Friday, August 31

Roger Olson Criticizes Piper and Calvinists: "The God of Calvinism scares me; I'm not sure how to distinguish him from the devil."

From Mr. Olson's keyboard at Baylor University:

Where was God several weeks ago when the interstate bridge collapsed in Minneapolis?

I crossed that bridge numerous times during my 15-year life in Minnesota's Twin Cities. Watching the disaster unfold on television brought back memories. I could envision what's off to the sides of the bridge -- downtown Minneapolis in one direction and the University of Minnesota in the other.

What a strange calamity. A modern, seemingly well-engineered bridge in a major metropolitan area collapsed in a moment without any forewarning of danger.

Something similar could happen to any of us anytime. Similar things do happen to us or people just like us -- innocent bystanders passing through life are suddenly blindsided by some weird tragedy.

So where is God when seemingly pointless calamity strikes? Some religious folks say, "It was God's will." Let's just focus on Christians here.

A well-known Christian author and speaker pastors a church within a mile of the collapsed bridge. To him and his followers, God foreordained, planned and indirectly (if not directly) caused the event.

Read the remainder of Mr. Olson's article HERE.

And after reading Mr. Olson's article, consider the words of Isaiah 45:7 (ESV):
"I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things."

HT: Scott Lamb via Justin Taylor

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Thursday, August 30

Tattoos and Body Piercing: What's a Christian to do?

Normally I highlight worthwhile articles over there on the News and Views You Can Use sidebar, but Sam Storms has drafted a piece on tattoos and body piercing that's worthy of front-page ink.

Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:

On a recent broadcast at DesiringGod.org, John Piper briefly addressed the issue of tattoos and body piercing among Christians. I especially appreciated the spirit in which John took up this subject. He did not come down in a heavy-handed or judgmental fashion, insisting in some legalistic way that such actions are altogether and always a sin. He mentioned the prohibition on tattoos in Leviticus 19:28 and suggested that although there were probably unique historical and religious circumstances in the ancient near east that evoked this prohibition, we should still seek to learn from it. Whereas not everything in the Levitical code is binding on the believer today, we still must ask if there is some underlying principle in the OT prohibition that might find application to us in the present day.

But Piper mentioned two additional factors to take into consideration, to which I would like to add a third. First, he asked the all-important question that every Christian contemplating getting a tattoo or body piercing should ask: "Will this exalt the Lord Jesus Christ? Is this going to draw attention to him or to me? Will his beauty and splendor and all-sufficiency be highlighted in this action? Will the gospel itself be adorned or obscured in what I'm doing?"

Continue reading HERE.

NOTE: This is a must-read for anyone working with young people in the church! And for those who may be wondering about the identity of the Chicagoan in the photo, I'm fairly certain it's not our own Mike Hess!


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Pragmatically Speaking, Culturally Relevant Worship Just Isn't Working

So says Sally Morgenthaler in THIS ARTICLE:

The question is, should cultural and missional realities have anything to do with worship? Perhaps not. It would appear that we’re more than capable of creating our own view of the world, and we tend to promote and perpetuate that view in our sanctuaries and worship centers. Somehow, the show goes on...even if most of the unbelievers we thought we were reaching either weren’t there in the first place, or they left the building some time ago. Early in 2005 an unchurched journalist attended one of the largest, worship-driven churches in the country.

Here is his description of one particular service:

“The [worship team] was young and pretty, dressed
in the kind of quality-cotton-punk clothing one buys at the Gap. ‘Lift up your hands, open the door,’ crooned the lead singer, an inoffensive tenor. Male singers at [this] and other megachurches are almost always tenors, their voices clean and indistinguishable, R&B-inflected one moment, New Country the next, with a little bit of early ‘90s grunge at the beginning and the end.

“They sound like they’re singing in beer commercials,
and perhaps this is not coincidental. The worship style is a kind of musical correlate to (their pastor’s) free market theology: designed for total accessibility, with the illusion of choice between strikingly similar brands. (He prefers the term flavors, and often uses Baskin-Robbins as a metaphor when explaining his views.) The drummers all stick to soft cymbals and beats anyone can handle; the guitarists deploy effects like artillery but condense them, so the highs and lows never stretch too wide. Lyrics tend to be rhythmic and pronunciation perfect, the better to sing along with when the words are projected onto movie screens. Breathy or wailing, vocalists drench their lines with emotion, but only within strict confines. There are no sad songs in a megachurch, and there are no angry songs. There are songs about desperation, but none about despair; songs convey longing only if it has already been fulfilled.”
Which leads to Morgenthaler's telling conclusion:
The upshot? For all the money, time, and effort we’ve spent on cultural relevance—and that includes culturally relevant worship—it seems we came through the last 15 years with a significant net loss in churchgoers, proliferation of megachurches and all.
HT: Justin Taylor

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Ordination Madness, Part 4: Anthropology

A special thanks to all who are involving themselves in my ordination process. Your questions and comments are playing a vital role in my preparation. Thanks for your willingness to get involved!

Below is my doctrinal statement on anthropology. Here we go!

ANTHROPOLOGY: THE DOCTRINE OF MAN

The Creation of Man

Man was created by God in His image and likeness. God’s work was direct (He Himself created man) and instantaneous (rather than a process). Man was created free of sin with a rational nature, intelligence, volition, self-determination, and moral responsibility to God (Genesis 1:26; 2:7, 15-25; James 3:9). Man was created with the purpose of glorifying God by enjoying Him forever (Isaiah 43:7; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11; Psalm 16:11), and is the crown of God’s creative work (Psalm 8).

The Nature of Man

When God made man He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). Here Adam is a unified person with body and soul living and acting together. Man is a material and immaterial entity. As Charles Ryrie states in his Basic Theology:

“Each [part of man] consists of variety within. The many facets of the material and the many facets of the immaterial join together to make up the whole of each person. Man is rich diversity in unity” (pg. 196).


Passages such as John 12:27 and John 13:21 support a dichotomist view of man by using the terms “soul” and “spirit” interchangeably in reference to the immaterial aspect of man (also see Mary’s words in Luke 1:46-47). The immaterial aspect of man is not limited to “soul” and “spirit,” but also consists of the heart (Matthew 22:37; Hebrews 4:12), conscience (Romans 13:5), mind (2 Corinthians 4:4), flesh (Romans 7:18; 1 John 2:16), and will (Romans 7:15-25).

The Fall of Man

Because of Adam’s sin of disobedience to the revealed will of God, the human race lost its innocence, incurred the wrath of God and the penalty of spiritual and physical death (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-19; John 3:36; Romans 3:23; 6:23). The fall resulted in man becoming inherently corrupt and utterly incapable of choosing or obeying God apart from sovereign, divine grace. Therefore, salvation is wholly and completely of God’s grace through the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:10-11; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6; Ephesians 2:1-3, 8-9; John 1:12-13; Acts 4:12). While the image of God (in man) has been distorted because of sin, it has not been lost (Genesis 9:6). Mankind still bears the image of his Creator—which makes every human life worthy of dignity and respect (1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9).

Adam’s sin also resulted in his corrupt and sinful nature being transmitted to the entire human race (Romans 5:12). Because Adam acted as the representative for all mankind in his choice to disobey God (Romans 5:13-14), sin is transmitted to all members of his race (Genesis 4:1; Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12). Therefore, all humans are sinners by nature (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:3), by choice (Romans 3:11), and by divine declaration (Psalm 14:1-3; Jeremiah 17:9).

________________________________

OK, have at it. Please hit me with any and all questions, concerns, or comments you might have! And thanks again for your willingness to participate in this process. Remember, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17, ESV).

