Tuesday, May 28, 2013

abortion testimony

And knowing this, many still support abortion under the lie of choice and health-care.

Full transcript here.

touchy feely

Too many today are like the women in this video. I appreciate the value of listening and helping others realize solutions on their own ... but there's still space for pointing out the nail in the head ...

Monday, May 27, 2013

nature determines family

Robin Phillips argues against Premise 2:

The State that Legalizes Gay ‘Marriage’ Presumes to Replace Nature as the Determiner for What Constitutes a Family

My second point follows directly from the first and it is this: the state that legalizes gay ‘marriage’ presumes to replace nature as the sole determiner of the difference between marriage and non-marriage, and thus what constitutes a family.

To demonstrate this second premise, recall what we saw a minute ago about the difference between marriage as the gay community would have us understand it, vs. marriage as it has traditionally been understood. The gay community would like us to think that marriage is, and perhaps always has been, “a committed and loving relationship between two consenting adults.” This is over and against the conjugal view of marriage as “a union between one man and one woman”, or more specifically, a sexual union publically recognized because of its potential fecundity.

In the case of the conjugal view, there is an empirical reality we can point to when establishing whether a relationship is really a marriage, or at least a complete and consummated marriage. Have they had sexual intercourse? But we have seen that there is no corresponding empirical reality that can constitute what it means to be in a marriage regulated by the first definition. Indeed, a person might have a “committed and loving relationship” with any number of other persons without it being marriage.

Now precisely because of this, the only way that a committed and loving relationship can be upgraded into marriage is if the state steps in and declares that relationship to be a marriage, in much the same way as the state might declare something to be a corporation or some other legal entity. By contrast, conjugal marriages have and could exist without the state’s recognition because it is fundamentally a pre-political institution. Marriage is pre-political in the sense that it has intrinsic goods attached to it, not least of which is the assurance of patrimony and thus the integrity of inheritance. Such goods do not exist by the state’s fiat even though the state may recognize, regulate or protect them.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

spiritual gifts in history

Sam Storms has begun an excellent series on spiritual gifts in church history. Here is his first post exploring the claim that history tells us they ceased.

The question I want to answer in this and several subsequent articles is this: “If the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 are valid for Christians beyond the death of the apostles, why were they absent from church history until their alleged reappearance in the twentieth century?” My answer follows.

canon - open or closed?

Michael Patton on the canon ...

The term “canon” refers to the accepted books of the Bible. The Protestant canon contains 66 books; other Christian traditions vary, adding a few books often referred to as the Deuterocanonical books (“second canon”) or the “Apocrypha.” A commonly accepted understanding among most Christians of all traditions is that the books that belong in the Bible cannot be added to. In other words, the canon is “closed.”

While in one sense I believe the canon is closed, in some ways I do not believe that to be necessarily true. Let me explain.

In order to maintain that the canon is closed, most Christians would refer the the first few centuries of the church. In particular, councils such as Rome, Hippo, and Carthage, as well as Athanasius’ Easter Letter, are pointed to as evidence that the canon of the New Testament had closed by the time they took place. The Old Testament, according to most, was already established and closed by the time of Christ. For this, reference could be made to the New Testament itself, the testimonies of Josephus and Philo, and some of the intertestamental works.

My contention with this assumption is that saying that the canon is “closed” needs to be understood more in an observational way rather than as an authoritative pronouncement. “Closed” might not be the best word, since it implies a necessary finality concerning the contents of Scripture. I don’t believe we can say this (in the way we usually mean it) for two primary reasons:

god is good

Our great and sovereign God is good. Naturally, many who have built false gods have difficulty grasping the beauty in His glorious power especially when the world does not seem as they would have it [one example]. Tony Reinke posts the following helpful piece [see also here for a wonderful sermon by John Piper]:

In light of various tragedies in the news, I asked Pastor John a few weeks ago how he personally reconciles what appears to be two conflicting responses when public tragedy occurs: (1) his compassion towards those who suffer and (2) his conviction that Scripture ascribes to God the final control over all calamities and disasters wrought by both nature and man (see Exodus 4:11, Deuteronomy 32:39, 1 Samuel 2:6–7, Ecclesiastes 7:13–14, Isaiah 45:5–7, Lamentations 3:37–38, Amos 3:6, Psalm 135:6–7, Job 1:19–21, 42:11).

How a church responds to disaster will be much more complex, especially if a church is located close to a tragedy, a complexity he outlines in a 21-point chapter for pastors, “Brothers, Help Your People Hold On and Minister in Calamity,” in the book Brothers, We Are Not Professionals.

But in this Ask Pastor John podcast, we focused on his own initial, personal response, and how God's sovereignty over all things, and his own compassion for those who are suffering, fit together when public tragedy strikes. We released this as episode #85 (listen here). Here’s a transcript of what he said.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Justin Taylor on forgiveness:

What Is Divine Forgiveness?
Calvin explained that when God forgives us, he “remits all the punishment that we had deserved” (Institutes 3.4.30). W.G.T. Shedd argues that divine forgiveness means that “the punishment due to sin is released or not inflicted upon the transgressor” (Dogmatic Theology, p. 698). In the application of our redemption, God first regenerates our heart, then grants us faith, and by means of that faith, gives us the forgiveness of sins (our debt is removed) and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (a perfect record is granted). The Christian life involves a lifelong process of confessing our sins and forgiving the sins of those who sin against us—and if we do, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins (1 John 1:9).
What Is Horizontal Forgiveness?
Horizontal forgiveness could mean a number of different things: (1) accepting someone who “asks for forgiveness”; (2) forgetting that an offense has occurred, i.e., not keeping “a record of wrongs”; (3) restoring a relationship back to its pre-offense condition; (4) treating the person as if the offense never occurred in the first place; (5) desiring that only good, and not punishment or consequences, would befall the offender. I’m sure that most people would argue for a combination of some of the above. Scripture does not explicitly define horizontal forgiveness. Therefore, to understand the concept behind the terms, we have to engage in an inductive approach (which is outlined, in part, below).

