Monday, March 31, 2008

calvin is whack

"If we believe that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we shall neither reject nor despise the truth itself, wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to insult the Spirit of God…All truth is from God, and consequently if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it, for it has come from God." ~ John Calvin, The Institutes II, ii, 15 translated by John Allen. 2 Vols. Philadelphia Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1909 and Commentary on Titus, 1:12; as quoted by David Seamands, Healing Grace, 187)


the spirit in community

"Catholicism increasingly followed the path of the cults in making a rite the center of its activities, and Protestantism followed the path of the synagogue in placing a book at the center of its services - it would be true to say that in most respects it remains no less revolutionary today. Of course the Bible and communion are fundamental to what takes place in church, but church should not be reduced to "word and sacrament." There is more to the Spirit's presence and work than this." ~ Robert Banks, Paul's Idea of Community

Saturday, March 29, 2008

formality v. affections

“It is as much an error to dismiss affections entirely as unimportant to the reality of true religion as it is to focus on high affections without regard to their source or nature. Satan is happy with either error. He would as much have us fall into a lifeless formality as he would that we be stirred and energized by affections unrelated to truth.” ~ Sam Storms - Signs of the Spirit; an interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections. p.56


Thursday, March 27, 2008

tolerable sins

"If your Calvinism or Arminianism or dispensationalism or views concerning the end times or your disdain for all doctrinal beliefs causes you to feel doctrinally superior to those who hold other views then you are probably guilty of the sin of doctrinal pride". ~ Jerry Bridges - "Respectable Sins - Confronting the Sins We Tolerate" - Navpress (2007) - (p92).

Good except he couldn't have meant the Calvinism piece ...


charismatics beware

My friend, Randy No-Blog, just tipped me off to this one.

Police Call Church Music 'Disorderly'

According to, a Michigan church filed a federal lawsuit after police officers, led by a local prosecutor, entered the sanctuary at least twice without a warrant alleging the church's music was too loud and, in one instance, threatened to arrest church musicians for disorderly conduct. Faith Baptist Church, with a congregation of about 10,000 members, is suing local officials in the Township of Waterford, Mich., in a First Amendment case a church attorney said could have national ramifications in establishing what local governments can do in regulating churches. The suit - alleging the township violated the church's freedom of religious expression, freedom of speech and freedom of association - was filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Detroit after the church had been subject to what it describes as raids by the Waterford Police Department, led by township prosecutor Walter Bedell. At least one of those raids occurred during a Sunday service, according to the suit. The church played contemporary Christian music that included guitars, drums, and other instruments. Township officials contend they were simply trying to enforce local noise laws and that the church is being a bad neighbor.

Now if No-Blog gets his way, this is just a first step toward eliminating Charismatic worship. He would support the aforementioned action based on the "local noise laws" but it would not be long until he and his ilk get their definition of disorderly as the one enforced by authorities.

Charismatics beware!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

who are you witnessing for?

No man can bear witness to Christ and to himself at the same time. No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save. ~ John Stott, Between Two Worlds, 325


miracles still happen

This just in from TBNN ... kinda makes you a believer doesn't it?

Man Sees Image of Toast in Virgin Mary Picture

Chicago, Il - Hundreds of people are lined up outside of Terry Jenkins' apartment to see what some are calling "a miracle." The 45-year-old construction worker and life-long resident of Chicago is fast becoming a celebrity in his home city because of a startling discovery he made last week while praying. According to Jenkins he was praying while looking at a 5x5 picture of Mary in his apartment when something caught his eye.

"I had never noticed it before but there was something strange behind Mary's left hand in the picture," said Jenkins. "As I gazed at the picture and examined it closely it became clear that what I was seeing looked exactly like a piece of toast, just like the kind you would make for breakfast."

Jenkins immediately called several of his friends to come see what he had discovered. After several minutes of looking at the picture they all agreed also that it appeared that Mary was coving a piece of toast with her left hand. Word quickly began to get around the community. Soon people were showing up at Jenkins' door asking to see the picture.

As of Tuesday, over 900 people had come by to see the image. While some are skeptical, many are convinced that the appearance of the toast is indeed a miracle.

"It is a marvelous and wondrous thing that toast would appear to us in a picture of the Virgin," said Maria Sanchez, one of the spectators. "It is obviously white bread, only lightly toasted, perhaps with a little light spread of butter or margarine on top. I can only see the corner of the toast, so I don't know if there's any jam in the center or not."

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

surprised by hope

"The resurrection of Jesus offers itself, to the student of history or science no less than the Christian or theologian, not as an odd event within the world as it is but as the utterly characteristic, prototypical, and foundational event within the world as it has begun to be. It is not an absurd event within the old world but the symbol and starting point of the new world. The claim advanced by Christianity is of that magnitude: Jesus of Nazareth usher in not simply a new religious possibility, not simply a new ethic or a new way of salvation, but a new creation....

We could cope – the world could cope – with a Jesus who ultimately remains a wonderful idea inside his disciples; minds and heart. The world cannot cope with a Jesus who comes out of the tomb, who inaugurates God’s new creation right in the middle of the old one." ~ N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope


Saturday, March 22, 2008

faith v. knowledge

The Christian life begins and ends by faith (Gal 2-3; Ro 3-5). Robert Burns rightly states the following in regard to human effort and the Christian life.
Exertion of one's own willpower through energetic attempts at moral or spiritual reform, scrupulous observance of personal or corporate religious rituals, or involvement in various pious or mystical exercises cannot achieve this. It begins only through faith, faith by itself being a manifestation of the grace of God, however much human activity is engaged. (Ro 10.1-10; Col 2.16-3.4; Ro 3.21-38; Eph 2.8-10)

At the same time, faith comes from hearing the Word of God which of course involves persuading and commending - both being human effort and that being one of conferring knowledge. And so Burns continues.

It is through faith alone that the process of becoming a Christian begins, and it is knowledge about Christ that alone makes this possible. The crucial role knowledge plays comes through in Paul's numerous descriptions of his apostolic work - essentially he imparts knowledge or declares truth wherever he goes. Yet this ministry is not simply a matter of speaking or informing, and convincing, even when we see in it the persuasive power of the Spirit rather than mere human reasoning. Paul and his companions share with the audiences not only the gospel of God but also our own selves. Their message is as much embodied in the actions as formulated in their words. Through both word and action their hearers learn the meaning of the message and on both model their response. The message is at its heart a message about suffering; it involves affliction for the preachers, just as it does for those who accept it. Affliction is a part of life for everyone who genuinely presents and receives the gospel.

And this is why knowledge is central to the ongoing life of community. We must be increased with it, enriched by it, renewed through it, and filled with it. Paul tells us in Romans and Ephesians that our growth is linked to the renewing of our minds. It is this renewing that we should set our minds on. Burns argues that neglecting to do so in the context of community is a serious matter.