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Wednesday, August 29

Everything I Need to Know About Church, I Learned from 80's Rock

That's the title of Pastor Steven Furtick's current sermon series at Elevation Church.

Furtick introduces the topic to his congregation via a video that includes scenes of 80's rock bands on stage with Guns N Roses' "Take Me Down To Paradise City" blaring in the background. Furtick then appears on stage decked out in a Def Leppard Tshirt and belt-buckle. He then proceeds to explain the rationale driving his methodology:

"This is not a series to celebrate the sinfulness of a culture; this is a series to speak into the concurrent themes of culture and Christ. And in the same way that in 1991, a young man named Kurt Kobain created the anthem of a generation and stripped away all the excess of an era to make it all about the music, I see in the body of Christ right now a new generation of churches that are rising up and stripping away all of the excess. It's not about the programs; it's not about the traditions; it's not about our opinions; it's not about what we like and don't like; it's not about hymns or choruses; it's not about translations of the Bible; it's not about when Jesus is coming back--it's just the fact that He is; it's not about all the things we've traditonally made church all about; IT'S ALL ABOUT JESUS AND HIS GOSPEL. It's only about Jesus.

And so what better way to kick off a series on the vision of our church than by celebrating the stripping away of all the excess."
Now before we fundamentalists pick up those stones, let me ask you a question: would you disagree with the above statement? Is the church all about Jesus and His Gospel? Perhaps Furtick is on to something here.

But he doesn't stop with the above statement. He continues:
"You could argue, I guess, that we are one of the most excessive churches in North Carolina--who else puts an electric guitar on the pulpit? I don't know, [but] I'm not talking about excess as it relates to marketing and creativity. I'm not talking about the excess of going all out to make sure that we communicate the Gospel in a creative, innovative, attention grabbing way, because the greatest message in the world deserves the most exciting presentation.

I'm talking about the content of the message. And what we've done really well as a Church (in general) over the years of doing is piling layer on top of layer on top of layer on top of layer; skin on top of skin on top of skin on top of skin; and making the Gospel so hard to get at that a generation is walking away from our churches."
As we have stated before on this blog (and as has been stated by theologians and churchmen for several generations), theology determines methodology--and the above statement is proof.

According to Furtick, that which has hindered man from believing the Gospel has little to do with his inherent sin and rebellion against God (Romans 3:10-18); it has little to do with man's passionate hatred of God (Romans 8:7; James 4:4); and it has little to do with man's intrinsic repulsion at the idea that he is an idolater, dead in his trespasses and sins (Galatians 5:20; Ephesians 2:1-3). Rather, man's unwillingness to hear the Gospel and respond positively is due to the fact that Christians and churches have not marketed it successfully and we have not presented it creatively. In other words, if we could only grab the non-Christian's attention and hold it, he would undoubtedly respond positively to the Gospel message.

Again, theology determines methodology; beliefs drive behavior; and doctrine drives duty. It's true in our personal lives and our corporate ecclesiastical ministries. While I would strongly disagree with Furtick's slick and attention-getting methodology (which tends to distract and detract from the Gospel message--man's attention will be caught, but by the lights and music and flashy packaging ... not by the Gospel), he does make a valid point for fundamentalists to consider:
"I'm talking about the content of the message. And what we've done really well as a Church (in general) over the years of doing is piling layer on top of layer on top of layer on top of layer; skin on top of skin on top of skin on top of skin; and making the Gospel so hard to get at that a generation is walking away from our churches."
That's the truth. Not only do the statistics prove it, our churches have experienced it. And while fundamental pulpits tolled "the devil's in rock-n-roll" bell loud and clear, the Gospel bell lay silent. Generations of fundamental Baptist teens vowed to steer clear of rock music, yet were (and still are) unable to articulate the simple Gospel message. They burned their 8-Tracks and cassettes in the bonfire at the youth pastor's home following Senior High Camp, yet their hearts have never "burned within them" (Luke 24:32). Many grew up without rock-n-roll, and many grew up without Jesus.

If theology drives methodology, it does so in fundamental churches, too. Perhaps Furtick is right: everything I wanted to know about church, I learned from 80's rock.

NOTE: This is not a critique of Pastor Furtick or any Fundamentalist Baptist pastor as a person, a pastor, or a Christian, and please do not interpret it as such.

HT: Greg Long

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Tuesday, August 28

Has the Land Promise Been Fulfilled?

In my Old Testament reading I came across Joshua 21:43-45 which says,

43 Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.
I have heard Covenant Theologians state that this is the fulfillment of the Land Promise given to Abraham in the Abrahamic Covenant. They use this passage to disprove the need for a future fulfillment in the Millennium. MacArthur appears to agree with their assessment as he states in his study Bible:
This sums up God's fulfillment of His covenant promise to give Abraham's people the Land (Gen. 12:7; Josh. 1:2, 5-9).
I am confused since MacArthur is a Dispensationalist and Dispensationalists (from all that I know) believe that the fulfillment of the Land Promise is a future event, which necessitates a literal seven-year Tribulation and a literal one thousand-year Millennium. I am sure that there are simple answers to clear up my confusion. Personally I need to do much more study on Covenant Theology vs. Dispensational Theology, but any help you can give me would be appreciated.

Has the Land Promise been fulfilled?

If so, then where do we as Dispensationalists find the case for a future fulfillment?


If not, then how do we interpret this passage?

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You Tube Tuesday: A Brainless Beauty at Her Best

This one is self-explanatory ...



South Carolinians (or, U. S. Americans!!) ... whatcha say?!

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Monday, August 27

Fundamentalism and the Assurance of Salvation

This has never really been an issue for me personally. I was converted at the age of 17 out of an unchurched life that was hostile to the gospel and agnostic towards Christians in general. I was humanistic to the core, having been duped into believing the lies of humanistic evolution that had been taught to me in my high school years. However, when God saved me my life immediately and drastically changed. So, in my case at least, battling over whether or not I was truly saved or whether or not my prayer was insincere or not was never a matter of any serious doubt. I always knew that what God had done in my life was something that changed me internally and supernaturally and for that I am grateful and give God all of the glory.

As I came to become acquainted with more and more young people who had grown up in fundamentalism it became increasingly apparent that the vast majority of these young people had made at least two if not more professions of faith and still had lingering doubts as to whether or not they were truly saved. They would often wonder if their prayer was "sincere enough" or whether or not "they really meant it".

My first Christian camp experience highlighted this when I saw multiple Christian young people who came from Christian homes go forward to "get saved" yet again. I was shocked at what I saw and wondered why their salvation experience was never cemented into their minds in such a way that assured their salvation experience. The more I had gotten to know young people in my youth group and others from churches like mine I ran into more and more young people who had monumental struggles with getting the issue settled as to whether or not they truly were saved.

This is where a strong adherence and belief in the doctrines of grace plays such a significant role in assuring us of eternal salvation that we did nothing to earn, merit or deserve. If I was depending on the sincerity of a prayer for my eternal security I guess I would be a bit nervous at this time as well. If my ten, twenty or thirty percent of the deal that I was responsible for was not sincere enough....well then I've got some serious work to do.

Fundamentalism's unhealthy emphasis on manufacturing professions and baptismal numbers has caused much harm to the soteriological landscape today. When we place the emphasis on a prayer, walking an aisle or signing a card we will inevitably end up with a tarnished view of a biblical account of true regeneration which is a complete and total work of God that He accomplished through the death and resurrection of His Son.

Please do not misunderstand me here, I would have more than likely have been in the same boat with the others who made professions of faith at a young age only to have that faith questioned after hearing a tear jerking illustration given at camp by someone who had an astounding testimony of being saved out of a life of drugs and alcohol. What are most five year olds saved from??? Stealing cookies from the cookie jar? Not obeying bed time? Being unkind to their younger brother or sister? Yes, children can be saved and understand the gospel so please do not misunderstand me. But we need to be sure that the assurance we give to them is in Christ and not in a prayer or a profession.

