Sunday, March 30, 2014


From John M.  Frame in The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (A Theology of Lordship):

... wisdom focuses on the element of know-how, or skill. A wise man is one who has the ability to do something-not just a factual knowledge of something but also the ability to use his knowledge correctly. That use may be in various areas, for example, Bezalel the son of Uri was "filled with the Spirit of God and with wisdom" (NIV reads "skill," "ability") to do the craft work for the tabernacle (Exod. 31:1-6). But more often, wisdom has a moral-religious connotation, so that we may define it as "the skill of godly living" (cf. esp. James 3:13-17). We can see, then, how wisdom, like knowledge, involves an understanding of God's lordship as well as actual obedience to the Lord (Prov. 9:10; cf. 1:7)." We can also see that wisdom, like knowledge, is a gift of God's grace and has a trinitarian origin: God the Father is the source of wisdom, in the Son are hidden all the treasures of wisdom, and the Spirit is the Spirit of wisdom. Wisdom is communicated by the Word and by the Spirit (cf. Exod. 28:3; 31:3; Deut. 34:9; Prov. 3:19; 8:30; 28:7-9; 30:5; Jer. 8:8f.; Acts 6:3; 1 Cor. 1:24, 30; 2:6-16; Col. 2:3; 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:15).

continuing as a continuationist

When will cessationists cease? Well, I suppose they will continue as long as continuationists continue. As a continuationist, I appreciate Luke Geraty's post here:

I already wrote a long post on Strange Fire, so this will be a little shorter. Tim Challies has posted Tom Pennington’s case for Cessationism. It probably has the most substance for Continuationists to consider out of all that has been shared thus far at MacArthur’s anti-charismatic rally. Pennington suggests there are four chief arguments for the charismatic position and then offers seven arguments for the cessationist position. Let’s “briefly” analyze these…

Alleged “chief” arguments for the Charismatic position:
  1. The New Testament doesn’t say they have ceased. But then again, it doesn’t say that they won’t either.
  2. 1 Corinthians 13:10 – they say this means that only when Christ returns will the partial gifts of tongues and prophecies cease. This implies that the gifts continue. But this is an uncertain interpretation.
  3. The New Testament speaks only of the church age, and so, they argue, the gifts that began the church age should continue throughout it. They say we artificially divide it between apostolic and post-apostolic eras. But they do this, too, by not believing that the apostolic office still continues.
  4. 500 million professing Christians who claim charismatic experiences can’t all be wrong. But if we accept this, then logically we should accept the miracles attested to by one billion Catholics in the world. The truth is that 500 million + people can be wrong.
Regarding #1, I’m surprised. I thought both Cessationists and Continuationists agreed that the Bible does say that the charismata will cease. Paul explicitly stated that “as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease” (1 Cor. 13:8). And in reality, I think a serious exegesis of 1 Cor. 1:4-7 leads me to conclude that the Bible teaches that the spiritual gifts will continue until the “revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ (v.7). This seems similar to what Paul writes in 1 Cor. 13, which we’ll address next.

Regarding #2, I’ll let that slide. I find it questionable that what is most likely in the text is reduced to being “uncertain,” but I’ll grant that the text has some ambiguity with in. 1 Cor. 1:4-7, of course, doesn’t but we’ll let that slide. Interestingly, I’ve never heard a Charismatic use 1 Cor. 13:10 as a “chief” argument for their position which leads me to conclude that those who are participating in this Strange Fire conference probably haven’t interacted with any serious Charismatics.

Regarding #3, it’s even more clear that these folks don’t know much about Charismatics because you’ll find quite a bit of difference on the issue of apostolic ministry. Wayne Grudem makes a case against the office of Apostle in his widely used Systematic Theology and yet both New Frontiers and Sovereign Grace believe in modern day apostles. In fact, one of these alleged apostles spoke at at conference put on by MacArthur!

Regarding #4, I am unaware of Wayne Grudem, Sam Storms, John Piper, John Wimber, Craig Keener, Gordon Fee, or any of the other number of scholars who hold to Continuationist theology that would argue that since there are a lot of charismatics they must be correct.

Therefore, I conclude that these alleged “chief” arguments have an agenda behind them and that agenda is simply to make a case against Charismatic theology. Or, to be forthright, Pennington is simply building a case against a straw man.

Pennington’s 7 arguments for Cessationism

Finally we have something that we can interact with that is from a Cessationist. Thus far we’ve heard a lot about what Charismatics allegedly believe but we haven’t heard a lot about what Cessationists believe. So I’m thankful for Pennington’s attempt to make an actual argument for something!

Let’s consider his arguments:

(1) The unique role of miracles. Pennington takes this right out of MacArthur’s playbook (cf. Charismatic Chaos, pp. 112-14). Jack Deere dismantled this argument so thoroughly in his Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Appendix C, “Were There Only Three Periods of Miracles?”). 

Pennington’s case is:
“There were only 3 primary periods in which God worked miracles through unique men. The first was with Moses; the second was during the ministries of Elijah and Elisha; the third was with Christ and his apostles.”
Well, we’ll just consider the miracles connected with the prophet Daniel and we undermine the entire argument. No one would ever read the Old Testament, without having a theological agenda, and come to the conclusion that there were only three periods of time where God worked miracles through men. That’s absurd and I’m actually surprised that this is number one.

(2) The end of the gift of apostleship. I fail to see how either the end or the continuation of the office of Apostle demands that that the gifts of healings, prophecy, tongues, and interpretation of tongues has ceased. Pennington previously argued that “the primary purpose of Jesus’ miracles was to confirm his credentials as God’s final and ultimate messenger” and that “Jesus gave this same power to the apostles, and their miracles served exactly the same purpose.” These purposes do not demand anything of apostles. Furthermore, I think Eph. 4:11 provides a serious challenge to our systematic categories regarding the office of apostle, as well as the fact that the NT provides clear evidence that there were different types of apostles (cf. the difference of the apostle Paul or Peter with the apostle Epaphroditus of Phil. 2:25).

(3) The foundational nature of the New Testament apostles and prophets. If Pennington expects us to grant that there is some ambiguity in 1 Cor. 13:10, surely he’ll acknowledge that there are differences in how exegetes understand Eph. 2:20-21. Grudem and Wallace have both taken different perspectives on this and there is diversity within the scholarly literature.

Interestingly, appeal was made during Steve Lawson’s talk at Strange Fire to John Calvin (which probably caused the Reformer who strongly held to Sola Scriptura to roll over in his grave). In Calvin’s commentary on Ephesians, he clearly believed that the “prophets” mentioned in Ephesians 2:20 were the Old Testament prophets, so if we’re going to allow Calvin to guide us, maybe we should consider his exegesis and not selectively choose sources that only support our theological agenda.