When they have neglected to do so he [Paul] insists that they come to their right mind; on matter of indifference he advises everyone to be fully convinced in his own mind; on issues where there should be no dispute he encourages them to be united in the same mind and in the same judgement. Indeed, the members of the community are to judge all things and to weigh all things, especially in church. ... In all their thinking they are to bring every thought into captivity, to think upon whatever is of real worth, to fix their thoughts on things of real value, and to beware lest their thoughts be led astray from a sincere wholehearted commitment to Christ. As society in general they are to be naive towards that which is evil and wise towards that which is good, to behave in a wise manner towards those who are outside the Christian circle, and to have an acquaintance of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. In sum, they are to understand the significance of all that has been bestowed on them by God and to not be childish in their understanding but mature.

Bottom line, knowledge is the vehicle through which faith comes into being and through which it is increased. Where there is no knowledge, there can be no genuine faith - only superstition or speculation.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

top church websites

Here's a cool list of top church websites ... I guess that should really say here's a list of top websites operated by churches. I have no clue if the churches they represent are tops but I have to say that the few websites I checked out were pretty cool. I wonder if the disciples would have had a website or if they would have stuck with blogging. If the later I bet they would have been Wordpress guys ... me, I'm using blogger ... oh well.

natural beauty

Cool ... and beautiful.

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on the political front

On the political front ... nothing new.


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prayer versus healing

"He never said pray for the sick - He said heal the sick". ~ Rob Rufus


he's an original, so are you

As Ed Young, Jr. says, "this is off the hook". Here is Young with his buddy Joel Osteen.

king david

Several in my small group struggle with how God could love King David. They wrestle with seeing beyond the sin in his life to the reality of his heart. I pulled together these few versus for them since he was a "man after God's own heart".

And when he [God] had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ - Acts 13.22

And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” - 1 Sam 13.13-14

David loved the Word of God as expressed beautifully in Psa 119 and particularly in verse 97, Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

David loved to commune with God through prayer as seen in Psa 116.1-2, I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

Praise for God was a constant in his life (Psa 119.164; 95.1-7; 104.33).

He understood the value of unity (Psa 133.1) and demonstrated it through his relationship with Jonathan (1 Sam 18.1) while having personal experience with the destructive nature of disunity (2 Sam 13).

David hated falsehood (Psa 119.104; 101.3-4, 6-7).

I personally think the one that most revealed his real character is found in 2 Sam 12.13. After committing adultery and killing Bathsheba's husband and then being confronted by Nathan with his sin, David did not follow the path of many. Instead he was broken and confessed his sin. More than being wrong. He knew that his sin was against God almighty.

There's more but bottom line, did David sin grievously? Yes. Yet somehow, through the whole of his life, his heart was hard after God.

peep show

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What is the world coming to.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

easter google

Here's something interesting from Justin Taylor on Google Earth to show the major event locations and descriptions surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection.

Visit Google Maps to see this map.

resurrection preaching

"So many people think preaching the Resurrection means doing a little bit of apologetics in the pulpit to prove it really is true. Others simply say, 'Jesus is raised, therefore there is a life after death.' This isn't the point! Those types of sermons may be necessary, but there's more to it than that. To preach the Resurrection is to announce the fact that the world is a different place, and that we have to live in that 'different-ness.' The Resurrection is not just God doing a wacky miracle at one time. We have to preach it in a way that says this was the turning point in world history.

To take preaching seriously, you need a high theology of the Word of God. When your preaching announces that Jesus is the crucified and risen Lord of the world, things happen. The principalities and powers are called into account. Human beings who once thought the message of someone rising from the dead is ridiculous, actually find that the message of resurrection can transform their lives.

Finally, there must be a relationship between what you say and who you are. Preaching is the personality, infused by the Spirit, communicating the Word of God to people. If there's a mismatch—if you're not being a resurrection person—you may say the right words, but something radical is missing." ~ NT Wright


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cessationist confusion

Matt Waymeyer posted an interesting piece on the sufficiency of Scripture in Pulpit Magazine. The article is basically concerned with the integrationist denial of Scripture's sufficiency for counseling based on the idea that Scripture does not contain all truth, e.g., 2+2=4, E=MC2, how to build a car, etc.. Weymeyer quotes Jay Adams in response to this.
True, the Scriptures do not contain everything. They are not a textbook for electrical engineering, shipbuilding (unless you are building an ark), aeronautics, or a hundred and one other disciplines. But they are entirely adequate as the textbook for living, and for changing our living to conform to God’s requirements.

Then comes the John MacArthur summary.

Certainly, Scripture does not claim to be a thorough textbook on medicine, or physics, or any of the sciences. But psychology differs from these in two important regards. First, psychology is not a true science…. Second, and most significant, psychology, unlike medicine and physics, deals with matters that are fundamentally spiritual. In fact, the word psychology literally means, “study of the soul.” What are the deep psychological needs if they are not the spiritual issues the gospel is concerned with? And Scripture certainly does claim absolute sufficiency in addressing those needs: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, emphasis added). “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul” (Ps. 19:7). Scripture itself promises believers the most comprehensive spiritual resources: “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).

Followed by Waymeyer's conclusion.

[T]he Bible was never intended to be a textbook for disciplines such as math or physics, it does claim to be an all-sufficient guide for godly living. Therefore, if the goal of Christian counseling is godliness in the life of the counselee, the counselor need not look beyond the wisdom found in the pages of Scripture to be equipped for his task. For if the counselee’s problem is spiritual in nature, Scripture is sufficient to meet the demand. On the other hand, if the problem is the inability to bake tasty muffins, a cookbook might be a better place to look.

Here's the tension I have with their position. I believe Scripture is sufficient but it is the meaning of the word sufficient that is at odds here. In this specific article, these guys have limited sufficiency to matters pertaining to the soul. What are the boundaries for matters pertaining to the soul? Can God speak to me in a counseling situation to let me know if the person I am dealing with has an organic or a spiritual defect? I think yes. Isn't this a matter of the soul? Isn't the revelation beyond some specific instruction I might find in Scripture? What of the example of simply choosing the appropriate Scripture to use when addressing the counselee? Does this person need encouragement or confrontation? Based on Scripture, I see that God speaks today even on the proper use of Scripture. Waymeyer's and MacArthur's seem to preclude that.

As I've written before, we must be careful to never over-ride Scripture, it is the plumb-line but to carry that to some un-Biblical position such that God is silent is wrong.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

our spiritual sacrifice

The following is courtesy of Darryl Dash ... excellent.

C.S. Lewis on why it's not feasible or wise "to become exclusively and explicitly religious":
Before I become a Christian I do not think I fully realized that one's life, after conversion, would inevitably consist in doing most of the same things one had been doing before, one hopes in a new spirit, but still the same things...Conversion [does not] obliterate our human life...