So, if you grew up in fundamentalism....what was your experience if you made a profession of faith at a young age? Did you go through seasons of doubt? If you did, do you blame that on the methodology or on the fact that perhaps you sincerely did not understand the gospel at a young age?

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A Real-Life Tragedy and Ethical Conundrum

Tragically, this past Thursday in St. Louis, while strapped into her rear-facing car seat, a 7-month-old baby died--having endured 120-140 degree heat for nearly three hours.

Her father had agreed to park the car for his wife (she is a pediatrician), and she had assumed he would see that she had not had time to drop the baby girl off at the daycare. He then would proceed several blocks to the daycare, drop off their daughter, park the car, and return to his office where he worked as a medical researcher. But he never realized their 7-month-old baby girl was still in the car when he parked it as a favor for his wife. You can read the newspaper account of this tragic story HERE.

This leads me to a much-discussed ethical conundrum being bantered about on the St. Louis talk-radio airwaves: should this 7-month-old's mother and father be charged with any crime? Does justice require that someone be held responsible for this baby's death, although it was most certainly a terrible mistake, and so obviously unintentional? Should the mother and father be charged with involuntary manslaughter?

But against justice, mercy raises its voice: "Mother and father have already paid a high price for their unintentional mistake ... and they will continue to live with the regret and remorse and guilt and pain for a lifetime. That is enough punishment. Any legal action would be unbearable for this couple."

So here is where the biblical and ethical conundrum comes in:

Genesis 9:6 (ESV) states that ...

“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image."
And Exodus 21:22-25 sheds even more light on the actions of an adult bringing about the death of a baby (or in the Exodus case, a fetus):
Exodus 21:22-25 (ESV), “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."
On the other hand, when a Hebrew was guilty of involuntary manslaughter, God provided cities of refuge to which the guilty could flee for shelter and safety:
Numbers 35:11 (ESV), "[T]hen you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there."
And when Christ dealt with the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, He showed mercy rather than demanding justice:
John 8:10-11 (ESV), "Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
So ... if you were the District Attorney assigned to this case, what would your recommendation be?

For what it's worth (and several of my friends disagree with me), I believe the mother and father should be charged with involuntary manslaughter, but that their sentences and/or fines should be immediately suspended and commuted. Justice must be served in charging them with the unintentional death of their daughter, and mercy must be shown in commuting their punishment.

Of course, I very well could be wrong.

Before I open this to your opinions and comments, please remember: this is not a hypothetical ethical conundrum in some ethics class textbook, this is real-life tragedy. On the other side of this story lives a couple enduring the severest of emotional trauma and pain. Let us intercede on their behalf before the throne of God.

Let us pray:
That rather than this tragedy hardening their hearts in rebellion against God (whether they are Christians or non-Christians), they would turn to Him for comfort, strength, and help.

That they will experience the forgiveness and healing that God provides through Jesus Christ.

That rather than this tragedy tearing apart their family and home, it would serve to draw them closer together.

That Christians with whom they are acquainted would show the love of Christ to this family in their time of need.

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Sunday, August 26

Breaking News: Dr. D. James Kennedy Retires as Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian

From an A. Larry Ross Communications Press Release:


A Larry Ross Communications, News Release

FOR INFORMATION CONTACT:
Kristin Cole
c. (615) 289-6701 • e. kristin@alarryross.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DR. D. JAMES KENNEDY RETIRES:
Founder and Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church
Steps Down from Pulpit with Rich Legacy of Faith

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (CRPC) in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., today announced the retirement of Dr. D. James Kennedy, senior pastor, assuring the congregation and international broadcast audience that the church and related ministries will continue moving forward in the direction set by this visionary leader after founding the church more than 48 years ago in 1959.

“We thank the Lord for His faithfulness to my father over nearly one-half century, through the impact this church has made in the lives of people in this congregation and community and the influence he has had on countless individuals around the world through radio and television,” said daughter Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy.

“From the beginning, this has been the Lord’s ministry, and we are confident He will raise up other godly men equally committed to proclaiming biblical truth and applying the transforming message of the Gospel in our lives, our families and our culture,” Mrs. Cassidy continued. “The long-range planning committee and denominational session have been developing next steps and working to ensure the church continues to grow and thrive.”

Dr. Kennedy, 76, preached his last sermon from the pulpit of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church on Christmas Eve 2006. He suffered a cardiac arrest four days later and has since been unable to return to the pulpit. A tribute worship service honoring the extensive ministry of Dr. Kennedy will be held in the main sanctuary of the church at 11:00 a.m. EDT on Sunday, Sept. 23.

Dr. Kennedy started the church and began his pastorate on June 21, 1959, and had from the outset a vision for global impact for Christ. An author of more than 65 books, moral leader and widely quoted champion for righteousness in American life, he is one of the founding board members of the Alliance Defense Fund. In 1995, he opened the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Christian Statesmanship to offer spiritual counsel to members of Congress and their staffs.

Dr. James C. Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, called Dr. Kennedy one of the Church’s “truly significant figures.” In a statement to Dr. Kennedy, Dobson said, “For decades now, you have stood strong in defense of faith, family, and most importantly, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Believers around the world are indebted to you for your vision and leadership.”

Dr. Frank Wright, president and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters echoed his gratitude for Dr. Kennedy’s faithful service to ministry. “As Dr. Kennedy retires from the scene of active ministry, I praise God for giving the Church this man of vision so committed to the Kingdom of God,” said Wright. “With his godly wisdom, his courageous heart and his consistent example, he has inspired millions to love, follow and serve Jesus Christ. Dr. Kennedy is a man among men who will continue to cast a long shadow in the lives of those who know and love him.”

The announcement of Dr. Kennedy’s retirement begins a process by the church of choosing a successor to fill the pulpit and office of senior minister. This procedure is well-defined in the constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), the denomination to which Coral Ridge belongs. The officers of the church will assess the church’s needs and supervise the election, by the congregation, of a pulpit search committee comprised of a cross section of members. This committee will evaluate, interview and listen to numerous candidates before making its recommendation to the congregation for a vote.

As outlined in PCA bylaws, the congregation will have the final voice in determining the new senior minister to succeed Dr. Kennedy. The entire process of succession is expected to take between one and two years. Currently CRPC continues under the governance of the elders, elected by the congregation and serving as a session. Rev. Ronald L. Siegenthaler, executive minister of the church, will implement the policies of the governing body as he supervises the day-to-day events of the various ministry departments.

“Dr. Kennedy’s moral leadership and his legacy of impacting the globe for Jesus Christ are matched by few in recent Church history,” Rev. Siegenthaler said. “It is our desire to honor him by sustaining and multiplying his impact through Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church as well as all of the ministries he founded.”

In 1960, Dr. Kennedy read the words of Jeremiah 33:3 to the handful of people who comprised his then-fledgling congregation, “Call unto Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” He then told his small flock, “You know what? I believe we can change the world!”

Dr. Kennedy’s belief that God will continue to do “great and mighty things” through the obedient efforts of His people never faltered. In his closing prayer at a festive 75th birthday celebration on his behalf in 2005, he expressed the confidence to the Lord that the best is yet to be. “We believe You are yet going to change the world in a far greater fashion,” he said.

