaf, now king, concludes with a lament and sobering words for his generation. The earnest desire to create a society free from such violence is present, but so is his hopelessness of seeing it come to pass.

And so the tale ends. There is no sequel.

For more:
"Beowulf": A Review
A Shrewd Apologetic: Doug Wilson's Take on Beowulf
"A Companion to Beowulf" by Ruth Johnston Staver: A Review

Beowulf: Resources and Links
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary

All Around the Web - September 24, 2015

Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About Pope Francis

Jim Hamilton - Why You Need to Preach the Song of Songs

Tim Challies - A Powerful Practice for Prayer

The New Yorker - What Ever Happened to Google Books?

Christian Examiner - dc Talk's Jesus Freak still relevant 20 years later

The Blaze - Why the U.S. Government Will Now Be Using the Term ‘Sexual Rights’

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

From Lewis's Pen: To Love is to be Vulnerable

From The Four Loves:
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell. (121)

All Around the Web - September 23, 2015

New York Times - Googling for God

Stand to Reason Blog - What’s Really in the Planned Parenthood Videos?

Thom Rainer - Five Ways Some Senior Adult Churches Became Younger

Tim Keller - 3 Objections to the Doctrine of Election

CNBC - Cable companies given walking papers at intensifying pace

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the Apostolic Witness

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introducing a New Series
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introduction
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus Today
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the OT
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in John's Gospel
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the Apostolic Witness

After surveying how the Four Evangelists articulate the deity of Jesus, the editors of The Deity of Jesus explore how the apostles do the same. Once again they turn to the mind and pen of Dr. Stephen Wellum of Southern Seminary  and once again he offers a masterpiece.

Dr. Wellum begins by surveying a number of key passages in the epistles. They are:
  • Romans 1:3-4 - concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,
  • Philippians 2:5-11 - Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 
  • Colossians 1:15-20 -15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 
  • Hebrews 1:1-4 - God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
Of these four passages, Romans 1:3-4 is the only one that does not come immediately to mind in terms of its relation to the deity of Jesus. Nevertheless, these are indeed the four key passages which most clearly articulate the full deity of Christ. For the sake of space, I want to consider briefly two of these passages.

First is Philippians 2:5-11. Wellum is quick to note that this is the key classic proof text for Kenotic Christology which teaches that Christ surrendered portions of his deity. What follows is, in many ways, a response to that. Point three, to me, is most interesting. He writes:
Third, it s best to translate the difficult phrase . . . as, "He did not think equality with God something to be used for his own advantage." The issue is not whether Jesus gains equality with God or whether he retains it. The text is clear: the Son exists in the "form of God" and thus shares "equality with God" (v. 6). Instead, the issue is one of Jesus' attitude in regard to his divine status. As [Tom] Schreiener rightly points out, "Paul assumes that Jesus is equal with God. The verse does not teach that Jesus quit trying to attain equality with god. Rather, Paul emphasizes that Jesus did not take advantage of or exploit the equality with God that he already possessed." In other words, the grasping or advantage-taking does not have "equality with God" as its goal; rather, it begins from it. Thus the emphasis of the text is on the attitude of the preexistence Son who already is fully God - he did not regard equality with God as excusing him fro the task of redemptive suffering and death, but actually as uniquely qualifying him for that vocation." (124)
Point taken. He later adds, "The stress, then, is not on exchanging the "form of God" for the "form of a servant (slave)" but on the Son manifesting the "form of God" in the "form of a servant." (125)

Then there is this point made relating to Hebrews 1:1-4:
The Son's fully deity is further underscored in verse 3a: "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature." This language so strongly affirms the full deity of the Son that in church history, as [David] Wells reminds us, the Arians refused to recognize the authenticity of Hebrews on the basis of this text alone. (136)
Perhaps this is why the New World Translation softens the language a bit:
He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact representation of his very being, and he sustains all things by the word of his power. -Hebrews 1:3a
From here Wellum offers a more systematic theology approach to the deity of Christ providing ample evidence of the full deity of Christ from the apostolic writings.

I will make one point before concluding. Many of the epistles were written before the Gospels. Thus when people suggest that the emphasis on the deity of Jesus in the last Gospel (John) reflects an evolution of Christian thought are failing to consider the clear teaching of the deity of Jesus in the epistles. In the apostolic writings, the deity of Christ is explicitly defended and stated as the four passages highlighted above shows.

All Around the Web - September 22, 2015

Washington Post - Tax exemptions protect religious freedom. We should keep them.

Russell Moore -  What I'm Reading

Relevant Magazine - Report: A Christian Is Martyred Every 5 Minutes

National Review - In Welcoming Sanders, Liberty University Shows the Left How to Handle Dissent

Tim Challies - 3 Reasons We Need to Pray

Monday, September 21, 2015

"A Companion to Beowulf" by Ruth Johnston Staver: A Review

The oldest, and I believe one of the best, works in English is the anonymous work Beowulf. Since J. R. R. Tolkien made his compelling case for why it is more than just ancient superstition, Beowulf has been the subject of much scholarly study and interests. Since my first exposure to the book (just a few years ago) I have been intrigued by its narrative and theme.

