Tuesday, February 28

Off To Florida

Please remember my family and me in prayer over the next few days. I am flying to Ft. Myers, Florida, this afternoon to be present at my brother's ordination on Thursday. I will be flying back to not-so-warm Illinois on Friday.

I plan on blogging from the Sunshine State, but please bear with me. My brother doesn't have internet access at home, which will necessitate me going to his office in order to upload my posts!

Please pray for Joanna and the children (Elizabeth, Noah, Hannah) will will be without a husband and daddy for a few days. Pray they won't suffer from that dreaded illness known as...

We-wish-we-were-in-warm-and-sunny-Florida-with-hubby-and-daddy syndrome.

Seriously, pray for my family's safety until my return. I am excited to make the trip, but saddened to leave my family behind. I will miss them terribly.

More, More about Baptism

It seems that the subject of baptism has awakened a sleeping blog giant. Frank Turk, a.k.a. Centuri0n, seems to be taking issue with what's been written. So here we go.

I like Frank Turk. I appreciate his fun-loving and thought-provoking blog. I'm even a fan of his (not a groupie, but a fan). Godly sarcasm (if there is such a thing) is a Frank-talent of which I am envious.


BUT... evidently Frank is a bit peeved that we were willing to tackle the baptism issue before he did. Here's what he had to say about it (you can read the entire firestorm here)...

"I think the question was too broad and the answer was too glib. I also think the rabbit trail vis Landmarkism muddies the issue.

However, that is why I have my own blog. :-)"
The question may have been a bit broad, but I didn't ask it. FIDE-O did. And as for my answer being too glib, it was not my intent to write a treatise on the issue. This is a blog, not a publishing house. And if I'm not mistaken, we could order hundreds of books on baptism directly from you. Would you really want us to take a "world-sized" bite out of your livelihood?

Yes, the Landmarkism comment was a bit of an aside to the baptism issue, yet (if you had been paying attention to FIDE-O) Scott has been dealing with this matter over at his blog. Here at The World From Our Window, we are but a small blip on the blogosphere radar. Therefore, we give our (few, but very bright) readers our full attention. You are prolly too busy to do the same; but that's OK, we understand; you're Frank Turk! And we'll continue to read your blog (and Pyromaniacs) anyway.

Moving on to Frank's additional comment...
"And since I'm making myself late for work today, I think focussing on Philip and the Eunuch as the model or exemplar of baptism ignores the fact that we don't know anything else about the Eunuch. It's like building a theology of evangelism based on the young man in Mark's Gospel in the white robe, or the thief on the cross.

The story of Philip and the Eunuch does not give us all the details we need to connect the dots to normative life for the believer. It's a snapshot of one moment when Philip baptized one convert, and tells us nothing of what happened to the convert. If the argument is that the rest of the Eunuch's life was omitted because it is irrelevant, let me introduce you to Saul, aka Paul, a fellow who says he's not even worthy to be called an Apostle, who would strenuously object to the comparmentalization of the facets of the life of a believer."
As for the Eunuch issue, I agree with you. But, hold on, did I read your first sentence right? On the one hand, my baptism post was too glib? On the other hand, reading and responding to it caused you to be late for work? Frank, I'm a bit puzzled. You should be thanking me for my glibness and brevity...I prolly saved your job.

(Question to self: I wonder if I've given Frank enough ammo to get a mention over at ...and his ministers a flame of fire?)

Monday, February 27

How Big is God?

Having finished the first few chapters of When People Are Big and God Is Small, by Edward T. Welch, I have come to realize how little I think of God's bigness. Yet, without excusing my own sinful tendencies, I find myself in good company. King David (even after giving a certain giant a major whoopin') seems to constantly wrestle with this same issue. Many of David's Psalms are self-reminders of God's bigness. Most likely, thinking too little of God and too highly of people is a struggle (at least to some extent) for all of us.

Here are the words of a man who, while drinking in the vast expanse of the heavens, is overcome by God's immensity...

Psalm 8:4, "What is man, that You are mindful of him?"

Psalm 144:3, "LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?! Or the son of man, that You make account of him?!"

If you've ever felt a bit like David, you will want to take a look at this (be sure to keep clicking on the "zoom out" button). Then take a moment to sing "Jesus Loves Me."

Let us exclaim together, "OUR GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD!"

Calvinists Do Not Evangelize? Says Who?

According to this post, the more reformed denominations are the ones that are growing. What I found most interesting with these numbers was the fact that the Presbyterian Churches of America had some of the largest increase within their own denomination over the past few years. Hmmmm.....I wonder if they hold to the doctrines of grace or not? Also, when looking at Christianity historically some of the most effective witnesses were what we call "Calvinists" - Jonathan Edwards, C.H. Spurgeon, George Whitfield, to name a few.

No, I am not advocating becoming a paedo-baptist. However, from the looks of things it seems that those who hold to an ardent view of the doctrines of grace are doing a great job of spreading the Gospel of grace as well! May our view of election never deter us from our call to evangelize!

There Is More At Stake Than You May Think

These past two weeks have witnessed one of the most colorful dialogues between my good friend and fellow blogger Ken Fields and Lance Ketchum (along with some other good folks as well) on the Sharper Iron Forum. This has been a good debate, and I believe a healthy one at that. What this has also done is show how deep the divide is to this day between those who hold to God's complete sovereignty in all things, and those who hold to a limited view of God's sovereignty (a.k.a. Arminianism, semi-Pelagianism, and open theism).

I am well aware what many of you may be thinking and the questions that you have that come to your mind when this discussion begins - "Is it really worth the time and the effort of getting into this kind of debate?" Or - "Do you really think that you will be able to change anyone's mind?". There are other questions that others raise when we have these sort of discussions and by no means am I saying that these are not valid questions. However, by just taking a casual look at the history of the evangelical movement over the past 100 years or so one can see some very dangerous trends that have been quite unhealthy.

The major trend that we have been focusing on has been the falling away from the historical approach to man's sinful nature and his inability to seek after or desire a relationship with a holy and just God. From my perspective, if we do not get this one right, we have basically changed completely what Scripture tells us about the fallen nature of man and his inability to save himself. By saying that man inherintly has some sort of "island of righteousness" that can spark enough interest to receive Christ we are basically propigating a works salvation that is man-centered and not God-centered (a.k.a. Pelagianism or Arminianism).

John Piper about 8 years ago did a wonderful piece comparing what Jonathan Edwards had to say about this to what modern day open-theists Greg Boyd and Clark Pinnock are saying about this today. For those who accuse us of deifying the words of Calvin, Augustine, Edwards, Piper, and others from today and the past are completely off base. If you read the writings of these men you will find that they held to an incredibly high view of Scripture and also articulated the truths of God's Word in a very articulate way. Perhaps that is why they are held in such high regard even to this day. Also, you would be hard pressed to find any preacher, professor, or well known theologian who could honestly say that all of their theological persuasions have come solely from their own exegetical research. Praise God for all of the wonderful God-centered resources that are at our disposal today.

So let me give you several things that I believe are at stake when we fail to understand man's fallenness in light of what Scripture clearly teaches.

1. Our view of the gospel will be totally skewed at best. Scripture clearly teaches that the gospel is for sinners - both saved and lost. The gospel clearly focuses on the fallen condition of man and his total inability to seek after a holy and just God.

2. Our evangelism or better yet, our methodology in evangelism will be altered completely. When we hold to the view that our "decision" for Christ "seals the deal" we will no doubt take the approach that we are the ultimate tool in conversion and that God is dependent on us (fallen and sinful creatures) to do His work. This is not an escape route to avoid doing the work of evangelism. Most of us would agree that we should all be doing more of this and our churches should be using more of our resources and getting more of our people involved in the work of getting the gospel to the "uttermost" parts of the earth. However, it is incredibly clear in God's Word that it is God who "gives the increase" through the work of His Spirit. (I Cor. 3:6).