All our merely natural activities will be accepted, if they are offered to God, even the humblest, and all of them, even the noblest, will be sinful if they are not. Christianity does not simply replace our natural life and substitute a new one; it is rather a new organization which exploits, to its own supernatural ends, these natural materials. (The Weight of Glory)

Edward Curtis and John Brugaletta comment, "Becoming a believer then does not wall off the secular from the sacred; it does however require that all worldly activities be performed with God in mind and then offered up to God - done for His glory." (Discovering the Way of Wisdom)

easter story censored

Dan Phillips points us to this incredible story. I don't know if it's true but what worries me is how easy I find it to believe. Apparently the Easter story is simply too graphic and our kids need only know God loves them.

second experiences

In an effort to explain my sloppy use of the phrase baptism in the Holy Spirit, I'll now post briefly on "second experiences". Is there such a thing as a second experience in Acts other than the Pentecost event? Yes.

In Acts 8, we see that Peter and John laid hands on the Samaritan people so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. I do not understand this passage as some do that the Samaritans had not experienced saving faith. Instead this simply seems to be a "Samaritan Pentecost". Like the activity of Acts 1, I find no indication that this is a pattern to be repeated. On the other hand, I love this wonderful surprise by God and would have no objection to Him doing more of the same. Bottom line, I do not take this as something to be sought as part of normal Church life but unlike some, I do not flatly reject contemporary events described as "outpourings" of the Spirit of God.

Another example of what some attribute as a "second experience" is that of Cornelius in Acts 10. I love this story at many levels. It is especially useful when speaking with those that seem locked into what God will and will not do based on their interpretation of Scripture and more specifically to the "God is silent" crowd. But that's another post. Focusing on the second experience point, I do not understand Cornelius to already being a believer. The Gentiles in verse 45 are new believers receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit - and not incidentally speaking in tongues. This is not a second experience but rather entry into the Church by Gentile - a work of the Holy Spirit. And, as in other examples, I do not find reason to take this as the norm to be sought by the Church, i.e., when the Holy Spirit brings one from light into darkness I do not read that tongues necessarily follows. On the other hand, it happened here and I see nothing to indicate it wouldn't again.

A third example is in Acts 19. I read this to be like the experience of the Gentiles in Acts 10. While these people received John's baptism, they had not heard of Christ's death, resurrection, not that there even was a Holy Spirit. Verse 4 even casts doubt on their basic understanding of who Jesus was. I see these disciples as followers of John the Baptist who have now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, have become followers of Jesus Christ.

So, is there such a thing as a second experience in Acts other than the Pentecost event? I said yes but I still haven't supported that nor do I intend to today. This post was simply to show that some of the typical passages to support a second experience may not really do so. And at the same time, there was a Pentecost and there was a second Pentecost-like experience and there were some strange happenings at at least some first Holy Spirit experiences. These points from Scripture I think cause problems for the doctrinal views of some. Just as Scripture does not point to these as something we are to try to replicate, Scripture also does not rule out God working in similar fashion throughout history. Scripture is full of wonderful surprises and it is beyond me why many are bent on limiting that working of God. The Bible is a beautiful picture of God and His interaction with creation. It is not the end.

Monday, March 17, 2008

maturity in community

The goal of community is not to create harmony but rather maturity - this is true both at the individual and community level. Maturity is increasing in the likeness of God, that is, in His attitudes, concerns, and activities. In Paul's Idea of Community, Robert Banks suggests Paul sees Christian maturity as:
A call to the imitation of Christ and as a following of His example; as a possession of the mind of Christ and bearing in one's person the marks of Jesus; as a clothing oneself with Christ, allowing Christ to be formed within; and as a transformation into his glory, i.e., the unique quality that characterized him.[1] It is essentially an attaining of all to the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature adulthood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4.13). Although this goal will be fully realized only in the age to come,[2] that is to say in God's perfected universe, we should now seek to attain it. Paul discusses this not only in passages that specifically mention the need for progress or growth but also, more obliquely, in metaphors drawn from athletic contests and military life. While he emphasizes throughout the importance of human effort, it is the activity of the Spirit of the Lord that alone makes this growth possible. Paul affirms this in a way that cannot be improved upon. Immediately following his statement that "the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom," he adds, "We all, with unveiled face, reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit."[3]

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baptism "in" the holy spirit

Matthew 3:11 I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Mark 1:8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

Luke 3:16 I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

John 1:33 He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is the baptizer.

Acts 1:5 [Jesus says,] John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 11:16 [Here Peter refers back to the same words of Jesus that were quoted in the previous verse. He says,] I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’

These passages refer to the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit fell in power on the disciples and those with them, they spoke in other tongues, and about three thousand people were converted (Acts 2:14). In all of these I understand Jesus to be the one who baptizes and the Holy Spirit is the element in which one is immersed.

This leaves 1 Corinthians 12:13; For we were all baptized in one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Some would argue here that it is the Holy Spirit that baptizes and it is into one body that we are immersed. But if so, that would defeat the Pentecostal argument for a second baptism. The timing of this passage is when one becomes a member of the body of Christ. That is, all believers receive this upon rebirth. A better argument from the original language and how the believer at that time would have understood this is that the element is still the Holy Spirit and that the body of Christ, the Church, is the location the believer finds themselves in after the baptism.

If this is correct, the real question is what is significant about the baptism of the Holy Spirit that occurred at Pentecost versus the baptism of the Holy Spirit received by every believer at the time of entrance to the Church? Wayne Grudem uses the diagram below to help.

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In this he attempts to show that the working of the Holy Spirit in all believers is in a way and at a level that is significantly different in terms of frequency and concentration than prior to Pentecost. Grudem explains:
This new covenant power gave the disciples more effectiveness in their witness and their ministry (Acts 1:8; Eph. 4:8, 11–13), much greater power for victory over the influence of sin in the lives of all believers (note the emphasis on the power of Christ’s resurrection at work within us in Rom. 6:11–14; 8:13–14; Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:10), and power for victory over Satan and demonic forces that would attack believers (2 Cor. 10:3–4; Eph. 1:19–21; 6:10–18; 1 John 4:4). This new covenant power of the Holy Spirit also resulted in a wide and hitherto unknown distribution of gifts for ministry to all believers (Acts 2:16–18; 1 Cor. 12:7, 11; 1 Peter 4:10; cf. Num. 11:17, 24–29). These gifts also had corporate implications because they were intended not to be used individualistically but for the corporate building up of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:7; 14:12). It also meant that the gospel was no longer effectively limited to the Jews only, but that all races and all nations would hear the gospel in power and would be united into the church, to the glory of God (Eph. 2:11–3:10).20 The Day of Pentecost was certainly a remarkable time of transition in the whole history of redemption as recorded in Scripture. It was a remarkable day in the history of the world, because on that day the Holy Spirit began to function among God’s people with new covenant power.

But this fact helps us understand what happened to the disciples at Pentecost. They received this remarkable new empowering from the Holy Spirit because they were living at the time of the transition between the old covenant work of the Holy Spirit and the new covenant work of the Holy Spirit. Though it was a “second experience” of the Holy Spirit, coming as it did long after their conversion, it is not to be taken as a pattern for us, for we are not living at a time of transition in the work of the Holy Spirit. In their case, believers with an old covenant empowering from the Holy Spirit became believers with a new covenant empowering from the Holy Spirit. But we today do not first become believers with a weaker, old covenant work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and wait until some later time to receive a new covenant work of the Holy Spirit. Rather, we are in the same position as those who became Christians in the church at Corinth: when we become Christians we are all “baptized in one Spirit into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13)—just as the Corinthians were, and just as were the new believers in many churches who were converted when Paul traveled on his missionary journeys.