In addition to pastoring the church, Dr. Kennedy is founder and president of Coral Ridge Ministries which produces his radio and television outreach, making him one of the nation’s leading Christian broadcasters. Other ministries founded by Dr. Kennedy include WAFG Radio 90.3 FM in Fort Lauderdale; Evangelism Explosion, which equips Christians to share the Gospel message with others; Westminster Academy®, a nationally respected Pre-K to grade 12 Christian school; and Knox Theological Seminary, a graduate school training Christians for lifelong ministry as pastors, teachers and missionaries.

Despite being a local pastor of one church for nearly five decades, Dr. Kennedy has had a worldwide ministry influence. In 1996, Evangelism Explosion, through which nearly 5 million people have made commitments to Christ over 35 years, became the first Christian ministry to be established in every nation on earth. Long after his retirement, an extensive inventory of Dr. Kennedy’s messages will continue through “Truths that Transform,” a daily broadcast carried on nearly 750 radio stations across the U.S., and “The Coral Ridge Hour,” a weekly television broadcast that airs on more than 400 stations and to 165 nations on the Armed Forces Network.

A legacy Web site, www.DJamesKennedy.org, has been developed to pay tribute to the life and faith of Dr. Kennedy.

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Friday, August 24

You Tube Friday: A Must-See Video on Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

I wonder how many of us in good health have embraced God's sovereignty like John Farese ...



I have been humbled.

Check out John's website HERE.

HT: Timmy Brister

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The Sad Truth About Mother Teresa Revealed

From the FoxNews website (thanks to my wife, Joanna, for drawing my attention to this):

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who has been put on the “fast track” to sainthood, was so tormented by doubts about her faith that she felt “a hypocrite,” it has emerged from a book of her letters to friends and confessors.

Shortly after beginning her work in the slums of Calcutta, she wrote: “Where is my faith? Even deep down there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. If there be a God — please forgive me.”

In letters eight years later she was still expressing “such deep longing for God,” adding that she felt “repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal.”

Her smile to the world from her familiar weather-beaten face was a “mask” or a “cloak,” she said. “What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.”

Mother Teresa, who died in 1997 and was beatified in record time only six years later, felt abandoned by God from the very start of the work that made her a global figure, in her sandals and blue and white sari. The doubts persisted until her death.
The article continues to paint the sad picture in Mother Teresa's own words:
“I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul,” she wrote at one point. “I want God with all the power of my soul — and yet between us there is terrible separation.” On another occasion she wrote: “I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.”
The Catholic Church's response?

Rev. Kolodiejchuk maintains that Mother Teresa did not suffer “a real doubt of faith,” but that, on the contrary, her agonizing demonstrates her faith in God’s reality.

“We cannot long for something that is not intimately close to us ... Now we have this new understanding, this new window into her interior life, and for me this seems to be the most heroic.”

Continue reading HERE.

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Baptist Church Offers Choices: Diverse Worship Venues in One Building

Wow ... this is nearly as diverse as the choices on the McDonalds menu board. Here is the story:

"East Bayou [Baptist Church] first opened its doors in the 1980s. In 2003, the first church structure was torn down and replaced by an $8 million complex with an 11,600-square-foot sanctuary to accommodate the growing congregation and staff. The project included $1 million to renovate the former adjacent skating rink into a 40-room multiuse structure for Christian and community group meetings, worship services and children's functions.

The congregation continued to grow. Administrators were left with a difficult choice to make this summer: Hold several services each Sunday to meet the needs of the swelling membership, provide more worship space or build a new church, estimated to cost $12 million.

The solution settled upon cost $475,000. It included a second renovation of the former skating rink into several worship venues that target a specific worship experience desired by the thousands who attend services each Sunday and Wednesday.

The "General Store" is designed for children in first through fifth grades. There are separate rooms for teens in middle and high school. "Bayou Traditions," where the Grangers attended services Aug. 19, includes a vaulted ceiling, an organ, a piano and wainscoting for a traditional Southern Baptist church feel.

"Bayou Beanery" is a full-service coffee shop similar to CC's, Mellow Joy and Starbuck's shops. It includes a corner stage for intimate performances and the church's Coffee & Jam ministry. The coffee shop leads into "Bayou Café," a nightclub-style worship area with recessed lights, a stage, lounge chairs, tables and other accouterments.

Several plasma televisions hang from the ceiling in most of the rooms, where those worshipping can read the lyrics to songs being performed and notes for the sermon being delivered that Sunday in the main sanctuary, now called "Bayou Live."

A silver screen drops at center stage during the service to broadcast the sermon from Bayou Live into several of the venues.

"There is no one thing that works for everybody," Walker said. "They like the same message but prefer a different type of music. What we've done is we've given people a choice."
Read the entire article HERE.

Is this a good thing ... or not? You make the call.

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Excellent Reading for Women

Over at SI Beth Murschell has posted a book review of Damsels in Distress by Martha Peace.

Despite the title, Damsels in Distress is no storybook piece of self-help. As its subtitle indicates, it provides “Biblical Solutions for Problems Women Face,” specifically women in our churches. Mrs. Peace uses Scripture, engaging personal anecdotes, densely packed writing, and various charts and figures to counsel the reader through a variety of life situations common to Christian women. I believe it would be most useful for those who could use a point of reference when counseling others.
Continue reading HERE.

I highly encourage all of the ladies who read here to check out this book review and consider purchasing this book. And all of the men who read here should encourage their wives to check it out or just go ahead and purchase it for them (anniversary, birthday, Christmas). Another great book by Martha Peace is The Excellent Wife. I use it as the primary source for marital and premarital counseling for women.

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Thursday, August 23

What is 'Preaching?' A Great Definition

From Steve Lawson's book "Famine in the Land," page 18:

"[Preaching is] the man of God opening the Word of God and expounding its truths so that the voice of God may be heard, the glory of God seen, and the will of God obeyed."
Pastors, let us preach thusly!

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"He Will Give His Angels Charge Over You:" An Encouragement for Believers Facing Danger

Rarely do I publish my sermons on the blog. It usually requires a number of changes, since I do not draft my sermons to be read, but to be preached.

This weeks sermonette (due to its length), on the other hand, may be an encouragement to someone (or someones) out there who is struggling with trusting God in the face of danger, and is being tempted to fear the danger rather than believe God.

It is my hope that this will be an encouragement to all believers to persevere in the face of danger.
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“He Will Give His Angels Charge Over You”

Psalm 91

Danger—we face it everyday; sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly. We drink coffee—anything that dark and full of caffeine has to be dangerous. We breathe dirty and polluted air, full of deadly particles. We are surrounded by dangerous viruses and bacteria. In fact, at this very moment your skin is covered in deadly bacteria. And following this service, we will climb into our vehicles and head home—and in doing so, we will put ourselves in harms’ way: roads are becoming more crowded, and therefore, more dangerous. And once we walk into our homes, we will breathe a sigh of relief, thinking we are no longer in danger … until we remember that hundreds of thousands of people die in their homes each year. Have you had enough, yet?!!

Danger is a reality. We face it daily—in fact, we face it every moment. Since Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden, danger has lurked just around the corner. Sin’s curse brought about sin, sickness, sadness, disease, broken relationships, discontent workers going postal, corporate bigwigs swindling away their employees retirement plans, car accidents, and cancer. So, how do we as Christians deal with the constant danger? How do we persevere when our very lives are in constant jeopardy?

Psalm 91 gives us the answer. This is one of the most comforting texts in all of Scripture. We don’t know its author, or the circumstances in which it was penned. But we do know this … we know what it feels like to be in danger. We know what this Psalmist is experiencing. All of us have been there at one time or another: danger has lurked, and we’ve been tempted to fear the danger rather than trust our God.