3. The doctrine of God's sovereignty is completely diminished into nothing more than making God into an innocent bystander who is simply sitting back and waiting on man's next move. The "big numbers" movement in fundamentalism in the latter part of the 20th century did incredible amounts of harm to this wonderful doctrine. It also does not help when today many of the church growth advocates worship and trust their methodology more than a holy and sovereign God. I am still dumbfounded when I read the Arminian defense of "decisional regeneration" and yet they still claim that God is sovereign. Ok, so He is sovereign yet only within the bounds of man's final decisions???

4. Our preaching and teaching of Scripture will also be altered completely if man is not completely fallen and dependent upon God's grace for salvation, security, and sanctification. From the Law all the way to the Gospel, you have the clear teaching that man is totally fallen and corrupt due to the original sin and is not totally dependent upon God's grace (that is why it is an essential to preach both the Law and the Gospel (for a good read on this, check out Calvin's work. You can read it here).

The list could go on and on and on. But I hope that this has made the case that we cannot afford to take a "casual" approach in our understanding of what Scripture teaches us about the fallen condition of man and God's complete sovereignty in all things. I hope that I have made my "praxis" clear!

Sunday, February 26

The March Issue of Reformation21 is Available

The March issue of the online magazine, Reformation21, is now available for your perusal. Here's what you can find from several of the brightest minds in conservative Reformed Theology today. Buzz on over and take a look.

Table of Contents

It's all about the family this month. What does a Christian family look like these days? What should youth ministry be about? And what help is out there for parents? Read on.


On Being a Christian Family
By Iain D Campbell

Youth Ministry in the 21st Century
By Scott Pierce

Resources for Parents
Reading List for Teens
Train Up a Child

Shelf Life
Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
Review by David Elkin
On Being a Pastor
by Derek Prime and Alister Begg
Review by Allen Curry
Is the Reformation Over? by Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom
Review by Gregg R. Allison

Counterpoints
Window on the World:
Cyberspin
By Philip Ryken
Wages of Spin: Freedom and Protest
By Carl Trueman
iReformanda
By A. Craig Troxel

Window on the Past
A Faith in History

Preaching Survey
Responses from Richard Phillips

To the Choir
A New Hymn by Derek Thomas

I would highly recommend Phil Ryken's piece, Cyberspin, in which he discusses the subject of internet pornography (Ryken's writing is always a blessing). This is a major problem in the church today, and pastors are not exempt from this temptation. May God save our families, our marriages, and our churches from the pain and shame of this heinous sin.

To Answer Your Question on Baptism and the Church

Scott of FIDE-O fame (you would do well to visit his blog) asks a great question about baptism and the church. Here it is...

Question: "Concerning baptism. Should it only be administered by or under the authority of a local church?"
__________________________

My Answer: Understanding the great debate taking place in the SBC over this issue (at FIDE-O and Doxoblogy)...I will tread through this matter with great caution. So, here we go...carefully.

Yes, Scott, I believe baptism should be administered under the authority of the local church. Yet I will admit that there may be exceptions (Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, Acts 8, although one could argue that Philip represented the church). This has been the view of historic, reformed Baptists (which I believe to be Scriptural). And here's why:

1) Fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is the responsibility of the church. Baptism is an integral part of the Great Commission. So the question is this...was the Great Commission given to the church or to individuals? My understanding is that the Great Commission was given to the church. Therefore, logically, baptism should be administered under the authority of the local church (as a norm).

2) Baptism is the outward demonstration of what has happened in the believer's heart through regeneration (Romans 6:1-11). One of the results (among many) of regeneration is that the believer is placed or baptized into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). Although this is a reference to the believer's entrance into the universal church, we must not overlook the fact that the local church is the visible manifestation of the body of Christ. Therefore, the local church should play an active role in the baptism of the believer.

3) If the Lord's Table is to be administered under the authority of the local church (which seems to be the plain teaching of Scripture in 1 Corinthians 11), baptism, logically, should be administered in the same manner.

Please understand, I am not a proponent of "landmarkism," the belief in the perpetuity, or continual existence, of Christ's true churches since His earthly ministry (I do not condone the teaching found on this site). If a believer is scripturally baptized as a non-baptist (or in a differing Baptist denomination or association), we must recognize their baptism as scriptural.

Baptism is an integral part of fulfilling Christ's Great Commission. By God's grace, may our local churches preach it and practice it!

Now, if you are a fan of sticky issues...how are we to view a Presbyterian, who according to their conscience and conviction was "scripturally baptized" as an infant? Should we permit them to join our Baptist church without being "re-baptized"? Discussing this would open a huge can of worms, just as it did for a certain Baptist church in Minnesota!!

Saturday, February 25

I Just Cannot Get Into These Olympics

I know that this sounds un-patriotic but it is the truth. These Olympics have been anything but interesting to me and I'm not sure if I can put my finger on exactly why. As a youngster growing up in the 80's during the height of the Cold War there was a natural interest in how our atheletes performed against some of our rival countries. Not only were athletic competitions at stake but there were also political ramifications as well. Who could forget the dominant Soviet Olympic teams of the past. The only things more familiar than the Olympic theme song during the three weeks of the Olympic Games was the Soviet national anthem which seemed to be the most frequently played anthem during the Olympics.

But this year is different. Why is it so hard to even be remotely interested in our American team? There is no doubt that these athletes represent some of our finest competitors that we have to offer. Many have spent several years of rigorous training to get where they are now. I'll never forget back in 1988 rooting for Dan Jansen (the U.S. speed skater) who would eventually fall on the ice and dash all of his Olympic hopes. I remember the empathy that I felt for him and his family who had just gone through the terrible loss of his sister not too long before the Olympics had started in Calgary that year. He would eventually redeem himself in 1994 by capturing the world record in the 1000m event. We lived and died with our American athletes then much more than we do now I believe. So, why is that? Why is there such a lack of interest?

I'm not sure if my assessment will be an accurate one but I will give it my best shot. One could be the implimentation of professional athletes in certain sectors of the games (e.g. basketball, baseball, and hockey). I believe that this has diminished somewhat from the true competitiveness of the games. I'll be the first one to admit that I enjoyed watching the "Dream Team" of 1992 (Jordan, Bird, Johnson, Barkley, Pippen, and others) totally dominate the competition and easily win the gold. But that thrill has diminished with the improvement of other European teams that have stepped it up several notches and now give every American team a run for their money.

Another factor (and I think this one is the most prominent) is our lack of national patriotism. I for one am guilty of this as well. Please do not misunderstand me, I pray for President Bush on a daily basis along with his administration and our troops in Iraq and around the world. I love our president and admire his courageous leadership. I pray that the president will be the leader that our nation needs during this time and most of all, will take a strong stand against abortion and homosexual marriage. The unfortunate reality is that it has become a popular trend among the liberals and the media (the two are really synonomous and interchangeable) to bash our president for anything that he does (or that his vice-president does) and to degrade our troops overseas by calling our military action in Iraq an "unjust war" and senators (John Kerry a.k.a. "loser") telling us that our soldiers in Iraq are behaving like "terrorists". With this sort of nonsense being thrown at the American people day in and day out on a consistent basis it is no wonder that we are taking such little interest in how our athletes perform in these Olympics.

In 1980 when our country was being torn to shreds by the disastrous presidency of Jimmy Carter our men's hockey team that was expected to go nowhere went all the way and won the gold medal in Lake Placid. It was through this hockey team made up of nothing but amateur college age kids that had never played a game in the NHL that our national pride and patriotic spirit was revived. Several months later the greatest president of the 20th century - Ronald Reagan would be elected as our 40th president of the United States. To this day, one of my all time favorite movies is "Miracle" which is based on the "Miracle on Ice" in 1980.