Recently I cracked the spine of Ruth Johnston Staver's book A Companion to Beowulf in a pursuit of expanding my understanding of this Old English classic. Staver offers a wonderful book that those who are both new and familiar with the story will enjoy and find beneficial. I have read the story and done some research on it. Thus I am more familiar with it than the average reader, yet Staver showed me how little I actually understood and how much I had missed.

Consider the following regarding the lair of Grendel's mother:
Scholars have noted the similarity between the description of Grendel's mere and the description of hell in a tenth-century sermon. "Blickling Homily 17" describes hell in terms very different from the way modern culture depicts it. . . . one that is instantly familiar to careful readers of Beowulf. It is worth quoting in its entirety (translated here by Liuzza, 2000):
As Saint Paul was looking toward the northern part of this world, where all water descend, he also saw over the waters a gray stone. And north of the stone had grown very frosty groves, and there were gloomy mists, and under the stone was the dwelling - place of sea - monsters and evil spirits. And he saw that on the cliffs many black souls were hanging in the icy groves, bound by their hands, and devils in the shape of sea-monsters were clutching at them like greedy wolves. And the water was lack under the cliff below, and from the cliff to the water was about twelve miles, and when the boughs broke, the souls that hung on the twigs fell down, and the sea-monsters seized them.
What a horrifying vision! It has all the elements of nightmare: cold, helplessness against the pursuit of monsters, and a terrifying fall into water from which there is no escape. If we allow ourselves to believe in this image for a few moments, rather than remaining distanced by the antiquity and quaintness of the vision, it becomes a terrifying idea. Imagine the horror of Anglo-Saxon audiences to find that Grendel and his mother lived, literally, in a miniature hell. The banks are haunted by wolves, and the water is haunted by sea monsters who hunt victims like wolves. The overhanging trees are frosty, even in summer, the cliffs are high and a torrent of water falls from them. Where the "Blickling Homily 17" left out the fires of hell, Beowulf supplies them, in the fires that burn on the water at night. (86)

It is insights like this that draws me to conclude that Staver succeeds. The author provides a helpful guide of the book exploring its themes, history, and language. It also offers insight into some of its important aspects including it literary style, the influence of Tolkien and others, the role of religion in the book, an annotated bibliology of modern adaption of the story, etc.

In the end, I would highly recommend this book for students and scholars alike. Staver has clearly done her homework and has produced a book that is simple to read, follow, and learn from.

For more:
"Beowulf": A Review
A Shrewd Apologetic: Doug Wilson's Take on Beowulf
Beowulf: Resources and Links
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary

All Around the Web - September 21, 2015

Joe Carter - The Communist Roots of No-Fault Divorce

Russell Moore - Evangelicals Won't Cave

The Atlantic - The Rise of Victimhood Culture

John Stonestreet -  Maybe We're On the Right Side of History after All?

Weekly Standard - 20 Current Members of Congress Had Parents in Congress

Friday, September 18, 2015

Where is this Liberty?: Martin Luther on Freedom in Christ

From his commentary on Galatians 5:1:
"Be steadfast, not careless. Lie not down and sleep, but stand up. Be watchful. Hold fast the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free." Those who loll cannot keep this liberty. Satan hates the light of the Gospel. When it begins to shine a little he fights against it with might and main. 

What liberty does Paul mean? Not civil liberty (for which we have the government to thank), but the liberty which Christ has procured for us. 

At one time the emperor was compelled to grant to the bishop of Rome certain immunities and privileges. This is civil liberty. That liberty exempts the clergy from certain public charges. Then there is also another kind of "liberty," when people obey neither the laws of God nor the laws of men, but do as they please. This carnal liberty the people want in our day. We are not now speaking of this liberty. Neither are we speaking of civil liberty. 

Paul is speaking of a far better liberty, the liberty "wherewith Christ hath made us free," not from material bonds, not from the Babylonian captivity, not from the tyranny of the Turks, but from the eternal wrath of God. 

Where is this liberty? 

In the conscience. 

Our conscience is free and quiet because it no longer has to fear the wrath of God. This is real liberty, compared with which every other kind of liberty is not worth mentioning. Who can adequately express the boon that comes to a person when he has the heart-assurance that God will nevermore be angry with him, but will forever be merciful to him for Christ's sake? This is indeed a marvelous liberty, to have the sovereign God for our Friend and Father who will defend, maintain, and save us in this life and in the life to come. 

As an outgrowth of this liberty, we are at the same time free from the Law, sin, death, the power of the devil, hell, etc. Since the wrath of God has been assuaged by Christ no Law, sin, or death may now accuse and condemn us. These foes of ours will continue to frighten us, but not too much. The worth of our Christian liberty cannot be exaggerated. 

Our conscience must he trained to fall back on the freedom purchased for us by Christ. Though the fears of the Law, the terrors of sin, the horror of death assail us occasionally, we know that these feelings shall not endure, because the prophet quotes God as saying: "In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment: but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee." (Isa. 54:8.) 