Thursday, May 23, 2013


John Wimber said, "You'll never have a disciplined Church without small groups. And Churches do not make it without discipleship taking place. It just won't happen. If you get enough advertisements, events or programs, you can run enough things where you can get people ... but a crowd is not a Church any more than an affair is a marriage ..."

theological courage

The following is a brilliant post by Sam Storms. If you are not reading him regularly you are wrong. This post is informative and timely.

On April 5, 1986, a terrorist attack was launched on the La Belle discothèque in West Berlin, Germany, an entertainment venue that was popular among United States soldiers. A bomb placed under a table near the disk jockey's booth exploded at 1:45 a.m. killing three people and injuring around 230 people, including 79 American servicemen.

It was soon determined, beyond any doubt, that Libya was responsible for the bombing.

After several days of diplomatic talks with European and Arabian partners, President Ronald Reagan concluded that a retaliatory air strike to be known as Operation El Dorado Canyon should be conducted.

However, the United States was denied fly over rights by France, Spain and Italy as well as the use of continental European air bases. This would require that our fighter jets be flown around France, Spain and through the Straits of Gibraltar, adding 1,300 miles each way and requiring multiple aerial re-fuelings. Thus the United States needed England’s permission to launch their fighters from air bases located in the U.K. In the cabinet room at the White House, President Reagan called Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on the speaker phone. After stating the facts, President Reagan said, “Madam Prime Minister, the United States needs your permission to launch our fighters from the bases in your country. With all due respect, Mrs. Thatcher, we request that permission.”

Margaret Thatcher responded: “I understand, Mr. President. My cabinet is present, and they have all heard your request. It is only appropriate that I inquire of their thoughts.” She began polling her cabinet. “What say you Lord W_____?” No, he thundered in response. “What say you Lord H_____?” No, came the answer. “What say you Mr. B_____?” No.

And so on around the room. Every single response from the cabinet was “No.”

At the conclusion of the polling, and after a brief pause, Mrs. Thatcher said: “Mr. President. Permission granted.”

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

radical ordinariness

I agree with Daniel Darling ... seems there are a cluster of voices either side of center on this which help me to see both sides as good ... then there are those further from center that make it hard for me to get their point ...

Here's Darling's post on the recent radical discussion ...

There has been much discussion in the evangelical world about the call to radical discipleship. Perhaps it began with Matthew Lee Anderson’scorrective to books by men like David Platt, Francis Chan, and others. I thought Matt’s piece was very helpful. On other hand, I have also been encouraged by the books and movements Anderson sought to correct. David Platt and Francis Chan and others are right in pushing the American church from it’s lethargy, of echoing Jesus call to radical discipleship.

we're dead

 In My Place Condemned He Stood:
J. I. Packer in 

Thus knowledge of Christ’s death for us as our sin-bearing substitute requires us to see ourselves as dead, risen, and alive forevermore in him. We who believe have died — painlessly and invisibly, we might say — in solidarity with him because he died, painfully and publicly, in substitution for us.

a loving mom & dad

A simple explanation ...

Monday, May 20, 2013

small group vision

"When you begin a small group ministry, you first must achieve unanimity on community, with clarity — that is, agreement on why your church does groups." Bill Donahue

The following will sharpen that commitment and clarity:
  • Genesis 1: 24 – 28
  • Genesis 2: 18 – 25
  • Genesis 6 – 9
  • Genesis 15 – 17
  • Exodus 18
  • Psalm 133
  • Proverbs 15: 22; 18: 24
  • Ecclesiastes 4: 9 – 12
  • Ezekiel 34
  • Mark 3: 14
  • John 17
  • Acts 2: 41 – 47; 4: 32 – 37; 6: 1 – 7
  • Romans 12
  • 1 Corinthians 12
  • Ephesians 2, 4
  • 1 Peter 5: 1 – 4

wired to change

Why small groups? Bill Donahue proffers "We are wired to change best, deepest, and most often when we confide in others about where God is at work and ask them for intercession, accountability, and forgiveness when we fail. This is our story."

He continues, "... the very purpose for which any local church exists: pulling people together in preparation for Christ himself."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

divine guidance

The ideal for divine guidance is ... a conversational relationship with God; the sort of relationship suited to friends who are mature personalities in a shared enterprise. ~ Dallas Willard

fail miserably

In whatever man does without God, he must fail miserably--or succeed more miserably. ~ George McDonald

new creation

From John Eldredge Wild at Heart:

"However strong a castle may be, if a treacherous party resides inside (ready to betray at the first opportunity possible), the castle cannot be kept safe from the enemy. Traitors occupy our own hearts, ready to side with every temptation and to surrender to them all."   ~ John Owen

Ever since that fateful day when Adam gave away the essence of his strength, men have struggled with a part of themselves that is ready at the drop of a hat to do the same. We don't want to speak up unless we know it will go well, we don't want to move unless we're guaranteed success. What the Scriptures call the flesh, the old man, or the sinful nature, is that part of Adam that always wants the easiest way out… It's much easier to go down to the driving range and attack a bucket of balls than to face the people at work who are angry at you. It's much easier to clean the garage, organize your files, cut the grass, or work on the car than it is to talk to your teenage daughter.

