Thursday, December 30, 2010

why justice?

"We do justice when we give all human beings their due as creations of God. Doing justice includes not only the righting of wrongs, but generosity and social concern, especially towards the poor and vulnerable. This kind of life reflects the character of God...."

-- Tim Keller, "Generous Justice...."

HT:BEW

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o'reilly & colbert by rosenthal

I agree with Shane Rosenthal's analysis of the O'Reilly-Colbert exchange regarding Jesus and politics.

This particular banter was triggered by Congressman Jim McDermott's, “This is Christmas time. We talk about good Samaritans, the poor, the little baby Jesus in the cradle and all this stuff. And then we say to the unemployed we won’t give you a check to feed your family. That’s simply wrong.”
Beginning with that and throughout the back-and-forth the comments reflect the mindset of many of those in the USA and our propensity to misuse (and misunderstand) Scripture to support our personal bent. It's worth reading Rosenthal's notes.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

marks of the true christian

The Bible Knowledge Commentary on Romans 12:9-10;
Paul began these specific exhortations with the key ingredient for success: Love must be sincere. This is God’s love, which has been ministered to believers by the Holy Spirit (5:5) and must be ministered by them to others in the Holy Spirit’s power. “Sincere” translates anypokritos (lit., “without hypocrisy”), also used of love (2 Cor. 6:6; 1 Peter 1:22), of faith (1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:5), and of wisdom (James 3:17).

This first command is followed by a pair of related basic commands—Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Many Bible students consider these two clauses as explanatory of the sincerity of love, translating the verse, “Let love be unfeigned, abhorring the evil and cleaving to the good.” Hating various forms of sin is frequently mentioned in Scripture (Pss. 97:10; 119:104, 128, 163; Prov. 8:13; 13:5; 28:16; Heb. 1:9; Rev. 2:6). Turning from evil is to accompany adhering to the good (cf. 1 Peter 3:11).

Divine love is to be exercised with other believers. The Greek adjective philostorgoi, translated devoted, suggests family affection. As in Romans 12:9, the second clause in verse 10 can be understood as explaining the first command. Verse 10 may be translated, “With brotherly love have family affection for one another, in honor giving place to one another” (cf. Phil. 2:3, “consider others better than yourselves”).
Interestingly today and throughout history there are those who redefine love as something that does not address sin and there are those working overtime to fight against the visible church - leaving her rather than following Paul's admonition in the context of community.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

perman on works

Matt Perman writes:
I agree that the final judgment is according to works. We are justified—made right with God and given a title to heaven—by faith alone apart from works. This faith, though, always and necessarily leads to good works, such that at the final judgment works can be necessary as evidence that we have already been accepted by God. So works are necessary as evidence, not basis.
Read on here for an interesting analogy and a thought on the justifying of our works as well as our persons.

Monday, December 20, 2010

melinda's orientation

I found this post and comments at Love is an Orientation interesting. At first I struggled reading beyond the first few paragraphs because after all these years, I still don't grasp why some follow the path of apologizing to people-groups for the sins of other people-groups. Not to argue, I just don't get it and while I can imagine it comes from good motives, I often find that many employing that practice are misguided in many aspects of their faith. So I pressed on trying to not make that assumption of Melinda.

And I'm glad I did. Based on what she wrote, I think Melinda gets it. Here's the money quote, "[my Aunt] matters and ... she’s taught me to see that every single person matters. And if they won’t matter to the world at large, they’ll matter to me." Melinda that she "love[d] her completely, and could never, ever be ashamed of her."

That is so right on. Melinda shared her compassion toward her Aunt not based at all on her Aunt's sexuality. And while she doesn't say it, I want to read into the post that Melinda sees her Aunt's lifestyle as sinful yet understands that we are still able - and must - love anyway.

Sadly that message is lost on some of the commenters. One wrote, "you didn’t have to assure your aunt that you 'love her completely'. You should have said, 'Jesus loves your for being gay.'"

What?!?!?! Jesus loves you for your sin?!?! Oh how far the mind sinks when we embrace sin ...

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

can i be saved if ...

Dr. David Powlison takes a stab at the familiar question, "Can I be saved if I am living in constant, secret sin?"



HT:Z via CB

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

egalitarianism

Michael Patton wrote the below on his blog ...

Egalitarianism
The belief that God has created men and women equal in all things. Men and women are ontologically and functionally equal. The way the sexes function in the church, society, and the family is determined by individual giftedness, not role distinctions according to the sexes. Therefore, each person should be judged individually when being placed in a particular position. We should exemplify this reality by overcoming the stereotypical placement that has traditionally been a part of societies in human history, thereby giving freedom to individuals to follow the path that God has uniquely created them for, whatever that may be. In doing so, we should no longer educate or indoctrinate according to any of the former stereotypes, including those of basic masculinity and femininity.

Complementarianism
The belief that men and women have God given differences that are essential to their sex. Men and women are ontologically (in their essential nature) equal, but often, functionally, take subordinate roles (like the Trinity). These differences complete or “complement” each other. Due to these differences, there will be some things that women are predisposed and purposed to do more than men. As well, there will be some things that men are predisposed and purposed to do more than women. Therefore, there are ideal roles for both men and women that should be celebrated, exemplified, typified, and promoted in the church, family, and society. To deny these differences is to deny the design of God and thwart his purpose.

Here is how I normally proceed with any egalitarian in a conversation about this subject. I ask three questions:

Question #1: Do you believe that there are essential differences, created by God, between men and women?
Please note: these differences are not merely stereotypical or cultural. As well, these cannot be simply limited to physicality and reproduction. Sub-questions would include: Are their ways that a woman is better suited to be a mother than a man? Are there ways that a man is better suited to be a father than a woman?
I have found that about 50% of Egalitarians I talk to are willing to concede here. The other 50%, I believe, let their ideology create a worldview that, outside of the context of this debate, would never be entertained. I have found that most everyone, inductively and deductively, intuitively and empirically, when not discussing this issue, admits that there are differences between men and women that go beyond culture, reproduction, and physicality.

Question #2: If God-given differences exist, do these differences carry with them strengths and weaknesses for each sex?
In other words, does this normally predispose the member of one sex to perform certain tasks and exercise certain roles better than another? What does it mean to be better at being a mother? What does it mean to be better at being a father? Is there a way to train men to be better ”men”? Is there a way to train women to be better ”women”?

This is where the rest of the Egalitarians begin to depart. The problem here is not with the admittance of divine differences, but an unwillingness to say that these differences predispose one sex to be better at something than the other. However, this is hard to consistently maintain. Differences will produce inherent predispositions. For example a circle is different from a square. Among other things, this makes a circle better at fitting into a circular hole.

Differences are always going to bring with them strengths and weaknesses. However, some Egalitarians will admit this. Therefore we have the next question.

Question #3: Should these differences be celebrated, exemplified, typified, and promoted in the church, family, and society?
This is the hardest hurdle for Egalitarians to overcome and often causes them to have to reevaluate their answers to the previous two questions in order to remain Egalitarians. The idea here is that if there are God-given differences, shouldn’t we celebrate and promote these differences. What does this celebration and promotion look like? This is the essence of complementarianism. This means that we educate the sexes to function to their maximum potential. We do not naturally kick back and hope that they fit into their “grooves”, whatever they may be, but we “train a child the way they should go.” The “way” they should go is based on divine design, not an assumption of neutrality. Men should be trained to be men and women should be trained to be women. If we don’t we passively attempt to neuter God’s design through non-recognition.