For sake of time, I will simply summarize the comfort and protection God provides for His own when they find themselves surrounded by danger. First, in verses 1-4, the Psalmist reminds us that we dwell in the secret place of the most High. As believers in Jesus, we dwell in a secret place--the place where danger cannot go (because it’s a secret place)--under the shadow of our Almighty Protector. God protects us not in some far-off, deserted fortress; He protects us with Himself. He is our refuge and fortress. He is our deliverer. He is the One who covers us with His wings in that secret place, beyond the reach of danger!

Next, in verses 5-10, the Psalmist explains that there is no reason to fear. He is out to prove this premise: fearing, even when danger surrounds us, is a ridiculous response. It’s ludicrous. It’s insane. Why? Because, God rules over and superintends in every danger we face. Yes, the danger is real—there are terrors at night; there are arrows that fly by day; there are pestilence and disease that stalk in the darkness; there are enemies who have laid a snare for us. Friends, the danger we face daily is real; it’s not just a figment of our imagination. So the Psalmist is not out to prove that the danger isn’t real, he is out to show us that every danger we face is directed by the governing and superintending hand of God. He is the Most High, and He is our dwelling place … our habitation … our home. We not only dwell with Him, we dwell IN HIM!

Then, in verses 14-16, the Psalmist offers his final argument in proving that danger itself poses no threat to the child of God who is dwelling in the shadow of the Almighty: because we have set our love on Him. Now, we would most likely expect verse 14 to talk about God’s love for us, but instead it talks of our love for Him. So the Psalmist is saying that for all who love God—all who belong to Him by faith—God promises to deliver. It’s the truth Paul expresses in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good; to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

God promises not to abandon the one who loves Him. Regardless of the danger we are facing, we are not alone. And because we are not alone, when we call upon God for help, He hears us--and delivers us.

But there's more: not only is God with the one who loves Him, God satisfies the one who loves Him. He doesn’t leave us wanting. In Psalm 23 we are reminded that “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

Not even danger itself can leave us wanting, because even in the end … even when death, according to the sovereign will of God, visits us, and we breathe our last breath, we remain under the Shadow of the Almighty, we continue to dwell in the secret place of the Most High. And at that moment, the moment of our death, we will experience the greatest deliverance any human has ever known—ultimate deliverance from sin into the eternal presence of our Lord and Savior and King Jesus! And then, as the Psalmist concludes, “He will show us His salvation!”

Now you will notice that I skipped a section in this Psalm; I intentionally saved verses 11-13 for last because this is one of the most intriguing passages concerning angels in all Scripture. And the Psalmist draws our attention to angelic ministry in our lives as still more evidence that we need not fear danger because God has given His angels charge over us.

Verse 11 tells us that God uses angels to protect and preserve us. It’s important to note what this verse does not say: it does not say that God needs angels in order to protect us! That’s important. Although God uses angels to accomplish His eternal purposes, He does not need them in order to protect us. Yet, God chooses to use angels to guard us and to keep us in all our ways.

Angels have always played a vital role in God’s plan and purposes: in Daniel 10, we are given a rare peek into the world of spiritual warfare, when in response to Daniel’s prayer, God directed an angel to bring him the answer to his prayer. For 21 days, this angel was engaged in spiritual warfare with demonic forces until Michael the archangel came to help overcome the resistance. In Matthew and Luke, an angel was involved in informing both Mary and Joseph that Mary would give birth to a child, and that child would be the Son of God and would save His people from their sins. Angels pronounced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, and ministered to Him following His temptation by Satan in the wilderness and during His time in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to His arrest.

So, angels are real spiritual beings … they are messengers sent from God to minister to God’s children by protecting us from danger, strengthening us in times of weakness, and refreshing us in times of discouragement.

One final word from our text; if I could summarize the message of Psalm 91 in one sentence it would be this: “Until we accomplish everything God has planned for us from eternity past, we are immortal.”

So although danger is real rather than imagined; and although the adversaries are powerful, let us be convinced that there is Someone more powerful than the ever-present danger of our adversaries: the all-powerful, personal God is our Refuge; He is our secret place; He will cover us with His wings. He will direct the arrows that fly our way. There is no evil that will befall us that will destroy us!

And when, according to His good and sovereign plan, like our Savior, we die, let us be assured that those same angels who preserved us in our days on earth will usher us instantaneously and safely into the eternal presence of our God (Luke 16:22)! Until then, like our Savior, let us persevere in the face of danger! AMEN.

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NOTE: Readers who attend Delhi Baptist Church are not excused from the Sunday Evening service because they have read this! Don't even think about it!

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I've Been Busy...Again

I'm not even sure if all of my family is aware of my special talent, but since my mom found this picture I thought it was time to let everyone know. (Of course I must perform under an alias.)

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Wednesday, August 22

Ordination Madness, Part 3: Angelology

My head is spinning as I am continuing to draft my doctrinal statement for the upcoming October 12 ordination.

It's that time again--I am asking for your help in preparing me for that day of joy and gladness! So here we go; here's what I believe about angelology (I had thoughts of an attempt at humor ... and posting only a picture of myself ... but knowing you all, I thought better of it!):

ANGELOLOGY: THE DOCTRINE OF ANGELS

What Angels Are:

“Angels are created, spiritual beings with moral judgment and high intelligence, but without physical bodies.” (Grudem, 397)

Angels have not always existed, but are part of the universe God created. Scripture often refers to angels as the “host” of heaven (Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 148:2, 5) who do not ordinarily possess physical bodies. Therefore, they are not normally visible to us unless God enables us to see them (Numbers 22:31; 2 Kings 6:17; Luke 2:13). Scripture gives several examples of angels taking on a bodily form in order to appear to various people (Matthew 28:5; Hebrews 13:2).

Angels are a separate order of creatures and are distinct from humans (1 Corinthians 6:3; Hebrews 1:14). Because they are created beings, they are limited in power, knowledge, and activity (1 Peter 1:11-12; Revelation 7:1), and are accountable to God (1 Corinthians 6:3; Matthew 25:41).

Angels are spirit beings (Hebrews 1:14). They are immortal and do not propagate (Luke 20:36; Matthew 22:30), yet wicked angels will suffer eternal punishment in a place of separation from God (Matthew 25:41; Luke 8:31).

Angels are given several classifications in Scripture. The Cherubim were given the task of guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24), and God Himself is often said to be enthroned on the Cherubim (Psalm 18:10; Ezekiel 10:1-22). The Seraphim are mentioned only in Isaiah 6:2-7, where they are pictured as continually worshipping the Lord. Scripture indicates that there is a ranking among the angels. Michael, an “archangel” (Jude 9) is referred to as “one of the chief princes” in Daniel 10:13.

Scripture gives no specific timing in regards to the creation of angels, but they must have been created prior to the seventh day of creation (Job 38:7; Genesis 2:1). Originally all angels were created holy (Jude 6). Some were elect, and therefore remain holy (1 Timothy 5:21). Others rebelled and sinned against God (2 Peter 2:4; Isaiah 14:12-15).

What Angels Do:

Holy or good angels are referred to as “ministering spirits” in Scripture (Hebrews 1:14). Therefore, angels are God’s servants—ministering to God’s people.

In relation to God, angels praise Him (Psalm 148:1-2); worship Him (Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 5:8-13); rejoice in what He does (Job 38:6-7); serve Him (Psalm 103:20); and are instruments of God’s judgment (Revelation 7:1; 8:2).

In relation to Christ, angels announced His birth (Luke 2:8-15); ministered to Him following His temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:11) and in His stress at Gethsemane (Luke 22:43). Jesus stated that a legion of angels was prepared to come to His defense if directed to do so (Matthew 26:53).

In relation to believers, angels bring answers to prayer (Acts 12:5-10); aid in winning people to Christ (Acts 8:26; 10:3); encourage and protect in times of danger (Acts 27:23-24; Psalm 91:11-12); and care for the righteous at the time of death (Luke 16:22).