I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, 23 but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. Ro 7.1923 The Message


If you are talking about the Kingdom of God, you have my attention. Here are some helpful words by Jim Hamilton via my friend Peter Cockrell:

What is the kingdom of God? The answer cannot be reduced to a word study of the term kingdom. That would be a helpful exercise, but the Bible describes the kingdom even when the word is not used.

Any kingdom will consist of a king, his realm, its citizens, and the law that regulates their lives. This is true of God’s kingdom as well. What follows is a short overview of the Bible’s presentation of God’s rule over God’s people in God’s place according to God’s law.

a non-sexual view of marriage

Robin Phillips argues against Premise 1:

Gay ‘Marriage’ Hinges on a Non-Sexual View of Marriage

I begin with the point that same-sex ‘marriage’ hinges on a non-sexual view of marriage. In contrast to the traditional view of marriage, which we can call ‘the conjugal view’, same-sex ‘marriage’ depends for its coherence on another view of marriage, which we can call ‘the revisionist view.’ According to the revisionist view, the marital union is first and foremost a loving relationship, a bond of commitment and affection between two consenting adults. It is first about the communion of souls in a committed and affectionate relationship and only secondarily about the acts those people might or might not perform with their bodies. This view of marriage contrasts sharply with the traditional view which sees marriage as a sexual union publically recognized because of its potential fecundity. As Girgis, Anderson and George explain:
In short, the revisionist view sees your spouse as your ‘Number One person,’ in one advocate’s pithy phrase. Hence it cannot distinguish marriage from simple companionship. And we all know that companionship, while deeply enriching, is far more general than marriage….
Take Oscar and Alfred. They live together, support each other, share domestic responsibilities, and have no dependents. Because Oscar knows and trusts Alfred more than anyone else, he would like Alfred to be the one to visit him in the hospital if he is ill, give directives for his care if he is unconscious, and inherit his assets if he dies fist. Alfred feels the same about Oscar. Each offers the other security amid life’s hardships,. and company in its victories. They face the world together.
So far, you may be assuming that Oscar and Alfred have a sexual relationship. But does it matter? What if they are bachelor brothers? What if they are college best friends who never rooming together, or who reunited as widowers? In these cases, most agree, they would not be spouses. And yet they would be, by most revisionists’ arguments.
Assuming a general policy of recognizing committed dyads should the benefits that Oscar and Alfred receive depend on whether their relationship is or can be presumed to be sexual? Would it not be patentlyunjust if the state withheld benefits from them only because they were not having sex with each other? A Syracuse Law professor has argued that it would be: that the state should recognize social units made up of committed friends.
The revisionist cannot successfully answer by claiming that marriages are the most emotionally intense of relationships, and that sex generally fosters and expresses that intimacy. Emotional bonds are certainly important, especially in marriage. But if sex matters for marriage only for its emotional and expressive effects, as the revisionist must hold, then surely sex is perfectly replaceable, as no one really holds. Emotional intimacy is also fostered by deep conversation, cooperation under pressure or imminent tragedy, and a thousand other activities that two sisters or a father and son could choose without raising an eyebrow. There is nothing in this respect unique to sex.
In other words, why is sex more expressive of marriage than other pleasing activities that build attachment? We know that passion, pleasure, and delight in any genuine good, including marital union, are themselves also valuable; emotional union is an important part of marital union. But if spraying oxytocin at your partner increased her pleasure and attachment to you, that would not make it fungible with sex as an embodiment of your marriage. But why not, unless something about sex besides its emotional effects isalso crucial?…
Can revisionists explain any systematic difference between marriage and deep friendship?… An account of marriage must explain what makes the marital relationship different from others.
It is interesting in this regard that in the literature of the gay and lesbian community, the specifically sexual dimensions of marriage are increasingly being downplayed, and that is why I have argued elsewhere that same-sex ‘marriage’ carries with it many Gnostic assumptions about the body.
The de-emphasis of the physical dimensions of marriage has resulted in the UK government announcing that the concept of consummation and non-consummation will be inapplicable to ‘marriages’ conducted by homosexuals. When the news surfaced that the government had decided that both consummation and adultery couldn’t be committed by two people of the same sex, many people puzzled at this, even though it was the logical outworking of the sex-less descriptions of “union” propagated amongst the agitators for gay marriage. You see, once our understanding of “union” in marriage is reduced to “a loving relationship between two committed adults”, then what two people do with their bodies becomes extrinsic rather than intrinsic to that union. But in that case, it is possible, in principle, for gay marriages to occur between two people who are celibate. By contrast, for a heterosexual marriage to be “consummated” (that is, to be a fully complete marriage), there is an act the husband and wife must perform with their bodies. Hang on to that thought, because it has profound ramifications for how we understand the family’s relationship to the state. However, one more piece of the puzzle must be put in place before I can discuss this implication, and that has to do with the concept of monogamy.
The de-emphasis on the physical dimensions of marriage surfaces again and again in the literature of the gay community and comes out most prominently in their attempts to reduce monogamy to purely spiritual categories. The notion that “Fidelity is not between your legs but between your ears” (quoted in When Gay People Get Married, p. 95) is a typical position within the homosexual community. Dermot O’Callaghan reminds us of the tendency for homosexual men to downplay the importance of monogamy:
A study called The Male Couple found that “all couples with a relationship lasting more than five years have incorporated some provision for outside sexual activity …”
Another study, Beyond Monogamy, indicates “a positive correlation between longevity and non-monogamy.” It says, “… non-monogamy isn’t by nature de-stabilizing. In fact, the results of this study would suggest the opposite – many study couples said non-monogamy enabled them to stay together”.
The agony of non-monogamy amongst gay men surfaces repeatedly in the literature. Other terms include:
  • Modified Monogamy
  • Monogamy of the heart
  • Negotiated non-monogamy etc.
The concept of “monogamy of the heart” is simply the logical step once the physical dimensions of marriage are no longer seen as being central. As Girgis, Anderson and George again explain, “If marriage is, as the revisionists must hold, essentially an emotional union, this norm [of monogamy] is hard to explain. After all, sex is just one of many pleasing activities that foster vulnerability and tenderness, and some partners might experience deeper and longer-lasting emotional union with each other if their relationship were sexually open.”
Even those within the gay community who do practice monogamy, still generally wish to define the marriage “union” in purely non-physical terms, as simply a committed and loving relationship between two adults. This is important because, as we shall see, it has widespread implications concerning the state’s relationship to the family.