Perhaps something like this can happen again that can get our country excited once again about the Olympics. I for one cannot blame the American people for being skeptical about the integrity of athletic competition today with the doubts that have been raised by such men as Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Canseco, Rafeal Palmeiro and scores of other athletes who live under the cloud of suspicion of steriod use. The question today is not whether or not an athlete or team actually won, but whether or not they won legitemately.

So for the remaining days of these Olympics in Torino Italy, I will give it my best to wholeheartedly get into these games again and root on these world class athletes that I pray will represent our country well.

Does God Speak Through Fortune Cookies?

Because if He does, I guess none of us could be cessationists!

Now for a completely honest and somewhat comical story (others have found this much more amusing than I). Today, before leaving our favorite Chinese establishment, I cracked open my fortune cookie, and read its message to my wife and kids...

"A small vocabulary doesn't necessarily indicate a small mind."

My response: dumbfounded silence (maybe this is proof of my limited vocabulary).

Joanna's response: "HAAAHAAAHAAAA! You've got to blog on that one, if you have the vocabulary!"

Elizabeth's response (9 year-old): "That's funny, Daddy." (I wasn't very amused.)

Noah's response (6 year-old): "What's 'vocabulary'?" (I do know what it means, I think.)

Hannah's response (5 year-old): "Can I have a bite of your General Tso's, Daddy?" (I was now in no mood to share, but as a good Daddy does, I put my hurt feelings aside, and acquiesced.)

So tonight, after my bout with the fortune cookie, I again gladly label myself a cessationist. Therefore, this fortune cookie's message couldn't have been from God, right???

Oh, and by the way, what does "acquiesced" mean? Maybe I should've called my mom before posting this (if you don't understand this statement, read this)!!

Friday, February 24

An Awesome Night of Fellowship

Tonight we had the privilege to have several couples over for an evening of fellowship, fun, and last but certainly not least - FOOD! The Sunday School class that I have been teaching had a fellowship in our home this evening and it was an incredibly reinvigorating evening for us as a family. Fellowship is something that is sadly overlooked in many of our churches. Many who have grown up in church can look back to having wonderful times of church get togethers, pot-lucks, meals after services, times in people's homes, and long trips to camp that had huge impacts on our lives. One thought that came to my mind this evening was - "We need to be doing this more often."

However, the main thought that came to my mind as we sat around the fire place was that several of the couples that were there tonight were new to our church and had only started coming within the last year or so. It doesn't stop there, of all of the new couples that were there none of them were invited to our church by another member. All of them were led providentially by God to just happen to stumble in on a Sunday morning and eventually join us for membership later on down the road. One of the couples that was there had been converted just a few months ago. I had the privilege to baptize both of them. One was saved out of a life engulfed in staunch Roman Catholicism and the other was engulfed in a life that wanted nothing to do with Christ or His Word. God is so good and the Gospel is so powerful. When the Word is let loose to do it's work, there is no limit to what the fruit will be. The Gospel is always effective no matter where it is preached and to who it is preached to. It will always bear fruit according to God's sovereign plan.

It is a shame that it takes a night like this to help me to be reminded of the fact that God has been so incredibly good to our church family and to my family personally. May we take notice of God's blessings all around us. May we be on the lookout for praise and adoration that we can give back to Him with a heart full of gratitude and love.

To Answer Your Question on The Purpose of Sin

On Monday I opened a can of worms. I asked you if there were any topics you would like to see addressed here. OK, this is last time I will do this (maybe). We have some real thinkers (and stinkers!) in our readership! So to make good on my word, I will briefly respond to each of the subjects you've asked me to address:

Dave Poehlein asks, "I'm sure this topic will show my general ignorance in most things, but here's one I've been wrestling with for a little while now.

In God's eyes, what is sin and what is the purpose of sin? Is it an affront to Him? Is it a mainly a tool that He uses to make us better understand the glory of Heaven and the bitter anguish of Hell? Is it death? Rebellion?

Nothing happens that God does not allow, so sin must have a purpose.

Isaiah 45:7 states; I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.

.....but why?????"
_________________________

My Answer: Because God is God and we are not...Next! Seriously, here is what I believe to be God's purpose for allowing sin. But I will take your question a step further. Did God just allow sin in some "hands-off" sort of way, or did He ordain that sin would be? I will take the easy way out of this conundrum and quote Jay Adams (from The Grand Demonstration) on this subject...

Evil ultimately serves a good purpose. Its existence makes it possible for God to demonstrate to all the universe what He is like. There are aspects of His nature that could only be brought forth by evil itself. We would never have known the wrath of God apart from the existence of evil. God's justice demands that His wrath be loosed only upon rebellious, unrepentant creatures who deserve it. Nor would we have been able to know the dephts of mercy and grace deep within the heart of God that are manifested only in the death of His Son, had not the need of sinners drawn it forth. Humanity, along with the rest of creation, would be immeasurably impoverished in its knowledge of God's nature had not the Grand Demonstration (that God ordained evil and it's purposes for His glory and our good through Christ) happened. It was evil then, that made this demonstration possible.
So yes, although sin is a serious affront to God (Romans 3:23); and although sin causes us understand the need for hell and long for heaven; and although the wages of sin is death; I believe sin's ultimate purpose is to demonstrate for all creation the wrath of an infinitely holy and just God. Without sin...we would not understand these great attributes of our God or our great need for His salvation!

One final thought; I wonder if we could understand the depths of God's love, and mercy, and grace, if sin were not a part of God's ultimate plan. The absence of sin in our world would have negated the necessity of the cross (which, without sin, would have served no purpose) and left us without the greatest proof of God's love.

Romans 5:8, "But God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."

I realize my view isn't a popular one. And I understand my view could be construed as making God the author of sin (which I believe is bogus...man is always responsible for sin), but I believe this to be both the biblical and logical understanding of the purpose and reality of sin.

Thanks, Dave, I hope this answer will suffice. I will deal with the remainder of the questions in the next several days...or weeks...or months!!

We Dedicate This Week To You!!!

In place of our usual weekly poll, we're going to try something a bit different this week.

First, this week, as far as my posts are concerned (due to the drying up of my creative juices), I'm going to let you choose the topics you would like to see addressed. So, fire away. I'm willing to discuss topics from sports (and the Daytona 500 Tony Stewart debacle...what a waste of driving talent) to matters of theology and ecclesiology. Dare I weigh in on the cessationist vs. continuationist debate being bantered about over at FIDE-O? So let me know what topics you'd like to have addressed this week on The World From Our Window (the Jayhawks' turn-around would be a great topic)!

Second, this week, if you are willing to write an article, we will post it here at The World From Our Window. You remember that topic you've been wanting to "rant and rave" about? Here's your chance! No need to start your own blog...and keep it updated. You can write your piece (or peace!) and be done with it! C'mon, give it a shot; and if it's good, quality material (like everything that's posted here!!!!), you'll be published right here. And our window will become your window, too!

Yep, we appreciate our readership so much that we've dedicated this week to you! So give us those topics you'd like to see addressed. Or better yet, give us your own article (which we will attribute to you) via the email button on my profile page.

This week is our gift to our faithful readers. And here at The World From Our Window...it's all about you, baby!!

Please Note: These two posts will remain at the top of the blog for a few days! So go ahead and put those fingers to that keyboard...and GET INVOLVED!!!

This Week's Quiz...

Which version of the Bible are you??

Oh, yeah, this one is going to be good; especially if we can get a couple of students from Pensacola Christian College (or Bob Jones University) to participate!

So go ahead, take the quiz and let us know how traditional and ritualistic you are. I want to know who all the KJV only'ers are (because we all know that if the King James was good enough for Paul...it's good enough for me!).

Here's the quiz. Enjoy!

In case you were wondering, here are my results . How in the world did I score 10% CEV...does this mean I'm becoming a Rick Warren???