What's the bottom line then? Again, Grudem summarizes as follows:

the disciples certainly did experience “a baptism in the Holy Spirit” after conversion on the Day of Pentecost, but this happened because they were living at a unique point in history, and this event in their lives is therefore not a pattern that we are to seek to imitate.

What shall we say about the phrase “baptism in the Holy Spirit”? It is a phrase that the New Testament authors use to speak of coming into the new covenant power of the Holy Spirit. It happened at Pentecost for the disciples, but it happened at conversion for the Corinthians and for us.

I can accept this position as the Biblical one but I struggle for language to describe the second experiences later found in Scripture and through-out history. I have referred to these as baptism in the Holy Spirit but I see the confusion that can cause. Therefore I will make some future posts to give better language to these experiences.

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more lloyd-jones on the spirit

Brought to us by Adrian Warnock, more Martin Lloyd-Jones on the Holy Spirit.
When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” What did that lead to? “They spake the word of God with boldness.” We must never separate these two: “the Holy Spirit,” “the word of God.” If we ever do, we shall go astray.

Some people put their emphasis only on the “word.” These are the intellectuals. “Ah,” they say, “nothing matters but the word.” They spend their time reading and studying, and they become authorities on theology. As a result, they may become proud of their own great knowledge, and they may get the admiration of others who join in with them, but this is nothing but a little mutual admiration society. Nobody is converted; nobody is convicted. Heads packed with knowledge and understanding only—useless! “Word only,” you see.

And there are people who put the whole of their emphasis on the Holy Spirit. They are not interested in the Word. They say, “It doesn’t matter what a person believes.” I heard of a man recently who shouted out in a great meeting, “Let yourselves go! Let yourselves go!” And they did let themselves go, I am told. But the New Testament has never told anybody to let himself go. Never! The Holy Spirit does not merely produce an experience; the Holy Spirit uses the Word. He is the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of enlightenment. He is the Spirit who leads to understanding. We must never jettison the intellect God has given us. The Holy Spirit can deal with our brains as well as with any other part of us. It is a false teaching that urges people to let themselves go. If you do that, you are letting yourself go to a riot of the imagination and of the feelings. You are letting yourself go to evil spirits and powers that are around and about you and ever ready to possess you and to use you and to fool you. The Spirit and the Word! “They spake the word of God.” I repeat, the Word and the Spirit must never be separated.

Here is the work and the function of the Holy Spirit. He takes these facts—the wonderful works of God, the things that the apostles had seen and heard—and then shows their meaning. Christian preaching is not merely exhortation; it is not merely appeal; it is the recital of facts. The Holy Spirit enables people to bear witness to the facts, and then He shows their meaning and their significance to those listening.

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Courageous Christianity, 1st U.S. edition, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 2001, p. 193.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

salvation country style

Warning: this video contains country music that some may find offensive.

Ah - the Mississippi Squirrel Revival by Ray Stevens ... a classic.

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pastor steve is back

"I thought the liberals had a rock band, they had the NIV."

The man that pisseth against the wall, Pastor Steve Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church, is back ... and he's got godly teeth.

Of course he makes some good points but ...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

gps locator

My friend Iggy posted this great web tool for tracking the location of any mobile phone. Just enter the number and a GPS tracker will locate you. I used it to find my son. Very cool!


Humility is admitting that John Piper is a far better writer than I am. Here is his latest post on Six Aspects of Humility.

If humility is not compliance with relativism and is not sophomoric skepticism, what is it? This is important, since the Bible says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5), and "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:11). God has told us at least six things about humility.

1. Humility begins with a sense of subordination to God in Christ.
  • A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. (Matthew 10:24)
  • Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God. (1 Peter 5:6)
2. Humility does not feel a right to better treatment than Jesus got.
  • If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! (Matthew 10:25) Therefore humility does not return evil for evil.
  • It is not life based on its perceived rights.
  • Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps; . . . while suffering, He uttered no threats, but handed [his cause] overto Him who judges righteously. (1 Peter 2:21-23)
3. Humility asserts truth not to bolster ego with control or with triumphs in debate, but as service to Christ and love to the adversary.
  • Love rejoices in the truth. (1 Corinthians 13:6)
  • What I [Jesus] tell you in the darkness, speak in the light. . . . Do not fear. (Matthew 10:27-28)
  • We do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake. (2 Corinthians 4:5)
4. Humility knows it is dependent on grace for all knowing and believing.
  • What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)
  • In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
5. Humility knows it is fallible, and so considers criticism and learns from it; but also knows that God has made provision for human conviction and that he calls us to persuade others.
  • We see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
  • A wise man is he who listens to counsel. (Proverbs 12:15)
  • Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men. (2 Corinthians 5:11)
6. Humility is to believe in the heart and confess with the lips that our life is like a vapor, and that God decides when we die, and that God governs all our accomplishments.
  • Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

fundamentalism to liberalism

Michael Pattern seems to have concluded his series of excellent post on Would the Real Emerger Please Stand Up. The latest, FROM FUNDAMENTALISM TO LIBERAL: SPECTRUM OF THOUGHT IN THE WESTERN CHURCH, has a wonderful series of diagrams that I think accurately depict the landscape. They are well worth a look.

In part 4 of Would the Real Emerger Please Stand Up, Patton states:
To be emerging does not necessarily have to do with where you land on certain issues. It has to do with your willingness to fly, seriously entertaining anew important and fundamental issues. Not only do you entertain questions (e.g. Why does God allow bad things? Is inerrancy the center of evangelical faith? Do the various traditions—Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant—all have valid contributions to make?) but you have the same questions yourself. In some sense it captures the Protestant reformation principle of reformata et semper reformanda (”reformed and always reforming”) better than other traditions who have reformed and then hardened in their categories of thought and practice.

In the end, as an emerger, you may land your plane in the field of traditional Protestantism on a particular issue, but it is your willingness to take off that is key. Are you willing to discuss issues from a fresh perspective? This is a key emerging question.

I like the series of concentric circles representing essential for salvation, essential for orthodoxy, important but not essential, not important, and pure speculation. In these he uses dots to show the number and distribution of issues depicted in each category for Fundamentalists v. Evangelicals v. Emerging v. Emergent. On one extreme the Fundamentalist has nearly all issues in the "essential for salvation" category with only a small number in the next two circles and nothing in the outer circles. On the other extreme, the Emergent has nearly everything in the "pure speculation" category and only one dot in the "essential for salvation" circle.

In part 3 of the series I like how Patton delineates each group's relation to culture:
  1. Fundamentalists: Separate from culture.
  2. Evangelicals: Change the culture.
  3. Emergers: We are the culture.
In answering the question, "so what does emerging mean?", Patton posits:

In short, the emerging ethos represents a growing mindset which is, consciously or sub-consciously, willing to legitimize and take seriously anew the type of questions being asked, doubts being expressed, and the distrust and dissatisfaction that the a postmodern (emerging) culture has with the traditional church (and Christianity) because they identify with them.