It is my opinion that Egalitarians cannot pass this point without becoming Complementarians to some degree. Of course they may be “Non-Hierarchal” Complementarians, (as some like to be called now) but, in my opinion, this position is not very consistent. Here is the issue: If we have already admitted that men and women are different by design, and this difference predisposes one sex to be better at certain things than the other, and that these predispositions should be actively promoted, could it be that these “differences” make one sex better at leading in certain situations than the other? Could it be that men are predisposed to be better leaders in certain roles and women are predisposed to be better leaders in certain roles? If so, then these leadership roles are godly and need to be celebrated, exemplified, typified, and promoted in the church, family, and society.

Conclusion
You would think that I would have one more question that shows how the man is predisposed to be the leader in the church and family. I don’t. Not right now. The reason for this is that the true issue is spoiled once an agenda is smelled. These three questions are the heart of the matter. If done intentionally, you will find that people don’t mind concluding that one sex is better disposed toward certain roles (even leadership roles) than another. What gets people upset is when you present this case in such a way where one sex (normally always women) is discriminated against due to these assumptions of divine differences.
Because of this, I have found that consistent Egalitarians must backtrack and deny the validity of all three of the points here. First, the celebration and promotion of these differences gets eliminated (since this is the heart of the matter). Once this happens, it is not long before the concession of strengths and weaknesses gets rescinded. One does not want to be found admitting that they believe that God designed the sexes with strengths and weaknesses, but unwilling to concede that this is a good thing for the church, family, and society. Finally, it is necessary to rescind the first. If there are not inherent strengths and weaknesses to each sex, then there cannot be differences at all. Differences will always imply a primacy in functionality of one sort of another.

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groeschel on groups

Craig Groeschel on essential elements of great small group:
  1. A great group needs a leader. When everyone is always voting on what we do next, we never do much. A good leader makes for a good group.
  2. A great group is built around God’s word. Too often, small groups become all about fellowship. While fellowship is always essential, doing life around God’s word is what truly makes the difference.
  3. A great group is a safe group. If people can’t discuss openly without fear of judgment, rejection, or gossip, the group is doomed to fail.
  4. A great group looks outward. Serving together is life changing.
  5. A great group births new groups. If a group stays together for too long, they usually grow stale. Healthy groups produce new groups.
  6. A great group takes breaks. We often take the summer off from consistent meetings. We’re all busy. The break makes us long to be together more.
  7. A great group hurts together. I just got off the phone after talking to a young woman with four children who just lost her 39-year-old husband. Even though she is devastated, she told me confidently that her Life Group would be there for her. God is glorified through such a group.

I've worked with small groups for 30 years now and strongly agree with all but #6. What are your thoughts?

HT:DR

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

the twelve doctrines of christmas

Very well done - and I'm fully aligned ... The Twelve Doctrines of Christmas ...



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Sunday, December 12, 2010

christ did it

“It is important to realize that our Lord Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the law of God, both in its requirements and its penalty. He did what Adam failed to do — render perfect obedience to the law of God. Then by His death He completely paid the penalty of a broken law. So, from the standpoint of obedience to the law and of paying the penalty for breaking the law, He perfectly fulfilled the law of God.”

— Jerry Bridges, The Disciple of Grace: God's Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness

HT:OFI

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

parenting children ...

This post from Thabiti Anyabwile gave strength to my heart.

“And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, ‘It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.’ Thus Job did continually.” (Job 1:5)

It seems Job suffered for his children before he suffered for his children. Before the calamitous news of their death, Job worried about an even greater potential tragedy–their spiritual death.

This righteous man longed for his children to love and honor God. It’s the desire of all godly parents.

But Job lacked the one attribute most parents wish they had: omniscience. How could he know what his adult sons and daughters did when he was not around? How could he know what lie in the hearts of his children? Had they “cursed God in their hearts”? What a terrifying set of questions for any parent. This is why we don’t sleep until all the children arrive home safely. This is why we ask questions about friends we don’t know very well. This is why we sometimes inspect their rooms or ask searching questions while hoping not to offend. What if our children live double lives? What if they curse God in their hearts?

How does this righteous man deal with the questions and worry? how does he deal with not knowing? He appeals to the One who does know, who sees all. The very God Job feared His children might have cursed is Job’s Great Ally in the war for his children’s hearts. Job wants what God wants–a godly offspring (Mal. 2:15). God, then, is Job’s Warrior in this battle.

So, Job does two things. First, he consecrates his children. He sets them apart for God. His children do not belong to him; they belong to the Lord of life. If children are arrows in a parent’s quiver, Job aims His directly at the courts of God. One can only speculate about how much greater Job’s suffering and difficulty would have been if he maintained an idolatrous hold on his children. Certainly losing all his children in one day was as unimaginable a disaster possible. But would he have maintained faith and sanity had he prized his children above God, or built his life on his children, or found his ultimate joy in his children? Consecrating his children was not only right and godly, ultimately it provided a measure of protection. This is how Job could reply to his wife, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (2:10) Or, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Second, Job interceded for each of his children. Notice “he would rise early in the morning.” The earliest business of day was prayer for Job. He made his offerings to God on behalf of each child’s soul. For if they cursed God in their hearts, only God could renew their hearts. If their offense was against God, only God could relent and forgive them. They needed help from God, and Job the faithful father went to God early, interceding for their deliverance. Notice: “thus Job did continually.” Here’s a portrait of a persistently pleading parent. He conquers his helplessness by appealing to the Almighty.

These things are written for our instruction (1 Cor. 10:6). How kind of God to leave us in His word such a compelling and clear example to follow. Let us set apart our children to the Lord, and renew our prayers on their behalf. Conquer parental anxiety with petitions to our covenant God who knows our children and renews the heart.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

the temple of the holy ghost

In My Utmost for His Highest for December 5th:

Only in the throne will I be greater than thou. Genesis 41:40.

I have to account to God for the way in which I rule my body under His domination. Paul said he did not “frustrate the grace of God”—make it of no effect. The grace of God is absolute, the salvation of Jesus is perfect, it is done for ever. I am not being saved, I am saved; salvation is as eternal as God’s throne; the thing for me to do is to work out what God works in. “Work out your own salvation”; I am responsible for doing it. It means that I have to manifest in this body the life of the Lord Jesus, not mystically, but really and emphatically. “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection.” Every saint can have his body under absolute control for God. God has made us to have government over all the temple of the Holy Spirit, over imaginations and affections. We are responsible for these, and we must never give way to inordinate affections. Most of us are much sterner with others than we are in regard to ourselves; we make excuses for things in ourselves whilst we condemn in others things to which we are not naturally inclined.