You scored as NASB - New American Standard Bible. You are intelligent, responsible, and understanding. You strive to do your best possible in all areas of life and are generally quite successful. You do not mind being different and sometimes taking risks, but you simultaneously find no virtue in completely doing away with the past.

NASB - New American Standard Bible


65%

NRSV - New Revised Standard Version


45%

NWT - New World Translation


25%

KJV - King James Version


20%

CEV - Contemporary English Version


10%

What version of the Bible are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Thursday, February 23

James White Squares Off Against Ergun Caner

This was awesome. I'm not sure if I have ever read where an Arminian had gotten this upset over their position being proven wrong (other than Lance Ketchum on Sharper Iron by my good friend Ken Fields) than Ergun Caner in this exchange with James White.

Ergun Caner of Liberty University (let me just say that I appreciate much of his apologetic work on Islam and Hinduism, but he is dead wrong on this one) finds himself swimming upstream against one of Christianity's most gifted debaters and apologetic genuises - James White. I was a bit disturbed at how strongly Caner disagrees with White concerning the doctrines of grace and his display of immaturity in attempting to defend his strong Arminian persuasion that just simply does not hold water in light of Scripture. Along those lines, Caner uses little Scripture at all when defending his views and he appears to dig himself into a deep hole by exposing himself to the fact that he has never read any of White's works defending the doctrines of grace.

This is very telling in light of the fact that the word around the Southern Baptist Convention right now is saying that Johnny Hunt very well could be the next president of the SBC. You may recall that it was Hunt at last year's convention in Nashville TN who openly proclaimed that "everybody is the elect". To say the least, that is incredibly troubling. Though I can openly rejoice that the leadership of the SBC holds a high view of inerrancy, it is still rather disturbing that many still have a "decisional regeneration" approach to evangelism and easy believism that is very pragmatic and man-centered in its approach. Let's just pray that good men like Mark Dever and Albert Mohler can continue to have a strong impact on the SBC and return it back to historic Baptist principles.

This will be interesting to watch.....

Bob Kauflin on Music and Worship in the Church

If you haven't been keeping up with Bob Kauflin's posts on "What Does a Worship Leader Do?" over at WorshipMatters, you've been missing out. Bob's definition of a worship leader is worth hopping on over to his site for a visit.

You may be thinking, "Why do I need to learn about worship leaders? I don't lead worship, in fact, I can't even sing." You're wrong, dead wrong!! Just as everyone is a theologian (I will be doing a post on this), everyone, too, is a worship leader. Everyone is, by their example, encouraging others to worship whomever or whatever they are worshipping.

How we live, and sing, and work, and react to that stubborn neighbor, will either encourage or discourage others to worship the God we worship. So yes, all Christians (and even non-Christians) are worship leaders. May we remember this truth the next time we sing in church, drive to work, or play ball with our children. Worship isn't a personal thing...it's a corporate thing!

Regardless of where we are or whom we are with, may Deuteronomy 32:3 be our aim, "For I will proclaim the name of the LORD: ascribe greatness unto our God."

A Tribute to the Women I Love, Part 2

Thirteen years ago, come April 2nd, on the Capitol steps in Des Moines, Iowa, Joanna promised to marry me. Fourteen months later, at Calvary Baptist Church in Highland, Indiana, Joanna made good on her promise…and made me the most providentially privileged man alive. Joanna doesn’t enjoy me writing about her, but I sure do!

I know that many young women dream of a knight in shining armor; a man to sweep her off her feet and take her back to his castle to live happily ever after. Well, Joanna didn’t marry a wealthy knight; she married a pastor. A woman who marries a pastor must be willing to give up that lifelong dream and gladly accept the fact that she will share her husband with the church. Ministry is full of long days…and nights. Ministry is full of emotionally draining responsibilities. And ministry is all about giving yourself for the spiritual well being of others. Many women struggle with the financial constraints that ministry necessitates. Many have great difficulty dealing with the constant pressure of being a pastor’s wife, while others struggle handling the consistent criticism that comes her husband’s way. Some become resentful and bitter toward the church…and the ministry…and the husband. Not Joanna, and here’s proof.

It wasn’t long after our wedding that I began to realize how richly God had blessed me with Joanna. Immediately following our honeymoon, I assumed the position of Assistant Pastor at Valley View Baptist Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This necessitated me counseling at summer camp. What kind of woman would willingly and gladly give up the month following her honeymoon at summer camp? My woman would, and my woman did. While I roomed with our church’s young guys…she roomed with our church’s young women. Many women would’ve stayed at home rather than counsel at camp. Not Joanna … but there’s more to why I love her.

Many women are good cooks, but not many match the culinary aptitude of Joanna. Many women love their children, but few love them as selflessly as Joanna. Many women enjoy decorating their homes, but few have the eye for color (and paint it as often!!!) as Joanna. Some women even are patient and dedicated enough to educate their children at home, but few do it as skillfully and proficiently as Joanna. There are women who inspire their pastor-husband to be a better man of God, but few could do it as graciously and patiently as Joanna. But…there’s more to why I love her.

I love her because she chose me. Out of the several billion guys in this world, she promised to spend the rest of her life with me. She promised that her love would endure sickness, and sadness, and poverty, and problems. She promised to love me in spite of my failures and shortcomings, my insensitivity, and my looks! I love Joanna because she has chosen to love me. No one forced her to. No one expected her to. Many even advised her not to! And yet, she chose to. Out of all the men in this world (sorry, guys), she has chosen to love me. But there’s more to why I love her.

I love her because she’s Joanna. And I love her more today than I did that warm June day I watched her father escort her down the aisle. My heart still skips that same beat it did when I lifted her veil to kiss her. I’m still in love. In fact, I’m more in love today than I’ve ever been in my life. And the reason is simple…Joanna still wants to be my wife!

Joanna, the words of our wedding prayer still ring true in my ears and my heart. I will love you forever. Thank you for loving me. You’ve made me the happiest man on the face of the earth.

"O God of Love, Thou hast established marriage for the welfare and happiness of mankind. Thine was the plan, and only with Thee can we work it out with joy. Thou hast said, "It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helpmeet for him." Now our joys are doubled, since the happiness of one is the happiness of the other. Our burdens are now halved, since when we share them, we divide the load.

Bless this husband. Bless him as provider of nourishment and raiment and sustain him in all the exactions and pressures of his battle for bread. May his strength be her protection, his character be her boast and her pride, and may he so love that she will find in him the haven for which the heart of woman truly longs.

Bless this loving wife. Give her a tenderness that will make her great, a deep sense of understanding and great faith in Thee. Give her that inner beauty of soul that never fades, that eternal youth that is found in holding fast the things that never age.

Teach them that marriage is not living merely for each other; it is two uniting and joining hands to serve Thee. Give them a great spiritual purpose in life. May they seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and the other things shall be added unto them.

May they not expect that perfection of each other that belongs alone to Thee. May they minimize each other's weakness, be swift to praise and magnify each other's points of comeliness and strength, and see each other through a lover's kind and patient eyes.

Now make such assignments to them on the scroll of Thy Will as will bless them and develop their characters as they walk together. Give them enough tears to keep them tender, enough hurts to keep them humane, enough of failure to keep their hands clenched tightly in Thine, and enough success to make them sure they walk with God.

May they never take each other's love for granted, but always experience that breathless wonder that exclaims, "Out of all this world you have chosen me." When life is done and the sun is setting, may they be found, then as now, hand in hand, still thanking God for each other.

May they serve Thee happily, faithfully, together, until at last one shall lay the other into the arms of God.

This we ask through Jesus Christ, Great Lover of our souls. Amen."

God, in His grace, has already answered this prayer and granted me my dream. He’s given me you!