Those that seem to identify with the postmodern mindset too closely, believing that traditional Christianity may not have the answers, are more on the Emergent side. Emergents call for radical change in doctrine and practice. Those that identify with the postmodern mindset yet feel traditional Christianity, while imperfect, does offer the answers to the most important issues may be part of the more orthodox emerging movement. These call for a more mild change.

Part 2 of this series is an attempt to outline the essential elements believed by various "orthodox" positions - interesting.

Part 1 is just ok ... it simply sets up the rest which I found informative.

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macarthur as the anti-macarthur

I had previously posted regarding John MacArthur's remarks on contextualization at the Shepherd's Conference. Clearly he thinks contextualization is demonic. Interestingly, here are his sermon builder notes. Stage 1, step 4: Consider the people - who is my audience?
While the message should never be determined by the audience, but rather by the Scriptures, the preacher is wise to prayerfully consider his audience before preaching. In so doing, he will remind himself that the souls of real individuals are at stake, and that the sermon building process is important—because it eternally impacts the lives of people.


I think people will be bored if you are boring. It is not related to how much time you spend in a book. As long as you are saying things that capture their interest and challenge their lives, they will not care what book you are in and for how long.

Hmmm ... ???

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baptism in the holy spirit terminology

I am writing to set the record straight (so to speak) regarding my use and support of the phrase baptism in the Holy Spirit. I had begun a path to support that position but I realize that this is not necessary, the real issue is that I was simply not clarifying what I meant as I used the phrase.

It seems that as I have commented on some of Adrian Warnock's post regarding Holy Spirit Baptism, I have given the impression that I am aligning with the traditional Pentecostal meaning of the phrase. To be clear, I align with Wayne Grudem's thinking in that "baptism in the Holy Spirit is not the term the New Testament authors would use to speak of a post-conversion work of the Spirit, and that the examples of “second experiences” of receiving the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts are not patterns for us to imitate in our Christian lives." You can read his complete analysis in chapter 39, Baptism in and Filling with the Holy Spirit, of his Systematic Theology. My understanding of Scripture matches what he writes, i.e., I prefer to speak of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

However, I allow for instances when that filling may be overwhelming and/or the believer experiences a more than usual awareness of the Spirit's presence and work. This may result in a "leap" in their spiritual growth, some significant repentance, etc.. And I actively encourage believers to seek such personal encounters with God.

It is this experience that I have loosely referred to as baptism in the Holy Spirit. As I read Warnock, Piper, Lloyd-Jones, etc., I was not reading their words in the Pentecostal sense but rather in a way similar to what I described. I confess that I do not actually know the specifics of what they think on this. Regardless, I've quoted their comments to build on my thinking in terms of the affect of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Many who wrestle against the concept of Spirit baptism do so as cessationists - a position I find un-Biblical. Because of that, I can be found arguing for baptism of the Spirit as a press more so for charismata than for the specifics of an event called Holy Spirit baptism.

Net - you may find me speaking positively of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If so, it is either because I am using that interchangeably with filling of the Holy Spirit or simply because it is more right than the notion of cessationism. Normally I will try to use the phrase filling or work of the Holy Spirit.

I hope that helps.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Nathan Busenitz is beginning a series at Pulpit Magazine on The Charismatic Question. I'd be surprised if he will alter the view of this continuationist but I have benefited from his writing in the past so I intend to read his posts with care.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

baptism in/of/by/whatever the holy spirit

My friend Daniel Chew has written some interesting posts on the "charismatism". His most recent post is On Charismatism: The gifts of the Spirit and contains links to his earlier posts on the topic. Daniel loves God and His Holy Word. I agree with parts of what he wrote and I disagree with some other parts of what he wrote. Regardless, all of what he wrote made me stop to consider what the Bible really says on the matter - and that is always a good thing.

Daniel commented on my recent post More On Spirit Baptism. His posts and this comment deserve a thorough response but I don't have time to do that justice and frankly, I'm just not that good at it. But, for the next bit of time, I will try to make some independent posts on the topic in general that you can compare and contrast to his to draw your own conclusions.

So, to kick things off, I quote a bit from Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. I like how Grudem thinks in terms of how we can analyze this issue.
  • What does the phrase “baptism in the Holy Spirit” mean in the New Testament?
  • How should we understand the “second experiences” that came to born-again believers in the book of Acts?
  • Are there other biblical expressions, such as “filling with the Holy Spirit,” that are better suited to describe an empowering with the Holy Spirit that comes after conversion?
I understand the traditional Pentecostal (or Charismatic) position the same as Grudem outlines which is as follows:

(1) Jesus’ disciples were born-again believers long before the day of Pentecost, perhaps during Jesus’ life and ministry, but certainly by the time that Jesus, after his resurrection, “breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”’ (John 20:22).

(2) Jesus nevertheless commanded his disciples “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4), telling them, “Before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). He told them, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). The disciples then obeyed Jesus’ command and waited in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to come upon them so that they would receive new empowering for witness and ministry.

(3) When the disciples had waited for ten days, the day of Pentecost came, tongues of fire rested above their heads, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). This clearly shows that they received a baptism in (or with)3 the Holy Spirit. Although the disciples were born again long before Pentecost, at Pentecost they received a “baptism with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5 and 11:16 refer to it this way) that was subsequent to conversion and resulted in great empowering for ministry as well as speaking in tongues. (Most Pentecostal discussions of baptism in the Holy Spirit include the view that speaking in tongues is a “sign” that one has been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and that this sign will be given to all who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, even though not all will later have the gift of speaking in tongues as a continuing gift in their lives.)

(4) Christians today, like the apostles, should ask Jesus for a “baptism in the Holy Spirit” and thus follow the pattern of the disciples’ lives. If we receive this baptism in the Holy Spirit, it will result in much more power for ministry for our own lives, just as it did in the lives of the disciples, and will often (or always, according to some teachers) result in speaking in tongues as well.

(5) Support for this pattern—in which people are first born again and then later are baptized in the Holy Spirit—is seen in several other instances in the book of Acts. Here are some examples:
- Acts 8, where the people of Samaria first became Christians when they “believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12), but only later received the Holy Spirit when the apostles Peter and John came from Jerusalem and prayed for them (Acts 8:14–17).
- Cornelius in Acts 10. He was a devout man who prayed constantly to God (Acts 10:2), but when Peter came and preached to him and his household, Peter and those with him were amazed “because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God” (Acts 10:45–46).
- Acts 19, where Paul came and found “some disciples” at Ephesus (Acts 19:1). But, “when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6).

All of these examples (Acts 2, 8, sometimes 10, and 19) are cited by Pentecostals in order to show that a “baptism in the Holy Spirit” subsequent to conversion was a very common occurrence for New Testament Christians. Therefore, they reason, if it was common for Christians in Acts to have this second experience sometime after conversion, should it not be common for us today as well?