Satan and Demons:

Although all angels were created holy and good, sometime between the events of Genesis 1 and Genesis 3, there was a rebellion in the angelic world (as indicated in Isaiah 14:12-15). This resulted in many angels (one-third, Revelation 12:4) turning against God and becoming evil.

Satan (formerly known as Lucifer) is the head of the demons (Job 1:6) and is the originator of sin (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8). He (along with the remainder of the evil angels) thwarts and seeks to destroy every work of God (Genesis 3:1-6; Matthew 4:1-11), and blinds the minds of unbelievers to the truth of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). Yet Scripture is clear about Satan’s (and demons’) limitations. Evil angels, including Satan, cannot:

1) Know the future or read Christians’ minds or thoughts (Job 1:8-11; Isaiah 46:9-10).

2) Possess believers (2 Corinthians 6:14-16; Romans 6:14)—although they may influence and tempt believers to sin (Ananias & Sapphira—Acts 5:3; 1 Corinthians 7:5).

3) Do as they please (Job 1:12; 2:6; James 4:7). While it may appear that Satan and demons enjoy free reign, they remain under the authority, power, and sovereign reign of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18; Colossians 1:16-18; 1 Timothy 6:15; 1 John 5:4-5).

Although Satan was defeated in the cross and resurrection (Genesis 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:54; 1 John 3:8) he will continue to oppose God’s work until (according to God’s eschatological timetable) he is cast—along with all evil angels—into the lake of fire (which was prepared for them—Matthew 25:41) where they will remain forever (Revelation 20:10).

A Warning Regarding Angels, Demons, and Spirit Beings:

Scripture gives several warnings regarding the spirit world and spirit beings:

Galatians 1:8 warns us to beware of receiving false doctrine from angels. This warning reminds us that we are prone to deception.

Colossians 2:18 warns us not to worship, pray to, or seek the involvement of spirit beings. This warning reminds us that we are prone to sensationalism.

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Okay, now it's your turn; feel free to critique, correct, or ask for clarification!


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Tuesday, August 21

More, More About Baptism

Justin Taylor breaks down the current Baptism Debate being waged between Piper, Grudem, Storms, Dever, and Duncan, and breaks some intriguing news regarding Presbyterian Pastor Lig Duncan:

By the way, there are some who think that bloggers can't be journalists. Well, Between Two Worlds is going to break some exclusive news here. Trusted sources tell Between Two Worlds that Ligon Duncan was not baptized as an infant, but was baptized as a believer! This certainly adds a wrinkle to the discussion, doesn't it? So shouldn't Dever accept Duncan both into membership and at the Lord's Table? Inquiring minds want to know!
For a detailed description of this debate in a single post, check out Between Two Worlds HERE.

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"Depart From Me Lord"

"But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man" Luke 5:8 (NASB)

One of my own greatest downfalls is that I consistently have a very anemic view of God that believes that He owes me something for what I do for Him. In reality, I do not get nearly enough done for the Lord. Sure, I'm really good at making excuses, wasting time and battling selfishness. However, the attitude that I find here in young Peter is something that I want more of - an absolute amazement of God's work and miraculous power that I know did come from me but from the glorious power of a sovereign God that we serve.

If most of us were honest with ourselves I think that we would candidly admit that when things go well in our ministry, home, marriage, employment or in our relationships we usually want some sort of credit for it. In fact, I would dare say that we want most of the credit for it. And when things go against our own plan or against how we perceive things should be, whether we admit this or not, our natural tendency is to tacitly blame God in some small way.

Folks, God owes us NOTHING outside His wrath and condemnation. If you have been irresistibly drawn to God's Son through His sovereign grace then please rest assured that He is at work in your life (Phil. 1:6, 2:13). What reaction does that prompt from you? Humility or arrogance? Pride or brokenness? Self-aggrandizement or self-abasement?

Living out the gospel in our lives will NOT improve our self-esteem or our self-image. Rather it will confirm who we really are - sinful people in desperate need of God's constant grace.

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MacArthur on The Larry King Show: "I am a Fundamentalist ... "

From the Pulpit Magazine:

In case you missed last night’s Larry King Live episode (in which John MacArthur participated as part of a panel discussion toward the end of the show), you can read the transcript here.

Below are a couple highlights:

* * * *

KING: You’re definitely a fundamentalist Christian.

MACARTHUR: Yes, in the positive sense of proclaiming the fundamental truths of the Scripture.

KING: Is there a danger in some aspects of fundamental Christianity?

MACARTHUR: No, I don’t think there’s any danger in it. I think there’s a danger in the prostitution of Christianity. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

Jesus said to Peter, “Put away your sword.”

There’s nothing in Christianity that calls for any kind of dominant power, national power, government power, takeover, war, none at all. This is about a personal relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

KING: But so many of the fundamentalist Christians are what might be called political hawks, aren’t they?

MACARTHUR: They are. And that is not, in my judgment, a true representation of biblical Christianity.
Continue reading HERE.

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Monday, August 20

Does Good Doctrine Really Make a Difference In Teens' Lives?

Not-so-surprising evidence from the keyboard of John Piper:

Here it is again. More evidence from surveys what the Bible makes so plain: superficial, non-doctrinal, non-serious Christians sin pretty much like the world; but more serious, more doctrinally oriented Christians lead lives that are morally distinct. Two years ago Ron Sider flagged this in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?

Now a new book by Mark Regnerus called Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers gives the same bleak picture of so-called “evangelical teenagers” who sleep around as much as unbelievers. But again the book points out that “the 16% of American teenagers who say that their faith is ‘extremely important to their lives’ are living chastely” (Gene Veith, “Sex and the Evangelical Teen,” World, August 11, 2007, p. 9).

Some of you may remember what Sider said two years ago. But here it is again. The point is that what he said then has now been confirmed again by a totally separate survey. May the Lord use both these studies to encourage us that even though growing a church by serious teaching of biblical truth may be harder and slower, it does bear more radical fruit than less doctrinally serious strategies of growth.

Here is what Sider says the more radically transformed Christians believe:

These people believe that “the Bible is the moral standard” and “absolute moral truths exist and are conveyed through the Bible.” In addition they agree with all six of the following additional beliefs: that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator who still rules the universe; Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; Satan is a real, living entity; salvation is a free gift, not something we can earn; every Christian has a personal responsibility to evangelize; and the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches. (Scandal, p. 127)

Then Sider lists the kinds of behaviors this more doctrinally rigorous group tend to show.

Continue reading HERE.

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Burglaries, Brakes, and Big Dinners - Our Trip to Chicago

These past three days have been one of unique experiences for Christina and I. We were given tickets to the Cubs/Cardinals game this past Friday afternoon (I'll get to the game later in the post) and were looking forward to a little getaway this past weekend. We had scored a nicely priced room at the Hilton on Michigan Ave by naming our price on Priceline. Our trip up there was uneventful, fun, and the fellowship with our friends Mike and Kristen Myers was enjoyable. Once we arrived in Chicago we took Mike and Kristen to Nuevo Leon - an awesome Mexican restaurant on 18th St. If you have ever eaten there before, you will agree with me that the experience was unforgettable - the food is absolutely astounding. We took in at Navy Pier the Shanghai Acrobat show. I never knew that human beings could bend in so many directions and defy gravity so well. The weather was great and it was comforting to see so much Bears and Cubs apparel everywhere.