At any rate, I’ll grant that apostles and prophets served a foundational nature in the early church while also believing that the charismata in question still continue.

(4) The nature of the New Testament miraculous gifts. Pennington attempts to discredit the work of Grudem on NT prophecy. He states that there is no difference between OT and NT prophecy. He also says that “New Testament prophecy is direct, infallible revelation.” I’m curious as to why the early church didn’t write down all of these infallible revelations and include them in our Bibles! Philip the evangelist had four unmarried daughters who prophesied and yet we don’t have any of their prophecies in our Bibles? Weren’t they infallible revelations? What about the curious case of Agabus in Acts 21? Or how are we to then understand the church in Corinth? Was Paul really telling them all to give direct, infallible revelation? If so, why don’t we have any of these prophet words that are infallible?

The fact of the matter is that Grudem (The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today) and Carson (Showing the Spirit) offer a better understanding of the nature of the NT prophecy. It was not infallible words but needed to be tested (1 Thess. 5:20-21).

Furthermore, I have seen examples of tongues and their interpretation fitting exactly what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14. I’ve also seen healings that were exactly like that of the 1st century. Are we to understand Pennington as saying that he has investigated every modern claim of a “sign and wonder” and determined they are nothing like the biblical examples? Hmmmm. I think not.

(5) The testimony of church history. Pennington asks, “How do they explain the ceasing of miraculous gifts throughout such long periods of church history?” He cites John Chrysostom, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and B. B. Warfield as evidence for this concern.

D.A. Carson wisely states that,
“there is enough evidence that some form of ‘charismatic’ gifts continued sporadically across the centuries of church history that it is futile to insist on doctrinaire grounds that every report is spurious or the fruit of demonic activity or psychological aberration” (Showing the Spirit, 166).
These examples are documented in Kydd’s Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church and Kelsey’s Healing and Christianity. By the way, Augustine retracted his cessationist views and actually provided evidence that the gift of healings was still in operation (cf. City of God, Book XXII, chps. 8-10). Oh, and Grudem provides evidence that Spurgeon actually operated in the gift of prophecy in his The Gift of Prophecy. By the way, did I mention that there’s evidence that suggests that John Calvin might have spoken in tongues? Uh oh…

At any rate, this argument for Cessationism should be abandoned because it is simply not true.

(6) The sufficiency of Scripture. Pennington suggests that “the Spirit speaks only in and through the inspired Word.” What’s fascinating about this statement is that it actually undermines the very Scripture that it’s attempting to protect. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that God only speaks to us through the Bible. This is a presupposition that controls Cessationist epistemology.

Furthermore, I think Grudem has amply demonstrated in his The Gift of Prophecy that the sufficiency of Scripture and continuing charismata are not mutually exclusive. Oh, and did I mention that I don’t think most Cessationists, especially of the MacArthur kind, even have a good understanding of what the gift of tongues was? No? Okay, I’ll save that for later. I just reject the entire scope of MacArthur’s understanding of the nature of tongues.

(7) The New Testament governed the miraculous gifts. Okay, you are about to witness a modern day miracle. I, as a practicing charismatic, totally agree with Pennington here. Maybe it’s because I’m a Third Wave charismatic, but I agree that charismatics have been known to abuse spiritual gifts, especially the gift of tongues. What passes for the expression of tongues in some churches would leave the apostle Paul shaking his head.

So I totally agree that the NT governed the miraculous gifts. Paul lays out guidelines in 1 Corinthians 12-14. I agree with Pennington’s reasoning here. However, I wonder if Pennington would agree with Paul’s governance of the spiritual gifts when he wrote, “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:1) and “do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:39).

If we’re going to express concern that charismatics do not follow the NT pattern for the expression of tongues, let’s express concern that Cessationists reject an apostolic command.

god is enough

John Piper on hating the prosperity gospel.

This false gospel angers me. It also angers me that while some false teachers within the Church promote this, other false teachers within the Church use this error an an excuse to promote their false message that Signs & Wonders ceased with the Apostles.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

thinking and believing

Fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding) is a famous phrase of Anselm's. It is a fitting expression for that central vein of faith's quest for intellectual understanding, as fleshed out here by Augustine:
No one believes anything unless one first thought it believable...Everything that is believed is believed after being preceded by thought...Not everyone who thinks believes, since many think in order not to believe; but everyone who believes thinks, thinks in believing and believes in thinking.
Augustine, The Predestination of the Saints, 44:962-3, cited in Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, p. xiii-xiv

transforming suffering

Vaneetha Rendall Demski post some thoughts on transforming suffering:
  1. Remember that God loves me. Unconditionally, relentlessly, passionately. The cross is a blazing reminder of his love. Nothing can separate me from it. Jesus is always for me. He witnesses every heartache I endure. He discerns the fears I can’t even voice. He weeps with me in my pain
  2. Talk to God. I need his help, his perspective, his comfort. Intellectually knowing this affliction is for my good is not enough; I need an encounter with the living God. And when I unreservedly pour out my heart to him, he tenderly meets me. These prayers are not long or eloquent. They may be groans, simple cries of “help me Jesus” or even silence before him. My biggest challenge is not to turn away. Or stew in my anger. Or numb the pain elsewhere.
  3. Open the Bible and start reading it. I often resist this straight-to-the-text approach; it can seem so academic. But as I open the Bible’s pages, God speaks to me, whispering his comfort, shouting his promises, showing his grace through his inspired writers — people who were brutally honest about their suffering. They mentor me, modeling that it’s acceptable to lament. To voice my frustration. To express my raw emotion.
  4. Remind myself that I am never alone in my suffering. In addition to our triune God, I am surrounded by a glorious cloud of witnesses who see every struggle I experience. While invisible to me, they are part of the spiritual realm, like the angels that Gehazi beheld sitting on chariots of fire. The unseen world. This world is real. And ever watching. Watching to see whether God is my treasure. Whether I will still praise him as my body deteriorates. Whether I will trust him when all looks dark.
  5. Recite God’s faithfulness. I have a record of my spiritual highlights, my unmistakable encounters with God, my Ebenezers. The times when God has rescued me. Surprised me with joy. Overwhelmed me with his presence. When I am suffering, I need to review this list. It assures me that this trial will one day pass but God’s faithfulness and love will never fail.
  6. Set my mind on heaven. This world is not my home and it is passing away. It will be over in the blink of an eye. And then real life will begin. God has eternity to make up for any suffering in this life. In heaven there will be no more tears or death or crying or pain.
  7. Remember that this life is all about God. Everything was created to make much of him whose ways are higher than my ways. I may not understand how, but God is doing something bigger with my life than I can possibly see. My suffering is never senseless; it will not be wasted. He will ultimately use every struggle for my good and his glory.
Read her story here.



It's not about homosexuality, it's about authority. Those propagating the homosexual agenda are bowing to a false god. And they continue to believe the lie ...