“I beseech you,” says Paul, “present your bodies a living sacrifice.” The point to decide is this—‘Do I agree with my Lord and Master that my body shall be His temple?’ If so, then for me the whole of the law for the body is summed up in this revelation, that my body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.

gratitude

“The Christian life is a thank-you from beginning to end as we ponder what God has done. What an absurdity to think that we could ever bargain with God, as if there were anything we could put on the table. Nothing we can do would ever earn his favor. Yet all is ours for free. And the cross reveals his willingness to forgive not just once, but over and over and over again. How can we repay such extravagant, generous love? We cannot and need not, and the heart’s only answer is gratitude.”

— Rebecca Pippert, Hope Has Its Reasons

HT:OFI

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

tedious and tasteless hours

How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours by John Newton, 1725–1807

Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire beside You. (Psalm 73:25)

The gospel of Jesus Christ revolves around the two Advents of the Savior: The first when He came as the humble baby in Bethlehem’s manger (Philippians 2:6–8); the second when He returns as King of kings with power and great glory to establish His eternal kingdom (Luke 21:27). Christ’s first coming assures us that we now have a God who identified Himself with us in every aspect of life from birth to death. The anticipation of His second coming assures us that we will live and reign with Him forever. Such a hope keeps this life from becoming “tedious and tasteless”—regardless of the seasons or situations.

The ultimate source of inner joy is God Himself, not our circumstances. Without an intimate sense of His daily presence, however, our lives can easily become wintry and frigid.

“BUT WHEN I AM HAPPY WITH HIM, DECEMBER’S AS PLEASANT AS MAY.”

“How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours” is another of the fine hymns by John Newton. It first appeared in his 1779 collection titled The Olney Hymns. The hymn was originally titled “Fellowship with Christ”—based on Psalm 73:25. These words still speak vividly to us of the importance of maintaining a close personal relationship with our Lord:
How tedious and tasteless the hours when Jesus no longer I see! Sweet prospects, sweet birds, and sweet flowers have all lost their sweetness to me. The mid-summer sun shines but dim; the fields strive in vain to look gay; but when I am happy with Him, December’s as pleasant as May.

Content with beholding His face, my all to His pleasure resigned, no changes of season or place would make any change in my mind: While blest with a sense of His love, a palace a toy would appear; and prisons would palaces prove, if Jesus would dwell with me there.

Dear Lord, if indeed I am Thine, if Thou art my sun and my song, say, why do I languish and pine, and why are my winters so long? Oh, drive these dark clouds from my sky; Thy soul-cheering presence restore; or take me unto Thee on high, where winter and clouds are no more.
For Today: Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 9:2; 70:4; Romans 14:17, 18

God has made you a steward of this day, regardless of the weather or circumstances. May it count for Him. Consciously practice His presence. Reflect on this musical truth—

Sunday, November 28, 2010

piper on defectives

The following is an excerpt of John Piper's excellent message at the Third Lausanne Congress for World Evangelization. Here's the full message. I think it brings into focus what seems to have become a tug of war between evangelism and social justice.
If God had not put Christ forward to bear his own wrath, if Christ had not become a curse for us, as Galatians 3:13 says, then all the nations and all Jews would have perished under God’s wrath and entered into everlasting suffering in hell, as Jesus said in Matthew 25:46.

The reason I draw out this implication of the cross is to hold together in this congress and in the church of Christ two truths that are often felt to be at odds with each other, but don’t have to be.

One truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it impels us out toward the alleviation of all unjust suffering in this age. That’s what love does!

The other truth is that when the gospel takes root in our souls it awakens us to the horrible reality of eternal suffering in hell, under the wrath of a just and omnipotent God. And it impels us to rescue the perishing, and to warn people to flee from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

I plead with you. Don’t choose between those two truths. Embrace them both. It doesn’t mean we all spend our time in the same way. God forbid. But it means we let the Bible define reality and define love.

Could Lausanne say—could the evangelical church say—we Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering? I hope we can say that. But if we feel resistant to saying “especially eternal suffering,” or if we feel resistant to saying “we care about all suffering in this age,” then either we have a defective view of hell or a defective heart.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

if you love me

"Jesus didn't say if you love Me you'll feel close to Me. He said if you love Me, you'll keep my commandments." ~ Kevin DeYoung, Why We Love the Church

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

churchless christianity

"Churchless Christianity makes about as much sense as a Christless church." ~ Kevin DeYoung, Why We Love the Church

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the church and the gospel

"Theologically, we have been discovering anew that the Church is not an appendage to the Gospel: it is itself a part of the Gospel. The Gospel cannot be separated from that new people of God in which its nature is to be made manifest." ~ Stephen Neill, Christian Faith and Other Faiths

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

a new life

51Nl-D-Jqxl. Sl500 Aa300 “Because Christ lived perfectly, died sufficiently, and rose victoriously, you and I can come out of hiding. We are free to own up to, without fear, the darkest of our thoughts and motives, the ugliest of our words, our most selfish choices, and our most rebellious and unloving actions. We are freed from our bondage to guilt and shame. We are freed from hiding behind accusation, blame, recrimination, and rationalization.

Confession is powerful and effective. It turns guilt into forgiveness. It turns regret into hope. It turns slavery into freedom. It turns you from mourning over your harvest to planting new seeds of faith, repentance, and hope. You see, you are not trapped! Things are not hopeless! The Lord, the great Creator and Savior, is the God who never changes, but at the same time he is the God who promises and produces deep personal change. The changes he makes in us are so foundational that the Bible’s best words describing them are ‘new creation.’ God’s plan is to change us so fundamentally that it is as if we are longer us; something brand new has been created!”

- Paul David Tripp, Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God

HT:FE

Saturday, November 13, 2010

lloyd-jones on social justice

It is not the task of the church to deal directly with these problems. The tragedy today is that while the church is talking about these particular problems and dealing directly with politics and economics and social conditions, no Christians are being produced, and the conditions are worsening and the problems mounting. It is as the church produces Christians that she changes the conditions; but always indirectly…

The church cannot change conditions; and she is not meant to change conditions. And the moment she tries to do so she is in various ways shutting the door of evangelistic opportunity…My concern as a preacher of the Gospel is with the souls of men, my business is to produce Christians; and the larger the number of Christians the greater will be the volume of Christian thinking. It is the business of individual Christians to enter Parliament, as Wilberforce did, or to speak in the House of Lords as did the Earl of Shaftesbury, or to seek election to a local Council, and in general to act as good citizens. You are still citizens—act accordingly. ~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life In The Spirit In Marriage Home And Work

HT:DD

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Friday, November 12, 2010

spurgeon on faith

"Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbour; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too. Let the winds rush howling forth, and let the waters lift up themselves, then, though the vessel may rock, and her deck may be washed with waves, and her mast may creak under the pressure of the full and swelling sail, it is then that she makes headway towards her desired haven. No flowers wear so lovely a blue as those which grow at the foot of the frozen glacier; no stars gleam so brightly as those which glisten in the polar sky; no water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity. Tried faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God’s strength had you not been supported amid the water-floods. Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity, the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too."

Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and Evening

HT:TB

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

bonhoeffer on the church

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes:
The Body of Christ takes up space on earth. The Body of Christ can only be a visible Body, or else it is not a Body at all. ... The Body of Christ becomes visible to the world in congregation gathered around the Word and Sacrament.