I Love You,

Kenneth

Proverbs 3:15, “She is more precious than rubies: and all the things I could desire cannot to be compared unto her.”

Wednesday, February 22

McClaren on Homosexuality

Another tell tale sign that one of the most vocal leaders of the "Emergent" movement lives in a world of relativity and not absolute truth. Take a look at what he said in regards to homosexuality in a recent article in Christianity Today.

This is one of many troubling statements that McClaren has made and as of late, he seems to be fixed upon justifying homosexuality.

A Tribute to the Women I Love, Part 1

Yep, that's what I meant to say! Now, hold on. Stay with me. Allow me to explain myself (which you are probably demanding!).

Woman number one is the one who brought me into this world...and woman number two is the one who, Lord-willing, will be holding my hand when I leave! Woman number one changed my diapers, wiped my nose, and listened to me irritate my brothers for a good twenty-or-so years. Woman number two has spent the last eleven years doing the same thing! If there is anything honorable, respectable, or admirable about me, it is due, in large part, to these two women (this is not meant to negate God's gracious working in my life).

I praise God for my mom. In case my life's story is a bit unfamiliar to you, let me assure you that my mom is one absolutely gracious, loving, patient, caring, kind, longsuffering, praying woman; which is the only reason I'm still alive to write this today. I was one sinful, rotten, rebellious, little kid (I'm a sinful big kid, too.). I deserve hell not only because I'm a sinner, but because I was one horrific child. And yet, my mom loved me.

I don't know how she maintained her sanity or sanctification, but as unbelievably disobedient as I was, she continued to love me. It was because of me that my mom became a tough love expert. In fact, Dr. James Dobson's book on the subject could've been written in response to my early years! There weren't many days that passed without Mom reminding me (on my posterior) of her love.

As Mom celebrated another birthday on Valentine's Day, my mind raced back through my childhood. I can remember sitting beside my mom in church, holding my hand against hers...wondering when my hand would be that big. I remember coming home from church nearly every Sunday to the smell of a roast in the oven. I remember the day I came home from Kindergarten proudly announcing that I had learned my "vals"... and mom correcting my southern accent with, "No, Kenneth, they're 'vowels'." I remember sitting at the piano together in our living room...singing while she played. I remember her discussing girls and girlfriends with me (I was a bit older then)...and knowing she was right. I remember Mom playing the organ and singing special music in church. I remember Mom learning the rules of football so she would not be lost while watching me play. And I remember the one time, after Mom had spanked me, that I proudly exclaimed, "That didn't hurt." (But it sure did when Dad came home!!)

Yet, when my childhood memories race through my mind, I don't think of Mom the cook, the musician, educator, spectator, or even the spank-er. I think of my mom (and this is why I love her the way I do) as the pray-er. The image of my mother sitting in our living room's gold armchair will never leave me. Here she sat every morning with her Bible (Mom has read through her Bible anually for some twenty-five to thirty years). And then she would pray.

Nearly every morning, as I made my way to the bathroom to shower, I would see Mom in her chair, her Bible in her lap, and her eyes closed in prayer. You may wonder why this scene has stuck with me for so many years. Well, here's the answer...every morning, she was praying for me. From that gold armchair my mother prayed for my salvation. From that gold armchair my mother prayed for my health, and my safety, and my heart, and even my future wife.

This is how I remember my mom. I rarely remember her cooking in the kitchen, or cleaning in the bathroom, or bending me over her knee (although she performed these tasks quite often!). I remember her praying for me in that gold armchair.

And so, if you wonder whether praying for your child is worthwhile, just ask my wife or my children or my church. If God is glorified through my marriage or my parenting or my pastoring, please take a moment to praise Him for my mother. And if you're looking for proof of God answering the prayers of a faithful mother; humbly, here I am.

Thank you, Mom. You may not have taught me how to hit a ball, fix a car, or preach a sermon; but you did teach me something I will never forget...you taught me how to pray. And now, as a daddy of three, I hope my children will one day write the same about me. But until then I'd settle for this; to hear my children thank their grandmother for praying for their daddy!

I Love You,

Kenneth

James 5:16 (ESV), "...the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working."

P.S. -- For those who are unaquainted with my family, all three of us boys are, by God's grace, living for the Lord, and serving Him as pastors of local churches. I don't share this out of pride, but out of love for my faithful mother (and father, too!).

Tuesday, February 21

Why Is Total Depravity So Difficult For Some Evangelicals To Grasp?

I must confess, that when I began studying the Doctrines of Grace nearly five years ago there were certain aspects of it that I found difficult to buy into. The main one being what most struggle with the most - Limited Atonement (this is an incredibly bad term to use and I would much rather stick with Spurgeon's "Particular Redemption" or my personal favorite "Definite Redemption"). There was even a slight struggle with "irresistable grace", but that quickly passed as Scripture verse after Scripture verse made it clear that it would have to be God's work alone in salvation and that we as dead and fallen sinners could have no part in it at all.

This brings me to my next point. The struggle with accepting "total depravity" in evangelical circles - especially from those who supposedly have a "literal hermeneutic" when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture. Over the past few days, fellow blogger Ken Fields has been involved in a rather heated debate at the Sharper Iron forum discussing along these same lines over the ability of man and his inability.

When dealing with this subject, I think that it is an imperative to come to grips with the question as to whether or not you believe that the effect of original sin has corrupted us as a whole person or just in regards to moral judgment. Obviously, sin effects every aspect of our being, the body, soul, mind, the will, and so forth. So with that being said, it would only be logical based on the teaching of Scripture (Ps. 14:1-3; 5:9;53:1-3; Isa. 59:7-8; Rom 3:1-24; Eph 2:1 Eccles. 7:20) it is incredibly clear that we have been corrupted to the core because of the effects of original sin. From what I can understand from many of my Arminian leaning friends on the thread at Sharper Iron, that we have some sort of goodness or righteousness that is left in us that can seek after God and by faith (of our own) can receive Christ even though we have no inherit desire to want God or to seek after God due to the effects of us being totally corrupted people.

One of the great errors of Pelagius was that he believed that God would only command something that we already had the ability to do. His argument was that if God requires moral perfection then it would be in the ability of man to achieve moral perfection. Let me say this, to all of us, we naturally think like a Pelagian. Why? Because humanly speaking it makes logical sense to us. Also, we always tend to think in terms that are anthropocentric and not theocentric. Hence, we have a good deal of the evangelical world thinking in terms of Pelagianism. Augustine took the opposing view (which I hold to) by arguing that grace not only facilitates our efforts to obey God, but because of our fallen nature, grace is necessary. I must say, that holding to a view that man is not totally corrupt and outside of God's grace is totally incapable is a very dangerous slope down the legalistic and man-centered waterslide away from God's glory.

This argument also leads to the inevitable question of "free will". Or, does God give man a free will? Of course, my answer to that would be a resounding yes! But again, we must be careful to distinguish between man's free will and his moral inability. We must always go back to the fact that the effects of original sin have totally corrupted us as people and hence, we have no desire to seek after God or to find our pleasure in Him alone. What has also been lost is our will to desire "any good accompanying salvation" (Eph. 2:1-5 - could this passage be any clearer). Man only has the free will to do what he is able to do - the things that only please himself and not God.