What about Christians and "hatred" of "gays"? What follows is an unpublished portion of a new Salvo Magazine interview by Marcia Segelstein of Robert George of Princeton University, who is also a Touchstonesenior editor.

SALVO: One conservative Christian recently wrote that in the battle for traditional marriage, "Christians too often chose intolerance over charity when it came to how they treated gays." Have we, as Christians, demonstrated a lack of love for gay people?

Robert George: No, we've been falsely accused of showing a lack of charity and a lack of love because that was very convenient to the arguments of the other side, a very effective tool. In fact, the overwhelming majority of people of all faiths who've been involved in the protection of marriage have gone out of their way, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church goes out of its way, to proclaim the truth that all men and woman are precious. Human beings have a profound and inherent dignity, an equal dignity, as creatures made in the very image and likeness of the Divine Creator and Ruler of the Universe. 

This has never been something hidden. It has been frequently affirmed and re-affirmed, yet there are those who wish to refuse to hear it because it's politically useful to their cause to depict Christians as mean-spirited or bigoted or hostile to people just because they don't like something about them. It's a slander. And for us to pretend that the slander is true is itself a sin against the truth. I'm all for confessing error and wrongdoing where error and wrongdoing have been committed. But I see no point in confessing sins that one has not committed, especially when doing so is the precise objective of those who wish unfairly to tar people or a movement as bigoted or hostile.

And here is Amy Hall on Why Do Christians Care:

At Stand to Reason, we usually focus on the publicly accessible, non-religious reasons to oppose changing the definition of marriage, as there’s no need to appeal to the Bible in order to make a good case. But the question “Why do Christians care how an organization that self-identifies as Christian views marriage?” and “Is this something worth dividing over?” requires an answer from within Christian doctrine.

In a post titled “Why Is This Issue Different?” Kevin DeYoung gives four reasons why a disagreement between self-professed Christians on this issue is different from a disagreement on a theological issue such as the mode of baptism. Here’s one of those reasons:
Homosexual behavior is so repeatedly and clearly forbidden in Scripture that to encourage homosexuality calls into question the role of Scripture in the life of the denomination that accepts such blatantly unbiblical teaching. The order of creation informs us that God’s plan for sexuality is one woman and one man (Genesis 2). This order is reaffirmed by Jesus (Matthew 19) and Paul (Ephesians 5). The Old Testament law forbade homosexual behavior (Leviticus 18, 20). Paul reiterates this prohibition by using the same Greek construction in 1 Corinthians 6 and 1 Timothy 1. Paul condemns same sex behavior (among many other sins) in Romans 1. Jude in his epistle links sexual immorality and the “unnatural desire” present in Sodom and Gomorrah.
The evidence is so overwhelming that Luke Timothy Johnson, New Testament scholar and advocate of legitimizing homosexual behavior, argues rather candidly: “I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. And what exactly is that authority? We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us.” At its root, support for homosexual behavior is not simply a different interpretation of Scripture; it is a rejection of Scripture itself.
There are certainly some today who argue that the Bible does not prohibit homosexual activity between committed partners. For a response to their arguments, I recommend a refutation from James White, which can be found here (along with more links you may find helpful).

DeYoung concludes:
Of course, homosexuality isn’t the only sin in the world. But I know of no Christian leader or Christian community promoting theft or championing idolatry as a special blessing from God. It is not an overstatement to say solemnizing same-sex intercourse is in danger of leading people to hell. The same is not true when it comes to sorting out the millennium. In tolerating the doctrine which affirms homosexual behavior, we are tolerating a doctrine which leads people farther from God, not closer. This is not the mission Jesus gave us when he told us to teach the nations all that he has commanded.
Read his other three points and more about World Vision's policy change and reversal. And I don’t like to discuss this topic without also mentioning Wesley Hill’s book, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. If you don’t have compassion for our Christian brothers and sisters who have same-sex attractions and have chosen to follow Christ rather than fulfill this desire, then I recommend reading this book.

Friday, March 28, 2014

common grace

Recently, a pastor openly declared to myself and other leaders in his denomination (which does not share his opinion) that "God blesses homosexual marriages and individuals." He stated this without qualification in spite of my effort to give him an out. I reject the implied thrust of his statement but it did give me reason to dig up some thoughts on common grace. I had hoped this pastor would rethink his remark and qualify it in the sense that God uses all things for His glory or that these individuals were blessed in the sense of common grace. Sadly he did not.

That said, the below is Sam Storms on the topic of common grace. It is in response to hurricane Katrina in 2010 but the overarching principle applies broadly.

All Christians know that divine grace is the unmerited favor and mercy of God that saves sinners from a well-deserved eternal death, but few have given thought to the concept of common grace.

What theologians typically refer to as special grace is the favor of God that actually results in the salvation of the human soul. Special grace is the work of the Holy Spirit in calling, regenerating, justifying, and sanctifying individual sinners. Special grace is restricted to those who actually come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Herman Bavinck defined the special or saving grace of God as “his voluntary, unrestrained, unmerited favor toward guilty sinners, granting them justification and life instead of the penalty of death, which they deserved" (208). Louis Berkhof defined it simply as "the free bestowal of kindness on one who has no claim to it" (71). J. I. Packer expressed it this way:
"The grace of God is love freely shown towards guilty sinners, contrary to their merit and indeed in defiance of their demerit. It is God showing goodness to persons who deserve only severity, and had no reason to expect anything but severity" (Knowing God, 120).
But this is not the only manifestation of God’s grace to a sinful world. Even those who never come to saving faith in Jesus Christ are recipients of divine grace. Consider the fact that the apostle Paul (among others in Scripture) portrays the universal condition of humanity in extremely bleak language. Drawing upon the testimony of the Old Testament, he writes: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one" (Rom. 3:10-12). Such is the predicament of people apart from Christ. Theologians call it total depravity. But, as John Murray has observed, this apostolic assessment of human nature forces us to deal with a series of very insistent questions:
"How is it that men who still lie under the wrath and curse of God and are heirs of hell enjoy so many good gifts at the hand of God? How is it that men who are not savingly renewed by the Spirit of God nevertheless exhibit so many qualities, gifts and accomplishments that promote the preservation, temporal happiness, cultural progress, social and economic improvement of themselves and of others? How is it that races and peoples that have been apparently untouched by the redemptive and regenerative influences of the gospel contribute so much to what we call human civilization? To put the question most comprehensively: how is it that this sin-cursed world enjoys so much favour and kindness at the hand of its holy and ever-blessed Creator?" (Collected Works, II:93).
The answer to these questions is found in the distinction the Bible draws between God's common, or non-saving, grace and his special, or saving, grace. [By the way, although the Bible never uses the terms “common” or “special” when describing God’s gracious activity, the latter cannot be properly understood apart from drawing this conceptual distinction.]