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stott on the church

In The Living Church, John Stott writes:
First, I am assuming that we are all committed to the church. We are not only Christian people; we are also church people. We are not only committed to Christ, we are also committed to the body of Christ. At least I hope so. I trust that none of my readers is that grotesque anomaly, an unchurched Christian. The New Testament knows nothing of such a person. For the church lies at the very centre of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. It is not an accident of history. On the contrary, the church is God’s new community. For his purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, and to be perfected in a future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build his church, that is, to call out of the world a people for his own glory. … So then, the reason we are committed to the church is that God is so committed.
And later, based on Acts 2:47:
The Lord did two things together. He ‘added to their number… those who were being saved.’ He didn’t add them to the church without saving them, and he didn’t save them without adding them to the church. Salvation and church membership went together; they still do.

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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

colson on church

From Kevin DeYoung's Why We Love the Church ...

When asked where he goes to church, Chuck Colson replied: "I've always resented the phrase 'Where do you go to church?' I don't go to a church. I'm a member of a church. You don't ask where somebody 'goes' to a country club. I'm not talking about where you're going. I'm talking about where you plant your flag and say, 'This is where I'm a Christian.'"

Colson also expounds on what he tell inmates to look of in churches. "Number one is a church that believes in and preaches the Bible. Calvin said that the number one task of the church is to preach the gospel. Second, it should be a place where disciples are made. Is this a place where I'm going to be discipled and grow as a Christian? The classic marks of the church, at least to the Reformers, were preaching the gospel, administering the sacraments, and number three: discipline. Discipline both in terms of holding people accountable and teaching."

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a battle reminder

"For another thing, let me warn all careless members of Churches to beware lest they trifle their souls into hell. You live on year after year as if there was no battle to be fought with sin, the world, and the devil; you pass through life a smiling, laughing, gentleman-like or ladylike person, and behave as if there was no devil, no heaven, and no hell. Oh, careless Churchman, or careless Dissenter, careless Episcopalian, careless Presbyterian, careless Independent, careless Baptist, awake and see eternal realities in their true light! Awake, and put on the armour of God! Awake, and fight hard for life! Tremble: tremble, and repent." ~ J.C. Ryle, Holiness

Monday, November 08, 2010

what do you think about this pastor

“I ask you what you think of the faithful minister of Christ, who honestly exposes sin and pricks your conscience. Mind how you answer that question. Too many, nowadays, like only those ministers who prophesy smooth things and let their sins alone, who flatter their pride and amuse their intellectual taste, but who never sound an alarm, and never tell them of a wrath to come.” ~ J.C. Ryle, Holiness

Ezra, an example, was "skilled in the law of Moses" (Ezra 7.6), "learned in the words of the commandments of the Lord" (Ezra 7.11), and that the "hand of the Lord his God was upon him" (Ezra 7.6). He had calling along with talent and training.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

what do they want

From Wy We Love the Church, Kevin DeYoung's summary of the attitudes of the postmodern (emerg*) toward the Church.

Consistency is not a postmodern virtue. And nowhere is this more aptly displayed than in the barrage of criticisms leveled against the church.
  • The church-is-lame crowd hates Constantine and notions of Christendom, but they want the church to be a patron of the arts, and run after-school programs, and bring the world together in peace and love.
  • They bemoan the over-programmed church, but then think of a hundred complex resource-hungry things the church should be doing.
  • They don’t like the church because it is too hierarchical, , but then hate it when it has poor leadership.
  • They wish the church could be more diverse, but then leave to meet in a coffee ship with other well-educated thirtysomethings who are into film festivals, NPR, and carbon offsets.
  • They want more of a family spirit, but too much family and they’ll complain that the church is “inbred.”
  • They want the church to know that its reputation with the outsiders is terrible, but then are critical they the church is too concerned with appearances.
  • They chide the church for not doing more to address social problems, but then complain when the church gets too political.
  • They want church unity and decry all our denominations, but fail to see the irony in the fact that they have left to do their own thing because they can’t find a single church that can satisfy them.
  • They are critical of the lack of community in the church, but then want services that allow for individualized worship experiences.
  • They want leaders with vision, but don’t want anyone to tell them what to do or how to think.
  • They want a church where the people really know each other and care for each other, but then they complain the church today is an isolated country club, only interested in catering to its own members.
  • They want to be connected with history, but are sick of the same prayers and same style every week.
  • They call for not judging “the spiritual path of other believers who are dedicated to pleasing God and blessing people,” and then they blast the traditional church in the harshest, most unflattering terms.”

gardyn

Another creative youtube video ... this one for gardening and music lovers ...


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Saturday, November 06, 2010

shallow theology

I think Kevin DeYoung, in his short critique of The Shack in his own book, Why We Love the Church, hits the nail on the head in regard to what is wrong with the liberal theology today. The popularity of The Shack then reflects the shallow theological understanding held by many of susceptible believers.
In telling the story of Mack’s (the book’s main character) encounter with the Trinity in an old shack in the woods, Young introduces us to God the Father as a big, black woman named Papa, God the Son as a Jewish man with a big nose, and God the Spirit as a woman of Asian extraction named Sarayu. Young’s God is a God who is especially fond of everyone everywhere and loves everyone in the same way, a God who doesn’t punish people for sin (because sin is its own punishment). There is not order or authority in God. The Father submits to Jesus just as Jesus submits to the Father. In fact, God even submits to us. In Young’s theology, evil and darkness do not really exist, but are just the absence of goodness and light. I could keep going with the theological problems in The Shack… God’s sovereignty over suffering is rejected, and all human beings are already reconciled to God (we just need to choose to live in the relationship)… But the depiction of the Christan faith in The Shack is not simply a little off here or there. It is a deviation from the historic faith in many, and important, places.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

moorhead on judging

Below is Jonathan Moorhead's excellent post on judging (copied in its entirety). As I've noted before, "don't judge" is code for I don't agree with you - which is in itself a judgement.

“Who are you to judge me?! The Bible says, ‘Don’t judge.’ You need to be more like Jesus who loved people and showed grace and mercy. You need to stop your ‘holier than thou’ attitude and be like Jesus.”

We all have heard this argument in personal conversation or on television when sin is confronted. This is such a popular argument that I thought I should address it on a biblical and philosophical level.

Biblically
(1) Does the Bible really say that we are not to judge one another? (2) What example did Jesus and the apostles give us? (3) Does God Himself no longer judge those in the Church? (4) What admonitions are there in Scripture for Christians today? (5) Is abstaining from judgment really the most loving, gracious, and merciful thing to do for a sinning brother or sister?

(1) Matthew 7:1 says, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” Usually the critic will quote this verse and consider the case to be closed. I usually like to ask him or her to continue quoting the pericope because context is very important for discerning meaning. Once the context is read, we understand that judging is not being condemned, but judging as a hypocrite is being condemned (cf. Romans 2:1-9). In the words of Jesus, “how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye” (v. 4)? The next verse is vital: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (v. 5). In conclusion we see that the context of Matthew 7 actually supports judging, if it is done without hypocrisy.

(2) If we are to be like Jesus and the apostles, we need to know if they ever judged the sin of their followers. The evidence for judgment is overwhelming, so I will only give a few examples here:

Jesus: John 5:30 “As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” John 7:24 “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Matthew 18:15-20 is the locus classicus on confronting sin and church restoration/discipline.