We shall appreciate this liberty all the more when we bear in mind that it was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who purchased it with His own blood. Hence, Christ's liberty is given us not by the Law, or for our own righteousness, but freely for Christ's sake. In the eighth chapter of the Gospel of St. John, Jesus declares: "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." He only stands between us and the evils which trouble and afflict us and which He has overcome for us. 

Reason cannot properly evaluate this gift. Who can fully appreciate the blessing of the forgiveness of sins and of everlasting life? Our opponents claim that they also possess this liberty. But they do not. When they are put to the test all their self-confidence slips from them. What else can they expect when they trust in works and not in the Word of God? 

Our liberty is founded on Christ Himself, who sits at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. Therefore our liberty is sure and valid as long as we believe in Christ. As long as we cling to Him with a steadfast faith we possess His priceless gifts. But if we are careless and indifferent we shall lose them. It is not without good reason that Paul urges us to watch and to stand fast. He knew that the devil delights in taking this liberty away from us.

All Around the Web - September 18, 2015

Russell Moore - Have Evangelicals Who Support Donald Trump Lost Their Values?

Kevin DeYoung - Five Suggestions for Christians in the Midst of the Sexual Revolution

Tim Challies - I Am An Old-Fashioned Christian

Chuck Lawless - Eight Unexpected Blessings of Christianity

Denny Burk - Fiorina throws down gauntlet to Clinton and Obama

Thursday, September 17, 2015

We Are All Descendents of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 2

We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Introduction
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - Why Beowulf Matters
We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 1   We Are All Descendants of Cain: A Theology of Beowulf - The Story, Part 2

In the first part of the Beowulf, the Geatish hero defeats the first monster - Grendel. The characters assume that Grendel is the only threat to the Danes and so celebrate his death. Hanging above their heads in the Heorot is Grendel's arm - the trophy of Beowulf's victory. The Danes rejoice.

The Battle Against Grendel's Mother

Grendel returns to his home where he lodges with his unnamed mother to die. Upon the death of her son, the demon returns to the Heorot to kill in bloody revenge. Unlike Grendel, Grendel's mother sneaks into the mead hall. Whereas Grendel was quick to shed blood his mother enters the hall in stealth, drags off a Danish warrior and close friend of King Hrothgar as quickly as she can.

Beowulf was not there.

In the morning, it becomes apparent that the Danes were attacked by another monster. Once again, the Danes look to the monster-slayer, Beowulf, for help. He obliges.

Beowulf rounds up his troops and is accompanied by a party of Danes. Along the way to Grendel's Mother's lair, they find the head of the slayed Dane. Grendel's Mother lives in a type of hell. It is surround by a sea of blood where fire burns on top. Not even wolves go near the place. Beowulf is forced to swim down to the lair to face the demon.

To Beowulf's surprise, he enters another hall where he will face the mother of Grendel. The battle rages and Beowulf discovers that she too cannot be defeated with human weapons. Fortunately hanging on the wall is a giant-slaying sword of old. The hero grabs it and manages to sever the head of the demon.

Following the battle, Beowulf severs the head of Grendel and returns to Heorot to the surprise of everyone. The Danish assumed he was killed.

Rejoicing returns to the mead hall. There are no more monsters to threaten the Danes. Beowulf can return home. But this is not the end of the story.

For more:
"Beowulf": A Review
A Shrewd Apologetic: Doug Wilson's Take on Beowulf
Beowulf: Resources and Links
Clash of the Gods: Tolkien's Monsters Documentary

All Around the Web - September 17, 2015

Russell Moore - The Cult of Death and the Life of Christ

Eric Metaxas - Men and Women Are Not Interchangeable

Erik Raymond - The Cross Illuminates God’s Attributes

The Gospel Coalition - A Timely Model: Abolitionist William Wilberforce and the Pro-Life Movement

CBS Sacramento - Study: 20 Percent Of Teens Wake Up During Night To Check Facebook

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

4 Things to Look For in a Church

As a pastor, I meet people weekly who are looking for a house of worship to call home. With so many  denominations and varying churches, the decision can be difficult. Too often the decision is based on programs, opportunities, nurseries, music style, and other conveniences. Certainly these are issues worth considering, but that is not where we should begin.

It is imperative Christians not approach the local church as a consumer. The church is not a place where I am to be perceptually entertained with little to nothing expected of me. The church should call us to holiness, worship, and spiritual growth. Consumerism cannot produce that.

Therefore, let us consider four (we could add more) of the most important things to look forward in a church.

1. A Church That Faithfully Preaches the Logos and Gospel

If the gospel is not preached, then go somewhere else. Only a church that is Christ-focused and gospel-centered is worth joining. Without Christ and his gospel there is no church. Period. Observe the songs that are sang, the preaching that is delivered, the goals that are set, and the prayers that are offered. If Jesus is rarely mentioned and if the gospel is barely recognizable, please, for the sake of the church, go somewhere else.

But if Christ is the focus, then go and grow in the gospel.

2. A motivated church ready to reach its community

Strong leadership will be short-lived if the congregation is complacent and unmotivated. I am convinced many churches have lost great pastors simply because they were unwilling to be led by either the Spirit or by their pastor. The church must reach its community. This work requires each member to engage its immediate context.