whose righteousness

Tim Keller in Galatians for You:

If the truth of being justified by Christ alone (not by our works) is lost, then all Christian truths are lost. For there is no middle ground between Christian righteousness and works-righteousness. There is no alternative to Christian righteousness but works-righteousness; if you do not build your confidence on the work of Christ, you must build your confidence on your own work. On this truth and only on this truth the church is built and has its being.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

expository preaching

Gary Millar and Phil Campbell, Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake   (Kingsford NSW, Australia: Matthias Media, 2013), 40–41:
Expository preaching:
  1. does justice to the biblical material which makes it clear that God works through his word to change people’s lives—as it ‘uncages the lion’ and allows God’s word to speak.saving
  2. acknowledges that it is God alone, through the Spirit, who works in people’s lives, and that it is not our job to change people through clever or inspiring communication.
  3. minimizes the danger of manipulating people, because the text itself controls what we say and how we say it. The Bible leaves little room for us to return repeatedly to our current bugbears and hobbyhorses.
  4. minimizes the danger of abusing power, because a sermon driven by the text creates an instant safeguard against using the Bible to bludgeon (or caress) people into doing or thinking what we want them to do or think.
  5. removes the need to rely on our personality. While we all feel the weight, at times, of having little ‘inspiration’, energy or creativity, if our focus is on allowing the immense richness of Scripture to speak in all its colour and variety, the pressure is well and truly off.
  6. encourages humility in those teaching. While it can be a temptation to think that we are somehow special because we are standing at the front doing most of the talking (and, on a good day, receiving the encouragement), getting it straight that the key to preaching to the heart is simply uncovering the power and freshness of God’s words helps to keep us in our place.
  7. helps us to avoid simple pragmatism. If our focus is on working consistently to enable people to encounter the God who speaks through the text, we will not feel under pressure to address every single issue and topic as it comes up in the life of the church. Conversely, working through the Bible week by week will force us to cover subjects that we wouldn’t choose to address in a million years. In other words, expository preaching is the simplest, longest-lasting antidote we have to pragmatism.
  8. drives us to preaching the gospel. As we’ll see in more detail in chapter 5, expository preaching is also uniquely valuable in that it persistently drives us to the Lord Jesus Christ (wherever we are in the Bible) and so ‘forces’ us to preach the gospel—that is, to spell out what God has already done for us in the death and resurrection of his Son, and then to move from that grace to what God asks and enables us to do. When we preach the gospel we are not simply telling people how to be good or leaving them to wallow in the overwhelming sense that they are irredeemably bad.

new creation

Horatius Bonar in Christ and the New Creation:

If I am a new creature in Christ, then I stand before God, not in myself—but in Christ. He sees no longer me—but only him in whom I am—him who represents me, Christ Jesus, my substitute and surety. In believing, I have become so identified with the Son of his love, that the favor with which he regards him passes over to me, and rests, like the sunshine of the new heavens, upon me.

In Christ, and through Christ, I have acquired a new standing before the Father. I am ‘accepted in the beloved.’

My old standing, that is, that of distance, and disfavor, and condemnation, is wholly removed, and I am brought into one of nearness, and acceptance, and pardon—I am made to occupy a new footing, just as if my old one had never been. Old guilt, heavy as the mountain, vanishes; old dread, gloomy as midnight, passes off; old fear, dark as hell, gives place to the joyful confidence arising from forgiveness and reconciliation, and the complete blotting out of sin.

All things are made new. I have changed my standing before God; and that simply in consequence of that oneness between me and Christ, which has been established, through my believing the record given concerning him. I come to him on a new footing, for I am “in Christ,” and in me there has been a new creation.

fully submitted

John Calvin in Institutes of the Christian Religion:

Until men feel that they owe everything to God, that they are cherished by his paternal care, and that he is the author of all their blessings, so that naught is to be looked for away from him, they will never submit to him in voluntary obedience; no, unless they place their entire happiness in him, they will never yield up their whole selves to him in truth and sincerity.