I'm not promoting this position, I'm simply laying some groundwork for future discussion.

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on converting sinners

I have a friend who struggles with the concept of God's grace for those who are His enemies. While this friend understands that she was a sinner when God rescued her, she still has a hard time processing how God could also love and redeem the likes of King David and Abraham ... This friend also admittedly struggles when we do service work together. She tells us that it is very difficult for her as we give food or service to someone who appears to be on drugs, in a financially bad way due to poor choices they have made, unappreciative, etc.. The good news for my friend is that she at least realizes this is not her desired feeling ... she is simply being open and honest regarding what is really going on within her.

I've tried to help her see her way through this but her theology doesn't allow her to process the ideas the same as I do. For me, I echo John Piper's sentiment, "O how sweet are the designs of God in the sovereign salvation of hardened sinners!"

This was his closing line to this short but great post on God's Sovereignty, Paul's Conversion.

Ponder the conversion of Paul, the sovereignty of Christ, and what Paul's sins have to do with your salvation.

Paul said that God “set me apart before I was born,” and then on the Damascus road “called me by his grace” (Galatians 1:15). This means that between Paul’s birth and his call on the Damascus road he was an already-chosen but not-yet-called instrument of God (Acts 9:15; 22:14).

This means that Paul was beating and imprisoning and murdering Christians as a God-chosen, soon-to-be-made-Christian missionary.

Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him. (Acts 22:19-20)

The call on the Damascus road was apocalyptic for Paul. It was not a still small voice.

As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 22:6-7)

There was no denying or escaping it. God had chosen him for this before he was born. And now he would take him. The word of Christ was sovereign. There was no negotiating.

Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do. (Acts 22:10)

This kind of sovereign choice before he was born, and this kind of apocalyptic call on the Damascus road mean that God could have prevented Paul from beating and imprisoning and murdering Christians. He could have called him earlier.

Damascus was not Paul’s final, free will yielding to Christ after decades of futile divine effort to save him. God had a time for choosing him (before he was born) and a time for calling him (on the Damascus road). Paul yielded when God called.

Therefore the sins that God permitted between Paul’s birth and his calling were part of the plan, since God could have done Damascus sooner.

Do we have any idea what the plan for those sins might have been? Yes. They were permitted for you and me—for all who fear that they might have sinned themselves out of grace. Here’s the way Paul relates his sins to you.

Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy . . . for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:13, 16)

O how sweet are the designs of God in the sovereign salvation of hardened sinners!

grace through faith from start to finish

“From start to finish, the whole Christian life is by grace through faith. A new life in Christ commences with faith, continues by faith, and will be completed through faith. To put this another way, the gospel is for Christians just as much as it is for non-Christians.

Justification is a doctrine for the whole Christian life from start to finish.

We never advance beyond the good news of the cross and the empty tomb…Therefore, the Christian always looks back to the gospel and never to the law (i.e., performance) as the basis for his righteousness before God…There is no such thing as performance-based Christianity…Justification is a doctrine for the whole Christian life from start to finish. It is not simply a doctrine for coming to Christ in the first place…Justification is a doctrine to live by each and every moment.” ~ Philip Graham Ryken, Galatians


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my chains are gone

Chris Tomlin reminds me of how I sound (in my head) as he gives this brief lesson on Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone).

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

fide-o quotes on contextualization

Jason Robertson has collected the following quotes in regard to correct understanding and use of contextualization. He also lists links to other excellent sources in his post.

"All preaching can be improved. In fact, preaching needs to be constantly adapting itself to the changing face of culture. The message will never change, but the way we deliver it will change -- yes, must change -- or we will cease to be a bridge between two worlds." ~ Alex Montoya, Preaching with a Passion

"Contextualization, then, is but another name for describing the servant role of theology. The Son of God assumed the form of a servant to seek and save the lost and theology must do likewise, incarnating itself in the cultural forms of its time without ever losing its identity as Christian theology. God, after all, did not assume the guise of a remote Rabbi who simply declared the principles of eternal truth, but in the Son he compassionately entered into the life of ordinary people and declared to them what God's Word meant to them. But in so doing, the Son never lost his identity as divine. Christian thought is called to do likewise, to retain its identity (doctrine) within its role as servant (theology) within a particular culture." ~ David Wells

"One part of clarity sometimes missed by earnest evangelists, however, is the willingness to offend. Clarity with the claims of Christ certainly will include the translation of the Gospel into words that our hearer understands, but it doesn’t necessarily mean translating it into words that our hearer will like. Too often advocates of relevant evangelism verge over into being advocates of irrelevant non-evangelism. A gospel which in no way offends the sinner has not been understood." ~ M. Dever

Saturday, March 08, 2008

more on spirit baptism

Adrian Warnock posts another great quote by John Piper regarding baptism with the Holy Spirit.
"I would start by saying that in the book of Acts, everywhere the receiving of the Holy Spirit is described, it is experiential. What I mean is that it's not just a logical inference that you know has happened to you only because something else has happened. Instead, it has effects that are clearly discernible. In the book of Acts a person knows when he receives the Holy Spirit. It is an experience with effects you can point to.

Let me illustrate this from Acts 19:2. The situation is that Paul has come to Ephesus and found there some disciples who, as it turns out, only know the baptism of John the Baptist and have not been baptized into the name of Jesus. Paul detects something wrong and breaks the whole thing open by asking a key question in verse 2: "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"

Now that is a remarkable question for contemporary American evangelicals who have been taught by and large that the way you know you have received the Holy Spirit is that you are a believer. We have been told that you can know that you have the Holy Spirit because all who believe have the Holy Spirit. It's a logical inference. So if we want to know if someone has received the Holy Spirit, we would ask, "Have you believed on Jesus?" If the answer is yes, then we know the person received the Holy Spirit. Receiving the Holy Spirit is a logical inference, not an experience to point to.

But Paul's question isn't like that, is it? Paul says, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" We scratch our heads and say, "I don't get it, Paul. If you assume we believed, why don't you assume we received the Holy Spirit? We've been taught that all who believe receive the Holy Spirit. We've been taught to just believe that the Spirit is there whether there are any effects or not. But you talk as if there is a way to know we've received the Holy Spirit different from believing. You talk as if we could point to an experience of the Spirit apart from believing in order to answer your question."

And that is, in fact, the way Paul talks. When he asks, "Did you receive the Spirit when you believed?" he expects that a person who has "received the Holy Spirit" knows it, not just because it's an inference from his faith in Christ, but because it is an experience with effects that we can point to.

That is what runs all the way through this book of Acts. All the explicit descriptions of receiving the Holy Spirit are experiential (not inferential)." ~ John Piper, 1991, What Does it Mean to Receive the Holy Spirit?

In another post, Warnock then quotes Charles Spurgeon on the matter. I love this excerpt.

... we have sipped where we might have drunk; we have drunk where we might have bathed; we have bathed up to the ankles where we might have found rivers to swim in. Alas, of many Christians it must be affirmed that they have been naked, and poor, and miserable, when they might in the power of the Holy Spirit have been clad in golden garments, and have been rich and increased in goods. He waiteth to be gracious, but we linger in indifference, like those of whom we read, "They could not enter in because of unbelief." There are many such cases, and therefore it is not improper that I should with all vehemence press home upon you the question of the apostle, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?"