Calvin put it this way - "This liberty is compatible with our being depraved, the servants of sin, able to do nothing but sin. In this way, then, man is said to have free will, not because he has a free choice of good and evil, but because he acts voluntarily, and not by compulsion. This is perfectly true: but why should no small matter have been dignified with so proud a title? An admirable freedom! That man is not forced to be the servant of sin, while he is, however ethelodoulos (a voluntary slave); his will being bound by the fetters of sin." (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1:228-29 (2.2.6-7))

R.C. Sproul makes the argument that we like to think we have more moral power than we really do. Jonathan Edwards made the argument that with every decision we make that there is an antecedent cause to that decision. No decision that we make is a "spontaneous" one with no basis. So in essence, every choice we make is determined by something. (see "What Is Reformed Theology? by R.C. Sproul pg. 127-128)

So in an attempt to bring this to a close I will go from this direction - Jesus said in John 6:63 "the flesh profits nothing". So if that be the case and we know that in us dwells no good thing and we have seen clearly from Scripture that we are utterly fallen creatures with no ability in and of ourselves to seek after God and to want the things of God - how can we honestly say that we can consciously make a decision (before the work of regeneration) to receive Christ in our flesh??? Sure, I can present salvation to someone and tell them all of the wonderful benefits of being a Christian and how one day they can go to Heaven if they pray this fabricated and formulated prayer by "asking Jesus in their heart". But will I really be pointing them to salvation or to just the benefits of salvation? Most want the benefits of heaven but not the treasure of heaven - the Lord Jesus Christ.

I praise God that my salvation was not a work of Mike Hess. I wanted nothing to do with the Lord, and only out of His working, His doing, and His gift of faith and repentance have I believed and repented. By faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone!!!

Dan Fields on Why The Church Still Matters

Dan is our second guest-blogger of the week. If his last name sounds a bit familiar...it happens to be mine as well. Dan is my youngest brother, an associate pastor, and a Missouri Tigers fan.

The following is a pamphlet Dan wrote on Why The Church Still Matters. Take a read, and if you feel the need, leave some comments! Enjoy!

And remember, if you have an article burning within you...go ahead and let it out...we want to see what the world looks like from your window!

What is the Church?

We are excited about having you as a part of our local church, and it is our desire to see your gifts and abilities used to build Christ’s church in Wright County and beyond. As you read this, we trust you will be impacted by Christ’s passion for the church and our response to walk worthy of His calling as we build the church through His power and ennoblement.

The Church as a Body (1 Cor. 12:12-26)

Our bodies are amazing creations that are composed of organs, bones, muscles, tendons and so forth. While there are many different parts that fulfill separate functions, they work together allowing your body to operate appropriately. This is the picture Paul uses in the context of 1 Corinthians 12. God has designed the church to function as a body that is composed of great diversity, yet unified to allow it to function as He intended.

At the very moment you accepted Christ as your Savior, you were baptized into the Body of Christ by way of the Holy Spirit (see vs. 13) and were made one with Christ and the other members of His body. Christ is now incarnate in the world through His church, which emphasizes the importance of the unification of the body.

Because of this unified diversity, we are mutually dependent on each member of the body fulfilling his or her specific role. God has gifted each member of the body to fulfill different roles so that the body can be built up. In other words, there must be interdependence within the body of Christ, not independence. Each part (ever individual, including you) of the body is vitally necessary to the health of our church.

The Church as a Bride (Eph. 5:22-33)

Most of the time we refer to this passage or hear a message preached, it centers around the responsibility of mutual submission within the bond of marriage—wives are to submit to their husbands as the head of the home and husbands are to submit to their wives by loving, providing and protecting them. However, there is an interesting correlation Paul makes between Christ and His Church and a husband and wife! Marriage is a tangible glimpse of Christ’s commitment to His bride—the church.


Christ loved the church (every believer) so much, that He gave His life for her. He submitted to you and I by laying down His life so that we might have life more abundantly. At salvation, you were cleansed of all your sins and are now seen by the Father through the blood of Jesus Christ. Practically, Christ is continuing to set you apart from sin and self as you allow Him to work in your life through His written word (2 Tim. 3:16-17). His Sacrifice wasn’t based on who you were or what you had to offer to Him; He graciously laid down His life for you because you were in need of His love. Christ is committed to you as His bride and it is through the local church that Christ will continually prepare you for that future wedding day!

The Church as a Building (1 Cor. 3:9-15)

It is vitally important to remember the church is not a building (2 x 4’s, sheetrock, concrete, rafters, trusses…) it is the people. Your work in building the local church doesn’t obtain eternal life for you; it merely reveals the possession of that life granted by Jesus Christ. Every believer is involved in building the church throughout their entire life and as a result, God wants you to build on the foundation of Jesus Christ with the right materials.

Every believer builds with one of six different materials: gold, silver, precious stones (high quality) or wood, hay and stubble (inferior material). These materials represent your response to the gifts and abilities given for you to build. Each builds on this foundation and with these materials in three basic ways: by motives (duty and coercion vs. joy and love), conduct (selfishness vs. selflessness) and their specific acts of service within the local church. This building doesn’t occur in mere oblivion, it occurs in the loves of the other members of the building. Someday the materials you used in building will be tested by fire and you will either receive rewards or suffer loss. NOW is the opportunity to build for future rewards.

The Church as Household (Gal. 6:10)

Not only are believers all part of the same body, bride and building, but we are also all apart of the same household or family. The church isn’t just a bunch of different individuals with differing personalities and ideas—we are a family that should love and care for each other—we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Within the context of these verses is found the universal principle of sowing and reaping. Each member of the family has the opportunity to sow to the Spirit by doing good, or to sow to the flesh by allowing their sinful passions and desires to rule. One must not grow weary in doing good and sowing to the Spirit, because our entire lifetime is an opportunity to do good to others, especially to those who are a part of our family. They should take priority, for a genuine of our love for God is revealed in our love for the other members of the family of God.

Monday, February 20

So You Think That You Cannot Serve In Any Way???

Justin Taylor from Between Two Worlds begs to differ with this post that he posted on serving based on a message that he had heard that evening in church. This convicted the fire out of me and I pray that it results in action and not just conviction.

The Daunting Task of Practicing Biblical Love

I praise God that He has placed so many people in my life that are very easy to love. My wife Christina comes to mind first and foremost. Much to my dismay, I take that love for granted on a consistent basis. She does so much for me. There is never a need that she is aware of where she does not try to meet it immediately. Regrettably, I find myself taking advantage of that instead of reciprocating that love more often. Also, my dear children Joseph and Hannah. I am not sure why God has chosen to give me healthy and vibrant children who bring such joy to our lives but nevertheless I am truly grateful that He has. Again, they make it easy to love them (though from time to time they do have their moments) with their joy and unconditional love that they have for my wife and I. The third group that is easy to love is my church family. This is the first church (and I pray the only church) that I have ever pastored. After being in the ministry now for only a year and half it become very evident to me that I pastor a church that shows incredible love to their pastor as well as to others. Being the recipient of that love makes it easy to love, shepherd, and preach to them. None of this love do I deserve and all of it is a gift of God's grace.

Though loving others is a daunting task I must confess that falling in love with ourselves is rather easy and comes very natural to many of us if not all of us. It is not difficult for me to think of myself first in many circumstances. Naturally, I tend to think of my own needs, wants, and desires. This character trait was never taught to me because I have done this so well in the 31 years of life that God has given to me. With that being said, let me begin with the personal struggle that I have with giving unconditional Christ-like love to the unlovable people that God places in our lives.

In Matthew 22:37-39 we find of all people the Pharisees asking Jesus what is the greatest commandment in the Law. Of course, we are all privy to what their real concern was. They were not interested in what our Lord had to say about this, rather they were attempting to play the religious game of "gotchya!" But it is interesting what the Lord told the Pharisees in His response in verses 37-40 - "And He said to him, " ' You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (NASB)

The most interesting truth that stands out to me here is the fact that our Savior is teaching us that there is nothing selfish at all that is associated with love - NOTHING! In fact, in every reference in the New Testament you find nothing but sacrfice involved with love. Let me give you some examples:

Romans 5:8 - "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

John 13:34-35 - "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

I John 4:7-10 - "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
(All NASB)

Before you tell me that there are so many more verses to use I will gladly admit to you that you are right. These are just the verses that have come to my mind as of now. But I want you to notice here that love is always giving and sacrificial. Real love does not just love those who love us (that's easy) but loves the unlovable who can offer us nothing in return. According to I John 4 in the previous verses that I just listed, love is one of the birthmarks of a true believer in Jesus Christ.