Friday, May 17, 2013


Sam Storms offers the following as he thinks through oft heard arguments from cessationists:

I often hear cessationists insist on a distinction between miraculous “gifts” of the Spirit, which they contend have ceased, and “miracles,” which they are happy to acknowledge continue even into the present day. That is to say, they deny that the “gifts” are valid but are open to the possibility that God can perform miracles if he so chooses throughout the course of church history. Let me say two things by way of response to this.

First, this distinction carries weight with people only (or at least to a large degree) because of an entirely fallacious understanding of how miraculous gifts of the Spirit operate. My sense is that cessationists want to deny the validity of “miraculous gifts” but affirm “miracles” because they don’t like (or believe in) the idea of any one person today claiming to operate in healing or prophecy or word of knowledge. They don’t like it because they don’t see it. That is to say, no one always heals at will or prophesies at will or is the recipient of revelatory words at will. Cessationists have a notion of spiritual gifts that if one ever, on any occasion, might heal or prophesy, they should be able always on every occasion to do so. And since everyone (me included) acknowledges that no one ministers in any miraculous gifting at this level of consistency and accuracy, cessationists can only conclude that such gifts ceased.

This, I insist, is an entirely wrong-headed and misleading understanding of these gifts. Not even the Apostle Paul operated in his gifting in this manner. The more overtly supernatural or miraculous gifts, and especially the ones dependent on divine revelation (word of knowledge, word of wisdom, prophecy, discerning of spirits) are not permanent and residential, as if they are always present in a person and can be used at the will of the believer. They are occasional and circumstantial. They are given by the sovereign good will of God according to his timing and purpose. They can only be exercised when he wills, not when we will.

So, the fact that no one who ever healed can always heal, or the fact that no one who ever prophesied can always prophesy, or the fact that no one who ever worked a miracle can always work a miracle, proves absolutely nothing about the cessation or perpetuity of such gifts. There is no need for a cessationist to deny the validity of miraculous gifts while affirming the validity of the miraculous since all instances of miracles, whether healing or revelatory words or the like, are subject to the sovereign will and providential oversight of God.

My first point, then, is this. Cessationists are drawing the wrong conclusion from the relative absence or alleged infrequency today (or in church history at large) of miraculous gifts. They were never under the control of the individual and were never designed by God to operate whenever we will or whenever we pray. Their relative absence or alleged infrequency is due to the intrinsic nature of the miraculous itself, not to any supposed purpose of God concerning the on-going validity or, conversely, cessation of the gifts Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10.

If cessationists would only acknowledge the distinction between gifts that are residential and permanent (such as teaching or mercy or evangelism or leadership or exhortation) and those that are occasional and circumstantial (such as healing, word of knowledge, wisdom, miracles, faith, discerning of spirits), much of this debate would, I believe, simply go away.

Second, cessationists must be able to differentiate between what Paul calls the “gift of miracles” (literally, the “working of powers”) in 1 Corinthians 12:10 and the occurrence of a “miracle” which they seem happy to acknowledge can still occur in our day (and throughout church history). But what is the difference? You can’t respond or answer by saying, “The difference is between a gifted ‘person’ who always operates at will in this sort of supernatural power and the isolated occurrence of a ‘miracle’ that comes merely by the sovereign hand of God.” Why doesn’t this response work? There are two reasons.

The first reason is what I said above: there never was and never will be, as far as I can tell from Scripture, any person (aside from Jesus) who “always operates at will in this sort of supernatural power.”

The second reason concerns how the miracles that even cessationists admit do occur, actually occur. Here’s what I mean. Most cessationists would acknowledge that on occasion God heals the sick or perhaps performs a so-called “nature” miracle. But how does God do it? Or better still, through what means or instrumentality does he do it? Is it not in most instances through or in response to the prayers of God’s people? Is it not after and because the Elders have anointed a person with oil and prayed the prayer of faith (James 5)? Is it not typically, by some manner or other, through a human being who is seeking God, looking to God, and praying to God for precisely such a supernatural intervention?

I’m not suggesting that God never performs a miracle by fiat or in some unmediated way. Of course he does. But when it comes to healing or revelatory experiences in particular, it is most often through the impartation to a particular person or persons of a “gift” for a healing or a word of revelatory insight or some other expression of power.

I would simply ask all cessationists who say they believe in miracles (or that God can surely perform them beyond the time of the NT) to describe for me one that they’ve seen or heard of that occurred independently of Christians who were praying and seeking God for his supernatural power or were in some other way directly involved in the facilitation of that miracle. For every example they might cite, I’ve got ten where God did it through a human instrumentality. That, I believe, is what the “gift of miracles” (1 Cor. 12:10) is all about. It is about God, at his time and according to his purpose, imparting a gift or enablement to a particular person on a particular occasion to accomplish a particular purpose.

Perhaps the best illustration of what I’m getting at is found in Galatians 3:5. There Paul asks, “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?” Note two things in this text that apply to our discussion. First, it appears that God sovereignly, according to his will and timing, was performing miracles among the Galatians. Some might think that this is what even cessationists concede can and on occasion happens throughout the course of church history. No special spiritual “gift” is required for God to do this.

But I’m persuaded that this is, in fact, yet another reference to the “gift” of miracles. Observe what Paul says concerning how or by what means such miracles are performed: “by hearing with faith”! The Galatians (and we, too, I believe) hear the Word of God, the Spirit whom God gives to us awakens belief in its truths and deepens faith in who God is and what he can do, to which God then responds by imparting or bestowing a “gift” to work a miracle or display his supernatural presence.