The common grace of God has been variously defined. According to Charles Hodge, the Bible teaches that
"the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth, of holiness, and of life in all its forms, is present with every human mind, enforcing truth, restraining from evil, exciting to good, and imparting wisdom or strength, when, where, and in what measure seemeth to Him good. . . . This is what in theology is called common grace" (II:667).
Abraham Kuyper defines common grace as
"'that act of God by which negatively He curbs the operations of Satan, death, and sin, and by which positively He creates an intermediate state for this cosmos, as well as for our human race, which is and continues to be deeply and radically sinful, but in which sin cannot work out its end" (279).
A simpler and more direct definition of common grace is given by John Murray, Common grace, he writes, "is every favour of whatever kind or degree, falling short of salvation, which this undeserving and sin-cursed world enjoys at the hand of God" (II:96). I see common grace manifesting itself in at least four ways.

(1) The first aspect of common grace is what we might call negative or preventative. Its essential characteristic is that of restraint. Although the restraint that God places upon sin and its effects is neither complete (else no sin would exist at all) nor uniform (else all men would be equally evil or good), it is of such a nature that the expression and effects of human depravity are not permitted to reach the maximum height of which they are capable. Thus, the most obvious manifestation of common grace is God’s exercise of restraint on the sin of man. Murray explains:

"God places restraint upon the workings of human depravity and thus prevents the unholy affections and principles of men from manifesting all the potentialities inherent in them. He prevents depravity from bursting forth in all its vehemence and violence" (II:98).

See, for example, Gen. 4:15; 20:6; 2 Kings 19:27-28; and 2 Thess. 2:6-12.

We see a perfect illustration of this in the aftermath of Katrina. Why is it that looting is so rampant in New Orleans today? Is it because people who were otherwise good and law-abiding suddenly decided to become evil and criminal? No. Human nature hasn’t changed.

The reason for looting is obvious. All the normal impediments to thievery in New Orleans are no longer in place. There is no electricity, so there are no alarms or lights or other manifestations of electronic protection on personal property. Security guards are gone. The police cannot gain access to certain areas of the city. Surveillance cameras that otherwise would photograph burglars are no longer operative. In other words, virtually all the restraints and obstacles to criminal behavior have disappeared. What kept the sinful and criminal inclination of the human heart from expressing itself is gone. [Needless to say, there was, before Katrina, a considerable amount of criminal behavior in spite of such restraints.]

Here’s my point. Electricity and light and alarms and the police are analogous to the common grace of God. They function as something of a barrier to criminal behavior or a deterrent that hinders the full expression of human wickedness. Once these natural restraints disappear, the full extent and expression of evil and criminal inclination begin to emerge. My point is that what electricity and light and alarms and police do to restrain wickedness in a singular American city is analogous to what the Holy Spirit does to restrain human sin on a more global scale.

Thus, one of the purposes of the Spirit’s activity in our world is to impede or inhibit or curb the outward expression of the inward propensities of the sinful heart. Were he not to do so, were he completely to lift or withdraw or suspend this particular activity, our society would eventually be uninhabitable. The wickedness of mankind would engulf the world and bring it to the verge of utter chaos and corruption.

This work of the Spirit in restraining human sin is called “grace” because no one deserves it. That God inhibits their sin is an expression of mercy to those who deserve judgment. It is called “common” because it is universal. Both saved and unsaved, regenerate and unregenerate, are the recipients of this divine favor. It is not restricted to any one group of people and it does not necessarily lead to salvation.

(2) There is a second manifestation of common grace. Besides placing restraint upon the ungodly tendencies of the human heart, God freely suspends the immediate manifestation of his divine wrath due unto sin. That is to say, in common grace God not only restrains the sin of man but also the ready execution of the full measure of judgment which sin demands. This latter element of restraint is especially evident in such texts as Genesis 6:3; 1 Peter 3:20; Acts 17:30; Romans 2:4; and 2 Peter 3:9.

(3) In addition to the manifestation of common grace in the relationship God sustains to his creatures, he also holds in check the destructive tendencies that are part of the curse of sin upon nature. This third dimension of common grace was especially evident with Katrina. The question we should ask is not, “Why did this hurricane occur?” but “Why do not more hurricanes with even greater destructive power occur?” Again, John Murray elaborates:
"Sin introduces disintegration and disorganization in every realm. While it is true that only in the sphere of rationality does sin have meaning – it originates in mind, it develops in mind, it resides in mind – yet sin works out disastrous effects outside the sphere of the rational and moral as well as within it. God places restraint upon these effects, he prevents the full development of this disintegration. He brings to bear upon this world in all its spheres correcting and preserving influences so that the ravages of sin might not be allowed to work out the full measure of their destructive power" (II:101).
See, for example, Gen. 3:17 and 9:2-5.

We are told in Romans 8:20-21 that “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” One day, when our Lord returns to this earth, the natural creation, together with the children of God, will be delivered from the curse that was imposed because of the fall of Adam. But until then we suffer from hurricanes and earthquakes and drought, etc., all of which constitute in part the “futility” under which all things labor and suffer.

How arrogant of us to presume upon good weather, as if we deserved it! We wake up to sunny skies and gentle breezes and occasional rain and mild temperatures and we never pause to consider that what this sinful world deserves is scorching heat and tornadoes and floods and crippling ice-storms. The only reason why the latter do not dominate our globe is the common grace of God!

(4) The fourth and final aspect of common grace is more positive in thrust. God not only restrains the sinful operations and effects of the human heart, He also bestows upon both nature (see esp. Ps. 65:9-13; 104:10-30; 145:1-16; 136:25) and humanity manifold blessings both physical and spiritual. These blessings, however, fall short of redemption itself.

God not only restrains evil in unredeemed men but also endows them with
"gifts, talents, and aptitudes; he stimulates them with interest and purpose to the practice of virtues, the pursuance of worthy tasks, and the cultivation of arts and sciences that occupy the time, activity and energy of men and that make for the benefit and civilization of the human race. He ordains institutions for the protection and promotion of right, the preservation of liberty, the advance of knowledge and the improvement of physical and moral conditions. We may regard these interests, pursuits and institutions as exercising both an expulsive and impulsive influence. Occupying the energy, activity and time of men they prevent the indulgence of less noble and ignoble pursuits and they exercise an ameliorating, moralizing, stabilizing and civilizing influence upon the social organism" (II:102-03).
Of this manifestation of common grace we read in Genesis 39:5; Acts 14:16-17; Matthew 5:44-45; Luke 6:35-36; 16:25. It is because of such operations of common grace that the unregenerate may be said to perform "good" (cf. 2 Kings 10:30; 12:2; Matt. 5:46; Luke 6:33; Rom. 2:14-15). However, Murray reminds us that "the good attributed to unregenerate men is after all only relative good. It is not good in the sense of meeting in motivation, principle and aim the requirements of God's law and the demands of his holiness" (II:107) and thus can in no way commend them to the righteousness of the Father. We must never lose sight of the fact that all such operations of "grace" (so-called because undeserved) are non-saving, being neither in design nor effect such as would produce new life in Christ. Now, what does all this have to do with the end of the age? Well, here is my theory.