Now the plot thickens. On the way out of the parking lot at Navy Pier the brake light in the Myers' car came on along with an incredibly annoying ring sound that the car made. This ring sound was unrelenting and one that tested our progressive sanctification in a mighty way. We soon got to the hotel and checked in. We spent the evening walking the streets of downtown Chicago, buying our daughter Hannah an American Girl Doll and then going to grab some food at the ESPN Zone. We were all ready for bed by evening time and we crashed well.

Now the plot thickens even more....the Hilton comes equipped with an incredible workout facility for a hotel. I wanted to be sure to take advantage of this so I got up early and went down and enjoyed an hour long workout. Christina came down for a bit as well and went to check out the pool. We then came back to the room, showered and set out to prepare ourselves to go and see the Cubbies at Wrigley. Every morning of my life I count how much cash is in my wallet. This morning was no different. Since we were in Chicago where nearly everything you look at costs a minimum of $20 I wanted to be sure we had plenty of cash on hand. I opened my wallet and found that it was EMPTY! I proceeded to look at it again a few more times just to make sure and it was indeed EMPTY. I had been robbed of roughly $250-$300 cash! This had never happened to me before and I was somehow trying to wake myself up from a dream. We soon contacted security, filed an investigative report and went through the usual questioning with the security team at the Hilton. Christina subsequently found her credit/debit card missing from her purse as well! We called the bank immediately and had the card frozen. Thankfully, no purchases were made on the card!

Needless to say, we did NOT get reimbursed for our loss. But Christina and I soon realized that our loss could have been much worse. This is the aspect of God being totally sovereign that so many people refuse to accept. That He is indeed sovereign over ALL things...the good and the bad.

Now to the brake problem - our friends Mike and Kristen really wanted to get the brakes in their car looked at so we took the car over to a Midas shop in Chicago. We then jumped on the Red Line to Wrigley. During the course of the game, Midas called Mike and told him that the total for the brake job that they needed to do would be in excess of $1,300! Of course, Mike indicated that he did NOT want the job done and would look at the brakes later.


Oh, and about the game. The atmosphere at Wrigley this past Friday was ELECTRIC! I'm not sure that I have ever heard Wrigley that loud before. In fact, Mike had indicated to me that his ears were hurting after the game. And....the Cubbies whipped the Cardinals once again 2-1. Jacque Jones hit a dramatic two run homer to bury the lowly Redbirds. IT WAS AWESOME! There is nothing better than beating the Cardinals and White Sox!

Since we decided to drive the car home with the brake job still in the balance, we had to listen to ringing noise FOR FIVE HOURS STRAIGHT! Again, nothing will test your progressive sanctification like an annoying ring noise that your car will not relent with. Really though, it wasn't that bad.

We did manage though to stop at the Texas Roadhouse in Joliet on the way home. A great meal that hit the spot! Oh, and while the Hilton will NOT reimburse us the money that was stolen from my wallet. They are giving us a free executive room for one night that includes all of the amenities and meals included with that for my wife and the kids. We'll probably use that sometime in December to see the Christmas lights.

Chicago was fun, I had forgotten how culturally diverse this city was. I had also forgotten how crowded it was as well. Again, I am glad that I no longer live there but I am still glad that I get chance to visit from time to time.

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Dr. Sam Storms on the Baptism Discussion: "Just How Together for the Gospel Are We?"

Dr. Sam Storms, of Enjoying God Ministries, offers some thoughtful and helpful insights to the ongoing Baptism discussion between John Piper, Mark Dever, Wayne Grudem, and others.

Before posting Sam's essay, I must state my agreement with his position. While I am a credo-baptist through and through, I cannot fathom (unless I can be shown from Scripture) forbidding born again peado-baptists from the elements of the Lord's Table in our Baptist church (Please Note: I am not advocating paedo-baptist membership in our credo-baptist Baptist church!).

Here's Sam:

A few days ago Justin Taylor alerted us to a slight change in Wayne Grudem’s view on baptism, to which John Piper then responded. Wayne then posted his response to John’s response, and one needed only to wait for the ripple effect. By the way, you can read these articles on Justin’s blog in the archive section (www.theologica.blogspot.com).

Recently (August 16, 2007), Mark Dever posted on this issue at the 9Marks blog (www.blog.9marks.org). My primary concern is less with the question of the relationship between baptism and church membership (as important as that is) and more with a related topic that emerges in the course of discussion.

Let me take you back to the Together for the Gospel conference that was held in late April, 2006. It was hosted by Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, and C. J. Mahaney, who also invited three others to deliver plenary messages: John Piper, R. C. Sproul, and John MacArthur. Registration for next year’s conference is now open and I strongly urge you to attend. I will certainly be present.

After the conference was officially over, on Friday afternoon, there was a small gathering of some 75 people in one of the adjoining rooms at the Galt House Hotel. The purpose of this meeting was to address an issue that was raised last year by John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

To be brief, John has come to the conviction that the terms on which one enters the membership of the local church should be, generally speaking, as close as possible to the terms on which one enters the membership of the universal church. In other words, he grew increasingly unsettled by the fact that conscientious, born-again, Christ-loving, Bible-believing Christians who were only baptized as infants could not join his local church. It has been the policy of Bethlehem Baptist Church, a member of the Baptist General Conference, that in order to become a functioning member one must, among other things, be baptized as a believer. On this scenario, Ligon Duncan and R. C. Sproul, being Presbyterians, could attend but would not be permitted to join Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Piper's desire was to make it possible for individuals who had been baptized as infants, and believed it would be a violation of their conscience to be baptized as adults, to join his church. They would not, however, be permitted to hold a leadership position as an Elder in the local body. As of today, the issue at Bethlehem has been temporarily put on hold, pending further discussion and prayer.

Now, back to Louisville. Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, and John Piper each began with a brief statement concerning their view on this proposed policy. Both Dever and Mohler, who are Southern Baptists, oppose it, while Piper and Duncan support it. But my primary concern is not with this policy per se, but with what happened in the course of discussion.

Let me be clear on one thing. I am a credo-baptist, not a paedo-baptist. That is to say, I believe that only those who believe in Jesus Christ should receive the ordinance of water baptism. I also believe that the proper mode of baptism is by immersion. Ligon Duncan, on the other hand, is a Presbyterian paedo-baptist. Because of this, both Mark Dever and Al Mohler made it clear that if Duncan were in attendance at either of their churches they would not permit him to partake of the elements of the Lord's Supper.

Let me repeat that. Because of Duncan's paedo-baptist convictions, both Dever and Mohler would prohibit his participation in the Eucharist. They would deny to him partnership in the table of our Lord. They would withhold the bread and the cup from him because of his disagreement with them on who are the proper recipients of Christian baptism.

As best I can tell (and I’m open to correction on this point), since Jesus clearly commanded (believer’s) baptism, a paedo-baptist (says Dever in his recent blog post) is guilty of “disobedience” and “unrepentant sin” (however unintentional it may be) and is thus disqualified from participating in the Lord’s Table.

Duncan believes that when an adult comes to faith in Christ he/she should be baptized in water (he prefers by effusion, but would acknowledge the validity of immersion). But he also believes that the infants of Christian parents should be brought to the baptismal font. I disagree with him on this latter point, but I'm disturbed that anyone would deny him access to the Lord's Table on such grounds.

I have tremendous respect for both Mark Dever (whom I count as a good, personal friend) and Al Mohler (although I don’t know Dr. Mohler personally). Truly I do. They are both an incalculable blessing to the body of Christ. I also agree with them concerning the proper subjects of Christian baptism. But I find it remarkable that they would turn away Ligon Duncan from that ordinance of the church that above all else signifies and expresses the unity of the brethren in the body of Christ.

This may be offensive to some, but the claim to be "Together for the Gospel" rings a bit hollow to me when some would decline to fellowship with others around the Lord's Table because of their disagreement on the proper recipients of baptism.