Second, that Paul has in view here precisely the same phenomenon (the “gift of miracles”) that he describes in 1 Corinthians 12:10 and again in 12:28-29 is evident from the language he employs. In Galatians 3:5, the phrase “works miracles” is a translation of the Greek energon dunameis, which is virtually the same terminology Paul uses in 1 Cor. 12:10 to describe the spiritual “gift” of miracles (energemata dunameon; in 12:28-29, where his description of the gifts is abbreviated, he usesdunameis alone). Does God “work miracles” among us, or do gifted individuals “work miracles” among us? Yes! God “works miracles” among us by awakening faith in his Word, in conjunction with or as a result of which he imparts a gracious divine enabling (i.e., a charisma, a gift) so that the believer can “work miracles” among us.

So, if cessationists are willing to recognize that this is the nature of the “gift of miracles” as well as the nature of gifts of healings and revelatory experiences, etc., then what’s the point or value in denying that such “gifts” continue in the life of the church all the while they concede that miracles still occur?

The bottom line is that I think cessationists continue to draw this distinction because they don’t want to be forced into a theological corner where they are found doubting or, worse still, denying that the omnipotent God of the universe “can” do something. They want to be able to justify praying for a miracle when someone is sick, and to be able to account for other similar supernatural occurrences without conceding this debate to the continuationist.

Thus, I simply don’t see this as a helpful or biblical distinction. I believe that God continues to bestow the “gift of miracles” much in the same way he most likely did in the early church: rarely, occasionally, and most often (but not always) through a particular Christian person who was seeking God, believing God, and praying for a particular supernatural breakthrough. I believe God continues to bestow “gifts of healings” much in the same way he most likely did in the early church: rarely, occasionally, etc., etc.

And so, this oft-heard insistence by cessationists that miracles can certainly occur but not through the “gift of miracles” or that healings can occur but not through the “gifts of healings,” is a distinction without a difference that serves only to cloud and confuse people in this discussion.

the gospel

Shawn Kennedy, at this point in his journey, describes the gospel as follows:
The gospel is the good news that God who is holy and just, looked with grace and mercy on our sin, and in His great love sent His Son to proclaim and establish His Kingdom. Jesus came to sacrificially and selflessly die for us so that, by His death, resurrection and power, we could receive new and eternal life. It is through Jesus that sin is forgiven, people are reconciled to God, and the world will one day be made new.
Read his thoughts on what is the gospel here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

radical legalism

I agree with Ed Stetzer on the recent banter regarding radicalism and legalism.
In other words, let's be missional and radical. Let's be careful about making it legalistic. But let's not be afraid to tell a consumer-driven church that has commodified the gospel that the Christian life is rooted in much more than personal comfort.
Read Stetzer's post here for background and analysis.

christ the only way

From RC Sproul - how can you say the Christ is the only way to God?


love letter to a lesbian

I hope Jackie Hill doesn't mind my reposting her letter here but this is gold! Thanks Jackie - peace and blessings to you.

Dear ______,

I just want you to know that I understand.

I understand how it feels to be in love with a woman. To want nothing more than to be with her forever. Feeling as if the universe has played a cruel joke on your heart by allowing it to fall into the hands of a creature that looks just like you.

I too was a lesbian. I had same-sex attractions as early as five-years old. As I grew up, those feelings never subsided. They only grew. I would find myself having crushes on my female best friends, but I was far too ashamed to admit it to them — let alone to myself.

At the age of 17, I finally made the decision to pursue these desires. I entered into a relationship with a young lady who became my “first.” The first time we kissed, it felt extremely natural, as if this feeling is what I had been missing all along. After her came another woman and then another woman. Both relationships were very serious, each lasting over a year. I enjoyed these relationships and loved these women a lot. And it came to the point that I was willing to forsake all, including my soul, to enjoy their love on earth.

In October 2008, at the age of 19, my superficial reality was shaken up by a deeper love — one from the outside, one that I’d heard of before but never experienced. For the first time, I was convicted of my sin in a way that made me consider everything I loved (idolized), and its consequences. I looked at my life, and saw that I had been in love with everything except God, and these decisions would ultimately be the death of me, eternally. My eyes were opened, and I began to believe everything God says in his word. I began to believe that what he says about sin, death, and hell were completely true.

And amazingly, at the same time that the penalty of my sin became true to me, so did the preciousness of the cross. A vision of God’s Son crucified, bearing the wrath I deserved, and an empty tomb displaying his power over death — all things I had heard before without any interest had become the most glorious revelation of love imaginable.

After realizing all of what I would have to give up, I said to God, “I cannot let these things or people go on my own. I love them too much. But I know you are good and strong enough to help me.”

Now, at the age of 23, I can say with all honesty that God has done just that. He has helped me love him more than anything.

Now why did I just tell you about this? I gave you a glimpse of my story because I want you to understand that I understand. But I also want you to know that I also understand how it feels to be in love with the Creator of the universe. To want nothing more than to be with him forever. To feel his grace, the best news ever announced to mankind. To see his forgiveness, that he would take such a wicked heart into his hands of mercy.