When visiting a church, survey the church's annual and monthly calendar and its budget. If it spends all of its time focused on itself, then it unlikely is very engaged or motivated to become engaged with its community. But a church that cares more about reaching its neighborhood than regular potlucks is one worth joining.

3.Genuine joy and worship throughout the congregation

The gospel establishes genuine, unshakable joy in the believer. Thus a congregation serious about the gospel is evident in how they interact with one another and with guests. A lifeless church is a joyless church. A joyless church is a loveless church. A loveless church is a dead church.

If you see very few smiles among the people, look elsewhere, but if their joy is contagious, then it might be a community worth joining.

4. Strong servant-leadership

All "church growth experts" will emphasize the importance of strong leadership from elders, deacons, and pastoral staff. Weak leadership produces a weak church. That much is true and the pastor (along with other leaders in the church) are called to lead the congregation.

Yet leadership is described in servant-like terms. Jesus' model of washing his disciples feet makes this evident. Look for a church that models servant-leadership from its recognized and unrecognized leaders. If the people lead by serving, then that is a church God may be calling you to join.

For more:
Five Ingredient of a Growing Church: Insight From Bisagno
The Prerequisites of a Healthy Church
Hard Decisions SBC Churches Must Make Less They Die

All Around the Web - September 15, 2015

Conservative Review - At What Point Does the Homosexual Agenda Become a National Religion?

Grace to You - What is the Eye of the Needle?

The Gospel Coalition - 5 Ways to Talk to Your Children About Death

Church Tech Today - 10 Things you Can’t Expect from Church Volunteers

The Week -  4 reasons why independent bookstores are thriving

Monday, September 14, 2015

"Everyone's a Theologian" by RC Sproul: A Review

I have read a lot of systematic theologies and am always on the lookout for an easy-to read survey of theology that the average believer could read. Recently I picked up and read RC Sproul's book Everyone's a Theologian advertised as such.

Admittedly, I assumed by the book's title that the book was an exploration of how our worldview is a reflection of our theology. The fact that we are all theologians is a subject that interests me and I thought this was Sproul's exploration of that subject. Instead, the book is a simple survey of systematic theology and was still worth reading.

Sproul offers an easy to read (with some Latin lingo thrown-in) introduction to systematic theology that would be a helpful resource for the average believer. Most of the chapters are fairly short that does not dive deep into the theological pool.

Such survey's always have a major weakness. The book fails to speak clearly on some subjects (Sproul doesn't really address the age of the earth) while at the same time overlooks other key subjects (like some key attributes of God).

Sproul's strong Calvinism does appear some in the book but it would be false to say that this is another defense of Calvinistic theology. Sproul does not shy away from predestination or particular redemption, but he does not focus on Reformed theology as much as I anticipated.

Nevertheless, Sproul has penned a book worth adding to your library. Any pastor wanting to teach on systematic theology now have a resource that is easy to read and understand. For believers wanting to enter the world of theology, this will be a helpful tool to use.

Reformation Trust was kind enough to provide a free copy of this book for the purpose of this review.  

All Around the Web - September 14, 2015

Russell Moore - Questions & Ethics: Ashley Madison and the Absurdity of Sin

WORLD Magazine - Evidence mounts for viability of babies not considered legally ‘human’

Kevin DeYoung - The Sin-Crushing King and Our Destined-to-Die Conqueror

The Gospel Coalition - Do You Know How We Got the Bible?

The Atlantic - How Heaven Became a Secular Word

HT: Crossway

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How Can Christ Be Omniscient & Not Know the Timing of His Return?: Wellum's Take

One common criticism of Jesus' deity regards his apparent ignorance of the parousia. In Matthew 24:36, Jesus states:
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
Being that God is omniscient, how can Jesus be both divine and yet seemingly unaware of the timing of his own return? In his chapter on the Synoptics in the book The Deity of Christ (edited by Drs. Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson) Dr. Stephen Wellum shows that this text underscores his deity. He writes:
Now it is within this context that we need to think carefully about Jesus' famous confessed ignorance, or lack of knowledge of the parousia, which many argue count against viewing him as God the Son. . . . Throughout the history of the church, beginning with the Arian controversy, this text has been used to undercut the deity of Christ since surely if Jesus were God he would have known this information. Certainly, this text deserves a detailed discussion, more than is possible here, but it is crucial to point out that it does not provide grounds to undercut the deity of Christ. Rather, it is better understood in terms of the unique Father-Son relationship as discussed above, as well as the nature of the incarnation during the state of humiliation as Jesus acts as the obedient Son in order to accomplish our salvation. But with that said, even Jesus' admission of ignorance instead of leading us to deny his deity actually underscores his unique self-identity as the Son. How so? as noted above, the very use of the title "son" speaks of his unique filial relation to the Father. in addition, the context of this statement is centered in Jesus peaking of his coming in divine judgment, something which only god can do. Moreover, as Reymond rightly observes, the fact that the phrase "not even the Son" comes after the reference to angels, proves that Jesus views himself in a category all by himself - grater than any human or angel. In biblical thought, this carries with it an unmistakable divine claim. Thus, instead of undercutting Jesus' claim to deity, this text underscores it, albeit in ways that unpack the unique Father-Son relationship.