As we approach the second coming of Christ, whether that be one year or one-thousand years in the future, I believe the presence and power of common grace will progressively diminish. The restraining power of the Spirit on the sinful souls of men and women, as well as on the natural creation, will incrementally weaken. The manifestation of human sin and wickedness and unbelief will therefore expand.

Common grace is much like the emergency break on a car that is parked on a steep incline. The weight of the car, together with the force of gravity, would naturally result in its descent down the road and its eventual crash. But the emergency break resists and impedes this otherwise natural inclination. So, too, with human sin. The Holy Spirit is like an emergency break on the human heart. But one day, perhaps imperceptibly and certainly in gradual fashion, the restraint on the sinful and depraved inclination of the human soul will be removed.

But here is the good news. I also believe that together with the progressive withdrawal of common grace will be a corresponding increase of special grace! The people of God will experience fresh and ever-increasing manifestations of divine favor and power and blessing and anointing simultaneously with the withdrawal of the Spirit’s common grace work of curbing the sinful impulses of the lost. This is why there will be an increase of wickedness and persecution (and, yes, martyrdom) in the world at large at the same time there is an increase of righteousness and perseverance in the church in particular.

My “theory” (which I do believe has Scriptural support) is that the Church will experience great revival, ever-increasing impartations of supernatural power, unprecedented expressions of love and unity, all the while she is being oppressed and persecuted and increasingly hated by the unbelieving world. Special grace will intensify even as common grace will diminish.

I should also point out that this process will culminate eternally in what we know as heaven and hell. Heaven is the unabated overflow of special grace. Hell is the utter absence of even common grace. Forever.

So what should be the Christian’s response to Katrina and the devastation she wrought? We should, no pun intended, flood the people who are suffering with expressions of kindness and compassion and generosity, knowing that such devastation could as easily fall on us (cf. Luke 13:1-5). As the Spirit’s provision of common grace diminishes, may the recipients of his special grace overflow in the goodness of Jesus to the glory of God the Father.

pomosexual revolt

Doug Wilson's 7 Key Facts:

Facebook recently decided to let people configure their profile with an available list of any number of genders. For them to publish a master list of the available options would obviously be way too confining, but one estimate puts the available options at 58 or so. One example is cisgender, a word for someone who, for the most part, identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. And they also have genderqueer, for example, but they don’t have demiguy, and one only wonders when the hatred will stop.

If your inclination is to think the world has gone crazy, you are right. But it is crazy with a logic to it. There are reasons for the pomosexual revolt. There are hidden drivers, and if you understand them, you will understand the central features of what is happening. Here are some of the key principles.

1. You become like what you worship. There are many places in Scripture where this principle is laid down, but I will cite only two. The first is negative, having to do with idolatry. “Their idols are silver and gold, The work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: Eyes have they, but they see not: They have ears, but they hear not: Noses have they, but they smell not: They have hands, but they handle not: Feet have they, but they walk not: Neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; So is every one that trusteth in them” (Psalm 115:4–8). If you give yourself to the manufacture of idols that cannot see, cannot hear, cannot smell, cannot handle, cannot walk, and cannot speak, you are actually engaged in the process of becoming like a block of wood yourself. Adam’s rebellion wrecked our humanity, but there was still some of the image of God left. Idolatry is corrosive of that remaining humanity, perpetuating and accelerating the downward spiral. But the same principle applies to the restoration of the gospel, applying to those who have been brought by the Spirit into the worship of God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18, ESV).

2. The fundamental cultural choices are always a matter of “not whether, but which.” This connects to the first principle because all cultures will necessarily have an collective object of worship. Neutrality is an impossibility. As Dylan put it, in one of his lucid songs, “you gotta serve somebody.” It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you are going to go the way he says.

So the inescapable concept works this way. It is not whether we will impose a morality, but rather which morality we will impose. It is not whether our culture will have a God, but rather which God we will have. It is not whether we will have a shared, central organizing principle of ultimate value, but rather which shared, central organizing principle we will have.

We are seeing the effects of the transition from one principle to another on almost a daily basis. It is not a changing of the guards, it is a changing of the gods.

3. But nature just kind of is. I once saw a great t-shirt that said, “Gravity. It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.” Reality, as it turns out, is not optional. Now by nature, I am not referring to anything that has autonomous or independent authority apart from its Creator — the Lord Jesus (John 1:3; Heb. 1:2; Col. 1:16). There is not a solitary atom in the created order of things that did not come off the lathe in the shop of the Lord Jesus.

When He made it, He made a particular universe, not another one, and He fixed the order of how things would go. He divided Heaven and earth, He divided the sea and dry land, and He divided night and day. At the pinnacle of His creation, He set up the ultimate distinction between male and female as a way of portraying the image of God in great glory (Gen. 1:27). After God painted the cosmos, He signed His name at the bottom — and a great deal of energy is being expended to get that signature off of there.

4. The unbelievers have an alternative story. They have a different account of nature. They believe that ultimate reality is infinitely malleable. Hydrogen is a gas that can take virtually any form. It all blew out of the Big Bang, and then over time turned into everything else. There is no fixity in the very nature of things, no givenness. It wasn’t given, it just happened. And if we can steer or direct these atoms in motion such that they wind up anywhere else, who should care? If everything changes, what’s the big deal with sex changes? They are conforming to their notion of ultimate reality, just as we are conforming to our understanding of ultimate reality. Their ultimate reality is matter in motion. Our ultimate reality is fatherhood (Eph. 3:15).

5. This means that the pomosexual account of the world and the believing account of the world are on a collision course. The two views of the nature of reality are mutually exclusive. They could be made consistent with one another if Christians dropped all claims about the cosmos, and the lordship of Christ over it, and retreated to the cozy spot of their faith community’s core values, or something equally treacley. But as long as Christians affirm creatio ex nihilo, and affirm that Jesus made the world, and that He has embedded His will in that natural world, and revealed His will in the Holy Bible, we will remain on that collision course. So long as we stand faithful, we are in the process of becoming enemies of the human race. We are talking about their version of the human race, of course, and we might as well admit it cheerfully. We are enemies of that vision.