Here are some questions to ponder and I will quit for now:
How are we showing love to those we claim to be dear to us?
Is our love selfish? Do we expect something that will benefit us personally in return when we love others?
What is the motivation of our hearts when we love others? Self exaltation or the exaltation of Christ? (2 Cor. 5:9)
Is our love sacrificial? Does it cost us something?

What better example do we have than that of our precious Savior who in every way demonstrated and still demonstrates what true love is in loving filthy rags like us! So let us set out on this task that is a "daunting" one that can only be lived out by God's grace.

Cameron Cloud on Olympic Preaching

Thanks to fellow blogger, Cameron Cloud, for his quick answer to my plea for your input here at The World From Our Window. If you have yet to take a peek at Cameron's blog, you will find it worth your while to visit here. Here are Cameron's words...
_______________________________________________

I'm here to speak for a revolutionary idea. Preaching should be considered a sport. Now before you angrily hit that x in the upper right corner, let me present the case.

Consider first the amount of preparation time. To prepare a top quality sermon requires hours and hours of diligent study. Sure, you can download a hot one from Sermon Central or some other "pastor help" site (and don't tell me you haven't considered it!) but for a real barn-burner, you need TIME. Take it from the wisest of the wise, "much study is weariness of the flesh."

I know what some of you are saying. There's no athletic ability required. I humbly disagree. Just ask any pastor how physically exhausted they are at the end of a Sunday. Besides, is it really necessary? You certainly don't need athleticism for chess (and I've seen that on ESPN!) or other events that seem to achieve the designation "sport".

Some will contend that there should be some "achievable goal" to qualify. While it would be hard to keep an objective score for sermons (after all much of the effectiveness is long-term and spiritual), just remember that some events considered sports don't have an objective outcome. Figure skating is all in the eye of the judges, and if you don't think sermons get judged, try preaching to the average Baptist congregation.

Now, with preaching firmly established as a sport, may I suggest a few appropriate changes to the average worship service? I will anyway.

First, let's have the congregation do the wave to begin the service. This will wake everyone up and make visitors feel right at home. I know, some will not join in, but that will just make the sleepers more obvious.

Another idea whose time has come is training the ushers in the techniques of the peanut/popcorn/lemonade guy. Having them pass up and down the aisle throughout the service will not only increase the opportunities for giving, it will entertain anyone who is bored by a low-scoring sermon.

A long-standing problem in churches is getting someone to sit on the front row. Let's give those willing to sit in the "spit pit", numbers to score the sermon. This will help keep them interested in the service and give the pastor immediate feedback as to how he is doing. A 4 or 5 should alert him it's time to throw in a gnarly illustration to try and save the rout...I mean sermon.

After a particularly good sermon, it would probably encourage any pastor to have the choir/worship team/staff douse him with a cooler full of Gatorade. Communion wine would work, or if you're a Baptist, just throw him in the baptistery.

There are many sport ideas that could be incorporated into a worship service. Commentators ("Well, Dan, the Pastor Cameron got off to a slow start, but he's been building up some steam since he threw that humorous anecdote in. Let's just hope he can stick that conclusion soon. The judges down front are getting restless."), half-time, and a bull-pen (a surprisingly fitting term considering some sermons I've endured and preached) could all become a part of our church parlance.

With today's "seeker-sensitive" trends, I'm only surprised this hasn't been implemented already. I'm sure you have more suggestions for this. I'd love to discuss them, but I've got to find something that will get Gatorade stains out.

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Thanks, Cameron, for the outstanding article...blog on for the kingdom, my brother!

Sunday, February 19

Book Review: "Humility - True Greatness" - by C.J. Mahaney

C.J. Mahaney, who currently leads Sovereign Grace Ministries and former pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, writes about the true Biblical meaning of humility. This is a rather small book that one could probably read in about a day or so but is packed with awesome Scriptural truth about our need ot be set free from the vice of pride that so easily entagles so many of us.

The book is broken down into three very simple parts - 1. Our Greatest Friend, Our Greatest Enemy - The Battle of Humility Verses Pride, 2. The Great Reversal - Our Savior and the Secret of True Greatness, and 3. The Great Pursuit - The Practice of True Humility. Within these three sections are twelve chapters of rather easy reading yet very challenging to say the least.

Mahaney in a very humorous way goes about to tell some very interesting stories about his own lack of mechanical intuition (I can relate to that as well). The story he tells is hilarious and I trust that you will find it humorous as well. But on a more serious note, right from the get go in the introduction Mahaney writes a quote that I will be sure to quote for years to come: "I'm a proud man pursuing humility by the grace of God." Mahaney goes onto define humility in these terms - "Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God's holiness and our sinfulness." I especially liked the quote that Mahaney used from Calvin on pg. 33 "God cannot bear with seeing his glory appropriated by the creature in even the smallest degree, so intolerable to him is the sacreligious arrogance of those who, by praising themselves, obscure his glory as far as they can." Mahaney also quotes the likes of Jonathan Edwards and Charles Hadden Spurgeon to name a few.

But what I most enjoyed from this small book was the frankness and transparency that Mahaney used in dealing with pride and our lack of humility. Mahaney was very open about his own personal struggles with sin and did a splendid job of conveying the seriousness of not dealing with sin and not understanding what sin can do to our lives. His section on greatness was not only convicting but also very theologically sound as he goes onto define Biblical greatness as serving others. I loved how Mahaney challenged those of us who are parents to ask our children who it is that they believe is great and that there is a wealth of greatness all around our local churches as well.

It was also refreshing to read how Mahaney encouraged us to be more transparent and open with others about our own struggles with sin - especially in regards to pride. How do we handle when others correct us? How do we go about confessing our sin to others when we have wronged or offended others? That was especially challenging to me as a pastor to help me realize the need in my own life to openly confess my faults and weaknesses to others who can come along and help me in my personal walk with the Lord.

I have only known of Sovereign Grace Ministries for about three years now but my experience with their materials has been a good one (it is especially nice that many of their materials you cna download for free from their website!). Though I would part ways with Mahaney regarding his views on cessationism I can wholeheartedly endorse his ministry and his enthusiastic spirit in the service of our wonderful Savior. I give this book a high recommendation and recommend all of you involved in any sort of ministry to give this book a serious look.

174 pages
Published by Multnomah Publishers 2005
ISBN - 1-59052-326-1

On the Reality of Death and Hell

Tonight I will be preaching a sermon on Death and Hell. The text for this sermon is Ecclesiastes 3:18-22, and other selected texts. Without any further ado...here's the good (and bad) about death and hell.

The older I get, the more I think about death. This may seem and sound a bit morbid, but it’s true. I wonder about things like…

How will I die? Will I succumb to cancer? Will I die in a car accident? Will I fall off my roof or be crushed by one of those cylindrical asphalt pavers?

Death is inevitable, unless Jesus returns soon. Even with all the medical advances of the last 50 years, America’s mortality rate is still a whopping 100%. And so, I ask myself nearly every night as I tuck myself under my sheets, “Am I ready to die?”

Tonight, I ask you that same question, “Are you ready to die?” I don’t ask it to scare you…I ask it so that you might be prepared for the inevitable. Someday you and I are going to die. We don’t know how it will happen, when it will happen, but we know it will happen! So the real question is, how well will we die?

HOW THE REALITY OF DEATH AFFECTS MANKIND

1) Apart from God, there seems to be little difference between animals and humans. (18-21) In the context of verses 1-8 of this chapter…humans, like animals, are born…live for a while…and then die. And like the animals we return to dust (vs. 20). And, based entirely upon only what we can see…who knows what happens to the animals after they die? And so, we ask questions like, “Do all dogs go to heaven…and what about cats?”