John the Baptist: Luke 3:7-9 “‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Paul: Galatians 2:11-14 “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’” 1 Corinthians 5:3-5, etc.

Apostle John: 2 John 1:9-11 “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.”

(3) If Christians are not to judge, it would seem logical that God Himself would also refrain from judging believers. However, God continues to judge sin, even among those in the Church. God killed Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5; in 1 Corinthians 11 there were those that were weak, sick, and had died because they did not partake of the Lord’s Supper worthily; there is sin leading to death in 1 John 5:16-17; and Revelation 1-3 is a testimony of God’s judgment on sinning churches.

(4) I imagine that someone might respond, “Yes, this is the testimony of Jesus, John, the apostles, and God Himself, but do you think you have the right to talk like they did/do?” This is a valid concern, so let’s see what we are charged to do.

We have already seen from Matthew 7 that we are to judge one another, yet without hypocrisy. Matthew 18:15-20 is also a command to believers. Notice 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 “Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” Titus 3:10 “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” Romans 15:14 “I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.” 2 Timothy 4:2 “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” 1 Timothy 5:2 “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.” 2 Thessalonians 3:6, Titus 1:10-16, etc.


(5) Is ignoring sin the most loving, gracious, and merciful thing to do? It is not. In reality, it is the most unloving, ungracious, unmerciful thing you can do. If you really love someone, don’t you want what is best for them? Do you practice this philosophy with your children? I doubt it, so why would you in your other relationships?

Ephesians 4:15-16 does NOT say, “In love, do not speak the truth,” but RATHER “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

Unfortunately, lack of confrontation shows that we lack love for the Church and God. We would rather not deal with confrontation (in disobedience to God), instead of face the prospect of being attacked by the sinning party. Or perhaps we ourselves are living in sin and are in no position to judge others. In short, the answer comes down to motive. Why do you, or why do you not confront someone’s sin?

Philosophically
The original statement by the critic can be shown not only to contradict Scripture, but to fail on a fundamental philosophical level. This is because the argument itself can be seen to be self-defeating. The charge is “Don’t judge me,” and yet the charge itself is a judgment! The critic wants to judge you for what you are doing, while at the same time telling you that it is unbiblical to judge. This is similar to the postmodern assertion, “all truth is relative.” Is that an absolute statement, or is it relative too? The critic is seen to be holding a double-standard, refusing to live consistently.

Important Note!
While the purpose of this article has primarily been to give a biblical defense to judging believers (this could also be shown regarding unbelievers), more needs to be said concerning the “how.” As I asked before, what is your primary motive for confronting someone’s sin? If it is not for the glory of God, it is sin. If it is done in hypocrisy and out of anger, it is sin. If it is simply to get someone kicked out of the church, it is sin. Matthew 7 clearly shows us that we should not be hypocritical judges, and 2 Timothy 2:24-26 shows us that how we judge others is vital as well:

“The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”

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a little on fear

I read three things today that were linked (at least in my mind) by the word fear.

First I read a blog by a blind-guide I occasionally visit to get a glimpse into what goes on "on the other side". In a recent post, A Theology of Fear, he wrote the following based on a panel discussion from Advance 09.
Q: What ways do you council a young pastor to overcome their fear of man?
Piper: Grow like crazy in your fear of God. Be terrified of about God and his disapproval. Or to put it positively, fall in love with the supremacy of God and the sovereignty of God.

I get the idea that “Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov 1:7) Fear is the starting point. It’s an orientation that aligns us to reality. God is the beginning point for reality. But we often miss that it’s the beginning…not the end. How can you love something you fear? The Gospel is the recognition of God’s love that draws us towards relationship, not something that keeps us growing in fear. Perfect love, or the awareness of God’s true response, cast out fear.
Note here that he fails to explore Scripture regarding the fear of the Lord and ignores the logic that the fear of the Lord must somehow be different than the fear that perfect love must cast out. But his error gets worse ...
What [sic] sad to me is that Piper’s idea creates and perpetuates wrath. It keeps people in a state of fear. Wrath is our manufactured and projected understanding of God’s response to something we’ve done. But it fails to see God’s response through the cross. This is largely what I was trying to get at but failed to do so adequately in this post. It’s this idea that we have to approach God from this stance that we are disapproved (unworthy). It’s this idea that God is never really approving of us. And I get why some hold onto this idea. Fear is an extremely powerful motivating force. But is it restorative in a continual state. I don’t think so. Largely because fear is a stress process on the body and cannot produce Shalom in its continued state.

What is interesting is that Piper seems to contradict himself (and I could be wrong about that) as he elaborates. He suggests we see ourselves as “with God”. The problem is that with God doesn’t grow your fear of God. It enhances your understanding of God’s love.
In contrast, and rightly, Easton's Bible Dictionary offers the following:
... in the Old Testament used as a designation of true piety (Prov. 1:7; Job 28:28; Ps. 19:9). It is a fear conjoined with love and hope, and is therefore not a slavish dread, but rather filial reverence. (Comp. Deut. 32:6; Hos. 11:1; Isa. 1:2; 63:16; 64:8.) God is called “the Fear of Isaac” (Gen. 31:42, 53), i.e., the God whom Isaac feared.

A holy fear is enjoined also in the New Testament as a preventive of carelessness in religion, and as an incentive to penitence (Matt. 10:28; 2 Cor. 5:11; 7:1; Phil. 2:12; Eph. 5:21; Heb. 12:28, 29).
And Harper's Bible Dictionary:
... the awe that a person ought to have before God (Prov. 5:7; Eccles. 12:13). As such it can be said to constitute ‘true religion’ (Ps. 34:11). This ‘fear of the Lord’ is represented by the ‘fear and trembling’ with which Paul exhorts the Philippians to work out their salvation (Phil. 2:12). It describes the piety of the growing church in Acts 9:31. However, it may also carry overtones of judgment (2 Cor. 5:11; 1 Pet. 1:17).
The blog author's confusion and false assumptions are based on his inability to grasp the Biblical beauty of God. Throughout his writings he recreates god and redefines love in an effort to deal with his own life's pains rather than to rely on the revealed Truth found in Scripture. Which moves me to the second thing I read and reposted. In this, Michael Patton I think successfully tries to paint an objective picture outlining the various views on election. Only one with a unregenerate heart seated in bias can read the Calvinist position and conclude fear and ugliness rather than freedom and beauty. That isn't to say I cannot allow for those that conclude other than Calvinism but to jump to the position of my fellow blogger above only reflects his failure to "have ears that hear".

And finally, a blog post by my friend and young-but-wise-man, Geoff Hill entitled Violence in Heaven. Whether his intention or not, it served me as a great reminder that our lives, if lived rightly, are to command a response. Either we will be despised and reject as our Lord, or the Gospel will be received and repentance and righteousness will follow. Our role is to ensure the only stumbling block is Christ crucified.

It is in that presentation that the wolves that have infiltrated the church will cry that we fail to love while they in-fact miss the true love (and beauty) found in the real Gospel presentation.

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the boat and the doctrine of election (or not)

Michael Patton provides these simply parables of the boat to explain the differences between Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Arminianism, and Calvinism ... enjoy (or not).