6. Sometimes crime and punishment are identical. Some sins implode, collapsing in on themselves. “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after” (1 Tim. 5:24). Some sins are revealed for what they were at the Day of Judgment, with the sin having been committed in time and in history, and the judgment falling later (Rev. 20:12-13; Rom. 2:6). Men will in fact be judged at the end of history. But some sins are also judged in the midst of history. If a man secretly embezzles money from his boss, he might not ever get caught in the course of his lifetime. But if he becomes a meth addict, judgments start to fall hot and heavy right now, and we don’t have to wait until the Last Day for those consequences to start happening. God is not mocked. A man reaps what he sows — but some crops ripen quickly. Some crops ripen now.

In Romans 1, we are taught that homosexuality is not a sin that brings about a penalty later. Those who go this direction receive “in themselves” the penalty of their error. Those who rush headlong into this sin are doing so because they are under the judgment of God already. The wrath of God is manifested in how He gives them up. America is not behaving in a way that will incur the future judgment of God. Rather, America behaved at some point in the past in such a way that we are under the judgment of God now.

And judgments are lifted when men repent. That’s how it works. That’s the only way it works.

7. A necessary hostility exists between the two visions of humanity. God established the antithesis between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent at the beginning of our history (Gen. 3:15), and this is the way it necessarily is. We believe that 58 genders is bizarre, the kind of thing that only an intellectual could believe. They find it strange when we refuse to plunge into the same flood of dissipation with them. “With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;” (1 Peter 4:4, ESV). Idolaters don’t know what they are doing, but they still like what they are doing. They rejoice in the work of their hands (Acts 7:41). Not only so, but they are mortally offended when we do not join right in.

So, in sum, worship is central, and shapes what we are becoming. The political ramifications of this law of worship are given to us in an inescapable choice — not whether, but which. One of the reasons we must choose rightly is that nature – the way things actually are — is fixed in its place by the Word of God. “For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:9). But unbelievers don’t believe that the words of Almighty God created anything, much less with the result that they made everything “stand fast.” This means that two mutually exclusive views of reality are contending for the same public space. As we conduct this battle, we must remember that our adversaries are rotting away from the inside out. If we win, they lose. If they win, then they lose forever and ever. So we must contend with them, but in a way that offers them a standing amnesty at any time. Every last human being that God has recruited for His new humanity was drawn from the ranks of that disintegrating and wrecked humanity, and God intends to do a lot more of that before He is done. But this love that we have for our enemies does not erase the fact that they are our enemies. The hostility embedded in the antithesis is there necessarily. It was appointed by the words of the Lord.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

so you want to fight on the internet

Justin Taylor posts the Top 10 Ways to Win at the Internet:

A step-by-step guide on how to be enraged on the internet all of the time:
  1. Always remember: it’s about you.
  2. You are the only person who realizes how enraging this situation is.
  3. Everything is your business.
  4. Learn the vocabulary of outrage.
  5. Constantly threaten to quit social media.
  6. Quit social media.
  7. Rejoin social media.
  8. Pile on.
  9. Don’t keep your outrage hidden.
  10. Make sure your tone is hectoring, intolerant, and enraged.
Read the whole thing for an explanation of each principle.

And if you’re looking for some real principles for online interaction, consider the following:

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Ex. 20:16).

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (Prov. 29:11).

“The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult” (Prov 12:16).

“Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears” (Prov. 26:17).

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6).

“By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:37).

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10).

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

Always be “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15, 25).

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

how heresy should be met

Ray Ortlund posts the following:

In the July 1954 issue of Reformation Review, Francis Schaeffer published “How Heresy Should Be Met.” He proposed that, to neutralize the heresies defrauding people in our time, what is needed is a three-fold strategy:

“The final problem is not to prove men wrong, but to win them back to Christ. Therefore, the only ultimately successful apologetic is, first, a clear, intellectual statement of what is wrong with the false doctrine, plus a clear, intellectual return to the proper scriptural emphasis, in all its vitality and in its relation to the total Christian faith, plus a demonstration in the life that this correct and vital scriptural emphasis meets the genuine needs and aspirations of men in a way that Satan’s counterfeit does not.”

The ultimate apologetic is churches where (1) falsehood is exposed, (2) the gospel is clarified, and (3) we together, though imperfect, become living proof that the gospel creates beautiful human beings in beautiful community.

Step 5

And finally, Step 5 of the 5-Step Prayer Model - JRW on Post-prayer Direction.

This was the shortest segment of the 5 (Other steps 1, 2, 3, & 4)

The following are some simple notes from each:

One may move through these steps fast or slow, may even skip some. This is not a set of rules but is designed to help you help the person you are ministering to meet God. Your role is to bless what the Father is doing and help the person being prayed for aware of what God is doing. God's intent is not to minister to the symptoms, but rather the heart issues. He wants each of us to have a concept of the Cross of Christ not in our heads, but through revelation, in our hearts.

Interview - Where does it hurt? or What would you like me to pray for?

In Mark 10, when Jesus prayed for Blind Bartimaeus he asked what seemed like an obvious question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Mark 9, a boy possessed is thrown to the ground by an evil spirit. After seeing his condition Jesus asks how long the boy was like this. Then with the answer to that question, Jesus builds and confirms the faith of the father before addressing the evil spirit.
  • listen on two planes (horizontal and vertical)
  • this is NOT a medical interview - we are not physicians, we don’t need all of the gory details
  • use active listening skills - we are not problem solving at this point
  • it’s more important to know what kind of person has the bug than what kind of bug has the person, i.e., focus on the person more than the technical medical details
  • let the person talk but not ramble or reinforce sin!
  • this step is often skipped in situations like alter ministry
Diagnostic Decision - Why does it hurt?

In John 9 Jesus is questioned by the disciples regarding the blind man. Who sinned, him or his parents?

There are no formulas. We need to train ourselves in the Word so that we understand sin and it's effect but in every situation, we need to respond with what the Father is showing us. We need to listen in the:
  • natural – disease, accident, organic (psychiatric/chemical)
  • sin – committed by them or to them
  • emotional hurts
  • relational problems – lack of forgiveness
  • spiritual realm – demonic, curse, family ties (note about generational curse)
Prayer Selection - What kind of prayer is needed?

In Luke 5 Jesus heals the paralytic that was lowered through the roof of the home he was speaking in. When he saw the man and his friends he proclaimed, "friend, your sins are forgiven" and "take up your mat an go home".
  • prayer toward God (petition, intercession, etc.)
  • prayer from God (command – Acts 3.6 ‘rise up and walk’, pronouncement – John 4.50 ‘go, your son will live’, forgiveness – speak to the person’s heart, etc.)
  • logistics (sit or stand, touch or not touch, knock down or prop up, group or 1:1, tongues, loud or soft, mints, blowing, tissues, music, being quite, etc.)
  • do not preach or gossip
  • Bible prayers v. prophecy
Engagement - How are we doing?

In Mark 8, Jesus, after put spittle on the blind man's eye's, asked him, "do you see anything?" When the man responded that he saw people that looked like trees, Jesus put His hands on the man's eyes again.