For more:
How Can Christ Be Omniscient & Not Know the Timing of His Return?: Paul Enns Weighs In
How Can Christ Be Omniscient & Not Know the Timing of His Return? 

All Around the Web - September 10, 2015

WORLD Magazine - Motions for defense: Christian higher ed braces for the post-Obergefell world

Russell Moore - Questions & Ethics: My Daughter Is Having a Same-Sex Wedding–Now What?

Erik Raymond - How Would You Pray for Kim Davis?

The Gospel Coalition - Christian Virtue in the Age of Authenticity

Washington Post - Conservative dissent is brewing inside the Vatican

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

From Spurgeon's Pulpit: Periodical Godliness is Perpetual Hypocrisy

From his sermon "All the Day Long":
We must have a seven-days' religion, or else we have none at all. Periodical godliness is perpetual hypocrisy. He that towards Jesus can be enemy and friend by turns is in truth always an enemy. We need a religion, which, like the poor, we have always with us; which, like our heat is always throbbing, and, like our breath, is always moving. Some people have strange notions on this point: they are holy only on holy days and in holy places. May we become so truly gracious that to us every day becomes a holy day; our garments, vestments; our meals, sacraments; our houses, temples; our families, churches; our lives, sacrifices; ourselves kings and priests unto God! May the bells upon our horses be "holiness unto the Lord!" God send us religion of this kind, for this will involve our being "int he fear o the Lord all the day long."

All Around the Web - September 9, 2015

Joe Carter - Why Kim Davis Was Right Not to Resign

Trevin Wax - How Marginalization Can Empower Christians On Mission

Preachers and Preaching - Penal Substitution and Church History

Eric Metaxas - The Tentacles of a Dilemma

BGR - This list of commonly used Ashley Madison passwords will make you shake your head (language alert)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in John's Gospel

"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introducing a New Series
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - Introduction
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus Today
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the OT
"The Deity of Christ": Blogging Through Morgan and Peterson - The Deity of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels

Of all of the chapters in Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson's book The Deity of Christ, the one on John's Gospel (written by Andreas Kostenberger) is the one would assume would be the easiest to pen. The Beloved disciple makes it clear that he wrote the Gospel to show that Jesus was divine and in believing him the reader will have eternal life.

But this chapter is more than that. Perhaps no one presents Christ in such a rich way than the Beloved disciple and Kostenberger introduces us to its beauty. Of all of the Four Gospels, I have studied John the most and yet I can never exhaust its amazing narrative and theology.

For the sake of space, I cannot highlight all that Kostenberger writes here. I would go so far as to say that this chapter alone is worth investing in the book. I would also add that no one should ever teach or preach through the fourth Gospel without first reading this chapter.

One of the main themes in this chapter regard how Jesus is the new temple. Kostenberger begins by suggesting that "John wrote his Gospel, at least in part, as a response to the religious vacuum left by the temple's destruction, a response that suggests as a permanent solution Jesus' replacement of the temple with himself." (96)

He then suggests that the two most important passages in this regard are his cleansing of the Temple (2:14-22) and his conversation with the woman at the well (4:19-24). In the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus points to himself. He will destroy this temple and rebuild it in three days - referring to his resurrection. Later Jesus tells the estranged woman that proper worship is not exclusive to Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem but in himself "where proper worship is to be rendered." (98)

Kosternberger adds:
In the remainder of the Gospel, Jesus is shown to constitute the replacement of the entire Jewish festal calendar, including the festivals of Tabernacles (chaps. 7-8), Dedication (chaps 10:22-39), and even Passover. As the Messiah, Jesus gives sight tot he man born blind, who in turn worships Jesus after the man is expelled from the synagogue (9:38). Johannine irony is present when the Jewish high priest fears that the Romans will destroy "our place" (i.e., the temple) unless Jesus is crucified (11:48-52). As John's readers were doubtless aware, however, the crucifixion of Jesus did not prevent the temple's destruction by the Romans. Finally, there is a telling silence in the second major section of John's Gospel (i.e., chaps 13-21) regarding the temple (cf. Rev. 21:22). This provides further indirect evidence that, for John, Jesus is the new temple who, by virtue of his crucifixion and resurrection, replaces the old sanctuary. (98)
From here, the writer explores other deity themes in John including Jesus as Logos, the "one and only son," son of God, son of man, the Great I Am, and as new creation.

In conclusion, I reiterate the importance of every teacher and preacher to explore the arguments made in this chapter. John, it is said, is a Gospel shallow enough for the youngest Christian to swim comfortably in. Yet it is deep enough to swallow an elephant. Kosterberger proves that here and it is wonderful.

For more:
Rethinking the Identity of the Beloved Disciple
Theology Thursday | The End: John 20:31 or 21:25? 