But with that in mind, we’re in a culture where stories like mine either seem impossible or hilarious, depending on the audience. Homosexuality is everywhere — from music, to TV, even sports. If you’d believe all that society had to say about homosexuality, you’d come to the conclusion that it is completely normal, even somewhat admirable. But that is far from the truth. God tells us that homosexuality is sinful, abominable, and unnatural (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:18–32; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11; 1 Timothy 1:8–10). But if I were to be honest, sometimes homosexual attractions can seem natural to me.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this may be your dilemma as well. You see what God has to say about homosexuality, but your heart doesn’t utter the same sentiments. God’s word says it’s sinful; your heart says it feels right. God’s word says it’s abominable; your heart says it’s delightful. God’s word says it’s unnatural; your heart says it’s totally normal. Do you see that there is a clear divide between what God’s word says and how your heart feels?

So which voice should you believe?

There was a time in my walk with Christ where I experienced a lot of temptation about falling back into lesbianism. These temptations caused me to doubt God’s word. My temptations and desires began to become more real to me than the truth of the Bible. As I was praying and meditating on these things, God put this impression on my heart: “Jackie, you have to believe that my word is true even if it contradicts how you feel.” Wow! This is right. Either I trust in his word or I trust my own feelings. Either I look to him for the pleasure my soul craves or I search for it in lesser things. Either I walk in obedience to what he says or I reject his truth as if it were a lie.

The struggle with homosexuality is a battle of faith. Is God my joy? Is he good enough? Or am I still looking to broken cisterns to quench a thirst only he can satisfy? That is the battle. It is for me, and it is for you.

The choice is yours, my friend. I pray you put your faith in Christ and flee from the lies of our society that coincide with the voices of your heart — a heart that Scripture says is wicked and deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). Run to Jesus instead.

You were made for him (Romans 11:36). He is ultimately all that you need! He is good and wise (Psalm 145:9). He is the source of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). He is kind and patient (2 Peter 3:9). He is righteous and faithful (Psalm 33:4). He is holy and just (1 John 1:9). He is our true King (Psalm 47:7). He is our Savior (Jude 1:25). And he is inviting you to be not just his servant, but also his friend. If lasting love is what you’re looking for anywhere else, you are chasing the wind, seeking what you will never find, slowly being destroyed by your pursuit.

But in Jesus, there is fullness of joy. In Jesus, there is a relationship worth everything, because he is everything. Run to him.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Francis Chan in Crazy Love, "... God will not be tolerated. He instructs us to worship and fear Him."

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. - Psalm 19:1–4

RC Sproul in The Holiness of God, "Men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God."

Monday, May 13, 2013


Francis Frangipane in The Stronghold of God, "... rescue is the constant pattern of God's activity."

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch.

For as a young man marries a young woman,
so shall your sons marry you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
so shall your God rejoice over you.

Isa 62.1,5


I understand that many do not agree with Mark Driscoll's theology nor his style. I happen to appreciate much of both. I found his discussion on tribes to be funny and helpful ...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

most important

AW Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holy:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.

We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.

inward to outward

Leonard Hjalmarson posted Transition from Inward to Outward. It is a bit long so I looked for some excepts but after reading it through a number of times ... well, I like it all ... so here is his entire post:

Brad Brisco’s summary of “what is missional?” is a good one, and I particularly like the five implications he closes with. I have summarized but also adapted some of this. I’ll close with some thoughts on the implications for a missional posture.

1. The Missional Church is about the missionary nature of [the Triune] God and His church.

2. The Missional Church is about the church being incarnational rather than attractional. John 1:14 in the Message: “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.

3. The Missional Church is about actively participating in the missio Dei, or mission of God. Many times we wrongly assume that the primary activity of God is in the church, rather than recognizing that God’s primary activity is in the world, and the church is God’s instrument sent into the world to participate in His redemptive mission. A missional church focuses all of its activities around its participation in God’s agenda for the world.

Moving from Sunday-centric to engage the neighbourhood

1. Start with Spiritual Formation

God calls the church to be a sent community of people who no longer live for themselves but instead live to participate with Him in His redemptive purposes. However, people will have neither the passion nor the strength to live as a counter cultural society for the sake of others if they are not transformed by the way of Jesus. If the church is to “go and be” then we must make certain that we are a Spirit formed community that has the spiritual capacity to impact the lives of others.

2. Cultivate a Missional Leadership Approach

Rethink church leadership models that have been accepted as the status quo. This will require a special emphasis on the apostolic function of church leadership, which was marginalized during the time of Christendom in favor of the pastor/teacher function.

This will involve creating an apostolic environment throughout the life of the church. The leader must encourage pioneering activity that pushes the church into new territory. However, because not all in the church will embrace such risk, the best approach will involve creating a sort of “R&D” or “skunk works” department in the church for those who are innovators and early adopters.

A culture of experimentation must be cultivated where attempting new initiatives is expected, even if they don’t all succeed. As pioneering activities bear fruit, and the stories of life change begin to bubble up within the church, an increasing number of people will begin to take notice and get involved.

3. Emphasize the Priesthood of All Believers

Every believer must fully understand how their vocation plays a central part in God’s redemptive Kingdom- every member is a missionary. Everyone is sent. This missionary activity will include not just being sent to far away places, but sent and commissioned to local work places, schools and neighborhoods.

4. Focus Attention on the Local Community

As individual members begin to see themselves as missionaries sent into their local context the congregation will begin to shift from a community-for-me mentality, to a me-for-the-community mentality. The church must begin to develop a theology of the city that sees the church as an agent of transformation for the good of the city (Jeremiah 29:7). This will involve exegeting each segment of the city to understand the local needs, identify with people, and discover unique opportunities for the church to share the good news of Jesus.

5. Don’t Do It Alone

Missional activity that leads to significant community transformation takes a lot of work and no church can afford to work alone. Missional efforts that endure create partnerships with other churches, ministries, and agencies that care about the community.