In Mark 5, after commanding the evil spirit to come out of the demoniac, He asked, "what is your name." The reply was "my name is Legion," and begged Jesus to send them into some nearby pigs rather than out of the area.
  • watch for effects of the Holy Spirit (warmth, tingling, heat, muscle spasms, shaking, breathing, laughing, crying, etc.)
  • make the person aware of what you see/sense - some are not tuned into their own bodies
  • when in doubt, ask. Some expect failure - in Mt 9:28, Jesus asked the two blind men if they believed before he prayed.
  • stop when the person says to stop, when the Holy Spirit says to stop, or when you cannot think of anything else
Post Prayer Direction - How to keep your healing

In John 8 Jesus gives some good advice to the woman caught in adultry, “go and sin no more.”
  • spiritual leading for a specific situation, e.g., prophecy
  • general counsel such as read scripture, pray, listen to scripture music, get in a small group, etc.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


As I'm taunted by current events, the following by James K.A. Smith serves as a great reminder:

“there is a deep sense in which the church is a people called to resist the presentism embedded in the tyranny of the contemporary. We are called to be a people of memory, who are shaped by a tradition that is millennia older than the last Billboard chart...

We are a stretched people, citizens of a kingdom that is both older and newer than anything offered by “the contemporary”. The practices of Christian worship over the liturgical year form in us something of an “old soul” that is perpetually pointed to a future, longing for a coming kingdom, and seeking to be such a stretched people in the present who are a foretaste of the coming kingdom”

10 things to do when suffering

Ed Welch just posted Ten Things to Do During Suffering. Interestingly, I heard several recents sermons in different churches the past couple of weeks on suffering and tonight's City Group will discuss the topic. I wonder if God is trying to say something. Here are Welch's points:
  1. Don’t be surprised by suffering (1 Pet. 4:12). The Son suffered, so do those who follow the Son. You will not be spared the sufferings that the world experiences, but you will participate in them, both for the world’s benefit and your own.
  2. Live by faith, see the unseen (Heb. 2:2). Normal eyesight is not enough. Your eyes will tell you that God is far away and silent. The truth is that he is close—invisible—but close. He has a unique affection for fellow sufferers. So get help to build up your spiritual vision. Search Scripture. Enlist others to help, to pray, to remind you of the Truth. Ask the God of comfort to comfort you.
  3. Suffering will reveal what is really in your heart. It will test you (Jam. 1:2). Where do you turn when tested? Do you turn toward Jesus or turn inward?
  4. God is God, you are not (Job 38-42). This is important. Humility and submission before the King can quiet some of your questions.
  5. Confess sin. There is nothing new here; it is a regular feature of daily life. Yet it always helps you to see the cross of Jesus more clearly. It is the quickest way to see the persistent and lavish love of God (Heb. 12).
  6. Keep an eye out in Scripture for the Suffering Servant. He has entered into your suffering, and you can enter into his. (Isaiah 39-53, John 10-21)
  7. Speak honestly and often to the Lord. This is critical. Just speak, groan, have someone read you a psalm and say a weak, “Amen.”
  8. Expect to get to know God better while in this wilderness. That is how he usually works with his people (Phil. 3:10-11).
  9. Talk to those who have suffered, read their books, listen to them. You are not alone. Insist on being moved with compassion as you hear other stories of suffering.
  10. Look ahead. We need spiritual vision for what is happening now and for where the universe is heading. We are on a pilgrimage that ends at the temple of God (Ps. 84).

giving them over

Folks, it starts with idolatry. As the homosexual debate rages, we should consider first things. Here's Sam Storms on Lady Gaga's recent debauchery.

It wasn’t an easy article to read, but I pressed through to the end. It was short, but repulsive. In this week’s edition of The Week (March 28, 2014) there was a report on the behavior of Lady Gaga at the recent South by Southwest festival in Austin. The pop star (can you believe it? she’s a “star”!) “has taken her penchant for shocking audiences to a new, repulsive level, allowing a woman to vomit all over her while she performed.” The set “opened with a woman eating barbecue sausages in a provocative manner while a fishnet-clad Gaga sang her song ‘Swine.’ Gaga was then joined by performance artist Millie Brown, who chugged a bottle of green liquid, stuck her fingers down her throat, and vomited green goo all over the pop star.” According to the report, “Gaga defended the performance as ‘art.’”

After reading this I couldn’t help but think of Paul’s words in Romans 1 where he says that “God gave them up,” first, “in the lusts of their hearts to impurity” (Rom. 1:24a), then second “to dishonorable passions” (Rom. 1:26a), and finally “to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Rom. 1:28b). It’s a horrifying refrain, and there are at last two fundamental elements involved. 

The first is permissive in force. God withdraws divine restraint on men's and women’s hearts and permits them to have their way (cf. Acts 14:16). That is to say, God relinquishes his hold over them and ceases to curb their willful determination to sin. However, God's action in response to human sin is more than simply permissive.

In other words, God doesn't simply let them go. He also positively consigns them to suffer the consequences of their sin. It is not merely divine relinquishment but also divine retribution. As Doug Moo points out, "God does not simply let the boat go – He gives it a push downstream. Like a judge who hands over a prisoner to the punishment his crime has earned, God hands over the sinner to the terrible cycle of ever-increasing sin" (106).

Paul does not say that God is himself the cause of their impurity or idolatry. Rather, God gives them over to degrading passions. The act of divine relinquishment presupposes the existence of these sins. God gives them over to what they have already chosen for themselves. "In the midst of the retributive action of God there is no coercion of man. God does not entice or compel to evil" (S. Lewis Johnson).

Furthermore, that to which God gives them over is not simply their sin but a deeper and more intense cultivation of their sin. In the absence of divine restraint (common grace), sin intensifies and aggravates itself. When God abandons someone to his/her sin, that sin accelerates. Sadly, what this means is that Yes, it can and will get worse, as difficult as it may for us to imagine someone like Lady Gaga falling deeper than she already has into repulsive and degrading behavior (all the while calling it “art”).

One final point should be made. Careful study of Romans 1:23-25 indicates that it is idolatry which leads to immorality. Men and women first abandon God and then God abandons them into the depths of every conceivable vice. Sexual perversion, says Paul, is the result of religious rebellion. This is also seen in the words Paul employs. Those who “exchanged” (v. 23) God’s glory and “exchanged” (v. 25) his truth “exchanged” (v. 26) natural sexual relations for what is unnatural. Simply put, sexual immorality (together with other forms of degrading behavior) is the consequence of human idolatry. Once one abandons God, virtually anything is possible, because everything is permissible.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

ministry to the poor

A repost from years ago:

"The church is not an organization, but a company of people who lay down their lives for others. And as we catch God's heart and understand His compassion, He will lead us in ministry to the poor." - John Wimber

I am very aware of how great God is and how fortunate I am that He has chosen to allow me to part of the outworking of His Kingdom.