We are a sad lot to speak against the full working of the Spirit. Too many limit Him to some minimal acceptable level rather than to lay themselves bare to all that He wants for us.

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heresy irony

Martin385 297784A

I find this ironic. In a time where many protestants seem eager to declare each other heretics, the Vatican is moving toward reversing similar verdicts against the likes of Martin Luther and Galileo Galilei. Now please do not interpret this as my siding with Rome, I'm just struck by the silliness of it all.

did god speak at the shepherd's conference?

As I read through the notes of the Shepherd's Conference at Pulpit Magazine I found good, bad, and contradiction.

The opening session was led by John MacArthur, one of today's most prominent anti-Charismatic voices. He chose to cite Pentecost as the example of the power of God growing the Church.
Acts 2:39 is a key verse in this regard, underscoring the sovereign call of God and the generational impact that the Gospel has. It is a preview of how the church that Christ built extends across ethnic and generational barriers.

When we start in Jerusalem (Acts 1), we have 120 people. By the end of Acts 2 (v. 41), we are up to some 3,000 souls. Within hours, the church goes from 120 to 3,000. Then, in verse 47 we see that the Lord was adding to that number day by day those who were being saved. In Acts 4:4, the number of men is listed at about 5,000. In 5:14, many more multitudes are being constantly added to the church. Acts 6:7 notes that the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, including priests. This pattern continues throughout the rest of the book of Acts.

Hmmm ....

On a positive note, I agree with his outline of what marks the Church the Christ is building.

1. It is marked by a transcendent message.
2. It is marked by a regenerate congregation.
3. It is marked by a valiant perseverance.
4. It is marked by an evident purity.
5) It is marked by a qualified leadership.

Session 5 by Al Mohler reminded me of the contradiction in the MacArthur camp. Here Mohler used Deu 4.32-40 to make observations regarding expository preaching. I love these points but I wouldn't add the artificial limit of applying them to pulpit speaking and only in when reading the written Word.

I've copied it here and added some emphasis. I find it interesting that the message was presented to those that firmly believe God has finished speaking.

1. The true and living God is the God who speaks.

Dr. Mohler referred to a book by Francis Shaeffer. He is there and He is not Silent. We preach because God is there and He is not silent. God still speaks. This is the miracle of revelation. It is a manifestation of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Elijah will use this when he confronts all the pagan priests. There was no voice from the God of the priests. Where would we be if God had not spoken? We would be worshiping idols who don’t speak. This is the gift of revelation. The God of the universe forfeited His own personal privacy. We must cling to this revelation. There is not one person who will come to the knowledge of Christ by general revelation. There is an appropriate sense in which God spoke…If you think that all God’s speaking was done in the past, then resign from the ministry. God is still speaking through you through His Word. God speaks to His people now even as He did to His people in times past. It makes all the difference between true and false religion.

What if God had not spoken? We would be lost in an aimless cosmos. If He doesn’t speak then eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. There is no middle ground between understanding that every Word of revelation is God speaking and thinking He didn’t speak at all. Let us see clearly that God speaking is a matter of life and death.

2. God’s true people are identified by hearing His voice and obeying it.

Moses told the Isrealites time and again that they were the people to whom Yahweh spoke. He hasn’t spoken to everyone, but he spoke to them. This is not to produce an arrogant self confident people. It is only by grace and mercy that God chose to speak to Israel and not the other nation. Following verse 32 Moses asks the people a series of questions. The question he focuses on is found in verse 33.

How do the people of Israel know they are God’s children? No other people heard the voice of God speak to them from the fire and survive. Israel was at Mt. Horeb and they heard God speak and live.

In Matthew 13 Jesus explains to the disciples that they had been granted the opportunity to hear the voice of God. They were not granted this opportunity because they were the best. God sovereignly granted them to hear his voice. This is the same way we know we are believers. It’s all by grace. We hear because of the grace of God. God grants to us to hear in the same way he granted to Israel to hear. It’s not about the power, talent, or wisdom of Israel. God chose this tiny little people, who couldn’t even draw a straight line through the wilderness, in order to show His glory. Why did God choose us? He chose the weak things of the world in order to shame the strong.

The fact is that its not about us. When we obey God it shows to the other nations the glory of God. God’s electing purpose is to create a people saved by His son for His glory.

3. God’s people serve and survive by hearing His Word.

By God’s grace and mercy we have this Word. For Israel the Word was like manna. They had to have it every day to survive. This Word brings help and blessing, life and identity. Here again, this takes place in the NT as well. In Romans 10, Paul says that the faith that saves comes by hearing the Word of Christ. We have to live by the Word just as much as Isreal. How will we know we are His? How will we know how to live? It is only through the ministry of the Word.

4. As a result of all this, preaching had better be the exposition of the Word.

It is not just how will we build bigger churches. It is whether our people will live or die. We have the Bible. If the Bible is what we say it is, this puts preaching in its proper perspective. Is God going to speak or the preacher? When the Word of God comes through the preacher this brings life. Do we arrogantly think we can bring the people life through our words. We have been called to this and we obey the call by studying. We get up in front of God’s people, we read the text and then we explain it. We do it again and again until Jesus comes or we die. We yearn for people to leave the service and turn to one another and say, “Did we hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire and survive”?

evangelism and contextualization

“It is because we are committed to Evangelism that we must speak in antithesis at times. If we do not make clear by word and practice our position for truth and against false doctrine, we are building a wall between the next generation and the gospel. The unity of evangelicals should be on the basis of truth, not evangelism itself. If this is not so, "success" in evangelism can result in weakening Christianity. Any consideration of methods is secondary to this central principle.” ~ Francis Schaeffer


Masterful!!! The consideration of method is secondary to the Truth of the message. At the same time, consideration of the method is not unhelpful.

It's true I suppose that some distort the message under the guise of contextualization but by definition, contextualization is what we read occurring throughout Scripture. Unfortunately some, I imagine in response to this abuse, declare contextualization as inherently wrong. In that they fail to see that they themselves are contextualizing and even create a new definition of contextualization. If one examines this closely however, it is easy to see that the attack is not about contextualization but toward those presenting the message in a way different than then these accusers. These few have imagine their method as the sole approach endorsed by Scripture. Interesting sad.

John MacArthur is one of these. In the opening session of the Shepherd's Conference, he rightly states:
This message must be a transcendent message – meaning that it transcends all languages, cultures, social statuses, contexts, everything. At this time, cultural identity was very fixed. There was no “global village.” There were hard lines drawn between different cultural groups. Yet the gospel transcended all of these. Those differences had no effect on the message.

Jesus said in Matthew 28 to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. In Acts 1, Jesus explained that the power of the Spirit and the power of the Gospel is all that is necessary to reach the ends of the earth. Then in Acts 2:8, the disciples preached that message in the various languages of those who had come during Pentecost. They could proclaim the same message to people from many different countries and it had a powerful impact. It was a message (as evidenced in Peter’s later sermon) of sin, repentance, and faith in Jesus Christ.