Pelagianism
All the people are on the boat with the God. At this point, in their natural condition, they don’t need to be saved as they are not in danger. However, most (if not all) people will eventually jump in the water (sin) and find themselves in need of God’s grace. The reason why they jump in the water is because they are following numerous example of those who jumped before them. This example goes all the way back to the first two who jumped into the water, setting the first bad example. God them offers them a life preserver when they call on him for help. If they respond they will be saved (synergism).

Semi-Pelagianism
All people are in the water drowning. They are born drowning. This is the natural habitation of all humanity since the first man and woman jumped into the water. Their legs are cramping and they cannot swim to safety on their own. However, they may desire salvation on their own. Though they cannot attain it, they can call, with a wave of their arm, to God who is eagerly waiting on the edge of the boat. At the first sign of their initiative, God will then throw out the life preserver (grace). If they respond, they will be saved (synergism).

Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy
All people are in the water drowning. They are born drowning. This is the natural habitation of all humanity since the first man and woman jumped into the water. Their legs are cramping and they cannot swim to safety on their own. God, standing on the edge of the boat, makes the first initiative by throwing a life preserver to them (prevenient grace). Upon seeing this act, they make a decision to grab a hold (faith) or to swim away. If they grab a hold, God will slowly pull the rope connected to the life preserver. But they must do their part by swimming along with God’s pull (grace plus works; synergism). If at any time they let go or quit swimming, they will not be saved.

Arminianism
All people are floating in the water dead in their natural condition (total depravity). They are born dead because that has been the condition of humanity since the first man and woman jumped into the water and died (original sin). Death begets death. There must be intervention if they are to be saved. God uses his power to bring every one of them back to life (prevenient grace), but they are still in the water and in danger of drowning. With the regenerated ability to respond to God, now God throws the life preserver to them and calls on them all to grab hold of it. They then make the free-will decision on their own to grab a hold of the life preserver (faith) or to swim away. If they grab a hold, they must continue to hold as God pulls them in (synergism). They don’t need to do anything but hold on. Any effort to swim and aid God is superfluous (sola fide). They can let go of the preserver at any time and, as a consequence, lose their salvation.

Calvinism
All people are floating in the water dead in their natural condition (total depravity). They are born dead because that has been the condition of humanity since the first man and woman jumped into the water and died (original sin). Death begets death. There must be radical intervention if they are to be saved. While God calls out to all of them (general call), due to his mysterious choice, he brings back to life (regeneration) only certain people (election) while passing by the rest (reprobation). He does not use a life preserver, but grabs a hold of the elect individually and immediately pulls them onto the boat (monergism). They naturally grab a hold of God as a consequence of their regeneration (irresistible grace; sola fide). They forever stay on the boat due to their perpetual ability to recognize God’s beauty (perseverance of the saints).

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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

we are pleasing

“God’s children are pleasing and lovable to Him, since He sees in them the marks and features of His own countenance.”

- John Calvin, Institutes, 3.17.5

HT:JH

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

wax on inerrancy

Trevin Wax speaks on Inerrancy and Baggage.
Dumping the term while upholding the content may appear sophisticated and nuanced, but I believe it breeds more confusion than clarity. So, I’ll continue to affirm inerrancy. I”ll continue to teach it, to properly qualify it, and to reclaim it. To my friends who still don’t like the label, your baggage looks heavier to me.
I agree with him. While some do seem to be proponents of errancy, I think most are not. They simply don't like the baggage that has been attached to inerrancy. I get that. But in an effort to deal with it in what I've read, they have done damage to the truth of Scripture. I think we can hold to inerrancy and deal better with the baggage.

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paraprosdokians

I posted a series of these to Twitter and Facebook ... here is my source.

A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to re-frame or re-interpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.
  1. I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
  2. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
  3. I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather, not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
  4. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  5. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.
  6. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  7. If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.
  8. We never really grow up; we only learn how to act in public.
  9. War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
  10. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  11. Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening' and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.
  12. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
  13. A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.
  14. How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?
  15. Some people are like Slinkies ... not really good for anything, but you can't help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs.
  16. Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  17. I didn't say it was your fault; I said I was blaming you.
  18. Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars but check when you say the paint is wet?
  19. Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America ?
  20. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
  21. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  22. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  23. The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!
  24. Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.
  25. A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  26. Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.
  27. Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
  28. Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.
  29. I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.
  30. When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.
  31. You're never too old to learn something stupid.
  32. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
  33. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
  34. Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.
  35. A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.
  36. If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one child?
  37. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

strive ... he is returning

"Strive to live a courageous life. Confess Christ before men. Whatever station you occupy, in that station confess Christ. ... Strive to live a joyful life. Live like men who look for that blessed hope - the second coming of Jesus Christ." ~ J.C. Ryle, Holiness

truth time regarding homosexuality

I love the following issued by Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality:
  1. Homosexual practice is always wrong. To advocate for this lifestyle, including homosexual relationships, is also wrong. Advocacy of a sin is itself a sin.
  2. It is immoral to “mainstream” homosexuality to children in schools in the guise of teaching tolerance and diversity.
  3. No sincere Christian supports violence or hatred directed at homosexuals. In fact, Christians want homosexuals to accept Christ, repent of their sin and be forgiven — and change their lifestyle, as countless former “gays” have. Violence and abuse toward homosexuals is the work of people who reject Christian love and compassion.
  4. “Bullying” in any form is wrong and must be stopped. But it can be addressed without promoting acceptance of homosexuality. “Anti-bullying” measures must not become a Trojan Horse to advance the pro-“gay” agenda.
  5. Many homosexual activists are anti-religious bigots, stemming from their hatred of the Church for opposing homosexuality as a sin. Often these militants claim that religious people who oppose homosexuality are on a par with racists – a spurious and hateful analogy.
  6. Homosexuality has nothing to do with race. Skin color cannot be changed. In contrast, thousands of ex-lesbians and ex-gay men testify to the reality that homosexuality can be overcome.
  7. Driven by their hatred of moral opponents, homosexual activists like Human Rights Campaign are shamelessly exploiting the suicides of homosexual youth and violent attacks against homosexuals to demand that religious bodies stop speaking against homosexuality. Their aim is to silence all opposition.
  8. The liberal media – which is now practically an arm of the homosexual movement – is also promoting the false linkage between speech critical of homosexuality and gay suicides and violence against homosexuals. This must stop. The media must return to its proper role of reporting both sides on homosexuality – which starts by acknowledging that there is another side to this debate.
  9. Christians who believe that the proper response to anti-homosexual hatred in our society is to downplay biblical truth are na├»ve and misguided. Now more than ever, young people and all Americans need to hear the truth: that homosexuality is wrong, unnatural and often unhealthy (one in five “men who have sex with men” has HIV: CDC) – but that it can be overcome through Christ.