All Around the Web - September 8, 2015

Joe Carter - What You Should Know About the Kentucky Clerk Marriage License Controversy

Albert Mohler - “In this World You Will Have Trouble” — Welcome to Rowan County

Thom Rainer - Ten Signs a Pastor Is Becoming a Chaplain

Faith and Theology - Church attendance manual (4): The eight types of sermons

Monday, September 7, 2015

Why Caesar Rages Against Christians

In his double volume work simply entitled Apologia ("apology" meaning "defense") early Christian leader and philosopher, Justin Martyr, defends, promotes, and explains Christianity to Caesar himself. In one section that remains with me today is his dumbfoundedness of why Rome persecutes Christians so heavily. He explains to Caesar that Christians faithfully pay taxes, obey all laws, serve the poor, and even risk their lives to save those suffering from plagues. Persecuting, and sometimes executing, Christians for publicly exercising their faith, to Justin, made no sense. Christians were the sort of citizens Caesar needs.

So why did Caesar rage against Christians?

I have said before that Christian history has come full circle. The Apostle Paul, and Justin Martyr a few centuries later, ministered in a society grossly oversexed that eventually became predominately Christian. We now live in what was once a predominately Christian nation that is quickly (and I mean quickly) becoming oversexed.It should not surprise us, therefore, that the question Justin Martyr asked Caesar is increasingly becoming the question we Christians are having to ask today. Why are Christians being punished, ignored, mocked, and constantly derided for publically exercising theri faith? Why is Christianophobia on the rise? Why are Christians constantly called to redefine their faith? Why?

That is to say, why is Caesar, once again, raging against Christians?

I think I have an answer but first we must understand the Roman world. Rome was polytheistic (to say the least.) She was also tolerant (in a limited sense). When Rome extended its borders (usually through war) they welcomed the religion and gods of conquered people under the prerequisite that the conquered would also adopt the Roman gods. That was Roman tolerance. So long as Roman religion was not attacked or derided, one was free to worship as they pleased.Today we might call this the "freedom of worship" as opposed to "the freedom of religion." So long as Christians privatized their faith Rome remained "tolerant." However, once Christianity entered the public square or the market place, Caesar intervened.

And today the same policy is gaining in dominance.

This, I believe, explains our world today. America, and the rest of the secular West with her, is not interested in regulating the doctrine of the Trinity or weighing in on baptism; they will, however, intervene when local clerks refuse to marry homosexuals or bakers refuse to just "do their job." "What you say and believe in your pew is perfectly fine," says Caesar, "but you had better put it on the shelf during the rest of the week." The golden statute of "tolerance" demands our allegiance and Caesar is not afraid to use the fire for all dissenters.

Regardless, Christians in Rome openly called for the tearing down Roman gods. Most notable was the gods and goddesses of sex. The gods of today, remain the same.

Recently an exhibit at The National Portrait Gallery celebrating our nation's "Struggle for Justice" (as the exhibit was called) was protested for one simple reason. The exhibit included a bust of Margaret Sanger - the racist, eugenicists who founded Planned Parenthood. The history of Planned Parenthood is anything but progressive and it continues the work of its founder. As one protester noted, had Sanger's vision come to fruition, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks would have never been born.

Neither would have Barack Obama.

The Gallery is shocked at the protest. Sanger's presence in the gallery, and her ongoing popularity, is for one primary reason: her promotion of "contraception" (especially abortion and birth control) is what has fueled the sexual revolution. Modern contraceptives and abortion has severed sex from marriage.

And so we all bow!

Secularism cares more about sex than it does justice. In fact, sexual liberation is the greatest act of justice to the secular mind and Margaret Sanger created a sanctuary for its worship: the abortion clinic. It is behind the fashioned doors of the inner city Planned Parenthood where Eros can be properly worshipped without the interruption of unwanted children.

The recent incarceration of Kim Davis - anything but a violent criminal worthy of a mugshot - proves this thesis further. Elected leaders refusing to enforce the law is nothing new. In his first term, President Barack Obama refused to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act and later refused to enforce his own law: the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Finally, both the current administration and its immediate predecessors have refused to enforce immigration laws deriding anyone concerned with illegal immigration as racists.

Meanwhile, no one bats an eye. In fact, such contempt for the Constitution is lauded as brave, bold, and "on the right side of history."

President Obama is not the only elected official to refuse to enforce the law. In a recent post, the National Review highlights the following examples:
  • In 2004, Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco directed city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of California state law. 
  • In 2004, Mayor Jason West of New Paltz directed city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of New York state law. 
  • In 2010, attorney general Jerry Brown declined to answer legal challenges to California’s marriage law, which, after Proposition 8, was that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid.” His job was to represent the state of California in legal matters and defend its laws, including those he didn’t like. 
  • In 2013, D. Bruce Hanes, an official of Montgomery County, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, in defiance of Pennsylvania state law. The history of the movement to redefine marriage is shot through with defiance of laws that those who broke them sincerely felt were deeply wrong.
They then conclude, "To be consistent, anyone who thinks that Newsom, West, Brown, and Hanes were courageous and principled must now judge Davis by the same standard."

Nevertheless, while such "courageous" civil disobedience by elected officials continues no one bats an eye. In fact, such contempt for the law  is lauded as brave, bold, and "on the right side of history."

But the minute a Kentucky elected official who is also a converted Christian refused to sign marriage licenses because her faith warns her that severing her conscience is a sin, judicial Caesar's bear their fangs and incarcerate her.