Let's be sure we understand what the Eucharist is designed to communicate. Aside from differences of opinion concerning the nature of Christ's "presence" (whether physical, spiritual, or merely symbolic), there can be no mistake that this ordinance signifies, embodies, and expresses the foundational essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Before us are the elements of bread and wine that unmistakably represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ given on behalf of sinners like Ligon Duncan, John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and myself.

Jesus himself made it clear that the cup represented or pointed to or in some sense embodied "the forgiveness of sins" that would come from the saving efficacy of his atoning death (Matthew 26:28). In 1 Corinthians 11:26 Paul echoed this truth by telling us that every time we celebrate the Lord's Table we "proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." In other words, the Eucharist is a dramatic, visible, vocal enactment of the gospel itself. It stirs our hearts to meditate on Christ's redemptive work and is designed to stimulate the mind to reflect on the significance of all that he achieved on behalf of those for whom he died.

My question, then, is this: How can we claim to be "together" or "united" for the sake of the gospel and turn away a brother or sister from the very expression and proclamation of that gospel that is so central to the life and testimony of the church? What does this prohibition say to the world around us? What must they think of our professed "togetherness" or "unity" when the elements of the Eucharist would be withheld from a brother such as Ligon Duncan?

In effect, this is the message that is sent: "Ligon, we agree with you on the nature of the gospel. We agree with you that we must faithfully proclaim and preach the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and salvation by grace alone through faith alone in what he has accomplished on Calvary. But you cannot share with us the table of the Lord or the elements that represent and proclaim that gospel."

I'm sorry, but that doesn't sound to me like "together" or "united" or any such thing for the sake of the gospel. It sounds rather like a narrow sectarianism that fails to consider the unity of the one body as represented by the one bread (1 Corinthians 10:17). It sounds like the colossal loss of an excellent opportunity to deepen and strengthen Christian fellowship and bear witness to a lost and dying world both of the gospel itself and our unity that is grounded in it.

For some brethren to look at Ligon Duncan (or others in his camp) and say, "We believe the same gospel, we preach the same gospel, but we refuse to express that belief and proclaim that gospel with you by means of the ordinance that Jesus commissioned as an expression of our unity and our confident hope in its capacity to save," calls into serious question the significance of the word "together".

I hope none will conclude from this that I think the conference was a failure or was not beneficial to those in attendance. As I said, I plan on attending again in 2008. I hope none will think that Al Mohler and Mark Dever do not love their Christian brother, Ligon Duncan. Indeed, they would no doubt contend that it is precisely because of their love for him (among other reasons) that they feel compelled to hold firmly to their position. True love is never served by compromising the truth. There is no greater expression of love for another than the willingness to make painful and unpopular decisions for the sake of bringing an errant brother into the light.

One more thing should be noted. In his recent post, Dever indicated that he planned on having an Anglican and a Presbyterian preach from his pulpit in the near future. In the comment section of his blog, one person said: “The implication . . . is that there are people whom you are happy to have in your pulpit but not at the Lord’s Table. That seems a little odd.” Yes, it does.

In a similar vein, another comment asked: “why would you let someone in unrepentant sin be teaching the flock at Capitol Hill?”

Finally, more directly to the point of this article, the question was asked: “If your Anglican . . . friend were preaching in your pulpit on a Sunday where the Lord’s Table was observed, would you exclude him from participating?” The answer, clearly, is that Dever would indeed exclude him from participating.

In fact, let’s suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the Lord’s Table is celebrated every Sunday at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (although I don’t think it is). This would mean that Dever’s Anglican or Presbyterian friend might conceivably preach a profoundly biblical message on the gospel of the dying and rising Christ and salvation through him alone, only to be told (if not in words then surely by the actions then taken) that he must sit to the side and refrain from receiving the elements that symbolize and embody the very dying and rising Christ whom he only moments before so faithfully and biblically proclaimed.

In this not unlikely scenario, the visiting paedo-baptist might even reinforce the truth of the gospel message by pointing to the elements on the table before him, articulating with passion and humility how the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood, here symbolized by the bread and wine, have secured for all Christians forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He would then, I suppose, be led away from the elements and told that although he is no less trusting in what they represent than are his credo-baptist brothers and sisters, he cannot partake with them in the supper.

Does anyone see anything askew in this picture? I’d love to hear your comments.
Dr. Storms' article appears here in its entirety with his permission. Visit Enjoying God Ministries HERE.

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If You Aren't a Student of Church History ...

You need to be!

An excerpt from last evening's sermon on Psalm 90:1 ("Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.") provides evidence that even the smallest understanding of church history is of utmost importance to the believer:

History proves the veracity of Moses’ exclamation, because in all generations God has shown Himself a dwelling place for His people. For Adam and Eve following their sin and banishment from the Garden of Eden—God was their dwelling place. When God called Abraham to leave his homeland and his possessions and to follow God to a new land—God was his dwelling place. And when Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, and forgotten in the prison due to no fault of his own—God was his dwelling place. When Job lost it all in one day, everything he had, including the confidence of his wife, he said: “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord”—God was his dwelling place. And during the 400 years the Jews built bricks as slaves in Egypt—God was their dwelling place. The lives of God's people through the ages proclaim this truth afresh tonight: "Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations ... in You we have found our HOME!"

And the same could be said for the past 2,000 years. For Paul in his many imprisonments; for John while exiled to the Isle of Patmos; for Polycarp and John Hus who lost their lives tied to a wooden stake; for Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli and many other Reformers who loved Truth more than life itself; for Jim Elliot and his missionary friends who died at the hands of the ones they so desperately wanted to reach with the Gospel, their lives testify to this fact: the Lord has been our HOME in all generations!
Someone has rightly said that "if we fail to be students of history, we are doomed to repeat yesterday's mistakes." I would like to add, "and we miss out on the joys of yesterday's victories." For example, my children enjoy the privilege of citizenship in a free country, but until they learn how that freedom was secured they will fail to appreciate (and fully enjoy) the freedom men and women died to provide.

The same can be said for the Church and its history. If you need further convincing that becoming a student of church history is a good and profitable venture, HERE is a Q and A with Thomas Oden from the Reformed Theological Seminary website.

For those who are interested in deepening their understanding of church history, here are several resources I have found extremely helpful:

Historia Ecclesiastica is Michael Haykin's personal website. Dr. Haykin is the Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Also available from Dr. Haykin are a number of biographical sketches on church leaders of yesteryear (and other church history talks) in an mp3 format for free HERE.

The Hall of Church History is maintained by Phil Johnson of Pyromaniac fame. This site is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in church history, and includes links to a number of helpful church history sites. The Hall of Church History is simple to navigate and offers a comprehensive look back in time (including valuable information on the following: the Church Fathers, the Medieval Churchmen, the Reformers, the Puritans, the Anabaptists, the Baptists, and even the Catholics). If you are new to church history, I would recommend that you begin your journey back to the future here.

Enjoying God Ministries is the ministry of Dr. Sam Storms. If you are a Jonathan Edwards fan, this is the site for you. Dr. Storms offers a plethora of free resources on Edwards, and has drafted thirty-nine helpful essays on Historical Theology (tracing theological formulations from the early church fathers to contemporary postmodernism). If Historical Theology is your thing, this is your site.

Covenant Theological Seminary has graciously offered several must-hear seminary courses in an mp3 format (with optional PDF notes and study guides) free of charge. Dr. David Calhoun, Professor of Church History, teaches Ancient and Medieval Church History, Reformation and Modern Church History, and Calvin's Institutes.

It is my hope that the Lord will instill within His Church a desire to become acquainted with its own history--a history that testifies to God's grace and faithfulness to His people through the ages.

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