The same goes for man…according to what we can see, and observe, and postulate, who really knows what happens after you die? On a purely human level…man cannot know! And so…here’s how man responds to this problem…

2) Apart from God, this life is all there is to enjoy. (22) This is it…”so eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” “Carpe Diem” = seize the day, make the most out of life and enjoy it before it ends! This is all there is. All happiness and joy and satisfaction must be experienced here…or be lost forever! And so, the unbeliever looks for satisfaction in the here and now, the things that produce a momentary high. Why? Because this is all there is…and all too soon it will be over. And who knows if there’s another side to life after death?!

Using this text as a springboard, we are going to spend the remainder of our time tonight learning how the inevitability of death affects unbelievers. You may be wondering how this is advantageous for an auditorium full of Christians? In other words, why do we need to hear about dying without Christ…the fear this produces…and the hell that awaits?

REASONS WE NEED TO HEAR ABOUT DEATH AND HELL

1) Because it offers us the opportunity to examine the authenticity of our faith. 2 Corinthians 13:5...

2) Because we long for evidence of our God’s holiness and power over Satan. Revelation 19 & 20...

3) Because we cannot comprehend the depths of God’s grace until we are faced with the fury of God’s wrath. Romans 5:20...

4) Because we all have unbelieving family members and friends who will spend eternity in hell unless they repent of their sin. 2 Corinthians 5:11...

THE UNBELIEVER’S VIEW OF DEATH

1) The unbeliever views death with absolute uncertainty.

Why? Because, apart from spiritual understanding, death is a complete mystery to man. This is Solomon’s point in this text! And so, Solomon asks God to show man that he is no different than an animal when it comes to dying…so that man would be reminded of his mortality…and be faced with the brevity of this life … James 4:14 (ESV), “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

David captures what the brevity of life…and the uncertainty of death should arouse within the soul of man…Psalm 39:4-8...

2) The unbeliever thinks of death as being dreadfully final.

Remember the responses of Pharoah and the Egyptians when the death angel slew the firstborn of each family? Exodus 11:6, “And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again.” Why would these people respond this way? For the unbeliever, death is dreadfully final.

3) The unbeliever faces death with great fear and despair.

Why? Because unbelievers are separated from the grace of God!

Is it really true…that unbelievers fear death? I grew up watching Evil Kneivel jump cars and buses and canyons…did this man fear death? It may seem that there are many who possess no fear of death…but what does Scripture say?

Hebrews 2:14-15, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

For those who have never come to Christ by faith, it is natural to fear death. And so, death is a reality to be avoided at any and all costs. And when death comes, its reality produces an inconsolable sadness and sorrow without any ray of hope.

Why do unbelievers face death with great fear and despair? Because they are separated from the grace of God…AND SO…

Through death, unbelievers will eternally experience God’s wrath against their sin. John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

This is humanly impossible to fathom…facing the eternal wrath of an infinitely holy God…yet this is what is in store for those who spurn God’s offer of salvation.

Through death, unbelievers will eternally experience the physical torture of unending pain.
Mark 9:43-44, “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”

Matthew 8:12, “But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Why physical pain? Sin’s price always includes physical pain! This is why Jesus died a physical and horrifically painful death on the cross. There, Jesus experienced infinite pain, because an infinite price was required by an infinitely holy God.

Through death, unbelievers will eternally experience the emotional torture of regret and eternal hopelessness.
See Luke 16:19-31…the rich man and Lazarus.

THE GOOD NEWS

Christ experienced the hell of separation from God so we wouldn’t have to! “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Why did Christ have to die? Romans 6:23…God’s holiness demanded it…God’s love required it! Romans 8:32, “He who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all…”

And so, upon our cross, in our place, paying our price, enduring our hell…Hebrews 2:9 (ESV), “But we see Jesus who for a little while was made lower than the angels…crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”

And so, in light of hell’s reality…

Let us be overwhelmed with our God’s holy hatred of sin…and His power over it…and the grace to forgive it! Let us be renewed in our vision and passion for the lost…our family members, our neighbors, our co-workers, and those in China. And finally, let each of us examine the authenticity of our own faith…and according to 2 Peter 1:10, let us…”give diligence to make our calling and election sure…”

Heaven and hell hang in the balance. And so, Jonathan Edwards resolved, “I am resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die…resolved to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if, I had already seen the happiness of heaven…and the torments of hell.”

May God in his grace, grant us this vision! Amen!

Theology of an Emergent

In the latest 'emergent' book, Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell comes to some very disturbing conclusions...
“Who does Peter lose faith in? Not Jesus; he is doing fine. Peter loses faith in himself. Peter loses faith that he can do what his rabbi is doing. If the rabbi calls you to be his disciple, then he believes that you can actually be like him. As we read the stories of Jesus’ life with his talmidim, his disciples, what do we find frustrates him to no end? When his disciples lose faith in themselves.....Notice how many places in the accounts of Jesus life he gets frustrated with his disciples. Because they are incapable? No, because of how capable they are. He sees what they could be and could do, and when they fall short it provokes him to no end. It isn’t their failure that’s the problem, it’s their greatness. They don’t realize what they are capable of....God has an amazingly high view of people. God believes that people are capable of amazing things. I’ve been told I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. But what I’m learning is that Jesus believes in me....God has faith in me.” (page 133-134)
Peter's lack of faith, for which he is rebuked, is really a self-esteem lapse? Jesus gets frustrated with His disciples because they can't come to gripse with their own capabilities? God has an amazingly high view of people and has faith in me?

Have you noticed what's missing in these two pages of Bell's book? Sure you noticed...what's missing is SCRIPTURE!!! Not one verse is quoted. So in response to Bell's blasphemous assertions, I offer a few verses to refute his ridiculous claims:

Concerning Peter's lack of faith (not in himself, but in His Lord)...
Luke 22:31, "And the Lord said, 'Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.'"
Matthew 14:30-31, "But when he (Peter) saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid and beginning to sink he cried saying Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, 'O thou of little faith, why did you doubt?'"

The 'doubt' here is in reference to doubting Christ rather than doubting self...and here's how we know: Matthew 14:33, "Then they that were in the ship came and
worshipped him (Jesus, not Peter), saying, 'Of a truth thou art the Son of God.'"
Concerning Jesus' frustration with His disciples (I don't like the usage of the word 'frustration' here, but since Bell used it, I will use it to refute his claim) was not because of their capabilities, but of their slowness in believing...
Mark 16:14, "Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen."

Luke 24:25 (speaking to the disciples on the road to Emmaus), "Then he said unto them, 'O fools, and slow of heart
to believe all that the prophets have spoken.'"
God has an amazingly high view of people (this is outright secular humanism)...
John 8:44, "You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it."

Jeremiah 17:9, "
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"

1 John 3:8, "
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil."

If God has such an amazingly high view of people, why did He kill His Son?

1 Peter 3:18, "
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit."

2 Corinthians 5:21, "
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
God has faith in me (this is nothing less than idolatry)...
Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man, that he should lie neither the son of man, that he should repent hath he said and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken and shall he not make it good." If God is not a man, He has no need to exercise faith in anyone or anything!! And if He is a man, He is not God.

According to Hebrews 11, 'faith' is described as being "
the assurance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen." Therefore, Bell's god hopes in man, and is not omniscient.
Mr. Bell, according to your theology, Jesus was nothing more than a blithering fool and colossal failure. How else would you describe a man who died to take away the sins of men his Father believed in and thought highly of? If God is so impressed with man's capabilities, why the necessity of the cross? To make men big is to make God small.

Paul's words in Philippians 3:18-19, would apply here. "For many walk of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things."

For an in-depth treatment of this subject, read Dale Van Dyke's review of Bell's book at the Reformation21 site.