Her crime is not simply she refused to marry homosexuals (or anyone for that matter). Her real crime is she refused to synchronize the risen Lord Jesus with America's religion of sex. She can be a Christian, Caesar assures her, just not in her role as an elected official that refuses to celebrate in erotic anarchy.

The solutions to the Kim Davis case are numerous and I do believe she could have handled the situation better. Regardless, Governor Beshear's continues to refuse to deal with the issue as are most elected officials in the state of Kentucky of both parties. The proper response would be to impeach Mrs. Davis, not to arrest her. But why should Caesar take such action? He is not interested in accommodation. He certainly will not negotiate with so-called bigots who refuse to bow Aphrodite.

In the end, the sexual revolution has never been about sex, but about worship and Kim Davis is on the wrong side of that debate.

This is the world we now live in. For Christians reading this you need to be aware of this. Caesar is not your friend and never was. Apart from a miraculous revival of repentance in our nation, Christians will continue to be marginalized. This has always been the spirit of the Beast yet this is is not reason to fear for by standing firm and living out our faith may result in mockery and incarceration from the culture, we have read the end of the story. God works well when Christians are in the minority and being shouted them down while standing firm in the faith.

In the end, let us not forget that Justin's surname was not "Martyr." No mailbox of his contained the name. It is history's badge of honor. He pleaded that Caesar would open his eyes and rule accordingly. Caesar refused and Justin gained a great victory in the end once his head literally began to roll.

All Around the Web - September 7, 2015

Russell Moore - Ashley Madison Is Just the Beginning

Eric Metaxas - Margaret Sanger, Busted

Canon and Culture - 10 Lies You Must Affirm in Order to Look at Porn

Trevin Wax - Don’t Let The Media Control Your Experience of Election 2016

The Atlantic - How Telephone Etiquette Has Changed

Friday, September 4, 2015

A Brief Thought on Rereading Books

Recently while in sermon prep, I picked up an old book I have not read in many years. I originally bought the book while in high school and loved the author and the book's contents, yet for some reason it stayed there. Over a decade later I cracked the spine again.

Since high school I have written in my books. Given the distant of years between readings, I particularly appreciate writing in my books for it is like going back in time forcing me to think about the man I was then and the man I am now.

On page 100 of Charles Swindoll's book Elijah: A Man of Heroism and Humility, I put an exclamation mark next to the following paragraph:
The Bible is God's inspired truth. It is wholly trustworthy, for god is trustworthy. It is our sacred guide, written for our instruction. But it is not some kind of rabbit’s foot we carry about, hoping for good luck. It is to be read intelligently, interpreted carefully, treated respectfully, handled wisely, and applied correctly. Down through the centuries the Scriptures have been misread and twisted, forced and abused, by saints and sinners alike. Often, those who go farthest away from God’s intended direction are those who pull promises from their original and unique settings and push them, inappropriately, into applications they were never meant to fulfill. 
My thought upon reading these words again: Though I have changed in many ways since I first read this book, the truth of the above paragraph has not. That is good news indeed.

All Around the Web - September 4, 2015

Christ and Pop Culture - Should We Go Down the Ashley Madison Rabbit Hole?

Justin Taylor - The 9th Planned Parenthood Video

Trevin Wax - 3 Reasons We Get Scared of the Holy Spirit

Reuters - 'Sister Wives' clan uses same-sex marriage ruling in polygamy case

Baptist21 - Reflections on the IMB’s Announcement

Thursday, September 3, 2015

From Luther's Pen: Why Churches Should Financially Support Their Pastor

I am preaching Galatians 6:6-10 Sunday morning. Of all that I have come across no one has been as bold as Martin Luther regarding verse six which speaks of supporting one's pastor. In Galatians 6:6, Paul writes, "The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him." In response, Luther offers the following comment:
Now the Apostle also addresses the hearers of the Word requesting them to bestow "all good things" upon those who have taught them the Gospel. I have often wondered why all the apostles reiterated this request with such embarrassing frequency. In the papacy I saw the people give generously for the erection and maintenance of luxurious church buildings and for the sustenance of men appointed to the idolatrous service of Rome. I saw bishops and priests grow rich until they possessed the choicest real estate. I thought then that Paul's admonitions were overdone. I thought he should have requested the people to curtail their contributions. I saw how the generosity of the people of the Church was encouraging covetousness on the part of the clergy. I know better now.

As often as I read the admonitions of the Apostle to the effect that the churches should support their pastors and raise funds for the relief of impoverished Christians I am half ashamed to think that the great Apostle Paul had to touch upon this subject so frequently. In writing to the Corinthians he needed two chapters to impress this matter upon them. I would not want to discredit Wittenberg as Paul discredited the Corinthians by urging them at such length to contribute to the relief of the poor. It seems to be a by-product of the Gospel that nobody wants to contribute to the maintenance of the Gospel ministry. When the doctrine of the devil is preached people are prodigal in their willing support of those who deceive them.

We have come to understand why it is so necessary to repeat the admonition of this verse. When Satan cannot suppress the preaching of the Gospel by force he tries to accomplish his purpose by striking the ministers of the Gospel with poverty. He curtails their income to such an extent that they are forced out of the ministry because they cannot live by the Gospel. Without ministers to proclaim the Word of God the people go wild like savage beasts.