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clarifying missional

Kevin DeYoung provides some clarifying thoughts regarding missional. I want to highlight a few:

Let me say something at this point about the relatively new term “missional.” I do not have a problem with people putting “al” at the end of “mission.” More and more the word simply means “being involved in mission.” Or it is shorthand for “get out of your holy huddle and go engage your community with the gospel.” And I’m all for that. Every Christian should be. So I am not on a crusade to make people stop using the word missional, nor do I want you to be suspicious of everyone who does.
Amen! And then he outlines some more specifics:

(1) I am concerned that good behaviors are sometimes commended using the wrong categories. For example, many good deeds are promoted under the term “social justice” when I think “love your neighbor” is often a better category. Or, folks will talk about transforming the world, when I think being “a faithful presence in the world” is a better way to describe what we are trying to do and actually can do. Or, sometimes well meaning Christians talk about “building the kingdom” when actually the verbs associated with the kingdom are almost always passive (enter, receive, inherit). We’d do better to speak of living as citizens of the kingdom, rather than telling our people they build the kingdom.

(2) I am concerned that in our new found missional zeal we sometimes put hard “oughts” on Christians where there should be inviting “cans.” You ought to do something about human trafficking. You ought to do something about AIDS. You ought to do something about lack of good public education. When you say “ought” you imply that if the church does not tackle these problems we are being disobedient. It would be better to invite individual Christians in keeping with their gifts and calling to try to solve these problems rather than indicting the church for “not caring.”

(3) I am concerned that in all our passion for renewing the city or tackling social problems we run the risk of marginalizing the one thing that makes Christian mission Christian: namely, making disciples of Jesus Christ.

Now, having raised those concerns, I need to make sure you know what I am not saying. I do not want:

- Christians to be indifferent toward the suffering around them and around the world.
- Christians to think evangelism is the only thing in life that really counts or that helping the poor really only matters if it results in conversions.
- Christians to stop dreaming of creative, courageous ways to love their neighbors and impact their cities.

But here’s some of what I do want:

- I want the gospel—the good news of Christ’s death for sin and subsequent resurrection—to be of first importance in our churches.
- I want Christians freed from false guilt, freed from thinking the church is either responsible for most of problems in the world or responsible to fix all of these problems.
- I want the utterly unique task of the church—making disciples of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit to the glory of God the Father—put front and center, not lost in a flurry of humanitarian good deeds or environmental concerns.
Then, as if that isn't enough, DeYoung closes with these powerful points.

I affirm that faith without works is dead. I agree that the gospel should be adorned with good works. I agree that those saved by the gospel will live lives of compassion, justice, and love. I applaud and pray for more churches that do orphan care, address hunger issues, and tackle community problems with the aim of meeting human need and “putting in a good word for Jesus.”

So what is the mission of the church? The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship and obey Jesus Christ now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father. In other words, the mission of the church is not equal to everything God is doing in the world, nor is it everything we do in obedience to Christ. The mission of the church is the Great Commission. As Kostenberger says, “the church ought to be focused in the understanding of its mission. Its activities should be constrained by what helps others to come to believe that the Messiah, the Son of God, is Jesus.”

But to say disciple-making is the “central” aim or our “priority,” or our “focus” is not to say that everything else is suspect. Galatians 6:10 says, “Do good to all people, especially to the household of faith.” I should also add that the language of “priority” does not mean evangelism or discipleship must happen temporally prior to any other kind of ministry. “Priority” doesn’t mean you do items 1-10 on your list and then you can tackle 11-15.

It does mean, however, that priorities ought to take, well, priority. We live in a world of finite time, finite people, and finite resources. Therefore, the church cannot do everything noble there is to do. If our mission is discipleship this will mean something for the church’s allocation of time, talents, and treasure. What that something looks like depends on the wisdom of the leadership of the local church. I don’t have a formula for what keeps disciple-making properly in the focus. Except to say this: if the church as a body tackles few community problems, but it is making disciples, and those disciples are individually living as disciples, the church is being faithful. Conversely, if we do everything else—serve, bless, renew the city, create culture, transform our schools—but do not make disciples, we are failing in our mission.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

another proper response to homosexuality

Again, I'm late and simply reposting what many of you have already read - but I wanted some of the emotional dust to settle.

It is very sad that Tyler Clementi took his own life. It is sad when anyone does. But it is also sad when people try to make more of this than what it is and worse, to promote lies and sin that will further the pain of the real issue.

I'm not interested in a debate about bullying or not. I'm not interested in speculating in regard to Clementi. I simply want to add a hearty amen to the words of Al Mohler in response to the claim by some that, "If the stigma attached to homosexuality were to disappear, persons who are convinced that they are homosexual in sexual orientation, along with those who are confused, would be free from bullying, the threat of exposure, and injury to their parents and loved ones."

Of course, Christians committed to biblical truth will recognize this as a demand to lie to sinners about their sin. The church cannot change its understanding of the sinfulness of homosexual acts unless it willfully disobeys the Scripture and rejects the authority of the Bible to reveal the truth about sin and sinfulness.

In other words, the believing church cannot surrender to the demand that we disobey and reject biblical truth. That much is clear. We cannot lie to persons about the sinfulness of their sin, nor comfort them with falsehood about their moral accountability before God. The rush of the liberal churches and denominations to normalize homosexuality is now a hallmark of their disobedience to the Bible.

But this is not the end of the matter, and we know it. When gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are wrong. Our concern about the sinfulness of homosexuality is not rooted in fear, but in faithfulness to the Bible — and faithfulness means telling the truth.

Yet, when gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are also right. Much of our response to homosexuality is rooted in ignorance and fear. We speak of homosexuals as a particular class of especially depraved sinners and we lie about how homosexuals experience their own struggle. Far too many evangelical pastors talk about sexual orientation with a crude dismissal or with glib assurances that gay persons simply choose to be gay. While most evangelicals know that the Bible condemns homosexuality, far too many find comfort in their own moralism, consigning homosexuals to a theological or moral category all their own.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

accepted?

I posted the following on Facebook yesterday:
I read this, "Jesus [came] to show the Father accepts you!" Yet I don't find it in Scripture in the context that it is meant. Can anyone offer support for this? Right now, it seems to be a popular liberal/postmodern/emerg* error. But I'd be interested in texts that state otherwise.
There are two common false notions; that God accepts us as we are and that Jesus came to demonstrate that acceptance. Neither could be further from the truth. God loves us and hates our rebellion. He wants us to repent. Jesus came to provide a way for us to die to ourselves and live through Him by paying the penalty of our rebellion. We are accepted only "in" Him.

The following posted at Of First Importance is from Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust), 47.

“The gospel remits the severity of the moral law. Wherein our personal obedience comes short, God will be pleased to accept us in our Surety. ‘He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.’ Eph. 1:6. Though our obedience be imperfect, yet, through Christ our Surety, God looks upon it as perfect.”

Sunday, October 17, 2010

how to glorify god

"Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." — Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. 1.