Whether the gospel was preached to Jews or to Gentiles, the message did not change. And all those whom God had chosen, responded to that message in faith.

But then MacArthur befuddles the Biblical mind when he jettisons sound Bible teaching for this remarkable bit of analysis.

The apostles went out with an absolute disdain for contextualization. The modern drive for cultural contextualization is a curse, because people are wasting their time trying to figure out clever ways to draw in the elect. Contextualization is “zip-code ministry.” The message of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is transcendent. It goes beyond its immediate culture or sub-culture. It crosses the world, and ignores the nuances of culture. It never descends to clothing or musical style, as if that had anything to do with the message of the Gospel.

Does your message ignore the trends and superficial icons of culture, and bring heaven down in its transcendent reality? Can you take your sermons and preach them anywhere?

The Lord built His church with straightforward gospel truth. The Corinthians, for example, were upset that Paul was not more contextualized. But Paul didn’t care. The Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, and even Jesus were out of sync with their culture. But it did not matter.

Of course he is right if one redefines contextualization to mean deviation from the message and/or a focus on the method above the message but I have not heard that definition proposed by all that MacArthur and his team would like to accuse. The take that and apply it to all that are different than they are in their approach. And of course, once again, somehow MacArthur's approach is exempt from critique.

Phil Johnson spoke at session 7 of the conference. Here Johnson admits the term contextualization does not mean the same to everyone but he opts to focus on the negative stating:

It is a catch-phrase of recent history. But the term doesn’t seem to mean the same thing to everyone. And the term is also used, at times, to justify vulgar and base behavior — as though you can use vulgarity or obscenity and then justify it by claiming that you must use such speech to reach a certain subculture.

,,, people who speak of contextualization today usually turn that term on its head. Instead of trying to avoid impolite or offensive cultural distractions, the contextualizers of today want to maximize the shock value of their methodology. They attempt to adapt the biblical message to the target worldview of the postmodern generation they are hoping to reach. In practice, contextualizers assimilate as much worldliness as possible in an attempt to earn the world’s esteem – because the idea is that if the world likes us they will also like our Jesus.

The statement, while true, represents on part of a bigger picture. It is designed to leave the listener with a sense that Johnson and MacArthur are not contextualizing themselves and that all who are not like them are like those that Johnson describes. Both points are of course not true.

Johnson then uses the rest of his time trying to prove that Paul did not contextualize in Athens. I think he failed. Read it for yourself and consider this, this, this, this, and this. The clear difference in all of this is the starting point of the speaker. MacArthur, Johnson and others begin from a place of disdain for others while the great Bible teachers begin from a place that mirrors the heart of God, which is that people matter and God is sovereign.

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the scandal of the cross

“The claim that God is to be encountered and salvation found in a crucified man — a man stripped of all status and honor, dehumanized, the lowest of the low — is the offense of the cross. This is the real scandal of particularity — not just that God’s universal purpose pivots on one particular human being . . ., but, much worse, that God’s universal purpose pivots on this particular human being, the crucified one. No wonder the rulers of this age did not recognize him (1 Corinthians 2:8). For those who see God in the image of their own power and status there could be no recognition of God in the cross.”

~ Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Academic, 2003), 52.


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Monday, March 03, 2008

jeff healey - rip

Another great bites the dust. Jeff Healey died yesterday after a long struggle with cancer. I loved his unique style and was amazed at his ability in spite of his being blind.

See The Light

Confidence Man

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freedom in christ

“The gospel, applied to our hearts every day, frees us to be brutally honest with ourselves and with God. The assurance of His total forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Christ means we don’t have to play defensive games anymore. We don’t have to rationalize and excuse our sins. . . . We can call sin exactly what it is, regardless of how ugly and shameful it may be, because we know that Jesus bore that sin in His body on the cross. With the assurance of total forgiveness through Christ, we have no reason to hide from our sins anymore.”

~ Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace (Colorado Springs, Co: NavPress, 1994), 22-23.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

kingdom conflicts

"Advancing the Kingdom of God will always look foolish to the kingdom of this world. But this foolishness is the only path to freedom. The Kingdom of God exists in the invisible things that last, not the visible things that do not. The problem is not that we are gathering too much, but that we are giving too little." ~ David Smith

capitalism v. christianity

"It’s hard to deny that capitalism is the best economic system around. It creates wealth far better than feudalism, communism, socialism or any other system one could name. But for all its advantages, capitalism has one major drawback that Kingdom people need to be concerned about: it needs people to stay perpetually hungry for more. If Americans as a whole ever followed Paul’s instruction to be content with basic food and clothing and not pursue wealth (1 Tim. 6:6-11), the system would come to a grinding halt. The undeniable truth is that capitalism runs on greed." ~ Greg Boyd

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sin no more

I love this little piece by John Piper:

Your life hangs on how you relate these two statements:

“If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous” (1 John 2:1).
“Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).

Do you experience the first one weakening the second?

Or do you experience the first one joyfully empowering the second?

Your life hangs on your answer.

one way

As many of you know by now, Larry Norman has died. Many however do not realize that this long haired kinda crazy guy is the genius behind this conservative church standard.

Thanks iggy for this.

piper on holy spirit baptism

"Let me use an illustration from Martin Lloyd-Jones in his book Joy Unspeakable to describe the difference between common Christian living and what happens when the Holy Spirit "clothes" a person with power or "comes upon" a person with this unusual power.

He says it is like a child walking along holding his father's hand. All is well. The child is happy. He feels secure. His father loves him. He believes that his father loves him but there is no unusual urge to talk about this or sing about it. It is true and it is pleasant.

Then suddenly the father startles the child by reaching down and sweeping him up into his arms and hugging him tightly and kissing him on the neck and whispering, "I love you so much!" And then holding the stunned child back so that he can look into his face and saying with all his heart, "I am so glad you are mine." Then hugging him once more with unspeakable warmth and affection. Then he puts the child down and they continue their walk.

This, Lloyd-Jones says, is what happens when a person is baptized with the Holy Spirit. A pleasant and happy walk with God is swept up into an unspeakable new level of joy and love and assurance and reality that leaves the Christian so utterly certain of the immediate reality of Jesus that he is overflowing in praise and more free and bold in witness than he ever imagined he could be.

The child is simply stunned. He doesn't know whether to cry or shout or fall down or run, he is so happy. The fuses of love are so overloaded they almost blow out. The subconscious doubts—that he wasn't thinking about at the time, but that pop up every now and then—are gone! And in their place is utter and indestructible assurance, so that you know that you know that you know that God is real and that Jesus lives and that you are loved, and that to be saved is the greatest thing in the world. And as you walk on down the street you can scarcely contain yourself, and you want to cry out, "My father loves me! My father loves me! O, what a great father I have! What a father! What a father!"

. . . I think this is basically what happened at Pentecost. And has happened again and again in the life of the church."

— John Piper: You Shall Receive Power, 1990