6. Create New Means of Measuring Success

The church must move beyond measuring success by the traditional indicators of attendance, buildings and cash. Instead we must create new scorecards to measure ministry effectiveness. These new scorecards will include measurements that point to the church’s impact on community transformation rather than measuring what is happening among church members inside the church walls. It is no longer about the number of people active in the church but instead the number of people active in the community, working for “the peace of the city.”

A missional church may ask how many hours has the church spent praying for community issues? How many hours have church members spent with unbelievers? How many of those unbelievers are making significant movement towards Jesus? How many community groups use the facilities of the church? How many people are healthier because of the clinic the church operates? How many people are in new jobs because of free job training offered by the church? What is the number of school children who are getting better grades because of after-school tutoring the church provides. Or how many times do community leaders call the church asking for advice?

7. Search for Third Places

In a post-Christendom culture where more and more people are less and less interested in activities of the church, it is increasingly important to connect with people in places of neutrality, or common “hang outs.” In the book, “The Great Good Place” Ray Oldenburg identifies these as “third places.” Our first place is the home; the second place is where we work and the place we spend the majority of our waking hours. But the third place is an informal setting where people relax and have the opportunity to know and be known by others.

Third places might include the local coffee shop, hair salon, restaurant, mall, or fitness center. These places of common ground must take a position of greater importance in the overall ministry of the church as individuals begin to recognize themselves as missionaries sent into the local context to serve. We must also rediscover hospitality. Biblical hospitality is much more than entertaining others in our homes: we must learn to welcome the stranger.

8. Use Stories to Renew Imagination

Instead of trying to define what it means to be missional, we can describe missional living through stories and images. We can capture the “missional imagination” by sharing what other faith communities are doing and illustrate what it looks like to connect with people in third places, cultivate rapport with local schools, and build relationships with neighbors. Moreover, we can reflect deeply on biblical images of mission, service and hospitality by spending time on passages such as Genesis 12:2, Isaiah 61:1-3, Matthew 5:43; 10:40; 22:39; 25:35 and Luke 10:25-37.

The greatest challenge facing the church in the West is the “re-conversion” of its own members. We need to be converted away from an internally focused, Constantinian mode of church and converted towards an externally focused, missional-incarnational movement that is a true reflection of the missionary God we follow.

* * *

The first implication Brad draws for our posture is that we must start with spiritual formation. Why? He writes, “people will have neither the passion nor the strength to live as a counter cultural society for the sake of others if they are not transformed by the way of Jesus. If the church is to ‘go and be’ then we must make certain that we are a Spirit formed community that has the spiritual capacity to impact the lives of others.”

I think this is not commonly perceived, but to start with spiritual formation is bang on. We cannot give away what we don’t have.. and what we have to give away is who we are. This is why so many of us love Webber’s statement that the church in its way of being in the world IS an apologetic. We are people of “the way.”

god's goodness

Richard Sibbes in Works:

God’s goodness is a spreading, imparting goodness. . . . God is more willing to bestow good than we are to ask it. He is so willing to bestow it that he becomes a suitor to us, ‘Seek my face.’ He seeks us, to seek him. It is strange that heaven should seek earth, and yet so it is.

his blood

Doug Wilson on secularism and the blood:

This is Ascension Sunday, the day on which we mark the ascension of the Lord Jesus to the right hand of the Ancient of Days. We confess explicitly on this day what we affirm on every day, which is that the Lord Jesus has been given universal authority over every nation.

As a consequence—because we have been purchased with His blood—we do not have the right to ignore Him, or to pretend that His authority is irrelevant to us. Secularism is a doctrine that denies the power of the blood of Jesus Christ to purchase. God has given Him universal authority over all nations, and we have no right to reject this commission without a better argument than the one presented by the blood of Jesus.

In order for secularism to be true, Jesus would have had to shed His blood in vain, and the Ancient of Days would have had to refuse to grant Him the nations of men as His birthright. But this is not what happened at all. Ask of me, the Father said, and I will give You the ends of the earth as Your inheritance.

This is what Ascension Sunday means. It means that we are not trapped under the rule of scoundrels. We are not hemmed in by petty tyrants. It means that there is a court of appeal that transcends all thrones of iniquity and all courtrooms of deceit. It means that we may appeal to the God of all that is right—and we make this appeal by worshiping Him.

The answer to those who see mankind governed without reference to the blood of Jesus is to make that blood the explicit foundation of our approach to God. Jesus shed His blood on earth, for earth, and He presented that blood in Heaven, to bring earth to Heaven, and Heaven to earth. We are convinced of this, and so we have assembled to worship Jesus, the Lord of every nation.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

focused marriage

John Piper from This Momentary Marriage:

Marriage is not mainly about prospering economically; it is mainly about displaying the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church. Knowing Christ is more important than making a living. Treasuring Christ is more important than bearing children.

If we make secondary things primary, they cease to be secondary and become idolatrous. They have their place. But they are not first, and they are not guaranteed. Life is precarious, and even if it is long by human standards, it is short. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Prov. 27:1).

It may have many bright days, or it may be covered with clouds. If we make secondary things primary, we will be embittered at the sorrows we must face. But if we set our face to make of marriage mainly what God designed it to be, no sorrows and no calamities can stand in our way. Every one of them will be, not an obstacle to success, but a way to succeed. The beauty of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church shines brightest when nothing but Christ can sustain it.