I get encouraged when I think of the following words by Basil of Caesarea in the 4th century:
A man who has two coats or two pairs of shoes when his neighbor has none has his neighbor’s coat and shoes. It evidences a lack of grace in his life. The redistribution of wealth is in no wise to the point. The revealing of faith is the point.
We do not simply redistribute wealth. Anyone can do that. Socialism does that. We do much more. When we understand the Kingdom of God, when we trust our Father completely as our provider, when we know His heart of compassion, etc., then we can do nothing other than to give freely and to give abundantly.

Later in the same century, John Chrysostom said:
The essence of the Gospel is not concern for the poor but it certainly provokes that concern. In fact, without that concern, the essence of the Gospel surely has not been grasped.
Do you grasp the Gospel? If so, how is that manifesting itself in your life?

When John’s disciples came to Jesus to ask if he was the one who is to come, Jesus replied, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” (Lk 7.22) The poor have good news preached to them!

In Lk 4.43, Jesus said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God … for I was sent for this purpose.” And later in that same chapter Luke writes that Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, that same Spirit that was upon Him to demonstrate and proclaim the Kingdom of God, is upon His disciples today. This is why James is able to write in chapter 2, verse 16, “one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” The Kingdom is more than words. It is compassion and power.

I look forward to God's manifest presence among the poor and I pray His Spirit would increase my faith to proclaim Him with boldness and authority.

SSA and the wait

The following is a wonderful piece written by Nick Roen:

Few concepts are more foreign to our culture than waiting. Now you can take a picture of a check with your phone and deposit it instantly into your bank account without even leaving your Lay-Z-Boy. “Instant,” it seems, has become the new “relatively quick.”

This has been highlighted in my own life as I have wrestled with the issue of change in regard to my same-sex attraction (SSA). When I began counseling several years ago, I thought that if I followed a set of prescribed steps, then my attractions would switch from males to females. However, after seven months of hard work, I began to become disillusioned and depressed because that didn’t happen. Why wasn’t change happening like I thought it would?

Then one day it hit me. I realized that heterosexuality is not my ultimate goal — holiness is. And my holiness is not ultimately contingent on the reversal of my attractions. Once this became clear, I began to view change differently.

Change Not Promised

The reversal of my orientation is a type of change that is not guaranteed in this life. God never promised me that he would remove my SSA. I am reminded of Paul praying three times to the Lord in 2 Corinthians 12 that the thorn in his flesh would be taken away. And what did God say? “My grace is enough” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God decides which thorns stay and which thorns he will remove, for his glory. Even though SSA is a particularly painful thorn to bear, I have no guarantee one way or the other.

In fact, promising orientation change can be quite harmful. In reality, there is no set of prescribed steps that will definitively lead to a reversal in attraction, and this type of thinking can make orientation change into an idol that must be achieved or all is lost. If my hope rested in becoming straight, then I would have no ground for hope at all.

This Change Guaranteed

However, make no mistake, change is guaranteed. What happens when I dethrone heterosexuality as my ultimate goal and replace it with holiness? What happens when I cling to Jesus, trust the promises in his word, and fight the fight of faith by his Spirit? I change! This (often painfully) slow process is called sanctification, and sanctification is a type of change that is inevitable for all true Christians.

And here’s the thing: my sanctification here on earth may or may not include a change in my attractions. In conforming me into the image of Christ, God may see fit to leave my orientation unchanged until the day I die, for the purpose of my ultimate holiness. My SSA might be one of the “thorns” that he leaves to increase my faith and display his power and grace in my life.

Groaning, Waiting, Hoping

This is where waiting comes in. I want to be “fixed” now, to stop warring against my flesh and become like Christ. The waiting is so hard! Thankfully, the Bible tells me how to deal with the waiting. As I experience the groanings in this body, I have great grounds for hope.

I hope in my full, final, ultimate adoption as a son of God, which will include the redemption of my body (Romans 8:23). And I need to hope because it isn’t here yet. After all, “hope that is seen [present right now, immediately, instantly) is no hope at all. For who hopes for what he sees?” (Romans 8:24).

Indeed, instead of “fix me now,” the Bible gives me this: “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:25). No matter how acutely I feel the brokenness of my body, and my already-but-not-yet adoption as a son of God through Christ, I must wait for my full redemption with patience — even when I can deposit a check from my La-Z-Boy.

In discussing the hollow promise of orientation change, Wesley Hill, who experiences SSA, says this: “Suffice it to say, I think the real spiritual and theological danger of this kind of ‘victorious Christian living’ talk is an avoidance of the ‘state of being on the way.’ It’s an expectation that the kingdom of God should be here fully now, without our having to endure its slow, mysterious, paradoxical unfolding until the return of Christ.”

So instead of snapping a picture of my check, I need to be content with being in the car “on the way” to the bank.

Worth the Wait

Believe me, it is really hard. But the reality is that “on the way” is where I experience God. For now, it’s in the pain and the groaning and the fighting for contentment that God reveals himself, and changes me, and strips away my idols, and gives me more of him, and prepares me for an eternity of enjoying him without the pain.

It’s on the ride in the car that I see the beautiful countryside, and the majestic mountains, and the stunning sunset that I wouldn’t have seen if I were magically transported to my final destination, breathtaking as that final destination will be. The waiting is where I am sanctified, conformed into the image of Jesus, and readied for delighting in him when I see him face to face (2 Corinthians 3:18).

My orientation may not change in this life, but complete sanctification is coming (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24). It isn’t here yet. But that, I think, I can wait for.

confronting error

Let's not give up confronting error locally as well as seek ways to connect with some of the more global, spirit-filled, thinkers of our time. Here is Martin Downes' thinking on local and global.

In tracing out Augustine's labours in responding to and refuting the Pelagian heresy, B. B. Warfield makes the following comment:
All heresies do not need an ecumenical synod for their condemnation; usually it is best to stamp them out locally, and not allow what may be confined to a corner to disturb the whole world.
From 'Augustine and the Pelagian Controversy', in The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield Vol. IV: Studies in Tertullian and Augustine, p.381

In our day the distinction between global and local has been blurred both by the ubiquity of the internet as a means of communication and also by the re-sculpting of the in-scape of communicators and their expansive audiences by social media. The size, nature, and location of the audience has altered permanently.

In our day it is hard to imagine that any contemporary error could be classified as strictly 'local'. Perhaps it is even harder to imagine anything resembling an 'ecumenical synod' as the means of assessing and rejecting contemporary errors. Although historically speaking, error has been dealt with not only corporately, but also by the individual skills of brilliant theologians (e.g. an Athanasius or an Augustine).