Paul's admonition that the hearers of the Gospel share all good things with their pastors and teachers is certainly in order. To the Corinthians he wrote: "If we have sown unto you spiritual things is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" (I Cor. 9:11.) In the old days when the Pope reigned supreme everybody paid plenty for masses. The begging friars brought in their share. Commercial priests counted the daily offerings. From these extortions our countrymen are now delivered by the Gospel. You would think they would be grateful for their emancipation and give generously for the support of the ministry of the Gospel and the relief of impoverished Christians. Instead, they rob Christ. When the members of a Christian congregation permit their pastor to struggle along in penury, they are worse than heathen.

Before very long they are going to suffer for their ingratitude. They will lose their temporal and spiritual possessions. This sin merits the severest punishment. The reason why the churches of Galatia, Corinth, and other places were troubled by false apostles was this, that they had so little regard for their faithful ministers. You cannot refuse to give God a penny who gives you all good things, even life eternal, and turn around and give the devil, the giver of all evil and death eternal, pieces of gold, and not be punished for it.

The words "in all good things: are not to be understood to mean that people are to give all they have to their ministers, but that they should support them liberally and give them enough to live well.
This is both penetrating and convicting. People are liberal with their support toward those who preach diabolical doctrines (the prosperity preachers come immediately to mind) but "stingy" when it comes to supporting many sound, God-fearing ministers of the gospel. When we see that spiritual work is as crucial to life as physical labor, then we will not cause minister's to suffer unjustly. 

Keeping a pastor poor on purpose does not make a church spiritual, but heretical.

All Around the Web - September 3, 2015

Trevin Wax - 4 reasons Hillary Clinton should apologize for her inflammatory abortion rhetoric (COMMENTARY)

Kirsten Powers - Kirsten Powers: Donald Trump, evangelical scam artist

The Gospel Coalition - Why Should We Study Systematic Theology?

Bloomberg - Clerk Must Issue Gay-Marriage Licenses After High Court Rebuff

Preachers and Preaching - Exegetical Fallacies: The Word Study Fallacy

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

From Lewis's Pen: On Death

From Miracles:
On the one hand Death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall, and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane: the Life of Lives that was in Him detested this penal obscenity not less than we do, but more. On the other hand, only he who loses his life will save it. We are baptised into the death of Christ, and it is the remedy for the Fall. Death is, in fact, what some modern people call “ambivalent.” It is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and unholy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered.

Satan produced human Death. But when God created Man He gave him such a constitution that, if the highest part of it rebelled against Himself, it would be bound to lose control over the lower parts: i.e., in the long run to suffer Death. This provision may be regarded equally as a punitive sentence (“In the day ye eat of that fruit ye shall die”), as a mercy, and as a safety device. It is punishment because Death—that Death of which Martha says to Christ, “But . . . Sir . . . it’ll smell”—is horror and ignominy. (“I am not so much afraid of death as ashamed of it,” said Sir Thomas Browne.) It is mercy because by willing and humble surrender to it Man undoes his act of rebellion and makes even this depraved and monstrous mode of Death an instance of that higher and mystical Death which is eternally good and a necessary ingredient in the highest life. “The readiness is all”—not, of course, the merely heroic readiness but that of humility and self-renunciation. Our enemy, so welcomed, becomes our servant: bodily Death, the monster, becomes blessed spiritual Death to self, if the spirit so wills—or rather if it allows the Spirit of the willingly dying God so to will in it. It is a safety device because, once Man has fallen, natural immortality would be the one utterly hopeless destiny for him. Aided to the surrender that he must make by no external necessity of Death, free (if you call it freedom) to rivet faster and faster about himself through unending centuries the chains of his own pride and lust and of the nightmare civilisations which these build up in ever-increasing power and complication, he would progress from being merely a fallen man to being a fiend, possibly beyond all modes of redemption. This danger was averted. The sentence that those who ate of the forbidden fruit would be driven away from the Tree of Life was implicit in the composite nature with which Man was created. But to convert this penal death into the means of eternal life—to add to its negative and preventive function a positive and saving function—it was further necessary that death should be accepted. Humanity must embrace death freely, submit to it with total humility, drink it to the dregs, and so convert it into that mystical death which is the secret of life. But only a Man who did not need to have been a Man at all unless He had chosen, only one who served in our sad regiment as a volunteer, yet also one who was perfectly a Man, could perform this perfect dying; and thus (which way you put it is unimportant) either defeat Death or redeem it. He tasted death on behalf of all others. He is the representative “Die-er” of the universe: and for that very reason the Resurrection and the Life. Or conversely, because He truly lives, He truly dies, for that is the very pattern of reality. Because the higher can descend into the lower He who from all eternity has been incessantly plunging Himself in the blessed death of self-surrender to the Father can also most fully descend into the horrible and (for us) involuntary death of the body. Because Vicariousness is the very idiom of the reality He has created, His death can become ours. The whole Miracle, far from denying what we already know of reality, writes the comment which makes that crabbed text plain: or rather, proves itself to be the text on which Nature was only the commentary. In science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself. (210-212)