Kevin DeYoung presents twenty biblical ways to do that.
  • Give God verbal declarations of praise (Rev. 4:8-9).
  • Live a life of noticeable piety (Matt. 5:16; James 1:27; 1 Peter 2:12).
  • Ask God for things in Jesus’ name (John 14:13).
  • Bear fruit and show yourself to be a disciple of Jesus (John 15:8).
  • Declare the truth about Jesus (John 16:14).
  • Love your life less than God (John 21:19; 1 Peter 1:7; 4:16).
  • Worship God as God (Rom. 1:21).
  • Live a life of sexual purity (1 Cor. 6:20).
  • Live a life of generosity (2 Cor. 9:13).
  • Rejoice in God’s glory displayed in creation (Psalm 19:1).
  • Do the works of faith (2 Thess. 1:12).
  • Use your gifts in God’s strength (1 Peter 4:11).
  • Make sure everyone knows you’re not God (Acts 12:23).
  • Live a life of gratitude (Psalm 50:23; 2 Cor. 4:15).
  • In matters of liberty, seek the good of others (1 Cor 10:31).
  • Extend grace to sinners (2 Cor. 8:19).
  • Be a part of a local church (2 Cor. 8:23; Eph. 3:20-21).
  • Tell God you are wrong and he is right (Josh. 7:19; Jer. 13:16; Rev. 16:9).
  • Obey God (Lev. 10:3; Mal. 2:2).
  • Go from a Christ-despiser to a Christ-worshiper (Gal. 1:24).

approval

“The gospel brings me explosive news: my search for approval is over. In Christ I already have all the approval I need.”

- Dave Harvey, Rescuing Ambition (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway, 2010), 56.

HT:FE

a new kingdom

As you prepare to vote, consider the following from R.C. Sproul ...

Evangelical Christians love America. Some see in her the last hope of creating a Christian nation. But it is not a Christian nation. It is pagan to the core. It is in danger of becoming, if it is not already, the new “Evil Empire.” The Mayflower Compact is a museum piece, a relic of a forgotten era. “In God We Trust” is now a lie.

Yes, we must always work for social reform. Yes, we must be “profane’ in Martin Luther’s sense of going out of the temple and into the world. We do not despise the country of our birth. But in what do we invest our hope? The state is not God. The nation is not the Promised Land. The president is not our King. The Congress is not our Savior. Our welfare can never be found in the city of man. The federal government is not sovereign. We live—in every age and in every generation—by the rivers of Babylon. We need to understand that clearly. We must learn how to sing the Lord’s song in a strange and foreign land.

America will fall. The United States will inevitably disintegrate. The Stars and Stripes will bleed. The White House will turn to rubble. That is certain. We stand like Augustine before the sea. We pray that God will spare our nation. If He chooses not to, we ask for the grace to accept its demise. In either case, we look to Him who is our King and to heaven, which is our home. We await the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem, whose builder and maker is God.

Coram Deo: Are you looking to your King and to your eternal destiny, despite the circumstances around you? Keep your focus on the heavenly Jerusalem, whose builder and maker is God.

1 Corinthians 15:50: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.”

John 3:5: “Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’”

2 Peter 1:11: “An entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

calvin on inerrancy

From the blog of Kevin DeYoung ... "did [John Calvin] believe the Bible was true only in matter of faith and practice or did he believe the Scriptures to be completely without error in all they affirm? In short, was Calvin an inerrantist?"

The answer, in a word, is yes. For Calvin, we “will be safe from the danger of erring” so long as we “inquire from the Scriptures what is right and true” (Calvin’s Comm., Matthew 22:29). Indeed, it is our wisdom to embrace “without finding fault, whatever is taught in Sacred Scripture” (Inst. I.xviii.4). The biblical writers were, according to Calvin, “organs of the Holy Spirit” uttering only what they were commissioned to declare (Calvin’s Comm., 2 Timothy 3:16). The Holy Spirit is “the Author of Scriptures” (Inst. I.ix.2). Consequently, “we owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God; because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing belonging to man mixed with it” (Calvin’s Comm., 2 Tim. 3:16). For Calvin, Scripture is so well-ordered, so unified, so beautiful and perfect that it “savor[s] of nothing earthly” (Inst. I.viii.1).

It is not hard to find quotations like these throughout Calvin’s writings. For example, according to the Genevan reformer, the apostles were “sure and genuine scribes of the Holy Spirit” (Inst. IV.viii.9). God so controlled the process of inspiration that Calvin can speak of the Spirit “in a certain measure dictating the words” of Scripture (Inst. IV.viii.8). By this Calvin does not mean the human authors were passive copyists who simply wrote down what they heard from heaven. He means that the process of inspiration was so complete and total as to yield the same result as if the Bible were nothing but dictation. God put into the minds of the men who wrote Scripture what should be written (Inst. I.vi.2) and even directed their pens (Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Argument).

Calvin was not naive about the apparent discrepancies in Scripture, nor did he expect biblical numbers to be exact. He accepted that Scripture uses phenomenological language and figures of speech. He often probed the difficult issues stemming from mistakes in translation and transmission. All that to say, he made the same sort of distinctions careful modern-day inerrantists make.

More to the point, however, he held to the same view of verbal, plenary inspiration. Calvin never rejected the truthfulness of any Scriptural affirmation. He believed the Bible to be the Word of God and without error. He argued on many occasions that to disagree with the Bible was to disagree with God himself. Conversely, those submissive to God, he maintained, would submit themselves to the Scriptures. They would never be led by the Spirit away from the Bible, for the Bible is the Spirit’s book.

In conclusion, let me humbly and confidently suggest that those wishing to stand downstream from Calvin ought to be standing in the tradition of Hodge, Machen, and Boice . Like those inerrantists, not to mention the vast majority of Christians throughout history traveling down the wide river of mere Christianity, Calvin understood that “we owe to Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God.”

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Friday, October 15, 2010

hyatt on sex

Bob Hyatt provides the following excellent summary from his sermon on the theology of sex (pt 1 & pt 2):

When sex takes the form of a search for something, “are you the one? Will you give me what I need?” the search for love and unconditional acceptance, or even just the search for release, it breaks us even further. But when sex comes as an expression of something that’s been found, as a living expression of the unconditional, never-ending acceptance that a husband and wife have promised one another, then it can become very much a part of putting us back together again…

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caring for sinners



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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

hell

It's good to be reminded (1) what we've been redeemed to and (2) what we have been redeemed from. My friend Geoff Hill posts a timely reminder on the latter.

He concludes, "we are called to preach as His representatives: with biblical balance, with a Christocentric focus, with the humanity of those who realize their own need of grace before the judgment seat of Christ, with a willingness to suffer in the light of the coming glory, with love and compassion in our hearts, and in a way that commends and adorns the doctrine of God our Savior."

kingdom of god graphic

For what it's worth, here's a graphic depicting the Kingdom of God. Not great but not bad ...



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the story

“The kingdom of God is the new and final age that began with the coming of Jesus. His kingdom is not part of the present age — an age where the flesh reigns; where people are divided, relationships are broken, and suspicion and competition dominate; where money, sex, and power are abused; where leaders are first and servants are last; where behavior is controlled by laws, and identity is defined by race, gender, or social standing; and where gifts and resources are used for the advancement of oneself.

Rather, the kingdom of God is the new age. It is the age of the Spirit (Matt 12:28). It is the age of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17). The kingdom of God is about the renewal, restoration, and reconciliation of all things, and God has made us a part of this great story of salvation.”

- Neil H. Williams, Gospel Transformation (Jenkintown, Pa.; World Harvest Mission, 2006), iii.

HT:FE


At the same time, the Kingdom has always existed and has been manifest, but an inauguration of sorts happened with the first coming of Christ and it will be completed with the second coming.

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reftagger